Musicians I Know: Nathan Griner

The new Nathan Griner album, This Road. Nathan Griner is a singer-songwriter and guitarist based in Hastings, Minnesota. But he has guitar and will travel , often playing venues in the Twin Cities metro area and "up north," as we say in Minnesota. I would describe his style as boot-stomp alt.-country folk, influenced by the Lumineers and Neil Young (when Neil's in an acoustic mood). Nate sings with soul, feeling, and an underlying joy for music. His originals are earnest and heartfelt, and he's always down for some crowd-pleasing covers too.    I first met Nate about five-and-half years ago at a family-and-friends bonfire at my aunt and uncle's place in Nisswa, Minnesota. My uncle had instructed me to bring my guitar so I could play along with Nate. I dutifully obliged, but hadn't really been a "campfire musician" before and so was unsure as to what to expect. The bonfire wasn't Nate's first rodeo, however, and he had his music binder

A Little Something About Songwriting

My ill-fated music blog returns after nearly a year of silence. Raising three kids under 5 during a pandemic tends to have a temporary freezing effect on elective pursuits. But I'm here now. I was looking through entries I'd done for an old deleted blog and ran across something I wrote about songwriting in 2009. I was struck by this entry because, although I love songwriting, I haven't written a new song since 2018. It's not that I don't have anything left to say - at least I hope not. It's more that I haven't had the time or energy; our household has been in survival mode for the past two years. I've had a few ideas and phrases floating around, but finding the time to work with them has not been easy.  An additional difficulty is that music, while a sincere passion of mine, is not my day job. Anyway, here's what I wrote nearly 12 years ago. I find that I feel it's still true: "Eager Anxiety* has been taking a break, so I ha

Musicians I Know: Mike Deeney

Mike Deeney is a drummer, singer, guitarist, ukulele dabbler, and music aficionado, who has been making music in Minnesota and its environs for over five decades. He is also my uncle (married to my dad's sister) and we serve on the board of a music nonprofit together . He has been the backbone of many bands, including Chord City and Nirvana (not that Nirvana...he'll explain below). Mike is a gifted musician. For one thing, he can sing and drum at the same time, a rare talent. As an admiring nephew, I find that Mike has an impeccable sense of what fits a given song. For example, he knows just how much drums to apply, which is an important skill for an instrument that can be a sonic sledgehammer if wielded with abandon. While Mike can kick out a solid rock beat, he also possesses that quality of judiciousness that makes for an excellent drummer. Mike has an innate gift for quickly finding just the right vocal harmonies. While music wasn't his day job, it's an integral p

That Rock and Roll Lifestyle

Musicians have been writing about making music for a long time.  There are plenty of famous songs about being a working musician on the road, like Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again," or Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," or Jackson Browne's "The Load-Out."   Other songs of this nature might focus on a particular performer - real or fictional - like Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" or David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust."   I am, of course, omitting dozens of songs that would fit this theme (it's a blog, we don't have time). For a while now, I've been collecting a sub-genre of the "working musician" song, a sort of satire, often self-deprecating.  These songs are funny - sometimes in a dark way - but they're not full-on gag songs.  We're not talking about a song like "Opening Band" by Paul & Storm (as fitting as that song is). The playlist I have assembled so far has three broad

Chord City & Friends & Me

This blog has been conspicuously dormant for a while.  I wasn't kidding when I called it "potentially ill-fated."  Last time I posted anything was last summer.  A lot has happened since then in my musical life.  And I'd like to tell you about it.  If you're interested, that is.  If not, why are you reading this? Still here?  Okay then.  Let's start at a church fundraiser in 1989.  Here's a grainy still from a video shot at that event. Chord City, circa 1989 There is a little boy in the lower left-hand corner.  His head is circled for your convenience.  He is watching his father (center, face obscured by microphone) play guitar, along with his uncle (drums) and their long-time friends.  Members of this group have played together for years, long before this little boy was born.  This is the first time he's seen them play together publicly.  He'd been to a practice or two, but this is the real deal.  There is his dad, up on stage, playing and

Portrait of an Effective Song: "Mama" by Genesis

I didn't like "Mama" by Genesis when I first heard it.*  The grinding synthetic heartbeat that drives the song is unsettling, even anxiety-producing.  Bump-bump, CRASH! Bump-bump, CRASH!  Bump-bump, CRASH! Bump-bump, CRASH!  It feels like a sci-fi Telltale Heart , a relentless pounding that hurtles toward insanity. I now consider "Mama" to be a brilliant and emotionally effective song.  By emotionally effective, I mean that the song evocatively portrays the feelings contained therein, both instrumentally and lyrically.  Keyboardist Tony Banks used some sort of unearthly synthesizer sound for the main melody, a kind of eerie whale call echoing into darkness.  It resembles sounds you might hear in an old haunted house film, but manages to avoid sounding silly.  Underneath the main melody is a subtle, but percussive and frenetic rapid-fire organ following along in time with the heartbeat.  At other times, a more subtle synth pad fills in the sonic space, but nev

Musicians I Know: Chris Paquette

Chris Paquette is my non-biological brother and one of my longest-lasting friendships.  He and I were born six days apart. His dad is the mutual friend who introduced my parents to each other.  Chris and I grew up together.  Chris started playing alto saxophone in grade school, but found his real musical calling in percussion in his teenage years.  He has been keeping the beat ever since.  An accomplished musician, Chris has played with acts covering a broad spectrum of genres and styles.  Although he moved to Chicago nearly two decades ago, we have kept in touch and jammed whenever we've had a moment.  As an amateur, it's a real privilege for me to get to play with a "real musician" from time to time.  I was honored when Chris agreed to play percussion at my wedding during a short Eager Anxiety set (my folk-rock duo). As a player, Chris possesses that magical combination of speed and consistency that makes him a deeply talented professional and a real joy to wat