I’m currently working on my third self-produced CD of original songs, and my first truly ensemble recording.
My first recording, Music From Living on the Earth, was solo vocal and guitar, all original songs, all of the folk persuasion, though some had bluesy/jazzy aspects, and one was an Indian raga. I recorded it just before doing a national tour in 2000 to promote the 30th anniversary edition of my book Living on the Earth. The songs express the same world view as the writing and illustrations in the book; they were composed around the same time I wrote it. Having learned open-tuned guitar in my teens directly from John Fahey, who was a family member, I finger-picked in a variety of tunings on the recording. I made all the artwork, liner notes and graphic design myself—printed brown on tan with soy inks on recycled paper. The CD was released in Japan in September 2005 by EM Records.
My second CD, Living in Hawaii Style, (2001) expanded my musical scope with contributions from two master Hawaiian musicians, chanter/spiritualist Lei’ohu Ryder, and jazz guitarist/vocalist Sam Ahia. I wrote half of the songs and either licensed or selected public domain songs for the rest. I sang and I played Hawaiian style open-tuned guitar (pidgeon term: slack key), ukulele, and standard-tuned guitar, and covered turn-of-the-century guitar solos, Hawaiian swing tunes from the 30’s, and Hawaiian environmental laments from more recent times. Again, I created the art, liner notes and graphic design, this time in bright island colors. This CD was also released in Japan in September 2005 by EM Records.
This third CD, What Living’s All About, contains ten original blues and jazz songs plus two jazz standards. For this recording I hired a jazz quartet (Rick Olson, piano, Chris Conner, upright bass, Kendall Kay, drums, Doug Webb, saxophones and clarinet) for four songs; gospel pianist Rev. Harold Pittman and gospel singers Jessie Williams, Irene Cathaway and Vetia Richardson, plus Kevin O’Neal on electric bass and David Anderson on drums for three songs; avant-garde jazz guitarist Nels Cline to play lead to my rhythm guitar, with upright bassist John B. Williams and drummer Enzo Tedesco on four songs; John B. and Enzo (on percussion only) improvise with me on one song, plus actor Jody Ashworth reads on two of the songs. I sing, read and play rhythm guitar. Scott Fraser is doing most of the recording, mixing and mastering; Ron Grant is co-producing, and Rick Asher Keefer, who recorded and co-produced my first two CDs, recorded the basic sketches of the songs with me. I am working on the art, design and liner notes right now, and they will be in dark cool colors with a wet, shimmering nighttime look.
This CD is a quantum leap from the first two projects, and I could never have started it if I had not done the first two.