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News: Guest Posts
Let’s Go for Walk
The singing-songwriting groomer strikes the right note, again

Last year, we posted the video for “Dog Hair in Everything I Do,” written and performed by Randi Breese, as well as a Q&A with the singing-songwriting dog groomer from Lodi, Ohio. She’s back with another tune, “Let’s Go for a Walk.” This time she captures the simple joy of this daily ritual, which put a little bounce in my Monday. Enjoy, below, and then grab a leash.

News: Guest Posts
White Knuckles
OK Go's alt-dog video goes viral

Just so Bark readers don’t think I live under a rock. I have seen—and thoroughly enjoyed OK Go’s video, “White Knuckles” with its talented pups hopping, skipping and jumping all over white Modernist furniture. In fact, I watched it when it had clocked only about 600 hits. Today, it’s has more than a million. But even better, the band members know not to look a gift dog in the mouth: A portion of sales from the video will be donated to animal rescue and on their website, OK Go has a link for donations to the ASPCA.

  See for yourself what all the fuss is about:

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Band Names
What would you call your group?

A woman in my running group was going to band practice after our workout, and we were talking about her music as we left the track. (First we talked about her sweet new dog, Gray, but then we moved on to music.) She sings in a band made up of people she works with at W. L. Gore, which is a company that manufactures medical devices. Her band has had several names over the past year, but the one I liked best was The Distal Olives. “Distal” refers to being away from the heart, and an “Olive” in this case refers to a part used to make a catheter. I love the name because it sounds very funky and cool, but relates to their work. If you didn’t know they worked for W. L. Gore, there would be no way to associate “The Distal Olives” with medical devices.

  It got me thinking about what I would call a band if I were the lead singer and wanted a name with a dog theme. This, by the way, is a highly unlikely contingency, because along with virtually everyone else in my family, I am a horrendous singer.   The names Three Dog Night and The Hounds of Soul are already taken. Here are some possibilities I came up with:   The Great Danes Music Setters Music Pointers The Howlers Liver of Dreams The Beagles Music on a Leash Pavlov’s Bells The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers The Dandie Dinmonts The Barkers   Looking over my list, it appears that I am as good at generating band names as I am at singing. What would you call a band if you wanted the name to reflect your love of dogs?
News: Guest Posts
This Weekend
Animal cognition considered, music for dogs

Cool words and music in New York City and Sydney this weekend.

  On Saturday at 3 p.m., an anthropologist, evolutionary biologist, neuroscientist, primatologist and others tackle “long-held assumptions about the differences between ‘animal’ and ‘human,’” including many ideas about how dogs think and feel as part of “All Creatures Great and Smart.” The panel is part of the World Science Festival at New York University, and will be streamed live and available as a replay. I love technology.   On Sunday, June 6 at 10 a.m., the Sydney Opera House (actually the forecourt at the opera house) goes to the dogs—and this is no exaggeration for effect—when Laurie (Big Science, Sharkey’s Day) Anderson debuts “Music for Dogs” before a dual-species audience. The 20-minute composition features high-frequency sounds only the dogs will hear. Anderson told a news conference, she was motivated, in part, by the idea of a dog audience. Click for details about the performance at the Vivid Sydney arts festival, curated by Anderson and Lou Reed. There’s no indication the performance will be streamed, but here’s hoping we’ll have a chance to listen with our own pups soon.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Hair in Everything She Does
Meet the singing dog groomer

When friends and relatives who don’t have dogs visit, I do a fairly rigorous vacuum to make it look like I don’t live in a rising tide of dog fur. Personally, hair bunnies don’t bother me but I figure it’s disgusting to folks who aren’t really used to it.

I know I'm not alone. To hear her tell it--rather sing it--Randi Breese is no stranger to fur in the silverware tray, the swimming pool and the chapstick. She went so far as to turn it into art, “Dog Hair in Everything I Do.” Before I posted it here for your relating pleasure, I tracked down the singer/songwriter to learn a little about the story behind the song.

The Bark: Is music a full-time gig for you?
Randi Breese: No, I have been in a few bands from time to time, but my occupation is as a dog groomer. So I have lots of experience in all kinds of dog hair!

Are the dogs in the video yours?
Two of the dogs are mine. My Border Collies, Riley and Crazy Parker. The chocolate Lab, Cammie, is owned by my friends Jim and Jennifer Zelasko, and the toy Poodle, Madison, is owned by my friends, Jim and Sandy Whittlesey.

Tell me about your dogs.
My dog, Crazy Parker, is 4-years-old and loves to compete in DockDogs. That’s where the scene of the hair in the pool came from. He holds an Elite title, which means he can jump over 23 feet! Riley is 8 and mostly likes to do agility, chase the cats and sleep on the sofa! I love them very much and their hair being everywhere is part of the inspiration for the song. The idea for writing the song came when my friend, Jim, said to me that the next song I write should be about dog hair being in everything I do. Then, voila, this funny little song was born!

Do you have any CDs?
No, I don’t. I once made a demo CD with a band I was in, but it is not available. I have lots of songs I have written over the years, though.

Where do you live?
I live in Lodi, Ohio. I love this town so much that I’ve written a song about it!
 

News: Guest Posts
Jammin’ with the Dogs
DIY video contest for Steve Martin song.

On Tuesday, I had the great pleasure of seeing Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers perform songs from his CD The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo. A highlight was Martin’s live version of “Wally on the Run,” a song about his dog playing fetch. Fiddler Nicky Sanders created the sounds of barking and whining perfectly with his bow and strings. Pure fun.

So I was thrilled when I heard about his “Make Your Own Music Video Contest” for “Wally on the Run.” If you’re a fan of banjo and dogs, like me, why not get into the spirit of things yourself by capturing your dog's antics on video? First prize: bragging rights and $1,000 first prize. Second prize: 99 cents. Here are the details direct from the wild and crazy guy, himself.


Wally On The Run : A Message from Steve Martin
by SteveMartin

 

 

News: Guest Posts
A Better Rap for Dogs
Q&A with hip-hop artist MC Esoteric

Seamus Ryan, a Boston-based hip-hop artist who goes by the nom de plume, MC Esoteric, dropped a concept album this fall that turns old school rap depictions of fighting dogs upside-down. Saving Seamus Ryan tells the semi-autobiographic story of a man who is redeemed by the love of a Labrador Retriever. To mark the CD debut and Esoteric’s Saturday, Oct. 24, appearance (with his dog Logan) on Animal Planet’s SuperFetch, we tracked him down in London, where he answered a few questions for us via email.

In the song “Max (Goodbye)” the singer puts his old dog to sleep--was Max your dog?
Max is a fictional character in the story Saving Seamus Ryan, but he is based on Boo, my first dog, an Irish Setter. Boo was the family dog, and he actually taught me how to walk. I’ve been told that I learned to walk by using his tail. He lived a long, long life and was such a good-natured dog. We’ve had dogs our whole life, but Logan (my Lab) was the life-changer. He had a lot of health issues as a youngster, such as pneumonia, elbow dysplasia and he impaled his throat on a stick one Easter. Dealing with these things only strengthened our relationship and made me that much more crazy about him. As my mother would say, he has a lot of spirit.
 
Is Logan the inspiration for “Back to the Lab” [watch video] and “The King Is The Dog”?
Yes. He has pretty much been the inspiration for most of my music for the past three years. He is a Lab in every sense of the word: Great with kids, swims like a champ and eats like a pig. Mischief is his middle name … even with an hour or two of exercise, he can still get into trouble. You could say the ghost of Marley certainly visits Logan on a weekly basis. And in the song, I mention that it “ain’t just about the Labrador Retriever” because I’m a fanatic of all things canine—from Newfies to Springers, from Vizslas to Akitas—I love them all. And Logan is nice enough to bring me out to meet a lot of them daily.

What does the cover of Saving Seamus Ryan (a yellow Lab sitting next to collapsed man) represent?
That’s a scene from the story. Everything is wrong in my life at this time: I’ve lost Max; I’ve been robbed for my long-overdue engagement ring that I was about to propose with; and my girlfriend is ready to leave me. That’s when Logan stumbles into my life and changes things. He actually helps get the ring back at the end.

Are you active in animal welfare?
Before leaving for this tour, I worked for the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center. I was seeing many hard things and many wonderful things on a daily basis, all of it being very enriching and challenging. I plan on returning there in 2010, I miss the dogs and their stories. The things a dog can bring out in people should be bottled-up and sold.

What will you be doing on SuperFetch?
The song “The King is the Dog” from Saving Seamus Ryan is the theme of the episode, and we are shooting a video for it. Logan basically has an old school dance routine that he attempts to execute, and it is up to me to train him to pull it off. I saw the footage, and it is pretty hilarious stuff. Logan had a lot of fun learning and playing throughout the shooting of it. He loves attention.

Finally, rap and hip-hop are often criticized for glamorizing dog fighting and contributing to problems for Pit Bulls and other breeds, is this something you have in mind with your songs and videos?
Yeah, totally. My peers joke about how I’m ruining their image by being the lovey-dovey-dog-guy. Friends in the rap industry thought I was nuts, but now they call me for dog advice. Fans ask about Logan in the same breath as the music. It is amazing. On this last tour of the U.S. and Canada, people have been approaching me with pictures and stories of their dogs. They used to just come up to talk about my music. I wrote an entire song that harshly criticized Michael Vick but never released it since I have touched on him in other albums, including this new one. Dog fighting is one of the most cruel and heartless acts of violence a human can commit.

www.esoterichiphop.com
www.myspace.com/7lesoteric
www.youtube.com/pterolab
 

 

News: Guest Posts
Stanny’s Song. New Video!
Bark exclusive: World web premiere of “Half-Breed Stan”

[Editor's note: We originally debuted the audio track of Bill DeMain’s song, “Half-Breed Stan,” on our website back in January—see details from the original below. Now, we’re thrilled to share the video for the song, which features a cameo by Stan the Dog--at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.]

 

When it comes to writing about dog songs, Bark’s go-to guy is Nashville-based guitarist-singer-songwriter Bill DeMain, one-half of the alt-pop duo Swan Dive. Well, it appears DeMain’s journalistic forays into the world of Pup Pop kick-started his own contribution to the catalog, and, for the moment, thebark.com is the only place you can hear—fresh from the mixing room—“Half Breed Stan.”

 

Grab your best friend and give a listen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A track on Mayfair, Swan Dive’s forthcoming album, “Half Breed Stan” was inspired by the real-life Stan, a half-Beagle/half-Basset Hound adopted by DeMain’s friend (and the song’s co-writer and back-up vocalist) David Mead. Mead found Stan at a Nashville rescue center about six years ago. “He’s stoic and even-keeled in his temperament, hence the comparison to Winston Churchill,” DeMain says. He’s also quite the ladies’ man.

DeMain met Stan last summer, when we was working on Mead’s album, Almost & Always. While in the studio, the pair decided one song, “Last Train Home,” needed a thumping drum sound. “But we had decided at the outset that the album was not going to have drums. So David got the idea to pat on Stan’s tummy, record it and make a rhythmic loop out of it. And that’s what you hear on the song. Stan’s body has a very resonant tone,” DeMain says. “Stan was very matter of fact about the whole thing, looking at David like, ‘I trust that there’s a meal at the end of this charade.’” (You can hear Stan’s belly beat on “Last Train Home” at NPR’s Song Of The Day. It will also be featured on an upcoming episode of Private Practice.)

“Half Breed Stan” has its fair share of unusual percussion as well. In addition to a ukulele, the backing track features a cardboard box, plastic garbage can, and an array of pots and pans from Dansk and Ikea.

By the way, DeMain’s favorite dog tune is “Me And My Arrow” by Harry Nilsson. 

 

News: Guest Posts
Pup Music
Fifty and counting: Why does Robbie Long write (so many) dog songs?

I’m feeling good—tapping my toes and singing aloud—because I’ve spent most of the morning listening to What Kind of Dog Am I?, a CD of songs from a dog’s point of view written and performed by Robbie Long.

Songs like “Green Tennis Ball,”
    
   You might see me scratch-n-sniffin’ with my tongue hanging loose.
   You might think I need a bath and that I have no use.
   But in a snap I’m a hero-daredevil-acrobat,
   I leap any crowded highway just to bring it back—that green tennis ball.

Long sings, barks and howls in his approximation of a doggie voice, which he describes as sounding like “Mark Twain took a long walk with the Muppets.” As strange as that sounds, his funny, smart lyrics and sweet melodies capture dogs’ infinite variety and trigger my sing-along switch.

“I went to the dogs, happily,” Long told me when I called about his CD. A self-described “old hippy,” who lives between Berkeley and Venice Beach, Calif., Long is a veteran of the music biz, including seriously non-canine gigs writing songs for Kenny Rogers and Whitney Houston. He’s also a cartoonist, and a featured artist for Recycled Greetings.

Long has always loved dogs (his father wrote dozens of “Lassie” episodes), but it was when he hit a rough patch in his life that dogs became creative fuel. Long says he was helped out of a blue period by Brutus, a gentle and powerful Lab-Pit Bull mix, who belonged to Long’s good friend and collaborator on two songs for the current CD, Bruce Langhorne. (Langhorne played guitar on some early Bob Dylan records, and Dylan has written that he was the starting point inspiration for the song "Mr. Tamborine Man").

“Brutus was the Einstein of dogs,” Long says. “He had complete concentration and deadpan looks. We took long walks and long sits. I checked out his world. I have never rescued a dog but a dog rescued me. I really mean that. Dogs remind me to be alive, truthful and good.”

Inspired by his mutty muse, Long started writing dog-themed songs. “It really lifted my spirit. I did it for the joy of it,” he says. “I wasn’t intending to write all these songs, but once I got started I didn’t want to stop.” With fifty complete, there’s no end in sight. Some of the songs on What Kind of Do Am I? are included in Long’s musical play, Keep on Waggin’! He’s also working on a cartoon book with the same title, and he just finished mixing a HOWLALUYA CHORUS, which he would love to see get a not-so-serious concert hall debut.

“My hope with this music is it will create some kind of joy and connection between people,” he says. He wants good things to happen for others, and “I want our canine pals to get their due.” He contributes his talents to animal welfare charities, such as Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. Watch the Best Friends’ “What Kind of Dog Am I?” video.

While he’s thrilled by what the songs mean for him, Long concedes Brutus might have a different reaction: “If he came back, he’d say, ‘You don’t have a clue. Don’t even play these for me.’”

I’m not so sure about that.

News: Guest Posts
Little Dang Dog
Singer’s debut album throws a bone to a rescue effort.

For less than a buck, you can enjoy a funny, happy tune about “a little scoundrel in a fur suit” and throw some cash toward a good canine cause. Inspired by his wonderful rescue hound (more on that in a sec), acoustic folk/rock singer/songwriter Kevin Carlson of Woodstock, Ga., wrote “Little Dang Dog.” He was also inspired to support the efforts of the grassroots rescue and adoption organization that made the sometimes-challenging relationship with his furry muse possible. Hence, Carlson will make a donation to Mostly Mutts for every iTunes download of this song through August 2009.

After hearing the song, we needed to know more about the inspiration. According to Carlson, it goes something like this:

“We adopted a rescue dog, Penny, from Mostly Mutts in 2004, and when she was about two-years-old, we decided to get her a playmate. Penny is very playful and always looking for someone to play chase or throw a ball for her. We went to visit Mostly Mutts and found a litter of Beagle-mix puppies, named after the elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. The only one not spoken for was Fire, whom we adopted and took home. In the first couple of days, we changed her name. Since should she get out of the yard, opening the door and yelling “Fire” probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with the neighbors. Since we had a Penny, we thought we’d name her Nicki (short for Nickel).

 

“In the first few months, Nicki tunneled under the fence about twice a day, dug numerous holes in inconvenient places and barked at just about anything that moved. One night while playing guitar and working on some new songs, I was notified by a neighbor that Nicki had dug under the fence and was on an adventure again. After finally getting Nicki back in the house safely, I sat back down and wrote a song about this little dang dog and decided to name it exactly that. Nicki is about three-years-old now and after spending some time working with her, she has calmed down and stopped following her nose in any random direction. Most of the time, anyway!”

If you like Carlson's light-hearted paean, check out the rest of his debut CD, “Museum.” You may recognize some of the tunes; five were selected last year by MTV, Oxygen and E! to be used in their television shows.

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