getcher hand outta there. you'll gum up the werks.
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Last Exit to Baltimore
posted: 03/27/07

Did you hear that?

That sound of mechanical decompression? Like the sound of a tractor truck tire deflating?

That was the sound of me finally taking a load off.

I'm back home at last after more than a week away, in a studio of sorts, recording my... I don't know that I could really call it an album, but I guess that's technically what it is. I've taken to calling it an effort, because that's what it's been.

About six months ago I decided to record something. As I've written elsewhere, I was sort of all over the place on the guitar... [also] effort, and I needed focus. I respond well to projects. The OCD helps greatly in this regard. Anyhoo, I figured I'd write a pile of tunes, work them up just so, and then, record them. Because otherwise, what's the point? I mean, there's a point. To do. Doing is good. But a document is nice, too.

And so, a week ago I piled every diddlybit and hoodlybox in my possession into my Jeep, to include mics and mixer and USB interface and laptop and backup system and gargantuan monitors and miles of cords and power strips and five different sets of strings x 3 and stands and nail files and string winders (powered and un-), and, oh yeah, four guitars. And I drove up to Baltimore. To make the document.

The studio was nothing fancy. It is, in fact, a studio. Apartment. The acoustics are nice, the floor (not floors, as there is only one) is wood. It's a live enough room but things don't get too rowdy. There is a view of an alley and a security spotlight shines on the fire escape outside the window 24/7, which makes sleeping without the aid of pillow over head impossible. The refrigerator is noisy and has to be unplugged, the water heater perks up and pops like a Maxwell House coffee commercial at completely random intervals, and the heater blows the driest air this side of the Sahara. Bring a sweater. The heat is OFF.

Baltimore makes me sad. It is, to me, a sad town. I have some decent memories of the place, and some uncomfortable ones, too. I want to like Baltimore. It is, in many ways, like a foster child badly in need of parental care. I feel sorry for Baltimore. I both want to help Baltimore, and I want to leave Baltimore at the earliest opportunity. But I am in Baltimore for a week. So Baltimore and I must get along, and, in our own ways, look out for one another.

If you know what to look for, you will see the drug problem - no, let's call it an epidemic, because that's what it is. In some areas it's hard to miss. In others, it's less apparent, but the slightest nail scratch on the veneer reveals the ugliness just below the surface. The city's troubles have been portrayed on several TV series, and the local news is as depressing as I have seen. While having lunch one day during my week in Baltimore I was reading the town's City Paper, and came across an excellent article on the subject. It's worth a look.

I could say more, but I'll leave it at: I wish Baltimore could stay out of trouble.

I arrived on a Friday around noon and carted my circus of gear up the four flights and into the tiny apartment. I moved the rug and made the room a bit more live. I hung a comforter over a spring rod in the kitchen doorway to prevent echo. I set things up. I tried to find a level and play a few things, but my fingers would not cooperate and my ears liked nothing. I drank a lot of coffee from the cafe downstairs. I bought some mixed nuts from the health food store, also downstairs. I worried about intangibles. I tittered over parking.

When parking on any of the city's streets, you become a target of Baltimore's crack traffic police (crack as in efficient and ruthless, not crack as in head). The Inquisition had nothing on these guys. I have never seen more confusing parking signs or regulations. It's simply not safe to park anywhere in Baltimore, for any reason. I have never failed to receive a parking ticket on any of my visits to Baltimore. Except on this one. After neurotically pouring $20 in quarters in the meter over a six-hour period (when the meter says it's a two-hour max, don't bother putting more quarters in - they will not count as forward payment for the next hour or two past the limit - they'll simply be taken), I parked in a garage down the street for $7 a day.

Saturday came and I fiddled with the mics and positioning and the mixey pots and gains and what-have-you fiddledy-whatsits and I felt that growing, gnawing doubt on my right, no, left shoulder/nape of neck area, the concern that sprints in when you've told yourself, dumbly and ignorantly (and knowing full well that you've kidded yourself all along, but then, what else are you going to do? Nothing? You've done that long enough...), that you could do this, this thing. Without any qualifications. You could. Right.

More accurately, you'd try to do this thing if you could screw up your nerve, and maybe, possibly, not at all certainly, it just might not suck utterly.

Maybe, maybe not.

Why won't my fingers move?

More coffee will help. And aspirin. That fridge sure is noisy. Is that feedback? Why does the cat look like a 747 has been crash-landed into her ass? Yes. That is in fact feedback. The Mute Button Is Your Friend.

It's Sunday now, and I'm at my extended family's house in the country and I'm playing more notes today than I've played in a month. These tunes should be automatic by now, but they're not. Everything is written, finally, except this little transition here, and that resolution there, but, really, I should be ready. I am not ready. I practice until 1am, finally putting away the dobro after working on a piece I wrote for my father that nearly makes me cry when I play it, and I don't know why. It's not [just] because I'm sloppy with the bar.

Earlier, while changing strings on my Taylor, I notice that after eight months, I need a refret. The second fret has become scalloped from capoing and retuning and when I hammer on the B and E strings on the fourth, sixth and tenth frets, particularly when I capo, which is a heck of a lot of the time, I get a sickly little double hammer tone. Many of the frets in first and second positions have flat spots. A fine time to notice. I am such an amateur. And there's nothing I can do about any of it.

It's Monday and it's 7am and I am showering and now I am scraping ice from my windshield and now I am driving south on I-83 and now I am in a traffic tie-up and now I am missing my turn and now I am U-turning and now, finally, I am here, and I have to work. I have done my best to prepare. Now I have to do it. I really do.

Coffee will make me strong.

I get five tunes done on Monday, working from around 10am to 6pm, with a break for lunch, involving coffee. This is two whole tunes more than I had planned (the tunes were Tune for Ruthie, 111 Archer Avenue, Morning Prayer - a Napoleon Coste classical piece I arranged for multitrack trio, Jack of Hearts, and Waltz for Brooklyn). I am... somewhat shocked. I don't listen back too much. I don't edit overmuch, because I don't really need to. I walk to Donna's and have dinner around 8pm while reading The Washington Post. I don't drink more coffee. I eat salmon pizza. I tip well. I walk back to the apartment, dutifully make a backup CD of the day's work, change the strings on the Taylor again, watch something on The History Channel that I don't recall (but I remember the channel thanks to the inclusion of logos on all channels these days). I sleep.

Tuesday. Coffee, bagel, aspirin. Breakfast of champions.

Today I'll try to get takes of two to three of my trickier, louder, more violent tunes. The day before I'd done most of the slow, gooey stuff. I decide to go for one more take of one of the long, segmented but still somewhat gooey tunes (Brooklyn, yo), as the one I'd done on Monday had been good, but sounded, on playback, a little stiff, and the fact is that I'd cocked a few key bits up and I couldn't live with the result. I got a good take (save for a cut-off harmonic and a blown pulloff in the end that I'll leave because of the character of the thing and I like the bend that comes just after and I didn't want to play the tune again for a long time) and did a small bit of editing.

Next I worked on a tune I'd written for a couple friend of mine on the occasion of the birth of their second child, Owen Finn Chenery. The tune is called Baby With a Hammer. I had written a nice, groove-oriented melody and B section and had done a quick and dirty demo, but had never really explored developing the connective tissue of the tune. Meaning there should be some stuff in the middle there, but there wasn't. So I wrote some stuff. And it was hard to play. So I sat there trying to play it and record it for several hours. One of the things that came to bear in the session was the following lesson: Do Not Count On Miracles When The Record Button Is On. You will more than likely be disappointed.

I ate lunch, had a decaf, came back and more or less put the Baby to Bed.

I had the melody of Chincoteague Drive-In Saturday Night in my head since June but it took some coaxing to get it out on the twanger. It's also probably the trickiest to record of the lot, due to a lot of string slapping and popping and pulling and general heavy-lifting that creates peaks and valleys on the waveform to rival the Himalaya. I backed off the level a bit and changed mic position slightly, played through the thing once, terrified of blowing it throughout, and was happy to find that it didn't sound like a complete train wreck. I decided not to push it and let it be.

By now it was getting late. I thought I'd work through the most sustained piece I'd planned to record, something I call St. Martin's.

The piece is in many ways the one that means the most to me personally. There's a long story behind it and it has to do with New York (sometimes I really miss New York) and loss and redemption and kindness and rebirth and all sorts of things to talk about on the couch at $135 an hour. I'd done a demo of it on a high-strung guitar (the lowest four strings are tuned up an octave; it's a beautiful, angelic sound, also referred to as Nashville tuning - The Stones used a Nashville tuning on "Wild Horses") and I'd planned to use that guitar while recording. There's a lot of tension on the strings when you tune up that high and it's a bit difficult to play. Most folks tune down and capo up. I use a low, open C tuning (CGCGCE) for the tune in question, so it's less of a problem, but it's still there. I decided to run through it on my Taylor, which is tuned to open C but is conventionally strung, starting a third below concert pitch. I had actually planned on doubling the ending with the Taylor in multitrack, and I have hopes of someday recording the piece with a cello.

Anyway, the fingers were moving along well. The piece is non-stop 6/8 sixteenth notes at dotted quarter note = 70-100, the faster the better, for the better part of five and a half minutes. The truth is that I'd really wanted to play it a lot faster, but I was playing it well enough, and mm=76 seemed, felt and sounded nice. And five and a half minutes is a long time to go dit,ta,dit,ta,dit,ta, etc., twelve times a measure for a zillion measures. I decided to see what the Taylor sounded like recorded, so I did a level take with it, played it back. I then did a take with the high-strung guitar. For whatever reason, I liked the Taylor better. It groaned. I decided to give it a shot in the morning.

I did a little listening to the two days' effort and found myself... doing a little white man dance on the 2' x 2' area of open floor in the apartment. Pleasingly embarrassing. I did, however, discover that the multitrack take of Morning Prayer I'd done on Monday had some previously unnoticed bleed between the tracks. I made a note to re-record, as this was the only real option. It's an easy piece, but it's airy and... I don't know how to describe it other than exposed. I play a classical guitar on the whole of the piece, along with two steel string guitars. There is no instrument on which I feel more naked than the nylon string. There is nowhere to hide. I was not psyched to have to do it again, but... so it goes.

I changed strings, yes, again, and went to bed on an empty stomach, while the CD burned, the nightly paranoid ritual.

It's Wednesday morning. What is supposed to be the last morning of recording. I have to do the three most difficult tunes today (I had planned to do three days of recording). But they're the last three tunes.

I warm up by gently sawing through the bones of classical studies and I not-so-patiently wait for all of the truck traffic - delivery, trash, etc. - to wrap up on the streets outside. The floor hums at frequencies encountered between the fourth and seventh levels of Hell. Time for coffee and bagel.

Half an hour later I do St. Martin's in one take. I cannot believe it. I hold the last chord, letting it moan and gently decay... and... hold... and... then... at the last second... HONNNNNNNNK.

I am stunned. The timing is uncanny. I couldn't tell the car's make or model but the harmony created by the horn really isn't all that bad, all things considered. I think it's a flat 5. Would you like to hear an exclusive (unedited, unreleased, no EQ, in other words: raw) excerpt? Well, okay. Listen all the way to the end and you should hear it. The file is about 354kb, 22 seconds in length. The horn comes in right around 0:00:21. You heard it here first. And possibly, last.

I managed to keep from laughing and/or cursing and tacked on a second ending, sans automotive blab. Thank God for digital editing.

Things had been going fairly well. I still had the two hardest tunes from a performance standpoint to go, and I'd have to re-record the classical piece, which is really like playing three tunes, as it's a trio, the way I do it. I was dealing with some amount of chatter, internal and external. The water heater was making quite a bit of racket, and the street noise was intensifying as folks packed up and got an early start out of town for the holiday. The neighbors also added to the mix, blasting rap music which could be more felt than heard. I took a lunch break. There was caffeine.

Aspirin and stretching, then down to it. Beverly Jane is a tune I wrote for my mom. It's a fairly percussive piece; it's tough to record as such. There is more smacking and thwacking. And there is some subtlety. It's a longish piece and somewhat involved. I originally did a demo with a capo at IV and a huge lot of reverb. I had subsequently reworked the tune with a capo at II (I'd do it uncapoed but there are some tough left hand reaches at full scale, though eventually I'll work through that, I think) and I wanted to try recording it flat, no effects, preferably. I spent the rest of the day on the tune, sparring with the neighbors' stereo system. I got a take that sounded stilted, had a tempo that suffered from seizure, and required heavy and unnatural editing. I was not happy with the result. I would need to come back on Friday.

Dejected, I pulled out the dobro and worked on the last of the pieces I'd planned to record, Jerry Said. Funny that the two hardest tunes from a performance standpoint are for my mother and father, respectively. I've only been fooling around on the dobro (a steel lap-style guitar of sorts, technically referred to as a resophonic guitar) for a few months, but I love the sound, and I'd written a fairly simple tune but, like Morning Prayer, it's an airy and exposed one that requires precision or everything sounds like an accident. I worked that one for a little while.

The apartment backs up to an accessway that is fenced and houses a series of power generators for the storefronts below and the apartments on the block. I noticed that, around 6pm, one of the generators appeared to be sputtering. Or... is that stuttering? It's... starting, shutting down suddenly. And, quickly restarting. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was loud enough that it was making it onto my tracks. Since there was no hope of recording at this point, I decided to do a mass system backup. Because I'm paranoid and full of coffee.

Let me try to sum this up quickly:
  • Three CD-RWs is not enough backup. Ten CD-RWs would be a closer estimate.
  • Why you didn't just take the box of 10 is beyond me.
  • Move that Gig and a half of data you've been meaning to archive off your system while you're thinking about it. Not when you need the space.
  • Because now you're out of space.
  • Plus, you're an idiot.
  • Rite Aid doesn't sell CD-RWs.
  • Rite Aid sells CD-Rs.
  • The Sony CRX10U Portable CD Burner is a total piece of crap.
  • The Sony CRX10U Portable CD Burner will not format a CD without crashing.
  • The Sony CRX10U Portable CD Burner will not format Maxell CD-Rs, will not erase them, will not talk to them, will not accept their calls.
  • The Sony CRX10U Portable CD Burner will not format Radio Shack/Compaq CD-RWs.
  • The Sony CRX10U Portable CD Burner should be, in fact, burnt.

It was the night before Thanksgiving. I knew that Maxell CD-RWs formatted correctly in my incredibly finicky burner, so I decided to make a last ditch run to Eddie's grocery, the only place in the neighborhood I thought might have a reasonable chance of having the discs. I did actually run for about three blocks before I remembered that I hadn't done anything remotely physical in four months and nearly suffered a heart attack. I got to Eddie's at 8:10pm. They had closed 10 minutes earlier. I walked back to the apartment.

I was up until 1am, crashing and considering breaking things. I read manuals between crashes before I finally gave up. I didn't eat dinner, again. It didn't really occur to me. The generator started, shut itself off after four seconds, rested for another four seconds, then restarted. This went on all night, went all the next day, and into the day after. I think it was a power save setting. I am certain if I'd been there all that time, something would have died.

It's Thanksgiving. I have been in Baltimore for five days. I have been recording for roughly three days. I have finished eight of the ten tunes I want to complete, though I have to re-record one of them. So I have three tunes to do. It's Thanksgiving.

I decide to make a run to Eddie's to check on CD-RW availability, as the sign on the door the night before stated that they would open at 8:30am and stay that way until noon, to aid the cooking and recording ill-prepared.

Eddie's is a grocery store. A really nice, little one at that, with a cute, old-timey storefront. Eddie's is a Baltimore institution. Eddie's don't have no stinking CD-RWs. (And really, they shouldn't be expected to.)

I drove around the neighborhood a bit more and stopped at the First Presbyterian Church to take some photos, as I'd seen the thing in a historical book a few nights prior and was curious to see if it was still around. Which is sort of funny, I know. To "see if it was still around." But, you see, Baltimore is a city that has had its share of fires. In fact, this historical book I was reading, practically every couple of pages there was a mention of a "Great Fire." Baltimore apparently had about 20 Great Fires in its history. To date.

The church was still around.

I drove to Rite Aid to see if they'd gotten any CD-RWs in, you know, the day before Thanksgiving. And I bet you can guess what the answer was, there.

I had plans to spend the holiday with my extended family, so I lazily made my way up north on I-83. I thought I'd stop in Towson to see if anyone had CD-RWs. As I pulled onto Delaney Valley Road, I spied an open Starbuck's. Open on Thanksgiving! Score.

Just before I pulled into the lot, I got hit in the gut.

I hadn't been listening to much of any music during the week. I was busy playing my own, and honestly, what I was trying to accomplish was, for me, to be frank, incredibly, almost laughably ambitious, and despite the fact that I brought along a CD case full of all of the players who inspire me, I never once opened that case. Because all it would take is putting any of those CDs on the stereo, and pushing play, and being reminded that I didn't have a prayer of doing anything that comes within a football field of measuring up. So I hadn't.

But as I pulled into the Starbuck's parking lot, in a nicely put together but still rather mega strip mall, the Cowboy Junkies came on, and the song was "Sweet Jane," from Trinity Session (recorded in a church), an album which never fails to move me, and that most beautiful Velvets' cover came on, and I cried.

Jesus Christ, music is a moving futhermucker. Plus, I really need some sleep.

I got my coffee and bagel and asked the girls at the counter where a fella might find some CD-RWs on Thanksgiving in Towson and was told of the legend of Still More Mall Down the Road, and I went back to the Jeep and I drove to Still More Mall, but nothing was open, and the Mega Super Fresh Freak Mega Organic Phantasmagloria only had CD-Rs.

WRNW out of Annapolis is the greatest radio station on earth. They played the Cowboy Junkies, The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," and The Pretenders' "Complex Person," rapid-fire, and they were just getting warmed up. I have no idea how they stay in business, but here's to them.

I drove to the family get together and it just so happened that after all of this, a 10-pack of unused CompUSA Premium CD-RWs sat withering and longing for use down in the computer room. So I scammed 'em. With permission.

I ate turkey and attempted to socialize and didn't drink (not really on principle, but just because I didn't feel like it and because alcohol - and coffee, but what are you gonna do? - greatly exacerbate my tendonitis) but I mostly formatted CDs, obsessively, and my burner crashed an untold number of times, and this went on... all day, actually. For about six hours I formatted and backed stuff up. It wasn't relaxing.

One of the family-type girls brought over a couple of guitars (I had left all of mine at the apartment) and I sat around in a mostly empty room and played a few things on her father's ancient junior-sized classical that's probably 50-60 years old. I tuned it down to open C and played St. Martin's on it, and it was funny to try to fit all those notes on a such a small scaled instrument. Funny and noisy.

Now it's Friday and I have to wrap this thing up. My plan is to record everything that's left today, back everything up, then do any monitoring and editing that's necessary on Saturday. After all of that is done, my plan was/is to hand everything off to a proper professional for final mixing and mastering. But that's far off in the future. The now requires me to do, do, and do.

The coffee shop downstairs is closed. I walk to Donna's. They'll soon be open, but not until 9am. I'd gotten into the city at 8am, thanks to light traffic and... OCD. It's 8:30am. I sit outside of Donna's on metal lawn furniture and try to read the paper, but it's in the 20s, I'm not wearing gloves and my ass is cold. After 15 minutes of this I sneak into the backdoor and sit on a bench in a foyer, outside Donna's open but not OPEN door. The manager walks out and asks what's up and I tell her, "I'm good-naturedly waiting another 15 minutes before walking through your door, but it's cold outside." She says thanks and locks the back door. Thirteen minutes later I walk in after two others are let in early and order a coffee and bagel from a guy with sideburns who looks like a more compactly built Morrissey. I walk back to the apartment and eat and drink.

The generator still sputterstutters. I can't believe it. I sit down, record a level. The whine of the mechanics outside permeate the waveform. I turn the mix down and try again. I can record at a very low level, but the mere noise is too distracting to play over. It's LOUD. And constant. And jarring. If this sounds amusing to you, well, I'm happy that you can find the will to laugh in this unfair and unjust world. It was, for me, heartbreaking. At one point I actually climbed out the window and started to descend the fire escape to... do what I'm not sure. Look at the damn thing and maybe kick it. Or something. Probably get arrested. Or simply get stranded back there. God that would have sucked. I went back in the window.

It's 10am and I have three tunes to record and I'm getting nowhere. I bash through etudes for an hour before the neighbors get up and turn on their hi-fi. The apartment is awash in noise. The water heater pops and fizzes. I simmer. I am sad and afraid.

This is why professional studios exist, with soundproofing and bulletproof equipment and studied, qualified engineers who are all: "Do you hear that hum at 60hz?"

I play through Beverly Jane a few times but things are not happening and it feels pointless, so I haul out the dobro. Suddenly, inexplicably, the generator stops its On Again/Off Again act. It is now, simply, ON. Which is loud, it's noisy, it's there, but at least it's constant. The water heater rattles a bit but seems to be cooling off. Now it's just the music coming through the wall.

And it won't stop. For hours.

So, eventually, around noon, I plugged the dobro in, turned the monitors on and began to play loud slide guitar through the wall. I only know a couple of tunes, but I figure, these neighbors need to get to know them. A half hour later, they turned the music off and, presumably, went out. I got a take of Jerry Said. It was okay. I went to an Italian restaurant and had a nice lunch that was swimming in a soundtrack of show tunes, very loudly played over the sound system. I think it was Porgy and Bess, mostly. My ears are getting really sensitive.

I came back to the apartment, listened for noise, heard little, thought about playing the dobro piece again, but eventually I decided to leave it and set up for the trio piece while things were relatively quiet.

It took me almost two hours to get a good take on the classical. But I got it, and laid the steel tracks over it, and it went together pretty well. I changed... strings. I called it a night.

Saturday is here, and I want to be home. I have overslept the alarm. Time is not on my side. No it isn't.

I want to leave Baltimore. I have to leave Baltimore. I have to play two tunes decently, and then I will leave Baltimore.

The coffee shop is still closed. I utter an expletive. I walk to Donna's. I drink coffee. I eat bagel. I walk back.

I set up the mics, again, for the dobro. Since the instrument is played in one's lap, the sound comes straight up out of the guitar, and so you have to position the mics with this in mind. By the way, I really wish I'd spent more money on mics. They're really, really important. The AKG c1000s is an "affordable, workhorse" condenser mic. Which is code for "it sucks." It's also noisy as hell and sounds like a catfight heard through a coffee can. The c2000b isn't a lot better, but it's a little better. Oh well.

It took me a while, but I got a nice recorded sound and a good take of Jerry Said, and that was important to me to have done. My dad likes the slide guitar. His dad played pedal steel.

I reset the mics, got a level, and played Beverly Jane through about ten times. I couldn't get comfortable with it, and it was important to me that I got a good performance of this one (all the tunes are important, but this one is for me mum). I tried capoing at IV again. It sounded nice, but thin. I tried it uncapoed and thought hard about recording it this way (it really does sound nice and fat down low - I use a Csus2 tuning), but a few of the reaches were awkward and I couldn't play them as smoothly as I'd like. I put the capo back on at II, looked down at my reverb pedal, which I don't use much at all anymore, other than to split my signal from my pickup (used very, very sparingly, only about 20% of the mix at most, depending on the tune) into stereo. I set a short delay, turned it on. I took a swig of coffee. I did it in one take. It worked. I was done.

I saved the tune, organized my files a bit, then started to back things up while beginning to pack up around 4pm. My burner crashed repeatedly and finally I just gave up on archiving things, as uneasy as this made me feel (but hey, the worst that could happen is a fiery car crash in which everything is toast, so, what's the diff?). I retreived my Jeep from the garage, illegally parked and did the gear shuttledance for the last time. I was done. Done I was.

I searched for the way to I-83 South, found that the ramp to I-83 South was closed, and followed a detour haphazardly around the neighborhood, describing a nearly-perfect square, in fact, around the apartment, and came within about 10 feet of merging on to I-83 South before I realized I actually wanted I-395 to I-95 South, actually. So I did more driving geometry in and about the city of Baltimore before finally getting the heck on the road about 20 minutes later. Which, after a week in a tiny, cramped studio apartment, dealing with foreign noises and substances, threat of towing, irregular coffee shop hours, unreliable software, strange stocking selections at drug store chains, and much that I'm leaving out because Will You Look at the Size of This?... which after all of that, 20 minutes trying to get out of Baltimore with a Jeep full of everything you've brought to make something and everything you've ended up making with it seems like an eternity.

Home by 7pm. Unpacking and stacking. Thai food. A beer. And another beer. Sleep.

It's Sunday, isn't it? It takes three or four hours to properly organize everything and back it up to disk and disc. But, finally, I'm done. I will sit on the tunes for a week or so before I go in and edit before handing off to the guy I hope will be interested enough to work with me on the final stage of this thing I made myself do.

And so I wrote about it. Because I want to remember, and it's easy to forget without a document. And here we are. I can't really tell you exactly what will happen next. This was just a thing I wanted to do, and so I went and I did it. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Harder than just about any work I've done. As hard as any climb I've done. Way more difficult than writing anything I've ever written. If all there was to making music was writing liner notes I'd be freakin' Sir Paul McCartney.

The tunes are... pretty good, I guess. I hear all of the bad stuff. I hear a guy that probably should have spent a little longer learning his craft than a year and a half before doing something like this. I hear some degree of sloppiness. I can tell you that I am no pro, by any stretch, and that, if anything, this experience has exponentially increased my respect for those players I already revere, players like Al and Amy, Don, Adrian, Ed, Martin, Leo, Jerry and so many others. To get to that level, where every note is flawlessly executed, everything is in its proper place, where there is such a level of musicality and emotion and passion and technical brilliance... I hope to get a little closer someday.

The experience has also made me respect the little guy that much more. Before I did this thing I'd listen to Whomever Nobody Special on or wherever and I'd say, "Well, that wasn't that clean," or "Nice try on that Kottke tune," or "Another Michael Hedges ripoff." And the truth is, after all of this, I'd love to be half as good as most of those folks out there giving it a hang.

For now I have what I've done, and I'm okay with that. I don't have a release plan. I don't know when I'll be done. I'm just going to sit on it a little while. But thanks for coming along. It's been something. Or another. It's been a week in Baltimore. It's felt like a lot longer. Thanks to everyone who has supported me on this. I appreciate your kindness and consideration more than you know.

And hey, if you made it this far, you deserve to see some photos from the Half Pint Sessions. The record is called Half Pint. I'll tell you that story another day.

Thanks. Be good. Go. Do.

It's Monday now.

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