[ From Butchross ] Where I've been, why you would care,
and what to do if you don't.
butch at butchross.com
Fri Mar 4 12:39:08 EST 2005
I¹m writing you from Bowling Green, Kentucky, that¹s right not Pennsyltucky.
I¹m a graduate student in the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at
Western Kentucky University, I¹m engaged to be married, I play the mountain
dulcimer, me and my future Mrs. rent a cute little bungalow on quiet street.
We ride our bikes; play old-time music on Saturdays and being grad
students read and read and read.
This email to you in fact is me putting off studying for a mid-term.
I was all set to write you all a big maudlin email about how you can check
off this list if you want to, how it¹s been a long loooong time since you
heard from me, or of me even. And it¹s all about momentum, which would
appear to be seriously lacking here. But I¹m feeling a little energized
about an IM conversation I just had with my ex-roommate Adam Brodsky. We
were comparing crappy gigs of our past, and the times we¹ve ³quit². Well
actually, I quit -a couple of times- while he¹s been prudently plugging
away. He has a world record; I¹m in grad school. I¹ve played the more
humiliating gigs, but he¹s traveled an entire continent to play his
crappiest. Who wins depends on where you stand in the room.
So how did I get here?
Let¹s backtrack a couple of years, back to perhaps the last time I wrote
plugging a gig. I was playing a gig in Philly. It was a good venue: fair to
the performers (fed em, paid em off the bar), built-in crowd, I had people
coming too. In short, anything you could really want out of a workaday gig.
And as I was parking the car it occurred to me this is ALL WRONG. I decided
that night to change the way I things were run at Butch Ross, Inc.
Of course the girl had a lot to do with it too. Some of you already know
what I mean by this, but when you meet the person you want to share your
life with, you need to have a life to share. Semi-professional folksinger
with cluttered apartment in a once-hip part of town and no real equity just
wasn¹t good enough anymore. I needed to find a new way of doing business
NOW! Christie, for the record, loved my life as it was, and was happy to be
a part of it. Still is thank God.
So the first thing that happened, I came up with the idea for a one-man
show. It was modestly successful. There was some stuff that happened in the
middle that kinda knocked the wind out of me, and I sadly regret never
properly documenting it, but I am very happy with how it turned out. I built
it. You came. But in the middle of all this, in Ireland, comes Robert Force.
Robert is a dulcimer player; he wrote a book about dulcimers in the 70¹s it
sold thousands of copies. He owns a label. He plays standing up his one
half-nutty professor and one half ³Freedom Rock² hippy still. He saw me
playing the dulcimer all upside down and backwards as I do and said, ³if you
record a dulcimer album, I¹ll produce it and put it out on my label². Of
course I was all in the middle of constructing ³Gas:Food:Longing², 3,000
miles from home and learning about grown-up heartbreak for the first time.
Besides, I had my burgeoning folk career to think about. That said,
sometimes a sign is a robin on your front lawn; sometimes it¹s a big green
billboard that says, ³TURN HERE!²
And what about the dulcimer? I recognized the potential in that thing from
the get go, especially in terms of standing out from the endless pool of
Singer/Songwriters that seem to ooze from every pore of the northeast. Like
stand-up comedians in the 80¹s, in the 90¹s ³urban folkies² were ubiquitous,
most looking for a backdoor to pop stardom, and many with little or nothing
to say (including me from time to time) manila folders against and eggshell
backdrop, the only ones who stood out were different¹. I didn¹t want to do
the dulcimer as my ³gimmick². I really wanted to stand my music, and what I
had to say (and what the hell was I trying to say then anyway?) But playing
the dulcimer was a joyous experience, the enjoyment of music that I really
hadn¹t felt since I first started to play guitar years and years ago. And I
was good, or even if I wasn¹t good, the instrument made people excited, and
that more than anything else is what matters. And then Robert came along,
and the river turned.
I did not do this immediately (of course not). I waited, finished the show,
did a Christmas CD to get my feet wet, and then last April headed out to
Port Townsend, Washington to record what will become ³the Moonshiner¹s
Atlas². I didn¹t have a lot of original material for the dulcimer, so I did
what I did when I was learning to play guitar. I took traditional tunes that
spoke to me, and played em like Peter Mulvey would. Or I took contemporary
tunes that sound like they¹d work on the dulcimer and I figured it out. I
made a bunch of mp3s and sent them to Robert, who yea¹d or nay¹d em based
on what he thought was My Brave Face. And then out there in the middle of a
stunning nowhere, separated in what were basically two glorified outhouses,
that guy managed to coax great performances out of me. The end result is a
mellower, more somber album than the last one (or the other two unreleased
attempts) But with an uplift to it, a walk through a long dark tunnel to the
sunlight. Okay that¹s the kind of stuff that Robert says ³Dark Ray of
Sunshine² stuff like that. Told you mad scientist, old hippie. The point is
that this record is closer to what I¹m trying to say than anything I¹ve done
So where is this new CD?
Well it¹s been (as my friend Dan Landrum so elegantly puts it) ³like a flea
giving birth to an elephant². It didn¹t help that I was overseas for most of
the summer, or that I was flat broke, it didn¹t help that I¹m grad school.
Finally land on my feet here in KY and get the ball rolling again, and
everybody else¹s world goes to hell. I don¹t and I can¹t blame anyone for
the delays in putting this out, everyone has been waylaid by serious
real-life crap. I am grateful for all the efforts they¹ve put into this so
far. Chris Martin, Ed McKenna and Kelly Becerra have been responding to my
gentle tugs of ³umyou know when you can get to it² by coming through for me
in the midst of their own personal dramas (and mostly for free). These
things, they happen for a reason, always, always, always. I never know why,
but in the end it¹s for the best.
I have jinxed this CD several times already by saying ³tomorrow² or later
this week. So if you are reading this its because somewhere, your future
coaster is being pressed in a plant somewhere in Canada and being printed on
recycled cardboard with environmentally safe inks in Portland, OR all to
eventually be assembled by me probably hours before the next show.
I was serious about signing off the list too. Some of you have been here
forever. Some of you like what I do, what I write, what I sing, that¹s why
you stuck around. Others were you know, polite. And since then it¹s been
delete-without-opening. I know. I do it too. But your not gonna hurt my
feelings if you go, you just add value to those who stay on. Go, you may
unsubscribe with impunity.
There is a new web site to look at. (http://www.butchross.com) And shows, oh
I got shows ( http://www.musi-cal.com/search?key=performers&value=butch+ross
). I am working on T-shirts and all that business too, but not until like
May. I am still in grad school, and am a ³non-traditional² student, which
means I¹m getting my ass handed to me on a weekly basis.
Got a midterm tomorrow, wish me luck.
See you out there.
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