A Review of “Keeping the Dream Alive”

Much thanks to my cousin, writer Patrick Walsh, for his article, “Doing the Math: A Review of Keeping the Dream Alive“.

Patrick is an accomplished writer, having authored Spaceflight: A Historical Encyclopedia (2010) and Echoes Among the Stars (2000) along with countless shorter pieces in print and digital media over several decades. He is also an avid music fan, having written pieces for the Hudson Valley’s “More Sugar“, and other publications. It’s certainly a privilege to have someone as qualified as Patrick write a review of my music (and a favorable one at that)!

MediaIntercept

Here’s a couple brief excerpts from the review:

    “In many cases, the common denominator will be pretty simple: the music that sticks around is the music that sounds best. And in the case of Keeping the Dream Alive, it’s the distinctive nature of the sound that gives this collection of bluesy, driving roots rock its unique character.”

    “In each particular expression of its overall themes, and particularly in the careful crafting of the distinctive sound of the recordings as a whole, this long-awaited collection is every bit the compendium of musical styles and technical skill that fans have come to expect, and to cherish, from this excellent singer songwriter. It is music well worth having, and quick to join your short list of favorite recordings.”

I have to say I am certainly flattered to have Bob Dylan mentioned in a review of my new record! How cool is that?

I hope you’ll stop by and check out the full review (and buy the record if you haven’t already :) ). Remember, all 2014 sales will go to the worthy Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, to help students keep their musical dreams alive!

 

 

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The Story Behind ‘Lotto Dust’ (in memory of WPDH DJ Mark Cooper)

“How do you come up with the ideas for your songs?”

People often enjoy hearing the origination of a song idea. What are the lyrics about? How did you write the melody? Which came first?

Here’s the story behind the muse that bought me of one of my favorites. Of the five songs on Keeping the Dream Alive, Lotto Dust has received the most praise, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. But it never would have happened without a passing but captivating comment one morning from “Coop”.

This month will mark one year since the sudden passing of Mark Cooper, long time WPDH DJ. I still miss that raspy voice and his knowledgeable and often impassioned on-air musings each morning. In addition to his unique sound, and the simple fact that he was a comfortable, dependable part of my daily life as a Dutchess County resident since the 90′s, there is something else that will always keep the memory of “Coop” close to my heart. Lotto Dust.

WPDH DJ MarkCooper

So what’s the connection between Coop and Lotto Dust? Well, one morning, as I often did on the drive to work, I was listening to Coop and whoever he was partnered with at the time (it was early January of 2012 and I honestly don’t remember – it often changed over the years). They were discussing Lotto scratch-off tickets and the hard core players who habitually bought sets of tickets and would hang out at the deli where they bought them and sit around and scratch away.

Anyone who has ever scratched off a few lotto tickets knows they leave behind a pile of crumbled rubbery stuff, sort of like what’s left behind when you use a pencil eraser, only darker. Coop referred to this stuff as “lotto dust”. Bang! A song was born. Well it’s rarely that quick, but that phrase stuck in my cranium like gum in your hair. With those two words bouncing around my brain like a pinball in an arcade game over the following week or so, the story emerged of poor Willy and his weakness for throwing his hard earned money away on a chance and a dream.

As for how those two words led to this specific story, well I guess that’s almost as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. The genesis isn’t too hard to relate … the word ‘Dust’ certainly lends itself to some sort of sad outcome (you know, like “dust to dust” or Dust in the Wind). As for Lotto, well that sort of filled in the other side of a simple equation … how might lotto tickets lead to a sad ending? The story just kind of wrote itself from there.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in song writing is when things just come to you and flow naturally. The lyrics to Lotto Dust did just that. It was written with very little effort. The muse came, worked its magic, and left. In fact, it left me with a solid set of lyrics in (very) short story form, but with no music! That certainly happens from time to time. With this song, the words came first, and the melody followed later when the musical Gods decided it was time.

The Journey from Lyrics to Living, Breathing Song

A few months after writing the story for Lotto Dust, I was sitting around having some fun with Nat King Cole’s classic L-O-V-E. Believe it or not, that was the inspiration for the chord structure and melody for Lotto Dust. It was another one of those wonderful moments – something just clicked in my head and I started down-strumming the Dm7 – Am7 chords and singing the opening lyrics to Lotto Dust. It didn’t take long from there for the basic chord structure of the whole song to evolve.

While recording the song, there were a lot more fun moments, like when I got the basic idea for the bass line. As I developed and record it I started to feel like Lotto Dust was going to be something special. Some time later, as I was still working on the song, I was also taking a course on recording with Award Winning Producer Gary Gray and I submitted this work-in-progress to him as part of the online course work. When we had a video call to discuss it, he just loved the bass line and the sound I got from the instrument and amp combination (this was very flattering – Gary knows his stuff!). I think he was rather surprised to learn that it was recorded with an very inexpensive Fender bass copy and a digital amp setting I found in the Reason recording software I use! We’re talking about $750 worth of equipment (not including the computer I was running the software on, which is just a typical desktop PC running Windows 8).

You don’t have to spend a ton to record professional sounding music, you just need time, patience, some talent, decent gear, and access to some affordable professional services to round it out.

As I worked through the lead, I got chills up my spine – it was really all coming together.

The Final Touches

I don’t recall specifically when it came to me that getting a professional female vocalist to add backing vocals could really push it over the top, but I sure am glad it did. I had been working with Studio Pros out of Los Angeles for a year or so, using their excellent musicians and engineers to bring professional polish to various tracks. I popped over to their web site and listened to their available female vocalists and Rachel struck me as the right one for the job. When I got her tracks back I could not have been happier! I encouraged her to just do what she thought was right and she recorded these gorgeous soulful three part harmonies in all the right places.

The ultimate final touch to Lotto Dust was the excellent mix and mastering by Stephen Sheppard of DBAR Productions. I was so pleased to find and work with Stephen on three of the songs on Keeping the Dream Alive. I look forward to continuing to work with him for years to come.

And that’s the story of Lotto Dust. Check out a sample here on Amazon.com and once you decide you like it, go ahead and buy the full record (it’s available here on iTunes too!). If you want it in good old physical format, you can buy that here on CD Baby. Remember, all sales of Keeping the Dream Alive in 2014 will be donated to the Mr. Holland’s Opus foundation to support young music students, so your $$ goes to an awesome cause, and buys you some great original music.

Rest in Peace, Coop. I know I’m not the only one who is grateful for the inspiration, and all of the fun, charm, music, and love you bought to so many listeners for so many years.

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The First Review of KDA is in – “Excellent Production” and 5 Stars!

Much thanks to “Dignity01″ for a great review of Keeping the Dream Alive on Amazon.com (click here and scroll down to check it out).

Keeping the Dream Alive K. Walsh Amazon Review

Here’s a few highlights:

  • “The first thing you’re likely to notice about this long-awaited collection of songs from K Walsh is just how good it sounds.”
  • Lotto Dust: a straight blues line with lyrics about the power of dreams gone wrong. Highlights the strong production values with the artist’s lead vocal augmented by warm backup vocals.
  • Keeping the Dream Alive: a terrific upbeat instrumental, with elements of classic and progressive rock.”
  • Aloft: a truly ascendent instrumental. Just absolutely beautiful, airy and uplifting.”

The reviews closes by calling the record, “A terrific effort from start to finish.” Click on over and check out the samples to get a taste for yourself!

And remember – all 2014 sales of Keeping the Dream Alive will be donated to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to help schools with solid music programs replace aging instruments. Do you part to keep the dream alive for students in our school’s music programs while enjoying a terrific warm, funky, and beautiful effort!

Label-MHO

 

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Keeping the Dream Alive is now Available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby

My new EP is Officially Launched Everywhere!

After years of work, my CD is finally for sale on major outlets like iTunes and Amazon. For us old schoolers who still like physical CDs, the CD can be purchased from CD Baby.

All of these outlets provide previews, so be sure to click over and give the different songs a listen. There’s something for everyone here, with roots rockers and blues rock, the funk rock instrumental title cut and a jazzy guitar and flute instrumental.

And remember, all 2014 sales are going to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to support good music programs in our schools that are struggling to provide good instruments to young students interested in music. Help to keep the dream alive for them!

Label-MHO

Buy the physical CD or the MP3 version from CD Baby here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kwalsh8

CDBaby-logo

Click here to buy K. Walsh music from iTunes

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Buy Keeping the Dream Alive in MP3 format on Amazon.com

Amazon-logo

Thanks everyone! And remember, I’m looking for comments to share in reviews, so please take a moment and share your positive feedback in a comment!

 

 

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2014 KDA Sales to be Donated to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation!

Help me Keep the Dream Alive for Thousands of Kids in Dozens of Schools Across the U.S. This Year.

Check it out – I received the physical copies of my CD this week! Here I am with a copy in my delighted, sweaty little paws in this “teaser” video I made!

So here’s the deal. I’ve been looking for the right music-focused charity to donate the income from sales of the record to, and I’ve settled on the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. “Every year, an average of 10,000 young people across the country benefit from The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Programs. Students who can’t afford to rent an instrument and kids on waiting lists are given an opportunity to play quality instruments which improves their experience and inspires them to accomplish more and more.”

MrHolland

It’s going to take a week or so before the CD is for sale (in physical or MP3 format) on CD Baby, and then a few more weeks after that before it’s available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and other sites.

I sure am grateful that I’ve had to opportunity (and the cash) to produce a professionally recorded collection of my original songs, and I am even more grateful that the proceeds from sales of my music will go to help kids here in the U.S. who want to learn about music. Thank you in advance for playing a part in keeping the dream alive!

 

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Keeping the Dream Alive – The Art Work

A collection of songs is all well and good, but you can’t make a good old fashioned CD without artwork! Even today’s digital downloads come with cover imagery.

Don’t you just love a good album cover? Mine may not be Roger Dean but you know what, it’s mine! I think the logo in particular is pretty cool. I love what my son Dylan did with the back cover, bringing the ‘organic’ feel of the stone wall imagery to my collection of mostly “roots rock” songs.

The cover of Keeping the Dream Alive was created by Glenn Cotler, using an image I grabbed from the video for Hurtin’ Up My Heart. My son Dylan put the final touches on it using by making the logo pop with a 3D effect, and giving the title more character. Both of these artistic talents used Photoshop for their work. (Double click the pics for a larger hi def view).

KDA Front Cover

The back cover was created by Dylan, collaborating with me along the way. The lad’s got some graphic design talent, right?

Back Cover

The final piece we need to be ready to send the whole shebang off to CD Baby for professional reproduction is the CD label itself, which nears completion as I write this!

Thanks Dylan and Glenn for your talent and your work (and your patience working with me to get these images to where I was ready to use them). Next stop, the release of the record!

 

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Reaching New Heights With ALOFT

After completing Hurtin’ Up My Heart, I knew I was on my way …

Having managed to produce a professional sounding track with Hurtin’ Up My Heart, I was ready to push forward and finish more record-quality songs. It wasn’t a conscious move, but in the end I was glad that the next song I finished showcase a very different side of my writing and playing.

Aloft is based on one of the first chord progressions I ever wrote, way back in the 80′s! What really moved me to finally record it was when I learned how to program the built in drums on my Korg D3200 studio workstation. When I found this Brazilian Percussion kit and started messing around with it I suddenly found myself jamming the Aloft chord progression over it and I was off and running.

Writing the bass track for this was a blast too. I love putting together a creative, unusual bass line that adds a whole new dimension to a composition, and I think that happened here. Once I recorded the leads (which was heaven! I love playing over material like this), the last thing that bought it all together was working with StudioPros.com to have one of their pros record a flute track. I’ll never forget when I first listened to the completed track, and then listened again, and again and again! I wish I knew who played the flute because I would really like the thank them (StudioPros players are faceless and nameless, for various reasons, but they are very talented, real deal studio professionals).

I’m very proud of this track. I’ll never forget when my wife Christine first listened to it and pronounced it “Amazing!” I have to agree – this is a real highlight of my musical undertakings so far. I look forward to producing more tracks of this quality in the future, but this song is always going to be a beautiful, soaring, slowly building moment in time that I can relive over and over each time I hear it. I hope it moves you too.

The video is a simple one, consisting of pictures of birds in flight (image sources are all identified in the video) that I assembled using the ‘timeline’ style tool Vuvox, which is now no longer available on the Internet. The end result is a little choppy visually, but it was easy and effective.

 

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Bringing in the Pros and Hurtin’ Up My Heart

Hurtin’ Up My Heart was a watershed moment for me. With the backing of LA studio professionals on drums and bass, and a strong chorus that featured Christine joining me on backing vocals again I had, after years of learning and upping my game, produced a professional sounding rock song! Cranking this baby up in my car, when that break comes in the middle with the trade off between voice and guitar and the drums and bass pounding underneath slightly reminiscent of a Van Halen tune (to my ears at least) … wow, I just get a tear in my eye.

The song is sort of a middle-aged version of the “teen angst” songs that have been standard rock and roll fodder for decades. When having a family gets challenging and you just want to go hide in your basement and play a bluesy rock song, you can find yourself thinking, “This day is never gonna end … and when she stops, just gonna start up again!“. Which feels a bit similar to being a teenager trapped in your house with no where to go, being bored and frustrated and just wanting to do as you please. This in turn reminded me of various incidents from my youth, and it all kind melded together into the lyrics in the song.

Had a ton of fun making this video too, using a bunch of cool tech tools. The coolest part is where my son Ian makes me rise up out of the iPad, and then later I’m jamming on the moon (with the help of Adobe After Effects)!

Hurtin’ Up My Heart turned out to be the first song I completed that ultimately made the cut for Keeping The Dream Alive.

 

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My Blue Eyed Girl (and Continuous Improvement)

So, the years rolled by, and our third child was born – a daughter! My little girl Jordan was the inspiration for the song I am sharing here.

In 2007 we were in the fortunate position of being able to build an extension on our house, and in the process I built a studio in what used to be our garage. After a decade on hiatus from recording, I was back in action! I bought a Korg D3200 recording console and got busy.

The key to getting to the point where the recordings I was making would become professional quality was continuous improvement – a mantra I try to live by. With the new recording equipment and a dedicated space for working, I was off to a good start, but there was plenty more to learn. A coworker helped me get smarter about mics and I bought a good quality Shure Condenser mic.

The next big step was to try professional mixing, which was now more affordable than ever thanks to evolving Internet technology and the advent of services like StudioPros.com – a full service professional recording studio that was online! For very affordable prices, musicians can get instrument tracks, professional mixing and mastering, and other services, transferring files digitally as needed. This was pretty amazing – a decade prior it took a lot of money and a lot of time to do what you could now do in practically no time from the comfort of your home for a few hundred bucks.

My Blue Eyed Girl was inspired by the joyous wonder of my little girl, and the hope that her future would be as bright as the twinkle in her eye! This was the first song that I used StudioPros for – I had them mix the track. I’ve never been thrilled with the vocals on this track and the instrumentation could be improved on, but the mix sounded pretty good … I was definitely getting closer to a more professional sound. My wife sings backup on this with me. My favorite part of this song is the video. I had a lot of fun using a variety of digital tools, and the cool photo effects available at Photofunia.com, to make it.

Next … Bringing in the Pros and Hurtin’ Up My Heart

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And Then There Were Three (Kids, That is!)

No sooner had I taken a stab at (what was then) the brave new world of computer based recording and self-production when along came our second child, and the battle for free time to play and record was more or less lost, at least for a while.

Time Flies

I often tell the story of how I had purchased a dual deck tape recorder in the mid 90′s, and how I had an almost Rip Van Winkle-esque moment years later, realizing how much I had gotten totally sidetracked by life. One day in 2004 or so I found myself staring at the tape deck and wondering what the heck was on the tape sitting in the once-new but now long ignored machine. I fired it up and was listening to the song idea I had apparently been working on the last time I used it, when suddenly I hear (in the background on the recording) a baby crying followed by my voice saying “I’m coming!”. That’s when I recalled the night I made that recording – it was the night after Dylan was born, 7 years prior in 1997! Christine and our newborn son had stayed in the hospital overnight and Ian (then 2 years old) and I had come home. I could hardly believe that seven years had gone by – I could almost hear the wooosshh! – and I hadn’t touched my recording equipment once in all that time.

Over the years while the kids were really young, I still played a bit and wrote from time to time. Having to play my acoustic guitar pretty quietly while the kids slept had the gradual effect of leading me to appreciate “folky” singer-songwriters more than I had when I was younger. As the first decade of the new century rolled on, I soon became of fan of Bob Dylan (hated him when I was a young prog-snob) and other musicians I never would have thought twice about as a teenager, including Jewel, Jack Johnson, and other similar mellow song smiths.

And Still I Wait …

So while the years rolled on I kept playing but had totally stopped recording. I was glad to have Pass It On to listen to from time to time and looked forward to improving on it when the time was right. One song on that record that that I still appreciate is “And Still I Wait …”. As with all the other songs on this collection, it was still a very amateur recording, but the song itself had some promise. Years later, I had some fun making this video by playing the song on my computer and using Camtasia to record those cool Windows Media Player visuals that were popular in older versions of Windows.

Next … Fast Forward to 2011 and my first professionally mixed song, “My Blue Eyed Girl

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