The Road to ‘Ash and Bone’: Gentle Souls, Poets and Healers, Priests and Clowns…

Grateful Blog: Day 49: About 4 years ago today, keeping a promise I made to myself 5 months earlier when turned 40 on September 11th, I played my first open mic. It was let’s just say a perfect storm of awful and terrifying. When I got up on stage the MC said ‘where are you from?’ so he could announce it as such. I think I mumbled ‘Vancouver’ until I was up there myself and then I explained to the audience of 2 that actually I wasn’t ‘from’ Vancouver, I was from New York. And specifically I was from ‘Western’New York. If you know me it may not surprise you that I followed that with a 7 minute story (I gave ‘em the abridged version—seriously!) of how I got from Western New York toVancouver. Then the guy running it came up and said ‘You only have 3 minutes left, you should probably play a SONG right NOW. And make it a short one’. I remember what song I played. I remember I played it too fast (and yet it was STILL too long), forgot some words and generally sucked. It was terrifying. I was awful. And I vowed to never play in public again.

But then I met this guy named Dan Dover and with our wives we had dinner and he brought his guitar and we traded some songs. Turns out he was another closet basement songwriter. Soon enough we went on a spree of open mics together, sometimes 2 in a night. By then I was hooked on the adrenaline, the strange and magnificent people you met like my good friend Lyman Louis, and the sheer ludicrousness of bearing your soul in front of perfect strangers and occasional hecklers. It made no rational sense why anyone would expose themselves as such but then again nothing else in life made sense either, so it was just OK. In fact it was better than that. Suddenly it was fun too.

The thing is, tonight, Saturday night, about 4 years since that beautiful open mic debacle, I’ve got a sold out debut CD release show in front of a whole bunch of friends and fans who I never, ever would have had the great fortune of meeting had it not been for meeting Dan and his wife Cheryl Mitzlaff tat night. I don’t know about you, but it’s often true that as you get older it get’s harder to make real and lasting friendships. But I feel like ever since I got past that first 7 minutes of that first open mic, the point of the distinction about being from ‘Vancouver’ vs. ‘Western’New York, that my life has opened up exponentially because I’ve allowed myself to open up. There’s this large, thriving, talented, and endlessly creative, beautiful music community here inPortlandand the surrounding area. And I only occupy a tiny corner of it. But my tiny corner is chock full of Amazing People: Gentle Souls, Poets and Healers, Priests and Clowns.

 There’s not a lot of THINGS that I believe in. But I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in community. I believe in falling in love. I believe in connections. I believe that music and songs along with people and community and love have the power to heal and change the world. I know they changed mine. I’m not even sure how anymore. But I do know that at some point Saturday night, up on stage, I’m gonna tell that story how I got here, starting in ‘Western’ New York, and somehow it’ll all make sense. I am so, so, so Grateful for that. And one more thing, don’t forget to believe in yourself. Trust me when I say this, if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it!

Gratefully, dan

‘Oh you want to Make a Record’…

Grateful Blog: Day 48: 1 Day to go to the release of my debut release ‘Ash and Bone’. Phew…it’s almost here. I wanted to give you a sneak peak of who’s on it. It’s really an incredible who’s who list ofPortland’s finest musicians. I cannot be Grateful enough to Rob Stroup for his stewardship in bringing this project to fruition. At some point he said ‘Oh, you want to make a RECORD’ and I knew I’d found the right guy.

Here’s a list of folks that Rob largely assembled and their contributions musically, as well as the folks who contributed their other outstanding talents, in mastering, design and photography. Look ‘em up. They’re all pretty damn amazing at what they do. The thing is, to a person, they ALL were super easy to work with and wanted to help make the best record possible. I couldn’t have done it without Rob and with so much other help. I think you’re gonna love it. I hope as much as I do.

Here they are—Drum Roll Please…

The Musicians:

Jerry Towell: Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Harmony Vocals

Anders Bergstrom: Drums, Percussion

Arthur Parker: Upright Bass, Electric Bass

Paul Brainard: Pedal Steel, Dobro, Lap Steel, Electric Guitar

Tony Furtado: Banjo, Dojo, Acoustic Slide Guitar

Jean-Pierre Garau: Piano, Organ

Rob Stroup: Electric Guitar, Percussion, Harmony Vocals

Chris Kokesh: Fiddle, Harmony Vocals

Tim Connell: Mandolin

Naomi Hooley: Harmony Vocals

Skip VonKuske: Cello

Todd Bayles: Accordion

Produced, Recorded and Engineered by Rob Stroup at

8 Ball Studio, Portland,

Mixed by Rob Stroup at Klickitat Band Camp,Portland,OR

Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI / CD Mastering,Seattle,WA

Design and Layout by Scott Docherty at redhare,Portland,OR


Rachel Haeger

Domenic Cicala

Lynn Woodward

See you Tomorrow!  


2 Days to ‘Ash and Bone’…A Celebration!

Grateful Blog: Day 47: Its 2 days to the release of my debut CD, ‘Ash and Bone’. Since there’s no end to details leading up to the show, at this point it’s more or less a full court press to Saturday night. Friends are driving in from over 6 hours for the show. I don’t know if that makes me feel additional pressure or to just feel loved. But I’m going with loved. Today I got the nicest card in the mail from 2 friends of mine, reminding me what a journey it’s been and how much they’ve enjoyed my music and our friendship. It pretty much brought me to tears. But when you get card like that it pretty much reminds you that there’s really no pressure at all, the music is totally secondary to the journey, and the CD release just the celebration of a milestone of sorts. A bit like my 40th birthday party except I skipped that supposed milestone, didn’t want to celebrate it. And looking back I think I missed the point entirely. Birthdays and weddings aren’t about YOU; they’re about family and friends. They’re about milestones and celebration. They’re about good memories and hope for the future. The same is true for CD releases. This isn’t about me or even my music. It’s about my family, my friends and community. I don’t know why I never saw that before but I’m so Grateful I finally did. In any case, 2 days from now, we’ll celebrate. We’ll hug, we’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll reminisce and then we’ll celebrate some more. And then hopefully you’ll all buy a CD or 2 so I can start planning the next one.

A Longgggg, Hot Shower…

Grateful Blog: Day 46: I took a long hot shower today. Closed my eyes and let all 40 gallons of bliss run over my head, neck and shoulders. I plugged my ears at one point and eyes still closed I heard the pounding rain of a midnight storm, swirling in the streets ofBardstown,Kentucky. I played a show there a few years ago at this place called ‘The Bourbon Bar’ at the Old Talbott Tavern. It’s “said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America as the westward expansion brought explorers from the east into Kentucky” That funky old historic place supposedly filled with ghosts too. “According to legend, figures straight from the history books sought lodging here during their travels; as a young boy Abraham Lincoln and his family stayed here, Gen. George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone, and exiled French King Louis Phillipe and his entourage stayed here, even painting murals on the upstairs walls. There are noticeable bullet holes in the now faded paintings and Jesse James is said to be responsible for them.”

In any case, after the show we went to bed but I woke in the middle of the night to a torrential rain storm that felt like it was coming right through the old wavy windows. I thought about all the old travelers on a night like this: the kind where the ‘catch a death of cold’ wasn’t too far from the truth. Today as I was letting the entire hot water heater tank bleed dry I thought about that night, and realized how Grateful I was for the simplest of things today. Hot water. Abundant, clean, really freaking hot water. I may die tomorrow, you never know, but however that happens, I hope whatever version of afterlife (if there is one) has a really kick ass shower. There’s nothing better than cranking it wide open, closing your eyes and letting you head, neck and shoulders revel in that beautiful stream of heat. That’s good stuff…

High Heels on Valentines Day…

Grateful Blog: Day 45: There’s a lot to be Grateful for on Valentines Day. But today it wasn’t the obvious. I was driving home earlier past the high school, a cold and rainy day when I saw a young girl in a short skirt and heels and no coat walking with who I could only assume was her boyfriend. She labored across the street in those heels, navigating the puddles in the uneven asphalt. It was almost comical but then again it wasn’t. We’d all BEEN there before: A perfect cocktail of youth, vanity and stubbornness, struggling to do the simplest of tasks, in this case, crossing the street.

I’ve got my first big CD release coming in a few days. I’d say a few of those same childish emotions still try to creep in the process, like that desire to impress. And heck, I’m certainly not above being stubborn or having an ego now and again. The difference today seemed to be that when you’re a little older and you’ve been knocked down a time or 2 (or 7, who’s counting?) it’s easier to recognize those same traits in yourself for what they are. And it seems like in doing so you can put them behind you a little easier. Then that stubbornness feels more like conviction, and vanity seems more like quiet confidence, and the desire to please, well I’m stuck with that one. Guilty as charged. I just like making people happy if I can. Maybe that’s why I get up on stage.

Today, just as the light turned green, I saw the girl finish crossing then leaned one hand then another on her boyfriend and took off both of her high heels and walked the rest of the way down the street, barefoot in February, in the cold rain. Maybe her lessons will come quicker than mine, I hope so. But today I’m Grateful for that lesson and all the lessons, that remind us who we are and where we’ve been. Happy Valentines Day!

The Green Sweater: The Story of an Old Friend

Grateful Blog: Day 44: I always hated it when someone bought clothes for me. Didn’t really matter who. I felt obligated to wear it and yet likely never would. So maybe 5-6 years ago we had dinner with our friends Scott and Susan for my birthday. They gave me a green polar fleece sweater. Predictably I didn’t wear it much at first, it was nice though: thick, warm, comfortable and looked cool. But still I rarely wore it. Almost 20 years ago I met Scott when I was a Park Ranger in CanyonlandsNational Park. On a blistering hot day, in literally the middle of nowhere, he had a backpack full of cold beer and offering me one, a friendship was born. That was Scott in a nutshell. He made a thousand friends that way. From the guys he met at work to the guy he met at the local sub shop. It really didn’t matter; he was a friend to all he met.

Even though we’d only met once that fateful day in the desert, when I first moved to Portland he invited me out to meet his friends and soon enough, I had a handful of new friends in a city I’d never lived in. After that we went of dozens of outdoor adventures together: backpacking, skiing, hiking, camping—you name it. He was great guy to be around. Unfortunately, Scott suffered a terrible 7 hour long seizure up on the flanks of Mt.Adams several years ago, and it nearly killed him. He went though countless months of rehabilitation and through dogged persistence was able to drive and work again. He wasn’t 100% the same guy but 80% of the old Scott was still a walking, talking miracle. He did odd jobs for me here and there when he needed a little work. Once I asked him to trim a bush and I came home to find the entire bush pulled out, laying there forlorn in the driveway. That sort of stuff happened to the ‘new’ Scott but it was just a bush you know. We laughed about it afterwards. Somewhere about that time Scott and his wife Susan gave me that sweater.

Scott’s been gone now for just about 4 years now. It seems longer. Another seizure and this time it went too far. He’d even been to the doctor that morning, just a routine thing. He’d been doing really well. But you just never know about these things. I think of Scott a lot these days. He was a plant nut and he gave me dozens of plants which continue to live and bloom I my backyard. I think of him when I pull up the driveway and I see where that old bush used to be, then replaced by Scott with a rhododendron, one of his favorite plants. I also think of him when I think of that canyon where I met him and that ridiculously cold beer on such a hot day, a hundred miles from any store.

But mostly I think of my old friend Scott, and his lovely wife Susan, during these cold days of winter, when I put on that thick, warm green polar fleece sweater. Some people describe an article of clothing as being ‘like an old friend’ but for me it’s so much more than that. That sweater is like a memory of the night he and I got lost hiking in the dark, and especially that the time backpacking when I got hypothermic in the cold rain and he made me hot chocolate and gave me he last dry clothing, a polar fleece sweater, to warm me up. Even now I can’t put on that sweater without thinking of him, all the good times we had, what a great and amazing guy he was, and how much I miss him. I am so, so Grateful that Scott walked into my life in the desert that day. Now I wear that green sweater all the time…

Friendly Ghosts…

Grateful Blog: Day 43: I saw someone today who a year or so ago went viral and posted nasty stuff about me online. Pretty much every chance they got. I don’t know why and honestly really tried not to think about it. It was weird, like having a stalker but one who hated you. The whole thing was surreal. Friends would send me messages and say ‘why does so and so hate you?’ I was clueless. Ignored it; I chalked it up to the law of averages. I saw them again today: things were civil, cool, even. I don’t think they know how weird that whole thing was or even how personally I took it. I’m not sure I care and it appears they don’t anymore either. Some days it’s nice when the past is just the past and bygones are bygones and you look back and realize that you moved on a long time ago. We’ve all got those things or people in or lives, right? Yeah, it doesn’t take long to conjure up those ghosts. Me? I’m Grateful the ghosts are at least friendly today and the ones who aren’t, well, I never did have time for ‘em…So heres to being Grateful for friendly ghosts…

Some New Heroes…

Grateful Blog: Day 42: Tonight I went and saw Gretchen Peters and Martyn Joseph at the AlbertaRoseTheaterhere inPortland. It was a church back in the day, that’s been converted back into a nice, intimate theater. The sound was great, the staff super nice, and the music was fabulous. Gretchen Peters swore we’d met before and I honestly felt that way too. Martyn is a one of a kind Gentlemen: a gentle man. I think we hugged 3 times and he left with my new CD, vowing to listen to it on the plane back toWales. There’s this funny thing when you’re a kid that your music heroes are on some weird pedestal of sorts, you know: Dylan, Garcia, Cash, Jagger, Springsteen, whomever.

It’s funny as I’ve gotten older, and specifically since I more or less accidentally became a musician 6 or so years ago, my hero’s have changed: Morrissey, Carter, Snider, Shindell, Foucault,Cleves, Byrd, Schmidt, Carll, Russell, and Joseph. They’re often guys I’ve gotten to meet or play with or know a little bit and the thing is they’re by and large NOT the rock star type. They’re just great people that happen to write great songs. I dig that more than you know. It’s kind of like politics in a way. I have no use for presidents of anything anymore. Give me the local guy you can relate to who will look you in the eye and tell you how it really is. Or swear you’ve met before and mean it. Or give you 3 hugs and know right where they’re coming from. I don’t think I’ve lost faith in heroes, not by any stretch, but they’ve changed into real people as I’ve gotten older. Sometimes that’s complicated and sometimes it cuts right through the BS. The way a good hug generously given does. That might be oversimplifying things but somehow tonight it felt exactly right, to hug a hero or sorts and wish him safe travels. And I’m truly Grateful for that…

A Sense of Home

Grateful Blog: Day 41: Yesterday the government passed another measure to stem the tide of the real estate crisis. By my count this was at least he 3rd such measure. I have my own opinions about the wisdom of the government trying to fix this. Unfortunately I don’t think the 3rd time will be the charm. In a twist of fate, 15 years ago, I started as an apprentice Real Estate Appraiser and I’ve been doing that ever since. I’m hired to do all manner of appraisals: Purchases, refinances and yes, even foreclosures. Refinances and foreclosures are a bummer. The house just isn’t worth what someone was hoping it would be. It happens in purchases too. There’s a lot of anger and emotion surrounding those things and I see it in people’s faces and hear it in their voices.

Mostly it’s complicated. I think the response that the government ‘owes me’ something is flawed because frankly when real estate seemed like the next gold rush everyone (including me) bought a home thinking they’d profit wildly from the upswing. And a lot of those folks knew that they were rolling the dice because the numbers didn’t add up. You can’t buy twice the house for the same (or less) of the payment you’re paying now and not realize that something wasn’t right. A lot of good, hardworking, well intentioned folks closed their eyes (again, me included) and hoped it would work out. Heck, I do that every time I get out of bed and go to work. I still think that one of these days a computer program will replace my job, and then what am I going to do? I do think that people who were victims of predatory or discriminatory lending practices SHOULD be compensated by the banks or at least given the opportunity to stay in their homes. Proving that may be something entirely else altogether. But I know it happened. I saw it a lot too.

But like I said, it’s complicated. I’m highly sympathetic when I come across folks who through no fault of their own, usually a job loss or unfortunate medical condition, have lost their house or are in the process of doing so. It’s not an abstract for me. It’s thrown in my face with heartbreaking regularity. I meet them, every single day. In their homes I see the boxes and the resignation on their faces. I see the really nice houses and I also see the ones that are trashed. I see the ones where they fixed them up and the ones they treated like any other rental. It’s the whole spectrum. Rich, poor, black, white, blue collar, white collar, it doesn’t matter.

So when it comes to ‘fixes’ I don’t think there’s a silver bullet or a government program that’ll fix it. Writing checks might take some of the sting out but it misses the point. What I see everyday isn’t so much that folks have lost their homes, it’s that they’ve lost their SENSE of home. It turns out your house and mine truly is just nails, wood, asphalt, glass and glue. Your sense of home is something entirely different and that’s where I feel like we’re ‘Underwater’. That loss of optimism in the future is palpable. That’s what I see in folk’s faces and hear in their voices. That resignation.

The other day I found myself in one of those situations, talking with someone about to lose their home, standing on what would soon be someone else’s (or likely no one else’s) front porch. And as we discussed it I realized that while my own home is nothing more than nails, wood, asphalt, glass and glue, that I’d somehow, despite the misery I confront daily, not lost my sense of home. I know who they are. My friends, my family, my wife and yeah, even my cat. No bank can take that. And today, I’m so Grateful for that…

Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry..

Grateful Blog: Day 40: (This is yesterday’s blog for the 9th) Day 40 of the blog…whoa…I can’t really believe it’s gone on this long. 40 Days. 40 Nights. This is sort of my ‘new’ testament as it were. I didn’t so much miss yesterday as I ran out of hours. It happens. There was still a lot to be Grateful for though. I met a woman at her house yesterday and we talked. About this, that…and music. It happens now and again but yesterday after talking with her I felt a renewed optimism. The thing is all of our lives are open books if only we’d be willing to share them. It can be scary but it’s oh so worth it because you find yourself forgetting to get back to work or do whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing because you’re enjoying the moment so much. It happened to me in the conversation and I think it happened to her too. She was describing how wonderful it was backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, the night she played there. She said she hadn’t thought of that memory for a long, long time and I could actually see her face light up jut thinking about. That was pretty cool. Then I went back to work and she went back to her life but I was Grateful yesterday that she took the time to share a memory…