The following videos are not an attempt to capture the songs in their most perfect form. They are merely a vehicle to let people hear some of my work that has never been in the public eye. They are shot using the video setting on my little Canon Powershot and a little Joby tripod. The guitars are either a Martin 000 series or a pretty beat up Johnson JD27. My old Kay banjo may make an appearance or two as well, for better or worse.

That's it. I welcome comments and encourage you to share the music if it strikes you.

All music and lyrics written by Richard Popovic, unless otherwise noted.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Song #11: Cup of Cheer

 
Every year I challenge myself to write a song for Christmas. It is a good exercise, since seemingly everything has been said and every symbol and turn of phrase has been done and done and done. It's not easy to come up with something fresh and new. But I always give it a shot, to mixed results.
Here is this year's attempt. It celebrates the neighborhood in the Bronx known as Woodlawn, an Irish section where Shilelagh Law plays often. It is written from the viewpoint of a fairly recent arrival who finds his new home full of life and promise.
I mention two Woodlawn institutions: The Rambling House, a bar and restaurant that acts as Shilelagh Law's home base, and The Chipper Truck, which can be found parked right nearby to serve the needs of all of us folks who just have to have curry chips at 3:30 in the morning. Check them both out if you are ever in the neighborhood.

(click through for lyrics)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Song #10: Always Be Home To Me


This is probably one of the oldest songs that will end up as part of this project. It is about my love for Yonkers, NY. I wrote it after being away for awhile, out on the west coast. I hate to be so cliche but I did not really know how much I loved my hometown until I was thousands of miles away. Growing up in tight knit neighborhoods, still hanging out with friends I made in first grade, being close to NYC but far enough away to be able to live in a big old house with a backyard, and just a general blue-collar ethos that seemed to bind everything together. These things, and so many more, made it an amazing place to grow up and call home, a fact I only realized in hindsight. Now, having made my home in a very different place, where I am raising two children, I cannot help but compare how differently my kids will grow up. In many ways, it is a change I am happy with. After all, my wife and I chose to build a house and a life here. But when I look back, through a pair of admittedly rose-colored glasses that get rosier every year, I find it hard not to lament that there are certain aspects of my youth, really positive and formative ones, that my kids will never experience. And I guess that is why, no matter where I live, in some small way, Yonkers NY will always be home to me.

(click through for lyrics)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Song #9: La Da Day

Tomorrow is me and the missus' 10th anniversary. Tin is the appropriate gift, traditionally. I do not know what that says about this song, but at any rate it is a short and sweet celebration of our ten years of marriage. I could not imagine my life without her.

This idea came from, of all places, the strings of a ukelele. I personally could not stand the uke fad that swept indie music a few years ago and swore I would never get one. But they are a perfect size for a toddler to play on, and when I came across an old Harmony at a tag sale for $35, I could not pass it up. Smart move. Turns out it is a baritone ukelele, made in the USA, 1950's, all mahogany. Once I put new strings on it, the sound was really appealing. Plus, being a baritone, the chords are the same as guitar, so I was off and running immediately. So much for the toddler's toy, she will have to make due with the shitty made in Korea mandolin gathering dust in the corner.

But I digress. This song arose from a couple of plucked chords on that little uke. Initially, the 'fi diddle do, la da day' stuff was filler, but strangely enough it morphed into the anchor point of the song, moving it forward and tying it all together. The subject of the lyrics is a snapshot of our life, and a reflection on how quickly it goes by, but how we manage to gain a little wisdom along the way.

Two things about this song structurally: under three minutes, and no chorus. Both of these attributes are such a rarity for me that to see them pop up in the same song is very bizarre. But I feel like everything I wanted to say was captured just right. Adding anything else would have lessened it.

(click through for lyrics)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Song #8: Whiskey and Wood Smoke


This one started like many of mine do, from one line, the first one--'The last time that we spoke, it was a haze of whiskey and wood smoke'. I built it up from there. Originally it was part of a chorus, but eventually it turned into the song's opening. I liked it so much I repeated it at the end, which sometimes makes a song better, but more often than not it doesn't. This time I feel like I got away with it.

As far as who it is about, I really don't know. One advantage to writing songs at (almost) forty years old is that there is a deep well of experience to draw upon. That is one reason why I feel my songs now are way better than the ones I wrote when I was eighteen. That and the fact I stopped writing seven minute ballads about King Arthur and The Hobbit.

(click through for lyrics)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Song #7: None At All


Summer has arrived big time, with triple-digit temperatures and lots of mornings sitting on the deck with the kids, spraying them with a hose and eating ice pops. This year at our place there is the added bonus of blueberries. I planted ten mature bushes a few years ago and the effort has finally paid off. The blueberries are fresh, delicious and plentiful. And whenever I am picking blueberries, I always think of this song.

The intro lines are pretty classic ones used in many traditional American songs over the years, using the change of seasons to compare two different objects. The main character is sort of the loveable rogue type, who often finds himself on the losing end of a deal but still manages to pull through with a smile. And the tuning is open G, one of my favorites for its warm inviting sound. By sticking with simple themes and simple chords, tied to a easily remembered melody, I hope I caught some of the old-timey music feel I love so much.

(click through for lyrics)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Song #6: Little Tumbleweed

 
Here is a short but sweet one that I wrote for my daughter. Before she learned to walk or even crawl yet, she was a champion roller. She would roll across the length of a twenty-foot long room without blinking an eye. She was actually late to the crawling game because she could get where she wanted by rolling, and pretty much almost skipped crawling altogether and went from rolling to walking. It was a comical and impressive spectacle.

Her rolling days are behind her but her baby brother is just starting to get into the act. Who knows if he will be as skilled as his sister in the rolling arts, but if nothing else he gives me a reason to sing this soft little song again. And if you listen close, you can hear him adding his vocal stylings from off-camera. The kid is a natural.

(click through for lyrics)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Song #5: Carrickfergus



This is not an original song, technically speaking. It is an old Irish ballad, one of my absolute favorites and one of the first ones I ever learned to play. It is on Shilelagh Law's first album in a traditional ballad form, and I love it that way because it is straightforward and simple enough that the lyrics and melody take center stage. The great songs do not need much help.

This reworked version came about in a random way. I had written the music on its own, just messing around one day, and I needed some words to try and work out a melody. Whenever I find myself in this situation I usually turn to Irish songs, since I know a lot of them backwards and forwards and their song structures are usually easy to work with. So as I was picking that first intro chord over and over, the first line of Carrickfergus came into my head. And I laughed, because it was a weird pairing. Carrickfergus is a sad song, a lament for times long gone. My music was a noodling free-flowing thing capoed way up the neck. Nothing heavy about it. But for kicks, I forged ahead.

And it grew on me. I am still not sure it works. And there are certainly a few notes and melody lines in this performance I would take back if I could. But I have to be honest, it has been stuck in my head for weeks now, and I find myself playing it over and over.

I am not sure anything will ever come of it, but it has already given me more than I ever expected.

And if anyone thinks they are hearing some weird digital feedback chirping, do not adjust your speakers. It is a persistent and somewhat obnoxious chipmunk, who was a couple of hundred  feet away but still managed to sound like he was perched on my shoulder. Everyone's a critic.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Song #4: How Are You Keeping?


Firstly, let me state that I have never dated, kissed or even gotten a number from any woman named Kerri Ann. I chose the name because I like the alliterative nature of 'How are you keeping, Kerri Ann?'. That's not to say that the women I know named Kerri Ann are not lovely people, they are. It's just that this song is...ah forget it, let's move on, shall we?

This song is based on the time-tested ideas of 'What if' and 'The one who got away'. The poor clueless bastard who is narrating this tale is both deluded and stuck in time. He transfers a brief drunken moment into a relationship that is destined to be. Of course he tries to pick it up twenty years later, after a lifetime of bad decisions and shady dealings. But he always has been a charming rogue and figures his quick wit and crooked smile will get him the girl, like it always has in the past. Little does he realize that time moves on, people grow up and unmoored ships have a funny habit of drifting away.

Big props to my son Everett who was just off camera, happily sitting in his Bumbo and singing backup.

(click through for lyrics)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Song #3: There Be Owls Here


My little patch of woods is blessed with an abundance of owls, mostly Barred Owls. They have a very recognizable hooting call, but if you have never heard the rest of their repertoire, check it out. Their songs and calls range from comical to blood-curdling, especially when they are about ten feet from your window.

Anyway, I dig owls, and early spring is when they are really active with mating and territorial disputes. It makes for noisy evenings around here. After my daughter was born in early March, I spent a lot of nights walking with her in my arms, trying to soothe her to sleep, and we often ended up at the window listening to the owls. I created this song to explain to her what all the racket was about.

The weirdly worded phrase 'There Be Owls Here' is a play on a famous map of the world that labeled an unexplored section with the ominous warning 'There Be Dragons Here'. I picture a map of my woods, crudely drawn, with my house, surrounded by trees, with the warning 'There Be Owls Here' written in one of the margins.



(click through for lyrics)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Song #2: Catskills Town


It is a refreshing thing to write a good old traditional folk story-song. So much of my music gets mucked up with my own baggage that when I can manage to write something without any of 'me' in it, I find it extremely rewarding.

This song stems from a few things. The line in the first verse 'The torchlight of the Lady lit up my young dreams' is one I have been kicking around for a long time. I don't feel it is the strongest line I have ever written but for whatever reason, it has stuck in the back of my head for a few years.

But the real inspiration came from an article written by Larry Kirwan of the Irish rock group Black 47. Both of our bands play at the East Durham Irish Festival every year, up in the Catskills region of New York, and he was reflecting on how the stone walls he sees there reminded him of ones he saw back home in Ireland. And I latched on to that sense of continuity and connectedness, and created my character from that.

The name 'Mike Lunnie' was graciously lent to me by my friend Suzy Lunnie. It was her grandfather's name (I think), and I placed him on an actual ship that landed in NY from Ireland in the early 1900's called the 'Cushla Machree', which I take to be the phonetic rendition of  'a chuisle mo chroi,' which is Irish for 'pulse of my heart,' one of the deepest terms of endearment anyone can ask for. It fit in perfectly with the imagery of someone who loves the land and works so tirelessly upon it. 

(click through for lyrics)

Friday, February 22, 2013

song #l: Lighting Fires on the Shore



Welcome to the first video in the '26 Songs' series. This was shot in my living room while the baby was napping upstairs. If you are wondering why I am looking sort of above the camera from time to time, it is to check the video monitor across the room to make sure he did not wake up. Luckily, it all worked out.

This song started from the viewpoint of someone watching a loved one go off to war, a war they do not support. Then it morphed into trying to figure out how to deal with a loved one who may be involved in some criminal activity. I'm not sure how it went from one end of the spectrum to the other, but in the end it actually does not matter, because the song is not about the one who leaves. It is about the one who stays behind, steadfast and solid. They have learned that the differences that divide us now are no match for the love that binds us forever.

(click through for lyrics)