MUSIC FOR FEBRUARY 2024

‘BITTERSWEET’

“Bittersweet” broke a 12-year dry spell in my songwriting, a drought that began after 1998’s “Caphead.” I finished a few lyrics during that trek through the desert — making singable words out of other peoples’ translations of a few bossa nova classics, so those weren’t even my own ideas. That was it and it wasn’t much.

I never gave up on songwriting during those years. I just never finished any songs. If excuses for that lapse aren’t interesting and the root causes are hard to pin down, it’s nevertheless clear that what roused me again was Day for Night, the acoustic country duo in which I perform with Gretchen Schaefer, my life partner inside and outside music.

Once we had stopped trying to be so darned eclectic and had focused on antique country music, my songwriting path became clear. And what better topic than an invasive plant as a metaphor for love gone wrong?

“Bittersweet” began as a few lines scribbled in my pocket notebook during a lunch-break stroll around a Maine downtown. In 2007, I spent several graphomanical hours in a hotel room roughing out ideas for it. Several years after that, at the dining table on a gray cold day, I polished off the lyrics in one intense session. In the basement studio on a different cold gray day, I devised and recorded the music.

And I was a songwriter again . . . just like that.

Hear “Bittersweet” below in a 2018 performance by Doug Hubley and Gretchen Schaefer — Day for Night. Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Bittersweet” copyright © 2012 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Photo above: A Day for Night selfie taken on Peaks Island, Portland, Maine, in 2010. With “Bittersweet” new to us that year, the viney pose was no coincidence. Below: Day for Night at the 2019 Deering Center Porchfest, in a photo by Jeff Stanton)

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Day for Night relaxes after performing at Deering Center Porchfest, Sept. 8, 2019. (Jeff Stanton photo)

 

 

 

MUSIC FOR AUGUST 2023

‘CAPHEAD’

Whether or not gang-related violence really increased in Maine’s largest city during the 1990s, the public statements of a certain chief of police certainly made people more aware of the issue. And during those same years, whether or not those pronouncements affected my perceptions, I started seeing a lot of young guys wearing ball caps and looking coldly murderous as they tooled around in their small souped-up cars.

All that set the stage for “Caphead,” performed here in August 1999 by Howling Turbines — drummer Ken Reynolds, bassist Gretchen Schaefer, and yours truly. What sparked the actual creation of the song was a nighttime rumble in a Denny’s parking lot in 1998 that resulted in a fatal stabbing, which remains unsolved (despite the 19 months behind bars served by one teenager awaiting trial on an indictment that was ultimately dropped).

Hear “Caphead” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (Above: Photo illustration by Doug Hubley. Below: Detail from a poster — one of a series inspired by the Three Stooges — by Gretchen Schaefer advancing a 1998 Howling Turbines date at the Free Street Taverna, Portland, Maine. “Caphead” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.)

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MUSIC FOR JUNE 2023

‘(WAITING FOR A) WESTBOUND TRAIN’

Not to be confused with the Boston ska band or the reggae song by Dennis Brown, this Day for Night number was inspired by a conductor’s announcement on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited. The conductor said we’d stopped to wait for an eastbound train, but I had to bend the facts to suit the song’s own reality — hence “westbound.” Alliteration is nothing to be sneezed at in snongwriting songwriting, and the switcheroo also activates the fraught and many-layered symbolism of East vs. West in American mythology. “We’re headed back East as we always must be / To the same old and the good old and the old used-to-be.” (Note, too, that I managed to make use of the time-honored country songwriting tradition of rhyming a word with itself.)

I wrote “(Waiting for A) Westbound Train” on the back porch of a cabin at the Chautauqua in Boulder, Colo., in June 2019. Gretchen Schaefer and I recorded the version heard here in a basement rehearsal just three months later. We now perform it as the first half of a medley that concludes with another Chautauqua product, “Just A Moment In The Night.”

Hear “(Waiting for A) Westbound Train” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (Below, Day for Night relaxes following a September 2019 performance at the Deering Center Porchfest. Photo by Jeff Stanton. Above: Gretchen Schaefer waits for a southbound train in Brunswick, Maine, 2018. Photo by Doug Hubley. “(Waiting For A) Westbound Train” copyright © 2019 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.)

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MUSIC FOR APRIL 2023

‘1,000 POUNDS OF RAIN’

April 2023 is a far cry from the depths-of-the-pandemic November of 2020, but one thing those months have in common is rain, at least in Maine.

“1,000 Pounds of Rain” was Song of the Month! that November, but here’s a different rendition. Where the previous example was recorded by Howling Turbines in 1997, this one comes from a rehearsal two years earlier by The Boarders — the band that introduced the song.

I finished “1,000 Pounds of Rain” in spring 1994, but got the title earlier. The inspiration was a 1990 Cowlix performance at a Portland, Maine, seafood joint called the Drydock. So as not to disturb the tourists in the dining room enjoying their lobster and fried clams, we were told to carry our equipment to the second-story performance area up a cast-iron fire escape. It was pouring rain.

I liked the title, but it took me years to figure out what the song should be about. Finally completed around the time the ’Lix were splitting up, “1,000 Pounds” turned out to be a cry of despair at reaching middle age. (If someone complained to me about such a thing now, I’d tell ’em, “It beats the alternative.”)

It was one of the first numbers the Boarders learned (and as a matter of fact, the Boarders’ future drummer Jonathan Nichols-Pethick was in the Drydock audience that night and, liking what he heard, later joined the ’Lix, which segued into the band heard here).

Hear “1,000 Pounds of Rain” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (The Boarders, below, from left: Doug Hubley, guitar and vocal. Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, drums. Gretchen Schaefer, bass. “1,000 Pounds of Rain” copyright © 1995 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. “Peaches in the rain” photo by Doug Hubley. Boarders photo by Jeff Stanton.)

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MUSIC FOR MARCH 2023

‘BREAKER’S REMORSE’

Sometimes it’s an anger-management problem when you manage it too well, and that’s the case in this ode to catharsis from 1987, inspired by the expression “buyer’s remorse.”

I wrote “Breaker’s Remorse” for the Fashion Jungle, which made the mold for this fast, sprawling and mean Lindy Hop. Yet, as one of my rare uptempo compositions, it lingered in the repertoire through the years of the Boarders (1994–96) and Howling Turbines, who recorded the version presented here during a rehearsal in 1998 or ’99.

Hear “Breaker’s Remorse” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (Howling Turbines, below, from left: Ken Reynolds, drums. Gretchen Schaefer, bass. Doug Hubley, guitar and vocal. “Breaker’s Remorse” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Howling Turbines photo by Jeff Stanton.)

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MUSIC FOR JANUARY 2023

‘THE OTHER ME’

Slow sad songs constituted much of my output after I resumed songwriting, in 2010, after a 12-year layoff. So when I started this song, in 2016, it was time for something upbeat. Typically for me, “The Other Me” is still wordy, overly self-referential and wry — bordering on bleak, actually — but it has a good beat and you can dance to it. And if Hank Williams provided a spark of inspiration for the lyrics, things always go a bit better with a hint of the Monkees. (Or is it Stevie Wonder?)

I wrote most of the lyrics in the bar of the Samoset Resort, in Rockport, Maine, while Gretchen Schaefer, my partner in life and music, was showing her original mosaics at a craft fair there. Performing as Day for Night, we recorded this version at Quill, a coffee shop in Westbrook, Maine, in August 2018.

Hear “The Other Me” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“The Other Me” copyright © 2016 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Banner image by Doug Hubley. Day for Night image by Jeff Stanton. All rights reserved. )

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