Wednesday, February 4

"Old Country Rock" 

by Robin O'Herin (Lee, Massachusetts)

Buzz Song # 16 "It's weird you got into blues." a guy I've worked with told me last week.


"Yeah, it's weird you got into blues. Why blues?"

"What else is there?" I honestly responded.

What I mean by that is that blues sounds right to me. Not only that, but so much of what I hear sounds like blues. Personally I'm not much into labeling music. In my mind there is good music and bad music. The stuff I like, generally, doesn't worry about fitting into on category or another. I have a sense of where my music comes from and the musicians I like, I sense, have that too.

"Growing up in the Sixties," Robin O'Herin said "I was probably the only kid in my neighborhood listening to such legendary blues artists as Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Smith, Blind Willie Johnson and Lightning Hopkins, among others. My father still has boxes of his old 78s stored in his garage (someday they'll be mine). My mother liked folk music, especially Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, but I liked them all."

"I especially loved the raw power and emotion of bottleneck blues." she said. "I was an introspective teen, with lots of time to practice, (I wish I had that kind of time now), listening to scratchy records and struggling to develop a sound. Armed with just two chords I began writing songs. If I was happy, it would make me sing, and if I was sad, it would make me sing."

On "Old Country Blues" Robin doesn't sing, but this is the type of blues that really gets to me. A lot of people don't know about Piedmont blues, which is an acoustic style that relies on thumb and finger picking. Personally, I'm a fan of Carl Perkins who, as many people know, wrote the great rock song "Blue Suede Shoes." What a lot of people don't know about Carl Perkins is that he was a share cropper in Tennesseee who learned guitar from black musicians who worked across the fields. I imagine a lot of what he learned from sounded like what Robin is playing with "Old Country Blues."

Last week I also came across a National Public Radio interview with Elijah Wald regarding the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Wald wrote a book called "Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues" and it is fascinating how he takes a "second look" at Johnson and his myth by "going to the music" and examining it in detail.

What he finds is that "the guys like Robert Johnson were playing to get out of the Mississippi Delta" and if you talk to a musician from Johnson's time, like Honey Boy Edwards "and you ask him 'When did you first hear blues?' he'll start talking about the records that came in from up north. You know ... Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson and anyone who was growing up in Mississippi at that time blues wasn't the old people's folk music. They called that ragtime or reels. Blues was this hot new style that was coming in on records and that's what it meant in that world."

In listening to "Old Country Blues" you can hear how passionately Robin O'Herin came into blues. If you give a listen to the story of "Blue Suede Shoes" and Carl Perkins you can see how naturally blues music changes form. Now consider Robert Johnson as Elija Wald takes you beyond the myth. It's natural to think that someone like Robin O'Herin learned from recordings of Robert Johnson.

To think that Robin O'Herin and Robert Johnson both learned from the recordings of Bessie Smith is artistically freeing. "As I grew up, I continued to play blues, but I also developed a taste for Appalachian mountain gospel music," says O'Herin "In addition to playing bottleneck and regular guitar, I also play the dulcimer, a traditional American instrument. Appalachian music, like the blues, is 'roots' music in one of its purest forms."

"It's weird you got into blues." I was told last week.


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Saturday, January 31

"Your Side of My World" 

by Joe Henry (Los Angeles)

Buzz Song # 14 If you do the math you'll find that Joe Henry was born in the same year I was. "In 1966, as a 5-year-old living in Atlanta, " Henry said "I loved songs without thinking about them as a matter of any choice. I listened to them the way I ate a jelly sandwich: eagerly, and soon ready for the next one." If you follow that logic, I could eat this song all day long.

"Tiny Voices" the album this song comes from "was recorded essentially 'live' over a five-day period in December of 2002." There is a feel that can be had by recording this way and Joe Henry explains it well:

"For these sessions, I took the coward's way out and hired only excellent musicians; ones with whom I could also enjoy a good meal. If you follow that simple rule, I find that the rest of the process generally takes care of itself. That, and I was very careful before hand not to record any elaborate demos that I would have to conquer or live to regret. I provided, as reference, only the most skeletal song facsimiles to those involved so that everything was a matter of mutual discovery."

That "discovery" what I seek in music and when it shows up in recordings it always sounds fresh ... no matter what year it was recorded.

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Tuesday, January 27

"7 Falls" 

by Abner Burnett (Midland, Texas)

Buzz Song # 13 Ok ... here it is ... "Buzz Song #13." I knew I needed a larger than life character for this ... so here comes a tune by "a left-of-centre Texas troubadour."

Abner Burnett has a real gift for words and this song has a Texas Stew of an arrangement. Is there such a thing as a Texas Stew??? I don't know, but this song features a "Doobie Brothers groove with better than Doobie results." That's not my line, but I had a reviewer say that about one of my songs and so I thought I'd spread it around a bit. In fact ... here's some other lines I didn't write:

"Abner had his own paper route and apartment in San Antonio at 15. He also already had two National Poetry Awards under his belt. A jack-of-all-trades, he habitually associated with smugglers, drifters, songwriters and carnival artists until at age 30, he went to Law School and duly qualified as a lawyer with a reputation for defending the underdog against major corporations and as an agitator working to free political prisoners. He owns a farm in Mexico that produces trees, ornamental shrubbery and medicinal herbs!” Paul Dromey, Evening Echo [Cork, Ireland]

I think Abner Burnett can handle being "Buzz Song #13."

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Monday, January 26

"Ain't No Sunshine" 

by Eva Cassidy (Bowie, Maryland 1963-1996)

Buzz Song # 14 Pretty much everybody who knows music knows the story and voice of Eva Cassidy by now. Born in 1963 Eva "was a very private person, with a sense of vulnerability about her when she sang." her mother said. "I think that's what touched people's hearts about her."

A line that rings true to me about Eva is that "She was neither blessed nor burdened with the aggressiveness and ambition that fuel so many singers and musicians." To me it shows part of the puzzle that artists face in terms of creative truth and the promotion of what they create. There's a balance that the world seems to call for, but then there is a brilliance of a pure pursuit which it desires too.

You might expect, and even look to, an artist saying something like "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." ... but those are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. He also said "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." The pieces of a puzzle can be flipped over and assembled ... which allows for a a new picture that can be painted upon the other side.

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"Skip ... Bad Luck" 

Buzz Song # 13 We're going to skip "Buzz Song #13" for now, but we'll come back to it when the right song makes itself available for this spot.

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Saturday, January 24

Buzz Songs "Song Book #1" 

The first batch of "Buzz Songs" came off like a story to me. You'll find the songs of a few people I know and a few people I don't along with a couple of songs of mine. Let me know what you think. Buzz

# 1 "Whatcha Gonna Do?" by Mo' Kauffey (Guelph, Ontario, Canada)
# 2 "Bad Luck and Trouble" by Rollie Tussing, III (Portland, Oregon)
# 3 "The Other Side of the Coin" by Solomon Burke (Los Angeles, California)
# 4 "Ophelia's Song" by Lisa Younkins (Frederick, Maryland)
# 5 "Twelve O'Clock Jump" by Dennis Gruenling and Jump Time (New Jersey/New York)
# 6 "Gotta Have Some Fun" by Chris Mc Lernon (Northern Ireland)
# 7 "I Need an Angel" by Harmonica Buzz (Lansing, Michigan)
# 8 "A Little Wind" by Peter Case (Santa Monica, California)
# 9 "Peace for My Baby" by Harmonica Buzz (Lansing, Michigan)
# 10 "Talkin' Sounds Just Like Joe McCarthy Blues" by Chris Buhalis (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
# 11 "Indian Sunset" by Greg V. (Los Angeles, CA)
# 12 "In the Snow" by Mo' Kauffey (Guelph, Ontario, Canada)

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Thursday, January 22

"What's Up With Buzz Songs???" 

at http://songramp.com/buzzsongs (www.songramp.com)

Just in case you've been checking back and haven't seen a new Buzz Song for a couple of days ... I wanted to let you know that they'll be coming. I'm real happy about how the first phase of Buzz Songs went and came to realize I need to get organized with it.

But something else happened with it, too. Originally, when I first started working with the phrase Buzz Songs, I thought it would become an "inter-dependent" musicians resource center. That may still come to be, but I really wanted to start developing and practicing "inter-dependent" musician techniques instead of creating a "come on everybody we should all should do this" kind of thing. I don't do that with my songwriting, I really hate when other people do that with their songwriting and, though I may not be too wise, I'm too old to do that with my time. So now that we got the "not so lovable curmudgeon" part of the program of the way ...


A "Buzz Song" is a song that just hits you. They used to call them "nuggets" and the world is full of them. Of course the problem is in finding them ... which is exactly why they call them "nuggets." But with the changes in technology (digital recording and the internet)"nuggets" are something quite different. Now when a "nugget" is found it can be "buzzed around the world" instantly. This is a great thing for music, a great thing for musicians and a great thing for your ear.

Basically ... any song can be a "Buzz Song" as long as you like it, love it or want to tell the world about it. If you find tune on the internet and want to be a Good Buzz you can forward the link to the song to some friends of yours. That's how you "Buzz a Song and by doing so you aren't just a Good Buzz but rather a "Super Good Buzz." Don't you want to be a "Super Buzz???? Sure you do.

Now with this site ... these are my "Buzz Songs." I'm a musician and, by definition, I'm really picky about what I like and don't like ... but these songs I really like and want you to hear. I don't have any rules for my Buzz Songs other than:

a: The songs just hit me to the point that I'd be willing to stake my reputation (whatever that is) on them.


b: They have somehow been made available on the internet, in full, by the artist.

That said ... I'm a roots and blues songwriter so I tend to lean towards roots and blues and songwriting. If you know of a song that you think would make for a good "Buzz Song" ... send me a link I'd love to hear it. Part of the fun of this site will be discovering new songs and artists that I wouldn't have other wise. What I'm not going to do is become a critic, however.

In my mind ... a song is a great song if I like it. This site is about that. I also realize that if a song doesn't particularly catch my ear it may be a great song to somebody else. So I'm going to let those be. If your ear and your tastes are close to mine you are going to find a lot of great "Buzz Songs>". If not ... spin off your own "Buzz Songs." In the future I plan on having templates available so that you can easily start a site like this one.

Also ... I don't really care if these songs are available for download or not. What is important to me is that when I provide a link to a song that you can hear that song in full. This respects the artist's wishes, in terms of what they think is best for themselves, their rights and their music, while respecting the time, and ear, of those who want to listen.

So, in summary, I created Buzz Songs and these are my Buzz Songs. You may agree with them or not, but hopefully you find a lot of music here that you might not find otherwise. You probably won't find much heavy metal or classical music here ... but if you want to create your own Buzz Songs kind of deal go ahead. Drop me an e-mail and I'll probably even have a template for you to use. The big thing is I just think that independent musicians should be working together inter-dependently to help promote each other. When I hear a good tune, by an old friend or a new friend, I want to let people know about it. You'll see I even slip a few of my own tunes in the mix ... which I want you to hear ... but what I found after this first chapter of "Buzz Songs" is that they came off like a story and ended up saying what I needed to say.

That's what surprised me about the first batch of Buzz Songs and I can't say that it will continue to work that way, but right now I'm trying to organize this site into "Song Books." So right now I'm trying to figure out a way to archive the first set of songs, so that you can take a tour around the internet and easily listen to them in a row, while finding the next batch of "Buzz Songs."

So ... here's the plan:

I'll have the first "Buzz Songs Book" tomorrow and that'll which will help you cruise through the songs. You can also look for the first new Buzz Song of the new batch by Monday. I already have that one chosen and am looking to get ahead of the whole project by then. I'm really looking forward to discovering new songs and artists just like you. That's where this site will get fun ... so if you find a tune on the net that you think would make a great Buzz Song let me know. One great place I found to look for them is on the "All Songs Considered" open mic.

I'm also starting "Buzz Songs Baby" next week which will feature discs you can find on CD Baby. CD Baby is a great site that is doing many positive things for indie musicians and I encourage you to check it out. So that's where I'm at with Buzz Songs ... and now that you know that, let's see if we can find Buzz Songs

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Sunday, January 18

"In the Snow" 

by Mo' Kauffey (Ontario, Canada)

Buzz Song # 12 It's snowing here in Michigan and it had just snowed in Canada when Mo' Kauffey wrote this song. Imagine "6 inches of snow on the ground and 4 inches of new snow on top of it." Now go for a walk "In the Snow".

Mo' Kauffey

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