Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Belize Breeze, songs about us

A Mama calls her baby in the back orchard
It's a very quiet, foggy morning - going to be hot today. The monkeys are on the back 100 gorging on mangos. Can't say I blame them, we're doing the same down here riverside! The rainy season is starting off with a bang. We have had some truly torrential rains. The river is running high and brown and the forest dripping and vibrant green. Mangos falling everywhere. I love this time of year. This is the best time to catch a trail-cam picture of the game feeding in the orchards as well. The night shots are infrared. Tapir are common at night back there. We've had at least one baby born here a couple of years ago. You have to wonder how that happens as male and female never show up on the same night!

clockwise from left: Doktah D, Paul Flores, Sam Harris,
 and Santos Dominguez
But the BIG news is that Belize Breeze is up and running and available at, as well as at all your favorite download and streaming sites. Twelve songs all about Belize and Belizeans offered in a wide variety of styles and moods. The overall mood, however is informal and fun. A couple of backup singers (Sam Harris and Karissa Alvarez) bring a new sound and feel to these songs that I think you'll enjoy. I certainly intend bringing them back for the next two albums. The songs are a mix, including songs about Belize and the Belizean experience, songs about expats in Belize, and even a song about Belizean expats in the U. S. In order they are: Sweet Belize, Belikin For Breakfast, Blue Belize, The Hidin' Expat Blues, Kriol Gyal, Maya Mountain Moon, Bayman In L.A., Mr. Mike's Blues, Belize Breeze, Another One Barrel Morning - Again!, On The Old Belize, and Beefwum Boogie. Buy and enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Quiet Mot-Mot Morning

view with morning coffee
Sitting on the veranda, 5:15am listening to the Mot-Mots mot-moting - yes, that's really what they say -  as I sip a cafe mocha and watch the sun come up. The Mot-Mots are bank nesters and so populate the forested gully that runs alongside the west end of the house. As you look at them it seems incredible that they can maneuver that spectacular tail in such a confined space. but, they do. It seems like such a flamboyant bird should be rare, but it's a common sight at Toucan Bluff. But let's get on with taking a look at the first CD, Bittersweet Dreams.

a Blue-crowned Mot-Mot
Having already met the "team," let's take a look at album number one, churned out as the 1st in what has to be one of the most efficient music production efforts ever. 

As explained earlier, Bittersweet Dreams was never intended to become a commercial effort but was intended to the first installment of a kind of family document. The first song (and the only one in the so far 30 songs published to use a prerecorded drum track as its base) Another One Barrel Morning, rather surprised us and tempted us to shoot for a higher goal. One Barrel, by the way, is Belize's most popular bar rum and the protagonist of the song a pretty common avatar of an "ex-pat" around here. We followed up with I Love, which features me on both Dobro and Harmonica, and is a straight forward slow-drag blues. Mostly, though, I only lay down base tracks with the Dobro or guitar to set the song and teach it to Sam. Later, Paul will eliminate those tracks, letting the "real musicians" take over.

 For this first effort we selected songs that Santos and I had played together for years and felt comfortable with. The only new songs on the album are Text Sex and Diamonds in the Sun, both of which take a lighter-hearted look at modern life and love and are intended to soften the general mood. 
original of what became the Bittersweet Dreams cover
While I don't think it hurts the overall quality of the album nor reduces its listenability, you can hear us gradually finding the sound that will come to maturity on the next album, A Quiet Man. The arrangements on Bittersweet Dreams are a bit more lush than we will subsequently come to favor, so the CD has its own special feel about it. The songs, in order of appearance are: Blood Red Moon, I Love, Another One Barrel Morning, Sweet Memory, Black Coffee and Blues, Text Sex, Wistful, The Leaver, Lost In Her Eyes, and Diamonds in the Sun.

OK, these are unashamedly the songs of an old man. The earliest of them written when in my 40s, the latest just now in my 70s. Looking back or looking around, this isn't a kid's viewpoint. Every song has grown out of a real story, has real meaning in my life. Of course, although the listener won't always understand what the song means to me, I certainly hope they can find a resonance with something in their own lives and feelings. The opening track, Blood Red Moon is about the very worst day in my life, yet, it always elicited one of the two most enthusiastic audience responses of the night. Go figure! (The other biggy was often God Loves A Naughty Girl, which sometimes elicited really quite fun responses from the young women in the crowd! That one has yet to appear on a CD)  Well, that's it. Let's move next to A Quiet Man.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Home Again!

Home again, Home again, Home at last!

Well, it's been a month since I was last with you here. After a trip North to be poked, prodded, and stuck, pronounced fit and regurgitated back home to Belize, I'm ready for back-a-bush life! How nice to wake up to the bawling of howler monkeys again. OK, it was 4am so not that great, but still...... It's still dry here but the rains are coming now. A good rain yesterday and another storm is approaching as I write this. The return of the rains is such sweet relief from the harshness of the dry season. Mangoes are ripening, a few already ready to pick, The Bolivian Mangosteens are ready as well. A lot of birds are still nesting so not so much morning mating mayhem but babies will be out and about soon, Let's start you off this month with a picture of a tom Occulted Turkey. This is our local native turkey and it's getting pretty rare but we have a flock of about 15 that frequents the back 100. Someday I'll surprise one with his fan up! Right now though, lets meet the final member of the Doktah D recording team.

Paul Alvarez (aka Flores) is a drummer and gifted keyboardist that has played with many bands over the years. He has represented Belize playing in Taiwan, Mexico, and The United States. He is currently playing with Sam Harris' World Culture Band and his church gospel group. While his rhythmic and keyboard skills are an important addition to the "Doktah D" sound, He is most in evidence as the entire studio tech team all by himself. He cut his studio teeth with15 years working at Belize Music. He records, he critiques and tweaks, he mixes and he masters. Its all him. He works out of Studio A in Belmopan, Belize which is owned by Paul and his wife, Karissa. Like Sam and Santos, there could be no replacing Paul without a major change in sound. And we don't want to do that! We like the sound we're getting. Here's a shot of Paul at work in Studio A.

So, the rain has started. At least we can replenish the cistern. The solar system has been malfunctioning ever since we got home. Our friend Silvan came out to help but it looks like the problem may be a bad cell in one of the batteries. Super bad if if so, They run about $900US apiece. We're hoping the batteries level out with resumed use. Fingers all crossed. No fridge and return to kerosine is nostalgic, but..........