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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Support of musician friends makes all the difference

By Ted Slowik

This week's theme is gratitude and support. I'm grateful to many musical friends for their encouragement and for the opportunity to support others.

On July 24, keyboardist Rich Westrick and drummer Ron Kostka joined me for a jam at Bridget and Mark's house party. The music was good, the company great and the weather was beautiful. We had a fantastic time performing. We did a set of covers together, then Rich and I played a set of originals, and I did a third hour of solo acoustic songs. Many thanks to Ron and Rich, Bridget and Mark and friends for a wonderful reception and the kind words of encouragement.

On Wednesday at the weekly acoustic open mic at Tribes Alehouse in Mokena, John Condron showed me the ropes. I'm guest-hosting for him on July 31 and very grateful to John and Niall for the opportunity. Their open mic has become an outstanding showcase for talented musicians, singers and especially songwriters. There's a solid cast of regulars, a steady stream of newcomers and patrons who support live local original music.

Tribes regulars Greg Woods and Bill Ryan are in a band called Time and the New Romans, and they write and play some catchy rock tunes. Thursday night they had a EP release party for their latest recording. I drove into the city to hear them for the first time live, which was a great experience. The recording is great, too. I especially like the second tune on the disc, a song called "Begin."

I met their bassist John and drummer, and Greg's dad Bob, who remembers a lot of my brothers and sisters from hanging out at Timber Trails pool during the 1960s. Had a great time recalling many happy childhood memories of spending summer days with other kids at the pool.

Earlier Thursday I had a photo shoot with friend Brian Powers, who does great portraiture work. Brian is one of the photographers let go from the Chicago Sun-Times, and I'm grateful he was able to take pictures to accompany the upcoming recording I'm doing at Third City Sound with Bill Aldridge. Brian got some great shots and it's going to be a lot of fun having professional images to go along with a professional recording.

Heading home from the Time and New Romans show in the city I stopped by one of my favorite places for a nightcap, Harlem Avenue Lounge in Berwyn. Proprietor Ken Zimmerman runs a great, authentic Chicago blues club featuring some of the best blues you'll ever hear in an intimate setting. Since it was Thursday, it was open mic night, and Pistol Pete was putting on the usual great performance with a talented group of players.

I was chatting outside the club with Sam Cockrell, who is not only an incredibly talented bassist but a very gifted singer, songwriter, recording and performing artist. Y'all should support Sam by buying his tunes from his ReverbNation page--you won't be disappointed. Many of his songs have a horn section backing him up, and the production is top-notch.

Somehow the talk turned to baseball, and since I had my acoustic with me from the photo shoot I grabbed it and played a verse of a song I wrote about the Cubs called "Wrigley Field." Sam thought it was great, and I played bits of other songs, like "Hinsdale," "Slowiks" and "Springfield." Sam's reaction to those songs made me feel great.

Driving home, I realized in the 22 months since I stopped playing bass with the Big Eddy Springs Blues Band and started performing my own songs on acoustic guitar, I've made a lot of progress as a writer, singer, musician and performer. I've done the work by putting in many hours of practice, but if it weren't for the support and encouragement of others I don't think I'd write or make music.

Life is a state of mind. and the best state is the one where you feel like people get what you're doing, like it and tell you so. I'm grateful to everyone who has ever shown support and encouragement.