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Bruce (formerly known as Milo, also known as Mr. French)


Bruce is an older cat with an independent spirit. He knows what he wants and he isn’t afraid to demand it. He’s had some medical problems, for which he’s being treated with various medications with some good success!

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Rocky Mountain (banjo practice)

I learned this tune from Cathy Barton Para at Midwest Banjo Camp earlier this year. I learned it in standard D tuning (aDAC#E) but somewhere along the way I started messing around with it in DD tuning (aDADE) instead, and I just kept playing it in that tuning. It’s a pretty tune and I enjoy playing it.

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Without Getting Caught or Killed

I just finished reading Tamara Saviano’s biography of Guy Clark, Without Getting Killed or Caught – the life and music of Guy Clark. Guy Clark passed away earlier this year, leaving behind a fantastic songwriting and performing legacy. I should say before writing about this book that I love Guy Clark’s music. His final recording, My Favorite Picture of You is also among Tuffy P’s faves.

Guy Clark was at the centre of the songwriting community in Nashville, and in particular he was known for his long friendship with Townes van Zandt. Here is Guy Clark with a bunch of his friends supporting Nanci Griffith on Letterman. They’re playing Clark’s Desperadoes Waiting for a Train.

Here’s Lyle Lovett talking about Guy Clark and performing Clark’s Anyhow I Love You.

Without Getting Killed or Caught is a loving biography. Sure, it deals with some difficult things in Guy Clark’s life, but author Tamara Saviano makes it clear she loved both Guy Clark and his music. My biggest criticism of the book is that structurally it is so very linear. It starts at the beginning and explores Guy Clark’s life chronologically. I would have enjoyed the biography more had she been able to break it up some, perhaps give some events or periods more prominence.

One of the things Saviano writes about quite a bit is the Nashville music establishment’s difficulty in dealing with the kind of music Clark wrote and performed. She suggests he was pushed toward making records with country instrumentation in an effort to turn Guy Clark into a “hit” artist, and tells us he was not happy with the production of several of his recordings.  Reading the book, it seems Nashville record execs were obsessed with hit-making. Clark was one of a number of musicians who didn’t quite fit the mold, and Saviano writes about the development of the idea of “Americana Music” as a new category to shoehorn performers like Guy Clark and his friends into.

Here’s Townes van Zandt playing the Pueblo Waltz, in which he sings “maybe we’ll move to Tennessee – leave these Texas blues behind, see Susanna and Guy.” Townes and Guy Clark were best friends, but the book also explores Townes’ relationship with Susanna. They were very close – soulmates perhaps. For years, Townes phoned Susanna every morning.

The book suggests that Susanna never really recovered from Townes’ death, and she declined physically from that point. It also marked the end of her creative life. Although Saviano gives plenty of space to Susanna in her biography of Guy, she remains to me an enigmatic figure. She wrote songs – which were very successful for various performers – but it seems as if her songwriting just came out of the ether, as before it is mentioned, she is referred to as a painter.

If you’re a fan of Guy Clark’s music and the music of his friends, you’re going to enjoy Without Getting Killed or Caught. It’s a good read and Saviano gives us compelling look behind the scenes. I’m not a big biography reader, but I enjoyed this one because I’m familiar with the subject and I liked reading about the context of some of the songs and also about how Guy Clark lived his life.

Here’s Dublin Blues – it might be my fave Guy Clark song.

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The Accountant (a brief movie review)

We trundled off to see The Accountant last evening, the new flick with Ben Affleck. This is a fun movie as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Instead, think of it as a comedy. That way you don’t have to struggle suspending your disbelief around the very unlikely plot.

The Accountant is like one of those superhero comic movies, only the protagonist is really really good at math – as well as being a martial arts expert and an ace shot. Oh, and he owns a Renoir and a Pollock. I like movies with characters who appreciate painting, don’t you?

I suspect this film is funnier than the writer, director and producers intended, but don’t worry about that. Just go see it and enjoy.


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Angeline the Baker (banjo practice)

Back in 1850, Stephen Foster published a song called Angelina Baker. Somewhere along the way it morphed into a fiddle tune known as Angeline the Baker. It’s a tune about regret:

I bought Angeline a brand new dress
Neither black nor brown
It was the color of the stormy sky
when the rain comes pouring down

16 horses in my team
The leader he was blind
I dreamed that I was dying
And I saw my Angeline

Angeline the Baker
Angeline I know
I should have married Angeline
20 years ago.

It’s a simple tune, just two chords. Sometimes the best tunes are simplest ones. They are “just so” as if they’ve always been with us, waiting to be voiced.

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True North – the new Lazy Allen story

The latest in my unknown and unpopular short-short fiction series, The Lazy Allen Stories, is up. It’s called True North. I hope you like it.

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A big group photo

I had a look at the Midwest Banjo Camp website this morning and realized I didn’t post the group photo. I’m in there somewhere (left side of the photo, purple shirt, straw hat).Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 9.32.20 AM.jpg

The next camp is at the beginning of June 2017. I see they once again have an excellent line-up of instructors. I’ve been twice before and if the universe unfolds as it should, I’ll be at the next camp as well.

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Banjo Practice – Greasy Coat

Here’s me attempting to play a strange little old time tune called Greasy Coat. This is in A-modal or sawmill tuning, and as usual I’m playing clawhammer, which is the only way I know how to play.

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What’s in a name?

I had a late morning dentist appointment today to have a filling replaced. My dentist is located way across town (I’ve been getting my teeth maintained there for 30 years) and it is hard to predict how long it is going to take to get there. Today traffic was light and I was twenty-some minutes early. I parked my car and wandered across the street to the local Five-bucks. I figured anyone getting dental work done deserves a latte.

I ordered up my beverage and the person on cash asked for my name…for the cup. This was silly since they were not busy, but I gave my name. I know I should have said Fred, but I didn’t. I said my name is Eugene.

She wrote down: Y and said, Y….. waiting for me to tell her the next letter in Eugene. I said, there is no Y in Eugene. She looked at me like I was from Mars. Honest. It’s spelled E U G E N E. She looked at me skeptically. That’ll cost you a 75 cent discount, I said. What? A 75 cent discount. That’s the penalty for spelling Eugene with a Y. I have a naturally loud voice, and I could hear a few customers chuckling. I can’t….oh wait….OK. She gave me a 75 cent discount on my latte. There was only one possible response: that’s why you rock!