Author Archives: Shalaman

DownTown Blog – DownTown Nashville


Nashville has always held a fascination for me, long before I ever went there. It’s not called Music City for nothing and I love the city’s vibe. It feels like a small town and music permeates everywhere. There’s no other place like it. Steve Earle called Nashville Guitar Town and I’ve long been a fan of the many great players that ply their trade there. Some of these players’ names are not well known outside the city limits but their presence is felt around the world.

To the world at large, Nashville is a symbol for Country Music, but I like to think it’s a symbol of something more powerful beyond being just an Industry town where Music is the main commodity. The new EP DownTown Nashville is an homage to the city and the music that’s been made there. The spirit of Nashville has infused my songs for many years, as evidenced by the 6 songs that are presented on this release.

Sometimes Wrong

I originally wrote Sometimes Wrong for a female artist, since many of the Divine Feminine would cry on my shoulder and wonder why they “always picked the wrong guy”. I only had to change the words HE to SHE to make it work for a male artist, although it’s not easy for a guy to start a song singing “last night I cried”. But on the plus side, women tend to like a guy who can show his feminine side. 🙂  I recorded a demo of this song with Garry Tallent & Max Weinberg on the DownTown Mystic on E Street release last year. We tried to rock it up but it didn’t quite work for me so I went back to the way I wrote the song. I’ve always been a big fan of Don Everly’s rhythm guitar style and give a tip of my hat to him with the acoustic guitar start. I was also a big fan of Foster & Lloyd and I feel like some of their work rubbed off on Sometimes Wrong.

Rise and Fall

Let’s face it, the Eagles big comeback in the 90s was mostly due to the impact they had on the artists in Nashville. There’s always been a strong Nashville-LA connection, and it’s had a big impact on my music, especially when it comes to guitars and harmonies. A good deal of that comes from listening to those great Eagles songs written by Glenn Frey & Don Henley, as well as their co-conspirators JD Souther and Jackson Browne. Many of their best work elevated things to mythological levels like the Hotel California or the she-devil Witchy Woman. Their myth-making inspired me to write Rise and Fall. I don’t know why, but for some reason, men are drawn to those she-devils like moths to a flame. We’re gluttons for punishment…yeah, hurt me baby! 🙂


Speaking of She-Devils, the guitar player usually gets the girl, but be careful what you wish for. You never know people’s sexual proclivities and our hero learns the joke’s on him in Backdoor. Speaking of guitar players, John Sebastian wrote Nashville Cats about all the great guitar pickers down in Nashville and I’ve always loved the songs that featured hot guitar licks. All those songs left their impression on my consciousness and certainly inspired me on Backdoor. Former Nashville (via Bama) studio ace Lance Doss lent a helping hand on lap steel to bring out the flavor for me. Believe it or not, Backdoor actually started as a bluegrass song. But let’s face it, rock’n’roll is sexier than bluegrass, so I had to rock it out. I tried for years to find the right groove and finally heard a song by The Tractors that helped me to get it right.

Losing My Mind (Too Many Times)

There’s nothing better than writing a song filled with righteous indignation when you can’t take it any longer and need to vent. Losing My Mind is just that type of song and it evokes Steve Earle for me. His Guitar Town record was a big influence and I have to thank him for making Nashville that mythological place for me. I know Garry Tallent played bass on Steve’s Copperhead Road and I remember meeting Steve’s wife Teresa Ensenat (I think she was #5 at the time) in LA, where she had an A&R gig. I could not imagine them being in the same room let alone being married, but I guess that’s Steve for you. 🙂  I like to think some of his magic rubbed off on me for Losing My Mind, which features some killer guitar work from Lance Doss.


Sony Music put out a Country Hits Compilation cd in Germany featuring a Who’s Who of Nashville. We’re talking Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley…you get the picture. I had a cd out in Europe via Sony and by a stroke of luck, Believe got the final slot. I later learned that John Mayer had refused permission to use his song, so DownTown Mystic got the nod. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see my name on that cd! It made me want to be in Nashville and was probably the impetus for this release. It also allowed me to hear how my song stacked up and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, compared to my vocal, any one of those other artists would have a smash if they cut Believe. 🙂

Shade of White Bluegrass

I’ve always had a place in my heart for Bluegrass. From Bill Monroe to Ricky Skaggs and everyone in between I can’t help myself when I hear those pickers. As far as I’m concerned, Bluegrass is Happy Music! I love playing it when I get the chance because it is simply so much fun! I originally wrote Shade of White as a country rocker about this painting I have hanging over my bed. After we cut the basic track I realized I had made a mistake with the arrangement and the groove. But the track was so upbeat and sounded so good that I decided to go with the flow. Voilà—Shade of White Bluegrass! 🙂

Steve, Robert & Paul

Steve, Robert & Paul

One of the great things about making DownTown Nashville was getting to record the songs with Steve Holley and Paul Page. Going from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band rhythm section to Ian Hunter’s Rant Band rhythm section is like being in Rock’n’Roll Heaven. It just doesn’t get any better than that for me. Drummer Steve Holley is a NYC legend, having played with just about everyone, including Rock Royalty like Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John. With a resume like that and always being in demand, it would be very easy for him to just give the basics of what’s needed and move on to the next gig.

Steve Holley

Steve Holley

But that’s not Steve Holley’s style. He comes prepared and gives his full attention to the job at hand, including suggestions on how to approach or improve a track. It was Steve’s idea for the intro part on Sometimes Wrong that was so good I had to have it throughout the song. He’s great to watch behind the drums. When the playback comes in the booth I ask him how he feels about his take. If he’s fine with it, then we move on to the next song. If he feels he wants to do another take, then we do another take.  🙂

Paul Page

Paul Page

Now add the Urban Legend Paul Page into the mix and you have the Dynamic Duo. Paul & Steve work so well in tandem that it’s like a fine piece of machinery humming along on all cylinders. Having worked with them a few times now I’m always amazed at the quality of the parts they put down on tape. I mean they’re great players and that’s a given. But what really make them great are the actual parts they create. As a recording artist I’m trying to create magic in the studio that will find its way onto the tape, and somehow, Steve and Paul make it happen in ways that are not planned. That’s real magic! 🙂


DownTown Blog – 2015: It Was a Very Good Year

DMystic E Street Cover

Another year has come and gone. For some, it went far too quickly. For others, it didn’t go quick enough. At any rate, it’s time for a year in review. For DownTown Mystic, 2015 will go down as a very good year to remember. New things were attempted with positive results.

There were 3 DownTown Mystic releases in 2015. Each release came out with a new season, which was a 1st. The Turn Around and Go Digital Single was released in the spring for the Vernal Equinox. The DownTown Mystic on E Street EP was released at the start of summer for the Summer Solstice. And the Soul’d Out Single finished the year as a late fall/early winter release. Why? Who knows, it just felt right. 🙂

Of course, the main reason for these releases was to help promote and get the word out about the upcoming Rock’n’Roll Romantic album. By now it would seem to be common knowledge and accepted practice on the Internet that releasing a full album is a fruitless venture (unless you’re Taylor Swift or Adele). Why release 10-12 songs at one time when you could release the same number of songs over 10-12 months (if you wanted to stretch it out, say 1 new song every 2 months)? The point being that you keep new material coming out regularly to your fan base. An album is one shot and then nothing again for 2-3 years. You could lose fans in that period if you don’t stay in front of them.

Rock'n'Roll Romantic Cover

Rock’n’Roll Romantic Cover

So I opted for the Digital Single option, which is generally 1-4 songs on a release. I did that back in 2013 when I released 3 singles before releasing the self-titled DownTown Mystic album and had great results. The main difference this time was that I was committing myself to help bring Rock’nRoll into the 21st century. So the 1st place I made a conscious effort was at Radio. Sha-La Music makes DownTown Mystic tracks available to Radio on the AirPlay Direct downloading platform. Since DownTown Mystic was listed as Americana, this would mean switching over to Rock.

Turn Around and Go was the 1st release in the Rock genre and the result was very successful, reaching #12 on the APD Global Rock Chart for the month of March. Sha-La released the single overseas and it reached #14 on the Official European Independent Music Chart. So 2015 was off to an auspicious start! The real question for me was what would I release as the next single?

I thought long and hard about it. There are 2 songs on Rock’n’Roll Romantic that have The E Street Band rhythm section—Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg on bass and drums. One of the songs called Hard Enough was on the Standing Still release in Europe. I had deliberately kept it off of the US release because I didn’t want to upstage the other musicians that played on all the other songs. That’s exactly what happened in Europe. All the reviews, which were quite good, focused on that one track with the E Streeters. So I knew what to expect here in the US.

With summer approaching I knew this would be the right time to put together and release the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP. Previously, Way To Know with Garry & Max had been released as a single from the DownTown Mystic album and it crossed over and hit #1 on the Roots Music Report Alt/Rock Chart in 2014! That was a career highlight, so it just seemed like the perfect moment to commemorate the sessions with Garry & Max.

Sha-La announced that the EP would be available to Radio via AirPlay Direct before the release date of June 22. On June 1st the EP went to #1 on the APD Global Rock Chart and stayed there for the entire month of June! This was an unprecedented success with the most downloads ever for a DownTown Mystic release. The single And You Know Why premiered the following week on The Vinyl District, the 1st time a DownTown Mystic single had a premiere. The reviews were terrific, easily making the E Street EP the high point of 2015.

Actually, DownTown Mystic on E Street was so successful it created a problem with what to do next. We thought by September, the EP would have run its course, but it had some legs. We wanted to get out another release before all the Christmas releases took over. So the decision was made to release the Soul’d Out Single in early November, despite having to still compete with the E Street EP. I guess that’s showbiz and not too bad of a problem to have. 🙂

The Soul’d Out Single was made available to Radio on AirPlay Direct in October before the official release date and once again, the strategy paid dividends. Soul’d Out would finish at #8 on the APD Global Rock Chart for the month of October. DownTown Mystic would finish 2015 appearing on the APD charts a total of 10 months. Once again, the single was premiered courtesy of The Vinyl District and the reviews have been very positive.

At this point 2015 had been a busy year, but October would hold a highlight that was not anticipated. In September we were informed that DownTown Mystic’s track No Exceptions had been selected to be in a movie called Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky. But it wasn’t until mid-October, when the film was released, that we got the chance to see and hear just how cool it was to be part of this wild indie film! The best part for us had to be when the ending credits rolled and we saw DownTown Mystic listed along with Pearl Jam and Social D!! We have to give a BIG THANKS to Writer/Director/Producer Ryan Cleek for including DownTown Mystic in his truly remarkable RnR piece of cinema! 🙂

Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky

Cam Zink:Reach For The Sky

The last 2 highlights of 2015 helped me finish the year feeling really good about the future. In October, one of my fave bands came to NYC to play the Mercury Lounge. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen the Band of Heathens and it was a very special night. BOH was as tight as ever, playing with precision and energy. The excellent set featured some new songs from the new album they’ve been recording and the big surprise was the RnR vibe! One of the songs would have made The Stones proud. 🙂

Band of Heathens-Mercury Lounge NYC

Band of Heathens-Mercury Lounge NYC

I caught up with the main Heathens, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, who along with keyboardist Trevor Nealon talked about the new recording project. Gordy & Trevor in particular were very enthusiastic about the direction the new material was taking and I could feel their passion for it. After hearing the new songs in their set I can’t wait to hear the new BOH album in 2016 because it will be great to have some new RnR hit the Americana scene.

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

The last highlight came the following month a day after the Soul’d Out Single release date, and once again, I was back in NYC at the Mercury Lounge. Another of my fave bands was in town, The Bros. Landreth. Like BOH I’ve written about The Bros. Landreth in the pages of this blog. It had been over a year since I’d met up with them and the 1st person I saw was big brother Dave, who greeted me warmly at the door.

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Later, younger brother Joey came in and gave me a big hug. He had slimmed down and looked to be in great shape. The band had just had to replace long time drummer Ryan Voth a few days earlier because life on the road had finally taken its toll on him. I asked about the new drummer and both Dave & Joey said to be the judge and let them know after the show. With that I went in the main room to get my place for the show.

The Bros. Landreth - Mercury Lounge NYC

The Bros. Landreth – Mercury Lounge NYC

The band did not disappoint. They were very tight and the guitar play between Joey and Ariel Posen was better than ever. As for new drummer Cody Iwasiuk, I think this was only the 2nd or 3rd show with him and he played like he’d been in the band forever. Afterwards, I got a chance to chat some more with Joey. Like The Band of Heathens, The Bros. Landreth are road warriors and just starting a new leg of a tour. He wasn’t too sure about when they would get the time to record their next album but I hope it won’t be too long. With that we hugged each other, said goodbye and looked forward to seeing each other sometime in the near future.

Robert with Joey Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Robert with Joey Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

So 2015 is in the books and there was a lot to be grateful for. Looking forward to 2016 with the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album coming into view. Hopefully, there will be a few more surprises that will make the 2016 year in review worth remembering. 🙂

DownTown Blog – Soul’d Out

Brian Jones Cover

Who would have thought that DownTown Mystic would be on the cutting edge with the release of Soul’d Out just prior to Adele’s Hello? Who would have thought that an overly emotional, heart wrenching song is just what the world wanted to hear? Aside from a few million in sales, Soul’d Out was right in sync. 🙂

For DownTown Mystic, 2015 was a year to get down to work in a very methodical manner…something DownTown Mystic is not known for! There was a new album to get ready despite living in a musical age where the album is considered to be obsolete. But faced with that obstacle, we took it as an opportunity to find a way to promote a new project by taking a more long term view. To that end, the Turn Around and Go Digital Single was released in the spring, followed by the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP in the summer, leading to the Soul’d Out Single in the fall.

DMystic E Street Cover

All of these releases are leading to the Rock’n’Roll Romantic album. It’s the most collaborative of all DownTown Mystic’s releases to date. There are 17 musicians who contributed their talents on it, plus it features the most co-written songs on a DownTown Mystic album to date. What makes this album different from the previous ones is the concept behind Rock’n’Roll Romantic. As the title implies it’s about rock’n’roll romance, with songs about personal relationships and emotional breakups, but it’s also about the romance with rock’n’roll—the music and the recording of the music.

Soul’d Out is one of those songs, with lyrics by Martin Samuel. The song contributes significantly to the concept of Rock’n’Roll Romantic. Martin was born in South Africa but grew up in England and is quite a character. Besides writing songs, he’s been a successful game creator and is an expert seaman, having been hired to sail ships over the open seas. He’s also a drummer who played with bands like The Searchers in the UK. When I met him in LA close to 25 years ago, he was wearing a jacket with planets and stars on it. Being cosmically-conscious, I couldn’t help but walk over and talk to him about it. During our chat he told me he mainly wrote lyrics, which was cool since I always had songs that needed lyrics. I told him to send me some lyrics and we would see what would happen. Little did I know how prolific Martin was until I opened a package that he would send me—a stack of songs with nothing but lyrics!

Martin H. Samuel

Martin H. Samuel

Elton John was particularly adept at putting Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to music, but I never found that to be an easy way to write a song. I generally liked to give people my music to write lyrics to, not the other way around. It just so happened that I had a piece of music I had been working on for some time. It had a very different feel and melody to it and I was having trouble with finding an arrangement for it.

When Martin’s package arrived I had a look to see if there were any lyrics that would fit the structure of this music. Finding nothing in that batch, I called him and told him that for this particular music I needed longer verses. As it would turn out, Martin was moving to NYC.  Not only that, but he was getting married. Being Martin, this was a pre-arranged marriage so that his bride could get legal status in the US. At any rate, when Martin moved to NYC I went to visit him and played him the music so that he could get an idea for the length of the verse and chorus.

Martin Samuel

Martin Samuel

Many months passed, maybe a year, and one day there was another batch of songs in the mail from Martin. This time however, one of the songs caught my eye. It was called Soul’d Out. I thought this was a great title. Not only that, but the lyrics for the most part, fit my melody perfectly! The only thing I added were the last couple of lines of the chorus to pull it all together. I called him and asked Martin how he had come to write something like Soul’d Out, and he told me he had been dumped by his wife! Now that she was a legal resident, their arrangement was over and he was getting divorced. Poor Martin, a true Rock’n’Roll Romantic! 🙂

The recording of Soul’d Out, like the song, has its own story to tell. The original way that I wrote the music and played it on guitar, made it sound upbeat. Once I had Martin’s lyrics it was obvious that I needed to make it more serious sounding. I did a 4-track demo and simplified the arrangement keeping the bass pulsing on quarter notes. It totally changed the “feel” of the song and I knew I was onto something. I went into the studio and cut a basic track but something wasn’t right. So I called up Steve Brown and PJ Farley of Trixter to come down to the studio and lend a hand. I’d been working with them and thought they could help out on a few songs that needed some work…the 1st one being Soul’d Out.


Steve brought his 12-string acoustic for the song and once he started playing, the sound of the guitar immediately changed the song for me in a very good way. PJ was up next and I gave him instructions on how I wanted the bass to stay on the pulse of quarter notes. I kind of regret not allowing him to do one pass on his own to see what he would come up with, but I was so focused on creating this tight simple groove. I only allowed him to get creative on the passing notes between the pulse of quarter notes and he played some very restrained and tasteful parts.


Once the basic track was finished I got this vibe of The Beatles A Day In The Life playing in my head. I decided to add the maracas as a nod to it. I had already cut the vocals by the time Steve and PJ had arrived and when they heard the playback, PJ turned to Steve and mentioned that I sounded like Paul Stanley of Kiss on the last part of the chorus at the end of the song. I could hear what he meant and I found it kind of amusing since the only songs by Kiss I ever heard were the occasional ones played on the radio. But PJ was right on because many reviewers have said the same thing. 🙂

The last part to the track was adding the piano along with the electric guitar. The piano helps to give the slow buildup, especially on the chorus. I put in the sustained low guitar notes on the chorus to mimic a brass horn part like the one on Leon Russell’s A Song For You. We kept bringing them up in the mix as the song builds to increase the tension and I think it worked great. Of course the main focus of the song is on the vocals and everything else is there to support them. If the listener’s attention isn’t on the vocals, especially when the last chorus hits, then I’ve failed as a producer. Luckily it all came together and works really well. It’s probably the best vocal I’ve ever done on a ballad, which is not my forte.

The only thing I worried about on Soul’d Out was Martin’s lyrics. When Steve heard them he just shook his head and said “wow, that’s cold”. So deciding to release it as a single, especially following And You Know Why off of the E Street EP gave me some pause. Were the lyrics too direct in the picture being painted by them? I guess I made the right call to release Soul’d Out as a single because just a few weeks later Adele came to the rescue with her album full of downers. Who knew that emotion and heartache would be back in vogue? Only a true Rock’n’Roll Romantic! 🙂


DownTown Blog – Soul’d Out: Brian Jones

Brian Jones Cover DMysticBJCover

In the last blog post I mentioned that the new Rock’n’Roll Romantic album would not be released this fall, as originally planned, but in 2016. This is basically due to the 4 going on 5 months that the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP has taken up. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be another release before the end of the year. To help bridge the gap, Sha-La Music is releasing the Soul’d Out Single, which includes the legendary Brian Jones.

I’ve always been a Rock’n’Roll Romantic at heart. Love the sound of old recordings and the rhythm…it’s the rhythm of my life. There’s a certain sense of style and flair that goes with the music. When you come right down to it, it’s a love of all things HIP—music, clothes, sex, etc. It’s a certain frame of mind that helps to keep one young on the inside, if you follow. There’s a definite sense of “taste” associated with being a Rock’n’Roll Romantic.

Which brings me to “a man of wealth and taste”, the original Rock’n’Roll Romantic—Brian Jones, the man who formed The Rolling Stones. Brian was the trendsetter for Swinging London in the 1960s. It’s been said that Brian lived the life that Mick and Keith only wrote about. For me, it was Brian Jones who caught my attention when I first saw The Stones, just as it had been John Lennon who I immediately gravitated to when first seeing The Beatles. Now there are 2 Bad Boys to idolize! 🙂

Brian Jones

There have been many books written about Brian’s short life and demise. The most recent is Paul Trynka’s excellent book, Brian Jones—The Making of The Rolling Stones. In the UK the book is called Sympathy for the Devil! One of the main points made in the book is that Brian was far more important in not only starting the band, but in the overall British Blues explosion that changed the UK music scene. I found it to be the best account of what it must have felt like being around The Stones in the early days. This was not a bunch of school chums getting together to form a band, but rather a group of individuals who could be very calculating with each other. For Brian, you get the feeling that none of them really had his back. But you also sense that Brian played a big part in setting that in motion.

It feels a bit odd talking about Brian and The Stones as being together because the band has been around for so long as the current entity that it’s hard to picture Brian in this band. When you looked at The Stones, Brian was the odd man out. He was his own brand for sure. Even with Mick Jagger out front singing and bopping around, it was Brian who would catch your eye…by simply standing there! Over the years there’s been a good deal of revisionism in The Stones camp as it pertains to the band’s history, with Brian’s role being minimized to that of a bit player. The truth is something that has gotten, shall we say, muddled.


The real story is an epic tragedy, almost Shakespearean in its unfolding. But as I write in my song Brian Jones, he did not understand his circumstances and certainly never took responsibility for his actions. He was a mojo man who fathered 6 kids with 6 different girls! He had an innate talent for playing musical instruments and he left a distinct imprint on the recordings that he played on. He gave The Stones sound an extra dimension that other bands didn’t have. But he also lived a decadent life, like nobody else around. They had to coin the term sex, drugs & rock’n’roll to describe his lifestyle!! 🙂

There are many who put Brian’s downfall on Mick and Keith. Did Mick and Keith, along with manager Andrew Loog Oldham, deliberately plot against Brian to take the band away from him? Maybe…probably…but the reality was that The Stones wanted to be in the same arena as The Beatles. That meant they needed to write their own songs and become more pop oriented. Oldham’s choice of putting Mick & Keith together as the main writing team has proven to be an inspired one. Given the personalities involved, Brian certainly saw the writing on the wall for himself.

Brian with Gretsch Country Club

My views of Brian are well chronicled so I don’t need to elaborate on them here. But part of the problem is that we always tend to see our idols or heroes in 2 dimensions. We see them live in concert or on TV, and we read what other people write about them. We don’t know them personally and what they’re really like, so we form our opinions based on assumptions based on a 2 dimensional portrait. There’s a whole school of “oh poor Brian” this and “oh poor Brian” that, but in the end we don’t really know him and what he brought on himself.

In his book, Paul Trynka writes that nobody saw much of Brian in the last year of his life. He went on drug binges for longer and longer stretches and was seen nodding out on quite a few occasions, even in the studio when he did show up. Just look at the changes in his physical appearance from 1965 to 1968. He goes from being the trendsetter for the hip and beautiful people of Swinging London to an overweight drugged out mess in just 3 years! Take a look at the photos on Between The Buttons, one of my fave Stones albums. Brian looks totally out of it and disconnected from the rest of the band.

Brian with Les Paul

I think the real reason they shelved the Rock’n’Roll Circus TV show in 1968 (Brian’s last public appearance with the band) was because of Brian’s physical condition. He was a train wreck! Mick, Keith and Brian had already been busted by the police for drugs. They were public enemies to the UK Establishment, so the last thing that was needed, was for any of them to show up on BBC TV (the only TV in the UK) looking completely stoned! If you’ve ever been in a band with one of the members always being fucked up, you’ll know what I’m talking about. They’re unreliable and bring everyone down.  At any rate, whatever went down between them personally is their business.

I once spent an afternoon talking with David Dalton, a Stones biographer, about Brian. He said an interesting and somewhat telling thing—that Mick and Keith would get very uptight at the mention of Brian’s name. I’m sure, deep down, they harbor some guilt. As for all the conspiracies about murder in Brian’s death, I don’t think he was murdered. However, I do think he died of un-natural causes. Actually, I think 1 of 2 things occurred on the night he joined the 27 Club.


Before I continue, there’s 1 thing that can’t be emphasized enough—DRUGS. Since it was the 60s, there’s a kind of playing down of the amount of DRUGS that were being consumed back then. Like tee-hee (yes I used tee-hee), everybody was getting high back then…NO! The amount of drugs involved with this particular individual was almost inhuman. Brian took more and did more of everything in massive quantities. Eventually, this had a serious impact on him. So contrary to the lore about Brian being in shape and getting ready to form a super group with the likes of Hendrix, he had no interest or ability in forming another band.

Brian was done.

Scenario #1…Brian had abused his body to such extent that all he needed was to have a nightcap and then float in his pool, that was heated at 80-90 degrees, nod off and float away. It’s real easy to fall asleep in a pool like that totally straight. Brian may have shown a bit of wear on the outside, but his inside was worse. The autopsy revealed that his liver was shot and that he had the flabby heart of a 60 year old man despite being only 27. I’d say that qualifies as un-natural! This is something that most people seem to overlook, his actual physical condition. He took drugs by the handful and drank on top of it, and everyone thought he was immortal. He wasn’t. There’s a physical toll to be paid.


Scenario #2, which feels right to me, and again, the 3rd dimension that most people don’t know…The Stones had been Brian’s band and he hung on as long as he could until they fired him. He was not going to quit and I think it really bothered him more than he might let on. He had to have known that they were going to play a free show in London’s Hyde Park in a couple of days to introduce his replacement—Mick Taylor. This had to have been eating at him. That event would make his firing official to the world. In his fragile frame of mind, I can see Brian thinking he could give Mick & Keith one final F U and steal their thunder by having his death in the headlines. He played his final card…or chord if you find it more poetic. 🙂

Nobody really knows what happened that fateful night, but murder seems unlikely. It’s somewhat ironic that the conspiracy theories have helped to keep Brian’s name alive and create a legend. One thing is known—in his short life, Brian burned bright and then burned out like a comet falling to earth in true Rock’n’Roll Romantic fashion. 🙂

DownTown Blog – The Streaming Wars

DMystic E Street Cover

It was a great summer. The DownTown Mystic on E Street EP took up all of my time, and now as autumn comes rolling in, the EP has taken on a life of its own. I had intended on releasing the next DownTown Mystic Album, Rock’n’Roll Romantic, before the end of the year, but I can see now that it will have to be put off until early 2016. Just goes to show that you never know what the Universe has in mind. 🙂

In the meantime, it gives me a chance to catch up on some things of a business nature. There’s so much going on these days. Of course, the big discussion that’s been taking place in the music biz is the current state of affairs with Streaming and fair compensation for the Artists. It’s one of the things I’ve been reading about all summer, mainly from the emails I receive from Bob Lefsetz and The Lefsetz Letter.

For those of you not in the music biz and not familiar with Bob, he writes a music industry blog/newsletter that is very well read. I think it would be fair to call him a bit of a “curmudgeon”. He usually has an interesting POV and I find myself agreeing with him a good deal of the time. I believe Bob works as a paid consultant from time to time, but I’m not exactly sure if he is or if he makes that information known. Lately, he’s really been pushing the Streaming agenda, saying it’s the future so get used to it.

The more I read the more I think he’s shilling for Spotify.  Especially since he seems to prefer Spotify to Pandora and the new Apple Music Service, and he does like to tell Indie Artists to quit crying about streaming royalties. He tells them to get more popular so that they can make more money from Streaming. I’m not positive, but I think these comments might be aimed at people like Blake Morgan, who started the #irespectmusic campaign. Blake’s basic feeling is “that artists should be compensated for the use of their music on all radio and digital sources.” If you’re not familiar with #irespectmusic, then check out this article that just came out today: #IRESPECTMUSIC: A Grassroots Initiative to Give Musicians Their Due 

In the article, the writer Kathy Stockbridge writes: “The laws in place currently allowed the music moguls such as Pandora, Spotify, and so many internet radio stations across the nation to continuously use music without paying the artists. No other business model in our nation works this way. You create a product, you sell the product, you are compensated for the product, and the purchaser enjoys the product. No where else is a product created and lent out for use without compensation, under a pretense of giving it more visibility for future sales. What? If that model worked no one would get paid. We would all advertise products for free.”

Bob’s also been fairly dismissive of the old school music biz. Here’s what Bob said in his latest rant last night entitled “The Sisario Article”: “The sales paradigm is history. In 24 months it’ll be de minimis, inconsequential. And when we go to the streaming metrics a whole bunch of artists are gonna get a whole lot poorer, and the readers of this newsletter who are attached to the ancient paradigm of yore are gonna tear their hair out. You know, rock bands who write their own material and release it as one long album…KAPUT! Actually, that formula got murdered by disco, after it got long in the tooth as corporate rock. But then MTV rescued the rock business until hair bands softened the sound, made us all queasy, and it became all about hip-hop and pop. And that’s where we are today.I’m not saying you can’t make your old music in the old way, I’m just saying don’t expect anybody to listen to it, don’t expect to get rich. We’re in the middle of the great transition. The baby boomers are about to emit their last gasp. Everybody but the titans has already been eliminated. Unless you’re running the operation, you’re gone. And there are some Gen X’ers with power, mostly in the live sphere, but we’re getting ready to skip generations and hand the baton to the millennials, who have no allegiance to classic rock, radio or the rest of the b.s. we hold so near and dear.”

That’s just a taste of what Bob’s been going on about all summer long. I like the way he managed to minimize about 20-30 years of Rock. Bob does have a way with words. 🙂

You can imagine how he’s been dissing the new release by Keith Richards. Bob doesn’t have good things to say about it and the way it’s been promoted. I doubt that Keith gives a crap, but it’s been interesting reading the way Bob goes out of his way to dis it. He’s also dissed Tom Petty’s record, but I don’t think that Bob is dissing the music as much as how it was promoted by the label in the old school way and then died after being released.

All this has me interested because I have an old school record that I want to release in the modern way. Bob tends to lose me when he starts raving about the new Justin Bieber or how many songs The Weekend has streaming. I don’t really care how many times little girls are playing them. If that’s going to be the new model, so be it. But to use it as the argument for artists getting more streaming royalties makes me think he’s more of a lobbyist trying to put the company’s POV across for them. 🙂

As an Indie Artist, I feel like I’m being pulled from one side to the other. I happen to like Streaming because I get played a lot. I see it as a great promotional tool. I just reached 1.8 million spins on one site and I’ve been # 1 on 4 different Global and US Charts. But this airplay is all free because I’m doing it for promotion. Now when it comes to commercial sites like Spotify and Radio, I think they need to boost the rates because it looks ridiculous seeing a $.01 royalty on your PRO Royalty Statement. It’s like them throwing a penny at you and saying, “here ya go, don’t spend it all in one place”. A penny…wtf?? What year is this?? 🙂

I like the passion that Bob puts into his Streaming articles, but there’s still something that bothers me about them. If sales don’t matter and only streaming does, then how exactly is there enough money to be made by artists and companies alike, given the current rates? I think people like Blake Morgan and his #irespectmusic campaign might have the better argument.

So if you are on Spotify’s payroll Bob, I hope for your sake they pay you a better rate than they do artists. 🙂

DownTown Blog – Press on E Street

DMystic E Street Cover

The DownTown Mystic on E Street EP has been out since the start of summer in late June and the reviews are in. Obviously, if the reviews were bad, I wouldn’t be talking about them in this blog. As you can imagine, the reviews have been good—really good, and in some cases, outright phenomenal! We’re going to re-post the 2 best reviews in their entirety and give you a taste of some of the others who have been so kind to us. 🙂

The average review gets between 10-20 tweets on Twitter. This review has gotten over 2600 tweets!! It’s a killer review with many thanks to Rick from JamSphere:

DownTown Mystic: “On E STREET” – a beautiful organic rock n’ roll groove!

By: Rick Jamm Posted date: August 03, 2015

DownTown Mystic started as the alter ego of Sha-La Music President, Robert Allen, and then morphed into a group project, combining forces with a stellar cast of musicians. On the self-titled DownTown Mystic album, Robert was joined by a talented group of musicians, including drummer extraordinaire Steve Holley (Paul McCartney/Wings/Elton John/Ian Hunter) and urban legend Paul Page (Dion/Ian Hunter) on bass, as well as one of the greatest rhythm sections in the history of American Rock ‘n’ Roll – Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

A few months ago DownTown Mystic released their 4-track Ep, entitled “On E STREET” currently available on Amazon and other download stores. The writing, the musicianship, and most importantly, the groove – it all comes together right here on this recording. From the rollicking opening of “Hard Enough” to the closing notes of the intensely rocking, “Sometimes Wrong”, this Ep is filled with exceptional music. Just a few listens and you’ll be singing along with every inspired lyric and in awe of a truly amazing band at the height of its musical powers.

Very few new albums feel like classics these days, one reason is most are too long! Artists have to try to make something out of tracks that really would be better on the cutting room floor. On the contrary, every moment on this gem is precise and to the point. It has a beautiful organic rock n’ roll groove, powerfully forged on “Way To Know” as well as a melodic country-rock sound on “And You Know Why”, all stirred into a beautifully played and sung set.

This music is so rich it oozes out of the speakers and spreads all over your inner core! If this was a vinyl recording, I would have worn out the grooves on the Ep’s best two songs – “Hard Enough” and “Way To Know” – by now! Some things just get better with age and DownTown Mystic is one of those things. Their blend of rock will get your head bobbing, and you humming along uncontrollably, until you feel like your soul will burst in some fantastic way.

To those of you that are interested in serious rock n’ roll but have not yet dived, head first into the DownTown Mystic catalog, I’d suggest “On E STREET” as your gateway into the band’s infectious unmistakable vibe, wrapped up with ace musicianship, topped with great songwriting, and delivered with powerful, heartfelt vocals. This is the place to start for timeless rock n’ roll!


Now this next review from the UK is one of those that remind me of the reviews I was getting in Europe 3 years ago for Standing Still. For some reason, the Press over there really likes to put it on the line with comparisons to Springsteen. I don’t know why, but I get it. If you’re going to put “E Street” in the title, you have to be ready for what could follow. You’re asking for it, right? Of course it’s very flattering to have your music compared to a great artist like Bruce Springsteen. I’m lucky that they like it and usually have some keen insights into the music.

The truth is, as an artist and a musician; you want your music and playing to be taken seriously. So when I see a review that compares me to a Rock Icon like Bruce, I really feel that the writer took me seriously and is giving me some “RnR Cred”, and that is truly gratifying. Otherwise, IMHO, it’s a bit over the top. I really don’t see why Bruce should be brought in because his rhythm section is playing with me. It’s only rock’n’roll people…no need to get carried away! 🙂

Having said all that, thanks to Erick for this very kind review in Bearded Magazine:

Downtown Mystic: On E Street (Sha-La Music)

Americana meets classic rock on Springsteen inspired set

By Erick Mertz Posted Date: Aug 19th, 2015

Breaking off Downtown Mystic’s album On E Street reminds me of that old cereal conundrum. Does box cover actually match the product? 

Because, you know, there’s nothing worse than being promised marshmallow fun and games, rainbows and elves, for something that turns out to be little more than a heap of sweetened cardboard. The cover of On E Street promises The Boss’s magic, not just in the allusion to his famous band, but with a couple of key names, Garry W Tallent and the venerable Max Weinberg. 

Gotta crack open the box though. Turns out, Downtown Mystic is as sweet as promised. It’s a steady set of hard rocking adult contemporary rock that is as timeless as the sad clown motif. “Hard Enough” and “Way To Know” are jukebox blues numbers but the star of them all is (of course) the single, “And You Know Why” which bounces around, self assured, playful and tinged with a little of that silver streaked bravado.

There aren’t any rainbows or elves. There sure aren’t any marshmallows either. That wasn’t what was promised though, was it? A little Bruce. A little E Street. It’s all right here, sweet as hoped for.

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

All in all, that’s a cool review. Here are excerpts from some other cool reviews, which don’t think Springsteen is an influence:

Mike Olinger got it all started with the Premiere of the Single on The Vinyl District“We have the pleasure of exclusively premiering the band’s newest single “And You Know Why” which spins the classic rock vibes of yesteryear into a tight blend of nostalgic Americana. If the bittersweet opening slide guitar phrases don’t capture your attention, wait for the soaring chorus at :40 which glides out of the speakers in pristine 3 part harmony.”

Adam Jones on The Music Farmer“DOWNTOWN MYSTIC is a brand new artist on the rise with classic roots made of gold. The first thought that comes to my mind – this is AWESOME! The music is very reminiscent of vintage rock n’ roll while keeping one foot in the place of modern day music production.”

Sahar on Blog Critics wrote: “Allen’s passion for old school rock and roll comes through in all four of these tracks, although it’s hard to pinpoint a specific influence to each one. There are hints of so many different artists and rock and roll styles that it creates a sound both very familiar but fresh, not original but still engaging…While all four tracks definitely have a strong retro feel, mostly in the way they are stripped of modern day production fanfare, they are not outdated and would make for a solid addition to rock lovers’ music libraries.”

Will Lyewin wrote some seriously cool stuff on HipLanta: “Downtown Mystic’s new album asks a simple question, “What happened to rock n roll being fun?”. When I stared to think about this the first thing that popped into my mind was Guns n Roses. Downtown Mystic sounds nothing like Guns N Roses, but GnR represents the last band of an era, before music found itself at a turning point…Allen proves he is a man who has not forgotten that. It would be easy to dismiss it as retro, but I don’t get the impression that this is someone consciously trying to recapture the sound of a certain era…there is some smart songwriting going on here…Overall this album is a lot of fun. If you want to do some deep thinking then go listen to Bon Iver, but if you want something to take you back to a more carefree time when rock rocked and auto-tune did not exist then here is one for you.” 

Besides the reviews, there’s also a really cool article from Avenue 1 that was written by Nick Christophers, who when not freelancing as a music journo is the editor of Mob Candy Magazine.  So there you have it. Again, my sincerest thanks to all of those writers. There’s really nothing else I can say after those incredible reviews. I’m done! 🙂

DownTown Blog – DownTown Mystic on E Street

DMystic E Street Cover

In the last installment of this blog, I wrote about releasing the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP, which at the time was less than a month away. I was a bit apprehensive about doing the release but I figured if not now, then when? Anytime you’ve got a project with musicians like Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg, there’s going to be some anxiety about creating a build-up to the release.

The 1st thing I wanted to do was get out the word to my contacts at Radio on AirPlay Direct, the digital downloading platform for Radio stations to get new music. I highly recommend AirPlay Direct to any artist out there that’s looking for a good inexpensive way to get their music to Radio. They have nearly 10,000 radio stations from around the world as members, so there’s an international presence, which is very cool. Over the years AirPlay Direct has proven to be an invaluable tool for me, and once again, it did the job I needed to get done.

When I released the Turn Around and Go Digital Single at AirPlay Direct in March, I knew it was more Rock than Americana, so I made the decision to promote it that way and landed at #12 on the APD Top 50 Rock Albums Chart for March. I was off to a good start. The APD Global Indicator Charts are sorted by different musical genres, each with an Albums and a Singles chart. The charts are totally determined by the amount of downloads a release receives and not by airplay, so the playing field is as even as you can get for indie artists.

I also decided to go into the Rock genre because, quite frankly, it’s a genre in need of some new blood. Call my music “retro”, call it “old school”, I really don’t care because I know there’s really nothing quite like DownTown Mystic out there on the airwaves. And it seems that more and more Radio Programmers are agreeing with my assessment too. So I was going to put it to the test with the release of DownTown Mystic on E Street.

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

I started putting the word out on June 1st and by the end of the day E Street was #1 on the APD Rock Charts—for Albums and Singles. By the middle of June DownTown Mystic stayed at #1 on the APD Rock Albums Chart and owned the first 15 places on the APD Rock Singles Chart, and the official release was still a week away! Incredibly, and I use the word “incredibly”, because it’s incredible to me that E Street stayed #1 for the entire month of June on the APD Rock Albums Chart!! That had never happened to one of my releases before and I THANK every programmer and DJ that downloaded the tracks! 🙂

The DownTown Mystic on E Street EP has 4 tracks—the retro rocker Hard Enough, which I went into detail about in the last blog post. It’s an up-tempo number that owes a great deal to the great New Wave band Rockpile, which featured guitarist Dave Edmunds and bassist Nick Lowe. I think when Bruce Springsteen released his Tracks box set it reminded people just how busy he was writing and recording during the New Wave period. It was kind of a renaissance for Rock’n’Roll and Rockpile quickly became one of the main influencers during the period. Bruce even wrote the song From Small Things (Big Things One day Come) with Dave Edmunds, so he and The E Street Band were well versed in Rockpile.

The 2nd track, And You Know Why, is the single from the EP and it got a great Exclusive Premiere on The Vinyl District website the week of the EP’s release. It features a very economical bass line from Garry and one of the most restrained drum tracks from Max that I think he’s ever played. And You Know Why has a great deal of meaning to me personally. It’s a song that came to me at a time when I was burnt out on writing and playing music. I was seriously thinking about giving up music altogether and this little tune would not let me quit. Then to have the good fortune of getting to record it with the E Street rhythm section is really quite a blessing.

The 3rd track, Way to Know, was previously released on the self-titled DownTown Mystic cd. Including it on the EP is kind of like playing with the house money because it was already successful at Radio worldwide and went to #1 on the Roots Music Report. The original demo that I recorded for the song was a bit more mid-tempo and much sparser in the arrangement. It also featured a piano part. Garry was the one who really changed the tempo and the arrangement, so I have to blame him for this recorded version. 🙂


The thing that I was really going for on Way to Know was writing the song like 2 people were talking to each other one on one, but it could also be taken from the perspective of the singer making a commentary on the world at large. Particularly in the view of what’s happening here and around the world today, the song seems very perceptive and in the moment. It’s ironic that it probably has more meaning now than when it was written. As I’ve stated previously, the funniest thing I remember about cutting the track was hearing Garry tell Max to “play like Charlie Watts”. 🙂

The last track Sometimes Wrong (Demo) was an idea that I had to rock up the song from the way I originally wrote it. Garry and Max gave it their best shot but I don’t think it really quite meshed the way I had envisioned it. I finally decided to go back to the original version when I recorded the track with Steve Holley and Paul Page for the Standing Still cd and it worked much better. But I did keep most of the guitar parts from this version for the one on Standing Still. Plus, the guitar solo I play on the end of the song is one of the best off the cuff solos I’ve ever put down on tape. It was a one shot live take that I was able to pull off. I just wish I could mute the incessant vocal track singing “sometimes wrong” on the fade out! 🙂

All in all, DownTown Mystic on E Street has been a very cool project to put together and an experience that I’ll never forget. My sincerest gratitude to Garry and Max for truly making a dream come true. Now if I’d only taken some photos. 🙂

DownTown Blog – Courtesy of The E Street Band

DMystic E Street Cover

I was reading the Wikipedia entry for The E Street Band the other day and it mentioned the phrase “courtesy of The E Street Band” that would be given on an album to credit a member of the band for playing on that album. Way back in the 2nd blog post that I did I wrote about The E Street Band being inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and how I came to meet the rhythm section—Garry W. Tallent & Max Weinberg, the bass player and drummer, who also happened to be playing on DownTown Mystic’s Way to Know single.

Given the fact that Way to Know was so successful at Radio worldwide and went to #1 on an important Indie Radio chart, as well as sync licensed on NBC TV’s The Voice, it occurred to me that I should celebrate the recording sessions that I did with these guys. Outside of Ian Hunter, after he left Mott The Hoople, and one or two other artists…having Garry & Max play together with me in the studio is something they’ve only done with Bruce Springsteen. This is something I find to be very cool! I mean, both Garry & Max have played with a good many other artists in their respective careers, but only a handful of times have they been some artist’s rhythm section other than Bruce. You have to admit that’s some very select company to be included with and well worth celebrating. 🙂

So to celebrate the sessions, the DownTown Mystic on E Street EP was created and will be released on June 22.  That date was chosen because of the Summer Solstice, which occurs the day before. For me and most natives of New Jersey, summertime is celebrated by going to the Jersey shore. And being that E Street is in Asbury Park, there’s no better symbol for summer at the Jersey shore. The EP release will have 4 tracks that I recorded with Garry & Max, including Way to Know. The 1st track Hard Enough was originally released on Standing Still in Europe and was not on the US version, and I explain why in that earlier blog post.

DMystic E Street Cover

The interesting thing about cutting this particular song with Max on drums is that we went to the same high school and knew some of the same people. So while setting up in the studio before recording Hard Enough, we were reminiscing about our alma mater—Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ. While mentioning various names of people we had in common, at one point Max stopped and asked me, “Do you remember this girl”—and was about to say her name, when I looked at him and we both said her name together, which really got Max going, “YES, you remember her??!!” 🙂

Garry had been slightly paying attention to our conversation, but when Max and I both roared about this girl (who I will not name to save her any embarrassment), he had to know about her. Garry asked us, “Who is this girl? I want to meet her!” Max began to tell Garry about the hottest girl in our HS, and how every red-blooded male in that school would drool over her. I added that she was like a Playboy Centerfold at 17, but looked like 25. The irony was that the song we were about to record was probably written using her, from my subconscious, as the model for the girl in the song! Crazy, right?

Like any good classic RnR song, there’s a double meaning that’s sexual in nature. However I must confess that the double entendre of “it gets hard enough to love her” was more by accident than plan. The only reason I wrote hard enough was because “it gets difficult to love her” didn’t fit or sound right. The whole song is about how difficult this girl makes this guy’s life, but she’s too hot for him to say no to. Garry had a good laugh about me and Max still being able to rave about this girl so many years later. How could this song not be about her? I’m telling you she was hot!! 🙂

Garry Tallent & Max Weinberg

Garry Tallent & Max Weinberg

We cut 2 tracks in that session—Hard Enough and Sometimes Wrong. Hard Enough was the keeper. You can hear the muscular drumming of Max. There’s something about playing with a drummer who’s solid like that. The track just feels right playing rhythm guitar to it. It’s so in the pocket. The other thing I love is Garry’s bass line. It reminds me a bit of the bass line he played on Springsteen’s Ramrod, which is a fave of mine, although twice as fast. 🙂

The next session we cut And You Know Why and Way to Know. Max wrote a book called The Big Beat where he interviewed great drummers like Ringo, Charlie Watts, Levon Helm and Hal Blaine to name a few. Everyone knows “Mighty” Max and how bombastic he could be live during a Springsteen show (you can hear examples of it on Sometimes Wrong). But I think he really took to heart what some of these great drummers told him so he could become a better-rounded drummer. On And You Know Why he put that knowledge to good use. It might just be the least “Mighty” Max you’ll ever hear on a song he plays on, but he’s still solid keeping the groove against Garry’s economical bass line.

There’s an aura of mystery that surrounds The E Street Band. It’s a very exclusive group of individuals who have a private code among themselves. They backup “The Boss” every night on stage, but they are a separate entity from him. Here’s something not many people know—they  agreed to never endorse anything as The E Street Band. Individually they can have endorsements but you will never see any product endorsed by the band itself, which I think is really unusual and speaks volumes to who they are.

DownTown Mystic on E Street is my brush with 2 of those individuals. I feel very honored and lucky to have had the opportunity to play with one of the greatest rhythm sections in the history of Rock—Garry W. Tallent and “Mighty” Max Weinberg, courtesy of The E Street Band.  🙂

DownTown Mystic Blog – Rock’n’Roll Romantic: Part 1

Rock'n'Roll Romantic Cover

Rock’n’Roll Romantic Cover

DownTown Mystic will be releasing a new album in 2015, and as usual, I’ve got so much to talk about that there’s no way to keep it all in one post. So here’s Part 1 to get us started…

With the release of the DownTown Mystic CD in 2013, the awareness for DownTown Mystic was raised dramatically, as well as raising the bar musically. DownTown Mystic would stay on the Americana Music Association Radio Airplay Charts for 40 consecutive weeks. That’s 10 whole months hanging as an indie outsider with mainstay Americana acts, as well as veteran AAA acts!

DownTown Mystic also made a splash on the Independent Charts, hitting the Top 5 on the Alternate Roots 66 Airplay Chart and most notably, having the single Way To Know going to #1 and the DownTown Mystic album going to #3 on the Roots Music Report Charts. Of course, this makes for a bit more pressure in planning the next DownTown Mystic release. But at the same time it gives me the chance to do something that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

At this time in 2015, it is DownTown Mystic’s intention to create and release an unapologetic classic Rock’n’Roll Album, complete with underlying theme. As I said, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now and I think the moment has finally arrived. If any of you have been paying attention to the debate on whether the Album as a format is dead, then many of you know that it has been indeed pronounced DEAD. I wrote about it in a few blog posts back and not surprisingly, I came out in favor of the Album format, although I felt the issue had been kind of mixed up with the death of the CD. With vinyl making a strong comeback, the Album as a format will clearly make a comeback as well because I don’t think you can have one without the other.

The new album is called Rock’n’Roll Romantic and it’s release will be preceded by 2 Digital Singles, the 1st of which, Turn Around and Go, comes out on March 23rd. As I mentioned, there is an underlying theme to Rock’n’Roll Romantic. I know that people’s attention spans are one of the main reasons often cited in The Album is Dead movement, so I take full responsibility in getting people to listen to this album as a whole. It’s on me to make it interesting, so the buck stops here with me. I’m not looking for excuses. To make it work as an album I have to arrange the songs for CD as well as 2 sides for vinyl. Not too much pressure! lol

Turn Around and Go Digital Single Cover

Turn Around and Go Digital Single Cover

Regarding the underlying theme to the album…As the title infers, all the songs on Rock’n’Roll Romantic deal with romance. That is, RnR Romance, which has a quality all its own. To be sure, when talking about affairs of the heart rock’n’roll style, the sex is always great and full of passion. But the people involved are crazy, so inevitably, they break up, make up and tear it up. Hearts are worn on sleeves and the emotions are raw. There are no happy endings here.

Songs about relationships are followed by songs with sad endings. Elton John sang “sad songs say so much”, and I believe there’s something in human nature that gravitates to sad songs. The one thing we all have in common are our emotions and I think when we listen to something that is gut-wrenching, in a weird sort of way, there’s something comforting about it. Maybe it’s because we can relate to what the singer is going through, and although we can identify with the emotions, it’s not directly happening to us. And believe me; in some of these songs, the listener will really feel for the singer and yet find comfort knowing they’re not as screwed. LOL

One of the main reasons I’m excited about this album is that the songs were recorded in the way DownTown Mystic was originally intended—as a vehicle to showcase my artistic side and to play with great musicians. Rock’n’Roll Romantic has 14 great musicians lending their talents like an ensemble cast, and the songs are some of the best I’ve ever written and collaborated on. Also, as it turns out, this is somewhat of a 20 year retrospective for me, but I’ll get into that more in Part 2.

Turn Around and Go


DownTown Blog – No Exceptions

DownTown Mystic Cover

I think it was Bruce Springsteen who said, “From small things mama, big things one day come”…and that sentiment aptly describes my experience with the writing and recording of the song No Exceptions. The song started out as a riff that would become the centerpiece of the DownTown Mystic album.

Since the release of the DownTown Mystic album, I’ve received so many great emails from fans who like to tell me which song is their favorite. Overwhelmingly, the song that seems to get singled out as “epic” is No Exceptions, which is personally very gratifying because that’s exactly what I wanted to make the recording be—EPIC!

UK Americana reviewer Paul Kerr of Blabber’n’Smoke, singled out No Exceptions in his review of DownTown Mystic: “The best example here is the sinewy, snarled blues of No Exceptions and its tremendous harp wailing, guitar thrashing rush which builds into a fine frenzy. It’s a bit like the Allman Brothers doing an Exile on Main St song as the slide guitars lock in battle with the harp.”

The riff that the song is built on came to me on March 30, 2011. I immediately made a quick recording to save it, and the next day, worked on creating a melody to be sung over it. The interesting thing about the riff that caught my ear was playing an F to an A minor chord where traditionally the V (D) chord would go in a standard Blues progression. Once I had the melody I put the song away and didn’t pay it much mind after that.

About a year later I received some inspiration and began to work on a song that would become Some Day. As usual, I began to record the ideas for the song and came across the little riff I had written a year earlier. Now that I was in a writing mode, I decided to put lyrics to the riff and work on both songs at the same time. I don’t know why I do this, but it generally happens when I start feeling an urge to record again. It had been over 2 years since I had recorded the Standing Still album and the rush of new ideas was putting me in a creative mood to start thinking about doing another one. And sure enough, as soon as I started working on the riff song, a new 3rd song began to rear its head.

Robert Allen with Breedlove Acoustic

Robert Allen with Breedlove Acoustic

Wanting to keep in a blues vein, the lineThe road to hell is paved with good intentions” came into my mind. I had heard the saying many times, but googled it to make sure that it was the correct way that it was written, and found that it had biblical origins. The road to hell is paved with good intentions” was something I could relate to and something I was feeling at the time. From that point I knew that I wanted the song to be about going to Hell and that the music needed to reflect that journey. Once I wrote “if you travel down this road, you’ll find there’s no exceptions” I knew I had my title—No Exceptions.

Once I finished the lyrics and began to play around with the song, the little riff started to take on bigger implications for me. The more I played with it the more it became apparent to me that this could become a huge track in the recording studio. I knew that I wanted to make it a planned jam with no less than 3 solos, and include harmonica and slide guitar. Once I decided I would go into the studio to record, I needed to create demos of the songs for Steve Holley and Paul Page, my Rhythm section.

Steve, Robert & Paul

Steve, Robert & Paul

When I cut the demo for No Exceptions, I knew I would be taking the 1st solo and I played it pretty much the way I played it on the final recording. It’s a credit to Steve that he played some of his drum parts from what he heard on my demo, because when we cut the basic track, I hadn’t noticed what he played where my solo would be. It was only after I cut the solo and heard the mix that I realized that Steve was playing to the guitar solo I put on the demo, because even I couldn’t figure out at first how he had managed to play like I was cutting the solo on the basic track, which I didn’t! LOL

Steve Holley

Steve Holley

When we were cutting the basic track in the studio, my main directive to Steve and Paul was about the jam, and increasing the dynamics where the last 2 solos would be. We ran through a few ideas for the groove since I really wasn’t sure about it. Both Steve and Paul had written “swamp” down for the groove when they heard my demo. The real question from me was how to translate “swamp”.

Paul Page

Paul Page

After we had gone over a few different grooves, Steve had decided what and how he would play. He told Paul “to keep it tight” and we were off. The track you hear was played fully in 1 final take. Steve and Paul just kill it and I can listen over and over to the track just for Steve’s drums. After we finished playing, Steve says in his offhand manner “that should work”, and I kept his line for posterity. Given the work we put into that take, it cracks me up every time I hear it.  🙂

Now that I had a finished basic track, I could record my guitar parts and then move onto the next part of the operation—the harmonica and slide guitar. I already knew who my slide player would be, but I needed to find a really good harp player. I had wanted to use a guy named Nasty Ned on a track on Standing Still, but we never got it together. I asked my Engineer and co-producer, Ben Elliott if Ned would be right for the track, and Ben said Ned would be perfect for it. He gave me his cell number and email address. I tried both, but as fate would have it, Hurricane Sandy would hit knocking out phone and internet service for a few days. Eventually, Ned contacted me and we were in business.

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

Robert & 1976 Les Paul

A month after Sandy hit I was back at Showplace Studios. From the vocal to the guitar sounds, I wanted to create the sonic journey of what it would sound like going to Hell. I think the sound of my Les Paul on the solo is the baddest sounding guitar I’ve ever put on tape. After laying down my guitar solo, Nasty Ned came in and proceeded to lay down 5 or 6 perfect takes. He killed on every take, nailing the bluesy wail of a tormented soul being chased by the Hounds of Hell.

Nasty Ned

Nasty Ned

At this point it was obvious how huge sounding the track had become. Now the only thing left to record was the 3rd and final solo—the slide guitar. I already had my man picked for the job—Justin “JJ” Jordan! The following week, JJ came to the studio. I gave him my instructions. The 3rd and final solo had to be WAILING!! Anything less and the whole track would fall apart. No pressure JJ!! LOL

JJ started playing right after my solo and the key change to get the flavor of the slide into the track. I play guitar lines throughout the track and JJ riffed off of them perfectly. When it came time for his solo, JJ knocked it out in a few takes, wailing his ass off!

JJ & Robert

JJ & Robert

When I heard the ruff mix that night I was truly floored. I could not believe what I was hearing! It’s one thing to have an idea in your head about how something should sound and plan it out. But it’s quite another thing to actually record it and have it come together in such a way that you never could dream of happening…and that’s what I was hearing! What did Bruce say,  “From small things mama, big things one day come”?

Ben Elliott at work

Ben Elliott at work

All that was left was to mix it. I had a ringside seat for the mix. Watching and listening to Ben Elliott’s masterful mix of the track was a thing to behold. With everything that is going on in the track, Ben somehow managed to catch all the nuances and keep them in play, given that this was one huge sounding track with drums pounding and guitars & harp wailing. This was everything and more that I could have wanted in this track…No Exceptions.  🙂