Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Open Letter on (Unnecessary) Suffering

*** Don't miss the post-script!

This may appear off topic, but had it not been for my journey through the wide fields of bluegrass music that opened my mind and showed me my soul after years of every kind of formal music study known to exist, I would not yet be here now.

I have a little parable. It's a true story about two men in my life.

The first man, a self-nominated Buddhist wannabe, proudly proclaims,

I am not responsible for your feelings.

Fair enough.

The second, an avowed atheist, remarks to me:

You are more important to me than this conversation.

Whom do you believe? Both, perhaps. Both are valid viewpoints.

One might think that the person who holds no expectation of an afterlife, or any other life than that which he has right now, might live less honorably, behave toward others less caringly, be less tolerant, less capable of forgiveness, less convinced of any need to change or evolve, much less respect another person’s feelings. He might be less inclined toward honesty or directness, more inclined to deceit, or to live less consciously. After all, what does he have to lose?

Conversely one might expect that someone who desires to follow the teachings of Buddha and find a way out of suffering might not want to cause more of it.

And I am tired of people causing suffering. Any people. Your last name doesn't have to be Rumsfeld to do a whole lotta damage to society or to humanity. If you can't be kind to someone who cared about you, why bother to blow your big wind about the war?

One of my favorite writers, a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh, advises that we must learn to love our enemies, because as we love them, we begin to understand them, and they are no longer our enemies. I am keeping that teaching foremost in my mind at the moment.

Going back to the little story, I'm suffering, not because of someone who is both acutely aware of his actions and yet who doesn’t believe in God, but because of someone who does believe in some kind of God but in fact bears no responsibility to anyone or anything but himself. My desire for openness, understanding, forgiveness, and civility were met with avoidance, silence, and invisibility. Kind of like how President Bush treats Congress, or you, or me.

Being ignored is familiar territory. I no longer regard it as passive. Outside of conditions where ignoring someone is out of necessity of safety, to ignore is as hostile an act of emotional abuse as any trick in the book.

Civility is a behavior that is being evolved out of human consciousness. Frankly, one of the last civilized places on earth seems to be among people who share a love of bluegrass. I have never felt such community among so many people who don't know each other. With so many diverse viewpoints about so many things, there has never been a time when in a group of five or ten or more people, we didn't come to common ground.

I have been uncivil plenty of times to people I care about, and I regret every single instance of causing suffering. Nonetheless my single act of uncivil behavior toward the first man--ironically an instance in which I was living absolutely in the moment, which was all he ever talked about, and acting out of my own self-protection which I do all too rarely--was not cause enough for someone who supposedly believes in Karma to jeopardize it.

I live consciously. I am aware of every act, every word, every deed--good, bad, and in between--and I consider these things before I lay them on you. I do not consider myself responsible for you, but I am respectful of the power of my actions and aware that they might have an effect on your well-being. I think about whether I can achieve some necessary end without unnecessarily wounding you or damaging your hope. I may still choose wrongly, but I weigh the consequences. Just because I respect and acknowledge how you feel does not make me responsible for your feelings.

You are human, and so am I. We are humanity. Our imperfection shares this earth for a time.

Whether I know you or not, like you or not, you share this earth with the two most important people in my life: my children. Therefore, I will do my best not to hurt you. If I do, I want you to tell me. We may disagree but I will talk with you, and maybe we will at least understand each other. If you hurt me, I will tell you, whether you are listening or not. If I am afraid, unsure, angry, disillusioned, tired, not able, not willing, not available, not ready, I will always tell you and I hope you will tell me. I will not ignore you, not couch these feelings in some clever poem or a song or cryptic skywriting or a belly dance or tucked into a fortune cookie after I've left you at the Chinese restaurant with the tab.

Because you walk the earth with me, even if you are my enemy. You walked the path beside me for a time before it came to a fork. You helped me when I was suffering. And you matter more than this conversation.

More Love
Tim O'Brien, Gary Nicholson (Howdy Skies Music/Forerunner Music, Inc./Gary Nicholson Music, ASCAP)©1998 Gary Nicholson and Tim O'Brien
Performed by The Dixie Chicks

I'm so close to you baby, but I'm so far away
There's a silence between us and there's so much to say
You're my strength you're my weakness
You're my faith you're my doubt
We gotta meet in the middle
To work this thing out

More love
I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

We're afraid to be idle, so we fill up the days
We run on a treadmill, keep slavin away
Until there's no time for talkin'
About troubles in mind
And the doors are all closed
Between your heart and mine

More love I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

Just look out around you, people fightin their wars
They think they'll be happy, when they settle their scores
Let's lay down the weapons
That hold us a part
Be still for just a minute
Try to open our hearts

More love I can hear our hearts cryin'
More love I know that's all we need
More love to flow in between us
To take us and hold us and lift us above
If there's ever an answer, it's more love

Post-script: First, I should point out that the first man is not my ex-husband. Someone called to ask about that, and so I thought it was worth clarifying. Ex has evolved steadily over the last several months. Secondly, the first man, to all my availble knowledge, never visits this blog, and hasn't other than in the early days when we first met. That probably shoulda been a clue right there. Live and learn.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Snow Much Fun

Well, we're well past our first snow, but with that long warm winter hiatus this last week has felt like the first true blast of winter.

As much as I dreaded it, I find now that it's not so bad. It kind of bolsters my cantankerousness, and I almost look forward to waking up to see what the weather left behind the night before.

Living in Northeast Ohio, winter is a six-month condition. You start getting cold rain in October or November, have a blast or two of snow in December, and then in January and February sometimes weeks of bitter cold. At least now the days are getting longer. We have so few really warm, sunny days that the winters seem longer than they really are.

But this time around, with a nearly fecund fall, winter is almost a festive event. There's something to braving the cold and then coming home to a cozy evening reading stories or playing games, or if it's just me, learning tunes or reading or simmering thoughts.

There's a new twist to our family winter this season. The kids' dad has enrolled them in ski lessons, and it's going really well. "Uncreative" is an instructor at our local slopes and has inspired everyone to get out and connect with winter. I've only been skiing a couple of times but it was really hard work, and therefore I know it must be good exercise. I'm glad my kids are getting out and replenishing their lungs with good fresh air, even if it is cold. And finally, no one should miss my daughter A. on the slopes. She'll be a regular little Peek-A-Booboo before too long. In a week or two I plan to join them, since I sure can't beat em. They all have poles and I don't.

Here's a fun winter fiddle frolic from Tim O'Brien's grammy winner, Fiddler's Green.

Enjoy the season for what it is. In a few months snow will yield to fiddleheads and mossy streams running free again, and the sun will beat down on your fields and flowers.

First Snow -- studio version

First Snow -- Live with Dirk Powell, Casey Driessen, Johnny Doyle, and Tim

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Small Flame in a Terrible Wind

This morning while I was warming myself over from watching my daughter's ski lesson, I read an article by a theatre and opera director named Peter Sellars in this month's magazine of the American Symphony Orchestra League. The article was a reprint of his address to the League's 61st conference. Sellars illustrated throughout how important it is to make each piece we present and perform new and relevant everyday, as if Beethoven himself were conducting your Ninth, or Copland your Appalachian Spring. He made the point that these pieces were written as an act of conscience, and that their messages are as important and applicable today as they were the day the first note was played in public.

In that way, he notes, attending a symphony concert is not just an act of leisure -- in fact, it never should be. It's a call to action if we're to remain true to the intent with which some pieces were written.

When we come to the music that means so much to each of us, we come to it because it answers a need within us. No matter how old a particular tune or bluegrass song, it is as if it's new to us, and each performance brings it alive in the tradition it was created. Something about it allows us to connect with something about ourselves that helps us understand our place in the world and helps us to develop a perspective on that world and how it affects us. Because we cherish it and we know that it has meaning beyond what it means to us, we try to find ways to share it with others.

In the last couple of days I heard from two working musicians in Nashville who wrote to thank me for something I'd written about them here. These two artists owe me no thanks at all, because they have devoted their careers and their lives to creating and sharing music that enriches the lives of all of us. When I write about them or any of the many hundreds of other lesser and greater known bluegrass and traditional musicians, I'm doing what I can to keep that little flame from blowing out in the terrible wind of our times, times so busy and so distressing that it's enough to blow us all away. Between the war, the economy, the lack of leadership in our nation, the bleak condition of education, the state of youth and communities, it's a pretty tough time. Music can be a part of how we reckon all of the things that affect us. And that's why this blog is here, so that in passing by here you might be introduced to some of the folks writing beautiful, simple, accessible music of our times.

This Sunday, give some thought to the little flame you keep. What is it, and what does it mean to you now? What would you do to see that it's still here 20 years from now? If not music, then perhaps poetry, photography, teaching, or some other passion.

Here is a clip featuring a few guys that have kept their flame alive a long time. The Oak Ridge Boys perform "John in the Jordan" on Jerry Salley's new release, New Songs, Old Friends.

John in the Jordan

Have a good week.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Can it be that just a week ago I sat here going on and on about the wonders of technology and wirelessness and Oh-how-did-I-ever-get-along-without-it?

And yet, here I am, back at square one, the provider having failed on its end, and leaving me without access to my expensive DSL account.

The experience taught me a lot about how folks can get themselves in a bind getting used to something biggerbetterfastermore. I was totally frustrated, not only because solving technology problems doesn't come easily to me, but because I was paying for a service that my kids and I could not use.

The question is whether the quality of our life was really any better. To be sure, I miss FolkAlley, but I have the folk show on WKSU (if I can tolerate the long-winded set breaks with the host's personal stories about every artist). I also miss being able to listen to a clip at breakneck speed. And my kids miss there few games. The phone line wasn't tied up, either, but no one really calls on that line; I just received a long distance bill that totaled $11 for the last YEAR.

Good thing I didn't trash my dial-up just yet. I was worried about having access to my email here and at work, and I would have missed blogging. But I had this before. Just not at the speed of bluegrass.

Not too long ago I pulled the plug on the other 50 some channels I never watch and that my kids don't really need. So some of the appeal lay in access to some of that now absent material on the Web. But just the other night my son spent about a half an hour tracing stories related to the discovery of a sarcophagus under a church in the UK. That was on MSNBC and he could do that on here.

Today I received a membership solicitation from the Cleveland Museum of Art, to which I'm going to respond. We are members of a number of cultural institutions in the area, because it's good to have a place to get away to for a little brain juice. If I took all the money I put into those institutions that give so much back to us, and put it toward some electronic toy, I wouldn't even have enough to buy a fancy new Wii or Playstation.

I guess it's always good to assess what we're doing. It took me a really long time to make the switch to a new level of internet access that worked for one week. If I were the kind of person to take other people's money for stuff that didn't work, I wouldn't have to dream about a new Gibson mando, now, would I?

So it's an opportunity to be reminded that simple is good. I probably need to get out some of my other cds per a comment about variety from Mister B and revive some of my other musical loves over a couple games of Scrabble or Blokus with the kids. Dial down, tune out, new connection.

Fine Times at Our House
(Tune from the Hammons Family in West Virginia; this is a field recording. I first heard this tune on a recording called Starch & Iron by Rayna Gellert and Susie Goehring and you'll be hearing more about that soon.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not Too Far from the Tree is He

Almost as soon as daughter went off to sleep a bit early to fend off a cold she picked up over the weekend, son began interrogating me on the whys and hows of a tune he had made up and been playing on the piano.

So we did a brief little introduction to music theory, and I illustrated for him that the song he had composed is in the key of e-flat minor. We got about as far as we could before I really, REALLY wanted my old theory book, which evidently is gone.

The text, I recall, was titled simply 'HARMONY' -- and I can't recall who compiled it. I'm taking a break from my google and amazon searches to reflect a moment on how nice it was to spend that time with my son over a subject he has a keen interest in: composition.

One day a few years ago my son found some staff paper and worked up a nice little tune he titled "Water". It is a lovely little tune, and he sort of just sat down intuitively and wrote it on the staff paper. Now he is sitting at the piano and trying to extract a tune from the keyboard to the staves.

I was not much older when I started to study music theory. It was, truth be told, the only math I really ever enjoyed, and I was very good at it, because it all had a function that made brilliant good sense to me, unlike the imaginary number system.

Seeing him this engaged and entwined in a creative activity of this nature is very reassuring. I think he has a hunger for instruction, but I'm careful not to overdo. But his constantly-searching monkeybrain keeps the questions coming, and it was so much fun to watch as the little lightbulbs came on, and more questions.

As we enter the "Tween" stage I've been worried a bit about my son. He's not an everyday kind of kid. While developmentally he may follow a textbook series of stages, he is still his own kid, with a curious array of likes, dislikes, fears (he hates going under bridges, and I haven't figured out yet where that comes from), talents, and blind spots. He is one of the most curious people I've ever met, ever content to unravel the great mysteries, such as what one might do with a 600 foot robot or in this case, how you represent the notes exactly as they are played -- with one note in the left hand and the others in the right. He's so far ahead of himself he's going to come up behind himself one of these days.

I am not, as a rule, looking forward to his adolescence. I didn't particularly enjoy my own (who does?!) and he is a soul-searcher to a far greater degree than I ever was as a young girl. There are times when he craves company. He is a classic illustration of the "let it come to you" model of coaching. Given the opportunity -- a quiet moment without his whirlwind-creating sister around -- he is a fountain of questions and contemplation.

I just love that about this kid. Although I worry he thinks a bit too much about things, I am so grateful he's at least mindful of some of the bigger questions -- and rarely afraid of them. He hates this war, and is quite discouraged by our Brainless Leader. He thinks about his place in the world, as a member of humanity. He is an absolutely amazing big brother, who just loves his sister unconditionally and embraces her victories and coaches her through her dark times. Stepping back it is a wonder to see these two together the way they are.

I watch my son carefully as at times I think I can detect a bit of depression. Someone like him with his feelers out all over the universe and sharing empathy with all of humanity is bound to get exhausted. And he's not unlike other creative types I know -- always a sense of perfection embedded in what he does, which I think sets him back sometimes. This I do worry about because I know many adult men whose obsession with perfection have interrupted their ability to try.

I think he shares the joy and enthusiasm of bluegrass because of its powerful, uplifting, forward-moving spirit. It always makes us feel better to put the day's cares away with a little music. And knowing that he is as curious as he is about how music is notated gives me some confidence that there is still time to guide this Tween person through the rockiest times by helping him hold on to those pieces of himself that he will still carry as a grown man -- hopefully the good pieces.

One of our favorite artists is the young and impressive Bryan Sutton. Here's a popular well-known tune called Billy in the Lowground from Sutton's 2006 Sugar Hill release, Not Too Far from the Tree. This old tune with Sutton's update is a celebration of tradition and musical geneology. See if it doesn't get your toes tappin' and your brain snappin.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Best Time of All

It is amazing how fast the days fly, even now in winter. There is always a lot to do and it takes longer now with the endless piling on of boots and snowpants and mittens and hats and such, and then to undo everything in reverse again.

There never seems to be quite enough time in the day for the best things, like sleep, and thinking.

But there is always a little time for the story my daughter brought home from the library this week.

One night when Pa was greasing the traps he watched Black Susan come in, and he said:
"There once was a man who had two cats, a big cat and a little cat."
Laura and Mary ran to lean on his knees and hear the rest.
"....So he made a big cat hole in his door for the big cat. And then he made a little cat-hole for the little cat."
There Pa stopped.
"But why couldn't the little cat--" Mary began
"Because the big cat wouldn't let it," Laura interrupted.
"Laura, that is very rude. You must never interrupt," said Pa.
"But I see," he said, "that either one of you has more sense than the man who cut the two cat-holes in his door."
Then he laid away his traps, and he took his fiddle out of its box and began to play.
That was the best time of all.

-- Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957, Little House in The Big Woods

Hear a story about a fiddler and his popular tune here.

Learn more about the fiddle tunes Charles Ingalls played here.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Shape Note Sunday

Last night at the end of a busy couple of days, I decided what I needed was a little light entertainment. A movie, perhaps.

So I put in Cold Mountain.

What was I thinking?

Those of you who have seen the film recall how it starts. The scene is Petersburg at early dawn, and Union troops are laying explosives beneath a Confederate camp. The ensuing scenes -- the explosion, the settling of the dark dust to reveal advancing Union regiments, the ferocious battle, at the center of which is our protagonist Inman desperately attempting the rescue of a young lad from his Cold Mountain town who is ultimately skewered before Inman can reach him -- are paired with a solemn old mountain hymn, "Am I Born To Die?" delivered in a powerful shape note treatment.

It wasn't exactly the most relaxing choice I could have made, but it did get me thinking about Gospelgrass Sunday. So, today is Shape Note Sunday.

Shape Note singing was developed as a way to teach pitch and allow everyone in a congregation the chance to participate, almost as a choir except that everyone joins along. In the Southern hymnody tradition, everyone is seated in a square according to their vocal section -- soprano, alto, tenor, or bass. The method is based on a relative of solfege. The difference is that shape note singing is almost entirely modal, meaning the tune progresses almost entirely in whole steps except in what we know as the key of C.

The shape-note tradition evolved from the late-17th century Bay Psalter -- America's first hymnal -- in which the syllables for the shape notes were indicated below the notes on the staves, to an early 18th century edition in which the syllables and notes appeared on the staves, to the point around 1800 when the notes themselves took on specific shapes and the staves and syllables were dropped. Today shape-note singing is still practiced throughout the South. The Sacred Harp, compiled and issued by E.B. King in pre-Civil War America, is still used widely as the standard shape-note singing manual and is the moniker to generally describe the practice.

The tune I mentioned was perfect for that scene in which we watch a young boy meet his grisly death with all the terror and pain of giving up the immortality of being 15 or 16. His cries of anguish, and the enormous sea of bloodshed surrounding them, are no different than the suffering of those who meet their death in Iraq. But the Civil War, as horrible and devisive as it was, was a war that ultimate was fought to keep our brand-new nation from dividing itself and take a stand against slavery if mostly in principle (a battle we still fight 142 years later). The Iraq conflict is nothing more than one man's quest to put down a nation for hurting his Daddy. And to date, more than 3,000 American troops have died in that conflict, thousands more left disabled and jobless.

I wonder if the sitting U.S. President ever considers the questions in this hymn. They are so naturally the questions we all ask at the end of life, they call from our fear of dying, fear of not knowing what lies beyond death.
I suspect one day should death sneak up on our delusional leader of the free world, he will himself ponder these sentiments, a little late.

Idumea 47b
Tune: Ananias Davisson, 1816
Lyrics: Charles Wesley, 1763
Meter: Short Meter (6,6,8,6)

Sung here by Anonymous 4

AND am I born to die?
To lay this body down?
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown -

A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought,
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot?

2 Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be;

Waked by the trumpet's sound,
I from my grave shall rise,
And see the Judge with glory crowned,
And see the flaming skies.

3 How shall I leave my tomb?
With triumph or regret?
A fearful or a joyful doom,
A curse or blessing meet?
Will angel-bands convey
Their brother to the bar?
Or devils drag my soul away,
To meet its sentence there?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Salvation in a Little Black Box

Not too terribly long ago I was sounding the alarm--Beware The Techno Rage, it's the death of culture, of society, certainly of trad.

But today, I was saved, and my salvation lies under my mother's old dry sink.

It's a DSL modem.

Do I hear AMEN?!

Further, I saw the light of wireless, and am now streaming from the desktop across the room while I sit here at my table working on this post. And even better, playing now is Darrell Scott's Memory Like Mine, perfect for this utterly stupid ongoing conflict in Iraq.

This transition from the old way to an entirely different way does not come easy for me. But I have already realized the value, between the music and the ability to manipulate programs virtually at the speed of bluegrass. I know I'm in the last two dozen to sign up for the 21st century, but I'm glad I finally came around.

There is a wealth out there, a knowledge base that will be so much easier to access because of this technology. It's also, as I've mentioned before, been a great benefit to communities that are less fortunate and perhaps not able to access a whole lot of anything due to their location, particularly in rural parts of the world.

It's a way of connecting us all.

Everyday I stop to see who has visited this blog. This past week saw lengthy visits from China, Poland, Germany, and many other places. This technology does bring us closer, as far apart as we may be geographically.

But while new and emerging technologies may make things easier in some parts of our lives, there is no equivalent to the human side of life. I wish there were a speedier way to heal, or to share joy, or solve a problem. On a human level, some of these techno wonders only extend the work and the time required to shorten the distance between you, and me. Between you, and someone you fought with last week.

As much as I am converted by the Gospel of Wireless, I hope I don't get so lost in the extra work I can now accomplish that I forget why I'm doing the work, who I'm doing it with, who I'm doing it for, and especially the practice of playing.

Please step on over to and sign up if you haven't already. The music kept us company all afternoon. And in a few weeks, you'll be able to enjoy the show I caught last night at The Beachland Ballroom. Iris Dement was such a joy. There isn't a single song she sang that I'm not convinced I absolutely have to have.

So remember to appreciate the speed and all the options it brings, but not so much that you forget to slow down and enjoy what's real.

If you get on over and register at Folk Alley, you should be able to hear a beautiful hymnlike tune, Turn Me Tender, performed by a folk singer named Martyn Joseph from Southern Wales. It's so poignant, beautiful. It gets right at the isolation that begs to be healed after all the rest of life is unplugged. Serenity kisses that soothe and repair....

Even better, if you purchase this song through iTunes, FolkAlley gets a little itty bitty share to help it keep going.

Turn me tender again,
Fold me into you
Turn me tender again
And mold me to new
Faith lost its promise
And bruised me deep blue
Turn me tender again
Through union with you

Have a good night, y'all.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Forgive Me, I'm Sweetly Dement-ed

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity for a good live show. Tomorrow I will break that streak with a visit to The Beachland Ballroom by Iris Dement, one of Americana’s best loved singer-songwriters, and a personal favorite.

Iris is the youngest of 14 children. She got her musical start as part of a deeply religious musical family who sang gospel tunes, but later fell under the influence of folk and country. She penned her first song at 25, and headed to Nashville in 1988.

Iris Dement has an unusual voice, truly all its own, and like no other I’ve ever heard. It’s really beautiful. I am hoping she does this tune, Sweet Forgiveness.

Once, caught in the endless circle of a very painful argument, a very good friend said to me, “You mean more to me than this conversation.” No one had ever said anything like that to me, and no one has since. It taught me what it means to forgive and be forgiven. And I know that I’ve fallen short since in other friendships and relationships because I forgot that very important guiding principle.

I’m grateful that I still have that friendship, and some others that carry me through some pretty tough times as well as some pretty good ones, too.

Clevelanders, I hope I’ll see you at The Beachland Ballroom, tomorrow night (Friday, Jan. 19) 8 p.m. curtain!

SWEET FORGIVENESS (Iris DeMent)(c) 1992 Songs of Iris/Forerunner Music, Inc. ASCAP

Sweet forgiveness, that's what you give to me

when you hold me close and you say "That's all over"
You don't go looking back,
you don't hold the cards to stack,
you mean what you say.

Sweet forgiveness, you help me see
I'm not near as bad as I sometimes appear to be
When you hold me close and say
"That's all over, and I still love you"

There's no way that I could make up for those angry
words I said
Sometimes it gets to hurting and the pain goes to my head

Sweet forgiveness, dear God above
I say we all deserve a taste of this kind of love
Someone who'll hold our hand,and whisper
"I understand, and I still love you"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not So Sweet Times at Sugar Hill

This morning I opened my Back Porch News e-letter and learned the next phase in another sad indie demise was underway: Sugar Hill Records, which for nearly 30 years has called Raleigh-Durham its home, will pack up and move to Nashville this year -- without most of its nine employees.

According to this story in the Triangle's News & Observer, the move is a decision by Welk Music Group, the company that owns Sugar Hill and its sister label, Vanguard Records. The California-based Welk acquired Sugar Hill in 1998.

With Sugar Hills track record of bluegrass artists, it may be hard for readers not to believe that the label isn't already in Nashville. For others, like me, it makes one wonder whether working outside of Nashville is viable for anyone with a stake in the bluegrass music industry.

There should always be options.

From an economic development perspective, the move is a bit unsettling. Raleigh-Durham boasts an economy that has grown at twice the national rate since 1990. Businesses of all kinds are attracted and recruited to the Triangle with enormously successful results. So it seems an added shame that this wonderful, much loved indie label started in Barry Poss's apartment in 1978 has to pick up and move.

Sugar Hill is not a Sony or a WB or any of those giant companies. There are NINE PEOPLE that keep the place running. Should it have grown, and would that kind of growth have attracted more acts and resulted in more releases that might have prevented this shift? Possibly. But it is what it is, and this bittersweet period in the label's history hopefully will be lost in the renewed success and artistic achievement believed to be the intention of this change.

Sugar Hill's first release was an album entitled One Way Track by a little-known group of performers known collectively as Boone Creek. Those fellas are Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Terry Baucom (Quicksilver's longtime banjer player), Wes Golding, and Steve Bryant. Of course it's featured on the Retrospective recording so often mentioned here.

I guess it was a mighty good investment afterall.

Here with the title track of that album is Boone Creek (click to head over to Rhapsody for the full track).

I'm sure all of you would join me in wishing everyone at Sugar Hill the best possible transition. We hope this decision, while pretty damn tough, ultimately places bluegrass in the position it deserves in that town, and that's right at the top.

One Way Track

Monday, January 15, 2007

This Just In: Jerry Salley Caught In MandoMama Vortex

I sure do wish I could get on over to The Station Inn tomorrow night. Because a songwriter I didn't know about until today will be sharing cuts from his new release, New Songs, Old Friends.

Meet Jerry Salley. Once again, here's a guy who's been working behind the scenes for coming up on 25 years in Nashvegas all to put bread on his table and a song in our hearts. Until now those songs also have been put on other people's albums. Hooray Jerry for getting a turn!

So what's the rest of the story? Well, now, regular readers will recall that a couple months back, I had that funny dream in which I looked at my cell phone and I had a call coming in from Larry Cordle, who doesn't know me from Eve (and I do not mean that in a biblical sense, thank you). Jerry has long performed with songwriter Cordle and with Carl Jackson, who recorded, you've got it, that fabulous broken heart ballad that has been making the rounds here: "I'm Not Over You." (Oh it's just so painfully good I'm gonna have to put it on again tonight and play it some more.) Together that trio has recorded three albums: Livin, Lovin, Losin: Songs of The Louvin Brothers (whose song, "No One To Sing For Me," was blogged here in November to commemorate the loss of my mother); Against the Grain, and Lonesome Cafe. Jerry also has a string of country releases leading up to tomorrow's all-bluegrass release.

Which is, I guess, how I got there, and he got here.

Congratulations, Jerry Smalley on a new album chock full of great songs and great performers (Rhonda Vincent, Doyle Lawson, Alecia Nugent, Jamie Wilson are just a few). Those of you who can, get on over to The Station Inn tomorrow night (January 16), say hello and pick up that new cd. I sure wish I could, but I'll be sitting here still waiting for Larry Cordle to call me back. Why in the heck didn't he leave a message?!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sundays Were Made for Gospelgrass

There are going to be many times on this site where I need to set aside my views or state them in a way that conveys more clearly how I feel.

This is one of those times.

In honor of the many great gospel performances and songs, I'm inaugurating Gospelgrass Sunday.

Of course it will remain to be seen whether I actually can keep up with my plan but I'm going to try.

Gospel music can be and is by many considered its own genre, but I consider it a category of bluegrass. The roots are generally the same, and many of the songs and performers emanate from the bluegrass tradition. It also seems sometimes that as performers evolve and become more comfortable either with their position on the charts or within their musical skins, they begin to claim a piece of Gospel territory. It is a place to put down your mark if you intend to stay around much in Bluegrass.

My own tradition was Catholic and then as I got older in school I pursued music study and was recruited into an anglican choir. I loved that experience. We sang some very old sacred music. I carried that love of these old texts and hymn settings well into my college years and to this day ensemble singing is something I deeply miss (but the rehearsal schedules are something I can't quite swing just yet with two school agers).

I didn't really discover or embrace gospel music right away when I launched into my bluegrass thing. It really wasn't until the Grey Fox festival in 2004, when I attended the Sunday morning performances led by Ron Thomason's Dry Branch Fire Squad that I got a good taste for the meaning of gospel music. The weekend had been full of it but I wasn't able to connect with it somehow until that point.

While I don't any longer rely on "gospel truths", I still find that this music can be beautiful and put to good use to help us meditate on our actions and our intentions. Some of it just sometimes makes me feel good, without any particular intent or message. I imagine there are many Gospelgrass pieces that we all love to sing or hear regardless of what our belief system may be.

To pull a song out of a hat is a toughie for a first run, but I'm going to give you a Dry Branch selection, since Ron Thomason kind of represents the ability to convey great gospel music and still stand one's ground as an individual. I'll leave you with "Touch the Hem of His Garments" which when sung by a quartet is about as beautiful as anything you're ever likely to hear. It's a song about healing. Remember that while we might wish to touch the garment of some heavenly resident, the only real healing power is within us, within the choices we make, the love we give, the friends we honor, the forgiveness we are able to give and receive.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Moments Of Undetermined Significance

The last couple of days have been a little difficult. For want of a better way to express it, I feel the pull of many different things deep in my psyche, and people and events and ideas are swirling about in ways that have produced a physical headache but there's no way to turn away from it. It's one of those little windstorms of human energy and the only way through it straight on through.

The last week was tough physically as I felt myself pushing away some kind of invasion on a health level. Some days were good, others not so much. Then there were the other small moments leading me to this head-down, keep-moving place I am now.

Earlier this week a book I really cherished but assumed I had relinquished magically turned up in the mail. I was delighted. I felt something had been returned to me in a meaningful way. There were also a couple of bookmarks, one my daughter had made that I had lost along the way. I felt not sad, but oddly empowered. (And Boring Best, damn happy to have my Dawkins Rainbow book back!)

I continued my jubilacious conversation with promoter Steve Adamski (of Appalachian Uprising -- more to come on that) and heard from the organizer of The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival which I plan to enjoy March 30-31 (more on that soon, too). Making those vital connections makes me feel alive and purposeful. There is a positivity and collaborative spirit surrounding bluegrass that I imagine exists other places, and I am grateful for these new connections.

I also took a trip over to Silly Humans, a politically engaging read by a fella blogger who was a regular over at My Boring Best. We have a common stone in our separate paths. Reaching out to new bloggers was something I have not done in a while, and I'm glad I did.

Later in the week, I took my kids over to their dad's as his father was coming in to town. We also celebrated my SIL's birthday with a killer chocolate cake I make, which I managed to enjoy despite not feeling top notch. Ex Sr looks tired; it's clear the battle his wife is fighting against two brain tumors is a battle they both bear. I wish there were something more I could do. I encourage him to seek time for himself, but he's bearing the burdens of household work that for so many years "just happened." He is being transformed before our eyes. As we're now a "transfigured family" I'm more of an outside counselor but I do feel the sadness and wish things were different.

Friday came and while immersed at work I received a call from a very close friend who had been on my mind for more than two weeks. Shameless Agitator is going through her own life transforming experience -- she had been on my heart and her call came through as if to answer my concern. Being with her on the phone is all I could do but am glad to share that powerful connection. Were it not for Ex, I might not have this incredible friend in my life.

Friday night brought a meeting with a new friend and his family at a small but bustling wine bar/store up the road from my town. The owner's mother is battling multiple complications from pancreatic cancer, at only 57 (she started young). Yet he stopped at every table, multiple times, to make sure his patrons had what they needed.

This morning I had to spring into action despite waking up with the same thoughts circling about in my head -- what happened, what happened, what happened. How something I thought so far behind can be waiting for me when I open my eyes the way a hungry cat will sit on top of your chest waiting to be fed (or a little dog like the one I miss will lick your face when he needs his turn at patrolling the neighborhood) was its own kind of lesson carried through the day.

Coffee, pull on clothes, bluegrass, errands, back home to prepare for a meeting with a family friend. A cousin at some distance provided my number to someone he had known a while back who now lives in this area, and I met him for a lecture at the Western Reserve Historical Society on "treasures of the conscience" (coinciding with the wonderful Society's exhibit, "Treasures", presenting objects from its 140-year collection). The highly-respected, much published John Grabowski ended his compelling talk with a story about his own draft card. To hear someone I respected so deeply as a professional speak so candidly and bravely about something so personally significant to him truly gave me pause.

Spending the afternoon with someone who knew a part of my family was enjoyable, and the best part was that in some ways he was nothing like them. It was a relief to meet yet another person who holds similar views and who knows the difference between Pete Seeger and Bob Seeger (no disrespect to the latter). I wish I had more to offer this person, but the drive down to the Society and the drive home made clear to me how unprepared I am for anything but my own forging ahead.

On the way back up the hill through Cleveland Heights, I found myself increasingly unnerved. I was surprised by this. I had not prepared myself to feel anything. The clues of waking up to questions and sadness through the last week should have provided warning. As I approached my vanished friend and lover's neighborhood, the psychic tension was immense. I almost, almost turned the corner and drove to his house, but slogged on through, slogged on past. But by the time I was sailing down 271, I found myself trying to sing along with that wonderful tune blogged earlier, I'm Not Over You, realizing that song was as fitting for me as anyone, and crying a little. I'm such a dork.

A call to join my former family for dinner made light, but then I was greeted at home by a letter indicating a recent exam produced slightly abnormal results (ok, ok, no peanut-gallery comments please) -- of "undetermined significance". Wow. There's a catchy phrase to describe something that might or might not kill you. But, evidently it won't hurt anyone else as there was no sign of ill will disease. Huzzah.

There is, I think, nothing insignificant about anything that happened this week, yet, nothing extraordinary about any of it either. Perhaps allowing myself just to see this and allowing myself to be a bit more psychically available and vulnerable was important. I can let my guard down while my kids are away, sleep when I need to, focus on ordering my life to make room for the work and changes I relentlessly and joyfully pursue. To this I am committed. All these things are of undetermined significance. They are neighter significant nor insignificant, their significance is simply unknown. In a life that is unfolding, that is the best approach.

I am listening now to a live CD compilation called Celebration of Life, recorded at a Musicians Against Childhood Cancer concert in Columbus, Ohio and released by Skaggs Family Records. The perfect, sit back and just let life unfold music is the current track, a rendition of Shenandoah by none other than Tony Rice.

I'm sharing with you here the original studio recording from the Unit of Measure release. Tony Rice is a rock. He's the kind of person and musician who makes what I want to do so easy to be dedicated to. He brings to every step such a simple and humble peace, despite a life of great difficulty and sadness. This is one of the most beautiful guitar performances you will ever hear, and perfect on the side of a soul-searching, heart-searching, deep painful questioning salad.

When moments of "undetermined significance" happen in your life, give them respect but do not try to attach a value to them. Respect the power of the connections in your life, both positive and not so much. We are on this planet but a short time, and have all the power to choose civility over hostility, healing over anger, forgiveness over bitterness, progress over stagnation, change over the status quo, meaning over babble. These choices can make all the difference, and should be what separates our species from the rest. Otherwise, to not heed these signals and occurrences and our own intuition and ability indeed sends us circling the drain.

As played by Tony Rice on his recording, Unit of Measure.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

92,000 more WHAT?

For a couple of years now, I've likened our sitting President to a toddler. When getting a crash course in early childhood development as a breastfeeding counselor to mothers and babies, I learned that toddlers -- the 18 to 36 month old set -- in fact do not really hear commands the way we hear them. For example, instead of saying "No Hitting", in which their little ears emphasize the "hitting" part, you should try to redirect them with "hitting is not ok" or "Hitting hurts" or whatever -- the negative needs to follow the operative word because otherwise a toddler ear won't hear it.

So last night, despite the fact that Congress, and the people, and the world basically has said, "NO MORE TROOPS, GEORGE" his response was totally toddler: "92,000 more troops! More! More!"

This, I'm afraid, has been the personality of his entire administration.

Yes, our country, and half the damn world, is being held hostage by a 50-plus year old man stuck in his terrible twos. This is an ominous and very discouraging thing.

I don't know quite what to do to escape this fact. I think one of the reasons bluegrass grabs me the way it does is that it tends to "rescue" me from one reality and place me in another: "Ok, so this guy is the leader of the free world and so he totally disregards every shred of counsel he's received, not to mention shows no evidence of common sense of his own. In the end the world will keep spinning and someday he'll be done and remembered for his own crimes against humanity, and my life will either go on or not regardless of whether George Bush has a lot to do with it."

Bluegrass takes me to a place that's real. Music is my reality.

For a long time and in another job, I worked on issues like poverty and education every day with people I so deeply respected. I'm fortunate that many of them remain my friends. Those were good days, but a little discouraging. The victories we earned were just a molehill when lined up against the mountain of grievances public policy ladled out day after day. We did make George Voinovich cry once, when he was governor of Ohio. But other than that, change grinds slowly.

I don't give up on that, but I do find that as I grow older and I perceive my time to grow shorter, I find that I'm less afraid to share my opinions but less inclined to make them the center of my universe, politically speaking. Bluegrass pretty much is where my head is and, I suspect, will forever be, no matter where I end up, be it a major orchestra or a little university program. I want to sing it, play it, promote it, present it, and just plain keep loving the hell out of it.

It keeps me sane, kind of like the way a nice relaxing bath and a book used to when I was the mother of toddlers.

Only, mine grew out of toddlerhood.

For the record, my heart every day is with those troops who are deployed, with the familes who are ever in fear and constant holding patterns, and with those who are about to be deployed, and their families. I have said it before: we can love the warriors, and hate the war, at the same time.

Where will they get 92 THOUSAND more troops?


The cities. The urban neighborhoods of Chicago. Boston. Philadelphia. Detroit. Cleveland.

The rural south and midwest. Indiana. Georgia. Alabama. Louisiana. The Carolinas.

You get the picture.

This is a retread; it received an awesome trad treatment on Tim O'Brien's Red on Blonde, an all-Dylan collection in which you actually can enjoy all the great words. Anyway, you've seen it here before, but I'm just here to remind you that there is an overtired, undisciplined toddler running our nation.

Night night, sleep tight, don't let the sand mines bite.

Masters of War (click for a YouTube film)

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to knowI can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Whose Hall, Whose Fame?

Evidently, this week heralds yet another season of breathless anticipation of who will be inducted into some hall of fame in a ceremony we can't attend. The other day, I learned that R.E.M. is among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (along with Patti Smith -- aha, another woman! So how about Patsy Cline? Still no Patsy? You patsies.). Today, we learned that slugger Mark McGuire will not join Cal Ripken Jr. (my favorite player, such a class act and THE reason I started watching baseball) or anyone else in Cooperstown.

It got me thinking about this whole process of naming people to halls of fame. What's it all about, really? Who gets to pick? What are the criteria?

For the Rock Hall, I think the baseline is that a person has to have recorded 25 years, or had to release an album 25 years back from the date of induction. (I'm not clear on that but my friend Lynne would know.) I have no idea what the rules are for Baseball, other than a bunch of writers vote these guys in. There are scads more coming down the pike. What are the rules? Whose subjectivity gets to decide who gets in, and who stays out?

Of course I got to scoping out the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, created and populated by Bill Monroe himself. Talk about, yeah, that's pretty doggone subjective. But I guess if you're the guy who kind of coined the whole "bluegrass" thing, you get a pass. With the criteria of "substantial and enduring contributions to bluegrass music," Monroe picked the first inductees himself, and I guess he did an ok job: Carl Story, Mac Wiseman, Seldom Scene, the late, great John Hartford....well, you can get a better idea here. The whole thing moved to Bean Blossom where each June you can attend an incredible series of weekend concerts celebrating bluegrass and Monroe as the daddy of it all. I confess I have no idea if anyone is responsible for adding to the roster every year. I guess I'd like to think some of the folks I've talked about on this blog would make it based on the criteria Monroe used.

Who would you nominate?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Little Magic Goes A Long Way

My children (and I sort of peripherally) are enjoying a movie called "5 Children and It," a delightful story about five English children shipped off to the country home of a nutty uncle (Kenneth Branaugh) during World War I. No, it's not Narnia, with a magical housekeeper named Martha who knows more than she lets on and an a Charles Adamsesque cousin aptly named Horace. Buried in the greenhouse on the grounds of the family home is the doorway to a wide rocky beach, home to a mischievous creature that identifies itself as a sand faerie and which the children lovingly call "It." The story is full of magic and wonderful moments of what "It" calls "valuable lessons."

It seems to me that children never allow themselves much time to experience this kind of magical troublemaking anymore. Left to our imaginations as children, my sister and I wandered over our grounds for hours, with no parent ever wandering after us (hm, wonder why!). My brothers confessed that our parents let them stay out all night in the woods with a canteen -- something that might be unheard of today without a mobile phone or a pair of those wee walkie talkies.

The movie is not without its serious moments. Horace locks the children up in a tower. On a wish to see his father, flying in France, Robert and his brothers and sisters sprout wings, escaping Horace's grasp only to bump into a flock of German dirigibles. When they are safely landed, they learn their father has gone missing behind enemy lines.

Wishing has its dangers. And as It says, magic fades, the rest is up to us.

At my age, I still believe in wishing, although I probably should be more careful. But what can I say, the Christmas tree is still up. I'll never fully be able to shake the magic, the wonder. As I watched my kids play yesterday with an uncle, I realized, wow--these are my kids. They're really amazing, and seeing them that way felt fairly magical. They are people all on their own, and they are who they are partly because of me. And they will go on and maybe look at their own children the way I looked at them that day, long after I'm just sand on the beach. That's cool.

As much as I suspect it annoys a number of people who have varying degrees of contact with me, I'm capable of seeing the "magical", the momentousness, the wonder or the good side of just about any situation. I do wish more people could, although they probably don't meet with quite as much personal disappointment as I do. But I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. I want my kids to hope, to look forward to things, to imagine their lives any way they want regardless of what conditions they find themselves in. I want....I wish for them to find joy in things exactly as they are and still be able to dream.

For a while now I've been sort of announcing changes I'm making in my life with a humorous, sometimes tongue in cheek referral to these shifts, calling it "a new day" in my little life. Funny that's the name of Claire Lynch's latest release, which I've written about on a couple of occasions. There's a sweet little song near the end of that album that, like many of the songs, are just so hopeful it's almost sappy. But a little of that magical hopeful sappiness I think can be ok in small, effectively targeted doses.

Here's one called River of Dreams and I hope you enjoy it. I had a wonderful exhausting weekend with my sibs and cousins and I'm going to retire leaving you with just the clip.

Make a wish, dream a little dream, don't give up on the magic, which will fade soon enough.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Yes Maybelle, There Is Bluegrass in Northeast Ohio

Just this morning I glanced over my sitemeter and found that someone had found this blog by Googling "bluegrass northeast ohio"--!!! Well, whoever you are, fear not, because while there is something of a dry spell now, there are some good shows coming up at The Beachland Ballroom and The Kent Stage, albeit not today, or even, this weekend.

AND, there are a few of us who really are dedicated to bringing the best bluegrass acts locally and nationally to Greater Cleveland. I'm as tired as anyone of having to drive two or three hours in any direction just to get a little (bluegrass, that is).

In the last couple days I've been trying to get with a few like minded crazies who believe as I do that Cleveland does not in fact have to be the barren wasteland that it is when it comes to Bluegrass. If it's such a big deal city for American music, then it deserves an event of its own dedicated to bluegrass and traditional music.

There are the venues mentioned above, and the House of Blues does bring in some acts occasionally resembling bluegrass, and truth be told HOB is a supporter of local raw talent in all its cities. I've just personally found HOB here to attract a rude, talk-through-the-show, get-me-another-drink crowd, which can be a hassle for those of us who pay to listen. Shawn Colvin literally had to tell a Cleveland crowd to shut up at her gig last year opening for John Hiatt. So, how bad does it have to be for a pregnant Shawn Colving to tell a roomful of drunk people to shut up? But, maybe it's gotten better.

Anway, here's a quick rundown of what's happening at the Beachland and the Kent:

Beachland Ballroom (or Tavern--great beverages, great burgers)
January 19 -- Iris Dement (see archives; I hope she does Mama's Opry)
Feb. 7 -- Asylum Street Spankers
Feb. 16 Robin and Linda Williams (Of Rollin' and Ramblin fame, see last month)
March 11 -- April Verch (quite a fiddler, from the north, eh)

The Kent Stage (A total gem, worth going for any reason)

Feb. 3 -- Livingston Taylor
Feb. 9/10 -- Up From The River fest -- All Kent musicians, all original music, all for eight bucks a night
March 17 -- Big Leg Emma
March 24 -- Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell (ok, not bluegrass, but I really like them both so I'm telling you)
April 13 -- Former Flying Burrito Brothers Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen (howwwww awesome is that!)

This doesn't list all the fine bluegrass groups in the area or all the happenings, like Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver in nearby Wadsworth on April 21. But it's a start, and we'll keep you posted on Northeast Ohio's Bluegrass Revolution.

Have a great weekend and get out to hear some live music, whatever it is and wherever you are!


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Last Tears

I was on my way to the mechanic this morning and I took with me one of my Christmas gifts from my sister, the new Indigo Girls album, Despite Our Differences. I have always loved their tunes, found them demanding to be sung and celebrated and a great source of comfort and inspiration.

On the second cd, there is a gorgeous acoustic repeat of the last track on the first cd, a true heartbreak ballad complete with pedal steel for emphasis in all the right places. It's called Last Tears and what a beautiful piece it is. Regardless of what you think about the IGs, this song will grip you, because everyone has felt like this at least once. Some of us, probably more than once.

I am really grateful for the love and support and encouragement I've gotten these last couple of weeks, especially from my sister and my good friends. One dear pal, recalling the pain of being similarly abandoned by a friend almost instantaneously, quipped in an email that she "would rather receive a list titled 'Ten Reasons that You Suck and I'm Dumping You'" than be left completely in the dark. Amen to that!

If I hadn't found this song and been struck with how true and beautiful it is, I probably would have shed my last word on this the other day. But give it a listen. We've all lost love, and nothing is so sweet as that moment you know you're finally ready to pull that door shut behind you and walk on. Many thanks to the humor, messages, and other signs of support that helped me do that.

Last Tears

These are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you
My cryin's through, I'm moving on
I don't regret and won't forget
A single thing that we went through
But these are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you

You take things so much easier than I do
And you could live your life without me if you had to
And you believe that in the end it all works out right
And I might
If not for you
And if you ask one which one lives just alone for love
I do

These are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you
My cryin's through, I'm moving on
I don't regret and won't forget
A single thing that we went through
But these are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you

There was a time when all signs pointed to the warm south
The planets all lined up and built a new house
And everything we talked about felt like a prophecy
And when you looked at me they all came true
And if you asked which one wants to go the distance
I do

These are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you
My cryin's through, I'm moving on
I don't regret and won't forget
A single thing that we went through
But these are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you

I'm gonna rack my mind one last time until I cannot think
I'm gonna dip into your memory and take a good stiff drink
And when I'm drunk on the last drop of sadness
About how we went wrong
I'm gonna play this song
Make some coffee black and strong
Give thanks for healing time
And finally make up my mind

These are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you
Baby my cryin's through, I'm moving on
I don't regret and won't forget
A single thing that we went through
But these are the last tears I'm gonna cry for you

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, New Day

Yesterday, on New Year's Eve, I woke up and stared at my ceiling. It was the first day in a long time that I had just to myself. Frankly, I had a heckuva time getting out of bed. There was plenty to do but I just plum didn't feel like putting foot to floor.

Then I remembered that the day before, a package I was waiting for finally arrived from Skaggs Family Records, and that in it was one of my Christmas presents to myself: the new Instrumentals cd by Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder.


Feet hit floor, coffee was on, newly arrived gifts were wrapped, errands were run, airborne was ingested (I'd felt my daughter's cold coming on), nap was enjoyed, shower was welcomed, tequila was poured, and Garrison Keillor brought to my living room a line up including Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Robin and Linda Williams, Emmylou Harris, my dear Jerry Douglas and that newgrass hero Sam Bush. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Needless to say, I was also reflecting on the year, the smart and dumb things I did, and what seems to be an inexplicable unraveling of what seemed like a relationship with a lot of potential. Having given up on figuring that out -- although some damn funny articles on the subject of "fadeaways" can be enjoyed here and here -- I'm ready to go to work.

And I had no trouble getting up today. Despite having a hard time falling asleep after that Great Performance last night, I was still ready to roll, and churned out some 6 dozen pineapple tarts, wrote to some friends to wish them a good new year, did a couple loads of laundry, and played a tune or two all before noon. Tomorrow it's back to the day job, and getting ready for family holiday fun next weekend.

I had a good time today also starting to dig into how bluegrass music and musicians are being integrated into our system of education. There are a lot of programs and a lot of teachers that present this music to the youngest audience, developing the musicians and fan base of the future. Bluegrass music also is becoming more regarded as among other American musical forms of jazz and blues, meaning that it is already becoming part of the regular curriculum in some music programs. Where to take it next is the fun.

So it's a new year, and a brand new day. The tunes on the new release by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder really help with that orientation. There are great people out there, working every day, making great music, making lives better. That's the crowd I wanna rusn with, if they'll have me.

Happy New Year, happy living, happy finding what makes your world spin round.

And treat yourself to a listen of the Instrumentals here. They're all terrific, but I like track three especially, titled appropriately enough, Wayward to Hayward. Enjoy.

Pssst...See Ricky and KT in 2007!