Elixr (2022 Remix/Remaster)

Among my recent musical projects has to be remix and remaster my 2018 album Elixr.  I was listening to it back in the spring, and although it was a big step forward for me in terms of musical production at the time, my mixing chops have improved substantially over the last few years and I decided I could do it better.  In the end I decided to get a small batch of CD’s made, and so it took some time to do the artwork and get it printed and all that.  Now the new version of the record is on all the major streaming services, so go ahead and check it out!

Spotify . iTunes . Amazon

New Song – My Ol’ Broke Down Truck

I wrote a country song!  Well sort of at least.  The second in my guitar singer-songwriter experiments, My Ol’ Brokedown Truck is pretty much a traditional country song, although with different lyrics and chord voicings it might be something like a jazz standard from the great American songbook.  I wrote it around Christmastime when I was visiting my parents and my Mum asked me to explain to her Nashville notation.  I did so by way of demonstration, starting by writing down the title and eight bars of chord changes, and then a bridge, and suddenly I had the beginnings of a song. The lyrics also came quite quickly and naturally, and I liked it well enough to to finish it.

I recorded a basic track with guitar, bass drums and vocal. The guitar sound may take liberties with the conventions of the genre, bringing in some energy of bands like Cake or the The Black Keys. The vocal has a low and high harmony part, and I decided it’d sound better with a female voice doing the high harmony. I asked my sister-in-law Mary, who has been in a number of singing groups over the years, if she’d like to do the part. She came in and nailed it, and lifted the song to a whole ‘nuther level.

The hardest thing was to get the right sound for the solo on the intro and middle eight. A sax was definitely not appropriate, and I don’t play pedal steel guitar or fiddle, or banjo or mandolin, and the chords modulate so a harmonica won’t work. I experimented with various synthesizer sounds, trying to harken back to a rare moment in pop music where pedal steel guitars played side by side with analog synths, as exemplified by songs Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Billy Joel’s The Great Suburban Showdown, or Jackson Browne’s The Load-Out. But the right tone eluded me. I ended up using a melodica (a funny little keyboard instrument that you blow into) run thru a boxy amp simulator, spring reverb and tremolo effect.


My Ol’ Brokedown Truck

My brokedown truck and my rotten luck
Have left me here stuck by the side of the road
With my bleeding heart I will make a new start
But first I must get my body home
We’ve made many miles together
Sure in sunny and stormy weather
Well I could trade ‘er in for some shiny new tin
But you’ll never find peace while you roam


We’ve rode many roads together
Fast through foul and fair weather
And I might go far in a brand new sports car
But then how can I carry the load?
So I’ll wait here stuck with my rotten luck
And my ol’ brokedown truck

– John Szinger, 2022

Week in New England

Just got back from a lovely family vacation in Cape Cod and the surrounding area.  This was the first full-week vacation we’ve taken in years, since before the pandemic. Lizzy drove up from Buffalo at met us at Martin’s house outside of Albany, and left her car there.  She was all excited because she just bought a new car a few weeks ago. We all took my car from there to make things easier.  It was great to be together with both kids for a week and hang out and have fun.

First day we took the ferry out to Martha’s Vineyard.  We mostly walked around town and ended up a restaurant having lobster rolls and cold drinks.  Then we stayed on Cape Cod for a few days in a sort of resort hotel suite on the beach with a loft and a balcony looking out over the ocean.  Went swimming in Nantucket Sound, where the sea there was surprisingly warm and gentle, although the beach was a bit stony after you got in a little ways.  Enjoyed the sea and sunshine, went out for breakfast, ice cream, and more seafood dinners, played games in the evening.  

One day we drove out to the end of cape, to Provincetown.  It was a cute fun town, alot like Martha’s Vineyard.  We took a whale watching tour and saw several groups of different kinds of whales.  Spent most of our time with a pair of humpbacks who lifted their tails out high out of the water before they dove down.  

Another afternoon we went to the National Seashore on the Atlantic side.  Saw some lighthouses and the landing for the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, as well as the Marconi station where they sent the first trans-Atlantic wireless communication over a hundred years ago.  There was also a hiking trail thru the marsh which was pretty cool.  I took a swim in the ocean on one of the beaches there.  The water was much colder than on the south side.

We spent a couple of days in Boston.  We stayed in a hotel right near downtown, and spent a good deal of time walking around the city.  The first day we went to the aquarium, which was pretty cool, and ended up at a pub that’s been there since the 1700’s for dinner.  Next day we went to the science museum, which included the planetarium and an electricity demonstration with Van de Graaff generators and Tesla coils that could play music.  I found these pretty fascinating, but when I asked after the show the presenter didn’t really have a strong idea of how the Tesla coils were made to play in pitch.  So I looked it up, and it turns the lighting actually can be made to fire off at a controlled frequency by modulating the voltage.  This creates a tone and basically makes the Tesla coil a speaker.  The voltage controller can be driven by a midi interface and suddenly, music!  Now I’m thinking of getting one for Spacecats.  I wonder if it’s safe in a bar or nightclub.

That evening we went to see the Red Sox play at Fenway Park.  We’d been trying to get to a Mets game all summer but the timing didn’t work out, so we did this instead.  It’s been years since I went to a baseball game, and it was alot of fun.

The last day we headed out northward.  Spent the morning at Salem, and went to the witch museum, which was strangely fascinating.  Spent the afternoon at a beach in New Hampshire, which had the same vibe as Cape Cod but a bit more low key.  The beach itself was nicer, more sandy and less stony, plus has some big rocks.  After that it was back to Martin’s where we hung out most of the following day, and finally Lizzy took off and we went back home too.

New Song – Slope

Slope began life as a jazz song with my pre-pandemic group Haven Street, written by our bass player Jay, and appeared on our record.  I wrote a lyric for it, but we didn’t do vocals in that group, and I’ve never been much of a fan of vocalese anyway, unless it’s Ella Fitzgerald.  So for this record I changed it from a jazz style into an old-timey blues, with a drop-tuned guitar now carrying the main riff rather than a standup bass. 

The arrangement is fairly sparse, with just a single vocal, guitar, bass and drum.  To finish it off I added a bit of Fender Rhodes, and of course a smokey bluesy sax.  I also added real drums doing brushes on the snare, since I have no way to create that using midi and samples.




(D minor, drop D tuning)

Just when you think that life’s looking up
And you might drink from that flowing cup
Then comes the day when it all turns around
Just then you think that life’s looking down

Climbin’ up that slope
Slidin’ down that slope

Just when you think that life’s looking up
Just then you think that life’s looking down

Scamblin’ up that slope
Tumblin’ down that slope

And you might drink from that flowing cup
Then comes the day when it all turns around

Holdin’ on to hope
Ridin’ on up and down that slope

– John Szinger