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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