Dec 18

22: PFR – Home Again (iPod Challenge)


I’m sure most know the basics of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The boy who left home with his part of his inheritance in hand, who squandered it all, was working jobs lower than many slaves, decided to go back home to work as a servant to his father and was received with open arms and a party due to the joy of the lost coming home.

I was the lost returning home in the early 90s’. I’d grown up in the church, had a deep faith with which I was constantly conflicted. I was also a hypocrite. In short, I was a fairly typical sinner who’d wandered from the safety of the flock.

It’s been said that the best way to talk to somebody is to speak to them in a language they can understand. In some respects, I understand the language of music better than other languages. Such was the case with this particular song. It rang so very, very true to me and did so in a style I could totally get behind. Because, let’s be honest here, much Contemporary Christian Music is or has been so watered down sonically, that it sounds little better than up-tempo elevator music.

Not so PFR who wear their Beatles and 60s’ British Invasion influences on their sleeves and in their songwriting. They craft easily accessible, yet genuinely fun music. This song is my personal favorite by them. Because sometimes,…well, sometimes you can go home again.

Thanks for reading.

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Dec 17

23: The Way it Is – Nicole Atkins (iPod Challenge)


A deep breath. Turn it up, you can hear it. Then that voice…

“Don’t tell me
My love’s not the one that I want
That he’s not the one that I need
I’d rather
find out for myself”

A stunning alto, scraping the bottom of its register, with a mishmash of instruments and sounds join in on the fourth word. Again, that voice reaches out and demands to be heard, to be felt, to be recognized as something more than just a voice. There is more than a story, but an epic ballad going on here, sweeping in scale and execution.

There are so many reasons this song shouldn’t work. Bells, a children’s choir, sleigh bells, timpani, and more. But, by god, this is brilliant production.

Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever sleep till
Coz he’s the only one I’ve ever wanted
Oh, and in my ears
my blood is just roaring
Coz he’s the only one I’ve ever wanted
I suppose that’s just the way it is

The voice, belonging to Nicole Atkins, is so expressive and so dynamic, that it overcomes rather than is sidetracked or damaged by over the top production values. One part Roy Orbison, one part Phil Spector (production values), and a side of David Lynch informs this song in particular and the album ‘Neptune City’ in general.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I love this record. I found it quite by accident, about a year before the album was released. Tracked down a copy of her debut EP “Bleeding Diamonds” and fell in love with her voice and songwriting. That was 8 years ago and I still dig her work, 3 albums in.

Thanks for reading…

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Dec 16

24: Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2 (iPod Challenge)


Claiming some Dad-Rock cred here and fuck you if that bothers you. Although, I gotta admit that I was gobsmacked when I first saw the term “dad rock” and wondered if I needed to get some Geritol to go with my AARP membership and Metamucil dosage in the mornings whilst listening to Aerosmith. I refuse to let punk kids who won’t GET OFF MY LAWN ruin my day by insulting the soundtrack of my life.

That aside, nothing screams Dad Rock (or classic rock if you’re uptight about labels) louder than U2. As they’ve been around for over 30 years in the public eye, this makes sense. As they also tend to draw a lot of attention for things aside from music, this could explain why they are polarizing.

However, when this song came out, they weren’t Dad Rock, they were considered ‘New Wave’ or some such bullshit. It didn’t matter what you called them because nothing sounded like this before. At least to my ears, it hadn’t. And I gotta admit, in those days, my ears were pretty parochial. Still, Bono’s voice was expressive and there was an operatic feel to it, then the Edge played his guitar like nobody else. Because, admit it, after these songs of protest and the troubles, much of U2’s later output was about the Sound and not the lyrics. AmIright? Of course I am, so shut up. (J/K)

Nowadays it seems that U2 is famous as much for being famous as they are for being highly respected and influential musicians and one of the best bands of the rock era. Then again, that’s the bane of remaining in the public eye past your sell by date. Which, in some instances, I think U2 has done.

But this song and the whole album (War) kicks major ass and should be in your collection

Thanks for reading.

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Dec 15

25: Into the Valley by The Skids (iPod Challenge)


It opens with a rumbling bass line. Then a guitar joins in. It finally explodes to life complete with an e-bow, a sound quite familiar to fans of Big Country. I’ve loved this song from the first moment I heard it, which was decades after its release.

I may have seen the video on MTV back when MTV still mattered, but without radio follow up it drifted away from me. The attraction became apparent after listening and doing some reading online and it was Stuart Adamson, the guitar player.

His sound first came to my ears with the release of ‘Big Country – The Crossing‘. The title track, with the guitar that sounded like nothing else than music soaring on the wings of, well something. Anyhow, we’ll talk about that later, okay?

The vocalist in The Skids is a bit tough to follow, but the sound of the song, the instrumentation, and the overall anthem-like feel of it all more than makes up for that.

There’s not a deep, dark reason why I like this song, I just do. Enough to have bought a best of, and explored other material of theirs. Something I recommend, by the way.

Oh, if the name Skids sounds familiar and you’re not sure why? They wrote and recorded the original of “The Saints are Coming” that U2 & Green Day released in the aftermath of Katrina.

Thanks for reading!

For other entries in the iPod Challenge Series, click here

Sep 23

Writing Process Blog Tour

Man Writing

Jeebus, has it been this long since I’ve taken electron in hand and posted here?  While the question is rhetorical in nature, the reality is it’s been far too many months since I’ve bothered to even look here, never mind post.

Many thanks to my Twitter-Daughter, Megan for the nomination, I hereby point the fickle finger of fate at Heather Grace Stewart and Joe Hesch because it’s Tuesday and why not, right?  Thanks to my Twitter-Daughter for the kick in the pants that made this post happen.

What are you working on?

I’ve been scribbling lines of verse in my notebook, actually trying to arrange them in something close to a poem or three.  Mainly, I’ve been listening.  Gathering ideas for later use or quiet study.

What I haven’t been doing is working on anything with a goal in mind.  Which means my iPod Challenge series is still 25 entries from completion and I’ve only submitted one poem this year.  Which is misleading because I got tired of waiting so I withdrew it.

I have been pushing a pencil around a bit trying to draw, but like previous attempts it gets put to the side because it’s so much harder than it looks.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t honestly know that I have a genre to call my own.  I do know that my poetry breaks all sorts of rules, that I play fast and loose with bizarre and “unconventional” line breaks and due to my laziness, I write very short pieces.  That may be because my ideas are narrow in focus or germination or it’s because I enjoy the feeling of being “done” more than trying to flesh out the ideas to their logical conclusion.  Because, that’s work.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what comes to mind.  Most of it is directly influenced by what I’m reading or ingesting on the screen.  Words and phrases will ignite something in my head and my pen follows along.  Sometimes the ideas are good and sometimes they just sound pretty but mean little of value.  I think having an undisciplined mind hurts my writing, as well as a lack of goals or willingness to fail miserably.

How does your writing process work?

It’s slowly been evolving from write, scratch out, scribble, drink coffee/tea/beer/water, eat something, pick my finger nails, pick up my pen, check Facebook, SHINY! Time for something else, to just carrying around a notebook and thinking about writing and not actually writing to not even thinking about it very much.

Currently, it’s writhing on paper then an attempt to make some sort of sense or at least tease the meaning from the mess.  Trying to break thru the fear of failure or mediocrity or actually doing something well and raising expectations is what lies behind my self-deception of “writer’s block”.

Looking in my notebook, which is where almost all poems are drafted first, and half of other things, I see a pattern forming.  I write out draft sketches, based around an idea or series of words.  I then throw other ideas out on the page, which is typically the right page only.  I sometimes change pen colors and make changes, or notes.  Sometimes I make notes or critiques on the left page and use arrows (occasionally with circles and a paragraph, sometimes not).  Then I turn the page and try again.  It seems that when I do this, with clear paper, the ideas don’t swirl around as much.  They find a place to land and become organized.I have been viewing of my poems as ideas looking for their way home.

I’ll be back soon with the rest of the countdown…