There are as many types of songs as there are songwriters. That's where that old adage comes into play. 'You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.' Topical songs about political matters, of injustice, bigotry, discrimination... fit into that category of songs that will be heralded by some as offering the truth and criticized by others, who, for whatever reason, find the truth too challenging a concept to easily accept.
The simple music/video concept, of creating a slideshow of images to accompany the music and lyrics I've written, is one that I've been exploring. This method of pairing visuals to lyrical content poses it's own challenges. Especially, given that political topics are innately hot button issues, which usually have at least two distinct viewpoints, dominantly and sometimes loudly, shared by their supporters. Some caution, that care needs to be taken when sharing such harsh imagery, depicting man's inhumanity toward his fellow man. As these images can inflame deeply rooted emotions, which resonate like an open wound.
As writers and videographers of the horrors currently happening around us, we walk a fine line, of both following our passions and the risk of enraging those who'd rather believe, ignorance is bliss. In my specific instance, my music/video apparently struck the wrong chord in some viewer or censor. FB did not feel legally or morally obliged to follow up their ban of my music/video with any explanation, regarding why they took the action of censoring my original content. I believe my next recording project will be called, "Banned On FaceBook."
A year ago, I stumbled upon an online ad for a book called, "Performing Religion in Public" (2013), which features my street performing efforts and even includes a photo of me playing musical saw. I had absolutely no idea that I was included in this work.
Performing Religion in Public by Clair Marie Chambers, Simon W. du Toi and Joshua Edelman
Chapter 12 - Busking and the Performance of Generosity: A Political Economy of the Spiritual Gift by Clair Marie Chambers
"In another conversation with gregarious storyteller Reggie Miles, I asked him to describe a favorite moment from his career. He followed with a touching story about how a warm spring day, a "beautiful little girl" in a flowing dress began to dance to his music, all of her own accord. Soon, another little girl joined her, and a crowd began to gather to witness the dance. The bearded Miles, in his signature rugged denim jeans, flannel shirt, heavy boots and red suspenders, was more than likely a gruff counterpart to the dancing children, the juxtaposition forming something of the charm for the gathering audience. What Miles emphasized in his story was that while the dancers and the audience were responding to his music, he was no longer the star act, but instead an instigator of an event that they all created together - a 'focused interaction,' in Goffman's sense, a ritual community in process through the exchange. He was additionally pleased that several people pulled out cameras and camcorders, which meant his music was being recorded and distributed throughout the word. The performance was out of his hands, but also giving back to him in many ways (on more than one occasion, he told me, someone has recognized his act from a YouTube video, which often results in a tip, and reinforces his belief that anyone recording him live in the Market is good promotion). Never satisfied with only one example, Miles then launched into a related tale about a Christmastime ferry ride across the Puget Sound, when buskers used to be allowed to play in the passenger cabin as the ferry made its crossing. Miles had taken out his saw, and with his bow coaxed a soulful rendition of 'Silent Night.' A woman and her daughter began to sing along. Then another musician, unknown to Miles, stepped up and took out a mandolin. Soon, others gathered around, rounding out the impromptu chorus with harmonies. Miles told me that what impressed him most about his profession is that it always brings strangers together and creates spontaneous communities based solely on the love of music. 'What an incredible moment,' he said. Miles smiled broadly at me all during that conversation, obviously enjoying it, and I realized we'd been talking late into the evening as the Market vendors began shutting up their stalls. I smiled back. I expressed my gratitude to him for his time, and my apologies that I had no more change to put in his guitar case, especially since I noticed his saw leaning against his chair, and had hoped to hear him play. With the utmost in graciousness, Miles took up his saw, and I knelt to listen. 'Greensleeves' hauntingly echoed down the tiled walkways. I realized later that Miles, as a busker, would have never refused my request, because he understood that busking depends on the continuation of the exchange between artist and audience. Once that flow is stopped for whatever reason, busking stops being the art that it is and turns into a musical commodity. In our conversation and with 'Greensleeves', Miles gave me a gift that, in giving itself, gave me to myself. I experienced my economic relationship and my political identity with this person in a way that took us out of the normative exchange of money for services and created something different, where the mutual exchange reimagined the status of the art commodity as about the free flow of a gift in constant consumption, rather than performing hierarchical relationships of possession..."
The song, "I'm Old", came to me some time ago. The lyrics begin as a positive reflection of an individual's personal life experiences. Then, about mid way into the lyrics, the listener discovers that the perspective changes to a darker reflection about our cultural footprint we leave behind. I enjoy the way that the message swings from light to dark. We each have the capability to live our lives in a way which leaves behind a positive or a negative impact.
I'm Old by Reggie Miles ©2017 All rights reserved
- I'm old, yes I'm old, and I found out today My tired old frame just gets in the way So I guess I'll move on and try to find me some place Where a man can grow older and die with some grace
- I've done so many things with the times of my life I courted an beauty and I made her my wife I found a good job and then we settled down Bought a small house on the outskirts of town
- I raised a fine family. Shall I tell you their names? There's Johnny and Mary and Annie and James But now they've all gone and I'm bent from the wear With withered old limbs and grey shaggy hair
- I'm old, yes I'm old, and I found out today My tired old frame, just gets in the way I'm off on my own, after all of these years Filled with laughter and love and sadness and tears
- The American Dream, I've lived it you see Spent all of my life in this land of the free I've leveled her mountains and raped her great plains Damned mighty rivers and poisoned her rains
- I've reaped vast wealth, by polluting her soil I've spoiled her oceans, by spilling her oil There's not a fish in the sea, nor a bird in the air That hasn't suffered or died while under my care
- I'm old, yes I'm old, and I realized today My time round here hasn't all gone way I have no balance in this worldly place Only struggles and strife over faith, wealth, and race
- I have fought mighty battles and wars by the score I've left millions to starve and ignored the poor Destruction and death have been my legacy In the wake of such hate, who cares about me
- I've left no solutions only more of the same No comfort I've given to ease anyone's pain My words have been lies, my heart's been a stone I guess it's befitting that I die all alone
- I'm old, yes I'm old, and I've naught left to do But to say my goodbye and farewell to you And if I should ever pass this way again I'll try to do better with my time spent here then
This evening, as some songwriters will sometimes do, I began to explore the idea of offering this song in a different format, as an open tuned minor key bottleneck slide arrangement. I like this song much better in this new format. The orginal major key version was challenging to offer, vocally. I'll be working up my new arrangement of "I'm Old" in the coming months in anticipation of recording it and many more of my new songs this year. Until then, enjoy my original version of "I'm Old" here at ReverbNation on my "Songs" page.
Just viewed a brief documentary slice of life style video created by Ned Sickels, of the 2016 Barter Faire - Okanogan Family Faire (OFF) and was surprised to see/hear among the many scenes captured, throughout this look at the rich barter culture in the greater Pacific NW, a few of my own compositions being shared in this production. Pieces of three of my songs can be heard/seen in Ned's video. First, in the opening scenes, I was captured sharing my song, "Got Junk", an ode to collectors of "stuff" everywhere, which pretty much covers everyone in this consumption driven economy. It is that very proclivity which has given birth to events like the Barter Faire. Then, about midway into the video, I can be heard/seen on the Solar Stage sharing a couple of songs with an entire ensemble of jammers, Tito and His Band of Merry Bartermen. First heard is part of my dirge, "Poor Johnny" and later, we offered a haunting version of "The Devil", a favorite of the boys in the band. Check out Ned's video posted among my videos, here at ReverbNation. And if you'd enjoy hearing the complete version of "The Devil", there are two other videos posted on my RN page which feature some devilishly tasty jams of that song, "The Devil - Santa Cruz Street Jam" and "Reggie and The Devil At The Crossroads." Get your enjoys!
Earlier this year I was invited to offer some vocal tracks to a Billy Gibbs project called, "Billy Joe." Once he had finished mixing it down, Billy sent me the finished song and granted me his permission to share it. I have to say, it turned out very fine and features my vocals prominently in the mix. It also features some spoon playing by Artis the Spoonman. It's a very different approach than I've taken with my own music but one that I've heard many contemporary artists taking, combining genres. I've posted an mp3 of "Billy Joe" among my songs here at RN. I think you'll like it. Enjoy!
On this, the final dreadful day of the absolute worst election cycle in the history of the US, I've decided to cull my most political efforts in song and video to share in the top slots of my RN page. The list begins with a song which is significant to our collective discussions about climate change and the environment. It's my original interpretation of an old Blues written by Willie McTell, "Motherless Children." If our path does not change, the state of our home, our Mother Earth, will leave us all singing this one, motherless, with no place to run from the aftereffects of our collective greed. Number two on my Songs list, one of my own compositions, "Warmongerin' Man", more starkly touches upon that message of greed and the role that corruption in our politics plays. Third among my top nine, is another original, "Wall Street Bailout Blues", my response to the greed which brought the world's financial institutions to their collective knees. The same message, of the destructive practices of the greed of the "haves" is explored in another original, "Hell No To The WTO", song number four among my top political offerings. The message in my song, "I'm Old", shares a similar theme, about the history of our collective footprint on the planet and how we've continued to bring about the horrors of wars, the destruction of our environment. My next three originals include a live recording of "Homeless Broke & Hungry" and the studio recordings of "I Scraped My Knuckle" and "Chasin' The American Dream." Each reflect the aftermath of our continued path of income inequality. "Rounding out my top nine is a 2011 digital manipulation of my musical saw rendition of the National Anthem by Phil Erb. Phil's unique talents helped to master some of my recent live material.
My top five music videos, "I'm A Stranger In My Own Land", "Have You Had Enough?", "Wall Street Bailout Blues", "I'll Do Anything To Make A Buck" and "Gentrification Blues" all share similar messages. Enjoy!
Happy birthday to the best guitar that repurposed garage sale junk could make! Today my "Nobro" (National/Dobro hybrid, build #2) guitar design is 23 years old. Since its completion, 23 years ago on March 5th, this model has been my main player. I've written and developed an amazing number of incredible song ideas with this guitar, using a combination of finger style right hand picking and both bottleneck sliding and fingering its square neck.
Before I created this found object Frankenstein functional art guitar, no one could have convinced me that I had the ability to do something like this. When creating art of this nature, by combing elements which are unrelated in their original purpose to a specific envisioned or imagined outcome, no small measure of faith is essential. Because, it's impossible to know whether such whimsical designs will, in fact, produce the desired end product, or if one's efforts at exploring such fantasy constructions will ultimately be fruitless endeavors.
I've been fortunate to have enjoyed the rewards of success in this particular build design. But rather than stall or halt my creative urges and settle on this single design as my sole goal in this exploration, my irrepressible curiosity has become inspired by this success to consider additional ideas never before dreamed of in this functional found object junk art meets fantasy musical Frankenstein constructions.
My third build, my Nobro Convertible, is a testament to the success of the pioneering design notions that I've included in that model. However, again, rather than slow or satiate my desires to explore these creative avenues of design, the success of my Convertible has further spurred my efforts to determine whether my additional musical and artistic design musings can be created and how successful they might prove to be.
My fourth build, currently under construction, is an attempt to incorporate more original design elements into the mix than ever before. I'm purposely keeping the details of this build under wraps until its completion. I've been keeping a loose journal of my efforts. Once it's finished, I'll share images of my progress during that build.
About six years ago I was invited to record on the soundtrack of the multi-million dollar video game, Left 4 Dead 2. The music director for the project wanted to include my musical saw playing. However, upon learning of my skill at playing Delta style bottleneck slide guitar and given that the game was set in the Deep South, where bottleneck style guitar playing was born, my guitar playing efforts were also included in the mix.
Not being a gamer and therefore, unable to play the game, I had convinced myself that I would likely never have the opportunity to hear how my contributions to the soundtrack were used. Then, about a month ago, when I mentioned this to a friend, he simply took his cell phone out and searched for the soundtrack online. He managed to find a small clip of me playing slide guitar, which was mixed with an electric band.
I did some additional research and found several different posts on YouTube, all featuring the themes from the game. As a result, I learned that my musical saw was featured in the L4D2 game theme called "Dark Carnival" and I discovered that my bottleneck guitar efforts were featured in the theme called "Hard Rain." I posted one of the YT posts here at RN, which contains the "Hard Rain" theme. You can find this video in my video section here at RN.
I know it sounds strange, but I honestly can't understand why I had not tried to look for this online, six years ago, after the game was released. It had just never occurred to me to do so. But I'm thrilled to finally get a chance to share this with family, friends and fans.
Yesterday, on July 4th, I was playing on the street at Seattle's Pike Place Market. I was having fun bowing patriotic and other familiar melodies with my musical saw for passersby. And though of less interest to the majority of the tourists that frequent the Market, I also enjoy bottleneckin' and fingerpickin' original songs with my self-made resophonic guitars.
I realize that slide guitar and the Folk/Blues approach that I've been exploring is something of an acquired taste. It's a relatively obscure musical niche and as such, only a handful of listeners will easily be able to relate to my passion.
On the street, there are many other sounds that often accompany the scene, vehicles driving through the area, the voices of so many people all talking at once, vendors barking... They create a kind of din, which can be challenging for a solo acoustic artist to compete with while playing.
I was preparing to offer my song, "Just Another Passerby", when I hear, within the din, the voice of a man say, "Wait a minute. I wanna check this out." I didn't look up from tuning my guitar to see who had paused. I had little time left in my set. Once in tune, I simply started the song. My presentation was feeling good, when suddenly I happened to gulp in a lung full of greasy smoke that wafted by from down the street. I choked on the lyric and decided to end the song early and clear my throat with a drink of water.
As I was wetting down my vocals to defeat the affects of the smoke, Gregg Allman (the man who paused to check out my playing) stepped over and introduced himself to me. He complimented me on my voice. I mentioned the song was my own. He said that he was looking for songs to record and asked if I would mind if he recorded one of mine. I answered in the only way any other songwriter would. He was curious about the picks I was using, the open tuning that I used and about my guitar. I explained all of the zany stuff that I used to make my Nobro and he got a kick out of that. Then he asked if he could play my ax. I surrendered it willingly. He then asked me if I would be willing to make him a guitar. Again, my reply was what any fledgling guitar builder would say in response to such a question. I offered him my three latest discs, "New & Used Blues", "Acoustic Roots Blues" and "Sweet & Silly". I also gave him a copy of my coloring book, "Street Performers" and my card. Yep, I was officially in an instant state of euphoria!
Every instrument maker's dream is to have someone of note and stature, like Gregg, playing one of their instruments. And every songwriter's dream is to have someone with huge exposure and connections in the big-time music scene, like Gregg, want to record one of their songs. Well, this wasn't a dream.
I asked Gregg if he would pose for a photo and his sweet companion was kind enough to offer to do the honors with my iPhone. Here's a link to that image on my Facebook page... https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153075543176896&set=a.161197401895.120713.581296895&type=1&theater
After hearing the late breaking news about the thieves who stole many thousands of dollars worth of barrels of Kentucky bourbon and bottles of Pappy Van Winkle's Old Rip Van Winkle, the muse tickled me to write my latest... ///
Who Ripped Off My Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / by Reggie Miles 2015 © All rights reserved ///
Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / The last bottle of my Pappy's favorite drink / Who ripped off my ol' Pappy's Old Rip Van Winkle? / Some low down whiskey drinkin' thief, I think /
When I catch who stole that sweet and mellow bourbon bottle / They'll be walkin' real funny after their hide I throttle / Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / The last bottle of my Pappy's favorite drink ///
Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / What kind of a cad would sink so low? / Who ripped off my ol' Pappy's Old Rip Van Winkle? / It's 95.6 proof just how far a man will go /// Gonna get my hounds and track that bourbon bandit down / Then, I'm gonna lay him six feet underground / Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / What kind of a cad would sink so low? ///
Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / I swear I'm gonna make that punk pay / Who ripped off my ol' Pappy's Old Rip Van Winkle? / Ain't no way he's gonna get away ///
Aged 23 years makes it taste so fine / Drive a sober man to drinkin' all the time / Who ripped off my Pappy's Pappy Van Winkle? / I swear I'm gonna make that punk pay ///
Gonna lock his thieving soul away / He's never gonna see the light of day / vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv http://www.cnn.com/…/21/us/kentucky-bourbon-whiskey-arrests/