Friday, June 29, 2007

Loving the Sound....of Silence

Tonight marks the end of one busy week and the beginning of two more. There is no stopping, it seems. Some of it is my own doing. I just hope it won't be my undoing.

I work. I work all the time. I work early in the morning, until dinner time, and sometimes later. Even though I love my job, it's still work. Really hard work.

I parent. I parent all the time. Last night I hung out with my kids and one of their friends while their dad helped a friend move. It looked like my daughter hadn't seen a washcloth in three days. So I bathed her before I came home.

I try to play. I play when I can. I don't play enough. It's becoming the obsession I don't indulge enough.

I would love to read, but by 10:30 or 11 p.m. when everything else is done, I'm too tired to get very far.

I dream. Oh, how I dream. I dream about driving. I dream about playing my mando and playing the fiddle. I dream about people I used to know. I dream and in the dreams I am working or playing or parenting.

And I wake up tired.

It's time to change my life.

Sometimes it helps to turn the sound off. Over the next week, I'm going to have a little bit of a chance to tune out. My kids and I are getting a change of scenery. The welcome shake up should help some. But the rest will be up to me.

And for that I'm going to need silence. Stillness. Breathing. Me alone. Sitting.

Living requires intention. It requires action. It requires choosing, not just a toss of the runes. It requires stopping periodically to reassess direction. I'm at that point again.

But to do that requires silence. The walk in the woods. The perfect stillness.

It's hard to imagine the world without this song, written by the first award winner of the Gershwin Prize. Paul Simon was regaled the other night for his achievements and contributions to American music as a singer songwriter.

This song is just one of hundreds that illustrate why he won the Gershwin.

This song teaches us to love the silence. Everything we need to hear is in that moment of perfect stillness we all too rarely enjoy.

I'm going to go enjoy that stillness before drifting off to sleep to prepare, in an all too short night, for the banging clangor clamoring of the day in, day out rhythm of my something-slightly-wrong life.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Music from the King

....King Wilkie, that is.

I neglected to pimp Low Country Suite last week leading up to its Tuesday release but last night I finally broke down and added it to my collection.

King Wilkie is young and packed with talent, much of it gone unappreciated here in these parts. I've seen them now twice at the Beachland which clearly is not the venue for them. They were scheduled to appear with Mary Chapin Carpenter on her 07 tour, but those dates were all canceled due to her illness. I hear tell they might be up this way later this summer, but Cleveland is a tough go for them.

This tune is one of my favorites from the release. Like a wrecking ball, reality can sometimes come crashing through one's pretty constructs and rearrange everything. A lot of the time it's because we're not paying attention -- or, we're refusing to see that big wrecking ball on its back swing winding up straight for our penthouse window. Rarely does it hit us as a complete surprise, although that does happen too.

So enjoy this one called Wrecking Ball. It'll get you moving, that's for certain. And get out to see these guys whenever you can. They are fabulous.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everything Sucks, so lets DANCE TONIGHT

It's been one of those days. And sometimes, when you have the kind of day when you know your back is just right up against the wall, and all your ghosts start knocking, there's not much you can do but pick up your instrument, bang your foot on the floor, and play the hell out of a favorite tune.

This Vid is going to speak for itself. Love you, MandoPaul. (and you too, sister Abbanne for gifting me with McCartney's first iTunes release, Memory Almost Full.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ohio's Pretty Polly

Today I cried for a woman I did not know. A woman named Jessie Davis, the mother of a two year old boy who watched as she was taken, 39 weeks pregnant, against her will to be murdered and left in a meadow in the beautiful national park my children and I often frequent and visit with friends.

It is chilling, and at the same time, this is the world in which we live. There is emotional, psychological, and physical violence that surrounds us and touches the lives of people we know and don't know every day. What some people will do out of pride, or fear, or hate is beyond my ability to understand. So I just breathe and accept that there is no limit to the harm some will do to others, whether they believe it is for love, or freedom, or in the best interest.

When shadow overtakes the ability to reason, when perceived power is the product of self-delusion and lack of consciousness, Ego will stop at nothing to satisfy its lust. But the Ego on such a hunt will never be satisfied.

May the Earth give refuge to the spirit and bodies of Jessie Davis and her unborn daughter Chloe, and may her little son someday find peace from the atrocity he alone witnessed.

And may we all find protection from those who will stop at nothing because they don't know how.

Pretty Polly
(A version by The Byrds, befitting the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love)

Friday, June 22, 2007

What a Formal Education Gets You

So tonight a friend and I went to see Carrie Rodriguez (yes, from Blueberry Territory!) and she was far more engaging than I expected. A highlight for me was her performance of one of my favorite songs of all time, "Waterbound" by Dirk Powell. Evidently, there is a piece here and there that is part of an old fiddle tune, not surprising given Dirk's history.

Anyway, Carrie started out at Oberlin College Conservatory and then headed over to Berklee, where kids get record contracts so fast they don't graduate. Well, what's the big deal with that? You want them to graduate and get a job, right? So it cuts out a step. It's not what I'd do but it is one way of going about this thing.

We were minus the drum set, thankfully, but treated to a pre-Carrie set by Tim Easton, who also has a Tube here and there. Enjoy. I gotta sleep.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Are Friends For?

Well, no wonder I'm not getting much done. Being technologically challenged is hard enough. But in a world where all of my favorite artists have these MySpace .... thingies....well, it just adds to the pressure. The pressure to produce new articles, the pressure to make friends, the pressure to embrace a new technology and use it to further my cause, the pressure to keep up with a world of technology and social networking that I'm just not ready to handle!

I remember when MySpace first kind of took off. Now, it's like a madness. Even my nieces have MySpace pages. Ok, even I have one now, not because I love to indulge in social networking on the Web, but because every single one of my favorite artists has a MySpace page. Most of them are in my extended network of 3,246,921,805,02 MySpace users. At some point, it became clear that if I didn't get on this bandwagon before it passed me by, I'd have a pretty big gap in my bluegrass friend file.

Personally, I wish I understood how life got to this point. I feel like as a society we've largely reconfigured the human connection to something remote, electronic, finite, distant -- and to some degree, safe. At the same time, we've made it a smaller world. Heck, even Jamie Dailey is in my extended network! The chance to directly promote specific artists or developments is neat, so I'm not giving up. Still experimenting. But it is still a huge learning curve -- especially since I'm not sure I'm ready to quit all my jobs in order to manage my various Bluegrass Pimping Web Sites. I'd much rather be visiting each of these bands in person or hearing their shows, but since I can't be in two places at once, MySpace does kind of bridge that gap.

Progress, or something like it, moves toward us at a pace virtually unimagined by our forebears. As I struggled to reply to a text message sent by my 12 year old son from camp nearly four hours from home, I realized it's time to get over the whole tech thing. No way to beat 'em, so I gotta join 'em. And I suppose it's kind of cool that people who visit my page get smacked with a taste of some of my favorite artists, including some local folk.

If you stop by my own space, you can enjoy a spectacular rendition of one of my favorite all-time tunes, an old Bill Monroe piece called Jerusalem Ridge. I love this song, because it's like in four pieces. I've been trying to learn it for a couple months now. So I was really tickled by Casey Driessen's version. Of course, you can visit his Space, hear more tunes, and find out whether you're in his extended network!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Dads Day

Just a quick post before I pack everyone up for a trip to Western Ohio to deliver my oldest to camp. Eeek, first camp away from home. He's definitely handling it better than I am.

My dad's been gone so long that I don't remember what having a dad is like. He died just after I turned 12. He never knew any of his grandkids. But I know dads, and parents in general, can be a blessing and a challenge as we grow older, as I've watched other families struggle with caring for parents, or dealing with interfering parents.

My dad had copious issues and it's possible that if he were around today I probably wouldn't like him much. But I sometimes think I would trade some of the ease and comfort I enjoy in not having to cope with so many of the things people cope with in terms of their parents, for just a few minutes with my dad so that he could meet his grandchildren, all of them. My mother was fortunate to know them all.

Here's a Father's Day selection off Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver's latest Rounder Records release, More Behind the Picture Than the Wall. This tune is a rare treat because we get to hear Doyle singing lead. It's a terrific song and one I hope you'll appreciate this Father's Day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Dumb Things that Hold Me Back

Sure I'm tired. Sure I've basically worked from 8 a.m. this morning until like, five minutes ago when I sent yet ANOTHER email to a client out of state (yeah, that work at home stuff is NOT what it's cracked up to be!). And I spent an hour on the phone with my brother and his family catching up.

So I was in this zone, the "my day is incomplete" zone, and came across this absolutely wonderful vid of Casey D playing with Noam Pikelny (who was rather underutilized at last year's John Cowan show at The Kent Stage) and the venerable Rob Ickes on dobro.

Why oh WHY am I not picking up my fiddle at this minute? Because it's late and I'm tired? Because I have to be up and get my kids ready to take their dad out to breakfast? Because because because?

I have too many excuses. Casey Driessen is a part of my little world, he's unknowingly saved my soul on more than one occasion and remains a spirit-lifter and an inspiration, a soul friend. Would he be too tired to pick up his fiddle at 11:30 on a Friday night?

I guess I'll watch this one more time and try to figure it out on my son's fiddle. For a few minutes, anyway.

Hope wherever you are, you're having a good weekend. Mine includes delivering my son to his first away-from-home, weeklong experience at an academic camp. I'm elated, terrified, and well, I'll blog more about that later. Peace out, readers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Post Script Stuff

This morning when I got into work, I went through a mostly-defunct email account where I found a message that King Wilkie was touring this summer with Mary Chapin Carpenter. I set out on a mad hunt for where they were all to be playing this weekend, June 16, in Cleveland.

Not finding a thing, I grew continually frustrated, until I came across a CMT news item.

Mary Chapin Carpenter has cancelled her summer tour. While she was on the tour earlier in the year with a bad back, she was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism -- a blood clot in the lungs. That's practically a death sentence. So she is rightfully spending the rest of the year pursuing a healthy recovery.

A perfectly healthy, young person can drop dead from a PE.

I also made an appointment today for a full physical -- blood work, lipids, EKG, the whole nine yards.

I couldn't find "My Heaven" on the Tube but this song speaks to the way many of us hold on to our stuff as addressed previously. I hope you like it. Think some healing thoughts for Mary Chapin while you're enjoying it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life at a Minimum--Sort Of

My neighbors are planning a rather sizeable neighborhood garage sale. I decided this was an excellent opportunity for my son to jettison his second and smaller bike, not to mention cull down what I was certain to be way too much stuff of my own. So this evening, since I had to clear a path for the imminent Almighty Window Installers, I set out to collect items worthy of a buck or two to pass along to the neighbors with my good wishes that they enjoy the proceeds however it suits them.

The interesting thing is, I didn't find all that much to boost out. I remain a little surprised by this. I was sure I had way more kitchenware and other extra stuff that I never used. But while I am sure I could go through all our clothes and come up with at least a small bag to get rid of every week, I found that the other articles of stuff are not as superfluous as I thought.

Maybe I didn't look in every single closet -- a project in and of itself which would be an unwise venture at this point just days before we're to undergo moderate construction. And I stayed away from the kids' toys, since they've been good about thinning that population. Nonetheless, I came up with only a small handful of items -- some valances that had never been out of the packages, a relish tray, and about half of my three million cookie cutters. I have only two small boxes of items recently stashed in one small area of our attic space, so I can't blame it on stuff I'm too lazy to pull down.

I'm getting better at living life junk-free. I'm not acquiring stuff the way I used to, nor do I feel compelled to do so. This is a big exciting deal. I don't live as minimalist a life as I probably should, but seeing that I don't have all that many loads of useless crap was somewhat comforting. It's nice to know I've come into alignment with all my yappin'.

Life matters. Time matters. Music matters. Most stuff just doesn't. At work we were recently engaged with a person who has so much stuff and so damn much money that it would be hard to describe here -- and for the sake of confidentiality it would be unwise. I can only say that at the end of the day, it wasn't about the contribution that person would make, but the stuff he'd get in return. It was really an awful smack upside the head. In the end, the individual lost the bid for a very fine position because of this obsession with grownup toys, a life of stuff. It's nice to have a few new things now and then, like a pair of shoes or the badly-needed windows we're about to get. But our society would do itself a favor by unhitching itself from this Wagon of Trivial Material Pursuits, this baseless game of constant acquisition.

What I do have loads of is memories. Way too many homemade cards from my kids. A trunkful of elementary school papers, gift books they made me, scads of other items. And photographs. Way too many photographs. The closets of my heart and soul are crammed with all kinds of memories and gifts. These are not garage-sale items. Thank goodness, because there's no way I'd give them up.

Because when the train makes that last stop, those memories are all we get to take with us.

This song by Mary Chapin Carpenter is one of my very favorite songs, and I think I posted it recently. But it's a nice tune and ut's about what's really important: in the end, there's the end, and at that point, we're pretty much all the same. You don't get points for having more stuff or being more cool or having more friends or getting laid more often, or reading the best books, or having the nicest tan or being the best or worst president ever. The real things, like raising the best veggies or saving humanity, or helping a child, or giving someone a chance, don't matter then either, but they do make this life better for everyone.

Here's hoping we can get rid of our stuff, and make more of a life.

My Heaven

Nothing shatters, nothing breaks
Nothing hurts and nothing aches
We got ourselves one helluva place
In My Heaven

Looking down at the world below
A bunch of whining, fighting schmo's
Up here we got none of those
In My Heaven

There's pools and lakes and hills and mountains
Music, art and lighted fountains
Who needs bucks here? No ones counting
In My Heaven

No one works we all just play
You can pick the weather everyday
If you change your mind, that's ok
In My Heaven

Grandma's Up Here, Grandma Too
In a condo with to-die-for views
There's presidents and movie stars
You just come as you are

No one's lost, and no one's missing
No more partings, just hugs and kissing
And all these stars are just for wishing
In My Heaven

There's little white lights everywhere
Your child, a dog, in dads old chair
And more memories than my heart can hold
When Eva's singing Fields of Gold

There's neighbors, theives and long lost lovers
Villains, poets, kings and mothers
Up here we forgive each other
In My Heaven

For every soul that's down there waiting,
Holding on, still hesitating
We say a prayer of levitating
In My Heaven

You can look back at your life and lot
But it can't matter what you're not
By the time you're here, we're all we've got
In My Heaven

Saturday, June 09, 2007

There's A Storm a Comin' for This Orphan

I've been indulging in a little pop culture catching up lately. I only have a few weeks to finish JK Rowling's "The Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in the series about a young wizard named Harry Potter. The next movie comes out July 13, and I want to be ready for battle with -- oh, sorry, he who shall not be named....

Despite the temptation to diss this story and its films, I've been enchanted by all of them. And, I suppose it helps that I've had a crush on most of the men in the cast -- Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman -- for much of my adult life. For the record, none of my family -- my late mother, my children, any of my friends or extended family -- have fallen prey to the Fictitious Satan or taken to bewitching people with spells we learned in the books. Look, if you're afraid of imagination in a children's book, you have really big problems.

If you're Harry, you have bigger problems.

What does Harry have to do with Bluegrass? Well naturally, he's an underdog. And, he's an orphan. And, nobody understands him. And, he's got all this unspeakable power that he's still discovering.

That seems pretty bluegrass to me, I'd say.

Harry's story somehow reminds me of Julie and Buddy Miller and their rough-around-the-edges attitude that I love, so much. A while back, Julie recorded a song co-written with Patti Griffin called Orphan Train.

If you've read the books or seen the movies, you know that Harry and his friends must ride a secret train to get to Hogwarts, the school in which most of Harry's story is set. Harry drifts between Hogwarts, where he feels utterly at home, and 4 Privet Drive, where he resides in misery with his "muggle" (nonmagic) Aunt's family. He's drifting, an orphan, looking for his emotional home.

Aren't we all?

Buddy and Julie don't have their version of this tune (featured on Julie's Broken Things recording) out there, so I'm sharing Lee Ann Womack, in a pretty decent version that attempts to capture the driven nature of the song.

Orphan Train
Come all you broken hearted, come and lay your burden down
Come kings and queens, come royalty surrender up your crown
Come empty-handed come with nothing of your own to claim
Come naked, poor, come like a child to ride the orphan train

Come ride, ride on the orphan train
Put your ear to the track, you can hear your name
Come ride, ride on the orphan train
It'll take you all the way home

The way is narrow, it is steep that brings you to the door
But love awaits there to embrace your heart forevermore
Come you abandoned, you forsaken
Friendless and alone, come refugees left homesick for
Some place you've never known

Here princes, paupers, criminals and saints are all the same
No more or less than God's beloved child aboard this train

Come ride, ride on the orphan train
Put your ear to the track, you can hear your name
Come ride, ride on the orphan train
It'll take you all the way home

The way is narrow, it is steep that brings you to the door
But love awaits there to embrace your heart forevermore

Come ride, ride on the orphan train
Put your ear to the track, you can hear your name
Come ride, ride on the orphan train
It'll take you all the way home

It'll take you all the way home
It's gonna take you all the way home

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hang in Here, There, and Everywhere, Butch

I learned today that mando master Butch Baldassari is stricken with an inoperable brain tumor. Radiation and chemo started this week, with the hope of beating it back.

When I'm ready really to work on something, I pull out my Butch Baldassari cd or dvd, and my mando, and settle in for about an hour of blister-producing practicing. I even have the recording on my iPod. In the tradition of the best, he's not just a stellar player, but believes in really teaching others to master the instrument a little at a time.

Please keep Butch in your thoughts. Despite his long list of contributions we believe there's more to come. If the Cavs can make it to the NBA finals, nothing is impossible.

Check out the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble doing some of your favorite Beatles tunes here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trespassers Welcome Here

Just the other day, I was thinking to myself, I have very few regrets. I really do. The regret I blogged about a few months ago, of having spend six months in what I didn't realize was a dead-end relationship, apparently has a companion regret, of which I spoke in my last post.

The power of the human mind amazes me. I say to myself, "I am most fortunate. I have nearly no regrets. As it should be." And then I dream a dream that makes me remember that I do, and that these regrets almost always are about the things I can't take back.

I have a trespasser. The thought form came back again. Did I bid him, or is my unconscious trying to make amends? If that's the case, he's not really a trespasser. So I just observe. I listen. I allow him to tell me things, to be heard. His voice vibrates in my unconscious ear the way it did in waking times. The look on his face is no different and it speaks a thousand other words I never gave him the chance to use. We move about but never touch. I stay out of the way of any others in the imaginary rooms I inhabit with him in that temporary world.

Dreams do have a way of conjuring feelings, but in the end they are just dreams, and any feelings that follow us from these dreams into the waking world have to be acknowledged and released. We can base no expectation on these ephemeral meetings in the unconscious. They're not part of our waking world. They do not, in fact, exist. They never happened.

But they do give us clues, teach us new things about ourselves, and invite us to contemplate how we lead the lives we've been given. They leave an imprint, the way a trespasser might leave a footprint in the grass before the wind comes and blows it upright again.

I promised a tune from Quartet, the new release with Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, and this Patti Smith tune from that CD is as fitting as any tune in the repertoire. The album is exquisite. In addition to great songs -- many written by Rowan -- and great playing by the title musicians, the material really shows off the talents of bassist Bryn Davies and mandolin playing of Sharon Gilchrist.



Life is designed
With unfinished lines
That another sings
Each story unfolds
Like it was gold
Upon a ragged wing

The bold and the fair
Suffer their share
He whispered to his kin
All of my debts
Left with regrets
I'm sorry for everything

Trespasses stretch like broken fences
Winding as they may
Trespasses sretch like broken fences
Hope to mend them one day
And she pinned back her hair
Shouldered with care
The burdens that were his
Mending the coat
That hung on the post
In heart remembering

Trespasses stretch like broken fences
Winding as they may
Trespasses stretch like broken fences
Hope to mend them one day

And her time was to come
Called to her son
This your song to sing
All of our debts
Wove with regrets
Upon a golden string

And he found the old coat
Hung on a post
Like a ragged wing
And took as his own
The sewn and unsown
Joyfully whistling
Trespasses stretch like broken fences
Winding as they may
Trespasses stretch like broken fences
Hope to mend them one day

Sunday, June 03, 2007

There in Dreams, What About Real Life?

Someone found my blog with the search term, "To know someone is to love them."

I knew someone once, and I woke up today and realized my love failed them.

As Shameless pointed out, this latest full moon was a Blue Moon, and this is the kind of dream that happens about once that often. In the wee just dawn hours as I was sleeping that last stretch, I dreamed about that last one. I was at a retreat of some kind, some kind of meeting-getaway combo in almost a resort kind of facility where friends from my volunteer life and family life and past career life all came together. There in the midst was my former s/o, returned in full thought form, laughing, making friends and trouble, happy. The feeling exchanged with the thought form represented itself as contentment, peace, adjustment, a new place.

I wish that were so in the waking world. This is a person who had his share of problems, formidable ones, but who still tried hard to be a good friend, up until the time I tried to very gently pry him out of his house to meet my sister and he failed to materialize. Things quickly deteriorated after that. I guess I felt hung out to dry. He ultimately was still in love with someone else -- and probably still is -- and gave me the poetic heave-ho.

Had I been more open minded and aware at a critical point, I would have been better able to swallow my humiliation and accept defeat gracefully, better equipped to extend the friendship I know now was badly needed. But I denied him that. The hope that I might mean something to him was more important than being the person he needed at that particular moment.

My friend Jawbone and I exchanged some insightful emails about the nature of love last week. He is a very wise person. He wrote that, why is it we cannot love others as we love flowers? We love flowers but we don't try to own them. Despite my ability to recognize the importance of detachment, and recognizing it intellectually, when it comes to knowing what to do in the moment, sometimes I fail to let go gracefully. We've been contemplating a saying I found from the 14th Dalai Llama: "Practice kindness whenever possible........Kindness is always possible."

Easier said than done.

But I still have hope that someday I will be more able to summon the right kind of love when it is most needed. Who am I to try to own my friend the wind? I didn't put that flower there, so it's not mine to take.

I hope he really is happy and that his life unfolds as it should to good things. I hope he is able to find peace and forgiveness in his heart and make room in it for real love and friendship.

I'm sorry I wasn't there for him. Here's a song from Tony Rice and Pete Rowan's last effort (I'll be blogging soon about their new release, Quartet, with Sharon Gilcrist and Bryn Davies, a superb sonic experience). It's a beautiful hymn to love and friendship. I hope when the time next comes for me to release someone I love or to help us move to a different place, I'll remember this lesson.

You Were There For Me

When all my dreams were broken
I was down on bended knee
Through my pain I called your name
You were there for me
You were there for me

I climbed the highest mountain
I looked down in the deep blue sea
The sky it cries, for love sweet love
You were there for me
You were there for me

I will always love you
No matter where you may be
I'll be there for you, baby
You were there for me
You were there for me

And I will always remember
How you set me free
With kindness and affection
You were there for me
You were there for me

You were there for me
You were there for me