Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"Pennsylvania snow is pretty thick
Michigan ain't where I get my kicks
Texas is fine but it gets too hot
and New York City's not a place to stop
New Orleans is the home of the blues
but California's my home with Mary Hughes"

...so sang Jeff Beck on the last recorded instance of the vaunted Beck/Page double guitar axis, the B side of the Yardbirds' "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago", Mary Hughes being Beck's inamorata at the time, the blonde surfer bunny featured extensively in the early AIP beach party and teen sci-fi movies-COWABUNGA!

Overlook the lyric's churlish slur on New York for the moment (not always the case in the Yardbird's canon, there was also Keith Relf's "they got such pretty little girls in that big town/make a man wanna jump around and shout" in "New York City Blues"), and marvel at the compressed lightning of Beck and Page's dazzling twin fretboard attack..

But it was New Orleans the home of the blues I want to write about here now, name-checked in the above song, specifically the wild weekend Caroline meself Peter and his wife Betsy just spent there, Peter and I ostensibly to record a new Du-Tels album with our old friend producer Mark Bingham, Caroline and Betsy to soak up some of that good down home vibe (and shop...and shop...and shop)...

Peter and I basically spent 3 days inside Mark's ultra-cool Piety Street Studios (attention musicians--such cool vibes there, an old reconverted post office set up with the latest and greatest of comfortable recording gear, ultra nice hang, gigantic room sound in studio A, we had a ball recording there, you will too, check 'em out here, call up Mark and tell him I sent ya, you won't regret it--great sounds, great engineering, great location right next to a coffeeshop that places old jazz and blues and swing records all day and serves the best damn pancakes I ever et, of the sweet potato variety, great vibes all around yessir) while the girls shopped and rubber-necked...we worked our collective asses off only to get out one morning for a tour of the devastated 9th ward, what a shame and stain on the Bush administration to see such heartbreaking wreckage still gone unattended for lo these 3 years now...another night we explored the banks of the Mississippi levee right down the street, me Caroline and Mark's lovely artist girlfriend Shawn,frolicking along the tracks that run along riverbank at midnight dodging rather large waterbugs scuttling everywhere under an enormous mist-enshrouded tobacco-coloured moon that hung 'oer creation like a gigantic bloodshot eye winking at us high up in the star-spangled empyrean...

Our one day off as a foursome was spent shvitzing at noon in the French Quarter in a search for the ultimate geegaw (found a fantastic 30's deco lamp for a pittance at Quarter Past Time on 606 Chartres Street, go say hi to Julio who runs the joint, super nice guy, amazing stuff there), tried to hook up with my old Kennebec camp mate Ben Sandmel, local music scribe/Grammy-nominated producer for the Hackberry Ramblers, now writing a book about Ernie K. Doe (just hooked him up with my pal Yardbirds' producer Giorgio Gomelsky to discuss their recording of Ernie K's "A Certain Girl" on their first album for his new book)...

We cut a HELLUVA good album down there in 3 jam-packed days--

and a real highlight of the session was our (more or less) a capella version of "Obama", as sung to the tune of Leadbelly's field holler "Looky Looky Yonder", an ode to our favorite candidate which I was inspired to begin working on the last time Peter and I played Bob Fass' WBAI show "Radio Unnameable" way after midnight last winter, which was the same night Obama won the first Democratic primary--here's a rough mix of "Obama" in all its glory, a teaser from our forthcoming Du-Tels album "The Wilderness Brothers"...

Then it was home for more sweltering fun, sat in on National steel with my pal Dusty Wright from www.culturecatch.com at the Lakeside Lounge with his new roots music project GDM...recorded a blistering solo acoustic set for podcasters Breakthru Radio which is up online now, check it out, we recorded out of producer Steve Addabbo's studio Shelter Island Sound on West 27th Street, I've known Steve for years, great guy, great producer (Shawn Colvin, Suzanne Vega to name a few artists he's worked with)--and great studio...thanks to DJ Mojo for setting this one up...

Gary Lucas and the Breakthru Radio.com crew at the taping of his solo acoustic set at Steve Addabo's Shelter Island Sound, NYC, 7/24/08 | Click to enlarge

Went up to the Rose Theater in Lincoln Center to catch Laurie Anderson Friday night, she was in superb form performing with her "Homeland" show with a crack band including my friends Greg Cohen and Steve Bernstein, I remember the first time I saw Laurie at the Academy of Music on 14th Street many years right after "O Superman" had come out and was struck then by her fantastic poise and artistry, she has only gotten better and more concise over the years, amazing sonic tapestries commingling with ironic/funny and ironic/chilling apercus and epiphanies, Joey Baron was amazing as always on percussion, and my pal Lou Reed really rocked out on his duet with Laurie, "The Lost Art of Conversation", always a pleasure to hear Lou perform in any context (haven't seen Julian Schnabel's film of Lou's "Berlin" show yet but I mean to soon)...said hello to Didi Gutman from Brazilian Girls in the lobby before the show, didn't recognize him at first as he has recently cut off his dreadlocks, he told me they have a new album out this week, can't wait to hear it as BG's are one of the best bands around...also ran into the lovely Claudia Gould who is back in NYC now after a stint curating the Philly art institute, and also Janine Nichols, who used to co-curate Arts at St. Ann's with Susan Feldman and who was in fact partly responsible with hooking me up with Jeff Buckley in the first place (along with my pal the producer Hal Willner)...Janine is now an artist in her own right, looking forward to checking out her music...

Saturday night I played solo acoustic up in Woodstock at the Boiceville Inn, ostensibly a Stones tribute on Mick's birthday ("Howbout those Rollin' Stones!"--indeed--a fifteen million dollar payday from Universal makes a helluva 65th birthday gift), I managed to get some healthy licks of my own in there, beautiful crowd, beautiful beautiful night that ended in a wild hail storm out of the humid mist driving back 'oer the foggy road over to my guy Fred Perry's house (Fred curated the gig, check out his Reservoir Music store on Route 28 if you're in the area) with his lovely wife Amparo and Caroline...

okay Caroline just rang and "The Dark Knight" beckons...



ps Really sad news today at the passing of Mike Berniker, he was one of the good guys, a real mensch and a true music lover in a biz full of weasels whom I first befriended when I was first starting out working for CBS Records in 1977, a legendary producer (he produced the first 3 albums by Barbra Streisand, all fantastic must-hears), a & r guy and jazz aficionado, he won a Grammy co-producing Cuban fireball's Irakere's first record, and is associated with a host of terrific Broadway show albums, and much much more... he used to hang out in my office in Black Rock (as a floating consultant to the Columbia Records jazz department, he didn't have an office of his own then) and we really bonded...Stephen Holden has a nice obit in today's Times.


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