Saturday, March 31, 2007

GO BUCKS. Ok, Now, Gentlemen.

I'm thrilled that Ohio State won. But the game seriously impaired my enjoyment of some top shelf bluegrass tonight at the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival.

I've spent the day here in Wilmington enjoying a fairly relaxed day of bluegrass. Fest organizer Joe Mullins and his band, The Radio Ramblers kicked things off for a lineup that included Paul Williams, Bobby Osborne, Continental Divide, and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage.

But the thing worth going for was a rather historical moment in bluegrass. Tonight the crowd enjoyed a long set by Tom Gray, Eddie Adcock, Charlie Waller's son, Randy, and Jimmy Gaudreau. It was a Country Gentlemen Reunion, and it was glorious.

The Country Gentlemen came together almost 50 years ago (it will be 50 years this July 4) after bluegrass music's popularity began to fade as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and the like brought Rock and Roll on to the scene. Eddie Adcock told the story of how he made around $16 playing for a week with with Bill Monroe. He went to DC, met up with a couple other Gentlemen, and started playing bluegrass in their own voices, and made the rounds at a few colleges. One night, he made a whole $24! And so the band known as The Country Gentlemen was born.

This is a quartet of extraordinary talent. Eddie and his wife, Martha, are well known (and did a set I missed on Friday night) and loved; Eddie was an original Gentleman. Tom Gray was the second bass player the band had and as one of the founders of The Seldom Scene became one of the more influential bass players in modern bluegrass. Charlie Waller, who died in 2004, was the band's guitarist and lead singer, a role now played by son Randy, who has a beautiful voice and impressive vocal range, not to mention a pretty smokin' hot guitar style. (Randy just released an album, Keeper of the Flame, with the current Country Gentlemen line up.) Finally, yankee mandoliner Jimmy Gaudreau has what Kenny Baker called "the cleanest mandolin playing" in bluegrass. I don't know all that, I just know that, damn his Rhode Island accent, Jimmy Gaudreau is an incredibly smooth player....beautiful lines, not a wasted movement. (My recent acquisition, Unit of Measure, features Jimmy alongside Tony and Wyatt Rice. Incredible.)

Further, over the years, members of TCG have included folks like Ricky Scaggs, Doyle Lawson, and Jerry Douglas, to name a few.

I don't think this particular audience, some of which talked through this set to my enormous dismay, really understood what they were privy to. This was a great set, with lots of favorites like Matterhorn and the one I'm sharing here, Bringing Mary Home. This is an ensemble that clearly has distinguished itself from anything most folks at today's fest had heard before or after them. In fact, despite two more sets, I had to call it a night after the Gents were through. How can you top their version of "Mrs. Robinson"? You just can't. So you call it a night, and before you walk out the door, you glance over at the four of them, exchange a smile of thanks, and head on out.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gone to a Better Home Awaiting

My former mother in law passed away last night. She's free, on her way home, at peace, however one needs to think of it.

To think she is gone is very sad. Losing my own mother was sad, and I imagine what her daughter goes through now is a hundred times more powerful, since she took tender care of her mother and helped her to cross over.

In thinking of a fitting tribute, I recall that she was a fan of original country music. I thought an awful lot about her last week after we watched Walk the Line and thought of the heavy influence of the Carter Family on country music as we know it today.

This recording of the Carter Family, AP, Maybelle, and Sarah, is as original as it gets. The music is always a comfort to me, and I hope it will be a comfort to her and to her family as they move through this difficult passage together. This song of course is the one that concludes each of the "Will the Circle" volumes, the first featuring Mother Maybelle. That recording features her on several tunes with her autoharp. At one point, prior to one song (I can't recall which one but it is a popular tune), there is that pre-recording chatter going on and she says, "I'd like to do this one on the autoharp. I've never recorded it with the autoharp."
I will miss Mother Carrie. She was my children's grandmother, a friend to my family, and a good lady. She had a crone wisdom that she didn't flaunt. Her family now faces the task of moving forward in a new shape without her there, although she'll always be present somehow.
Because the circle always remains unbroken.

I was standing

By the window

On a dark and cloudy day

When I saw the

Hearse come rolling

For to take my mother away

Can the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There's a better home awaiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Lord, I told the

Undertaker,'Undertaker,Please drive slow

For the body you are takingL

ord, I hate to see her go'

Can the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There's a better home awaiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky

I followed

Close behind her

Tried to hold up and be brave

But I could not

Hide my sorrow

When they laid her in the grave

Can the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There's a better home awaiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Can the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There's a better home awaiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Just a raincoat. That's all. A raincoat.

As the world spins madly, spring is trying to spring in NE Ohio, and my poor former inlaws keep their continuing vigil over their matriarch, we all try to keep what my boss's grandmother called "profitably busy." It does feel like we're in a sort of Green Room, where we're just waiting for the call.

My kids joined me on a mission this evening to find a raincoat. Spring so surprised us that this item on my to-do list has eluded me in all our cold weather. We walked the entire campus of an outlet store complex in our area. There was not a single, attractive, decently priced ladies raincoat to be found in any of the stores.

How frustrating.

It's not that it's important. In the scheme of things, finding the raincoat, like the acquisition of any new thing, is meaningless. But it's the task and the presupposition that a good raincoat is part of the dresscode of part of my life. Without a proper raincoat, how can I possibly put my best foot forward?

Sounds silly. My best foot is either bare or flip-flopping along in a Birkenstock as I tap my toes to the music. But none the less, there are occasions in life, like wanting to be "together" for an upsetting event like a funeral, or to live up to the new biographical sketch your bosses just asked you to put together, when we put shoes on our feet, and raincoats over our dresses, and try to face the world a different kind of brave.

I'm still the real me down under. And I do think having a good raincoat is important. It's just that I gave my old one away. It was a real beauty, a mossy, sage-y green thing I got after my first miscarriage. When I came home with it, I announced to my then husband, "The next time I lose a baby, I'm buying a car." Which, when I miscarried a second time a year or two later, I did. I don't have the raincoat, but I do have the car.

All these things we do to keep our minds off the other stuff we know is coming. Like waiting for a bad report card. This time of limbo for my ex's family is both holy and and unholy horrible burden. I wish, I so wish, there were really something I could do.

But I can't, much, so I shop for a raincoat so that at least I'll give the impression I'm as together as anyone else.

Letting go of the other grandma is going to be hard for me and for my children. Watching my sister in law go through the loss of her mother will be very, very hard. She has been helping her father care for her mother tirelessly. I've already told her, when things settle down, we're hauling her in for a spa treatment.

As I've said a million times if I've said it once, thank ... whatever mystical creator you believe in ... for music. It saves me every time, reminds me that live goes on, the show goes on, we go on, and when we stop going on, everything else will.

Here's an Alison Krauss tune that has a lot of that rain thing going on. True, she may not be my very favorite bluegrass artist, but I like her very much. She's smart, funny, enormously talented, and her voice is unique among women vocalists. Here's a standard most everyone knows, called Every Time You Say Goodbye.

Whatever you do, keep profitably busy.

Look at the sky baby
What do you see?
Looks like the tears that I cry
Fallin' down like rain on the ground
Every time you say goodbye

Take a look around now
Why don't you feel
The way that cold wind stings and bites
And your words just are like arrows through my heart
Every time you say goodbye

There's a restless feeling knocking at my door today
There's a shadow hanging 'round my garden gate
I read between the lines of words you can't disguise
Love has gone away, and put these tears in my eyes

Look at the sky baby, see how it cries?
Ain't it just like my tears
Fallin' down like rain on the ground
Every time you say goodbye

There's a restless feeling knocking at my door today
There's a shadow hanging 'round my garden gate
I read between the lines of words you can't disguise
Love has gone away, and put these tears in my eyes

There's a restless feeling knocking at my door today
There's a shadow hanging 'round my garden gate
I read between the lines of words you can't disguise
Love has gone away, and put these tears in my eyes

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ah, Manzanita, Summer's Comin'

Today was a rare and beautiful day in Northeast Ohio. We spent almost the entire day outside doing next to nothing. I'm paying for it now, but ultimately we all needed a day like this.

It was the kind of day that tells you, summer is coming, sometime. And good stuff comes along with it, like, festivals. Like Appalachian Uprising in Scottstown, OH May 31-June 2.

This tube is actually Rockygrass last year. It put me in the mood even more to get on with summer and some live tunes. It's been way too long since I had live tunes.

I hope this laidback jam of Manzanita gives you a smile and relaxes you for night night. If you end up pickin, all the better. Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

It Was Right.

Tonight, I was surprised that my kids joined me for the two-plus hours of Walk the Line, which I've been waiting to see since it was released. They were riveted despite the lack of special effects. the real life story of that era in music, and in country music, was completely new to them. My daughter, for as many shows as she's been to, was really fascinated by this world with Sam Phillips and the Opry and the little shows and driving through the night on a bus to your next show.

Regardless of your musical taste, it's an incredible human story. Not human triumph, not tragedy. Just human.

Johnny Cash grew up poor in an angry family and June Carter grew up in a family with what you might call some pretty high expectations. The two of them brougth some pretty fierce emotions into play, from two very different worlds. June grew up surrounded with music, in the family that can really claim to have laid the foundation for modern country music. Johnny grew up in the shadow of a father who really cared nothing for music. For both of them, music was their passion, and it was this underlying passion that made it impossible for the two of them not to be together.

There was a little bit of head scratching going on here in the living room as my children could see the gravitational pull between Johnny and June. But over the course of the film they began to see and understand what it was really about.

It's about being understood, and forming a partnership down where you can't even see it. You don't even know it's happening. All you know is, that person might be the worst person on earth but you both know something more together than you do separately, and so you're kind of stuck with each other. That's just how it is. And that's how it was that these two individuals came together and lived out the life they were supposed to live together.

And yes, for the record now, the Carter Family saved Johnny Cash's butt, and so all you Johnny Cash fans better be getting right with Wildwood Flower and Gold Watch and Chain and all that.

I'm going to play this video for my children tomorrow. That's Johnny Cash at the Carter Family Fold (as its known) in Virginia; I believe that's Jeannette Carter who keeps the place open and keeps the legacy of her family's contributions alive. This is purportedly Johnny's last performance, in June 2003, not too long before he died.

I had thought that he outlived June by at least a year.

It was only four months.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I Miss John Hartford (Fiddler Friday...?)

The other night as I skipped over the music offerings in my local library's cd bin, I picked up a recording by John Hartford and Bob Carlin, The Fun of Open Discussion. (These two gentlemen played and recorded together often. More on that another time.) It's just what the doctor ordered to lighten the mood this week.

If you really love fiddling, or if you love steamboatin', you loved John Hartford. He's not just a great fixture in a tradition near forgotten. He was a fiddlin' pied piper, a soul gentle and happy and full of a million tunes. He's a real American hero.
John Hartford could fiddle any old tune you could name, but also allowed himself to play around a great deal, enabling the "newgrass" tradition to come into form in the 1980s. After a long battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Hartford finally gave up fiddling when he could no longer control his hands, and died in June, 2001. Some of his last performances were part of the O Brother! soundtrack and subsequent "Down from the Mountain" videorecording, which also features backstage footage of John.

It's a little strange because while I've been listening to these tunes in the car and around the house, suddenly he made an appearance a few times on Folk Alley. If I thought I had the power to conjure him, I'd have done it a lot sooner, with or without that cloud of herbal goodness that followed him about.

I never had the chance to see and enjoy John Hartford in person, but he's touched the lives and influenced the work of so many musicians that I feel we have been introduced many times. My friend Jawbone had the pleasure of discussing with him Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley, whose fiddling repertoire was chronicled in a four-disc release stewarded by Hartford and Carlin.
John Hartford was an American treasure and a joy to all who knew him. His fiddling and his singing just had this raw, unabashed, laid-back, life-on-the-river joy, nothing fancy or cute, just straight up good honest music making. This weekend I will pick up my guitar and play along with him.
Here are a couple of tunes to enjoy. The first, Old Joe Clark is not what you're thinking, but you won't be disappointed. The second is another version of Blackberry Blossom that invokes the image of James Garfield as a young general fiddling to his troops. I hope these gems ease your mind and get you to put your feet up, maybe pick up your instrument or gather up a few more John Hartford moments into your collection.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Feelin' the Weight

These days are heavy. I'm not sure why. Work, life, dreams have a heaviness. Not just for me. There's loss hanging in the air, and frustration, and grief. Confusion. Sadness. And a teeny bit of mayhem. Kind of a waiting for what's next. Sometimes the load is a little tough to bear.

Maybe it's that pre-Spring thing, the sense of anticipation in the earth and in the air of all that new life to come. So we persevere through these cumbersome days in exchange for knowing that any day now that warm breeze will blow through town and freshen everything up.

So we persevere. We have to go on. Let go. Be mindful that, ooh, this particular moment sucks quite a bit, but wow, life overall has a good bit of promise. That is, if we're paying attention.

This has always been one of my favorite songs. Here it gets a sweet string treatment by some of my favorite performers, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings along with Old Crow Medicine Show. So take a load off, turn it up. And remember to thank the folks who say, "Put the load right on me."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Under the Apple Tree

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of The Decider's attack on Iraq and the beginning of the subsequent distraction from catchin' Osama Been Hidin'. Hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, more than 3,000 American GIs killed, and scores of wounded later, still NO MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Last night I found myself watching this story about a young Marine named Ty Ziegler and his new wife, Renee. You get the feeling you're looking at "Jack and Diane" except, well, Ty's unit was hit by a suicide bomb attack and he was nearly killed. Ty lost a lower arm, part of his skull, digits on his remaining hand and his feet, and he was severely burned. The tale of how his life came back together and how he and his fiance Renee pushed on through his recovery really caught me off guard, and I thought about how many times over this same story is likely played across America today.

My boss is currently recovering from knee surgery that sends him to rehabilitative therapy twice a week. He never fails to remark on how many young GIs, mostly men, are being cared for as the VA facilities overfloweth with the injured. This is a remarkable time, and this war is the most remarkably unjust thing in our lifetime since Viet Nam. Servicemen like Ty are no doubt grateful for the love that stayed behind, and remained true.

Tonight I danced off to the library to poke around the cd selection and pick up a movie. (Yes, I did. I borrowed a movie. Stay tuned as, who knows, I might even watch it!) While browsing the music I recalled how my son has been interested in music from another American soldier, Glenn Miller. My dad, a U.S. Airforce flight engineer, claims to have met Miller in the service. I don't know whether that's true; those closest to me know my folks made up some pretty good stories. But in all truth that probably wasn't one of them. I can recall my folks playing the music of Miller's band and the Tommy Dorsey band and others for hours while friends or family visited.

The recording I selected features that wartime favorite, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree." I got to thinking, there must be a bluegrass version out there.
I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find an acoustic medley on Carol Ponder's recording with John Knowles, Going Across the Mountain: Songs of War and Separation, an interesting collection of tunes spanning the last couple of centuries. Carol hails from the Carolina Appalachians and her other recordings are a treasure trove of wonderful ballads. I will be learning more about her.

I was moved by Ty and Renee's story because I so often forget how quickly life can change, with what immediacy priorities and plans are shifted. And to think I sometimes find myself wishing my life were easier! I realize we all have our challenges, and everything is relative, but I might have to slug the next person who whines about the price of gas or what a drag the weather is -- even if it's me!
Meanwhile, if you know of a good bluegrass version of this song, let me know. Even though we think of this tune as representing a certain time of the last century, the sentiments it expresses, of a young soldier missing his sweetheart, are timeless. We may not agree with the war, and some may not even feel they can love the warriors if they hate the war. But please try.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Have You Kicked Your Chan Chan Today?

This past week has been a long one with many sweet wonderful moments with friends. Complimenting those are some very heavy shadow moments we've each run into.

Earlier this week, my dear beloved Shameless remarked that I was somewhat in the role of a matador. It's funny because I have so often played the role of the bull -- easily coaxed into battle when someone with enemy intentions waves a red cape in my face, always ready to defend my soul, my kids, my self, my intentions, what have you. But lately I think she may be right; I seem to be surrounded by a whole lotta bull, and I have felt my shadow try to get away from me a few times.

This coming week will prove quite long as well. There's already shadow all over it. In addition to my former inlaws holding vigil while my former mother in law slips further away, there is in my own easy world an entire extra day of work spread over two evenings plus many meetings throughout the days, some with difficult clients who I belive constitute The Council of Shadow. In at least one instance my boss and I have to play matador with a client that otherwise will almost certainly fall prey to bad behavior with our candidates.

All week I've been imbibing an album by The Mammals, their 2004 release, Rock That Babe. One song in particular, Chan Chan, stands out from all the others for its energy and passion. Go figure: it was written by Compay Segundo, a Cuban singer who died just a few years back at the ripe age of 95. It's completely captivated me, or this group has with its rendition of Segundo's story of the wandering Chan Chan who takes love from a woman while sifting sand with her on the beach. According to the prologue you can hear in the link below to a LIVE VERSION of the song, things end pretty badly for him and his enormous sense of entitlement. I'd say the theme is along the lines of something my brother once said: "If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough."

It may be the completely unapologetic tenor of this band and this album that has me hooked. Several years ago I saw The Mammals at Grey Fox and they were just a joy. They are bold and incredibly talented. Chan Chan will call to you with Ruthie Unger's intense fiddle treatment of the driving beat, and Tao Rodriguez Seeger holds nothing back as he sings the story to us. The song has become a companion of my shadow and I feel it keeps me aware of how powerful and sometimes frightening my passion is to people who don't know or understand me. But my friends and most of my family know that passion is ultimately an ally, and know that in a heartbeat I will stand by them, shadow and all, to defend and protect what's right.

Whatever or whoever is out there, waiting, if you want to tango with me or my friends, if you think you know me, if you have plans to undo me or believe you can outsmart me, if you think you're All That, if you are so arrogant as to think that I'll someday see the error of my ways, if you think you can sidestep your cluelessness and ever have your way, if you are foolish enough to tempt fate like Chan Chan, I will see your bull and my shadow will raise you, and you'll lie on the beach with the rest of the rubble. I once was the poster child for "No good deed goes unpunished." Well, I've got a whole new poster, and it's waiting for your face.

Friends, go through your week with your head up and your eyes and ears open, and if you run into Chan Chan or his load of bull, you know where to find me.

Here are the MAMMALS LIVE at THE KENT STAGE, January 2005, courtesy of The Live Music Archive (click on track five).

Chan Chan

De Alto Cedro voy para Marcané
Luego a Cueto voy para Myarí.(4x)

El carinoque te tengo
yo no lo puedo negar
Se me sale la babita
Yo no lo puedo evitar.

Cuando Juanica y chan chan
En el mar cernían arena
Como sacudìa el `jibe`
a chan chan la daba pena.

Limpia el camino de paja
Que yo me quiero sentar
En aquel tronco que veo
Y asì no puedo llegar.

De Alto Cedro voy para Marcanè
Luego a Cueto voy para Mayarì...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mick Ryan's Belated Birthday Greetings

There are likely a good many readers who, as I say time and again, probably wonder why this blog isn't called, 'Why I Love Tim O'Brien" -- but that's kind of silly, don't you think?

No? Good! Because Tim O'Brien is not just a phenomenal musician, but Irish too, and I can think of no better way this Saint Patrick's Day to honor bluegrass than to call out yet another song he's recorded about the Emerald Isle.

But good LORD, which one?! Well, being a wee bit morbid these days, I have to share one of my favorites, Mick Ryan's Lament. It's the story of a man who came over to America, got swept up in an survived the Civil War, only to follow Custer out West, and well, you probably know how that story ends. It's from what may be my favorite Tim album, Two Journeys (although the Crossing is really good for mixin' in all that Irish stuff too). As Tim says, the really cool thing about this tune is that the guy's still singing after he's dead.

My Two Journeys cd mysteriously disappeared a while ago, hasn't been seen in a long time. I really miss it, and I hope it's being thoroughly enjoyed.

I hope however you're celebrating today, and if, that you're in touch with those things that matter to you, in touch with the struggles, in touch with the good stuff, in touch with meaning. Tim's music and philosophy have held a lot of meaning for me over the last five or six years and they still do, there's something about it that has been kind of a soul compass, if you will. I feel really lucky to have been put in touch with his work (and every now and then, with Tim and his gang, thanks to Earl from Ohio!).

Tim just celebrated a birthday, so raise a glass for this much beloved singer songwriter from Wheeling WV (all hail).

Mick Ryan's Lament

From Two Journeys

(1999 by Robert Emmet Dunlap, Prodigal Salmon Music/ASCAP)

Well my name is Mick Ryan, I'm lyin here still
In a lonely spot near where I was killed
By a red man defending his native land
In the place that they call Little Big Horn

And I swear I did not see the irony
When I rode with the Seventh Cavalry
I thought that we fought for the land of the free
When we rode from Fort Lincoln that morning

And the band they played the Garryowen
Brass was shining, flags a flowin
I swear if I had only known
I'd have wished that I'd died back at Vicksburg

For my brother and me, we had barely escaped
From the hell that was Ireland in forty eight
Two angry young lads who had learned how to hate
But we loved the idea of Amerikay

And we cursed our cousins who fought and bled
In their bloody coats of bloody red
The sun never sets on the bloody dead
Of those who have chosen an empire

But we'd find a better life somehow
In the land where no man has to bow
It seemed right then and it seems right now
That Paddy he died for the union

Ah, but Michael he somehow got turned around
He had stolen the dream that he thought he'd found
Now I never will see that holy ground
For I turned into something I hated

And I'm haunted by the Garryowen
Drums a beating, bugles blowin'
I swear if I had only known
I'd lie with my brother in Vicksburg

And the band they played that Garryowen
Brass was shin, flags a flowin'
I swear if I had only known,
I'd lie with my brother at Vicksburg

Friday, March 16, 2007

Perfect Irish (Cleveland) Weather - Rain and Snow, och, aye

Well, it's March in Ohio. That means it was 72 degrees three days ago, and just in time for St. Patrick's Day, we have rain and snow. Och, aye.

A reader recently commented that bluegrass and traditional Irish music have a lot in common. Well they do, right down to a number of shared tunes. Although I'm not sure whether Rain and Snow has Irish roots, once you hear this version, you'll be convinced it does.

Since I have a lot of cooking to do and tunes to play, I'm going to let Del, the boys, and the Chieftains do my work for me this evening. Enjoy this video introduced by author Frank McCourt at the Ryman. Del and the Boys -- in this iteration featuring bassist Mike Bubb who is no longer with the band -- joined the Chieftains on their doggone successful 2002 release, Down the Old Plank Road. Enjoy -- slainte! More tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Little Irish Shadow

No, Irish Shadow is not a drink or a dessert made with potatoes and whiskey. The Celts know well the beauty and power of Shadow, and they respect it. All that green beer, leprechaun-y stuff is just for the parade.

This time is always a favorite time of year for me. It’s Lent, and although I no longer practice the rituals of the season, I find it to be a time to contemplate the direction my life is taking. On the edge of spring, it's always a good idea to clear away the clutter and make room for new growth.

And although I am not Irish, I celebrate St. Patrick’s day for other reasons, because the Irish and the Celts bear out this long history filled with difficulty, along with, if you will pardon me, a human reverence for things unknown. Every life needs a bit of mystery. And as a culture they have produced such beautiful music, poetry, dance (and I don’t mean that Flatley guy). For a nation so consistently overrun by other nations, I’m waiting for Ireland’s great green shadow to come flying out at any moment.

But because the Celts are so connected to the earth and so aligned with mystery and the mystery of Self, knowing that both joy and sadness, dark and light coexist all the time, that’s probably not going to happen. Their literature, folklore, music, and religious expressions -- both pagan and catholic -- are filled with shadow (unlike our modern day masses; catholic leaders have forgotten to respect the shadow within the ceremony and have brightened it up with all this hand-waving evangelical hooey).

I always found it fascinating that those who quest the Holy Grail believe that it actually lies somewhere in the UK, possibly in Ireland. It’s just another “ring,” another object carrying too many projections of power yet to be withdrawn. When we withdraw those and bring our Shadow into check with us, greeting it in the mirror, we are more comfortable with the gifts of darkness.

Many of you know the afore-blogged John Doyle as a founding member of the band, Solas, along with Karan Casey. This tune is post-Doyle but has always been one of my favorites. When you find it difficult to step back or hang on to your Shadow, take a deep breath and think of these words.

Today greeted me with an invitation for my Shadow, but she declined. Instead we decided to keep our mouths shut and heads down. We remained at the edge of silence.

This song, Darkness, Darkness bears an undercurrent of Shadow's potency, but also acknowledges the comfort of darkness and quiet, like a deep forest or still night, when the restlessness of Shadow wants more but we know better. As St. Patrick's day approaches, take a moment to mix with the celebration a time to honor shadow and darkness and the deep powerful stillness where right is.

Darkness, Darkness

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow
Take my hand and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your deep

Darkness, darkness, long and lonesome
Is the day that brings me here
I have felt the edge of silence
I have known the depths of fear

Darkness, darkness, hide the yearning
For the things that cannot be
Keep my mind from constant turning
Towards the things I cannot see

Darkness, darkness, long and lonesome
Is the day that brings me here
I have felt the edge of silence
I have known the depths of fear

Darkness, darkness, be my blanket
Cover me with the endless night
Take away the pain of knowing
Fill the emptiness of right

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow
Take my hand and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow
In the silence of your deep

Darkness, darkness, hide the yearnings
For the things that cannot be
Keep my mind from constant turning
Towards the things I cannot see

Darkness, darkness, be my blanket
Cover me with the endless night
Take away the pain of knowing
Fill the emptiness of right

Monday, March 12, 2007

Boo Boo's Shoe Blues

Today was one of the crankiest and most scattered in recent memory. Actually it started even before I was awake, as I dreamed that I had overslept by almost an hour and a half. My mother showing up in the dream offering to "help" was an added touch. As relieved as I was to wake up at 5:35, it still was not enough time to motivate my two children, once awake and dressed at around 6:20, to move in any particularly urgent fashion. This was drawn into even sharper relief by the multiple battles my daughter and I seemed to have over shoes.

It was just a mad race the entire day. I opened the office, then my boss and I made a dash to another meeting, and when we arrived back at the office the entire rest of the day was spent in a mad scattered dash from task to task. I believe I got something done today but I'm not entirely sure what it was.

But I was utterly delighted to find that a package had arrived for me from It contained two cds, one of which I had been especially eager to enjoy. I opened the package and found rock that babe by The Mammals. I had to wait all day to enjoy it on the ride home.

When I came to this song, Bad Shoe Blues, I realized, this is how I had been feeling all day. I couldn't seem to get a break, kind of like when you can't find a good pair of shoes, or you can't get your six year old Boo Boo Daughter to just put on her shoes without an Academy Award winning performance.

Everything is a mad race, and not all of it is really good for us. In fact, a lot of what we do, what we accept, what we go along with, is pretty bad for us. But yet it just keeps on rolling right over us, flattening our lives into perfectly boring even predictable stretches of time.

The Mammals are just a fun, smart band. They sing and play to the beat of a different trad drum entirely. Among them are some wonderful trad legacies; Ruthie Unger is the daughter of Jay Unger who composed a great deal of the soundtrack to the Ken Burns Civil War Series. Tao Rodriguez-Seeger is the grandson of noneother than Pete. That's some gooooood music pedigree.

Here's Bad Shoe Blues. Go here to hear the whole thing along with a couple of other mammalian treats that will be blogged someday soon.

Well I can't find shoes to suit my style
Except the worn out pair in the throwout pile
The toe's too tight or the heel's too stacked
Or they were made by a slave in an unfair fac'try

Well I wish I had time to sew my own clothes
I wish I had time to smell a rose
But a rose today don't even smell good
Tomato don't taste like a good tomato should

They're all hydroponic, supersonic
What ever happened to the cure-all tonic
We're poppin pills and choppin' chromosomes
And keepin' everyone alive so we're never alone

Well we used to have fur
But now we know better
So every little lady
Needs a hand-knit sweater

That landin' strip is thin and long
Oh Lordy how we mow the lawn

Ohh freedom's just another word for nothin' left to loose
But everything is nothing if you take my right to choose
My life, my death, my joy, my ruin
Get off my lawn with your holy boo-hooin'

Progress is good, progress is bad
hope springs eternal and life is a fad
The people get cleaner, bacteria meaner

Filter out the fat so the label says "leaner"

Well there's hormones in the food
And hormones in the water
Nice to meet your wife
Oh, 'scuse me, that's your daughter

Well she walks like a woman
And eats like a bird,
And talks like a trucker
Or haven't you heard?

Freedom's just another word for down to your last dime
It hits the fan, you're spic and span, and still got plenty of time
No stocks no bonds no market crashes
We all fall down when its ashes, ashes

Well I can't buy shoes to suit my style
'Cept the worn-out pair in the throwout pile
The toe's too tight or the heel's too stacked
Or they were made by a slave in an unfair fac'try

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I'm Family, An Open Road, A Glass of Wine, A Live Show, and a Good Night's Sleep

This was fun. And, I suddenly feel compelled to clean my room.

Quick, it's getting warm!

Not much I can say at the moment....all I know is this:

Slurpees find the answers.
(I'm not even sure that's how you spell that.)

Shadows are clear here. We like our shadows. Shadow is what it is.

We are drunk. It is bedtime. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Blogger sometimes sucks. Scales are important.

I just spent more than an hour on a piece I really wanted to share with you.

And it vanished.

Because sometimes, Blogger sucks nasty, rotten eggs.

I'm traveling this weekend and probably won't have time between that and my parenting obligations to recreate what I did. I hate that. I feel robbed. Totally deflated and demoralized. And, exhausted.

The point was basically this: sometimes when you think you're looking for one thing, you're really looking for something else. Last weekend, I was really caught up in this "why don't I feel like dating" thing, like there's something wrong with that. (Let's face it, people think there's something wrong with that, or I wouldn't feel like this, right?) And so I conducted an experiment using the databases of online matchmaking services. While they have never offered me any valuable social networking except for the one or two genuine friends I made through these services, they are essentially searchable databases that should tell me whether my expectation of running into the kinds of people I want to meet is realistic. So I plugged in some essential criteria, including "play live music."

One of the services turned up not a single person within 25 miles.

The second service turned up a few, but included in that bunch was a former flame who was suddenly FOUR YEARS YOUNGER.


So what I learned was pretty simple. I already have what I'm looking for: musicianship, intellectual horsepower, a commitment to the music community. What I want is not to get lost in some relationship right now, but to maintain my focus and be around people who inspire me to sustain that on music because it's as important to them as it is to me.

And I want to be a better musician.

Ain't no dating site for that, unless I create one. But I won't have the time because I'll be practicing and rewriting all my posts that have disappeared suddenly from blogger. Blobber. Whatever it is.

So this week, I practiced a lot. And I am learning that all those different kinds of scales are really, really important. If you don't know your fingerboard, you can't jam with The Grateful Dead. This was not always a goal of mine, but when I got into learning this popular Dead tune, I learned that it's a lot harder than it sounds to just blithely saunter up and down the frets. I had already recommitted myself to practicing, really learning, really getting that muscle memory down, but this was the kicker.

Because if you can't hang with your friends and play a Grateful Dead tune, you're not practicing enough.

I'm so bummed that this didn't come out the way I intended. But I'm going to dedicate this one to SillyHumans and Jawbone, two musicians who I hope might join me in a round of this one sometime. Meanwhile, I just might get some sleep tonight.

Friend of the Devil

I lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds
Didn't get to sleep last night till the morning came around.
Set out runnin but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight,
I just might get some sleep tonight.

Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me twenty bills
I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills.
Set out runnin but I take my time,
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine,
If I get home before daylight,
I just might get some sleep tonight.

Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night,
The first one's named sweet anne marie, and shes my hearts delight.
The second one is prison, babe, the sheriffs on my trail,
And if he catches up with me, Ill spend my life in jail.

I ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there
He took my twenty dollar bill and vanished in the air.
Set out runnin but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight,
I just might get some sleep tonight.

Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night,
The first one's named sweet anne marie, and shes my hearts delight.
The second one is prison, babe, the sheriffs on my trail,
And if he catches up with me, Ill spend my life in jail.

Got a wife in chino, babe, and one in cherokee
The first one says shes got my child,
But it don't look like me.
Set out runnin but I take my time,
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine,
If I get home before daylight,
I just might get some sleep tonight.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Beware Your Captain

Well, today NASA finally fired the astronaut who was stalking the alleged crush of her alleged crush. This after proclaiming that her "flight status was unchanged." I'm sorry, but, would you want to be floating around in space in a tin can with that cracker? Me neither.

Truly to me the story was genuinely heartbreakingly pathetic. Astronauts always represented to me the best and brightest. Now I know they also are human, and I understand the hubris of being smart and brave and crazy enough to be an astronaut probably makes for an unusual individual. Admittedly, these people have to be a little bit on the edge, steely, and made of a variety of "right stuff" in order to tolerate the fact that they are flinging themselves into the outer limits with what really is a snowball's chance in hell of coming back to earth alive. Still, this was just a bit over the outside of the edge.

I find a lot of our leaders today see themselves as bulletproof. This woman clearly thought she was doing the right thing and would get away with it. Our President, as I've said lately, is in his own perfectly rationalized world, where what he's doing is right. Lots of leaders, and ordinary people too, do horrible things and think they've gotten away with it because they are convinced they're right.

You know, St. Patrick's Day is coming up fast, and I realized I haven't been celebrating like I should. (You think the Valentine series was rough? You have no idea what English guilt will do to a person.) So in thinking about this, comes to mind a song I love called Captain Glenn, recorded by Irish singer and guitarist John Doyle on his most recent solo release, Wayward Son.

Hear me: I LOVE JOHN DOYLE. I really do. I love his passionate playing, and his commitment to traditional songs. He was the first person to tell me about Mudcat Cafe, where you find virtually anything about old ballads and songs, and meet up with people who love that stuff, too.

This is a good old sea ballad. I really love the version on the album and because the clip doesn't do it justice, heartily encourage you to spend the 99 cents over at iTunes to add it to your collection.

Beware who you're sailing with. Steer clear of murderers -- murderers of people, of soul, of joy. And if you find yourself led by a wayward captain, don't be afraid to jump ship.

There was a ship and a ship of fame.
Launch'd off the stocks, bound to the main,
With a hundred and fifty brisk young men
Was picked and chosen every one.
William Glen was our captain's name.
He was a tall and brisk young man,
As bold a sailor as ever went to sea,
And he was bound to New Barbary.
The first of April when we did set sail,
Blest with a sweet and prosperous gale,
For we were bound to New Barbary
With all our whole ship's company.
We had not sailed a day but two
Till all our whole ship's jovial crew
They all fell sick but sixty-three,
As we went sailin' to New Barbary.

One night the captain he did dream
There came a voice which said to him,
"Prepare you and your company.
To-morrow night you must lodge with me."
This wak'd the captain in a fright,
Being the third watch of the night;
Then for his boatswain he did call,
And told to him his secrets all.

"When I in England did remain
The holy Sabbath I did profane;
In drunkenness I took delight,
Which doth my trembling soul affright.
"There's one thing more I'm to rehearse,
Which I shall mention in this verse,
A Squire I slew in Staffordshire
All for the love of a lady fair."
"Now 'tis his ghost, I am afraid,
That hath to me such terror bred;
Although the king has pardoned me,
He's daily in my company. "
"O worthy captain, since 'tis so,
No mortal of it e'er shall know;
So keep your secret in your breast,
And pray to God to give you rest."
They had not sailed a league but three
Till raging grew the roaring sea;
There rose a tempest in the skies
Which filled our hearts with great surprise.
Our mainmast sprung by break of day,
Which made our rigging all give way.
This did our seamen sore affright,
The terrors of that fatal night.
Up then spoke our foremost man
As he by the fore-yard did stand.
He cried, "The Lord receive my soul!"
So to the bottom he did fall.
The sea did work both fore and aft
Till scarce one sail on board was left;
Our yards were split and our rigging tore.
The like was never seen before.
The boastwain then he did declare
The captain was a murderer,
Which did enrage the whole ship's crew.
Our captain overboard they threw.
Our treacherous captain being gone,
Immediately there was a calm;
The winds did calm and the raging sea
As we went to New Barbary.
Now when we came to the Spanish shore
Our goodiy ship for to repair,
The people all were amazed to see
Our dismal case and misery.
But when our ship was in repair
To fair England our course did steer;
And when we came to London town
Our dismal case was then made known.
Now many wives their husbands lost,
Which they lamented to their cost,
And caused them to weep bitterly
These tidings from New Barbary.
A hundred and fifty brisk young men
Did to our goodly ship belong;
Of all our whole ship's company
Our number was but seventy-three.
Now seamen all, where'er you be,
I pray a warning take by me:
As you love your life, still have a care
You never sail with a murderer.'
Tis never more I do intend
For to cross over the raging main;
But I'll live in peace in my own country,
And so I end my tragedy.
From Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia, MackenzieCollected from Alexander HarrisonDT #563Laws K22RG

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not Broke Enough to Miss King Wilkie

This Thursday night is a special treat for bluegrass fans in Northeast Ohio. King Wilkie, a fine young band out of Charlottesville, VA, rides into the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. And many a fan will be waiting, including this one.

When I first started this blog back in 2005, I posted the lyrics for a track from their 2003 release, Broke. The tune is Broke Down and Lonesome, and you can hear the whole thing here.

These guys represent the best of young bluegrass. They are livin' proof that you can honor a tradition and keep it steady and real. This is not the enticing trad experimentation of the Mammals or the easy-going popular bluegrass of other bands like Mountain Heart. I love all that stuff, too. But there are new young bands who are taking no prisoners, and these guys are in that category, the Real Bluegrass McCoy, straight up and down, true to form.

If you're a young kid who not only likes bluegrass but can sing in that high lonesome sort of way, well, it's sure to set you apart. If you find friends who like what you like, well, you sure better stick with them. I'm glad that's the way it worked out for this bunch.

If you can't get out to see King Wilkie with me on Thursday, I hope you'll catch them sometime soon in your hometown.

I've got Broke going and OOOOHH my hears are just really happy. So I just gotta get away from the computer and pick up an instrument. Meanwhile, check out a few full-length tracks on their MySpace page at, or see some great video clips at their website here. Will I see you? Oh, you won't know me. Just holler for MandoMama and see who turns 'round. Hope to see you!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Kids, You Think YOUR Chores Are Rough?

Homework at our houses is increasing, and most American kids have more homework today than we ever did at their age. Even my first grade daughter has an hour of homework a night, with lots of writing. Generally I think that's pretty cool. But it doesn't stop kids from complaining.

If it's not homework, then the chores get the whine factory running. I spent part of the weekend removing refuse from my kids' rooms (what they don't know won't hurt 'em a bit, and I didn't toss anything that might be missed, honest), and I hear tell they also spent some time at their dad's doing the same. No matter how many times we ask them, order them, remind them to clean their rooms, there is still an entire world that lives under their beds. I just hope I don't owe taxes on it.

Now if you're a CHerryholmes, you might have a few more chores. In fact, if your kids take to complaining, you might have them watch this video of Molly Kate and BJ having a run at Orange Blossom Special.
My son and I saw Cherryholmes for the first time last year at IBMA and they played this number as an encore. I was breathless and I'm pretty sure my son's eyes popped out of his head. This family band really is something to hear and watch. When I get to whining about how much I have to do, I'm gonna think about Sandy Lee Cherryholmes sewing all that concert gear, and shut the heck up.

Cherryholmes is part of the Friday line up at the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival March 30 and 31 in Wilmington, Ohio. I'll blog more on that soon but for more information now visit the fest's site by clicking on the link or .

Ok kids, you can watch this but then it's back to your homework!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Taste A Little Summer

Today I have been engaged in what could actually be called spring cleaning. I've gotten rid of what seem like a fair number of bags of crap, laundered a great many extra things, and taken a large load of recycling to the bins. I even had my car washed -- a sure sign that more snow is on the way, but for the moment, it's a treat.

In the process, I have been loading more music into my iTunes library. I have arguably scads and scads of cds. It's actually not even funny. The vast majority of my recordings have not been added to my library. None of my classical recordings have been uploaded. I have miles to go.

It's been an interesting little trip delving into my collection. I've let some of my favorites sit on the sidelines for whatever reason. It's time to bring them back and enjoy them again.

One of my favorite singer songwriters is Greg Brown. In addition to being one of our most treasured troubadours, he's also married to Iris Dement, which is just so damn cute. Anyway, the Iowa-born and bred Brown has a wonderful perspective, a poignant voice, and a disarming look about him, like he's about to go out for the paper in his black socks and slippers. But his wonderful songs have been celebrated and sung over and over. Once they get into your blood, they're impossible, really, to dislodge.

Kind of like, winter in Ohio. But not if you have some Canned Goods on hand.

I'm gonna get back to my project. Enjoy the vid and the tune.

Canned Goods

Well let the wild winter wind bellow and blow
I'm as warm as a July tomato
There's peaches on the shelf, potatoes in the bin
Supper ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Grandma put it all in jars
Well there's a root cellar, fruit cellar down below
Watch your head now, and down we go
[repeat chorus]
Well maybe you are weary and you don't give a damn
I bet you never tasted her blackberry jam
[repeat chorus]
Oh she got magic in her, you know what I mean
She puts the sun and rain in with her beans
[repeat chorus]
What with the snow and the economy and everything
I think I'll just stay down here and eat until spring
[repeat chorus]
When I go down to see Grandma, I gain a lot a weight
With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate
She cans the pickles, sweet and dill
And the songs of the whip-or-will and the morning dew and the evening moon
I really gotta go down and see her soon
Cause the canned goods that I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in em anymore
You bet Grandma as sure as you're born I'll take some more potatoes and
a thunder storm

Friday, March 02, 2007

The River's Gonna Run - Sam Bush

Watch for flooding. Have a good night.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Where to Remain

Although my thinking about belief systems has shifted dramatically in the last two years, I have not entirely abandoned my appreciation for good symbol.

Sometimes having a symbol to contemplate helps me to step back from a difficult situation and apply new thinking to it. Even if that thinking doesn’t necessarily bring me to any kind of conclusion, the process is a valuable journey toward understanding and inner calm.

My favorite symbol is the mandorla. It’s something of a concentric circle, with the intersecting parts creating not another perfect circle but an almond shape. It’s a symbol used by the early Christians, but to me it's just a nice place to sit and think.

It seems I and a number of people in my life right now are struggling with different degrees of sadness. Even though I am generally happy and my life is very satisfying, there are pieces of life that are sad. Several friends I know are dealing with worries about parents. Several more are wrestling with their paths in life. We all are struggling with the state of the world. And I had the oddly religious experience the other day of muttering “I forgive you” to the wind, and finding that in that moment I became deeply sad.

Sometimes there is no resolution to the opposites in our lives. That is when we have to go and have a cup of tea in the Mandorla. When we realize that many opposites simply must coexist for a very long time, we stop the warring within, and paradox, real paradox takes over. It is a significant moment. We forgive, but the pain remains. We love our enemies. We hate the war, but must love the warriors. The widow is the bride. As TS Eliot wrote, “The fire and the rose are one.”

Life is lived learning how to reconcile the opposing forces around us and in our own nature. That doesn’t mean that things turn out as we wish, or that one side wins over the other. Sometimes it means that we learn to accommodate all these things being what they are.

I have a long list of wishes. Today, for the first time ever, I wished I had not met someone I had. It was very odd. There was in that moment an implosion of the socially polite construct that demands that we pretend to have gotten out of something that which we didn’t. Having placed that particular question in the mandorla months ago, what answer came was not whether it would have been better not to have met this person at all, but rather, that the relationship in reality ultimately served no purpose whatsoever, and that feeling regret over having met the person is nothing to feel guilty about. It was a third option I wouldn't have come to necessarily on my own.

I wish, sometimes, that things were different. I wish the world weren’t at war. I wish I had a new dishwasher. I wish Al Gore would run for president. I wish kids weren’t abducted and killed. I wish I hadn’t been left behind so many times. I wish it were summer. I wish America would fix its public schools. I wish I had gone to graduate school before I got married. I wish all of our clients would hire the best person for the job. I wish I lived where the music I love doesn’t make me a weirdo. I wish people would drive more reasonable cars. I wish I weren’t underemployed. I wish people could just get along.

But what is, simply, is.

When I am in this contemplative mood, I reach for mountain songs. Nothing fancy, nothing requiring enormous digital dexterity. Just the pure authentic honest human voice of searching. This song is the one that was on my mind as I woke up to greet the day. This version is performed on the Cold Mountain soundtrack by Tim Eriksen, Tim O’Brien, and Riley Baugus, but it’s an old traditional song. It’s been likewise recorded by Uncle Tupelo. If you need a song to accompany those sad, wish-I-could-fly-away moments, this is the one.

I Wish My Baby Was Born

I wish I wish
My baby was born
And setting on his papa’s knee
And me, poor girl,
Were dead and gone
And the green grass growing
Over my feet

I ain’t no saint
Nor never will be
Til the sweet apple grows
On the sour apple tree
But still I hope
The day will come
When you and I

Shall be as one
I wish I wish
my love had died
And sent his soul to wander free
Then we might be
Where ravens fly
Let our poor bodies rest in peace

The owl, the owl,
Is a lonely bird
It chills my heart
With dread and terror
That someone's blood
There on his wing
That someone's blood
There on its feathers