Here we are at that time of year where in our part of the world, middle Tennessee, it’s feeling a lot like Great Britain, as well as the holiday season. I’m sitting in the ground floor of our cabin looking out the window and seeing grey and brown tones, the wind is whistling and the warmth of our wood stove fire is almost as comforting as a cuppa tea. I could be in Yorkshire, but I’m home in Liberty. It’s also drizzling. I have not written a blog post since July. It’s good to take a break from busyness, welcome a bit of stiller time and sit down to blog.
I’ve never finished writing a book, I’ve started a couple, but making a record is a bit like writing a book, especially if you make a record where you sing and play most of the parts, you spend hours a day for a year or so and chip away at it. The average novel has about 80,000 words. The average record album may have 3,000. Yes, I have a new record to share with the multiverse and it will be available right around the winter solstice, December 21, that’s when the CDs are suppose to arrive. I keep wondering if the day will ever come when music will only be ethereal , something you can’t touch but only access on a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer? I hope not.
A New Record
The new record is called, Onions, Old Movies & You, which is one of the ten songs included. The record also has one instrumental I composed for my grandson, Roman, whom I play harmonica for every time we video chat. He lives in the north. A harmonica can set a tone, a happy one depending on what you play. It seems to make him smile most chats.
After reading a Willie Dixon biography, I Am The Blues, I was off imagining a blues infused project. The first song I co-wrote for the record, “Take ‘Em Away,” was inspired by something Willie Dixon said in the beginning of his book. He said that, “when God made man, man was lonesome and blue,” suggesting that the blues began when man came into the world. Then I thought when God brought a woman into the world her girl power mojo could take away those blues. Amen.
I was off strumming and scribbling thanks to Willie Dixon. I met him in Houston in 1985, which may be another blog someday. The song, “Take ‘Em Away” started as a delta blues, finger picking riff on a single “E” chord. But I wanted it to be more than a delta blues, after all, I lived on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau. I kept the same melody, added three more chords and moved the flatted third to a major third, which took it out of the delta and up onto the plateau. What a difference a half step and a few chords can make. I did actually think, what would Lindsey Buckingham do?
The record is a collaborative effort with several writers and musicians. My wife, Sue, and I wrote a song called, “You’ll Know What I Mean,” a bit of an advice song. I’ll have to sing this for my grandson when he is a little older. Poet and music journalist, Geoffrey Himes and I co-wrote eight of the tracks. One song, “It’s All Up To You,” we wrote in the mid-‘80s. It’s slightly blues infused, an invitation song about hopping a freight train and hoboing around. I have always loved hobo songs. In 2019, Sue and I were in the north of England touring and I had started writing a song, “Take ‘Em Away.” I played it for my friend, Alfred Hickling, a musician/songwriter from York and he suggested a line to help finish the last verse. There is a song called, “Willie Rasnake Meets His Maker,” that was the first song I co-wrote with Jeni Hankins in 2005, the story of a tragic motorcycle accident near the town of Jewel Ridge, Virginia where Jeni grew up.
And then there are the musicians. Early on I was wanting to try recording drums here at my home studio, The Scratching Post. Our cabin is nearly all wood and our cat, Minnie, thinks of the entire cabin as her scratching post. In 2020 I met drummer/photographer, Joe Allen, who lives nearby and we did several sessions together that Sue aptly dubbed, the beats and beans sessions. Pinto beans and cornbread were a part of those sessions. A big thanks to Joe for sharing his jalapeño cornbread recipe and inventive beats. The title track, “Onions, Old Movies & You,” features Craig Eastman on a tearful, jumping fiddle that makes me wanna dance and cry all at the same time. Craig also plays low fiddle, chincello (just what it sounds like) and slide guitar on three other tracks as well. There are a couple of songs that are borderline country, “Hard To Leave” and “The Hole In The Bus,” that I was able to coax Shad Cobb on fiddle and Philip Sterk on pedal steel to leave Nashville for an afternoon and visit The Scratching Post. A big thanks to all of these crackerjack musicians and co-writers as well.
Touring has been non-existent for me since December of 2019, with a few scattered dates here and there, but mostly here. Touring has been cyclical during my career. Here’s how it’s been:
- No touring…………………………………………………8 years
- Light touring…………………………………………….16 years
- Moderate touring……………………………………….5 years
- Mostly, constantly………………………………………18 years
I’m hopeful that I will be able to do a few tours to support my new record in the South, the West Coast, the mid-Atlantic and the UK. There aren’t any booked at this time but I do have a record release party booked for Saturday, January 21, 2023 in my hometown of Baltimore at The Catonsville Clubhouse. Many thanks to Rick Sambuco for making that happen. I’m hoping to do another record release party in middle Tennessee in March.
Ordering the new record and other stuff…
In the meantime, if you’d like to order a copy of the new record please do in the first link below. I’m not positive it could be delivered by Xmas, the window for its arrival to me is December 21. But it most likely would arrive just after New Years. What a keen way to start the new year off. I also have some more black walnut ink for sale. The ink can definitely be shipped out for your holiday gift giving. The black walnut ink makes an original gift, good for letter writing, drawing and more. Order the ink with the second link . The third link goes to a blog I wrote about black walnut ink.
Folks have been asking me about my Willbilly logo and if I could get some buttons with the Willbilly image. I found a place called Sticker Mule that is making them. Here’s what they will look like.
The Willbilly buttons will sell for $3. I’ve added a PayPal purchase below for your convenience if you’d like to buy a button. The shipping will be $1. https://www.paypal.com/instantcommerce/checkout/54WA82ZSXPQGW
You can also visit the Willbilly Music Store at my website for all of my records and other services including sessions and lessons.
Thanks for taking the time to read and listen, I am grateful. Here’s wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday and New Year. I hope to see you next year at a gig…Much Happiness, Billy