I have these memories of visiting my grandfather, Hank, when I was a youngster. He could be a taciturn man. I think I first learned how to be comfortable with silences by being around him. The Balluff men I know and have known, myself among them, can be an odd combination of taciturn with the ever-present threat of a happy kind of garrulousness. Months might go by between visits, and when Hank would talk, he’d just start up at the point he left off the last time we sat together. The man was truly at ease with intervening silence. Hank never lived to know what a blog was, but with me I think you get a good idea of how he’d have run one.
So hello! It’s not as though I haven’t had a lot to report. For instance, this year’s been a good year for the recording side of music life. I started the year in Humans Win! studio with the Southside Aces during a chilly February. We’ll celebrate the release of the music that came out of those wintry nights with our fifth album, Second Thursday.
We try not to be too handsome, so as to not cause distress amongst the public.
We’ll be at the Eagles, well, on the second Thursday of this coming January. I’m proud of my Aces! Look here in the next few weeks to learn all about it.
In between the February recording and the January release (what’s with the Aces’ penchant for ice and snow?), I also spent time making records with other musicianers. I’m the first chair clarinetist in the quartet Patty and the Buttons, so therefore was involved in two projects in 2014. The first one was a six-song collection of obscene songs from the ‘20s and ‘30s recorded right in my dining room.
It’s good music made by good musicians, with a good-sized load of ear-burningly scandalous lyrics. This album goes a long way to proving that there have always been folks with filthy minds. My dining room is still embarrassed. In September, we played on top of the White Castle at 33rd and Lyndale to bring this one to the public. It gives me a smile every time I think of how my resumé now contains “Smut Concert Atop White Castle.”
Look closely—I'm the big head sticking out over the music stand in the middle
The band recommends, however, that most parents, grandparents, children under the age of 21, religious leaders, teachers, men and women who hold political office, ice cream truck drivers and school crossing guards not ever be caught with one of these discs on their person. In fact, forget I ever mentioned it.
The second one, Mercury Blues, saw a November birth with a CD-Release Spectacular at the Heights Theater in Nordeast Minneapolis. This was a show to beat all shows, with tap dancing, knife juggling, bullwhipping, rising pit organs, silent films, and, what was it…oh yeah, the music. This record is safe for children, and you’d be proud to bring it home to your parents. There are great songs on it, my favorites being the originals our fearless leader, Patrick Harison, penned. I love the music I make with those guys.
I also contributed a tiny part to Davina and the Vagabond’s May release, Sunshine:
And finally, a few songs on December’s two-CD set put out by guitar virtuoso, Sam Miltich, entitled Sam Miltich and Friends Live at the VFW. I made the trip up north to help Sam launch it. If you’re ever in Grand Rapids, Minnesota of a Wednesday evening, stop by said VFW for the good stuff.
I guess this reads a little more like the 2014 Tony Balluff record brochure than a “What I Did Last Summer.” I promise my historical perspective will go further than last February for my next one. Until then I’m going to settle into a nice, comfortable silence.