Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week 22...

Millard "Mel" Pressley
I used to manage at a retail store called Lucky Brand Jeans. It was a great place to work. The atmosphere was energetic and fun. There was always laughter and the music was loud. For some reason, the merchandising team thought it would be a good idea to have a Fender acoustic guitar in the store. Like, a real one. I would rush to get my tasks done, then when it was quiet, I'd pick up the guitar and strum. It may seem counterintuitive, but I sold my fair share of denim just because people wandered in to listen to me play. 

On a sunny day in 2008, an elderly gentleman walked in while I was bangin' out some tunes. He was definitely of the mall-walker persuasion. You know, the people that you secretly pick on because of their amusing gait and stark white walkin' shoes. Mel, as he introduced himself, was wearing a large straw hat, a button down, pleated chinos and New Balance walkers. I was probably wearing tight fitting jeans and a hoodie. "You play?" Mel asked. "I act like I can play," I said. We both chuckled. I took the guitar by the neck and offered it to him and said, "Wanna play it?" He grabbed the guitar, spit on his fingers (which made me laugh,) took my pick and started playing. 

At that moment, something happened: Two people who seemed to have absolutely nothing in common... Two people on opposite ends of the spectrum... Those two people met on the sacred ground of song and sparked the initial flame of a sweet friendship. 

From that point on, Mel would stroll in every few days. We'd talk about work, family, current events, but mostly of music. He didn't seem to want to share too much. But every time he visited I learned something new. I gave him a cd of some music I was working on. I thought he would say it was too loud or harsh. To my surprise, he said "I love it. That drummer sure does have a nice beat to him. And, your voice is wonderful." I was floored. He regularly commented on how well the guitar in the store played. I told him that I had done a lot of work on it. He asked if I could work on his guitar sometime. We set up a date and I met him at his house. He showed me his collection of instruments: Mandolin, banjo, fiddle, bass and guitars. Then, he all but forced me to sit down, pick up his Taylor 414 and play some music with him. Little by little, I got to hear the stories of his glory days. How he used to travel with country and bluegrass groups. How he played on television shows. He'd tell me about all the people he met. He would teach me his favorite songs. He would shout out the chord changes as we played. I could barely keep up with him. I loved every minute of it. 

We tried to get together once a month or so. It was always the same agenda: stories and songs. One day in February of last year, we had scheduled a pickin' session but I had to cancel. A few weeks passed with no contact. About that time, Rachael and I were busy preparing for the twin's arrival. I was driving home from church one Sunday and thought to call Mel. The phone rang and his wife answered. I said hello. She said, "Oh Chris. We've been trying to get in touch with you. Mel passed away." I was crushed. I kept thinking about having to recently cancel on him. It was the first time since I was a kid that I had lost someone close to me. I went home and told Rachael. The whole family sobbed over lunch. We visited with his wife that evening. She told us that on his last night here, Mel and his son, Marty sat and played 30 songs together. It was a great evening for them and a touching way to go. 

I thought I'd honor him with a song. I chose Patsy Cline's "Gotta Lot of Rhythm In My Soul," because his soul was filled with it and he liked Patsy! Thanks for befriending me, Mel. Thanks for talking and teaching. You blessed my life. I can only hope it was mutual. I love you, brother.



     Recorded May 27-29, 2012. The sizzling mandolin playing at the end of the song is my friend Mel Pressley. It was recorded on my iPhone on October 16, 2009. He sure could shred, huh?
     "Gotta Lot of Rhythm In My Soul" originally performed by Patsy Cline. Written by W. S. Stevenson and Barbara Vaughan.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Friday...

This is how we do it. Might not wanna ask us to your party...

Feel like dancing this weekend? Wanna cut footloose? I got somethin' fo ya... 

A while back, Dave from Your Dirty Habit remixed my song "Overcomers." It's a fun little dance rock piece to play in your car on the way to the club. (Is that still a thing? People do that, right?) 



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Week 21...

She's the winner!

So the winner of my Quarter One Contest was the one... the only... Mrs. Patti Dawn Reese. She was the lucky winner of an entire bag of cash, a full wardrobe makeover from my very own haute couture collection, and the right to choose a song for me to cover for 52. It took her an extremely long time to choose one, but she finally decided on this little diddy: "Don't Look Back In Anger," by Oasis. I hope that I made you proud, young lady.



     Recorded on May 21-22, 2012. You should check out Patti's husband's work. His name is Brandon Reese, and he is an incredible artist. He once did a sweet show poster for my old band, One Amazin' Kid
     "Don't Look Back In Anger" written by Noel Gallagher.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Happy Friday...

Delilah and Samson beggin' for scraps.
So, just to clarify, all of the songs from 52 are available to download for free. There is a slight difference between my original songs and my cover songs. The cover songs say "Free Download," while my originals say "Buy Now - name your price." With the latter option, just enter $0.00 to download the original song* for free. If, by chance, you deem said song worthy of recompense, feel free to enter any amount up to $1000. When doing so, remember that I work in ministry**, I have five children***, two pound hounds****  and a bearded dragon.*****

So, to recap... All songs are free.****** And now, here's a little pick me up to end your work week;******* An old cover of Jonathan Edward's "Sunshine (Go Away Today.) I recorded this long before 52 was ever conceived. It's still kinda fun. 



* You know, the song that's drenched in my blood, sweat and tears.
** Man, this little ol' church doesn't even have a steeple. I mean, c'mon!!
*** Who are quite somber looking and can really put some food away when given the chance.
**** Namely, Samson and Delilah. We rescued from the clutches of certain death from euthanasia.
***** Jeffrey didn't make it because not enough people supported the music.
****** Unless you actually have a heart. Hah, I'm just being playful, y'all. 
******* Stick it to the Man.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Week 20...

Every Good Friday evening, there is a service at my old church. It's called Tenebrae: the Service of Shadows. It's divided into seven sections, each part devoted to one of the seven passages Jesus spoke while he was on the cross. There is usually a team for each piece. Each team receives complete artistic license in creating the piece; be it art, poetry, spoken word or music. The evening is dramatically heavy with literal and metaphoric depictions of what Christ endured in his suffering. After each piece, a candle is extinguished until the room is completely dark.

One afternoon, a few weeks prior to being assigned my section for Tenebrae 2010, I sat down at the piano. My guitar fingers hacked at the keys until, all of a sudden, a song appeared. I had no clue from where the lyrics came. They weren't specific to anything going on in my life. They just came; almost like they had been given to me. 

I had participated in two prior Tenebrae services, so I was getting pretty excited about writing for the next one. I emailed Steve Whitby, creative director at Warehouse 242. He was in charge of the planning for Tenebrae. I asked him if he had decided who was doing what for the service. He said that I was doing the second portion. This is the corresponding verse...

One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, however, rebuked him, saying: "Don't you fear God? Here we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me." Luke 23:39-43

After reading the verse, it all made sense. The song that I wrote at the piano that day was written for Tenebrae. I was so surprised and excited to share it. 

"A Conversation" is about reaching the end of yourself; About realizing that life is empty without faith; And that everyone is worthy of grace. It has been a couple of years since it has seen the light of day, but I'm excited to share the song again, with you. 



     Recorded May 13-16, 2012. This was the first and last song that I've ever performed live, on piano. Please don't make fun of my playing. 


I hope You don’t notice but I’m going nowhere 
Almost as fast as the years
I hope You don’t notice but I’m falling apart
And not even just at the seams

And You say hold on, my love
Well, what is the use        
What is the use

Haven’t You noticed that I’m only half the man
That I have been claiming to be
I thought I was greater
I thought I could stand tall
But that just was deep within my dreams

And You say You want my love
Well, what is it good for
What is it good for
You say, hold on, my love
Well, what is the use
What is the use

You want to save me
You want to save my soul
Don’t You know that I’m a thief and a liar
My mind murders
It kills Your creation
These hands strangle love and compassion
My mouth has cursed You
This heart has hardened 
And still You’re here knocking at its door

I hope You don’t mind if I lean on your shoulder
I haven’t the strength to go on

Or carry me over these constant reminders
Of all that I’m not and You are

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Week 19...

Ok, so the Cure got off on the wrong foot with me...

In my high school french class I had, by chance, been seated by THE GIRL. Her name was Laura and I had had a crush on her since the seventh grade. She was beautiful and seemed mature beyond her years. I would spend my hour in class stealthily sneaking looks at her and creepily listening in on her conversations. I would talk to her every chance I got, which wasn't often. She was a senior and I was a junior. This would have been a forbidden romance for sure. To make things worse, she was in an on-again-off-again relationship with one of the cooler senior guys. I didn't think he treated her all that well. But she was no slacker. She would not put up with his mess; thus, the off-again portion of their fling. The year went on and I actually got to know Laura. Even to the point where we'd talk on the phone and I'd take her flowers. That's right, I've always been pretty debonair!

Rudy and I doing our best Robert Smith impressions.
When we returned to school from winter break, my world was rocked by a new seating arrangement. I was no longer beside my fair maiden. I now sat across the room, in a row in between two other girls. I cannot remember their names, but I do remember their favorite subject matter. Robert Smith, the lead singer for the Cure. All they did all day long, and for the rest of the year, was talk about Robert Smith. It was incessant. It was exhausting. Both were pretty good artists. They would bring in paintings and drawings of the accursed vocalist, complete with stark white face, dark eyes and lipstick covered mouth.  I told them once that he looked like "a little girl had put make up on Michael Myers." It didn't go over well. After that they ramped up their raving over Smith and the Cure! I just wanted to tell them to shut it. By the end of the year, just the mention of the word "cure" made me sweat and squirm; like I had been tortured at the hands of ol' Bob Smith, himself.

Rudy and Brett at our makeshift recording sesh.
Years had to pass before I could give the Cure a chance. "Friday I'm In Love" is one of my favorites from them. While I was brainstorming the song, I thought it would be fun to bring in some guys to record it. "Bring in," in this case is a relative statement. I texted my friend Patrick Trombly to see if he had some time to give to this. In addition to being a great drummer, he owns a recording studio up in Concord, NC. Instead of him having to make the trip here to track, he recorded at his place then emailed me the files. It's pretty crazy what you can do with technology these days. Every Sunday, I use my Protools rig at Ridge Church, (this is what I use to record this here 52 project.) I had asked my pal Rudy Landa to play lead guitar on the song, but he had a busy schedule during the first part of the week. We decided to record his parts after church. There were kids playing all around; people setting up for an evening baby dedication service; others tearing down equipment from the morning services. It was the most insane recording session I've ever been a part of. On a whim, I asked my bassist, Brett Banks, if he liked the Cure. He lit up like a light bulb with a resounding, "I love the Cure!" I asked him if he wanted to record the bass parts. His eyes wandered into the air as he hummed the bassline. Seventeen seconds later he said, "Let's do it." The whole thing was nuts. I love it.

Let us know what you think.



     Recorded May 5-8, in various parts of the world. It would have been finished earlier, but I had to take a detour through Vommitown, (it's not far from Lake Emesis.) If you've never been there, don't go. It's not worth seeing. It seems my son Lucas caught a stomach bug. After we got him all cleaned up, my son Avery followed suit. It was everywhere. I mean, they couldn't have just gotten sick together? We had to stretch this one out? Really?
     "Friday I'm In Love" written by Perry Bamonte, Simon Gallup, Robert Smith, Porl Thompson and Boris Williams.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Week 18...

This is Ames Emmanuel. He bounced around the
house to the beat of this song all week long.
He brings me joy.

Not much to this one. I just love Coldplay. They are coming to Charlotte on July 3rd. I've never seen them live, so if you want to pass along tickets, my sweetheart and I would gladly go and see them. No, seriously.  



     Recorded May 3-5, 2012. This was another crazy busy week! I actually have off next week, so the return of FiftyTwosday is upon us. Although, I should probably release the next piece on Friday... That was a hint.
     "Viva La Vida" written by Coldplay. From the album Viva La Vida