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artists Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Simple, Honest, Transparent, Beautiful


In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, straightforward, honest, and beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.

The song is replete with images. I particularly like the image conjured in the second verse illustrated below:

“The ghost of a frontier lady walks through the tall rooms/Of an old Ontario farmhouse under the full moon.”

Here’s my cover of “September Song.”

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artists Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

A Transcendent Voice


Photo by Nick Fang

Hi everyone. The voice I’m referring to here is not mine. It belongs to Kate Wolf (1942-1986). She wrote and performed (mostly in her native California) over 200 songs. Her music comes directly from the heart and tends to be bittersweet. In 1980, Kate released her fourth album on her own label, Owl Records. The album is titled “Close to You.” Many of the songs on the album have become fan favorites, including some I have posted on this blog: Across the Great Divide, An Unfinished Life, Here in California, and Stone in the Water.

A recording of Kate playing a song by Tom Paxon called “Hold On to Me Babe” drew me to Wolf’s music again. Her voice is transcendent as it is in most of her recordings. I haven’t been listening to Kate’s music lately, and her version of Paxon’s song reminded me of the beautiful realms she takes me to.

Another song on the album reminded me of the precious few people I have been close to in this life. Here is my cover of “Friend of Mine” with an original accompaniment.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment folk music music

Across the Barrier of Time


I’ve always wanted to learn Kate Wolf’s guitar-picking style. Granted, she plays every song she’s written differently, but I just wanted a glimpse. Since Kate has mostly been an under-the-radar, brilliant singer/songwriter, no one has taken the time to create an accurate tutorial of her guitar method. That is until now. My go-to-teacher, Jerry Lamberth, best known for his unequaled guitar tutorial site (Jerry’s Guitar Bar) has finally posted the first of what I hope will be many lessons of Kate Wolf’s songs.

I’ve recorded Kate Wolf’s remarkable story and several of her songs on previous blogs. To learn more about this courageous and uniquely talented person, go to: “An Unfinished Life” “Gentle Love” “Feeling the Heart” and “Through Her Music”.

We lost Kate almost forty years ago to Leukemia, but her music has endured across the barrier of time. Coincidentally, the song is about memories of times past.

Not surprisingly, “Across the Great Divide” is one of Wolf’s most popular songs. Without Jerry’s help, I would never have figured out how to play the song Kate’s way. She uses a simple and at the same time complex alternating base method the likes of which I’ve never seen.

Kate wrote “Across The Great Divide” specifically for Robbie Osman’s folk-oriented show of the same name on KPFA radio, San Francisco. Robbie and Kate were friends who shared similar experiences.

This exercise might be a case of “careful what you wish for.” I busted my ass and fingers to learn this. Here’s my cover of the song.

If you love life with abandon, everything you want will come to you quickly and freely.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Jefferson Airplane: Comin’ Back to Me


Jefferson Airplane was one of the premiere psychedelic rock bands of the nineteen-sixties. The Airplane epitomized the subversive love and drug culture that emerged from psycho-active drugs like LSD, Marijuana, Mescaline, and Peyote. The band came to prominence in San Francisco in 1965. The original group of six, featuring lead singer Grace Slick, had a seven-year run. Later incarnations of the group lasted until 1990, but the original group spawned the songs that mattered. “Comin’ Back to Me” is one of those hits. The piece appeared on the band’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow.

The story behind “Comin’ Back to Me” goes like this. While sharing a joint of righteous Marijuana with blues guitarist and harpist Paul Butterfield, Marty Balin wrote the song in five minutes. “It just popped out,” Balin said in an interview. He immediately went to the studio to record the song with any available musicians there. Jerry Garcia happened to be one of them.

In addition to being one of the Airplane’s greatest hits, the song was covered by major recording artists like Richie Havens, and versions of it appear as background music in several Hollywood feature films.

Here’s my cover of the song.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

Another Slice of “American Pie”


Don McLean released his iconic album, “American Pie,” in 1971. The title song epitomizes the era of the nineteen sixties. A famous lyric from the title song; “the day the music died,” refers to the day Buddy Holly’s plane went down. Holly and the other passengers, including Ritchie Valens and The Bigg Bopper, all died in the crash. The song “American Pie” goes on for some nine minutes to memorialize other landmark events of the era in rich metaphors. Some of the other outstanding songs on the album include, “And I love You So,” “Crossroads,” “Empty Chairs,” and “Vincent.” I’ve covered these songs in earlier posts on this blog.

“Winterwood” is an upbeat love song featuring McLean’s typically vivid imagery. Technically, the title of the song does not exist in the English language. McLean invented the name to evoke the sights and sounds of a snowy mid-winter day with the sun peaking through barren tree branches and birds chirping in the background. The image came to Mclean as he rode through mid-winter streets recalling fond memories with his wife by his side. The image and the related memories stayed with the artist for six months until he finally wrote “Winterwood.”

The technique is a departure from the finger-picking method I used in many of the other songs I’ve posted. “Winterwood” is played entirely with a guitar pick (flat picking). I abbreviated the introductory lick because it might have taken me six months to learn.

Time and Opportunity Wait for No One.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

“American Pie” Gold Nuggets


“Crossroads” is another great song by Don McLean. It first appeared on his hit album, “American Pie.” Although the song is not as well-known as the title song and some of the other songs on the album (“Vincent” “And I Love You So” and “Empty Chairs“) Crossroads is nonetheless moving and beautiful.

On the surface, the song is about a man remembering a long-lost love with a sense of regret and a desire to turn back time. I believe the subtext of the song has a larger and more universal meaning: hope and happiness can be found with anything that joins us on the inevitable journey of life. It doesn’t have to be a lover or anyone in particular. It can be an idea, a thought, an emotion, or even an absence of something or someone. An absence can be as strong a motivator as a presence.

On the album, McLean performs the song on Piano. Fortunately, my good friend and tutor, Jerry’s Guitar Bar, has transposed the song for guitar. Here’s my version.

nuggets of gold

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE OUTCOME. AND, IT WILL BE SO.

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Arts & Entertainment music relationships

“Fields of Gold”


Guitar,Solo,Sting,Song,Love,Ballade,Relationship,Commitment, Eva,Cassidy, Fields of Gold,

“Fields of Gold” is one of Sting’s most famous songs. It is a stunning and thoughtful track about the journey of commitment. The song first appeared on Sting’s 1993 solo album “Ten Summoner’s Tales.”

Sting wrote the track after he bought a house near a barley field. The sunsets and the colors of the field helped inspire the lyrics, along with Sting’s love for Trudie Styler, who he married in 1992.

“Fields of Gold” can be seen as a fulfilling romance from beginning to end. It is about courtship, marriage, and finally, death.

The romance of the couple in the song is so strong that even the sky and “its jealous sun” are envious of the relationship.

Before the male narrator dies, he tells his lover that she will never forget him and the time they shared. They will always walk and lie together in golden fields of sun drenched barley.

Here is my version of the song played with Eva Cassidy‘s guitar technique.

Loving Couple Laying Down After A Picnic In An Open Field

“The heart is always the place to go. Go home into your heart, where there is warmth, appreciation, gratitude and contentment.”

AYYA KHEMA

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar inspiration music

The Gathering Of Spirits


Folk Artist, Composer, and Singer
Carrie Newcomer

I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.

I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *

In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”

*On the album, Alison Krause sings harmony on the song.

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folk guitar folk music music Videos

Looking Back On Warm Times With Friends


Kate Wolf Playing The Trumpet Vine. Folk Guitar, Pop Music, Folksinger,

“With a voice that has all the sweetness of a California morning and the loneliness of the sea beating against its rocky shores, it’s a mystery why Kate Wolf went unnoticed for so long. Listening to her songs, you never feel like you’re hearing studio recordings made many years ago. Instead, it feels like the singer’s sitting next to you, picking a guitar and telling stories near to her heart. With just a few words, Kate Wolf creates a great sense of intimacy.”*

Certain songs speak to me. Kate Wolf’s “The Trumpet Vine” is one of them. It typifies the aching beauty of her music. Here’s my cover of the song.

*Excerpt from an article written by Kasper Nijsen

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fiction humor short stories

What’s At The Bottom Of The Staircase ?


Architecture, Art, Spiral, Curve, Design, Interior, Stairs, Stairway, Staircase, Tower

Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.

Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.

Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.

winding corridor to my heart

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.

Elaborate Wood Door With Intricate Star Shape Pattern

I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.

Futuristic Corridor, Heavenly Corridor, Journey's End, Seeking Light, Seeking Truth, Seeking Wisdom, Truth, Wisdom,

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

The Infinite, Integration, Divine, Divine Human, Nexus of the Divine and the Human, Reality, Peace, Love, Joy

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”

I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:

“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:

“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”

“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”