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.

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.

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!

A Common Blues, man

You know what’s not easy to do? Record an album with no money!

I want to finish recording an album but I really don’t have any money. Being a contractor I only get paid while at work and having a heart attack precluded that last week.

On the bright side, I am more than halfway done.

All songs are written.

7 of them have been recorded in some fashion:

2 in my home studio, 5 at Robot Dog Studios, due to the generosity of DJ/Blogger Tim Lewis and the studio.

Three to go, well, four…

So I am considering re-recording one song, as the arrangement has already changed slightly.

Otherwise I have three songs ready, but dread putting a home recording up against the Robot Dog stuff (the two I have are done with just enough reverb and overdubs to slide by, I think. May have to ask for an impartial opinion).

I have selected which song to use as the title track: “Common Man Blues”, a song loosely inspired by Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”. I even have cover art ready.

Digital distribution is already paid for, sending my stuff to YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify and more. See those links to hear what I already have online.

Ok, but how to get there?

So I am considering how to fund recording the rest of the album, and possibly funding a run of CDs.

Should I even bother with CDs?

Should I try a Kickstarter campaign? Or some other way of crowd funding?

In truth, any suggestions are welcome folks.

Comment on this post to let me know your ideas.

My heart is broken…

Literally. I had a heart attack last week.

I don’t normally talk about the details of my personal life much on here, but as you can see if you look, I have been absent from here a while. I felt too busy to take time to write, with a variety of things happening that were already pretty challenging.

So, now, I am feeling that if I don’t make time to do the things I know I want to, like communicate to the world about my journey as a songwriter here, well I might just run out of time.

Before we get too dramatic, here are the details:

  • I awoke early Monday morning with severe aching pain in both my arms, shoulders and back, and felt dizzy. I suspected heart trouble and took aspirin, but when the symptoms did not subside after an hour and a half, I ended up in the emergency room.
  • I did not have a blockage, as would be likely in these situations. Instead, I have a dissection, a tear in an artery, and that it not something you can quite repair. It will take genetic testing to try to figure out the cause.
  • The treatment is to keep my blood pressure low, and so far that is it, just taking the medications and getting used to them (they can make you dizzy). I will be living a “heart-healthy” lifestyle from now on.

So, what does this mean for my music schedule?

  • No gigs were impacted by this, although I missed Songsters night at Lamp Club Light Shop that night.
  • I am still scheduled for two hour gigs at Gusto’s Bar in Barre on August 30th, September 27th and October 26th. Radio Bean is October 3rd.
  • I was invited back to The Open Door in Hillsborough, New Hampshire for a 15 minute spot. I ended up signing up for April 2020, as I saw my friends Dan & Faith will be headlining.
  • I am more determined than ever to complete the recording of the final songs selected for my next release, Common Man Blues. More on this in my next posts.
  • I will be doing as many open mics as possible.

Keep trying, before we are dying…

I am also trying, once again, to re-commit to this blog and try to make it relevant to what’s happening for me musically. I hope you feel free to comment on any post new or old, write me with feedback or suggestions, link and repost anything here.

Note: I did write a song since facing death, and it’s about the fear of death of course! Not sure it’s all that great a song… 😉

Talk to you again soon,

Jason Baker

Folk Talk with Rik Palieri : a new radio show!

Helping out, having fun

I was very flattered a couple of weeks ago when Rik Palieri, (pronounced Pal-air-re) a talented singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, and storyteller who happens to live in Vermont asked me to help him out with running a new radio show.

The show is on 99.3 WBTV-LP. WBTV-LP is a collaborative community media project supported by Burlington area community media centers RETN and VCAM in partnership with a dedicated crew of community volunteers, broadcasting to Burlington via the radio at 99.3FM and to Vermont and beyond online via 993wbtv.org.

Folk Talk 1

Rik did the first show solo, and had some technical issues, so he asked if I would help out. I felt very honored! I asked if I could talk to someone about getting an orientation, but Rik assured me it wasn’t necessary.

Folk Talk 2

Turned out we did have a few technical issues for Folk Talk 2, due to the previous DJ leaving things in an unexpected state, but after a few hectic moments and some confusion, we got a recording of an interview he did with Pete Seeger going and sorted the rest of the show out. It was certainly a “trial by fire”!

In the end it worked out with just a little dead air, and we had a laugh!

The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream

While learning as we go was a little “exciting”, it also gave us some confidence that the next show would be easier. To add some pressure though, Rik had another event scheduled, The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream!

This is a neat event Rik dreamed up, and is produced by Rik, Jeff Miller (of Burlington Coffehouse fame), Marianna Holzer, Rebecca Padula and others! The idea is to recreate the radio variety shows of old, but in the context of live internet streaming. Everything goes through a single microphone, and most performances are unamplified (The Starline Rhythm Boys were the first to “go electric” with a single Fender amp, but they get a pass, because: The Starline Rhythm Boys. ‘Nuff said.)

This one included The Starline Rhythm Boys, The Green Mountain Cloggers dancing to music by Leadfoot Louise, cowboy songs and rope tricks from Ernie Sites, and Storyteller Buzz Kuhns, along with Rik himself hosting. What a show!

I helped setup and “run” the Facebook Live Stream, which worked OK, but did crash two times during the show on the iPad Mini that was being used. I knew the procedure to restart the Live Stream, so got it back up and running in about 30 seconds each time. So if you want to check it out, you will need to view three separate FB videos on Rik’s timeline.

I will post links to the HD recording when it is edited and uploaded to YouTube.

Next one is in June, and will be honoring Pete Seeger.

Folk Talk 3

Inspired by Ernie Sites visit to Vermont at The Great Vermont Barn Dance Show and Live Stream earlier in the day, Rik thought a Cowboy/Western music theme would be fun. He was right!

We played a variety of classic western songs, and some lesser known gems as well. I was struck by the diversity of songs, the sophistication of the music, and the articulate lyricism of the music we listened to.

We had no real technical issues, and had some nice conversations about the artists. Here is the playlist:

  • Prairie in the Sky by Mary McCaslin on The Best of… (Philo)
  • Strawberry Roan by Jim Ringer on The Band of Jesse James (Philo)
  • Way Out West by Mary McCaslin on The Best Of… (Philo)
  • Rodeo Cowboy by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Cowboy’s Dream by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Reminiscin’ by Ernie Sites on Great American Hero (Independent)
  • Ghost Riders in the Sky by Mary McCaslin on The Best of… (Philo)
  • Rattlesnake Dreaming by Lon Austin on Arizona Raccoon Tours (Independent)
  • Buffalo Skinners by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Night Herding Song by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Riding Down Canyon by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on Kerouac’s Last Dream (Appleseed)
  • Under the Glow of a Western Moon by Patti Shannon on Gone So Gone (Independent)
  • The Return of Rocky Mountain Slim and Desert Rat Shorty by Woody Guthrie on Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Amazing stuff, and you should go find it, listen to it, and buy it.

So, producing a radio show is fun, if you do it with a friend!

Next Sunday: World/International/Indigenous music! Tune in!

October surprise

So the end of October surprise turned out to be a whole week with a very busy music schedule:

Monday October 22nd:

Appeared on a local radio show highlighting Vermont artists called 802 Music Scene hosted by DJ Drea Mae. Hoping to get a recording soon, and will share that when I have it.

Tuesday October 23rd:

Burlington Songwriters had a regular meeting geared towards sharing works in progress and getting feedback. I was able to share something just started and get some helpful input. Feedback meetings are the 4th Tuesday of the month and open to all.

Wednesday October 24th:

Gig at The Double E in Essex with Stefani Capezzi! Scheduled only a week before, Stefani and I each played two half-hour sets during dinner hours (The Mad Taco provides food and drink at The Double E). Burlington Songwriters is booking local songwriters every other Wednesday there, so stop by on Songwriter Night!

Thursday October 25th:

Gig at Radio Bean! I played a one hour set to the folks at Radio Bean and it was a fun and engaged crowd. I have enjoyed making this a monthly gig, and will be back on November 14th and December 13th.

Friday October 26th:

Actually, nothing. I probably went to bed early.

Saturday October 27th:

Gig at Thayers Olde English Pub in Littleton NH! Second time at this place, great food, a bonfire out back before the show, and a cozy atmosphere.

I hope more weeks are filled with musical activity like this one was!

Don’t forget local radio

In the rush to get on blogs and playlists online, one might overlook a good opportunity to promote your songs: local radio.

Radio stations, from low-power community radio, to college stations, to commercial stations, have shows that specifically highlight and showcase local music. Sometimes they will add your song to a playlist for a show, sometimes the show will have live, in-studio performances and interviews.

Many of these radio stations stream their live broadcast on the internet. Some also have shows available on demand in a “podcast” format.

I will be doing one of these tomorrow night, and l invite you to tune in!

105.9FM WOMM-LP www.theradiator.org – April 11th @ 8:00pm