Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy F*cking New Year.

Happy New Year from America's Hometown, where everyone's either dying or having babies. I put myself, with very heavy heart, in the former category. (No, not immediately. I mean that in the "time marches on" variety.) Christmas week has brought two more exciting bits of news! Neighbor's sister passed away suddenly on Christmas Day! Friend's kitty goes to the Big Milk Bowl in the Sky today!

Anyone familiar with the phrase: "ENOUGH ALREADY"?

Or how about, "OK, GOD. WE GET IT"?

This sucks. But wait! Time has brought us solutions. Let me try one.

Assume lotus position, breathe, find your center, where a shining sun glows in love. Chant:

"What is meant to be is meant to be."


     [...]

Nope, not working. Let's try this:


Assume lotus position, breathe, find your center, where a shining sun glows in love. Chant:

"It's the circle of life."

     [...]

Nope, not working. Let's try this:

Assume lotus position, breathe, find your center, where a shining sun glows in love. Chant:

"Everything happens for a reason. It's all part of God's plan."


     [...]






Nope, not working, either. I have one more, this time assuming the kneeling-by-the-bed-with-hands-folded-and-pointing-upward position:



God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen


(Reinhold Niebuhr said that.)


     [...]

Working for you? Nah, me either.

God's battery must be running low. Hold on a bit. I'll plug in this charger and get back to you. In a month. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The First Christmas of the American Doll

The first gift Soul Fry opened on Christmas morning was wrapped in red shiny paper with a white satin ribbon. It was an American Doll, the 1774 American Patriot Elizabeth Cole. She was wearing a floor-length pink taffeta gown, diamond earrings, and white patent shoes, her long blonde locks tied at the nape of her neck. A little curl over each ear framed her face. A beautiful 18-incher, she is. Embraced immediately.

Also in the packages was a handmade dollie bunk bed, lovingly crafted over three days by Papa Carpenter in the basement of the Lindsay Lodge. In other bags: doll clothes meticulously handmade by the lady who runs the antique shop on Main Street, and a hand-knit sweater ordered from the church lady at the Church of the Pilgrimage, who played a little Christmas poker with us at the Harvest Fair. That is, she took our order, saw our 15 and raised us 10, deciding that what we really needed was an Irish knit sweater and matching tam. We saw it, agreed, and joyfully forked over the extra money.

Christmas morning, Soul Fry was over the moon. For about an hour. Then, while fidgeting with Elizabeth's hair, made it clear that she really needed Elizabeth's best friend, too, Felicity. 

Sure! The dolls are only $109, and why not get a friend for her, with outfits to match--only an additional $30 or so per outfit. We'll get right on that.

You think I'm kidding?

I know, I know. The "tsk-tsk" of my disapproving anti-materialist, liberal friends is rattling my windows. You stuffed your children's stockings with wooden toys, nuts, toothbrushes, and an orange that you all split after dinner. Your kids are now playing pickup sticks and Jenga on the living room floor. We don't want to disappoint you. We did do old fashioned gifts, too: markers, coloring books, a wooden Chinese fan, bath salts, and old-fashioned jacks. Soul Fry loved them. For about a second. Then went right back to her American Doll.

Soul Fry doesn't understand how much her American Doll cost, and that is most certainly not why she wants them. Oh, we tried to fool her with the cheap knock-off 18-incher a few months ago.  Guess what? Her hair looks like hell now, her eyes are a little crossed (not that there's anything wrong with that), and worse, they don't close when she sleeps. Frankly, we're finding that a little freaky.

But it's okay; Soul Fry dealt with it. She put her on the bottom bunk so we could sleep. It's hard to feel peaceful when you're sleeping beside something that looks like it came out of the third drawer  in the basement at the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.

Now, the day after Christmas, the three girls—Soul Fry, Elizabeth Cole, and the Freak—are all resting comfortably in an upper chamber under their handmade quilts. (Mommy sewed the bedding on Christmas morning; Mommy has issues.)

And Mommy is looking at the Christmas money from Nana, thinking it just might be enough to buy Felicity, so that our little Patriot Elizabeth can have a buddy who sleeps like a normal human being. Felicity's a Loyalist, by the way, but we think it's only fair to give Elizabeth someone English to beat up on.

The resident Irishman approves.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fetching home the family

So begins the fifth day of travel, bringing home loved ones for Christmas, pilgrimming ex-pats home to the land of the Pilgrims. Thursday and Friday it was NYC, and today it's DC. A long drive about to commence....but it's never long when it's to bring someone you adore home for Christmas.

And I must admit, a Honda Pilot is far more comfortable than a donkey's back.
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Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Saturday, December 18, 2010

early morning video shoot

Fun with Debbie and Friends today www.debbieandfriends.net
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sometimes the bad really gets worse.

I saw a New Yorker cartoon Thursday and chuckled all afternoon. A man was sitting with his doctor, looking distressed. The doctor said, "Sometimes it helps to turn a question around: Why not you?" (See it here.)

That cartoon was funny Thursday night and much of Friday. At 4:45 Friday, we got a phone call bearing bad news. At 5:00 on Friday, that cartoon was no longer funny. It was real.

Following that bad news came more bad news, then a little more bad news. My dear friends who have suffered loss this weekend, we are together. We don't grieve alone. We all walk so close to tragedy every day. All I have to share with you now in this darkness is a little voice that envisions peace.

Peace...

...to L. and R., who lost their baby Friday, just five months in the womb.
...to H. and L., who lost their brother to suicide Saturday.
...to S. and B., who found out on Saturday that their best friend, at just 46, has terminal cancer.
...to P., who suffered a massive stroke this weekend.
...to S. and S., who found out on Friday that they most likely can't conceive, and they have no options.

Folks tend to console the grieving, and perhaps the grieving console themselves with the well-worn "Everything happens for a reason."

That doesn't work for me. I don't believe in a master plan. Quite an unfortunate position to put oneself in.

But: Things happen as a result of other things—that we can agree on.

Things happen as a result of other things, and then other things happen as a result of those things. Some of those results are good, and some are bad. We have no real control over that. We probably agree on that too.

To suggest that the tragedies of daily life are there specifically to teach us important lessons: We may differ there.

But reality proves: Things happen, and we can survive. We can make lemonade, and people who know how to make lemonade are very valuable people in this world. Others can learn much from them.

What others can learn from them is how to make lemonade themselves someday, and while the tragedy may not or may not have happened for some providential reason, there is one thing we can do: We can move forward.

Life is full of lemons. It matters not whether they come because someone up there wants us to make lemonade. It matters not whether they come because someone up there wants us to make whiskey sours. It matters not whether they come because someone up there wants us to remove the smell of garlic from our fingertips. It matters not whether they come because someone up there ran out of limes.

They just come, and they will keep coming. These things are everywhere, happening to everyone.

Do not ask why the lemons came your way, or your friend's way, or anyone's way. And no, bad things don't just happen to the good people. They happen to the bad people too. Good people make lemonade; bad people make more lemons.

Unless we wish to remain sour, we have but one recourse:

Grieve for a while. Lemons suck.

Then, shave the ice, grind the purest cane sugar, and drop them together, with the lemons, in the perfect glass pitcher. Shake. Stir. Listen to how the ice cubes gently tinkle, bell-like, against the glass.

Drink from it, all of you.

Enjoy the product; mourn not the tang of the original ingredient.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Thing About Getting Older

The thing about getting older is that you get regular opportunities to go to whirring and beeping grey rooms to have people you don't know stick thingamabobs up your whosie-whatsie.

We know the line, "This will only pinch a bit." Then, POW!: Our backs thunk into rigid position like a Lazy Boy recliner, our fingernails tear into the crisp sheets, and we're stuck staring at the ceiling wondering who thought it was a good idea to make styrofoam ceiling tiles in the first place. And trying to breathe.

The other thing about getting older is that you get to wake up at night around 2:00 (the same time you used to go to bed) to stare into the darkness to foresee these delightful experiences. That is, in between wondering how in the world you ever thought, in 2003, that it was okay to run to the mall to pick up engraved bridesmaid keychains when your friend came down to help you garden before the wedding. (I hear you shuddering.) And then you start thinking you should have just eloped. And why in the world would you honeymoon in Italy in August, especially the year of the heatwave when people were dying all over Europe?  Oops, and you have an e-book to review ASAP!

Stop!

...Imagine crystal blue skies, suspended whispy clouds, a light breeze... blue skies and clouds... blue skies and clouds.... breathe... blue skies and clouds....

....and don't forget to pack the 800 MG of Ibuprofen for tomorrow, "to be taken a half hour before your appointment."  

Really. It will only pinch a bit.

Music by Friends: The Lindsays “From the Green to the Blue” > The Harvard Press

Well, thank you Jonathan, for a nice review. Now we know we killed it. AND we have a killer bodhran player. :)

Music by Friends: The Lindsays “From the Green to the Blue” > The Harvard Press

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home for the Holidays

Last night, we discovered normality. Our crazy gig run was over. We made dinner. We watched a little TV. We put away laundry. We jumped on the bed. (Well, Soul Fry did). We sat around. We went to bed early.

This is what normal people (the ones who don't play Sunday gigs) do on a Sunday night?

Sign us up. Work is fun, but breaks are delicious.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

10 Down, One to Go

Soul Papa and I counted this morning: Ten gigs in the last two weeks. Holy cow.

The best one yet was the unpaid one: We performed a Celtic Christmas concert for the Festival of Trees at Plimoth Plantation yesterday, to benefit the Cranberry Hospice--and it was wonderful. It reminds us that music is an expression and a gift, but not a commodity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Lesson in Perspective

Just when you think you're edgy because you've come out with a CD that has a drunken Sponge Bob on it, you meet a swanky New York PR maven who wears skunk fur hats and blogs as an alien.

Then, you get booked to do a children's show this summer and -- gasp -- there are liquor bottles all over your website. Do you see the challenges we artists must face every day?

Now do you understand why this woman looks so maniacal?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

She only marked the ones she wanted.

We have WiFi now. That means that I can sit in the kitchen with my daughter and my laptop. I did that last night. Waiting for a friend to arrive with missing ingredients so I could complete my chocolate chip cookie dough, I was killing time emailing back and forth with a client about the look and feel of her Web site, while Soul Fry browsed through the American Girl holiday catalog with a giant black Dry Erase marker in hand. "I'm just marking the ones I want, Mommy."

"Ok," I said absently, then like Naddick, fired off a witty quip to New York, and anxiously stood at the baseline awaiting my opponent's Federer-like return. (She calls it tennis, not me. I just call it e-mail.)

I turned to inspect Soul Fry's "wish list." And this is what I saw:


Not bad. "Just marking the ones I want, Mommy." At $95 a pop, fulfilling that page's order alone will only cost us $1900. Add in the horse on the next page ($75), the $28 travel set (a mini plastic suitcase), the spa day set ($150)--this page is where she figured out how to circle rather than black out her intended--the nail care kit ($10), the salon station ($85), the baking table and treats ($85+$28), the Western saddle set ($32), and five full outfits at appx $28 each... oh forget about it. I lost count. Soul Fry lost focus. I went to the change jar to start counting pennies. We have a very large change jar, you realize.

Please file all of the following under the heading "Get Over It." To wit:

1. Each doll costs a little more than we were making every Sunday at our regular gig, after we overpaid the babysitter and tipped the bartender.

2. Each doll outfit costs $1 less than the dress I bought on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters for our CD release party.

3. Children are being marketed to unfairly, and parents are being manipulated.

4. The dolls aren't made in America. Each doll costs more than the person who made it makes in a month. Worse, the dolls probably aren't even organic.

5. She's four. FOUR.

6. Capitalism is evil! Commercialism is worse! America is in ruins!

7. Two of my favorite friends do only hand-made gifts.

8. Christmas is about peace, love, and chocolate chip cookies, not gifts.

Yeah, I get it.

Please register further complaints with the Marker Queen's mother. Her office hours are Sundays, 11:59 pm to Mondays, 12:00 am, but she'll be out of the office for the next four weeks because she'll be shopping for Barbie dolls that are wearing (gasp!) mini skirts and heels. Please try your call again at another time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A REAL Plymouth Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving morning, Plymouth, Mass., America's Hometown. I woke and the house was quiet, save for the whir of the fridge and the occasional ticking of the subfloor heating ducts. Seven were due for dinner at 2:00, and I had a delectible feast to make. While everyone else slept, I sat at the kitchen table and made a detailed work plan for the day, not because I am meticulously organized but because my writing experience has taught me to break down the big projects into small steps. Then you only have to think about the next thing on the list, not the overwhelming whole.

Thus satisfied, I took my tea cup to Facebook. Friends everywhere were posting inspirational Thanksgiving messages and warm wishes. People had put quotes from Thoreau (or was it Emerson?) on their status. Bloggers dug up the most rare and beautiful poetry they could find. And in response to all this, I thought: " ."

Translation: Nothing. Big flat blank.

I tried to get into the spirit and posted "Happy Day" on the Lindsays Facebook page. A few people "liked" it. You liked that? Thanks.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thankful enough most days of the year, and on Thanksgiving morning, I was not thankful. No. I was overtired and feeling a bit wedded to crushing clove after clove of garlic, picking and chopping fresh sage, and getting grossed out when I had to slide my herb butter-covered hands under the turkey's skin to separate it from the flabby flesh. Our turkey came as a gift from our bestest organic farmer friends, and I had brined it for 24 hours. It smelled a little funny.

Then I went to work organizing the potatoes, the squash, the carrots, the sweet potatoes, the peas, the corn, the stuffing, the rolls-of-bread-in-a-can, and the molded cranberry sauce that only my sister eats. Oh, and also cleaning up the house, which looked a little like Kabul on October 7, 2001. (Coincidentally, that's about the last time we dusted.)

In the middle of this, one of the guests called and admitted that he'd eaten part of the the bread he was supposed to be bringing. Having spent more than $250 on food, beer, and wine in multiple shopping trips, and having been up most of the night before cooking pies and a butternut squash bisque, and now in the middle of trying to get it all organized while also foolishly and mindlessly tending to our resident diva, who lately has learned to shout orders in a booming voice (for a four year old) from the living room, I did what any sane person would do. I took a deep breath, exhaled, thought about my response, surrounded myself with white light, smiled, levitated just a little, and said in my softest, most gentle and sensitive voice, "GEEZ! AFTER I SPENT TWO DAYS COOKING ALL THIS FOOD AND DOING ALL THIS, YOU CAN'T EVEN BRING A FULL LOAF OF BREAD?!?!"

I got hung up on. (I'm very, very uptight, you know.)

In the spirit of Thankgiving, I spent the next ten minutes in silent yet heated conversation with all those who would categorize my superhuman energy level as some form of neurosis. Then I did like the unions: I announced that at COB Thankgiving Day, there would be a work stoppage. Soul Mama's on strike. What this means is that you might not get a Christmas card this year. Not because I don't love you, but because I've put myself on a low-stress diet, where I sit around and eat fudge all day and someone else does all the work. If you need me this Christmas, I'll be on the couch in the middle of a crush of beer cans, farting.

This Thanksgiving weekend, what am I thankful for? That's it's over. Oh, and that I learned to say what lots of very sane people have been saying for a very long time: "Oh, the hell with it."

The reason for the season, indeed. This, people, is why once a year we gather together, like Samoset and Squanto, with the Saints and Strangers who gave us the small pox blankets: because they're here to stay, we're outnumbered, and we have only two choices—shake hands and break bread, or resist and perish.

Plus, it reminds us that it's really okay to get up at 4 am the next day and get as many gifts out of the way as quickly as possible and with as little thought as possible at Black Friday's doorbuster sales. Then, we're free to spend the rest of the month singing carols, baking cookies, and driving around town light-peeping.

Yes, yes. I'll get right on that. Right after I finish this beer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blind Tired


I never thought it possible to go blind from tiredness but it (almost) happened to me yesterday. After three CD release gigs, late nights, and a good bit of hoopla, my new glasses did nothing to prevent blindness. Wow. What a weekend.

Now it's Monday and the Lindsays are feeling a little like that sock you found behind the dryer last week: a little linty, crumpled, and you don't know who it belongs to.

But what fun! Best part was the session we had last night at Pilgrim Sands. We invited friends to join us for a session, and a monster night it turned out to be. Denya LeVine, Dinah Mellin, Nikki Engstrom, Rose Clancy, Janine Randall, Sean Brennan, Tom Rohde all in one room: heavenly music, and all for the reason it's there for: fun!

Here's a video from Friday night's show at the Tinker's Son.

Thank you for sticking around to see us through.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CD Release Parties This Weekend!


Tonight begins a crazy CD release weekend and we're ready. This CD took longer than a year, and its big lessons are dual: 1) Pay attention to detail, 2) Be yourself.

Any anxiety or nerves I had a few days ago are wiped away by the immediate responses we've gotten from friends, and especially musician friends. When a musician tells you "I listened to it six times! I love it!" or says "Awesome!" or "Feckin' brilliant," then you know you can be pleased. Not everyone will like the CD, of course, and that's okay because the ones who've mattered most dearly to us have already spoken and they love it.

Last year at this time, we were prepping for a series of Celtic Christmas concerts, and I admit: I was stressed to bits. Up every night at 3 am worrying, wondering whether we'd do it well, etc. This time, guess what? No nerves.There are two reasons:

1) We've paid attention to detail. At engineer Rob Pemberton's urging, we did it through the entire CD making process. It's our natures to say, "oh, that's just fine" and let things go, so as not to appear too persnickety or particular. But Rob said, "Look, you're here, I'm here. Let's get it right." And he kept saying that til the very end, and never lost patience. And he was right. Now there's nothing on the recording that we don't like.

2) We have just been ourselves. That's all we have to do this weekend, too. Phew. This recording reflects a wide diversity of what we do, and we did it, unapologetically. It's Irish. It's not Irish in places. It's not trad. It is trad, in places. It's not rock. It is rock, in places. It's not folk. It is folk, in places. It's not too depressing. It is very depressing in places. It's not too happy. It is very happy in places. We're not a concert band. We are a concert band in places. We're not a bar band. We are a bar band in places (especially places like bars). It is what it is. And it's done!

3) So the final lesson: Don't be afraid to be proud. We love what we did. We worked hard. We're proud! Now we get to celebrate.

Here's the weekend:

November 19, 2010 9:00 pm
CD RELEASE: The Tinker's Son
707 Main Street (Rte 123)
Norwell, MA 02061-2328
CD RELEASE PARTY!!!!!

November 20, 2010 8:00 pm
The Village Manor
427 Sprague Street
Dedham, MA 02026
Fundraiser to support Dedham Girl's Softball. Tickets are $10.00 at the door.

November 21, 2010 12:00 pm
Liam Maguire's Pub and Restaurant
273 Main Street
Falmouth, MA 02536
From 12-3 pm, a CD release party at our favorite bar on Cape Cod!

November 21, 2010 5:00 pm
SESSION at the Sandcastle Lounge at Pilgrim Sands Hotel
150 Warren Avenue
Plymouth, MA 02360

For this last one, we're inviting a load of friends to join us Sunday night for a session, rather than the normal "gig" we do there. Please come. Bring your instrument.

Now... what to wear...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing about music is NOT dancing about architecture, ok? OK!???

One of the big challenges of teaching young students about music is that they listen to music differently. That is, they don't listen to it. They surround themselves with it, and let it into their minds, but they don't necessarily LISTEN.

Just like in the 1920s, 1950s, and part of the 1970s, we're in a singles market, and being a music junkie doesn't appear to be in fashion. People buy songs, not to albums, and from what I hear, they use it as a soundtrack... background music to pump them up or chill them out. Album sales have been ridiculously low for the last ten years or so, but based on the sales of iPods and concert attendance, music pundits tell us that music is as popular is ever. It seems that no one is buying albums anymore, though, and with the easy shuffle functions on MP3 players, it's easy to infer that very few are LISTENING to whole albums anymore, either.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I teach a class on the History of American Popular Music at Bridgewater State University. It's been hard to figure out a way to engage students and make the class more than just a fact party. Every semester I try something new. Essays, papers, films, discussions... all so-so.

This semester, I tried something new (in addition to stuffing their minds with facts, like sleepy, empty Thanksgiving turkeys). I assigned listening journals. I have students listen to an album a week. The goal is that they really listen: sit down, don't do anything else, and pay attention. Then, write about it. A few of them have been able to sit down and focus, but based on what their journals say, many simply have their players on in the background while they're getting ready to go out. Then, they write a hasty overview and try to make it look like they listened. (They don't fool me. I did that, too. Like, last year.)

For the writing part, they have a list of questions to consider, about the order of tracks, the flow, the overall "theme" or "vibe," and any other observations they can make. Mostly, they're writing, "It got me pumped up to go out," "I really liked it," and the all-time favorite, "It's very soothing." Believe me, all of these students have thoughts. They are not vacant. They have ideas. They think. They can talk for hours about the things that interest them. Just not to me.

The journals are supposed to be the practical complement to the fact-regurgitation lectures. The challenge of the journals, however, is that in order for them to get the most out of it, we need to follow up with discussion. A survey history course is about stuffing minds with facts, as fodder for ideas. That's the goal... the teacher gives facts, and hopes the student can use them for his or her own ideas. But it's not working that way. They're still writing facts about the album, and if they have thoughts about what they're hearing, not all of them are writing about it. Only a few are actually writing down the ideas that the music brought to them. Why? I'm not sure. Either they don't know that they're allowed to, or they also need to also be taught to process and to actually formulate ideas--to know how to learn. Like my old alma mater, Hampshire College's motto: "Non Satis Scire"--to know is not enough.

It's said that writing about music is difficult. People credit Elvis Costello as having said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." It's a very popular quote among music writers, but I think it's total bullsh$t. Writing about music is NOT like dancing about architecture. (God, I've seen that type of dancer and I wanted to strangle myself and then run out of the building screaming.) Writing about music is simply writing about music. You just write what you think. The challenge of writing about music is not the writing. The hard part of writing about music is in the THINKING.

This morning, I'm going to try to teach students how to think about music. Hm. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

ANXIETY BEDAMNED

Do I have to change my identity so that I can swear here?

Got the call from the CD manufacturer and the CD is in.

Nerves and anxiety, bedamned. I'm so f$%&$($*&%($ excited I can barely work.

In response to my post-project anxiety post, there were all sorts of theories, from dear and loving friends:

One said, "Meditate. Breathe deeply. Be here now. Today is the only day."

One said, "You have castration anxiety and exhibitionist guilt. Suck it up."

One said, "Are you okay? It's hard to be anxious. I get that way, too."

One said, "Stop worrying! You are great!"

Two said, "It's never as good as the next one's gonna be, so get started!"

I said, "Thank you, you terrific people who I love so much. Thank you for being there."

I also say: "We did something big this year, and we hope people like it. At the beginning, we had a sister in town for three days, watching Soul Fry so that we could get started. (I love her.) We had amazing musicians join us. We had a genius at the mixing board, getting incredible sounds, giving us subtle creative direction, and sticking with us on every detail until the very end. We had so much fun. We had fights and epiphanies. We had a fabulous designer do photo shoots and posters and CD covers and download cards and postcards and even our website and now we have a priceless new friend."

And now I say, "HOLY F#$(*&#$. We have a CD today!"

No names have been changed, because there ARE no innocents. Oops. I swore. Please don't tell my daughter.

We have a $(*&#$$# CD today!!!!!

Oh yeah. Here's how you can find out more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Anxiety of Completion

Why, why, after doing this for more than twenty years, would a new CD release be a cause for anxiety?

It's a product we're proud of. A product we know is good. The music is enjoyable, the variety is captivating, the design is impeccable (thanks to the amazing Megan Verdugo). The whole thing is something we're excited about... and yet, as I announced the pre-release promotions yesterday, I got a jumping in my chest that didn't go away all day.

(Oh yeah. You wanna buy? Come to our store.)

This is not excitement. It is anxiety. And I wouldn't admit this publicly, except I know I'm not alone:

—A dear friend just finished a book and approved the final designs. Ready to send to the printer. The next day, she went to see her shrink complaining of extreme depression. He upped her meds.

—Another dear friend called me the day after her successful CD release party, and admitted that she was depressed. We talked it through, hung up. No resolution.

—Then there's me. I'm one of those annoyingly optimistic people who never gets depressed. So my emotions manifest in anxiety.

People, what is going on here? What are we worried about? There are questions:

Question: Will anyone buy it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone like it?

Answer: Some will. The entire world won't, but so what.

Question: Will anyone hate it?

Answer: Yes. But they probably won't tell you, so who cares?

I'm stumped. What could possibly be the reasons for anxiety, except the above givens, which are supposed to get defused when we admit them out loud. I write to beg you for your insight, because I can't figure it out and I can't stomach the idea of a shrink.

What do we fear? (Not "Fear itself." That's out. So 1932.)

1) BARING THE SOUL. When you put out an artistic product, you're telling all. You're laying yourself bare, for public criticism, and they WILL criticize. They will notice and comment to their friends (but not to you) on the misplaced hairs and the cellulite. Don't fool yourself. They will. Whatever.

2) TAKING A STAND. When you put out an artistic product, you're saying, "Look at me. Look what I have to say! Look what I can do!" and though we do this musical thing for sharing of our hearts, surely there's a bit of ego in there, too. Personally, I find that embarrassing. Ego? Me. Blech. I'd like it to be all about giving, but it's also about showboating what I can do with all the work I've put in. Yikes. It gives me palpitations even now.

Your thoughts? (No Freudian analysis, please. My parents were good to me.)

No matter what, it's done. It'll be out in a week.

So what is this anxiety? Perhaps it is simply the unexplained anxiety of completion.

Roll over, honey and hand me that lighter. I need a cigarette.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who's Your Farmer? Who's Your Friend?

We know who that is! Our great friends Dave and Sasha Purpura, the farmer and his wife. (His wife? She said it, not me.) It's the end of the vegetable season and Plato's Harvest is in hibernation 'til spring. We can't wait for our Thanksgiving turkey (pictured here, bottom photo, third bird from the left), then we'll spend the winter eating Spaghetti-O's from a can and dreaming up crazy ideas for next spring's garlic scapes. Hooray for Sasha and Dave. Thanks for a great year, but more importantly, thanks for having the courage to follow your convictions!

Friday, October 22, 2010

View from the Corner Office


I swear: People kvetching about the price of a quarter of "Purple Haze" in America's Hometown is far more interesting to me than a discussion about the golf course in Palm Beach.

And that's why I picked the place I did last week, when I searched all over town for office space. See, my writing and editing business is growing, and it was time to move the biz outside of the house, in an effort to separate work and life. I looked at four places, and ultimately it was a choice of a cubby in a fancy office building with posh, fleur-de-lis embossed carpet, or a corner office with this view. The choice was obvious. Check out the view, left.

I had an inkling that some of the town's traveling people might hang out near the office building (the giant NO LOITERING sign on the window was the hint) but just didn't realize how juicy the conversation was going to get. The vocabulary: stunning! The stories: racy!

Then the rain came. The skies opened up, the thunder boomed, and the guys continued to sit there under the very small overhang, and jokingly shout to God, "You don't scare me!" I added, "Actually, could you send them a raincoat?"

While I'm warm, dry, and worried about how to pay for an office safe from the elements, there are some people who are actually paying attention to the elements. They're getting rained on, they're getting pounded by them, and not even scared--or so they say.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Really? It's been two weeks?


Oy, sorry. Two weeks? It's been two weeks? I have written a number of posts in my mind, but alas...

Mostly I wanted to tell you about how the most memorable day of the fall was spent not apple picking, not wandering in a pumpkin patch (we did both of those things) but lying by a river with my daughter, staring at the clouds.

So gorgeous... the sky...the autumn sun baking our skin, the crisp breeze ruffling our hair...

"Mommy I want to lie on a sweatshirt. Can I have your sweatshirt?"

The clouds.... the way they float so majestically and disappear behind the mountains...

"But I can't get the sweatshirt RIGHT! FIX the HOOD!"

The painted trees: forest, gold, amber, rust...

"MOMMY! IT WON'T GO RIGHT!!!!!!"

The cerulean sky, the distant sound of the Connecticut River rolling by....my daughter and I, lying on the grass in Vermont.

"MOMMY, can we go HOME NOW?"

And still, I tell you, it was the most memorable day of fall.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mud-Scrubbing in a Princess Dress (Key of A Major)


Yesterday, it poured for hours, day 3 of an early autumn nor'easter. It was the kind of storm that chills you to the bone and lingers 'til your brain is raw.

Soul Fry had a mid-afternoon fiddle lesson on Cape Cod, 45 minutes away. We had spent the whole day indoors, rearranging closets, going through old clothes, pretending we were princesses and queens, reading books, rearranging the princess's chambers. It was hard to get out of the house. And the rain came pouring down, filling the gutters, driving rivers under the swingset, pooling in massive ponds at the bottom of the hollow. Until the very last moment we had to leave, I considered canceling, but with great restraint, finally forced us out the door to much tantrum hubbub (myself included).

The whole drive to Falmouth, I cursed the distance and rehearsed how I'd tell the fiddle teacher, my great friend Nikki Engstrom, that we just can't do it anymore. Too busy. Too far. Too young. Too broke.

But when we got there, seeing my music buddy lifted my spirits immediately. Soul Fry began her lesson at rest and statue position, effected the perfect bow hold, and then proceeded to exhibit her one-ee-and-ah stop-stops on the A and E strings. Then, she learned to sing and play a seven-note scale in the key of A. My heart soared.

Sure, we could find a Suzuki teacher nearby, but Nikki's our buddy, and she plays FIDDLE, not violin. A terrific teacher who'll teach Soul Fry to play Twinkle Twinkle, the Hundred Pipers, and the Kesh Jig. Who ELSE would we have teach our girl but Nikki? Okay, distance bedamned, we're in.

The joy was shortlived, for next up, it was off to Plato's Harvest to pick up our weekly farm share. Grumbling the whole way, again. Who wants to do all this driving, just to get a bag of veggies? Too far. Too broke. Too fussy. Too much. Next year, I said, I'm going to have to tell Farmer Dave we can't do this anymore.

Then, we got there. Dave was his usual bouyant self and the rain kept pouring down. While I filled my farm bag with greens and potatoes, Soul Fry refused her raincoat and ran along the fence with the turkeys, sheep, and goats, getting completely soaked but insisting it wasn't time to leave yet. Her sneakers were caked with mud, yet not a whine was heard.

Farmer Dave said Farmer's Wife Sasha was in Boston, listening to a slow food guru speak at Harvard University. We joked about self-satisfied organiques in Cambridge who'd go listen to someone speak about slow food, but none of whom had shown up at the Harvard Square Farmer's Market in the rain the day before. It had been a long day, Dave said. Too rainy. Too long. Too slow. Too many teens in rubber boots and microminis.

A few years ago, Dave and Sasha gave up their lucrative day jobs to start this farm, and while it's been very successful, you can be sure they're not eating bonbons all winter in the offseason. No, they're eating squash--three meals a day, every day. Because that's what they grew, dammit. And here he was, a successful farmer, standing in the rain, looking miraculously happy, joking lightheartedly about the people who were warm and dry at Harvard.

Good things don't come without bad things. Most definitely, in order to appreciate when life is just too too--too good, too thrilling, too cozy--we really need to experience the in-, ir- and un-. Inconvenient. Inelegant. Inefficient. Irrational. Irregular. Unprofitable.

The best part is that somewhere in that in-ir-un world, life can at times be just too much fun.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Insomnia Cure #467: Pick Up the Phone.

I spent the week of Sept. 17-26 awake. Sleepless.

On Friday, the 17th, we were waiting for final mixes of our upcoming CD from Rob, our engineer. Previously, we'd heard the first pass at final mixes, made a few suggestions and requests ("More bass on the drum in 'One Last Cold Kiss,'" "A little more flute on 'The Dancer,' "A little more punchy on 'Sixteen Jolly Ravers' and a tad less trumpet," etc.) Our engineer extraordinaire Rob had done it all that week, and was preparing new mixes for the next pass. That night, Rob texted me at 10:00 pm to say, "Come on by and pick up the new mixes."

I was on the way home from a rehearsal with my buddy Salil when he called, and just passing by the highway exit that would lead me to the horse farm/studio. So, I begged Salil to take a left, and off we went through the wilds of Middleboro to get the new trunk of myrrh and frankincense.

Of course we couldn't wait til I got home, so we popped it into the car player immediately and began to listen. My excitement quickly changed, the open happy brow became furrowed, the good posture curled to fetal. The bass was too big and muddy, the drums too prominent. I could barely hear Steve's voice on the first song. I frantically toyed with the bass and treble controls on the stereo. Not much changed. Neither Salil nor I said anything for awhile, then Salil turned it down and looked at me with concern, and in his best Happy Buddha voice, he said,

"Sue... as your friend... I ... I feel I have to tell you... those drums... I ... I don't know if they work for this piece..."

The world came crashing down. We were supposed to be done. And now it all sounded like crap. What do to? I'd ask Steve. I brought the CD home, gave Steve his copy. The next day, he drove to Boston with the CD playing and said that when he got there, his ears hurt. The drums and bass had come way up, and the delicacy of the CD was gone.

I spent the week panicking. Everything sounded terrible and in-your-face. How was I going to tell the engineer this? He'd been working with us for a year, and had been so meticulous all along to make everything just perfect, and now at the end... how could it have turned to crap? We'd have to ask him to look at every track again, start fresh in the mixing. It seemed too much to ask of someone who'd been so generous with his time and so consistently attentive to the most minute detail. I felt terrible questioning him on his judgment, as he's been an engineer for more than twenty years. He was going to get so frustrated, we thought, and this project was already taking too long. He had just bought another large professional audio business, and working around the clock and on weekends to finish up his studio projects so he could focus on the new business. He had already told us in July that he needed the whole thing done by August... and here it was, the end of September, and we're still asking for changes?

"Oh God. Will this be the end of a friendship?" I asked myself every night as I started into the 3 am darkness. For ten days. What are we going to do? I had anxiety. Who would think that something so small as an artistic creation could cause anxiety like this? Well, it does, for those who have nothing else to worry about, because the rest of life was going just fine. (Well, that is, if you aren't simultaneously looking for health insurance that will cost almost as much as the mortgage, and also making a decision about whether or not to go back to work full time. But those things are beside the point.)

So... Rob had said give it a week, and call me on Monday. The Saturday and Sunday leading up to it, Steve and I had long conversations about how we'd approach this sticky problem. How would we tell Rob that his new work was, well, not what we were looking for? I even got defensive in my kitchen play-acting. Over our morning tea, I'd say, "I mean, he made changes we didn't even ASK for. It's not OUR fault." Of course, I'd never be like that to him directly, and I wasn't even angry, but one's kitchen table does offer a certain safe haven for haughty fantasy conversations. Plus, we love Rob and I can't imagine being angry with him--though I'm very good at imagining everyone else being angry with me. (No, Ellen and the Great Rudini, I'm not Jewish. No, Brett, I'm not Catholic. I'm not even Irish!)

We finally got a plan together, and at 8 am on Monday, I went to the computer to set up a meeting with Rob. This was too delicate for a phone call, or for email. First checking my email, I immediately found a message from Rob with subject line, "OOOOOPS." I opened it and found this message:

"I had a chance to listen to the mixes last night, and I realized there was a small problem. A compressor I was using on my last session was somehow still inserted when I bounced the mixes... If things sounded didn't sound right, that is the reason... sorry. I'm going to the studio tonight, and will start bouncing the mixes, correctly this time! "

He had just finished a monster pop/hiphop style record that was destined for the hit circuit. You know, big, punchy drums, lots of bass, a vocal that's slightly buried under the more danceable parts. He had mistakenly used a compressor from that mix on our CD. Easy to remove.

The brow reopened. The round, hardened object that had once been my solar plexus began to slowly expand like a dry, hard sponge encountering water.

Imagine. There had been a mistake. Our genius friend Rob had make a mistake? That had never seemed a possibility.

And all that worrying for naught.

The lesson was momentous: All of it this could have been solved ten days earlier if I'd just picked up the phone and asked.

This is a lesson that I may never need to learn again: If it's bugging you that much, then pick up the phone and solve it.

Thank you, Misfortune, for your unexpected bounties.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sundays on Patuxo-Hibernia Cruise Lines

Last night, at high tide, the waves crashed over the back deck of Pilgrim Sands Motel and soaked the windows we were seated against as we did our now-weekly-forever Sunday gig.

We didn't mind; we all sat in the comfy chairs and stared at the crackling fire, drinks in hand. A new friend, Karen, said to me, "The ocean, a fire, a drink, and Irish music on a Sunday night? WHERE ELSE would I want to be?"

I had to agree. Sunday nights have been terrific. This is the first regular and local gig we've done in a long time, and I must say, it has been really fun. We've seen old friends, met new ones, welcomed our family, including some we haven't seen in years, and talked at length to travelers staying at the motel, who can't believe they're hearing Irish music and sitting so close to the ocean that they might as well be on a cruise ship.

After the performance, four of us went outside and stood on the deck to watch the crashing waves. The tide had receded by an hour, so the deck was no longer submerged, but the wind was whipping and we had to push hard to get the glass door to open against it. Once outside, we stood not far from the door-- just in case--and waited for the big wave whose spray would fly fifteen feet in the air and create a "wow!"

It came. We got showered.

Driving home with the Folkmobile packed to the gills with instruments and gear, I could still smell the salty sea on my clothes, my skin.

This, I thought, is what I do this for.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This is not the time to write, but...

I just want you to know: I'm not mad at you. Seriously. It's just that I haven't been writing. Don't we all get out of the habit?

It's not you. It's me.

Here's the thing. Next time you're wondering what the heck is up, do this for me: Pick up the phone. But don't do it for me. Do it for you.

Why? Because sometimes we forget that things happen to other people when we aren't looking.

In the silence, things have happened. Old grudges have subsided. Persistent neuroses have abated. CDs have been finished. Innumerable witty e-mails have been penned. (Just not to you--but it's not you, I promise. It's me.) Midlife crises have been resolved. Books have been finished. (Not mine.) Self-denigrating apologies have been ceased. New shoes have been procured. (Not mine originally, but mine now. Oh God. I have Prada. Something is rotten in Denmark.)

In short, a whole new unapologetic world has opened, and why?

I have absolutely no idea. Which is really the best idea of all.

Stay tuned. Something interesting may happen if you do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Three Days in a Dream, One Year in Reality

To say that activity has been "constant" for the last few months is a bit of an understatement, but alas... how productive! September is here and my classes at Bridgewater officially start in two hours, so my life very shortly will be consumed with making sure young students understand just how important Big Mama Thornton really was. But in the meantime, Big Mama Lindsay can finally share with you the article she wrote for the September issue of the Boston Irish Reporter, on the newstand today.

Here it is:

From a Dream to Reality,
Making Our Irish Music CD
(Three Days in the Dream … Ten Months in the Doing)


By Susan Gedutis Lindsay

Special to the BIR


We do things differently at the Lindsay household. Last October, when most respectable couples were booking leaf-peeping vacations in Vermont, Steve and I booked three days at Sounds Interesting Studios, a professional recording facility in Middleborough, Mass., to record an Irish music CD. We thought that would be plenty of time to get most of it done. Oh, sure…. Now, it’s ten months later and we’re just about finished! Following is an account of the making of our first studio CD, “From the Green to the Blue,” a world-music-influenced take on Irish traditional and contemporary music.

THE PLANNING STAGE

We began planning for this recording last year, at the release of our first CD. That one was a live recording, but now we yearned for more: the truly creative challenge that only a professional studio presents. So we called our friend, recording engineer Rob Pemberton, who has been at this for 24 years, and in that time has recorded more albums than he can count, in genres ranging from classical, jazz, top-40, to heavy metal. If you are a fan of Celtic Fiddle Festival’s groundbreaking Rendezvous album (Johnny Cunningham, Kevin Burke, Christian LeMaître), then you know Rob’s work. He’s really good.

THE RECORDING

There are many ways to record a CD. Some folks do it live, meaning the musicians play all at the same time, in the same room. Usually, they’ll play the same song numerous times, and keep only the best takes. We tried this approach first, but quickly abandoned ship. “Listening back, you and Steve would find flaws that you couldn’t live with,” Engineer Rob said. “You were actually looking for more perfection than I was – and it made more sense to record you individually so that we could isolate each person’s sound and punch in fixes [correct errors].”

I had expected that since we were going for a natural and edgy sound, we wouldn’t need to be so persnickety about details, but I was wrong. When Rob said “We’re rolling…” it felt like we were positioned precisely between a magnifying glass and the sun’s hot rays: Suddenly, all that heat was focused on us and we were the proverbial leaf, ready to burst into flames. Ouch! Live, one can get away with a few wrong notes, an out-of-tune instrument, a mixed up vocal line. But a recording must stand up to repeated listening, and those little mix-ups can really burn you up over time.
Rob has recorded several Celtic records and he says that recording Irish music is no different than any other style; his job remains to capture the sound that the artist wants. “I like to get the instruments sounding as natural as possible,” he said.

“Whether it’s Celtic Fiddle Fest, the Irish rock band The Prodigals, or more recently,
Cape Cod-based duo Stanley and Grimm, I determine what the musicians want and like and then bring out the best of what they do. Every record ends up sounding different as a result.”

Sounds Interesting Studios is set up like most professional recording operations: The engineer sits at a large mixing console in the control room, amid a wall of musical equipment. The musicians record in the adjacent “tracking room,” and can see the engineer through a double-paned plate glass window. They wear headphones to hear the track and themselves while recording, and communicate to the engineer through their microphones. The engineer gives instruction through a “talkback microphone” that feeds directly into their headphones. Each musician on the track listens through headphones while playing, and adds his or her part to the mix. This is called “overdubbing.”
The recording happens in layers. Because the bedrock of this recording is Steve’s guitar sound, that was done first. This phase included getting a good sound, finalizing the arrangement and song tempos, tuning between every take, and then lining up with a click track to get the rhythm rock solid... and then, of course, the requisite take and retake and retake… because it's not so easy to play perfectly when you have to.

Once we had solid guitar tracks, we recorded "scratch tracks" of vocals and sax/flute. Scratch tracks are placeholders for all other instrumentalists while they overdub their parts. The idea is that these parts will be re-recorded once the full band is present so that the vocalist and soloists can respond to the final “feel” of the piece.

After guitar tracks, we brought in our friends—eleven of them, to be exact. Most tracks have percussion, and that meant studio time with four different drummers: Salil Sachdev on African water drums, dumbek, Pakistani frame drum, and cajon; Brian Haley on conga and djembe; Peter Smith on bodhran; Rob Rudin on bones and washboard. We also added Sean Farias on acoustic upright bass on most tracks, then we added a range of color: Tom Rohde on lead guitar for some gorgeous background lines on one song, Evan Harlan on accordion on four tracks (including a soprano sax/accordion reel set reminiscent of the Dudley Street Irish dance hall sound of the 1950s), Nikki Engstrom on fiddle on some traditional reels and jigs, and Ian Hudson with some elegant grand piano on O’Carolan’s “Si Bheag Si Mhor,” and finally, Chris Barrett, an unexpected guest on one track: trumpet. Chris’s partner Kate Connell added harmony vocals in places where my own voice just didn’t work.

Then, it was our turn. Recording meaningful and musical parts on Irish flute, whistle, and soprano and alto saxophones was frosting on the cake, and believe me, I felt every minute of it.

Finally, it was time for vocals. Steve’s approach to singing is impassioned and real, so it took time just to get the mood right. How can one sing a sultry, peaceful “John of Dreams” at 10 a.m., and then transition coolly into the aggressive, caterwauling “Sixteen Jolly Ravers,” a salty song about sixteen Spanish fisherman who land on Dublin’s shores and hit the nightclubs?

After Steve’s vocals were finished, it was my turn to do the harmony vocals (didn’t realize I sang out of tune ‘til I heard it in the headphones!), and then, ten months later, we were done. But it wasn’t over.

THE MIXING

Then Rob started mixing. That means listening to each track, carefully adjusting the balance between the instruments, adding effects, compression, and doing other technical things that sound very Greek to me. It can take hours to mix a song; multiply that by 13.

Rob says that people don’t listen like they used to. “Most people don’t have a stereo system where they can sit down and devote the time to listen to the music. Now they’ll throw a bunch of songs on an iPod and listen to whatever comes up. But iPod earbuds while jogging is no way to listen to music.”

Despite Rob’s lament, we conceived of this album as more than as a collection of singles. “We wanted this to stand as something bigger than just the duo,” Rob said. “When a band wants to make a record that sounds just like they sound live, to me that’s called a demo. Live, you’re entertaining them because you’re there—the entertainment is in your presence and the interaction between the two of you… There needs to be a lot more in the record, and that’s where the production element comes in. When we put in a variety of instruments and tweak the sound of the record—that’s what makes it entertaining.” That meant that Rob took special care to ensure variety between each track while also maintaining a consistency of sound across the whole.

On this CD, for example, Rob recorded every instrument with two mics, one placed close to the instrument and one placed farther away to also capture some of the “room” sound. He then worked with the two signals on the same performance to create a sense of physical space around the instruments. To oversimplify: When he wants an instrument to appear on the left in the mind’s eye, he will put more of the sound in the left speaker. To adjust front to back spacing, also referred to as depth of field, he’ll bring down the volume of the close mic and bring up the volume of the room mic. Then, he adjusts the frequency of the vocal signal to add a lot of “air” so that the vocals soar over everything else. One of the problems for an engineer who takes such care to create both depth and breadth in his recordings is that most people listen to music as MP3s, smaller files that get that way because some elements of the original sound have been removed. Still, Rob’s passion for recorded sound means that he’ll cut no corners.

And that’s where we are at this writing. All the songs are mixed, as of 8:00 last night.

THE MASTERING

We’ll listen to all of the tracks one more time, and decide on the order of the songs. Once everything is just as we want it, the recording gets sent away for mastering. The mastering engineer listens to each track and ensures consistency in volume and sound between each track so that the overall record sounds like a connected whole. Like the final proofreader on a book, he also notes anything that the engineer might have missed.

THE PHYSICAL PRODUCTION

In the meantime, we’re working on writing the liner notes for the CD, having photo shoots, and creating a cover design, as well as securing permissions for songs we perform. (Oh, and, by the way, tending to our daughter, working our day jobs, and occasionally sweeping the kitchen floor. Occasionally.) Soon, we’ll listen to a copy of a master and approve it. Then, we’ll send the graphic files and the mastering engineer will send the final master directly to a duplication house. The CD duplication house will put it all together and press 1,000 CDs while we fidget nervously with our credit card. And all of this will happen within the next two weeks, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

We feel so grateful to Rob Pemberton and the musicians who appear on the record for helping to make this recording even better than we dreamed. Buying a paintbrush doesn't make you an artist; an expensive canvas doesn't make a better painting. Still, for artists who want a great painting—and great materials that they hope will stand the test of time—some expenses are just worth it.

We hope you'll agree when you hear the result, “From the Green to the Blue,” from The Lindsays. Coming this September… or so… Visit our website irishmusic.us to find out more. For more information on Sounds Interesting Studios, visit soundsinterestingstudio.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fuss in Boots: Stage Fright No More

A blast: Last night was our fourth annual Church of the Pilgrimage concert, and the very first one before which I was not nervous! I hear you saying this out loud: "Nervous? You? After all those shows you do? All that time you spend standing in front of people in the classroom? Why on EARTH would you be nervous?"

And so, I bring you, The Top 10 Ways a Chick Can Banish Pre-Gig Nervousness:

1. Be prepared. Play stuff you know well, so it's second nature up there. If you know things so well that you can play them while also noting how nice Ellen Milt's smile looks in the front row, then you can't mess up.

2. Love the ones you're with. When you just adore the people you're on stage with, and you love everything they do musically, how can anything possibly go wrong?

3. Make sure no musicians who you secretly aspire to be are in the audience. They are not judging you like you think they are. Actually, they ARE judging you just like you judge them. Suck it up; move on.

4. Wear green cowboy boots. Mojo, baby. All the way.

5. Don't worry about whether you look fat in this. You probably do. Who cares??? Girls, can I get a witness? How well do you do when you're worried that your cupcakes are showing?

6. Get sh&tfaced. Gotta try that some time. Apparently, it works for some.

7. Don't record the show. This is the first Church of the Pilgrimage show that we haven't recorded in our four years, and you know... it was pretty nice to just be able to enjoy the moment.

8.Don't bring your kid. Ah, that sweet dream... making music as a family, bringing along Soul Fry to watch and be part of our musical lives. No. Take 2: Getting away from Soul Fry for a few hours, to not be a mom, a cop, a chef, a soda water fizzer, and just be me? Brrrrrilliant. (Try that again, this time trilling your "r." That's what I'm talkin' about here.)

9. Get the tracks from your new CD the night before, and love them. We LOVE the music on our upcoming CD, and we are proud. It breeds confidence. We felt strong going into the concert last night.

10. Be yourself. Yes, the paper billed us as an Irish duo, but really, we're more than that. Yes, we play some Irish jigs and reels, and we do them as traditionally as possible. But man, we love Nina Simone. We love blues. We love rock and roll. And last night, we let it all hang out, and it felt so darn good to just be who we are. Part of being an effective artist is in finding your voice. This is not cliché; this is truth. The last ten months we spent recording that CD was a journey in finding that voice, in dialing in a style and an approach that we like best. We didn't know that was happening, but now we do. We defined ourselves, and that made all the difference.***

The result: Pure enjoyment.

Thank you, wonderful friends new and old who came to see the Lindsays last night at the Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth. You make it all worth it for us, and it never ceases to be amazing that people would actually take time out of their days to see us.

Yes, it still feels like that.

~~~~~~~~

**If you can help us find the perfect pithy way to describe ourselves beyond "Contemporary and Traditional Irish Music" -- we'll send you a free CD when it comes out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Making of an Irish CD, Take 2

Bloggers don't realize how easy they have it!

I've spent the last eight hours writing a story about the making of our CD for the Boston Irish Reporter—an article that is very much one like I wrote for this very blog about two months ago. Except updated, and amended with some really neat information from Rob Pemberton, our engineer. The original blog entry: Be sure that I wrote it in under an hour. It was 1500 words.

This article? The first draft, done in the first two hours I was awake, was 2700 words. The article was supposed to be 1500. I spent all day editing it, and still, it's at 1700. I can't shed the last two hundred words. Finally, I gave up and sent it to my editor and said, "Here. You do the chopping."

One of my favorite quotes is that the greatest creativity happens within limits. I beg to differ. With no limits, what I wrote was just what was needed. With limits, I got stuck. Go figure.

I'd like to share the article with you, because it includes some really interesting chat with Rob... but it'll have to wait til September 1, when it appears in the paper. I'll keep you posted.

More excited, though, to share some music with you. We have eleven songs mixed now, and two more to go, and Rob tells us that they MUST be done by today. Tonight, we will have a complete collection. It's almost done! Ten months later...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Stunning Morning in Turkeyville

Not that I mind waking up at 5:30 to practice music among the spiders in the musty basement... but... sometimes this is much better:


It was so beautiful in Plymouth this sunrise morning that even the car people were stopping. One was taking photos of three deer feeding in the morning mist. One was basking in the peace of four swans floating in the Eel River. (Okay, she was on a bike.) One was marveling at the two families of turkeys rummaging in the grass on Jordan Road (oops, some birdbrain lost a contact!) One was wandering over the River Street Bridge with a Dunkin' Donuts cup, looking a little lost.


An early start after a late night, because yesterday our engineer left us a present: a CD holding nine of the thirteen final mixes on our CD...and we have to provide feedback on them by today, so that he can finish the last four songs by Saturday. And then, we have a finished CD ready for mastering.

What does this feel like?

Well.

First lesson in listening to final mixes for a CD: Don't let the car stereo be the first place you hear them. Particularly if it's in a minivan holding four loud children.

Second lesson in listening to final mixes for a CD:
Don't let the kitchen under-the-counter CD player be the second place you hear them. Particularly if you're also cooking dinner, awaiting the arrival of guests from Ireland in the next half hour, all the while tending to an extremely talkative four year old who asks critical questions that need immediate answers. ("Mommy, where is my egg?!")

Third lesson in listening to final mixes for a CD: Do listen after seeing Sugarfoot and the Brass Kickin' Horns at a free concert on the waterfront with family and friends, including the one who just arrived from Ireland. Make sure you have danced a lot, and also let daughter take dust bath, just like the turkeys. Come home. Orchestrate water bath and bedtime, then sit in basement listening room, perfectly positioned between excellent speakers. Open beer. Lift, swallow, repeat. Then listen to final mixes for a CD.

The verdict:

Not so bad, my friends. From the Green to the Blue is coming soon. It's getting real. We're almost ready to share some Irish music, some American tunes, some Latin sounds, and some flute, sax, fiddle, accordion, trumpet (THE LIVER IS EVIL; IT MUST BE PUNISHED), and supercool world percussion with you.

But you may have to come to the musty basement and sit with the spiders to hear it in all its glory. Our operators are standing by to take your reservation. Bring beer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Come, Sweet Rain; Music Loves You

Unresponsive one day. Finicky, the next. The day after that? Grumpy. Many days: Just plain impossible.

My four year old?

No. My flute.

For an inanimate object, a wooden flute can be rather moody. But these Irish instruments, they are most at home in the rain, and so this morning, as we welcome the sweet and much needed rain in a drought summer, my flute welcomed me with open arms. My breath became its song, my hands, its dance partner.

These are the days that keep us playing. Again, we say: Come, sweet rain!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remembering Why We Like Music

It's easy to get so caught up in working on music that one loses sight of why one is doing this in the first place.

After my 100-turned-365 Days of Practice, it was full-on summer, and I slacked off a bit, mostly due to the advent of new discipline: exercise. Exercise slowly eclipsed practice, and I confirmed what I suspected:

As parents, we're very lucky if we can manage ONE discipline outside of family. We're downright KAMIKAZE if we can do two.

The last days of silence have been a lot about wondering why my practice has eased off. I gave up for a while. Took a break.

And then, today's session. The one I browbeat myself into, squeezing a session into the last 45 minutes I had with a new babysitter. Ran to the basement for a little saxophone, a little flute.

It started out frantic, hurried. How would I fit in all the material I wanted to prepare for our August 24 concert? But slowly, I forgot to think about it. Slowly, I forgot to practice, and without realizing it, suddenly I was playing, not practicing.

45 minutes later, everything hurt and it was time to be done. But my goodness, it was fun. And then the lightbulb: Did I just say FUN?

That's what this, fun.

A good reminder.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gigs this month

Notes on August:

August 24, Church of the Pilgrimage, 8:00-9:00 pm. Free. 8 Town Square, Plymouth. Looking forward to our annual concert at the Church of the Pilgrimage is coming up on August 24. We've got some new music and some new musician friends joining us this time around: Sean Farias, a fabulous acoustic upright bass player who played on our CD, and Gabo Roberts, straight from Dublin. Gabo plays in numerous pubs in and around Dublin, including the Bloody Stream in Howth, and it just so happens that his August visit will coincide with our concert, so he's going to join us on stage. Can’t wait! Gabo is an amazing singer, and he and Steve’s voices blend beautifully. You’ll love it!

August 28, performing in a benefit with Sonnay Fiddlers and Stanley and Grimm at a church in Falmouth... details to come!

Sundays in September: Every Sunday, catch the sunset with us outdoors on the deck at Pilgrim Sands Hotel's new bar and cafe, the Sandcastle Lounge. Every Sunday in September, 5:00-8:00. 150 Warren Avenue, Plymouth. Can't wait to have a nice local gig! http://www.pilgrimsands.com/lounge.htm Please come!

September 13: Club Passim in Harvard Square, part of BCM Fest Celtic Music Mondays. Details at www.clubpassim.org

Other dates: The Farmer’s Market in Plymouth on September 9, and more to come! Now that the CD is almost done, we’re coming out of hibernation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Notes from a Town Full of Turkeys


The summer bug has bitten, and I apologize but the writer in me is on vacation. This is going to be just another newsy Lindsay message. This morning brings you: happy birthdays, recording updates, gig news, scary bug spray, a bike ride with turkeys, and O'Leary for Congress!

Let me begin by saying, Happy Birthday to Brendan Tonra, fiddler, composer, and inspiration!!!!

We love Brendan, and have included three of his tunes on our upcoming CD, From the Green to the Blue. Great news on that front: I do believe that on Monday, we finished all of the recording, and now engineer Rob Pemberton is busy mixing the tracks. Hopefully in a week or so, he'll be done and we'll be ready for mastering. Then, it's off to Nimbit for CD duplication, and we're expecting a completed CD by late August/early September. Hooray! It's been a long time coming. Design Diva is doing the CD cover and it is so gorgeous; just can't wait to share it with you.

Speaking of summer bugs, after tomorrow, we won't have any. In response to the EEE threat, the state of Massachusetts is about to spray for mosquitos all over Plymouth County, and, well, I did a little reading up on this and it looks like things aren't looking good for the backyard organic gardens and pretty much any bug that leaves its windows open or its air conditioner on tomorrow night after 8. We're instructing all of our bugs to keep the windows closed, but I don't think our bugs have learned English yet. So... well... sayonara, our winged buddies. We're sad.

On the gig front, we're gearing up for the next big Lindsays show at the Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth on Tuesday, August 24 at 8:00. Free concert, it's our annual show, and we're looking forward to it. As always, there will be special guests, including Sean Farias, a fabulous bass player from Marlborough who played on several tracks on our CD.

Other gig news: On Sunday, I had the distinct pleasure of playing with Stage Door Canteen as the opening act for the Boston Pops, and I admit, it was a great thrill to stand out in front of the band and do a baritone sax solo on a shiny new borrowed horn, for an audience of some 3,000! Fun!

The fun continues on Friday, when I join Debbie and Friends for a kid's show at Heritage Plantation in Sandwich for their Family Fun Fridays. The next night, Steve will play with a Cape Cod crowd of Irish traddies at the Scituate Beach Club... Stuart Peak, Clayton March, Rose Clancy, and a few others.

On the personal front, Soul Mama is still up at the crack of dawn to cycle with Design Diva, and this morning we cycled past a meadow full of wild turkey families (such cute little babies!) and one gorgeous deer, glowing amber in the sunrise. Worth the lack of sleep, just for the view.

And finally, I just found out about Rob O'Leary, Democrat for US Congress, thanks to that pesky vehicle, direct mail. But this letter I opened, and I admit that despite my slightly pathetic level of political awareness, I like what he stands for and his grassroots campaign appeals to me. I'm in. Check him out at www.olearyforcongress.com.

I'm getting political? It must be good. Or maybe it's the heat.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 29 of Year 2: The Counting Recommences

Here is a way to make the mundane spectacular: Get up early, sit on your bike seat, and catch the sunrise. So lovely I had to share.

This weekend, my friend commented on my blog. "You're not writing anymore. You're journaling." Agreed. "But," I said, "I figure you can write about the mundane in a way that makes it interesting. At least that's why I'm trying to do... " She shrugged.

OKAY I GET IT. Start writing about something, for goodness sake. Be funny, will you????

And so, I decided to start counting again, and get back to the original reason for this blog: Self-torture. It's Day 29 of Year 2 of Musical Practice, and guess what? This month has not been a good one for practicing. Plenty of gigging. Plenty of CD making. Plenty of CD design discussions and photo shoots. Plenty of research into CD duplication options. Plenty of farm trips and way too much zucchini. And lots of swimming in lakes. I even started a new book. But practice? Feh!

If you'll excuse me now, I must get down to the practice room. We have a CD release to start practicing for.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

There Is No Chatham-by-the-Sea


Last night - much fun! The Lindsays played at the Manchester-by-the-Sea of Cape Cod, which we locals call "Chatham." (We're so cool down here that we don't even have to point out that we're near the ocean. I mean, we're the Cape, for God's sake. Chatham "by the Sea"? Mon Dieu! Tres gauche.)

This time, we were joined by Sean Farias on acoustic upright bass... ooh la la, such a great sound. And the sound of clapping from a big bunch of Chatham vacationers: You can't beat it.

A great night, and we're looking forward to having Sean join us for some gigs in future. Even though Sean is on our upcoming CD, this was actually the first time we'd ever played with him. On the CD, he came in on recommendation of a friend, as a "studio guy," to record his bass tracks on his own, after we'd already done the guitar. Last night, we got to meet him for the second time ever, and then play at the same time. Way more fun.

Irish music + acoustic bass: Sign us up. Whenever possible. Like when he's not already playing jazz, Balkan, or Indian music.

My people, I think we've got a new sound coming your way. Catch Sean with us on August 24 at our annual Church of the Pilgrimage show in Plymouth, Mass.!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playing for Kids and Starting a Book


Sometimes your own band and your own CD just aren't enough. Sometimes you just have to start a book.

Soul Mama spent last night on the North Shore, playing with children's artists Leeny and Tamara in a gazebo in downtown Manchester-by-the-Sea, a lovely mountain town. Just kidding; the town is not in the mountains. It's actually in rural farmland in the midwest.

The sun set over the white pleasure boats while Leeny and Tamara and their band rocked a large crowd of energetic Little People. I know Leeny from having worked with her at Berklee Press, and she is already a walking standup routine, but to add music? My little girl and her friends love Leeny's two albums, the first with Steve, Leeny and Steve, and the second Sharing the Same Stars. Great music, but to see her live with kids doing her best Phil Donahue meets Seinfeld meets Fozzie Bear (ok, nothing like Fozzie Bear but I can't think of any children's comedians) then singing like Janis Joplin meets Freddie Mercury meets Frank Zappa (she will NOT approve), my friends, we got ourselves a stah heeyah.

Good times.

Meanwhile, Soul Fry was with Daddy taking her first step dance lesson, and as much as I love to play music, I gotta tell ya, it was with great regret that I pulled the packed jeep out of the driveway. It doesn't help when the leaving was preceded by a crying "MommyIdon'twantyoutoleave!!!!" moment.

But when I finally arrived home after a fun gig and dinner courtesy of Leeny and her hubby Nick, I got to see photos of Soul Fry in her dancing leotard. Dad took pics at class, which you may see if you care to visit my new blog, which I am about to start in two minutes: Irish Step Confidential. This blog by the way is the beginning of a new book about the Irish step dancing life in America, due out from University Press of New England in 2012 or so. Mind you, it's due in January and I'm just starting (can we do a group "gulp?") Expect that at some point soon, activity will diminish on this blog and pick up on that one... I'll keep you posted. I haven't been talking about it because I couldn't bear not having started it... but... the blog begins now. (Don't rush; I'm not there yet.)

In the meantime: The Lindsays tonight at the gazebo in Chatham, folking the Cape with Irish music, special guest artist acoustic upright bass player Sean Farias. Free! Bring a lawn chair and bugspray.

Thus concludes today's episode of The Travels of the One-Armed Paper Hanger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hearkening to the music of what happened.

Maybe it's the fact that I haven't had a cup of coffee since July 5. Maybe it's the distraction with the recent reignition of my old flame, cycling. Maybe it's burnout. Maybe it's summer. But I'm a writer who's feeling neither funny nor motivated. So, what you get instead is a bit of news, again. With a twist.

Perhaps it's the CD. The last three weeks have been consumed with finishing it, as you may have noticed. A couple days a week in the studio, long conversations over the top tube with Design Diva about cover design, and a coupla photo shoots. I guess we're taking this stuff seriously. It's a little like Christmas: We've been waiting all year. It's a fun time, we're excited about what we're about to be putting under your tree and in your stocking... but we'll be happy when it's over. Roll on, metaphorical Dec. 26.

I'm particularly thinking about Soul Fry. She's rolling with it, yes. But her mostly stay-at-home, part-time working mom is a little preoccupied. Yes, I'm am sitting next to her on the couch... but I'm on my laptop writing liner notes while she watches Peep and the Big Wide World. As mothers do, I'm feeling a tinge of guilt.

Remember the days when moms spent the whole day focused on their kids and their homes? Did they really do that, though? Were they sitting down all day playing Go Fish and Monopoly on the living room floor, or were they tossing crayons and construction paper on the kitchen table to keep the kiddies occupied while they put in their curlers and ironed Dad's shirts, all the while obsessing about that suggestively critical comment sister-in-law Alice made about her housekeeping skills at the last family party? I'm banking on the latter.

So, Soul Mama and Papa have got a little something going on. But, on the other hand, how cool is it that Soul Fry got to direct part of last night's photo shoot, carefully placing a winter scarf just-so across Dad's lap while he sat at our basement bar trying to look natural for the camera? We think it's kind of cool. Not cool enough for a scarf, mind you, but we left it in the photo, because, well... it was the music of what happened.

Design Diva, a mom herself, was the photographer, and she made every effort to get Soul Fry involved. Design Diva invited Soul Fry's input on poses. "How do you think Mommy and Daddy look best?"

Soul Fry's reply:

"I think they look best when they have their arms around each other."

The car stops. The driver grasps the wheel and stares straight ahead.

You know... every day we wonder about ourselves as parents because we aren't doing this the regular way. Then, out of the mouth of babes comes a surprise—and a hint that we just might be doing something right.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do you feel lucky? Well, do yah?

This is the time of year for dual weddings.

Late afternoon, The Lindsays hit the docks for a breezy Kelliher wedding by the sea, right at the dock in Falmouth Harbor. Glowing white yachts cruised back and forth on the cobalt sea, and we played the Butterfly. The bridesmaids wore variations on turquoise and purple, and the bride and groom filled a vase with flowers... tiger lilies, Gerber daisies, carnations, and cala lily. Beautiful, sublime, peaceful.

Then, Soul Mama turned up the volume, and raced off to Yarmouth for a real-deal Irish wedding at the Sons of Erin, filling in on whistle and sax with the band Inchicore. The air conditioning couldn't compete with fifty sweaty bodies dancing to the Wolfetones, but still it didn't dampen the fun being had. The tunes were fast and loud and freaking fun, and I knew it was the real deal at about 11 when a crowd of Irish men started a kickline to "Go On Home British Soldiers." Ireland does occasionally rear its raucous head on Cape Cod, and when it does, there's nothing for it but a Guinness and a good hearty yeeeeeeee-hooooooooooo!

I drove home at 1 a.m.. barely able to keep my eyes open after a very long day, but thinking to myself that this musician life really is sometimes exactly what it's cracked up to be: a hell of a lot of fun, and worth all that unpaid work that we put into it in our practice rooms and rehearsals. I'll gladly spend an hour loading heavy equipment into the back of the Jeep if I know it means that someone is going to have a wedding that they'll remember the rest of their lives.

Gotta say: Yeah, it would have been nice to be home last night, but you know, Dirty Harry, yes, I DO feel lucky. Lucky to have one of those jobs that you do because you love it, and that gives back more in personal fulfillment than money could ever buy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Come, Sweet Rain, and More Hidden Details of Making a CD.

Maybe it was the pathetic looking brown grass and droopy chrysanthemum leaves, or maybe it was the chance to wear the new rain boots, but man, was it great to have flooding rains break the drought yesterday!

Weather bedamned, we're okay here, because we're almost done with the long-awaited (at least by us) recording that we started back in October. Tuesday, we were at Sounds Interesting again, to work on Steve's last song, "So Do I," then a redo of saxophone on "Ordinary Man" and a re-do of flute on "One Last Cold Kiss"--and several very sad attempts at my harmony vocals.

We have TWO songs left for harmony vocals to record on Friday morning, and we're done. The harmony vocals are painful, because Miss Suzy has written harmonies too high in her range and thus cannot sing them in tune. Talk about facing reality. But still, let's repeat this part: two more songs, and we're done.

Not quite done, of course. As I've mentioned, our engineer Rob promises that at least a week of mixing is ahead, then the CD gets sent to a mastering house. That, too, will take a week and will probably happen the first week of August. Once we get the mastered CD back (sometimes it's called a "glass master" even though it's not on glass anymore), we listen to it to ensure that it's right.

Meanwhile, I go to Songfile.com, the website for Harry Fox, which is a performing rights organization that ensures that all songwriters get paid for their great songs. I go to the site, log in, enter the song name, and Songfile pulls it up out of the thousands and thousands and thousands of copyrighted songs. I click on the song to add it to my cart, then continue on to search for the next. Right now, I have four songs in my cart, so I owe Harry Fox 0.091 cents per song, per unit. That means if we do 1,000 CDs, then I will be sending $91 to each songwriter whose work appears on it. For us, that means that about $364 will be going out to these creative folks, plus there are another three for which we owe money to Wally Page, an Irish songwriter who's not registered with Harry Fox. Where this money is coming FROM is debatable, but that's why we're banking on that moving target: CD sales.

At the same time, I'm writing copy for the cover and trying to put together the big collection of photos I shot in the studio, for the cover design. This gets sent to the designer Megan Harding, and we can expect a week of back-and-forth there, too, to get the design just right, to tweak the copy to fit the space, to get the colors the way we want them...

At the end, all of these things get assembled: the (not)glass master, the design files, and the licensing information, and I send it with a big fat check to DiskMakers. And hopefully, as I've said, we get it in time for August 24. It will be close, and in fact, it may be unlikely. Either way, it's gonna be done. And we hope you like it.