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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Attempting a first: Performing Lennon's solo debut in its entirety

By Ted Slowik
It's exciting to do something no one has ever tried to do before.
As best I can tell, there has never been a live performance of  “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” in its entirety. Not by Lennon himself, not by any other band or group of people, or by any individual.
An extensive online search revealed no other documented live performances of the 11-song collection.
That's why I'm looking forward to performing Lennon's debut solo album with five other musicians at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Studio Theatre at Lewis University, 1 University Parkway, Romeoville. Tickets are $10 and may be reserved by calling 815-836-5500. Proceeds will benefit Heritage Theatre Company, a troupe that includes alumni of Lewis University’s Philip Lynch Theatre.
Performers include Robyn Castle of Joliet, Clarence Goodman of Chicago, Ron Kostka of Minooka, Tim Placher of Joliet and Kev Wright of New Lenox.
“John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” was released on Dec. 11, 1970, in the United States and United Kingdom to critical acclaim. The album features Lennon, Ringo Starr on drums and Klaus Voorman on bass. Producer Phil Spector and Billy Preston each play piano on one song, and Yoko Ono contributes as well.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album No. 23 on its 2010 list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
“Also known as the ‘primal scream’ album, referring to the painful therapy that gave rise to its songs, ‘Plastic Ono Band was John Lennon’s first proper solo album and rock & roll's most self-revelatory recording,” Rolling Stone said.
“Lennon attacks and ­denies idols and icons, including his own former band (‘I don't believe in Beatles,’ he sings in ‘God’), to hit a pure, raw core of confession that, in its echo-drenched, garage-rock crudity, is years ahead of punk,” according to Rolling Stone.
Many artists have performed Beatles albums in their entirety, from Cheap Trick doing "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in Las Vegas in 2009 to Phish performing "The White Album" on Halloween, 1994 in Glens Falls, N.Y.
But "Plastic Ono Band" presents unique challenges in the vocals and instrumentation, which may be why it's never been performed live. Foremost are the famous Lennon "primal screams" on songs like "Mother" and "Well Well Well." These performances sound like Lennon shredded his vocal cords and lacerated his larynx.
Then there's the musical accompaniment. Most songs feature just bass and drums backing up Lennon on vocals and either guitar or piano. Three tracks are just Lennon and an acoustic guitar. Easy, right?
While the playing is simple and at times sloppy, timing is critical. I hope the performance captures the energy and raw emotion of the album. It's not intended to be a note-for-note replication of the collection.
I think a key reason no one has tried to perform the album in its entirety before now is that the songs are intensely personal. John was sorting out some pretty heavy stuff at the time, not the least of which was the breakup of The Beatles. Four of the songs mention his parents. It's clear his therapy sessions must have included confronting feelings of abandonment.
My main reason for wanting to perform this album is to honor the brilliance of the songwriting. The songs, many with simple one-word titles, ("God," "Love," "Mother,") tap into universal truths. The lyrics are honest, personal and confessional. I could see how the words could make some people feel uncomfortable.
The performance will include strong language featured in Lennon’s lyrics. The performance of the album is estimated at 45 minutes. Following an intermission, participating artists will perform other material, including original compositions.
This will be the fourth consecutive year Heritage Theatre Company has presented an Alumni Connections Concert in October at Lewis University. Visit to learn more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Musician friends lend talents for new album

By Ted Slowik

CD copies of "Second Chance," my sophomore collection of studio recordings, arrived in the mail on Aug. 20, capping an exciting growth spurt as a songwriter and musician.

I began writing songs for the album before the debut, "Comfort Zone," was even finished, in 2014. My friend and teacher Kev Wright listened to a couple dozen demos of songs and helped narrow the song choices down to the eight I could afford to record.

Kev's been a tremendous help throughout the process, starting with the remarkable improvement he's helped me realize as a guitarist. He also offered great suggestions on the music, lyrics and structure of the songs, and all his ideas made them better, I think.

Recording began in fall 2015 at Jason Botka's Skye Bleu Studios in Villa Park, IL. Jason was great to work with and also provided valuable input on accompaniment choices, arrangements and lyrics. Johnny Gadeikis came up with some great bass parts, and all the songs are built around the foundation of Luke Smith's excellent drumming.

Jason played mandolin, keyboards and harmonica on songs, and his wife Jen created beautiful vocal harmonies, especially on "Sand Castles." We brought in violinist Katie Bern, who played a wonderful track on "Could Be Heaven." (Note to self: Next time you write a song with violin, choose a key other than A-flat.)

I'm thrilled with how the songs and the recording turned out. Kev's teaching has improved my vocals a lot, and I write to my abilities with the newer songs. Five of the eight tracks are new songs. The old ones are "Sand Castles," "Act of God" and "America."

I especially like Kev's slide guitar on "Back To You." It's a haunting sound, and a really skilled touch. Kev said it was the quietest he's ever played a track, but the tone is crystal clear and there's no trace of fret buzz or any other noise. It's really beautiful.

I love all the songs, especially "Perfect." When you write songs, you love them all when they're finished. Only time will tell whether they hold up. I also like "No Tomorrow" and "These Walls" a lot. I hope listeners understand that while I wrote these songs to relate my personal experiences, I tried to frame the stories in universal truths. Hopefully listeners can relate the songs to their own experiences.

I appreciate everyone who supported the album through the GoFundMe campaign, especially Dr. Clare Slowik, Liz Slowik, Bud & Mary Jo Slowik, Mike Slowik, Tim Placher, Scott and Daina Kinsella, Andrew Ndoca, Terry Kinn, Debi Ross, Leslie Stachura, Jodi Wartenberg & Gregg Vershay, Colin Walsh, John Goins, Ellen Dooley and Mary Kay Hyett.

Special thanks to Steve Woltmann for taking such fantastic pictures for the album cover a year ago in Plano, where a "Superman" movie was filmed. "Comfort Zone" photographer Brian Powers actually suggested the location a few years ago. My daughter Hannah made some great suggestions to improve the album cover design. WTS Media printed the CDs.

I've mailed copies to all the supporters. I still have much to do, including making the songs available for purchase online. For now, if you'd like to order a copy contact me at I'll mail you a copy for $12. As always, visit the website,, to learn more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Brothers Brown tap Americana roots with “Dusty Road”

By Ted Slowik

Change is constant, and those best able to adapt to change are most likely to survive. Two musician/producers both named Paul Brown are rolling with the changes and proving baby boom-era types can create relevant Americana music today.
“Dusty Road” is a 12-song debut by The Brothers Brown, available March 28 on guitar great Larry Carlton’s 335 Records. The group is a tight four piece of session and touring pros who share writing and production credit on a fine collection of tunes that recall the spirit of Little Feat, Steely Dan and others.
Los Angeles-based guitarist Paul Brown—let’s call him LA Paul—won Grammies in 2003 for Best Pop Instrumental Album by producing and engineering “Just Chillin’” by Norman Brown (no relation). He produced about 50 No. 1 radio hits for George Benson, Al Jarreau, Boney James and many smooth jazz artists.
LA Paul also is an accomplished singer and songwriter who released the first of his seven solo jazz albums in 2004. Around that time, a keyboardist in Tennessee also named Paul Brown—let’s call him Brother Paul here—started getting royalty checks meant for LA Paul.
Brother Paul is a lifelong music pro who played keyboards with The Waterboys during their most recent world tour. At his Ocean Soul Studios in Nashville, he produced the “Down in Louisiana” album for soul king Bobby Rush, which was nominated for a Grammy. The two Paul Browns finally met at the Grammy awards in 2014.
“It was like we’d known each other forever,” LA Paul says. “We almost immediately started talking about writing songs together, and that quickly turned into forming a band and making an album.”
The pair started writing songs together over the Internet. They enlisted two Nashville-based musicians, bassist David Santos and drummer Peter Young. Santos has toured with Billy Joel, John Fogerty and Elton John, among others, and Young has performed with Loretta Lynn, The Burrito Brothers and more.
The group met in Nashville and performed together but found they liked recording parts on their own. “Dusty Road” tracks were recorded at LA Paul’s The Funky Joint studio, Brother Paul’s Ocean Soul Studios, Santos’ White Rock Studios and Young’s Ultra Audio Productions.
The end result is a funky blend of rock, jazz and blues sounds inspired by New Orleans and Nashville. It’s a fresh-sounding take on classic forms, created by undisputed masters.
“There aren’t that many new artists coming along doing what we’re doing,” LA Brown says.
The lead track “Cup of Tea” sounds like something from the Lowell George songbook. Little Feat guitarist Paul Barrere makes a guest appearance later on the record, playing slide on “Hurricane.”
Radio-friendly rockers like “Sweet Cadillac” sound comfortable next to ballads like “Love Sake.” LA Paul handles the bulk of the vocals and liberally sprinkles the tunes with jazzy riffs from his 1963 Gibson Johnny Smith L-5 with the floating pickup. You might pick up hints of Benson or Jarreau, but on this record LA Paul sounds like he went searching for something different and more along the lines of his early guitar influences like Jerry Garcia and Wes Montgomery.
Brother Paul makes his presence felt throughout with distinctive Hammond B3 fills and other sounds that feel perfectly chosen for the mood of a particular song, be it the bluesy “California” or the more uplifting groove of the title track. Lead vocals are shared, with Santos singing “The River” and Young singing “Drink You Off My Mind.”
The Brothers Brown haven’t said yet whether they’re planning to perform live together. But if they do, it would be fun if they joined the lineup for the Cincinnati Music Festival July 22-23 in Ohio.
It’s taking place at Paul Brown Stadium (no relation).

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 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!

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).

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."

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).

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 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