Where to Begin… Again.

It’s been a while since I posted, so let’s have a recap of the situation since the end of February:

In our last “episodes”, I was feeling pretty happy about being included in a couple of great compilations, RAWA: Renaissance Artists’ and Writers’ Association’s Songs for Social Change Volume 4 (as a runner-up) and Live From Robot Dog with Tim Lewis, Volume 3. Please check those out!

I had done two recording sessions with Rik Palieri for an album of traditional, public domain folk songs. I was also trying to write and refine new material for my next solo album.

At that point, the Novel Coronavirus began a worldwide tour.

A global pandemic sweeps the globe, and ham-fisted so-called “leaders” drop the ball, choosing to sell and buy stocks based on the information rather than alert the public to the danger, and otherwise engage in self-serving and stupid activity that is almost universally harmful rather than helpful.

Well, that escalated rapidly.

So what’s a topical songwriter to do? Well, first we alter plans a bit: gigs are cancelled, recording sessions too.

Then we get writing, and since we are home anyway, recording. I am in the process of refining a group of songs now, and hope to release an album in a month or slightly more.

I also hope to be able to work remotely with Rik Palieri to finish the album we started, and release that as well. Timing: undetermined.

Do what you can, where you can, with what you have.

I did two live stream shows on Facebook, in a group called Live Stream Open Mic. I extracted some performances from the first one already, and have started posting them to my YouTube channel.

Also on YouTube is the whole live-streamed performance from Church Street for the 24 Hour Protest Song with Daniel Bernard Roumain.

 

You can support artists by watching their videos, streaming their music, SHARING both, purchasing downloads and yes, sending tips if you like what you hear.

Another way is to vote for them! More on this… next episode of…

Songwriter Tribe!

 

WBKM Live from Robot Dog with Tim Lewis Volume Three 2019

Several songs on my album were actually recordings made during these sessions at Robot Dog Studio, courtesy of Tim Lewis, WBKM, and Ryan Cohen and Sam Marks of Robot Dog (many thanks again to all).  One of these songs, “The Last Coral Left Alive”, is now included in a new compilation of songs (and interview snippets) from the series available to stream or download for free! This is the third season edition and includes a wonderful cross-section of Burlington’s diverse music scene:

Season three includes performances by Ver Sacrum, Troy Millette, Happy Spangler, Jesse Taylor Band (though solo), Radio Underground, Jeremy Gilchrist, Smokestack Lightning, Jessica Rabbit Syndrome, Cricket Blue, Green Chapel, Late Night (Peter Danforth, Annie Costa, Chanon Geoff Bernstein), The Steph Pappas Experience, Jason Baker, Blowtorch, Bethany Conner, Dirty Blondes, Clare Byrne, Sad Turtle, The Red Newts, Wolfhand, Comrade Nixon, Community Garden, Matthew Mercury, Andriana Chobot and Josh Glass.

Songs for Social Change 2019 CD is out!

I was pretty excited to find out that my song “something that’s never been done before” was a finalist and “runner-up” in the Renaissance Artists’ and Writers’ Association (RAWA) Songs for Social Change Songwriting Competition for the year 2019!

Now there is a CD compilation of songs contributed by the winner and the runners-up and you can purchase it online for $10:

https://rawa.net/product/songs-for-social-change-volume-4

If you are a fan of social justice music, consider purchasing this CD!

Stream “something that’s never been done before” online free:

 

Music They Don’t Want You to Hear​

Many thanks to Ron Cooke of A Still Small Voice​ for including my song “Right or Wrong” in his radio program “Music They Don’t Want You to Hear​” back on January 12th of this year.

Check out the placement of my song in the middle of this set: (!)

Joan Baez | Blowin In The Wind | From Every Stage Live ​
Tommy Sands | The Answer Is Not Blowing In The Wind | Fair Play To You All ​
Jason Baker | Right Or Wrong | Common Man Blues ​
Joan Baez | Diamonds And Rust | Rare Live And Classic​
Joan Baez | Battle Hymn Of The Republic | A Continuing Debut ​

You can hear the show Archived at https://www.mixcloud.com/assv4u/

Or listen to the song here:

2019 Year in Review

Now that it’s actually over…

Let’s hit the “highlights”:

My measures of success have changed

Previous year-in-review focused on songwriting productivity: how many songs did I complete in the calendar year? I find it hard to count up the songs this year, as so many are works in progress still. I have surely completed at least 20 songs, some of which are included in the latest album.

However, the realities of being a recording and performing artist sank in this year: I have spent as much time promoting existing works as I have creating new works, and spent time developing skills quite tangential to songwriting itself. That’s not bad, but does take time away from songwriting and developing those skills.

It was fun to go on radio shows like Tim’s, and also WRUV Exposure and WOMM-LP The Radiator’s Rocket Shop to talk about the album and play the songs live. I also did a TV show called Vermont Treasures with host Rachel Hamilton on LCATV, a regional local access channel.

Better songs, more people

I made some conscious decisions to be more careful about the selection of songs for Common Man Blues than I was for America Dreams.

I took songs for feedback to two different groups of songwriters, AND to two different mentors when any deeper question came up. Being open to the suggestions given really helped several songs improve, and the feedback of the groups was instrumental in choosing which songs made the cut.

I also invited guest musicians Rik Palieri and Janice Russsoti to play and sing on my album, and that was an enlightening experience itself, and improved the arrangements for those two songs immensely. Working with different studio engineers (instead of doing it all myself) was delightful, and while I am also glad to note my “home studio” recordings stand up to the pro studio stuff, it was way better to have someone else handle all the microphones and mixing.

This year I tried to do more “jamming” and collaboration in general, and it’s been generally beneficial. People seem to really like my slide guitar playing. I will be incorporating more of that into my songwriting. The Burlington Songwriters Holiday Celebration allowed for a small group of us to form a little impromptu harmony group. I expect to incorporate that in future songs as well.

What are my specific plans for the new calendar year? Subscribe to this blog to find out next time!

Now tell us your plans for songwriting in 2020 in the comments section! Always love to hear ideas for everyone to try…

 

NERFA Report

The Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) is a regional affiliate of Folk Alliance International (FAI) and holds an annual music business conference in Stamford, Connecticut each November.

This year I attended as a Singer-Songwriter and Performer, and also as a Folk DJ, since I am co-host of a radio show called Folk Talk, a weekly 1 hour folk music & talk radio show hosted by Rik Palieri on WBTV-LP 99.3 FM, Sundays @ 4PM.

The Rix
The Rix

Other things I did differently from my first NERFA, last year:

  • Came as early as possible on Thursday and stayed through lunch Sunday.
  • I got an exhibit hall table, which I shared with The Rix, and which also served for promoting Folk Talk, as Rik Palieri, the host, is a member of The Rix duo. Our table was next to Zoe Mulford, who has appeared on our radio show, and it was a delight to get to talk with her and her husband.
  • I have physical CD’s of my new album, Common Man Blues, and was able to give it to DJ’s with a Track Card and Press Release folded and tucked inside the CD sleeve.
  • I bought the extra meals and made time for at least one nap.
Zoe Mulford
Zoe Mulford

I also did something NOT recommended: I seriously cut one of my fingers on my right hand carelessly reaching into my bag (shaving razor got loose) and had to detour on the way to an urgent care facility to properly bandage it up, as the single band-aid I had in the car could not contain the flow of blood. I had a GIANT bandage on the ring finger of my right hand.

20191107_094601.jpg
Comically Oversized Bandage

I attended a songwriter swap called “Unsung Songwriters” with my hand like that, and was glad I had the ukulele! I was able to swap the comically-oversized bandage for two normal fabric ones and at least I didn’t look as weird playing. Good thing I use my thumb and index finger for most picking!

Jason Baker and Alice Hasen
Jason Baker and Alice Hasen

Another new thing: playing a guerrilla showcase with a new accompanist with a single rehearsal! A violinist named Alice Hasen put out on the NERFA Talk Facebook group that she was available to join other artists in their showcases, so I, and apparently a lot of other people, took her up on it. She did a phenomenal job on everything she played on, and her own showcases were delightful! I was very excited to meet a young musician of this caliber, and although she is based out of Memphis now, she is originally from Shelburne, Vermont, up in my neck of the woods, so I am hopeful we will get to work together in the future.

Murder Ballads on a all-metal, round-neck resonator!
Murder Ballads on a all-metal, round-neck resonator!

Another way I stepped out of my comfort zone was signing up for the Crab Donkey “Murder Ballads” showcase. I specifically learned two songs for this: “Stagger Lee” and “Banks of the Ohio” and played them on a round-neck, all-metal resonator guitar on loan from Rik Palieri.

The showcases wrapped up, in classic NERFA style, at 3 AM, but we had people singing along even at that hour!

Vance Gilbert harasses Alice Howe and Freebo while my showcase buddies Susan & Ray look on…

Workshops I attended included Vance Gilbert‘s Performance Workshop (as usual, pure genius, not long enough) a DJ workshop about new digital platforms, and a workshop by Liz Stookey-Sunde, Founder of Music to Life, about connecting activism and music.

Hoping to get Vance to come up to Burlington to do his workshop and maybe a show. Also hoping to connect with Liz at Music to Life to develop a plan for a “Social Change Music Academy” concept.

“Folk Talk” is already part of the offerings on Folk Music Notebook, a new 24-hour folk music internet radio station created by Ron Olesko, DJ and Founder of  “Traditions”, now WFDU-FM’s longest running program.

NERFA is an interesting opportunity to connect with the community in a way that is different from the rest of the year, and I look forward to the next one!

Jason Baker on “Vermont Treasures”

Check out this interview and performance on LCATV show Vermont Treasures with host Rachel Hamilton!

Upcoming Airtimes:
Wed Nov 6 12:30 pm
Wed Nov 6 4:00 pm

Or watch online anytime:

http://lcatv.org/vermont-treasures-0085

Thank you to Rachel Hamilton and Rebecca Padula for having me on the show!

 

Common Man Blues

Common Man Blues is completed!

Stream all tracks free, buy downloads, and share with your friends!

Common Man Blues

Or stream/buy/share from my website: 

http://jbakervt.com/#music

Coming soon to your favorite streaming service!

How do you get your music? Let us know in the comments!

Look for announcements as each of these streaming services or stores go live with Common Man Blues!

Want a CD? There will be CDs!

Very excited to be working with Discmakers from my old home state of New Jersey to produce CDs for this album. Look for an announcement here, on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up for my mailing list.

Almost finished!

This album is almost ready!

Had a second recording session at Leilani Sound Studios. Overdubbed backing vocals and additional instruments for three of the tunes.

Rik Palieri, Jason Baker and engineer Calvin Lane at Leilani Sound Studios

Fabulous Guest Musicians!

Two of these songs were blessed with the talents of a couple of friends of mine who happen to be fantastic musicians: folk troubadour Rik Palieri and Burlington songwriter Janice Russotti.

Rik Palieri, Jason Baker and Janice Russotti

“We Don’t Know Any Better”

On this song Rik played his banjo ukulele, kazoo and joined the backing vocals as well. Rik said “This is the first time I have ever made a recording with the banjo uke!” He really gave it his all, and the kazoo work was equally memorable.

Rik Palieri playing the Banjo Uke!

Janice added a clever, subtle harmony to the chorus and it really completes the song. We had a lot of fun recording this.

Janice Russotti harmonizing!

“Let’s Fight The Sun”

This song was inspired by a passing Facebook comment about plans by MIT, Bill Gates, and others to work together to solve the problem of climate change by figuring out a way to block the sun.

Janice played Rik’s old tambourine on this track, and it broke apart! You can hear this instruments’ last performance on this track.

I was going to add a ukulele to the track, but Rik offered to play banjo! The results sound great to me, way better than the uke would have.

Rik Palieri and his amazing banjo!

Janice, Rik and I formed a chorus for the backing vocals, and it all worked out even better than I had imagined.

Jason Baker, Janice Russotti, and Rik Palieri sing together.

Waiting on the mix…

So the final mixdown was delayed due to the engineer becoming ill, but I have word the mix is imminent, so I am hoping in just a few days I can announce the official release of Common Man Blues.

Speaking of the title track…

Common Man Blues
Common Man Blues by Jason Baker

“Common Man Blues” also got another overdub (in addition to the vocals and harmonica). Rik lent me a resonator guitar, and I have been practicing my Open G tuning. Didn’t get to show off much here, just added for some atmosphere really, but it works well for the song.

This song exists because of another great musician and his contribution to the early development of this work. Legendary Jazz pianist and composer David Amram was gracious enough to work on this song with me, as part of his interest in re-thinking and re-visiting the 12-bar blues form.

David Amram and Jason Baker at NERFA 2018

Look for my album announcement shortly!

You are invited…

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week.

Of interest to songwriters (but open to all):

Burlington Songwriters meeting is Tuesday, August 27th at 7 PM at 20 Allen Street, Burlington, VT in the Community Room on the 2nd Floor. Open to all, this meeting is primarily for the purpose of sharing works for feedback.

Of general interest:

Denny Bean and Bob Devins on Wednesday August 28th at 6:30 PM at The Double E Performance Center 21 Essex Way in Essex Junction, VT

Jason Baker on Friday, August 30th at 5 PM at Gusto’s Bar, 28 Prospect Street in Barre, VT. I will play a two hour set. Come on by after work!