All the New Agers kept going on about this being the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. I don't believe in astrology but I needed some good news and both Western and Chinese zodiacs were saying it would be a good year after several years of shit so I decided to believe it this year. Worked out pretty good.
In February work resumed on the Long Way From Home album after a three year hiatus. Booked three shows at Crawfish, one a month through April, and hauled my recording board down to get my engineering feet wet. Two songs from the February show made it onto the album, "Movie Queen" and the disc-only bonus track "Hucklebuck". Some more gigging and rehearsing and over the summer five more songs were cut with Hisa Nakase on bass and Masaki Shibata on drums. Manuel Trillo, whom I played with in Danny Katz's group, played drums on "Sleep Walk". "Cutie Pie" was recut with Daniel Karras (Sorcha & the Sinners) overdubbing to scratch tracks and "Ain't Waitin' Anymore" was recut with Yoichiro Tsuneno on bass and Glenn Rios on drums. Danny Katz swung by to lay down some piano on a couple songs but due to technical problems the tracks couldn't be used. Bummer because he played some nice stuff. He'll be on the next album though, gotta get the Katzter in there somewhere. Lensie Nishizawa also dropped by to add some backing vocals to "Talk To Your Daughter" and eat some Phad Thai. Jin Nagami mastered it, Hugh Ashton did the front cover and in November we had a 'soft release', download only. Hugh is finishing up a very cool jacket design for the February 'hard release' where we press CDs. Five drummers, four years, three bassists and many headaches later one of the most difficult albums I ever made is done and the results are up to my demanding standards.
In May I had the privilege of headlining the second Beijing Blues Festival. Having played Beijing's sole Blues club CD Blues the previous September I was jazzed to be back in that outstanding city. It's a glorious mess and what makes it trying also makes it exciting. In between club dates around the festival a local film crew invited me to participate in a video series of foreign musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. Probably the first time anybody played John Lee Hooker riffs on a pipa! The song was improvised on the spot.
Notable gigs as the year went on were playing bass with Danny Katz, affectionately known as The Angry Lesbian Rain God (you can predict the weather by checking his gig schedule), and the post-headliner slot (never done one of those before) for Sorcha & the Sinners' CD release party. That snazzy lil' disc includes "Black Lace Blues" featuring yours truly on guitar.
Tara Tinsley did her third Japan tour in October and yours truly was guitarist and musical director. Very talented kid who writes memorable songs and has a helluva voice. Lots of live recordings and video from those shows and we paired together well, a complementing of opposites. She also starred in the Maybe I'll Know You video with her friend Ryan Toth, another mean picker with some nice fingerstyle moves. Oliver Richter filmed and edited the video which also features my dad's '49 Merc. Hauled the board out once again and Tara added vocals to a song of mine called "Wings of the Horizon" which appears on an upcoming album called Idle Pleasures. We also recorded five songs of hers that yours truly is producing and are 70% complete as of this writing. It'll be something different for both of us. We had a lot of fun hanging out, especially the coffee, and I had a lot of fun stepping out of the spotlight and being the musical director as well as guitarist. Her upbeat enthusiasm was infectious and after a some ups and downs these last few years I found my spark again. Thanks, kid, I owe ya one.
November was also a helluva month. Big Jay McNeely toured over here and my dad, who played with him back in the early 70's, just had to go see him and take me with him. At 85 Big Jay is still "blowing his brains out" and although he sits down for most of the show he still walks the crowd for his entrance and his exit. Big Jay and his backing band played a post-tour private party and when Big Jay called me up to sing a number with him I was humbled, which doesn't happen often. It's a rare treat to be invited up on stage by living history. Thank you, Big Jay!!!
As the year wound down somebody finally interviewed me for a change! Chris Grundy, Australian guitarist living in Tokyo for many years, has a podcast called The Swanky Sounds of Japan where he interviews local foreign musicians. I thought he would just ask about the new album but he came up with some really good questions from getting started in music to Albert Collins, Meltdown, Tara Tinsley and Big Jay McNeely as well as the new album. And we killed off that fresh bottle of Jack Daniel's. You can hear my ice cubes clinking in the background. An e-mail interview with a Blues blog in Greece covered some interesting topics. There were some interruptions while I was typing my answers which caused me to lose my train of thought resulting in a few typos and a grumpy mood at various points but all in all it came out well.
And 2012 concludes with a double Vicars bill at everyone's favorite watering hole The Pink Cow. Yup, Jerry & J.J. Vicars together for the first time. I played bass in his band for several years and he's sat in on my gigs the last few years but this is the first time we've done a double bill together. Yoichiro Tsuneno, who played bass on "Ain't Waitin' Anymore" and "Sleep Walk", and regular Cow drummer Joe Ashizawa are accompanying us. A fine way to close out 2012 and ring in 2013!