New Steve Forbert Record

Everybody has songs that serve as the soundtrack to parts of their lives.  I’ve got a lot and one of them is Steve Forbert’s Romeo’s Tune from 1979.  That song will forever remind me of my sophomore year of college, including a road trip to Orlando for the 1979 Tangerine Bowl.

“Bring me southern kisses from your room.”  Yep.

I’ve heard most of his records and seen him live a time or two.  So it’s always news when Steve does another record.  He’s about to release his 16th studio album, Compromised, on November 6, 2015.  Recorded in Woodstock and Cape Cod, it was produced by Forbert along with John Simon, who produced Jackrabbit Slim, the excellent 1979 record that included Romeo’s Tune.


I received a review copy of the title track, and it’s pure Forbert.  An excellent song that sounds a bit like a look backwards at the ups and downs we’ve all had in the decades since 1979.

Compromised collaborators include bassist Joey Spampinato (NRBQ), drummer Lou Cataldo (The Freeze), pianist/trumpeter Kami Lyle, and keyboardist Robbie Kondor, the latter of whom played on Forbert’s classic 1978 debut, Alive on Arrival.  “I recorded with the band that did the Arrival and Jackrabbit anniversary tours with me in 2013 and 2014,” Forbert says, “where we played those albums in their entireties.  It just seemed natural to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to rehearse for this tour — but let’s record an album together, too.’   And it was great reconnecting with John Simon again after all this time.”

Look for a full review as soon as I get my hands on a complete copy.

How to Find Great New Music, with Spotify

I keep hearing my fellow Mac enthusiasts raving about the “For You” tab in Apple Music, and how music discovery is so much better in Apple Music than in Spotify.  I get it, we’re Apple fans, we are supposed to be excited about new Apple hardware and apps.  And I suppose if someone forced me to speak kindly of the mishmash that is iTunes and is bolted on new addition, music discovery would be the second thing I’d mention (the first thing being the very real benefit of combining, on both the desktop and your mobile device, your streaming music and your owned music).  But I have to say, I hear a lot of people trying very hard to convince themselves that they like Apple Music.

Let’s take a look at music discovery within Apple Music and Spotify.  For this experiment, we’ll focus on discovering music I don’t know about already, as opposed to other similar music already in my library.

First, let’s take a look at the “For You” tab.  Here’s the top screen of mine.

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There are only two records in there I haven’t heard (Hound Dog Taylor and Bob Mould), and no artists I’ve never heard of.  I like The Band, but bombastic and heartfelt classic rock ballads is most definitely not one of my genres.

Now, Spotify.

There are three primary ways to discover new music in Spotify.  First, the “Discover” tab under Browse.  Here’s the top of mine.

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I’ve heard of all those artists too, but I’ve only heard two of the records listed (Otis Gibbs and The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash).  All of these are clearly within my preferred genres.

Second, there’s the new “Discover Weekly” playlist.  Here’s my current one.


Of those 30 songs, I’d previously heard only four of them.  That’s pretty amazing, and while I don’t love all of them, there’s a lot of good stuff to be mined from that list.  It’s closer to what I like than any “human curated” playlist I’ve come across while trying to work my way through the corn maze that is Apple Music.

Finally, there’s the most fun and rewarding way to find new music on Spotify. Surfing around the “Related Artists” links.

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I have spent hours surfing around looking for new music this way.  Most of the stuff in Rancho Radio, my “Kent curated” public playlist, was found that way.

Competition is great for consumers.  Apple Music will make Spotify better, and there’s room for both.  But don’t tell me it’s hard to find new music on Spotify, because I have a thousand or so tracks in my various playlists that say otherwise.

Maybe Apple Music will become the best music service out there.  But let’s be honest.  The announcement at WWDC was a disjointed disaster, and the app is confusing and hard to use.  I’m hoping it will get better (though I’ve been hoping iTunes will get better for years), but there’s a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with Spotify.

Song Ideas Workflow for Songwriters

Song ideas are like dreams: you have to write them down right away, or you will forget them.  I can’t count the number of song ideas I’ve had while driving, that were lost before I got to a place I could write them down.  For example, a few weeks ago while driving home from the farm I noticed, not for the first time, that just about every car I passed had two occupants.  A guy driving, and a girl in the passenger seat.  An idea for a light-hearted, hopefully funny song started to percolate.  The hook was something along the lines of “all these cats with all these cuties, they must be pirates with all that booty.”   [NOTE: I will use this line eventually so don’t steal it!]  I had parts of two verses, a chorus and the beginning of a melody in my head, but everything but the hook was forgotten before I got around to writing it down.

All of this got me thinking, again not for the first time, about a way to capture song ideas before they are lost.  I needed a way to capture a few lines, a hummed melody, or maybe just a concept.  Here is what I came up with.

Using the indispensable and highly recommended iOS app Workflow, I created a “Normal” workflow (this will make sense when you see the app) that does the following:

  1.  “Record[s] Audio” at “Normal” quality (because all we are doing is capturing information), beginning “On Tap” and finishing “On Tap.”
  2.  saves the recorded audio to the “Song Ideas” folder in my Dropbox.


Then I  created a Hazel rule on my Mac to monitor that Dropbox folder and move any incoming files to the “Song Ideas” subfolder in the “Music Creation” folder on my Mac.  This rule also sets a green color label on the file, so I’ll know it came via this workflow.


Finally, I added this workflow, called “Song Ideas,” to the home screen on my iPhone via the Sharing> Add to Home Screen function within the Workflow app.  Now it sits on the first page on my iPhone home screen, for easy access while driving.


This workflow allows me to quickly record and save any song ideas I have, from anywhere and in very close to real-time.  While I created it specifically for songwriting, you could use this workflow to save and manage just about any information.