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Posted:
Jun 2, 2015
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Re-writing

Posted: June 2, 2015

Been slacking off on the Blog posts far too long, got some catching up to do. Don’t know where the spring went, but it’s come and gone. Most of my music time in the last few months has been focused on re-writing. There are several songs I’d written, finished or nearly finished, that still needed work. I can tell when I’ve got a tune just the way I envisioned it, or if it falls short. There are a few I was totally happy with years ago, but now I hear differently. Really don’t know why that is. It would be easier just to let them be, but I feel that would be a disservice to the song. So for about two to three hours each day I would take one of them and try to improve it. In some cases I would need to create a whole new music setting to the lyric, taking the tune in a totally new direction. Sometimes it would be about tweaking lines, or adding a new part. Whatever it takes to make the song complete.
Rewriting songs is a very important part of the process, at least for me. Every now and then I lose track of that. The key is recognizing that there is still work to be done, and not giving up on the song until it is the very best it can be. I find that letting a song alone for a prolonged period of time is very helpful.
I can revisit the tune with fresh eyes and ears, and a clear mind. Over time this has served me well, producing some pretty good results, and would highly recommend to any songwriter. I do not want to have doubts or second thoughts about any songs I hope to record or pitch.
Also should mention that there are instances where I would have two distinctly different versions of the same song, and I like ‘em both. Some songs can keep changing and evolving over time. It’s all a part of the creative process and I’m totally good with that.

Posted:
Mar 5, 2015
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Freelance Writing

Posted: March 5, 2015

This winter I have kept busy working on some new articles for Bluegrass Unlimited. In addition to songwriting, I have always enjoyed other forms of creative writing. One of them has been free lance writing for Bluegrass Unlimited and other music publications. It started about twenty five years ago writing for Cuzin’ Isaacs Bluegrass Gazette, for the Connecticut publication Northern Bluegrass, and Candy Sawyer’s Bluegrass Guide. Also during that time I’ve written occasional feature articles for Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, something I continue to do to this day.
The last couple of years I have focused more on songwriters including Jerry Salley, Donna Ulisse, and most recently started working up a feature on Becky Buller. The next article I’ll have published will be on Stephen Mougin and Dark Shadow Recording that is scheduled to come out in BU in the April issue. Hopefully there will be many more to come.

Posted:
Feb 9, 2015
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Songwriting Workshops

Posted: February 9, 2015

This week I’m ramping up for a couple songwriting workshops at the Joe Val Indoor Bluegrass Festival the weekend of Feb 13th.
One again I will be conducting a workshop on co-writing with Dawn Kenney. Last year’s workshop was great, lots of interest, and met several other area writers for the first time. My catalog of co-writes has been growing in recent years, resulting in a few more song cuts. This is a great opportunity for me to encourage others to pursue collaborating with other writers, and discuss the benefits as well as various approaches to co-writing.
The other workshop will be with Ted DeMille on writing Bluegrass Gospel songs. Very excited to work with Ted, who I have written with for many years. We have had a few of our songs recorded, including some Gospel numbers. Gospel music is a very important element of Bluegrass music and it is essential that we add new songs as time goes on. Gospel will always be a big part of my own songwriting and look forward to share what I have learned with other writers on the subject.

Posted:
Jan 23, 2015
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New Year…New Resolution

Posted: January 23, 2015

Each January I always do some soul searching and a general review of the previous year, inevitably, making a few New Years Resolutions. This is also the time of year I look for sources of inspiration to ramp up and elevate my game. My focus right now is to find more time to write in 2015. That involves making songwriting a priority again, and an integral part of my daily routine and schedule. Like a lot of writers, I may start off with the greatest of intentions, but something always comes up to derail my plans.
I am going to fit in some time to write each and every day, and to collaborate more with other writers. In the last couple years I have created a growing list of new song ideas that I am very excited about. Trouble is I have not taken the next step and started to develop the ideas. Hopefully I can turn things around and have a more productive year with a lot of new songs to demo and pitch.
Last few years I dropped the ball pitching songs to bands. Plan to be more aggressive on that front as well. It’s good to have ambitious goals and set your sights high. A year from now I’ll look back and see how things played out. Time will tell!

Posted:
Dec 5, 2014
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The Christmas Season

Posted: December 5, 2014

Well December is here once again and the time when I start focusing on Christmas music. For the 15 years or so I have incorporated writing, as well as recording, Christmas songs as an integral part of my songwriting game plan. It is a niche I really enjoy and look forward to each season. The very first Christmas song I composed was “I Dreamed That I Was There”. That eventually led me to record my first Christmas/Seasonal album release “The Season Of My Heart” in 2003. Since then I have added new tunes each year building my catalog to more than 60 original Christmas/Seasonal compositions. To this point I have recorded about 1/3 of them….ten on the newest CD release “That’s What I Live About Christmas”. At some point I would like to demo some of these and pitch a few to artists looking for original Christmas songs to record. I also keep an ongoing list of new song ideas and try to write at least one (or more) new Christmas song during each winter season. I have better luck at it this time of year when there is snow on the ground and a chill in the air…..inspired by the Winter Wonderland. I also spend time every day listening to my very large collection of Christmas classics and personal Seasonal favorites for inspiration. Hopefully I have more Christmas/Seasonal songs in me….time will tell!

Posted:
Nov 14, 2014
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Harvest Song Collection

Posted: November 14, 2014

With Thanksgiving around the corner and Autumn in full swing, it’s time to re-visit my “Harvest” song collection. Several years ago I wrote a couple songs to celebrate Thanksgiving, as it is one of my very favorite Holidays. Over time I started adding a few more that have “fall” themes ….focusing on things that happen between Labor Day and the first of December.
So a new tradition developed that each November I would try to add to the collection. So far I have around twenty songs that I hope to record someday. One of them I wrote with my granddaughter Amanda “Thanksgiving Day” which we included on her very first album entitled “A Song in My Heart”
I also started collaborating with my good friend George Claborn who brought some very cool claw hammer banjo to the collection. This resulted in three new tunes, two of which are instrumentals.
Have a list of new song ideas to work on, here are a few of the titles of ones that are finished:

Autumn Wind
Thanksgiving Prayer
Apple Picking Time
Bountiful Fruits Of The Harvest
Dance Of The Falling Leaves
Wishbone
Barn Dance
Sow A Little Love
Thankful
Leftover Turkey Blues
Plymouth Rock
Home, Family and Friends
Hay Ride
Harvest Of The Heart
Thanksgiving Day

Posted:
Nov 6, 2014
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Concert rehearsals coming up!

Posted: November 6, 2014

Well, November’s here and that means our annual Christmas concert tour is right around the corner. Since 2003 the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band, Rick Lang And Friends, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams have been putting on a New England Christmas Concert tour, that includes five concerts in three states. This is the month when we start rehearsing, shaking off the rust, and learning the songs for our upcoming shows. Some will be ones we’ve done before, and will add some new material keep the shows fresh. We usually rehearse at Bob Dick’s church in Northbridge MA on Sunday afternoons. We’ll definitely plan to include tunes from the new Christmas album, as well as my first Christmas release “The Season Of My Heart”. Lots to learn and catch up on as we usually perform as many as 30 songs collectively. The Concert tour starts right after Thanksgiving so better get cracking!

Posted:
Oct 23, 2014
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October Wrap Up

Posted: October 23, 2014

October was a very busy and exciting month starting out with the release of “That’s What I Love About Christmas” on 10/7. Been working around the clock getting the word out to the press and music to radio. Response has been very encouraging so far, starting to receive some terrific album reviews.
Several changes have been made to the to the website to accommodate the new Christmas CD, which is now available there as well as iTunes and CD Baby and Amazon. Got the first orders in the mail last week….very cool!

On the songwriting front just received notice of a couple new song cuts…..gotta love that. Had the opportunity to do a little co-writing during my recent trip to Nashville. Put the finishing touches on a new tune I wrote with Donna Ulisse, also while I was in town conducted an interview with Becky Buller for an article I am writing about her for Bluegrass Unlimited.
Can’t forget to mention I spent one day with producer Stephen Mougin mapping out a new story song album we hope to start recording in December. More on that later. Still have a lot of loose ends and follow up to do from WOB and the Nashville trip. That should keep me busy for the next week or so.

That’s about it for now. Livin’ the dream…..life is good!

Posted:
Sep 17, 2014
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The Story Behind “That’s What I Love About Christmas”

Posted: September 17, 2014

NewChristmasRelease

It has been twelve years since the release of “The Season Of My Heart,” my first Christmas album. Every winter since then I have continued to write new Christmas and Seasonal material.

In the spring of 2013 I sent work tapes of a couple of the tunes to my good friend & producer Stephen Mougin with the idea of demo-ing the songs. At that point I thought it would be a few years before I attempted recording another Christmas album.

Upon listening to the songs, Stephen suggested they might sound nice with a jazz treatment. That approach was new to me…. as most of my songwriting to that point had been pretty much acoustic bluegrass & gospel oriented.

We agreed to give it a shot. Stephen then assembled a jazz trio featuring Todd Parks on Bass, Chris Brown on drums, Pat Bergeson on guitar and recorded “Christmas Every Day Of The Year” and “Looks Like Snow,” with Stephen singing on both. What happened next changed everything.

The new approach sounded very natural for both numbers. I had never envisioned the songs sounding liked that ….but absolutely loved it. That’s when the ideas of recording a full Christmas album came to light.

 

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Stephen went ahead and selected songs from my Christmas/Seasonal catalog to record, some of which would need to be re-written and/or re-arranged with more of a jazz feel. During that time period Stephen and I got together and wrote “That’s What I Love About Christmas” which turned out to be the title cut.

There were four recording sessions in all, that took place from March to May of 2013. The performances were really incredible especially considering it was all recorded live. Later we would add some harmony and background vocal parts on a few of the tunes. The making of this album was a joy from beginning to end. It was a fresh new sound, a contrast to any album I had recorded in the past. In the process we were able to capture the feel of some of the classic Christmas standards of the ’30s and ’40s.

- Rick Lang

Posted:
Sep 17, 2014
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Christmas Album Sound Bites

Posted: September 17, 2014

“Home Made Christmas”

This song is based on real life experience. When I was growing up we went through some pretty lean years when we didn’t have enough money to buy each other presents for Christmas. Not to be deterred, we would make homemade gifts with whatever we could find. I remember one year when I went into the woods and cut a small white birch tree to make candleholders for my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts & uncles. Thinking back on those times was the inspiration for writing “Home Made Christmas.”

“That’s What I Love About Christmas”

I had been doing some co-writing with my producer Stephen Mougin for a couple of years or so. I was over his house one afternoon before we started recording the Christmas album for a songwriting session. Out of the blue he said let’s write a Christmas song and started playing this very cool jazz chord progress on his guitar. Only took a few hours and we finished writing “That’s What I Love About Christmas.” This is the first “real deal” jazz song I’d ever written, and became the title cut of the new album. Stephen is an incredible guitarist, and to this day I have no idea what chords he was playing when we wrote that song….just that there were lots of them!

Background Singers

One very unique thing about this record is that we used background singers on three of the numbers. It is a throwback to the old days, reminiscent of how they were used on artists’ recordings like Ray Charles among others. We were fortunate to get three phenomenal vocalists for the project: Andrea Merritt, Scat Springs, and Vicki Hampton. They have all performed and recorded with some of the top names in the music industry and are “crazy good.” They added so much to this album…. I can’t thank them enough!

Recorded Live

Still hard for me to grasp, but this Christmas album was recorded pretty much live in three sessions with very few “fixes.” All the musicians on this album are truly incredible… some of the most outstanding in their field. We would just record two or three takes of each song and pick the best one. I was able to attend one of the sessions and was totally blown away with what I heard. It was a treat to the ear!

Jazz Trio

One thing that amazed me that most of these songs were recorded with a jazz trio…. just three musicians. One consisted of Electric guitar, bass and drums, the other piano bass and drums. With only three instruments, they succeeded in creating a full and complete sound. That was completely new to me. I have so much respect and admiration for all the musicians on the album…. it cannot be measured.

Demos

Hard as it is to believe, two of the songs on the album are actually demos. Both “Looks Like Snow” and “Christmas Every Day Of The Year” were recorded as demos so I could pitch them to other bands/performers. When I first heard them I fell off my chair they sounded so good. That’s when the idea of recording a full Christmas album came to be. We kept both songs exactly as they were originally recorded, just adding background vocals to one of them.

“Snowfall”

“Snowfall” was one of the only instrumentals I’d ever written. It was originally titled “Inspiration” and written for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Years later I was listening to the tune in my studio when it started snowing outside and I re-named it “Snowfall”. I never thought we’d actually ever record the song…. but I guess you just never know.

“Christmas Every Day Of The Year”

This song was written as an up-tempo swing number and appeared on my first Christmas release “The Season Of My Heart.” When we were considering songs for the new album, Stephen thought it work well slowed way down with a jazz feel. Turned out to be a great idea!

“Looks Like Snow”

This is actually the first Seasonal song I ever wrote where I was able to capture the that feel of some of the Christmas classics from the ’30s and 40′s. It came about when I was thinking back to my childhood and remembering what it was like just before a big snowstorm. All we had in our home was a small transistor radio to listen to listen for the weather. When our dad heard snow was coming he’d rush outside to made sure everything was put away, get the snow shovels out, and bring in some more firewood. Sometimes we did’t get much notice.
My brothers, sister and I all all got very excited as we love the snow and there was always the chance school would be called off the next day. Those were truly wonderful times in my life and glad I was able to capture it in song.

Performers

One of the most interesting aspects of this recording project is that I was not familiar with or had never met most of the musicians and singers who performed. Conversely most did not know me as well. It was the songs and music that brought us together, and we will forever be connected.

Piano

I had never recorded an album featuring piano before, but was very excited about the idea. Stephen brought in Joe Davidian, one of the hottest young jazz pianists in Nashville for the sessions. He is amazing! We recorded four songs in one afternoon and every take was breathtaking. Joe, thank you so much!

On Writing Christmas Songs

As a songwriter one of my greatest passions is writing Christmas and Seasonal songs. I draw inspiration from listening to my vast collection of Christmas albums and re-visiting old family Christmas photos. When winter rolls around I usually spend most of December and January working on new material. My Christmas song catalog is substantial (over 60 songs) and I am adding to it every year. I’ve recorded two Christmas albums to date, and am planning yet another somewhere down the line. Someday I’d like to host a songwriting workshop on writing Christmas and Seasonal material. As my mom would say “if it was meant to be, it will happen”

Christmas Concert Tour

Since the release of “The Season Of My Heart” in 2003, I have been part of an annual Christmas Concert Tour in the New England area.
Starting out as one show a year in Northbridge MA, it has grown to a six concert tour in three states (NH, MA, CT)….. Usually the first two weekends in December. The show consists of three acts: Blackstone Valley Bluegrass, Amy Gallatin & Roger Williams, and Rick Lang & Friends. All the concerts take place in churches, and we continue to draw a large audience wherever we play. In my part of the show we perform my original Christmas numbers. As I am always coming up with tunes, it is a great way test them out in front of a live audience.