The best written song I have heard this year is the non-kindie type written by all things a drummer in a kindie band. A DRUMMER! Yes though I am not as shocked and amazed as you might think. The song is Kalamazoo Star and it’s written by one Gerald Dowd. Most of the time you find him behind his kit backing one of the many fine bands he plays and sings with (Justin Roberts, Robbie Fulks, Frisbie, Kelly Hogan, Electric Dirt, etc) but, on this occasion he has released a CD of his own material. Home Now is a great example of American Music and Kalamazoo Star is as good a song as one can ever hope to write. A superior CD with filled with great American music. Props to Liam Davis (producer), John Abbey (engineer) and the many wonderful musicians and singers (too many to list) behind the music. As good as the CD is this tune stands apart. The magic of the song is its positive message in the face of and mournful and sad occasion. Add in the fact the band itself sounds like they could be playing on your front porch, barn, campfire etc. It’s a celebration of life in the face of death and it’s all done in a single take (They saved the best take for last!). “There’s another star in the Kalamazoo Sky tonight. Same old sky but it feels brand new”. Someone special has passed on and even in death they are looking over family and friends. It’s poignant, sweet and smart. Anyone who ever penned a song wishes they could write songs like this. Thanks for this one Gerald. I’ll be looking for that star next time I’m in Michigan. So where can you get this CD. Head on over to www.geralddowd.com and he’s supposed to have it available by Friday. You can also catch him in the street or a concert venue near you. I’m sure he’ll gladly sell you a copy or two. I intend to buy a bunch as Christmas gifts this year. Go and support an independent music artist today!
Posted in CD reviews, Kindie, live music, Music, Recording, song reviews, songwriting
Tagged americana, CD, Gerald Dowd, Home Now, John Abbey, Justin Roberts, Kalamazoo Star, kelly hogan, Liam Davis, music, Robbie Fulks
Tomorrow is Saturday, November 8, 2014 and it is also the Day of the Dowd at Fitzgerald’s Nightclub. Many of you who read this blog or are friends of mine on Facebook are aware that my son is the creator of THE DOWD. Not Day of the Dowd (that credit goes to his smart and talented wife) which I will be supporting tomorrow. While he is best known as a drummer extraordinaire and in our family the drummer for the Justin Roberts band to which we have attended a few shows. Somewhere along the way of seeing him at shows and festivals we became friends. Our two sons get along thick as thieves being only a year apart and living in the same neighborhood. So a while back I was having a morning jam with my son which we are known to do on more than one occasion. He will gather all of his drums, keyboards,ukes, guitars (some real, some toys) and bring them all out to the front room and say… “Daddy let’s Jam!” He does this on occasion with his mom too but mostly me as I am usually practicing my guitar or attempting to write a new tune. Well on that day my wife was home and since he was jamming on keys and guitar and I had a guitar he asked his mom to play the drums. Only he asked her “you be THE DOWD.” We asked for clarification and he matter of factly explained “you play the drums, you be THE DOWD.” Now I have a great drummer in my band named Frank Izzo and never have we referred to the drummer as “THE IZZO” or as his Pooch jersey says “JOES DAD” (the original drummer was Frank’s son Joe). Not sure if it was Gerald’s son’s influence or the beard or that he plays for Justin Roberts. Whatever the cause all drummers in my house are now referred to as THE DOWD. I’m sure this inspired Gerald to go write an album immediately as 3 year olds have the power to inspire. Or maybe his many years of hard work, gigging, recording, practicing, singing, hanging around great musicians and life may have a small reason to do with him releasing a brand new album. You go ahead and think that. But around here we know the truth. Go forth tomorrow and by a ticket for Day of the Dowd at Fitzgerald’s Nightclub and enjoy some great music. Hope to see you there and be sure to by a copy of the new CD ‘Home Now. I’ve heard a few of the tunes and it sounds good!
Posted in family, gigs, Kindie, live music, Music
Tagged CD release, day of the dowd, Electric Dirt, Fitzgeralds, Frisbie, Gerald Dowd, Hoyle Brothers, John Abbey, Justin Roberts, kelly hogan, Liam Davis, music, Nora O'Connor, Robbie Fulks
The idea came from a father on the road with a band sending home photos and videos to his train obsessed son. It was a way to stay in touch even when he couldn’t be with the family. Bands tend to travel and good bands travel a lot. Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players are one of the best (Two Grammy nominations.) They travel quite a bit. It started with the melody and the words “Seems like you’re always looking for trains.” So began Looking for Trains by Justin Roberts off of his recently Grammy nominated CD Recess. The father in the band is drummer Gerald Dowd (drummer, father and good guy extraordinaire) who was doing what dads do. If the kids wants to see trains you send that kid pictures, books, videos and whatever else you find train related. With a melody and opening lyric Justin then further developed the song on his guitar which is not how he usually works these days. Nowadays he likes to develop songs on Logic. This is an Apple program that allows him to add all sorts of instrumentation. Strings, horns, guitars, etc. So when he heads into the studio he already has a direction and feel for a song. But this time he grabs his guitar and starts working it out old school (I’m a big fan of old school.) Lyrically he comes up with every rhyming verse he can think of that makes references to trains. Then he inserts the lyrics to mimic the train rhythm he has set up in the instrumentation. When it comes to the bridge he envisions it as getting bigger. This is where his co-conspirator/producer and fellow band member Liam Davis stepped in, stripped it down (just piano and violin) holding the listener right when the point of the song is being made. The best thing about this song is that it’s about more than trains which I suspected and Justin confirmed. It’s about life. About hope. How we are all looking for our trains “even though all we can see right now are the cars.”
“Maybe it’s caught up in tunnels in the middle of a mountain so wide. Maybe it’s stuck over bridges trying to get to the other side. Either way it’ll be here any day I can see it now it’s coming through…”
I asked if Mr. Roberts writes the music or words first and he said said both. That he writes the words and the melody at the same time. He is also not a constant writer or an inspirational writer but rather a “writes when he has too” writer. Which is impressive. Knowing you have a deadline puts added pressure on the whole process. This works good for some but poorly for others. He also made a simple statement when asked why he writes kids songs that I find resoundingly true. That he “just writes songs.” Rather good songs if you ask me. These days Justin has a new picture book coming out called The Smallest Girl in The Smallest Grade (Putnam Books), is writing a musical, got elected to the Chicago Chapter Board of The Recording Academy and will be touring with the band. Do yourself a favor. Whether you have kids or not go and give Recess a listen and you tell me if it’s not a power pop masterpiece (It is). Good music knows no age is our motto and Justin Roberts and his band mates put out some of the best music around for kids, families, aliens, dockworkers and whoever else is listening. Listen to the track (pun intended) below and go support your local kindie artist today.
Looking for Trains
Posted in family, Kindie, Recording, song reviews
Tagged apple, children, family, Gerald Dowd, Justin Roberts, kindie, Liam Davis, logic, music, Power pop, process, Recess, songs, trains
Tomorrow is the big award day for those that are members of The Recording Academy. The Grammy Awards. While many will watch the main event on TV some of us are more interested in the pre-telecast show when the best Children’s artist category is awarded. If you happen to be attending the Grammy’s make sure you attend the pre-telecast which is available for viewing on the internet at grammy.com. The pre-show has a free buffet and beverages available. You get to mingle with fellow artists and choose to sit anywhere you want (first come, first served) with the majority of awards handed out at this time (I got to meet Tenacious D). The night telecast offers no food and the best dressed people you have ever seen are in long lines for McDonald’s. But I digress… I shall be rooting for my kindie colleague/nemesis/fellow songwriter and Chicagoan Justin Roberts. He put out an exceptional CD (Recess) this year and has been doing so for a long while. Plus his drummer and my friend Gerald Dowd would be getting one as well for his excellent percussion work on the CD. In my family the word drummer has been replaced with Dowd. My son refers to all drummers as “The Dowd”. So when we jam at home he’ll point to his mom and say “you can be the Dowd.” I shouldn’t forget the excellent work his producer and guitarist Liam Davis has done making the recorded music sound so good. Jacqueline Schimmel (Bass) and Dave Winer (Trumpet/ Sneakers) round out the band. I wish all of you a great time and best of luck. We here in my house will be hoping for a win for the Dowd!
Posted in CD reviews, family, Kindie, marketing
Tagged academy, David Winer, Gerald Dowd, Jacqueline Schimmel, Justin Roberts, kindie, Liam Davis, music, recording, The Grammy's
Sorry for the absence the last week has been rather hectic as we had a gig and I just sent the new CD off to be replicated (yeah!!!). Recently I received a couple new CD’s one of which was the new Justin Roberts CD Recess. The CD itself is excellent. Go buy it! But I’m not gonna talk about the whole CD. Just one song. It’s the title song Recess itself that really inspires and exasperates me at the same time! How so you ask? Well let me tell you… First it just sonically powerful, majestic and sweeping. Justin and his partner in crime/producer Liam Davis do just a fantastic job of capturing the joy of recess on a school day. What starts as a simple power pop song quickly evolves into much more. From the many layered vocals to the subtle drum fills and majestic horn parts this song took some time and a lot of work. The song swoops down at the bridge and comes out soaring again. The thing for me is that if you listen to a song like this, then generalize all “kiddie” music as the same, you’re a fool. For the craftsmanship of this song is as good as any genre being made today and better than most. This is also the exasperating part as well. After hearing a song like this one may feel a little bit intimidated afterward. It’s that good. But in the end it should inspire people to go out and make great music. Good music knows no age is out motto. Justin Roberts and the Not Ready For Naptime Players sure get that one right! You can hear it on the Justin Roberts music page here