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jay smith pic<--A man you don't meet every day Singing "Farther Along" with Joyce Andersen, Jay Smith and Cormac McCarthy on harmonica at a memorial service at the Press Room in Portsmouth, NH in the Spring of 2002 for our friend Grieg Westley. Joyce and I sadly had to sing the same song to say goodbye to Jay, who died suddenly in September. He was the founder of the Press Room, a pillar and friend of our community, a fine man, and just about the best singer I knew. We miss you greatly. (S. Moeller)

Custom CD's Are Here

We are now offering Custom CD's on the web site, where you can order out-of-print and unreleased songs. While spending months digging through the vaults looking for material to release on the new CD Dreamer or Believer, I found a lot of other music that I thought was good enough to let out the door. Outtakes from sessions, live recordings and other things I have that I never felt like putting on an official CD. Available on the web site only at These are not MP3's– they are real CD quality, with credits, liner and historical notes. (Including the long-unavailable two LP's!) You buy just what you want on a custom-order basis and we'll burn it onto a CD. Liner notes, recording info & credits included. There are currently 72 songs available there, and more will arrive soon. They take a lot longer to make and ship than a pre-made CD, but for those of you who think I don't make enough CD's, this is a chance to get more music. But if you gorge on all this, then there truly is nothing else to be had. ($1.50 per song + $4 minimum.)

Tongue Hotel

In the Highlands of Scotland– in the town of Tongue, actually. They got the web domain, though is available in case any of you want to open one in the US. I didn't eat or sleep there, in case you're wondering– just passed by &snapped this pic. (HR)




Reflections on 20 Years as An Independent Recording Artist (1982)

Twenty years is how long Ulysses wandered in his odyssey, and is also how long people work at some jobs before they retire. 20 years ago this Fall I pressed my first LP, a solo guitar album titled "Nothin' But Guitar" and released it on my own label, which I called Woodpecker Records because I liked the way it sounded when people from Maine said it. In those 20 years, I have had a guitar in one hand, and a succession of tools, including a telephone, steering wheel, computer, tape recorder, calculator, copy machine, & gas pump in the other hand. I have no memory of picturing then where I might be now, and since we always see more clearly when we look back than ahead, I'll reflect on what is behind me. Since 1974 when I quit school, I have played something like 5000 gigs, sold close to 100,000 records, logged close to a million miles on the highway (with no accidents!) without either starving to death or getting famous, which are what most people think are the only two choices for this life style. Although it is of course impossible to do either do it again or even to decide if you would like to, I am pretty sure I would not do it differently if I had the chance. I own a beautiful house and have a wonderful woman in my life and do not feel in any way that I have failed, even though I have never been on the cover of Rolling Stone and I have never been in a limousine. (And I never want to. Please bury me in my blue jeans, and have a minivan or pickup truck carry my coffin. Limos annoy me more than they impress me.) I have had a feeling of swimming upstream my whole career, with the popularity of acoustic music plunging in the 70's when I started performing. Through the eras of disco, Michael Jackson, glam rock, grunge, hip-hop urban cowboy & the rest I have been chugging along, playing guitar, autoharp and mandolin. When I went to Nashville in 1979 I told them I did studio work with acoustic guitar, slide guitar and mandolin, and they practically laughed at me. Now almost every song has one of those on it. With the huge success of O Brother Where Art Thou, the kind of music I have always done is getting respectable. It's now OK to make an unproduced record and its OK to have your own label, and it is finally becoming common knowledge that major record labels exploit their artists and sign them to sucker deals. It's pretty easy to see the dark side of the business in Nashville– the bars are full of the people who got shafted, who are being sued, or waiting till they can have their name and their music back from the courts, and all sorts of other nasty predicaments. I never wanted any part of that kind of thing. When I scan back over the landscape of time, my senses seem to each have their own memories. I can still smell the lingering secondhand smoke (though I rarely play bars now,) the diesel fumes, jet fuel and the diners. I can feel a guitar neck in my hand, and the texture of the thousands of cardboard boxes I have lugged around as a guy who runs my own business life. I can feel my hand fumbling in my pockets for my keys. The sounds are varied and muted-- not loud or harsh-- I hear the jangle of the instrument strings, the "Check 1-2" into the microphones, the hum of the highway, the whir of the computer, the snap of guitar case latches, and the clapping of the audiences. I see the countless headlights, swimming in the ever-present orange of the roadside construction signs and striped barrels, the thousands of sets of eyes that sometimes meet mine for a fleeting instant. I can still taste the faint zing of the nearly-dead 9-volt batteries as I test them with my tongue, the roadside coffee in styrofoam cups, and the peanut butter crackers. And yes there have been some memorable meals of glorious things I could list, but as a folk musician, it has been mostly burgers, omelettes & chicken. The life of the tireless minstrel is one of long hours of tedium and travel, and a lot of waiting– for airplanes and for show times and for the phone to ring. But this is interspersed with moments of ecstasy and great beauty. I have seen the mountains, the deserts, the cities, the fjords of Norway, and the Ohio Turnpike hundreds of times. (I am not proud that I can rattle off the names of most of the service plazas.) Too many times I have played the Russian roulette of driving until I am too tired to drive anymore, and too many times it has been just me and the truckers and the snowplows out on the icy road at 2AM. I have met wonderful people and savored pleasures that non-musicians can rarely know, and cannot just focus on the struggles this 20 years has brought. It is a privilege to be one of those who provides music for people. I vividly remember being at a folk festival very late one night, singing a very tight harmony with a guy I met. We discovered we both knew the song Gray Funnel Line, and were standing outside, locked in the zone of singing. There were a few people watching and listening, and I remembered thinking "What if one of them were Bill Gates?" All the wealth of Croesus would have done nothing to allow him to participate– only by spending a lifetime learning and singing songs would you know the songs, how to sing them, and how to grab the right harmony notes. Even the wealthiest and most privileged people still cannot gain access to the inner world of being a musician, and can only stand on the sidelines. In money-conscious America, we think that money can buy anything, but one thing it does not buy is admission into a world where skills are paramount. You can only go so far down any given road, and I have gone a long long way down this one. It is a lovely road, and I do not yearn to turn back and try a different one, like so many of us do. For this I am very very grateful, because I know we don't all feel this way. I hope that all of us find our own chosen paths, and that we all make it a long way down them.

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