This is the video for "When You're New To Town" which was filmed and edited by A. Laura James.
Here's to a year of living off the electrical grid, 100% powered by the sun, way out in the Mojave. I love this place.
This is the video for "When You're New To Town" which was filmed and edited by A. Laura James.
Well....no need to repeat what's already on the poster here. But I can tell you that I'm very excited to be taking over Saturday nights from my pal, Joe Garcia, for the month of March. It's some big shoes for me to try and fill. Joe's relieved to have a month off....and everyone's probably relieved that Joe will be back in April.
If you don't know about Landers Brew, there's nothing to really compare it to. It's unlike any other bar on planet Earth....outside of the fact that they have a wall of taps.....lots of bars have that kind of thing. And Landers Brew has a lot of them. The Brew, or LBC, as we affectionately call it, is the little tavern out in the Mojave Desert sand in the unincorporated community that I live on the outskirts of, way out in the creosote and Joshua trees. It's dark out here. Your phone may not work. But the beer is cold, the tunes are excellent, and the camaraderie is real. Landers Brew is the final outpost, the last stop leaving the civilized Mojave. Sometimes you wonder which side of the line that place is on.
Well, we've reached the end of 2017. I've got lots of big plans for 2018..and I'm excited to get to it. I'll be starting off the year with a show at The Laurelthirst on January 13 in Portland, OR, and a show at The Dawson Street Pub in Philadelphia on January 18. I'm squeezing them in between work and a belated holiday visit to family back east. When I return to the desert, I begin mixing three killer records at my Solar Cabin; Terry and Louie, The Reverberations and Analisa Six. I'll also be tearing into what will hopefully turn out to be my next solo record.....it's been a start and stop process on that one so far. I'm pretty sure I'm throwing everything out that I've recorded for it up to now and starting over because the performances are getting better and better....I just have to figure out how to track it at this cabin.
I've been doing a bunch of writing too....but not for this blog. Maybe I'll unveil something later in 2018? I'm writing, but I'm not sure it's ready to show to anyone quite yet.
After all, it is that time of year. Here's the link to the holiday song I wrote and recorded for this year. I borrowed some chords that John Lennon nicked off Bob Dylan. Bob originally stole them from Woody Guthrie, so I figured they were pretty much fair game. I hope you enjoy the tune.
And I hope to see you at Pappy & Harriet's on December 28. We're kicking it off that night right at 8pm. It's free. It's all ages. I'm honored that The Adobe Collective asked us to open the night. And it's even sweeter that Tim and Faith, heart and soul of The Adobe Collective, are rounding out my band with my wife Susan on bass.
Happy holidays! Have a rocking New Year. And let's all make the best out of 2018. See you there!
Well, 2017, it's been quite a year already. Toured the east coast twice. Toured the Southwest with Susan for the first time ever. Played lots of places in the Pacific Northwest and I started playing shows around my new hometown in the Mojave Desert, Landers USA. I met tons of great folks and made a bunch of new friends that seem like they're the lifelong type. I mixed and mastered some records in my off-grid, solar powered cabin. And I started two new records out in the desert this November with Portland, Oregon's The Reverberations and Oakland, California's Analisa Six.
As we close this spin around the sun out once again, I'm excited to announce I have two shows before the end of the year up here in the high desert. I'll be sharing the Beatnik Lounge stage in Joshua Tree on December 10 with Fire Bug and my friend, John Hardy for Rag's Songwriter in the Round series. Fire Bug come with a fine pedigree and plenty of rock and roll....I'm looking forward to seeing them in this set up. And John Hardy is a seasoned club man like myself and a collector of great songs. We all be sharing songs and I don't think you're gonna want to miss it.
On December 28, I'm humbled to get the chance to play Pappy and Harriet's supporting 29 Palms own The Adobe Collective. And to make it even better, Tim and Faith Chinnock of the Adobe Collective will be backing me up on drums and vocals/keys with my beautiful wife holding down the bass. A few folks have told me they have already made reservations for a table with Pappy's for that night.....that's a really good idea and I recommend you do it too.
What is real life? It almost certainly isn't selfies on social media. It's definitely not our bloated POTUS's tweets. I am a news junkie and it's rare that anything I hear in the media, other than the local weather, has any direct effect on me. Most of the time, we are unaware of the real things that occur right around us.
Yesterday, during dusk, I was walking around on our land among Joshua Trees and creosote. It was a beautiful. The air was still and and it wasn't too chilly of an evening. The new moon was two nights ago and now a thin crescent was in the western sky. I can't believe I have the fortune of living here. It's a dream world. But it's real.
As I gazed up at that crescent moon, I noticed that there were hundreds of moths flying fifteen to thirty feet above the ground in the calm air. They were all flying in a single direction, to the north. I stood there watching them and wondering, do they do this every night at this time of year? How come I've never noticed them before? Where are they going?
I walked back up the land towards our little cabin, watching the moths. Once I was on our patio, I noticed that all the moths were gathering in and around our palo verde tree. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them. The palo verde was covered in moths, reminding me of the way Monarch butterflies take over cedar trees to winter near Monterey and Carmel.
I've been seeing these moths around our patio for the last few weeks, but I had never witnessed them flying towards the tree or resting in it's branches. Up to this time, the moths had just been pests flying around my head and taking the occasional swim in my wine glass.
This was real life....whatever these moths were doing. It had been going on around me for sometime before I took notice. The stillness out here, and me taking the evening off of looking at my phone or computer, gave me the opportunity to observe them....I was paying attention to real life. My senses were picking up on the nature around me instead of being distracted by something arriving to my attention via satellite.
While you're here on this planet, don't forget to put your satellite connection down and soak up the realness around you.
I think this will be the last post in my Tour Reflections series....at least for the September 2017 run of shows. Go to these links to see the first and second posts.
Almost always, Susan and I make an effort to take the back roads instead of interstates. Traveling the interstates, everything is homogenized across the country. Almost every single exit has the same restaurant chains; McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell and if it's an upscale exit, you might have Applebees. There's nothing wrong with these restaurants. Chains and franchises are an American approach to business. For the founders and owners, they're the embodiment of the American Dream.
But homogenization via the interstates is counter to one core American value that I hold possibly in the highest esteem: individualism. This country was partly founded on the idea that you could be different, a total outsider, and still be a part of the American fabric. To find this unique quality, it seems to me, in both people and their businesses, you have to get away from the interstates and out onto the country roads and US highways that take you through small towns and scenic landscapes. One of my life rules is, "Whenever possible, take the scenic route."
Between September 14 and 17, I played four shows back east in Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC. On our way to the first show in D.C., while taking the back roads, we stopped in Lancaster, PA, for lunch and a beer at the local brewery. We sat at the bar and talked beer with a couple of the employees and three other locals who joined us at the bar after we sat down. As each person saddled up to the old oak bar, they said hello and joined in the conversation. We all discussed the beer menu, the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge that was currently burning, and what it was like to live in a desert. One of the guys had spent a lot of time in New Mexico...and we were headed there the following week. The conversation was engaging. I felt proud to live in a country where you could show up at a place like this and get to know others who had just walked in the door. It's the same reason I love hanging out at the one bar in my hometown, Landers Brew.
Less than a week later, Susan and I found ourselves in Albuquerque. It was late, after the show, everything was closed and we were hungry. Lucky for us, there was an all night Applebees across the street from our fleabag motel. We sat at the bar and ordered food. No one spoke to us and we spoke to nobody else. The bartender was friendly and she definitely knew the locals, most of whom were coming in from late night shifts at the airport. But the people at the bar didn't interact with one another...only with the bartender and other staff at the restaurant.
What is it that makes a brewery in Lancaster and an Applebees in Albuquerque so different? Is it because the former is unique? While the latter could be in anytown, USA? Is it because Americans have become absorbed by their phones and are less connected to those around them? Did we just get lucky in Lancaster and happened to pick a place with friendly patrons? I didn't find Albuquerque to be an unfriendly town....actually, quite the opposite. But what is it about some places that when you saddle up to the bar, you introduce yourself....In a chain, that's considered outright weird behavior.
Hanging out at Landers Brew, I came up with another rule, but I'm trying to figure out how to apply it to the homogenized, off the interstate, chain restaurants and bars. That rule is, "When you sit down at the bar, introduce yourself to everyone." This rule works great at any desert dive, upscale micro brewery, or back country roadhouse. It doesn't work out off the interstate....at least for the most part. Maybe that's one of America's big problems. Where the most populace is, there is also the least interaction between people. We should change that.
This is the second post in my series of tour reflections. For the first one, go here. For the third one, go here. - Pat Kearns
I love trains. I don't collect toy trains, I don't know the names and types of engines or cars. For me, it's the romance. It's the sound of the whistle, nowadays the horn, off in the distance. It's witnessing a train navigate the Tehachapi Loop, one of the wonders of track engineering. And it's the sound of the train rolling down the track and how it's permeated into the Rock and Roll, Folk and Blues music I love. Trains have stoked the fires of free wheeling spirits, my own included.
Watching trains brings me back to an older, slower time. A time before Google. A time before we had smart phones, and every answer was at our fingertips. Watching a train cross a trestle, go through a pass, or even navigate the famous Tehachapi Loop takes some pause in these modern times. But it's impressive how much is getting done, how many hundreds, even thousands of tons are passing by you, moving from one destination to another.
The opening track on my album, So Long City, is called When You're New to Town. It opens with a train coming up the tracks, a couple of horn honks followed by the Doppler Effect of the passing engine. I recorded it myself in the Columbia River Gorge. To me, the sound of the train established movement, which is what that song is about at it's start....but by the end it's about trying to find roots. These two elements play out inside my heart all the time. I long for the road, but once I'm on it, I can't wait to get home. That lonesome train whistle, or again these days a horn, perfectly captures that feeling for me.
I can't remember how we found this Navajo market off of I40. I think Susan was driving. She probably saw a sign and pulled off. Once we exited the interstate, we were in a much more interesting world. It could have been an old section of Route 66. It was at least an old country road. The pavement was cracked but it ran straight both east and west as far as my eyes could see. Power poles running parallel to the road gave the distance an even eerier and lonelier perspective. I stood out on the road with our dog, Paco, for about half an hour. No other cars ever passed. Susan was in the store shopping for moccasins. After one quick spin through, I was bored. But that empty road and the fantastic, "HERE IT IS" billboard on the other side, was drawing me in. I took some pictures, but nothing seemed to completely capture the magnificence of this sign. It was both ornate, for a billboard, and dilapidated like an old barn. I stood there for a long time, taking it in. I mellowed.
We crossed back over the road to the store's parking lot. I thought about going back in the store to see what was taking Susan so long. I looked one more time down the road to the west and to the east. No one coming still. But way off to the east, I saw it. A train was lumbering down the tracks. Here it is, for you. I find this soothing to watch. Take your time. Watch a train.
I'm back home in Landers, CA, from playing shows back east and in the southwest. I'll be posting a few reflections about the road over the next couple of days. Here's the first in the series. Go here to read the second and third in the series. - Pat Kearns
Everyone loves a great song. But our society doesn't put much value, at least cash value, in them. We all heard that it takes 562,000 Spotify plays to earn $12 (I'm probably exaggerating. I'm not trying to make a point about streaming revenue here, even though it's definitely a bad deal for artists.) Our culture even has a colloquialism that captures the cheap value we set songs at: "I bought it for a song."
But songs do have value. They may even be so valuable, that we have trouble putting a price on them. For example, there's a song that saved a town. A whole town. I've been there. I saw it with my own eyes.
I hate The Eagles. That's my dad's music. One of the few tapes he ever had in his cigar stinking Oldsmobile. Now, I do get along with Stevie Wonder, which my dad also introduced me to. But The Eagles....and Steely Dan, for that matter, no way. Those songs still did get into my brain and probably into my DNA. I can't go through Palm Springs without thinking about Hotel California. And since we were passing through Winslow, Arizona, on our way to play a show at Red Door Brewing in Albuquerque, we had to stop and take time to see "the corner."
I have to admit, I love the story about Jackson Browne crafting this song, and Glenn Frey listening through the wall of the duplex they shared. Browne was stuck with the lyrics. He had, "I was standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona...." Frey finished it with, "It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me." Take It Easy was The Eagles first single. Growing up on the west coast in the 1970's, it seemed like every station on the FM dial played it on an hourly basis. You couldn't escape that song.
Winslow, Arizona in the past was a bustling town on Route 66. But the Interstate 40 was completed in 1977 and it bypassed Winslow, effectively cutting it off from eastbound or westbound travelers. And since it was a stage stop town and relied on people passing through on their way one direction or another, Winslow's economy died.
In 1999, the city of Winslow erected a statue of Jackson Browne with a corresponding mural featuring the reflection of a girl in a flatbed Ford at the corner of Second St and Kinsley Ave. It takes some effort to visit this spot from I40. You have to drive about 10 minutes off the interstate into downtown Winslow where Route 66 used to cut through the center of town. But I knew instantly when we had arrived. There were groups of tourists on the street, many of them taking their pictures with Jackson Browne's statue, the mural, or the new statue of Glenn Frey that arrived in 2016.
Tourists' money doesn't make a community...but Winslow has that too. I knew it when we were down the street from the corner eating some Mexican food. A big flatbed Ford, no lie, came down old Route 66 and was trying to make a right hand turn but had to wait for two locals who were walking across the intersection and into town. The truck honked it's horn and flipped the pedestrians off out the driver window. The pedestrians, one big guy about 250 pounds in a basketball jersey and shorts and his skinny half his size friend also in jersey and shorts, flipped the truck off and started yelling back. Then everyone laughed. The walkers approached the passenger window of the truck while it blocked the not too busy intersection. They were all friends and were having a laugh and catching up.
It occurred to me that that song by that band, The Eagles, that annoyed me so much might possibly have made this moment a reality. The town was packed with tourists there to see old Route 66, but they were also there to see the park, which only existed because of a song. The locals were on their way to grab some lunch at one of the restaurants near the corner which tourists also frequented. The park provided a town square. Like many of the other towns bypassed by Route 66, Winslow might have withered and completely died. But the town had turned themselves and their section of old Route 66 into an attraction because of that song and the old highway too.
I know that song gave Winslow the edge. I live near Amboy, California, also on old Route 66. They don't have a song. They aren't even mentioned in the classic old highway tune, Route 66....Chuck Berry has my favorite version of that tune. And Amboy, along with it's sister towns of Bagdad and Chambless, along that section of Route 66, has shriveled and died. All the old hotels and gas stations are gone, with the exception of one gas station and mini market in Amboy. And even the one existing gas station and market seems to be slowly melting back into the desert along with the rest of the signs for closed motels and diners. If only they were so lucky to have a mention in a tune as famous as Take It Easy. I sure couldn't get that tune out of my head while we were in Winslow. It's even helping me get over my aversion to The Eagles.
Amboy's population is hanging in there today at a total of four.
The desert is magical...but there's both sides. Both good and bad magic. Today, I experienced both.
Preparing to leave here to go to the East Coast for a run of shows hasn't been easy. I don't feel like leaving. My schedule was thrown off the last few days by work....files for mixes were supposed to come in, but my client was bogged down in the chaos side and files weren't coming through to me correctly and they didn't make any sense inserted into the mix...wrong key. I think we got it in the end, but the magic wasn't with us until the last hour.
When chaos rules, there's nothing like a good friend. Joe Garcia was the first guy to ever stop me down here and ask, "Hey, man, what's your story?" And, man, did Joe come through for me today. He helped me prep things around our cabin so I could head out on the road with some peace of mind. And in return, I did the traditional thing. I offered to buy beers. Joe picked the most expensive establishment in town....well, really, it's the only place; Landers Brew.
We were the only ones in there for quite awhile. Just me, Joe and Phillip, the owner. It wasn't long before Joe had grabbed one of the guitars laying around the room. We weren't really playing....just knocking on the strings for comfort while we drank our beers, passing it back and forth. After a little while, a trio of desert walkers came into the bar....not the usual zombie sort of walkers. These folks were actually quite normal. Even a little Los Angeles in their mannerisms. Lindsay, Levi and Barbie were good people; friendly, open, and honest.
Pretty soon, maybe through a haze of some purple smoke and more beers, that guitar was playing us. I played a Dave Van Ronk tune and Gram Parsons tune. Joe played a couple of his own, capping the night off with one of the best versions of Shadow of a Ghost I've heard him play. But the magic first came when our new friend, Levi, was passed the guitar. I realized he had to know something about songs after singing along with me for Hickory Wind. I slid the guitar right across to him and he knocked us out with a lustful tune he wrote about Mary Tyler Moore. Beautiful.
The desert is magic. I haven't hung out with strangers in a bar and passed the guitar...well, maybe ever. Thank you, Levi. And thank you, Barbie and Lindsay for being part of the party. And Joe, you're a great friend and an even better human being....and a damn fine guitar player and songwriter too. And Phillip, the owner of Landers Brew. Thank you for keeping this amazing establishment open and the beer pouring.
I'm so lucky to live in a town that has a place like this....even if it's the only place. See you back in the desert in a couple weeks. It's time to hit the road. I'm off to the East Coast in a couple of hours.
I'm excited to announce solo shows for this September on the East Coast and in the Southwest. I'll be going to quite a few spots I've never played before. Help me spread the word! I'm thrilled to be ending the run in Tucson with a show with my old pal, and contributor to a couple of songs on So Long City, Gerald Collier. More details here.