more new music… another preview from “we are all haunted by something”

Just a short update as I’m starting to finish up pre-mastering on all the songs for the new album, one about every other week now. A little more than half the album is done now, in its final state to go to mastering, but even at the above rate there may be some slippage on the release date of June 24th. Hopefully not but we shall see – I don’t believe in rushing things.

The latest is:
THE INDELIBLE IMPRINT OF PLACE / LLANO ESTACADO
(© 2016/2017 Excellent Sky Records/Nights on Venus/Craig Carrington Thomas. All rights reserved.)

This is a 2-minute preview of “Llano Estacado”, not the full song – I’m still tweaking it. The Llano Estacado is the “Staked Plains” in West Texas and eastern New Mexico and has been described as the “table lands between Austin and Santa Fe.” The Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado described the area as mostly “a sea of grass” in the 16th century. That’s true – it really is. And, other than the various caprock escarpments, it’s insanely flat. My Mom, no less eloquently, described it – on our yearly road trips in the mid-to-late 1960s/early 70s to Colorado through Amarillo, Dalhart, and Clayton – like this: “There’s nothing out here. It’s so empty… how can people live out here?” That always cracked me up… because somehow they did and still do.

The caprock, eastern New Mexico...
The caprock, eastern New Mexico…
Rabbit Ears Mountain, near Clayton, New Mexico... August, 2001.
Rabbit Ears Mountain, near Clayton, New Mexico… August, 2001.

Lubbock, Texas is the largest city on the Llano; I was there for 4 years, getting my undergraduate degree from Texas Tech University. I lived in Midland 2 hours south for a little while afterward. Between those two cities… some lifelong friendships, some good parties, knowledge acquired, a little worldly experience, constant wind, occasional dust storms, some not-so-good jobs, and a lot of bad apartments. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area, having living there, but mostly traveling through it over the course of 6 decades. For whatever reason, for me this area never becomes old. I love it. It may be tedious to drive through but it never gets old.

South of San Jon, New Mexico...
South of San Jon, New Mexico…

Places define us, shape us, change us, and any place we’ve lived leaves its indelible mark upon us.

"Speed of Life" single, released on 10/9/16...
“Speed of Life” single, released on 10/9/16…

Speed of Lifeis the most recent offering from Nights on Venus. The 2-song EP was released on October 9, 2016 and is available on Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon MP3, and iTunes.

Cover artwork for "Unearthly"... photo/design by CCT
Cover artwork for “Unearthly”… photo/design by CCT

Unearthly, Santos and all previous albums are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and the NoV Website.

goldenboy_and_princeFollow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky),

book review: “zen guitar” by philip toshio sudo, photos from recent hikes in the mountains, summer of 2016

First of all, I love this book. Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo is one of my favorite books of all time.

On the west ridge of Loveland Pass, above timberline, Erin up ahead of me on the trail, looking east…

First published in 1997, this book has been a companion since then that I revisit every few years, or revisit a chapter as needed whenever, because its message is just that good. And it’s not just for guitarists of course. It’s for everyone who is involved in the creation of music, whatever the instrument, whatever the genre, at whatever level of ability. Or those involved in the creation of art… or any kind of creative endeavor, and that covers a lot of territory. But way beyond that, and ultimately, it’s about how we all create our lives.

Beatin' the heat at 12,000 feet...
Beatin’ the heat at 12,000 feet…

Zen Guitar is not about learning a specific technique, or any technique for that matter. As the author points out from the very beginning, there are plenty of books and videos for learning techniques and genres. Instead, he says simply: “We are here to make a sound.”

We are here to express beauty, beauty in the world.

In the chapter “Beginner’s Mind”, Sudo incorporates the idea and training/imagery of the martial arts dojo to provide a basic framework for practice:

1. Wear the white belt.
2. Pick up your guitar.
3. Tune.
4. Play.

That’s it. What could be more simple?

berthoud_west07Well of course, it’s not that simple – it never is. And there’s the rub (paradox). Essentially Zen Guitar is a spiritual book; it connects the basics of playing the guitar to one’s spiritual development along the musical [and one’s life] journey.

Thoughts are creative in themselves. Energy follows thought. Thoughts become things. Everyone is creative.

From the chapter “Pick Up Your Guitar”:

“Look deeply into the spirit that goes into making an item of quality – the care, the precision, the attention to detail. Incorporate that spirit into your work… Anything you set out to make – music, love, a bookshelf, a meal – make as well as you can. To do otherwise is spiritless…”

And “Act with a sense of purpose.”

loveland_west02Each chapter is relatively short – most of the time one page or less than two pages, and begins with a pertinent quote from a well-known musician. Bite-size chunks of musical wisdom… Like most spiritual books Zen Guitar is best digested in an unhurried fashion. Read a short chapter, if you’re unfamiliar with the idea presented, if it’s new to you… give it time to sink in. Think on it, feel it… embody it.

Above timberline...
Above timberline…

The quote that begins the aforementioned “Pick Up Your Guitar” chapter:
“If you pick up a guitar and it says, “Take me, I’m yours,” then that’s the one for you.” – Frank Zappa
Speaks to intuition… Learn to trust it.

In fact, the quotes are a highlight in themselves and very definitely, on their own merit alone, a reason for buying the book. A few examples/highlights:

From the chapter “Loss of Focus” in the section “The Twelve Common Missteps”, comes this gem:

“I remember coming to a concert where they had a big catered meal set out for everyone… I went and said, “Miles, man, you gotta see all this food they got here.” And Miles said, “I didn’t come here to eat.”
– Gary Bartz, recalling a conversation with Miles Davis

Looking southeast toward Grays and Torreys and Grizzly Peak,,,
Looking southeast toward Grays and Torreys and Grizzly Peak on the Continental Divide…

From the chapter “Jamming”…

“The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.” – Duke Ellington

And from the chapter on “Virtuosity” comes this:

“Whether you are [playing] in the bar, the church, the strip joint or the Himalayas, the first duty of music is to complement and enhance life.” – Carlos Santana

That is truth. As a musician, playing music enhances your life. What you put forth into the world musically enhances the experience of life for many others – people you will most likely never meet but affects them nonetheless. Music is not just mere entertainment and should never be thought of as such. Music, played with true feeling and integrity, can change lives. This is no small thing.

There’s a lot more that I could quote from this book but I think you get the idea. If you’re involved in any kind of creative endeavor, not just music, not just guitar, you should get this book. Zen Guitar is that good, it is that inspirational and I highly recommend it. This book should be in every creative’s library. The bottom line on it…
Know what you are doing and more importantly, why.

Most of all, be mindful of what you are doing.

It boils down to:
Do what has to be done
When it has to be done
As well as it can be done
And do it that way every time.

Accept nothing less…
Much food for thought here.
Indulge.

On the Continental Divide Trail west of Berthoud Pass…
Ahead of us...
Ahead of us…
Clouds above the Divide…
Random couple on the CD Trail, low clouds rising from below...
Random couple on the CD Trail, low clouds rising from below…
Hiking up through the fog and clouds...
Hiking up through the fog and clouds…

Nights on Venus News:
New music is coming soon, within the next couple of weeks. Finishing up a new song: the mastered demo of “I Just Wanna Fly Off to Iceland With U”… Yes, Iceland… with a bossa nova beat. Of course they go together. And we’re making plans to go there in 2017 and get Nights on Venus on the lineup of the Iceland Airwaves music festival, November, 2017.

berthoud_west05For this year there will be no new album. Erin and I are getting married in November – we set the date, and as this is 4 months away there’s a lot to do between now and then. There may be a 2, possibly 3-song single release in the fall but a full album won’t happen until 2017. And it will be entitled “We Are All Haunted By Something”. And as I’m working with these 20+ songs so far, it may possibly become a double album… we shall see.

berthoud_west12
Wildflowers, looking north toward Vasquez Ridge…
Cover artwork for "Unearthly"... photo/design by CCT
Cover artwork for “Unearthly”… photo/design by CCT

Unearthlyis the most recent offering from Nights on Venus. The 6-song EP was released on December 30, 2015 and is available on Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon, and iTunes.

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Santos, Perspective and all previous albums are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and the NoV Website.

Craig, on a windy rock...
Craig, on a windy rock…

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram

summer of 2016, looking ahead…

Time really does fly. We’ve reached June already, the start of the hiking/summer season and I anticipate a very busy season for us here. Some photos from Sunday’s hike at Alderfer/Three Sisters open space park in Evergreen, usually our first hike of the season…

There is a new song in the Nights on Venus News section.

Looking west to Mt. Evans from the Brothers Lookout. Still a lot of snow in the high country, and that's good...
Looking west to Mt. Evans from the Brothers Lookout. Still lots o’ snow in the high country, which is a very good thing…
3sisters_08
On the Sisters Trail early a.m.
Some companions on the trail...
Some companions on the trail…
Aspens, early in the season...
Aspens, early in the season…

3sisters_09craig_hiking02I’m currently working on new songs in the studio… makin’ headway, finishing them up. Taking a more balanced approach this year (and also in 2015 and moving forward), a more relaxed approach to creative work, allowing more time for these little trips Erin and I take into the mountains, getting out into the natural beauty of the wilderness, and especially now as summer is upon us and we’re making plans to move up to the mountains within the next year, year-and-a-half. There have been many changes over the last few years and this year of 2016 in particular so far; we’re not even halfway through. And in these times of accelerated changes it’s good and necessary to unplug from the Internet as much as possible – the bane now of our collective existence – and get away from the constant ‘urbanity’ of it all. Well anyway, that’s where we’re headed.

Evergreen Mtn.
Evergreen Mtn.

3sisters_10

From the beer garden at Lariat Lodge in Evergreen... formerly Hart House of the Evergreen Conference
From the beer garden at Lariat Lodge in Evergreen… formerly Hart House of the Evergreen Conference, on the National Register of Historic Places… I have a lot of history here.

Nights on Venus News:

Yours truly, from another incarnation... From 1982, promo shot with Sound & the Furies, Dallas, TX
Yours truly, from another incarnation, c. 1982… and an extra set o’ hands…The keyboard is a Roland Paraphonic (505) which had some pretty decent organ sounds but not much else, thus the effects pedals are on the keyboard itself where I could do some real-time tweaking, and an extra pair o’ hands would have been welcome…
Promo shot with Sound & the Furies, Dallas, TX.

New music from the current recording sessions…

THERE IS ONLY NOW (mastered demo)
(© 2016 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

Cover artwork for "Unearthly"... photo/design by CCT
Cover artwork for “Unearthly”… photo/design by CCT

Unearthlyis the most recent offering from Nights on Venus. The 6-song EP was released on December 30, 2015 and is available on Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon, and iTunes.

"Perspective," the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.
“Perspective,” the 4th Nights on Venus album, MP3 album cover. Available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, eMusic, Bandcamp, and the NoV website.

Santos, Perspective and all previous albums are available as MP3 digital downloads on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and the NoV Website.

On top of Chief Mountain...
On top of Chief Mountain…

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky), Facebook, and Instagram.

summer’s almost gone….

A quiet Saturday morning, Aspen...
A quiet Saturday morning, Aspen…

Yes, the summer is almost gone – next weekend is Labor Day weekend. But here in Colorado, we say bring on the fall and winter…!

At the trailhead...
At the trailhead…
Difficult Creek, south of Aspen
Difficult Creek, south of Aspen
Hiking up the Difficult Creek trail…
hike_3
through the aspen groves…
forest_1
Forest green…
Crossing the bridge over Difficult Creek...
Crossing the bridge over Difficult Creek…
Back in town, Aspen umbrellas...
Back in town, Aspen umbrellas…
Erin on the deck...
Erin on the deck…
And no trip to Aspen would be complete without seeing some live music... Three Dog Night performing at Belly Up, 8/23. Great show!
And no trip to Aspen would be complete without seeing some live music… Three Dog Night performing at Belly Up, 8/23. Great show!

On the road again…

Doc Holliday's Tavern, Glenwood Springs...
Doc Holliday’s Tavern, Glenwood Springs…
Highway 82, heading towards Leadville...
Highway 82, heading towards Leadville…

Here’s some Doors for you, some rare footage of the band…

set to the song “Summer’s Almost Gone” from the album “Waiting For the Sun.”

"This Ain't No Cowtown, V 5.0 and 5.5" - Artwork by Dara Pieper
“This Ain’t No Cowtown, V 5.0 and 5.5” – Album artwork by Dara Pieper

What’s New: This month, three new editions of the Denver music compilation “This Ain’t No CowtownVols. 5.0 and 5.5 were released. Music, comedy, and poetry – there’s a great write-up of it here on Reverb, the Denver Post music blog and you can find the albums on Bandcamp. Love the artwork on this – it’s a great album cover.

And it’s for a worthy cause… ALL proceeds from this comp will go to assist Mike Marchant, Denver songwriter and musician, with the medical bills from his recent bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Agave Blues” is NoV’s contribution to the cause and can be found on V. 5.5.

New music will be coming soon from Nights on Venus, probably around late October. Watch for it right here and on ReverbNation. In the meantime…

NoV_Portal_sm
“Portal” © 2013 Photograph by Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.
"Another Day in Paradox" - 2013
“Another Day in Paradox” – 2013

Another Day in Paradox,” the third and new album from Nights on Venus is available now on CD and as digital download (MP3) on CDBabyiTunesBandcampAmazoneMusic, and other fine online retailers including the NoV website.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

in the land of enchantment…. a [mostly] santa fe pictorial

This week… a much-needed break for some rest and relaxation as Erin and I hit the road and headed south to New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment – to spend a few days in Santa Fe, my old stompin’ grounds. I was fortunate enough to live here for a couple of years in the mid-80’s – it’s one of my favorite places and over the years I’ve come back for visits when I need to get away for a while.

So, the last few days in pictures and occasional words…

At 10,000 Waves, a unique mountain spa in the Japanese onsen tradition with hot tubs, massage, and lodging in a beautiful setting on the way up to the ski area…
Interior of Caffe Tazza coffeehouse in Taos….

The first stop on the drive down was a short stop in Taos. It’s the more scenic route coming down from the north once you get off I-25 and go through Cimarron Canyon, passing by Angel Fire on the way.

From Taos, you continue south on Highway 68, dropping into the Rio Grande canyon at Pilar.

Back in the land of D. H. Lawrence and Georgia O’Keeffe….

Window and courtyard, Caffe Tazza, Taos….
Adobe archway, Taos….
Wood beams, wrought-iron chandeliers….
Wind sculptures in front of the Inn of the Governors….

One thing that was immediately noticeable when we drove in this time was how hazy and how dry everything looked. Santa Fe and Taos sit on high desert plateaus above 7,000 feet and it is an arid land with water at a premium, but I hadn’t ever seen it look this dry this early in the summer before; we didn’t see a single cloud in the sky for the first 3 days we were here. Hopefully there will be rain soon with those daily afternoon thunderstorms that always came through and cooled the air down.

The haziness was due to a wildfire in another part of the state. When it’s this hot and dry this early in the summer, both here and in Colorado, the fire danger runs very high to extreme. In fact, driving back to Golden yesterday I was shocked to see how little snowpack was left on the high mountains and we could see the smoke from a new wildfire up by Fort Collins. We have smoky skies again here today; we need RAIN! And hopefully we don’t see a repeat of the ‘Summer of Fires’ we had here in CO in 2002.

The restaurant courtyard at the Hotel St. Francis, Santa Fe….

When you come to Santa Fe, 10,000 Waves Mountain Spa Resort is definitely a must visit. I’ve been coming here since 1984 and it is by far the best place to relax and unwind in town when that’s what you’re looking for.

At the entrance of 10,000 Waves, the beginning of the ‘goat path’….. As the sign tells you, 91 steps, 60 vertical feet gained (and 47 calories burned)….
The entry way to the main building at 10,000 Waves….
Our private hot tub for the afternoon…. this is ‘One Wave.’ Surrounded by piñon and cedar trees…. Tip: If you book a private hot tub, you’ll want to book one for at least a couple of hours if possible, because, believe me, one hour here won’t seem like nearly enough. Take your time…. enjoy!
Go ahead, take the plunge…. the cold plunge, that is. Water temperature in the hot tubs averages 102-104 degrees – the water here is about 40 degrees. Brrrrr…. but it’s invigorating!
Back down the ‘goat path’ at dusk….
Evening arrives on Canyon Rd…..
El Farol on Canyon Rd…. the oldest operating restaurant and bar in Santa Fe – the building dates back to 1835 – with a tapas menu (all of the food is excellent). There’s live music in the bar on most nights and occasionally, flamenco dancing…..
On the Plaza, downtown Santa Fe….
Chili ristras in the courtyard….

We didn’t go to a lot of art galleries on this trip but we did make it over to the New Mexico Museum of Art. This is a separate museum from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum which is a couple of blocks away, but it has several of her paintings in its collection.

The Plaza of course, is the central hub in downtown Santa Fe that everything was built around dating back to the early 1600’s, and it makes for great people-watching. For a great view of the whole Plaza, try the balcony at the Marble Brewery on San Francisco St. Great craft beers and specialty pizzas from the Rooftop Pizzeria (in the Santa Fe Arcade). It’s a great place to hang out in the early afternoon.

Upstairs at the New Mexico Museum of Art….
The balcony at the Marble Brewery, overlooking the Plaza….
Downtown, mid-afternoon….

Love Margaritas? Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen is a must visit as well. It’s been a fixture in Santa Fe since 1952. The food – mostly authentic Northern New Mexican cuisine – is always excellent, especially the carne adovada. But the real reason to go is the Margaritas – over 100 varieties. They’re the best in town… and the best anywhere. Personal favorite: The Moonglow and the Grand Moonglow.

Santa Fe bills itself as “The City Different”…. that’s true – it is a totally unique place and a different world here. It’s a world with its own different pace of life, one that’s still a little slower, even in the age of wi-fi and Android apps.

More Canyon Rd. at sunset….

I also like the fact that, even though I haven’t been a ‘local’ here since 1986, I still always feel like one whenever I visit. A lot of my old haunts are still here and don’t seem to change… too much. There’s a definite routine – probably due to the fact I’m a creature of habit much more than I care to admit, but also because I just plain love these places I’ve come to know over the years. There’s just a unique, one-of-a-kind vibe here you don’t get anywhere else, and I never get tired of it.

Other places to check out when you come for a visit: the Loretto Chapel (with its famous staircase), the Palace Restaurant, Tomasita’s (restaurant), the Ore House (where I used to tend the bar), the Shohko Café (great sushi), and the Técoloté Café – great breakfasts, always crowded, so sit at the community table… you never know who you’ll meet. Bookstores: The Ark bookstore and also the Collected Works downtown.

“Dos Gatos Grandes”….. outside a downtown gallery

Be sure to bring some extra cash-ola, because you never know what you’ll be bringing back home for the house, decor-wise.

Best time to visit: If you’re planning a trip here, the best time, imho, is between Thanksgiving and Christmas… less crowded, cooler, and with luminarias on most adobe structures, a more magical time to visit. We’ll be back then, when the Nights on Venus EP is completed later this year.

To round out the trip – and for the full ‘road-trip experience’ – a few pics from Salida, Colorado on the way back to the Front Range….

At Benson’s downtown Salida, CO….
Art gallery and kayaks…. downtown Salida….
“The Vic”…. the Victoria Restaurant and Bar in Salida…. live music here every weekend…
Hey, great title for a song…..
“In 4 the Evening,” the new album (no. 2)…

In 4 the Evening” is the second album from Nights on Venus and is now available as a digital download on CDBaby,  iTunesAmazon.mp3,  Bandcamp eMusic,  and other fine online retailers, and now also available on CD.

Purchase the full album through Bandcamp or CD through the NoV website and you will receive the 4-song EP (slated for release, Dec., 2012) for free as a bonus.

Follow Craig and NoV on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

of mountains & fireworks….

Into my 2nd week back in Colorado and enjoying it immensely. This trip is a little different because I haven’t booked the return trip to Dallas – didn’t drive this time and left the car in the driveway at a friend’s house. There’s no real hurry to get back to the 100-degree heat, other than to start on final mixdowns of new songs I’ve been recording up here, so will probably be back sometime next week… I think. The job search continues up here and with the emptying out of the storage unit – with most of the contents getting donated or tossed – I’m now approaching a level of minimalism that would befit the minimalist I have usually claimed to be… and have been listening to a lot of Prince. What follows below is a photo-blog of the holiday weekend…

On the road again... What a difference a day makes - no traffic! Flying down the I-70 into Dillon/Frisco/Silverthorne ("Truckers don't be fooled. You are not down yet.").
First stop: Dillon and the Cala Inn, a nice little Irish bar with great burgers tucked away off Swan Mountain Rd. at the southeast end of Lake Dillon. Guinness and Smithwick's on tap.

Sitting on the patio at the Cala Inn, Dillon...

The recently released Nights on Venus debut album is now available as a digital download (MP3 album) on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers…

Main Street, Frisco
Part of the Tenmile Range, Frisco
A little side trip to the small mountain town of Montezuma, just east of Keystone. This is looking down Main Street.
The town hall of Montezuma... yeah, I could live here.

Montezuma is a particular favorite of mine. It was a mining town in the late 1800s, then became a ‘ghost town’ after the Great Silver Crash in 1893 and for pretty much the entire 20th century, but it has had something of a resurgence over the last 15 years or so, judging by the new buildings and homes that have gone up here. Montezuma sits at an altitude of 10,200 feet and has a population of around 65, so immediately it’s my kind of place – high altitude, always cool, close to skiing at Keystone Ski Resort and Arapahoe Basin (7 miles to either one), plenty of hiking trails along the Continental Divide, spectacular views, peace and quiet close to wilderness, and almost no bugs.

At 10,200 feet, obviously the town gets a ton of snow in the winter and spring… and fall.

Another of the many 4-wheel drive roads leading from Montezuma higher up into the mountains.

If I had my druthers, I would be here now, building my state-of-the-art mega-studio but that would only further encourage my tendency to be something a [studio] hermit which I learned all about when I was living in Empire a few years back (slightly lower at 8,600 feet elevation and slightly larger, population 425 – I seem to have an attraction to these small mountain mining towns… must be a past-life thing). A couple of potential problems: a very short growing season (if at all) for growing your own food and there doesn’t appear to be wi-fi here, or a Starbuck’s. But that is the dream, and a dream goes on forever. Oh well, someday, someway…

Looking northeast toward the Continental Divide from Montezuma
Eastward on Highway 6 toward Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Pass
The mountain, the legend: A-Basin Ski Area, still open in early July showing at least 2 runs open. This is the real Colorado.
The lodge at A-Basin from above, heading toward the summit of Loveland Pass
Grizzly Peak along the Continental Divide from the summit of Loveland Pass.
The view to the southwest from the summit of Loveland Pass.
Still plenty of snow and avalanche danger in July at 12,000 feet.
Erin and me... at the First Friday Street Fest
Waiting for the fireworks to start...

Happy 4th of July! and Happy 235th Birthday, America! Party on! Hope everyone had an awesome and safe holiday. Back in Golden and continuing with the photo-blog this week, here are a few pics from last night’s festivities…

Crescent moon to the west
Looking toward South Table Mtn.
Let the show begin...
Potential album cover for a Nights on Venus album? Don't know yet, but I like it.
"Love, American Style"... remember that 70's show?

Until next week…

Visit the Nights on Venus page and store on ReverbNation or on CD Baby.