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Nothin' but the Blues
America's truly original music form

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Check out "The Bluez Projekt" (my own blues recordings)

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The Bluez Projekt
My own blues recordings
(for release as an independant music CD)

Video sample
(Windows Media WMV, 5.6 Mb)
See complete videos of this
Blues Jam Session on YouTube
including optional commentaries

Jump down to learn what it's all about!
Jump down to hear samples of the songs!

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Yes, I couldn't resist. I love blues. I also play some guitar.

And, for better or for worse, I sing a little as well. (In the photo earlier up this page, I'm in the blue shirt)

So when a friend turned me on to "Cakewalk" software, which allows multi-track recording on a PC, what else could I do? I am now in the process of creating a set of blues recordings featuring:
  • Myself, mostly playing my Godin Freeway Classic, Fender Fat Strat and customized Fender Telecaster guitars (shown here), and
  • MIDI instruments for all the stuff I don't have or cannot play (e.g. drums, piano, bass, etc).
I have managed to get some musician friends to make guest performances here and there.

When it is all done, and assuming it doesn't suck, I hope to release a CD of my work.

I also hope to make a "Companion DVD" with the video of us all jamming away, complete with subtitles, commentary, and extra non-video music tracks (of course, the video is edited to just show the good parts :-) ).
Click on a guitar to learn more about it
Godin Godin Godin Strat Strat Strat Tele Tele

Tunes recorded so far...
  • "Before You Accuse Me" (by Bo Diddly) is pretty much done. This rendition is a fairly intense blues-rock interpretation of the song. This is the first blues tune I ever recorded using Cakewalk; it was then I realized, "Hey, I could actually do this!" To hear a sample click here.

  • "Bromophenol Blues" (by me) is pretty much done. I wrote this song roughly 25 years ago about my college chemistry class. The name is a direct reference to a chemical that was supposed to turn blue in our lab experiments, but, of course, it failed to change color for me. To hear a sample click here.

  • "The Cool 23rd" (by King David, arranged by Dennis Buettner, Bob Fuss, Tim Neblung, Dave Sheffield and Tom Van De Pol) is completed. In case you didn't guess, this is the 23rd Psalm from the Bible, only done as light jazz (not exactly blues, but close enough) - to hear a sample click here.

  • "Walking Blues" (by Robert Johnson) is a classic tune from before World War II. This is my first unplugged tune; I use a bottle-neck slide on my 12-string acoustic guitar, which has a unique sound. To hear a sample click here.

  • "Rats 'N' Roaches" (by Silas Hogan) is an obscure but very cool tune about unwelcome guests in the kitchen. My friend Ernie finally came by and added a sizzling lead guitar solo! All done! To hear a sample click here.

  • "Stormy Monday" (by Aaron 'T-Bone' Walker) is finally done, and I have a sample worth hearing!! It took literally weeks getting this lead guitar part right (my fingers suck at lead riffs). To hear a sample click here.

  • "Spirit in the Sky" (by Norman Greenbaum) has come together very rapidly! This classic psychedelic Jesus-freak anthem has been kit-bashed with John Lee Hooker's boogie blues groove. To hear a sample click here.
    Extra! Hear a sample of the killer lead guitar solo provided by Bob Donnelly! To hear Bob tear it up, click here.

  • "Slidin' Delta" (by J. D. Short) is one of the oldest known blues songs; J. D. Short heard this being sung when he was a child in 1907. The "Slidin' Delta" was a very slow train that ran through Mississippi. This haunting song struck me because it was so rich with emotion, and yet so timeless after almost 100 years. My recording features the sound of an actual Crosby 3-chime 6-inch steam whistle, which I found to be the most eerily-beautiful of all the old train whistles. To hear a sample click here.

  • "Everybody Works But Pappy" (by me) is defintely an act of God! This tribute to my Dad (who passed away in 2005) is based on a silly snippet of a song he used to sing; it just came to me all at once. To hear a sample click here .

  • "Baby What You Want Me To Do" (by Jimmy Reed) is a great classic tune! While his original rendidtion of this song was slow and plodding, I have opted, like many others, for a faster, more upbeat rockin' tempo. The tune is almost finished, to hear a sample, click here, .
    Extra! Special thanks to Peter Reali for providing a much needed harp solo! It provides a good segue into Ernie's final guitar licks, to hear just how good, click here.

  • "Down In The Bottom" (by Willie Dixon) was written for Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett, and my arrangement is largely modelled after how the "Wolf" performed it. It has kind of a "retro" sound, in that I kept the arrangement simple, but I put plenty of slide guitar in. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Stink Butt Doggy Blues" (by me) was written, largely as a joke, in order to show my son Nathan how easy it was to write a blues song (he had to write one for his guitar class). But instead of following my example and writing his own, he proceeded to steal this song and use it in his class! By the way, I did all the lead riffs myself, so I am kind of proud of this tune just for that. The tune is finally finished; to hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Have You Ever Been Mistreated" (by Lightnin' Hopkins) is also known in later incarnations as "Five Long Years". As much as I like Buddy Guy's modern arrangement, the droning sound of the original arrangement really caught my ear, so this tune is based on the original sound of guys like Lightnin' Hopkins and Joe Hunter. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "John The Revelator" (by Son House) - I've been really digging this tune! I was fascinated by this pre-WWII gospel blues classic, so I've arranged it with an old retro-bluesy sound plus four deep bass vocal tracks, using the classic "call-and-response" pattern like black gospel choirs of the last century. The song is all done (yay!), to hear a sample, click here, , or for second sample, click here, .

  • "Sadie" (by Hound Dog Taylor) is a cool tune with an infectious guitar riff. Hound Dog Taylor was an interesting fellow; he played a cheap Teisco guitar through a Sears Roebuck amplifier, and he played it very loud and distorted. He also had a small sixth finger on each hand (a "polydactyly"), but amputated the extra digit from his right hand with a razor blade while drunk. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Terraplane Blues" (by Robert Johnson) is a very old song that employs the classic blues metaphor for intimacy: driving someone's car. In this case, the car is the Hudson "Terraplane" made in the 1930s. I use an alternate version of the lyrics as sung by John Lee Hooker. It was common for old blues songs to have steamy sensuality veiled within the lyrics, and this song is no exception. The guitar used in this song is a customized Fender Telecaster in Open-E tuning. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Yellow Dog" (by me) is an original (and very experimental) tune that I've tinkered with for months. I've finally gotten it to a point I am happy with, so here is a sample. This song attempts to combine the old with the new: the "old" is the timeless blues themes of the broken-heart, the shame before the whole town, catching the freight train to escape the sorrow, and the "new" is the sound of electrified rockin' blues wrapped in a wall of sound (combining heavy slide guitar with deep sonic ambience to create the "haunting" mood of the lonely soul in the deep South).

    The "Yellow Dog" refers to a railroad line, as does the "Southern Line". Both railways summon back to the eerie lyrics that W. C. Handy first heard when he discovered blues music at the turn of the century. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Salvation Fever" (by me) was written nearly 30 years ago but I never had a chance to play it anywhere. It's a tongue-in-cheek swipe at peddlers of legalistic religion like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who think they can earn their way into heaven (they've obviously never read Paul's letter to the Galatians). Wake up guys, it's a free gift! Originally a pure rock-and-roll tune, I have "bluesified" this song by using lot's of searing Open-E slide guitar with my beloved Telecaster. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Goin' Down South" (by R. L. Burnside) is a classic example of "Mississippi Hill Country Blues", which is a form of blues that is very raw and minimalist with few chord changes, if any. Burnside was a master of this primal "dialect" of the blues, and my arrangement is largely inspired by his. I used a lot of Open-E slide guitar with my Telecaster once again. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Stack-O-Lee" (traditional, arranged by R. L. Burnside) is a arguably the oldest known predecessor to "gangster rap"; it tells a violent story based on an actual event. Featured in the film "Black Snake Moan", Samuel L. Jackson sang a greatly shortened version similar to R. L. Burnside's rendition, including all Burnside's profanity and R-rated lyrics. My longer version features more of Burnside's original verses and is, as such, more authentic, however, I've "sanitized" the lyrics so it's more of a "PG-13" song now. The profanity is gone, but it still tells the graphic story of a gunfight in a saloon. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Red House" (by Jimi Hendrix) is one of my favorite slow blues songs, because I get to use so many of my favorite Open-G slide riffs in my arrangement. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • "Sliding Grace" (traditional) is an instrumental arrangement of "Amazing Grace" using Open-E slide guitar. Inspired by the way Bernard Allison did this song, I added a few new elements of my own as well. To hear a sample, click here, .

  • And, hopefully, more to come...

How the recordings are done...

Here are the steps I take when recording music (more or less):
  • Establish the basic foundation of the song: I create MIDI programming so the computer will generate and play the drums, bass, and keyboard. Originally I did this using "Anvil Studio" (freeware) - it's features were limited, but, hey, the price was right. Today, however, I use "Cakewalk" since it has a better user interface and all the later steps will also occur within "Cakewalk" anyway.

  • Polish up the MIDI instruments: The drum, bass and keyboard parts are improved by adding interesting embellishments, like what a human musician might do. These instruments must sound believable so they are good enough to include in the final recording. "Cakewalk" really helps me here because the MIDI instruments can be "played" by virtual software-based synthesizers included with "Cakewalk". These often provide better sounding instrument voices.

  • Add a rough draft of the guitar part: One more MIDI instrument (with a guitar sound) is programmed to provide a rough draft of what the guitar part will be. This helps me hear what the overall song should sound like once I've added real guitars later. The MIDI guitar instruments sound crappy, nothing like a real guitar, but they are temporary. Once I've recorded the actual guitar parts, then the MIDI guitar will be deactivated and not be heard in the final recording.

  • Convert all the MIDI sounds to "recorded audio": While the MIDI instruments can be heard during the recording process, they are not included when "Cakewalk" generates the final product (in a Windows WAV file). Only recorded audio can be part of the final product, not MIDI-generated sounds. Luckily, "Cakewalk" is able convert MIDI instrument sounds into recorded audio by simply feeding the MIDI commands into "virtual synthesizers", which also have better instrument sounds than the MIDI instruments. Unlike the MIDI instruments, these virtual synths can have more special effects added to them (like reverb, echoes, chorus effects, etc.).

  • Record the rhythm guitars: Finally, a human being is making a contribution to this song! I record the rhythm guitar part, usually more than once. I like to have two rhythm guitar tracks for a fuller stereo sound. I typically record several takes, then keep the best ones. Also, "Cakewalk" has a feature called "punch-in" recording, where small flawed portions of an otherwise good take can be re-recorded, leaving all the other good parts intact. Many little mistakes and flubbed notes are repaired this way.

  • Record lead and accent guitar parts: Additional guitar tracks are recorded for things like lead solos and little bits of guitar riffs that are just for accent (usually with a different sound than the other guitar parts). Since I'm not that quick with the fingers, my solos tend to be done with a metal slide instead.

  • Perform the first round of "car stereo tests": Now that everything is in place except the vocals, I take the instrument-only recording in the car with me and play it loud and often. I listen for any little thing that could be improved, then I might adjust the mixing, or the special effects, or I might re-record some parts.

  • Record one or more vocal tracks: Years ago, I'd often record songs with two or more vocal tracks, so you would hear more than one of me singing. But voice-doubling doesn't really sound right with blues, so I usually use just one vocal track, unless there are some background vocals or a bit of harmonizing to add. I still record many takes of the vocal track, then I keep the best of the bunch. I'll sometimes use cut-and-paste editing to copy a tiny bit of singing from one vocal track and paste it into another, thus fixing a small but noticable goof in the singing.

  • Perform the second round of "car stereo tests": The complete song, vocals and all, is now put to the test. I listen to how it sounds pretty loud, and also with the volume pretty low. I look for spots where the words of the song are hard to hear, as well as places where a loud high note is too shrill when the volume is turned up. I may go back and change the mixing, or re-record some portion of the song, depending on how good or bad it sounds, then repeat the "car stereo tests" again. With any luck, I may have a good final product at this point, and then I can decide what other song to record next...

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