Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 Cultural Cruise: Songwriter Showcase

Great evening at Redding's City Hall - six North State Songwriters shared original music on Friday night.

And I promise that I will have reading glasses before the next Showcase, so that I can actually SEE the viewfinder on the camera and take pictures that are in focus. Argghh....

Steve Read

David Thompson:

Paul Howell:
Nick Ciampi:

Diana Wallis and husband/bass player, Steve:

Craig and I, Still Married, because -- my goodness -- he's a patient man....

Friday, January 30, 2009

A song for the losers

Another clever song. This one is from Rob Paravonian -- the definitive "American Idol Loser Song."

More great stuff at Rob Paravonian's blog

Making joyful noise in the library

Enjoy Fiddle Music at the Redding Library at 6 PM, Tuesday, February 3rd

California Old Time Fiddlers from District 6, will play those old-time tunes in the community room as part of this new music series at the Redding Library. This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce little ones to live music and watch musicians of all ages sharing their talents.

This new library series will feature different groups and genres each month. Free and open to the public. For information call 530-245-7250.

For more information on the local Old Time Fiddlers, click here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Secret Songwriting Formula Revealed

I'm a sucker for clever songwriting.

Pop ballad satire doesn't get any better than this: "Title of the Song" from the now-defunct Da Vinci's Notebook.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Music, Art and Ice Cream

This Friday, January 30th, from 5-8 --

Redding's 2009 Cultural Cruise: Art, music and refreshments at various venues around town.

The North State Songwriters will perform original music at Redding's City Hall (777 Cypress Ave). City Hall has a magnificent art display - and we're looking forward to sharing our tunes in the lobby.

Here's the schedule:

5- 5:30 Still Married
5:30 - 6 Nick Ciampi
6-6:30 Diana Wallis
6:30- 7 Paul Howell
7-7:30 David Thompson
7:30 -8 Steve Read

Details on all the venues are available at the Shasta Arts Council web page.

Complimentary refreshments (also known as "Free Food") will be available.

As if that weren't enough to thrill you right down to your toes......

The Old Time fiddlers will be hosting their popular jam at Leatherby's in the downtown mall, starting at 7.

Join fiddlers, guitar players, mandolin players 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, if so inclined

Redding Community Choir

Singing is good for your health -- so here's a chance to feel good and have a grand time:

The Redding Community Choir will hold their first rehearsal tonight. There's no audition and all are welcome -- read the details at the Redding Community Choir website.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sarcastic Karma

When sarcastic children -- and yes, I was one -- grow up and reproduce, they get the payback they deserve.

Me: "Who are you texting?"

Max: "Just random people I don't know. I'm telling them where I live and what nights of the week my parents go out."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"...a path for the courageous and the faithful"

These words are from an encouraging, honest essay on writing and being an artist - from author Elizabeth Gilbert. Read it at her website.

Derek Sivers, the genius behind CDBaby, has a new site offering inspiration and encouragement to songwriters and musicians, as well. It's

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Parting Glass

Craig and I are working on this Irish tune -- planning to add it to our repertoire.

I fell in love with The Clancy Brothers' simple, spare version of The Parting Glass, but I found this masterful rendition by The High Kings while poking around Youtube.

Love listening to and ::::deep sigh:::: watching these guys. Bagpipes, kilts....oh, my.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Go ahead: Play with your food

But I don't think you'll have as much fun as the folks who've created the Vegetable Orchestra.

Veggies, power tools and music -- a little something for everyone:

Read more about the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra at their website.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's that buzz, tell me what's happenin'

My boys are having fun with their IPods -- It's educational, they assure me. They're learning sign language, binary code and if they get lost in the woods, it's got a compass app. Oh, yeah, and SpongeBob reruns, too.

They also downloaded an application that makes a ringing sound that adults can't hear. Max think it's very funny that he can set it off right next to my head and I have absolutely no reaction, but two rooms away, 19-year-old Annie will shriek "TURN IT OFF!"

Me: "Quit playing video games and get your chores done."

Max: "We're not playing video games, we're annoying our sister."

I was curious about that tone - turns out it's dubbed "The Mosquito" and you can read about it here.

Diana Wallis at The Post Office

Diana Wallis, singer-songwriter from here in Cottonwood will be playing next Wednesday evening, 1/28, at The Post Office in the Downtown Mall from 6:30-9:30.

Diana does a nice blend of folk, rock and blues, playing originals and covers. She's an engaging performer and does a fabulous job on her 12-string guitar.

She got some new Cds - Long Road Home -- hot off the press that will be available, too.

For more on Diana, visit her myspace. For a nice evening, come on out to The Post Office on Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Fun

Exploring wild terrain at Shasta Lake.

The boys and I spent a lovely afternoon poking around Bailey Cove in Shasta Lake. We took advantage of the low water level and hiked down into the lake bed.

The views are amazing - it's a little like a moonscape and the exposed red slopes had the kids planning a video set on Mars.

Kicking around in the mud and the muck, we kept finding stuff - it turned into an impromptu scavenger hunt.

We found:

a green army man
a mop
a flip flop
loads of pop tops (remember those?)
hundreds of fresh water clam shells

A highlight for me was having my 17-year-old guiding me, step-by-step, down the steep, unstable slope, encouraging me and helping me up when I lost my footing.

When did the two of us switch roles? Low water levels reveal all sorts of strange terrain.

A great day - all for the price of a couple gallons of gas. There's a whole bunch of lake to explore -- we'll be back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Garrison Keillor on Songwriting

On A Prairie Home Companion last week, Garrison Keillor sang a witty song he wrote about the pilot and crew involved in that emergency landing on the the Hudson River.

At the website, he explains his writing process -- names that rhyme easily are very handy -- and his surprise when he performed it:

"... I was unprepared, though, for the huge reaction of the audience in the Palace Theater in Louisville. They just LOVED that song from the first line. Not a great song but it touched a deep chord, and there's the secret of songwriting, ma'am. Just be in the right place at the right time and any fool can write a song. But it takes years of training and mental discipline to be able to set a powerless Airbus down on the Hudson."

And that's why I love Garrison Keillor.

You can read the lyrics, listen to the song and download it from the website.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Possum in the Hen House

Once upon a time, I was a journalist. The best thing about making the transition from journalist to songwriter is that I can tell the truth the way it should be.

Possum in the Hen House got its start one hot summer night, when we awoke to the sounds of our beloved chickens hurling themselves against the fence and a chorus of frantic chicken voices begging "LET US OUT!!"

The video stars our three chickens: Chirp, Harley and Killer. These ladies are retired from the egg-laying business but still provide us with much entertainment. And occasional inspiration.

Possum in the Hen House
words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Night full-a pickin -- belly full-a beans
Full moon shining through the trees
Settle in to catch some zzz’s
But papa won’t sleep tonight

Possum in the Hen House
Midnight chicken fight
Possum in the Hen House
Papa won’t sleep tonight

Our chickens are no docile brood
They’ll fuss and fight and they’ll abuse
Any critter dare disturb their roost
Like the Possum in the Hen House

They’re the bad birds of the neighborhood
Meanest chicks in Cottonwood
Twas a fowl deed and they done it good
To the Possum in the Hen House

Possum in the Hen House
Midnight chicken fight
Possum in the Hen House
Papa won’t sleep tonight

Feathers flew – the battle raged
A friendly late night search for eggs
Ended at the pearly gates
For The Possum in the Hen House

Their cruelty rivaled KFC’s
That fascist flock of feathered fiends
Made marsupial mincemeat
Of the Possum in the Hen House

Possum in the Hen House
Midnight chicken fight
Possum in the Hen House
Papa won’t sleep tonight

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bacon Experimentation: 3 out of 4

Bacon with bananas and tabasco: Yes!

Bacon with rumaki - (marinated chicken liver and water chestnuts): Yes!

Bacon with pinto beans, overnight in the crockpot: Yes!

Bacon in Chocolate Chip Cookies: Disturbing

I tried - really, I did. I was excited about Bacon for Dessert. George Clooney himself - possibly the sexiest man on earth -- raved about a bacon chocolate bar. So I did it for George.

I made a huge batch of my award-winning cookie dough, only to discover that a large handful of crispy bacon bits did not improve them in the least.

Sorry, George.

Here's the cookie recipe. You can add bacon - but I don't recommend it:

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 Cup butter
2/3 Cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teas vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 bars (3 oz each) good quality dark, sweet chocolate (I like Lindt), broken into ½ inch pieces
2/3 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, egg and vanilla at medium speed until fluffy. On low speed, beat in flour, just until mixed. Stir in chocolate and nuts.

Refrigerate the dough. Form into balls with an ice cream scoop, and place on parchment. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 17 minutes. Do not over bake – cookies should be lightly browned and tops almost dry.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

For Lyle Lovett fans...

Lyle Lovett is one of my all-time favorites. There are only a handful of singer-songwriters that I happily pay high prices to see, and he's at the top of the list.

This article-interview from The Aspen Times pretty much sums up why:

Lyle Lovett plays Wheeler


Friday, January 16, 2009

Music and Ice Cream

The local Old Time Fiddlers are jamming downtown.

They'll be bringing their fiddles, acoustic guitars, mandolins and basses to Leatherby's Ice Cream Parlor in Redding's Downtown Mall on Friday,January 16th and on Friday, January 30th, starting at 7 PM.

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 play along, watch, listen, tap their toes and dance. And they can load up on some delicious ice cream while enjoying the music.

More on the fiddlers - visit the District 6 Old Time Fiddler website.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Girl in 14G

When we got in the car the other day, Annie popped a CD in the player: "You've gotta hear this."

The artist is Kristin Chenoweth -- I was clueless (now there's something new) -- but Annie filled me in. A stage and television actress with a long resume - Chenoweth is beautiful and sings like the powerhouse stage-stars of days gone by.

And the gal has fun -- fun with the lyrics and with her voice. Her performance in this clever song, The Girl in 14G gives you a taste of her very captivating stage presence:

For your own good: Sing

A few years ago, I gave a talk at a homeschooling conference on integrating music into family life -- a subject dear to my heart. I can go on and on about how much fun it is for parents and kids to play and sing together, and since my personal homeschooling philosophy is: "Seek Joy," music fits in neatly.

But many parents prefer more tangible evidence of benefits before adding anything to their curriculum. "Show me," they say.

So I did some research, and I was amazed at the number of studies that have proven the benefits of making music and singing.

Singing doesn't just feel good, it pays off in better health -- including lowering blood pressure, reducing pain, and reducing incidence of depression. Singing can increase well-being and reduce need for medication -- I wish more doctors would prescribe music for their patients.

You can read more at and if you'd like to make some joyful noise of your own, please join us at the next Redding Homeschool Network Sing-Along.

RHSN Family Jam and Sing-Along -- open to all
Children's Area - Redding Library
February 11, 1:30- 2:30

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The #1 reason I'm not a vegetarian


Yes, I'm aware that it's nothing but salty fat dripping in horrific chemicals.

But my-oh-my, what a fine way to dress up those carcinogens. In our not-even-close-to-kosher home, we are all big bacon fans.

That's why I was drooling over TIME magazine this week -- reading out loud a story on bacon making its way onto the dessert menu. Those long, dismal hours between dinner and breakfast no longer have to be "bacon-free." You can have your cake and bacon, too.

Goodies like Maple Syrup Pudding with Bacon and Bacon Chocolate Bars. I am intrigued. And salivating. There will be Bacon Experimentation at our house this weekend.

Here's a recipe for an hors d'oeuvres that was a favorite of ours years ago -- back before kids -- when we led a shallow existence and spent our weekends organizing dinner parties, wine tasting and leafing through gourmet magazines.

These are salty, spicy, sweet, delectable morsels - we served them before dinner, but they could easily do double-duty as dessert.

Yeah, it makes a big old mess in your oven -- but what a way to go.

Bananas in Bacon

Slice a couple of firm bananas (yellow, but not mushy) into 1/2 inch slices. Place a drop or two or three of Tabasco Sauce on each slice and wrap each banana piece in a half-strip of uncooked bacon. Secure it with a toothpick. Broil them til the bacon is cooked -- you may need to turn them halfway through cooking, but watch carefully -- try not to set the kitchen on fire.

Here's Joel Stein's article in Time

And a few Bacon-for-Dessert recipes. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Concert Wrap Up

We had a blast last night at the Art Hop Kick Off Concert - what a warm and wonderful crowd. The folks at Backyard Destinations went over and above the call of duty to make it a fabulous party.

Great energy throughout the room and so nice to see folks out and about to celebrate art here in the North State. Our kids (who are usually less than enthusiastic about our gigs) enjoyed themselves tremendously - so it was a thumbs-up all around.

Our daughter Annie is a talented musician, a brilliant student, a formidable Scrabble opponent and an award-winning pastry chef. And she is, quite possibly, the worst band photographer of all time.

If anyone has any photos of the concert last night - crowd pics or others -- that I can slap up on my website, I'd give you full photographer credit and my undying gratitude.

Email me: erin at stillmarried dot net

Thanks to all who came out to Art Hop -- wonderful fun. Looking forward to next month.

Friday, January 9, 2009

For word lovers....or fellow vocabularians

21,730 pages.

That's a mighty big reading project. But Ammon Shea managed to read all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary - and lived to tell the tale.

An interview an excerpt from his book are available in this article on NPR.

River Whispers

The Sacramento River winds through much of Shasta County history, and while I enjoy my long walks on the River Trail, I like to listen and write.

In River Whispers, I considered the part the river played - and continues to play - in the making of this community. This song is first track on our CD: Sacramento River Whispers.

And I am fairly certain that the long-stemmed yellow rose I found on the riverside last autumn has a story that will, eventually, find its way into another song.

River Whispers
words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

“Kneel before the queen and sift
The sparkling sands, the regal gifts”
Fools rush in, wise men resist
The River Whispers - to them all

The River Whispers -- The river sings
Races through ages, remembering
Love songs and lullabies
Fables and ancient rhymes
River Whispers drifitin’ by
River Whispers driftin’ by

“The wild west is yours to tame
Build a mountain – move the rain
Drench the thirsty waves of grain”
The River Whispers - then they came

The River Whispers -- The river sings
Races through ages, remembering
Love songs and lullabies
Fables and ancient rhymes
River Whispers drifitin’ by
River Whispers driftin’ by

Kestrel cries and voices reach
Thru tangled vines, miner’s debris
A yellow rose among fallen leaves
The River Whispers – to me

The River Whispers -- The river sings
Races through ages, remembering
Love songs and lullabies
Fables and ancient rhymes
River Whispers drifitin’ by
River Whispers driftin’ by

He Said/She Said

She: Honey -- when we're in a rehearsal, you should just say: "I'm in pain. I need to stop."

He: How about in a marriage?

She: Um... keep it to yourself.

(I have to add: we were both laughing at the time.......)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shut Up

I know. I said I hate music videos -- but this one was fun for us.

Our son, Max, produced it, and he wouldn't tell us what he had planned.

"Whatever happens," he says, "just keep singing....."

Not a bad philosophy for life.

Halfway Home

I hate music videos, but I've found that YOUTUBE is a very handy spot for posting my songs. So I create a video with a single pic -- I try to find something that's somewhat pertinent to the song. I don't grab images off the Internet, so I'm limited to shots that come from my camera.

I wanted to post this song "Halfway Home" for awhile, but couldn't come up with the right image to go with it, til the other day. I knocked a wine glass to the floor and as I was picking up the pieces, I decided to have some fun. A couple pictures, a little photo shopping...I got what I wanted.

The song is a laundry list of my shortcomings. But every time I sing it, I get the feeling I'm heading in the right direction.

Halfway Home
words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Halfway between the earth and sky
Which way is home to a lightning strike?
Racing full speed down a one-way street
Heading the wrong way gets me halfway to my destiny

Half a smile ‘cause I don’t get the joke
Half a step behind ‘cause I don’t watch the road
Half a pint of Guinness at Cantina Mexico oh-oh-oh
Twice as far left to go
I’m Halfway Home – Halfway Home

Tellin’ half the truth in three-quarter time
Weave a web of doubt in every other line
Half empty or half full – I don’t give a damn
Cuz it don’t matter when it shatters in your hand

Half a smile ‘cause I don’t get the joke
Half a step behind ‘cause I don’t watch the road
Half a pint of Guinness at Cantina Mexico oh-oh-oh
Twice as far left to go
I’m Halfway Home – Halfway Home

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Full-frontal Songwriting

Just stumbled on an interesting blog collective on the New York Times website.

A group of songwriters, including Rosanne Cash and Suzanne Vega, share their creative processes at: Measure for Measure: How to write a song and other mysteries.

It is comforting to know that ALL songwriters struggle with many of the same issues - and it's refreshing to hear seasoned professionals admitting to frustration, fear, angst and all of the other messy ingredients go into the creative stew.

I'll be reading, learning and sharing, too.

Click here for the blog.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Art Hop Kick Off Concert & Contest

When I think about Redding's Art Hop, I am reminded of a quote from Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. "

From out of nowhere, The Art Hop has become The Thing To Do in Redding. How great is that?

Redding's premiere art event has gained momentum every month since its inception and the Redding Arts Community is buzzing, vibrant and thriving -- due in great measure to the work of Art Hop organizers Adam Mankoski and Troy Hawkins of Hawkman Studios. Amazing job, guys. Kudos, too, to the Art Hop sponsors and venues.

Craig and I are thrilled and honored to bring our original tunes to Backyard Destinations on Saturday, from 5-6, for the Art Hop Kick Off Concert. Please join us at this friendly, inviting venue, and then spend a lovely evening Art Hopping all over town.

You can find this month's Art Hop map in the January issue of Enjoy Magazine.

Will you be at the Kick Off Concert? I'll hand over a free copy of our new CD (a lame prize, I know, but it's all I've got) to the first person who posts a correct answer to this question:

What was the date of the first Art Hop in Redding?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Truth

At a songwriter Open Mic event a couple years back, a darling gal introduced a very sweet love song by explaining: "I wrote this before my divorce - back when I believed in this sort of thing." She shrugged and added: "I guess we all believed it."

It got me thinking about how perspective changes over time and how songwriters evolve.

What happens to the sweet love songs when we can't sing them with conviction?

When a harsh reality clashes with our cherished ideals?

When The Truth refuses to rhyme?

The Truth
words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Starry-eyed harmony
Love songs like they were meant to be
Poured forth with honesty
In a voice that speaks The Truth

When The Truth refuses to rhyme
A clear blue sky rains down a bitter wine
Roses die - wither on the vine
And the music stops -- on a dime

Stars collide then explode
Truth arrives in a mislaid note
Strikes like a lightning bolt
When she unfolds The Truth

When The Truth refuses to rhyme
A clear blue sky rains down a bitter wine
Roses die - wither on the vine
And the music stops -- on a dime

Melodies, memories
Altered by reality
Silence echoes endlessly
Now that she can see The Truth

When The Truth refuses to rhyme
A clear blue sky rains down a bitter wine
Roses die - wither on the vine
And the music stops -- on a dime

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nick Ciampi at the Post Office

January 2nd and 3rd - Redding singer-songwriter Nick Ciampi and his band, the Rocs, will help Redding recuperate from New Year's celebrations with a performance at The Post Office in The Downtown Mall.

Enjoy Nick's original folk-rock music and some classic covers at this friendly venue. Nick's a gifted songwriter, an amazing guitar player and he's generous with his talent - both on stage and off. Show starts at 8:30.

Enjoy Magazine profiled Nick a few months back - you can read it here.

Photo credit: Wyatt Olson

Nick's myspace

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Re-inventing Ourselves in Mid-life

I suppose it's the demographic I'm traveling with -- but there's an epidemic of Midlife Re-Invention going around.

Embracing change.

Running with it.

This song celebrates it.

Most of my songs take weeks (and sometimes years) of writing and rewriting, but Somebody Else was one of those gifts from the Muses that landed in my lap pretty much complete. A rare, welcome treat for me.

I tend to sing this song too loud and too hard -- but I am a also work in progress.

Somebody Else

words and music © Erin Coombs Friedman

Not long ago
She kept her voice low
Kept her rhymes in the pocket of her jeans
Then she fell through the looking-glass
And now she’s looking back
At someone she’s never really seen

She used to be Somebody Else
She used to keep her secrets to herself
She, she used to be
Somebody Else

In the mirror
Stares a frightened deer
Caught in the glare of the high beams
She’ll face her fear and stand her ground
Because she likes the sound
Of thunder and the charge of the lightning

She used to be Somebody Else
She used to keep her secrets to herself
She, she used to be
Somebody Else