Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's a Youtube New Year

Back when cameras used film, Craig and I performed a ritual every Fall. We called it:

" Two *#!+^&! Minutes a Year!"

It required the children to remain still and smiling, looking quasi-cherubic for a mere two minutes while we tried to get a Suitable Holiday Family Photo to send to friends and family.

It was a L-o-n-g Two Minutes.

Disastrous, always, it resulted in tears, accusations, many trips to the drugstore photo counter and all-around poor parenting.

With the advent of digital photography, my job became loads easier: Find a shot of each kid and create a collage -- no more fussin' and fightin'. Bliss.

This year we decided to "Go Green" -- meaning no wasteful, expensive envelopes and stamps. Just a simple recording and video montage posted on Youtube.

I'm not sure why, but every recording we did sounded like a bar full of drunks at closing time. Thankfully, there were no tears, and only a smidgen of poor parenting was involved in the final product.

Not sure that this is progress, exactly, but our New Year's Card is here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Selling Stuff/Selling Out?

What do you suppose is the biggest market for original music?

Last I heard, it was video game manufacturers. I found that bit of news depressing and, silly me, I thought things couldn't get worse.

Then along comes this excellent piece by Jon Pareles from the International Herald Tribune: The new route to musical stardom: Shilling for products on the unholy marriage of marketing and songwriting.

Are we cruising to hell in a handbasket? Should we order up cocktails and enjoy the ride? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The new route to musical stardom: Shilling for products

In the Dust

In the Dust is from our first CD, A Kiss Beneath the Sundial Bridge.

I don't write many love songs -- and when I do, I usually make Craig sing them. Pretty rotten of me, huh?

But I do like singing this song -- it's a bittersweet story about love that doesn't last for a lifetime, but shines passionately every now and then.

In the Dust

words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Not carved in stone or etched in a golden ring
A precious and a fleeting thing
Sometimes love lasts forever
But for us
It was written In The Dust
In The Dust

You drew a heart and our names in the dust
On the window of your daddy’s truck
Back in the summer of 1985
That old Chevy didn’t run too good
But we went farther than we should
Parked up on Mullholland Drive
Young love plans -- God just grins
The Santa Ana rushes in
That summer dust was caught up
In the wind

Not carved in stone or etched in a golden ring
A precious and a fleeting thing
Sometimes love lasts forever
But for us
It was written In The Dust
In The Dust

Drifted separate ways on a gypsy wind
But it spins us together now and then
Like in Lassen, hiking up the Cinder Cone
In Times Square we watched them drop the ball
Met by chance in Montreal
Made up for lost time all night long
I turn around and you turn up
Feel that old familiar rush
Trace our good times and good byes
In The Dust

Not carved in stone or etched in a golden ring
A precious and a fleeting thing
Sometimes love lasts forever
But for us
It was written In The Dust
In The Dust

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another Song Contest

The West Coast Songwriters Song Contest is accepting entries until January 31st, 2009.

Read the details at their website.

Sandra James Music Foundation Songwriting Contest

The Sandra James Music Foundation is holding a songwriting contest in 2009. Reasonable fees and a good cause.

Read the details at the website.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One Less Mullet in Shasta County

My husband came home sans ponytail last night. Apparently, five years of dealing with tangled, curly tresses is Craig's limit.

He stopped cutting his hair when we started playing music together -- it gave him a renegade-pirate look. Or maybe it was just an old-hippie-look. But it worked for me - I think bass players should have a slightly rakish persona.

But lopping off his hair was not enough. Craig also trimmed his beard short. So now my husband, who turns 50 in a couple months, looks about 14 years old.

Joe, my smart-mouthed kid said: "It's OK, Mom. If you cut your hair and trim your beard, you'll look younger, too."


Craig: "It's alright, honey. I'll get one of those shirts with the arrow that says: 'THAT'S NOT MY MOTHER.'"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown"

Silly pajamas. Laughter. Family and good times.
Hoping your Christmas was merry. Very.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Housewarming Recipe

Christmas company is en route. I should probably be vacuuming or dusting -- making the house look good. That's never been my strong suit, though, so I'll be busy this afternoon making the house smell good.

One of the treats on the menu this Christmas is Spiced Pumpkin Bread -- it goes together in a flash, tastes great for days and it warms the house with scents of cinnamon and cloves.

I like this recipe from Epicurious -- I add pecans and dried cranberries, too. Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas gets Ugly in Cottonwood

Too tired to come up with yet another Festive Holiday Party Outfit?

Not a problem for us last night -- we headed over to our neighbors' house for their Annual Ugly Sweater Party.

It's a lot of fun. No getting glamoured-up, no squeezing into that slinky black dress, no holding your stomach in all night.

Everyone gets seriously into Ugly Mode:

"Mine's uglier!"

"That one's tacky, but not really ugly."

"Oh, wow. That is hideous."

We were shooting for the Ugliest Couple Prize this year -- we thought we had a chance:

We didn't even come close.

A burly man in a women's sequined Christmas sweater trumps the extra-large vomit-colored golf sweaters. The bar has been raised, and and next year we intend to win. There will be sequins.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Re-write

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is one of my favorite holiday tunes. The tune has been covered by hundreds of artists -- from John Denver to Twisted Sister. And the back story appeals to the songwriter in me.

Written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin in 1943 for the film Meet Me in St. Louis, the original lyrics were dark, dreary -- featuring lines like:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
This may be your last

Writer Martin was asked by the producers to lighten it up a bit -- yes, the song was supposed to be sad, but not THAT sad. So he rewrote the lyrics. He re-wrote them again for Frank Sinatra in 1957, because Sinatra objected to this line:

Until then, we'll have to muddle through, somehow

So Martin replaced it with:

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough

For what it's worth, I prefer the "muddle through" line. Maybe it's working in retail at Christmastime - but that phrase seems gently and refreshingly honest.

You can read more on the back story at Entertainment Weekly. And enjoy my favorite version of the song (nobody does sad like Margaret O'brien) right here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Respect for bass players and drummers?

Well -- that would be novel.

But according to an article in Discover magazine, a Swedish study "found that the ability to keep closely to a beat is a sign of superior intelligence." It has something to do with neural mechanisms that operate at a sub-conscious level.

Of course, it is much more fun to make jokes about bass players and drummers than it is to give them ::shudder:: respect -- so Ill send a free Sacramento River Whispers CD to the person who posts the best drummer or bass player joke.

Here's my favorite:

Did you hear about the time the bass player locked his keys in the car?

It took two hours to get the drummer out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Most annoying Christmas songs?

What's the song that makes you frantically reach to change the radio station?

For me, it's The Christmas Shoes:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Gifts

Saturday night -- Art Hop, artists reception at Old City Hall -- and Christmas Spirit all over the town.

Joe (my 12-year-old mandolin player) and I spent a couple hours working at the Fine Art Gift Boutique at Old City Hall. If you have ANY more gifts to buy, you owe it to yourself to check out the beautiful, unique creations offered at this gallery.

Scarves, handbags, prints, original artwork, CDs, pottery and all sorts of goodies. I spent a lot of time drooling over some very spectacular jewelry -- yes, I cleaned it up. But the prices are very reasonable -- and the pieces are jaw-dropping beautiful. How nice to be able to find one-of-a-kind items AND support the local arts community.

Talked with artist Andrew Jensen, who creates unique original Fish Prints.

(Logo from his website.) He also has mugs and other items for sale that would make perfect gifts for the fisherman on your list.

Then we headed over to Enjoy magazine, where artist Phil Fountain was drawing to raise money for the Good News Rescue Mission. He worked his magic with pen and paper and created a drawing of Still Married:

Great fun for a good cause.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gifts for the Songwriters on your Christmas List

Songwriters don't really need anything except inspiration, time and maybe a rhyming dictionary.

But a new book -- and a new idea -- is creating a bit of buzz in the songwriting community.

Makin' Stuff Up

My husband (bless his heart) already bought me a copy of the book for Christmas. He just doesn't know it yet.

Other ideas:

Conference seminar CDs from West Coast Songwriters
One year Taxi membership
Recording studio time
Music or voice lessons
Blank CDs
Time and peace and quiet

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Wonderful Life

We've had a couple of requests (OK - one was from Craig's mom, but it still counts) for a Still Married Christmas Album.

We're hoping to produce a CD of original and traditional holiday songs in 2009. Meanwhile, here's our one-and-only original Christmas tune, It Was a Wonderful Life. The song was inspired by my favorite Christmas film and the folks at KLXR have it on their holiday play list.

It's available as a free download on our band website this week. You can listen to it here:

It Was a Wonderful Life

words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Last Spring I left behind a picture perfect family
Then I learned all that glitters is not gold
By September I was sorry, sad and lonely
It’s Christmas eve - I’m at the end of my rope

There’s an old movie playin’ on the TV
‘Bout a man who had it all but wanted more
He’s got Clarence – Me? I got Jim Beam
We’re both wishing we’d never been born


It was only black and white
But It Was a Wonderful Life
It used to be mine and I want it back
One more time for Auld Lange Syne
It Was a Wonderful Life
And I want it back

I want to run through the streets of our home town
Find you waitin’ there beside the Christmas tree
Bells are ringing, children singing - I see it all now
I’m home again and an angel gets his wings


Can we hit rewind – get our happy ending this time
Make this Christmas dream of mine come true?


© Erin Coombs Friedman

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uncorked on Hilltop

Craig and I were walking over for a cup of coffee at Tobacco and Brew (one of the best coffee deals in town) and peeked in to the Uncorked Wine Bar (2155C Hilltop Dr ).

What a surprise - what a place! -- A magnificent wood crafted bar runs along one wall, and the entire interior is a feast of warm, inviting woodwork. Here's something fun -- You can watch a slide show of the bar being built at the Dreamwood website -- pretty astounding.

Here's a pic of the bar from the Dreamwood website:

The bar is BEGGING me to come back and enjoy a glass of wine. As soon as life calms down a bit, I intend to do just that. According to the Uncorked website, they offer loads of local wines a many hard-to-find vintages.

The bar is tucked into a side strip mall -- just off Hilltop, north of Industrial, between the new Tropical Tan (where Chuck E. Cheese used to be) and the Tobacco and Brew. The buildings there have been spruced up, and you'll be glad you braved the construction traffic when you set yourself down in this sexy new wine bar.

Uncorked Wine Bar

2155C Hilltop Dr, Redding, CA 96002

530.223.WINE(9463)530.223.0688 (Fax)

Here's the Uncorked website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'tis the season

Dead tired after working a busy day in retail, I came across this sweet sentiment in Garrison Keillor's Leaving Home:

"A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together, it's not individual, it's sociable."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hop - N - Shop

Enjoy the Art Hop this Saturday, December 13th AND get some of your Christmas shopping handled, when you stop by the Artists' Reception at the Holiday Fine Art and Gift Show at Old City Hall (1313 Market Street).

In addition to the Artist Reception that runs from 6-9, Garrett Viggers (amazing dulcimer player) will entertain from 4:45 - 5: 15. The Redding Idol Contest winners will be performing upstairs from 5 - 6:15.

For more on Garret Viggers, check out his web site.

For all the Art Hop details, click here.

Hope to see you there.

Ice Cream and Jam

The local Old Time Fiddlers are jamming downtown this week. They'll be bringing their fiddles, acoustic guitars, mandolins and basses to Leatherby's Ice Cream Parlor in Redding's Downtown Mall on Friday, December 12th and on Friday, December 26th, starting at 7.

Join fiddlers, and others to play old time jigs, reels, hoedowns, waltzes and tunes of choice. Beginners, intermediate and advanced players of all ages are welcome to come and learn new songs, have fun with old friends and make new ones.

The public is invited to watch, listen, tap their toes and dance. And they can load up on some delicious ice cream while enjoying the music.

Our daughter, Annie, started fiddling five years ago, and we were thrilled to discover this group of kind, caring folks -- a friendly, supportive community of musicians from age 4 to 94. Families playing together, Grandmas and Grandpas, little ones and teens, all sharing what they know, give the group a vibrancy and a richness that you don't get when you segregate activities by age.

A couple pictures from last Sunday's Fiddlers' Christmas Potluck:

For more info on the Old Time Fiddlers:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Putting Money in Music

The music business used to be controlled by a handful of major labels. Indies and the Internet have completely changed the landscape, and musicians now have the opportunity to take control of their careers and their marketing.

Singer-songwriter Tom Kimmel has found a unique way to finance his latest Cd project - his fans are putting up the money.

Cool idea -- read the story at

Sunday, December 7, 2008

He Said/She Said

He: I really don't like his voice.

She: Oh, I think it's sweet - it'll grow on you.

He: When things start growing on me, I shave them off.

To Paradise, By Way of Lake Wobegon

Craig had a job to do in Paradise last week, and I got to tag along. For the journey, I popped a couple Prairie Home Companion CDs into the player and it made for a lovely drive.

I am now ready to publicly declare: I have a crush on Garrison Keillor.

George Clooney had a nice long run as the object of my affection, but really -- chiseled features and twinkling eyes can only take you so far. I'm completely hooked on Keillor's gentle humor, keen insight, his humility and optimism.

My husband doesn't read this blog, so I don't have to worry about his opinion on the subject. A selective lack of attention to detail is one of the reasons we remain "Still Married."

Why Keillor? Yes - he has a face made for radio. But he makes me laugh, makes me believe that people are good. He's keeping radio and traditional music alive and lively.

And he's a songwriter's songwriter:

You can enjoy Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion in on KFPR (Redding: 88.9, Chico 91.7) at 6 on Saturday night and 11 AM Sunday morning.

Read more and listen to snippets from the show at the Prairie Home Companion website.

And if you develop a craving for Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie and an inexplicable infatuation with Mr. Keillor, it's perfectly understandable. What's not to love?

Friday, December 5, 2008

For the bluegrass fan on your Christmas list

The perfect gift: Rita Hosking's CD: Silver Stream.

We bought it last night at the show at Bernie's - and what an amazing show it was. Hosking's lyrics are incredibly detailed and visual, her melodies move in familiar yet interesting ways. And her voice - clear, pure and honest -- brings the whole thing together in true folk-singer style.

She tells stories in her songs that speak on so many levels. I judge songwriters on their ability to give me goosebumps - and she delivered.

Surely you know a bluegrass fan who deserves some new music this Christmas. You can listen to the songs, and buy her CDs at Cdbaby. CDbaby makes it easy -- and the artist gets to keep a good chunk of the sales price - so it's a good deal all around. Rita Hosking on Cdbaby.

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

The freezer is cleared out in preparation for my annual holiday ritual: The Stockpiling of the Cookie Dough.

I make about 70 pounds of this shortbread dough in December -- we give away most of the cookies - to customers, friends, roving bands of neighborhood teens. It's my favorite holiday recipe because it's SO simple and still so amazingly good.

You can roll the dough out, cut out fancy shapes. You can decorate them or drizzle them with melted chocolate. But I prefer them plain, naked -- pure, simple perfection.

I started with a recipe from Jeremiah Tower -- but I added vanilla to it and played with the baking time, so I consider it mine, now.

Feel free to consider it yours:

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

1 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups flour

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour. Form dough into logs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour. (Logs can be frozen.) Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Slice dough and place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for thirty minutes.

The cookies should be pale, not browned - so keep an eye on them, as oven temperatures vary.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cascade Kudos

The kids and I saw A Cascade Christmas on Wednesday morning. We had front-row seats at the second show that day with the Redding HomeSchool Network and 900 schoolkids.

The entire cast had already danced and sung for an hour and a half. All I could think was: "They have to do the show TWICE in the course of 3 hours??!! You'd have to scrape me up off the floor!"

But James Santos and The Dance Project company delivered a spectacular show -- as always. The entire cast gave 100% -- their energy never seemed to falter or ebb. The production is great fun and the costumes are a feast for the eyes.

Cindy Sumsion is the costume designer for the Dance Project and she has done a spectacular job creating Victorian dresses, 40's-style chiffon numbers in ice cream colors, and a whole host of eye-catching ensembles.

In addition to being brilliant with costumes, Sumsion has many fans in the cast -- the December issue of Enjoy Magazine features a profile of this remarkable lady. It's good reading that sheds some light on just how The Dance Project pulls off such professional, lively productions year after year.

A Cascade Christmas runs through Saturday night - what a lovely way to kick-off the Christmas Season. Tickets available at the Cascade Website.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Free: A Stupid Woman

The conversation went something like this:

Ex-husband: "Hey -- I'm filling out the questionnaire for What do you think I should put for down for the kind of woman I want?"

Ex-wife: "You should probably check the box that says: I'm looking for A Stupid Woman."

Just in time for the holidays. A Stupid Woman is available as a free download on our website. It makes a lovely gift for that hard-to-buy-for someone on your Christmas list.

And you can listen to it here:

A Stupid Woman
words and music © Erin Friedman

I tried to overlook your faults
I tried to make this work
Some guys are worth the trouble they cause
And sometimes a jerk is just a jerk
I’ll resurrect an old cliche
“It’s not you, it’s me”
We’re incompatible as night and day
Cuz I’m not the kind of woman you need


What you need is A Stupid Woman
High heels and a low IQ
Nobody but A Stupid Woman
Would put up with the likes of you
A buxom doll with legs up to here
Nothin’ at all between the ears
Dumber than dirt and eager to please
A Stupid Woman is what you need

Your lame jokes will be just her speed
Drone on - she won't care
Your dream girl comes complete
With open arms and a vacant stare
It’s easy to fool a bulb that dim
She’ll fall for all your lines
“Business meetings last til 2 AM”
“Sixty seconds is a good long time.”

I’ll step aside, you be my gift
To the world’s brainless twits
The Bimbo Brigade is welcome to you
Dumb bunnies need love, too

Monday, December 1, 2008

Shopping Local

"Buy local" -- it's one of my mantras this holiday season. (My other mantra is: "Stop eating," but I'm not having as much success with that one.)

I like the idea of keeping dollars here in our community and supporting local artists and businesses.

It's easy to do, thanks to the Shasta County Arts Council (SCAC) Holiday Fine Art and Gift Show. The gift boutique is in the Old City Hall Center for the Arts, and you'll find artwork, jewelry, music and more.

Most of the purchase price goes directly to the artist. A portion of the money is retained by the Arts Council -- an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the local Arts Community. The folks at the Shasta Arts Council are a tireless, dedicated group - and our community is more vibrant than ever, thanks to the work they do.

Check the SCAC web page for hours.