When I began playing shows at Marquette University, few Milwaukee artists were making things happen on a national level. Peter Mulvey, who is ten years older, had the label, the records, the tour dates and artist collaborations to inspire any budding musician. Over the last ten years, Peter and my paths have crossed multiple times, [Read More...]
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Notes From Mike: Good Soil
This past summer was perfect. Though we played very few shows, the ones we played were exciting and a joy for me personally. The next few months I will have my hands full. My main focus is writing. I recently moved into a rehearsal space with the intention of taking a fresh uninterrupted approach to my writing. The space is cozy, very small and very blue. It has a great vibe, one that I am excited about. I have no idea what the room was used for in its past life but it is located within an old school from the 30’s. The room sounds decent enough and I have access to the schools auditorium and men’s bathroom which both have great acoustics. Outside the front door lies a boulder with a dedication on a plaque to the students who lost their lives in the second World War. The school is modest in size and surrounded by wonderful old pine trees. The ground is that beautiful loose pine soil, it is great soil, loose and full of life. The school is one block away from the original location of Paramount Records where Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey and Charlie Patton would record when they traveled up from the delta in the 20’s and 30’s. The very records that made their way across the Atlantic and inspired the hands, hearts and minds of Eric Clapton, Keith and Mick, Van Morrison, John, Paul, George, Ringo, Page, Plant, that spun on Robert Zimmerman’s record player before he declared himself Bob Dylan, that planted the seeds and paved the road for Howlin' Wolf and Muddy were recorded amongst some of the same trees and soil that my nook sits. I am not claiming that anything I come up with will have a fraction of the impact as those records, but the soil is good and full of life. I find a lot of inspiration in this fact and the simple reality that great things can be born in the tiniest of places. Small things can be good and good things can become great. As Brian Eno once said “ Beautiful things grow out of shit. If you walked around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted- they have these wonderful things in their head, but you’re not one of them then you live a different kind of life. You could live another kind of life, where you can say, ‘well, I know that things come from nothing very much, and start from unpromising beginnings, and I’m an unpromising beginning, and I could start something’. you know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest, and the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing”. I like the space and the soil is good.
Notes From Mike: Meet Me In The Morning
I had a great editorial here! It was about Bob Dylan. Here is the short of it. I love him. He is a great guitarist which is often overlooked. He plays like someone who has killed a lot of time with a guitar in his hands. He obviously is a great lyricist. His lyrics use common language perfectly. They are never too lofty or philosophical but rather clear and (my daughter is talking to me about hop scotch and I can not concentrate) creative... Sometimes with lyrics you try to get from point A to point C and end up taking too many unnecessary/distracting stops. Dylan's lyrics are the fastest, most direct and scenic route to the heart of the narrative. They are brilliant. But the point I wanted to make, the culmination of his gifts and my favorite of all Dylan qualities is that he becomes the song (I am now arguing with my daughter about the sound an airplane makes compared to a helicopter). He has played so many styles in his career and it has always been believable because he becomes the song (oh no! my other daughter just came outside!). His extreme talent level in both performance and writing set him free in the craft. You believe the song when Dylan sings it not because of how well he performs and expresses the narrative but rather because he becomes the character and the narrative. He becomes the song. So, with that said, allow me to share what has been playing in my house the past few days. This is an alternate version of the classic Dylan song "Meet Me In The Morning". Sit back, open your windows, let the breeze in, turn it up and allow this Jewish kid from northern Minnesota to sing you the blues. Mike
Notes From Mike-It Begins
The location in the picture below is one of the most important places in my life. If you know me well you have probably been there yourself at some point. It has proven to be one of the best places for relaxation, reflection and writing. Who knows maybe recording an album too? I have been writing a lot and recently spent sometime up there playing with ideas and sounds. Yup, it begins....the long process towards the next effort. I feel pretty good. Speaking of good....
What better way to spend these cold days than eating great food and wearing snuggies. There are better ways but for the sake of this newsletter...none. That is the best way. So here is a recipe I have been loving this winter. I love pulled pork and came across this a couple months ago. I have made it many times and will again in a couple days..This does not need any BBQ added, it is perfect as is (and I love sauce). My wife and I have been using just over 2.5 pounds of meat compared to the 4 it calls for and it has been brilliant so don't be afraid to increase ratio here. This is perfect for tacos, sangwhiches, nachos, or just as is and kids love it...throw a little avocado on it and your golden. Enjoy! Mike
Total Time: 30 mins, plus 6 to 10 hrs cooking time | Makes: 6 servings
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)
Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low. Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside. If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Notes From Mike-This World Seems Frozen
This world seems to be frozen, or at least where I am. I drove two hours in a car this morning to Chicago O’hare airport. Driving has never been much of a burden for me, it comes with the occupation. Touring musicians are 40% truck driver anyway. The issue I had this morning was with the car I drove. I used my wife’s car because it didn’t have heat and I just couldn’t leave her and the family with a freezing automobile. So I took it. It had seemed the polar vortex established a permanent residency in the interior and my feet would be the first entertained. My world seems frozen because it is. Eventually I had to take a moments rest at a gas station bathroom. It was the first time I welcomed the fragrant inspiring warmth of a truck stop bathroom. I didn’t take too much time, I had a plane to catch. Just enough to reflect on the cold’s potent stubbornness. Thankfully the parking shuttle's temperature was set to Death Valley and I park in the cheap seats. I’m off to L.A. A fitting place for a frozen Midwestern boy. A place I once lived and tried to be a musician. I was inspired there but not enough, so I bought a van and made it my home. You don’t have to go very far to feel at home when you live in a van. It’s a comforting fact and all a young writer needs for a full dose of thought and inspiration. So that’s what I did and as a result three albums, in some way, are rooted there. Now I’m going back to L.A, this time I’m a musician. My world seems frozen but not for long. I will meet with friends, people I have never met before, reminisce old nostalgic hangouts but most importantly thaw out. There is a lot more cold waiting back home and for a long time too. I’m going to thaw, absorb, digest and rearrange, then head home. No, not to the van, a home with a basement and everything. I’m filling up the spirit and the head. The pen awaits, just need to make sure the fingers can keep up. Mike
Notes From Mike
So far I have been taking the year with ease...musically. I have been trying to look at music through a different lens, trying to be inspired again. I am trying on some old shoes, old picks, old tricks. Im taking how I usually write and folding it inside out. Taking my opinions about lyrics and ignoring them. Taking the musical foundations on which I stand and pulling a hand stand... why? Because I can and I feel I should. Im too much of a traditionalist to worry about any drastic departure from my identity... Im just looking for a new chamber in the heart. Ill let you know how it goes.
On the Road with Mike
We finished our tour last Saturday at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. It was a long set...maybe too long, I don’t know and I don’t really care at this point. I think subconsciously I didn’t want the show to end. There has been so much work put into the release of Red-Winged Blackbird Man that...well... I guess I was not ready. I still want to play more towns, do more interviews, hear the album on more radio stations, push it push it and push it until we have exhausted every possible avenue for the music to travel! But the reality is we cannot. It wouldn’t be healthy or fair to our families. We have given it our best and have to let the album fly with the momentum we leave it. CDs have left our hands and into those of fans all over the country. Like a baton in a race our leg is done. It is up to you now to listen, love and lend. So, as I prepare to spend some time with my family, write and dream the next move... I take comfort knowing our work is in good hands. And though I could go on for a few more months playing my tail off, sometimes its best to leave wanting more. Who knows, that little gas left in the tank might get us to our next destination.
Stay in touch, spread the word and see you soon.
On the road with Mike - A New Harvest
On the road with Tom
“There’s no such thing as a wrong note,” said jazz pianist Art Tantum, “it all depends on how you resolve it.” Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis had a similar philosophy “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note,” he said. “It’s the note you play afterward that makes it right or wrong.”
On The Road With Mike: The Weight