Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 227 #270)

Rick Estrin!!!

Magic happens in B1 and last night was one of those nights!

Rick Estrin was in town performing for the Alligator Records 40th Anniversary show at the Blues Fest and Joe arranged for him to layover a day and visit us in class. Being the caustic, witty songwriter that he is, he was tasked with talking about some of his methods and techniques of songwriting.

With that topic in mind, a few B1 students performed first, all doing original tunes, so Rick could hear where we're coming from. We don't want him to get a swelled head, but our own Highway RickEy wowed Estrin with his vocal version of Little Walter's classic, That's It.

Leading off with the comment that "After the Beatles, you aren't considered legit unless you write your own songs," Rick rolled through one great songwriting suggestion after another. Here are a few:
  • Songwriting is 80% editing and adjusting
  • Make the narrator in your song sympathetic.
  • You can induce inspiration by pushing yourself. Quoting a Tin Pan Alley writer: "Stare at a blank piece of paper until blood comes out of your forehead."
  • No song is too long or too short; it is just not good enough to be that long or short.
  • Use repetition the same way you would in your harp playing.
  • Should you use your harmonica in the song? Yes, if it serves the song.
  • Be yourself - but bigger. As a follow-up on that: It doesn't have to be the truth, technically; it has to be honest.
  • Write your lyrics to fit in the pocket. They should fit rhythmically.
Rick came prepared with a cd full of lyric examples and played a lot of them for us to illustrate great songwriting. There was a heavy dose of Percy Mayfield, but also Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy Williamson and Johnny Morrisette. The B1 Blues Crew is following up with Rick to see if we can get a copy of his songlist to publish for you.

As if a full evening of Rick Estrin weren't wonderful enough, the room held another surprise, this one for Rick. He spoke for an hour and a half without noticing his old buddy Jim Liban in the corner! They hadn't seen each other in years and go way back. It was a treat to see them reconnect and they talked at the bar into the wee hours of the morning!

There were other exciting B1 guests too: Ron Sorin, Jimmie Meade all the way from Kansas City, Buzz Krantz, Harry Garner, Tall Paul, Mr. G, Arnd Hoffman and Bernd Swartz from Germany, Artur Menezes from Brazil and a big special thanks to Harlan Terson for joining us and playing bass!

Let's go out with one more priceless quote:
When asked whether music theory plays a role in his songwriting, Rick responds: "Only when I bring a song in to the band and they say, 'You can't do that!'"
- artwork courtesy of Andy Willis

Blues Fest Review!!!
Our own Mr. G has just published a wonderful post about his blues fest experience, reviewing Curtis Salgado in particular. This is a must read:

Recital CDs Are Available!!!

We celebrate our Harmonica Recitals at the Harlem Avenue Lounge with CDs that feature everyone who performed. Pick yours up in class in the next few weeks.

Special thanks to our own Highway RickEy for the cover design and to Rickey and Michelle Filisko for photographing the event!

Class Notes
  • New session starts at Old Town next week - sign up if you haven't already.
  • Our buddy Paul Krueger welcomes phone calls as he continues his recovery. Give him a buzz: 847-721-0316.
Andrew Diehl Releases Debut Disc!!!

B1 Buddy Andrew Diehl is releasing his first CD and it's available here: Chill. Be sure to catch his CD Release Party at Smokedaddy June 25! Congrats Andrew!

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew