The Kitchen Musician ~ February 2017

3 No tags Permalink 0

Hello friends. These days I am thinking a lot about the virtues of learning from the masters of the past. This month I team up with my friend, carpenter poet Bill Thibodeau for a new song to express that point of view. Join us in the kitchen!

  This Month’s Music: Too Slow for Demo Work
  Upcoming Shows
  Featured Non-Profit: American Civil Liberties Union

Tom at Amazing Things Arts Center.
Photo: © 2016 Dan Tappan


PLEASE JOIN US! Friday, February 17, 2017. I will be opening for one of my songwriting heroes, David Mallett at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, MA. David is a true American Songwriting Master. It is an honor to share the stage with him. Joining me will be my uber-talented brother in music, Seth Connelly. Join us? Details at this link.

ANNOUNCING! My daughter Mally Smith has been writing some great stuff since she put out her most recent album Mally Smith and the Fertile Void. This week she has announced her new recording project. I will let her speak for herself.

If you would like to support to this worthy project, please click here!

This Month’s Music
Too Slow for Demo Work

Too Slow for Demo Work
© 2017 Lyrics: William Thibodeau, Music Tom Smith (ASCAP)
Click the image above to play the video.
Lyrics in the comments section below.

I have come to songwriting relatively late in life. For most of my musical pilgrimage I sang old folksongs – obscure gems passed from generation to generation by long forgotten singers. These “common people” adjusted the old songs intentionally or unintentionally – sharing with their friends and neighbors via the oral tradition. It was only natural to be drawn to modern day craftsmen-songwriters who are heavily influenced by those old songs. Now, after decades of singing the songs of others, I am writing my own. I am so grateful to learn from the music of the masters, many of whom I can’t even identify.

Perhaps this is what drew me to Bill Thibodeau’s poem, “Too Slow for Demo Work”. Bill is a founding member of the Carpenter Poets of Jamaica Plain. From time to time, the Carpenter Poets meet at a local pub – “common” men and women who gather for a few pints and to share their poetry. Perhaps you have heard Annie on the Stairs, my first collaboration with Bill.

Bill tells me that demolition work, the tearing down of walls and other existing architecture during remodeling projects, is commonly given to the “new guys” – apprentices who are instructed to tear it down quickly and efficiently to make way for the skilled craftsman to build new construction. As they say, “time is money”. Some of these young apprentice carpenters also seem to take delight in wielding their heavy hammers and wrecking bars as plaster and walls fall before them. The singer of this song has a different opinion of this task.

Bill’s beautiful lyrics (provided in the comments section below) remind me of this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The Builders

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

Here’s to the wisdom and craftsmanship of the masters past. May we learn from them and carry the very best of it forward.

Steady on!


(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)

Upcoming Shows

February 15, 2017 @ 7:00 pm: The Hearing Room, Chelmsford, MA
Songwriter showcase, joined by Rick Drost and Thomas Knight.

February 17, 2017 @ 8:00 pm: Amazing Things Arts Center, Framingham, MA
Opening for David Mallett. David is a living songwriting legend. I am really looking forward to this one. I will be supported by the talented Seth Connelly. My music always sounds better when Seth is in the room.

February 26, 2017 @ 10:00 am: Unitarian Church of Brockton, MA
My storytelling friend Tony Toledo and I will team up on the sermon. Expect some uplifting encouragement. This should be fun.

February 27, 2017 @ 8:00 pm: Roslindale Open Mike, Roslindale, MA
My 30 minute feature set starts about 8:30ish. Arrive by 6:30 to sign up to perform at this long standing and friendly open mike.

March 7, 2017 @ 8:00 pm: The Burren, Somerville, MA
Featuring at this great open mike, hosted by Hugh McGowan for over ten years!

April 22, 2017 @ 12:00 pm: New England Folk Festival, Mansfield, MA
Returning to the New England Folk Festival, performing a set entitled “New Songs from Old Traditions” with my good friends Peter Fischman and Deb O’Hanlon. Following this show, I join the Children’s Music Network for a program of songs for people of the younger persuasion.

May 3, 2017 @ 7:30 pm: Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Opening for Texas songwriter, Billy Crocket.

May 12, 2017 @ 8:00 pm: Dedham Square Coffeehouse, Dedham, MA
565 High St, Dedham, MA
Splitting the evening with my good friend, Craig Sonnenfeld.

Click to view details for all upcoming shows.

Featured Non-profit: American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union works tirelessly in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone in our country. Their work is more important than ever.

Please join me in supporting the ACLU.

  • Tom
    February 2, 2017

    Too Slow for Demo Work
    © 2017 Lyrics: William Thibodeau, Music: Tom Smith

    Time to start another job
    Pull it down, make something new
    I’ll tear out these old doors and walls
    Move them back a foot or two
    Make a bedroom from a den
    Because their family grew
    But before I bring my hammer down
    I give the past its due

    I see them in the chalk-white dust
    As it swirls by my work lights
    And I hear them drive those old cut nails
    As I pull them with a sigh
    I’ll drag it out and pile it high
    In that old truck of mine
    Then haul in tools and lumber
    To drive another nail in time

    I don’t have to do this anymore – I know the trade
    I’ve learned my lessons taking down what other hands had made
    Their talk of wives and baseball scores still echoes in the frame
    I’m too slow for demo work, but I do it just the same

    Not a simple trick of light
    I feel their presence on the line
    Those old post and beam men
    Brothers of the pine
    I don’t know where they are now –
    If they’re alive or dead
    A question one who follows
    May ask of me instead

    Where will I be on that day
    When young men come to move my walls
    Will they even give a care
    Before the plaster falls?
    Will they hear a timeless voice
    Singing my refrain?
    Will I be on another job
    Will I still have a name?

    I don’t have to do this anymore – I know the trade
    I’ve learned my lessons taking down what other hands had made
    Their talk of wives and baseball scores still echoes in the frame
    I’m too slow for demo work, but I do it just the same

    I feel I owe it to them
    Though I’ll never make it pay
    I’m too slow for demo work
    Can’t do it any other way

  • Jon McAuliffe
    February 3, 2017

    Nice job, Tom. I’ve got a set of Bill’s lyrics to turn into something, too. Just need a little time. BTW, your beard’s lookin’ great! See ya tomorrow morning.


    • Tom
      February 4, 2017

      Thanks Jon. Bill’s poems are fertile ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *