Music, Outdoor Living

Things No One On This Planet (Bluegrass) Knows

This past summer, my wife and I attended the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. The Friday lineup caught my eye (ears) so we got there around noon and enjoyed the full afternoon and evening lineup.

Los Lobos and Jeff Tweedy were the artists I was most familiar with, having seen them both multiple times, and most excited to see (again). And certainly the Wolves from East L.A. and the mastermind behind Wilco delivered awesome sets late in the evening. But the artist that captured me most that day was Mary Gauthier (pronounced Go-shay).

IMG_2559I’ve heard Mary on KPIG often, with “Mercy Now” – the title song off her acclaimed 2005 album – getting frequent airplay there. But beyond the KPIG exposure, I wasn’t all that familiar with Mary herself. When we were planning our RMFF trip, I re-familiarized myself with her. In that process I learned of her most recent efforts with Dardin Smith and the Songwriting With Soldiers organization that resulted in Mary recording “Rifles & Rosary Beads,” an album of songs written with and inspired by veterans and their families. As Mary describes the songwriting process, “…it gets the stories from people who served, and puts them in a way that everyone can understand and then serves them back. So that we can see what these men and women have sacrificed and what their service means.”

The stories…the songs…are not easy. They – and the art behind them – “tell truths that are hard to tell,” says Mary. As one of her veteran co-writers said, he was able to tell Mary “things no one on this planet knows” but at the same time said those sharing moments offered “flickers of hope” toward emotional and psychological healing. “The War After The War,” as one of the songs on the album describes.

Mary sang several songs off the “Rifles & Rosary Beads” album during her set at the RMFF and told about the people and the stories behind the songs. The album is raw and emotional. Delivered live, to 4,000 of your best friends, outdoors, in the beautiful sandstone canyons at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the songs became even more compelling and real. Mary calls the Songwriting With Soldiers organization and her resulting “Rifles & Rosary Beads” album “spiritual patriotism” and that certainly summed up the feeling I had that afternoon. But not just me – it was evident with the rapt attention of the crowd as well. And, when Mary closed her set with Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” the ensuing sing-along – echoing off the canyon walls – well, that was a magical moment, indeed. I hope the words, pictures and videos I’m sharing here give you some sense of that special afternoon.

IMG_2561 XMary was kind enough to do a meet-and-greet after her set. I had the privilege of meeting her, talking to her about KPIG and Guy Clark (she referenced him during her set) and thanking her in person for her performance there and her efforts with Songwriting With Soldiers and “Rifles & Rosary Beads.” She was as inspiring in person as she was on stage.

I’ve purposely waited until Veterans Day to share this across my various personal and business social media platforms. Certainly, I want to thank all veterans for their sacrifices for our country and us. Thank you! But, as Songwriting With Soldiers and Mary Gauthier and many others associated with that fine organization point out, today’s “thank you-s” are not the only thing…and aren’t enough of a thing…to support our veterans, day in and day out. That’s particularly true for the days out…the days beyond active service…the days they begin fighting the “War After The War.” Families bear the brunt of this – they deserve our “thank you-s” as well. Thank you!

But, “truths that are hard to tell,” none of this is enough. Our VA system is overloaded. Too many of our mental health systems are failing our veterans…and even everyday citizens. Too many “thank you-s” ring hollow after Veterans Day. And yet, we keep asking more from our veterans and their families…another tour of duty, another deployment, more risk, more “things no one on this planet knows.” One has to ask:  where does it end and how does it end?

I don’t claim to have the answers and I don’t t claim to be an expert on veteran affairs. And in fact, I am not a veteran myself. But I do know – because I felt it that afternoon in Lyons, CO, and every time I listen to “Rifles and Rosary Beads” – that efforts like those of Songwriting With Soldiers are part of the answer. So we should also support them and thank them for their efforts with veterans.  As private citizens, the least we can do is have awareness, offer support and thanks and…vote accordingly (since Election Day is still fresh on our minds at this Veterans Day).

If this interests you or has been compelling enough, I would highly encourage you to listen to and then purchase Mary Gauthier’s “Rifles and Rosary Beads.”  A portion of every sale goes to Songwriting With Soldiers. Or, you can donate directly at their web site (if you decide to just stream). Or, at least thank them for their efforts. Veterans appreciate that, too.

Thank you, Mary Gauthier and Songwriting With SoldiersAnd, thank you, veterans and your families.  Happy Veterans Day!

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Archadeck of Central Iowaon the webin Central Iowa backyards

Team ArchadeckGo Outside and Play…Loud!

Music, Outdoor Living

Time That Is…Christmas. Again. Already.

Its That Time.   That was a theme of my last post here just over a year ago.

Time That Is.  That is the theme of my post here now…a year later.

Time that is…gone. A year has gone by and a lot has transpired in my indoor, outdoor, personal and professional life over this past year. I can’t get the time back and I’m not going to fill in the blanks here, either, other than to say that a personal tragedy affected our family earlier this year and gave me a vivid reminder of how precious time and life are. So, the long gap between posts here…the time gone here…that’s why. As it always does, music helps me get thru. As does getting outdoors. I did both; I just didn’t have time to write about it…at the time.

As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds.” So, the time that is…now…is a better time. I’ve reflected and re-charged and life proceeds with new, hopefully better, perspectives. As it should. And with that, we’ll re-charge this convergence of outdoor living and music. Since we left off at the holiday season last year, its only appropriate that we’re re-starting from there again this year.

timbertech_logoLast year, it was Dewalt tools that provided a surprising convergence of outdoor living and music…seasonal/holiday music. This year, TimberTech provided a more obvious, yet subtle, connection between outdoor living and music. TimberTech is an industry leader in low-maintenance, wood-alternative decking and railing systems. They are a preferred supplier to our Archadeck franchise system and we’ve incorporated a lot (a lot!) of their products in our Central Iowa deck and porch projects over the years. This holiday season, TimberTech ran a Facebook promotion called the #12DaysofDeckmas tt12-01 themed after the classic holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” On Day 9 they asked for favorite holiday songs and on Day 11 they asked for favorite winter activities (outdoors); just two examples connected to our “convergence” theme here. You can see the entire 12-day thread and all responses at TimberTech’s Facebook page. A summary of the campaign can be seen with the  shares we did of each day’s post on our Archadeck of Central Iowa Facebook page.

Unfortunately, there is no real music to listen to in any of that TimberTech #12DaysofDeckmas campaign. There is a connection to the classic “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, but no real song. That’s OK with me, really…some of the old, traditional holiday songs have grown old for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and its traditions…musically and otherwise. But I much prefer newer, contemporary arrangements and even new songs – with a little rock and blues and country and rap – thrown into my holiday mix. The “A Very Special Christmas” series, beginning with Volume 1 in 1987, started this for me and broadly defines my preference for holiday music.


paulkelly_book_645_normalI’ve branched out even further over the years, finding such gems as Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy” and kg-jingle Kevin Gordon’s “Jingle Bell Jezebel.” Every year, it seems, there are new holiday music discoveries…new bands, new songs.  This year’s find: “Its Christmastime” by a band called The Empty Hearts.


Which brings us back to…time that is. Its Christmastime. Merry Christmas, all! See you next year (before Christmas).

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Music, Outdoor Living

Nothing More Than a Christmas Wish


DeWALT Tools and Archadeck. Better Building. By Design.

In my first post here back in February 2015, I noted that I am not the builder, per se, of the decks, porches and patio spaces Archadeck has developed around Central Iowa.  But I do own a couple of tools and our building crews certainly own lots of tools.  Many of those tools are DeWALT.  Through various Archadeck connections like this, I follow several trade partners and organizations and as a result various “things” show up in my Inbox, Facebook and Twitter feeds on a regular basis.   This week there was a promotion for DeWALT’s ToughSystem Music system being integrated into their Storage Product Family.  In other words, a boom box within a tool box!  With this promotion was an offer to download music by a band called “The Alternate Routes”…a song called “When The Whistle Blows.”

The-Flintstones Clock

Yabba Dabba Do!

Did someone say “music?”  And that someone was…DeWALT?   They’re known for good, solid tools for good, solid builders building good, solid structures like Archadeck’s decks, porches and patios.  But…good, solid music?   Hmmm.   But the song is called “When The Whistle Blows” and the title took me back to Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble getting off work at the quarry.  That’s good and solid!  So, how could I not download this?   Great marketing, DeWALT and Alternate Routes!

Alt Routes - Nothing More - Cover

Alternate Routes – Nothing More

Now I’ve discovered the awesome versatility, artistry and musicianship of The Alternate Routes and I’m glad for it.  These guys are good.  I’d recommend putting them in the playlists you stream into your indoor and outdoor living spaces; they’ve been added to mine.  Why did I not know of them before?   I’ve learned they aren’t “new,” they’ve been around for nearly a decade and have several albums out…even a 5-song Christmas EP (the seasonal aspect) they released last year called “Its That Time.”   A new album is coming soon with the new “When The Whistle Blows” song.  But, they never hit my radar – which I consider fairly sharp – until this recent DeWALT ad.  I love these kinds of musical discoveries and all the alternate routes these discoveries take.  If I’m not designing and having Archadeck decks, porches and pergolas built by good, strong builders using good, strong Dewalt tools, I probably don’t find this good, strong music and this convergence of outdoor living and music doesn’t happen.

Slide15Not only was this discovery timely from a seasonal aspect…”Its That Time”…Christmas time, its also timely from a cultural aspect.  Their song, “Nothing More,” from their most recent, same-titled album, was inspired by support for Newtown Kindness, a program developed after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, MA, in 2013 to promote kindness in children.  The song is still very poignant given the world’s mood these days.  This Christmas holiday season is that time of religious celebration and that time to cherish the memories of a past year and look hopefully forward to a new year.  Despite the world’s mood, we will still find joy in – and maybe appreciate more – all the traditional ways we celebrate this season.  Holiday music will be the soundtrack to a lot of this for many of us.  But this year, I think we need “Nothing More” in rotation as much as “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Joy To The World.”  So, my Holiday Greeting to you comes from the chorus of “Nothing More” (and the verses are just as good):

We are Love
We are One
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are Peace
We are War
We are how we treat each other and Nothing More

Go outside and give it a listen.  Turn it up loud for all your neighbors to hear…for the world to hear.  Merry Christmas, and have yourself a very glorious and happy holiday season and a great 2016.

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Music, Outdoor Living

More Music and Outdoor Spaces While The Kids Were Long Time Gone in Colorado

To my company, Archadeck of Central Iowa, “Outdoor Living” is certainly centered around the decks, porches, patios and other outdoor spaces, rooms and accessories we design and build for our Des Moines area clients.

But, “outdoor living” encompasses much more. My definition of “outdoor living?” Whatever it is you do to enjoy the great outdoors…whatever it is you do to get outside and live and breathe in the fresh air. It could be a nice family gathering on your deck. But, it could also be fishing, hunting, boating, biking, skiing, running, hiking or swimming. It could be listening to music or a concert…outdoors. It could be going to a sporting event (football, baseball, soccer, auto racing, etc.)…outdoors. It could be any number of other outdoor activities you enjoy and pursue in your life.

Outdoor(s). Living. Converging with. Music.

Slide5My wife and I were recently on vacation in Colorado. We love Colorado for its outdoor spaces…mountains, streams and lakes, crisp air and the beautiful scenery…and we vacation there often. Colorado vacations are relaxing for us, but in a very active way. We enjoy hiking the trails in and around Rocky Mountain National Park and, for the first time, on this trip we took our bikes with us and did some biking as well. Iowa hills suddenly seem so much easier.

A concert by the band Wilco at Red Rocks Amphitheater was added impetus for this Slide6particular trip. We stayed at a lovely guest house west of Morrison for a couple of days before that show. The beautiful home had two features that quickly brought us back home, figuratively: a patio area featuring a sunken firepit and seating area, and an English Cream Golden Retriever named Aston who was the spitting image and personality of our own English Cream Golden Retriever, Hiatt (named after singer-songwriter John Hiatt) who remained at home. The firepit and the happy dog were nice endings to days filled with biking and Wilco’s music.


On the day of the Wilco show, my wife and I rode our bikes outside Evergreen, CO. When we got back to the park where we started, my wife asked a young couple nearby if they would take our picture.  Through introductions, we learned they – Matt Butcher and Tree Read – were musicians from East Nashville and were in the area to

Thanks for the picture, Matt & Tree!

Thanks for the picture, Matt & Tree!

also go to the Wilco show. I told Matt I follow/enjoy the East Nashville music scene. I asked him if he knew Kevin Gordon, an East Nashville musician I’ve followed since his days playing around Iowa in the mid-90’s in a band called the Rockodiles, post his days at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. Matt said he did and plays at some of the clubs Kevin plays – including the former (soon to be again) Family Wash where I saw Kevin play last fall while attending an Archadeck meeting in Nashville. Matt and Tree gave us their band/music information and I was excited to later learn that Matt and his band, the Schoolyard Boys, opened for the Avett Brothers on a few shows earlier this spring. Matt obviously has a good thing going there! I bought and downloaded Matt and his Schoolyard Boys CD, “The Kids Are Gone,” and have enjoyed this fun, straight-ahead, rock-and-roll CD. As for Tree…not overlooking her, just haven’t had time to get there yet…but will. As for Kevin Gordon…more in a minute.

For my musical dollar, Wilco at Red Rocks is about as good as it gets today. Neither Red Rocks nor Wilco disappointed. A light rain let up just before the show started. Wilco was awesome. A 30-song set, including 2 encores, the second of which was acoustic and heavily influenced by the fact that it was Woody Guthrie’s birthday, ending with Wilco’s classic, “Misunderstood.” There was nothing to be misunderstood here. It was a perfect evening of music…outdoors…between some beautiful red rocks.


Back to Kevin Gordon…there was a second Kevin Gordon, “small world” encounter on our Colorado trip; a sure dose of good karma for his upcoming new album, “Long Gone Time.” Later in the week, we stayed near the southern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park and the St. Vrain River canyon that leads to Lyons, CO. My wife and I were picking up lunch at the St. Vrain Market in Lyons one day. While waiting in line to check out, a guy approached me and said “Kevin Gordon?”  IMG_3941At first I was confused, but then remembered…I was wearing my Kevin Gordon Gloryland t-shirt.  Through introductions and a brief chat, I learned that Jeremy was also from Des Moines and is a way-back fan of Kevin Gordon’s, too. Jeremy was in Lyons for the weekend for one of the many musical festival weekends there at Planet Bluegrass. Thanks for the “heads up,” Jeremy; I need to pay more attention to Planet Bluegrass. I think it could be the impetus for a future Colorado trip!

IMG_0753One week in the great outdoors they call Colorado. Biking and hiking. A great patio, fire pit and mountain stream to end the days with. A chance encounter with Matt Butcher and Tree Read. An awesome Wilco show at Red Rocks. Two Kevin Gordon, small world, encounters. And if all that wasn’t perfect enough…Wilco followed their Red Rocks Slide10show with a free digital release of a new album,“Star Wars,” further staking their (my) claim as the best damn, coolest, band on the planet right now. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out and buy Matt Butcher’s and Kevin Gordon’s music. Pretty damn good, there, too. Just different damn goods. Take the money you saved with the free download of Wilco’s “Star Wars” and put it towards Matt Butcher or Kevin Gordon. Or both. Or…as Wilco sings…”More.”

KG Cover MBSB Cover Wilco Cover

Go Outside and Listen!

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Archadeck of Central Iowaon the webin Central Iowa backyards

Music, Outdoor Living

Outdoor Living. Outdoor Letterman.

Late Show Ed Sullivan TheatreAs the Late Show with David Letterman winds down (3 shows left this week, then…out), I am recalling the great musical moments Dave and bandleader, Paul Schaeffer, brought us thru their shows. No talk show has ever brought musical talent onto a network TV stage the way Dave and Paul did. From Tom Waits to the Foo Fighters. From Dolly Parton to Darlene Love. From B.B. King to Warren Zevon to Lou Reed (RIP). A to Z. All artists. All genres. Below the radar. Above the radar. And for the last 22 years, all from the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater where The Beatles made their first TV appearance back in February of 1964.

John Hiatt - Perfectly Good GuitarOne of my favorite memories was one of John Hiatt in a 1994 appearance after the New York Rangers had won (or were playing – and did win) the Stanley Cup. He played a rockin’ version of Cross My Fingers off his latest Perfectly Good Guitar album and changed the “cross my fngers” lyrics in the chorus at the end to “let’s go Rangers.” He had Paul and the band and the audience jamming and jumping along as well. Felicia loved it! And I can’t believe this is up on YouTube – check it out, its pure Live on Letterman.

Live On LettermanSpeaking of…in 1997, they produced a Live on Letterman CD which barely – as it only could do – captured the essence of the quality and breadth of the show’s musical guests. I often wondered why there wasn’t a volume 2, 3, 99, etc., but on the other hand…where does it stop? With the explosion of the internet and social media and YouTube and live streaming, in 2009 it reformed as the Live on Letterman online concert webcast series.

Several years ago, I used to keep a VCR tape in my VCR recorder (I did say it was several years ago – several!) and I’d tape many of the musical acts on the show. I’ve got that same Cross My Fingers video on one of those tapes. I’ve always intended to transfer or otherwise turn those into more modern digital formats, but…someday.

So…the convergence of outdoor living and music…and Letterman?

Outdoor Living. Outdoor Letterman. Dave – and Paul – we’re going to miss you, your late shows and the music you brought us. Now, go outside and play. Loud.

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Archadeck of Central Iowaon the webin Central Iowa backyards

Music, Outdoor Living

The Convergence of Cable Rail and Rock ‘n Roll

OK…I’m finally going to do this. On February 24th, 2015, I am finally doing this.

Feeney Cable Rail

Feeney Cable Rail

Why now? Because in the last 12 hours I’ve come across two prime examples of what I want to do here. And with a 58th birthday looming in 2 days, I’m really not getting any younger.

What do I want to do here?   I want to capture the convergence of two big interests in my life.  Not the only two…but two:

What have I been waiting for? To be honest, I have higher priority things to do. The Archadeck business is consuming. Plus, it helps pay the bills and put food on the table…and albums on my turntable, CD’s in my players and bits and bytes in iTunes. While I am not getting any younger, I hope to be a long way from conceding rock and roll to age. Its only rock and roll, but I like it…as long as I’m breathing. I breathe a lot of Archadeck, outdoor air. But the soundtrack to that and my life as a whole, is the music I like. So here I want to share that, primarily as it relates to Archadeck | Outdoor Living.

How does music and outdoor living converge? Maybe only in my head. But, tag along for the ride if you like music and/or being outdoors. I’ll try to keep it as simple as that. It might be music that you might consider listening to when outside on your deck, patio or porch. It might be music about being outdoors…or music that has an “outdoor feel.” It might be music or related videos that feature outdoor spaces (like what I’m introducing below). It might be anything. It seemed like a good idea over a year ago when I registered the “Outdoor Living Space Notes” blog name. It still seems like a good idea…and finally time to launch it.

But first, the count…set the beat…


I’m not a builder. I own the business – Archadeck of Central Iowa – and my role there is focused on design, sales, marketing, project management and business management. In other words…everything but building the spaces. I own a couple of tools. But, I’m better off letting professionally-skilled builders make those spaces I design. I really enjoy molding a business around the outdoor art we create as a team…a band, if you like.


Fender-American-Standard-Stratocaster-MNBK_01I’m not a musician….or in any way associated with the music business. With the exception that I do – thru Archadeck of Central Iowa – sponsor KFMG 98.9, a local independent, community-minded radio station here in Des Moines – and an awesome station at that. I have what I consider to be a decent album and CD collection and I own a couple of guitars.   Many years ago, I was well along self-teaching myself how to put those 3-chords together on a red guitar….a guitar autographed by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. But, I never got much beyond 3 chords, even though I also bought a black Fender Stratocaster.  I thought the Strat would help me a) be more like Eric Clapton and b) keep the autographs intact on the red guitar. It achieved the latter, but I eventually realized I was better off letting skilled musicians make the music I enjoy. Plus, that’s better on my liver. I really enjoy listening to music (live and recorded) and following the process of creating musical art.   I’m enamored with the creative process, what motivates and inspires a song…a musician…a band. I also often relate that to the creative process I go thru in my professional life and what motivates and inspires me in that business – as well as what motivates and inspires my “listening audience” – our clients.


I truly did just come across these two “pieces” of music in the last 12 hours, popping up on the various social media channels I’m on. They both hit me as perfect for what I envisioned for these “Outdoor Living Space Notes.” In combination, they seemed perfect way to kick this thing off. So here we go…

DBT Dirt XDrive-By Truckers (DBT). I’ve followed this band since they played the first 80/35 Music Festival here in downtown Des Moines in 2008. Jason Isbell split from the band a few years later and went solo very successfully; just saw an awesome show by Jason last week at Hoyt Sherman Auditorium here. I just got tickets to see the DBT at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City in May on their (acoustic-oriented) The Dirt Underneath tour; very much looking forward to that. All these guys (and gals) are real. Southern-tinged Americana. So, click here and see, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley from DBT singing…outdoors…on the back porch.  In fact, we could all just hang out for these Back Porch Sessions nearly anytime.

Wagons PosterWagons. Never heard of them until an hour ago. An Australian band covering (“tribute-ing”…I like that) Bruce Springsteens “State Trooper.”   I bought Springsteen’s “Born To Run” on 8-track in 1975 as a senior in high school. Springsteen to Wagons…pretty much covers the gamut for me. These Wagons look like a pretty fun band…and here they’re doing “State Trooper” from an awesome porch / sunroom and deck space – probably overlooking some ocean bay in Australia. Complete with cable rail. Cable rail and rock and roll. Who knew?

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