MusicThe Sunday Song: The Ballad of Chris and Chris

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Jan 122014

I first got the storyline of this song stuck in my head maybe eight yearimages ago. But I didn’t have music for it, and that meant I also couldn’t write it down fitting a melody.

I finally shaped it into a lyric right around the end of 2012, when the guitar part came to me in a noodling session. It was thanks to a chord progression that is somewhat unusual for me (I rarely go from the I to the V, I find), though set in my go-to key of D. I pulled out the bass line that made the progression work, and doubled it on the mandolin, and shaped the melody around it. Add a dash of strings, and recorded a vocal (if I recall, I had a cold at the time… but ended up liking the tentative quality it gave) and here it is. I figured, it’s been a year, I should let it out into the world.

download mp3

Lyrics, chords, and similar details after the break. Continue reading »

MusicThe Sunday Song: Freedom

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Feb 102013

I put this together today. I think it’s going to end up as the guitar part for a song with lyrics, but I liked it enough as a guitar part that I’m posting it up as just an instrumental. Nothing fancy here — I recorded it with a single mic, did a tiny bit of reverb and EQ, and left it at that.

It’s a capo monster — standard tuning, but capo’d at the second fret, and then again with a partial capo at the 6th fret, covering only strings 3, 4, and 5. I use a Kyser short-cut capo for this. You could use just a single partial capo at the 4th fret to play it a full step lower, of course, which would move it from the key of F# major down to E.

– download Freedom.mp3

Other than that, it’s all in the picking pattern. The trick here is that you finger less than it seems — almost all the chords are only two finger stops. The rising part is actually played in between the two capos.

MusicThe Sunday Song: Zombie Christmas Trees

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Dec 092012

We chop the poor trees down, then stick them in embalming fluid to keep them alive for a few weeks while we use them as our helpless servants; then we throw them away to wither in a landfill. If that isn’t a zombie, what is?

This little ditty came about because of something my daughter said — I don’t remember what exactly. But she rolled her eyes a lot when I said that it gave me this idea. If you like, you can think of it as a spiritual sequel to “Dead Cheerleaders.”

download here

I just wrote this yesterday and recorded it in a few hours today. I play it up at Capo VII, fingerpicked, but in the recording I added a couple more guitars to give it body and it sort of turned into a 70s country rock song. Sorry about that. The fingerpicked line is on the Baby Taylor, and the rhythm parts are on the Blueridge, and I just doubled it through an amp simulator to get some crunch and space in it. And added a bass part and a fake Hammond organ.

Continue reading »

MusicThe Sunday Song: Alice

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Dec 112011

I wrote this song quite a long time ago, for one of my favorite webcomics, entitled Alice! The comic hasn’t updated since 2006, but I actually own the print collection that was available for a while. The vibe of it was somewhere between Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes — except it was about an overimaginative teen or tween girl. Glancing at it now, it makes me think of my daughter, who similarly dives into roleplaying and doesn’t come out for days.


An Alice comic strip

An Alice comic strip



The tablature and sheet music have actually been posted up for ages and ages in the Music section of the site. It’s in standard tuning, but uses a partial capo on the 4th fret covering only three of the strings — strings 3, 4, and 5, numbered from the high E as the first string.

Hope you like it!

MusicThe Sunday Song: August Timepieces

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Aug 282011

Recently some colleagues at Disney gave me a few gifts in thanks for giving a talk to some folks internally. Apparently Warren Spector picked out one of the gifts: a harmonic capo (he knows I play guitar, you see; been a few years, but we’ve jammed together). This little beastie sits on the 12th fret and presses down very lightly on the strings with rubber feet. Unlike a regular capo, though, it does not depress the strings all the way — instead, it sits lightly enough to cause an open pluck of that string to play a harmonic note — those bell-like tones you hear sometimes out of a guitar. But you can play under the capo, and still get standard notes. The result is that you play a regular chord, and any time you play an open string, you get a harmonic instead.

Well, I had to try it out. Beautiful on the Baby Taylor; didn’t fit on my Blueridge (the heel on the neck is too thick)… and just barely fit on the 1962 Gibson, which is what you’ll hear if you click the link. Because once I had it, I started to noodle about in open G, and, well… got this done in the last couple of hours:

download “August Timepieces”

Hope you like it!

Continue reading »

MusicThe Sunday Song: New Year’s Song/1990

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Jun 122011

I wrote this in 1994. We were living in Alabama at the time, while we went to grad school. A lot of the stuff I was writing back then was kind of like “short stories as songs,” very under the influence of folkies like Bill Morrissey; this song in particular is one of those.

Needless to say, it’s entirely fictional; I was seven years old in 1978. 🙂 It’s supposed to be a tale told from the point of view of a man on New Year’s Eve in 1990, looking back at 1978 and looking at where his life is on that day.

download “New Year’s Song/1990” (mp3)

This was one of the tracks of an album called “The Land of Red Barns,” all of which had that short story vibe, pretty much. I have never recorded decent versions of most of them, and I am making it a project to get all the couple hundred songs I have written recorded and maybe even out there somewhere, so here’s this one.

Music geek stuff from here forward…:

Continue reading »

MusicThe Sunday Song: April Snails

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Apr 102011

We moved to a new house. There is a huge backyard, with fruit trees. And there are many snails.

This is the first thing I have recorded in quite a while, and the first in the new house’s music room.

It’s pretty rough. I just wrote it, and haven’t learned to play it very smoothly yet, and I didn’t even try to mix it right, so it clips in places.

download April Snails.mp3

Open D tuning, on the 1962 Gibson acoustic.

MusicCrooked Still

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Jun 102008

Shaken by a Low SoundHop HighIt’s been a while since I called out any music that has caught my attention — so I wanted to mention Crooked Still.

The press is labelling them as bluegrass. I suppose — though to me they sound like Alison Krauss’ voice melded with some of the classical/newgrass crossover of Appalachian Journey, though less angular. And in many ways more in the folk tradition than “normal” bluegrass (if such a thing exists anymore). The songs are arranged for double bass, cello, banjo, fiddle, and voice — and they’re all traditional songs taken to the point of unrecognizability at times. Really dark deep tones and really hypnotic.

The first two albums are Shaken by a Low Sound and Hop High. You can hear what they sound like on their MySpace page.