Soundtrack

I'm off-grid at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival this weekend. Here are 10 songs with no particular reason other than I like them (just happens I must be in a male songwriter mood, I guess). Also, check out some of Mike Dobbs's favorites.

1. Tom Waits, "Step Right Up" (With tuning!)

2. Michael Franti & Spearhead, "What I Be"

3. Jackopierce, "Vineyard"

4. Spring Heeled Jack, "Jolene"

5. Seth Horan, "Something Pretty" (You won't see that hair at the CNY house concert!)

6. Cheb Tarik, "L'histoire"

7. James O'Brien, "After the Prom"

8. Hank Williams, "Honky Tonkin'"

9. Ellis Paul, "Take All The Sky You Need"

10. Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"

Catching up with the bassist

Seth Horan and I go back to our early-to-mid-20s, when Seth was trying to break the strings that held him tied down in Buffalo. He had long, curly hair and was peddling CD-Rs with two-piece ink-jet-printed inserts that never fit quite right if you were trying to get them back in the case.

The short version of the intervening nine to 10 years is that Seth moved to Los Angeles, then went on the road for over three years, paying rent nowhere. First, he booked without a map, then, tiring of 12-hour drives between gigs, started booking with a map. Then he got married and moved to Reno, and I haven't seen him since he and Gina came east to do their re-wedding for those of us who couldn't go to Lake Tahoe for the original nuptials.

And there I was, Thursday night, sitting at Woody's during the first of SIX FREAKIN' OVERTIMES, when I got a message from Seth, "hey, coming through Syracuse tomorrow."

Which, of course, I knew, because he was playing a gig at Keuka College Thursday afternoon and then one in Utica Friday evening. I had already taken Friday off and made plans to go to Utica.

So, we met at Freedom of Espresso, where Seth had plopped down to do some work, and then we had lunch at the Blue Tusk and caught up a bit, and then I left Seth to finish catching up on his personal stuff; we would catch up at the Tramontane later.

Here's where we backtrack.

Seth and I met at a little cafe in Northampton, Mass., that's no longer there. We're both singer-songwriters, but at that point, I was more of a music reporter and occasional concert booker/promoter. He was working his way up and out of Western New York.

The other difference is that I was just like everyone else in town, lugging around an acoustic guitar or two, while Seth was lugging around an electric bass. As in /base/, not a fish.

Not too many people doing the solo bassist singer-songwriter thing then. There still aren't.

Seth had just split from Vertical Horizon, who had signed a record deal, and wound up with a hit and a half before sliding into a we'll build a real Web site someday obscurity.

Seth, meanwhile, has had some ups and downs, signing briefly with an independent record label, then quitting the touring thing for a while in favor of showcasing for Warwick basses.

The split, by the way, was due to the fact that Seth and the band were in disagreement over some of the writing politics, and he wasn't willing to be stuck in a contract with them (those who know me will understand why we became friends over the years).

But now he's back to touring (albeit not 320 days a year with his stuff in storage and his muffler duct-taped onto the bottom of a van that barely had four doors), playing this weirdo five-stringer with glowing blue fret markers (I took some film, with no flash – we'll see if that shows up).

Some of the older songs have aged nicely. I really like where "Anonymity" is right now, and some of the rough, punky edges are off "Tarot" and "Something Pretty" – and those high notes are no longer a strain.

And there's some exciting news. Seth is heading into the studio toward the end of this week, in a church-turned-studio just south of Syracuse. I'm hoping to get in there and shoot some photos of the session. He and engineer David Peters work wonders together, and I have no doubt there are great things in store.