Category Archives: Local

Review: Not Changing, by Jim Basnight

In recent years I have tried to focus some of my money spent on music on local artists, or up and coming artists from anywhere. A good example is Pushing Chain, a “folky tonk” duo from Minnesota. As far as local artists in the past number of years I’ve purchased music by Carl Funk, Brad, The Halyards, and Vanilla. I am also looking forward to an upcoming release by Tom Kell, a Puget Sound area guy who has spent the past several decades in Southern California rubbing elbows with the royalty of the “California Sound.” On top of that, I want to write reviews of the music and encourage others to buy it. With streaming becoming ubiquitous these days it’s tough for musicians to make a living unless they are superstars.

But today my topic is Jim Basnight. For about four decades Jim has been a prolific producer of original songs. His band The Moberlys was a popular and influential part of the pre-Grunge Seattle music scene. He has continued to make music both as a solo artist and with bands such as The Rockinghams and a re-formed version of The Moberlys. Along the way, he has spent time living and making music in both New York and L.A. but always returning to his native Puget Sound region.

Recently, Jim released “Not Changing”, a collection of 14 new songs. The album opens with “Code to Live By.” The opening bars remind me a bit of the jazzy opening riffs from “Blue Collar” by BTO so many years ago. I am not the greatest at interpreting lyrics, because I know songwriters have something in mind as they write. It helps if I can have the lyrics in front of me too. But as I listen to this song I get the feeling it’s about a person of privilege who has no moral compass, “Crawling through your life, waiting for a code to live by.” Hopefully, Jim will set me straight if I’m off on this one. But I think it’s a great song.

This release falls into the category of Power Pop. The title track proves it by picking up the tempo and adding a harder edge. It has a short spoken intro before it begins to rock in earnest. The next track, “Big Bang” isn’t about a situation comedy about nerds, but is a hard rocking love song about a “supernova of love.” The song, “Suicide Evening” appears to be about someone contemplating ending their life and features a perfect guitar solo for the mood. It starts beautifully with a sustained note played in unison with Jim’s vocal. Hard to tell where the guitar starts and the vocal ends. On “Kurt Cobain,” it sounds as though Cobain has been resurrected on guitar, and perfectly recreates that Grunge vibe. Recently, Jim wrote that “Never Get Lost” was intended to sound like “Badfinger with Hendrix on guitar.” That helps explain why it may be my favorite track, as I am a huge fan of Badfinger. Other great tracks on this recording include, oh, never mind. They are all great. Buy it here.

The CD is co-produced by longtime local producer Garey Shelton who also plays bass. Drums are by Dave Warburton, who seems to be in pretty high demand right now. On guitar is Bruce Hazen. Steve Aliment does backing vocals. DJ Jay Phillips does a spoken, top-40 radio style intro on “Living the Way I Want.”

Birds galore as the solstice approaches

Over the past several days our yard and neighborhood have been rich with a variety of birds. Many of the birds seem to be finding relatively natural sources of food. I currently only have one hummingbird feeder and a suet feeder stocked.

Among the birds I’ve seen include many Dark-eyed Juncos and American Robins, roving flocks of Bushtits, a few American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins, and a couple of Western Scrub Jays.

The Goldfinches and Juncos seem to be interested in seeds from last summer’s flowers. At least one Robin was gleaning berries from a juniper. The Bushtits work the trees and shrubs and mob the suet feeder. Two or more Anna’s Hummingbirds jockey for control of the feeder.

Early lunch for a Red-tailed Hawk

I had a little extra time this morning and took my camera and binoculars out looking for Trumpeter Swans. We often have a few in the valley this time of year, but it’s hit or miss. I drove out along Pioneer Way, River Road, Stewart, 66th Avenue, and Gay Road. I was striking out early, but chanced upon a Red-tailed Hawk fairly low in a tree along Gay Road. It stayed put when I stopped and rolled down the window.

As I got my camera up and ready, I noticed it was eating something. I started snapping a few pictures and noticed that part of the hawk’s meal was dangling from the branch. I focused on that and saw that it was a fish head! Then I saw the tail on the other side of the branch attached to a spine that had been picked pretty clean.

I’ve never heard that Red-tails are adept fishers, but maybe they are. More likely though is it found a carcass that had been abandoned and took it to a nearby tree for an easy meal.

Red-tailed Hawk with fish carcass

After attracting the attention of a nervous resident in an Army Ranger jacket, I decided to move on rather than tempt fate.

Continuing back onto River Road then back over to Pioneer, I noticed a group of large white birds in the distance from 52nd Street. With my binoculars I confirmed a flock of about twenty swans too distant to photograph or sort out species, but I would guess the majority would be Trumpeters. Like in past years, they congregated near the railroad tracks that parallel Pioneer. The elevated road bed for the tracks make it so they are not visible along most of Pioneer, and where they are visible it is only a peek-a-boo view.

I drove back onto 66th, and stopped at the Pierce Conservation District office. I asked if they had a view of the field in question. Mike Baden of the PCD accompanied me out to the back of the facility and told me the extent of their property. He then left me to it and I proceeded to walk along a fence row hoping to find an open view. Once again I got just peek-a-boo views of the swans, and finally had to turn around as the soil in the field got softer and softer. Shoulda worn boots!

Wildlife First

In recent weeks there have been two stories in the papers about wildlife threats to pets. One was local, the other from another part of the country. The wildlife in one story was coyotes, in the other, raccoons. In both stories, family pets had been killed and badly wounded in encounters with these animals. In both stories there was much hand-wringing about how to protect pets and children from marauding predators.

I have a plan for people concerned about the safety of family and beloved household companions. First, do not let your small children or pets outside unsupervised. Never allow pets to just roam the neighborhood. Second, do not leave food for pets outside. It will attract the aforementioned animals, not to mention rats, opossums, et al. Third, keep your garbage in a tightly closed container in a secure location. Fourth, if you feed birds, set your feeders up in such a way as to be inaccessible to undesirable wildlife. There are many clever devices on the market to assist you. Clean up beneath your feeders regularly.

As to my first point, it is especially common for cats to be allowed to roam. There are many problems with this. Not only are cats easy prey for predatory wildlife, if they happen upon a cat-hating dog the result could be the same. A fight with another cat can end badly as well. How often have you seen a dead cat by the side of the road? I don’t think many of them died from natural causes. Also, I hope you keep your cuddly kitty up to date on vaccinations for those random encounters with other domestic felines, or worse, feral cats.

So far, I’ve only mentioned the dangers to cats roaming, but there are other problems. About twenty years ago I acquired a beautiful male grey tabby cat. He was a stray, brought home by my then roommate. At the time he was my only model for cat care, and he always let his cats roam. So I let Billy roam. I thought, “This is great! He barely ever uses the litter box.” What I didn’t really think about was what he wasusing. The neighbor’s flower bed, or a child’s sandbox for example. I imagine he found all sorts of wonderful scratching posts around the neighborhood as well. Years later, when a landlord told me Billy would need to be kept inside, I was unhappy about the inconvenience, but I eventually learned that it was for his own welfare, and I had been selfish by letting him roam free. A smart veterinarian would tell you the same thing.

Then there is the damage they do to native songbirds and small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels. Domestic cats stalk these animals not because they need to eat, but because it is their instinct to do so. So, well fed, pampered pets hunt down and kill wild birds that are just trying to survive and feed their young. Millions of them die this way every year.

Many communities already have laws about roaming animals. They just aren’t always applied to cats. Here is part of the law in my town:

8.12.020 Impounding authority – Care.

It is unlawful for the owner or person having control or custody of any dog, cat, or other animal to allow such dog, cat, or other animal to enter or trespass upon private property without the express permission of the owner or caretaker of such property. Any such dog, cat or other animal may be seized and impounded. (Ord. 2463 § 1, 1995; Ord. 293 § 3, 1904)

In the end I have just this to say: Take care of your pets. Be responsible and protect them. I will feel sorry if I hear that your dog or cat died in some horrible and unnecessary way, but you, the pet owner, will get little sympathy from me.