Friday fanfare: “Miles from Nowhere”

A particularly intense song by Cat Stevens, “Miles from Nowhere” is a song that was particularly going through my head two weeks ago when I was going on a 25-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, which was, indeed, miles from nowhere. Here’s four versions: the original from 1970’s Tea for the Tillerman, a live version from 1971, another live version from 2011, and a new studio version from 2020.

Friday fanfare: “Sailin’ Up, Sailin’ Down”

When I did the 30-day music challenge in October, one of the ones was for an artist who was dead, and while I went with David Bowie, I came this close to going with Pete Seeger, instead. Indeed, Seeger has had much more of a personal impact on me than Bowie. Here’s a particular favorite, partly because it’s both a quintessential Seeger song and — thanks to two killer electric guitar solos — a very atypical Seeger song: “Sailin’ Up, Sailin’ Down,” about cleaning up the Hudson River, one of Seeger’s pet projects over his lifetime.

Friday fanfare: “Speedway at Nazareth”

One of my absolute favorite songs is this Mark Knopfler number from his 2000 solo album Sailing to Philadelphia, which then became a staple of his live shows after that. It’s a great song, about the life of a mid-range stock car driver going from race to race. Knopfler’s songwriting excels at creating characters, and many of his greatest songs end with a killer lengthy instrumental. Indeed, that was the hallmark of Knopfler’s work with Dire Straits, and there’s a lot this song has in common with “Telegraph Road,” my favorite Dire Straits song.

Anyhow, here’s one of many stellar live performances of the song from a 2010 concert in Cordoba:

Friday fanfare: “Fire on the Bayou”

The New Orleans traditional song variously known as “Iko Iko” and “Fire on the Bayou” and any number of other titles has been performed by a variety of musicians over the years, most famously the great Dr. John. One of my absolute favorites, though, is by Jim Byrnes, the Canadian actor/musician probably best known for his role as Joe Dawson on Highlander: The Series. This version, from his live album I Turned My Nights Into Days, is fantastic.

Friday fanfare: “Then the Music Begins”

In the 1990s, I was part of a rock/blues/country group called the Don’t Quit Your Day Job Players. We started out as a trio — me on percussion, Peter J. Heck on lead guitar and vocals, David M. Honigsberg on rhythm guitar and vocals. Pete and David would trade lead vocals on various songs, and were sometimes joined by Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg on violin or viola, Rik Cleary on bass, and Eric Raymond on flute.

We cut a CD in 1996 entitled TKB, with Alexandra, Rik, and Nat Andreassi on drums joining in. Rik and Alexandra would eventually formally join the band, and then Pete left, replaced by Steven L. Rosenhaus. Steve is also a songwriter, and plays guitar and mandolin, and with this lineup in place, joined by Tom Laubenthal on drums, we recorded our second CD, Blues Spoken Here, in 1999. Rik quit the band after we cut the CD, and we went through a bunch of bass players and drummers over the next year and a half before we called it quits in 2000.

Steve and David both recorded solo albums after that, and Steve was kind enough to ask me to sit in on percussion on three tracks on his A Man Like Me. Here’s one of them, “Then the Music Begins,” a hauntingly beautiful number with some great Spanish guitar work and a bongo beat I’m particularly pleased with. Check it out…..