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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

180: "Sacrifice" by Robbie Robertson

Yeah, this one's confusing. And not just for the obvious reason that it's clearly, obviously actually "Radio Free Europe" with an interview with Leonard Peltier thrown into the mix to tie it to the Robinson track. Actually, it's a lot more considered than that, but I don't want to delve into the politics of the thing because the way it came to be is weird enough. Okay...

Look, the tone of my writing-- which, as much as I love to do it and can do it all night, you know-- on 39-40 has drifted a little bit confessional lately, so I might as well explain this whole thing, and what I was doing in West Virginia last month. Some of you know some of it, and I'm not going to bore anyone with all of it, but it goes like this.

I am, of course, a frustrated musician, although somewhat less frustrated and decidedly more of a musician since having started this blog. I have no musical career (career here meaning "thing from which you have ever made even the slightest amount of money") nor many prospects for same. I do, however, somewhat oddly for someone in such a position, have a band, a faithful and talented couple of guys who are willing to try whatever kind of weird stuff I may throw their way and make some songs out of it. Frankly, the whole thing is the drummer's idea; I owe him what you call a "life debt". But it's hard as hell to get your band booked in LA; we put out a record last year of which I am, I think, justifiably proud, and were able to do even less with it than I had expected, and, you know, not a lot of validation came our way. And this year it's been more difficult for us to get together due to completely understandable life stuff for all three of us, so we haven't played much. That's one of the reasons I took up the challenge of this blog. Of course, I expected the band to be doing some of the covers for the blog, and that hasn't happened yet (at least inasmuch as we've all sat together and played a song on purpose; Cliff has guested several times and a huge chunk of the sampled drums I've used have been loops of Derek's playing from master tapes and the like).

However, I am in an odd position to play music for an audience outside of Los Angeles. The reason for this is... really weird. See, my dad, who's in his mid-'70's, was the leader of a phenomenally successful band in the area of the West Virginia/Maryland border where I grew up. By successful, I mean local legends. Pretty much literally: in that area, Thunderhill (originally the Thunder Hill Singers) IS a legend, but most definitely local in that nobody outside that area has heard of them or is likely to "get" the whole thing. But lucky me, I grew up with my dad being a musical hero (among other things), and I got to learn to play on his gear when the band retired around 1984. But the band didn't entirely retire; there would be reunion shows from then until, basically, now, and by 1989 I was the de facto bass player for the reunion edition of Thunderhill, which played at most once a year to huge crowds and inevitably to raise money for local charities, usually school-related (since all of the band members had day jobs as educators).

Meanwhile, since initiating my latter-day musical-- okay, I've already declined the word "career", but maybe "ventures" would cover it; I'm essentially talking about the period when I got back into playing music after several years off and became, for the first time, a self-sufficient frontman and viable solo musician, basically the Skates & Rays era-- anyway, for the last five or six years I've been able to carve out a little niche playing my own music when I'm in my hometown of Keyser, WV. Sometimes this is in conjuntction with Thunderhill reunions; sometimes it's because the amazing and beautiful Laura Whitmore, whom I consider to be my East Coast touring agent, has set up a gig for me; sometimes I set 'em up myself.

Now, another giant enabling factor in just how I've gone about doing these performances is my friend Tom Heckman (hereinafter "Heckman"), who was in bands with me in high school, and who, like me (albeit with more of a "career"-type thing as described above) is still in the rock and roll racket with his fine band Double Dragons out of Morgantown, WV and various recording enterprises. We've actually played together a lot in recent years, which has been a lot of fun as we've both come a long way as musicians and seem to have, after all this time, basically compatible approaches to how we go about doing stuff. Heckman is also amazingly willing to drive huge stacks of gear all over the state, and more than once in recent years we've turned my parents' garage out in the woods of Great Oak Valley into an ad-hoc but pretty extensive studio. And we've played at insane places like our High School reunion, a hipster bar in Frostburg, a Christian ice cream shop in Keyser, and of course the Stray Cat Wing Shack.

This year a bunch of Thunderhill shows got booked around my visit, and it was kind of a special series of them, marred only by the fact that we couldn't talk original member Ed Jordan into joining in. But it was a pretty big deal for me in that I moved for the first time into the full-time lead guitar slot and did a lot more singing than I have in the past because, well, I can now. And it was a pretty easy sell to get Heckman to take the bass slot. But then, dumbass that I am, I start to get overly ambitious, and I'm thinking, hey, Heckman's gonna be there; I'll be doing some solo songs, sure, but if we can get someone to drum for us, we can throw an actual band into this thing. And hey, Eden's going to be there... she can do a set, too; I already know all of her songs. And you can kind of see where this is heading, but there are a few wild cards yet to be dealt.


Rex Broome ~ Guitar & Vocal
Tom Heckman ~ Guitar & Vocal
Chris Dixon ~ Drums
featuring the recorded voice of Leonard Peltier
mostly recorded live at the Rodeheaver Barage, Hooker Hollow Road, outside Keyser, WV, Saturday, August 20 2010
original recording by Tom Heckman
assembled and edited by Rex at Minco Records in Silver Lake, CA

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