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The Insightful Charlie Gillingham of Counting Crows

Charlie-1_vebmn3

Charlie Gillingham c. 2016

By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Charlie Gillingham, a bright guy born in Torrance, California, graduates from The University of California -Berkeley with a degree in Artificial Intelligence and is quickly hired as a software engineer. He makes a good living for nearly a decade. If not for the fact that Charlie also happens to be a very talented musician and songwriter, it could have been a sweet, but predictable ending to a pleasant story. But, when an opportunity materialized in 1990 to join and help launch an emerging group, Counting Crows, Charlie Gillingham took a sharp right turn and added “Keyboardist and Multi Instrumentalist” to his resume.

“We started around Berkeley, CA, Adam Duritz, David Bryson and I,” Charlie said. Lead singer, Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson had been playing together in coffeehouses in and around San Francisco, CA. The name they were using, Counting Crows, was derived from a nursery rhyme, One for Sorrow, about the superstitious counting of magpies,  members of the crow family. “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret, never to be told.” As members were added,  they decided that Counting Crows remain the name of the band.

Gillingham employs an impressive array of musical instruments. Whether he’s working with the Hammond B3, the piano accordion, mellotron, guitar, clarinet or oboe, he says, “I’m usually looking for an atmosphere, a texture….and lean more towards playing an instrument that I can improvise on and play really well…..piano is great…. You can make a “Whirly” (Wurlitzer’s early electronic piano) sound magical because it’s got a lot of effects on it. But it’s kind of more interesting to do that with your hands.…I’ve been playing a Hammond B3 for a long time, and I know how to do a lot of different things with it. I know how to shape the sound, how to move it somewhere, make it go. My hands know what to do.”

With regard to the piano accordion, Charlie says,  “It’s been around….I like playing accordion because I like the way it makes you feel. I don’t play it like an accordion player. I play it like I play it…. I use it as an instrument way more than I would ever use it as a hammer—as a rich, emotional pad, like the way someone might use strings.”

Charlie explains about the creative process of songwriting with members of Counting Crows, “So Adam is the writer. All our songs are lyric-driven….All of us, everybody in the band, are musicians in various ways by bringing home chord changes, coming up with new parts, moving things around. There are a few songs of ours that grew almost entirely out of recordings that I made….Then again, the lyrics and melody are all Adam. I think at the end of the day, a song is a lyric and a melody. The chord changes and the instrumental stuff that we do help that melody and the lyrics go.”

In 2004, Gillingham’s song,  “Accidently in Love” along with his co-writers, Adam Duritz, Jim Bogios, David Immergluck, Matt Malley, David Bryson and Dan Vickrey,  was nominated for The Academy Award for Best Original Song,  used in the film, Shrek 2.

Charlie Gillingham shares his insight into the process of using an instrument in his work “..there’s a learning curve in an instrument… If you’re just scrolling through the sounds trying to find something good, you’re not going to find something that can play the subtlety…..You can make an instrument sound great by the way you play it, or you can make it sound great by the way you orchestrate it. There are two sides to it.….You could find something to carry a melody, which might be what you want. If you just want to carry a melody, that’s fine…..But if you want to shape the song, shape the mood of the song, make it feel like something, you have to play well.”

He adds, “….there’s two sides to playing….say you have a Stradivarius violin, you have the best violin in the world. But it’s how you play it. It’s a big thing.  It’s just the nature of electronic software instruments that you don’t get a lot of practice time. You can’t practice some sampler. But there are people who learn certain samplers and synthesizers really well.”

And with the wisdom of a long time professional musician, Charlie Gillingham sums up his experience with this insight, ” It’s not what you know. It’s how much you practice.”

charlie gillingham 1

All quotes from “A Conversation with Charlie Gillingham of Counting Crows”, Reverb, Published Aug 17, 2016 by Matt Biancardi

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West Texas’ Own, Ponty Bone

Ponty Bone II

Ponty Bone

Christa T. for Accordion Americana Ponty Bone always knew he was different. “…I always thought of myself as some sort of artist…a character in a novel, all my life…I knew something was up.” Harry DePonta Bone, or “PB” to his friends, started playing the accordion when he was five years old, but dropped it several years later to study the trumpet. Little did he know that one day, he would come back to that first instrument and in time, become an institution in the heart of the West Texas music scene and internationally recognized as an Americana accordionist.

Ponty Bone was born and grew up in San Antonio. Because musicians lives are never easy, Ponty decided to do the wise thing and go to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Soon, he found himself with a wife, twin daughters and a job as a surveyor and draftsman living in Arizona, just trying to make ends meet. But, he wanted more. Mostly, he wanted to be back in Texas working as a musician.  Looking for any excuse, Ponty and his family always headed back in the direction of Texas. In the late sixties, while living in Phoenix, Ponty and his wife, Sarah started their first band, New Moan Hey and began playing gigs in Texas, beginning with The Vulcan Gas Company in Austin. Sarah, it has been noted, was a pretty good singer. But, for whatever reason, their marriage ended in 1976.

For Ponty, from the first band began long associations, performing and recording, with some of the best musicians in the music business, from Austin to L.A.  It’s hard not to talk about Ponty’s career without mentioning Lubbock, Texas because Ponty Bone has been so closely associated with the town and its music scene since the early 1970’s. He explains, “”Lubbock’s always been a lucrative market. A lot of great bands came out of Lubbock. And a lot of great bands came to Lubbock. A lot of ‘em were there because of, something a little bit more on the intellectual side of the equation. Like being in a band, or going to Texas Tech, or having some kind of a connection with the arts…”

But, Lubbock is more than your average college town. From the city’s night clubs emanated some of the grittiest and most visceral music ever produced in America. Key hot spots were the “Thunderbird Lounge”, the “Cotton Club” and “Stubb’s Bar-B-‘Que”. “Stubb’s” is on the city’s Eastside and at that time, was exclusively an African American night club. A guitarist changed that and put the club on the map. His name was Jesse Taylor, with whom Ponty Bone collaborated, from the time Jesse was a hard rocking, tattooed, self taught sixteen year old white kid who lived not far from “Stubb’s”. This association lasted until Jesse Taylor’s untimely death at age 55 in 2006. Both Jesse and Ponty eventually became members, touring internationally with The Joe Ely Band.

Joe Ely, a Lubbock born musician and band leader of international renown,  is a pivitol  figure in the life of Ponty Bone. Both met in the clubs in Lubbock and came to know each other well as musicians, and they knew everyone that played in and around the area.  One day, as Ponty describes, “Joe Ely drives up on his bicycle. He says, ‘Hey, Ponty. It looks like MCA is gonna do my first album. Listen, we’re getting together tonight over at my house on 9th Street; Man, get your accordion and come over there and jam with us! I got some songs I want you to play on the album.'” It was a fortuitous conversation that led Ponty to tour, perform and record with the Joe Ely Band for seven years prior to forming his own group, The Squeezetones which has been in existence for the past two decades.

Ponty Bone performs with Joel Guzman At Squeezebox Mania 2009:

Ponty Bone shows off his own brand of great musicianship on the accordion playing the blues.

Throughout his career and residency in Lubbock, as well as in Phoenix and Austin, wherever he has performed, domestically or internationally, PB has delighted and entertained and has always been in the best of musical company. He is hailed as an outstanding musician and revered as one of the most interesting and charismatic performers.  It’s that personality that makes one “different”.

Tragically, Ponty Bone was diagnosed in 2015 with a neurodegenerative disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP.  It is a brain disease of no known origin and it is eventually fatal.  PSP impairs all movement, balance, vision, speech and swallowing, yet it allows the victim to remain conscious and aware, with all mental capacity and personality intact. In a nutshell, it means one is a prisoner within one’s own body, left with no means of communication or expression.

His daughter Leah, writes, “Knowing PB, what he would appreciate… is to see the support and encouragement from you all through notes…. emails to him, letters or photos in the mail, or even better, visits, if you’re here in Central Texas. Again, even though he won’t be able to fully reciprocate, rest assured that the way our Dad lights up, in his own way, when he sees old friends or receives an email from an old fan, is something that speaks far louder than words ever could. If you need help reaching Ponty via email, mail or in person, please contact us.

Ponty Bone
P.O. Box 163421
Austin, Texas 78716 U.S.A.
PHONE: (512) 443-7952
pb@pontybone.com

All quotes from:

Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music
by Christopher Oglesby
Published by the University of Texas Press

Thank you to Debra Peters for her input regarding this article


Steve Conn: Music with a Mission

Steve Conn

Steve Conn

By Christa T. for Accordion Americana There is no place in America that is more “about the music” than Louisiana.  While it is true that New Orleans was the sweet spot for those responsible for the birth of several distinct genres of music, Louisiana, in its own right, has served as a fountain of inspiration for generations of musicians and songwriters. It is where “it” all comes together–where the dry meets the moist, where the crackling heat of the cotton field converges with the murky depths of the swamp. Where the crunch of gravel under the boot binds with the squish of mud between the toes. “It” can be heard and felt in the music of Louisiana.  In one form or another, the accordion has been a part of the texture and grit of Louisiana, for a long time.

Singer/Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist Steve Conn has been a part of that, as well. Originally from Pineville, Louisiana,  he is the son of a professional musician, southern and western swing fiddle player, “Peanut” Conn. Steve began to learn his craft early, and decided to pursue music and songwriting as a profession. He followed through at Louisiana State University, choosing a foundation of coursework in Literature.  Since then, he has worked constantly as a writer and musician, moved from Louisiana to Colorado, and then on to Los Angeles.  He finally settled just outside of Nashville, Tennessee in 1993, and it has been his home base ever since then.

He spent two years as musical director for E-Town, a weekly National Public Radio variety show based in Boulder, Colorado that has since become an Americana institution. Conn enlisted a roster of great artists,  a tradition that continues today, that included James Taylor, Michelle Shocked, Shawn Colvin, David Wilcox, Maura O’Connell, Emmylou Harris and by now,  hundreds of other musicians. He also continued to perform as a solo artist during that time, as well.

Steve has used the accordion as a session musician and front man, performing with the best in the business. He has performed on 9 Grammy nominated albums with a cadre of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Sonny Landreth, the Dixie Chicks, Nanci Griffith, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Mark Knopfler, Kenny Loggins, Albert King, Marshall Crenshaw and many others. Steve Conn received a Grammy nomination for his piano, harmonica and saxophone contributions with BeauSoleil, and another for his work on accordion with Arlo Guthrie.

With his old friend from Louisiana, the great slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, Steve collaborated on “Beautiful Dream”, from which the song “Let the Rain Fall Down” is drawn. He says. “I’m writing for people who have lost at love but know that love is still the greatest force of all….I’m writing for people who are trying to find the best in themselves and in the world, people who get up and try again, over and over, because they know on some deep and ancient level that it’s all just a beautiful dream even when it seems like a damn nightmare.” Only through music can one even begin to express such complexities of the human spirit.

Steve Conn II

Steve Conn

SteveConn.com


New England’s Jeremiah McLane: Simply “The Best!”

Jeremiah McLane

Jeremiah McLane

Bio courtesy of jeremiahmclane.com  Jeremiah was raised in a family with deep ties to both its Scottish heritage and its New Hampshire roots. Traditional New England music and dance were a part of his parents and grandparents generations. After an early formation in classical piano, Jeremiah spent his teenage years playing blues and jazz. Following undergraduate studies with jazz legend Gary Peacock, he studied Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, and the music of minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It wasn’t until his mid twenties that Jeremiah began to immerse himself in the world of traditional Celtic and French music, studying accordion with Jimmy Keene and Frederic Paris. He then spent several decades traveling in Europe, doing field research that laid the groundwork for a Master’s degree he received many years later from the New England Conservatory.

Jeremiah McLane and David Surette

Jeremiah McLane and David Surette

In the early 1990s Jeremiah formed two bands: The Clayfoot Strutters and Nightingale. Both bands had strong traditional New England roots and had a deep and lasting impact on the traditional dance scene in New England. In 2003 he formed Le Bon Vent, a sextet specializing in Breton and French music, and as an outgrowth of this ensemble, has formed several duos with individual members including James Falzone, Ruthie Dornfeld and Cristi Catt. Since the early 1990s, Jeremiah has recorded over a dozen CDs with Nightingale, the Clayfoot Strutters, Bob & the Trubadors, Le Bon Vent, with Ruthie Dornfeld. His second solo recording, Smile When You’re Ready, was nominated by National Public Radio in their “favorite picks”, and his fifth release, Hummingbird, with Ruthie Dornfeld, received the French music magazine “Trad Mag” Bravo award, as did his CD Goodnight Marc Chagall with Le Bon Vent. He has composed music for theater and film, including Sam Shepard’s “A Lie Of The Mind”, and been awarded the Ontario Center For The Performing Arts “Meet The Composer” Award, and the Vermont Council On The Arts “Creation Of New Work” grant.

In 2005 Jeremiah started the Floating Bridge Music School, which is devoted to teaching traditional music from the British Isles, Northern Europe, and North America. An adjunct instructor at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, NY, he also teaches at the Summit School of Traditional Music in Montpelier, VT, at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon NH, and at many summer music camps including Ashokan Fiddle & Dance, Augusta Heritage Arts Center, American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and the Maine Fiddle Camp.

 

Jeremiah and Ruthie

Jeremiah McLane and Ruthie Dornfeld

Interview with Jeremiah McLane onWCAX Tv:

http://www.wcax.com/story/24087130/vermont-composter-and-teacher-jeremiah-mclane-talks-accordion

Jeremiah McLane II

Jeremiah McLane

http://www.jeremiahmclane.com/bands/

 


Making Music, Texas Style: Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band

Debra Peters

Photo by Jay Hudson

By Christa T. for Accordion Americana   Austin, Texas is home to one of the most diverse musical landscapes in the United States. The accordion has always had a role in the local music scene from the advent of the town’s German Beer Halls in the 1800’s, through the evolution of Tex-Mex music. Because of this presence, the accordion is alive and well represented in Texas music, today.

One of the most popular and respected Texas accordionists is Debra Peters. For the last 24 years, she has consistently performed in Austin and all around Texas with her band, Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band. Debra is a career singer, songwriter, accordionist, pianist and session musician. Also, well-known in Austin as a teacher of the accordion, she is an entrepreneur, producing and marketing her own music recordings and accordion educational videos.

Women musicians who have their own bands are rare. But, a woman musician with the professional longevity that Debra Peters has shown, are all the more rare. Monthly, for the last 2 decades, Debra Peters has appeared at the legendary Broken Spoke in Austin.  Also, throughout that time, Debra and her band have toured Europe, Japan, Mexico, North America and Hawaii.  Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band were featured at the International Accordion Festival held in San Antonio, Texas. They are scheduled to appear at the upcoming 2016 Texas Folk Life Festival in Austin.  This marks the 32nd anniversary for Texas FolkLife, which was started in 1984.  The festival presents and honors the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State.  Tex-Mex and Zydeco/Cajun music are represented in The Love Saint’s Band’s repertoire along with Americana, polkas and other dance music. The daughter of a Canadian railroad engineer, Debra enjoys performing a selection of railroad songs, as well.

As an accordion educator, Debra has presented workshops every year for the past 12 years.  ” I am a lifelong music student as well as a lifelong music teacher. Around every corner, there is always something more and great to learn!” Her vision of producing and marketing her own accordion educational videos came out of a workshop held in Las Vegas. Upon viewing an accordion lesson video done by another accordionist, Debra remembered that, as a child, she was introduced to the piano by a lesson video on VCR. At that moment, she determined that she would create her own lesson videos. “It was almost like I was stung by a bee!” Immediately, she went to work to produce an educational video and, in 2005 created The Blues, Chords and Chops. The reaction from her students was positive and in 2007, Debra created The Blues ,Chords and Chops, Volume II.  Since then, she has produced and marketed other video accordion lessons, including one that focuses on bass patterns for the Stradella bass keyboard, 25 Bass Patterns. It was a lot of work for the already busy musician to “write and present the lessons, film and edit them, design the covers, produce the actual copies, set up the mail system, build a website, and do the marketing.” She persevered, and today sales from her web site are healthy and she has plans for more lesson videos.

Debra Peters

Debra Peters

Her enthusiasm for the accordion and her passion for people is evident. Debra strives to encourage others to play the accordion, especially girls and other women. A hardworking professional musician, Debra Peters is inspired, not only to entertain, but to empower others who seek to become skillful accordionists locally and in places far away from her Austin, Texas home. Update: Debra Peters and The Love Saints Band have been invited to participate August 20-21, 2016 at the Cotati Accordion Festival, Cotati California.

www.debrapetersmusic.com

Love Saints Music, Austin Texas USA


Boogie Woogie and Blues Master, Christian Dozzler

Christian Dozzler

Christian Dozzler

By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Those folks who know Texas and know the Blues probably know that Christian Dozzler plays a sultry Blues piano and organ and a mean harp. What they may not know is that Dozzler, also known as “Vienna Slim”, is a master of the Boogie Woogie and Blues and also an enormously talented accordionist.

Standing 6 feet 7 inches, Dozzler is a shy man. When he was just 13 years old, he was captivated by the Boogie Woogie from the first time he heard it on the radio. He immediately quit his classical piano lessons and from then on, made it his business to master the Blues and the Boogie Woogie, and to make it his life’s work.

In his first band, Christian played guitar and harmonica as well as the piano and also sang. In a few years, he added the piano accordion.”The accordion is often misunderstood by people, because it appears in almost every folk music in the world. My influence, of course, is the Zydeco music. But I think it is a great instrument to solo on, I often use saxophone or organ phrases in my accordion solos, I think. I come from a rather puristic blues attitude, but my taste has opened up to a much wider spectrum over the years. While many blues musicians of my generation, especially here in the US, have started with rock music and then went back to the roots, I actually started with 1930s piano blues and boogie woogie and then chronologically went up in the blues history with the styles I listened to and tried to play…..But I myself try to play a wide variety of different styles within the blues framework, write much of my own material and avoid overplayed standards that everybody else plays too. In my choice of songs that I cover, I look for the hidden gems: great songs that are not so well known.”

For nearly 10 years until 1993, Christian was the co-frontman of one of Europe’s few blues bands, the reknowned Mojo Blues Band. He left to form his own band, Blues Wave, and for 7 years, toured with them nationally and internationally. He produced his first solo album “All Alone and Blue” and  today, Christian Dozzler tours Europe and North American, performing mostly as a solo act.  He has since moved permanently to the U.S. from his native Austria and has made the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas area his home since 2000.

Christian Dozzler was nominated for the Blues Critic Awards in 2008, for “Best Blues Keyboardist” (Piano, Organ, Accordion,Harmonica and vocal). He has been featured on over 40 cd’s and has met and played with many Blues greats and legends. Because of this exposure throughout his career, his musical influences are broad. “But out of the probably 5,000 or more gigs that I’ve played in my life it is hard to pick out a special one. It is always an honor to play with a legend or somebody you have admired for many years, that’s for sure… But I like jamming with other musicians after a festival, or sitting in with other bands that I know and like….. maybe the most fun I had was at an organized jam at the Salmon Arm Festival in Canada a few years ago. It was part of the program and they just sat 6 or 7 individual musicians on a stage in a half circle and watched what happened.”

About being a musician, Christian reflects, “…I like to listen and observe, in every life situation. And that is very important (as a professional musician) in a band context as well. You have to listen to what everybody in the band is doing and intuitively react to it or even anticipate it. How you accompany a singer or soloist is just as –if not more- important than what you do on your own solo. That’s the biggest problem with a lot of “wannabe” musicians, they don’t listen to what’s going on stage, and they just concentrate on themselves. Most of the greatest musicians, at least the ones that I respect, are also good accompanists. Because they do whatever the song needs, not what boosts their ego.”

He says that his experiences in America, as a musician, are far different than abroad. “(In Europe)..there is a respect for the artist on stage. In the U.S.…there is free live music on every corner, blues is an every-day thing that everybody grew up with, and most people cannot even distinguish between good and mediocre musicians or real and fake. They want to be entertained, dance and have a good time, and often don’t even care who the person on the bandstand is. So that’s a completely different approach for the musician…”

Christian Dozzler has seen many changes in the music industry since he became a professional musician. He says, “The CD/album sales have gone down drastically over the last decade or so. It used to be that buying an album was the only way for you to listen to the music at home. Now you can download it, listen anytime on internet radio, watch it for free on YouTube, you don’t need to necessarily own a product anymore. And especially in a niche market like the Blues, this has the effect that it almost makes no sense anymore to produce a CD. In the 90s I used to break even with the production costs within 6-8 months, now it might take 2 years or more.”

But, Christian says that there are more changes underway, “The particular problem that Blues and also Jazz seem to have worldwide is also that our audience is growing too old –like we are. There are not enough young people coming up who are interested in our style of music to fill the gap.” He adds, “I can only hope that more young people, in spite of all the distractions from the internet, cable TV and superficial pop culture, would get a chance to discover the heartbeat of the blues.”

Christian Dozzler II

Christian Dozzler

http://www.dozzler.com

All quotes from “Christian Dozzler: Two Meters of Blues” by Michalis Limnios BLUES @ GREECE


C.J. Chenier, Louisiana Blues and Zydeco Accordionist

C.J._Chenier

C.J. Chenier

John Mayall had no goal other than “to make a normal blues album” , which is what the veteran artist and bandleader has done over the course of his 51-year recording career. And if you start adding it up, after 50 years, it’s obviously quite a career.” Mayall recorded “A Special Life,” his first release in five years for Forty Below Records, during a three-day session with his band during November at Entourage Studios in North Hollywood. It features four originals — one written by band members Greg Rzab and Rocky Athas — plus covers of songs by Jimmy Rogers, Albert King, Sonny Landreth and others. Mayall’s band is also bolstered by accordionist C.J. Chenier on several tracks, including a version of his father Clifton Chenier’s “Why Did You Go Last Night” that kicks off the album. “That was one of the songs I’ve always had a fondness for,” Mayall says. “In fact, we used to play it when Jack Bruce was in the band, so it goes that far back, and it’s far less Zydeco than straightahead blues. I thought it was a perfect time to approach C.J.; his father wrote and sang the song originally, and he was available, so I just contacted him. I hadn’t met him before, but he flew in for the day and we nailed it. It was a really great experience.”

C.J.  Chenier grew up in the 1960s, in the housing projects of his native Port Arthur, Texas, where he was aware of, but not exposed to his father’s music as a young child.

Upon first listening to his father’s music, Chenier thought all the songs sounded the same. But he eventually began to appreciate and master his style, as he later joined and then took over his father’s band and career.  He has since played such venues as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, San Diego’s Street Scene and Milwaukee’s SummerfestPaul Simon first heard Chenier in 1990, and featured him on the The Rhythm of the Saints album, and that year’s ‘Born At The Right Time’ tour. In 1992 Chenier played accordion on “Cajun Song”, a track on the Gin Blossoms‘ album, New Miserable Experience. 1992 saw Chenier featured with the Red Hot Louisiana Band on the PBS music television program Austin City Limits.[3] By October 1994 Chenier was signed by Alligator. His debut release there was Too Much Fun, named the next year as best zydeco album of 1995 by Living Blues magazine. In 1995, Chenier gained his widest audience to date with television appearances on the Jon Stewart Show and CNN. His 1996 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was featured in a segment by the VH1cable music television network, as well as by Entertainment Weekly. Chenier and the band also appeared that year at the Austin, Texas, 1996 SxSW Music Conference, a special event for Alligator Records’ 25th anniversary. Chenier won the 1997 Living Blues’ Critics’ Poll Award and also an AFIM Indie Award for best zydeco album, for his next release, The Big Squeeze. In 2001, Chenier played in front of 60,000 fans at the Chicago Blues Festival.