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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Your guide to weekly Joliet-area open mics and blues jams

William Alexander Wine Studio
By Ted Slowik

If you're a musician itching to get out and perform at an open mic or blues jam in Joliet, Ill., you can find a place nearby to play every weeknight.

Jam sessions and open mics tend to come and go and move around, but as 2016 dawns here's a rundown of current weekly performance opportunities.
Gustos Bar & Grill

Sunday
Sunday Sessions open mic starts at 7 p.m. at William Alexander Wine Studio, 900 S. State St., Lockport (815-834-9463). "All musical talent welcome, please bring your own cords. Keyboard, PA and electric drums provided."

Not sure where T-Bird Huck's band is jamming these days but for many years you could catch his band hosting an open blues jam on Sundays at various venues around Will County. If anybody knows--leave a comment!

Monday
Alex Hoffer hosts acoustic open mic at 8 p.m. at Chicago Street Pub, 75 N. Chicago St., Joliet. (815-727-7171). Predominantly acoustic but the occasional electric player who brings an amp isn't turned away.

If bluegrass is your thing, grab your guitar, banjo, mandolin, upright bass or other acoustic instrument and head to Tribes Alehouse, 9501-R West 171st St., Tinley Park (708-966-2051) for the Weekly Monday Bluegrass Jam, 7 to 10 p.m., hosted by Steve Haberichter of Down Home Guitars in Frankfort. (Note: no jam on Jan. 4 but will resume Jan. 11).


Tuesday
Billy Osman hosts a free electric jam from 7 to 11 p.m. every Tuesday at Gustos Bar & Grill, 2115 Plainfield Road, Crest Hill (815-744-4159). Typically the house band includes Doug Horan on bass and Ted Matichak on drums.  


Also, The Tree of Joliet (formerly Mojoes) hosts an open jam at 22 W. Cass St. in downtown Joliet (815-666-8079). Sign-up starts at 7 p.m., music starts at 8 p.m. "Open jams at the Tree of Joliet on Tuesday nights are available to all musicians, just get up on the big stage (with a sound tech) and rock!! It's that's simple and awesome! Drum kit, guitar amp, bass amp, plug in for acoustic, and mics are all available for use."

Wednesday
Electric Wednesday Open Mic takes place every week at The Drunken Donut, aka The Joliet Bakery,
The Drunken Donut
821 Plainfield Road, Joliet (815-723-8210). Sign up at 8 p.m. with music starting at 8:30. A showcase for the area's exceptional young, original talent. The occasional stand-up comic and acoustic act rounds out what typically is an evening of good, loud rock music with lots of hip-hop, prerecorded beats and jams. It's a donut shop by day, bar/live music venue by night, and Stan the owner/bartender will take good care of you. The jam is expertly hosted by Alex Ziech, and sign up is first come, first choice, so you might want to get there as early as 6:30 to choose your slot. Also demand is so great performance slots are limited to 15 at most, so there's a rule that performers may not play two consecutive weeks.


Also on Wednesdays there's an open mic from 8-11 p.m. at Jenny's Southside Tap (also known as 191 South or Jenny's Steakhouse), 10160 W. 191st St., Mokena 8-11 (708-479-6873).

Thursday
The place to be is the 8 p.m. blues jam every Thursday at Grubens Uptown Tap, 24035 Lockport St., Plainfield. (815-436-9395). Full back line provided with regular appearances by Tut and the Blues Kings and many others. Hosted on alternate weeks by The Billy Osman Band and the Hip Shakin' Party.

It's not a weekly gathering, but it's worth noting that on the third Thursday of each month Kevin Krauss typically hosts an open mic at Chicago Street Pub. 

And on the first Thursday of every month Brian Barry hosts New Lenox's longest-running acoustic open mic at JBD White Horse Inn, 348 W. Maple St. (815-485-4848). Gets underway at 9 p.m.

If you know of other open mics and blues jams in the Joliet area, leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

University offends abuse survivors by honoring Joliet bishop



By Ted Slowik

I went to see the movie "Spotlight" about the Boston Globe's groundbreaking coverage of priests who sexually abused children and the bishops and cardinals who covered it up. Had Catholic Church leaders acted differently, predator clergy wouldn't have had access to children. Many people who were harmed would have been spared.

As a reporter for the Joliet Herald News in 2002, I spoke with more than 50 people who were sexually abused as children by Joliet priests. The Joliet Diocese lists on its website 35 priests linked to sexual abuse of children. Hundreds of children were horrifically abused in DuPage, Will and five other counties.

The guy in charge of the Joliet Diocese from 1979 to 2006, when a great number of cases were reported, was Bishop Joseph Imesch. Based on my first-hand interviews with abuse survivors, their parents and diocesan insiders, I firmly believe Joe Imesch cared more about protecting his priests and the reputation of the Church than protecting children from harm.

He'd say, in interviews and in depositions, that he relied on the advice of therapists who assured him the sexual deviants could be treated and returned to service. At other times Joe would say there was a lack of evidence that a crime occurred, or some other lame excuse. I call bullshit on all that.

Joe knew a large number of his priests were doing very bad things with kids. And rather than react with shock and anger that his men were capable of such deeds, he attacked those who came forward to report the crimes. He berated survivors of abuse and their family members. He attempted to discredit them and media who reported on the cases. He used every legal tool at his disposal to make the abuse seem somehow less serious and widespread than it was.

Like "Spotlight" shows, there were a lot of good Catholics in the community who went along with the broken system in a misguided belief that it was for the good of the Church. They were told by guys like Joe Imesch that there were a few bad apples, and they were assured there was no way they'd be able to harm another child.

Then Joe went and placed his bad priests in different parishes where they abused again. And when he ran out of parishes in his seven-county diocese he shipped his bad priests off to other dioceses around the country, to Kentucky, or California. He'd take in bad priests, too, from Michigan and elsewhere. It was a sick system, and Joe was one of the best at it.

Let me make this clear: there is an abundance of indisputable evidence that the actions of Joe Imesch resulted in children being sexually abused by priests that Imesch knew had molested other children. And he's never owned up to that. In no way should Joe Imesch be honored as a good bishop or even a good person.

Which is why it's baffling that Joliet's University of St. Francis honors an educator every year with the Bishop Joseph L. Imesch Award for "Excellence in Teaching." Of all things, to attach Joe's name to an honor bestowed upon someone who works with children defies decency.

I hope University of St. Francis leaders realize that continuing to honor Joe Imesch in this manner offends and insults survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting ready to record a new album!

By Ted Slowik

I'm looking forward to recording several new original songs soon with guitarist Kev Wright and drummer Luke Smith at Jason Botka's Skye Blue Studio in Villa Park, Ill. Kev is wrapping up work there soon on his solo debut, and we'll start working on my songs in December.

This past weekend guitarist extraordinaire Pat Lyons was in town from Austin, Texas. Tim Placher and I hung out at the studio while Pat recorded pedal steel on a couple songs on Kev's forthcoming album, "Journey Road." Pat's band Safe Haven played Tim's festival Shindig at the Shanty a couple years ago, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Haberichter of Down Home Guitars connected Kev with Pat.
Pat Lyons, Kev Wright, Jason Botka and Tim Placher in studio Nov. 15.

I owe a big thanks to photographer friend Steve Woltmann for taking pictures for the new album. The scene is in Plano, Ill., outside a bar that was painted with a big American flag for the Superman movie that was filmed there a few years ago. Thanks also to "Comfort Zone" photographer Brian Powers for suggesting the location.

I recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the costs of recording. You can support at www.GoFundMe.com/TedSlowik. You can pre-order the CD or support the project at a higher level and get some cool rewards.

The New York Times recently wrote about how online begging is the new economy. I only ask because I really need the support. I recently left my full-time job at North Central College and have a temporary, part-time position at Morton Arboretum while I seek the next full-time opportunity. I know the employment situation will work out fine. The timing of this project is such that I have a chance to record with Kev, Jason and Luke, and I aim to make the most of this opportunity!

I've been working with Kev for nearly two years, and he's the best friend my music has ever had! His guitar instruction has improved my musicianship tremendously. He's also become a very good friend, and he's collaboratively offered suggestions about the new material that have made the songs much better.

About a year ago I said I'd take some time off from live performances to focus on becoming a better musician. Lots of artists have done this. A disappointed Bill Murray lived out of the public eye in France for four years after making the film "The Razor's Edge." John Lennon stopped making music for five years when his son Sean was born, and was just resuming his recording career when he was murdered. At the height of his popularity, Bob Dylan dropped out of the public eye for six years following a motorcycle crash.

And I believe Robert Johnson didn't sell his soul to the devil at the crossroads. He just went off by himself for a while and learned to play the damn guitar!

So that's what I've been doing, even though I've made many exceptions and have played publicly at open mics, festivals and other occasions this year. The point is, I feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do, which was to become a better musician by gaining a better understanding of musical theory and techniques.

I've learned a lot, especially in the past year, not just about music but about storytelling, and happiness. I know now that if you're unhappy, you should change your situation. Also that happiness comes from within, and that if you rely on others for happiness you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Anyway, this batch of songs is great and I know Jason's going to do an amazing job recording them and Kev and Luke are going to make everything sound awesome. It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to these recording sessions!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

‘Firefly’ reveals greatness of Edward David Anderson’s songwriting


By Ted Slowik
All nine songs on Edward David Anderson’s new album “Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions” are masterfully written stories about life, love, loss and other themes.
The tunes were skillfully recorded this year by longtime Neil Young sideman Anthony Crawford, who produced the record and who plays fiddle, pedal steel, bass and other instruments. The release on the Royal Potato Family label is Anderson’s follow-up to his solo debut, “Lies & Wishes,” produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
One song in particular reveals Anderson’s songwriting artistry: the lead track, “Firefly.”
Anderson, the bearded former frontman for Backyard Tire Fire, says he originally wrote and recorded “Firefly” about 20 years ago when he was playing with the Bloomington, Ill.-based band Brother Jed.
He planned to record eight songs at Crawford’s Admiral Bean Studio in Orange Beach, Ala., where Anderson snowbirds to escape the harsh Illinois winters. But he snuck in “Firefly” as the ninth song, he told National Public Radio affiliate WGLT-FM in a Nov. 3 radio interview.
“I completely re-arranged it, put it in a different key, kind of changed the feel and cadence and rewrote some of the words,” Anderson said. “But the chorus is the same, and (the song is) the same principle.”
That principle captures the essence of life from the perspective of a veteran songwriter and touring musician. It’s the principle of the rolling stone that Muddy Waters first wrote about in 1950, which inspired The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and countless others. It’s a sentiment shared by songs about shooting stars, or ones about it being better to burn out than to fade away.
A rolling stone or a meteor have brief life expectancies, but they’re characterized by brilliant bursts of energy. That sentiment may also characterize the life of a rock star, the poet, or anyone who appreciates that life is short. The Latin expression “ars longa, vita brevis,” typically translated as “life is short, art is eternal,” sums it up well.
As does Anderson’s song “Firefly.” A lightning bug’s life expectancy is but a few weeks, but the creature spreads light and beauty during its existence. “Don’t want to grow up but time don’t stop,” Anderson writes. Time waits for no one, but Anderson leaves you feeling like it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
The chorus of “Firefly” brilliantly captures what it means to live like a rolling stone:
You can give in and do what you’re told
You waste away and you grow old
Or you can shine brightly and light up the sky, yeah you
Light up the sky like a firefly

In the 65 years since McKinley Morganfield first penned a song that distilled into music the essence of restlessness, wanderlust and the release of kinetic energy, many have attempted to replicate the spirit of that expression. Few have accomplished it as well as Anderson.

Anderson's video for "Firefly" features footage filmed by his wife, Kim.

And that’s just the first track on “The Loxley Sessions.” The other eight songs are all superbly crafted tales with wonderful melodies and exquisite arrangements.



Firefly     by Edward David Anderson

Cornfield full of fireflies, well I’m
Driving west into the clear dark night
Got a destination with no place to go,
Got a destination with no place to go

Midlife crisis, it’s one and two
Just trying to figure out what I want to do
Well I don’t want to grow up but time don’t stop, said
I don’t want to grow up but time don’t stop

You can give in and do what you’re told
You waste away and you grow old
Or you can shine brightly and light up the sky, yeah you
Light up the sky like a firefly

No one’s come along to steal my heart
They may not, now and that’s the scary part
Everybody seeks love everybody fears it
Everybody needs love and everybody’s scared

You can give in and do what you’re told
You waste away and you grow old
Or you can shine brightly and light up the sky, yeah you
Light up the sky like a firefly
Light up the sky like a firefly

I’m in the shadows, next day the light
I’m turned around I don’t know wrong from right
I’m off my path, I’ve lost my way
I’m thinking back to what a young man used to say

He said, you can give in and do what you’re told
You waste away and you grow old
Or you can shine brightly and light up the sky, yeah you
Light up the sky just like a firefly

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Classic sounds abound on new Jeff Givens album recorded in Muscle Shoals

By Ted Slowik


If seasoned troubadour Jeff Givens had written “make a kick-ass rock record” on his bucket list, he could now cross that off.

The drummer-turned-singer/songwriter has self-released his second full-length, “Midnight in Muscle Shoals.” The basic tracks were recorded by John Gifford III at legendary Fame Recording Studios in northwest Alabama’s famous home of “The Swampers” rhythm section, where the likes of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman laid tracks.

“Midnight in Muscle Shoals” is full of wailing guitar licks, lushly layered vocal harmonies and sweetly selected instrumental accompaniments atop tight drum tracks. Fans of southern rock will find a lot to like about this record, Givens’ follow-up to 2012’s “Bourbon Cowboy.”

If “Midnight in Muscle Shoals” sounds a lot like a record by The Righteous Hillbillies, that’s because all the tracks feature guitarist Kev Wright, who recently left the band, and drummer Barret Harvey. The connections don’t end there. The Hillbillies also recorded their new album at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, and Givens’ touring band, The Mugshot Saints, includes former Hillbillies bassist Johnny Gadeikis. T.C. Dolgin plays bass on the record, Jennifer Botka sings backing vocals and Pat Otto lends mandolin to a couple tracks.

Like recent recordings by the Hillbillies, the songs on “Midnight in Muscle Shoals” sound like they belong on any of the 1970s-era albums by The Rolling Stones. Wright’s slick slide guitar work and Harvey’s crisp beats propel the tracks, which are produced by Givens’ longtime collaborator Jason Botka. Many tracks were added at Botka’s Skye Bleu Studios in suburban Chicago.

At its best, “Midnight in Muscle Shoals” is an ideal soundtrack for a long ride on a highway. Tracks like “Long Weekend” and “Hard Livin’” are not only expertly performed by gifted musicians, they’re delivered with Givens’ honestly passionate vocals. The melodies are catchy and the music’s fantastic. The songs are about recurring working-man themes, including drinking in bars and paychecks not going far enough.
Photos by Michelle Gadeikis
Givens is a Tennessee native who was raised in the Chicago area, where he continues to make his home. He calls himself a “rock and roll gypsy,” and an “authentic prince of skid row.” While performing, he’s been known to command an audience to “holler and swaller” by first whooping, then drinking.

Musically, Givens worked as a drummer for many years, and his songs are informed by real-life experiences on the road. His resume includes performing with guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith, blues legend Buddy Guy and the late Jay Bennett of Wilco.

“Everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a dream, I’m filling up this notebook with what happens in between,” he sings on “Livin’ the Dream.”

Givens writes all but one of the 12 songs on “Midnight in Muscle Shoals.” While the songs are sonically superb, one will be disappointed if he seeks Dylan-like depth in the lyrics. This record is reminiscent of a Ringo Starr album in that one can take ordinary, everyday songs, get some fabulous musician friends to record them and end up with great-sounding music that eventually lands you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Givens’ songs are honest, authentic reflections of his life.

“The most difficult ones are the most intimate ones,” he told WXAV-FM 88.3 in a radio interview. He went on to describe how “Last of a Dying Breed,” a song on the new record, was written about his 80-year-old father, who still rides his Harley thousands of miles of year. “It was a real emotional process,” Givens told the interviewer.

Writing good songs isn’t easy, regardless of what anybody says, and only a gifted few can do it consistently. Equally challenging is recording a full-length album of timeless sounds that are worth listening to over and over again, and Givens might have accomplished that with “Midnight in Muscle Shoals.”

The Mugshot Saints


Learn more at jeffgivens.com. "Midnight in Muscle Shoals" is available for sale on CD Baby.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A revelation about what to do next creatively

By Ted Slowik

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe
I've been thinking a lot lately about what to do next, creatively, in my free time.

Free time is a precious thing, and it shouldn't be squandered. Take it from someone who's been dead for six minutes. There are better ways to spend your time than binge-watching Netflix on the couch. Trust me.

It's taken six months to figure out what I want to do next. For the past several years I've focused on music. And I feel I've become a much better songwriter, musician, performer, vocalist and recording artist. I still enjoy music very much and plan to continue making it whenever I want. And it'll make me happy and be fun.

But I've felt for some time that music is not my true calling, and that writing is. The question I've been trying to answer is, what to write? Nonfiction or fiction? A novel or short stories? What do I have to say that's worth saying?

The answer came to me while I was camping in Florida this past week. My sister Liz, with whom I've always been especially close, loaned me the Patti Smith book "Just Kids." I've been reading a lot of rock bios and memoirs lately, about Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Keith Richards, Patti Boyd, Roy Buchanan and others. "Just Kids" may be the best-written I've read. It won the 2010 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

I didn't know much about Patti Smith. "Just Kids" tells the story of Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe starting out as starving artists in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's a beautiful love story, and the book is a fine showcase for Smith's skills as a writer thanks to her lifelong love for poetry.

Arthur Rimbaud
Smith was greatly influenced by the French poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), one of the greatest poets ever to have lived, ever though he only created for a brief period in his late teens. He famously wrote to a friend the following lines that described his decadent behavior:

"I'm now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I'm working at turning myself into a seer. You won't understand any of this, and I'm almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It's really not my fault."

I could relate to the notion that complete commitment to one's craft is necessary to create art that is truly worthwhile and lasting. And maybe the young can do it. That is, live irresponsibly and in poverty for a few years. But not old people with bills and mortgages and responsibilities and day jobs.

Because face it, if you were any good as an artist or musician at age 50, you'd be doing it full-time.

I'll be honest. Since the heart attack a year ago I've wondered at times why I'm still here. What's my purpose?

So after reading Smith's book I realized I should write the story of how my wife Jo and I met and fell in love.
First date, Valentine's Day 1985

This works for a number of reasons. First of all, I cannot think of subject matter more personal and meaningful. Family is most important, after all, and I'll write the story so our kids Hannah and Noah will always know how much I loved their mother.

The timing seems right. Has it really been 30 years? Gosh, seems like yesterday. I remember well the love I felt for Jo and there are still many of our friends around I could talk to in order to gain additional details and perspectives.

It solves the dilemma of what to do as a creative outlet other than music that is purposeful and rewarding and without regard to any sense of commercial success. Ours is a beautiful story, and I intend to write it for an audience of three people, as best as I can. I expect the process of telling this story will require a great deal of time and effort.

That's OK. I can continue doing other musical and writing projects while working on this story. Maybe my purpose for being here is to tell this story. There is universal truth in love and beauty.
Honeymoon in California, 1990








Monday, March 9, 2015

Crossing the 10k YouTube milestone with "Refugee Blues"

By Ted Slowik









Just a short post today as I'm camping in Florida and reception is spotty. But, hey, "Refuee Blues" topped 10,000 views on YouTube. It's cool, they send you an email. Thanks Celeste Mackey for inviting me to do a dramatic reading of this for her Literature of the Holocaust class three years ago. Here's the link.