Two that I am particularly fond of are the "CoffeeHouse Hootenanny" and the "Home Away From Home...Kool Beanz" CDs, because they are compilations that feature many of our friends. Since starting this blog, I've been wanting to do a series called "Then and Now" focusing on the musicians on those two discs, and taking a look at how they've grown.
We are going to kick this thing off with a favorite of many folks around Florida: award winning singer-songwriter "Sebastian" Al Scortino.
"CoffeeHouse Hootenanny" performers: The Secrets (Robin and Eddy, Kathleen Berghuis, Harvey Kishter, Taylor Made, Steve Hodak, Rev. Don Maxson, Anna Delgado, Terry Kelley, Jammin' Joe, Bob Parker, Rocky D'Andrea, & Slim Chance and the Yugo Girls
I first met Al Scortino on Open Mic nights at the "Java" The Hut" Coffeehouse (Indian Harbour Beach) where I was working all those years ago. We had a bunch of great songwriters come through there, and Al was among the best.
Maj. Art Dorie and his wife Helga were big fans of the Open Mic, and from there Art recruited a number of artists to perform on a CD he was producing about folk songs of The Korean War. As a gift for helping him, Mr. Dorie produced a Limited Edition CD of those artists performing their songs, and covers, to help them promote themselves. That was the "CoffeeHouse Hootenanny" CD.
Art Dorie hired me to design the CD "Hootenanny" cover (my first), and from there Al Scortino hired me to do my second for his second disc "The Promised Land". My favorite track on the disc is What'll We Do With Mary (the cover concept is based on this song).
Back in 1998 my wife and I had just opened our coffeehouse, Kool Beanz. Al had his CD release party for "The Promised Land" there, and when we decided to record a live album of many Kool Beanz faves the next year, we knew we wanted Al (and his partner norm mcdonald) to be a part of it. For the disc, the powerful "Jacksonville is Burning" (about the Florida fires in '98) was selected.
Sometime around "The Promised Land" Al started hooking up with some other fine musicians from across the state, together the became known as "The Ashley Gang", and fast became favorites on the Florida folk festival circuit. So far, Al's recorded two discs with the band, and is currently working on his third solo project.
"Home Away" performers:Will Pearsall and Steve Shanholtzer, Diane Runion & Willie Hunton, Bob Sanders, Matt Riley, Bryan McCahill, Big Red & the Bus, Rocky D'Andrea, HoneyBucket HillBilly Band, Dave Grooms, Terry Kelly, Janet Reedy, Steve Setron. Al Scortino and norm mcdonald, Brad Keeler and Kim Roque, Mike Runion, Laura and Seven, Steve Hodak, & Sam Pacetti
I recently asked Al a few questions, and here's what he had to say:
Al, where are you now?
Still singing and playing whenever possible, although not as frequently as I'd like. The band has been not quite as eager to travel lately, to many family and job obligations and disasters. I have a home studio set up now. I originally put it together to record my own material on my own schedule. But it's kind of like being the first kid on the block with a car, everyone wants to ride! So I've recorded a few projects with some local groups, some scream band and a punk group. Good experiences all, enjoyed every minute of it. Still writing and working on a new CD which should be done within the next couple months.
How and when were you inspired to become a songwriter?
Hmmm.... I guess it all started like many song writers, not so much an inspirational thing but a self therapeutic thing. By the time I got through with my therapy phase I knew how to write a song, so I just kept doing it.
What songwriter from the time you stated was your favorite?
I think at the time I started writing I'd say I was listening to a lot of folk rock types, Jackson Browne, Eagles, Dan Fogelberg.
Who is your favorite songwriter of today?
That's tough. I like a bunch of independent artists. It's almost safe to say if they play them on the main stream commercial radio, they suck. If they play them on WFIT's newest program The Acoustic Record, they've got my seal of approval!
Of all the songs you’ve ever written, which would you most like to be remembered for?
I'd like to be remembered by a bunch of different folks for a bunch of different songs. I'd like to think they were all worth writing and recording. Then again, I could be wrong.
Al was kind enough to debut a few of his new track here for you folks, Thanks Al!
Make sure you visit Al's and the Ashley Gang's websites, and be sure to tune into my radio show An Acoustic Record this Monday night (10pm WFIT 89.5 Melbourne, On-line: wfit.org) when I'll feature Al Scortino and many other fine Florida talents.
THE ASHLEY GANG