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Posted:
Jun 20, 2017
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The Power Of Positive Thinking

Posted: June 20, 2017

As a young boy, I never had much self – confidence or belief in myself. That was for good reason. I was a weakling, basically unhealthy with a severe asthmatic condition, not really very good at anything, including school, and things I enjoyed like sports, music etc. I was one of those kids everyone thought was unlikely to succeed in life. I heard it everywhere I went, right through my high school years, and began to believe it myself. Once that seed of doubt creeps in, it’s difficult to make go away. I would try hard but but never seemed get anywhere. My mom would do her best to pick up my spirits when I was feeling low, telling me that giving a strong effort is what counts the most to her. I think “Effort” was the only good grade I landed in school in those days.

When I was much older, I ran across a book about the life of Walt Disney, that stressed that you needed to develop a positive attitude and believe in yourself to realize your dreams and accomplish your life’s goals. Reading those pages inspired me to work even harder and set my sights higher. Walt never gave up chasing his dreams, and went on to archive great things in his lifetime revolutionizing the entertainment industry. He believed anything is possible with a positive attitude, and I started to adapt Walt’s philosophy to my own life. That’s when everything changed in my world, and my failures started turning into successes. By chance during a trip to Sedona Arizona a few years later I ran across another book entitled “The Path To Success Is Paved With Positive Thinking” by Wally Amos. Wally’s words of wisdom reinforced my new-found beliefs and inspired me even a greater level. It was like a new beginning. The door to the future opened up wide and I walked through with a confidence I never felt before!

Since then my life’s accomplishments have been far beyond anything I thought remotely possible. Through hard work, perseverance, and believing in my untapped potential I proceeded to start up my own lumber company (that just celebrated its 30th anniversary and won a business of the year award), became an innovator in the Forest Products industry, and am now an award winning songwriter, as well as a mentor to others. Having a positive attitude was the key element to these accomplishments.

I eventually decided to write down and share my thoughts/insights on Positive Thinking, how it changed my world, hoping it might help others as well. I even conducted a seminar at the IBMA World Of Bluegrass on the subject. Here are my notes, they have become the blueprint of my life.

Positive Thinking

Posted:
Jan 30, 2017
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Writing Bluegrass Gospel

Posted: January 30, 2017

Ever since I got the songwriting bug back in the mid 1980′s, writing Gospel music has been very important to me. I’ve always been a man of Faith, and became fascinated by some of the Bluegrass Gospel songs I’d hear on recordings and at festivals back in those days. Bands like Doyle Lawson and the Bluegrass Cardinals, among others, were putting out some great stuff and were a big influence on my early writing. It was that Southern Gospel sound that really did it for me, and inspired me to write in that style.

My approach to writing Spiritual Songs was to try and come up with new ideas/song concepts/musical settings that didn’t sound like every other Gospel song I’d heard before. Needed to be original and innovative to a certain degree. It took a great deal of patience and exploration to create my own unique style of writing Gospel….establish my own identity…..but the hard work paid off.

By 1988 I was pitching some of my songs to a few of my favorite Bluegrass bands, and caught a break when the Lonesome River Band recorded a bluesy Gospel number I wrote entitled “Listen To The Word Of God”. Dan Tyminski sang lead, and guest artist Alison Krauss played fiddle on that cut. Definitely a highlight for me as a songwriter. That album “Carrying The Tradition” went on to be awarded IBMA album of the year.
Since then I’ve kept writing Gospel songs, several of which have been recorded by various Bluegrass and Southern Gospel artists.
As my catalog of Gospel numbers grew over time I decided I’d like to record a Gospel album of my own, featuring songs that no one had recorded yet. It would be an opportunity to express my own Faith through the songs I’d written, and spread the Holy Word of God to the rest of the world.
Jesse Brock and John Miller agreed to produce the recording and we were fortunate to attract a cast of wonderful musicians and vocalists that included Russell Moore, Dale Ann Bradley, Jeff Parker, Barry Scott, and Junior Sisk among several others. The end result exceeded any expectation I had, and helped land my first record deal with Rural Rhythm Records who were pretty hot at the time. Titled “Look To The Light”, the album went on to be nominated for IBMA Gospel Event Of The Year as well as a GMA Dove Award. The album received a great deal of radio airplay, including SIRIUS XM, and folks all across the country wrote and e-mailed me heartwarming notes about how they were “moved” by listening to this collection of spiritual songs. That was very gratifying for me personally.

In recent years I’ve done more collaborating with other writers all over the country, and ironically many of the resulting songs have been Gospel tunes. I can’t help but feel I was meant to write Gospel music, that it is my calling. Last fall Larry Stephenson cut “Best Laid Plans”, a Gospel song that I wrote with Troy Engle (our very first co-write). That was a real treat as I’ve always been a big fan of Larry’s singing.

Don’t know what the future holds, but will keep writing Gospel music as long as I can hold a pen in my hand.
God willing, I hope to record another Gospel album as a follow up to Look To The Light someday. As my mom would say: ” If it was meant to be, it will happen”.

Posted:
Nov 28, 2016
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2016 Christmas Concert Tour

Posted: November 28, 2016

The Holiday Season is right around the corner, that means preparing for our annual Christmas Concert Tour. Now in its 13th year, we will be playing five concerts in three states. The show features The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams, and Rick Lang & Friends (featuring Karen Lincoln Wilber). All the shows are held in churches and have pretty much played to packed houses the last few years. We spend most of November rehearsing, and working in new material to keep the show fresh.
The tours beginnings go back to 2003 when I released my first Christmas CD “The Season Of My Heart”. The material consisted of all original Christmas/Seasonal songs I had written over the previous eight years. Bob Dick produced the album, who two years earlier had released his own solo Bluegrass Christmas CD “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy”. We decided we should put together a show to promote our respective releases. The initial concert featured The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band and Rick Lang & Friends (Bob Dick, Dave Dick, Roger Williams, Karen Lincoln and myself). We played at the Northbridge High School in Northbridge MA, and the Performing Arts Center in Stratham NH that first season.
After two years both venues ended and we needed to find a new place to bring our show. Bob made an arrangement to try it out in his church (Rockdale Congregational Church) in Northbridge MA, and it went over very well. I tried the same approach with my church in Brentwood NH with similar success. Meanwhile Amy Gallatin joined the show, expanding it to three acts. This helped broaden out the scope of material we could perform and things really took off from there. I continued to write new Christmas/Seasonal material to keep my part of the show fresh. This in turn led to the recording of my new Holiday album “That’s What I Love About Christmas”. Over time, interest in our Christmas Concert Tour continued to grow, and we added new venues in Glastonbury CT, Boxborough MA, and most recently Newburyport MA. The key the increased popularity of the Christmas Concert Tour is putting on a quality show year after year, which is why we spend the entire month of November rehearsing and working up new material. It is really a lot of fun and hope we can keep it going!

Posted:
Oct 17, 2016
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Song Pitching

Posted: October 17, 2016

With autumn at hand, comes heightened song pitching activity. For the most part, late fall/early winter is when a lot of Bluegrass bands and artists choose to record new projects. Accordingly this is the time of year when bands are looking for and sorting through material. October/November is when I check around to see who is still looking, and put my song pitching hat on. That being said, in the last decade or so it had been increasingly difficult to get song cuts. Many of today’s bands write a lot of their own material, which in turn lessens the need for outside sources. Also the number of writers pitching their catalog has grown over time. It is a very competitive process, and most of the top bands sort through hundreds of songs to select the few they will actually record. What that means is that your own songs need to be really good, as well as being appropriate for the artist you have in mind. As for me, this is motivation to write the very best songs you can.
For the most part I pitch songs to bands/artists I know and have a relationship with. You have to be patient, as this can be a very slow process. Even if a band likes one of your songs, it might not be a good fit for their current project. However there is always the possibility they might consider it for a future recording….you just never know. I think a lot of us tend to be pitching our newest songs, but we should never give up on some of our earlier compositions. A good example of this is that I just got an album title cut “Nightbird” by The Bankesters. This is a song I actually wrote 23 years ago. This is validation that you should never give up on a song if you really believe in it. Persistence rules!
Song pitching is sort of like fishing. Got to have your bait on the hook and your line in the water to have a chance of landing one!

Posted:
Sep 16, 2016
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IBMA Songwriter Committee

Posted: September 16, 2016

I’ve been fortunate to be on the IBMA Songwriter Committee for the last few years. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me personally, as we have accomplished a great deal to the benefit of our songwriter constituency. One of the most noteworthy was establishing an IBMA Songwriter Of The Year Award which is presented each year at the IBMA World Of Bluegrass. We also created the Songwriter Mentor Program. This is an opportunity for songwriters to be mentored by some of the most seasoned and accomplished songwriters in the Bluegrass genre.
The IBMA Songwriter Committee, over time, has significantly increased its presence at the IBMA World Of Bluegrass. At this year’s WOB we have nine Songwriter-Centric seminars/ events that will benefit songwriters, a breakdown as follows:

Publishing 101
Creating Well With Others
Turning Writers Block Into A Steppingstone
Musical Theatre For Bluegrass Songwriters
Song Critique Session
Getting Cuts And Getting Paid
Songwriter Showcase

Posted:
Jul 16, 2016
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Preparing for Podunk

Posted: July 16, 2016

This August will be my first opportunity to teach songwriting at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in Hebron CT, and am really looking forward to it. I had never actually been able to attend the festival previously as each year it conflicted with an annual summer family event. Back in February at the Joe Val Indoor Bluegrass Festival Roger Moss approached me about conducting a two day Songwriting Workshop at Podunk this summer and the idea really appealed to me. I have held workshops at music festivals in the past including Thomas Point Beach and Joe Val among others, but I never really had ample time to cover everything I had hoped to discuss. At Podunk I would teach two 1 1/2 hour workshops (on consecutive days), allowing me to cover a wide range of songwriter related topics.
Accordingly, I have been spending a little time each week game planning and preparing for Podunk. That includes writing an agenda for both days, creating handouts, choosing and rehearsing songs to play, making a list of things to bring etc. As always my goal first and foremost is to share important elements of songwriting I have learned over the years. As there will be some writers who are new at it, as well as some more experienced, I need to offer something to both.
The first day will be more covering some of the fundamentals like identifying the elements of a good song, developing good songwriting habits, saving your ideas, making time to write etc.
The second day we will focus on taking your songwriting skills to the next level, including re-writing, discipline, the value of co-writing, developing your own unique songwriting style, song demos, pitching songs and more. At both I will play a few songs, or pats if songs, that connect with the particular topic we’re discussing.
I really enjoy meeting and interacting with other writers at the workshops. In addition to the rewards of helping others, I always learn some new things along the way. Only wish workshops like this were available when I first became interested in songwriting some 30 years ago.

Posted:
May 17, 2016
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Writing “Ocean Theme” Songs

Posted: May 17, 2016

Seems like a lifetime ago when I first got the writing bug and began my journey to hopefully someday become a legit songwriter. In my early years I tried writing about themes that were popular, I thought people might enjoy hearing. Ended up with a lot of songs that seemed lifeless, with no emotion. For the life of me I could not understand why. Then one day I was given some good advice by a very successful songwriter…that changed my approach. He simply said “you should write what you know, or know about”. It was then when I realized what was wrong. I had spent years writing about things I really didn’t know anything about, or had experienced.
From that point on I did start writing about things I was familiar with. One of the themes involved the ocean. Living near the ocean all my life, it opened up the door to lots of great song ideas, some of which I developed over time, As a child I spent a great deal of time by the sea in the summer, and drew from some of those memories and experiences.

Some 25 years later I came to the realization that I had written a Collection of well over 30 songs whose themes had some connection to the ocean. It was obvious that I should consider recording a concept album including maybe a dozen or so of these numbers. Last fall the idea became a reality, and the creation of a new recorded work began.
The album’s working title is “The Undertow And Other Mysteries Of The Sea” . We’ve had three recording sessions to date, more to come, and are shooting for a release sometime in the summer of 2017.

Sing titles include:
Lighthouse
Keep The Light Burning Abby
You Are The Air Beneath My Wings
Young Sailor’s Dream
Treasures In The Sand
The Rising Tide
Massachusetts Turnpike
Shipwreck Of Love
Rye Harbour
The Undertow
Blood Red Sky
Widow’s Walk
The Marginal Way

Here are the lyrics to “Rye Harbour”

Rye Harbour
@Rick Lang

At sunrise in the Harbour, you can watch the ships set sail
Feel the breeze of the water, and taste the salty air

Seaweed and bits of driftwood lay washed up on the shore
When it’s clear you can look out
…..and see the Isles Of Shoals

Chorus
Seagulls hover overhead, you see them everywhere
The song they sing seems to fill the air

Ever since I can remember, this harbors’ been my home
Got sailors blood running’ through me
….It’s all I’ve ever known

Daddy used to take me with him, showed me how to knot a rope
Set the sail, adjust the riggin’
Chart a course….up and down the coast

Chorus
There is nothin’ like the freedom of the open sea
No other place on earth I’d rather be

The sun sets in the harbor, to end another day
When you look out at the horizon
……it will take your breath away

The beacon from Nubble Lighthouse, will guide the boats to shore
The fisherman will weigh their catch
…and make their way back home

Chorus
The evening tide rolls in to slowly wash away
Every trace it left from yesterday

Posted:
Mar 8, 2016
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My first co-write session…a look back

Posted: March 8, 2016

I was recently thinking back on my first co-writing session. It was very memorable to say the least….an experience I’ll never forget. In the spring of 2012 I was headed to Nashville for the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass Class. I was thrilled to have been accepted and really looked forward to the opportunity. I arrived a little early, having set up a songwriting appointment with Donna Ulisse. I had always hoped we could write together someday. Never having participated in a “real deal” co-write session with someone who does it all the time like Donna, I was understandably a bit nervous and somewhat anxious days before we met up. My plane landed at the Nashville Airport around 1:30 PM and we were to meet at 4:00 PM at her publishers office. I was staying at a hotel near the BMI building where the class was to be held….not far from where I was to meet up with Donna. I had not rented a car as I needed to economize and felt I could easily walk to my destinations. Overly optimistic!

Everything was going well until I left the hotel to meet up with Donna. Thought I allowed enough time and brought a hand held GPS to help me find my way. Somehow the GPS malfunctioned and kept leading me to the wrong place. A lot of the street names in that area are very similar. Time was flying by, I was running late, and getting tired from all that walking in the heat. Finally I got Donna on the phone and explained my dilemma. She guided me in and I was running full tilt by the time I got there, about an hour late…..out of breath and sweating profusely.
When I arrived, first person I met was Jerry Salley, one of my songwriting heroes. He had a co-write appointment cancelled earlier that day and just stopped by to say hello. Donna asked me if it was OK if Jerry joined us. My heart was pounding faster and faster. My first co-write would be with Donna Ulisse and Jerry Salley. Wow! On top of that Donna wanted to try & write a new song for her upcoming Christmas album. It was a surreal experience. Three hours later we finished writing “Morning In Bethlehem”, which was a featured cut on Donna’s acclaimed “All The Way To Bethlehem” release. Being part of that collaboration was a highlight for me personally. I was in the presence of greatness, witnessing how two of Bluegrass’ finest songwriters approach writing a song together. I learned a great deal about the co-writing process during that session and will be forever grateful to Donna and Jerry for that wonderful opportunity.

Posted:
Nov 24, 2015
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Christmas Concert Tour…Behind The Scenes

Posted: November 24, 2015

Well the Holiday Season is almost upon us that means preparing for our annual Christmas Concert Tour. Now in its 12th year, we are playing six shows in three states. The show features The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams, Rick Lang & Friends. All the shows are held in churches and have pretty much played for packed houses the last few years. We spend most of November rehearsing, and working in new material to keep the show fresh.
The tours beginnings go back to 2003 when I released my first Christmas CD “The Season Of My Heart”. The material consisted of all original Christmas/Seasonal songs I had written over the previous eight years. Bob Dick produced the album, who two years previously has released his own solo Bluegrass Christmas CD “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy”. We decided we should put together a show to promote our respective releases. The initial show featured The Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band and Rick Lang & Friends (Bob Dick, Dave Dick, Roger Williams, Karen Lincoln and myself). We played at the Northbridge High School in Northbridge MA, and the Performing Arts Center in Stratham NH that first season.
After two years both venues ended and we needed to find a new place to bring our show. Bob made an arrangement to try it out in his church (Rockdale Congregational Church) and it went over extremely well. I tried the same approach with my church in Brentwood NH with similar success. Meanwhile Amy Gallatin joined the show making it three acts. This helped broaden out the scope of material we could perform and things really took off from there. I needed to continue to write new Christmas material to keep my part of the show fresh. This in turn led to the recording of a new Holiday album “That’s What I Love About Christmas”.
Interest in our Christmas Concert Tour continues to grow, and we’ve added two new venues this season. The key to it all is putting on a quality show, which is why we spend the entire month of November rehearsing and working up new material. It is really a lot of fun and hope we can keep it going for years to come.

Posted:
Oct 19, 2015
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Children’s Songs

Posted: October 19, 2015

For the last several weeks I spent a good deal of time re-visiting a
collection of Children’s songs I started back in the summer of 2012.
Inspired by time spent with my three granddaughters, I first
developed an interest in attempting to write children’s songs after
taking my oldest granddaughter Amanda for a ride in my row boat
on a nearby pond.
We somehow got stuck in some lily pads (bad navigation on my
part) and saw a frog on one of them, naming her Lilly. On our way
back to shore we started singing a song about that frog that we
finished when we got home. That’s when I got the bug. At that point
in time, for whatever reason, I started to see the world through a
child’s eyes and came up with lots of interesting song ideas. Some
were written by myself, some with Amanda and one of my other
granddaughters Abigail.
I continued to write every day that summer/fall, and ended up with
over three dozen songs in this new collection. Most of them I wrote
on a Uke which lent itself well to the style of music I was shooting
for. It recently occurred to me we should really find a way to record
some of these tunes. One thing led to another, and I am now in the
planning stage to record my first children’s album. The working
album title is “Walk Like A Penguin” ….which is the title of one of
the songs. Makes for a nice visual! Working on this collection of
tunes has been a lot of fun as well as challenging. It’s all new ground
for me as a songwriter. Still have some fine tuning and editing to do
to get them “recording ready”. Hope to start sometime in 2016, first
need to find a producer and place to record. That’s it for now, more
to come