Bands of Co-Conspirators

band collage3 (1)

I have been making music for over 40 years and have had the good fortune in that time to have worked with some insanely talented people. In my college dorm, in my wife’s office, even in my parents’ basement, I found musicians, singers, and songwriters who astounded and challenged me. It is impossible to say how much I learned from each of them. I only know that every note I play comes from a foundation we built together.

I was tempted to harangue some, all, or as many as I could persuade, of my previous co-conspirators, to join me for this show, but new phases sometimes require new faces. My instinct this time around was to work only with artists I hadn’t worked with before.

The first one added to the roster for this show is a man, like me, who has played for many years with many bands. His bands include Letters From Home, The Providers, and the Snook Brothers. He is the wonderful guitarist Vinny Armanino. How wonderful? You can pick up a ticket and find out. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Get your tickets here.

Vinny and I – and the rest of the fife and drum corps jug band orchestra and fellow-travelers – will spend the next month preparing a uniquely memorable experience for each member of our audience. We would love to see you there.

Here is a recording by one of the 1990s version of my co-conspirators named Late Model Humans, performing one of the songs that will be featured at the show: You’re The Only One (I Think).

In your chain I’m just a link
A valentine that isn’t pink
Like all the others in a blink
I’m gone like water down your sink
But if you’ll give me one more drink
If you’ll just give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think
You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Next time we’re down at the bar
And you say this time I’ve gone too far
That I just want to drink and play guitar
Like I’m some kind of fucking star
I’ll pound down another drink
I’ll pound down another drink and I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

What can I do to make you stay
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one for me, girl
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one, you’re the only one

This is no ordinary thirst
I’m fighting off the family curse
And still I know it would be worse
If I was alone in this universe
A universe as black as ink
But if you’ll give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Coming Full Circle in NYC

band_pics

Thirty five years ago, I moved to New York City, into a friend’s apartment at 4 Saint Mark’s Place. On September 22, I will be performing a show at the Kraine Theater, four blocks away from that first apartment. I’ll be playing songs that I wrote during the years I lived in Greenwich Village, songs I wrote when I lived on the Upper West Side, and ones written in my current home in the Bronx.

Get your tickets here.

The city has changed a lot since my first days here, hanging out in clubs like the Ritz, the Limelight, Danceteria, and CBGBs, finding new experiences that seeped into my songs. In music I found the power of melody and poetry to inspire and soothe and reveal and heal. I would love to share some of these experiences with you in the city that always will be home to me.

Here is a recording from the mid-nineties, by an early incarnation of Late Model Humans, of one of the songs I’ll be performing: New York City.

Silver Bells

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans – both Jewish – wrote one of my favorite Christmas songs. They also wrote Mona Lisa and Que Sera Sera, among others, mostly for movies, and won three Oscars for original song. They were originally calling the song Tinkle Bells until Livingston’s wife Lynne told him that tinkle was a euphemism for pissing.

Originally performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the 1951 movie The Lemon Drop Kid, this version is by Late Model Humans.


Silver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you hear
Silver bells, silver bells
It’s Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day
Strings of street lights, even stoplights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch
This is Santa’s big day
And above all this bustle you hear

Mars


I’ve got a one way ticket to Mars
I hear they’ve got some really nice cars
And all those shooting stars
I’ve got a one way ticket to Mars
I’ve got a one way ticket to the other side
I told my baby and she cried and cried
But it’s just foolish pride
I’ve got a one way ticket to the other side
I’ve got a one way ticket to the promised land
Eternal love in the palm of my hand
Ain’t life grand
With a one way ticket to the promised land?
I’ve got a one way ticket to Mars
I hear they’ve got some really nice guitars
And all those shooting stars
I’ve got a one way ticket to Mars

Matt Kennon’s Joan of Arc

 

Joan of Arc’s story is one of the most fascinating biographies in history. A girl, guided by the voices of angels, leads the armies of France to defeat the English. She is captured, convicted of heresy and burned alive by the same Catholic Church that would one day declare her a saint. 

Just as Mark Twain fell under the spell of The Maid of Orleans in the early days of the 20th Century, another writer fell for her early in this one. Unlike Twain, Matt Kennon never lost his belief in the Roman Catholic Church so his artistic expression of Joan of Arc shares the devotion of her faith.

Matt’s Joan of Arc is not an exploration of the life of this extraordinary girl; it is a prayer to a saint of the church. It is a cry for help to an immortal soul who has experience overcoming the evils of this world. I had the good luck to be Matt’s bandmate when he wrote this song and we recorded it with our band Late Model Humans for the 2006 album American Twilight.

Joan of Arc won’t you watch over me?
Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc
I’m so alone and afraid can’t you see?
Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc
But you stood your ground by heaven’s softest sounds
So let it be by the likes of me

Joan of Arc, just a girl
Joan of Arc led generals
Joan of Arc changed the world
With just the voices of angels

I am under siege
Forces of evil creep
All around me weep
You have to hear my plea
You have to free me

Maid of Lorraine won’t you pray for me?
Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc
So many years have I yearned to be free
Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc, Jeanne d’Arc
With evil on all sides you trusted heaven’s guides
So let it be by the likes of me

Joan of Arc, just a girl
Joan of Arc led generals
Joan of Arc changed the world
With just the voices of angels

I am under siege
Forces of evil creep
All around me weep
You have to hear my plea
You have to free me

Demo: Now Is The Winter

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by rock’n’roll
– Matthew Kennon

I’ve been reading Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace and, as is often the case with his art, feeling inspired. This is the first song I’ve written in a while. I wrote it last night. There’s something about a song that’s still fresh, still being born, that excites the muse and draws her out of hiding. But you have to let her take the lead. Here’s Neil explaining it:

“Songs are like rabbits and they like to come out of their holes when you’re not looking, so if you stand there waiting they will just burrow down and come out somewhere far away, a new place where you can’t see them. So I feel like I am standing over a song hole. That will never result in success. The more we talk about this, the worse it will get. So that is why we are changing the subject.”




My band mates Jim and Matt operated on the principle that the best part of making music came in the moment when a new song takes flight for the first time. Matt’s son The One I Waited For, from the first Late Model Humans album, came up on my iPod this morning and got me thinking about the night we recorded it. We ran through it 2 or 3 times and then recorded it live with Jim on piano and me and Matt on guitars. You can listen to that recording by clicking on this sentence.


The rabbits are heading deep into their burrows for the next few months, if not years. There’s something cold going on, you can feel it in the air. I might be 11 or 12 days early for the material world but in the spiritual world, now is the winter.

You gotta look ’em in the eye
‘Cause the world’s looking back at you
The only thing you’ve got to do
Is just look ’em in the eye

You know it’s not right
The way they look at you
And the things they think you do
You know it’s not right

Now is the winter
Do you want to be content?
Do you want to figure out what it meant?

What are you going to do
When the walls start closing in
And you can’t find a friend?
What are you going to do?

Do you want to hide
Behind your mirrored door?
You’re not going out anymore
Do you want to hide?

Now is the winter
Do you want to be content?
Do you want to figure out what it meant?