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“Real”-in’ the Years

Hello Troubadourians! This column marks the end of my first year writing for the Troubadour – and you. I enjoy writing this column and sharing what I’ve learned and observed over the 40-something years I’ve been playing music. Often, December or year-end columns take the form of ‘Year in Review’ recollections but since I’m actually writing this in mid-November – before Thanksgiving – I thought I’d offer up a few of the things that I’m thankful for. For some things I’m perpetually thankful, for others I’ve only recently realized how much of a blessing they’ve been to me. Squarely in the “most recent gratitude” group is my excellent boss, Liz Abbott. Liz gave me the opportunity to write this column for you, replacing the wry and erudite Jim McInnes, and I’ll be forever thankful for that trust.

I am always surprised by the things that music teaches me, particularly those things that I thought I already knew. That’s a bit of an awkward statement but I’ll explain. When I first met Harry and Nancy Mestyanek, I was still full of attitude and amplitude from my tenure with The Wild Truth. I was badass and I knew it. This little “Americana” band that they had – Folding Mr. Lincoln – was going to be an easy gig while I looked for something that actually “challenged” my guitar playing. That was three years ago. In that time I have been challenged as a guitarist and as a person like never before and my entire catalog of what I thought was “good playing” has been rewritten. My dearest Harry and Nancy, you surround yourselves with excellent musicians and excellent people and I’m thankful to be a part of your circle.

San Diego has been my home all of my life. I don’t know what I did to have earned the Karma required to be born here, but whatever it was I doubt I’ll ever earn that much again. San Diegans are an eclectic bunch – probably because a lot of you are from somewhere else. To me, that eclecticism shines brightest in the music you all make. And I reap the benefit of all of your regional influences without ever having to leave home. Lucky me… This city is an amazing melting pot of influences and genres. Just listen to the music around you and you’ll hear sounds from every corner and culture. I take a little something from all of you and offer my “sound” in return.

Yes, I’m always listening and observing. There’s so much cool stuff out there, how can I not? Besides, now that I’m a journalist of sorts, it’s my job to “observe and report” those things that I think the readers of the Troubadour will find useful and interesting. I had about two years worth of ideas and topics when I started writing this column back in January, just in case I didn’t receive enough input from the readership for what to write about. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any shortage of input from you. Not all of that input has been via the email address that is at the end of every column. Rather, many of you come up to me to comment on a past column or just to talk about things that are on your mind. Often those conversations are the Genesis of future columns, many of which require me to do some research to find out the facts. I really like it when that happens. I hope you do, too.

Cool stuff sometimes just “happens” and I’m always thankful for serendipity. I was fooling around with an alternate chord change for one of our new songs and I stumbled across a riff that I recognized immediately as “Peg” by Steely Dan. I’m tangent-prone, so off I went to get a better grasp of the complete song that I now had tantalizingly discovered under my fingers. This quest led me to find a set of videos that comprised a complete concert that Steely Dan performed in 2003. If you’re at all a fan of “The Dan” I highly recommend that you search YouTube for the concert. You’ll experience ensemble playing at its finest as well as some of the best soloing you’ll ever hear, all tastefully blended into possibly the epitome of jazz-pop songwriting by Don and Walt (Donald Fagen and Walter Becker if you must be formal). I hadn’t listened to Steely Dan all that much prior to my “accident” with “Peg,” but listening to their music now was a right-thing-at-the-right time awakening that unlocked a lot of things about music and was my back door into jazz that I could now step through. Thanks Don and Walt, and thanks for the paraphrase that is the title for this column.

No list of thankfulness would be complete without including my family. I am especially thankful for the wonderful women in my life; my wife, Sue; my daughters, Aimee and CC; my Mom and Mom-in-Law; and my sister, Cathie. We all lost my Dad in April and I’m left as the reluctant patriarch for these intelligent, strong, and beautiful women. These women rock my world every day. They keep me real and relevant and I love them all. I am still startled and amazed when people call me “Mr. Loach” and I turn to look for my Dad because they can’t be talking to me… can they?

So, as we head into 2013 – assuming the Mayans got it wrong and there is a 2013 – I’ll be looking at and listening to as much new stuff as I can, all while I continue to study all of the “old stuff” that I still need to learn. Thanks to all of you for reading this column. It is as much yours as it is mine so don’t be surprised if you find yourself – or someone you know – in one of these stories in the coming year. Now, go practice!

Need to know? Just ask… Charlie (ask.charlie@hotmail.com)

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