Welcome to the May 2009 issue of The Kitchen Musician, my monthly folk music newsletter, featuring “Fiddle with a Broken String”, my new song written for Memorial Day, remembering veterans and others living with PTSD.
June 13: Appearing at Amazing Things Arts Center
Photo: Jon McAuliff
Recent News: Catch Mally around Boston
Mally Smith singing Patty Griffin’s “No Bad News”
My daughter Mally Smith is collaborating with Brian Tavener and Alle Santiago to form The And Company, an indie-acoustic band that has been getting some attention in the hip Cambridge-Somerville folk scene. This week Mally, supported by The And Company, won the Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge. She is opening for Bill Morrissey at Amazing Things on Friday June 5. Looks like June will bring a “Smith Infestation” to Amazing Things.
More Recent News: Song Writing is Difficult
I used to think that the song writing muse decided when and whom to visit. When she visited me, I was thankful. When she didn’t, I figured she was busy with Bob Dylan and would hopefully get back to me when she felt like it. But I am learning that it is OK to take the initiative to knock on her door. I am also discovering that one can actually learn how to write good songs, or at least to write songs better. Usually writing a good song is a lot of work. They evolve over time, with the help of (sometimes painful) editing and feedback from “trusted others”.
Everyone needs “trusted others”. I’d like to introduce you to Jud Caswell, my song writing friend and one of my “trusted others”. In addition to being a supremely talented singer, song writer and performer, Jud Caswell is a song writing scholar; someone who studies and successfully exercises the process of song writing. Fortunately for me, he is also a skilled a teacher. “Fiddle with a Broken String” is the result of a musical collaboration with Jud. The process sounds simple… I wrote a song, Jud told me what was good (and why), what could be improved (and how), and then we repeated until done. “Repeated until done” took two months and about a dozen revisions. Hard but satisfying work.
I heartily recommend Jud Caswell’s CD’s and live shows. You can learn more about Jud at JudCaswell.com.
This Month’s Music: “Fiddle with a Broken String”
For Memorial Day: Remembering those who live with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Fiddle with a Broken String
© 2009 Tom Smith and Jud Caswell
Nearly two years ago (June 2007), I posted my song Talking Post-trauma Blues on Youtube. That song, written during the George W. Bush administration, is a somewhat satirical work based upon writings and conversations with veterans and their families who were living with PTSD.
I have been struck by the strong reaction others have had to the song. As I write this, the Youtube video is approaching 45,000 views. The public comments and private e-mail I have received from PTSD sufferers and their families have moved me to write this month’s song. The problems of PTSD have not gone away. Ask those who struggle to live with it every day. Ask their families. I hope music can help, if only in a small way.
“Fiddle with a Broken String” was also influenced by the book The War I Always Wanted, The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War, by Brandon Friedman. Mr. Friedman served in the infantry in both Afghanistan and Iraq. His book is a compelling memoir and describes his struggle to understand what he experienced.
Most importantly, a special thank you to Jud Caswell who helped me shape my work into a song that tells a big story through small details.
Peace and music,
(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)
June 13, Saturday, Framingham, MA 8:00 pm. Doors open at 7:30 pm. Opening for Brooks Williams at Amazing Things Arts Center, Framingham, MA. Brooks is a stunning songwriter, singer and guitarist. It is an honor to open for him. I am looking forward to this one. Please join us!
“Brooks Williams, rated one of the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists of all-time (in company with the likes of Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, Chet Atkins, Doc Watson, David Bromberg, and others), regularly brings audiences to their feet with his high-energy sound of rootsy originals, bluesy classics, and fiery fingerpicking.”
Click to view all upcoming shows.
Featured Non-profit: Not Alone
This month’s charity was suggested by Brandon Friedman. Brandon’s book “The War I Always Wanted” influenced my song, “Fiddle with a Broken String” (see below).
“Not Alone began with the idea of creating a space for warriors and families dealing with combat stress to come together, where they can spend time with others and start the healing process.
Combat stress presents a unique set of challenges to our warriors once they return from deployment. By creating a community and providing education, Not Alone can help overcome fears and barriers, thereby helping our warriors and families recover. Not Alone is also partnering with other organizations that can provide resources to overcome the problems caused by combat stress.” NotAlone.com