Song Dog Music Blog

  • Dave Monterey

Song Dog Music Blog by Dave Monterey

Heartwood Crossing is navigating new vistas with repertoire development. And it's natural as the tide rolling in. Hey, we've got a new band, uncharted territory to explore, and a happy co-conspirators' energy that propels us forward. What could be finer?

Magical, a bit. And reminds me of an old children's poem (Dutch lullaby) published in 1889:

Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night

Sailed off in a wooden shoe -

Sailed on a river of crystal light

Into a sea of dew...

Shut your eyes while Mother sings

Of wonderful sights that be,

And you shall see the beautiful things

As you rock in the misty sea.

Three singer-songwriters front Heartwood Crossing, Tim Sheehan, Emily Lois and Dave Monterey. Their song choices say much about their personal interests and philosophies. As these tunes come to be added to our performance set lists, they define who we are - an emerging band identity if you will. Know what I mean about mystical, magical stuff?

Tim is the elder statesman of the group, a populist and progressive he is, willing to take on any of the pundits as our political figurehead. And I think he's just in time as we strain to keep our collective heads above deep water.

Tim's new song "Borderline" echoes with urgency. "I'm just another running man running out of time," sings he. Tim's picked up another good old tune from Delaney and Bonnie called "Poor Elijah" which has a southern roadside 'chain gang' (but redemptive) tone to it. A rock crushing working-man's-blues if I've ever heard one. It's a blast to harmonize on:

Poor Elijah, workin' in the sun all day

Poor Elijah, workin' his life away

And how do we make forward sense of all the political trials? Tim offers up Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life):"

Make the best of this test and don't ask why

It's not a question but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable and in the end it's right

I hope you had the time of your life

Then there's the full fishing net of our new musical colleague, Emily Lois. She might be the band's deep well of good karma. Her song choices bring new perspectives that some may find quite medicinal in their honest transparency. In her song "Three Lakes," Emily describes the journey, "It'll test your faith, fix what's broke, show you all your fears."

She embraces a poppin' tune from Bonnie Raitt called "Gypsy in Me:"

Look there in the palm of my hand

You won't find a line of longevity...

I don't know why but I'm like the wind

And I just keep blowin' free

Then in a nod of her cowboy hat to a western musical ride by Lyle Lovett, Emily sings:

Lord, I pray that I'm worth fightin' for,,,

Till earth and hell are satisfied

I'm subject to the natural forces

Home is where my horse is

I trust you are enjoying this mini preview of new repertoire to be showcased in upcoming shows of Heartwood Crossing. I'll bring this ship back to home port with a peak at third singer-songwriter Dave Monterey's new contributions to the band repertoire.

Dave may play the spaceship earth role in this group - somewhere in between rocketing to the sun (at night) and/or awaiting the red giant star's grand arrival, Dave still wants to save whales and redwoods as though they matter. The blend of trio voices inspired a reprise of his tune "Earth Song (Gaia):"

When the moon devours the sun

Leaving the night of space

I'll come to all like a firefall

To light your beautiful face

A new cover song that Dave sings "New Speedway Boogie" is borne of inspiration from none other than the Grateful Dead:

I don't know but I've been told

If the horse don't pull you've got to carry the load...

One way or another, this darkness got to give

Let this be a taste of things to come, knowing other songs are unfolding still. Look for new fare down the line from CSN, Indigo Girls, John Prine, Traveling Wilburys and more. Plus, new home grown Sonoma originals comin' all the time!

Rhythm and melody, or a closely held song lyric, like life itself, falls squarely under the unique lens of perception. You never know quite how your art and craft may be interpreted. But, hey, we do it anyway. Because it is in we three to set sail in our little wooden shoe and to sing for you! So, here's one more we've gotten ready for you, culled originally from Eric Burdon:

I'm just a soul whose intentions are good

Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.

See you at the shows!

Dave Monterey

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  • Dave Monterey

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

SONG DOG MUSIC BLOG by Dave Monterey March 24, 2019

As songwriters famously go, Bob Dylan's no slouch. Shortly after he "built a fire on main street and shot it full of holes," he opined about the proverbial debut party wherein a confidant whispers to him, "Your debutante just knows what you need, but I know what you want..."

It all seems so simple now as I look back at trying to pull things together this past week for Heartwood Crossing's debut performance at Occidental Center for the Arts. All five of us bandos wanted good weather for our friends, family and fans to be enticed to travel out through forested west county roads on a Saturday evening to see and hear the new band lay out its exciting new fare.

Not atypical for a March dawning spring, the weather kept its cards close to the warm vest all week. Rains came and went and the dang wind couldn't hold its breath. I came down with a cold on Tuesday and then Thursday marked our final dress rehearsal. We were well practiced and the energy was ebullient. I had taken my cold medicine and carried on bravely.

Then the gods seemed to smile down upon us. The sun rose Saturday morning like a new kid in school. The fresh buds and blossoms glistened in the light. This was bound to be a fabulous day for introducing Heartwood Crossing.

I took in a hearty breakfast, laid out my clothes for the performance, gathered all of my notes, and loaded the hatchback with guitars, amp, cords and more cords. Extras just in case of need.

Local radio disk jockey Doug Jayne had invited us by the studio to preview a couple of our tunes and promo the evening show. This is the same studio where we'd first met songwriter Emily Lois a few months back. It's amazing how far we'd come in arranging new songs and getting that magical harmony blend in full sync.

I noticed only that my morning time 'Johnny Cash lower than normal baritone' had clung on. No matter, we warmed up the instruments and voices then provided some fine moments of air time for Doug's show. All seemed to be going according to the great weaver's plan.

Made it out to Occidental Center for the Arts with plenty of time to haul in and set up. One by one the bandos appeared, everyone full with anticipation. We'd promised a CD of our songs with purchase of show ticket. I guess the sales had been pretty good. We were stoked.

But the first premonition of discord came as we finished up with the sound check. It was there. The wobble in the vocal note.

Everything else that should have been was in order. Mics balanced, lyric cheat sheets at the ready, finger picks a short grasp away...but I could feel an ominous tinkering from deep down in the vocal cords. When the sound man asked for one more test of my microphone I parried into the first few lines of Amazing Grace. The faltering tones left nothing to be explained. Would there be any saving for a wretch like me?

I so wanted a quick fix. We'd come so far and worked so hard not to have each of our songs and new vocal blend reach out and resonate with our premiere audience (now beginning to fill the room). All my wishes were in vain.

Fate, however, has an uncanny way of intervening. In spite of my low ebb, I should have had a little more faith. The first song in made a passable vocal harmony blend. By the third song, the lash to the larynx was clearly discernible. It became necessary to confront the inevitable dragon head-on.

Facing the audience with a bold smile and speaking as clearly as I possibly could, I set forth to conjure up a vision of local musical heavyweight Tom Waits. If Tom's gnarly vocal sense couldn't bring some gravitas to my circumstance...I don't know what. But like a pen that's run out of ink I could still do recitation. I could still pull a step of Bojangles. I could still bring a story from my heart.

The long a short of it is I had to drop a few songs from the second set and rely on Tim and Emily to shoulder the bulk of the singing burden. They rose to the occasion just like spring robins. And fellow bandos Berger, Ransford and McGee brought inspired instrumental support to the whole ensemble.

By the time we'd reached the last few tunes of this debut celebration (and before my voice receded altogether) I found a brief resurgence of form and Heartwood Crossing delivered on its promise. Hail to the moment! The band even got a rare standing "O" at the conclusion of the show. Wow!

So, there's a hook line in a new song that Tim and I had recently cooked up which seems particularly prime for serving here and now: "If you don't get what you want, don't give up on what you need."

We'll work that one up and share it with you on a brand new day.

Write on, dogs of song! Dave Monterey

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  • Dave Monterey

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

Every musician has experienced the pain and glory of this harrowing rite of passage. Coming up with a band name is serious stuff because you care about the results. Aye, you have to live with it! And so, being fresh off of playing the name game I thought it wise to chart a guideline for mastering the challenge. One never knows when the future will call for you to take that detour once again. Whoever you are, and whatever instrument you play, I wish you the best of luck in finding your identity and making your mark.

RULE # 1 Cast a wide net for name consideration

Brainstorm many choices for a good start. You don't want to be hemmed in by a small fistful of hopefuls and then leave feeling like the 'big one' may have gotten away. It may be tempting to go with a first utterance as though that carries some kind of divine provocation. Resist this move. It is simply not the case. If it was, we'd all be called The Band.

RULE # 2 Get input from all the players

Unless you are one of those out-sized ego performers (which I hope you are not), don't forget that band member buy-in is critically important to the ultimate success of any name. I must warn you, however, this step comes with potential pitfalls. The piccolo player may insist that 'Pete" be somehow incorporated into the name letter set. And as the old adage goes: truck drivers never die they just get a new Peter Built.

RULE # 3 Avoid wasting time on non-starter names

Sure, we all want this to be an endeavor of light heart and humor. But spending hours throwing out ridiculous titles will get you nowhere fast, trust me. Sexually explicit name ideas are often fodder for this sideshow. But if your band is not the stage band for a topless dancing act, it's smart to walk away from names like The Lucky Stiffs.

RULE # 4 Track your ideas with the internet

I didn't believe that every band name that might come to mind is in use somewhere until I did some actual ground-truthing on the net. And the discouraging word is that you will find your coveted name playing in Seattle or St. Louis, or the U.K. or New Zealand. Don't let that destroy you. Avoid nationally known monikers, yes, but think locally. If you like The Falcons and they don't appear within a 500 mile radius...go for it!

RULE # 5 Smoking a big fat one for best inspiration is a myth

Back to the Sixties, man! Remember when all those great names were born of wispy smoke and dreams? Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Phish? If your mainstay is jamming for ten minutes on any given song then you can ignore this rule. But be advised that Doobie Brothers was taken a long time ago.

RULE # 6 The well is pretty dry on names from the animal kingdom

Though Colbert's Late Show touts a good exception with Jon Batiste and Stay Human (yes, humans are animals), most of this territory has already been thoroughly exhausted. From Turtles to Eagles and many permutations of Monkeys (Monkees) the remaining habitat is marginal at best. If you're really stuck on this category I think Nudibranchs may still be available (and they're colorful little suckers!). But otherwise, I would pass.

RULE # 7 Trying unusual word combinations can be useful

Nobody wants a cliche name, right? Sometimes you can stumble on an odd pairing that may give you extra mileage. Here's a few example possibilities and you can take it from there if it fits your need. How about Electric Yeti or Hydrogen Jukebox. Amoebic Flambe borders on insane, but nobody said it wasn't interesting.

RULE # 8 Names should be memorable and spellable

There's nothing more insulting than hearing your name mispronounced on the radio or having to physically change the marquee lettering at the last minute. I learned this the hard way. I thought it ingenious to call a band The String Rays. The sting is in the string, you see? Well, turns out most people's brains (and the web as well) just stride right over the "R." Mississippi Mud.

RULE # 9 Integrating verbs, nouns and adjectives might suffice

They may be Stones, but they're Rolling. They may be Crows, but they're Counting. Hey, and how about Smashing Pumpkins? If you're really hurting there's an internet site that will build a name for you (yikes!). While brevity is often a good thing, a few bands opt for a phrase approach: Toad the Wet Sprocket; Death Cab for Cutie. What could go wrong?

RULE # 10 Trust your gut

No absolute right or wrong exists with this band-naming business. What's really important is that you allow yourself to arrive at a place that feels good. You'll know it when you get there. Embrace it and move forward. And don't forget - it's the band that makes the name not the other way around.

Thanks for tuning in to Song Dog Music Blog.

Keep on writing and creating,

Dave Monterey

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