27 November 2009

Music: Watching Judas

Music is a universal language to those who can hear.

Today, I am talking about WATCHING JUDAS, a band. This band of young men hails from St. Charles County in Missouri. Yes, I've met them. I'm a musician-singer, and one of the two brothers in WATCHING JUDAS, Eric Barfield, used to play piano in a small group with me and some other musicians. This is not saying that I'm merely claiming that something is good because I know of the group. No, I don't automatically say something is decent: I have standards. WATCHING JUDAS has met those standards on their recording entitled "MARY MEETS SALLY", a CD (which appears to be a very small LP, if you own a copy --- yes, it looks like a RECORD)...well, this CD features a song I feel deserves attention, "LONG WAY FROM EDEN". This track has echoes of many groups, and one can draw your own conclusions with a good mind's eye as to whom has inspired the band to write and record this tune. I haven't asked Eric or Christian Barfield if this was written by one or both brothers, but it does sound like something they would have compiled as part of this overall good recording.

The Barfield brothers were in the studios of KFUO Radio several weeks ago and talked about their efforts. They've also been featured on other radio stations across the region over the past couple of years, and they are embarking on yet another "tour" of venues where they can ply their trade to various audiences, mostly under 60 (but I wouldn't rule out some over-60 people liking this music, too...as there are some sounds on this which remind many of us of late 1960s Beatles music/production).

The produced CD was recorded in Memphis and St. Louis, mixed in St. Charles MO (not to be confused with St. Charles IL, outside of Chicago), utilizing the four main musicians associated with WATCHING JUDAS, Eric and Christian Barfield (both sing, although unless you have heard both in person, it may be difficult to say which one is singing the lead), who play keyboards and synthesizers, Paul Nahrgang on Bass, and young Aaron Wahoff on Drums/percussion. They added family members Mary Barfield on cello and Sarah Wahoff on violin in the recording process. Executive Producer Baird Risdon helped Eric and Michael Barfield (now that's keeping it familiar) in the production of the process for "LISTENING HOUSE" records. And if you're a St. Louis native, you may recognize the setting captured by photographer Edward Crim as the "pickle pans" (that's what I call them) from Bob Cassilly's City Museum in downtown St. Louis. Even with all the local angles and angels (one would think) associated with this recording, it took a lot of personal money from the Barfield family and friends to make "MARY MEETS SALLY" a reality. It is a slice of local music, a slice of American ingenuity, talent bestowed upon these young guys, and part tribute to fans of WATCHING JUDAS that such a recording has been brought out.

I think that if you listen to the music of the past 45 years, you'll find something on this CD to enjoy, so long as you don't care that there are NO guitar riffs. Yes, there are no guitars used in the recording of "MARY MEETS SALLY" (except bass), which means that the production values had to be just a smidge more creative than others have attempted or accomplished. By no means am I attempting to say it singularly outshines Phil Ramone or Phil Spector, Brian Wilson or Brian Eno, but it is ladled with production gravy (sorry, yesterday was Thanksgiving, so the mind drifted to that metaphor) from the very first seconds of the opening title track.

Before it becomes a nationally successful band, I want to proclaim that WATCHING JUDAS is worth watching and hearing. I may not be the very first to think this way --- but I am looking forward to the day when I can say "I remember when WATCHING JUDAS was merely a group of nice young guys looking for a break." I think their break is this CD, and more specifically, the song "LONG WAY FROM EDEN".

Call your local radio station music directors and ask them to play this song. If they give "LONG WAY FROM EDEN" some airplay, hopefully others will request the song and the stations will start adding the tune to their playlists. At that point, WATCHING JUDAS will no longer be a well-kept secret to those of us who have already heard them.


Check out WATCHING JUDAS at http://www.watchingjudas.com as well as http://twitter.com/watchingjudas

Oh...and Watching Judas is also on myspace and have a few videos on youtube.

12 November 2009

Irrelevant: Generation X, and Me

Today, I realized that I am irrelevant.

As I sat in the basement this morning, I reflected upon my life. Since I was born in 1965, I am a member of Generation X. A few years ago, there was a term that was largely associated with Generation X members, but I always felt did not apply to me --- called the "slacker". I worked two and three jobs, six and seven days a week, in order to become relevant. But, I suppose because I am a member of Generation X, things have become more denigrating to those of us who are labeled Gen-X. Perhaps it's that label of "slacker" which defined some in our generation, and cast a pall over our very existence within Generation X. Because we're now "middle aged", and no longer in our youth, we have become special to Gen-Y and the Baby Boom generations, as well as...well, not sure that we've given a true name to the younger than Gen-Y kids yet, but I may as well not look it up on the internet because I'm already irrelevant.

Ya see --- outside of those they identified more than a decade ago as slackers, Generation X doesn't even get noticed on the blip of the RADAR GUN that is our national media. CBS' Katie Couric is a Baby Boomer. NBC's Brian Williams is a Baby Boomer, and so are their respective backup anchors, Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt. Looking over at the other news desks --- well, okay, after you get away from retiring boomer Charles Gibson, there are a few anchors who may have a shot at the ABC News desk who are in Generation X...but, frankly, I doubt that the Baby Boomers in charge at ABC will allow a non-boomer to fill that chair as anything more than a co-anchor.

No, you see my point is not only am I, personally, feeling irrelevant. But it seems a lot of us in Generation X are being deemed irrelevant in this economic crisis. Some would say we're too small a generation to have as great an impact on the financial world as "boomers" --- even though we're in the middle of our best spending years. However, we Gen-Xers are also in the middle of being given pink slips or told our job skills don't match the open job positions which are largely being offered up to or snapped up by those who are Gen-Y --- not because we're unqualified for the positions, but because we don't match the financial requirements.

Huh? We're in this economy, making more money on average than the younger generation and we don't qualify? How can that be? Well --- it's BECAUSE we don't make or take less money than those who are younger that we don't match the financial requirements. That, by the way, is the lie that the Human Resources departments are counting on to get them through whatever minor hiring stage they set. Companies are suggesting the HR people not hire someone over 30 these days because of financial needs of the company are paramount. In reality they only want to pay for those who have just exited their formative educational years (high school, trade schools, colleges, and universities) and will gladly accept a smaller paycheck than those of us who have anywhere from five to 25 years in their career fields.

A lot of irrelevance in 2009 is based upon money and age. Much of it is based upon the age at which Generation X has going for it on the positive side --- we are young enough to work a lot of hours and experienced enough to know what we're doing, so we are in the right age range to make the wages that companies no longer wish to pay.

This is NOT limited to Generation X people. No --- a lot of boomers a few years under retirement age but above Gen-X are under the same guns. They, too, are fired upon by the institutions which they thought would allow them to retire as their parents or older cousins had done. Or maybe simply put --- fired, dismissed, trimmed due to budget constraints, laid-off indefinitely. How many other ways are there of saying "we are trying to protect our bottom line before we can protect your bottoms" --- or "assets before saving others' asses"???

It doesn't really matter, anyway, I suppose, which age category you fall into these days. The economic depression exists, while the government says otherwise (two different parties, two different administrations...neither will admit this is more than a serious recession). Unfortunately, it's leading to the downfall of the United States of America in a financial sense. Maybe we're going to be able to band together in the spirit of American brotherhood to get us through this mess. Or maybe we're going to crumble and fall prey to those who hold all the money in assets (not just bank notes --- banks are failing, insurance companies are failing, and Wall Street will fall again, too).

I just know this much --- I reflected upon my irrelevance this morning and have come to one conclusion: I don't see a way out of this for myself. I work in an industry which is befuddled by money-hungry investors, managed by people who don't understand the industry basics, and has consistently let go, fired, dismissed, etc., the base of people who understand how to keep it going and thrive...and although I have a part-time job...I could apply to literally thousands of outlets and be given no more of a chance than I have at my current employer to become full-time with benefits.

No...it seems my days of making that path to financial freedom were over long ago. Perhaps as long ago as half-a-career ago, the path was being broken up by owners who only wanted enough money to cover their middle-age and retirement years. The greed set out by people way above me in broadcasting 15 or more years ago has left me feeling tired and cold. Yet I am somewhat employed, while others I have known are working for peanuts or trying to move-in with their children or parents because they've been unemployed for a long enough period of time that it is as simple as being broke in a down economy.

Sure, I'm a victim of sorts: Of my own belief in my abilities taking me beyond what others have been willing to allow; of an industry which allowed itself to be taken over by money-grubbers who know nothing but their own crooked ways; of trusting that things would become better for all of us sooner, rather than later, because "some of the older generation will have enough sense to buy up the businesses and put us back in the driver's seat". Boy, was I banking without money...just like the banks do these days!

No...it's the end of 2009...I'm still going to work today, part-time. But I am a true Generation X member. And I am ever so irrelevant.

I just wish Andy Rooney would recommend that CBS fill his job position at "60 Minutes" with me, so my irrelevance would earn me a healthy and respectable paycheck for a few years.