Pickin and Grinnin

Almost three years ago we did our shopping spree for appliances, and lighting and plumbing fixtures for our current house. We were rushed and clueless and it was kindof miserable.

Tuesday we went to the showroom and picked plumbing fixtures for the new house (tubs, faucets, etc.). This time, unlike last time, we went quite a bit over our allowance – nearly all of it on the master tub. But, we’re telling ourselves that this is the last house we’ll ever live in (which is a depressing and soul-crushing thing to assume, IMO). But, if this is where we’re at till they wheel us out in body bags, we might as well get what we want.

Also unlike last time, the builder’s project manager had pre-selected a default slate of all the stuff we needed. Her choices were pretty good and were right in line with what we’d mentioned to the builder in previous conversations. I think we would’ve been perfectly satisfied with her picks. But when we got there and got to see all the stuff for real (instead of on-line), we noticed a few other things we liked better.

Next week we pick out windows. I didn’t know there could be options. Windows are clear and rectangular. We’re not installing stained glass, or iridium-coated things like Oakley sunglasses. At lwast I don’t think we are.

Someday soon we’ll get to pick out kitchen stuff (which I’m excited about), and lights (which Mrs is excited about), and cabinets, and counter tops, and paint, and … on and on.

So, we’re starting it all again. But it seems like it’s going to go better this time. We know more about the process, we know more about the stuff, we have a better builder, and we’re not rushed. The big problem is, of course, not spending too much – because there is sooooo much cool stuff out there.



The footings are all in and the lot is jammed full with piles and piles of concrete blocks: hundreds, thousands, maybe.

Now things will start moving for reals.

Tomorrow afternoon we go to pick out plumbing fixtures (faucets, tubs, etc.). I don’t really need to be involved in that, since we’ve already decided on most of it and I trust Mrs to handle the rest. But I’m going anyway, because it’s a good excuse for taking a half day from work. This builder has a ‘project manager’ working for him, and she is going to meet us at the store and help us through the process of choosing all the various things we have to choose. The last builder just made us an appointment with one of the salespeople, and she wasn’t super-interested in our side of the transaction (and got 1/4 of our orders wrong). Hopefully, this will be a better experience.

We’re writing a check to the builder today for our first change order. Because the house is on a slope, the back foundation will be pretty tall. So I’ve asked the builder to put a ground-level storage room back there. It’s just going to be a concrete floor and some rough walls – nothing fancy. But it will be 10×14, so, pretty big. I’ll keep the lawnmower, rakes, shovels and other bulky junk in there, and out of the garage.

In current house news, the termite inspector guy who was there last week for our annual inspection told us that we did not have a pipe connecting the dryer’s exhaust vent from the inside of the house to the outside of the house. So, for two and a half years, our dryer has been blowing hot wet air, and tons of lint, directly into the crawlspace beneath the house. And nobody noticed this until Thursday. Because I hate crawling around under the house, we paid a handyman to come out and fix it. It took him three hours and two trips to the hardware store. He left covered in sweaty lint and dirt and spiderwebs.

Matt Pond PA

We saw Matt Pond PA at Kings, in Raleigh last Friday. This tour is the 10th Anniversary tour for their “Several Arrows Later” album. So, they played that whole album, then finished up with a handful of songs from their upcoming album.

Fantastic show.

I’d been listening to that album in the past weeks, to study, kindof, for this show. And now I think I like it even more than I like “Last Light”. So, win. I was a bit worried that some of the more delicate bits might not do well in a live setting – and what would the songs be without the loving production, and would all the little melodic curlicues survive? So I got too close to the record, I guess. But the songs worked great, live. The cellist and the lead guitarist took care of filling in all the details and accents that make the records so nice. Matt Pond’s voice was great, and maybe a bit more aggressive than on the record. Everything was a little more muscular, actually. And watching them put it all together was awesome.


Cello in a rock band? Hell yeah!

Young Buffalo opened. They’re melodic and energetic, with great vocal harmonies and a fondness for quick major-scale guitar figures. I could’ve sworn the two singer/guitarists were brothers. They look similar and their voices work together in the way that siblings’ voices often do. But, no, just friends. I liked them a lot. Will have to explore their records.

Listening To…

I’ve been listening to a lot of late-60s white blues bands lately, mostly thanks to the awesome vinyl rips that Prof. Stoned has put together.

First, and the only American band in this set, is the Paul Butterfield Band (later the Butterfield Blues Band). I’ve been listening to their first two records: “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” and “East-West”. Like all of these bands, they do a lot of very faithful versions of blues standards. These are skilfully done, but I find myself wishing they were grittier, leaner, with maybe a little more swagger. To me, their original tunes are much more interesting, especially the longer improvisational instrumentals on their “East-West” album: Work Song and the title track. In those, they started with traditional electric blues licks and then blended-in jazz, eastern and Latin ideas. And that mix was the obvious predecessor to bands like The Allman Brothers, Santana and even The Rolling Stones.

Here’s “East-West”. Within 15 seconds, you swear you’re listening to an Allman Bros tune. A minute in and you can’t help but hear the end jam from the Stones’ “Can You Here Me Knocking”.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – "East-West" [HD]

You might recognize that guitar player, Mike Bloomfield. He’s the guy tearing it up in back of Bob Dylan in this famous concert:

Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival

Next up, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – The Mono Singles Collection (Prof Stoned 2012). These are the A and B sides of the singles released by the band during 1964-67. 23 tracks, all in mono, all from original vinyl. They include tracks with guitar from Eric Clapton, Roger Dean, Bernie Watson, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. John McVie plays bass on most. Jimmy Page produced a few of them (and you can definitely hear his influence). Mick Fleetwood even shows up on drums for a couple; and some of the songs recorded from that particular session would end up on Fleetwood Mac’s first album. The songs themselves are almost uniformly great, and the band is always fantastic.

John Mayall & Eric Clapton – Lonely Years

And finally, Fleetwood Mac. Everyone knows the Buckingham/Nicks/McVie version of FM. And people might know a song or two from the Bob Welch era (“Hypnotized”, “Sentimental Lady”). But most people probably don’t know much about the first era, even before Christine McVie joined, with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan (all on guitar and vocals). Sure everyone knows “Black Magic Woman”, but they probably know it from Santana’s cover, not from FM.

Mac was absolutely a blues band then, with not even a hint of the pop that the name “Fleetwood Mac” would become synonymous with. And their first record, “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac” (1968 – also from Prof Stoned) is just about perfect. Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green were both great guitar players: Spencer’s flashy sizzling Elmore James-style slide leads contrast nicely with Green’s spare, stinging and reverb-soaked style. They both sang, too. And while I haven’t found a list of who sang which song, I’m assuming each sings on songs that he also did lead guitar on. And based on that, Spencer has a joyful, and just slightly hammy, delivery that always makes me smile. Green’s vocals are, like his guitar playing, much darker and spare.

Here’s Spencer taking the lead on Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker”:

fleetwood mac shake your moneymaker with Lyrics

I also picked up a record called “Hey Baby” which has some songs from The Christine Perfect Band – Christine McVie’s maiden name is “Perfect”, and this was her pre-FM band. They’re not fantastic songs, but they do show her distinctive style was well developed even in 1968. The rest of the records are FM songs that McVie played on before she was an official member. Some of them show up on later FM records. Also interesting.

And then, “Then Play On”, FM’s third record. It’s the last one with Peter Green and the first one with Christine McVie (though she’s uncredited). Haven’t got into this one much, yet. I bought it mostly so I’d have a copy of “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” – Judas Priest’s cover is so awesome I just had to have Peter Green’s original – and it is also awesome. Priest just made it louder.