Page 2 of the Online Edition of the 2009-2010 Harvey Reid Newsletter...

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I enjoyed making the Song Train as a hardback book so much that I decided to make another one, which showed up in November of ‘09. It’s called “The Wreck of the Isidore: A Glimpse Into the Hidden History of Maine,” and it is a 102 page book about the local shipwreck that has not let go of me since I wrote some songs about it in 2000. The songs appeared as my “Sailor’s Fate Trilogy” on the first collaboration CD I did with Joyce Andersen, called “The Great Sad River.”
This book tells the story more thoroughly than the songs, and is built around the idea that I think this shipwreck is perfect cinematic visual image to help us imagine what life was like in Maine a long time ago. If you look at the details of who made the ship, where it was going etc, it opens a window into an interesting world that is gone with hardly a trace. The old-growth trees, the thousands of majestic wooden ships that were made from them, and the people who cut the trees down, built and sailed the ships have all vanished. It’s hard for modern people to realize that Maine was a busy and important place in the early 1800’s, and at the center of world commerce.
This nearly-forgotten story, once said to be among the most widely-told tales in Maine, sticks in my mind– a Maine-made tall ship wrecking on the jagged rocks here in York, Maine in a fierce nor’easter. I think about those unlucky sailors whenever I see the rocky coast, and especially when the winds start howling. I learned a great deal about the Old Maine, and I think anyone who lives in Maine or visits will also enjoy knowing more about what used to happen here.

This book is designed to get you interested in Maine history more than to be a true history book, and I am hoping that others will share my enthusiasm for some local history. If the locals aren’t interested, no one will be, and any story quickly dies if is not being re-told.

There is a music CD enclosed, with the 3 songs from the old trilogy, the 1st recording of the lost Isidore song “Unlucky Sailors” that I wrote in 2002, as well as 8 other instrumentals with nautical themes collected from earlier recordings.

Waltz of the Waves, Will You Go to the Sea, Home Again From Foreign Lands, The Wreck of the Isidore, Pieces of Eight, The Water is Wide, Unlucky Sailors, Dance the Storm Is Over, Lament for a Cabin Boy, Star Island Jig, Keeper of the Light, Sailor’s Hornpipe, Sailing in the Lowlands


Favorite Road Sign this Year– On the side of a building in downtown Berlin, NH-- a huge billboard for a kitchen-installation company. You wonder if they chuckle about this at the CIA. Maybe they have a spy camera there, taking pictures of everyone who takes a picture of it, and chuckle at them.

Remembering Jeff Hickey

I met songwriter and American original Jeff Hickey in the winter of 1979 in Nashville, and were in close contact ever since. In June ‘09 he fell asleep at the wheel in a late-night, one-car accident. Jeff never made it home, and I will forever miss him.We founded the Third Hand Capo Company in 1980, and over the years he has been one of my best friends, and one of the people I would talk with often, trying to figure out this crazy world. He was a fine musician and writer, a generous man, a loving father, and a hard-working and perceptive guy who was good at a lot of things and had a lot of friends. He transcribed the guitar arrangements for my guitar books, and I produced and recorded his solo CD “Loose Ends.”
If you would like to help his family, at you can buy one of his remaining CD’s. It’s a brilliant CD-- just Jeff playing guitar by himself and singing, (always my favorite kind of recording.) The $ all go to his wife and 2 children who are struggling and you’ll get a lasting reminder of a fine man. It is doubtful there will ever be another pressing of this excellent and powerful recording. Always buckle your seat belts, please.

Autoharp Mania?

A most unlikely but good thing has happened, and I am wondering if I am dreaming. The autoharp was very popular in the 1890’s, though it has not been since then. You may have heard me clowning on stage over the years about NBA players, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olympic athletes or important cultural figures playing the autoharp. Well, folks, it appears that there really is a supermodel now who proudly plays the autoharp. As guest editor of issue #9 (Fall ‘09) of the thick, ultra-chic London fashion magazine Lula, Karen Elson (whom I have never met) is a factor in why there is a 6-page feature called “The Magic Music Box” that re-printed an essay I wrote in 1999 about the autoharp. You have to see it to properly appreciate it, and it’s hard to find the expensive ($16) magazine in the US. It is published only twice a year, and their web site ( is more mysterious than helpful.
Apparently some young, intelligent, high-fashion folks have decided that the idea of playing down-home music is cool, and the ideals of old-fashioned music-making are now sexy and hip, and consistent with the lifestyle of supermodel-type people.

I am thrilled with this development, and with the way they illustrated and typeset my essay (which has been posted on my web site for some time) and I am fantasizing about who else might be playing autoharp and who might be inviting me to play for their parties. In their own words: “LULA magazine is created for the real girls of the world who love fashion, music, art, & make believe. LULA is gentle, whimsical and ethereal in tone, mixing high fashion to fall in love with and interviews that feel like late night chats with people you wish you knew.”

I’m so sorry my friend Jeff (above) never got to see this.


I got stalled in ‘09 on my large book all about the wonders of the partial capo. I plan to finish it in ‘10. For the 1st time in 25 years I don’t have a new recording project planned, and I may focus my energy this year on the web site, books and recordings related to the partial capo. It’s an idea I pioneered 30 years ago, and now thousands of people are using it, and I want to show them more useful things they could be doing. The partial capo is valuable for beginners, virtuosos, and everyone in-between.

Grave of a Guitar Legend You can’t see the whole picture from this photo, but it was a dark and rainy morning when my friend Cecil Abels took me to the hidden, lonesome and very simple grave of Mississippi John Hurt in Avalon, Miss. It was way out in the woods, down a long dirt road, several miles from a very small town. What does it mean to be a guitar legend? Is this what you get?

This man’s music means a lot to me, and thousands of guitarists, but he worked in a gravel pit for decades, and just played some guitar around his little home town. Didn’t get a decent gig until he was over 70 when he was “re-discovered” in 1963 because of some of his 1928 recordings. John got to play nice concerts for about 5 years until he died in 1967. Very hard to put my own artistic struggle beside his and compare our lives. I felt overwhelmed by various kinds of emotion. I came to honor him, and I hope I did. I was inspired and humbled in a number of ways.

Newsletter Essay: The Death of CD's

We hear almost daily that CD’s, newspapers, and now books are all doomed, and the big digital steamroller is driving them all into the dust of the past. I’m not so sure this will happen; and if it does, that it will be either good or necessary. Some people don’t feel the need for CD’s- particularly young people, but does that mean they should take them away from all of us? I read books, I download them; I read magazines & internet news, and have a music collection of vinyl, tape, CD’s and digitized music on iPod and hard drives. I use them all at different times, and like a guy who eats whole wheat and white bread, I hope we can keep room on the shelves for all of them. No format is a clear winner, and they all have advantages. I am getting extra worried about the so called “Death of the CD,” in part because I sell CD’s for a living. Here’s why...
I recently hooked up my record player again, and while browsing through my vinyl collection for songs to sing with my country band “Hank & Dixie & the Knotty Pine Boys” I saw vinyl in a new way. All the arguing has been about whether vinyl sounds better than CD’s, and nobody ever mentions a hidden value of vinyl: it’s probably the most durable format for storing music there has ever been. If you take reasonable care of a vinyl record it will still sound good nearly a century later. I am having a lot of trouble with digital tape, my color photos are fading, CDR’s I stored music on that are only 5-10 years old are already acting weird and refusing to play. I have a pile of old hard drives that may or may not work, and now I pretty much have to buy more every year and keep moving all the old data onto them in hopes of keeping it alive. But my vinyl taught me something else...
I found a lot of songs on vinyl that I loved, including cuts by Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Wayne Newton, Lenny Breau (jazz guitarist), and Sabicas. (flamenco guitarist) I wanted a nicer copy than the old scratchy vinyl version I had , but found there was no CD in print that I could buy, and the song was not available on the internet either. Out of luck, with great music from important artists. You might not know who Lenny Breau is, but a lot of people think that he was the best jazz guitarist ever, and his best album is unavailable. Same with what has been called the best flamenco record ever made, Flamenco Puro by Sabicas. I find some music by these artists online and some CD’s, but I am getting the distinct feeling that walls are closing in and if I want to own a CD of something specific I better buy it now. I always wanted to own Fred Gerlach’s 12-String Guitar album he made in 1962. Folkways records is now owned by the Smithsonian and they are keeping that catalog in print, but I was disappointed to spend over $22 and all I got was a burned CDR and a PDF they emailed me of a scan of the old LP jacket. It’s an important recording in the history of American acoustic guitar music, I wanted it in my library, and I only “sort of” own it now because “burned” CDR discs are just not that durable.
My 17 year-old nephew is into John Fogarty, (of Creedence Clearwater fame) and was playing me songs from his iPod. I noticed that though Fogarty was one of the best-selling artists of all time, an awesome solo record he made in 1975 was not available anywhere except illegal bootlegs, or used copies for $70. (It’s the one with Sea Cruise on it. )My favorite CD by country singer Vern Gosdin, “The Voice,” is now out of print and unavailable, though it was only released in 1998.
What is going on? Am I the only guy who is actively looking for music that moves me and keeps finding it unavailable? You sometimes find a cut from an old record as part of a “best of” collection, which probably makes curious people happy who are browsing the internet looking for music by particular artists they have heard about. What I think is happening is that record companies are shedding crocodile tears about the death of the CD and it is they who are doing the most to kill them off while publicly bemoaning the problem. When a record label ships CD’s to a store, they also shoulder the expenses of pressing CD’s, printing jackets, and dealing with distributors. They have to pay people to warehouse & protect them, manage inventory, accept returns of unsold and damaged goods, as well as do the bookkeeping to keep track of everything. When they sell a 99¢ song on iTunes, they get about 67¢. A $9.99 digital album makes over $6 of pure profit, and there is no way in the world they are making that kind of money selling physical CD’s, with CD prices going down and manufacturing costs going up. Legal downloads are the easiest money ever made in the music business, and big companies love easy money. Record companies have proved again and again that their primary goal is the quarterly profits of their corporations, rather than focusing on artistic integrity or cultural heritage considerations. These companies own the vast majority of the American (and probably the world) music catalog, and they are letting a scary amount of it go out of print as they pursue their profits. If you are looking for something that they consider irrelevant, you are pretty much out of luck. Why should a record company keep an artist’s entire catalog in stock on CD when they can make better money by not having them?
As a music enthusiast and collector, I don’t like this, and in spite of the increasing amount of music available for digital download, I don’t feel like our historical and cultural heritage is in the right hands. People have had libraries of books and music in their homes for centuries, and there is a reason for that. There is a staggering amount of out-of-print music, and the pile is likely growing. So as the guy who probably made the first independent CD, it is starting to look like I might make the last one too. I have recently let my stock of older CD’s dwindle while I waited to see what the digital music revolution was doing, and now I have decided to re-master and re-press them in case someone else like me would like to buy a real, replicated (pressed not burned) CD with real color art work and extensive liner notes... I will be interesting to see if I can sell them, since I won’t be able to download bootleg digital food to feed my children at mealtime.

The Joyce Andersen Corner

My wife Joyce Andersen awakened from the semi-slumber that her “mommy-hormones” put her in, and in spite of having 2 young children, in ‘09 she started kicking musical butt again.
She did some solo concert and bar gigs, and as “Dixie Baxter” she played and played and sang some darn good country music with me and the Knotty Pine Boys. The Joyce Andersen Band almost started a few fires (by being so hot) and she also started playing and singing a lot of jazz, quite a bit with the Hot Club of Portland. She did a fair amount of Irish fiddling also, quite a number of recording sessions, and she has dug in her heels and started working on a very ambitious solo musical project. So keep an eye out for Joyce Andersen. She is an amazing musician, a nice person, great mom, a loving wife and daughter, a decent beekeeper and bookkeeper, and a lousy gardener.

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