Tuesday was the official announcement of my involvement as a co-manager of the excellent blogger/writer social network, Studio 30 Plus. I’m so very happy and excited to have taken the reins with Kelly of Naked Girl in a Dress on this project. We have big plans for the future of the site, so come visit and see what we’re up to.
On Fiction Friday, I launched my serialized book, “The Linden Tree.” Session 1 was short and sweet, laying the tone of the story. Future episodes promise to be longer (but not too long). Join me as we follow the journey of the mysterious hero as he tries to find the Tree Spirit.
I spent a few days going through my music collection trying desperately to pick only five songs that drove me to purchase my first electric guitar. What ultimately settled it for me were songs I still listen to, songs that I could remember having generated a strong emotional response from me the first time I heard them, and finally songs that were some of the first I tried to learn how to play.
1. “Crossroads” by Cream from the Wheels of Fire album
In the way-back yester-years of the mid-80′s, I had a cheapy, multi-function turn table/radio/cassette deck unit and three albums (LP’s) to listen to – the soundtrack to Star Wars, a “follow the book” version of The Hobbit and a greatest hits collection of Glenn Miller. I was a weird kid, I know.
I remember always looking through my parent’s record collection when I was very young, having no idea what I was looking at. Albums by Paul Simon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Fifth Dimension (my guess is they only had that for “Age of Aquarius.”) and a plethora of polka albums. As the years went by, my parents added to their collection with Michael Jackson, John Lennon (my mom played Double Fantasy everyday for weeks after Lennon was shot) and maybe Willie Nelson (Willie may have only been on cassette tape – help me out on this one, Mom).
Anyway, at some point, I must have expressed an interest in some of the older albums that never got played. That’s when I heard Cream for the first time. My dad put Disraeli Gears on and when “Strange Brew” started, I knew I was hooked on a world of music I never had a clue even existed.
When I heard “Crossroads” for the first time, I knew that I wanted to be Eric Clapton. I wanted to be able to play that rocking blues style I heard on that song. I began listening to bands like The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Clapton’s solo albums, Led Zeppelin and others that played bluesy rock.
In later years, I delved deeper into rock’s history and discovered that all of those bands played versions of much older songs by master blues artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.
I love me some blues. Here’s “Crossroads” featuring Eric Clapton on lead guitar and vocals.
…and here’s the original song, called “Cross Road Blues,” by Robert Johnson, recorded in 1936.
2. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles from The White Album
What can I say about The Beatles that hasn’t already been said? Has any group of musicians ever had a bigger impact on music than these guys?
I’m pretty sure the first cassette tapes I ever got were two greatest hits collections of The Beatles one year for Christmas. But it was during the “Dad’s Album Sessions” that I really got a good listen to what these boys from Liverpool really did.
Rubber Soul, Revolver, Help!, Sgt Pepper’s and The White Album were among the many we listened to. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” grabbed me right away and I think it was because Clapton plays on the song (a fact I didn’t learn until much later). My favorite Beatles songs are George Harrison’s – there’s just something about his voice and they way he constructs his songs that I find appealing.
So, here it is – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
3. “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II
Zeppelin was introduced to me by my first girlfriend back in high school. Her older brother played guitar and she played piano and trumpet (we were in the school jazz band together). By this time, I was struggling with teaching myself how to play guitar and getting pretty frustrated with it. My girlfriend’s brother offered me some tips and taught me the blues pentatonic scale – one of the building blocks of playing bluesy rock.
Many days I would spend over at her house, talking about all kinds of things and listening to music. To her goes the credit for introducing me to Zep.
I think Led Zeppelin’s music was the first I listened to where I really became aware of the use of catchy riffs. “Whole Lotta Love” is one great example of that Duh-duh duh-duh duh! (Okay, settle down, Beavis) as well as “Black Dog” and “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid.”
Here’s “Heartbreaker” from the BBC Sessions album.
4. “Back In Black” by AC/DC from Back In Black
I’m sure the first time I heard this was on the radio. It’s the epitome of riff-driven classic rock, easily one of the most recognized songs in rock history.
And I just had to learn it. It’s fun to listen to and a heck-of-a lot of fun to play. Don’t know what your garage band should be working on? Crank it up to 11 and channel Angus Young.
You will be a Rock God (or at least you’ll feel like one).
5. “Dreams” by Van Halen from 5150
I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again: I love this song and I love “Van Hagar.” I’m proud of the fact and not embarrassed by it.
This song showed me what rock music could be – great riffs, great melody and lyrics, great solo – just great. It was a step in the evolution of rock music and deserves recognition for it.
For this week’s Music Monday, I’d like to talk a bit about one of my favorite guitarists, Antoine Dufour. Just to be clear, this is purely a post written by a fan and it is not a paid promotion. I just love what this guy does!
To get started, here’s the video I stumbled upon on YouTube a couple of years ago that made me say, “Wow!” Antoine is playing with Tommy Gauthier (fiddle). This song is from their album, Still Strings.
I bet you just said, “Wow,” too. Am I right?
Dufour was born in 1979 in Quebec, Canada, and has been playing guitar since he was 15. He attended Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) in Joliette, Quebec where one of his teachers introduced him to the likes of Leo Kottke, Don Ross and Michael Hedges. Dufour’s fingerpicking style of playing took on a heavy percussive feel – meaning he slaps the strings and makes frequent use of natural harmonics – and, while not quite unique, is something he has become a master of.
Here is a great example of his percussive style. The song “Scratch” is from his debut solo album, Naissance.
He is also well versed in traditional finger-picking styles as evidenced by his and Gauthier’s cover of Jerry Reed‘s “Jerry’s Breakdown.”
If you aren’t a fan yet, I’m surprised.
Ok, one last video to maybe change your mind. This is Dufour and Gauthier playing a cover of Don Ross’ “Catherine.” It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard and I bet you might think so too.
That’s it. A short, kind of fluff piece today. If you like Antione Dufour, you can find his music on his YouTube channel and at his record label, CandyRat Records.