“Give me all the notes on the keyboard, and I can do nothing. Give me three notes and I can make a symphony.”
Some time ago my wife Carol told me one of her music teachers quoted Tchaikovsky as saying something like that. I just Googled it and could find no evidence that he or anyone else said it. I’m glad I didn’t know that until now. That quote ultimately made my singing these songs possible.
About 5 years ago, I hurt the index finger on my left hand in such a way that it would not fully bend without pain. The only real impact it had on my life was I couldn’t play a lot of basic chords on my guitar. My doctor said the finger could be surgically repaired, but that didn’t seem worth it to me. I never played much and wasn’t good at it in any case. So I thought I’d just quit playing and leave it at that. One day I was fooling around with the guitar and discovered that I could still play a few chords with my remaining three good fingers. I remembered Carol’s quote and thought, OK, maybe three is enough. I figured if I learned to finger pick I could make those chords sound different enough to cover a range of songs. I found a few easy songs to start with (cowboy songs, like “Red River Valley,” some old spirituals, etc.) learned them, and enjoyed it. So I found others from many genres—rock and roll, country, blues, folk, big band, show tunes—along the way and did the same. In the beginning, I didn’t sound very good, I could tell, so I’d close the door of the back room when I played. After a while I got a little better and Carol started to come out there to listen. When she developed some health problems that kept her laid up for much of the day, I’d go where she was to play some of the songs. I learned dozens of songs, all of which she heard repeatedly, love songs, happy songs, sad songs, old songs, new songs, anything I could adapt to my three fingers and my voice. She enjoyed them and I enjoyed singing them for her. After she passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, I kept singing those songs by myself, as a way to cope with my grief. I had started recording audio books of my poetry, so one day I decided to record myself singing, as a way to remember my time with her, and, really, just to hear another voice in the house, which was what my odd singing voice sounded like on the playback. I sent a few CDs to my brothers, who liked them. Then I began uploading my favorites here, so I could listen to them when I was driving to the woods for my daily walks. And, well, now here is where it has taken me
I started writing my own songs about two years ago, just on a whim, and found I liked that process quite a lot. I’ve written three “albums” of original songs in the meantime (all below and available for free on Bandcamp.com.)
N. B.: If you have musical training or talent, enter at your own risk. I have neither. As the old song says: “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free.” Well “happy” at least to be able to inhabit all these amazing feelings, and “free” at least to add what I want to my own website!
Here are my original-composition albums, starting with the most recent, available for free @
“the kiss” (summer 2018)
The album was reviewed recently @ Divide and Conquer, an indie-music review site. Here is the link:
And here is the link to the follow-up interview @ Divide and Conquer:
“while i sit here with me” (winter 2018)
“Wistful Thinking” (summer 2017)
“Emily and Me” (fall 2018)
This album is a hybrid, with songs I made based on poems by Emily Dickinson, one of all-time my favorite poets and, really, people. In most cases I stuck close to her texts. In the cases where I took considerable liberties, it was either to clarify for myself what I thought might be at the heart of her poem or to engage in a conversation with her about things we share in common. This album is also available @ paulkameen.bandcamp.com
Here’s the last song I wrote in Pittsburgh, in its original, raw form, written and sung all in one dark night last April. . .
Here’s the first song I wrote a couple of years ago, also in its original, raw form. I think it’s cool and says exactly what I wanted to say around that time.
Here’s a song I wrote just this morning, still raw, too
The playlists below are all covers, arranged by whatever happens to strike my fancy
These are my first few cover-albums from Olympia, reflecting the range of my moods here:
Mixtape #1 recipe: Take one song from the ’70s. Add one song from the ’20s. Keep going until it gets dark . . .
“Hurt”: Some songs sung by Mississippi John Hurt
Mixtape #2 recipe: Roll out one layer of Herman’s Hermits. Rock in a layer of another sweet song of the same vintage. Repeat until she kisses you . . .
Here’s a last-minute Pittsburgh homage, a few selected bluegrass songs, music I came to love back in the ’70s when so many bars and public events there featured great bluegrass bands
These are the last few mixtapes I made in Pittsburgh
Peaceful easy feelings
My b-bye songs
Long as I can see the light . . .
Yes, I AM lonesome tonight! So what’s it to ya’?
The birds and the bees
A few under “blue”