News & Rambling

News & Rambling

Goodbye, Almira album reaches ten-year milestone

Original cover of Goodbye, Almira by Alex Battles

Goodbye, Almira

Original liner notes by Shafer Hall

September, 2011

Few songwriters in contemporary New York City are as considerate to their audiences as Alex Battles. From JFK Airport to the foothills of the Rockies, Alex gives us everything from old blue pickups to fondue. There is something of the country and something of the city in this extraordinary young man. 

And that is just his lyrical content. His melodies and arrangements take us from the polka halls of the Midwest all the way down to the cantinas of Mexico.

If a show at Hank’s Saloon calls for raucousness, Alex and the band will rock. If it’s midnight at Sunny’s in Red Hook, he can play quietly with the folkies. The amazing thins is that at both places he will play the same songs. 

This collection of songs is the lost and found of the heart; this album is the box beneath the pool table win the back room where you left your innocence, and I left my dignity. Alex is the emotional designated driver for our late night souls. 

If it’s true, as a young man once said, that Alex is akin to Kirk Douglas’s nephew Sam Douglas, and that the Whisky Rebellion is like Sam’s entourage, then the Brooklyn night burns bright with this celebrity. There is another Fifth Avenue just south of the one you know; let Alex show you around.

~ Shafer Hall is the author of Never Cry Woof ~

~~~

Goodbye, Almira is available for purchase and streaming on bandcamp.

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One night in Bangkok

Taking a look at the lichess.org 2020 wrap-up, one notices two distinct bumps in chess players; the first stemming from the pandemic, the second from the popularity of the Queen’s Gambit.

As a new chess player myself, I wanted to recommend the Perpetual Chess Podcast, which interviews individuals involved in all levels of the world of chess. I was especially inspired by the interview with Thibault Duplessis, the founder of the free and ad-free lichess.org. Another interview I enjoyed was with adult improver Neal Bruce discussing Yasser Sereiwan’s book Winning Chess Strategies.

The picture below is a “berserker” from the historic Lewis chessmen.

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A new songwriting collaboration with Paisley Fields

Paisley Fields

A line dance song about the challenges of line dancing, “Shuffling Fool” tells a story very close to my heart, During our songwriting session, I admitted to Paisley that while I had always been a fan of line-dancing, I was never able to master even the simplest series of steps. Fields agreed that this would be a fun topic to explore. Line by line, we discussed what would make the song the most truthful.

Own “Shuffling Fool”  now on Electric Park Ballroom, the new Paisley Fields album. Get your copy on pink splatter vinyl from Don Giovanni Records. It is also available on compact disc, and as a digital download.

paisleyvinyl

“Paisley Fields brings a roguish cabaret-style sensibility to “The Other Boys,” from his upcoming album Electric Park Ballroom. …describing the often-solitary experience of many gay men with a knowing mixture of humor and sadness.” – Rolling Stone

“Electric Park Ballroom probably won’t be embraced by the Nashville country-pop scene any time soon (the frisky “Ride Me Cowboy” is about exactly what you think), but it’s smart, fun music for folks who want to give new queer country a spin.” – Chicago Reader

“Electric Park Ballroom is a rarity, an album that is perfect from start to finish” – Country Queer

“Fields makes mischievous use of down-home symbolism on his frolicsome tune “Ride Me Cowboy,” upending the conventions of stoic, range-riding masculinity with winking, queer flirtation.” – NPR

“But ultimately the varied sonic palette Fields is exploring here is what makes Electric Park Ballroom an exciting listen, from the theatrical piano bar drive of the near-disco cut “Shuffling Fool” to the fiercely witty murder ballad “Time’s Up, Brad.” Highlights include the triumphant, live-or-die nature of “Thunder Road” (which does the namesake proud) and there is a hooky pop punk stomp to “Winter Night.” There hasn’t been a shortage of fascinating, exciting under-the-radar country artists over the last several years, and Fields should unquestionably be on any list of performers helping to redefine the genre.” – Merry Go Round Magazine

Official list of collaborators on the Grammy Ballot for Electric Park Ballroom.

Paisley Fields is on the Grammy ballot!
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Theme song to One Magical Hour, A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular

Listening to the One Magical Hour Podcast on SpotifyBefore production began on his new Austin, Texas based podcast, Shafer Hall, one of the two hosts of One Magical Hour: A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular asked me to provide him with a theme song. As I turned the title over in my head, Matthew & Shafer set sail on their podcasting adventure.

By the time I was ready to work on the theme, Matthew and Shafer had just released Episode 19. It was clear that I had work to do. I donned my headphones, opened Garage Band, and put my favorite Harold Lloyd movie on the television with the sound turned down.

I started with the beat, then added some whistling, synthesizers, and vocals. My first version clocked in at over six minutes. Over the next two days, I was able to edit this down to a three minute version, which makes its debut at the end of Episode 21.

One Magical Hour Episode 21

A shorter version of theme opens and closes Episode 22. And then opens all subsequent episodes beginning with Episode 25.

Episode 22 of One Magical Hour, A Matthew & Shafer Podcast Spectacular

You can catch up on all the adventures of Matthew & Shafer over at onemagicalhour.com

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Jim Peterik, riffing across decades

Jim Peterik (born November 11, 1950 Berwyn, Illinois) is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the keyboard player of the band Survivor and as vocalist & songwriter of the hit song “Vehicle” by The Ides of March. (Jim Peterik myspace)


“Vehicle” performed by The Ides of March
Words and Music by Jim Peterik


“Eye of the Tiger” performed by Survivor
Words and Music by Jim Peterik & Frankie Sullivan

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Sonny Curtis wrote songs for Mary Tyler Moore and The Clash

Sonny Curtis (born May 9, 1937, Meadow, Texas) is an American singer and songwriter. He was a teenage pal and band member with Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas. Curtis joined The Crickets after Holly’s death in 1959, and soon took over the lead vocalist role in addition to lead guitar. Curtis is the author of 189 registered works on BMI.com including five BMI award winners. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of the Crickets).


“Love Is All Around”
Composed and Performed by Sonny Curtis


“I Fought The Law”
Composed by Sonny Curtis
Performed by the Clash


“Walk Right Back”
Composed by Sonny Curtis
Performed by the Everly Brothers

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Books.

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Otessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Bernard Cornwell – (The Warlord Chronicles) – The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur

Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai – The Teachings of Buddha

I read some excellent books in 2019 as well.

Above these thoughts are a few photos from my phone.

(Updated October 5, 2020)

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I can make the runner stumble. I can make the final block.

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The last time I can remember being ahead of the times was in 1976, when I became a vehement Jimmy Carter supporter at age 4. The next step off the cliff of the present was in 1985 or so, when I turned from the pop radio station to the oldies station. Within a few years, I had a copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top 40 Hits, a book listing every song that had been on the charts from 1955 to the present.

As I write this, I’m listening to Making Love Out of Nothing at All, written by Jim Steinman, recorded by Air Supply. To this day, I think I’d rate Air Supply in my most memorable shows of all time. For the sake of honesty, let’s see if I’m correct.

  • Ray Charles
  • Frank Sinatra
  • James Brown
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Battershell
  • Blossom Dearie
  • Willie Nelson
  • Air Supply
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Billy Joel
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Violent Femmes

I’m sure I’m missing something, but that’s about right for now.

In the past, I’ve found that learning how to play a song, getting it inside you, so that you can play it again to yourself, or for a friend, that’s the best way to get rid of what they call “an earworm.” Should I be working harder on my Air Supply covers? That’s a good question. The answer is: probably. At least this one. I don’t think I’ll ever be manic enough to do another birthday tribute show again, or at least another new one. So far, I’ve done several tributes to Johnny Cash and one each for Katy Perry and Frank Sinatra. I was really stoked about doing a BeeGees show for awhile, but that idea faded away.

Damn, that Jim Steinman can write a song. I’d love to see him in concert someday.

Above these thoughts are a few photos from my phone.

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Songwriters on the “Hilltop”, or, when a jingle hits the charts.

In 1971, Coca Cola released their iconic “Hilltop” TV commercial. The underlying jingle “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing” proved so popular that radio station listeners started requesting it. Two separate versions of the song reached the Billboard Top 20 in 1972. (Hillside Singers, #13; The New Seekers, #7)


“I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing”
(Spot name: “Hilltop”, McCann-Erickson, 1971)
Music by Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook
Performed by The New Seekers

“I’d Like to Teach The World To Sing” was written by four interesting characters, Bill Backer, Billy Davis, Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook.

Bill Backer (1926- ) was an executive at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency, the Charleston, S.C., native created some of the most successful ad campaigns in history. Backer contributed his songwriting skills to the jingles on more than one of the spots he created.


“Here’s to Good Friends”
Words and Music by Bill Backer
Performed by Arthur Prysock


Roquel Billy Davis
(July 11, 1932 – September 2, 2004) of Detroit was an American songwriter, record producer, and singer.


“Reet Petite”
Words and Music by Billy Davis & Berry Gordy, Jr.
Performed by Jackie Wilson


“Lonely Teardrops”
Words and Music by Billy Davis, Gwen Fuqua & Berry Gordy, Jr.
Performed by Jackie Wilson


Roger Frederick Cook
(born 19 August 1940, in Fishponds, Bristol, England) is a well-known songwriter who has written many hits for other recording artists. He has also had a successful recording career in his own right. Most of the hits he has written have been in collaboration with Roger Greenaway, whom he originally met while they were members of a close harmony group, The Kestrels.

Roger Greenaway (born Roger John Greenaway, 23 August 1938, [1] Fishponds, Bristol), is a popular English songwriter, best remembered for his collaborations with Roger Cook.


“Talking In Your Sleep”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Bobby Wood
Performed by Crystal Gayle


“Long, Cool Woman in a Black Dress”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway
Performed by The Hollies


“You’ve Got Your Troubles”
Words & Music by Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway
Performed by The Fortunes

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Copyright 2014 Alex Battles.