Newsletter

HOME

 

Volume Fifty-One      April 2017            Written By Bruce Williams

 

The Making of Magic Stew                                    

Recorded at Highland Records in Round Lake, Illinois.

 

Bill Cornish-Keys

Dave Harris-Drums

Paul Merar-Drums

Jhorber Orta-Percussion

Aimee Baisello-Violin & Viola

Steve Eisen-Percussion

Brian Taylor-Flute & Alto Sax

 

Sophie Wolff Dangerfield-Flight attendant voice on Air France intro

 

All songs written by Bruce Williams

All songs arranged by Williams, Cornish, Harris, Merar

 

Making this album was a joy, on many levels. The songs, Juniper and Downhill Dancer were songs I had performed live with my band over the last few years. Air France, Big Cat Purr and Carlos were songs I had written years earlier, and we rearranged them for the album. Wooing The Blue, Ouballie Shuffle, Magic Stew and Carmina were all written specifically for this album.

The album was recorded in my home studio, which is quite small as it’s a bedroom. It’s so small that the musicians have to find their way to their instruments, and then they’re stuck there unless someone moves. Dave is stuck behind the drums unless Paul moves to let him out, and Bill is stuck behind his keyboard unless I let him out. It’s that tight. If there was an issue with a cable and I have to swap it or if someone has to hit the bathroom, everyone has to squeeze by or step out of the room to let the person by. It was somewhat comical at times, being as we had over 20 sessions in the making of the album. No one griped, and everyone made do. The sessions were not without technical problems, and some of these weren’t uncovered until after the fact, mostly the consequences of squeezing too much crap into one little room.

On one of the songs, after a perfect take by everyone, I noticed that the condenser mic under the snare drum had fallen off its makeshift mount sometime during the take. It was too good of a take to toss, so I cleaned up the track where the mic can be heard dropping, then adjusted the level and EQ on that track to compensate for being out of position. Funny, I don’t remember which song it was now.

The songs were arranged by all of us. We all added ideas to the songs, although on some of them we stuck pretty close to what was on my original demo of the song. Even on those though, little transitions have to be agreed upon, the bass line and drum part has to be refined and altered to fit the arrangement, and our individual parts had to develop and mesh. On other songs, we rearranged what was on my demo, making for some of the most fun on the project. The creativity in my studio was bursting at the seams, and we tried and recorded different ideas during rehearsal to determine which would be best for the song. The arrangement on Downhill Dancer comes to mind. I had played this song in 3 different bands, so it was pretty well set as far as an arrangement, but we decided to change it anyway. The result illustrates how effective we were as a collaborating team. The song sounds new and fresh, and we created that new ending which totally makes the song, in my opinion.

 

The way I set up these sessions was to accommodate a certain production process where important tracks are added later. The goal during the initial recording session of a song is to capture a perfect drum and bass part, knowing that the keys and guitar tracks will be swapped out later. When I play my scratch guitar part then, I am directing the band and trying to help the rhythm section create a solid groove. Bill is on a similar wave length, laying down a keyboard part that supports the ensemble, adding the parts that the rhythm section needs to hit their cues. Later, after the take is approved, Bill and I start working on the subsequent tracks. He does his parts remotely, in his studio after I send him the files. We communicate regularly during this part, so he’s aware of what I’m looking for, but in his case I pretty much just let him go. The guy is such a whiz, and it happens that I love his playing style and his ideas. Bill’s contributions to this album were immense. Not only did he develop beautiful keyboard parts, but along the way he managed to deceptively cover up a few minor flaws in the parts that had already been recorded. He smoothed out the bumps, so to speak. His solos are all impeccable, the parts he dreamed up are brilliant, and working with him is such a joy. In spite of his huge talent, he is a humble man, which is such an admirable quality. I have to say that Bill was ‘the rock’ or ‘the anchorman’ on these sessions. Whenever there is collaboration there is bound to be controversy, and while Paul, Dave and I might go off on tangents, Bill would be the one to settle us down with a comment like, “Well, I like it both ways, but the second way carries the melody better”….or something along those lines. Then we’d settle down and record the track. His words carried a lot of weight, because everyone there had tremendous respect for him as a musician.

 

Paul came to every rehearsal session with lots of ideas. This is a guy who had done a huge amount of recording and song construction, so his ideas were very welcome. He had so many ideas, we had filter them and zero in on the best ones. Consensus didn’t always come quickly, but in the end I know we made the right choices. Paul would bring a different bass from his collection for each song, it seemed. Not really, but it seemed that way. He knew that a specific sound would be good for a certain song and he was playing several different styles on the album, and the choice of instrument was important. It made things a little more challenging during the mixing process, but I like the distinctly different bass tones we have as Paul goes from slap, to fretless and finger style bass playing. Paul has such wonderful technique and knows just where to place his notes so they properly form the pulse that the song needs. He and Dave worked hard on getting the bass and drum parts in sync, and they both did their homework in between sessions, so when it came time to record, they were ready.

 

Dave Harris was especially impressive throughout the sessions. Most of the pressure was on the drummer, because if there’s a flub on bass or guitar, a quick punch-in solves it. The drum tracks had to be spot on. He came prepared for each session, knowing that once he and Paul started refining their parts, the work he had done at home might change. Dave’s biggest asset is his enthusiasm and his love for music, but his own unique drumming style played right into the vibe I was looking for on the songs. One of the cool things about his playing is that his enthusiasm can be heard in his drum tracks. He does these little bits that seem to ignite the music, or pump it. I noticed when I was cleaning up the individual drum tracks that he doesn’t overuse the toms, like many drummers do. Dave used restraint and finesse across all the tracks, knowing that percussion would be added later. 

 

  

  

 

 

I found Jhorber on BandMix, as was the case with Bill. Yes, this musician’s referral service really works, if you know how to screen out all the crap. The hand of fate was certainly in play with Jhorber, as he was this young musician here in the states for less than a year. He was born and raised in Venezuala, and was a percussion prodigy. He started played in major orchestras when he was only 8 years old. His command of the various percussion instruments was amazing. It was like listening to a much older and more experienced musician. His playing of the Venezuelan maracas is featured on a few of the songs, as well. Jhorber developed most of the parts on his own, and had them all mapped out before the sessions. If there were any little flaws in the groove of a song, his parts smoothed everything out and created a consistency across the entire album. The authenticity of his parts was most impressive. He used traditional Latin rhythms and overlaid them on the song, bringing new energy and a continuity that wasn’t there before. When he came in to record the percussion parts, he had them all written down and he had obviously practiced them diligently. Almost all of his parts were recorded in one take. I feel so lucky to have found this talented kid when I did, because he moved to Texas right after recording was completed.

Steve Eisen played cabasa and conga on a couple songs. Steve is known for being one of the busiest and best reed players in Chicago, and he’s played on over 300 record albums, but he’s also an excellent percussionist. Steve and I go way back, in fact I think I first met him at one of the famous jams in the basement of the house I lived in with Mark Hannon in the early 70’s. He was there with Terry Dickerson, Billy Brimfield, Fred Anderson, Billy Ferrick and the rest. I had called him initially to find out if he knew someone who could help me with percussion tracks. This was before Jhorber entered the picture. Steve told me he could do the percussion parts, so I had him up to the studio and he added cabasa and conga to Air France and Big Cat Purr.

Aimee Biasiello is a super talented violist, who is also quite good on violin. Aimee and my son Dan have been living together and are quite in love. He recently proposed, and she accepted. She plays mostly classical music and has amazing technique. Bill had laid down synth string parts on a few of the songs, but I wanted them to sound authentic, so I brought in Aimee to record several violin and viola tracks on top. It was very effective and gives those songs an organic quality they lacked before. Aimee is a joy to work with because she’s such a good and knowledgeable musician. She has a great attitude and really impressed me in the studio as we worked out the harmonies together and she efficiently laid her parts down.

Towards the end of the sessions, I was debating on whether to have the guitar play the head on Ouballie Shuffle, or perhaps a different instrument. I decided to bring in my old bandmate, Brian Taylor. He is a US Navy musician and plays reeds and some other instruments, and is a monster musician. One of my earlier band iterations was comprised of all Navy guys, except me. They called me ‘Chief’ and had fun with it. All these guys were super talented, Joel Packer, Chris Pastin and Ed Williams being the other co-horts. Originally, I thought I’d have Brian play the head on alto sax, but he came up with the brilliant idea of using flute as the main instrument. It really makes the song, and his solo is phenomenal. We used the alto sax for a harmony part, complimenting the flute.   

 

On the song, Magic Stew, we somehow got sidetracked and the song came out way different than what I had in mind. The dilemma was that I liked most of what we recorded, but I knew the drum track and part of the bass track needed to be redone. So Dave and Jhorber came back into the studio and laid down a new percussion and drum section, and then Paul came back and redid part of his bass track. I then completely removed the drums and percussion from certain sections of the song, executing some post-recording arranging. In this case I wanted to have dramatic dynamics, and this did the trick by allowing for a buildup and adding tension to the song. By the time strings and guitars were layered on, the change became transparent and the song was transformed. I find it the most interesting song on the album.

 

The song Juniper was recorded on my old DAW, and when it was time to mix, it was clear that the sound and tone was different from the other songs recorded on the new DAW. Most of it was probably due to the difference in pre-amps, from one DAW to the other. It took a lot of work to make Juniper sound like the other songs. This is another song that I did live, with a few different bands. I also recorded it before with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin. That version was pretty cool, too, with the Latin flavor and a tight groove. I still want to release that version, it just needs something to make it different from the album cut. Maybe I’ll have Brian play the head…

I went back and forth on the song order for the album.

The origin of each song varies. I wrote Juniper in the early 90’s and made a demo myself. It used to be called, ‘June Experiment’. When I formed a band with the Navy guys in 2007, we were performing the song live. Our version was more Latin than my demo. We recorded it back then and it came out great. It was a good step to precede the Juniper on this album, which has the Latin flavor, but is a distinctly different arrangement. Bill’s piano part had a lot to do with that, especially the bridge. The song was inspired by my childhood travels in California, especially the trees.

Wooing The Blue was written about midway through the sessions. By then I could see how the content of the album was shaping up, and I wanted something a little different, so I wrote this one. It has a bit of an R&B vibe, and is all about dancing around and then finally playing with the blue note. Even though the chorus chord progression is well used in music, it works in this song as a release. Bill and I came up with that ending. I like how the song changes and then drifts off into sparse riffing.

Downhill Dancer is another song I did in a couple of my bands. The first time it was performed live was with the Navy guys at The Vine in Grayslake in a trio format. I did the song in 3 subsequent band iterations, including 4 piece. Downhill Dancer remains pretty much the same, except Bill and Paul pushed for a more jazz interpretation. I love it! Paul’s fretless bass beautiful on this song. All the other instruments seem to ride on his bass part. Bill and I came up with this ending too. It’s one of my favorite parts of the album. I spent hours recording the little guitar bits in that ending and more hours mixing it just right. Bill’s keys are perfect. The name of this song came from a picture I saw hanging in the lounge at Wilmot Mountain, where I had a weekly gig for awhile with George Lebongood. I had just written the song and when I saw the picture, the name came to me. The photo was of a pretty bikini clad skier coming down the mountain. For some reason, my first thought was…Downhill Dancer. I wrote the song on guitar, and I’m not sure what inspired it.

I wrote Ouballie Shuffle during these sessions, too, after Wooing The Blue. The beat is based on an African beat I dig. I wrote words to this song, too, thinking I’d record a second version with vocals. Ouballie means old man in African slang, and the song is about a wise old man that everyone mistakes for a fool. The song takes place somewhere in Africa, I suppose. The song revolves around this percussive rhythm guitar part I came up with, a part I purposely played with a little ‘Stones’ vibe. I was pretty happy with the song after we recorded it. The guitar was playing the head. At the chorus I added a harmony guitar. Then I suddenly had a brainstorm…what if I bring in Brian Taylor from the old band and have him play the melody on sax? I sent him the recording and when we talked, he suggested having flute as the lead instrument. We used alto sax for the harmony. What a great idea! It makes the song. I added a little delay to the flute to give it a distant feel.

Magic Stew, the title cut, came to me pretty quickly one night when I was playing piano after one of our recording sessions. I perfected the song over the next couple weeks and played it for the band. Everyone dug it and we recorded it. In spite of the afore mentioned production hiccups, it came out great. The song pays homage to my musical childhood, which was full of classical music thanks to my parents. The idea was to have different instruments share the playing of the melody line, as is often the case with an orchestral piece. Bill came up with the string parts, one section based in part on a rhythm guitar part from my original demo. Aimee and I worked out the harmonies when we added the real strings to Bill’s synth string parts.

Air France is another song created from an old demo of mine called, ‘LA Drive’. The original demo had a drum machine. It was written in the mid-nineties, and always was a song I wanted to do properly in the studio with other musicians. It has a simple melody and a cool groove. I’m not sure why I decided to add the flight attendant voice as an intro, but it’s perfect. The song is about travel and adventure, and of movement. I asked a few French speaking friends of mine to do the vocal bit, but it just never panned out. I then asked old pal Dave Grier to recommend someone. Dave has been in the video production business for years, and I knew he would be able to hook me up with the right talent. He referred me to Sophie, and she did a fantastic job!

Big Cat Purr is another song created from an old demo of mine, written in the early nineties. When I was younger, I listened to a lot of the old Hammond players, like Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, Jimmie McGriff, Rhoda Scott and others. That’s what’s really behind this song. I owned a Hammond A-100 for awhile, and played it often, so I feel the instrument. I love it when the organ is the lead instrument, playing the melody. It’s so 70’s/Booker T. Once I met Bill and realized how gifted he was as a keyboardist, I had to include this one on the album. I wrote it on keys, and used a drum machine on the demo. The beat is one of those oddball rhythms derived from developing sounds from a drum machine without consideration of what a real drummer would play. The accent is on the 1-2 AND 3-4, and I wanted to keep that when we recorded it with the band. Eisen accented that beat further with his cabasa track. I really like the way the drum and percussion tracks came out, as it gives the song a unique feel. Bill’s keys are amazing, especially the way he interlaces the piano part with the organ. I had trouble mixing this one, as the organ was so hot. I had to EQ the signal to get it so it would blend with the rest of the song. I’m sure Bill noticed the difference in tone, but I didn’t want to use a limiter, so I opted for EQ’ing the mids back, just so I could control the signal. Part of the problem was Bill provided stereo tracks for the keys, when I should have asked for 2 mono tracks, allowing me to control panning. I could have split them out, but was lazy. The song works, regardless.

Carmina was based on a jam suggested by Greg, the original bass player on this project. The first night we got together, he started playing this 1-4-6-5 progression and we all jumped on it. It was a great little jam, so the next day I wrote a melody to it and t became a song. The melody is based on my interpretation of some of the opera singing I listened to as a kid, attending my mom’s rehearsals with The San Jose Opera Company. The cadence and lyrical nature of the melody is supposed to have that old Italian feel, which spawned the name, “Carmina.”

Carlos is another old song of mine from the archives, and it was always called Carlos. The name came to me right after I wrote it, because it reminds me of Santana and that kind of Latin music. This song, too, had a drum machine beat, with Dave reinterpreting it on drums. I love what he and Paul came up with. They didn’t stray too far from the original, and it serves the song well. We collectively came up with the percussion break, and it turned into something special with Paul’s suggestion that we use a Montuno beat throughout that part.

It’s interesting to note that some of my old musical influences can be heard here and there on this album. It was totally unintentional, but I can hear a little of that ‘Traffic’ vibe on certain songs, due in part to Bill’s organ. Another group I dug way back when was Tom Scott and the LA Express, and some of the arrangements here remind me of their sound.

 

I was originally going to ask one of my artist friends to produce cover art, and I had made a few sketches of some possible subjects. I was already set on the ‘Magic Stew’ album title. I showed one of the sketches to Dave Harris, and he seemed to like it. It reminded him of some of John Lennon’s art. It was a simple pencil sketch I had done showing a big cooking pot full of the instruments that were used on the album. A few weeks later, I decided to paint the image myself. I hadn’t done much painting of late, and I thought this project might help me get back into it. It was great fun doing it, and I’m happy with the result. I ended up doing all the album art, and I wrote the copy under the guidance of wordsmith Mike Landers, who was very helpful.

 

My brother Dave was instrumental in helping me figure out the best mix approach for the album. It took me awhile to zero in on the sound I wanted, and this being my first big project on the new software, it was daunting at first. I made many mixes for Dave and eagerly awaited his feedback. I trusted his ears, and I knew he knew what I was looking for since we had played together so much over the years. Dave made many excellent suggestions throughout this process, and I give him a lot of credit in terms of how Magic Stew came out. He was especially helpful on the bass mixes, which presented many challenges, and his feedback helped shape all the audio. I couldn’t have done it without him!

 

I guess one of the accomplishments of the production was making it sound like it wasn’t recorded in a tiny bedroom studio. I wanted that intimate feel, as if the listener was sitting at the back of a large room with the band on the other side. I opened up the reverb only slightly, keeping the room small. My old friend Bill Feil has been a recording engineer for as long as I can remember, and helped me start my modest recording efforts in the late 60’s. I leaned on his expertise when it came to mastering, and used his compression, EQ and limiter settings. He was always very thorough and exact, and backed up all his recommendations with logical data. I tried several other mastering approaches, too, but circled back to Bill’s plan, which yielded the clean and punchy audio we have on the album.

 

Just before I finished the album my old and dear friend Bobby Wolf died, very suddenly. It was shocking and heartbreaking, to say the least. I have started a section for Bobby in my ‘Memorial’ section here on the site. It seemed so appropriate to dedicate Magic Stew to Bob. His is so in my music, as he was a major influence on me, and we played together so much over the years. His big heart and his musical genius will always be missed.   

 

As I write this I have already embarked on new projects, but Magic Stew will always be special to me. This album is the result of a change I made in my approach to making music a few years back. At the time, I still had a tendency to write what was expected of me, rather than just letting what was inside come out. I spent most of my musical career playing blues and R&B, so it seemed like I was trying too hard to write within that genre. Just write from the heart….simply let it out….It made a certain sense to write blues songs because I had a blues band, after all. But then I decided to collect all the corny instrumentals I had written over the years, all my little demos with their simple melodies and funky rhythms, and use them as the foundation of this new album. I would write the additional songs needed along the way. I purposely stayed away from blues progressions and jazz formats on this material and just let it become what it is.

  

   

 

Volume Fifty      October 2016            Written By Bruce Williams

It's so good to hear all the positive comments about Magic Stew, and sales have been satisfactory. I didn't expect sales to be that good as the album is kind of oddball compared to what's out there. Digital sales is steady, though, especially in the UK, Japan, Brazil, and here in the states. I continue with promotional efforts, and hope to be releasing a video soon with one of the songs.

Over the years, I've documented some of my musical adventures and have decided to start publishing them here. Here's one called, 'The Main Street Inn'....

 

The Main St. Inn

I remember at the end we were keeping the place open with our Thursday night blues jam. They were no longer paying their gas bill, and had propane heaters set up to counter the Winter cold. The odor was awful, and it was clear it was the beginning of the end for The Main Street Inn. What a great run though.

In 1999, I started looking for opportunities to play music live. I was active with music in my home studio, and would still jam with Mark Hannon as well as Betsy and the Boneshakers here and there, but it wasn’t enough. After some scouting around, I stumbled onto an open mic jam at a little bar on the Chain Of Lakes called, Wokini’s. The jam was run by Carter Hoyt, Jim Roxworthy and John Linczmaier, among others. They were very friendly and made me feel at home. Pretty soon, I was a regular, playing their classic rock songs. Classic Rock wasn’t on my radar, but I knew this was a good avenue for me to get my chops together, so I embraced it. Over time I started singing my blues songs, and the jam hosts were very supportive. I knew I was getting closer to my dream of forming my own band. I was also thinking I could host my own jam, only I wanted it to be a blues jam.  

In 2001, I finally started a band and secured a weekly open mic gig at Chico Moran’s in Ingleside. That was the beginning of The Bruce Williams Blues Orkestra, which started with Jeff Blum on drums, Sonny Sloan on bass, Bobby Wolf on guitar and me singing and playing guitar. I was originally going to do it as a trio, but in a last minute loss of confidence, I called my old friend Bobby to help me out. I wasn’t sure if I could pull of a three piece, and he basically came to my rescue. When Sonny started having transportation trouble getting to the gig, I got Marty Willis to replace him.

This was a time of musical development for me, as I hadn’t fronted a band since high school, and my experience as a singer was limited. I slowly improved my guitar playing and singing, and over time started feeling more confident with my abilities. Bobby was the better lead guitarist, me the better rhythm guitarist, so he did most of the soloing early on. As time went on, I started asserting myself more on guitar, and soon we were both ripping off guitar solos equally.

We were there about four months when one Thursday night we arrived to find Chico’s locked and the lights off. We were all standing in the parking lot wondering what to do, a band all fired up and ready to go with no place to play. Jeff said, “I know a place where they might let us set up and play, The Main Street Inn in Round Lake Park.” So we got back in our vehicles and headed over there. Sure enough, they allowed us to set up and play, and even gave us free drinks as a form of payment. Thus would begin a two year run at this rather unique establishment. We never went back to Chico’s. The owner, who ran the place, was a stone drunk. We knew about it because he’d get so blasted he could hardly pour drinks. He had a female bartender from Ireland who was sweet as could be, but you couldn’t understand a word she was saying because he accent was so thick. Her name evades me, but without her, Tom would have been sunk. Eventually, people stopped going to Chico Moran’s, plus the surrounding neighborhood didn’t like having a bar in a residential area. They closed down about a year after we departed.

The Main Street Inn was housed in a large Quonset hut on Rt. 134, with a huge stage and a room roughly 150’ X 175’. I brought in my PA, my Leslie speaker and other gear, and was able to leave it in the room behind the stage for safekeeping. I was still working at Leo Burnett during the day, and had access to color printers, so I started an ad campaign using posters, e-mail and flyers. Back then I was one of the first to market gigs in this manner, so it proved effective, and the jam began to populate quickly. I made a point of taking pictures of the jams, developing them quickly, and then having the pix on hand for the next jam. The pictures became a popular little novelty, and I used these images in the advertising, too.

Providing a comfortable place for the jammers was important to me, so I brought a keyboard from home and hooked it up to the Leslie, in an attempt to lure in some keyboard players. I figured they might show up if they knew they didn’t have to lug a rig. I tried to make sure that each jammer was allowed sufficient time to play, regardless of their abilities, and I paired musicians in a manner where they would sound the best.

The attendance continued to improve, and soon there musicians coming from far and wide to attend our jam. My band was starting to sound real good by this time, and I started landing gigs throughout the area. Our repertoire was made up from the songs that shaped me as a musician, with many coming from my experiences with the late and great Mark Hannon. ‘Unchain My Heart’, ‘Chickenhead’, ’Sick & Tired’, ‘Watermelon Man’, ‘Jug Eyes’, ‘I’ve Been Working’ and several others are all ‘Hannon songs’. For Bobby and I, this was a tribute for our fallen friend, as we had both spent a lot of years playing with Hannon, and loved the guy.

One of the main reasons I started my band was because after Mark Hannon died, I felt this tremendous urge to “pick up the torch” and attempt to do what he did, which was to play a unique kind of blues. Mark Hannon had a wide knowledge of many various musical forms, and was attracted to songs that weren’t considered ‘straight blues’. He delved into old rock & roll, R&B, funky jazz and even pop, and I hoped to continue that tradition. That quality would distinguish us from other blues bands out there, and helped us land more gigs, as club owners were sometimes reluctant to go with just blues. At eating establishments, I would prop up the jazzier and softer examples of our music, and design mellow sets around the dinner hour.

At The Main Street Inn, every Thursday night became a huge party, with pot smoking and coke snorting in the big room behind the stage, not to mention the occasional couple sneaking back there to bang it. As the crowds increased I negotiated a better fee for the band and secured regular Saturday night gigs there, too. I met many new musician friends during this time, some coming from far away, having heard good things about the jam. It was a fun era, albeit a time of major drinking and hangovers.

I had a fantastic boss at Leo Burnett, Mr. Jim Mikol. He knew I was jammin’ on Thursday nights, and was cool with me coming in a little late on Friday mornings, and didn’t schedule any meetings with me until later in the day. He knew my real passion was music, and since my contributions at the agency were substantial, he cut me a lot of slack. In 2000, I had been at Leo Burnett less than a year when Hannon’s cancer relapsed, and Jim let me spend a lot of work hours promoting the ‘Blues Power’ fundraiser I spearheaded. Cool boss!

Over time it became clear that The Main Street Inn was slowly declining. There were issues with the owners resulting in unpaid bills, they frequently ran out of supplies, and they were hiring sub-par bands on the weekends. Our Thursday night jam continued to pull decently, and we did well on our Saturday nights, but that wasn’t enough to keep the place afloat.

Tina the bartender kept on pouring, and Tommy would keep on showing off his talent of running full speed towards the pool table with a drink in his hand, sliding…then ducking at the last minute and popping out on the other side. Then the cold weather came that year, and we showed up one night to a freezing club. We bitched and Tommy brought out these ghastly propane heaters. The exhaust stunk and was full of carbon monoxide. It was horrible. I started looking for a new home for the jam because it was clear this locale was about to die. And it did. The Quonset hut is now an auto service center.

I ended up working out a real good deal at Austin’s in Libertyville for a Wednesday night blues jam, and it became the biggest jam in Lake County. It was closer to the highway, so we were drawing known musicians from Chicago and Milwaukee. But that’s another story.

_________________________________________________________

I've been doing a hodge-podge of tasks since I released the album, including transferring old 1/2 track masters to digital.

 

I had broken the studio drums down after I finished the album so I'd have more space to do other things, but I set them up again in preparation of starting some new recording projects...

 

Other than that I've been getting ready for Winter, putting the boats away and attending to the electric motors, etc.

And now that my mom isn't driving anymore, I've really been enjoying my time with her as I help her with her shopping and other errands. We talk about everything from A to Z, and we both laugh a lot. I am blessed.

 

Volume Forty-Nine      July 2016            Written By Bruce Williams

 

Seems like it took forever, but I am proud to announce the release of my new album, Magic Stew. This was by far the most complex recording project I had ever taken on, and I have to admit I was overwhelmed at times. My main role was that of composer/arranger/guitar player, but I had to keep the producer hat and the engineer hat on at all times. The project was difficult due to scheduling the sessions, because the musicians on this album are really good, which means they are busy all the time. That's one of the reasons it took so long to get all the songs recorded. I was also challenged by having to record some instruments I hadn't recorded before...viola, violin, flute, and some of the percussion instruments Jhorber used. On top of it all, I had started the project on a Roland recording platform, but then upgraded to a new and more complete DAW after having recorded 2 of the songs for the album. It had been a crash course as far as learning the new DAW, but by the time we had recorded that last song, I had it down. After I mixed everything, I decided to master the album myself. I wanted to figure out how to do it on the new DAW, because of all the cool mastering tools available. I also didn't want to spend any more money on this project. The mastering part took a lot longer than it should have, but I'm very pleased with the results.

Working with Bill Cornish on keys, Dave Harris on drums, Paul Merar on bass, Jhorber Orta on percussion, Steve Eisen on percussion, Aimee Biasiello on violin and viola & Brian Taylor on reeds, has been an honor and a pleasure. All of these musicians are standouts in their own right. Bill Cornish is a prolific writer and has released several albums of his own (www.billcornish.com), Dave Harris has done his share of recording and is also one of the most in-demand drummers in the area, Paul Merar has a long list of recording credits and musical accomplishments. Jhorber hails from Venezuela and is a true master of percussion. Steve Eisen has played on something like 300 music albums, although usually on a reed instrument. I was lucky enough to get him to add conga and cabasa on a couple of songs. Aimee is a wonder on her instrument, is so easy to work with, and she has those keen musical instincts making collaboration a breeze. Brian Taylor used to be in my band a few years ago, in arguably the best band I ever fronted. He's an amazing reed man and also plays a few other instruments. I found him in the US Navy music program, of all places, where he still works today.

I have a pretty long list of projects I want to do now that this one is a wrap, but I will take a moment to enjoy this accomplishment. Magic Stew is a quality product and a testament to that special bond between musicians, and the power of collaboration.

Special thanks to my big brother Dave for keeping me sane during the mixing process. He had great suggestions and it was good to get the perspective of another musician, and someone who's ears I trust.

I had re-connected with recording engineer Bill Feil during the production of this album, and I learned a lot from him which helped me a lot on the technical side.

Housewrecker's bandmate Mike Landers was also very supportive and helpful during the making of this album.

Wife Mary has to be praised for putting up with the musicians coming over to use the studio, for listening to me play the same song over and over again while mixing, and for listening to my BS the entire time.

I thank you all!

 

In other news, I lost my old and dear friend, Bobby Wolf. Very sad, and I sure didn't see this one coming. A beautiful memorial was held for him at House Of Blues, and I had the honor of being a part of that.

 

I will reluctantly add Bobby to my memorial page soon. It will be a large section because he was a large part of my life. He was a friend and a generous musical mentor. He will be missed by so many.

 

 

 

I played a fun gig with The Housewrecker's at a private party in Bristol, WI recently. Lots of fun and good music!

 

 

Also recently, I bought a little gig amp, a Fender Blues Jr. It's pretty cool. Doesn't sound as good as a larger amp, but it's not bad. Mainly, it's small and light!

 

 

Finally, take a look at this pic of old friend Tim Foreman, now living in Florida. The Old Man And The Sea comes to mind....

 

 

Volume Forty-Eight      February 2016            Written By Bruce Williams

I've been meaning to update! Here goes....

I re-did a few guitar tracks on the album a month or so ago.

The album is now pretty much done. I've been in mastering mode the last few weeks, tweaking this...tweaking that. It's good to constantly hear how it sounds on different output systems, because they are so varied and different. It's like the difference between a computer speaker system and a car stereo...completely different animals. If you throw in the little portable speakers for hand held devices and then phones, it gets pretty crazy. My challenge is to have it sound good wherever it's played.

 

 

Each time I listen on a different stereo system, I take detailed notes...helps me keep it all straight...

 

The artwork for the album is done as well, here's the cover...

 

It's almost time to manufacture this album and get it out there. Stay tuned for details!

 

 

The family celebrated my mom's 88th birthday recently. She's doing great.

 

Last week we were with some old and dear friends...

 

 

What's country life without your dog getting skunked? Here's Tyson on the way to the groomer after getting skunked in the face.

The groomer did a great job and he came home later and amazingly, got skunked in the face again after dark. This time I made the mixture (Thanks, Liz!) and put him in the tub and washed him. It worked well, but the house still has that lingering skunk odor. It's slowly going away.

 

How do you make a cake dessert, including frosting, in under 30 minutes? Learn how to make a 'microwave mug cake!' Then you too can gain 15 pounds over the Winter months, as I have.

Or how about a bread pudding? Top it with your favorite decadent sauce, like a vanilla sauce with nut pieces, or a whipped cream...

 

Getting the pedal board ready for gig with Housewrecker's Saturday night at Abel's. Turned out to be a bad idea, as one of the cables was shorting. It worked fine at home, but when I got there and plugged it in...nothing. Fuck pedals.

 

My intention was to come up with sounds unlike what the other two guitarists on the set might put forth, making for less redundancy in the overall tone of the guitars. I ended up playing very sparse bits, or little semi-muted plunky parts as much as possible, which I love. It was fun. I always have fun playing with the Housewrecker guys.

 

Here's a shot from the gig...

 

LtoR: Mike Landers, Rob Sulski, John Linczmaier, Marty Willis, Me and Ronnie 2X

Chris Buck was scheduled to play drums, but fell ill, so luckily Johnny was available and filled in admirably. The special bonus was that he brought Dawn, so we got to hear her sing. And she got a selfie with me!

 

Half of Johnny, Marty, myself and Eric VanDuyne, a masterful guitarist...no, that's not his 'guitar face'.....

Nice to play out live...it's been awhile.

 

Stay tuned about the album release, and enjoy the onset of Spring!

 

Volume Forty-Seven      October2015            Written By Bruce Williams

 

Went boating with Rob, lost my footing and grabbed the steering wheel for support. Of course, the wheel turned and as I was falling back I bent my little finger back quite far. Far enough that it fractured the bone just below my knuckle there in 2 places. Ouch! I was pretty pissed that it happened right in the middle of me finishing assorted little guitar bits on the tracks for the album. On one of the songs where I needed to re-do the head, I had the outstanding idea of bringing in my old friend Brian Taylor to play reeds. He recently moved back to the area, and will be coming by the studio next week to do just that. The rest of the parts I can play, plus it's healing fast.

 

So I figured maybe I'll go camping for a few days. I can get by babying my left hand. I needed to get away anyway, and I have been longing to experience a less disturbed nature than what we have around here, so I decided to head into northern Wisconsin...to the woods. I picked the Indian Mounds Campground on Lake Tomahawk, a Wisconsin State Park. The campsites in the park are very secluded and set far aprt, but it didn't matter because I was the only camper there!

 

I grabbed the best site there. I had seen it on a campground map at home. I set my tent up just a few yards from shore.

 

I was able to keep my boat right there on the beach, which was convenient...

 

That first night I made a beef stew. I simmered it for a few hours.

 

Food just tastes better when one is camping! I sat there facing the lake and enjoyed the view as I supped. It was delightful...

 

Yeah, there was a guitar in that last pic, but I couldn't play much with 3 fingers. I did manage a little slide with the slide worn on my 3rd finger, awkward....but I didn't care. No one could hear but me and Bigfoot.

 

The views from my little spot were incredible...

The warmth of the fire was really needed. as tempuratures dropped down into the low 30's at night...brrrrr

 

Bacon smells so good, cooking in the woods...

 

The perfect camping breakfast...

 

 

It was so quiet at night....there was no sound of cars, or voices, nothing except maybe the sound of an animal walking around. It was a little spooky at times....

 

Didn't have much luck fishing, but I didn't care. It was so pretty out on the lake, and it is a huge lake.

 

 

Campsite selfie!

 

 

It was a great little 3 days in the woods. On the way back, I stopped at a few spots along the Wisconsin River and took a few casts. I also took 'the long way home', so I could go through the little towns.

 

When I look back on my little solo get-a-way, I'll remember sights like this....

 

 

In September, our old and dear friend Mike Platt came out from Colorado for a visit. Good to see him!

 

Volume Forty-Six      August 2015            Written By Bruce Williams

Well, the sessions for the album are pretty much over, except for some string parts I'm adding to a few of the songs. Aimee Biasiello, a very talented professional violist who happens to be the GF of my youngest son Dan, is helping me with this. She overdubs multiple parts using violin and viola and it sounds friggin' awesome! I'm also in the midst of re-doing a few of the guitar bits on the album. I've already started mixing the songs, and I'm really happy with the results. Hopefully, I can finish this thing and release it very soon!

 

Son Dan helped me rebuild the pier a few weeks ago. Couldn't have done it without him....in fact, he did most of the work.

 

Speaking of kids, here's oldest son Rob taking his bike out for a test drive after doing some repairs on it.

It woiks!

 

 

Volume Forty-Five      June 2015            Written By Bruce Williams

Getting closer to the finish line on the album! We're recording some percussion tracks right now, and I have to do a few guitar bits, but that's it. Then it's mixing and editing. The tracks are really good and I'm really excited about this album.

I've always been so fortunate in finding the right musicians to help me record my songs. I recently met Jhorber Orta, a very talented young Venezuelan musician, who is doing an amazing job with the percussion on the album. He's very knowledgeable and adept in all the Latin rhythms and more, and can play a myriad of percussion instruments.

Here he is at work in my studio...

 

 

Caught a nice bass on Father's Day, and had a great family day. I caught this one on a top-water frog. He really pounced on the lure and put up a terrific fight.

 

 

Volume Forty-Four       April 2015            Written By Bruce Williams

We had a great recording session last night, as we laid down takes for "Wooing The Blue", an instrumental I wrote a month or so ago. The title refers to how the melody encounters the blue notes in the song. As I reflect on our session, I can't help but marvel at the musicianship of these 3 guys I'm working with. Dave Harris executed an amazing African influenced drum track, and Paul Merar laid down a super cool bass line to form the perfect groove for this song. As always, Bill Cornish continually comes up with these brilliant keyboard tracks that emphasize and support the song melody. It's the ideal scenario for music-making!

One more song and this album is done. It's been an amazing musical adventure.

I played with King Robinson this last Saturday in Grayslake....a blast, as always. I always jump at the chance to play with the incomparable King Robinson (a.k.a. Rob Sulski). Mike Landers came up with this format where we employ 3 guitars, and rather than sounding like it's over the top....it actually works! The last few times we've played, the music has been especially compelling, perhaps because the 3 of us guitarists are so distinctly different in terms of style and tone. It also helps that we are all able to lay back and pick our best spots, enabling us to mesh as if we were in a recording studio environment. Mike coaxes an amazing tone from his old Gibson, and Eric Van Duyne is simply amazing. It's quite fun.

Dave Harris and Gary Heller came and sat in and sounded awesome, as did Jeff Coca and Doc. Marty "Thumper" Willis on bass and drummer Chris Buck provided excellent grooves all night. Good stuff. 

Here's a picture of Mike, Rob and I at the event....

 

 

Volume Forty-Three       February 2015            Written By Bruce Williams

Still working on the album after a few setbacks, and we're now recording in my upgraded studio. I recently migrated to a computer based system, running Pre Sonus software. I looked at all the available software before I opted for this, including ProTools and Sonar, but this one looked like the best value with the most capability.

I got 11 years from my Roland VS-2480 and produced 2 albums and enough material for 2 more. I have no complaints about the old recorder, but it became cumbersome in terms of moving data around and backing up data.

The new platform is anchored by a computer from Sweetwater, designed specifically for audio and video production. It's super fast, has dual drives with a dedicated recording drive, and a bunch of other outstanding features. It will take awhile for me to get the software down, but it can't be any more difficult than the Roland was.

 

Here's what it looks like at the moment. The Roland is temporarily setup as I am transferring data to the new rig:

 

The plan is to move tracks recorded on the Roland over, then start mixing the album. I've already done some of the work, but there's lots to do. In the meantime, we'll finish recording these last few songs.

Finally finished remodeling the kitchen area of the house. It took forever, but in the end looks great. It's such a pleasure to cook in a fully appointed kitchen.

 

We had our stairpost restored and it looks like new:

The dogs love it, too:

 

The TV viewing section of the space:

 

Dining area:

 

Let's make a sauce!

 

For the rest of the winter, we'll cook and hang out in this new part of the house. We may put on a few pounds, but we'll be comfy.

 

Volume Forty-Two       October 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

I can't believe I haven't added a bit here since July! I guess I don't spend as much time on the website as I used to, although it's still very important to me. When I was gigging regularly, I used this site a lot for presenting my various musical acts to prospective clients. The most important aspect of this site has always been the memorial section, which is dedicated to fallen comrades. I've gotten a huge amount of feedback from it, and I continue to amend this section when I can.

Still recording that album, and the results have been really good. All our sessions have been a lot of fun, with great collaboration and lots of creative ideas. We just finished "Air France", a song I wrote only a few months ago, based on a groove I wrote about 7 years ago. We're now working on "Downhill Dancer" a song I wrote about 9 years ago, and have performed with my old trio and a few iterations of my old 4 piece band. The guys came up with a fresh approach for this one, which really breathes new life into the song.

A couple more songs and we'll wrap this thing. It's going to be a great album, thanks to this crew of outstanding musicians.

I took the gazebo tent down from the yard today, a sure sign winter is looming. Hopefully, we'll finish this remodeling before Thanksgiving, but it's going to be close. 

 

Volume Forty-One       July 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

I've lived on Highland Lake for 33 years, and have caught a huge number of fish, mostly bass, northern and some crappie. Son Rob and I were out fishing on July 22nd, and we were actually on our way back to our pier. We were cruising along the outside of the lily pads and both of us were taking a few final casts for the day. I was using a white "L" spinner and my spinning rod, a Shakespeare 'Ugly Stick' equipped with a Mitchell 300 reel. I was using 8 pound test with a 60 pound mono leader. The water depth here is about 4 feet.

I was casting the lure way out in front of the boat as we slowly headed home, and I was not letting it sink too much after it hit the water, keeping it just a few inches below the surface using a fairly rapid retrieve. Suddenly it felt like I had hit a log or something. Had it been weeds, I would have been able to pull it through to free the lure, but this was different. As I gave it a yank, I suddenly felt the fish and knew it was a monster. I applied pressure and held the rod tip high and the fish surfaced. At first glimpse one might have thought this was a northern, but the coloring was different and this fish was much larger than the northern we normally catch here.  He went back down and ran to one side as I tried to control the drag on the reel. I set it to maximum drag and fought him hard and he surfaced again, this time closer to the boat and both Rob and I knew that this was a big musky!

We finally got it into the boat, thanks to Rob somehow getting our smaller bass net around the beast. We took a few pictures and released the fish.

 

 

Volume Forty       June 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

Bobby Womack gone. He was a great one. Amazing writer, arranger and performing artist. After I read Greg Kot's obit this morning, I sent him the following e-mail:

 

Mr. Kot,

 
I've admired your writing for years, and have always thought your reviews were thorough and fair. I'm writing today because I just read your article on the passing of the great Bobby Womack, and was surprised you didn't make mention of the fact that Womack wrote "Breezin'", which was a huge hit for George Bensen. The original recording of this song, which Womack did with Gabor Szabo, is truly wondrous. It has those intangible qualities that separate artists like Womack from the pack. He plays rhythm guitar on the record, accompanying Szabo with subtle passages, carefully supporting the simple melody. Bensen's version pales when compared side-by-side. As in a lot of Womack's work, there are little things in the arrangement that make the song unique. "That's The Way I Feel About You" comes to mind, another of his works where he handles each verse differently, even adding an unexpected chord here and there.
 
The inclusion of Breezin in your article might have shown Womack's amazing diversity as an artist, and even educated those who think it's a George Bensen song.
 
Keep up the great work!
 
Best,
 
Bruce Williams

 

I never write letters like this, but felt compelled in this case because Womack was always under appreciated, in my opinion.

 

 

I've been fishing a lot, and catching some beauties. I caught this June 25th, along with a few nice bass and another, smaller northern. I caught this monster on a top-water frog bait son Rob gave me for father's day. The strike was so hard he rupturd the frog bait, and the fight was spectacular!

 

Volume Thirty-nine       May 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

My 24 track digital recorder is made by Roland, and like most computer based gear, grew obsolete quickly. The DVD drive pooped out, so I had to find a replacement and swap it out. Roland wanted 500 clams for their replacement part, but thanks to the resident expertise within the users group I belong to, I found one for $55.

Changing the hardware was similar to working on a desktop computer. I flipped it on it's back...

 

 

Took off the bottom...and swapped out the drives. It wasn't that bad. I just kept all the screws in little tubs as there were about 30 of them, all different sizes.

 

Of course I had a guitar nearby for when I needed a little break (and a sweet roll...). I also took the opportunity to rid any dust from the inside of the recorder and gave it a good cleaning.

The repair worked and up I'm back up and running again. Yay!

 

So far the fishing has been great this year. Lots of minnows around the pier.

I had to downsize the pier as the ice trashed our old one, big time. This will do for now...

 

Here's King Robinson with a nice northern caught from the lake I live on...Besides being a Hell of a bluesman and environmentalist, he's quite the fisherman....

May 28, 2014

 

 

 

The other night I saw Slash play the national anthem at the opening of the hockey game. I'm not a metal guy, and I admit I frown upon artists who change their name to a one word moniker, but my comments today are more about originality than anything. When Hendrix played The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, it was a surprise. It also seemed to be a musical commentary on the gathering of all those people, amassing in defiance of 'the man' and the conventions of the time. Most of the people who saw Slash do his thing weren't even born when Hendrix blew everyone away with his solo anthem. What guitarist would have the balls to steal Hendrix's thing and try and duplicate it? On top of that, it was a rather boring and uninspired rendition of the song. And what's with the top hat? Does he have a bald spot? I wore a hat like that in high school....

If I want to hear The Star Spangled Banner played on the guitar, there's only one version I would want to hear, requiring me to find my Woodstock DVD and hear Jimi do it. In fact, in the case of Hendrix and many other iconic musicians from the past, I would never want to hear these signature awesome songs reinterpreted. When I want to hear them, I'll listen to the original recording.

Several years ago when I was still in the advertising racket, I was in Seattle for a speaking engagement. After fulfilling my responsibilities for the day, I ventured out that night to check out the local music scene. I found a bar downtown off Elliot Avenue where an open mic jam was being held. I didn't have a guitar with me on this trip, but in the back of my mind I wanted to play and was hoping I could borrow a guitar for a few songs. When I walked in and scanned the room, there were at least 10 guys dressed up like Jimi and waiting to jam. Some of these dudes went to great lengths to find the little vests that Jimi wore, with the dangling tassles...and several of them had their hair done up afro style. Most of them had Strats and were strutting around like they were their hero incarnate. I watched a few of these guys perform and they were so-so. Some had Jimi's 'choreography' down, complete with facial expressions. The longer I stayed, the less I wanted to sit in. There was one standout performer, a roundish black guy with a Les Paul who played a Freddie King song and a few other blues numbers. I checked him out, finished my drink and left, kind of chuckling at this scene of copycats.

For Slash, maybe he thinks he's so great that he can get away with his pre-game performances of the anthem, even though he's copying Hendrix out of context. Perhaps he's found that these 'game gigs' pay well and good for him. He may have no problem doing this routine, maybe even positioning it as some kind of tribute to Jimi, but one has to wonder if deep down, he knows it's a cheap rip-off, complete with wah-wah.  

 

 

Volume Thirty-eight        April 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

Perhaps I jumped the gun a little bit on the Spring thing...

 

The good news is that my mom had a successful procedure done at the hospital and went home today. She painted me this small portrait for my birthday. 

My mom is so talented.

Volume Thirty-seven        April 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

What a relief! April 9th was a great weather day here, our first one of the year really. Rob, Margie and Dan came over to celebrate Mary's B-Day. Dan came early and made us an outstanding breakfast including delicious waffles. We hung out by the lake and of course Rob couldn't wait to get a lure in the water. He bagged his first bass of the year and it was a beauty! We've all had good luck right from shore on this lake, it's truly remarkable.

A little later we tried out my new trolling motor for the first time. It was a Christmas present I've been eager to get going. We took the dogs along and they dug it. It took Ty a few minutes to adjust, as I'm pretty sure that was his first boat ride.

Here we are cruising near the wood duck houses Mark Rosemeyer recently put in.

Spring has finally sprung!

 

 

Volume Thirty-six         March 2014                Written By Bruce Williams

I can't believe I haven't added anything to my newsletter since November. It's been a grueling Winter with too much cold and even a little too much snow for me, and I love snow. Seems like a lot of us didn't go out as much and stayed in the warmth of our homes.

The album project is coming along really well, albeit slower than I had hoped. The musical product is outstanding. I've done a few gigs with this crew, too, and the live results are compelling. It's also good for us to play outside of the studio, just to get to know each other more from a musical standpoint.

In spite of the brutal season, I have this lucky feeling about things. Every time I walk out my front door, I remember a day back in early December when I walked out to get the paper, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. There's five cement steps leading from my front porch to the driveway. I didn't even notice that there was a thin coating of ice on the stairs. When my foot arrived at the top of the stairs, I planted it and it just shot forward on the ice and my legs went out from under me. I flew towards the bottom of the stairs, upper back first, and my body tumbled backwards as it descended. When I finally landed, I found my self on the ground just past the bottom stair. My head had just missed the bottom step and my shoulder broke the fall. I felt the stair graze my head as I came down. I just laid there on the cold ground for a time and collected my thoughts, and then realized how lucky I was that I didn't crack my head open or break my neck. It was probably a good thing it happened, even though I was sore for a few days. Now I'm particularly careful walking on the ice and snow.

The holidays were good, the family is doing good...no gripes. We have gone bowling a few times with the kids to break the monotony of the cold. That's been fun, even though I'm not the best bowler. It's just good to hang with the people you care about and good to laugh.

I continue to work on overdubs between recording sessions, and have even started editing some of these songs. It's hard to say when this project will get completed, but I hope to have all the recording done in the next 4 months or so.

As far as my hydro garden downstairs, it's been a rough Winter. The long stretches of cold killed off a few rounds of planting. The garden is in a cold basement and even with a space heater going it was simply too much for the plants. They like a tropical environment, really. Then I recently lost a batch of seedlings I was germinating for the same reasons. So I'm starting over, but at least now the weather is getting milder and they'll have a chance.

Like the last few years, I'll also be starting some plants downstairs to move to the outside garden to give them a head-start. 

After having veggies and herbs during the Winter the last few years, it was hard to adjust. Next Winter I might seal off the outer room more with plastic in case we have another extremely cold season. That will help retain heat in the area and promote humidity.

 

 

 

 

Volume Thirty-five         November 2013                Written By Bruce Williams

Lots going on for me in November! Working on the new album with a great crew of musicians: Bill Cornish on keys, Greg James on bass and the incomparable Dave Harris on drums. It's hard to assemble this crew because all these guys are busy, but it's worth the wait.

Attended my old friend Kirk Moulton's 60th birthday party recently. He brought a select group of his old friends down to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch. Great show, and really nice to see the old gang.

The L to R: Hayden Conant, Edie Newman, Melissa Conant, Kirk Moulton, Val Moulton, Nancy and Tony Marshall

 

 

Newman and Edie

 

The Gospel Show!

 

Quit smoking and am doing great. Entering my 3rd week and feel very confident, although it hasn't been easy. I know I've been a pain in the ass to live with. I am getting a lot done around here, though. Lots of energy! I've been organizing pictures and other memorabilia. Revamped and rewired my studio. I had to clean the studio to get the smoke smell out. And I cleared out a lot of unnecessary gear and cabinets and stuff so there's more room for the musicians. 

 

My babies in a clean studio!

 

Volume Thirty-four           October 2013                Written By Bruce Williams

The Tavis Smiley Show recently featured an interview with Robbie Robertson, who was there to promote a book about iconic musicians ("Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed The World" Tundia Books). The purpose of the book is to educate younger people about some of the great artists who changed the landscape of music and culture. Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan, Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly are among those featured. The book comes with a CD, as well. In his conversation with Smiley, Robertson talked about how those of us around in the 60's were exposed to not only a musical revolution, but also a period of discovery, as record albums from all genres were surfacing and made available to interested listeners. During the interview, a comparison was made to the current state of the music industry, which of course was unfavorable. Smiley is known as a champion of musical talent, and bashed the mainstream artists of today, and who can blame him?

How did we get here? How could the same culture that gave us the artists mentioned in the book now have us worshiping musical drivel? How many times have I turned on the TV only to see musical acts where a female lead singer is wearing something akin to a bathing suit, doing silly dance steps and performing songs that have little meaning and are devoid of any musical integrity? It can't all be the fault of Madonna, although she certainly popularized this silly kind of act.

For me, music is more about hearing than seeing. When I first heard The Temptations, I thought...'wow! this is great music....awesome harmonies...great songs and arrangements...' But then when I saw them on TV, doing their 'steps', I was kind of turned off. T-Bone Walker made some great music, but I have no interest in seeing someone play the guitar with their teeth (sorry, Jimmy).

I'll never forget the first time I heard Hendrix. It was 1967 and a few of us were hanging around with some guys a few years older then us. One of these guys saw us milling about in his front yard and asked us if we wanted to hear this new record album he had just bought. It was Hendrix's 'Are You Experienced'. I had never heard of this Hendrix guy, but before he put the record on, I noticed the wacky graphics on the album cover. Then the record started playing, and I heard these sounds I had never heard before as 'Foxy Lady' filled the room. What the fuck was this? It was revolutionary. It changed my perception of music.

About a year later, I saw Hendrix live at The Opera House in Chicago and saw Hendrix doing the T-Bone Walker thing, and saw him light his guitar on fire and all that. It was needless for him to put on 'the show', because the music was so powerful on it's own. And of course we all later learned that the pressure on Hendrix to keep that crap in his performances really bummed him out.

I guess I liked a few songs by "The Who" way back then, but was totally turned off by their guitar and amp smashing routine. It was choreographed to be this rebellious and spontaneous act, and yet they did it at every show, right on cue. How stupid. Even Townsend's 'windmill' action while playing the guitar seemed dumb and meaningless.

I can't include Rap in this debate, because I don't consider that genre music, really. It's 'bad poetry with sounds' or something. And most of the lyrics are superficial, silly and meaningless.

I think one of the reasons Adele hit it so big is because she can actually sing, and even though her songs aren't that compelling, maybe the masses actually long for performances with substance and vocals that are strong. The same is probably true of the success of Susan Boyle. These singers stand out more because there's so much crappy music in the mainstream. Neither of these singers, however, stands up against someone like Sarah Vaughan or even a Joni Mitchell.

The marketing machine of the music industry looks for potential stars that they can brand and package, ignoring the musical side to focus on appearance or gimmick. There are so many people out there willing to do anything to become famous, which only feeds the machine with more and more opportunities to flood the airwaves with mediocre musical acts. The mainstream, music buying public seems to gobble up all this crap. That doesn't bode well for the state of our culture, once rich with a diverse range of musical offerings coveted by true music lovers.

There will always be a 'teeny-bopper' market, ala the performers emerging from Disney's Mouseketeers, the silly boy groups and the shouting female 'singers' with their silly dance shows. One would think that their star-struck audiences would grow older and eventually discover real music and eschew the nonsense of their youth, but that isn't the case I guess. Perhaps they don't have the curiosity or interest to seek out music that really touches their heart because they just don't know better. The young audiences of today were raised on crap music and just aren't exposed to good music because it's not readily available. Nowadays, one has to search for it, or stumble onto something like the ken Burns jazz documentary, or find their grandmother's old record collection.

The Robbie Robertson book is important because maybe it will inspire more young people to appreciate music that is timeless. Maybe a few of these readers will learn something from the masters, once they are exposed to their awe inspiring recordings.      

 

Volume Thirty-three           September 2013                Written By Bruce Williams

In recording mode now. Trying not to take any more shitty gigs just for the sake of gigging.  Luckily, there's still a few places around where the music is appreciated, the pay is up to par, and where the musicians are treated well. The festivals are usually fun, too, as are private parties. There's nothing quite as musically satisfying as recording though. I'm working on a new album of original songs, including several instrumentals. At the same time, I'm mixing and still adding parts to an album of cover material. I need to focus and crank this shit out!

The hydro garden downstairs is in full harvest mode, with several peppers a day ready for the picking. The outdoor garden is also producing a nice crop of tomatoes and hot peppers.

The hydro garden, however, really responded to some new chemistry I tried. The growth down there is amazing...

 

Mac and Tyson playing with a stick in the yard....

 

Volume Thirty-two           May 2013                Written By Bruce Williams

I finally changed over my irrigation system in my hydro garden. What a bitch to clean! I had shut this station down when my last crop of basil and bell peppers fizzled out a few months ago. I had been procrastinating, but the seedlings were pushing up against the top of the germinating lid, so it was time. This time, all 10 plants in the station are basil. Last time, I had basil and other plants, as well. I'm hoping to grow a shitload of the stuff, because you can't have too much basil....Especially if you dig pesto.

 

When the seedlings are this young, I don't add any chemicals. I just make sure the Ph is perfect. When the plants adjust to their new home, I'll add the proper nutrients.

 

I cleaned the outer grow room up, too, as it was really getting out of hand.

 

Well, Dan left the band citing his mayoral responsibilities. I knew it was a possibility, but we'll miss him! We do have a few upcoming shows together, which I'll look forward to.

Celebrated Ronnie 2X birthday at AJ's 5/15/13....Fun to jam with my friend on his B-Day!

Ron Cacioppo......55 years young!

 

Mary and John celebrating with Ronnie

Also met JB Richie for the first time and saw him play. He sounded great! He did a tasty set in a trio format with John Linczmaier on drums and a really solid bass player I didn't know. It's always refreshing to see a blues guitarist who's not trying to sound like Clapton or SRV...this guy appears to have learned the blues from the original artists and is doing his own interpretations of the songs. My kind of guy.

 

The lone artichoke continues to grow in my hydro garden...

And the other plants are doing great!

 

I keep track of temp and humidity with one of these:

I'm still harvesting red bell peppers pretty regularly, although today was the first one in a month or two, as I had to wait out the cycle on a few of the plants. These hydroponically grown peppers are so juicy that liquid squirts out when you cut them, and the flavor is somehow more pronounced. Tonight I made stuffed chicken breasts using these fresh peppers. I pounded out the breasts and layered in uncut basil leaves, prosciutto, the red bell pepper (julienne cut), yellow onion & feta cheese. Then I rolled them up and secured them for baking. I basted them in butter a few times during the cooking process. I served it with a white wine and cream sauce made from homemade chicken stock. The sides are angel hair with jalapeno pepper and steamed broccoli.

 

Not much else going on right now...I did pull the boats out of their Winter storage spots this weekend, and dragged them down by the lake. Also went fishing with son Rob yesterday and caught my first bass of the season...just a little guy, but it counts!

 

Volume Thirty-one           April 2013                Written By Bruce Williams

Well, Dan won the mayoral race, so my trusty guitarist is a mayor....a first for me as a bandleader....hehe...and a first for him, as well. I know he'll be a good mayor, and he's a good guy.

Well, the artichoke experiment worked. So much of this gardening stuff is trial and error, even though there's great resources for info on the internet. Not much on growing artichokes hydroponically, however.  But after switching the light cycle and chemistry, I finally have an artichoke!

 

It doesn't look like much right now, but we'll see what happens. As usual, the peppers are producing well, although these pepper plants in the 'flower' room produced product faster than any pepper I've grown because I forced them to flower. Another unexpected result is larger peppers. We'll see how that plays out with the other plants.

 

I recently germinated some tomato seeds and a few days ago transplanted them to pots. These are for the outside garden. I hope by mid-May they are a least a foot high. Last year I kept them hydroponically until moving them outside, so we'll see if this makes any difference. We had a good crop last year, but I want more!!

The bad news is, my wife Mary broke her leg last month slipping on the ice in our driveway. After surgery, a metal plate and  a lot of pain and discomfort, she's finally on the mend.

The band is having fun playing at The Full Slab every Friday night. The challenge has been to learn more songs so our material doesn't get stale over there. We still have our 'signature songs', of course, but it's fun learning new stuff, and fun figuring out how to arrange it properly for our band. The plan is to add more of my originals, too.

 

Like everyone else around here, I'm waiting for the weather to get better.

 

 Volume Thirty           February 2013                Written By Bruce Williams 

This is the time of year when one gets the itch to end the hibernation of Winter and get outdoors again. Of course, the weather won't cooperate for awhile, but we can at least begin to look forward to Spring. In the meantime, like last year, I'll soon be starting some plants downstairs that will end up in the outdoor garden in early Spring. Last year we had a huge bounty of tomatoes and peppers because of this preparation.

I finally moved the artichokes into the back grow room and switched the lights to a 12 X 12 hour cycle, and also goosed the chemistry to stimulate flowering. I threw a few pepper plants in there with them, to see what effect the new cycle will have on young pepper plants. I'm hoping they'll produce sooner and longer.

 

 

 

In the picture below of the outer grow room, you can see the old basil plants on the left phasing out, the new plants in the tray, and a few buckets (dill, parsley and basil).

 

Other than the garden, Mary and I have been slowly organizing the house...room-by-room. We both have so many clothes that don't fit and even though we've become better at throwing stuff out, we still have too much junk in this house.

The band just played a fund raising benefit for our guitarist, Dan MacGillis, who is running for Mayor of Round Lake...

I continue working to complete unfinished studio projects, and I don't see an end to it for awhile. I have lots of material I've recorded over the last several years, featuring some great players, and I need to put it out there so others can hear it. There's some really good stuff!

 

Volume Twenty-nine           October 2012                Written By Bruce Williams

Gigs remained pretty slow this Summer, although we did have some special ones, especially the McHenry Blues Fest in August. Also doing some fun things in the studio.

The outdoor garden continued to produce veggies and herbs all season, and there's still much to be harvested.

 

The artichokes I started in the hydroponic garden last Spring haven't really matured as I would have hoped, with 3 out of 5 surviving. Two of them look pretty strong and I'm just going to keep them going to see what happens. Production in the hydroponic garden will improve now that I won't be focusing on the outdoor garden for too much longer. I need to be more diligent with changing chemistry, staying on top of the ever growing algae, etc.

Volume Twenty-eight           June 2012                Written By Bruce Williams

June already.........Damn!

I meant to post something when I moved the plants I had started hydroponically outside to the garden, but forgot about it. Some of them were huge.

Anyway, the outside garden includes: Beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, Italian basil, cayenne pepper, garlic, yellow onion, zucchini and some chives that aren't doing that well.

 

Garden from the front

Garden from the west

Tomatoes already! Both varieties have arrived

      

Peppers doing great, although one is always thirsty

Big zucchini plants!!

Really Healthy looking taters!

 

So this year it looks like lots of salsa and tomato sauces among other things!

Gigs are still pretty slow, so I've been devoting a lot of time to the garden, plus the basement garden is in full swing, too. I've been having fun lately working in the studio on the song I co-wrote with Ronnie2X, titled, "Maybe Things Aren't So Bad"...With Tim Williams on drums and brother Dave on bass, we laid down the rhythm track a few weeks ago. Last Monday Tom, Ronnie and I put down a percussion track, and "Lightning" George Lebongood is going to do a slide guitar track next. That and some BU vocals, and the song will be ready to mix. I'm excited about this one because the song rocks and it has a great message in Ron's lyrics.

 

Here's Ron & I on playback Monday

 

 

I've also been working with Martha Egan (Jimmy's daughter) on her songs, helping her develop recordings of her material. She's very talented and has a great voice, so it's been fun capturing her performances in the studio.

 

Volume Twenty-seven           April 2012                Written By Bruce Williams

Tomorrow I turn 60....WOW! Time flies when you're having fun, I guess...I feel like a survivor more than anything. So many of my old friends and relatives are gone. And the year I was born, 1952, seems like some old date on a timeline in a history book. Glad I still have most of my hair and teeth, and my health is holding so I have to feel lucky and blessed.

The hydro garden is in it's second year, and I just finished starting the second generation of plants. The only plant still going from the first batch is the parsley, which shows no signs of fading. I did start some more, just in case.

 

Here's the new stuff, including the old parsley plant on the right ...

 

This year I started plants indoors which we will plant in our garden in a few weeks. They are isolated in the back grow room as they are on a 12/12 light cycle so they will be acclimated to the natural day and night. Zucchini, 2 different varieties of tomato, onions, chives, and peppers are all doing great!

 

I am germinating more seeds for both indoor and outdoor use. We plan on having a large supply of herbs and veggies this year.

 

This year I'm trying to grow artichokes for the first time. A couple of plants died when I transplanted them from the germinating tray, so I started more. It would be awesome if I can successfully produce these babies!

 

Here's a photo of our last snowstorm of the Winter (it better be our last one...hehe). This was almost a month ago. I took this out the back window because I didn't feel like going outside...

 

Gigs are still on the slow side, but I'm keeping busy musically by continuing to finish old recording projects, and trying to finish up on a bunch of songs I started writing but haven't finished. I had Brian Taylor come over a few weeks ago to add a sax track to one of my original instrumentals (came out great!), and have been bouncing between working on guitar tracks and trying to develop lyrics...

This mess on the floor at my feet pretty much says it all....

 

 

Volume Twenty-six            January 2012                Written By Bruce Williams

Ah....January.....

This is when the hydro garden really pays off.

I shut down one station, leaving me with two, the irrigation system and one ebb & flow. It's time to germinate some seeds and get a new generation going. The basil is finally thinning out and going to flower. The peppers still look like they have more to produce.

The knee is doing well, and I have a gig Friday that I'm looking forward to. Back in the saddle again!

I've been having fun with Dan McGillis, as he had agreed to play guitar in my band. He's a great guy and an outstanding musician...a lot of fun to play with.

Volume Twenty-five            December 2011                Written By Bruce Williams

In August I spent a lot of time helping son Rob refurbish his fishing boat so it would be ready for his vacation in Eagle River, WI. It was a fun 'father-son' project and the boat came out great. We repaired some damage in the fiberglass, added a fishing deck on the bow and repainted it. We also installed a trolling motor, a fish finder and an automatic battery charger. It came out great, and Rob caught his first ever muskie on his trip!

Shortly after that I realized I had injured my knee...probably a combination of building the new pier, doing too much yard work and stuff, and I'm an out -of-shape old fart.  I realize that I'm getting older and have to take it easier on this aged body. So after awhile it became apparent that it wasn't just a sore knee and I went to an ortho guy and found out I had torn my meniscus in my knee. December 8th I had arthroscopic surgery and am now in physical therapy. The prognosis is good and my therapist is very optimistic about my full recovery. I'll be ready to play gigs again my the first of the new year.

My family has been very helpful and generous during this time, taking some of the sting out of being somewhat immobile and confined. They set up a little 'man-cave' in my recording studio, complete with PC, XBOX, an excer-cycle, and I have access to the guitar, keyboard and drums. My physical therapist approved my request to work the drum kick pedal into my recovery therapy, so I'm looking forward to learning a few new patterns, while at the same time helping my knee.

I'm also going to work on some unfinished recording projects. I have an endless list of projects that need new vocals and guitar parts. This is a good time to make a dent in it.

This experience has taught me to be more careful with my body, and more importantly...it's about time I started thing about a more preventative approach if I want to remain active in music and performing. I don't want anything to interfere with my ability to play music publicly.

 

Finally, the garden has been producing product throughout the fall. We have a steady supply of bell peppers, basil, parsley, cayenne and jalapeño peppers, and a small batch of cilantro. When I'm more 'stair-friendly' I plan on germinating some new seeds and will add some new plants. The tomatoes never did produce, and the zucchini died after producing one melon. I think next year I'll grow those two crops conventionally out in our dirt garden. They take up too much space, anyway. I'm learning as I go, but am very pleased so far with the results overall.  

 

Volume Twenty-four            August 2011                Written By Bruce Williams

What about this heat? Damn! One of the things I usually look forward to during the summer is playing music out in my backyard, but it's been so hot that it just hasn't happened. It seems like our air conditioning has been running 24/7 for the last month.

My hydro garden is producing well. We've been eating onions, red bell peppers and herbs regularly. Unfortunately I lost the lettuce, mainly because I took my eye off the ball briefly.  The lettuce was in the drip system adjacent to the basil, and on the grow light side of things. The basil ended up blocking the light on the lettuce and killed it. That's my theory anyway.

Here's my basil 'forest'....

I've learned a lot in this first attempt at indoor hydro gardening, and perhaps the biggest lesson is not to try too much all at once. There's just too much going on in my garden to keep up with it all, and not enough space to have so many different varieties going.

Delicious red bell peppers...

 

I rebuilt our pier a few weeks ago. It's not a removable pier and the ice movement takes it's toll every winter, so it had to be done. It came out great.

Now we just need some decent weather so we can enjoy it! Mary always dresses up the pier with her flowers, and this year they are thriving and looking awesome.

On the music front, gigs are still slow, but I've been using the extra time to work on recording and writing.

 

Volume Twenty-three            June 2011                Written By Bruce Williams

Work for the band and the duet has been rather slow, so I've been focusing on writing and recording lately. I'm spending a lot of time in my indoor hydroponic garden, too.

 Here's a little update:

All plants are doing great, and in this picture you can see how huge the zucchini is getting. I need to construct a little wire cage for the vine to climb. The herb plants are all yielding a continuous flow of delicious tastes to our table. 

This pic below shows how well the red bell peppers are doing. I have a few onions there, too.

 

Below...the peppers are blooming! Should see little peppers soon. I'll be pollinating using a little paint brush, simulating what a bee would do...

If you look closely in the pic below, you can see little flowers starting to bud, so the tomatoes are about ready to do their thing, too. A fan is enough to pollinate these guys.

Other than that, I am working on updating some songs I wrote long ago. There's some good stuff there, but much of it needs refinement or a fresh, contemporary approach.

And this time of year I am spending a lot of time working in the yard or working on this old house we live in (built in 1916). On many evenings I'm sitting back somewhere in the yard playing acoustic guitar and enjoying the lake.

UPDATE: June 20th, 2011

The kids bought me a drip system for my garden for Father's Day! Now I'm using 3 different type of water oriented grow systems in my garden...hydroponic, aeroponic and this new drip irrigation system. This technique pumps water from a reservoir up through a hose and into a separate spigot for each plant. A timer is used to regulate the water flow so the plant medium is alternately saturated and then devoid of water ,so the plant receives oxygen between feedings. For starters, I'm feeding for an hour...then off for 2 hours, and so on. This is one of those things where I'll monitor the plant and adjust accordingly.

 

Here's a pic of the new setup..

I moved the basil into the tray on the left, which gives me a bunch of room in the tray in Ebb & Flow system #1. I promptly filled that extra space with jalapeno & cayenne peppers and parsley. In the right tray I planted my recently germinated iceberg lettuce. After assembling the new gear,  I spent most of the rest of the day pruning my tomato plants and staking them up better, changing solution and improving the safety of the power cords. With 2 different lights and 3 different pump systems, plus the air pumps for the bubbler pots, the fans and the seedling gro-lights, there must be 20 different things plugged in...some with timers. It was becoming a mess, but now there are no cables on the floor in case of spillage and it appears organized. I also added a dehumidifier to the mix, as the humidity this time of year demands it.  The unit discharges directly into my sump pit so I don't have to worry about emptying a tank.

The zucchini plants (2) are getting scary big!

 

In another few days, I'll start threading the vines into the trellis...

 

Here's the other tray without the basil and with the new plants...

 

So once again, the garden changes shape as it evolves...

Most of the tomatoes are now in a big row in front of Ebb & Flow #2 and the new drip system. I may have to add some supplemental florescent light to cover them all sufficiently.

UPDATE: (June 25th, 2011)  I have bell peppers!

 

 

Volume Twenty-two            April 2011                Written By Bruce Williams

Last year I reconnected with old friend Jim Tulio, a successful music producer with a recording studio in Evanston. Jim is one of the many wonderful people introduced to me by the late, great Mark Hannon. Tulio related a story to me about how he got involved with Bill Dillon, the man recently released from a Florida prison after being wrongfully incarcerated for over 25 years. Jim saw the story on a Cold Case Files episode and was intrigued. Bill Dillon had learned how to play guitar and write music while in prison, and had written a bunch of songs. Tulio offered to produce an album for him for free, without even hearing the guy's music.  I was so touched by the whole thing, that it inspired me to write this poem, which Tulio was kind enough to share with Bill:

If I Could Fly        Dedicated to Bill Dillon

© Copyright B. Williams 8/16/10

 

Saw a bird over the yard

soaring in the breeze

And I heard from a far

a sound like wind through the trees

Eerily talking to me…

 

This somehow brings me hope

‘cause I make up the words

And little did I know

It would give me the courage

To believe what I heard

 

If I could fly, if I could fly

Over, these walls of steel and stone

If I could fly, my oh my

I’d fly away home

 

The world in my mind

Is where I want to be

There’s a girl there I find

She waits so patiently

Until I leave reality

 

If I could fly, if I could fly

Over, these walls of steel and stone

If I could fly, my oh my

I’d fly away home

 

 

To learn more about the William Dillon story, check this link:

The Innocence Project 

 

To check out Tulio's collaboration with William Dillon:

Chicago Tribune Article

 

To hear Bill Dillon sing a song off the album:

Love Lives At Our Doorstep 

 

For my recent birthday, Mary and the kids gave me the equipment I needed to start an indoor  hydroponic herb and vegetable garden, something I really wanted. This will allow us to enjoy produce all year around, plus it's organic and you just can't beat freshness like that.

I put the operation in what used to be the furnace room in the basement. The room had to be cleared out as it was full of parts of the old coal burning furnace, bricks and junk that had been thrown in there over the last 50 years, including a few antique bottles. Once it was cleared out, I lined part of the room in plastic, over a wood framework. The hydro system is what is called 'Ebb and Flow',  that pumps fertilized water out of a reservoir and into the plant bed 4 times a day, all the while under a strong light source.

Since this is my first attempt at this, I kept it simple and planted tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, thyme, cilantro, basil and parsley.

 

This is the room...

 

Here's a few more pics showing more detail...

These pics were taken this morning (April 27th, 2011) showing the growth 14 days after I transplanted the seedlings from the sprout tray into the hydro garden.

When the plants start getting bigger, my plan is to move the tomatoes and peppers into their own buckets which will employ a 'bubbler' in each container. A pump will force air through a hose under the plant roots so the plants are constantly bathed in aerated water, rich in nutrients. That will give me more room in the main tray for the herbs and smaller plants.

If things go well, I may expand the room further back into the furnace room so I can have two different platforms with separate light sources. A curtain will divide these two sections, so I can maintain both a room for growing plants to maturity, and then another room for blooming, which requires a different light cycle and a different blend of nutrients.

These first plants were raised from seedlings germinated in peat moss, but I plan to germinate the next batch of seeds hydroponically, so my operation will be 100% water.

Stay tuned to see how it goes!

UPDATE: Here's a pic of the plants only 5 days after the above pics were taken:

5/3/11

The plants have almost doubled in size! It looks like they are really digging the extra plant food! I also installed a radio in the grow room and are turning the plants on to classical and Mexican music (the cilantro)...

UPDATE: Yesterday I increased the feeding schedule from 4X a day to 6X a day. As you can see, the plants are all thriving and growing quickly.  I'll be transplanting the tomatoes soon, as they're starting to take over, and block the light. I rearranged the plants to help alleviate this.

5/8/11

5/8/11

 

UPDATE: As you can see from the picture below, I did add the hydro bubble pots to the garden. There are now 6 tomato plants outside the ebb & flow tray, giving me much more room for the other plants to flourish.

5/11/11

I may have to go to a stronger light source or add a reflector to cover the additional area. In the meantime, I've started germinating seeds for the next crop! I'm going with cilantro and parsley again, but am trying jalapeno and cayenne peppers, zucchini, and yellow onions this time.

5/11/11

I did some new research and am now shutting down the light for 4 hours a day instead of running the grow light 24/7. To avoid having to install a curtain between my sprout area and my grow area, I put the light for the germinating seeds on the same cycle.

UPDATE: 5/17/11....At this point we're starting to eat some of the herbs. So far we've had basil and cilantro, both delicious.  I've had to start staking up a few of the plants and soon will have to stake the tomatoes.

5/17/11

This pic below shows the new sprouts starting to come up, most notably the yellow onions...

5/17/11

UPDATE: I couldn't help myself...had to expand.  In the beginning I told myself that if the garden does well, then I must make it larger. I knew going in that I had to grow enough plants to provide a continuous supply of herbs and veggies to our table to make this all worthwhile.

I put the new ebb & flow system just outside the door of the original room and moved all the tomatoes out there. The light is a 400W with reflective dome. This really frees up room in the grow trays and gives me space to bring in some new plants from seedling. (yellow onion, jalapeno and cayenne pepper).

The above pic shows the intense effect of the reflective dome

Still have a lot of plants that need to be transplanted to the larger medium.

The above pic shows how much more room there is in the original space. Now I can get back there and tend to the plants, where before the tomato buckets blocked the way. This will also make changing the water much easier.

 

Take a virtual tour through my garden:

Click Here

 

Volume Twenty-one            March 2011                Written By Bruce Williams

It's been a long and cold Winter here in Illinois, with lots of snow and ice, but soon the rains will come and everything dormant will come to life spectacularly. There's nothing quite like Spring in the Midwest, as the change is so dramatic.

My band had a really fun gig at The Irish Mill Inn in Mundelein last weekend, where we performed some fresh new material for the first time. We added a few more of my original songs to the mix, as well as a song I've been wanted to do for a long time, Bobby Womack's, "That's The Way I Feel About You". When I first started my band in 2001, we were doing mostly straight blues, but over time our repertoire has evolved considerably. There are 17 of my originals in the line-up now, plus carefully selected covers of great old R&B and soul songs, a few funky-jazz offerings, and of course some blues.

Over the Winter I refurbished a set of timbales that were down in my basement gathering dust for the last several years. They're old drums, so I replaced the mounts with some new heavy-duty hardware and bought a nice new stand. After a good cleaning and some new skins, they sound awesome, and I've been learning how to play this difficult instrument. I've been using YouTube and following the instruction of a guy named Tomas Ramos Ortiz a.k.a. "El Panga". He's got a bunch of lesson videos posted and they're great. This is all part of my fascination with Latin rhythms, and a continuation of my belief that percussion knowledge enhances your playing on other instruments. I've always felt that my guitar playing really improved after I started playing drums back in the 80's. While I never became what you might consider a very good drummer, I learned enough to better understand different beats and developed a stronger sense of meter. It also gave me a different perspective and a new appreciation for the drummer's role in a band.

 

Volume Twenty            September  2010                Written By Bruce Williams

Had a great gig in Waukegan last night with my brother Dave on bass and Phil "Boom-Boom" James on drums. It's always fun to play with my brother because we automatically 'click' making the music gel. Must be a family thing, but he's a terrific musician and played great. Phil was simply excellent on the drums, what a pro.

This morning I woke up to a few messages from people saying my picture was on the front page of The Waukegan News-Sun:

The gig actually came through Joel Packer, and was put on by Waukegan's Main Street Programs, a special committee doing a great job helping to turn Waukegan around. Waukegan is a great little city and has so much potential, especially being on the shore of beautiful Lake Michigan. And after all, it's the hometown of Jack Benny! I've played a lot of events like this in the past, and this one was obviously very well organized and i was so impressed by the passion of all the committee members. What a great assembly of dedicated people, and all so nice. They are really making a difference and providing the community with some needed fun and cultural experiences.

 

Volume Nineteen            August 2010                Written By Bruce Williams

The worst thing about 2010 has been losing my father (see "In Memory" section). The best thing has been my older brother Dave moving here from California. He's an interesting guy, a very good musician and a man of great wisdom. We're doing some music projects together, he plays with my band here and there and we have more stuff in the works.

Dave

The highlight of the summer was being a guest at Albert Goodman's lodge up in Northern WI. We got to hang out with Albert and some very old friends and had great weather almost every day. At night we would jam and party until the wee hours. This year Jim Url was up there with his wife, Jean. He's a great bass player and also plays a mean mandolin. Babs Hannon and her hubby Brent were also there, and they played some really cool Latin music...she singing and playing concertina with Brent on guitar. Later Babs would sing and Brent would switch to drums and together we made some great music. All this was made even better because we were playing for our friends.

Mary preparing to go hiking in the Nicolet Forest

Last week I fixed our bicycles which were in need of repair, and the plan is to ride a few times a week to get some more exercise. Seems like the only work-out I get these days is lugging equipment to and from a gig. Remind me to get a lighter guitar amp....

 

Volume Eighteen            April 2010                Written By Bruce Williams

This has been an exciting time for me musically, as I suddenly departed from the trio format and added an extra piece to my group in the form of the very talented Brian Taylor. Brian plays sax and other reeds and woodwinds, and also guitar, so his presence will add a lot to the music. We've only had a few rehearsals so far, and a few performances, but already I am overjoyed at the sound we're getting. Brian will be helping with the album project, as well, and I'm really looking forward to hearing horn arrangements on my originals.

I learned so much playing in the trio format. I had really never played in that format much prior to this experience. I know it has made me a better musician, but now I am eager to enjoy the textures and harmonies only achievable in a larger band format.

You really should come out and hear this new sound!

 

Volume Seventeen            March 2010                Written By Bruce Williams

Are Performers Pestering Their Facebook Fans?

I've been on Facebook since nearly the beginning, and have many of my music contacts and buddies there on my 'friends' list. It seems like everyday I get asked to join someone's 'fan club', but I decided early on that the whole fan thing on Facebook is a nuisance to the people who receive the endless stream of gig invitations and fan club requests. I haven't asked anyone to become my fan, either, and don't plan to. Sometimes it's nicer to invite people to a gig with a friendly e-mail or a phone call instead of the invitation style mechanism Facebook uses requiring some kind of response. I think that's intrusive and adds to our already cluttered mailboxes.

Facebook has some really cool features and is a great way to keep in touch with people in real-time. I still don't get the whole barnyard thing and really don't understand how some people can spend so much time tending to some virtual farm. The barnyard requests in my mailbox are just as annoying as the fan club requests and gig invites.

I've reconnected with some folks I knew a long time ago on Facebook, and it's really easy to find an old friend assuming they are Facebook members. Just enter their name into the search box on your home page and you'll get a list of people with that name.  You can tell who's who by the profile pic, the home town or some other detail. 

Facebook is a great way for musicians and artists to showcase their wares, especially with the Reverb Nation bundle. I have several of my songs posted on my page and one of them, "Southbound Train" has been steadily climbing the charts. If people choose to, they can view my gig calendar and listen to some of my music, and that's good enough for me. I hope my musician pals don't think me a snob when I ignore the fan club requests, I just don't want to be a part of it.

 

Volume Sixteen            March 2010                Written By Bruce Williams

Spring is almost here, and boy am I glad! The good thing about Winter though, is that it always brings with it a period of creativity and production as I spend lots of time holed up in my studio. I've been working with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin religiously on our album project. Our first song is an original of mine titled, "Juniper", which is coming along very nicely and will feature a tenor sax part by Brian Taylor. It's a Latin influenced instrumental and showcases Chris Pastin's command of not only traps, but percussion too. He's has an incredible mastery of different rhythms, and is quite adept at conga and hand percussion instruments. Joel is always adding creative elements to the compositions and the guy is like "Mr. Music Theory", so together we compliment each other with our various talents. These guys are helping me take my songs to a new level of sophistication and high quality, which is really exciting.

I'm working with Peter Quinn again on some new songs, which is always fun. We somehow manage to continually come up with compelling music together. He has such good ideas and we both have different perspectives on certain things, but we always seem to find that middle ground in our collaborations.

The Blue Monday jam at The Vine is plugging along. Last week we had King Robinson in as a special guest star and it was so much fun playing with him again, as it's been awhile. We did a really swampy version of "The Same Thing", along with favorites from the old Housewrecker's days. Jimmy Egan came up and added some really tasty guitar licks to "Crawlin' Kingsnake" as we took that song to a new and interesting place. Last year the jam closed for some of the Winter months due to poor attendance, but this year we've remained open all season with only a few really slow nights. I think people are finding out that while there may be a volume issue at this jam, it's a place to go to find really good musicians to play with. It's a small space with so-so acoustics, so the volume needs to be controlled, but the reality is that lower volume usually equates to better music in the end.

Finally, there's Mac, our dog....

   

Pics were taken just before we had him trimmed last week. He loves the snow, especially when he finds a frozen goose turd, which I think Mac believes is a special popsicle treat just for him. That would also explain his horrible breath, too!

 

Volume Fifteen            December 2009                Written By Bruce WilliamsI

2009 was a great year! Lot's of family, lots of music, a few adventures, and we're all healthy which is the biggest blessing of all. We're just lucky to be here because life is so precious. We lost a few good friends this year....Billy Ferrick...Kimmy Friel...very sad. We will always remember them.

On a positive note, the end of 2009 brings some new musical directions. I have started working on an album project with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin. The album will feature a collection of those original songs of mine that are not currently performed in my trio. The material is mostly older, written in the 80's and 90's. I am also getting ready to do a recording project with Andrew Szymanski and Chris Damman, but that project is less daunting as we're slated to record mostly songs we currently perform live. 2010 promises to be a very musical year because of the recording, but also because of the new ground we are breaking creatively. I am so lucky to have the pleasure of playing with such inspiring and awesome musicians. They have pushed me into new territory with my playing and together we are all growing wihin our 3-piece format. It's interesting that I play regularly with 2 different trios. My 'regular' trio is Chris Dammann on upright bass and Andrew Szymanski on drums, and together we play most of the gigs on my calendar. The 'other' trio has Joel Packer on bass and Chris Pastin on drums. Together we host the Blue Monday jam every week at The Vine of Grayslake and we do some gigs together, as well. In addition, the guys fill in for each other if there's a date conflict so it works out pretty well. The best news though, is I get to play with these fantastic players. In both groups we are simultaneously discovering these new musical paths that are really interesting and exciting. This is all based on the fact that we've all been playing together for awhile now and we're getting good at reading the other guy and anticipating. This means we can do more improvisational and experimental exchanges, yet they all seem to work out. The cool thing about that is that one successful musical journey inspires another and each time you want to explore further and deeper. Another very cool thing I've noticed is that the audience really responds to this free form music. They know what's going on and they dig it. We still play our 'regular' songs and they are getting really tight, but on every gig we lay down some of this new music because it's going somewhere....it's developing into a new sound for us and I long to see where we go next.

Either way, I am the lucky one because I continue to thrive among these great musicians. The album with Packer and Pastin will be a gas because both these guys bring so much to the table in terms of taking my songs to another, higher level. I'm also really excited about bringing these older songs to life. The songs were never appropriate for trio, and when I had a 4 piece band we were doing mostly blues, so the songs didn't fit in. These old songs mean a lot to me and heck, they're good songs!

Both versions of the trio have a different sound, mainly because one has an upright bass and one has electric bass, but it goes way beyond that. The trio's sound different because of the different combinations of individual musicians. They have different backgrounds, different training, influences and experience. They all have their own individual flair and expertise they bring to bear and it comes out in the music. I have the unique perspective, as I pretty much do the same things with both groups, and yet the sound and style differs greatly from one to the other. It's a super musical trip that I'm really enjoying!!

 

Volume Fourteen            October 2009                Written By Bruce WilliamsI

There's nothing like a camping trip to get reacquainted with nature and to evoke the primal man within. In late September between gigs, I talked Mary into a short camping trip to somewhere we had never been, Yellowstone Lake, Wisconsin. We didn't want to drive too awfully far, and this was a mere 2 and 3/4 hours from us. We hadn't been camping in over 5 years, and I missed it having been lucky enough to be born into a 'camping family' and having experienced camping trips to Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Lake Tahoe, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone and many other awesome spots including various outings to the coast of California near where I grew up. This recent trip, however short, reminded me how great it is to pitch a tent and cook over an open fire.

Yellowstone Lake is a 455 acre lake nestled within a relatively small 1,000 acre state park adjacent to a 4,000 acre protected wildlife area. It's beautiful country...very hilly and surrounded by farms. It's about 40 miles north of Monroe.

 

Funny, but we didn't do much more than just enjoy camping...
There were some good hiking trails, and the lake there full of fish, but we just felt like hanging out and enjoying our spot...

The campground was virtually empty, so it was very quiet and peaceful. I played a lot of acoustic guitar and Mary read a lot.

I did all the cooking and with the help of this tripod contraption the boys gave me recently, I was able to regulate the cooking temperature and everything came out really well...

It's got a grill device you can raise and lower...I made beef stew in the dutch oven the first night, followed by an apple, marshmallow, coconut, walnut, brown sugar and butter concoction that cooks in the campfire embers in foil while ya eat dinner, for dessert.The next morning I served english muffins spread with butter and a thick layer of creme cheese, topped with an apple, cinnamon and brown sugar sauce that I sauteed. Of course sausage and bacon on the side and fresh squeezed orange juice...

The second night I made a chicken gumbo in the dutch oven that really came out well. The tricky part was controlling the temperature at the end, after I added the rice, but thanks to the tripod, it was perfect!

For breakfast the last day, I went all out and made an egg soufflé in the small cast iron frying pan (covered by the lid to the Dutch oven), with cheese, onions and red and green bell peppers. I make hash browns, pancakes, sausage and bacon and served it with a kick-ass Bloody-Mary, garnished with a lime and green olives speared and stuck into the celery stalk. I have this huge cast iron frying pan about 20" in diameter for multitasking.....hehe...

 

I built a little shower using a solar heated water supply (a bag you hoist into the sun with a tube and a nozzle). Since the sun wasn't out much, the showers were cold, but hot showers were only a short walk away within the campground. It was fun to have our own little place to wash up anyway.

 

We did have a little rain the first day, and I had to resort to using white gas to get the wet wood to catch fire.

 
I had come prepared and strung up a large tarp over the campsite area, so it really wasn't bad at all. It was just drizzling anyway. It was a bit challenging setting up camp in the rain, but the next few days were fine.

 

Mary loved the camping and I think I have her talked into doing it again in the Spring. Mac the dog did good, too. It was his first ever camping trip.

Now I have to figure out where to go camping next, because I definitely have the bug again!

__________________________________________________________________

 

My old friend Greg Hester, who is a very accomplished jazz pianist,  came into town on a tour with singer Elena Welsh and stayed with Mary and I for a few days. Greg and I grew up in Los Gatos, California. I hadn't seen Greg in something like 39 years, although we had been keeping touch via e-mail recently. What a great guy, and a fantastic musician. We really had a great time together, playing music and recording, watching old jazz videos on YouTube, eating good food and drinking outstanding wine, and hanging out. He even accompanied me to my gig this morning at The Community Church of Lake Forest & Lake Bluff and played a bit on the Steinway grand there. I had a gig there with my trio, thanks to my friend Ken Hall their musical director (Ken plays piano very well, but is more known as a great vibraphonist....you can hear Ken with The Messenger Ensemble). This is a very cool, liberal minded church with a very dynamic minister in Tom Dickelman. Music is featured prominently in their services and the people I've met there are really nice.

During Greg's visit, we recorded a few songs with the help of Joel Packer on bass and Chris Pastin on drums. Greg loves be-bop, so we did a few of his originals and he really pushed this old blues guy to keep up with him....whew!! I had to dust off the old chord book on some of his stuff, but it was so inspiring to play with him and also to revisit that boppin' jazz that I hadn't played for at least 30 years. I learned a bunch from him and can't wait to do some more musical projects with him on his future visits here.

 

Here's Greg playing my acoustic piano at the house...

 

Greg also came with when I sub-hosted the Firehouse blues jam for Crazy Al. Here's Greg doing a song with Joel and Chris...

Greg's visit was inspiring and nostalgic as we talked about old memories from Los Gatos California, and we talked about our old schoolmates and places we used to go. Lately I've been yearning to visit my old home state, so maybe now I'll get my ass out there. Greg can be seen performing with his jazz trio throughout northern California and beyond. Thanks for coming Greg, and thanks for buying that great wine!!

Also putting the finishing touches to the 'utility shed' addition I built onto the workshop I built several years ago. Now I have a place to park my lawn tractor, and a much more suitable storage area for garden tools, camping gear, and lots of other stuff.

 

Around the same time, I built this little walkway to join the back patio to the stairs leading to the back door of the house. About a third of the wood was recycled from an old jungle gym from Jay Rivelli's yard...thanks, Jay!

 

Now I need only to scatter some grass seed and this area will really look nice!

 

 

Volume Thirteen            June 2009                Written By Bruce WilliamsI

I'm a bit behind with my newsletter. Still reeling from the loss of old friend Billy Ferrick. Memorial jam for him July 19th at Potato Creek Johnny's in Glenview.

Had a very nice trip to Florida with son Rob and his wife Margie, son Dan and his GF Courtney and wife Mary...

Here's a few pics...

Above: Mary and Courtney

Above: Me biking

 

Above: Rob catching a snapper

 

Above: Dan boarding

 

 

Volume Twelve            October  2008                Written By Bruce WilliamsI

The last month has been very eventful! It's been a gas working with songwriter/performer George Chalifoux in my studio. We recorded 7 songs, and they all came out great. Actually, we're still tweaking a few things. George did a great job and laid down some great guitar tracks behind his vocals. His original, Loose Women" is one of my favorites, with an infectious groove and intriguing 'bar-story' lyrics, punctuated by some gut-bucket guitar riffs throughout. His cover of Van Morrison's, "Cleaning Windows" is magnificent,  done it a new way on a creamy groove with great guitar work by George.

 

Here's George laying down a guitar bit:

I Also had a ball putting together the little video for my song, "Amerika"...you can get that on my Home page (scroll down a bit). I am now working on a higher quality video for my song, "Something Changed". This song always gets a very positive reaction when we perform it live, and I'm hoping it will reach more people using the video.

I am also playing with a new bass player, Chris Dammann, a very talented younger dude who's background is mainly jazz. It's a perfect compliment to my songs and the arrangements of the covers we do.

 

Here's Chris...

Chris plays a mean electric bass, too, but I think we'll stick with the upright on most of the material. Welcome, Chris!

These days I'm working on finishing tracks in my studio. I have a bunch of songs that still need work, including the last 2 sessions I did with Ed Williams before he moved.  I also have a few new songs in the works, which I hope to record with the band soon.

 Volume Eleven            September  2008                Written By Bruce WilliamsI

The Monday night open mic blues jam at The Vine is no longer, but it was a nice run of almost a year and a half. Thanks to all those who came out and enjoyed it! We had some good times and made some really good music.

The radio show is doing great, and I'm especially fortunate to have been given the two hour Sunday night time slot. It's a much better time period for a blues radio show, and so far it has been received very well. We're going to have a bunch of fun in the upcoming months!

George Chalifoux has been doing some great work in my studio over the last month on his project. Singer Mandy Zahn has been helping me lay down vocal tracks on several of my album tracks. And I'm writing some new songs now, and updating a few of my old ones. I plan to focus on finishing the 2 albums I've been working on for the last year and a half. I now have plenty of tracks, and just have to finish some odds and ends plus editing and mixing.

"Summertime's Coming", a song I wrote earlier this year, came out great in the studio and will be on one of my albums. I'm also working on a project which will be made into a video, due to be released in October.

 

Speaking of video's, check out the videos I now have on You Tube:

 

Click Here

 

Volume Ten                 June  2008                        Written By Bruce WilliamsI T

Here's some pics of my trio at The 3rd Annual Greenwood Park Blues Fest. Thanks to all the folks who came out to enjoy a great day of blues and fun in the sun! Special thanks to Jellybone and Steve Wik and Soul-Funk for donating their time and putting on excellent shows. This event is organized by volunteers and spearheaded by the amazing Marty Nelson. I'm glad we were there, and Jim (bass) and Tony (drums) were in outstanding form. We jammed with Bill Douglas later in the day, he with his vintage Les Paul gold top and me with my custom shop reissue gold top. That was a blast, too!

 

 

The last jam at The Vine with Ed Williams, and it was quite a night. Ed took a few of his signature drum solos, but that last one was killer. Here's a few pictures:

The week before, we did some recording at my place and got some really good takes. A few of the tracks will be on my new album. Here's a few photos from the session:

Ed Williams was a such pleasure to play with. He was one of those guys I just connected with musically and otherwise. When we were playing, we could really anticipate the other and inspire each other. I'll really miss his talent, his musicianship, his showmanship and his friendship. I know our paths will cross again.

Here he is at a recent gig:

Volume Nine                 May  2008                        Written By Bruce Williams

I never predicted I'd be doing radio, but here I am with my own blues hour on WRLR FM, and I'm having a ball! It's been challenging and fun learning this medium, and the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel on the air. One of the highlights of doing the radio show is that I get to play the music that I want, including my own music. Sometimes, I bring a guitar to the broadcast studio and play during my show, and in the upcoming months, I'll be having some special guests in to jam with me on the air. The station is small, and only reaches out to about a 30 mile radius of Round Lake Heights, but can be accessed via the internet at www.justintv.com/wrlr.  I am also able to use the radio show to promote my appearances, which is a great marketing tool.

The other recent news is I have cut back on hosting the open mic blues jams. I am now concentrating on only the Monday night open mic at The Vine in Grayslake, and have dropped the others. It was becoming a bit much to do 3 jams a week, plus it appears that there's over-saturation as far as blues jams in this area. Many bars have jumped on the 'jam' bandwagon, as they try to find ways to increase business on slow weeknights. I plan to use the extra time in my schedule to catch up on recording projects, rehearse with my band and of course, hustle gigs. I'll also have more time for composing, which was getting hard to work in. I really thank all the musicians and blues lovers who supported me at the other jams, and hope they continue to come out to The Vine on Monday nights to help create those magical musical moments we all love.

Finally, I hope everyone get out to see my band over the next few months, to check out Ed Williams before he moves to Hawaii. Ed has been my drummer for over 4 years now, and he will be missed greatly. We have shared many musical adventures, both on gigs and in the recording studio, and he has helped me shape the sound of the band with his creativity and style. Ed, in the US Navy music program, is being transferred in mid-June and expects some sea duty, as his musical legacy grows and carries him to Pacific ports halfway around the world.

 

 

Volume Eight                 January  2008                   Written By Bruce Williams

 

Casper was the greatest dog. He was smart, he was cool, was was sensitive and playful. He was a top pure bred standard and he knew he was special. There is a big void around here with him gone. He left us with some great and everlasting memories, though. We'll miss him a lot.

 

Volume Seven                 October  2007                   Written By Bruce Williams

Marie and I are having a lot of fun and success with our duet, and gigs are picking up. Our sound is really coming together, too, and I'm especially happy with our arrangements of my original songs. These songs had to be revamped from full ensemble arrangements to the paired down stand-up bass and acoustic guitar configuration of the duet. We've also talked about adding a percussionist on certain gigs, because that would really add a lot to the songs we perform.

 

Peter and I are still meeting regularly to write and record new songs. Our latest song, "I Cry Just A Little" is our first 'serious' song together. The other songs we've written are amusing and wacky numbers from themes Pete has come up with. I've performed the new song live in the duet several times to very positive reactions.

 

Another song which has received a bunch of attention is "Something Changed", a song I wrote last year. I perform it both with the duet and the band, and it always stimulates comments and a great reaction from the audience. At the moment, I'm trying to produce a video for the song, so I can get it on YouTube and thus seen and heard by more people.

If any of you film makers out there want to help me on this, please get in touch me. I want to do the same thing with the Quinn-Williams songs, which will really be fun!

Here's a recap of some fun stuff from this past year...

Here's some pics from a recording session in my studio:

Brian Allman

King Robinson

Ed Williams

We had fun playing at The Harbour Club over the summer months

 

Playing music with Marty at his day gig event

 

My lawn helper

 

A powerful storm blew through this summer and took out several old trees

 

Carpfest is an annual ritual on Highland Lake....we hold a contest to see how many of these destructive fish we can get out of the lake

Casper & Mac

Rob & I

Rob & Margie

 

We had tons of fun at The Appleton Lodge in August as guests of our dear friend Albert Goodman. Somehow, he assembled a great  group of old friends up in the north woods, and every day was awesome.

Strummin' at the lodge

Mary firing scary weapon

Jammin' with Brent, Barb and Frank

Barb

Mary bags a northernI caught a smallmouth

Sailing, canoe trips, hikes, fishing and lots of music were some of the things we all enjoyed at the lodge...

 

 

 

This raccoon, living in the oak tree overhanging the back of our house, must have found my guitar playing soothing, as he would come out and listen when I practiced acoustic guitar on the deck....

 

My dad visited from DC!

My dad and I

My dad taking a pic of me taking a pic of he...

 

 

 

My last bike ride before selling my Magna V65

 

Squab Fest Gig in Elgin, IL

It was an outstanding summer!

(see the 'Pics' page for photos of The Housewrecker's at The Illinois Blues Festival in Peoria)

 

Volume Six                   July  2007                         Written By Bruce Williams

Thanks to all the musicians who pitched in and played at The Greenwood Park Blues Fest. It was a great success, and I've heard nothing but good things from everybody about the music.

Big News! King Robinson and the Housewrecker's have been invited to play the main stage at The Illinois Blues Festival September 1st in Peoria! This is quite an honor, and we're all really looking forward to it. In 2004, we played the gig and opened for the late Carey Bell.

The open mic jam at The Vine is going very well, with new players showing up each week, and great music echoing through downtown Grayslake.

Quinn and I are in the midst of two new songs, "Caveman Daze" and "Dr. Death", both promising to be unique, amusing and funky. He and I have had some very productive sessions in my studio, and Pete continues to come up with offbeat and wacky subject matter.

I just finished the first part of a recording project with the amazingly talented Greg Vinson, with Greg playing his upright bass, singing and operating a hi-hat all at once. This guy really lays it down, and I look forward to working with him more. It was a challenge to record upright, as always, and we managed to get great tone throughout the session.

I am now offering music services commercially, as of July 1st. While I've done a few money-making projects here at Highland Lake Records, it wasn't until recently that I decided to take the plunge and do work for others on a regular basis.

I have a modest and small, but well equipped 24 track digital studio with complete post production capabilities.

 

Here are a few photos of my set up:

If you re looking to put together a demo to help you get gigs or to showcase your original songs, I can help you put something together that will be very impressive and will make you sound your best. I will work with you on the rates and we'll devise a way to do the work as efficiently as possible. There are a variety of options in terms of using other instruments and personnel. Give me a shout and let's see if I can help you achieve your musical goals.

I am also available to produce full blown albums for commercial release, and do soundtrack work and specialized songwriting.

 

Contact:

astrumur@aol.com

 

Volume Five                    May 2007                         Written By Bruce Williams

There is so much going on! Pete Quinn and I are on our 4th song together, in a collaboration that has proven to be productive and a lot of fun. Our latest effort, "Tequilas Of Mass Destruction", is in mid-production and is turning out to be a gem.

The work on the King Robinson solo album continues, and we have a bunch of work to do. It's taking a bit longer than originally planned, but we're hoping our extra diligence pays off.

The most exciting thing going on right now is what's happening with The Bruce Williams Blues Orkestra. The recent additions of Joel Pace and Marie Martens have totally jump started the band.

With Joel's amazing musicianship, and his ability to play both piano and organ simultaneously,  there is a new energy and a 'big sound' quality to the music now. Joel is an outstanding singer in his own right, and we feature him singing lead vocals on several of our songs. He has a great voice and sings with conviction and soul. He also provides vocal harmony with Marie and I.

JOEL PACE

 

Marie Martens, our newest band member, plays a mean slide guitar and is playing regular guitar in the band, too. She has added a whole new dimension to the group with her singing, as we now  feature back-up harmony vocals on many of our songs. It's been great fun working out our vocal arrangements. Marie is from Sweden and her main instrument is bass. She just happens to be a great musician and can play guitar too! We feature Marie out front singing lead, too, and let me tell ya, she rocks!

MARIE MARTENS

 

 

 

The band is learning more and more of my original compositions, and with Joel and Marie adding their thing to the mix, I am free to focus more on my singing. And with Marie taking on some of my rhythm parts, I am free to sing and play guitar licks with a new freedom of expression. I am truly blessed to play with all of these folks. Marty's solid, funky bass and enthusiasm, Ed's incredible drumming, and love of music, and now these two talented individuals........what could be better?

 

The other big news is my new duet thing, The New Rhythm Projekt, which features Marie and myself playng in a more acoustic setting, doing blues, folk, R&B and other material. We're rehearsing now and have a few gigs booked.

 

Finally, we're all excited about hosting the new Monday night open mic blues jam at The Vine in Grayslake starting 5/14. This is going to be a good one!

 

Volume Four                    January 2007                    Written By Bruce Williams

The cold is finally here, and with it the increased usage of natural gas as I hear our furnace on constantly. Although I spent a bunch of money several years ago on additional insulation and new windows, this is still an old and cold house, built in 1916. It's only really bad when it's around 10 degrees or less.

I guess the big news this month is that I added Auralex sound panels to my studio to facilitate the acoustic album I am recording with King Robinson. What a difference it makes! I needed to separate the upright bass from the acoustic guitars, so I created a few "L" shaped partitions that can be moved about as needed. I also finally enclosed the drums, which dramatically improved the sound of the kit and reduced the ringing.

        

The panels take up even more space in an area that was already too small, but it's worth the trouble. The big logistic hurdle now is changing the studio between the different sessions. To switch between the "King Robinson Solo Album Project" and "The Bruce Williams Blues Orkestra Album Project", I'll have to take the 2 partitions out of the room, and set up a keyboard...not too bad, really.

The King Robinson project has already yielded some great tracks, and the Orkestra project is in the midst of working out some very complicated arrangements, with 2, maybe 3 songs in the can.

The weekly 'writing/recording' sessions with Pete Quinn are going very well. We're pretty much done with "Lil' Miss Silverspoon", the last tracks being percussion added by Jim Murray. Tom Trinka's multi-tracked horn section parts are awesome, as is his tenor sax solo! Pete and I are now working on a song he wrote the words to, 'Aches and Pains". I came up with several different musical backgrounds to see what would work best, and we ended up with an up-tempo Chicago blues style approach, with a cool little chord change that makes it different.

 

Volume Three                   December  2006              Written By Bruce Williams

Happy New Year!!

Jeez...I can't believe another year has passed by. Damn! Just remember, you young ones...The older you get, the quicker time goes....

Well, the 'instrumental' I wrote about in the last issue turned into a very cool afro-cuban/pop-funk vocal number titled, "These Are Things I Wonder About". As the song was developing, I remembered some old lyrics I had in one of my songbooks, and working from there I fit it in by massaging the old lyrics and writing some new ones. We did it as a band in my studio and recorded it, but I want to work with the groove some more before we make our final stab at recording. The song is really shaping up, though, and I'm extremely happy.

Since the last newsletter entry, we've recorded several songs, and I've added some guitar bits and vocals to them. We still have a long way to go, though, and we spend much of our session time working out dynamics and screwing around with the arrangements. I guess that is just part of the deal, as one tends to get the best ideas as the song is evolving and you hear it blossom. Even when I plan a song out in advance, with a set intro and all the little bits and dynamics and the ending and all, a lot of this stuff is done on the fly. Needless to say, it will take 2-3 months to complete the recording process, but it should yield two albums.

I've set some pretty lofty goals for '07, and I look forward to recording a bunch of music. I also am hoping to play with more musicians from different backgrounds, and to learn more about my guitar and about music in general. After 'quitting the day gig' in 2005, one of my goals was to spend more time learning, specifically on guitar. I continually spread myself too thin because I do love to play keys and drums. Recently, I finally disciplined myself to only play other instruments when I need to cut a demo or work out a part or something...and spend my limited free time working on improving my guitar playing. It's starting to pay off, as I am finding new directions and developing new ideas when I improvise.

One of the projects on tap for Q2/'07 is an acoustic blues album with King Robinson. We hope to start recording in the Spring. The album will feature the King on vocals, acoustic guitar and National Steel along with me in accompaniment.  We'll also feature some guest artists, stand-up bass and percussion. I'm pretty excited about this one, as it will showcase the 'other side' of King Robinson, that of the old delta blues...where ya sit on the porch with your guitar, stomp your feet and cry out what's troubling you, and bare your soul.

We should be recording another Harry Peter Project album soon, too (Peter Quinn and Harry Reinhart), and I'm collaborating with Peter on a few very cool new songs.

I have also started mixing the live sessions from AJ's, recorded in Summer of '05. This will be a 10 to 12 song album featuring some of the jammers who frequent the Wednesday night blues jam. There is some remarkable material from 3 different live recording dates.  

Volume Two                 October  2006                     Written By Bruce Williams

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

Time to start thinking about the winter months, and the shift from playing fun outdoor gigs to spending more time hiding from the cold in the recording studio.  There will still be the indoor gigs, of course, and the area jams rock all winter, but no more sitting around the fire playing acoustic guitar pretty soon. Time to pull out those lyrics written on the back of a bar napkin, find that notebook full of ideas, those hastily made 2 track recordings of an idea and get busy making new songs.

The last thing I recorded in my studio was about 2 weeks ago. I had been going through my old library of midi sequenced music and stumbled across a great funky groove...some unfinished idea from about 1992. I decided to try and develop it into something, and as is often the case, made a rough recording to see what might happen. I ended up taking that old 'over-synthesized' sequence and turned it into a softer, acoustic number with 6 and 12 string acoustic, bass guitar, conga and a small Rhodes part. I doubled part of the bass line on the 12 string, muting the strings slightly. There were two 6 string acoustic parts, one providing the main rhythm for the song, the other playing the head and soloing. I'm pretty pleased with where it's at so far, but haven't decided yet whether to keep it as an instrumental or develop it into a vocal piece. We'll see.

I just started prepping the studio for the recording of my new album, which will include several originals and some of the covers I've been playing live over the last few years. My studio is very small, and it's always a challenge working in such a confined space, but I've been doing it for long enough where I know I can deal with the logistics and get a good sound. The drums is always the most critical element, because it's very difficult to re-do drum parts later, and you can only monkey with them so much from an editing standpoint. It's necessary to get a solid performance from the drummer, and good tone on the recording. Once the drum track is in place, layering other elements becomes a simple process. In the case of this album, I'll be laying down initial tracks with Ed and Marty, and am confident we'll have a good sound as a foundation for other production.

And of course, we'll be trying out material and arrangements at the AJ's weekly open mic jam. We're so lucky to have a place to get in front of people to try new stuff. It's kind of a validation before recording, but also a way to smooth out dynamics and accents in a song.

Tomorrow I'll finish duct-tapping the sound foam material around the kick drum mic on the drums (EV RE 20). I build a kind of 'tent' around the mic area to block out the other drums. This really helps later in getting a punchy bottom on the bass drum and yields a cleaner overall drum mix.

I'm not sure what song we'll start with...I guess it's not that important, although it makes sense to get off on the right foot. Maybe 'Signals Of Change'....

 

Volume One                  November 2005                   Written By Bruce Williams

The Famous Hannon "Tooth" Story

There are many great Hannon stories, but one of my favorites is the time when
Mark lost his tooth at a big party I used to have every year called "Williamsfest".
Williamsfest was a party my wife and I would throw to be with our friends and to
allow me to keep in touch with my musician friends. At this point in my musical
career, I was doing alot of writing and home recording but not playing out that much,
so the party featured an all day/all night jam, and I was able to play with my friends.
Mark was at almost every one of these parties as the featured performer. In 1989, we
hosted the last Williamsfest, and as usual Mark was there from beginning to end.
At one point near the end of the party at about 2AM, a few of us were in the food tent
eating leftovers. Most of us were shitfaced, and not paying particular attention to how long the potato salad had been left out, but hey...no one got sick! Anyway, Mark was eating a hot dog when suddenly he yells out that his tooth fell out. Mark had a bridge with a falsetooth just to one side of his upper middle teeth. Everyone started getting lights and searching the ground. Mark was freaking as the bridge was expensive, but mainly because without it Mark looked like a hillbilly and I know he had to perform the next day. We looked and looked but didn't find it. Mark went home shortly thereafter, but called me at 8 AM to ask me to go out and look in the daylight. When I got out there, I had to laugh, as the lawn there was so covered with ground in toothpicks, beer bottle caps, food scraps, all trampled in good. Well, I gave it a go and looked for over
an hour, but nothing. I didn't talk to Mark for a week or so , but I found out later that several days after the party Dave Cleland was checking his shirt pockets before doing some laundry, and out popped the bridge. I think it may even have had a little piece of hot dog on it. Apparently, Mark was talking to Dave as he was chomping on this hot dog, and as Mark pulled the weiner out of his mouth, the bridge must have popped out and flown into Dave's pocket! Mark would always wince in a 'good sport' manner,
whenever this story came up later...hehe.

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

What's Happening

The new Housewrecker's CD, "Hit The Big Time" now available.

 

CLICK HERE TO BUY CD!

You can also sample the songs or buy digitally and download!

 

 

 

 

Bruce's Bands
Bruce's Bio
PICS

Graphic Arts

Sample Songs

In Memory

Newsletter

Upcoming
Nutty Stuff

LINKS

 View My Guestbook Sign My Guestbook

Free Guestbook
My Guestbook