Winning In Albuquerque
After hearing the great Albuquerque songwriters on Sunday night (May 15) at Art of the Song, and feeling that the songwriting bar was set extremely high, I was getting a bit nervous for the showcase at Winning Coffee Company on Tuesday (May 17). I spent Monday morning looking through my Big Book of Songs, picking out what I though was my A-plus material. The trick: to put together a 30 minute set that contains some type of narrative that might resonate with the audience and also let them know who I am as an artist. Before I can obsess on this too much, Kristina Jacobsen showed up at 1 pm---we scheduled some time Monday afternoon to co-write. The goal: have a new song ready to play for our significant others by dinner at 6:30. The slightly longer-term goal: to play it at the showcase on Tuesday night for an audience that would include other songwriters. The even longer-term goal: to have something that will appear on an album someday. So…we put a bit of pressure on ourselves, but it’s ok. We were pretty confident we could make it happen.
(Now, at this point, I had written a lengthy description about the process of writing “Ponies,” the song that came out of this writing session. I’ve decided to talk about it in a later post, if I choose to talk about it at all, because when it comes down to it, there’s a song to be experienced, and I’d rather you hear it and feel it first, without any preamble. And…though we’ve sung the song, it’s still in progress, so…the process is not yet complete).
A very nice dinner with Kristina and Bruce and me and Laura. Kristina and I debut the song to a very positive response from our small, yet loving audience. Then we have dessert, after which I played a couple of my new songs for everybody, ending with an older tune, “Cowboy,” which is a fitting lullaby to wind up the evening.
Tuesday morning, Laura and I hit Barelas Coffee House, a classic Albuquerque diner, for breakfast. Laura had “what the President had,” (yes Obama ate Huevos Rancheros Deluxe and a side of chicharonnes here), and I had a breakfast burrito. Amazing Green Sauce! After breakfast, we cruised a few miles of Central Ave (old Route 66) in Albuquerque before heading home to practice “Ponies” a few times to make it ready for the big debut at the gig.
As we loaded up to head out to Winning, rain started to fall. Nothing heavy, but the temperature dropped as well. Good coffee weather. We rolled up to Winning, unloaded, and I quickly set up and tuned the pedal steel, and plugged in my Martin. I had the honor of providing some pedal steel accompaniment for Kristina on her first two songs of the night, “Inez” and “Me, My Dog and My Guitar.” Then…we presented the public debut of “Ponies (first draft).” I always like singing a brand new song (remember, “Ponies” barely existed just 24 hours before), it’s exciting to see how an audience is going to react, and this time the reaction was positive!
After a solo song by Kristina, she invited me back on pedal steel and asked Laura to bring her accordion up to close out the set with “Maison Dancer,” an up tempo cajun style song written by Kristina and our friend Sonya Heller. It was a great, energetic end to the set, including an audience sing along.
Finnie Coleman, Jimmie Killingsworth and an ensemble including 3 additional singers and a percussionist, played the second set of the night, raising the roof of Winning with some rousing gospel and folk influenced original songs. Lots of clapping, stomping, and singing along. These folks had me grinning ear to ear, despite the fact that I was going to have to follow all of that amazing musical energy.
To follow the “tough act to follow,” I decided to start my set by dedicating one of my newer songs, “Silence Before the Song” to one of my biggest songwriting influences, Guy Clark, who had died just the day before. After all the exuberance of Finnie and Jimmie and company, I was impressed that the Winning audience, an audience of Listeners, was following every word and note. I compliment Kristina and the “Winners” for cultivating a listening room environment very friendly to singer-songwriters.
Laura joined me on accordion for “Deepest Story,” and “Yodeling Reptiles.” After a bit of between-song banter about growing up and living in the desert of California and how Albuquerque shared a similar terrain, I played the song that was probably responsible for me coming out to New Mexico for this mini-tour. “Santa Fe” is a song I wrote a couple of years ago, but never played in front of audience until this past January. It has elicited some very powerful responses so far. It felt a bit surreal to play it just an hour’s drive south of the actual city after which it was named. The surreal feeling was increased because someone at a recent show had told me that “Santa Fe” reminded him of a Guy Clark song. That was perhaps one of the biggest compliments that I’ve ever gotten.
I ended my set with “Golden” and soaked briefly in the Albuquerque applause. To end the show, Manu Sandoval played a song from his upcoming EP. Post show, it was nice to have a couple of conversations with some locals, including friends of my mom (I think she sent them to spy on me), as well as Gabrielle Louise and Justin Evan Thompson, two of the songwriters that we had heard on Sunday’s Art of the Song concert. After packing up, it was off to Cue’s with Kristina and Bruce for some delicious barbeque, then back to our temporary Albuquerque home, for our last night in this great Southwestern City.