The Barnyard Tapes – The Basement Tapes and Bob Dylan’s Mandolin

November 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Posted in kids music, Musings, News and other stuff... | Leave a comment

As we were finishing our newly released CD, we were casting around for a title.   I happened to put Bob Dylan and the Band’s “The Basement Tapes” into the car CD player.  I hadn’t listened to it for a few years, but over the next few days, I listened again and again.

Everything about it, from the live recording (as opposed to polished studio tracking) to the sheer joy that these guys took in the music was  appealing.  I thought about the fact that we did the first recordings for our CD a couple of years ago and those tapes had sat our in the barn for a couple of years.  I thought about the fact that we were working to play the songs as live as possible, only creating tracks when one of us played more than one instrument on a song.  That requires a different studio set-up – lots of mics and lots of potential for background noise that you can’t get out of the mix – in other words, it might not end up as the type of clean (and sterile) recording that we’re so used to hearing, but it’s exactly what Bob did.   I thought about songs that appear on our CD, “Cluck Old Hen,” “Liza Jane” and others that feature barnyard animals.   Finally,  I thought about the fact that, like Bob and the Band, we love hanging out and recording – and our title was obvious.  The Barnyard Tapes was born.

Barnyard Tapes - Basement Tapes

The Barnyard Tapes – The Basement Tapes…Thanks Bob!

Now, about the Mandolin…I bought the mandolin on our back cover at a pawn shop in Virginia, Minnesota, a town about 10 miles from Bob’s home town, Hibbing, Minnesota.  (And no, the house where Bob grew up is not on the National Registry of Historic Places – it’s just a house where people live.)

Anyway, the mandolin is a cheap, homemade, heavily lacquered mandolin that just so happens to look an awfully lot like the one that Bob is holding on the Basement Tapes cover.  Look closely – it does!  So, the possibilities:

  1. It’s the same mandolin.   Bob pawned it on a trip home and it sat in that shop for 20 something years until I came along and bought it.
  2. It’s a mandolin made by the same person who made Bob’s.
  3. I just randomly found a mandolin that has nothing to do with Bob Dylan in the pawn shop close to where he grew up that looks exactly like one he is holding in a cover photo from early in his career.

Which sounds most likely?  I’ll tell you my vote, I have the mandolin stored in a secure, moisture and temperature monitored storage facility…Smithsonian, if you’re out there, drop me a line.


Girls Have Power…

February 29, 2008 at 6:46 am | Posted in Being a Dad, Musings, News and other stuff... | Leave a comment
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My niece is in 3rd grade – and she’s a real zinger. I remember playing songs for her pre-school when she was three or four (the kids were rocking out to “Five Little Speckled Frogs”…so that’s my age reference) – and Celia walked out in front of the entire class, like a sergeant leading her troops through a basic training drill. I mentioned it to her teacher, and she responded, “She is an organizer – ” That’s the kind of appropriately vague, non-evaluative statement that makes me wonder. At the time, I decided to take it as a compliment to Celia.

About a week ago, I was watching the brood (my 3 plus my sister’s 5, and, yes that does equal 8 kids…), when Celia asked, “Uncle Steve, will you write me a song for the talent show we’re having at school?” I said (of course), “Yes, honey, what do you want it to be about?” She said, “I’m not sure, I’ll think about it…”

Celia called tonight and said, “Uncle Steve, can you write my song about how girls have power?” PAUSE – this is my 9 year old niece talking – allow me to review that quote, “Uncle Steve, can you write my song about how girls have power?” WOW! I hope, when my daughter is 9, 12, 15, 18…and so on, she wants me to write her songs about how girls have power, about how she has power – I’ll start writing those songs now and (hopefully) continue for a long time.

Girls have power? Indeed they do!

I did have to ask Celia what it means to have power as a third grader (mainly because I don’t want to invest all MY hopes, dreams and political opinions in this song). It may well be, in her perception, that having power means having parents who have the best car – but I really hope (and believe) that it goes deeper than that. She’s writing me a list of the things that make her feel powerful – so it remains to be seen – but I actually think that Celia is tapped into something that’s pretty profound as far as our society goes. She is a girl who knows she has power – she’s not second guessing herself at all.

My experience as a teacher suggests a similar dynamic – girls know they have power. I have asked my eighteen year old students how many would call themselves feminists, and felt like a dinosaur because none of them would- the term itself feels obsolete (don’t get me wrong here, I do call myself a feminist and I argue the cause), but girls today seem to look at you like an alien when you even suggest that the idea of feminism is needed. “Of course we are equal – why wouldn’t we be?” (Could this be why Hillary’s campaign has found traction among middle-aged women, but not in the younger crowd – for them, is it just a detail that we haven’t had a woman as a president?)

So Celia is writing her list, and I’ll be writing her a song…I just hope I can do the sentiment justice – stay tuned!

Obama – Llama, talking to 2 year olds about politics, or politics and potty training….

January 21, 2008 at 1:02 am | Posted in Being a Dad, Music for You, News and other stuff... | 1 Comment
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I was on the way to the polls New Hampshire primary day, and I had my 2 year old in tow. Our discussions about the candidates were going nowhere at all until I said, “Baraka Obama likes to ride a llama, and when he’s done he sits out in his sauna.” Gus was a little more attentive. Then I said “And old Mit Romney, he has lot’s of money but he’s not as funny as his friend Guiliani.” Gus got a chuckle out of that…


Obama and his Llama

It occurred to me that, from a two, three, four or even five year old’s perspective, the greatest measure of someone’s fitness for public office might be how many words you can rhyme with his or her name. In this field of candidates, it’s a tough call…let’s take a look…

McCain – rain, mane, train, feign, insane (ok, we’ll avoid that one…)

Romney, Guiliani – Not a lot here – if you stretch, you could use money, funny, bunny and even sunny (Rudy’s campaign could use a little sunshine – probably why he’s been spending so much time in Florida…).

Clinton – ouch – help me out…maybe mitten, kitten, etc. Not sure she’d like the lyric, though, “Hillary Clinton gentle as a kitten, when she goes outside, she always wears her mittens…”

Huckabee – I definitely like the long ‘e’ on the end – lots of potential – Apple tree, can’t you see, you and me, cup of tea, and, for the potty training parents out there, time to go pee –

Kucinich – Spinach, and, of course finish (got to hand it to the guy – doesn’t matter what the voters say, he’s in it until the end…)

Edwards – Another tough one – backwards, milk curds (as in curds and whey), cow herds…

SO, with that in mind, and in the name of keeping our young ones involved – I offer the following song, it really does nothing to inform you about the candidates, but, who are we kidding? Neither do most of the debates, polls or speeches…. obama-llama.mp3.

If you have other (better) rhymes, I welcome them!

p.s. – Please excuse the final line (Then there’s Huckabee, climbed an apple tree and said, “Abe can’t you see, it’s time to go pee…”). Considering how useless this song is otherwise, I figured I might add a useful line and try to prevent Abe from having another accident.

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