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gerry mckeveny: Blog

Ashokan

Posted on March 10, 2011 with 0 comments
I've just uploaded a video of myself playing "Ashokan", the first track on my 2002 CD Healing Season.

This is intended to be the first of a series in which I upload a video, make an mp3 available for free download, offer a pdf transcription on request and blog a little about some technical details of the composition and the process of composing it.

In the summer of 2000 I spent a brutally hot week in the Catskills attending Summersongs-a songwriting camp created by the very sweet and very talented Penny Nichols. Among the instructors were Sloan Wainwright, Artie Traum, Tom Prasada-Rao and Severin Browne. I had just sat through a class in which Tom Prasada-Rao had handed out a sheet with a number of tunings. I altered a note in one of them, ending up with CGDGCD-low-to-high-popped a capo on the fifth fret and got down to it.

I wanted very much to write something with the "clave" accent in the rhythm, as oppsed to a typical alternating bass pattern. I also wanted more movement in the bass [...]
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Black Tie Reflections

Posted on February 28, 2011 with 0 comments
When I reflect now upon my life in the late 80s it seems as if I spent just about every waking moment in over my head. Newly married, newly a father, I was working for a club date office where, on pretty much every job I did, I was by far the youngest and least experienced player on the bandstand. At least a couple of times a week I'd lug a carload of equipment into the Pierre, Plaza or some other iconic Manhattan venue and spend 4 or 5 hours struggling to hold my own as whatever band I was with that night explored the outer reaches of the Gershwin/Porter canon.

When it went well I loved it and was energized, eager to learn all I could from these older players, grateful to be able to tap into their wealth of experience. When it went badly I'd treat myself to a slice at Ray's on 2nd Avenue-usually washed down with a Sapporo tallboy from the grocer next door. I'd sit, mull over the gig, head home and get out the fake book as soon as I could the next day and see where I'd gone wrong.

Over [...]
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All lines of work boast their own peculiar list of hazards-and being a working musician is certainly no exception.

In my twenty-seven years of gigging by far the most harrowing episode took place some twelve years ago out in Montauk, LI. I was running late, was working with a bandleader I didn't know, singing through a p.a. system I hadn't previously used.
A bit frazzled, I hadn't gone through my habitual check for any grounding discrepancies between my amp and the p.a.. An audience member asked me to make an announcement regarding a raffle. Eager to oblige, I grabbed my microphone while touching the strings of my guitar.

The next thing I knew I had been thrown to the floor, fighting with all my strength to break free of the death grip of electrical current coursing through my upper body. Looking back at my bandmates, it became clear that they didn't understand what was happening. I thought for certain that I was screaming for help at the top of my lungs. I later found out that I didn't [...]
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Confessions of an Aspiring Guitarist

Posted on February 14, 2011 with 0 comments
John Gorka has been quoted on a number of occasions as saying that he considers himself an "aspiring folksinger". Few in the folk world enjoy the kind of broad audience and longevity that Gorka can claim, so what's he talking about?

If you'll forgive the presumption, I'll share some insights from my own experience.
As I head toward my 51st birthday in a couple of months, I am wrapping up my 40th year of playing the guitar. As startling as that fact may seem(it's certainly mind-boggling to me), far more important is the fact that I still feel-after a lifetime as a professional performer and instructor-that there is still so much to learn.

As an avid 12-year-old I could play Steve Howe's intro to "Roundabout", pick out Jerry Garcia licks and John Fahey tunes by ear,which facts gave me the impression of myself as quite the phenom. Little did I know that decades later I would find myself inspired by the killer guitar tones on the new Lucinda Williams record, challenged by the taut economy [...]
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The Guitar Won't Play Itself

Posted on February 7, 2011 with 1 comment
In my last year of college I had the privilege of learning how to drive a manual transmission on a 35-foot school bus. I did this under the masterful tutelage of Joe McDonald, an older African-American gentleman who handled training for the Huntington Coach Company.

One afternoon while cruising through the hills of Centerport I stalled for the umpteenth time that day, looking up at Joe sheepishly-hoping for support, encouragement...whatever. Instead, he said to me, "Look, man, YOU got to drive the bus! If the engine starts bogging down goin' uphill, you have to downshift! It isn't going to do it for you.".

I won't say that I never stalled again, but I did stall a lot less frequently, and when I did I understood that it was the result of something that I was or was not doing.

The same lesson holds true for the guitar: it isn't going to play itself, and if what's coming out of it isn't what you were hoping to hear it's because of something that you're doing or not doing. That's good news, [...]
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