I’ve always thought it cool when rich folks don’t flaunt their money so that other people can see it. I saw an interview on a late night show with a famous actor recently who said that when he began making real money, he bought a farm, log cabin, a trampoline, and a bed. Apparently he decided to stick with the essentials.

Lately I’ve been stuck on Bob Marley’s Legend record. It’s a “the best of” record and I just can’t seem to listen to anything else right now. I’ll pull out Merle Haggard or Jackson Browne but always end up switching over to Bob and the Wailers again. Right now my favorite track is “No Woman No Cry”; it’s a live recording from Europe, and it’s one of those where the crowd doesn’t recognize it right off the bat. But anyway, the reason for my Marley rant was that I found a quote from him that was funny and somewhat genuine. He said…

“I have a BMW. But only because BMW stands for Bob Marley & the Wailers, and NOT because I need an expensive car.”
This reminded me a lot of the interview I had seen a few days before. Some celebrities are rich and flaunt it; some are eccentric and buy weird stuff, and some buy BMWs because they have the same initials as their band.

If you get the chance, get Bob Marley’s Legend album. It’s one that makes you think of summer time when it’s cold outside, and it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Legend (Remastered) [Bonus Tracks] - Bob Marley

The Band

There is a fine line between a group spinning its wheels for years, and really making something big happen with their music. While I wouldn’t call us a “bar band”, we have been playing smaller gigs for going on a year and a half now. Given, we have had a handful of bigger shows that really seemed to help us out with meeting the right people.

“The Band” (above) is a big influence on the way that our music sounds. They started as a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins from ’58-’63. When they left Hawkins in ’64, Bob Dylan took notice and they began to back him on a world tour, and then for a few informal recordings in the late ‘60s. In an interview lead guitarist Robbie Robertson said, “We spent 8 years in dives, pubs, and smaller places. Then, we spent 8 more playing arenas and stadiums”. Eight years is a long time to be grinding away at getting your music out there, but it seems like most hard working bands have to go through this phase before they can make an impact.

Recently I was asked what my goal is with all of this music business, and honestly it was the first time I had actually sat down and thought about it. When we first started making music I was along for the ride, and just wanted to see where it might go. But now I think I have more specific goals in mind for the group and for myself. My goal for us is to get our music out to as many people as possible, and to keep creating more of it. I certainly have no dreams of striking it rich, but I would love for my living to be made from something that I love doing. And it seems like lately we are getting closer to being able to do that, with new and bigger show opportunities that are coming in the springtime.

Robertson also said, “It is an impossible life (living on the road), it’s no way to live. I can’t imagine being on the road for another 20 years”. I hope to never be on the road for 20 years, but I do hope to be able to do what I love.

Facing Your Fears

I think all of us are afraid of something. It’s human nature to deny even having fears, especially in males. In many minds, fears equate to weakness; and no one wants to be seen as weak. If we’re honest with ourselves though, most would admit to having a certain level of fear ever present in their lives.

What is fear? And is it such a bad thing to have? Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” From that statement we can come to know that 1) fear is normally self imposed 2) fear is a conditional emotional response. Despite the normality and consistency of fear, centuries of cultural values have taught us that there is only a certain level of fear that can and should be tolerated. For instance, if you are very allergic to peanuts (to the point where it would kill you within minutes if you were to eat one), then a natural fear would be the constant worry of accidentally ingesting something made with peanuts. That is what society tells us is a good fear – a logical reaction that keeps your mind sharp and on edge, essentially helping you survive. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is “irrational fear”. These are the fears that logic and and science tells us are self imposed and debilitating. An example would be someone who has a fear of tarantulas, but lives a 2000 miles away from their closest known habitation. Logically, it doesn’t make sense.

Traditionally then, we’re told there are good fears and bad fears. When it comes right down to it though, fear is still fear; no matter good or bad. It can paralyze you, it can cause doubt, and it can keep you from living a full life. For myself, I am ready to rid my life of any fears I have. I feel like I’ve spent far to much of my time finding ways to skirt around the edges of my fears, rather than driving full force through their heart. No longer will I allow myself to be chained to wall of irrationality. In my quest to truly LIVE (something I have discussed in earlier posts), I must first shed the inhibitions that come with allowing fear into my life. This means no more worry…no more uncertainty, and more confidence in my actions. This goes for everything in my life – whether it be moving forward in Barren River Trio or wholeheartedly pursuing other passions. There was a time for contemplation – but now is the time for action!

A life without fear is something we all strive to attain. Many seek it but few can truly find an inner peace. For myself, I have learned that I am placing my trust in something so far greater than anything man could create. My trust has been placed in God and my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Not to turn this post into a religious discussion, but there is no other way for me to credit my recent change of thinking. Sure, I can definitely say that some of my personal heroes and icons have helped lead me to a stronger resolution in life, but ultimately to face my fears I had to first realize that if I’m living the way God has told me to, I am free. Not free to do what I want and live any lifestyle I choose. Free to NO LONGER HAVE FEAR. Honestly, what is the root of all fears? It is a doubt that, should something happen, what does that mean for my future? I have chosen a path that allows me the comfort of knowing that my future is in not in my hands, but in God’s. Its an amazing feeling.

I hope that everyone can learn to face their fears. Whatever path you take to get there, it will give you the most liberating feeling you have ever had. When you feel it, only then will you really begin to live your life.

Mark Twain

I love a good quote. I find them full of insight, wisdom, humor, and inspiration. I look for quotes that have sense of purpose, that expand my mind to chambers I hadn’t visited in some time. I’m a big believer in the power of written word. A great quote can cause you to go weak in the knees or strengthen your resolve more than you ever thought possible. Of course, for a quote to carry a lot of clout, it normally must come from someone who has accomplished something significant in their lives. They are usually men and women that have truly lived, and are able to convey their experiences and wisdom into a complete, poignant thought.

Of all the quotes I have come across in my life, some of the most powerful came from one of my new heroes, the legendary Mark Twain. Twain, who’s real name was Samuel Clemens was one of the most prolific and profound writers in American history. He was an author, a poet, a business man, a steamboat captain, and an outspoken activist for civil rights across the globe. The more I learn about Twain, the more respect for him I have. Here was a man that was not afraid to TRY. He failed so many times in his life, and more often than not it brought him to the brink of death. Yet he never gave up, and he continued to experience new things. This is why I respect and revere his quotes more than most. He is speaking them from his own experience – not based on something he heard or read. He once said of writing about his experiences “when the tank runs dry, you’ve only to leave it alone, and it will fill up again in the time while you were asleep, also while you were at work on other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious and profitable cerebration is going on.”

I recently watched Ken Burn’s documentary on Twain. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth every minute of the 3 and 1/2 hours it runs. Take time to learn about a real American who lived a rich, full life. Listen to the words he spoke and wrote, and see if you don’t come away with a more profound sense of wisdom and understanding. Twain is a hero of mine because he was never afraid to keep trying new things – to live life unhindered and free. What an exhilarating feeling that must be. Twain said it better than I ever could:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Alex

The “No Hymn” Policy

My Favorite Question

I love getting to know people. You could definitely say that I am something of an extrovert, and thoroughly enjoy a good conversation. There is something satisfying about moving past the initial “small talk” barriers and really getting down to brass tacks with someone – their likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, passions, etc. When delving into these conversations, there are a variety of questions I’ll ask in order to probe deeper. Some of them are able to produce real, meaningful answers that give great insight into someone’s life. Some however, never truly find a landing spot and do nothing more than skim the surface. Of all the questions I ask though, the one that I enjoy asking the most is this:

“If you could only listen to ONE song before you went completely deaf for the rest of your life, which song would it be?”

I have one rule with this question. Acapella Hymns cannot be one of the songs. The reason for that is that most people probably would choose a hymn for their final song, as the spiritual lyrics and melodies would be a beautiful thing to hear right before you went deaf. I like to make it harder on people though, so I strictly enforce the “no hymn” policy when I pose the question. Read more »

It’s All in the Family

Picture of the Barren River Trio in the Fall seasonA few days ago I had the fortunate opportunity to stumble across a group I had never heard of. I turned on the tv to get ready to watch a movie, and the first channel that popped up just happened to be a PBS station. I wasn’t really paying attention to the screen as I was focused on setting up the movie. That all changed in an instant when I suddenly heard some of the tightest, most perfect female harmonies that have ever graced my ears. I looked up and quickly became oddly mesmerized by what I was watching. Turns out, PBS was airing a special on a group called Read more »

Ask This Old Guitar

A picture of a 1950's Gibson RoyaltoneThere is something about playing an old guitar that just provides the musician with a different feel. Whether it’s the aesthetic appeal of a vintage instrument, or the crafted handiwork to which it was assembled, it seems that some old guitars simply influence my ability to play.

I have heard it said that certain guitars just have songs in them. Neil Young talks about his Martin D-28 that once belonged to Hank Williams in his song “This Old Guitar”. You wonder what an old instrument like that would say and the stories it would have if it could speak. Well there is a place that is full of guitars that are sure to have stories and character all their own. Read more »

The Evolution of a Song

Alex's GuitarWhat makes a good song? Is it the catchy lyrics? The clever rhymes at ends of sentences? Or maybe it’s the music – slow ballads that bring out emotion; fast rocker’s that make you want to dance along with the beat.

There are many things that can make a particular song appealing to an individual. Some songs are targeted for a specific audience – written with intentional purpose to please their specific ears. Typically, those are the songs that one person may absolutely love, while another may despise. I’ve certainly had those types of experiences. My family and friends often introduce me to new music that they are really into. Sometimes I’m able to enjoy it as much as they did; other times, I’ve walked away regretting I wasted 4 minutes of my life listening to garbage.

So the question becomes… what makes a great song? Read more »