This blog is dedicated to Wilson Luallen, who plays bass in the Meadow Mountain Band. He will be holding down the rhythm and low end this Saturday at Swallow Hill Music for my Show which starts at 8:00 pm. I have been observing him, enjoying creating arrangements and sharing in his genuine, pure joy for music. Wilson began his journey in music with the cello in the 5th grade, but has always been fascinated by the bass. After a couple years a good friend convinced him to join the school jazz band on electric bass, and he was bit by the bass bug. In high school he added the acoustic bass and he has not looked back since. When I asked "Wilson, why Bluegrass, why now?", he replied that he initially had no interest in bluegrass music. He only wanted to play jazz. After bring introduced to the bluegrass band "Sweet Radish" he then met friends at DU Lamont School of Music and within a couple years, he and Ian Parker, Jack Dunlevie and Summers Baker became the 40-10 String band and now what is known as Meadow Mountain Music. "I have come to love Bluegrass because it challenges the musicians to play at the highest level they can, and almost anyone can enjoy it." He and Jack Dunlevie also dabble in the Denver Salsa scene and Jazz scene. Wilson plays a Shen hybrid acoustic bass, with a plywood body and a carved spruce top. His bow is a carbon fiber German style by made by Finale.
There you have it! We hope to see you this Saturday at Swallow Hill Music. Tickets are available at the box office and online at www.swallowhillmusic.org.
Let me take a minute to talk about the serendipity of relationships and how our lives are truly six degrees of separation. My experience as a nurse in the Coronary Care Unit at Lutheran Medical Center and volunteering at Copper Mountain Ski Patrol led me to meeting and befriending the parents of a very talented piano and fiddle player, Ian Parker. Ian plays with "Meadow Mountain Music" and they are a 5 piece string band playing a combination of folk and bluegrass music in Denver and Summit County. The group includes Summers Baker on Guitar, Jack Dunlevie on Mandolin, Ian Parker on fiddle, Wilson Luallen on Bass and George Guthrie on banjo. You can follow them at www.meadowmounain.wix.com. They are a fun, high energy Bluegrass band and super guys on top of it!
Chris Pandolfi took some time off the road this January to produce my latest release, an EP of 6 tracks, 8 songs titled "Feels Like Home". It is a live arrangement recorded in Denver at Mighty Fine Productions, LLC. It is a combination of covers I grew up with and some new originals. "Threshing Time" is a tune I wrote with the input of my dad while we were talking about his childhood on their family dairy farm in De Pere, Wisconsin circa 1940's. Things were simpler back then, and the song does not candy coat the hard work and challenges mother nature afforded a family farm. Chris came to the project with a collaborative spirit and brought together some very fine professional musicians, including Jeremy Garrett on fiddle (co- founder of the Infamous stringdusters ). Chris Pandolfi is a gifted, committed professional musician, road warrior, and true leader in the world of Bluegrass. He has recently collaborated and produced a recorded compilation of singer/songwriters including some of my all time favorite (s)heros titled "Ladies & Gentlemen" . Check it out at www.thestringdusters.com.
I would like to introduce Casey Cormier, a very talented musician, teacher and music enthusiast. He plays wicked ukelele, but he also plays bass very well. He is currently helping us out on upright bass. I asked him to share his story, and here it is. "My musical journey started at 13, in New Jersey learning rock and roll guitar and bass, playing in bands influenced by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the rock-blues that my parents listened to. Summers I'd visit family in Texas; my grandfather bought me my first Martin acoustic guitar, a D1, and all he asked in turn was I learn "El Paso" by Marty Robbins to play for him. I loved that west Texan gunfighter ballad music, but it wasn't a big thing on the east coast, so it was put aside, or mixed into my blues-rock sound. Going to school for music in Connecticut, I took to jazz, loving the improvisational feel and chord complexity, plus the soul behind a good saxophone solo. Learning the standards was the key, from "Autumn Leaves" to "Take the A Train", then getting into the language of the solos. It was great fun but hard work. Moving to Colorado two years ago, I was introduced to the musical style known as "bluegrass". Many of the players I met had been playing the music since a young age, so I had some catching up to do. I attended bluegrass jams, upright bass or guitar in hand, and followed along. I went to the library and checked out CDs with the music of Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and local outfits playing their standards and traditional fiddle tunes. I bought the Bluegrass Real Book and played the melodies at slower tempos, to get them in my ear and under my fingers. Though I still have a ways to go, I know from experience that the only way to learn a musical style is exposure. So jump on in it!" Thanks Casey!
Have you ever listened to a song and thought, "I'd really like to do that one, but it always sounds like I am copying what has already been done?" I went through this and still go through this process of decision making. Sometimes the way someone wrote or arranged a song should be honored and repeated. I felt this way about Eva Cassidy's arrangement of "What A Wonderful World" which was recorded on my CD "In My Right Mind". I liked it just the way she did it, and I wanted the saxophone and electric guitar to stay in the instrumentation. Recently, we have been working with the Paul Mccartney song "Mother Nature's Son" for string band to perform it in the Bluegrass style. When Paul played the song for John Lennon on acoustic guitar in a rehearsal, John immediately heard the horn section and full sound that would flesh out their recorded production. When I listened to it, I immediately imagined a long bow fiddle and cello playing on the horn section instead. I could also hear mandolin harmonies over the bridge section of vocal and acoustic guitar. These are the instruments I love and tend to gravitate to. I find myself in a restaurant or shopping at a store listening to a song overhead thinking, "Oh we have to do it too, but our way!" I hope you who like to make music have fun with this, and I wish you many music making moments with friends. Cheers, Mary Beth
Chuck Swindoll wrote this beautiful piece I will share. I think it is the key ingredient to leading a happy life: "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, and what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, gifted mess or skill. It will make or break a company... A church.... A home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how we react to it."
Prayers and love pouring out to the folks in Boston, surrounding suburbs and Texas. I cannot begin to imagine the roller coaster of emotions experienced since one week ago this morning at the Boston Marathon. It will be an ongoing healing process for thousands. Here in Denver, Colorado, I feel like my head is finally starting to clear and I can address the anxiety and fear voiced by my children and the High School kids the next two days at work. For those who don't know, I am a school nurse for Cherry Creek School District part time. I think the best thing I have heard from the news and President Obama, was the emphasis on focusing in the victims and not on presuming the intention or motive of the young terrorists. A crime worthy of punishment and consequence, yes. What leads people to act on emotions and commit a crime against thousands of innocent people, while others choose not to remains a mystery. I hope you find peace in the struggle to find peace within yourself and your circle of influence.
So much has been happening.... Most importantly, I want to take a minute to thank David East, Anna Leavitt and Cathey Stamps for helping me out at our show at Swallow Hill music association. It was a spontaneous and fun night of music! Each person brought a different musical background to the table and what came out was really fresh music! That is what makes all the work worthwhile! KRFC live at lunch hosted Anna and myself for a musical interview where we played music and discussed some interesting topics including Americana music vs country music and bringing together people of different musical backgrounds and training. Although an aural approach to playing is faster and lends itself to improvising, the final consensus was that an ability to read and write music does not diminish the wonderment of music that can be made together. Another topic of discussion these past few months has been that of CD packaging, written content included with the packaging and the speculation of when CD's may be phased out altogether as things move to downloads. This does raise many questions and affects the artist greatly in decisions made when putting a project out to the market place. My Father once wisely said, after the caos of a family gathering, " Soon it will all be a fond memory, Mary Beth". So it will be true of how we navigate the possibilities of delivering music to the public in the next 5 years. My music is being heard on the folk and Americana radio charts and Colorado Public Radio. I m getting global airplay and charted at number 20 for all Airplay Direct Albums last week. I continue to enjoy the journey of growing as an artist in this fascinating industry. Now, off to prepare the soil for planting more seeds, (literally) in my garden. Happy Spring to all, Mary Beth
I have been asked to explain some of the thought and meaning behind my songs. This is a difficult thing to do as I cannot always give a simple answer. Does a painter explain a painting? Did Van Gogh explain his thoughts behind "A Starry Night"? I will tell you that the inspiration for a song is usually not directly related to something in my marriage or family life, but more of a cummulative account of life experience, current events, inspiration from nature's beauty and the soul of another human being. These things are all thrown in a "pot on the stove" so to speak, and allowed to simmer for quite some time. It is my hope that what comes out is something someone else can relate to, or has felt at one time or another. In my song "Land of the Midnight Sun" I raise awareness to the need for protecting our National parks and nature preserves in the US and around the world. Environmentally responsible, conscious mining is possible and is what we should expect. It is our job to raise our voice and let it be heard. Have a great day, and hope to see you Sunday. Mary Beth
About Pebble Mine
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The Pebble deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper and molybdemum, located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. If built, Pebble would be one of the largest mines in the world. Because of its size, geochemistry and location, Pebble runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay, one of the world’s few and most productive wild salmon strongholds that supports a $500 million commercial and sport fishery. For this reason, Trout Unlimited is working with a diverse group of fishermen, guides, lodge owners, Alaska Natives, scientists, chef, restaurant owners, seafood lovers and many others to try to stop the Pebble development and to protect Bristol Bay. The proposed mine developers, the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) are a consortium of the world’s second largest multinational mining corporation, London-based Anglo American, along with Northern Dynasty, a junior mining company headquartered in Canada. Anglo American’s environmental track record does not bode well for Bristol Bay and Northern Dynasty has little experience safeguarding the environment having never developed a mine to date. Although PLP has not released its final mine plans, preliminary designs indicate that the Pebble Mine complex would span 20 square miles of state land in the Bristol Bay watershed. Located in a seismically active region, Pebble would require the world’s largest earthen dam to be built, some 700 feet high and several miles in length. Independent scientists have questioned whether the dam could withstand the force of a massive earthquake, such as the 9.2 quake that devastated Anchorage in 1964. The dam and 10-square-mile-wide containment pond are intended to hold between 2.5 billion and 10 billion tons of mine waste that Pebble would produce over its lifetime - nearly enough to bury the city fo Seattle, WA. Because the sulfide, or acid-generating, nature of the Pebble ore body, the waste would require environmental treatment in perpetuity. Any release of mine waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to harm Bristol Bay’s salmon runs. The PLP recently stated that they plan to apply for federal and state permits in spring of 2011. With the developers moving toward permitting, now is the time to get involved to stop this mega-project and protect Bristol Bay. Now is the time to educate elected officials, agency heads, the media and anyone who cares about the future of wild salmon. Please consider taking action today to stop the proposed Pebble Mine.