WHY/HOW?

What do ya mean, why?? I don't know...I just felt like it...

Intro... Music is one of the greatest gifts I believe we have received from a kind and loving Creator. It's an art form...and like painting, sculpture, etc. allows an artist an outlet to attempt to express the emotions which dwell within... sadness, joy, grief whatever... Although my heart's firmly rooted in blues, you'll hear a range of influences here from Elvis to Jobim, dixieland to rock...but I believe you'll sense the underlying blues foundation.. This is just something I've wanted to do as long as I can remember...just about a half century or so in the making...enough philosophizing, just had to get that off my chest, ok??

Background... Although I have been playing music since my teens (first band in 1966), right now I'm not affiliated with any particular band. I'm an independent, a free agent, a jammer...I like nothing better than to get together with a bunch of other blues lovers and just see what happens. As such, I've sat in with countless groups - sometimes for a song or two, sometimes for entire gigs - both local artists as well as national acts. That's one of the great things about blues music; it's an interesting mix of structured music and completely free and unfettered improvisation. Most blues bands are very willing to "bring up" known musicians from the audience to share in the fun. That's also why there are blues jams anywhere you want to go... big cities, small towns. You can walk off the street with a harp or two in your pocket, to a room full of virtual strangers, and in no time be playing some serious blues - sometimes sounding like you've been doing it together with these cats for years.

Concept... In the course of time, I've become acquainted with a host of talented musicians from around the Lehigh Valley (and there is NO shortage of talent!). In particular, the weekly jam held by the Lehigh Valley Blues Network (LVBN), was a great forum for meeting, playing, and generally enjoying the music with many local musicians. When I finally got up the gumption to embark on this effort, the idea was to lay down the basic tracks for a number of original tunes, then invite the most talented musicians I could think of to add their parts. I figured, what's the worst that could happen?? They might just say "No thanks!" Considerable effort has been made to select just the right players for each specific song. One guy might be fabulous on this song, but not quite the right "fit" for that song... but someone else would match that song perfectly. The results were beyond my greatest expectations! In most cases, demo CD's were furnished so each player could preview what songs they would be on and maybe give some thought as to what they might want to do. It's a real treat when they would often bring into the studio their own ideas and the songs would sometimes go off in a direction I hadn't anticipated - almost always better than I'd hoped.

Execution... I knew from the outset that this wasn't going to be knocked out in a few days. I figured it could take a couple of years and that's how it turned out to be. First of all, I certainly had no deadline. Since this is what you call "self-produced", I also couldn't really afford to put out the cost for studio time all at once. This is a "scrimp, save, record and repeat" type of project. In many cases, due to the difficulties in scheduling musicians, we ended up laying down one track at a time. What's resulted is sort of a tapestry of multiple tracks, built up, one upon another - then finally mixed. The whole project began on Thursday, April 12, 2001 at Dan's House Studio in Bethlehem, PA, with a follow up session on Friday the 13th (I'm NOT superstitious). Later when Dan moved to his new place in Center Valley, the latter half of the project was completed in his new studio (visit www.DansHouseStudio.com) Over the course of months and years that followed, it was a slow parade of musicians, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups, laying down tracks, mixing and moving on. It was really exciting watching the development of songs as they began to reach completion. Of course, along the way I would constantly get ideas for new songs. Altogether I think we have something like 25 or more songs in various stages of completion, which doesn't include numerous other songs which never even got off the ground in the studio (still floating around in my head). One advantage to that was the luxury of being able to see how songs were developing, then decide which songs would make the "final cut" (tough choice!). But then again, there's always the outside chance that they could be the beginnings of another CD. As the project drew to it's end, I had this strong urge to do something that was unlike everything else - something "live". So Thursday, March 6th, 2003 was "live" day. With Dan on piano, Jake on acoustic guitar, and me playing harp, we laid down "Pond Scum" in memory of Al Guerrero, a very talented and well-respected Lehigh Valley bass player who met an untimely death in late 2002. Then, almost on the spur of the moment, I asked Jake to join me on a little tune that had recently popped into my head - "Right Back Jack". It was our "one take song", which I thought turned out pretty good. We mulled over trying another take or two, because it was not "perfect" then decided that the spontaneity and freshness of that one take was something better not tampered with... besides, Jake did such a great job, it certainly can stand on it's own. Later, on a flight back from Chicago, who was sitting in the row right in front of us? None other than Beth Guerrero (Al G's daughter), I invited her to come and add a bass track to "Pond Scum" (appropriate), which she did the following week. The very last person to record was my son, Matt, on trumpet. Of all the musicians, it took two years for him to find an opening in his schedule!! (Not technically true, the horn section parts weren't scheduled til toward the end for obvious reasons)

Wrap Up... So there you have it some of you may not care for any of these songs, some may like all of them (it's possible)! But most of you will fall into the middle category of liking some and not others. But, of course, that's how it is for most recordings, isn't it? If that's the case for most, that's ok. But I gotta tell you; it was really a blast seeing it thru to the finish. I honestly am not anticipating a wide acceptance, nor am I anticipating a career change. Like I said, it's just something I always wanted to do. So now it's done - hope you gain some enjoyment from listening to it!

Keep the blues alive!

animation of chas signature

Musings... Meeting David Grew in service the first morning...(Spanish territory)...car driving by at the beginning of "Hoping Endlessly" (left it in)...phone call from Gary Rissmiller at 2 AM..."were you sleeping?" Studio staples: wine, cheese, crackers, baloney...Hamish and Frazier...Dan running back and forth between the piano and the control panel...B.C. scheduled to sing, but unforeseen circumstances intervened...Mary Hawkins was ready and willing, car trouble, couldn't make it to the studio...Tara Gannon scheduled...got sick. Her Mom, Kassie filling in...her friend Hazel invited...can't make it...another friend, Venessa can...both ladies did a superb job! John Cammack (who drove Venessa to the studio) joining in on background vocals...So many other great musicians willing and ready to participate...not enough songs! Studio banter: "How long was that one?"..."It had its moments..." or, Gary Rissmiller..."Whatdya think, Chas?"...

Post Script: Mention must be made of the fine efforts of another son, Josiah, who did such a great job with the website. Without his valuable assistance, I don't know what I would have done. The design is a joint collaboration...but quite a number of features, and the actual implementation were done completely by him. Thanks a bunch, Josiah!