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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Future of MOTM and Coastal Americana?

                                          Crowd at Conch Republic Seafood's Shanty Hounds gig

                                          Alan "Jax" Bowers and John Sausser

The second largest music festival in Key West, MOTM, has concluded. This year was the 27th festival that PHIP (Parrot Heads in Paradise) has hosted, albeit the first ones were held in New Orleans. I am not a member of PHIP, so I do not have access to anything not posted publicly by them. What I can say is that they do a tremendous amount of charity work benefiting the town of Key West, which is nothing short of outstanding! Thank you!

While PHIP's MOTM event is held every year at The Casa Marina, other musical events happen throughout the town because of it, albeit not connected. As I understand it, musicians at PHIP's event are supposedly on an exclusive contract to only play at the Casa Marina. However, for many it's “Don't ask, don't tell”, as you'll find many playing about town.

One of the hottest subjects being talked about this year is the overall growth of events outside The Casa Marina. Many attendees never register for The Casa because they never go there, but do attend the events about town. On the other hand, my girlfriend, Dani Hoy, has always registered, but in the last two years, failed to go to any of the PHIP events. That's pushing $200. However, for performers like us, The Shanty Hounds, there are too many events of relevance happening all around town to pass by, as we can be a part of them or catch the shows, not to mention ourselves having something like six, or seven gigs of our own. Dani is happy buying and not using her ticket as it goes to assist the charities PHIP supports. Playing music is what keeps a roof over our heads fifty-two weeks a year. There are plenty of other events about the town that spark our interest. Having stated that, I do appreciate what PHIP has done over the years.

As I mentioned, the chatter among many attendees and musicians this year. was the size of the event outside The Casa Marina, how it has been growing, and where is going and growing, from a music perspective.

Tiki Man Radio's Songwriter's Showcase, running in only it's second year, drew 48 songwriters over three days! Repeat that:, they drew 48 songwriters! Additionally, the organizers, Danny Lynn, Brian Fields, Heather Moss O'Shields, and Michelle Tafoya ran it like clockwork. No doubt, one of the most professionally run events over the week. On top of that, they had fifteen more songwriters in reserves! If that's not a sign of growth, I don't know what is?

It should also be noted that a tremendous amount of planning went into this event. A complete year as a matter of fact. Brian and Michelle put together an appreciation bag of goodies for all who played, with items and coupons from vendors all around town! Danny and Heather broadcast the entire three-day event live on Tiki Man Radio Gary Ek from Key West local station 104.9 The X, helped out as well! Two radio stations working together!

Drop Dead Dangerous With Danny Lynn and Heather Moss O'Shields

                                          Danny Lynn  and Gary Ek broadcasting together again

                                         Brian Fields

Another radio personality, Eric Babin, of Radio Trop Rock, after the evens concluded, put out the question on social media I'd heard so often during the week, suggesting that the events outside the Casa had grown and become more of an artist event unto itself. In answering his post, some suggested the PHIP event was becoming long in the tooth and seeing a drop in attendance.

Here's what I can say: PHIP is a do-good organization focused on, as they say of themselves, “whose purpose is to assist in community and environmental concerns and provide a variety of social activities for people who are interested in the music of Jimmy Buffett and the tropical lifestyle he personifies.“ They do-gooders with a Jimmy Buffett focused event. Good people, good causes! Every five or six years Jimmy Buffett himself actually attends the PHIP event as well, though it's highly unpredictable when that will be and it's often a cloak and dagger affair, with the organizers being as tight-lipped as they can be.

Buffett will be 72 on Christmas Day, 2018. Many of his fans are in his generation. It goes without saying, regarding this year's PHIP/MOTM, a lot of people who attended the first of these events twenty-seven years ago, are not attending them now, for all the obvious reasons. One attendee told me that attendance was down quite significantly from last year, not forgetting that last year's event was held shortly after Hurricane Irma.

If attendance is in fact falling, I would guess that it's because a lot of folks in their late sixties and early seventies simply just can't make it anymore. The cold, hard truth of the matter is if PHIP continues to focus on the same people to attend, their attendance will continue to drop. The bottom line is a younger crowd has to be in the cards if there is a plan for a future. Having stated that, attendance around town appeared to be healthy.

I was talking with Mike Nash of The Southern Drawl Band at our MOTM gig at Conch Republic Seafood and we both agreed that the event outside the Casa is growing in leaps and bounds. We also touched on the subject of outside the Casa it has become less and less Jimmy Buffett and more and more about the artists performing their own material. This sits well with both of us, as neither Southern Drawl or The Shanty Hounds are cover, or tribute bands. Mike writes his own material, as does Dani Hoy, and myself. I've been a published songwriter in Nashville for eighteen years. Having a crowd that is interested in new, creative music taking the genre in new directions is a perfect fit for all of us.

This is where the genre can take root and grow. Mike, Dani, and I also talked about the name we have, “Trop Rock”. We felt that it's too limiting. Apparently, we're not alone. If a Country artist or a Reggae artist look at it, how does the term “Rock” apply to their branding? It doesn't at all. What it does is go against the grain for them.

I mentioned to Mike that Danny Lynn had started using the name “Coastal Americana”, for his station Tiki Man Radio, which we both liked a lot. Mike had mentioned that he'd recently been talking to other artists about a name/label for the genre and although they all felt the same about Trop Rock being too limiting, they hadn't had an idea for a new one. As it turned out, Mike liked “Coastal Americana” a lot, and would mention it to them. We'll see what happens as time goes on. On a fun note, Loren Davidson came up with the name several years back. Personally, I think it's fabulous!

However, the genre needs new, younger fans if it is to survive. We seem to have a healthy supply of new artists, but not so much new fans. Two years ago I had put out a call for this to everyone in the media, both radio, and print. The idea was received unanimously enthusiastically by all!

As time and discussions went on, it diffused. I recall talking with one person regarding new ideas and she just kept saying “But that's not how it's been!”.

She was right. There were a bunch of new ideas on the table and it was not how things had been. What had been was in the past. On the other hand, things continue to evolve and they will never be the same, which is true with everything. I felt bad for her as we've all been in situations where we didn't want to accept change. Everything moves on however and the time for Coastal Americana to take root is at hand, there's no doubt about that.

Sine mutatione, ut tamen youd 'erit loqui Latine / Without change, we'd still be speaking Latin.

The talk on the street goes so far as suggesting that the event run throughout town, much the same as The Key West Songwriter's Festival (KWSF) has done for the last 23 years. In the KWSF's case there is no central nucleus, so to speak, at least not in the sense as The Casa is for MOTM. Also, lets not forget that the outside events are not connected with the PHIP event at The Casa at all. While Smokin' Tuna for the is the home base for the KWSF, the events run all around town, including Smokin' Tuna. As a matter of fact, there could be six or eight events running at the same time as events at Smokin' Tuna and all are part of the event.

For those unfamiliar: After Fantasy Fest, The Key West Songwriter's Fest (KWSF) is the largest event in Key West's annual calendar and also the largest songwriter event in the world. The last time I checked there had been 230+ songwriters in the event itself, not to mention the independents who are not in the festival, but come with hopes of playing an independent gig. I believe it draws in something like 60,000 visitors to Key West. It is put on by BMI Nashville and draws songwriters from Nashville, Austin, New York, Los Angeles, everywhere in between, as well as all around the globe. Songwriters are featured in bars, restaurants, theaters, as well as hotels Additionally, they are almost always in an In-The-Round situation.

I consider myself very, very fortunate to be both published in Nashville since 2000 with McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville and one of the very few local songwriters to be in the festival, no less than seven times. It's the greatest honor I've been bestowed on as a songwriter.

Again, the observation by virtually everyone says that the events around town today are about the songwriters and their music. It's becoming its own entity. In the words of Young Frankenstein, “It's Alive!!!” This has been the case for several years running and it's finally taking hold. “The Coastal Americana Music Festival”....Time, organization, and marketing will tell. And don't get me wrong, the TRMA (Trop Rock Music Association) and Mark Friedman can be instrumental in this.

We'll see what happens to PHIP. They do have an event scheduled for 2019. At this time PHIP/MOTM is a registered event with the City of Key West. Key West has many events scheduled throughout the year, such as Fantasy Fest, The Hemingway Festival, various art festivals, so on and so forth. Should PHIP/MOTM cease to function at one point or another down the line, an event would require a new, organized appeal to the city in order to continue with the events outside The Casa Marina, in a fashion similar to The Key West Songwriter Festival, which can be used as a successful template.

However, the only way it will continue is to attract new fans. Without new, younger fans, the writing is on the wall. "Coastal Americana" is a great start. 

Thank you for reading my blog!

Please check out The Shanty Hounds NEW LIVE RELEASE!!!

Unleashed! Live at Grunts – Key West”

A true, authentic sound of Key West

Also available at:

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Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journies and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

 26 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Also, here's more of music here at iTunes!

Enjoy the sound of the Keys!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

MOTM Album/CD Release Party

                                          Picture by Nataliya Pairmount

Key West: Many refer to it as America's Northern Caribbean Tropical Island in the sun. Key West also has perhaps the largest music scene per capita than any other city in the U.S. Noted Key West music photographer and author, Mr. Ralph De Palma, mentioned to me once that there are eighty-five music venues on the island. With a population of 24,649. That equates to 290 people for every music venue. That's pretty damn impressive if you ask me!

Key West emits a certain energy which stimulates the creative spot in one's brain. Over the decades we've seen countless authors, artists, songwriters, and poets do their most prolific work while living on this island. Does this creative energy rise up from the coral rock that it's based on? Perhaps it's something in the tropical breezes and trade winds that meander through the island? Could it have something to do with it being at the point where the waters of the Caribbean, The Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean converge? Perhaps all of the above? I apologize as I don't have an answer. Where it comes from I can not say. What I can say, unequivocally, with no doubt whatsoever, is that it does exist.

Regarding songwriters/musicians, one of the things that I noted very early on, long before I lived here, was that songwriters who live here write from a very different perspective than those who visit.

A visiting songwriter seems to mostly write about the “going to a Key West experience”. This is not a criticism, but rather an observation. After all, when someone lives in say, Peoria, the excitement of going to Key West for a week, or two is pretty fantastic! That can be pretty inspiring! I don't know how many songs are written about driving through the Keys, often miss-naming US1, calling it A1A, with Key West as the destination. Or a song about the crazy, possibly compromising situations some have found their selves in while visiting. Perhaps a tune about just a day sitting on the beach at Ft. Zachary Taylor. These experiences, and others that drew from the inspiration to produce songs that carry both the author and listener through their lives in the other fifty, or fifty-one weeks of the year, somewhere back on the mainland where they are from, which could be anywhere from Florida to Alaska. What this is, is escapism.

The local songwriter is different than that, however. It should be noted that most songwriters in Key West went through the aforementioned phase. Most songwriters in Key West are at best “Fresh Water Conchs”, people who weren't born here, but have lived here at least seven years. Those born in the Keys are “Conchs”.

Local songwriters breathe the air, feel the pulse of the island, and sense that the breeze has shifted and know to duck for cover before the squall brashly blows in with its half hour of wind, hard rain, and vengeance. They recognize the energy of the island even though they may not know where it emits from. Some things are best kept a mystery. They feel these energies 24/7/365, year after year. These folks are not here for a few days or a week. This is their way of life. So, they're not writing about escapism, they are writing about their daily life in the islands.

Believe me, and feel free to ask anyone who lives here who came from the mainland:

Living here 24/7/365 is a lot different than coming on vacation.

Living here 24/7/365 one becomes part of that energy. Additionally, the songwriter goes from being on vacation in Key West to living day-to-day. Listen to Michael McCloud's “Pool Shooting Woman”, or the Survivors “En Cayo Hueso”

Before I lived here, I wanted to live here. The planets, however, weren't aligned properly until May of 2008. Up to that point, I was not a tourist, but a visitor. Consequently, when I did move here I had a head start on Key West. I was attracted to the things that weren't so superficial. I searched out the local color and I started writing music about it. Though it takes time, the energy came through as well! However, I'd say I was here for over a year before I could actually say I was part of the island. To feel it and the pulse and the rhythm of the vibe.

My partner in life, Dani Hoy, will have her five-year anniversary in Key West next month and our band, The Shanty Hounds, is now over four years old! We have come out with our first collaboration album “The Shanty Hounds – Unleashed! Live at Grunts, Key West” This album captures both the escapism and the local feel, all with the energy that Key West somehow produces on its own!

Plus! We are having a CD Release party!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1st at Grunts Bar, 409 Caroline St, Key West 8 pm – 11 pm! 

                                           Grunts Bar 409 Caroline St.

                                          Garbo's  also on location at 409 Caroline St!

“Unleashed” captures the magic of Key West's creative energy. The songs on "Unleashed!"that you will already know, have an entirely different feel than on the studio recordings, so it stands on its own. Dani's voice comes through like you've never heard it before, bright and powerful! Additionally, we have three brand new songs released here, “Yippie Cayo Hueso”, “Liveaboard”, and “Tote The Load”! The album also features bassist Bob Tucker and drummer John Sausser, who will both be at the release party as well!

                                         Picture by Ralph De Palma

Giving credit where credit is due, the quality of the recording sets a new standard for an album recorded in a bar. The credit here goes to our engineer and producer, Ian Shaw, who will be at the release party as well, plus Denis Blackham, who did the mastering up in The Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK. Denis has also worked with Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Crosby Stills Nash, and Young, Bryan Eno, David Burn, Pete Townsend, Led Zepplin... So it goes without saying that we are eternally grateful that he took on The Shanty Hound's "Unleashed!" project! He also mentioned that he loved the energy!

It's the energy of the island!

We hope to see you there!

Also available at:

Thank you for reading my blog! 

Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journies and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

 26 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Also, here's more of music here at iTunes!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Time To Change The Conch Republic's Time to Daylight Savings, 24/7/365: Let's Take the Bull By The Horns!

Early this year there was an official proposal that everyone I talked to thought was a great idea. Personally, I thought it was genius and was kicking myself for not thinking of it. The idea was to make Florida permanently on Daylight Savings time!

Let us call aces, aces. Standard Time in the winter is nothing but a depression for all. Additionally, the State of Florida lives on people from the states north of us coming to visit for their winter vacations. I remind those who live in Florida that the state does not have an income tax and that is because of tourism.

So imagine having the State of Florida on Daylight Savings time year round! Visitors could come to Florida on their winter retreat from the ice and snow and additionally get an hour more of daylight to enjoy! What a perfect scenario!

My friend, Gypsea Travels, was over at our home for a BBQ this week and reminded me of it. What she told me got me annoyed, but I thank Gypsea for bringing it to my attention! Thanks Gypsea!!! 

According to Gypsea, the proposal has been languishing and has not been addressed since MARCH! March 12th, 2018 to be exact! It's currently wallowing in the dungeon of bureaucracy having been introduced by Sen, Marco Rubio (R-Fl), read twice then referred to The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Hey Marco? What happened? You introduced it then treated it like a hot potato and passed the buck? Yeah, no follow up? Dumped it on to someone else?  Hello.

Going back to calling ace's, aces, this proposal could mean literally billions in state revenue. Imagine a family in Peoria, Illinois thinking about their winter-relief get away.

“Well Gertrude, do you want to go to Mexico or Florida for this year's vacation?”

“That's a no-brainer, Wally! Florida has warm weather and they're on Daylight Savings time, so we pick up that extra hour! Additionally, we have the security of staying in the United States! Florida it is!”

As Gertrude pointed out, it's “a no-brainer”! Yet, the proposal remains sitting unattended on a desk since March, while the tourist season is approaching as fast as an IndyCar coming down the front straight for the checkered flag!

Let's face it, as far as the State of Florida goes, it's most likely too late to do anything for the 2019 season.

However, here in the Conch Republic, is it? Here's a look at what we are looking at here in the Florida Keys.

In 1982 the U.S. Government installed a checkpoint on U.S.1 in Florida City looking for illegal aliens. This caused catastrophic delays as every single car was checked (even looking in glove boxes!). Consequently, The Florida Keys was a destination easy to enter, but impossible to leave. Who would want to come here for vacation? When the government was appealed to stop the nonsense, it fell on deaf ears. Frustrated Key West business owners and the Mayor went to Miami and Tallahassee to request the roadblocks cease. When this didn't work they said if they were going to be treated like a foreign country, they would become one and secede from the United States. They returned to Key West and did just that the next day, creating The Conch Republic, which included all of Monroe County and part of Dade County (Today, Miami/Dade) stretching from The Florida Keys to The Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. It worked and the roadblocks were removed.

The Conch Republic, however, was never dissolved. To this day, throughout the Florida Keys, you'll see Conch Republic flags. We never gave up the Conch Republic.

So, I'm sure you see where this is going: Why doesn't the Conch Republic just retain Daylight Savings Time throughout the region on our own? The Federal Government regulates time zones but let's not forget, we're the Conch Republic!

                                     Old City Hall, Key West with a clock that actually works!

We're about to have a mayoral election, so timing is awkward, however, the visitors don't care one way or another about a race for Key West mayor. They care about having fun in the sun. Fun in the sun equals happy people, both visitors as well as vendors. Hotels fill up, restaurants fill up, stores fill up, everyone does more business! Besides, we're not only talking about Key West but the entire Conch Republic, from the Dry Tortugas to The Last Chance Saloon.

Let us change The Conch Republic to Daylight Savings Time year round! In the islands of warmth and sunshine, the more we have, the better!

As the Conch Republic, we don't need anyone's approval but our own. We're talking about our livelihood. It really is a no-brainer.

As citizens and business owners, in the spirit of 1982's secession, even if the Feds won't look at it, we can do a grassroots movement and just do it on our own and call it CRT, Conch Republic Time.

Thank you for reading my blog! 

Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journies and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

24 Ratings - 26 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Naturally, if you liked today's blog, get the music here at iTunes!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"Unleashed! Live At Grunts, Key West"

The Shanty Hounds brand new album, “Unleashed! Live At Grunts, Key West” is on the cusp of being released! We've had friends who helped us out thus far via a Go Fund Me that Dani set up, so these folks will be receiving the first copies. This is naturally a priority. Once these are shipped, the album will be available to all.

The quality of this recording; the production, recording, mixing, and mastering is the best I've ever heard for any album recorded in a bar. Honestly, it is truly astounding! The credit for this goes to our producer, Ian Shaw of Warmfuzz Studios of Key West and London, England, for the production, recording, and mixing. The mastering was done with Denis Blackham of Skye Mastering from Isle of Skye, Scotland, U.K.

                                          Ian Shaw

Mind you, I'm not commenting on the band's performance. That's for others to evaluate. However, all of the aforementioned, anyone with something north of a tin ear would have no choice but say the same thing. Ian and Denis did a truly outstanding effort with this recording and in doing so, raised the industry standard for live recordings.

As of this moment the album hasn't been released, however, it has been sent to the radio stations. In less than a day, two stations have already commented on it.

One said that it sounded like a studio recording done with a live audience. Again, that's a true tip of the hat to Ian and Denis!

Let's take a quick look at the recording environment Ian had to work with. Grunts is a very small bar that started life in 1890 as, what is known here as a “Conch House”. It first was located on the corner of Front Street and Duval. In 1948 it was moved to its current location, 409 Caroline Street. It is approximately 500 Sq. Ft. in size. Here it was purchased thirty-five years ago and turned into a bar by the current owner. When you think about it, here is this small, little house/bar dating from 1890 and the recording was regarded by a radio station owner as sounding like it was recorded in a studio! Truly amazing!

The second station principal also noted the “top-notch production”.

Dani has three solo releases out prior to this. I have played with Dani standing two feet away from her for over almost five years. I never felt her recorded vocals did her justice. Her live performances always were so much more dynamic sounding. When the recordings arrived yesterday I took it upstairs to our studio, while she did something else downstairs. When the second song, “Meet Me On The Boardwalk”, came on, I paused it and ran downstairs to get her! I dragged her upstairs and we listened to it. Holy smokes! This album captures Dani's full power and range. Just incredible!

As a matter of fact, this album captures the true excitement of a Shanty Hounds gig! That's not something that I felt could be captured. I'm thrilled to say I was wrong! When listening, all I suggest you do is.... Crank It Up!!!

This naturally has live versions of some of our songs, which many know from both Dani and my previously released albums. We've also added two new songs, which are in almost every live performance that we've done over the last two years, “Yippie Cayo Hueso”, a homage to Key West. Cayo Hueso (say Cai O Way So) is the original name of Key West in Spanish, which translates to Bone Key. The other “Tote The Load” which is a duet.

The live audience was just out of this world! Many are locals who support us. Our friend Pat Henriques encouraged all to sing along with us on the choruses of “Yippie Cayo Hueso” and what a great job they did!

                                          Pre-Show Prep 1

                                        Pre-Show Soundcheck

We get by with a lot of help from our friends! Those who helped with the Go Fund Me, Ian and Denis for the total recording production and mastering, our fabulous friends who came by for support at the gig itself, to the radio stations who offer to play us, and of course, those who purchase the end product.Darrin Raposa for coming up with the name “Unleashed!” (Perfect!) Everything is part of the big wheel and we thank each and every one of you!

The CD will be available at our gigs and via CD Baby. Downloads will be through all of the major outlets (iTunes, Amazon, etc)

The Shanty Hounds “Unleashed! Live at Grunts, Key West”

  1. “Yippie Cayo Hueso!” © Christopher R. Rehm, BMI
  2. “Meet Me On The Boardwalk” © Danielle L. Hoy, BMI
  3. “Liveaboard” © Christopher R. Rehm, BMI
  4. “Songs of Love and the Ocean” © Danielle L. Hoy, BMI
  5. “My Little Island Town” © Christopher R. Rehm, BMI
  6. “Drunk On Mallory Square” © Danielle L. Hoy BMI
  7. “The Beach!!!!” © Christopher R. Rehm BMI
  8. “I Like It Hot” © Danielle L. Hoy BMI
  9. “Tote The Load” © Christopher R. Rehm BMI

Dani Hoy – Vocals and Guitar, percussion, harmonica, and Kazoo
“Key West Chris” Rehm – Vocals and Lead Guitar
Bob Tucker – Bass, Vocals
John Sausser – Drums and Percussion

On Wednesday, October 10 (the day this is blog is released) at 8PM EST 104.9 The X here in Key West will not only do a live debut of the entire album but will also broadcast it from our house at a BBQ we're having! No doubt they will be chatting with Dani and myself as well, plus we are hoping Ian Shaw will stop by too! He just re-set the bar for the quality of live recordings, so hopefully, he'll have time to swing by too!

Additionally, Danny Lynn of Tiki Man Radio would also like to interview us and showcase the album, hopefully within the next week. Time and date TBA shortly

I'll keep you posted via my Facebook page! 

For those heading to MOTM in November, be sure to add our CD Release Party at Grunts, 409 Caroline St Thursday, Nov1,  8 - 11 PM!

Remember The Shanty Hounds Creed: 

"If you're not having fun, I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave!"  😅 😀😀

Thank you for reading my blog! 

Please check out my book "Time Traveler - The Oddities and Adventures of a Key West Bartender". Follow Mark Straight's continuing journies and friendships from current Key West, back to historical Key West and elsewhere!

 Order paperback or download here! Paperback comes with a free download!

24 Ratings - 24 Five-Star ratings!

Also, my first book, Bar Stories, is now available in paperback!

Available on Amazon! 18 Five-Star ratings!

Naturally, if you liked today's blog, get the music here at iTunes!