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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting ready for the Guelph show

Guelph is my hometown. I've worked hard for the community though many initiatives, and sharing a project as personal as AT HOME is special and meaningful. It's also special because this gig is significant enough that I will have a full band and a full compliment of singers to perform the songs as they were arranged and recorded.

That in itself requires adjustments. For instance, when I play "Sinner's Child" solo, I play my National resonator, tuned in D, with a capo on the 2nd fret to get it in the key of E. Because there is no band, I have to keep rhythm throughout the song and have to change the solo section so that I maintain chords and play some kind of melody. In the recorded version, the rhythm is carried entirely by the band—a trio of piano, bass, and drums. Because of that support, I only played guitar as an accompanying voice, and didn't even start until the solo, which I did as a single note melody. I played an electric guitar, tuned in E - without a capo - for greater ease along the entire length of the neck.

The only time I have ever played it this way was when we recorded it. And on Friday, I'll have to play it that way live—so I need to practice!

The same goes for Jane. Doug Wilde played piano and composed the parts for the recording. Since I never play with Doug live, Jane has had to learn the parts, but even when we play it as a duo, I'm playing my National to add rhythmic support, so she's not used to carrying the chordal essence of the tune, which she has to learn to do now with the bass and drums—something she never even had to do in the recording!

So this week, we will be at work . . .

Friday, October 28, 2011

Doing radio

I'm on radio 4 days in a row this week, promoting the CD and release shows. I used to get nervous about being on radio, but it's getting to be second nature, in no small part because the hosts are such music lovers and so welcoming.

Last night I was on Steve Clarke's "Acoustic Planet" on CHES 88.1 FM out of Erin, Ontario, and tonight I was on Doug Gibson's "Songs From The Wood" on CKWR 98.5 FM out of Waterloo. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 am I'll be on Jan Hall's "Royal City Rag" on CFRU 93.3 FM from Guelph, and on Sunday at 8:00 pm, Jan Vanderhorst's "Just Us Folk" show on CKPC AM 1380 from Brantford, Ontario.

Jan Hall has been a supporter for a long time, and some of my favourite radio moments has been doing on-air gags with her and storytellers Sya Van Geest and Brad Woods. Jan would pick a special day, like Canada Day or Hallowe'en and set up the imaginary premise that we were recording live from some strange location, with sound effects and all. Then we would improvise around that. 

The premise for the first installment was a live broadcast from the local Wal-Mart store, especially ridiculous because I campaigned so hard against it and would never set foot in one! The sound effects and our improv was so convincing that my partner Jane thought I was there—even though I had told her what we were doing! She though I had tricked her by telling her we were doing a hoax! I was brought up on the magic of radio via British broadcasts such as the Goon Show, and it was a treat to be in the thick of it!

Oh - I should get to bed so I can get to the station on time!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wednesday is my first official CD Release show!

I'm looking forward to the first show—a concert in Toronto with Jane and Tannis in support. I'm getting them to lead three songs each (I like being democratic!) so it will be a good variety of music.

There's a jam/song circle afterwards, and I know that Rosemary Phelan and Jason LaPrade will be there, so it will be special!

Wednesday, October 26, 7:30 pm
The Big House on the Hill Concerts
Sam Turton AT HOME CD Release with Jane Lewis and Tannis Slimmon
Tickets $20 / RSVP only
Doors open at 7:00 pm
Contact Lucy Bowers for details and to reserve: 416-690-4862  
Percentage of proceeds go to The Children’s Peace Theatre

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Blue Skies

It is deeply meaningful to me that I was approached to play the Blue Skies Festival immediately after releasing AT HOME. If the CD is a small expression of life close to home, family, community, and the earth, Blue Skies is the big expression of it.

I don't really experience Blue Skies as a festival but as a celebration of community. Every summer the natives of the Great Plains would come together in a "gathering of the tribes," that is wonderfully described by Black Elk in the profound book, "Black Elk Speaks." Blue Skies is a modern gathering of the tribes.

For years people had told me how wonderful Blue Skies was, but having been part of the grand gatherings of the back-to-land movement of the 60s, I took it with a grain of salt. But Julia Philips, now the Artistic Director of the festival, kept telling me, "Sam, you gotta go—you belong there." I thought it was a sweet sentiment until the first time I walked over the hill and witnessed the vista of the great meadow and the most organic wood-and-canvas stage I had ever seen in my life. Children were running everywhere, people in multi-coloured clothing were laughing and hugging each other, music was wafting through the trees. I felt the rising of that ancient feeling we all have—coming home—and tears welled up in my eyes.

Home. Right here. I'm welcome. I'm okay as I am. I belong.

That's what I was expressing in the AT HOME recordings when I invited friends and family together to play music—and record it. I can't wait to stand on that magical wooden stage at Blue Skies, lift my eyes to the community sitting on that great meadow bowl and start singing together. I'm also looking forward to leaping into Magoo's arms!

Many thanks to Julia Philips for having open ears to my music so many years ago. We're gonna bring it home!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The CD is in my hands!

It's been a whirlwind. After my last post Jane and I went to Niagara Falls for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (OCFF) conference, and I ended up having to drive from there to Mississauga to get my final CD shipment! I was hosting a panel on Private Showcases at 5:30 pm Friday and got back to the Falls with 15 minutes to spare!

The CDs look great—you never know in the digital world of printing—and everything sounds super. I've received a lot of positive feedback and got booked with the whole band to play the main stage at the Blue Skies Festival in Eastern Ontario next August! It's the beginning of a wave that started with the wee idea of recording in my living room!

Life is a wonderful mystery . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gig poster for Guelph!

Here's the new poster for the Guelph CD release show -

Saturday, October 8, 2011


It's been a hell of a lot of work, but Jane has masterminded the reinvention of my decrepit website, and it's now ready to roll! 

You can order CDs on line, order tickets to the soft-seat-theatre Guelph release show, listen to clips of all the songs, look at video and photos of the AT HOME experience (many more to come), read info about me that isn't from the last century—wow, I feel like I just awoke from a trance!

To check out the site click on any of the links at the top . . .

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Radio CD Release!

This evening Jane and I were on CIUT-FM 89.5, Steve Fruitman's Back to the Sugar Camp radio show for the first public release of my new songs!

Steve is one of those rare, mythic, life-sustaining creatures—the true-blue, 1000% real music lover. Every cell in his body seems to vibrate with enthusiasm for the stories and sounds of "real music," that is, music made for music first, not money first. 

And Steve is not only a living library of real and rarified music, he seems to know every story ever known about every track and everyone who played on it—including anyone who happened to be walking by as it was being recorded! Without special beings like Steve, underground music would be so far underground that it would have broken through the other side of the planet and be lost somewhere near Uranus.

Steve started out by playing "Next Time," which is a perfect opener —

My Mama died too early
And my Daddy lived too long

Then Jane and I sang "Hard Task," which he has affectionately dubbed the F-song because of these lyrics —

It's three o'clock in the mornin'
And baby's got a rattling cough
That selfish fuck left his young bride
She shoulda knocked his fool head clean off

Steve has no qualms about playing songs with profanity and relished the opportunity!

He also played "Chapter 11 (T'ai)" my meditative slide instrumental, and my rumba blues version of "Hound Dog," with Jane and Tannis on harmony. Jane and I also sang the blues song, "Ain't Gonna" live. I was having a great time (still walking slowwwwly) and felt in fine form. Can't wait to play some more.

Thanks, Steve!

Slow down, you move too fast . . .

In the big rush to get all the artwork done for deadline—plus all the other stuff too numerous to mention—it has been a familiar sight to see me hunkered over my computer and suddenly leap up and whip around the house to get this or that. Have you ever seen those little red squirrels that seem intrinsically on edge or chronically pissed off? The ones that seem like an unholy cross between a chipmunk and a squirrel? The ones that Norman Liota calls a squipmunk? Anyway, at my most intense, I believe I act like one of them. Maybe I was one in a former life.

Anyhow, the other day I leapt up from my desk, hyper-extended my leg and pulled a little muscle/tendon/ligament thingy on the inside of my right knee. It was a sharp twinge that I had never felt before. Not nice. I rubbed it and carried on, figuring it would sort itself out. But it didn't. If I'm not very careful when I walk, it re-injures itself—a real piss-off, because I have a lot to do and I just want to plow forward. But I can't.

As I got ready for a gig this evening, I was thinking, "What's the message?" Then I noticed that the only way I could deal with this thing is to walk normally, but very slowly. Very, verrry slowwww motion. Of course, the bloody message is, "SLOW DOWN!" I hurt it moving too fast, and the only way it will heal is if I slow down. And there is no bargaining with this thing. 

So there you have it. I have to accept that what will get done will get done and what won't, won't. Slow down, Sammy, s l o w   d   o    w    n    .     .       . 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CD manufacturing weirdness

Expect the unexpected.

The CD manufacturing is plugging along, Jane and I are working on song clips for my soon-to-be-updated website, and she looks at the CD-R master case label and says, "Did you notice that the apostrophes in the songs are all computer gobbledegook? Is that a reflection of what is in the display codes for the CD?" I say, "No, I doubt that, it's just a label for the proofing master."

Then, drawing from my years as a graphic designer and the ethic "never assume anything," I decided to write to the mastering folks at Silverbirch and ask the stupid question.

Apparently it wasn't a stupid question. They hadn't noticed the glitch when they copied the song titles from my Word file, and I hadn't thought the copy label was indicative of what was in the digital file. So all hell broke loose and a new master had to be done, approved and rushed forward! I wanted the CDs for the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference October 14-16, and it looks like they might not make it.

As they say, shit happens. Lesson learned. Do what you can and move on!