The Post-Katrina Epoch

The first thing I saw this morning were images of flooding in Japan: water sweeping away everything in its path, people being rescued from rooftops. Coming so soon after the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it nudged me to write a little something here. I hadn’t planned on noting the anniversary of Katrina on any blog post because ten years on it still feels too tragic to write about and the media coverage of the anniversary felt a bit like opening an old wound. Katrina was bad. When we evacuated for Hurricane Rita not too long after Katrina, we stayed in a hotel with Katrina evacuees. I got a first-hand look at the face of Katrina. They had food, water, their dogs, a place to stay, and each other. They had no idea when they’d go home or, in some cases, if there was a home to go back to. Have you ever lived in a refugee camp and watched as a pickup truck offloaded supplies to refugees? How many people have you met who have lost everything and just barely escaped with their lives? For most people Hurricane Katrina is a historical event, something that happened on the Gulf Coast, far away from their own lives. For other people Katrina is a political event, with lots of finger pointing, fingers that are ticking off the ways the system failed. For some Katrina is a media event; the subject of documentaries and news stories, the source of dramatic footage and photos. For the people of New Orleans and surrounding areas Hurricane Katrina was a life-altering event, and for some a life-taking event. The survivors, whether they returned to New Orleans or not, are living in a Post-Katrina epoch. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who survived it whose life didn’t have an altered trajectory as a result of that hurricane. Phrases like “picking up the pieces” and “rebuilding” are weak words that cannot even begin to convey the reality of the Post-Katrina era to those people who lost everything.

I was born and raised on the Texas Gulf Coast. I’ve been aware of hurricanes my whole life. I’ve ridden out storms, I’ve evacuated ahead of storms, I’ve been hip-deep in debris cleaning up after such storms. But I do not know what it’s like to be a Katrina survivor. Not even after having met some survivors when we evacuated ahead of Rita. Katrina isn’t just a hurricane or a bit of history; it’s a community of people. Real live human beings like your neighbors, like you. Let’s never lose sight of that.

Be kind to strangers. You don’t know what they may have been through just to be standing beside you.

I have a small album of music dedicated to the survivors and rescuers of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Proceeds go to the Red Cross, who are so often first on the scene of tragedies of all kinds. You can read my liner notes here: A Tropical Depression. You can get the album from iTunes, Amazon and other online stores.

Bad Timing & Far Worse Disasters

I have the worst timing. Last year I released Sand In My Shoes, a sunny, beachy album around the time of the Gulf Oil Spill, when no one was going to the beach! This year I’ve been working on the Rainmaker project again because we’re in a severe drought, but the same anomalous weather conditions that have caused an unprecidented drought here have caused massive flooding elsewhere. While we’re—figurative speaking—“dying” down here, people are literally dying elsewhere. The most recent episode in the rampant freak weather is the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been to Joplin, went through there on a family vacation when I was a kid. It was sunny, people were friendly. Now there’s a dark could over Joplin and some of the friendly people have been killed, injured, and lost everything.

I can’t stop the disasterous weather. I can’t change it, no matter how many rain tracks I listen to. The storm I was waiting for passed over us dropping only a light rain, not even enough to measure, though parts of Houston got more. I’m giving myself one more week to produce another rain track, then hurricane season will be upon us. I’ll not tempt fate after that. This same “bubble” that’s not allowing rain to reach us will push hurricanes away, too, but with the freakish weather I expect it won’t last and we could go from drought to flood.

I have many times urged you to give to the Red Cross. People need help. You can’t control the weather. Most of you can’t be there, in person, doing disaster relief work in areas which have been hit by floods, tornados (or hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) but you can support the people who do this good work and support the people who have lost their homes—and to a great extent their lives—by giving to the Red Cross. It’s the best organization for providing rapid response with food, water, and shelter when a disaster hits. And lest you fall prey to “disaster fatigue” because it seems like something terrible is always happening somewhere, remember that someday it could be you who’s getting wrapped up in a blanket by a Red Cross worker.

Even if you don’t live in “tornado alley” or near a flood-prone river, or on an earthquake faultline—even if you live in the dullest, safest place on earth—you could still find yourself personally grateful to the Red Cross. A friend of mine, in my hometown, once mentioned that when a neighbor’s house burned down the Red Cross turned up immediately to help them. When you see apartment fires on the evening news do you ever wonder what happens to all those people who are standing there sobbing and shaking in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs? The Red Cross—that’s what happens to them. There are other organizations that help, too, many of which are faith-based non-profits, but these vary from community to community (and if it’s a community-wide disaster they’ll be hit as hard as everyone else). The Red Cross is everywhere. They’ve been doing disaster relief longer than anyone else and they’re damn good at it.

(My EP A Tropical Depression still—always— benefits the Red Cross. Available from most online stores. I would urge other artist to do albums and gigs benefitting the Red Cross.)

Music for a tsunami

Some of you may remember that one song on my A Tropical Depression album was not about hurricanes, but about the Indian ocean tsunami in December ’04. Now, watching the images of the quake and tsunami in Japan I’m grieving once again and hear “Wave, Goodbye” echoing in my head again. You can buy the song (and the EP) from: iTunes, Amazon, myspace, Napster, and Rhapsody. All proceeds benefit the Red Cross. If you plan to donate to the Red Cross, you can get some music, too. However, the Red Cross needs much more than what will come in from this song (unless it goes viral in a way I can’t even imagine), so I urge you to donate whether you get “Wave, Goodbye”, or A Tropical Depression or not. What matters is helping the people in Japan. If the music helps you, too, that’s a bonus.

The liner notes of the album are here.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.

A Tropical Depression: 5 years later

Though it’s been somewhat less than five years since A Tropical Depression was released, we are coming up on the fifth anniversary of the events that inspired it. Five years ago this weekend New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, then a few weeks later we were hit by Hurricane Rita. Rita wasn’t as bad as the more recent Ike for us, but Katrina five years later remains the mother of all storms in this area. Sales of A Tropical Depression, which my friend Buzz did some vocals on, still go to benefit the Red Cross. You can buy the song from: iTunes, Amazon, myspace, Napster, and Rhapsody. I have to say that sales of it haven’t generated much revenue because it was a free download when I first released it. If you don’t have this and you like rootsy music (which is what most of my songwriting is), pick it up and drop a bit of money to the Red Cross who do so much for so many in such difficult situations. It’s hurricane season: let’s fund the people who beat back the storms—and enjoy some good music while you’re at it. πŸ™‚

Liner notes for A Tropical Depression

Myspace, Mexico and More

The new year has gotten off to a good start with Gymshoes music being added to two new stores. You can now buy my music from iTunes Mexico (in addition to a whole bunch of other international iTunes stores). Also, Tunecore has finally gotten an agreement with myspace Music so that indie artists on small labels (like me!) can now distribute/sell their songs from their myspace profiles.

Since a lot of people find me through myspace, this convenience will probably result in more sales, but I have to admit what I’m really excited about is that ALL my released songs are now available in their entirety (even the very long ones that myspace balked at uploading). So you can browse and stream everything now. πŸ™‚ I no long have to agonize over which songs I put in the music player ’cause you can hear them all by clicking the “Albums” tab at the bottom of the player. The songs displayed by default in the player are ones I upload, so the list will include unreleased tracks from time to time, and new releases will show up there before they’re added to Albums.

A word about Playlists…With the addition of my music to the myspace music store, it means that my songs will always be there. If you don’t want the songs you add to your playlists to disappear when songs in the player are changed, please Add songs to your playlists from the Albums in the Albums tab. That way they’ll always be there. πŸ™‚

Finally, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, I urge you to donate to http://www.redcross.org. All profits from my 2006 album, A Tropical Depression go to benefit The Red Cross. Whether you buy the album or not, please donate to the Red Cross. Thank you.

A Tropical Depression live in iTunes and elsewhere

The rootsy EP I did on the heels of hurricanes Katrina and Rita is now for the first time widely available. A Tropical Depression is now available from iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, Napster. All profits goes to benefit the American Red Cross, so please tell your friends and pass it on. Once again, I’d like to express my gratitude to Buzzingstrings, aka Rick Ellis, for providing vocals on two tracks. He gave my songs powerful life and breath.

Below you’ll find links to the EP on various sites. The album is carried by iTunes US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Japan; the link below is presumably for the US store. Or you can search “Gymshoes”…it won’t be listed as a recent album because it was done so long ago, but it’s there! πŸ™‚

A Tropical Depression on iTunes

A Tropical Depression on Amazon mp3

A Tropical Depression on Rhapsody

A Tropical Depression on Napster

Transitions & A Tropical Depression

Some of you may have noticed that the MusicBlaster app from BlastMyMusic.com is dead and gone. I’ve had the EP A Tropical Depression and two singles there, using that site to release singles between albums. I’d been thinking about moving the EP to iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Amazon, etc. and this extended outtage combined with a coupon from Tunecore πŸ˜‰ made up my mind.

BlastMyMusic.com has been down for at least 2 weeks, with no response to my inquiry through myspace. I asked them to post something to let people know what’s going on. My message was read, but they did not reply or publicly post anything about the situation. No one knows if this is something horrible, but temporary, or if they’ve abruptly gone out of business. (IMHO stonewalling artists who are posting questions is not a reassuring way of handling the situation if this extended outtage is a temporary problem.) I’m not sweating it since they don’t owe me any money. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I’ve been thinking about dropping them; after a few initial sales a year ago I’ve sold nothing through them since. Which is what prompted me to change to Tunecore distribution for the major stores earlier this year for albums. Blastmymusic’s current problems, whatever they are, have simply accelerated the inevitable.

I’ve submitted the EP A Tropical Depression and it should be in online stores no later than September 21st. Based on my experience with three other albums, it will probably be available sooner than that, could be more like 2-4 weeks. I’ve only had one album in one store bust the given date (and Tunecore was very helpful resolving that issue, btw). I’ll drop in some blog posts as it goes live in various stores. A reminder about this special album: this is mostly singer-songwriter stuff, with Buzzingstrings as guest vocalist on two tracks. All profits go to the American Red Cross. It’ll be good to get this into wider release. πŸ™‚