Monday, November 24, 2014 Review

Less-Is-More With Thirty Dollar Stella ~ By Gary Schwind @ 9/11/2014

"Recently, Gene Simmons declared that rock is dead. That is a debate that could rage on for hours, but basically Simmons is declaring that he knows all the rock bands out there and that none of them are as good as KISS. It is pretty presumptuous - not to mention self-aggrandizing - to say something like that, but even more than that is that you can't really declare any genre (except maybe disco) dead because there are always bands in all genres worth discovering. The onus is on the music fan to go out and discover those bands, which is easy enough to do considering outlets like ReverbNation, Bandcamp, etc. Really all you have to do is search one of your favorite genres on one of those sites, and you're bound to find something you like."

"One of those bands that's worth discovering is Thirty Dollar Stella, a band currently at #22 on the Los Angeles country chart on ReverbNation. This band certainly falls into the country category. However, this isn't cowboy-hat country. The country aspect of this comes from the heavy blues influence of this band as well as some alt-country sounds. The first song on the ReverbNation player is a cover of the country/blues classic "Mystery Train" This is a great version of a train song - and let's face it; there's never a bad time for a train song. This band shows it can straddle the line between alt-country and blues. A good example of this is the band's cover of "Six Days on the Road". The band takes this song and puts some good twang into it. It's very different than Taj Mahal's version of the song, but it's really good."

"If you want to hear more of the blues sounds of this band, check out the song "What the Cowgirls Do". This is a slow-burning, lowdown blues song that features some awesome slide guitar. This is a great song for slow dancing with someone in a dark juke joint. And if you like slide guitar, check out the song "Wanna Rock and Roll". This may not be front-porch blues, but it's honest-to-goodness, lowdown blues - and it even includes some lyrics from the blues standard "John the Revelator". When you check out the band's Blogspot page, you'll see that the band strives for a less-is-more approach. It's safe to say that the guys follow through on it. There are not a whole lot of bells and whistles in the songs, just a lot of great licks and real simple, straightforward vocals. Thirty Dollar Stella is currently working on a CD, which will include the first five songs on the ReverbNation player as well as some other songs. Be sure to get a copy when it's available."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The "100" Club

A friend asked me the other day in an email if I’d heard about the ‘100 Club’ where the members have pared their possessions down to 100 items, this was my response.

If that is true I’m screwed. Guitar and music item hoarder. Still have my Hot Wheels. There would have to be a fire for me to comply. I do not NEED much, I just LIKE this stuff. We are slowly getting rid of stuff, it’s something that we involve the kids in so no one feels like they missed out on a deal or that we are keeping crap that nobody wants. It is a liberating process, mixed with a lot of memories.

When we sold my parents stuff, I realized how truly unimportant it became as soon as they had no need for it anymore. So many things that we were told to hang on to, mostly by my mom, were not as valuable as they thought and/or did not hold the sentimental value for us that it did for them.

More than once I was asked "what did I want in their house when they are gone". I would walk through the house with my mom hearing about what antique thing came from what distant relative. I told my dad I would like his tools and his navy pictures and uniform, some other old pictures of old relatives for genealogy purposes. He said “that’s it?”. Yep. My dad liked his tools and some of the furniture he’d refin’d, but he didn't need any of it.

I have my dad’s pocket knife on my workbench. I really don’t use it much. I just hold it when I think about how to make something work or fix something I busted. The answers come. Is it him telling me right now or a replay of something I was taught and didn't know I had retained? I tell him thanks…a lot.

So each kid will most likely pick out a guitar to keep when I’m gone. Some really good ones will go to a low bidder. Nothing I can do, won’t need them then. I’m sure I’ll thin the herd in the years to come. One of the kids will just want my pocket knife. I hope it contains the answers to some of the tough questions later on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The New Phonebook's Here!"

A line out of Steve Martin's 'The Jerk' referring to his name being listed publicly for the first time. Kinda the feeling we got here at Stella's when the box from DiscMakers showed up last week.

"The new Thirty Dollar Stella CDs are here!"

Yep, they're here alright. The digital versions took longer than the pressed CDs, go figure. Anyway the digital downloads will be available 1/23/12 on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Virgin Mega and about 20 more sites.

If you buy the CD you get a piece of plastic you can, play in the car, hold, throw, put a drink on, chew on, a cardboard sleeve with our pics on it and some really heartfelt words, also a cowgirl pinup pic, so that's pretty cool.

If you by the digital downloads, you get a bunch of 0s and 1s crammed into your phone, computer or iPod and a unrealistic sense of well-being from helping to support the production of even more Stella tunes and CDs and downloads in the's like an americana mobius strip of pretty good music and tolerable singing.

Either way we're putting on the sad doggy eyes and asking that you spend two days of your Starbucks money on our little venture here. Make us feel a tiny bit like we're living the dream, albeit just for a moment, and we're "real" musicians.

Ahhhh....that's nice, ain't it? Here's the linky-dink Thirty Dollar Stella's CD

We'll leave the back porch light on and the screen door un-latched for you, come on down to the Second Hand Americana Music Shop and set a spell.

Friday, December 23, 2011

1961 Kay Value Leader Guitar

Saw Ryan Bingham on Youtube playing one of these made by Kay under the Old Kraftsman name (Kay made these for Spiegel). The tone was awesome and i decided that I needed another guitar right away. Found a well worn unit on ebay and scored it for about half of what they are going for these days. After some minor adjustments and gluing of some loose binding, it was ready to go. Tthe "zippo" DeArmond single coil pickup and the 0.1 vintage "firecracker" wax and paper tone capacitor rule the dark bluesy tube breakup tone of this recording session star. A very cool find indeed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Elvis And Tucker

In the spring of 2002 I was grieving the loss of my best friend to cancer at 42 on the previous Christmas Eve. We had put down our 17 year old Schnauzer in January. My wife put me in the mini van with our kids with an ad out of the local Pennysaver mail flyer for “pound rescue” dogs about 30 minutes from our house. I really didn’t think it was a good idea. Just not into it. Didn’t want to end up years down the road having to make that final trip to the vet that I had just made in January with Heidi.

We got there and met the dog in the ad, a Jack Russell mix that was quite hyper. The kids all frowned, this was not the dog. I asked if they had any other dogs there. The lady in charge replied “Just ol’ Elvis…” We decided, with very low expectations, to see “ol’ Elvis”.

Elvis was not old, two years tops, but he had been adopted out twice in the last 6 months and come back both times for trivial reasons (picky people, which we are not). He did not play catch was one of the faults noted by previous folks. He walked cautiously up to my son and let everyone pet him. No barking, no jumping, a little guarded in his stance. We took him home with the understanding that if he didn’t work out we’d bring him back to the same shelter and not dump him somewhere else. They liked him there.

We found out that his name came from a dry canine tooth that his upper lip would hang up on giving the impression of the King’s famous sneer. He was house broken and turned out to be the best dog we ever had, including ones the wife and I had as kids. In late 2010 he developed a mental problem that tormented him. He was scared all the time as if he was hallucinating that something was after him. When it got to be a 24/7 condition we did what we had to do and said goodbye to our “3rd son”.

My kids are all older now and the time spent with a dog is not as important for them, but turns out to be even more important for tired old dad. It took about 6 weeks before I started reviewing the four legged inmates at the local rescues. I found a smaller, hairier version of Elvis in Tehachapi, about 30 minutes north of us in the mountains and arranged to go pick him up.

He was just under a year old and had been found wandering a crowded truck stop intersection on Tucker Road, just off the freeway. Mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats frequent this mountain town. This was a little dog. He came home with us and is in the running for “best dog ever that is not Elvis”. His “shelter name” was Tucker and who are we to change that which tells a little of his history, so Tucker he is.

Here is what Elvis taught me in the 8 years he was by our side. There is always another “ol’ Elvis” at a rescue shelter waiting for the reluctant dad / husband to suck it up and admit he’s in need of an unconditional friend. There does not have to be an acceptable waiting period. We do not forget about the previous dogs. The new ones are not replacements for our old friends. They are a continuous action of caring for one another. Tough to say who rescues who in these cases. I tend look at Tucker playing or laying on the couch with my wife and imagine that Elvis would approve of our actions since his departure. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Countin’ Blessings

  A friend and fellow musician and I were discussing how to “keep it fresh” when playing and writing music these days. I had mentioned the underlying bitterness and resentment I had been sensing through other musician’s comments and posts on social media sites, blogs like this one, and webboard forums.

  Seems like the more someone HAS to do something, for food or a roof, etc.., the more prone they are to resent it and let the fun get sucked out of it. This has always been true of “jobs” and such. Anything that is hard or requires a lot of time and effort can go this route.  Tasks without the expected rewards, real or imagined, become tiresome.

  So when you pick a career in the arts, music, acting, painting, or whatever, because you love it and are passionate about it, be prepared to have some of the shine wear off that penny along the way. Knowing that this is probably going to happen in some form will help prepare you for dealing with it, although it may not completely ease the pain of its’ occurrence.

  You’re going to deal with boredom, repetitiveness, deception, disappointment, strain, stress, anxiety and depression somewhere in almost any path you choose. How you deal with it will determine whether or not it’s a deal-breaker. Sometimes the above mentioned career maladies can fuel a streak of creativeness and awakening rather than the normally expected destructive results. It truly is in your hands most of the time, as well as in your head. While nothing is easy or guaranteed in life, you do have more control than you think.

  Have a “happy place” to go to when struggling with your career demons. For those in regular jobs, put on some music. For those in music, go to the beach or park and just listen. And so on, and so forth for the other things we HAVE to do each day to survive. Chemical escapes are not what I’m talking about here, they carry their own risks and demons and tend to snowball on the escapee.

  Something good is happening right now, perhaps right next to you. Will you take a moment to notice it and escape for a while? Will you be a little less bitter about your current “HAVE TO” situation? What have you got to lose?

  Yeah, I’m bitter and cranky about things in my life. Yes, I have my music to escape to. I stop and listen to the sounds of my home and family for just a moment. Yes, it works for me.  It doesn’t take much to change my outlook.  I choose to make it easy. I choose to notice things that make me smile.

  My friend says “Every day that my gratitude exceeds my expectations, that is a really good day”.

  Have a good day today.