Jim's News & Views

On Love and Fear 

November 18, 2020

I have something a bit different to share with you in this new Live at Home video I’m releasing today.  It’s a song called Love and Fear, and it’s the kind of tune that allows me to wail a bit more in the blues-based style of playing I so love to delve into. So I stretched things out a bit longer on the solo section that starts about three minutes into the video and accounts for its length. But the essence of the song and why I chose to share it at this time is really in its lyrics. 

I was struggling for the right words to introduce it to you when I came across television and online journalist Katie Couric’s interview this week with clinical psychologist and writer Mary Trump, PhD.  Dr. T, in case you’re not aware, is the niece of the current US president (or can I call him, as one late comedian did post-election, our president-reject?) She is also the author of the recent book that chronicles their family’s history and how it shaped the man who is currently essentially barricading himself in the White House and denying the reality of his impending departure (while most of us are probably counting the days until the 20th of January.)  I enjoyed the interview, as I did her book, but it was Ms. Couric’s comments in closing the conversation and the psychologist’s response that inspired me to bring it up here because they convey so well what motivated me to write the song. 

 “People who are angry are people who are fearful. People who are fearful need our empathy and support instead of - what I think is a natural reflex - to hate back. And I think whenever we can be compassionate to people we’re going to be able to be more unified. I think we have to remember that a lot of people really do want the same things, and those who don’t just need to be helped to see and understand.  And maybe they’re just not the product of the same education that we’ve all been lucky enough to have so . . . we’ve got to start moving in that direction somehow." - Katie Couric 

I wrote Love and Fear back in the early years of the new century, when we U.S. Americans were living through what at that time had been the most dangerous, power grabbing, and ruthlessly destructive administration in our lifetimes. We were a deeply divided country then too. Millions of us were resisting the wars the Bush-Cheney team had dragged us into, enabled by the public's fearful response to the 9/11 attacks, and millions more who - still dwelling in that state - continuing to support the needless slaughter of others and sacrifice of our own for a pretentious cause justified by what are now generally acknowledged as lies and deceit. 

That era, in many ways, set the stage for the mess that DJT and his extreme rightwing gang of thugs and financial and political backers have made of our country. They have sown even greater division among We the People, their supporters inflamed once again by fear, but this time not just fear of an outside enemy but a perceived one within our borders - in some cases, those attempting to cross them, and in others, our own neighbors. 

“Behind cruelty, as you said, is terror, and we need to figure out why these people are so afraid and help them not be.” - Mary Trump, Ph.D. 

In response to all that, this song offers some reflection on a principle first introduced to me back in the mid-70’s by the late Ram Das, the former psychologist and psychedelic researcher turned spiritual mentor, who was one of my earliest teachers. This bit of  wisdom he shared has helped to guide me throughout my life since - particularly in the most challenging of times, like these last four truly crazy making years.  It’s also a concept that has remained fundamental in my life’s work and feels particularly important for me to share right now.  You see, I really think that how we handle and respond to the events of this transitional period we’re living in at the moment - and through what lies immediately ahead - will be critical. And that in every moment of crisis or uncertainty, we face a choice -  often an unconscious one - as to whether we respond and act out of love . . . or out of fear. 

I hope you enjoy the song, and I welcome your response to it.  Peace and love to you all!

Let the Light In 

October 20, 2020

2020 has been, I think we can all agree, a revolving door of many of the most unprecedented events in our collective lifetime. "Unprecedented" - I wonder how many times we've heard that word in the daily news reports. Both the ongoing pandemic affecting all our lives for so long now and the last remaining days before the US general election have been a source of stress and anxiety for a lot of us. It's also been a time of a lot of reflection for me on both the present moment and the years leading up to it. So, having passed so much time now in my sheltering in place based musical life, I have two new Live at Home videos to share with you today. 

The first one is the online premier of Locked Up Love, a song that has evolved quite a bit over the yearsand that some of you may actually remember from my days in Seattle or even earlier.  I wrote the original version back in the mid-80’s when I was living and playing regularly in Madison, Wisconsin. But it’s gone through several revisions since then, and I only finished the third verse a few weeks ago.  I’m much happier with this new version, and since it’s message feels like the kind of commentary I’m motivated to be putting out there these days, I thought I’d share it with you all right away. I had fun rocking out a bit on the ending too while looking forward to a full band version down the road beyond social distancing. 

The second video is my first performance of a brand new song called Light InThis one is dedicated to our brave investigative and independent journalists, many of whom undertake great risk every day to uncover and expose the truth that is so often suppressed by those in positions of power around the globe. As usual, the lyrics of both songs are in the descriptions below the videos. 

I hope you enjoy the new music and let me know what you think. Peace, love, and good health to you all!

Loving Our Way Through This 

July 7, 2020

“Our only hope for our collective liberation is a politics of deep solidarity rooted in love," wrote Michelle Alexander, African American author, civil rights leader, professor, and NY Times opinion columnist, in a recent piece in that publication. 

With those words in mind, I want to share this new song with you today, in the aftermath of what has certainly been the strangest and most unsettling White House sponsored July 4th  celebration in our lifetime - and quite possibly US history. I actually began writing this one many years ago, inspired by a personal experience I shared with my daughter when she was about 5 or 6 years old - my younger granddaughter’s age now. Her joyful fascination with seeing and learning about a nurse tree and the idea of one living thing growing out of another left me with the perfect metaphor for a lyric to help pull me out of a pretty dark place I was struggling with at the time. But that first draft remained tucked away among my collection of unfinished lyrics until I came across it in the mid-90’s and expanded it a bit. That version nearly made it to completion, but still felt like it was missing something. 

Then a few weeks ago I found myself recalling and singing what I still remembered of it again, so I pulled it out, worked up a musical arrangement for it on my guitar, and started tweaking the lyrics a bit. And then suddenly the bridge came to me, connecting the older material to the current situation we’re all living through, along with it’s unexpected ending refrain and title, feeling kind of like a personal mantra for getting through what lies ahead. Love will win. 

I think it’s helping, because in the process of rehearsing and recording it, I’ve found myself believing those words more and more, in spite of all the media’s mounting evidence to the contrary. Love will win.

New Live Video and Troubling New Tunes 

Hola amigos!

I’m happy to announce the release today of my new live performance video. This one captures a live solo jam on Talamanca Trails, a song from my Punta Rasta album, caught at one of my weekly shows at the Lazy Mon in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica, on a lazy afternoon in 2017.  I edited this video from footage shot that day along with a multitrack audio feed from the mixing board. It’s a bit rough in spots and far from a polished production, but I think the filming and much of the audio recording capture the best representation to date of my live solo performance, so I'm still pretty happy to share it with you.   https://youtu.be/cKOvpbImfFk

And if you haven't already, you may also want to also check out this more primitive - but also much more intimate - Bare Bones Acoustic playlist of lyric videos of the 3 new songs I released there in November. These were all written in the last two years, emerging in response to my feelings about living in the Trump era. http://tiny.cc/BarebonesAcoustic

“When life hands you conundrums, you turn them into art."

  • Frank Fisher (played by Nick Offerman) to his co-songwriter daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) in Brett Haley’s film, Hearts Beat Loud.

Those of you who know my writing over the years have probably noticed that I tend to gravitate to the emotional extremes in many of the themes that have been the focus in my songs.  From ecstatic love and joy to sorrow and rage - seemingly contradictory, but all so much a part of the range of human emotion and my personal experience of human existence on this planet as well. And, I must add, this has been especially so in this time of great upheaval and change around the planet. I love my life and life itself, yet at the same time feel deep concern for what the future holds for all our kids and grandkids.

These songs are not meant to depress us, though, but to motivate us.They are not calling for despair, but for enormous changes - and for fully realizing our own roles in bringing those changes about. I don’t mean to suggest that I have not at times felt overwhelmed and discouraged or, at times, nearly desperate facing what the past 2 years have brought us. And although I haven’t lived in the States full time since 2005 and generally don’t get back all that much, simply looking with both eyes open and witnessing even from this distance has been more than enough to take me into that darkness. Circumstances in my life have brought me back a few times since Trump was elected though, and usually with close to a month’s stay. So I can honestly say I’ve experienced at least a bit of the stress of life in our Divided States of America firsthand, and I don’t like where it’s going or the way it feels to be a part of it - whether I’m in close proximity to it or not. 

So what I’m sharing with you today is part of the result of that experience - of watching and listening both inside and outside my country’s borders and of grieving and fuming over all we’ve lost and are at risk of losing soon. Creative work remains one of my most valued coping strategies, as evidenced in much of what I’ve written throughout my life. I only hope that what I’m sharing here can be of some benefit to you as well.

Peace and love,



Sloths and Monkeys Frolic in My New Ambient Music Video 

Hey there! Give yourself a 3 minute break and enjoy a few moments of tranquility and exotic animal fun in my new video, featuring all the creatures who came out to visit us on a sunny day in the middle of a very rainy week last month. Sloths and monkeys abound! 


Putting this little project together provided me with a bit of stress relief from my nearly daily internal reactivity to the Trump circus of horrors back in the States. I have a handful of new songs that have come out of all that craziness too, and I’ll be sharing them with you shortly. But since I was also in the midst of learning the new video editing app I was so excited to get my hands on, compiling some of our most recent backyard nature footage offered a much appreciated escape and a result that emerged, as I think you will see, with a fittingly dreamlike quality.

Eva and I shot the whole thing in the garden surrounding our home here - most of it on a single day of sunshine amidst a week of particularly long and heavy downpours. So with that predominantly clear blue sky overhead, most of our animal neighbors came out to enjoy the beautiful weather while Sam Hill, our dear old gato gordo (fat cat), napped in the sun through most of it. I developed the music premiered here from a little ambient track I came across in my vault of unreleased tunes and ideas as I was searching for a fitting  soundtrack for the video. Not a new hit tune, by any stretch of the imagination, but it works for me.

Hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please give it a thumbs up on YouTube to help bring more viewers to my channel.  More and better quality live stuff and new songs will be coming up soon. Have yourself a beautiful day!

New Video for an Old Song: (Who Will Give Them) Sanctuary 

There's a link a little further down this page to something new that I've just completed and released this morning on my YouTube channel. It's a new video that comes out of what has been one of my personal coping strategies throughout my life - creative work that reflects upon and expresses my sentiments about events and circumstances affecting me personally and the world around me. Nearly four months into the Trump presidency, I doubt that I, or at least my sanity, could have made it through without finding at least a song or two inside me to sing my way through it. 

As my performance schedule slowed down along with the seasonal tourism here a few weeks ago, I finally found time to start recording one of them. It's almost ready to share with you, but I still have a bit of work to do on the final touches of the recording. Since I'm doing it all myself, the production work can become a bit tedious at times, so I took a short break and sacrificed a bit of sleep this week to pull off another, closely related little side project that's been awaiting my attention since November.

So here is the result - a new music video of my much older, but sadly once again relevant song, (Who Will Give Them) Sanctuary:  https://youtu.be/2J0uHiBQXvA

The story behind this song goes back many years; I actually wrote it back in 1982 or '83. Yep, things were getting pretty bad for immigrants back then, too - particularly those who'd come to the USA escaping certain death in then war torn Central America. (This explains, by the way, my reference to concerns about the possibility of "some shade of red" in their political alliances then raised by the political right wing that was influencing immigration policies at that time.)  I was living in Madison, WI at the time - a great little town that already had a thriving music scene when I arrived there in the early 80's.  I'd been performing the song for a couple years before recording the version you'll hear in the video with Love, Mom, the band I put together with the great jazz and R&B vocalist Lynette Margulies, who sings the lead vocal on this version. The track itself was actually part of a studio demo we recorded for that project. 

But - cutting to the chase - the long story's most recent chapter began just a few months ago when I received an email from my old friend Lynette. Her idea inspired me. Why not release a video of that song that seemed to move so many people when we were performing together back then, since, as things have turned out, it's message has become even more relevant in the past few months?

I knew that she was right, but I struggled with how I could, with the limited financial resources available to me (i.e. none), come up with a way to visually represent the content of the song. The answer suddenly came to me all at once just a few weeks ago, and I finally shot the screen video and assembled and edited the found footage that provides most of the visuals for it last week. I must apologize that the audio is admittedly not particularly high fidelity. I remastered it myself as best I could it from the only remaining version of the track I have, a cassette dub of the long ago lost original studio tape reel. (More on that in a moment.)

But first, a few words about Love, Mom, the band that recorded this track:

Lynette - as you will no doubt notice - is a phenomenal singer and one of the best I've worked with. Before our time making music together she had fronted the legendary Mad City band Four Chairs No Waiting and already collaborated with jazz and R&B luminaries like pianist/vocalist and songwriter Ben Sidran (who had played with Boz Scaggs and the original Steve Miller Band back in the day, even writing the lyrics to "Space Cowboy,") the master acoustic bassist Richard Davis, and James Brown's master of funk drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who actually played on one of our first gigs together. Lynette and I met through our mutual friend, Bill Danos, who was playing drums in both of our bands at the time. For years Bill had talked about wanting to get the two of us to work together, but it never happened until just before he moved off to Hawaii. So, left temporarily drummer-less, Lynette and I begin working together as a duo to see how things gelled between us before beginning our search for the right musicians to fill out our sound. 

Drummer extraordinaire Michael Weiss, who actually came back from Barcelona for awhile to play with us, had worked with Lynette in the past (as well as Stanley Jordan, Richard Davis, Ben Sidran, pre-Timbuk 3 Pat MacDonald and Barbara K, and countless other then Midwest-based greats) and signed up, I think, on sheer blind faith in his old friend and longtime bandmate, perhaps persuaded by her open enthusiasm for my songwriting.

After a difficult search for the right bass player, we found the talented Jim Bowman to hold down the bottom, and I think we all had a blast playing together. I was able to fund the project and actually pay those great musicians by happily managing to score another performance grant from the Madison Arts Council to produce a series of outdoor summer concerts that we performed in the city's parks that year. Then a day or two after we'd finished mixing the studio demo of all the tunes we'd planned to send off to the record labels, the recording engineer split town with the master tapes!  

Essentially - end of story. I don't know what became of Jim B, but Michael moved back to Spain, where he's still playing today. Lynette has carried on, thrilling jazz audiences in Mad City and elsewhere over the years and is still recording awesome work, like her featured appearances on Ben Sidran's album, "Life is a Lesson", where she and Ben are backed by Randy Brecker, Gil Goldstein, Dave Liebman, Steve Khan, Howard Levy, David Rivkin, and Eddie Daniels, among other jazz legends. It's a beautiful piece of work! http://youtu.be/wwwzz0dyH_8  If you're ever in Madison you should catch her live. 


My New Film Score Project 

In the midst of fending off of my post-election gloom and anxiety, I've teamed up with a couple equally frustrated friends and fellow creatives in a collective effort to express what cannot be effectively put into words in the form of an experimental film, BORN. It's been a blast! I’m truly elated to be involved in a collaboration with these two brilliant artists, award-winning filmmaker Lazarina Todorova and dancer, choreographer, and performance artist Z Boyd Stout. It's provided a rare opportunity for me to take on the creative challenges of scoring and producing a musical soundscape that will truly help these two visionary creators bring their eye dazzling brainchild of a film to life.

What you'll experience when you click on the link below is only a short preview of a work in progress, but the filming is already completed and the work is now in the editing and post-production stages, while my soundtrack crafting continues in an evolving reflection of the visual results. This project has really expanded the dimensions of my experience, both as a composer and an improvisor, because it has really been a threeway improvisational exchange among the three of us collaborating on it. The INDIEGOGO campaign you'll read about at the link below will remain active for about a week with the goal of helping us take a short break from our individual "paying the bills" routines to get the project completed more quickly and the finished production out to film festival audiences sooner too. If you'd like to help with that, your contribution is most welcome!  Have a peek: https://igg.me/at/BORN  Or if you're reading this too late for that campaign, you can still see a short preview of the film here: https://vimeo.com/198944310.


The New Video is Out and Streaming! 

The music video for my song, THAT CARIBBEAN GROOVE, is finally out and streaming this week both here on the site and on my YouTube channel. The song is a tribute to my little chosen hometown of Puerto Viejo and a gift to the community here, which depends on ecotourism for most of its income. To celebrate its release, Hot Rocks will be showing the beautiful video, produced by Cuban-Costa Rican filmmaker Yamilka Noa, on their big theater-size screen tomorrow night as part of their weekly Puerto Viejo Live series, hosted by the wonderfully talented Dawn Livingston. I'm super happy to be sharing our labor of love with the people who helped inspire it. I'll also be sitting in on lead guitar with the amazing Matixando, who I had a blast playing a set with last night at a house concert party here in Playa Chiquita. Looking forward to the show tomorrow night!

Seattle Shows This Week 

Just finished up a wonderful show last night at Makeda & Mingus in Seattle, with Brad Warren on guitar, Marc Smason on trombone, percussion and vocals, and surprise guests and stellar percussion wonders Will Dowd and Linda Severt joining the wonderful Laura Olviedo in laying down the grooves. What an awesome band of friends to welcome us back to our old Northwest neighborhood! Video highlights here: https://youtu.be/fCUM0IFCg1Y

Tomorrow night will be my last Seattle show for this trip, hosted by Kate Phillips, a dear friend and an awesome singer songwriter herself, who helped introduce my music to audiences here at her great venue, Madison's Cafe and Music House, back in the early 90's. Event details here:

Heading Off on the NW Tour 

The sun will be setting on my summer of Fridays at the Lazy Mon tonight before I head for the U.S. northwest for a few weeks, then on to California. I'm playing a string of shows in Seattle, followed by more work further south, along with eagerly anticipated reunions with my West Coast family and friends. More recording work on my Rumi album is also on the agenda, moving slowly but steadily toward completing that long term project. Hope to see you up there, American left coast friends!

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