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Way Down In The Hole

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Here I am on my last day in Natchez. We’ve had the benefit of hot muggy days punctuated by thunder and lightning storms most afternoons. This circumstance has made me a little bit reluctant to get out and set up my equipment for outdoor “on location” recording sessions, so I finally set something up indoors. The result of two days of piddling around and performing dozens of versions of this song: Way Down In The Hole by Tom Waits. There are still possibly a few usable versions “in the can”; but I like this one, the last of four videos I did while in Natchez. I hope to soon finish a short one based on a motorboat trip to the secret backwaters of Bayou Lacombe in Louisiana.

At The St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge

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Since I arrived here in Natchez I’ve been learning a lot of new things about the area. A great discovery has been this wildlife refuge, and another has been the history of the original Natchez people who made their home along what we now call St. Catherine Creek. The Natchez were in the area a long, long time into prehistory. and were the last of the mound building people. There are quite a few earthen mounds around but the most spectacular is the Emerald Mound along the Natchez Trace.
Anyway non of this has much to do with this video, except that some of the old stomping grounds of those people must have been at least a little bit like this. The Natchez were pretty much completely killed in wars with the French and those who were not killed were assimilated into other groups such as the Chickasaw and the Creek, who themselves were removed in the “trail of tears” to Oklahoma.

Natchez Visit

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I’m going to be here in Natchez for a while. I have some video projects in mind, associated with making music; but a couple of other projects have suggested themselves. So while I’m getting organized for the music things, I’ve edited up these two shorts about Natchez. The first is one minute and the second is five minutes. The weather was hot both days, just under a hundred as the sun was beginning to set, which of course is what is to be expected in The South. I take it as a point of pride not to be undone by hot weather, but in the middle of the day one does seek out the shade. There is a clip in the Natchez 300 Anniversary video that shows a couple of jets flying by: This was by arrangement with the US Navy. I think everyone expected a bit more of a show but they did “fly by” as promised. Natchez is really a small town in spite of once being the home of more millionaires than any other contemporaneous city. Big money in those days and the houses are mostly still here to prove it.

Baroak Gig

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Last Friday I did three hours, with a ten minute break, in a pretty large room. The Baroak at Loews hotel in Annapolis. That room is about 50 by 80 feet with a long bar on one side and an open kitchen and grill at the far end. I had a great time. The staff was very helpful and welcoming and the audienence reasonably responsive. My friend Dave Brashears came in and got the clapping started. Sometimes the people just need a little hint.  

Musing about music

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I’ve been a little bit fascinated by this video for a little while.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a lot of turning points in my life as a guitar player and singer.  And when I woke up in the morning I decided to recount as much as I could think of for the camera.  I’d been wanting to experiment with some of my new equipment, including the wireless lavalier microphone and a new camera, any way and this was a perfect opportunity to get all of that into service.  I had no idea of how long it would take and I was a bit surprised when an hour had gone by since I started recording.  Can’t say “roll tape” or “roll film” these days. I had to stop, in spite of having more to say because I had some appointments to rush off to.  Just as well…fifty minutes is pretty long to sit and listen to me rambling on and on.

Testing Frame Rates

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I’ve been shooting 24p pretty much since I heard there was such a thing. I read all the discussions about the advantages and disadvantages, made a choice and never looked back. Until now. I’m about to undertake a few new projects and I’m wondering if maybe I should go to 30p. So I made a couple of tests of my own. Give them a look if you have a few minutes to spare and see if you can see any difference. I think there is slightly more blurring of the birds during the panning, but not much. I’m going to do some other tests soon. Perhaps in low light and see if that brings out any clear advantage to the 24p.
The First one is 23.976 frames per second which passes as 24 fps for some reason It can be played at 1080p for best viewing.

The second one is 29.97 frames per second which passes as 30 fps for some reason It can also be played at 1080p for best viewing.

Performing At Francis Scott Key Auditorium…sort of.

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The Annapolis Ward One Residents Association asked me to play at their silent auction which was held in lobby of the Francis Scott Key Auditorium at St. John’s College.  They’ve invited me to play at other events and I’ve always been happy to do it. This night was no exception.  A lot of local movers and shakers were there and the food seemed really nice, though I only had time to toss back a couple of raw oysters on the shell.  I enjoyed the convivial atmosphere as well as the interesting acoustics.  Thanks Ward One.

Another Saturday Afternoon Gig

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Sometimes you eat the bear.  Sometimes the bear eats you.  Sometimes you never see the bear at all.  This audience I played for today was not the worst of all time, but it was certainly a contender. One person looked up from her computer to clap for one song.  As far as everyone else might have been concerned I could detect very little evidence that anyone knew I was there.  Ah well.  It is a nice opportunity to play just for Zahn who listens faithfully and always claps.  And she took time to take a few nice pictures for me to post today.  It is really amazing how loud twenty or so people in a room can be, especially when one or two of them seem to feel it is important to make sure that anyone in the room who wants to hear every word they speak will have no problems at all. I’m sure it is entirely possible to converse quite effectively in either a noisy or a quiet room while moderating one’s voice so that only the person across the table can really hear what you are saying.  That would be what I would consider a polite way of being in public.  Well.  So much for that

Earlier in the afternoon, while I was setting up my equipment, I had a nice chat with Paul Michalec who decided to open the 49 at 49 book to page 2, on which I am featured.  Paul himself is on the cover of the book as well as maybe on page 6.  Or 8. One of the usual waitresses was out for her birthday. Mike Shifflett failed to show up.  Was he out sailing?  He was missed, not only by us but by the waitress with whom he regularly flirts. Mike will be very disappointed to learn that he missed a choice version of the St. James Infirmary.

One of the two people who took an interest in the musical aspect of the situation came over and asked about my amplifier.  It looks like some old vintage machine, but it is actually fairly new. It is a Fender Acoutasonic Pro which I bought it back in 2002 I think.  It was fairly expensive but it seemed like just what I needed to embark on a journey of discovery in the world of music performance.  It has served me well.  Though the Acoustasonic line has continued, the Pro model was discontinued fairly soon after I bought mine.  I’m not sure why.  It is a fantastic machine.  It is quite heavy but that goes with the territory when you have 80 watts per channel, 99 effects and great tone control options.  I use all the same settings I’ve been using since I first bought it and rarely turn it up past 3 (it goes to 10).  But I doubt another machine would allow me to fine tune the sound so well to meet my needs and there’s always the possibility of deciding to try something new.

Maryland, OUR Maryland

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The Maryland Avenue merchants organized an event this past Thursday as a run up to the Maryland Day Celebration.  It ran from 4-9 pm and I was asked to join in as one of three musical acts.  First were a couple playing guitar and bodhran, followed by a marching band.  I got to occupy this corner by the circle around the Maryland State House and play my amplified music out into the heart of Annapolis.  Tom Boddorff and his lovely wife Terry wandered by on their way to an art opening and took this very nice picture. Despite the cold weather the event was well attended.

I took particular pleasure in the opportunity to turn my amp up just a little higher than usual and project my sound out into a much larger space than usual.  My regular gig at 49 West Cafe and Wine Bar  is indoors  with people chatting and eating.  It is always a challenge under that circumstance to find the right level:  Not to be two loud and overpower the room, nor be too quiet and not be heard. Toward the middle of my second set on Maryland Avenue, it dawned on me that I really didn’t need to modulate down at all, so I let it rip.  Reminding me of so, so many years ago when I used to wander the streets of Annapolis on a Friday night singing at the top of my voice in a sort of operatic version of the Volga Boatman’s Song, among a few others.  Might I then have had a small bottle of spirits tucked away in my coat pocket.  Perhaps.  Thanks to the Maryland Avenue Merchants for an opportunity to play for the public.