Sunday, December 31, 2006


and go straight to PBS where you too can spend New Year's Eve at the Ryman!

Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver...lots more. So quit reading, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy!

Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Crazy As Me? BRING IT ON, or, whatever.

Everybody knows I'm not a huge, huge Alison Krauss fan. Alison Krauss and Union Station is a great band, and I love her stage presence -- she's a truly funny, funny woman and very smart -- but I'm just not wild about the softer country side of things. But tonight I was pouring through my inbox and getting rid of stuff I hadn't even opened, and a song lyric from AKUS's most recent release, Lonely Runs Both Ways, was there among the rubble. Reading it over, I thought, "Wow, that's it exactly!"

Now that the holiday hubub is finally waning --- after one last hurrah, a wonderful, absolutely wonderful evening the kids and I spent tonight with the family I work for and our business partners from Hong Kong with their two amazing daughters -- the reality of heartbreak is setting in. Thankfully, I'm in a completely different place than I was the last time this happened almost three years ago, but I'm just realizing a lot of things. I'm really, really grateful that I've come so far in other areas of my life so that I can handle the painful absence I'm finally recognizing.

Losing a relationship is never easy. We've all been there. It's painful and frustrating. When it's also mysterious, it's extra painful, extra confusing, extra everything. The upside of now is that I really am all about getting my head around my goals and contributions and really helping to advance bluegrass and traditional music as both a respected area of study, as well as a more accessible art form. Between helping grow the business I work for and that, I'm pretty set for a while as far as to-do lists. So a good love would be like the umbrella in the drink, vanilla sauce on the side of a good cake. Not necessary, but improving the overall experience.

I had that, and with someone with whom I had absolutely no differences, not once, not ever. Then, the "poof" thing. I gotta get away from that kind of guy. I'll take suggestions...

Meanwhile, back to that lyric I found. It's called "Crazy As Me" -- not "Same Kind of Crazy As Me" of Del and the Boys fame, which I only recently was able to listen to again. This ladies-night version by Alison Krauss really nails it for me -- if he's there, hooray, if not, well, hooray for that too. I'm downloading it from iTunes right now. You can hear it by clicking on the Rhapsody link. At least, I think you can....Anyway, I may just finally have to get this album, and if you have a love of Ron Block and Jerry Douglas like I do, well, I guess it probably should be in your library.

Anway, thanks, all, for putting up with all this whining. Believe me, if you think YOU'RE sick of it, you can imagine how tiresome it is for me. There are a lot of people who stop by here from all over the world looking for lyrics or help or tabs or insight and I need to be there for them, so I promise those readers I will be. Next project is to explore, really explore, what's going on out there, and how to bring it here all for you.

If I don't get back to all of you before tomorrow at midnight, may all good things come to you in 2007.

"Crazy As Me"
I'm used to being alone.
Except for six month flings with diamond rings and phone bills that I've waited for.
This is the life that I chose.
I got no complaints if he is; if he ain't,
I guess he'll send me a rose.

Just don't ask me for the truth if you choose to lie honey.
And don't try to open my door with your skeleton key.
Some folks seem to think I only got one problem.
I can't find nobody as crazy as me.

I still love what I know.
I love to ride alone and sing a song and listen to the radio.
You can ride alone and if you change your mind, well, that's just fine,
But there is somethin' that you got to know.

Just don't ask me for the for the truth if you choose to lie honey.
And don't try to open my door with your skeleton key.
Some folks seem to think I only got one problem.
I can't find nobody as crazy as me.

Just don't ask me for the for the truth if you choose to lie honey.
And don't try to open my door with your skeleton key.
Some folks seem to think I only got one problem.
I can't find nobody as crazy as me.

Friday, December 29, 2006

We're A Cornbread Nation

The holidays continue best in the company of friends. And cornbread.

Tonight some friends came over and we had a massive pot of chili, much goofing around, beverages, games, and a gift exchange. Right now I'm enjoying the Rascal Flatts cd my ex-husband gave me....good tunes, talented young fellas. Between these guys and REM there is hope that string instruments will find their place in the American mainstream. I'm still working on the bluegrass version of MacArthur Park, you know.


What separates all of us can melt away when we come to the table. It's one of the reasons I love to prepare a meal to be shared by a likely or unlikely bunch. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But I always try. There's a healing aspect to it, and life and food are meant to be enjoyed in good company.

In my life and work I'm fortunate to share the table in one way or another with many fascinating, amazing people. They come from all walks of life, political views, religious beliefs, musical backgrounds and tastes, intellectual spaces, artistic talents, professional disciplines. All over. I do my best to make every encounter matter.

In my smaller world, I encounter more people who share a deep passion for bluegrass music, and often hold very different political or social views, certainly religious views. But there is always that binding agent, GDAE. And deep down we all want the same things -- warmth, love, health, a decent place to live, happiness, safety for ourselves and our loved ones. We just often come at these things from different places.

Tim O'Brien (yes, yes, I know, "Jennie, why not call this blog, "Why I Love Tim O'Brien" instead?) describes this invisible line that runs across the country dividing it somewhat in north and south. I think too of a friend who once, during a dinner at the UN, was in the men's room with a fairly high-ranking official. He remarked how it occurred to him at that moment that it's really not worth getting all worked up over important people because, well, as the potty training book says, everybody poops.

I like the cornbread nation analogy a little better -- we all have to sit down and work it out. This title track from Tim's 2005 release is a little bit of a departure from the usual stuff of trad and bluegrass, delivering instead an edgy blues-infused Southern anthem complete with electric guitar.

Whereever you are I hope you'll sit down soon with friends and maybe even strangers to take in supper at the cornbread nation.

Cornbread Nation

Corn pone, spider bread, hush puppy, dog bread
Ash cake, bannock bread, johnny cake, spoon bread
Dish it up, pour it on, give it all you got
Put the fat back in a cast iron pot
Richmond to Forth Worth, Davenport to Natchez
Burly 'bacca fields to your snowy cotton patches
No matter where you're headin' when the train leaves the station
You still take your supper in the cornbread nation

Save a can of bacon grease, soak a bowl of beans
Chop a yella onion, wash the grit off the greens
Sift a little soda and some powder in the meal
Pour in the buttermilk to get the right feel
Hot water, cold water, doesn't really matter
Don't work too hard when you're mixing up the batter
Hot corn, cold corn, friends and relations
Sittin' at the table in the cornbread nation

Up in Kentucky where I was born
Up in Kentucky where the Colonel's in the corn
They shake up the jar, look for the beads
Take a little sip, no more than you need
You can scrape it, you can chew it, you can roll it into dough
You can sip it, you can brew it, you can let the liquor flow
Hot corn, cold corn, friends and relations
Sittin' at the table in the cornbread nation

Corn pone, spider bread, hush puppy, dog bread
Ash cake, bannock bread, johnny cake, spoon bread
Dish it up, pour it on, give it all you got Put the fat back in a cast iron pot Richmond to Forth Worth, Davenport to Natchez
Burly 'bacca fields to your snowy cotton patches
No matter where you're headin' when the train leaves the station
You still take your supper in the cornbread nation

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Outmoded. Dismissed. SHELVED.

I've really tried to refrain not only from entertaining what happened to some of the people and friendships that have come and gone this year, but from mocking them here on this blog. One of these friendships I'm genuinely concerned about and want to reignite. The other, well, you know, when you profess to your lover a litany of "uns" - unwilling, unavailable, unable, un-ready, you get the drift -- she has a right to be a little un-impressed, and might even feel tempted to be a little un-kind.

(Really, folks, it was an ok poem. It would have been nice if a) the sentiments had been expressed directly, and sooner, and b) if it had been about someone else.)

I've allowed for the possibility that something truly awful happened to this person and that some significant life-altering event has caused him to cut and run, dismissing me, my feelings, my friendship, and my existence almost entirely (and making off with the Dawkins book I loaned him, dammit). Or maybe something wonderful happened and it's caused my recent invisibility. Whatever it is, I am reminded that a lot of guys, even nice ones, are as dumb as dirt and have hearts unreliable at best, trailing off in whichever direction their little weewee leads them. Personally I know but a few exceptions. Hooray, I know SOME.

The truth is, this has happened to me once before. There is nothing so stupid and maddening as the inexplicable disappearance of a man to whom you've given your best. You can't help but wonder what the hell happened or whether it's possible that "it" and you actually didn't matter at all. Dag, Bubba! At least the last time taught me one thing: it wasn't me. And I don't think it is this time either. I also learned between then and now that I'll probably never know, so there's no use trying to fix something or make nice or offer peace to someone who at least at the moment doesn't give a rat's ass. I've been discarded, so it's onward and upward!

BUT....not before this AWESOME rendition of one of my very favorite Bill Monroe tunes, Blue Night. I just LOVE to howl this song. I fell in love with it the first time I heard a live Hot Rize recording. It's a great song, and with my hero, Tim O'Brien on lead vocals, you cannot resist it.

Tim O'Brien is a good Pisces. He's reflective, thoughtful, but has had his moments and has them still, at heart a big kid but with much wisdom. This kind can trip you up. Everyone has a shadow, and if you're not looking, the other person's shadow can sneak up on you or your shadow, and suddenly you find yourself blogging about your disappearing lovers and their weary unreliable hearts.

Eh, beam me up to that High Lonesome sound, making that last one but a bad dream. Even though I don't believe in that crap, I'll keep my eye out for another Pisces. Evidently, they have the corner on the foot massage market. And if I deserve anything, it's to have a good man rub my achy, breaky, hardworking, beat-keeping dog-tired feet, dammit!!!


Blue Night

Blue night I got you on my mind
Blue night I can't keep from crying
You met someone that was new
You quit someone that you knew was true
Blue night I got you on my mind

Blue night blue as I can be
I don't know what'll become of me
Where we used to walk I walk alone
With an aching heart because my love is gone
Blue night blue as I can be

Blue night 'cause I'm all alone
I used to call you on the telephone
I used to call and it made you glad
Now I call and it makes you mad
Blue night 'cause I'm all alone

Blue night all by myself
Since you put me on that shelf
There's just one thing that you must know
You're gonna reap just what you sow
Blue night, all by myself
Blue night, all by myself

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Wish for All Y'All

There was a time not too long ago when I was lost. I had a compass, but I failed to use it properly.

Eventually I got my bearings again and I used them to steer me toward something that would always see me through anything. It's an inner flame, a sense of self and an understanding that I'm worthy of love and trust and respect, and that if I am to receive those things from other people, I had better be sure not only that I am capable of receiving them, but willing to give them to myself, too.

Thanks to that journey, I am more than capable and willing to give these things and more to others. And while I have hit some serious potholes along the way, I remind myself that a closed heart is no good to the world.

Some things in my life changed rather suddenly just before this Christmas, and I am sad, confused, and a little heartbroken. But Christmas comes nonetheless, and with it the same dastardly hope I bring to every day. I have just finished arranging the packages under the tree and smiling on the evening I spent with my kids, eating a wonderful meal, listening to Dickens, sprinkling the telltale oatmeal that my daughter believes will guide Santa's reindeer to her doorstep.

The knowledge that there are good things in each day because I have the ability to bring them about is what makes my life go. I have an enormous amount to look forward to if I choose to make it happen. I choose to take care of myself, to continue to learn, to push myself into places that might be a little unfamiliar, and to somehow remind the people I love that I love them, either by some act or word. I know I should do this more often than I do and there are many people who deserve this reminder.

While many of us lament the commercial habits of the season, many others do treat this time of year as a religious period. The focus on Jesus Christ whose birth many commemorate at this time draws people inward, which I think is a good thing, however it happens. People need time to reflect, really reflect, on the quality of their lives, their relationships, and their contribution to humanity.

I have of late become very attached to the Mountain Heart rendition of a very old traditional hymn, Tedious and Tasteless. The words were written by John Newton in 1779, and set to a hymn tune by JS Bach. In reviewing a number of midi and other clips today, I can hear it as a hymn easily enough. Hymns were something that brought me up, good ones really formed an early part of my spiritual growth.

And as much as I still admire and enjoy those old hymns and even some in their traditional garb, there is none so beautiful to me as the heartfelt, soulful expression of a single human voice raised the way one might reach for help. This version sung so beautifully by Mountain Heart really got my attention, and when I hear it, I always kind of pause and take in the words. The person is really questioning things pretty deeply -- questioning his value, questioning why his life seems so empty and everything is so dull, questioning the existence of God, pleading to be taken to a place where he might be near something that makes everything better. But the truth is we can seek those things from within and of ourselves, and must, whether we believe in God or not.

This Christmas, my wish for you, regardless of what path you trod, believer or not, is that you make a promise to yourself to light your inner flame, find your compass, and turn first to yourself for fulfillment in your life. Don't exchange one addiction for another, whether it's religion or alcohol or sex or work or school or that Wii thing, whatever it is. Find you. Trust you. Don't rush to fill every empty space until you understand why those spaces are there. (Sometimes we're not supposed to fill them up.) When you come to understand and love who you really are, empty spaces and all, you'll find your life is no longer as tedious as it once felt.

To all, a peaceful night, silent or as loud with music and laugther as you wish.

Tedious and Tasteless

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus I no longer see;
Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
Have all lost their sweetness to me;
The midsummer sun shines but dim,
The fields strive in vain to look gay.
But when I am happy in Him,
December’s as pleasant as May.

His Name yields the richest perfume,
And sweeter than music His voice;
His presence disperses my gloom,

And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always thus nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear;
No mortal as happy as I,
My summer would last all the year.

Content with beholding His face,
My all to His pleasure resigned,
No changes of season or place
Would make any change in my mind:
While blessed with a sense of His love,
A palace a toy would appear;
All prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there.

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine,
If Thou art my sun and my song,
Say, why do I languish and pine?
And why are my winters so long?
O drive these dark clouds from the sky,
Thy soul cheering presence restore;
Or take me to Thee up on high,
Where winter and clouds are no more.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Longest Night

Tonight is Solstice of Winter. The shortest day of the year. The longest night of the year.

For some, the holidays are so hard. Even with all the blessings and abundant good things in my life, there is still sadness in the sickness in the people close to me. There is poverty, there is ill will. There is war.

But for many more people, the holidays are a blur of pain. This night and the twelve nights that follow are a great burden to those who've lost people they love, lost their hope, lost their health.

Tonight I came home with a bit of pine to green up the place. I felt the old Christmas joy creeping back into my bones as I moved about the house planting the sprigs of pine here and there, the smell bringing a bit of welcome natural beauty to everything.

I am finding that I can still enjoy this time of year, even without the compulsory religious machinations. This season is still a time to turn inward and reflect on purpose, intent, ask for forgiveness, and seek and offer peace.

I hope all who need peace find it, and wish all who dread this longest night find understsanding and a brighter day on the other side of these long hours.

This favorite carol of mine, The Cherry Tree Carol, I just learned was Child Ballad #54. It is very interesting for an old song, full of human emotions like frustration, anger, and heartbreak. The mystery revealed is forgiveness and understanding.

The Cherry Tree Carol

When Joseph was an old man,
An old man was he,
He married Virgin Mary,
The Queen of Galilee,
He married Virgin Mary,
The Queen of Galilee.

As Joseph and Mary
Walked through an orchard green,
There were apples and cherries
Plenty there to be seen,
There were apples and cherries
Plenty there to be seen.

Then Mary spoke to Joseph,
So meek and so mild,
"Joseph, gather me some cherries,
For I am with Child,
Joseph, gather me some cherries,
For I am with Child."

Then Joseph flew in anger,
In anger flew he,
"Let the father of the baby
Gather cherries for thee,
Let the father of the baby
Gather cherries for thee."

Then Jesus spoke a few words,
A few words spoke He,
"Let my mother have some cherries,
Bow low down, cherry tree,
Let my mother have some cherries,
Bow low down, cherry tree."

The cherry tree bowed low down,
Bowed low down to the ground,
And Mary gathered cherries,
While Joseph stood around,
And Mary gathered cherries,
While Joseph stood around.

Then Joseph took Mary
All on his right knee:
"Oh, what have I done, Lord?
Have mercy on me.
Oh, what have I done, Lord?
Have mercy on me."

Then Joseph took Mary
All on his left knee:
"Oh, tell me, little Baby,
When Thy Birthday will be,
Oh, tell me, little Baby,
When Thy Birthday will be."

"On the fifth day of January
My Birthday will be,
When the stars and the elements
Shall tremble with fear,
When the stars and the elements
Shall tremble with fear."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas from Doyle's House to Yours

Ok, I was really NOT going to post again this week. I have cookies to bake, presents to wrap, boyfriends to get over, mando tunes to learn, and lies to make up so that my six-year-old believes in Santa just one more Christmas.
But I know that DOYLE is COMING TO OHIO IN APRIL -- April 21 in fact -- and I just couldn't stop myself from checking out his website tonight. So I did, and I learned that the WEBSITE is totally new! It totally kicks my....oh gosh, I can't say that in front of Doyle and Jamie and Terry and, well, my cheeks are red, know what I mean?

If you click on the links above, Doyle and the guys will sing you a really lovely Christmas song.

I was making a CD tonight for my former in-laws. My heart is breaking a bit because my mother in law is very sick, and yes, even though this family is a part of my past, they are all people I love and who will remain connected to me in some way. So because the CD I ordered has not yet arrived I put together a CD and it includes a Doyle piece.

Part of the reason I think this Christmas doesn't feel so Christmasy is that the religious part is kind of gone for me. But the spirit of Christmas that brings us together and helps us to set aside differences is starting to take hold. And there will always be a part of me that responds to a shout out from the gospel side of things.

Please go to Doyle's Web site and enjoy a sweet little holiday tune. It's kind of bluesy but it's heartfelt. I just love these guys, regardless of what they believe. You know why? Because they go beyond. Their lives are on the road--that can't be perfect. But they blend their voices and put their all into sharing music with all the rest of us, and that is really something.

Doyle Lawson has been at this work a really long time. Thanks, Doyle, and can't wait to see you and the band at the O.J. Work Auditorium in Wadsworth Ohio in April 2007.

For the rest of us, it appears there is some sort of Garrison Keillor gig featuring DLQ on New Year's Eve in Nashville, along with the Grascals, and if you haven't already developed a crush on those guys, I can help you with that. I am willing to do the driving if I can get a partner. Who's with me?



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where Did It All Go-HO HO

I'm not feeling very Christmasy this Christmas season.

If you don't know me, or have never been through Christmas with me, you know this is not normal. Weather notwithstanding, I am the Christmas Queen. Even through and beyond the split family deal, Christmas remained this magical period where time stopped and our attention turned toward a different way. Not just the tray after tray of cookies, not just the tree, but something else.

This year, that sparkle just isn't there.

Maybe it's the last hurrah of the childhood wonder of Christmas that I always managed to carry with me. Maybe it's the onerous and rather continuous repairs to the car which drained my holiday cheer account. Maybe it's my preoccupation with work and things beyond the job, like, how I accomplish all the stuff I want to do. Maybe it's the sadness in folks that surround me. Whatever it is, it doesn't feel like Christmas.

But this evening, as I was baking, I was listening to the Sugar Hill collection, and this beautiful simple little tune came on. It's called

Little Martha
(if you have trouble, get the whole thing free from

and it's from Jerry Douglas. I have this merry little band of men and women who, when I hear them play or sing, have a supernatural ability to lift my spirits so that I can just take a breath and get through whatever it is I'm doing. Jerry Douglas is in that batch of people who put me at ease and set me right. And, he's from Northeast Ohio, which has professionally got me all confused, so he's like this little glimmer of hope, that things can and do work out the way they're supposed to. Thank you, Jerry Douglas, for having paid your dues and still being such a steady in this unsteady world, and for your contributions to bluegrass, from before Boone Creek right on up through today, December 19, 2006 (ugh).

So as I look at my messy dining room table covered in wrapping paper shards and recipe books, I share this tune with readers. Appropriately enough, it's from his album, Lookout for Hope.

Good advice this season.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"He's Not Over IDIOT"

Ladies, listen to your Mando Mama, now. (And fellas, look, nothing personal. This one is mostly for my sistahs, but if you’ve got anything helpful to add, don’t hold back. After all, we’re all in this big adventure of life together, right? Ok, then.)

Back in July, I met someone wonderful. He is funny, very bright, highly creative, passionate, adorable, extremely individualistic, musical, intuitive, and, I’m guessing, still in love with his last girlfriend. Always a bummer.

Men who seem to like you don’t tell you stuff like that on the second date. Or the third. Or the sixth. Or any time during the two hour phone conversations over the course of several months. Funny how it slips the mind.

There were, of course, any number of opportunities I could have taken to avoid this last debacle. The signs are more than a little obvious, and I had a few in particular.

The first one was my big chance to get away while I still could. After dinner and a stroll, we sat in a park and talked for almost two hours. During the course of the conversation I asked, “So would you go back to her?” The answer: he probably would.


Right then and there, I should have thanked him for dinner and headed to my car like my butt was on fire. But I didn’t. Instead we spent another five hours hanging out and talking over glass after glass of wine.


But things were cool, going kind of slow, and I grooved on that. He seemed like a good friend and genuinely supportive. When things picked up a little I expected some backsliding because he's a student in an accelerated program. I wasn’t asking the guy to move in with me, call me every day, spend every free minute with me, marry me. We just hung out when we could, and talked a whole lot. And it was cool.

Then sometime around Thanksgiving, he had visitation with his two border collies, whose primary residence is with his ex, who from what I can determine, is a very talented artist and teacher. It would be easy to understand getting over a wonderful person like that.

I sure would like to know what went on that day, because after that point, that’s about all there was. Offers to hang out were ignored, albeit apologized for, and then, the grand finale, The Big Shove, the Sylvester Plath approach (the breakup by poem previously referred to).

Fellas, let me be clear. I do understand how painful it can be to try to forget someone. This person spent a lot of years with an exceptional woman who I personally would be thrilled to know, and would have recruited had I known she was out there. I spent less than two years in my last serious relationship, and even though the guy lived 350 miles away it was still hard as hell to get over it. But I knew it was over, so, I chose to move beyond it and to keep moving forward.

I also read recently that the experience of rejection actually has a physical impact on us, that it is physically painful. I believe that, too. And if all that weren’t bad enough, it can take one year of healing for every year a person was in the relationship that’s being grieved over. So, for a relationship that lasted say, 12 years, it can take, um, 12 years. For some. I’m just sayin’ for some. Lucky for me, this one only lasted six months--well, my part of it, anyway.

I wasn’t looking for Any Big Deal. I’m not looking for some damn Knight in Shining Armor to ride in on a fancy horse and fix anything (although I do have a busted drawer in my kitchen). I hate that kind of attention. In the last week, my car busted an axle on the way to drop my daughter at school, my computer died at work, there was a death in the family, I had to send back a brand new computer I'd gotten for the kids for Christmas so I could pay for the car, and right now, the City of Cleveland Department of Water is across the street fixing a main break and I have no water. Now, the ex did coincidentally score a decent computer from an office lottery and that's very helpful. Other than that, I'm not laying in traffic or pining away for a partner when life gets a little tiresome. I love my life, the space in it, and the fact that I’ve made it this far with little help aside from the generous attention and support my ex gives our kids. (And let’s face it, that’s also exceptional in this day and age, and I do not take it for granted one bit.)

Now, if some guy stumbles across my path who’s an intellectual equal and can make me laugh as hard and smile as much as this last guy did, but who isn’t afraid of my life or my zeal for living and giving, I hope he sings and plays an instrument. We could have a real fun time. Real human love? That would be ok, too, after a while, and I have it in me, I guess. It seems I’m really built to take a lot of crap, and for a good man, I know my heart will find a way to open up.

Meanwhile, I learned a lot. For example, turns out that anxious little feeling inside wasn’t a flight response emanating from a fear that I’d disappoint him, or some other deep-rooted psychological issue. More likely it was my gut trying to tell me, “CRIPE, are you even LISTENING? He’s still in love with the mother of his dogs. Honey, you better run like your butt is on fire.”

But I didn’t, and I’ve now paid the devil with the love that went wasted.

So we’re even.

As I’ve wandered through the fog of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life on a musical level, more and more I am turning back toward my primary instrument, voice. I’m a singer. And I need to tell myself that being a singer can be enough. Somehow I feel like I’m not enough if all I do is sing. If I’m not also a multi-instrumentalist then I’m falling short somehow. Not true.

This ballad is a classic tearjerker country blues ballad and it’s really quite fun to sing, stylistically speaking. It just oozes heartache. Every time I’ve heard it over the last few months I’d brush it aside, kind of like that beautiful “High Hill” I posted a couple nights ago. I wasn’t brave enough to do anything about how I felt, but I always knew somehow that there was never any room in that heart for me. I’ll never ignore that little voice again. In fact, when I get a chance, I’m gonna let her sing through this tune with everything she’s got, and break every heart in the house. I'm sorry you don't get the killer chorus in this clip, but you do get most of the first verse. I highly recommend a visit to iTunes or of course the full-blown Sugar Hill Retrospective featuring this recording by Carl Jackson. (No, I'm not over the Sugar Hill thing. There are 81 songs and I've only hit on about five of them in this blog, so deal with it.)

Though this post was my friendly advice to womankind, I dedicate it to the emotionally unavailable men I’ve loved, and the women they just can’t seem to leave behind. Here’s to ehhhhhhhhhvery body moving on already.

I’m Not Over You

Tonight the rain that’s fallin’ only adds to my heartache
It runs quietly down my window, like the tears upon my face
And each time the lightnin’ flashes, and I hear the thunder roll
I’m reminded of the closin’ of the door

I’m not over you
The storm still rages
The waves of pain remind me that we’re through
I’m slowly drowning
In a sea of endless heartbreak
I’m going under
‘Cause I’m not over you

I keep holding to your memory, but my hopes are sinkin’ fast
The chance that you’ll come back to me, now fades into the past
Can I find a way to let you go somewhere down deep inside
By reaching for the healin’ hand of time

I’m not over you
The storm still rages
The waves of pain remind me that we’re through
I’m slowly drowning
In a sea of endless heartbreak
I’m going under
‘Cause I’m not over you

I’m goin’ under
‘Cause I’m not over you

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Room of My Own

Last night as I hauled out the wrapping trappings, I was backing out of a tight spot with my handy rubbermaid container, which collided with an old rickety bookcase. The damn thing let loose a cascade of books along with the lamp that was sitting on top of the bookcase.

As I looked at this enormous pile, I thought, "Well, at least nobody gets out of that side of the bed."

One of the glories of living alone is that I can have a messy room from time to time. Looking at the pile, and walking away was kind of cool. Granted, I went back after wrapping a few gifts to assess the damage and put away some of the books. But overall, at my house, the buck stops with me, and I like it.

Appropriately enough, I discovered in this pile not one, but two, copies of Virginia Wolf's classic quiet manifesto, A Room Of One's Own, one of my favorite books. I read it first in college. My dear sister and niece are reading it now, and I take from the fact that I have two copies that I should do the same with my daughter.

To be a woman is not easy, to be one with any combination of intellectual horsepower, creativity, originality, passion, or conviction -- well, you know the end of Virginia's story. If you're not already considered a little crazy for those things, you will be.

There is still a mess of books on my floor, and there will probably be a few scattered there for sometime. It's a privilege to not have to alter certain things to make life easier and more comfortable for someone else. Sometimes I think it might be nice to have a helping hand or just a good strong extra heart around the house to share a glass of wine and a song, but I've gotten by nicely on my own and with the loving support of friends and family.

If someone is testing you, ask yourself when you signed up for the class.

I'm gonna go whip up a batch of holiday cookies from my great grandmother's much loved Scotch Cookie recipe (sorry, no scotch, it has to do with the amount of butter and dark brown sugar involved). I wish I knew her. She gave birth to three amazing women who touched my life, all very different and independent. One of them gave me my mother. And someday I hope my daughter's daughter will keep me company in my kitchen while I make these cookies.

Scotch Cookies 350

2 1/2 sticks butter
1 lb.
dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
a little
Flour to thicken (about three cups)
(Note: my mother's recipe
indicates, "Be careful not to add too much flour.
It makes them hard as
rocks." Ok, got it?)

Refrig. at least 1 hr. (overnight is
fine). Roll thin (at least 1/8") and cut into your favorite shape.

My grandmother, whose husband, my grandfather, left her with two girls to raise on her own, would bake these cookies with my mother and aunt, and give them to people whose laundry she washed. That's right. She gave homemade cookies to people whose dirty underwear she laundered for whatever pay she got. She decided she could. So she did. In a kitchen of her own. I barely remember her, but, I miss her.

I'm making these cookies because they became a Christmas favorite of my former mother in law, who is very ill. So I'm sending a batch to her with her son, in hopes they'll brighten her Christmas a little. I decided I could. So I did. In a kitchen of my own.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not in the Hall?! CRAZY!

Bear with me. My boyfriend just dumped me via email. A poem. Classy. I fell for a man who was a better writer than I am, but I have to say, his spelling wasn't that great. Can't win 'em all.

But I'm not gonna fall to pieces. Which brings me to my Girl Friday.

Patsy Cline.

Last week as I strolled the halls of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, it was pretty obvious how too few women grace those halls and The Wall. As I reported that night over beverages with family and friends, it's a good thing I waited until the second half of my life to consider a real career in the music industry, because if I had gone into it when I was younger, it probably would have killed me. The industry side is tough. Tough, I say. Like breakup by poem. Tougher, in fact.

I started to think about the men from the bluegrass and country side of the house who were included, and somehow it struck me, Patsy Cline is MISSING. HOW could she be LEFT OUT? Like, HELLO.

Born in one of my favorite little towns, Winchester VA, in 1932, Patsy died when she was only 30 years old. She had hit her stride and was poised for continued success when she was killed in a plane crash in 1963. Before that ill-fated flight, she had not only become a major figure in country music, but paved the way for many other women, mentoring the likes of Brenda Lee and Barbara Mandrell and refining the image of the female country vocalist from cowgirl to elegant songstress.

This song is her best known. I'm sure you've sung in earnest or jest at least once. It was written by another artist and human being I admire greatly, Willie Nelson. If I ever get myself a good band, it will be on my list. I may not look like much, but I can throw a good ballad with the best of them.

Sing along now...


I'm crazy for feeling so lonely
I'm crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you'd leave me for somebody new
Worry, why do I let myself worry?
Wond'ring what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I'm crazy for loving you

Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I'm crazy for loving you.

So this Girl Friday is for Patsy, and her beautiful voice, and all she gave, and continues to give. What other way is there?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Life on a High Hill

Sometimes, in all my enthusiastic zest for living, for crises, for change, for getting through, I forget not everyone is built that way.

Some people are built so differently that they have trouble with things we all take for granted.

Some people I love suffer from depression.

I can see it in some of my family and some of my closest companions. It's probably more common that any of us realize -- one in five adults, or maybe more, are coping with some degree of depression.

It's hard for me to imagine how immobilizing it can be. There have always been people close to me with it. Men and women, young and old, successful and flailing about. It's really, really debilitating.

When I was young, my heart broke rather easily. I still cry at movie trailers -- I'm a hopeless romantic (the one for "Bobby" sent me right over the edge) in the classic, epic sense, not so much at the one-on-one level but the Walt Whitman level. (Whitman I believe also suffered from depression.) The thing is, I can always get up out of bed, I can always laugh, I can always, always find a way to sing, work, play, write, dance, live.

This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. It's by a band called Uncle Walt's Band, which I knew nothing about, of course, until the fated Sugar Hill acquisition. It is truly, truly exceptionally beautiful for its raw poignancy. The first time I heard it, it really did take my breath away.

I wanted to share it with you because I think that sometimes this sense of isolation and regret must be what depression feels like. It's hard to love someone and not really be able to help. This song helps me understand that the people I care about who are fighting a battle on a level I can't even see still deserve my love, and even moreso.

I'm going to learn more about this disease, because I suspect it's going to come into play more and more frequently. I really believe that the music in my life has made a huge difference in my ability to buck it myself, and has always enabled me to turn my focus outward and toward something positive. People we love who are depressed cannot do that.

Educate yourself. Reach out. And remember that love is not conditional. It's an action.


I just learned that beautiful Walter Hyatt, the voice of Uncle Walt's Band, was killed in a plane crash in 1996, in the Florida Everglades. This has rather undone me, so I'd really appreciate it if you'd go out and get this tune and add it to your collection. Where he might have gone, where his songs might have taken others, will remain forever a mystery. But we have this one, this glorious anthem.

Why do all the good ones die in plane crashes?

High Hill

(I don't know all the words, and I can't find them, so you'll have to suffer through my transcription. I'm sure there are mistakes so if you know where they are, please help! )

I'm alone in my thoughts while the night winds cry
Tonight I thought I saw some love in your eyes
I was hittin' pretty heavy on the gin and wine
And it's true that you had been on my mind
Do you really want to know how I'm spending my time?
I'm just trying to make the best of your love

I'm holding on now to the potter's wheel
And it's turning me so fast that I don't know what I feel
I could be on a ship at sea, with only my thoughts to burden me
I guess it all depends on where you ought to be
So I'm trying to make the best of your love

I live upon a high hill
Work my hands in wire and wood
And I sing like a whipporwill
And every night there's one thing on my mind
Only that you'll love me until the day I die
If you love me then, you know I would not mind

Everything I do, everything I feel
Is coming back to me in an endless reel
Like a movie I don't wanna see,
'cause I know about the man and his misery
You're the only one who remains a mystery
Got me tryin' to make the best of your love

I live upon a high hill
Work my hands in wire and wood
And I sing like a whipporwill
And every night there's one thing on my mind
Only that you'll love me until the day I die
And if you love me then, you know I would not mind

Monday, December 11, 2006

High Lonesome Glamour -- NOT

My ex-husband, bless his heart, has greater faith in me now than he did when we were married.

Whenever we're discussing some financial transaction I'm about to make on behalf of the children, he never fails to remark how my life will be changing in some way for the financial betterment of all.

How, dear Lord, does he know this when I don't?

This can mean only one of two things:

He's planning something pretty significant that I know nothing about, or,

he and the rest of the world have no idea how bluegrass continues to fall short of Fortune 500 earnings.

Here's what I know about the glamorous world of bluegrass music and life in Nashvegas as one recent associate termed Music City:

When she got to Nashville, Dolly Parton kept herself fed by eating off the room service trays left outside hotel room doors.

A family I know slept in a bus and ate one plate of food between four people every night. (See previous post)

There are more musicians per capita in Nashville than anywhere else in the world. A number of them don't suck.

When I Googled "Songwriters in Nashville make..." the search engine returned 1.14 million results.

No health insurance.

No retirement fund.

According to an article by Irene Jackson on her Web site, there are roughly 48 thousand songwriters and other artists in any given year in Nashville. Out of those, 75 may have a song recorded -- a song, one song. The return on a song is roughly 9 cents; if one hundred people buy an album with your song, that's a whopping $90 in royalties before Uncle Sam takes his bite.

Sure there are other jobs -- producing, presenting, education. Great if you have a load of money to begin with, can handle living in the nonprofit arena on a nonprofit budget (I do and probably will), or love living on the road without health care, a retirement fund, or for that matter, a permanent address.

I'm sure there are folks who think I'm wasting my potential. But right now, I do have a pretty decent job, one that may not pay hugely but that I really love and that frankly puts me in touch with more people in the music business than I would likely get to know if I moved to Nashville tomorrow. Even so, I won't be at the tippy top of any of it in the next twelve months. And I wouldn't dream of leaping ahead of anyone more qualified than I am because I see that quite enough in my day job and it's not pretty.

I'm excited about the things I might learn and plan and do in the next six or seven years. But, as my weekend trip through the Rock Hall reminds me, and as nearly every story I've ever heard about a musician or songwriter or sideperson or various nonperforming contributors also reminds me, it's a tough, tough business. I have the luxury of planning for new windows next summer; most of those folks don't know where they'll be living.

And that's the world that matters to me. Those people who make our lives so much richer because of the music they give us in one way or another, whatever their contribution is, is what makes me tick. I have a good brain and a big heart and I love music, and so I figure there's a way to help them. That's my big B-plan, my grand revenue-generating scheme.

I'll figure out how to pay for my son's braces somehow.

Hank Williams never lived to see the contribution his son made. Immortalized as one of country's first major stars, he died before he reached the age of 30. Hell, I'm already an old woman by those standards. This tune, recorded by a number of my favorite performers including Emmy Lou Harris and authors Robin and Linda Williams, hints at his story.

Rollin' and Ramblin (The Death of Hank Williams)

Folks in Nashville slammed the door
Said we don't want you anymore
Find your own way down the road
Pack your fiddle and your guitar
Take a train or take a car
Find someone else to keep you from the cold

Rollin' and ramblin'
Women loved him half to death
He sang with whiskey on his breath
His heart broke like a child's
Rollin' and ramblin'
The sun has set out on the trail
The hobo's drifted up the rail
He's taken his last ride

Oh, he always sang the blues
Like it was all he ever knew
He didn't sing at all that night
He was pale and as he dozed
He didn't know his time had closed
Slumped in the back seat to the right

Rollin' and ramblin'
Women loved him half to death
He sang with whiskey on his breath
His heart broke like a child's
Rollin' and ramblin'
The sun has set out on the trail
The hobo's drifted up the rail
He's taken his last ride

So they send him on night train South
Through the cities and the rural routes
Just one more place to go
Ah, the whistle sang the bluest note
Like it came from his own throat
Moanin' sad and cryin' low

Rollin' and ramblin'
Women loved him half to death
He sang with whiskey on his breath
His heart broke like a child's
Rollin' and ramblin'
The sun has set out on the trail
The hobo's drifted up the rail
He's taken his last ride

Rollin' and ramblin'
The sun has set out on the trail
The hobo's drifted up the rail
He's taken his last ride

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Beat Goes On

I spent an extraordinary weekend on something of a musical sensory overload.

On Saturday, I spent the day with my sister and her husband and two of my best friends, Shannon and Lynne at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (thank you Lynne). This afternoon, I took my son to his first concert at Severance Hall, where The Cleveland Orchestra played Beethoven's Prometheus overture and Holst's The Planets -- using narration and NASA imagery.

In between the Rock Hall and an evening at Shannon's last night, I spent a while pickin, learning Sally Goodin, because it seems like a thing to know.

I rarely get tired of hearing music. Except for an occasional bad or very busy day, I've almost always got a soundtrack going with music of some kind or all kinds. And in one form or another, music is critical to most everyone in some way.

Imagine life without it. Without sound. Without tone. Without rhythm. Without the Van Morrison or Everly Brothers or Bobby Darin tune that everyone knows. No Beethoven's 9th (or my favorite, Eroica). No Christmas Carols. No Aretha Franklin. No Aaron Copeland. No national anthems. No Bob Marley. No favorite hymns. No drinking songs. No Beatles. No bluegrass.

No way.

Time to go tune up a little and work on that Sally Goodin. Yeah, it's kind of an "everyone does" tune but all the more I should be able to play it with my eyes closed. It's actually a good tune for practicing my right hand technique (that whole down-up thing with the mando, getting it nice and even, it's a work in progress) and for developing my ear since most people who play can also play it in their sleep so take a lot of liberties with the melody.

This week, take out a few of your favorite old standards, and try something new, too. Stretch your ears a little.

Have a good week...

Sally Goodin
(Yes! Look! Words! How about that...)

Had a piece of pie and I had a piece of pudding
And I gave it all away to hunt for Sally Goodin.

I looked up the road, and I saw her man a-coming,
And I swore to my soul that I’d kill myself a-running.

I love pie and I love pudding,
And I love that gal that they call Sally Goodin.
Huckleberry pie and huckleberry pudding,
And I’d give it all away to kiss Sally Goodin.

I looked up the road, and I saw her man a-coming,
And I swore to my soul that I’d kill myself a-running.

Recorded by John Quincy Wolf Jr.,

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Oh Look -- Football

I am an island. A lone wolf. A voice in the wildnerness.

I am a Steelers fan in Browns country.

Most folks who know me understand that to me, football has no real purpose. When I watch it, I am unmoved. It lacks the grace of baseball, the speed of basketball, and the agility of figure skating.

It's a bit how I feel about metal rock. There is only one level -- brutally loud -- and no grace, no real style.

Bluegrass grabbed me as a popular form of music because it possesses an agility and style that other popular forms seem essentially to lack, especially today. But I notice it doesn't get much airtime. Kind of like table tennis.

Not so football, or metal, or other forms of entertainment built to sooth the masses.

Tough game. Steelers still up by only ten after the first half. But they have the hills and the bridges of Pittsburgh to navigate. Cleveland has the Inner City Highway -- get in and out as quickly as possible. All speed--no style.

I guess some folks might say that about certain subgroups of bluegrass, and probably about some players. It's probably true.

But not in this case.

I've been hanging around some old standards and trying to get a couple of them in my fingers. This one is definitely in the standard category. It has plenty of speed, and here is played by a couple of style masters, Jim & Jesse. The McReynolds played together until Jim's death in 2002. Jesse carries on with other family members now, continuing the traditional bluegrass legacy that made Jim & Jesse such a hit in their day. He's been at it 59 years. WHO has a job they LOVE for 59 years???!!!

I love bluegrass.

And Pittsburgh.

[How about that. Steelers up by 16 now. Here's the field's good, of course.]

[Oh. Excuse me. Before I can even finish this post we're up another touchdown. There's the kick....oh man. I better go to bed before the game turns.]

Bringing In The Georgia Mail

See the engine puffing, boy she's making time

That old trains wearing out the rail, rail, rail
Heading for the mountain that she's got to climb
Bringing in the Georgia mail

Ninety miles an hour and she's gaining speed
Listen to the whistle moan and wail, wail, wail
Has she got the power I'll say yes indeed
Bringing in the Georgia mail

See the driver's travel watch her spin the track
Ought to put that engineer in jail, jail, jail
Has he got her rolling watch her ball the jack
Bringing in the Georgia mail

Rocking and a reeling spouting off the steam
Stoke the fire and hope the brakes don't fail, fail, fail
Serving all the people listen to her scream
Bringing in the Georgia mail

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Church Street Blues

I decided to spare you all the article trying to write itself about bluegrass pedagogy, and instead just share this Norman Blake tune. There's a street in Twinsburg called Church Street, and it's sort of symbolizes this perfectly neurotic confused little town. I have a friend who works in a gingerbread house right on the square there on Church, and I think he should have this song.

Times are tight for a lot of people I know, myself included. It's often a skate on thin ice. People who talk like they have it tough but who aren't and probably never will be really shouldn't ever talk like they want to be in those shoes.

On the other hand, I'm reminded almost hourly how rich I am in a lot of other ways, and grateful that I have passion for music and for living.

This tune by Norman Blake, sung beautifully by Tony Rice, is about those times where it's just kind of hard, and you wish things were a little bit different. Day by day, I'm learning to sing through those times, to step back and smile and say to myself, I'm mighty glad to be here and I wouldn't miss it for anything. I'd venture to say that's how Tony feels, even though he can't quite sing like this any more. I look up to him not just as a performer but as a human being who doesn't wear his many, many difficult battles on his sleeve but instead just plies his trade and gives us the fruits of his labor of love.

That's a way to be.

Church Street Blues

Lord I been hangin' out of town in that low down rain
Watchin' good time Charlie friend is drivin' me insane
Down on shady Charlotte Street the green lights all look red
Wish I was back home on the farm in my feather bed.

Get myself a rockin' chair
To see if I can lose
Them thin dime hard times
Hell on Church Street blues.

Found myself a picker friend who's read yesterday's news
Folded up page twenty-one and stuck it in my shoe
Gave a nickle to the poor my good turn for the day
Folded up my own little folder threw it far away.

Get myself a rockin' chair
To see if I can lose
Them thin dime hard times
Hell on Church Street blues.

Lord I wish I had some guitar strings
Old Black Diamond brand
I'd string up this old Martin box and go and join some band
But I guess I'll just stay right here just pick and sing a while
Try to make me a little change and give them folks a smile.

Get myself a rockin' chair
To see if I can lose
Them thin dime hard times
Hell on Church Street blues.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I Killed It

I did it. I killed my cable.

Well, almost. I’m down to the first 22 channels, which means nearly an extra forty bucks a month – just enough to cover the cost of the increase in the condo fee and negotiate a deal for better Internet connectivity. Ok, so, it’s not really an extra forty bucks a month. It’s a reallocation.

So it goes.

My kids have today been enmeshed in a Harry Potter marathon. Sure, those are fun movies. But why should I pay to watch them AND the commercials that extend the running time by hours while corporate media buyers try to sell me stuff I don’t need?

Even my daughter got sick of it. So while we were hanging out in my room and she was reading me a story, I called my friendly Time Warner customer service rep and killed my cable, or at least left it severely disabled.

I realized how very different things are now even than they were when I was very little. There was no cable; there barely was television. There were no VCRs or DVDs. There was PONG, which we did have, but which never out-funned the air hockey table we also had. There was no credit the way there is today – no unending number of options to dig oneself into a miserable impossible hole of debt. Cars ran, mechanics were honest. I never remember my parents’ cars being out of service – and my brothers knew how to fix most anything if there were a needed repair.

Maybe it’s the grind of the holiday season that reminds me how simple my life used to be. We seemed always to have what we needed, played endlessly when we weren’t in school, constantly had something to do and were happy to daydream when we didn’t. We didn’t have a computer, or parents who were constantly trying to build a better kid brain by providing one. There were no malls, at least not until I was a little older, and they were an excursion in which we did not frequently indulge. We did cool stuff, like travel to interesting places, and our parents forced on us music and dancing lessons, which gave us all kinds of different opportunities. We had all the creative material my folks could get their hands on in our sorry little neck of Ohio woods. My sister and I were extremely fortunate to have private educations, including excellent undergraduate educations. That now is just a dream for some kids because of the cost of higher education, my kids included.

These are difficult, confusing times. These are times I’m certain my parents never in their wildest nightmares might have imagined for their children. It’s no wonder that a few years back, at my own crossroads and searching for meaning, I fell headlong in love with bluegrass, which I fear my dear departed parents never thought a match for formal training in classical forms.

But it is what I love.

One night last week late at night, I lay in bed with a foggy brain and my MP3 gadget close at hand. I stumbled across some tracks that were “untitled” – that had been loaded on to my then-new laptop at the early stages of my techno-transformation some years back. I clicked, and heard the heavenly voices of Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.

That album of duets is one of the most beloved recordings in Bluegrass. A former friend passed it on to me as I set out on my journey to explore the music that now takes up most of the real estate in my heart. As I lay in the dark with a troubled heart and mind and unsure whether I was fighting some seasonal bug, I gazed out at the darkness on the other side of my window and let the melodious ring of these two near perfect voices along with the very perfectly simple accompaniment of these master instrumentalists take me to a place I imagine will someday feel more like home.

At the same time, I remember feeling grateful that I had a bed to lay in, a window to gaze out of, a pillow under my head, and the grace to know what this simple song meant to me – at that moment, a peace no money could ever buy. I sang along with the higher part quietly in the dark, a sort of prayer or promise that someday I’ll sing it alongside another bluegrass believer in the bright light of day.

Bury Me Beneath the Willow

My heart is sad I am lonely

For the only one I love
When shall I see her oh no never
'Til we meet in heaven above

Oh, bury me beneath the willow

Under the weeping willow tree
So she will know where I am sleeping
And perhaps she'll weep for me

She told me that she dearly loved me
How could I believe it untrue
Until the angels softly whispered
She will prove untrue to you


Tomorrow was to be our wedding
God oh God where can she be
She's out a courting with another
And no longer cares for me