Random acts

Of note

It’s official … Local roots-rock headliners Black Eyed Dog have a new project in the works. The group announced plans to record a (currently untitled) EP featuring the songs “Promise” and “Gears.” No word yet on a possible release date. For more information, visit www.blackeyeddog.com.

Third of Nine? Asheville-based eclectic rockers Jr. James & The Late Guitar have released a new album. Soundproof Room is the group’s follow-up to Second of Nine, and is their third full-length release. For more information, visit www.atonemusic.com.

Listening room (album reviews)

I’m Okay — George Martin This isn’t an easy album to get into, but once you get past the home-studio quality and adjust your ears to George Martin’s presentation style, I’m Okay really starts to stick. At his best, Martin is a minimalist singer/songwriter with some nice, if somewhat depressing, sensibilities. Imagine Tom Waits mixed with Nick Drake mixed with a broken-down hobo with an out-of-tune guitar. Now imagine that sounding pretty good, and you’ve got the vast majority of I’m Okay. Silence is its own instrument on this album, and the places where sound isn’t present become just as important as where it is. Not instantly accessible to a casual listener, I’m Okay tends to be a little heavy on the dark-and-dissonant themes. “Beauty of Song” and the comparatively upbeat “The Towingman” are suggested for beginners. Rating: 3 out of 5.

Local vocals

It was the week before Bele Chere, when the city was an anticipatory and curiously buzzing thing, when I first met Dan Carrigan. I was wandering around late one evening in search of black coffee and decent conversation, and I saw a man playing an electric guitar through a small PA on the street corner. A large and visibly tired dog slept at his feet.

This is hardly a noteworthy sight in downtown Asheville, and I almost passed him by to continue my quest. But something about his music caught my ear, and instead of walking by, I talked to him. That brief conversation led to an interview a few days later. There was much to talk about, because at age 37, Carrigan is living the dream of a much-younger musician. He’s living on the road, out of his car, and playing constantly. Just a few months ago, he was playing weekend gigs and working a day job in the Colorado mountains. Then, seemingly out of the blue, he decided to give it all up and take to the streets.

“I wanted to spend more time touring and writing,” Carrigan explained. “I found myself wondering why I was doing this day-job-type stuff. I could be playing anywhere, and I just had to get out of the paradigm that you need a gig, [and that] you need to spend a lot of money on booking. [I realized that] I could just show up and play anywhere, and still get by. I won’t die. So, I sold everything, got in the Subaru, and drove away. I’ve been doing [the current ‘tour’] for about nine months now.”

Carrigan’s tale is one shared in many ways by a great variety of musicians who’ve passed through Asheville over the years. Life on the road can be rewarding, but often it’s just as hectic as anything in the workaday world.

“I’ll give you a real window into my life,” Carrigan offered. “We’ll go in reverse. I woke up this morning at Wal-Mart. Last night, I played the Grey Eagle open mic, and sold a CD to the sound man. Before that, I played here on the street, which is where you met me. I sold two CDs there. I played for tips. Before that, I went and took a bath in the reservoir on the highway and shaved in the bathroom of a rest area. Before that, I woke up in a rest area after playing in Atlanta at Eddie’s Attic the night before [and] selling some CDs there. [That was] after doing a very similar road trip from Savannah, where I played the night before that, which was on the cusp of St. Augustine, Fla., which was the night before that. I would estimate in the last 90 days I’ve probably played about 76 days, anywhere from one to three shows a day, depending on how broke I am.”

With all that effort put out for an unreliable crowd response, one might assume the wandering life’s burdens outweigh its rewards. Not for Carrigan: “Am I getting what I want? Yeah. I haven’t stopped. I haven’t died. I’m supporting my sixth solo album. My dog and I are still making it. I’m living proof you can do it, [but] it’s not much of a life if you like creature comforts.”

When I first met Carrigan, he told me he was just passing through town and didn’t expect to be here more than a few days at the most. I jokingly warned him that Asheville had a way of keeping passing musicians. He laughed, and shook his head. That was more than a month ago. Guess who’s still here?

You can find Dan Carrigan on-stage Sept. 20 at the Grey Eagle and Sept. 27 at Beanstreets.

Top threes

Top-three post-vacation thanks:

• To Bo Post, for taking over for a full month so I could have some down time

• To the local musicians who had to wait for my return to see their belated reviews and interviews in print

• To all of you who e-mailed me and didn’t get too mad when I didn’t e-mail you back until September


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