Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of Artistic Children and Dancing Adults

Sunday evening proved to be a hot ending to a hot weekend in South Texas. It also proved to be a good time for the hearty souls who ventured out to Fralo's Art of Pizza in Leon Springs to prepare themselves for the work week to come by enjoying food and music.

And, since the music was us -- The Tim and Bob Show -- we were there to witness and participate in the festivities. As usual, we had lots of fun with Fralo's patrons. We really enjoy spending our break time talking with people who we can tell are connecting with the music we play. And so it was that we met new friends Jef and Lori and we talked with several other patrons who were obviously enjoying the music.

Once again The Tim and Bob Show/Fralo's Art of Pizza coloring books -- created by our friend Bruce and prepared and wrangled by Kathy -- were a big hit. I was happy to highlight one finished product to the applause of the crowd. A nice surprise for us was the dancing towards the end of the evening. We often have children come down front and dance to the music. If you've looked at our photos page, you'll see that we love it when this happens. So imagine our joy when we looked out and once again saw dancers on Fralo's patio -- this time not children, but their parents and grandparents.

By the time the evening was over and we had broken down and packed away our gear, we were exhausted and soaked through. The temperatures were still hovering in the high 80s as we arrived home. But it was a fun night for us, and a fun night for the people who came out to eat and drink and listen ... and dance!

Oh, and a special thank you to Jim Beal who featured us in his "Night After Night" column in Friday's San Antonio Express-News. We know there were people who showed up because they heard about us from you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Friday, Another Show

But not in Philly or Baltimore. Nope, The Tim and Bob Show were right at home in San Antonio. And since it was the 3rd Friday of the month, we were playing at Orderup.

Ambitious as ever, we debuted two more songs. This makes about 8 or 9 songs that we've sung in July for the first time. This is indeed ambitious as we're also devoting lot of time to recording. Both of the songs were Mary Lou's to sing: Melissa Manchester's torchy "Midnight Blue" and Janis Joplin's raucous "Mercedes Benz." Each was well received. And that's only natural, because Orderup is conducive to having fun, and that's what were all about.

We had a great crowd at Orderup and they all seemed to have a good time. Tim and Bob veterans Pam and Peggy, Karen and Sam, Richard and Justa and Justa's sister Graciela, and John-Michael were there, and we made some new friends as well. Andy [Coach] and Sylvia. Everyone seemed to be having a great night enjoying the great Orderup food and service, and I know the music helped make the evening complete.

It was good to entertain these nice folks. We're looking forward to our next visit.

Tell us what YOU think!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SESSIONS 5 & 6, July 12 and 14, 2008

“California girls are the greatest in the world – each one a song in the making.” So begins the last verse of Jon Stewart’s one hit “Gold.” And so begins this belated recording blog, belated not because I haven’t gotten around to writing it, but belated in that our two previous sessions were postponed – one of them twice. And California girls is the theme of this chapter in our recording history, because these two sessions largely revolve around two prime examples of the species: Mary Lou, and our friend vocalist/flutist Karen Emerson.

About the “belated” part, Mary Lou’s return from visiting her family in California coincided with the first significant rain we’d seen down this way in almost three months. This being south Texas, of course, the interval between welcoming rain and suffering from it can be very short. As soon as the rain started in earnest, Bett and Joël became concerned about the sensitive electronics that form the nerve center of Mandala Music. The studio is located in a somewhat elderly building with a flat roof. And, flat roofs being what they are, leaks occur – especially when precipitation goes from a delightful drizzle to a tropical torrent in record speed. In any event, our late June and early July sessions were postponed until order returned to the universe and Bett and Joël could resume being jazz musicians rather than a two-person bucket brigade. Once the water receded and the rain lilies began to appear, Mandala Music got back into the music business and we rescheduled our two missed sessions into one double session on Saturday the 12th, to be followed by our already scheduled four-hour session on the 14th.

You may recall that in our last sessions we had three songs “complete except for Mary Lou’s vocals.” We made them our first priority. Mary Lou set straight to work on providing the 4th vocal part to “Crazy Love.” By this time, Kathy, Steve, and I were very comfortable with the recording process, but this was the first time under the gun for Mary Lou. Thanks to the relaxed atmosphere that Bett and Joël create, she was able to cope quickly with the unfamiliarity and nailed down her part in relatively short order. Steve announced that we didn’t need to do any “dressing” on this song and that it was well and truly finished. We then moved on to “Take It Like a Man.” Now very relaxed, Mary Lou added her vocals without incident. I was a little surprised that she didn’t have any trouble with the second verse. While she was away, Steve came up with a second harmony and recorded it. I’m not sure whether anyone told her that the harmony would be there, but rather than being distracted, she carried on and nailed it. After another track in which the girls provided the percussion that is a feature of the song when performed live, “Take It Like a Man” was also finished.

And now it was on to “It Ends; It Begins.” Although Mary Lou likes to refer to her contribution to this song as “my one note,” the three of us had developed a somewhat tricky and very precise phrasing while she was away. Once again, no problem. With a touch-up or two, the song was almost ready. We had previously provided Karen Emerson with a rough cut of “It Ends; It Begins” and asked her to see if she could come up with a flute solo for us. We also encouraged her to supply some phrases elsewhere in the song if so inspired. As it happened, Karen arrived to the studio just as Mary Lou had finished her tracks. After greetings to everyone, Karen unpacked, had a single rehearsal play through, and then provided a mesmerizing performance. She had indeed provided phrasing throughout, and there isn’t a bit of it that won’t appear on the CD. I had felt for a long time that Kathy’s haunting lead vocal would make the song a highlight of the finished product. Karen’s contribution only confirmed that opinion for me. Less than 45 minutes after she walked into the studio, Karen was heading out the door. What a wonderful artist and person she is.

With the three “almost” songs completed, all that was left for us to record were four songs. Three of these feature only Steve and myself, and the fourth is the song on the album that we wrote for Mary Lou to sing. Because it only came into the repertoire the night before the Saturday session, we decided to let it wait until Monday. So, the four of us looked at the time remaining and figured that we should at least get the guitar tracks down for the three “Steve and Don” songs before the session was over. And then hunger arrived. Joël was also shattered after spending the previous night recording into the wee hours, so after Steve laid down a guitar track, we took a one-hour food break.

The studio is in the perfect neighborhood for such things. San Antonio’s “South Town” features art galleries, live theater, music venues a ‘plenty, and excellent food. The girls had done some scouting and we settled on Mad Hatters Tea Room for a sandwich and soup sort of late lunch or early dinner. There’s something about the name of that place that appeals to me.

We returned to the studio refreshed and well-provisioned and jumped into the song we were working on before. This is a love song that Steve and I wrote that’s in ¾ time. We call it “Love in Three-quarter Time.” It’s the most complex song we have written, featuring three distinct themes as well as vocal counterpoint. Despite its complexity, the most difficult element for us to execute was maintaining the tempo. I’ve often thought that it’s a good thing that we’re not primarily a dance band! After two or three tries, I gave up, and left it to Steve to lay down the all-important first track. After that, the vocals came relatively easily, and yet another song was “in the can.”

It was always Steve’s plan to save “Raccoon Rumble-seat” for late in a session when my voice was tired. It’s a blues shouter in E, and we always play it late in our gigs so that I can take advantage of the raspiness in my voice. We figured it would be the last thing we could manage, so we jumped into it. Because there are two changes of tempo in the song, Joël thought it a good idea for us to lay down the guitar tracks simultaneously. Steve just played his funky bass runs and I hammered away at the Takamine. Then Steve put in his lead licks, and, finally, I let it all hang out on the vocal. With just a “quick fix” or two, this song was also in the bag. I’m looking forward to hearing this on the CD. More than 30 years ago, an old friend of mine handed me a piece of paper that included what has turned out to be the first fifteen words to this song. It’ll be fun to hand him the finished product.

Unfortunately [or not], we finished the song too quickly and went on to our last “Steve and Don” song. “South Texas Saturday Night” is a good-time song. It’s got a little country and a little rock in it. When I first started working on the lyrics, I thought that it would fit into the genre called “Texana.” Steve and I had some difficulties getting it ready for live performances, and we had put it away for a time before we completed it. However, once we debuted it, it has become a favorite of ours and of our audiences. I also thought that this song would be a problem to record. Steve and I swap lead vocals for one thing, and for another, Steve’s initial guitar lick is keyed by my hammering on the low E string. Not an easy thing to record individually. Joël asked us to play it and, after we finished, he said that we should do it in two tracks – one just guitars and one just vocals. So we did it and, with significant help from Kathy’s amazing ear, managed to get the song’s ending perfectly.

And we were still not finished. We had time for Steve to lay down two guitar tracks for “Sweet Music Man,” the song we had written for Mary Lou’s lead vocal. But that would wait until Monday. Back to Leon Valley we came. The girls picked up some Thai and Steve and I selected a bottle of Syrah to have with it. An amazing day!

On Monday, Mary Lou and I arrived at the studio first, with Steve and then Kathy to follow. I laid down my guitar track to "Sweet Music Man," a song that was inspired by our friend, jazz trombonist, band leader, and vocalist Ron Wilkins. The first hint of the lyrics came to me when we were visiting Ron in the hospital. Steve carried the lyrics around with him and came up with a beautiful, simple tune for it. Steve’s guitar solo on this recording is economic, free of frills, and gorgeous. Mary Lou’s task here was not to over-vocalize. Simplicity should be the key not only to the guitar work, but also the singing. And so, Mary Lou delivered a soft, yearning vocal that pleased the four of us. “Sweet Music Man” was in the can with only 90 minutes gone in the session.

So, all thirteen of the songs we had intended to record were at least in the rough cut stage. Steve, and Kathy took advantage of the time remaining to add some vocal flourishes to “Looking Back.” Mary Lou will have some contributions to make there, and there’ll be even more from Kathy on the song, but we left early so that Joël could provide us with a rough cut of the whole CD. The four of us will listen and decide which songs require a touch of guitar here, a bit of vocalizing there. We have two more sessions scheduled for July, and we’re hoping to use them to make our final contributions. Everything else will be up to the magic of Bett and Joël.

These two sessions were a long time coming, but they were very productive and very rewarding.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Good, The Bad, NO Ugly

The good was that the rain stopped just in time for our July gig at Beto's Comida Latina. Yay! The bad was that when the rain went away, the heat came back. There was no ugly, of course; instead, there was music, and food, and dancing children and visits with friends old and new.

It was in the high 90s when we set up on Beto's patio. Steve had steeled himself for a first set with the sun in his eyes, and we were debuting FOUR news songs -- two of them four-parters -- an ambitious self-imposed task for certain. But, as it turned out the sun remained mostly behind clouds early on, and there was a good, strong breeze. And all four new tunes went off without any injuries.

Steve and I both had "our moments" -- something we now chuckle about and move on. Early in the first set, Steve began the guitar intro for "Everything I Own." He played it well, as usual. The problem is that the song we were singing was "Everything I Do." Later, when we played "Everything I Own" as a request, I suddenly forgot how to play two or three chords right in the middle of the song.

The four new songs went down well. The Eagles' "Heartache Tonight" featured Steve and Mary Lou sharing the leads, with Kathy and me putting in harmonies here and there. Steve has some nice guitar licks on this one. "Hotel California" is a song we've had requested from time to time, and we've taken our time getting it into the mix. Neither of us is Joe Walsh, so there's no guitar pyrotechnics with this version. Instead, we rely on the mix of voices to make the song work. There's a running bass line throughout the song that always fascinated me, and Steve uses that line to end the song using vocal harmony for four voices instead of three guitars.

We also debuted another Tim and Bob original, the last of our compositions to get a live audience before it goes onto our CD. The song is "Sweet Music Man," a tune Steve and I wrote for Mary Lou. There's still some rough edges there, but it sounded good, and we hope to get it recorded in a few days. The last song was CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain." We now have two CCR songs in the repertoire -- both about rain.

Although there wasn't a soul on the patio when we got there, plenty of folks showed up to enjoy the evening. The crowd was very generous with their attention and appreciation. Veteran Tim and Bob Nationals Hillary, Marcelo, Bethany, Matt, and John-Michael were there, and we made many new friends as well including Caroline, George, Elizabeth, Serena, Buck and Paul. Our favorite new friend of the night was the youngster Curtis, who made several trips to the bandstand to make requests. We were actually able to deliver on two of those requests. Curtis is almost five years old, and very charming. We're already talking about incorporating two of his requests-in-vain to our repertoire.

By the time the gig was over, we were happy and tired. We've got 12 hours of recording to do between Saturday morning and Monday night. It wears us down a bit, but hey, it's music! Life is good!

Tell us what YOU think!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July Road Trip

This upside down summer continues to flummox us. Roasting in May, broiling in June, and not a drop of meaningful rain into the bargain, and then here comes July. Temperatures are no longer flirting with the century mark every day. Instead they’re in the low 90s and upper 80s. The reason? The rain has returned. This is good, right? Well, there are reasons to go against my native Texan nature and curse the rain, but that’s a matter for another blog. This entry is about our second foray into the wine country, Saturday, July 5, 2008.

Fifth of July is not just the name of an excellent play by Lanford Wilson, at our house it’s the day after the big BBQ/pool party marking mid-summer and our national birthday. It means moving slowly and groaning about our lack of restraint with a knife and fork [even the plastic kind], and how perhaps we should have reapplied that sun screen. We collectively waddle in front of our collective television sets and watch commercials exhorting us to “come on down for our 4th of July mattress event!” Mattress event? The mind races.

But there we were on the 5th, loading up Steve’s Mazda3 with portable chairs and softball gloves as well as Kathy’s picnic hauler loaded with fruit, hummus, prosciutto, cheese, and crackers of all sorts. We also took a map with the locations of three Hill Country Wineries. Why? Well, for one thing we needed a bottle of good wine to wash down all that picnic food. And, while it wasn’t like we didn’t have 50 or 60 bottles at both our houses, wine is always a healthy part of a Tim and Bob Show road trip.

We got a little later start than I thought we would. Although Steve and Kathy stayed the night in Casa de Smoked Ribs, Steve had a few errands to run before we left. But it was still the right side of noon when we set off. We took advantage of the lack of holiday traffic to connect to US281 and head north towards Lake Buchanan. There, near a little village called Tow, we found Fall Creek Wineries. It’s within sight of Lake Buchanan and, as a matter of fact, we could have taken our freshly purchased Viognier to a picnic table overlooking the lake had we preferred. However, there was a band playing the blues, and we just can’t resist live music. So we found ourselves an empty table, destroyed some tasty groceries – and all of the wine – while tapping our toes to the band, at least two members of which (as Steve delighted in telling me) were even older than me. This being a holiday weekend, all the Hill Country wineries had some sort of event going, and the tasting rooms were very busy. While we had a great lunch and tasted some swell wines, we didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner or manager or person who books the music. We left our promo-pak with Wanda and retraced our steps to Johnson City.

Being well-fed and with the taste of good Texas grape on our lips, we piled back into the Mazda and did a little re-tracing of steps. The second leg was easier on us. This could be because we weren’t torturing ourselves with the NY Times Crossword Puzzle Book, or it could be because we were enjoying the tunes on KITY as we drove, or it could be because it was a shorter trip. In any event, it didn’t take long to locate Texas Hill Country Vineyards in Johnson City. Texas Hill Country’s tasting room was being run by two hard-working and cheerful young ladies. Not only did they hook us up with some good tasting material, but one of them even left her post for a minute to locate Gary, the co-owner. As we were paying the tab for some Due Blanco and Kick Butt Cab, we chatted with Gary about the possibility of entertaining his clientele sometime in the future. Gary is a convivial sort and showed us most of the property including the performance space. He said he’d check us out on our website and we said we’d love to hear from him. Leaving another promo-pak behind, we drove off estimating the amount of time it would take some of the more adventurous Tim and Bob Nationals to get to Johnson City for a gig. We’re looking forward to hearing from Gary.

The last stop was Dry Comal Creek in New Braunfels. We continued on down US281 until we turned east on Texas 46. Once there, all we needed to do was look for Herbelin Rd, and there it was. Once again, the tasting room was hopping. It was after 4:30 by this time, and there were mini-buses bringing folks from the surrounding big cities. I managed to taste two wines, but I’m afraid that the rigor of the 4th and the wine of the 5th got the better of my old carcass, and I left the rest of the tasting/purchasing to “the younger members of the band.” As they tasted and sounded out the management about the possibility of gigs, I found myself a comfortable chair on their expansive porch. It was partly cloudy, and this made the blue of the South Texas sky stand out even more brilliantly. There was a nice cooling breeze, and my eyes might have even closed from time to time.

And then it was back into the car to talk about the adventures of the day, and to speculate about the possibility of new venues and new audiences. We also took the time to think about the birthday of the nation, and about how we’re luckier than most – playing music, meeting new people, eating good food, drinking good wine, and hanging out with our friends. Life is good.