Saturday, November 18, 2006

Trail of Fans

The other day I wrote something about how bluegrass fans are all out there, just kind of waiting to bump into each other. I shoudl clarify that in Northeast Ohio, bluegrass fans are like the underground alternative music crowd. We don't wear a lot of black underliner or sharp objects through our noses, but we might as well.

So I pull into auto zone, hoping for some handy advice about why my engine light is really on and a couple of new wiper blades (another annual birthday gift to myself).

The young man fetches my new blades and listens to my diagnostic query about a cracked ignition coil tower and the imminent threat to my catalytic converter. We step out to the car, and after he puts the blades on the wipers pulls out his handy electronic diagnostic device and plugs it in under the dash. When the ignition kicks in, Carl Jackson is crooning loudly "I'm Not Over You" and my face flushed a little red.

"How about a little bluegrass while you work," I say self-effacingly.

"Works for me," says the young man. "I grew up in North Carolina. I could listen to it all the time. I used to go to festivals and all that stuff. There's nothing to do around here."

AHA, well, at least not right now, but once I figure out how many seats are in the Blossom Pavilion and how willing House of Blues would be to try three concerts a season to test the waters, there might be something to do.

But the young man made a point. It's pretty hard for fans in this part of the world to find each other. It's a dense and diverse region, which is really wonderful culturally, but the trick is that many fine smaller arts and cultural institutions struggle to be seen and heard.

In Cuyahoga County, that will change a little bit with the onset of revenue from Issue 18, which passed on November 7 and will raise money through a cigarette tax. Institutions stand to gain anywhere from ten to five hundred thousand dollars depending on their budgets, and that's for operating costs.

Meanwhile, back to our trusty Auto Zone mechanic. I hope he has a good reason to be in Ohio, and that he can get back to North Carolina someday. And I hope that in the meantime I can get something going that will make it a little nicer for those of us who'd enjoy a little bluegrass, or a lot.

This song was recorded by Pete Rowan and the Nashville Bluegrass Band on the 1988 Sugar Hill release, "New Moon Rising." The album featured Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Mike Compton, and a host of other heavies, plus the beautiful Maura O'Connel with her own deep rich singing. I love Pete Rowan's voice, it's really a soul comfort. He is wise, and his music is deeply soothing to me. His lives shows with Tony Rice are about as close to a religious experience as I get in public. Pete's music has a deep connection to the native land and to the West. Here's a clip; the lyrics aren't readily available but I'll get them down soon.

Trail of Tears

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