Friday, June 20, 2014

A Dream Comes 'Round at Last

by Patrick J. Walsh

Fragments from a life-long friendship with the
artist behind the new CD "Keeping the Dream Alive"

• • •

I remember talking with my cousin Kelly when he was in the midst of seeking out expert advice to help him achieve the sound he wanted for what would become his first CD, Keeping the Dream Alive.

I had heard some of the songs he was talking about, and they sounded great. Exasperated, I gave him my own advice:

"Just get it done and put it out there."

That was about two years ago.

• • •

Lately, as I've been working toward the reboot of my portfolio website, I've had occasion to revisit the large amount of music journalism that I've written over the years.

As I read through many of my old clips, I realized that I am afflicted with the reporter's occupational hazard of being able to recall the circumstances of virtually every interview and performance that I've covered, as well as the particulars of how I went about writing each article.

At the heart of all those details, though, it is my personal memories of the people and places and music that remain most vivid.

Interestingly, at the same time that I've been experiencing this musical and emotional rewind, I have been listening to some new music — the first CD released by my cousin Kelly, who I've known for virtually my entire life.

• • •

Separated in age by just a handful of months, each the youngest in a family of brothers, each having fallen in love with rock and pop at just about the same time — that moment when psychedelia first began to show up on "classic rock" playlists, and the first mention of the term "punk" as a music genre began to show up in the media — my cousin Kelly and I got along famously from the first moment we met, and have ever since.

Although our family situations were different when we were growing up, we were never at a lack of words or welcome whenever we saw each other.

Kelly always seemed a lot cooler than me, but in a way that never made me feel bad. He dressed cooler; his hair was longer; and he was easy to talk to, even for me, as quiet as I often was as a child.

Kelly (right) always seemed a lot cooler than me...
• • •

When we were little, our dads took us on a camping trip: Kelly and his two older brothers, and me and my older brother. Back then I was overwhelmed by being in the woods. Everyone seemed to know more about camping and fishing and cooking out than I did.

I remember being glad to find that our campsite had a wooden platform where we were to put up our tent — not for fear of what otherwise might find its way into our sleeping quarters, but simply because it reminded me of the platform my Dad had made in our backyard, where we had already spent so many happy times.

Even then, when I had yet so little of it, I was borne back into the past as surely as Fitzgerald's Gatsby.

For his part, Kelly seemed relaxed and at ease, enjoying the quiet of the woods and the company of his Dad and brothers and his beloved uncle and cousins. Gradually, I grew less anxious.

Ultimately, it was one of those experiences that form up in your heart and mind years later like a series of Monet landscapes, providing a window into the best parts of your connections with people you love, as those relationships evolve over time.

Years later, Kelly would take his own young family camping at the very same spot.

• • •

When we were a bit older, Kelly and I were at a party — one of those gatherings that would, over time, attain a sort of mythical status among my friends and family. It was the kind of get-together that resulted in people looking through the bushes in the yard the next day, trying to locate a misplaced family member who hadn't quite yet found his way home.

I have a friend who to this day delights in the memory of a discussion he had with Kelly at that party. He remembers how the two of them started up a flight of stairs while Kelly was deep in the midst of a point-by-point exegesis of the then-new Jethro Tull album, as a means of exploring the merits of progressive rock as a whole.

On a step about halfway up, Kelly suddenly stumbled and fell to one knee; then, hardly spilling his beer, he steadied himself, regained his balance, and continued upward — still calmly discussing Tull, and Ian Anderson's place in the pantheon of great rock songwriters.

By current standards, it was a crazy time. But as I look back, I realize that it was probably that period in the lives of our parents' generation when the last possible dreams of youth were still swaying just at the edge of the horizon; tantalizing, maddeningly close, but still just far enough away to cause even the wildest romantic to wonder if maybe, just maybe, those dreams would never slow down enough to be touched, or to be made real.

And for our generation, still so young, it was a time when all dreams still seemed on the table, just waiting to be put into motion.

• • •

Over the years, Kelly and I have shared similar career paths, a deep gratitude for (and devotion to) our family and friends, and a deeply held creative impulse that we each recognized in the other early on.

I became a writer, and I've been blessed to have been able to make my writing a key part of my life and career, as well as an outlet for my creativity. At the same time, I have also always loved music — whether I'm just listening, or composing, or writing about someone else's work.

Kelly has been a successful professional for a very long time, regularly expressing his creativity through the technical expertise and business sense that he puts to good daily use for the benefit of others. But he has also always loved music — and in his case, his long-held passion for writing and performing music has now resulted in the release of Keeping the Dream Alive.

• • •

Recently, as we chatted over dinner, getting caught up on family and friends and careers and yes, reminiscing, Kelly and I got talking about some of the technical aspects of music recording and production.

He tends to chide himself for having taken so long to finalize the recordings that have now become his first CD. In truth, however, it is the careful attention to detail that he devoted to their production that provides the finished work with much of its beauty and power.

He approached the task of recording and producing Keeping the Dream Alive with the same quiet, good-humored expertise that has long made him a successful professional: reaching out to family and friends for support and advice, seeking the help of experts where necessary, enlisting other creative artists where helpful.

And then — now — he has taken the final step in the long creative process, moving from dreamer to doer, taking ownership of his own music and sharing it with the world.

From dreamer to doer, taking ownership of his own music...
Both the process and the result represent a great deal of what is important to him, in music and in life. And in a very real way, the finished product honors all those moments through the years when any of us felt that little creative spark inside, calling for a pen and paper, a guitar, a microphone, to document the bits and pieces that form the first ragged outline of a dream.

He has now set that outline in stone, and set those dreams to music.

• • •

In addition to being justifiably proud — or at least, well satisfied — as he enjoys the initial reaction to Keeping the Dream Alive, I'm sure he will also be relieved to not have to deal with the impatience of those who have long encouraged him to "just get it done and put it out there."

At least until he starts work on the next one.

© Patrick J. Walsh

 Keeping the Dream Alive, 06.01.14

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