Starting a New Year, Publishing “After The Fire”

As I opened this page to add eleven new recordings I was surprised to see that my last post was from almost two years ago. We’ve just begun the second week of 2024 and Denver is having an unusually warm and dry winter, although it is still below freezing today at 1:15 pm, and we woke up to an inch of new snow. I’ve spent the past month making eleven new recordings. Some are reworks of songs I’ve recorded before but I’ve tweaked the lyrics, added a mandolin, or perhaps made other small changes. Most are songs I’ve written in the past two years and recorded for the first time.

I’ve arranged the songs into an album I’m calling “After The Fire” which is also the title of the first song. The song was inspired by the series of natural disasters that most scientists attribute at least partly to climate change – an attribution that religious fundamentalists and political conservatives dispute. I hope the song also serves as a metaphor for smugness, complacency, and denial. “Great Southwest River” is a tribute to the Rio Grande and contains a more direct environmental theme. There are a couple of songs that deal with loneliness. One is an honest reflection, while another is an attempt to rationalize away heartbreak. I had to draw on feelings long past to write these songs. “Nobody’s Thoughts or Prayers” is a reworking of a song I wrote a number of years ago. I’ve modified the melody, changed the lyrics to the chorus, written a final verse, and added a mandolin. I finish the set with a song that is intended to be performed live with a bluegrass ensemble, and is recorded as a skeleton over which a variety of instruments might take solo breaks. The lyrics represent a simple assertion of what I think should be the foundation of any politician’s platform, but seems to get lost in our increasingly combative campaigns. I did enjoy recording the vocals in three-part harmony and using some of the tools available in Pro Tools to add some effects.

I use Pro Tools to record my songs on a MAC. I enjoy recording all the tracks myself (vocals, guitar, bass, and mandolin) but it requires multiple takes for me to get a single track down that I am satisfied with. Then, after I bounce the final mix and hear it in a different environment, I hear all the off notes I sing, all the buzzes of the bass, all the unintentional electronic pops and hums that I can’t seem to filter out, the lack of synchronicity in the strums and plucks, etc. Pro Tools has ways to fix many of these things, but I either don’t know how to use them, don’t have the patience to apply them, or can’t seem to make them work even when I know how they are supposed to be applied.

I think of these recordings the way some old guy who has had a nice professional career has decided to take up water colors post-middle age. He knows his paintings will always look amateurish, but he loves standing at the top of a hill, looking out over a river valley and capturing the colors and contours of the landscape. I’m just trying to capture the psychological and sociological landscapes that I see in a musical and lyrical form that amuses me and let’s others get to know me a little better.

Zooming Right Along

As it snows outside I’m preparing to host a music jam with friends tomorrow afternoon. Most of my friends are vaccinated and feeling comfortable meeting with others who are also vaccinated. There were lots of outdoor concerts once again over the summer, after a long hiatus, and Swallow Hill began hold live concerts indoors as people agreed to wear masks and show proof of vaccinations. It has really helped, but if you have been paying attention at all you know that some experts think we’re opening up too seen in light of the Omicron variant that emerged in December, while others have resisted masks and vaccinations all along. My friends and I have survived by sharing music over Zoom. Throughout last year I hosted a weekly song circle and participated in a second one. I’ve shifted my Zoom gathering to once a month, but continue to participate in a weekly Zoom song circle on Thursday nights.

Harry Tuft, who has hosted a Hootenanny at Swallow Hill on the first Friday of each month for many years, started holding his gatherings on Zoom when it was clear the pandemic would not back down quickly. He has continued to make this a virtual event for the time being. Performing over Zoom compared to playing at an open mic in front of a live group of friends is similar to training on a stationary bike indoors in the winter. It is better than nothing but does not compare to the joy of cycling outside in the summer.

My first live event, when it looked like things were opening up, was in May of 2021. People who were fully vaccinated and willing to wear a mask when not performing were invited to the eTown performance space in Boulder to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. The called the event “Pay or Play” and somewhat randomly selected interested musicians to perform a song. I got to sing “Blind Willie McTell,” a song that I understand was recording in anticipation of his album with Mark Knopfler, “Infidels,” but ended up only being available as a bootleg. They had another similar event to celebrate a handful of artists with August birthdays, including Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello, Buck Owens, Jeff Tweedy, John Lee Hooker, Kacey Musgraves, Phoebe Bridgers, Van Morrison, Percy Mayfield, and Robert Plant. I got to sing Elvis Costello’s “Human Hands” at that event. This is a song that appeared on the album, “Imperial Bedroom.” I was also fortunate to travel to Winfield, Kansas for this year’s Walnut Valley Music Festival, where I met up with good friends from Albuquerque and had the honor of performing a song along with Ruth Price as part of the New Song Showcase.

As, at best, a mediocre singer and guitar player, I am fortunate to get to enjoy performing with friends nonetheless, and lucky to have made so many good friends through music. I also keep learning new songs and new things on the guitar, so I hope that as I grow older this will help keep dementia at bay. If nothing else, it makes me happy.

Why “Nine Before One”?

What does this domain name mean? Is it just a playful, absurd title? Does it mean putting the interests of the many ahead of the interests of the individual? Does it refer to how many cups of coffee (or pints of beer) one can consume before the first hour of the afternoon? Perhaps it is the way a person with dyslexia might count to ten. In reality, when I was trying to come up with a domain name and I was under great pressure to make a decision I happened to look at the clock, and it was 12:51 pm.

About Swallow Hill Music (please consider donating)

Since moving to Denver in 2010 I’ve seen countless live music performances at Swallow Hill itself at their main location at 71 E. Yale Ave. or at one of the many other venues around Denver where they also sponsor concerts. I’ve also had a chance to perform there many times at the Hootenanny (hosted by Harry Tuft on the first Friday of every month) and at the Open Stage (hosted by Ed McElvain on the fourth Thursday of every month). I’ve also participated in guitar classes, bluegrass ensembles, and songwriting workshops through them. Many of the best friends I’ve made in Denver have been people I’ve met through Swallow Hill. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Swallow Hill has had to postpone all its concerts and cancel all its classes and workshops until the threat of infection passes. This has caused extreme economic hardship for the music instructors and performers, and thrown Swallow Hill as an organization into financial strain as well. I would ask anyone visiting this website to consider either becoming a member of Swallow Hill or making a donation to Swallow Hill to help them get through these hard times.

Swallow Hill is a tremendous resource and a treasure that Denver is very fortunate to be able to enjoy. Our city has many, many talented musicians and a rich music culture which Swallow Hill nurtures, promotes, and enriches. It would be a tragedy if, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not able to continue their essential work. Once again, I would ask anyone visiting this website to consider either becoming a member of Swallow Hill or making a donation to Swallow Hill to help them get through these hard times.

NOTE: This information is repeated on a separate page of this website, accessible through the menu at the top of this page.


Since March 16th I’ve pretty much been alone in my home with cat (I had two cats up until March 22nd when on died.) playing guitar, writing songs, and recording. I’ve made two trips to the grocery store, taken several bike rides, and gone for several walks around the lake, but the songs have taken up most of my time. Yesterday I decided to put together this web site in order to post the recorded songs. As I thought about the huge sacrifices that so many are making in order to serve victims of the pandemic, including healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store employees, delivery persons, and others who have no choice but to leave themselves vulnerable to exposure, I wanted this to be a little more than just a place to display my own work. Among the many groups of people that are being affected economically by the pandemic are musicians who cannot perform in public. I decided I would include some information here about Swallow Hill, a not-for-profit music school and concert venue that has been a big part of my life since moving to Denver ten years ago. I also learned about an effort called Lunches for Clinicians through a friend on Facebook. I’ve included separate information on both of these organizations on separate pages where you can find out more, access their web sites, and make contributions.


In order to write, perform, and record these songs I’ve had to write lyrics, compose melodies and accompanying guitar parts, sing, play guitar, and operate recording software, which in this case is ProTools. My skill with any one of these functions is mediocre at best, but I find it very satisfying to come up with a final product that I can actually listen to and share. As an amateur songwriter I compare myself to the hobbyist landscape painter who spends hours in the open air with easel and palette and fills the house with colorful canvasses but never has a show or sells a painting. These are decidedly amateurish, but I wanted to do something with them, so I decided to create a web site where I could post them.

Part of the process of recording songs is playing with effects. Sometimes the result is good, sometimes it is not, but playing around is part of the fun. What does it sound like if I add more reverb? Should I sing the same part with two octaves? Am I overdoing the guitar solo? In the end, I’m not really aiming for perfection, I’m experimenting with these variations. (OK, sure, I’d like to have better products, but since they are what they are, I’ll just say I’m playing around). As I listen to these recordings again I hear many things that could be improved, and other things I would simply like to change, but one can only be so obsessive before deciding to move on.