Posted by: Maggie Ross | March 15, 2012

Alberta chronicles

“Aren’t you long overdue for a blog?” says Maggie, and rightly so.

March in Saint John and we’re all trying to figure out what season it is. It’s been a relatively mild winter and a few days ago it looked like it was drawing to a close, barely a wisp of snow to be seen. But no such luck…I’m looking out the window at our parked car once again all but buried in whiteness. Nonetheless, I spend whole days around the apartment wearing shorts, summer shirts and no socks. This apartment tends to be too warm and what adjustment controls we have seem useless.

My trip to Alberta went well. I spent nearly two weeks with my mother in Medicine Hat. She’ll be 89 on her next birthday and I try to see her as often as I can, despite this canyon of distance between us. She fell in her kitchen a couple of months back, bruised herself pretty badly and dislocated her shoulder, and she’s still not right. Very limited use of her left arm. But she’s spunky, holds tenaciously to her independence. She maintains her own apartment, walks her dog (when the weather’s not too nasty) and drives her own car, though not too far and only in the daytime. I appreciate her quietly rebellious spirit. You wrestle with one day at a time and try to come out on top.

Then it was on to Calgary where I met with Rick Stavely who drove from Prince George, BC, the object being to produce three songs at MCC Studio. Ricks’s a great guy. We met once a few years back in Nashville but most of our relationship has been through e-mail and Skype. One thing I was immediately made aware of is how BIG a singer he is…his voice in a small room makes the walls shake. He’s unmistakably country and very authoritative. This was also my first encounter with MCC’s Dave Temple (owner/manager) and Johnny Gasparic (engineer, musician, background singer, and overall genius-at-large). The studio is modest to look at but chockful of cool instruments and state-of-the-art gear. They’ve been cranking out some commendable country tracks recently and we soon knew we were in good hands. The session players were great, the vocals went swimmingly and the mixes (which Johnny also mastered) sound like they belong on today’s radio. We’ll see!

The weather was warm and slushy most days and I was reminded of what it’s like to be in a big city. Constant traffic and slowdowns. But ah, the restaurants! That’s what I miss about larger cities…the variety of excellent cuisines. I didn’t sample as much as I might have liked, but Rick and I plan to be back later in the year.

Rick also had a gig that week, from Thursday to Saturday at the famous Ranchman’s Cookhouse & Dancehall. Rick’s three band members drove in Wednesday night. I went to Ranchman’s on the Friday night, stayed for three sets, and was utterly flabbergasted. Ranchman’s boasts seating for 1,000 which means the attendance that night must have well exceeded that figure (seems there were as many people standing and dancing as seated). The dancefloor was teeming, much of the time with well-coordinated practitioners of Country Dancing. The bar swarmed with young, attractive people ordering beers and shooters. The roar of noise was almost impossible to talk over but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from trying.

I watched this rollicking parade of merriment and thought that every songwriter and executive in Nashville should be flown up to Ranchman’s some weekend to witness country music doing its job…entertaining and engaging people who have no stake in the proceedings but just want to have a good time. Amazing! I thought the clubs were supposed to be dying!

Posted by: Maggie Ross | February 1, 2012

Inside The Snowglobe

It does look like a snowglobe being gleefully shaken as I look out the window at the half-buried cars (including ours) in the parking lot. All in all it’s been a mild Saint John winter so far, but every few weeks we awaken to one of these blindingly white winterscapes…even the sky is pale blue approaching whiteness. Fortunately we have nowhere we have to be today. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the snow on our car will melt before we have to clear it.

On the cancer front, not much news but it’s all good. My latest CT scan shows continued improvement. Last Thursday I received my 42nd chemo treatment. It was actually one of the better ones…no nausea, decent energy (though I do feel the need to nap most days, sometimes fairly long naps). It seems crazy to say but all of this is becoming more and more routine, I’m getting totally used to it. Yes, I’d prefer to spend less time in a cancer ward with IV tubes hanging out of me, but it’s not that much of an ordeal. The nurses are efficient and personable, and I’ve struck up relationships with two or three fellow patients and enjoy our conversations. Occasionally I think of how much worse this could all be and I count myself lucky. My attitude is good, I’ve made new friends and enjoy my old ones, I have my music. Life goes on, bruised a little but still vital and rewarding.

I have a birthday, my 62nd, coming up on February 4th. It will be just under two years since I received the colonoscopy report that sparked this journey. A lot of miles have since been covered marked by a personal and logistic upheaval that Maggie and I would not wish on anyone. There were some very low moments when I was frighteningly aware of my mortality and held little hope, but right now that’s all part of a murky past that sometimes seems to belong to someone else. I thank Maggie, the generousity of friends, and the constant challenge and occasional rewards of my songwriting for keeping my flimsy ship afloat.

If my own life is lacking in significant events lately, I can always turn to friends and colleagues for more exciting news. Mike Biggar is going stronger than ever. Aptly named, Mike carries a girth that has been a cause of concern for many of us…especially considering the energy he expends maintaining a day job and a busy weekend music career. Last fall he joined a local weight loss club, Simply For Life. They advocate a total change of lifestyle and offer smart but tasty menus. It seems to be working: Mike has lost 90 pounds in a few months! He’s aiming for another 100 or more (like I said, he’s a big guy) and is visibly feeling better as his clothes start to hang ever looser on him. He’s very determined and we’re proud of him. Mike continues to work hard toward finishing his album, which I predict will give his career an enormous boost.

My favorite jazz thrush, Halie Loren of Eugene, Oregon, has completed another excellent album, Heart First, which is currently charting in Japan (where she continues to have a large and enthusiastic fan base) and will be released in North America in March. Halie and I have two co-writes on the album, the title track (a product of Skype writing) and another that we wrote in Nashville several years ago. She grows with each outing. I listen to Halie as a true fan, admiring her phrasing, wonderful tone and flawless pitch, as well as her inventiveness and the sense of true joy she brings to her artistry. Then suddenly a song we’ve written will appear and I’m jarred back to reality: Oh right, that’s Halie! One thing that I find especially exciting is that she will perform two of our songs on February 9th backed by her combo and the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra! That will mark a first for both her and me, and Maggie and I dearly wish we could be there.

Hopping genres, I’d  also love to be in Nashille 20 days later on the 29th when Kaitlyn Baker (a wonderfully gifted 17-year-old country singer who’s been amply mentioned in this blog before) performs her first industry showcase at 12 & Porter. Kaitlyn has been working with songwriter-producer Dean Miller (son of the legendary Roger) toward getting a major record deal. The Bakers returned a few days ago from a whirlwind Nashville visit that saw her singing live, accompanied by an acoustic guitarist, for executives at Capitol, Warner Brothers, Showdog, Big Machine and Average Joe. Everyone was full of praise (Average Joe actually offered a deal) and it was recommended she do a showcase so she can be seen fronting a band and more original songs can be heard. Kaitlyn is a natural, in both beauty and artistry, and I don’t doubt she’ll wow them. The set list isn’t firm yet but there’ll certainly be two or three of our co-writes on board.

Years ago when Maggie and I started Brainchild Music, I envisioned these songs that I write and co-write as living things, finding their own varied paths in the world much like, well, children. That vision stays with me and I’m certain that in some way I’m healed by it.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | December 24, 2011

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright…

Well folks, we had our doubts but it’s looking like we have a white Christmas in store. The fluffy stuff began to fall today and is supposed to continue for several days. It looks very nice, especially when it completes the cozy scenes on display driving along Rothesay Road. Gorgeous homes, made all the more so when adorned with lights and wreaths.

We’re not big celebrators of Christmas, truth be told. We have no kids and don’t give each other gifts. I can’t remember the last time we had any sort of Christmas tree and we’ve all but eliminated sending cards (in favor of online greetings). And yet, Christmas does resonate deep in my marrow in some strange way. I loved it as a kid…the music, the gifts, the food, the all-pervasive smell of a real Christmas tree in the house. It was magical. I still cling to the fellowship and the good eating. And of course the music. It seems every year I write a Christmas song or two.

Larry & Melissa at the Somerset Pub

Larry & Melissa at the Somerset Pub

Thursday evening Melissa Hunt and I did a four-song set of Christmas originals at the Somerset Pub. Clinton Charlton, Paul Grady and Brent Mason, gentlemen all, were doing a writers night that billed them as The Three Wise Men. They kindly allowed Melissa and me to do our set during their break. We were Santa Clark and his favorite elf, Melissa of the North. We did a couple of lovely songs we’ve written together, I did my “I’m Sending You My Heart” (which will be familiar to many of you), and we opened with a rollicking rendition of “It Wouldn’t Be The Holidays,” written with Marc Rossi several years back. It went over very well. People seemed genuinely impressed to hear new Christmas songs that sounded like, well, “real” Christmas songs.

Christmas Eve will be spent with the Hunts and a group of their friends. Christmas day will be spent with my cousin Dave and his wife Carolyn, and a handful of relatives. I anticipate all will be pleasantly low key and joyful. I feel much gratitude. I’m facing my second Saint John Christmas feeling well and in good spirits, creatively engaged and positive. We’ve made some true friends here and still enjoy the warmth of old friends everywhere with whom we’re in frequent touch. Our lives may unfold under a cloud of uncertainty, but isn’t that true for all of us?

And in that spirit of friendship and deep affection, Maggie and I hope you enjoy the song on this webpage and would like to extend our sincere wish that a prosperous, productive and happy 2012 lies in wait for all of us!

Larry & Maggie

Posted by: Maggie Ross | December 8, 2011

Of Idleness and Bustle

I feel like a rather idle bee in the midst of a hive of activity today. Tradesmen have descended upon us. We’ve had plumbers here since midmorning to install a new double-sink plus faucet, replace the countertop and do a couple of small repairs. The air has been ripe with the smell of blowtorches as well as the burnt-toast aroma of various sawings and gougings. And the noise is occasionally frightful. Cleo the cat is not amused. Meanwhile Maggie sits planted at the phone in the next room, door closed against the racket, finishing up her training as an at-home software rep. She’s very anxious, as always when she delves into these new things, and we’ll see how it goes.

And me? Not doing much. This is a small apartment and my style is definitely cramped by the presence of strangers hard and quite noisily at work 25 feet away. Normally I might be playing my guitar, listening to soundclips or videos on the computer, tweaking songs…whatever. I feel sort of invaded but it’ll be over soon.

Outside the window it’s a gray day that can’t seem to summon the energy to actually rain. Can’t knock the temperature…balmy with not a sign of winter. We need no heat on in the apartment. Healthwise all is well. I had treatment #39 last Thursday. As these infusions accumulate I am starting to react more, especially the day and night of the treatment…little appetite, some nausea, and of course the famous insomnia that I’ve been dealing with all along. But I get over all that fast enough and all that lingers is the need for extra sleep over the next several days. Nothing incapacitating though.

Writers Night at the Somerset Pub December 3

Writers Night at the Somerset Pub December 3

I was perfectly able to play a writers night Saturday — in a round with Debbie Adshade and Clinton Charlton — at the Somerset Pub, and it went well. Melissa Hunt came up to the stage and sang our brand-new “Santa I’m Depending On You” to enthusiastic response. Wouldn’t we all like to write the next huge Yuletide hit…a “White Christmas” or “Little Drummer Boy”! Speaking of which, this Friday evening Mike Biggar will be hosting his Christmas show, which will be the second one we’ve attended. He’s still selling his The Season CD from last year, which has proven very beneficial to his career.

I’ve had a couple of productive Skype episodes of late. Wrote a good song with Ivan Daigle on Sunday and another with Marshall Dane Tuesday. This was my first experience with Marshall, who’s in Ontario. He’s been on my radar for a while (some good YouTube videos) and I caught a performance at the CCMA in Hamilton. He struck me as being a talent to watch out for…good looking, fine soulful voice, solid rhythm guitarist, good songwriter, and he fronts a band like he was born doing it. Hardworking too: he tells me he works up to 300 dates a year.

Marshall emailed me today that he tried out our new song, written yesterday, on last night’s audience. And he plans to try it again tonight in a different key! This is a lad with a hefty measure of hustle, I’d say. I’m glad to be part of the team.

There are no doubt a few other tidbits to share but nothing that pops to mind. It’s finally quiet. The plumber is gone and my guitar beckons. The new sink looks very nice. And Maggie made a sale.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | November 15, 2011

Marmalade, Memories and Mistletoe

Ah. I awoke from a late afternoon nap to the tantalizing smell of baking…Maggie made a marmalade cake from a new recipe she’s been wanting to try, and it smells delicious (still haven’t sampled it). What better reminder of the small joys in life, the aroma of something newly baked as you enter a house (or in this case, re-enter consciousness!). It’s a primal, heartwarming, wonderful thing that resonates from early childhood throughout our lives.

And life, while we’re on the subject, is pretty good, thanks. I guess that may in some way account for my laziness in tending to this blog: all is quite normal, nothing earthshaking to report. Meanwhile I’ve had two chemo treatments since I last posted, with another due this Thursday…which will be #38. Getting up there. The only side effect I notice is that I’m definitely sleeping more, but my energy at its peak seems pretty much what it’s always been.

This past Saturday I played a writers night at the Bourbon Quarter, a restaurant and showroom that is one of my favorite Saint John venues. The round consisted of Mike Biggar, Jessica Raye, Dennis Ellsworth, Marcy Noel…and yours truly. Marcy is a young newcomer to the scene, and of course I scarcely consider myself a performer at all, but the others are all respected Maritime singer-songwriters. It was a good show, well attended and appreciated. Mike recently won an award for Best Spiritual Recording at the Music New Brunswick conference. This was for his Christmas CD from last year, The Season, which includes two of our co-writes, so I feel a grateful part of it all. Meanwhile Mike is making plans for 2011 Christmas shows. No snow here yet. The leaves have all turned but many are still clinging to the trees. It feels like deep fall. But Christmas decorations are beginning to rear their sparkly heads and our favorite TV shows are starting to be interrupted with the annoying clamor of toy commercials. But I’m not as Scrooge-like as that statement may suggest. I’ve even been writing Christmas songs of late…a romantic one called “What Christmas Is All About,” Skype-written with Ron Irving and Luke Isaac, and a sultry fun little jazzy thing with Melissa Hunt called “Santa I’m Depending On You.” Ho ho ho.

Songwrites Circle at the Bourbon Quarter November 12

Songwriters Circle

Speaking of Melissa, I called her up on stage Saturday to sing our “Wake Up Call” and I thought she did a great job to enthusiastic response. She’ll be starting university in the new year but hopefully will still find time to work on her music. There’s clearly big potential there.

Last night Maggie and I went to visit my aunt Trudy in the seniors’ home where she lives. We had tea, talked and went out for dinner. She’s 92, suffering from osteoporosis and is another cancer battler who seems to be clear for the moment. She’s as sharp as a tack and has amazing recall from her earlier life. Before we left she wanted to show me zomething. It was a school class picture from 1929, Grade One I’m guessing. She asked if I could pick out my mother. I couldn’t. Trudy pointed her out. It was eerie to realize that this unsmiling child (did no one smile in old photographs ever?) was indeed my mother, now 88. Trudy was quite delighted and so was I. Again…those resonant little joys.

Oh…I tried the cake. Yummy.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | October 13, 2011

Enter The Skypster!

Hello again friends and cyber-neighbors!

We enjoyed a few days of Indian Summer this week, which added a nice touch to Thanksgiving. Still sunny and bright today but fall is definitely on the way. Temperatures during the day are in the low Celsius double digit range and nights are chilly. But enough of weather, a subject with which Canadians are weirdly obsessed…

First of all, the latest CT scan. I got the results last week. Nothing dramatic but there are small changes. The tumors continue to reduce in size and my treatments (35 is the latest count) continue to have little effect on me. I’m staying busy and these days, so is Maggie. She is now a veteran of many bus tours and is making the best of this month’s opportunities. After October she’ll have no more tours until June. From all reports she’s doing very well, making good tips and winning praise and learning to sort through the unexpected wrinkles…like tours where some of the people don’t speak English.

I’ve been taking in lots of music. A couple of weeks back I traveled with the Hunts to Moncton where we heard Terri Clark perform at the Casino. She did a fine job and I admired the Casino’s auditorium; first time I’ve been there. I got to spend a bit of time with one of my favorite Nashville couples, RyLee Madison and Clay Krasner. Clay plays bass in Terri’s band.

Last night Maggie and I went to the Imperial Theatre to hear Travis Tritt. The Imperial is the local posh soft seater, holds about 850, and Travis had the place packed with an acoustic show…just him and his guitar. I didn’t realize just how good a musician he is, which is helpful when you’re listening to two hours of one voice, one instrument. He was excellent and turns out to be a superb raconteur, relating great stories about his early days in Nashville, meeting his heroes Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and being the longhaired outlaw member of the so-called “class of ’89.” Nova Scotia troubadour Ryan Cook opened for Travis with a fine set of quirky, one-of-a-kind songs. I’ve become a big Ryan Cook fan since moving here. What he’s doing is almost totally off the commercial radio-hungry map but, like a young Roger Miller or John Prine, he makes it cool, even a bit sexy. I think he’s going places.

Speaking of Nashville, and speaking of Miller, I had a song recorded there at the beginning of the week with Dean Miller (Roger’s son and a singer-songwriter in his own right) at the helm. The artist was Kaitlyn Baker, a 16-year-old from Virginia with whom we’ve been acquainted for several years. Kaitlyn, who sang “I Wanna Live Like That” at my benefit last year, is pretty as a picture, smart and focused, and jaw-droppingly talented. And she’s a fan of our songs, bless her heart. I’ve been doing some Skype writing with her and the song she cut, “The Trouble Is You,” stems from one of those sessions. This recording was a three-song demo. Dean wants to shop her to the labels and, while I usually don’t allow myself to get excited about these speculative things, I have to admit I’m feeling a little buzz here. It seems unthinkable that Kaitlyn won’t get an offer. She’s that good and that driven.

Skype continues to keep me busy. My lovely friend Halie Loren just completed yet another jazzy, home-recorded project. She included a song that we Skype-wrote, “Heart First,” and included another co-write from her Nashville days, “Tender To The Touch.” I’ve heard early mixes of both and love them. Halie’s going for a slighly different vibe here, less dreamy and Latin-y, with a bit more Bonnie Raitt and R&B in the sonic stew. Great stuff. How lucky am I, getting to work with all these brilliant young people? I couldn’t ask for more…well, seeing one of these songs become an international smash hit earning millions would be nice. But, everything in its time. I remain an optimist.

Anyway, I’ll leave it there for the moment. Happy belated Canadian Thanksgiving to our Canuck friends, and thanks to all of you for checking in.


Posted by: Maggie Ross | September 25, 2011

And to your right, the famous Martello Tower . . .

Hey folks,

It’s been a while I know, and there’s actually been a lot going on. On September 7th I flew from Saint John to Toronto, where I was met by my cousin Bonnie. We drove to Barrie (about an hour north of Toronto) and I spent a couple of days with her, getting caught up on news and enjoying some lovely Ontario weather.

On Friday the 9th I met up with my young friend Taylor Abram (also a Barrie resident) and we drove to Hamilton where the Canadian Country Music Association’s annual conference was held this year. In spite of the complaints we constantly hear about the decline in music sales resulting in everyone being penniless, the conference showed no signs of deprivation or under attendance. Taylor and I had a nice hotel room but it was 20 minutes away in Burlington. It seems the hotels in Hamilton sold out fast.

I haven’t been to a CCMA conference since the event was held here in Saint John in 2006. I know the drill but I’m a little rusty in dealing with it . . . and believe it or not I ain’t getting any younger. It’s a mosaic of showcases, seminars, luncheons and dinners, open mikes, songwriting rounds, label parties, and so forth . . . the chances to schmooze your butt off are countless but you wind up with a raw throat from trying to talk above the music and you can, by small increments, walk for miles over the course of a day. In short it’s exhausting, but also exhilerating.

I met up with dozens of friends and colleagues from the past, all of whom seemed happy to see me up and around and complimented me on how healthy I look . . . which admittedly I never tire of hearing. Not just Canadians either. There was a Nashville contingent milling about and I got reacquainted with David Ross (Music Row magazine), Jeff Walker (Aristo Media) and Denny Carr from Open Road. Equally important, I met several young singers and songwriters and preached the gospel of Skype co-writing to one and all. Let’s hope that bears some fruit. I’ve already co-written one song online this week with the ever-talented Adam Gregory (an Edmontonian living in Nashville) and I think we’ve got ourselves a good one.

The CCMAs culminate in the Monday evening Awards Show, followed by the post-Awards party which is always a hot event. By the time that was done Taylor and I (it was his first CCMA) were ready to bid goodbye to Hamilton and the festivities. Tuesday morning we heading back up Highway 400 another hour beyond Barrie to tiny Brechin, Ontario. My good friend Jim Hopson lives there in a beautiful waterside home in which he’s installed his state-of-the-art Lake Effect recording studio. Taylor works for Jim as an engineer and overall aide-de-camp, besides being a talented singer-songwriter in his own right.

I stayed there till Friday co-writing with Taylor and several other gifted Ontarians . . . Colin Amey, James Barker and my lovely new friend Amelia Marcus. A good productive few days. Then on the 16th Taylor drove me into Toronto where I caught a flight back to Saint John.

Meanwhile Maggie had been busy doing her thing . . . which as you all must know by now is guiding tours around Saint John, standing at the front of a bus armed with a microphone and a dazzling United Empire Loyalist costume. She has now been out on four separate occasions doing two tours per outing so she’s gone from being a quaking neophyte to an old hand. By all reports she’s doing wonderfully; comments are encouraging and the tips are generous. Unfortunately this work will stop at the end of October not to resume till June, but we’ll squirrel away what acorns we can gratefully.

Maggie in costume

For your visual gratification, I’m attaching a photo of Maggie in full regalia. Now wouldn’t you want this charming creature to guide YOUR Saint John tour?

And on the health front . . . chemo #34 is under my belt and I’m doing fine. I’ve had another CT scan and should be able to comment on the results next time.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | August 29, 2011

Goodnight Irene

I wish it were that easy! Unfortunately the fiercely-determined Irene will say farewell in her own good time. We’ve been told to expect heavy rains and wind for the next 12 hours, and we’ve seen a fair bit of that already today. Is it just me or has this year been especially laden with what might seem the Plagues of Pharoah? Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes…enough already! Spare me the locusts and boils.

Everything is going along quite normally here. Chemo treatment #33 happened on Thursday past, and I’m doing fine. I just finished another novel by my new friend (whom I’ve yet to meet in person) Cathie Pelletier. But this novel, Candles on Bay Street, is written under her pseudonym, KC McKinnon. What’s it about? Well, uh, in large part it’s about a woman dying of cancer. Very touching actually. Though it might seem I’d be a tad sensitive, I actually don’t mind seeing or reading this kind of material. It’s all part of the stories that swirl around our lives, touching us all in some way at some time.

Next Saturday will mark Maggie’s official debut as a bus tour guide. She’s very nervous of course (who wouldn’t be…two hours of riding around Saint John trying to keep a gaggle of tourists focused on what you’re saying) but it’s high time: she’s studied hard and is becoming an expert on Saint John lore. I predict she’ll perform handsomely!

As for me, my next red letter day is September 7th when I depart for my Ontario trip. I’m looking forward to it a lot, a chance to visit with friends and family and partake of Canadian Country Music Week, always a slice of boozy, schmoozy madness.

What else? Nothing awfully new. Writing songs and watching the summer slip away. Last Sunday Maggie and I went on a lovely river cruise with several friends. Lovely…floating slowly down the river on a pontoon boat, sipping on wine and watching eagles and ospreys enjoy their habitat.

Mike Biggar and I went to the Shiretown Publicans bar last Friday. Mike did a half-hour opening set for Dave Gunning, a well known Maritime troubadour whom I was hearing for the first time. I became an immediate fan! There are some superb, truly world-class musicians and writers plying their splendid craft in these Atlantic Provinces, well beneath the radar, unfortunately, of the Beiberites and American Idol fans. Wonderful stories, lilting Celtic melodies, fiery musicianship. Check out Dave Gunning…and JP Cormier, Ryan Cook and the late Stan Rogers. This is music with echoes in our deep collective past, serious, heady, soulful stuff.

I’ve been going around for the past week humming “Broom of the Cowdenknowes” and the eerie “Pills of White Mercury.” I may never write another country song again. Just kidding…

Posted by: Maggie Ross | August 14, 2011

Ontario beckons!

Yep, it’s me again, the self-confessed lazy blogger. Last Thursday I received chemo treatment #32. Treatment #31 went unmentioned in any blog, so I have been a while communicating here. Not sure why; it just hasn’t seemed like there was a lot to say.

But we’re doing well. I do find that the cumulative effect of the chemo is starting to show, mostly in the area of tiredness. It’s taking me longer than it used to to attain a more or less normal energy level after treatment. Today is Sunday and I’ve slept a lot during the day, even after a full night’s sleep. No pain or discomfort or even spiritual exhaustion…I just feel like lying down a lot and I do. And my “naps” can be one or two hours long. But my doctor assures me there’s nothing abnormal here, and she would prefer that I keep on with the treatments without taking a break as long as good results are being achieved without extreme side effects. So on we go. Over these next couple of days my energy will start normalizing.

I will in fact be getting one short break from chemo. In September I’m taking a trip to Ontario which will see me missing one treatment. I’ll be attending Canadian Country Music Week in Hamilton, Ontario, in early September. I’ll be part of a Round Table Discussion seminar where attendees float from table to table to receive various tidbits of “wisdom.”

I’ll also spend a couple of days with my cousin Bonnie in Barrie, and will then travel north to to spend several days at my buddy Jim Hopson’s beautiful Lake Effect Studio in Brechin, Ontario. I’ll do some co-writing with Jim and his assistant Taylor Abram, and whoever else shows up. Looking forward to that!

September will also mark Maggie’s foray into being a Saint John tour guide. She’s been studying hard, has gone along as a “shadow” on several tours to observe and learn, and she and I have taken several drives along the tour route while Maggie practices her commentary. For a small city there’s a lot to be said about it, and the challenge is how much to say before your customers enter a comatose state from information overload. She’ll figure it out. Meanwhile she’s becoming quite the expert on Saint John lore.

Not much more to say. I’m writing a lot, much of it by Skype. Had a great session with Halie Loren a couple of days back. I hadn’t seen her “in person” in quite some time and it was delightful to spend a few hours talking and writing. We came up with a pretty cool little song too.

We also received a lovely package last week from our Vancouver friend Trisha Gagnon. Trisha is Cathy-Anne McClintock’s sister (my “I Wanna Live Like That” collaborator) and I’ve known them both since the 80s. They were in a bluegrass band called Tumbleweed when we met. Now of course Cathy-Ann is a married mother of two living in Long Beach, CA, still writing and singing. And during all that time Trisha has been part of mandolinist John Reischman’s Jaybirds, playing upright bass as well as singing and writing excellent songs. They’re a very respected bluegrass unit and Trisha is much admired on the bluegrass circuit. Maggie and I were delighted to note that the band will be making a Saint John appearance at the Imperial Theatre in 2012. But in the meantime we received an envelope with a copy of Trisha’s brand new solo CD, and a jar of her delicious raspberry jam, which represents another little side business. And of course a lovely handwritten card.

Good friends…we’ve got a bunch out there and we’re deeply grateful.

Posted by: Maggie Ross | July 16, 2011

Turning 30

No, not years…chemo treatments, as of this past Thursday. Still holding up well, putting on weight, sporting a pretty healthy head of (very gray) hair and staying busy. My only complaint about chemo, and I’ve probably mentioned this before, is that I can never sleep the night of treatment. My doctor said the steroids in the drug cocktail probably have something to do with it (haven’t improved my athletic skills any…). I get a rather unpleasant heartburn-y feeling that worsens when I lie down, and there is occasionally some nausea. So I just don’t sleep. I read, listen to music, try to find some good movies on TCM, noodle on the guitar.

This time I lucked out. AMC was showing a string of Breaking Bad episodes. I really like that show and I lost track of it after leaving Nashville, so it was great to watch four 2010 episodes that kind of got me back in the loop. Gotta love ol’ Walt, the world’s most soulful and self-examining meth cooker. Brilliant show, scripts, casting, sheer thematic audaciousness. It plunges with scary believabilty into dark areas beyond where any show has gone before. Even edgier than Dexter in my opinion. I just don’t believe that character, a serial killer who has conditioned himself to only target “bad guys” for his gory adventures. Yeah, right.

Speaking of writers, I’ve made a new friend, although one I’ve yet to meet in person or even lay Skype eyes on, Cathie Pelletier, with whom I became acquainted in a rather circuitous manner involving a mutual acquaintance. She lives in a small town across the Maine border, really not that far from here, after having spent 30 years in Nashville writing songs, poems and eventually novels. Cathie’s become rather celebrated in the literary world, writing under her own name and also as K.C. McKinnon. She’s been the recipient of several awards, hefty advances, and even got to write a screenplay from her first novel…which unfortunately, 15 years later, has never entered production. She tells me the movie business makes the music business look like a party! Only the tough-skinned need apply.

But for all her literary success, Cathie is especially fascinated with songs and songwriters. She sent an e-mail asking me to critique some of her songs, with an eye to perhaps co-writing down the road. Having since heard one song and scrutinized another lyric, I’m anxious to work with her. Maggie got a couple of her novels from the library and I started reading one, The Funeral Makers, in the wee hours of Friday after the Breaking Bad marathon ended. When I told her we had a copy of that book she said, “Please burn it and I’ll pay the library.” After enjoying several chapters I will assuredly do no such thing. Her work is both funny and dark, anecdotal and filled with feisty dialogue…all qualities that lend themselves handily to her lyric writing. We talked on the phone the other day and the conversation went on for hours, much of it trading Nashville stories. It amazes me more by the day what a small world this is.

I should run along, but I do need to add a sad note, by way of an RIP to bass player Pete King who was a well-loved career musician, best known for playing bass with Rik Reese and Neon Highway. Rik and Pete were were like brothers, having shared music together for nearly 20 years. Pete was memorable for his black jeans and spurred boots, and his metronomic body language while playing. He rode a Harley which he adored. After completing a successful and exhilerating gig at the Cavendish Music Festival on P.E.I, Pete said a casual goodbye to his friends and bandmates, saying he wanted to make an early getaway. In the wee hours of the morning, July 11th, Pete’s motorcycle collided with a moose. He was killed instantly. I guess if you look at the whole picture…the heady aftermath of a successful gig, a gathering of friends, riding his beloved Harley, instant death…I guess there’s a sort of poetry in all of that, in dying in the very fullness of how he lived.

But that makes it no less sad. So long Pete. I didn’t get to know you well but you were clearly a gentle and loyal soul. One of the good guys.

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