Posts Tagged ‘acoustic guitar’

It’s Friday Night and the Coffee is On

March 6, 2015
Quick Sketch of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Quick Sketch of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The stage personalities, the presence, and the look of these characters were unique. Young, with his sunken-eyed stare shooting out from behind long black strands of hair, loomed to one side of the stage like a captive renegade. Stills floated out front more often, standing with his back straight like a country gentleman, striking hard poses while soloing, or loosening into a pained bluesman at the mike. Nash was the gentle, personable English hippie, who always charmed the crowd with his good nature. Without a doubt, it was Crosby who centered the team on stage. By his own admission, he was “the group mouthpiece.” David also, at this time, coined a visual image that pretty much became the international archetypal hippie look–a long mustache brushed down over the lips, long frizzy hair grown to the shoulders, and a frontiersman’s buckskin jacket, with fringe flying.

Dave Zimmer, Crosby, Stills & Nash: the Biography

These are the simple pleasures that I feel more profoundly now than in earlier years. Spring Break has begun, and I’m delighted to leave school for a week. Temperatures are sliding downward this winter evening and I’m glad to stay indoors. Coffee steams in my mug, Buffalo Springfield spins on my turntable, a good book is in my lap, and I guess I have to admit that I miss not having a cat or dog to scratch right now. My last pet died a couple of summers ago and it does get a little solitary around here when the weekends grow quiet.

I rewarded my quiet hours tonight by kicking out a quick sketch of CSN&Y, then pulling out the acoustic guitar and loosening up with some of their numbers. This was the group that seized my heart right after they put out their first album. I didn’t discover it until 1970, but it made me lay down the electric guitar and pick up the 12-string acoustic. Since then, I’ve only wanted to be an acoustic guitarist and to find people around me to work up some vocal harmonies. I’ve been fortunate to experience some of this, and now recently have found the company of some beautiful acoustic guitarists who challenge me to be better at it. I keep thinking that someday I’ll find myself in a group again, as I miss some of that dynamic from my past. Below, I’ve posted a picture from years gone by when I used to appear with a band at a local watering hole in Fort Worth. I can’t say I really miss those days, but I do miss playing regularly with kindred spirits. It’s been too long.

Former Times in the Pepper Mill Lounge

Former Times in the Pepper Mill Lounge

Coming of Age

February 20, 2015
Very Rapid Sketch of My All-Time Favorite Musicians

A Very Rapid Sketch of My All-Time Favorite Musicians

As I come of age
I keep fallin’ down
And I feel just like a schoolboy
I was in a senseless rage
Runnin’ too hard
And I tore you all to pieces

Yes but it’s all over now
I’m a little bit older now
The lessons that I’m learnin’ now
Gonna make it easy

Now then can I try
Starting over
Put the pieces back together
Even as I cry bitter tears
I can see it’s all a puzzle
A game
Always the same

By the time I die with the passing
If I’ve sorted out my changes
And if you could take the time
I would tell you that it’s still a puzzle
The same
Always a game

Stephen Stills, As I Come of Age

After a more-challenging-than-usual school week, I now face the ponderous task of grading stacks and stacks of papers to meet a report card deadline. As Friday afternoon stretched into evening, I decided I deserved a break and strolled into a music store and WOW, I found a DVD of a Crosby,Stills & Nash concert from 2012. To my knowledge, I have every VHS and DVD performance of theirs available, and had no idea that this one existed. The lyrics to the song posted above I heard for the first time in 1992 and was moved profoundly by the quality of the music as well as the message. But I only heard the studio recording that I’ve possessed, and it is driven by piano. On this new set, two acoustic guitars lead the song, and I cannot describe the emotion I felt as I heard the voices of my three vocal heroes mesh over the strains of the acoustic strings. At this point I can say no more. I’ll try to do some quality blogging this weekend, between grading.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Saying Goodbye to a Friend, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Ronny Hopkins, 1950-2010

This morning, we said “Goodbye” to Ronnie Hopkins, our lead singer, vocalist and creator of the Acoustic River Band.  Ron passed away last Thursday, at age 59, after a two-year battle with liver disease.  It remains such a bitter irony–Ron lived a clean and wholesome lifestyle.  We are flooded with stories of musicians and their deaths from substance abuse, but this gentleman lived a life where he did everything right, and currently none of us can find peace with the reality of his leaving the earth while still in his prime, and with so much left to offer. He leaves behind a wife of nearly forty years (he missed their anniversary by two weeks), two daughters and two grandchildren.  He managed to witness his younger daughter’s wedding scarcely a month ago.

Ron was undoubtedly the best guitarist I ever knew, who knew me by name.  He is the best guitarist I’ve heard without being charged admission.  And I was profoundly honored to be invited to join his band.  Technically, I played second guitar, but beside him, I felt like the tenth guitar.  Acoustic River was invited to play two selections at his services this morning, but frankly, Acoustic River without Ron Hopkins was Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty.  We played his favorite pieces, but knew that we were a mere shadow of the sound we heard when he sat among us, and his guitar resting on the empty chair was the visual reminder of what is no longer with us.

Shortly after Ron became ill, I was commissioned by David Slight, our bassist, to create this portrait as a surprise for Ron while he was in the hospital.  Using a photograph, we tried to capture his quintessential smile that continually disarmed us, and will continue to do so with every memory.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog.  I’ll be getting back to the studio watercolors, but not just now.  It’s taking awhile to absorb all of this.  Thanks Ron, for including me in your full and fruitful musical circle.

Silver Dollar Tavern (in progress), 4th of July, 2010

July 4, 2010

Silver Dollar Tavern

I’m excited to re-enter the studio at last.  The long hiatus can be best explained by a conference at Lake Tahoe, California, followed by travel weariness and the need to clean my studio.  Finally I have my energy back and a place to work.

While cleaning the studio, I came across a large watercolor I had begun about 5-7 years ago and abandoned, then forgot about completely.  I almost threw it away, but after looking at it over the past several days, decided that I could rescue what was earlier considered a botched attempt.

Last night I added the guitar player (myself), the GMC pickup (that appears in another watercolor of mine titled “Brian Plays the Blues”), and signage from some abandoned sites in New Mexico I photographed on a road trip three summers ago.  I think these props have greatly improved the overall composition of this piece.

This is much larger than I’ve grown accustomed to creating (about 22 x 14″).  I’m getting lost in the detail, but loving it.

The setting is what’s left of the Silver Dollar Tavern, a road house that my father frequented before he entered the Korean conflict.  It is located along old U. S. Highway 61 (the Blues route, hence the guitar player recently added) in the small town Old Appleton.  The place has great memories for my father–a bar on the ground floor and dance hall on the second.  It has memories for me as well.  Before Interstate 55 was created, we had to travel the winding Route 61 to visit my grandparents in rural Jackson, Missouri.  From St. Louis, the trip was 2 1/2 hours and dreary for me as a child, save for some of these relics that would catch my eye along the roadside.  Once I-55 was in place, an hour was cut off our travel time, so we no longer had to fret about weary two-lane travel.  Many decades later, I returned to old Route 61 and took quite a few photographs.  Finally I am getting around to painting some of these abandoned sites.

Thanks for reading.

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof, February 11, 2010

February 11, 2010

Kat Under a Hot Tin Roof

Isn’t it funny how we as artists practice the “dance of avoidance” (Ted Orland, Creative Authenticity) when we have all the time in the world to practice our craft?  Why do we do that?  Why do I do that?  I got sick last week, the doctor ordered me to stay home for four days and recuperate, and what did I do?  I worked harder on my lesson plans, anticipating my return to the classroom.  I’ve taught 22 years!  I don’t have to re-invent the wheel for public school!

Now, north Texas is expecting up to 8 inches of snow.  Tomorrow’s (Friday) classes are already canceled, and Monday is President’s Day.  So–I’ve just inherited another 4-day weekend.  I’ll get to know myself a little better this time, perhaps, and have something to show for the hiatus before I get back into the classroom next Tuesday.  Right now, I’m just sitting, chilling, and rhapsodizing on the huge, HUGE snowflakes filling the sky outside my study window, and recalling–Oh yeah!  a blog for today!  So, here goes. . .

I’ve had the privilege of playing acoustic guitar and singing in a band for a number of years now.  I have posted a watercolor of Kat Duke, one of our most amazing charter band members.  Kat is a gifted, soulful song writer, acoustic guitar player and vocalist (my how dusky and sultry her alto voice is!).  She and I began pulling people aside back in 2004 to play together, and, next thing we knew, we were a band with gigs on the calendar.  Through the years, band members came and went, but Kat always remained steadfast.

Finally in January 2008 Kat decided to pursue her long deferred dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest and living out the life of a folk singer.  She boarded a plane for Seattle, and we were all saddened to lose her, yet proud of her brave step into the future.  Before she departed, I secretly created this watercolor of her.  The pose came from a photo I took of her playing my guitar in my art booth at a festival at Kessler Park in Oak Cliff, Dallas.  I created the brick wall from my imagination, and added graffiti of all the band members who had played with her since 2004, and a logo of the band that she and I stayed with the longest–Interchangeable Parts.

Anytime I want to hear Kat’s voice, I only have to look at this painting.  And it all comes back . . .