Hello, again. It is my intention to have this newsletter written by the 15th of each month. By the 15th. Not later than the 15th. And it doesn’t really matter to anyone, but me. And it barely matters to me, other than it’s a discipline I want to honor; to capture the essence of the month, as we are solidly in it. But, as with you, in this era of endless distractions and emergencies, days tend to fly by, and before you can even make it to the grocery store, a week has disappeared. You know exactly what I mean. I don’t need to elaborate on the struggles of 2023. You got yours. I got mine. But, I do try to establish some structure to my life and getting this thing written, for whatever reason, by a certain date gives me a sense of accomplishment and allows me to scratch something off my list. And we all know how good that feels. Right? The list is my substitute brain. If it’s on the list, I don’t have to think about it. But I do need to remember to look at my list. Okay, I’m glad that paragraph’s out of the way. I have confessed my disappointment with being tardy! Good for me! I’m gonna reward myself with a cookie! In my defense, Easter happened earlier in the month, and I wrote a long piece which accompanied the release of my 16-minute protestant hymn medley. Here’s a link to that. Click on the title to read the text, which is sort of important if you are curious about why I would go to the trouble to record a very long medley of hymns, considering I’m not very religious. There is a reason, and it involves an experiment. Specifically, if one detests what many Evangelical Christians stand for, can one hear the beautiful musical elements in hymns anyway? Check it out and see what you think. If you’re like me and don’t jive with most of poor Jesus’ modern army, is that a wall between you and some basic sonic elements. Can you say, “Screw the message, but I LOVE how the melody and chords work.” By the way, musically, hymns = polkas.
In Brave Combo World it sometimes feels like our history is too dense to see a way forward. We’ve been a “thing” for so long, it’s hard to separate our past accomplishments from our future aspirations. I often think about the first time we had a significant mention in ROLLING STONE. The feeling was beyond amazing. It felt like we’d either made it or were well on our way. And then, immediately, it seemed, a brand new ROLLING STONE was on the convenience store racks. Our issue was old news almost as soon as it was new news! We realized we had to keep the pedal to the metal and constantly seize the moment. And, apparently, we did, often more than we were aware. Our local paper, The Denton Record Chronicle just ran a 25-year-old story about our relationship with Matt Groening and THE SIMPSONS TV show. It appeared in the paper’s “Yesteryears” column. That certainly feels like a long time ago and, yet, it feels like a month ago. Denton’s Applebee’s restaurant has a photo mural of our music scene with an image of Brave Combo playing at the Arts and Jazz Festival one year. Joe Cripps is even in the photo. And, right now, in the middle of our town
square, the Denton County Courthouse Museum has an exhibit about Denton music, full of cool local nostalgia, including a Brave Combo section. These are all surprising and humbling things. Most of my creative efforts have been pretty selfishly motivated, but that’s the way it has to be; to make the purest expression of what Brave Combo is or represents. To me, the band’s 44 years of existence is all stacked like pancakes and then squashed! It’s not a bad feeling because I know all the stuff that’s happened, actually happened. It’s just weird and too much, but, thankfully, in an entertaining way, sort of. My priorities are different, for sure. Brave Combo is no longer career-building, so to speak. Plenty of people know what we do and we’re easy to find. We are still playing shows, when they suit us, and things are starting to feel a little more normal, from a post-pandemic live music perspective. And we’re working on a bunch of new songs. But, sometimes, getting from here to there doesn’t sound as much fun as live-streaming something bizarre or hosting groovy little wigged-out dance parties at our studio. As you should know, I love spending time with all my animals, and they love spending time with me. I’m with a few right now. BoBo, the cat, is asleep on the printer. I can just reach out and grab his foot. Can’t do that in a van or a plane. Whatever, I’ve never been busier, but also never pickier. And I know everyone in the band feels the same way, so if we find ourselves somewhere, it’s because we want to be there!
Speaking of how band members feel, our woodwind shaman, Jeffrey Barnes, recently had major surgery on the vertebrae in his neck to correct some long-term issues and he’s doing very well, but the recovery/physical therapy will be long and intense, so that’s why you won’t be seeing him with the band for a few months. However, he’s upbeat and thanks everyone for the well-wishes. In the meantime, our good friend and master saxophonist from the fabulous Little Jack Melody Orchestra, Dave Monsch, has stepped in and is rocking it. Seriously. So, I’m now wondering about how to mess with that old Billy Vaughn double tenor sax harmony sound and entice Dave to stick around some once Jeff’s back in the saddle. Now THAT possibility opens up a million avenues of aural excitement and adventure. In my mind, at least.
The late famous Texas artist and my painting professor in college, Robert Wade, said to our class, on the first day we met, “Do you make art or do you make what looks like art?” That’s still one of the best questions I’ve ever heard. I remember where I was sitting in the studio, with a dumb easel in front of me, feeling pretty lost, then suddenly, I didn’t. It’s funny how those cloud-clearing moments really do happen.
NUTS AND BOLTS! As I mentioned gigs are being added to our itinerary, although we are pulling back on live shows a bit until Jeff recovers and can dance upside down, while playing two penny whistles, again. You know, normal Jeffrey. So, get up and get down. It’s a brand new bag, because it’s supposed to be and Brave Combo can’t be afraid. It’s not allowed!