Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Enjoying the Ride

Old human habits die really, really, really hard.

One of my worst habits is my propensity for self-sabotage. It has lessened in the last couple of years, but the tendency still lingers. Sometimes, in the wake of a beautiful and hopeful experience, it rears its head, kind of like that big, squidlike thing that swallowed Johnny Depp in the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

Today, I decided that monster is a goner. Them old tapes don’t play no more. Vulnerability and joy together do not equal impending doom.

Being human is hard, painful work. Living with an open heart takes commitment and real diligence and a sort of ethereal trust that makes absolutely no sense. Our humanity is built upon interacting with other human beings; not all of those interactions will be good. Our supposedly gigantic brains position us to feel, choose, live, create our days. We have the capacity to discern and decide; we may not always have the option of choosing what happens to us, but we have the option, and the obligation, to choose how we respond.

Ricky Skaggs, one of contemporary Bluegrass music’s hottest performers and a superior musician who with his wife also heads up Skaggs Family Records, didn’t always get every note right in life. The song I’m throwing out to you, “Enjoy the Ride,” is one of my favorite songs, and in the category of beautifully sung by a brilliant instrumentalist. It’s from Skaggs’ last award-winning album, Brand New Strings. I encourage you to add it to your collection. Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, have a brand-new, all-instrumental recording that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

As I sit here next to my mandolin, I realize how like life learning an instrument is. Some things you do really well. Others take more practice. And some things you just might not ever get right. But I pull it out and tune up, because after all, sometimes we fall. Sometimes we fly. We’re only human. All we can do is just enjoy the ride.

Enjoy the Ride

Another day, another chance
To right the wrongs, begin again
All you can do is do your best
Shake off the past, forgive yourself
It’s just the world we’re livin in
Not many saints, too many sins
You’re not alone, we’re all inclined
To slip and fall, and cross the line
We live and learn with each mistake
To get back up, thank God for grace

Lift up your chin, brush off the dust
Wash your hands of the things you’ve done
Sometimes you fall, sometimes you fly
It’s only life, enjoy the ride

As long as you have air to breathe
Then you have all the time you need
To give your love for all its worth
And make amends to those you’ve hurt
This is your life for heaven’s sake
Redeem yourself, and thank God for grace

Lift up your chin, brush off the dust
Wash your hands of the things you’ve done
Sometimes you fall, sometimes you fly
It’s only life, enjoy the ride

Another day, another chance…

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Everybody Needs a Little Vacation

This past Sunday was one of the most relaxing days I’ve spent in quite a while. After a morning spent moving very slowly, a friend and I had lunch and took in the sites at Lawnfield, a National Historic Site featuring the Mentor home of President James A. Garfield. Technically I could say I was on a work-related mission, but the truth is, the pace of the day and the company I kept gave me the distinct sensation of being on vacation. I held no expectations, looked for no answers (with the exception of where the restrooms were on a couple of occasions), drew few conclusions.

I had spent the previous afternoon very differently, catching up on some reading about the evolution of Southern song and the origins of traditional song and how some of the secular and sacred traditions within mountain songs and later bluegrass can be traced all the way back to the medieval modal system, the earliest expression of what we now know as theory. (Yeah, it was a bit more didactic than I planned for an afternoon of reading about bluegrass between laps in the pool.) In essence, this style of singing which to the pop-oriented ear might sound like a “messed up scale” has changed very little from the psalmody – the most well known of which is Gregorian chant – of the middle ages.

More plainly put, the kinds of tonal resolution in many a mountain and bluegrass song – the kind of melodic progression that is kind of, but not entirely, bluesy – really originated in the church language of music some 1500 years ago.

The breakdown of the song goes a little further. Minstrel songs kept to the basic lines that were more predictable, making the delivery light and easy. Gospel songs, on the other hand, spanned a greater range; rather than staying within close range of the main chord progressions of I, IV, V, Gospel tunes had “highs and lows” – dipping below the tonic (I) and working their way back up to the tonic (or first note in the key in which the song is set).

Called out in this discussion was the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group that was founded at Fisk University, an “HBC” or historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee. The Jubilee Singers stood well apart from their minstrel counterparts mimicking various negro traditions in blackface. The group was formed in 1871, and introduced “slave songs” to the world. It was the first time audiences would hear black music not performed in the minstrel style. They forced audiences at home and abroad to think differently about black music, to "take a vacation" from the world view that kept the integrity and beauty of the Negro spiritual somewhere hidden away while minstrel songs were viewed as the primary black musical culture.

Placed amid President Garfield's effects was a panel describing a visit the Fisk Jubilee Singers made to Lawnfield in Mentor, Ohio, during Garfield's presidential campaign. Prior to being placed on the Republican Presidential ticket, Garfield spent 17 years in the U.S. Senate. But Lawnfield was where his heart resided, a place where he could get away and surround himself with his family. Following their performance, Garfield addressed the group, whose concert left a roomful of about 100 neighbors and supporters stunned beyond measure. Said Garfield, “And I tell you now, in the closing days of this campaign, that I would rather be with you and defeated than against you and victorious.”

A few days later, Garfield was elected the 2oth President of the United States. In July of the following year, in 1881, Garfield was shot twice in the back at a train station, on his way to meet his family--for vacation. He lingered for 80 days before succumbing to infection brought on by the relentless unsanitary probing of doctors in search of the bullets. Before he died, his family did manage to get him to the shore one last time.

Sunday was not a day I took for granted like so many others. No day should be taken for granted, what with the world as wild as it is. Finding this little piece of my musical life buried among the Garfield story in the middle of this unusual day gave me a sense of peace and rightness. Those moments probably occur more often than any of us realize or recognize.

Honor every one.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Down up, chop chop, back to school

It's baaaaaaaaaaack to school at our house. Despite the drear that accompanies the end of summer around here, our first day of school went rather smoothly, and everyone is fairly happy to be back in the swing, MandoMama included.

I had been pining over the last several days because at one point I realized I had not written or picked up my mandolin in almost three days. That's a really, really long time, but, my head was anywhere but on my self-development. I was busy trying to cram whatever I could into the last days, making each moment a little special or fun for the kids. And mostly it was, but sometimes when we make things extra special we forget how good the every day stuff is.

Practicing, like homework is more everyday now, and it is more joy than work. With everyone leaving the house before seven, I might have to get more creative about the ways I practice when the MiniMandoMes are around and trying to sleep.

Tonight, after about 30 minutes of scales and tunes, I was just sort of fooling around when a book on the piano caught my eye. It's a book of fiddle tunes and accompanying cds featuring the legendary Butch Baldassari. He's one serious mando dude but he makes it all so much fun.

A friend gave me the book as a gift a couple of years ago before I came into my gonna-take-this-serious mode, and now having had some space between my old life and new, and some instruction both formal and in-, I pulled the book out and started flipping through it. The cds caught my eye so I popped one in to copy over to iTunes. What an excellent way to practice! Each tune is broken out for melody, rhythm (chop chop), and different versions and tempos. What genius! Not only will it help to play along, but I can take these tunes apart in my head while driving to work or walking the bike path. The intellectual exercise of taking a tune apart is a serious way to practice.

My friend Jawbone also made me a recording with just rhythm guitar going, so that I have to break out of my comfort zone and improvise.

When I picked up my instrument tonight, I held it and played it with a renewed seriousness. Yes, it is a fun instrument and bluegrass is fun to play, but it's still learning an instrument. Having spent some time recently around serious musicians, instructors, and music students again, I see that I have to approach this learning with all the intent I once brought to a new aria or Bach keyboard piece. As I quoted my mando teacher as saying a while back, each note should be played with soul, and I think with an equal amount of technical intent. We are hear to make a noise, a joyful clean noise on every attack, pick click and all. My practicing probably won't land me in Baldassari's Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, but it's always good to have goals.

In addition to being a legendary performer and recording artist, Baldassari is an adjunct instructor of mando at Vanderbilt's Blair School of Music. The Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, which my son and I enjoyed last year at IBMA, plays everything from Monroe to Vivaldi. Click here to select from a range of samples.

For the best in home acoustic instruction, visit

Friday, August 18, 2006

Girl Friday: Polly drove steel like a man (and probably kept the books, too)

As much as I blab on and on about being a good mother and wanting to be a good musician and be a writer and change the world through this music and all that, one thing is inarguably me.

I am a closet administrator.

That’s right. I turn the screws, I find other people to turn them, I can tell who can’t turn them. Somehow, despite years of wandering in the wilderness, my sister and I both find ourselves with rather a natural bent toward managing people and where possible, leading change.

And someday that’s where I imagine I ultimately will make my contribution. It’s kind of boring, I suppose. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but what will make my idea work is not my being all passionate about music, or being a good musician, or even having the drive and fearlessness to go gathering with the people in the hills and then traipsing back to the table at Rounder or Sugar Hill or some university somewhere. That’s all important, but what will get it done is my ability to make a business case for it, and find the best people to do it.

This will surprise some people who have known me long. But its true. At the end of the day, a fine organization isn’t worth the paper its chartered on if it don’t run right. I love stuff that runs right.
A lot of what I do on a daily basis is get paid to get to know really good administrators, many of them in arts and cultural institutions and many, if not most, who are women. I also have to watch organizations struggle when a weak leader is in place and is creating a culture of mistrust, inefficiency, and average performance. The lesson I am learning is that there are a ton of really strong women leaders in the arts and cultural field. If I am lucky, maybe I can recruit one of them to run my gig!

Yesterday I spent quite a few minutes talking with a leading artistic administrator in a fairly strong mid-sized orchestra in the South. She is fortunate to be at the crossroads of many kinds of music, rubbing elbows with a wide range of performers, conductors, composers. She gets them to play nice with her Orchestra, and everybody has a good time. It is not always an easy task to get the show to go on.

There are a number of prominent orchestras run at the top by women. And lots of organizations with critical programmatic components run by women. One that fits these pages is of course the International Bluegrass Music Association, whose special projects director is Nancy Cardwell.

Nancy is not only responsible for the week-long World of Bluegrass conference and three-day fan fest coming up in about five weeks, but she also runs the Bluegrass in the Schools project, and the Leadership Bluegrass professional development program. Somewhere in there she makes time to be a freelance writer.

Here's to Nancy and to all the behind the scenes administrators who oil the gears, keep the lights on and ultimately bring up the curtain. Sample this favorite tune from that wonderful trad band Uncle Earl, hailed on their web site as "...the all female old-time band winning the hearts of the pigtailed future of bluegrass worldwide." That's a worthy mission, and Nancy's on it.

Old Bunch of Keys

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back to School Basics

Last night our family crossed into a new dimension -- Junior High School. The orientation at my son's new school was packed with anxious parents and excited eleven and twelve year olds with their schedules in hand. We bounced around the building while our son located all his classrooms. He has one teacher he had last year, and his shop teacher -- yes, SHOP! -- was someone his best friend's dad and one of my former bosses also had when they were kids. It was cool.

I was particularly impressed with the young, energetic Assistant Principal, who indicated he was sure that the company providing the required Ohio Standardized Testing calculators had a good racket going with the Ohio Department of Education (see earlier post). Some days, it's just nice to know in fact that I'm not as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Even though this transition is small compared to some, getting through can still make us feel a little anxious. It's scary, nervewracking, to some degree for us as well as our kid. We hold our breath -- how will this kid get through the day if he has to each lunch at 10:30 in the morning? Who though having Phys Ed first period was brilliant? What if he forgets his key on the coldest day of the year?

But it will all be just fine, of course.

As I moved along with the crowd, watching my son leap ahead to scope out the lay of the land, I found myself thinking about the Re-ED principles, a set of basic tenets created by a particular school of child behaviorists in the 1970s as a response to Freudian accusations that everything wrong with us is somehow our mothers' fault. Why would this even be on my mind? I have the pleasure of working with a client whose services are based on these basic principles. Since day one, I've felt that these assertions are pretty good things for all of us to keep in mind. I realize these aren't bluegrass lyrics, but the values in these principles reflect the simple and steady and fairly uncomplicated values I find draw me to that music and give me a sense of peace and strength, so I wanted to pass these on to you:

Re-ED Principles

Life is to be lived now.
Trust is essential.
Time is an ally.
Competence makes a difference.
Self-control can be learned.
Intelligence can be taught.
Feelings should be nurtured.
The group is important.
Ceremony and ritual give order.
The body is the armature of the Self.
Communities are important.
A child – and an adult – should know some joy in each day.

Pretty basic. Seems to me that contemplating these ideas can bring a little order to the seemingly chaotic and nonsensical behavior in our personal galaxies. I hope you'll ponder them a little in the days and weeks ahead.

For more information on Re-Ed and on blended services for troubled and troubling children, visit

Friday, August 11, 2006

Girl Friday Returns for Fan Fest Count Down

If I can survive the start of school in just under two weeks, then I get to rev up for the real fun of fall (next to watching people eat my pumpkin pie): IBMA's 2006 World of Bluegrass and Fan Fest in Nashville. My son and I will only be heading down for the weekend Fan Fest, but the lionhearted will arrive September 25 for a week of workshops, networking, music making, and collaboration, all in support of bluegrass music worldwide.

I'm excited to have the opportunity to hear a terrific number of fabulous female bluegrass performers, some I'll enjoy for the first time, when FanFest opens. Some of that lineup includes:

Molly Kate and Cia Cherryholmes
Rhonda Vincent & The Rage
Lily Isaacs
Claire Lynch
Alecia Nugent
3 Fox Drive
Ginny Hawker & Tracy Schwarz with Debbi Kauffmann
Harmonious Wail
Martha Scanlan
Suzanne & Jim
The Ebony Hillbillies
Tripping Lily
The Wilders & Susan Kevra

Fan Fest tickets are on sale now -- today is the early bird deadline but for three days of music it's a bargain that's hard to beat! There's still plenty of lodging, maybe even downtown! Won't you come, too?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jerry: Wisdom for the Great Big, Fascinating, Downright Nonthinking World

Eleven years ago today the music scene lost one of its most interesting figures. Jerry Garcia was only 53 when he died of a heart attack after a longsuffering history with addiction and other health problems. But in that short life, he left a wealth of music and wisdom for the rest of us lucky enough to still be around to consider these.

I'm still unlearning what I "knew" about Garcia and the Dead, and approaching their work in a completely fresh way. These were real musicians, not some merry band of emptyheaded guitar-toting pied pipers leaping over the countryside in a VW van.

And they were real people, with real concerns about the world, real frustration at the general absurdity of war, hunger, poverty, the environment, racism, corporate collusion, and pretty much every other plague we're still fighting today.

At this point in my life, I'm still trying to help people see, and do something about, the absurd nature of things. This I have learned is a completely pointless venture, but I can't help myself.

The exchange I had today is a good example. My son’s school requires parents to purchase for their 7th graders a special calculator that is, we are told, geared toward Ohio’s testing requirements. Now, for starters, I’m not sure why we have to have a special calculator when his dad just bought him one last year. Of course the answer is probably a combination of clever marketing and public policy in a state with an educational system driven almost entirely by standardized testing. Nonetheless, the end result is that we have to buy another calculator which we’re supposed to believe is ideal for something to do with Ohio. Fine. Whatever.

Then there is the actual acquisition of said calculator. Rather than purchasing the calculators in quantity and reselling them to parents, the school directs parents to purchase these items directly from the company. There is no other place to secure the calculators except evidently at the company's Web site. Again, unnecessarily silly, but whatever. My kid's gotta have it, so I gotta eat it.

I visit the Web site of the company which I learn is not really set up for retail sales. They do most of their business third party through schools as wholesale customers. They have a standard shipping charge for all customers, whether the sale is for one or 100 calculators. So.

I have to pay $9 for the calculator,which seemed like a bargain -- until I learned I’d have to pay another $8 to have it shipped north from a community that is barely an hour away.

Were I being asked to pay $17 for the product, including shipping and handling, I probably would not even have thought twice about the issue of value. I can’t get a calculator at Target for much less than that. But the psychological leap to parting with $8 just to get hands on a $9 item just makes no damn sense. You would think other people would notice this, including school purchasing managers, the principals of the company, and maybe other parents.

In my stupor and disbelief, and to be certain there wasn't some critical piece of data I was missing, I questioned this. Big mistake. Can't I see that's the shipping price?! It is clearly is stated right there on the order form -- and what more authority would one possibly need?! So the long and short of it is that the company is going to charge me what it costs to ship ten calculators even though I'm only buying one, the schools didn’t plan ahead to prevent me from wasting my money, and my kid gets a $17 calculator that really only costs $9.

Many of you are probably wondering why I make such a big deal out of something so simple. But it’s a big deal precisely because it’s so simple. That company does not have to charge me or anyone else eight bucks to send me one calculator. But they can ram it down my throat because I don't have a choice, because nobody thought about offering a choice, and nobody thought about asking for one.

The way people accept and live by other people's constructs is dangerous and amazing. This really is not a thinking world, or I should say, it seems we as a species are simply a vapid, following bunch happy to dance around in other people's constructs. We are governed by our lack of questioning and common sense. Our country is led by it. Some people seem to thrive on it. Our children are spoon fed it. Few question it.

Eventually I will learn that to point out something illogical that is also costly, time-consuming, offensive, ineffective, duplicative, insulting, really stupid, or just plain wasteful is a huge waste of time. The objects of my query typically defend their reasoning with pride. People who are making a buck off the fact that folks aren't paying attention are not people with much capacity to change.

At the end of the day, I know I will pretend to like and even accept some of these constructs. Other people's entire worlds depend on these constructs. Someday I will be in a better position to step away and let them fall, and my children and I will make a run for common sense, dignity, and fewer layers of bullshit.

By Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia

Saw a bird with a tear in his eye
Walking to New Orleans my oh my
Hey, now, Bird, wouldn't you rather die
Than walk this world when you're born to fly?

If I was the sun, I'd look for shade
If I was a bed, I would stay unmade
If I was a river I'd run uphill
If you call me you know I will
If you call me you know I will

Ooo, freedom Ooo, libertyOoo, leave me alone
To find my own way home
To find my own way home

Say what I mean and I don't give a damn
I do believe and I am who I am
Hey now Mama come and take my hand
Whole lotta shakin' all over this land

If I was an eagle I'd dress like a duck
Crawl like a lizard and honk like a truck
If I get a notion I'll climb this tree or chop it down and you can't stop me
Chop it down and you can't stop me

Ooo, freedom
Ooo, liberty
Ooo, leave me alone
To find my own way home
To find my own way home

Went to the well but the water was dry
Dipped my bucket in the clear blue sky
Looked in the bottom and what did I see?
The whole damned world looking back at me

If I was a bottle I'd spill for love
Sake of mercy I'd kill for love
If I was a liar I'd lie for love
Sake of my baby I'd die for love
Sake of my baby I'd die for love

Ooo, freedom
Ooo, liberty
Ooo, leave me alone
To find my own way home
To find my own way home
I'm gonna find my own way home

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Prettiest Little Birthday Girl

My littlest one turned 6 just about three and a half hours ago. I think back on that early August morning six years ago, and recall it was just about the best moment of my life.

Birth ain't always easy or fun. This one, was. I had the support of a doula, and the company of my friends and my son, himself about to turn six at the time. My then husband had more room to do whatever he felt he needed to do because I had a trained birthing coach along for what turned out to be a very quiet, uneventful ride. Of course, it was the last time any of us really could associate "quiet and peaceful" with the little person who has become my daughter, but the peaceful, gentle way she slipped into the world surrounded by people ready to love her was glorious.

Sitting here as morning progresses, I am reminded how fast time really does fly. Sounds cliche, but those moments that are most important and most memorable so often are gone so quickly, and sometimes down the road in years are not as easily recalled as we might wish.

Ah. My daughter has appeared. Time to sing Happy Birthday and then whip up some birthday flapjacks.

For the rest of you, this little tune is one of her favorites, because of course she thinks it's about her. This track from Dirk Powell's Time Again recording features Jim Miller on vocals. It's really a sweet little tune, easy to sing, play, and get hooked on. I'm blessed that my kid likes a good string band. Easy enough, of course, if you're six and the song is one you can dance to and it's all about you.

Prettiest Little Girl In the County

Prettiest little girl in the county-oh
Walked right up and told her so

I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'
I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'

Prettiest little girl in the county-oh
All dressed up in calico

I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'
I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'

Swing 'em like you love 'em
Boys, you ain't above 'em

I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'
I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'

Prettiest little girl in the county-oh
Mammy and daddy both said so

I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'
I'm gonna love her in the mornin'
I'm gonna love her in the evenin'

Friday, August 04, 2006

All the Way to the End...of the Row

The last few weeks or so, when I wake up I find myself saying thing like, "Ok, I just need to make it past that meeting next Thursday" or "Once I get this out of the way, this will make sense" or "That's the weekend I can take a break." Do you know what I mean? It's like I can somehow convince myself that seeing these little benchmarks means they mean something.

And it's good to recognize the patterns, the high and low frequency waves in our lives that somehow give us the illusion that things are operating at either a low or fever pitch. Truth is, every day has its own pitch, and the days just keep on coming.

I am a little more fried than usual, and a teensy bit sad that in about three weeks, school will start and we'll have an entirely new set of complications to deal with. Between now and then I have a vision that I will calm down, settle in, and reconnect with what some call the daily grind but in a more conscious kind of way.

There really is nothing wrong with the daily grind. It's what you make of every moment, and in fact the decision to be in that moment, that give us the experience we call, "life." Nothing is real to us until we experience it. Each minute we are conscious we have choices to make and we can either make it this kind of day, or that kind.

The other evening at my lesson, when I was explaining to my teacher that I'm having trouble getting the right sound, and thinking "I'm not pressing down hard enough" or "Maybe it's my right hand," he said something really basic, the way he does at least once a lesson. "This is going to sound dramatic, but, you don't know if that's the last note you'll ever play. So this might sound corny because we're talking about playing a scale, but try to play each note like your soul is behind it."

What's so corny about that? I thought that was pretty sound advice.

So it's really not about monumental achievements, or stupendous strides -- although those times when we are recognized for, or recognize in ourselves, something out of the ordinary are still important and we have to remember to celebrate the victories. Nonetheless tt's the spirit with which each and every act is undertaken, whether it's just getting out of bed in the morning to face another day, or completing an important project, or helping a child or other loved one successfully through a challenging transition.

Last night it was back to The Kent Stage, this time with a friend who recently had been accepted into nursing school. What I think is an admirable and sort of extraordinary thing, this individual sees simply as a decision made, a path chosen. That doesn't mean it's not extraordinary in some way, at least to me, but it is also now a part of this person's everyday. And it's all about the everyday, in the end.

We enjoyed two bands. The first, Steppin' In It kicked I exhort you all to check them out. If I had a lot of money, I would buy them and keep them all for myself. Those guys were incredible, and it appears they'll be back to Northeast Ohio in September. More on them to come.

The other was Adrienne Young and Little Sadie, who was blogged on here about a month ago. Although as a band it seemed they weren't "quite done cookin'" as I sort of put it, near the end of the set there was this nugget full of truth. It's the title track of their debut album and it's called "Plow to the End of the Row." It's what we each have to do, every day, until it's done.

So I'll think about this song and the fact that my life is good, in fact way easier than most, and when I get to feeling tired I'll just remind myself that yes, the clothes need to be put away and the bills need to be paid and the grocery shopping needs to get done and clients need to be attended to and that damn door still needs to be fixed, so I'll just plow to the end of the row. With my soul behind it.

Plow to the End of the Row

Wake up in the morning in the moonlight grey
We got dirt to break, we got a note to pay
Gonna plow, plow to the end of the row
Wake up in the morning and plow to the end of the row

Down to the kitchen with my feet still bare
Children to the table, papa say a prayer
Gonna plow, plow to the end of the row
Down to the kitchen, got to plow to the end of the row

Cornbread for breakfast, won’t ya boil the grinds
Got to cut the furrow ‘fore the sun gets high
Got to plow, plow to the end of the row
Cornbread for breakfast and I plow to the end of the row

Sun just broke out over the trees
I got a aching in my back and a tremblin’ in my knees
If the mule won’t pull then the plow won’t go
If the seed don’t set, crop won’t grow

Chickens to the market, seven miles to town
Gotta make it home ‘fore the sun goes down
Big storm coming, I can see it in the sky
Hope it don’t hit ‘fore the clothes get dry

I got rocks in my shoes, dirt in my eyes
Working like a dog til the day I die
You got to plow, plow to the end of the row
I got rocks in my shoes when I plow to the end of the row

My baby’s waitin’ for me at the end of the day
She likes to ball the jack in the sweetest way
Gotta plow, plow to the end of the row
My baby’s waiting’ for me so I plow to the end of the row

Wake up in the mornin’ in the moonlight grey
We got dirt to break we got a note to pay
Gonna plow, plow to the end of the row
Wake up in the mornin’ and plow to the end of the row

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This Site's For YOU-- or, I guess, Y'all

Fellow blogspotter Jim (My Boring Best) recently wrote an interesting post sharing his frustration at "lurkers" -- blog visitors who come repeatedly but don't offer up anything to say, or worse, as in his case, are merely snooping about to discern whether he's offered up any tasty nuggets of personal data. While I can sympathize and think it's downright stinky that he has a virtual stalker, I admit his blog got me thinking about frustrations I have regarding my own blog, and where I had hoped it would lead.

For the Love of Bluegrass has a genuinely cool array of visitors. Some stop by fairly regularly without saying much, probably doing something along the lines of Jim's Lorain Lurker and maybe hoping I don't know who they are. Some are friends and family who check in, and sometimes chime in, with their own valuable offerings. And then there are those of you genuinely stumbling into FTLOB because you love the music. You're the whole reason I started this blog. You might stop by and spend quite a few minutes, but somehow I haven't been able to lure you to speak up.

My vision, such that it was with all the excuses I make about why it hasn't taken off, was that the blog would begin to create another online community of thoughtful fans who from all walks of life come here to set a spell and think and talk about the music we love. It's not as popular or sexy as MySpace. It's not a big operation like The Bluegrass Blog -- and those guys don't offer you much of a chance to say anything despite all the advertising. This blog is what it is, part distraction to bide my time here in the Midwest, part academic experiment, part attempt to reach out to others a little like me, and part writing exercise.

I'm not the beggin' kind, but please, if you play an instrument, have a blog of your own (I know I'm behind on updating my links -- so much for my summer project!), have stories to share, or want to expand on any topic, don't hold back! I'm also stepping back from some other commitments in order to focus on some of these efforts and am considering working with guest writers. Pretend it's a parking lot picking party or something, and just jump in!

Serious would-be contributors may contact me at, where ideas for topics and features may also be sent.

Looking forward to hearing from you.