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Keys to the Highway

"Junkyard Angel take me to town. She killed the last man that road her down." 

The words to that song and several other road songs ran through my head as I brought my old motorcycle back to life this week.  

When I'm not spending time with my family, writing songs or making music, I like to tinker. Over the past several months I've spent my spare time with a  1982 Kawasaki KZ.

The bike sat in a garage in Pittsford, Michigan for nearly 30 years, before I brought her home to give her a new lease on life. 

At first, things didn't go according to plan--It was difficult to find the time to work on her; money was tight and parts were difficult to find. She sat out a couple more riding seasons, collecting dust in my garage. 

I've owned a few Kawasaki motorcycles over the years. They're good bikes.

Now that the 82 is road-ready, I plan to put some miles on her as-is over the summer. It'll be nice to be back on two wheels. Then...She'll get the Rat Bike treatment over the coming winter. 

I know it seems like a long way off, and no one wants to talk about colder weather this time of year, but I'll also be back in the recording studio over the fall and winter, working on the next album: Road Songs.  I've already written a few songs for the album, which is slated for release in the summer of 2016. I'll bet some of the other songs will be born while I'm riding in the wind over the next few months. 

Meanwhile, Carburetor is getting good response. I'll be touring in support of it over the coming summer--and I'm looking forward to stopping in a  town near you!  

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Little Tiny Towns

I love small towns. Over the years I've taken a lot of inspiration from little towns around my home and those I've had the opportunity to pass through out on the road. Those towns, and the people who live in them, show up every now & then in my songs. 

My favorite little towns are honest--they don't have anything to hide. There's a gas station and a grocery store on Main Street. There's no mistaking the local garage. It's just around the corner and there's a wrecker, a tire display and a few car parts scattered around; A real barber shop is almost a necessity and there should be a place to get an ice cream cone. 

Some of the neatest little towns in America dot the landscape within 50 miles of my home in the Tri-State Area of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana--Camden, Michigan; Butler, Indiana and Hicksville, Ohio come to mind. 

One thing that makes tiny towns great is their sense of community. The guy who fixes your roof today may sit on the local school board. Everyone turns out for the game when the hometown team plays in the state finals. If someone is in need, the people of the town step in to help. There's a feeling of belonging in a small town.

I have spent some time in bigger towns. In fact, Chicago is one of my favorite places to spend an occasional weekend. It's a town that has a lot to offer just a couple hours' train ride from my home. Most of the time, though, I prefer to slow down and spend my days where I fit in best...In those tiny little towns. 

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Long Winter Song

For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, winter is just about to come to a close. While we didn't get blasted with snow like our friends in Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, BOSTON, it's been a cold one here in Michigan.  

We had plenty of ice on the lakes--and plenty of opportunities for chasing fish on those cold winter days. 

These months of colder weather also gave me a chance to slow down and feel the music. When I wasn't in the studio working on my own album, I took the time to do some listening. I discovered some great songs, songwriters and performers. (Bhi Bhiman and George Ezra to name just a couple) 

I also took the time to re discover some old favorites and to appreciate a different approach to some familiar tunes. 

I've always been a fan of Jimmy Dale Gilmore. He has one of the most interesting voices in the business. I love his songs but one of my favorite recordings is his cover version of The Grateful Dead's Ripple . Jimmy knocked it out of the park on that one! (Of course The Dead tore it up too!)

I spent a good portion of the winter allowing my mind to wander over songs old and new. I tried to wander with a purpose-to determine what each song means to me and where the tunes were  taking me--Did I wind up where the songwriter wanted me to go or did I travel to a place of my choosing? The answer of course is "Yes."

 Whether it's a fun song that picks me up, a slow song that leaves me misty, or philosophical song that makes me think, I love a song that takes me somewhere--because music really is about the journey--Think of all the traveling songs that have been written over the years.  

Ahh but a song doesn't necessarily have to be about a physical  place. It could be a time of year--Winter, or a period of life, especially one we all have in common--Youth, or the place could simply be a feeling: joy, sadness, love or fear

As Winter draws to a close I'm looking forward to going places. I've also been wrenching on my old bike. I hope to have it road-ready in time for some new adventures--and along the way I hope to find the inspiration for songs that will take us some place we really want to go.  

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Westbound Through Montgomery

I live in a tiny little town. I live here by choice. There are many things that I enjoy about my tiny little town-- I know my neighbors and they know me; the crime rate is low; traffic is nearly non-existent. The only traffic jams occur during the annual Frogeye Festival when the population of Montgomery swells by a few hundred people and a few dozen frogs--even then the traffic jams aren't bad. 

One very big reason I enjoy living here: the trains. I chose my house, in part, because it's situated about 50 yards from the railroad tracks. The trains roll through at all hours of the day and night--The engineers begin blowing their horns a few miles before the engines reach the village limit. It's a good thing too; there are no signals or gates at the railroad crossings in the village.

Over the years I've learned to block out the horns at night. I sleep just fine. During the day I love to hear the trains coming. I like to stand in my yard or on the  sidewalk watching. There's nothing like feeling the rumble and hearing the sounds of the steel wheels on the steel track. 

Very few passenger trains run on the line that passes my house. Occasionally an excursion train, pulled by a steam engine, rolls through. I love to hear the high-pitched steam whistle on an autumn morning as the old-timer pulls day trippers on a color tour through the Michigan countryside.

Most days the line is traveled by heavy freight trains. They haul coal to the power plant and corn, wheat and soybeans from the grain elevators in surrounding towns. There's plenty of grain to be hauled in this part of the country. 

What do trains have to do with music? Well...A lot! How many train songs can you name? I'll bet you thought of a few before you finished reading this sentence.

There's something about a westbound train that stirs the imagination. Maybe it's the freedom of the hobo in the boxcar, or the paying passenger headed somewhere away from here--on down the line.

Whatever it is, I can't help but feel a little bit of traveling fever every time I hear the engine coming down the line.  Maybe it's just the Romance of the Rails but I sometimes have to fight the urge to chase down an open boxcar and ride "til the train runs out of track."

  

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Westbound Through Montgomery-The view down the tracks that run past my home. This is a recent picture of a place that, for the moment, appears forgotten by time.

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It's Finally Complete!!!

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It's Finally Complete!!!

After weeks in the studio, months of preparation and years of writing, the solo album is finally a reality

Carburetor is now available at the best digital retailers--iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Digital & more--

This project has been the focus of my attention for a long time.

The album features nine original songs that range from acoustic rock to country twang and ballads.

I decided on the name Carburetor as I was working on my motorcycle last summer. I snapped the cover photo of the carburetor just before I cleaned it up and rebuilt it. It was sitting on the tailgate of my truck at the time.


When I thought about how important the carburetor is to  the operation of my bike, I decided it was a fitting title.

The carburetor is where the air and fuel mixture come together before they're forced into the cylinder for The Big Show--Ignition

If you think of a song as the air and fuel, then the performance becomes the ignition-- the performer needs a product to perform. The higher the quality of the song, the more efficient the performance.

As I continued to wrench on my motorcycle on a warm spring day, I also thought about the fact that the carburetor is becoming a thing of the past. These days everything new is fuel-injected--no need for the carb. Still, I can't help but appreciate the older technology and the rumble of the engine as I roll down a back country road. It takes me back with the sound and feel of an old favorite song.

So there it is --Carburetor-- I hope you enjoy listening too it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Maybe these songs will someday rank among your old favorites. 

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The carburetor from my old motorcycle that inspired the name of my solo album-Carburetor

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