Entries in music (16)


John EZ and the Gigolos

Last Sunday (8/15/15) some friends and I played a short set at the Lanchester Fiddlers Picnic in Atglen, PA. We called this impromtu band "John EZ and the Gigolos." I'm playing my Collings D1ASB, and the sound guy did a great job amplifying my guitar.

Thanks to Lynn for taking this videos, and to Jeff for editing/posting them.

Click to read more ...


Pono: Candy for my ears?

Okay, Neil Young, you got me.

Those of you who have known me for a long time remember the massive CD collection I built during college and graduate school. Those CDs are long gone after the huge "ripping" project that I undertook about 5-6 years ago. Thankfully, I did rip everything as (Apple) lossless files (ALAC) so that I wouldn't lose fidelity by converting to MP3s but could still play the files in iTunes and on Apple devices. So now I have a couple of terabytes of lossless music sitting on hard drives (and backed up multiple places).

When I listen to that music on the go, those lossless files get converted to MP3s (or, more accurately, AAC files) to save space on my iPhone/iPod nano. I'm pretty sure that I can't tell the difference between lossless files and MP3s when listening on those devices with cheap earbuds in noisy places. But I've recently started using a nice set of Klipsch over-the-ear headphones when I'm working and want to get the most out of my music (i.e., start listening to the lossless files). And just as I'm starting to think about this, Neil comes along with the Kickstarter-funded Pono player.

Neil spoke extensively at SXSW about his issues with current digital music files (and the music industry as a whole). The thing that resonated most with me were his comments about the fatigue that accompanies listening to today's digital music. It could simply be my ears getting old, but recently I haven't been able to listen to music (in headphones) all day like I used to. My ears just seem to get tired. Is it aging, or is it because of the 128kbps files? The notion of bringing warmth back into the listening experience is appealing.

Pono is both a music distribution platform for super-high resolution audio files and also a music player that is optimized to play lossless files. Frankly, I'm not that interested in the Pono music store because I don't buy a lot of new music and have no intention of replacing all my lossless files with newly purchased super-high res files (although I'll probably buy a couple of my favorite albums to compare with my CD rips). I suppose that when I do buy new stuff, I'd be inclined to get it from the Pono store rather than buy CDs and rip them to lossless.

The more interesting piece to me is the hardware. Pono claims that its player doesn't have the same limitations that components stuffed into smartphones have; that a dedicated player can be designed with the sole goal of maximizing audio quality. Essentially, their say my lossless files will sound better on the Pono player than they do on various Apple devices. Will I become less fatigued listening on the Pono player? That's the million dollar (or at least $300) question. 

Now, given my line of work, I'm very familiar with placebo effects, but I'm also an empiricist and am curious if Neil's claims about the improved audio quality are founded. So I backed the project on Kickstarter and will find out in October...


Streaming thoughts

I had a really large CD collection but went digital a few years back (yes, I know that CD are "digital", but you know what I mean; someday I'll reflect on the massive ripping project that consumed my life for a few months). With so many music files, it took me a while to embrace streaming music services. But the convenience of being able to listen most anywhere drew me in.

The service I like most is Concert Vault. It's relatively cheap at under $4 a month, and gives access to a ton of classic rock concerts. Sure, you're not going to find any studio albums here, but if you want to check out Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from Madison Square Gardens circa 1979 on your phone, you got it. Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore in 1968 on your office computer? Done. In addition to streaming, some shows are available for download, and there are concert videos to watch as well. If you like classic rock, this is a must.

I'm also into Spotify. There are several levels, but to get ad-free music on your computer(s) and mobile devices, it cost about $10 a month. What I like about Spotify is that I can check out music that I might not be ready/willing to purchase. Admittedly, I like old music, and there's not a ton of new stuff I want to buy. But for $10 a month I can check out anything I want. The off-line feature is nice, so that one can save songs for a set amount of time on your phone, and then you don't need a pervasive internet collection (i.e., for travel). One thing that is maddening about Spotify, though, is that sometimes only some of the songs on a particular album are available to stream. The mobile app is a bit flakey and prone to crashing too. But overall, it's a nice way to satisfy my musical curiosity.

Although it's not a subscription service, the Amazon Cloud Player is mightly convenient. I haven't purchased a ton of MP3s from Amazon, but those are there to stream. The better part is the "autorip" feature; many of the CDs I've purchased from them also show up automatically in the app, ready to stream. No additional costs, and some of my music collection is there, ready to go.

Most of my music is in Apple lossless format, and it used to be the case that you couldn't upload files in that format to the Amazon Cloud Player. But it looks like now it will attempt to match those files (i.e., you wouldn't be listening to "your" file, but you stream from Amazon's music collection instead). For $25 a year, you can upload/match up to 250k songs, which would easily accommodate my music library (as opposed to the Apple iTunes match, which is limited to 25k songs and wouldn't "hold" all my tracks). I might have to look into this more as a way to have streaming acccess to the vast majority of my music...

Update 1 (Wednesday night): I just signed-up for Cloud Player Premium and am scanning my music library now. Wonder how long that will take? And once that's done, how long it will take to match/upload?

Update 2 (Thursday morning): I left it scanning and went to bed...By morning it had found 68k songs and was ready to import. We'll see how long that takes. It seems to be importing at a rate of about 1000-1200 an hour, so this will likely take 2-3 days. Hopefully my computer doesn't crash in the meantime.

Update 3 (Thursday night): It's been importing for about 16 hours, and has done about 18k songs (out of 58k). 40k to go...Check back in on Sunday and maybe we'll be done! I did play songs via my iPhone on the Cloud Player app today (from what had already been uploaded) and it worked fine.

Update 4 (Friday morning): 29k down (of 53K). Not sure why the total number of songs keeps dropping. More than halfway there.

Update 5 (Friday late-afternoon): 36k down (of 45k). Hopefully will be done by tomorrow morning.

Update 6 (Saturday morning): Progress bar says 42k of 43k songs imported, but that the time estimated to completion is "0 hours and 0 mintues". It also notes that 32k were 'matched and imported" but 25K songs "couldn't be imported." Note sure why there's a discrepancy between 43k and 34k songs to import, and clearly the importer is buggy, but even if a ton of stuff wasn't available/imported, having streaming access to 35k+ songs is worth the $25 a year. The clould player notes 44k songs available to play, so that seems better than what the import tool is reporting.

Update 7 (August 2014...about 10 months later): I'm finding I never use this service because the upload was so spotty. Some albums are completely there, others only have a few tracks (yes, I still think in terms of albums). This is pretty maddening, so I'm not going to renew. I should still have access to my autoripped and downloaded music for free, so that's good enough for me.

Although it's not streaming music, we also have a Netflix streaming account. Other than binging on a particular show (e.g., Arrested Development, House of Cards, MI5, etc.), this doesn't get used much. The selection of movies is relatively weak. I'm definitely not getting my money's worth with Netflix.



Launching my concert ticket archive

#1 - Michael Hedges in 1990Because I'm a compulsive hoarder of such things, I have most of the ticket stubs for concerts that I've been to in my "adult life" (i.e., those shows I chose to attend...I don't think my parents saved the one from when we saw Joan Baez when I was really little). I have been wanting to do something with them, other than just leave them in a shoe box, and our "new" scanner allowed me to get this going. I have them all scanned and over time I'll be posting them here.


Bluegrass as a second career

It's heartening to know that one can have a successful second career playing bluegrass. Something to aspire to!


"These are a few of my favorite things" #3 - AirPlay + Apple TV etc.

So this isn't one thing, but instead a system of interconnected gizmos:

At the heart of the system is the Apple TV, which can stream content from Netflix, Hulu, and dowload TV shows and movies from iTunes. But more importantly, it can receive content from your iPhone, iPad, and Mac (assuming that Mac is relatively new, running OS 10.8 "Mountain Lion") via Airplay and play it back on your TV. This means that anything that's on your Apple phone, tablet, or computer can be easily sent to a large display.* Also in the mix is my Denon receiver, which is also Airplay enabled, along with a series of Airport Express units connected to speakers in each room. So music from any of these devices can be piped directly into the stereo or any room in the house. Along with a big music library and Spotify subscription, this means you can listen to whatever you want, wherever you want.

*I can report that AirPlay is awesome for teaching (especially seminar classes) since you can project PDFs to the overhead projector in a classroom...


"Skydog" - A new appreciation for Duane Allman

I like the Allman Brothers Band. They aren't my favorite group, and they probably wouldn't even crack the top 20 if I was making my desert island list, but I do dig their stuff and will queue up Eat A Peach from time to time. And I've always been aware of Duane Allman's legacy; that along with the Allmans Brothers, he played on a lot of classic R&B records (e.g., Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin), and contributed the soaring guitar solo to the end of Derek and the Dominos "Layla." But I've never sat down and put all the pieces together to fully appreciate the magnitude of his musical contribution in his short life...until now, with the release of the Skydog retrospective.


Most of the Allman Brothers stuff I'd heard before; what's special about this retrospective are all of the tracks by other artists that Duane Allman plays on. A few of my favorites:

And if this stuff is important to you, you'll be impressed by the packaging of the box set; the interior of the box is lined with gold velvet (or some such material), much like the inside of a guitar case, and the discs themselves come in paper envelopes that are similar to how guitar strings are packaged.


Photo of the week - April 2, 2013

David Bromberg (and Nate Grower) at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, March 24, 2013. Fuji X-Pro1 @ 3200 ISO with 60mm lens @ f/2.4. Processed with Aperture and Snapseed (Mac version).


Photo of the week - March 26, 2013

The David Bromberg Quartet (Mark Cosgrove, David Bromberg, Bob Taylor, and Nate Grower, L-to-R) at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, March 24, 2013. Fuji X-Pro1 @ 3200 ISO with 60mm lens @ f/2.4. Processed with Aperture and Snapseed (Mac version). Here's the same image in black and white (which was posted by the band on David's Facebook page).


Wayne Train Station gig

Jen took these photos of our gig at the Wayne Train Station (May 4, 2012). Lee, our bass player, has more pictures here.

The band: Sara (vocals & mandolin), David (vocals & guitar), Chip (vocals & guitar), Paul (vocals & electric guitar), Ben (guitar & mandolin), Ellen (vocals & banjo), Carol (vocals & banjo), Alex (vocals & accordion), Lee (bass), and Alan (drums)

Jen also took these pictures of me with my Martin D-18 between sets:


Photo of the week - May 1, 2012

Kathleen Edwards and her band at World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware. Fuji X100 @ f/2. Converted with Nik Silver Efex Pro.


Winfield 2011, in photographs

An intersection of two of my favorite things: (a) photography and (b) music festivals (especially those featuring acoustic music and bluegrass). Check out this amazing spread from Urban Nature, a photography magazine I just ran across. These are from the 2011 Winfield Festival (click here to enter the album).

The images below were made by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee.


Beatles vs. Stones: A personal revelation

"Are you a Beatles or Stones person?" For most of my life the answer would have been a no-brainer. I grew up on the Beatles. I can't remember a time without the boys from Liverpool. When I was a teenager I could have rattled off the running order of the songs on every Beatles album, UK and US. I'm a Beatles guy, right?

I was driving home from work today and the iPod shuffled onto "Honky Tonk Women" and it hit me. I'm a Stones guy for one single reason: Have you ever wanted to be John, Paul, George, or Ringo? In my 30+ years of being a Beatles fan, I haven't.

I'm not one who likes to dance, wear tight pants, or revel in the spotlight. But when "HTW" started playing one thought popped into my head: "I want to be like them" (or at least Mick, Keith, and Charlie; no comment re: Brian, Ronnie, or Bill). Not necessarily that I want to "be" them (i.e., live their lives), but just for a moment I thought "how cool would it be to be on stage, strapped to a Telecaster, slinging those riffs?" The Stones feel good in a way the Beatles don't.


Looking forward to the Jayhawks' "Mockingbird Time"

Paste magazine recently posted a nice video about the upcoming album from one of my favorite bands, the Jayhawks. For some reason I can't figure out how to embed it, but here's the link. I can't wait for Mockingbird Time to drop this fall...

We've also got tickets to see them at the Keswick Theatre in October. We saw the Jayhawks the last time they were at the Keswick in 2004 and also when they opened for Lucinda Williams at the Tower Theatre in 2003. In addition, we caught the Gary Louris and Mark Olson reunion tour(s) at the Ram's Head in Annapolis in 2005 and at the Sellersville Theater in 2008. I should check my stack of old ticket stubs...It could be that we've seen Gary Louris and company more than Lucinda or Richard Thompson (our other frequent shows).

In the meantime, here's a short clip about the album:


The Weight - Gillian Welch and friends

Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and Old Crow Medicine Show play "The Weight".


Lyle Lovett on Collings

I know, I've been sharing lots of Collings videos recently. But I couldn't help myself with one more....Lyle Lovett talks about Collings and plays a tune.