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&PJ

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.

PJ

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.

BJStones2

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.

Flash

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.

BrianFlag

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!

DTMPS15

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. 🙂

DTMPS15

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.  🙂

 

DownTown Blog – 2014 in Review Part 2

DownTown Mystic Cover

In Part 1 of my 2014 Review I basically covered the 1st Quarter of the year, which featured highlights of the DownTown Mystic CD on the charts. Notably, the single Way To Know going to #1 and the album going to #3 on the Roots Music Report Chart. Dani Heyvaert/Rootstime in Belgium wrote a great review of the album and singled out Way To Know, saying “Way To Know…a straightforward rocker in the best Stones tradition…a perfect radio single”.

DownTown Mystic also broke into the Americana Music Association Radio Chart Top 100, rising to #65 after 20 consecutive weeks on the chart. This was only the midway point for the album, which still had another 20 to go before finishing in July after 10 months and 40 straight weeks. This was definitely mind-blowing for me!

Spring ushered in a new discovery for me when I happened upon a new band out of Winnipeg Canada called The Bros. Landreth. They had put out their own cd called Let It Lie, and I was immediately a fan after the 1st listen. Since I was on a roll at Americana Radio with my own record, I reached out to Dave Stratton, the PD of WQBR. Dave was a big supporter of mine and a great music head. So I figured, who better to take Let It Lie to? I sent Dave a link to the track Tappin’ On The Glass and he emailed me back asking where could he get a copy of the cd.

I sent Dave the cd and he said he would play the band. I then got in contact with the band to let them know they had a fan at Americana Radio in the US. I heard back from Dave Landreth, the bass player, who couldn’t thank me enough for what I’d done. This was the start of a friendship. A few months later I sent Dave congratulations when the news broke that The Bros. Landreth had signed a deal with Slate Creek Records after playing a gig in Nashville. In September they played NYC for the 1st time and I was able to finally meet the band! Their new record comes out this month.

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

Robert and Dave Landreth from The Bros. Landreth

The Bros. Landreth was the 1st new band I had chanced upon since Band of Heathens, and the similarities weren’t lost on me. Both bands had great songs and players. It was very exciting for me to experience that same magical vibe, discovering something new. Then to make personal contact just moves it up a notch! And I was about to have some personal contact, which made the Summer Solstice extra special this year, because Band of Heathens played NYC!

A beautiful night in late June was made even better when I went to see Band of Heathens play a great set at Hill Country Barbecue. It was the 1st time BOH was playing there, and the room was a perfect fit for them. It was also the 1st time that I got to hear my fave Gordy Quist song, Second Line, played live. But the recorded acoustic version was given a rocking electric gospel styled arrangement that blew the doors down!

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

Robert with Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi from Band of Heathens

After the show I got a chance to catch up and talk music with my main men, Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi. They’re such cool talented guys and always a pleasure to speak with. The band is a great group of guys and a really tight musical unit. Band of Heathens would kick into a higher gear by the Fall with the release of the more rock oriented single Carry Your Love and Carry Your Love Tour, as well as backing Kid Rock on his new First Kiss album. How cool is that??

The BOH show was the perfect event to usher in the summer. There was a flurry of DownTown Mystic music featured on a bunch of cool Music Podcasts/Blogs. One of the highlights was having Way To Know getting the spotlight on a segment of Bike TV in Germany. The show features high end racing bicycles being tested and talked about in various videos for bike enthusiasts and Extreme bike riders. Way To Know starts at the 11:18 mark of show #217.

In July the unexpected arrived in the form of a check in the mail from Jingle Punks, the NYC Music Licensing company that places my music on TV. It was for a Dr Pepper ad on the Internet. WTF? Turns out I had 2 DownTown Mystic tracks featured in the ad…how cool! Now all needed was to find it. So I googled Dr Pepper and found the ad under Dr Pepper/1 Fan.

Seems that Dr Pepper was doing a series of these ads and my music was featured on the ad with Mickie James, the 8-time Female Wrestling Champ and Country Singer! Lost & Found and No Exceptions from the DownTown Mystic album get some nice time in this highly professional filmed and edited ad. This was a totally unexpected highlight of the summer!

Check out Dr Pepper/1 Fan: Mickie James Video

Meanwhile, there was a possible deal being shopped for DownTown Mystic in Europe. There appeared to be some interest and we were going back and forth with a couple of labels before a deal finally fell through at the last instant due to a twist of fate. Close but no cigar! Speaking of falling…The Fall rolled around and I was back in the studio spending time recording instrumental pieces I called SoundScapes.

These would coincide with a big announcement by my company Sha-La Music on a Publishing/Licensing Agreement with Music of The Sea and my good bud Eddie Caldwell. We’d been working together on and off since we met in Cannes at Midem 3 years ago. Eddie was responsible for getting my music placed with 1 of LA’s top Music Supervisors, Alexandra Patsavas of Chop Shop Music, who took 3 my songs for The Carrie Diaries on TV. Here’s the Press Release from November.

All in all, 2014 provided a lot of surprises and forward movement for me professionally. As the year came to a close I was already making plans for the next DownTown Mystic release. Keep an eye & ear out for Rock’n’Roll Romantic sometime in 2015. Visit DownTown Mystic on NoiseTrade to sample and download some free music. Thanks to all for your support an let’s keep it rockin’ in 2015!

DownTown Blog – 2014 in Review: Part 1

DownTown Mystic Cover

2014 was some kind of a year for me personally & professionally. Where 2013 ended with the release of the DownTown Mystic CD in mid-October and breaking into the Top 100 on the Americana Music Association (AMA) Radio Airplay Chart at the end the year, 2014 would start with a few challenges.

While I was basking in the glow of finishing the year with 10 consecutive weeks on the AMA Chart and reaching our highest position at #82, I was already in uncharted waters as the New Year started. I had never been on the charts for more than 3 or 4 weeks previous to this release, so as far as I was concerned, I had already passed every conceivable goal. Kudos to my trusted team of Radio Promoters, Fred Boenig & Keith Parnell at AMP, for their stellar work.

As January started, I was losing a big supporter in Corpus Christi, TX. Daddy-D of KCCT had been our 1st big Add at Radio, giving us 15 spins a week and that really helped us break into the Top 100. Now he had to make room for the new releases coming in the New Year. This was something I never had to deal with before. With the loss of those spins, DownTown Mystic was knocked out of the Top 100.

AMAlogo

My radio man, Fred, said we just needed to add some new stations to replace Daddy-D and he was working on a few to come on board. Fred came through and the following week we broke back into the Top 100 and hit a new high at #78 on the AMA Chart, making for a nice birthday present. The following week DownTown Mystic moved up to #71 while I was getting a biopsy performed, thanks to a spike on my PSA test. 12 needles stuck up my-you-know-where…Happy New Year!!

Meanwhile, DownTown Mystic started 2014 at #14 on the Roots Music Report (RMR) Roots Rock Chart. This was very encouraging since the Roots Music Report claims to be the #1 Independent Music Chart in the world. In early February DownTown Mystic continued to hit new highs in spins, rising to #65 on the AMA Chart, breaking into the Top 50 in Total Spins. Meanwhile, the single Way To Know crossed over and debuted at #2 on the RMR Alt/Rock Song Chart. The DownTown Mystic album debuted at #7 on the RMR Alt/Rock Album Chart. This really was quite a surprise! But it was all a prelude to what would be the scariest and then probably the best day of the year for me. In just 24 hours I would go from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs!

On Feb. 22 I was at my oldest nephew David’s wedding. Having spent the previous night drinking a lot of wine at the Rehearsal Dinner, my stomach had paid the price during the day. The wedding was a huge affair but I only had a couple of drinks, still feeling the effects of the previous evening. Later in the night, as the Bride & Groom were cutting their cake and feeding it to each other, I was moving in close trying to get it all on video.

As I drew near I suddenly saw my nephew and his new bride’s faces rushing towards me. WTF?? It was at this point that something in my brain told me this was not good, as I managed to avoid crashing into them, and fall to my knees to avoid an oncoming table. Dazed and feeling the blood rushing from me, I somehow got up and reeled towards my table, where my brother-in-law grabbed me and sat me on a chair. Seeing that I was going out, they put me on the floor.

DTMPS15

The next thing I remember was people standing over me with my shirt ripped open, calling 911. It seems I had passed out and 2 young doctors attending the wedding in trying to get a pulse ripped my shirt open, popping off the buttons (that seems a bit dramatic, right?), in order to give me CPR. They thought I was dead. Luckily, my sister-in-law, the groom’s mom who’s a nurse, was familiar with me and told them my pulse was just very faint. Believe me, there was no white light and my life didn’t flash in front of me, so I was not dead. The EMTs arrived and carted me out to the ambulance. What a scene! 🙁

It turns out I had managed to dehydrate myself, mainly thanks to the night before. Too much alcohol, caffeine and chocolate are a bad combination when not drinking enough water. It caused a sudden drop in my blood pressure, which caused me to pass out and why they had such a hard time finding my pulse. What a major drag—I missed the dessert room, where everybody was going as I was being carted out!! If I hadn’t passed out I was surely going to OD on cannolis! 🙂

roots_music_report_logo

When I got back home the next day, I went online to check the RMR charts that had come out the night of the wedding. Unbelievably, Way To Know was now at #1 on the RMR Alt/Rock Song Chart#1??!! WTF?? And that wasn’t all of it…the DownTown Mystic album was #3 on the RMR Alt/Rock Album Chart and Way To Know was also #6 on the RMR Rock Song Chart! In 2014, DownTown Mystic was on 7 different RMR Charts.

This was absolutely surreal! There’s got to be some kind of moral to the story here, no? On the same night, I was personally at my lowest and professionally at my highest…you can’t make this stuff up!! I guess the moral to the story is that “some things are just meant to be”…right? I mean, think about it…for an artist to drop dead at a huge party on the very same night his single goes to #1 and he never knows about it is incredibly ironic! It would also be quite sad, wouldn’t it? But that’s not how the story turned out. Nothing was going to stop that day from happening and I’m still here to talk about it. But is it believable?? 🙂

By the end of February DownTown Mystic was on the AMA charts for 20 straight weeks, and amazingly, this was only the halfway point! Thanks to the support of some great PDs like Dave Stratton/WQBR, Adam Phillips/WHAY, Ed Lang/WRRW, Cullen Kehoe/WFIV, Wildman Steve/WildmanSteve.com, and certainly our main man, Stan Edwards/CountryBear.com, the DownTown Mystic album had another 20 weeks to go!!

I want to acknowledge and thank these guys for putting us on the map. While DownTown Mystic only had a dozen or so stations officially add and play it, what really mattered was the amount of spins each one gave us. Many times I would see DownTown Mystic with more spins than other releases that had twice as many stations playing them. Certainly, every possible goal had been reached and surpassed by wide margins. The icing on the cake would be going over the 1000 spins mark on the AMA Charts!

2014 was only 2 months old and already off to a wild start. At this rate, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to survive the rest of the year! Stay tuned for Part 2…