David Lindley Featured in new Fretboard Journal

Regular readers of More to Come… will know that one of my favorite magazines is The Fretboard Journal, which bills itself as “Not Just Another Guitar Magazine.”  The Fall 2008 issue showed up in the mailbox the other day, and it contains more great articles and photos of the world’s most beautiful acoustic guitars. 

Multi-instrumentalist David Lindley is featured in an extensive interview with Ben Harper, while banjoist Tony Trischka talks about the banjo as the great antidepressant.  That article begins with a great quote from Pete Stampfel, banjoist in the Holy Modal Rounders, the anarchist folk group from the 1960s:

“The real reason the Great Depression happened was that people quit playing the banjo.”

An interesting thought for the day when the Stock Market dropped 777 points.

More to come…

DJB

Thank God for the Mariners

Well, last evening our hapless Washington Nationals lost their 100th game of the season…an easy-to-understand measure of futility in a 162-game season.  While the Phillies and Brewers are hoping to finish off the Mets and snare the last two spots in the NL playoffs, and the Twins and White Sox battle down to the wire in the AL Central, our Nats are fighting with the Seattle Mariners for worst record in baseball.  Going into the last two games, the Mariners have lost 101 and the Nationals 100.  That rainout for the Nats on Thursday evening, which won’t be replayed, may keep us out of the cellar!

Wait ’til next year.

DJB

John Work, III: Recording Black Culture

My father recently sent along a copy of a new CD from Spring Fed Records entitled John Work, III:  Recording Black CultureThis is a recording of great interest for anyone who cares about African American culture in the South in the mid-20th century. 

A Fisk University professor, Work helped the better-known folklorist Alan Lomax collect songs in the African American community, but he also collected songs on his own.  Late last year, the New York Times published a terrific article on this CD and Work’s efforts to record African-Americans.

Where Mr. Lomax tended to treat black vernacular music as an artifact in need of preservation, Mr. Work sought to document it as it was unfolding.  Thus on “Recording Black Culture,” instead of spirituals harking back to the 19th century, we hear febrile gospel shouting set to the cadences of what soon would become rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll.

Bruce Nemerov, who won a Grammy Award for the liner notes to Recording Black Culture, spoke at the Rutherford County Historical Society, which was where my father learned of the recording and bought the CD.  The first two tunes are fiddle/banjo duets that are in the tradition which will be showcased by the Carolina Chocolate Drops on Monday at the Kennedy Center.  There’s also a terrific tune, Walk Around in Dry Bones, by the Nashville institution The Fairfield Four.  You may have seen them in O Brother Where Art Thou (they are the gravediggers near the end of the movie), but if you want to get a taste of this wonderful black gospel sound, check out the YouTube video below.

This CD showcases a great little label – Spring Fed Records – which is the records division of the Cannon County Arts Center near my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  My brother and his wife contribute some of the photography to these recordings, which feature:

…the highest quality digital mastering, interpretive liner notes, engaging graphic design and, of course, the finest old-time music around.

More to come…

DJB

Two Months of Great Acoustic Music Coming Up

For all lovers of traditional and acoustic music in the Washington, DC area, there are some terrific concerts coming up over the next two months.

  • Monday, September 29 – The Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage (Free!).  A terrific band playing in the African American string band tradition of the Southern mountains.  Check out the video below.
  • Monday, September 29 – Kevin Burke and Cal Scott for the Institute of Musical Traditions.  Yes, this day brings an embarrassment of riches, as just about the best Irish fiddler on the planet plays at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church on Old Georgetown Road in Rockville.
  • Monday, October 6 – Nightingale, a great contra band, for IMT at St. Mark’s in Rockville.
  • Saturday, November 1 – The Infamous Stringdusters play for the DC Bluegrass Union’s fall concert in Falls Church.  Catch one of the hot young bands in bluegrass.
  • Monday, November 24 – David Grier, one of the great guitar flatpickers of his generation, plays for the Monday night IMT concert at St. Mark’s.

Use the comments box to add other upcoming concerts of note.  And over the next couple of months, take the opportunity to listen to some live music.

More to come…

DJB

A few more Memphis Highlights

A few quick observations after spending the last 24 hours in Memphis…

Any first-time visitor to the city has to make time to see the National Civil Rights Museum.  (Photo at the beginning of the post.)  I spent an hour on a tour with the museum’s curator and the head of Memphis Heritage this morning, and I’ve seldom been as moved as when standing between the restored rooms 306 (Dr. Martin Luther King’s room) and 307, viewing the balcony at the Lorraine Motel.  One listens to excerpts from his final “Mountaintop” speech, delivered the night before, and then looks up to see the boarding house across the street where history changed.  Later in the tour, the view is reversed, as you stand next to James Earl Ray’s bathroom and see the balcony, with the historic cars parked outside beneath a large wreath.  Very powerful.

Tracey gave us an insiders tour.  We talked a great deal about the decisions behind the original exhibit and the thinking now underway for future exhibits.  I was pleased to see a section added with the support of the Indian community of Memphis on Gandhi.  It reminded me of my visit last year to Gandhi’s burial site in New Delhi (see photo).  Today I had the same emotions and gratefulness for courageous and visionary leaders.

In my talk at AIA Memphis last evening, I quoted historian and National Trust for Historic Preservation Trustee Emeritus David McCullough:

We are living now in an era of momentous change, of huge transitions in all aspects of life – here, nationwide, worldwide – and this creates great pressures and tensions.  But history shows that times of change are the times when we are most likely to learn.

We all learn about history from books, certainly, but reading history can’t compare with the experience of walking through history, seeing in the deferred dreams of the Lorraine Motel or the lively sweep of a historic Beale Street an entryway into our collective memory.  We need places like this because we need our collective memory.

I also had a delightful visit with the Chairman of the Board and the Director of the Center for Southern Folklore.  We shared many acquaintances (including my former professor Dr. Charles Wolfe) and I was pleased to hear of a Save America’s Treasures grant to help preserve a marvelous collection of photographs from Memphis’ African American community by the Rev. L.O. TaylorSAT was started by the Clinton Administration and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Preservation magazine has a story on SAT’s 10th Anniversary coming up in the next issue.

A couple of other things to see:  the famous Peabody Hotel ducks taking their stroll from the fountain in the lobby to the elevator.  They generate quite a crowd!  And June and I had an early lunch today at the Arcade Restaurant on S. Main Street, a classic diner and the city’s oldest cafe.  It has a great atmosphere that capped off two very interesting days to highlight preservation work in Memphis.

This was a business trip, so I couldn’t play tourist.  Things I missed that tourists enjoy:  the Stax museum, which June says is terrific, and Graceland. (I joked in my talk that the last time I visited Memphis, Graceland had an occupant.)  But of course, even these sites have preservation implications.  Many of the Stax stars lived in homes around the neighborhood worthy of preservation and Graceland is – of course – the historic home of the King.

Back at my home now…and getting ready for next weekend’s work trip to North Carolina.

More to come…

DJB

Passing 1,000

Sometime between leaving Memphis this morning and arriving home this evening, More to Come…the DJB Blog passed 1,000 page viewsI started this blog less than 45 days ago as a way to update family and friends on our western trip this summer, but it has become a bit of therapy over the intervening six weeks.  Some fun stats:  the highest day of activity had 73 page views; the lowest had two.  I only started to figure out how to use this tag thing to attract visitors in the past two weeks, so my numbers since then have been much higher.  I realize 1,000 page views isn’t a lot in the blogosphere, but I’m okay with that.  Thanks to you for reading and for passing along some great comments.

More to come…

DJB

Modernism, Ribs, and Wynonna

Gassner Building in Memphis

Gassner Building in Memphis

I’m in Memphis for a talk sponsored by AIA Memphis and Memphis Heritage and I soon discovered that this is a city that surprises. Nothing catches your eye so quickly as the wealth of historic buildings that remain throughout the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.  In fact, according to Memphis Heritage the city ranks sixth in the nation in the number of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The day began with a tour of a terrific preservation project at the Lincoln American Tower.  In the past ten years, the downtown has seen a number of buildings brought back online by enterprising developers such as Willie Chandler and architect Chooch Pickard.  (The “Chooch” is a high-school nickname for “Choo Choo Charlie.”)  Willie and Chooch gave me a top to bottom tour of the Tower and adjacent Lowenstein Building (see photo at right) which is under renovation right on Main Street.  This mixed-use development has incredible views of the downtown, Court Square Park, and – of course – the Mississippi River.  Downtown housing units have increased from 10,000 just a few years ago to more than 27,000 today, and with the rapidly developing urban vibe one can see why.

Jumping into Chooch’s mini-Cooper convertible, we took a quick tour of the business districts, stopping across from the 1974 Gassner Building (see photo at top of post) to take in this very significant – and threatened – mid-century Modernist building. 

The C&I Bank Building was completed in 1974, designed by Francis Gassner, FAIA (1927-1977) of Gassner, Nathan, and Browne Architects.  The innovative design used tubular truss framing and butt glazing to shape the building and enclose its atrium.  When completed, the C&I Bank was applauded for its geometry and light-filled atrium.  The C&I Bank was recognized by both state and local AIA Awards, and, in 1979, the Museum of Modern Art included the building in its exhibit of the 400 buildings that “have had a significant influence in the recent directions of architecture.”  In 2000, the C&I Bank building was recognized by the Memphis Chapter of the AIA as the Design of the Decade (1971-1980).

Memphis Heritage and AIA Memphis – like preservationists all across the country – are increasingly at work to save buildings like the Gassner which were built mid-century or later and are already threatened with demolition.  The Gassner appears to have a better chance than many to be saved – thanks to the indefatigable leadership of June West (Heritage) and Heather Koury (AIA) and the work of their boards and membership.

We had a great time with tonight’s talk at the Brooks Museum, focusing on endangered historic properties and how preservationists can use tools such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places to rally support for preservation.  After a spirited Q&A session, Heather, her husband Joseph, June and I headed for a Memphis institution, the Rendezvous, for a rack of dry ribs.  It was heaven!  When I was in college, I waited tables for a year in a Nashville rib place called Spats that fashioned its ribs after the Rendezvous, so it took me back in time.  And you can’t beat a place that rates a mention in a John Hiatt song. 

We finished off our ribs and drinks, and I went back to June’s Jeep to pick up my bag and computer for the trip around the block to the Peabody Hotel.  I’d been glancing at this writing on her dashboard, but only focused on it now.  “What is this?” I asked.  “Why that’s where Wynonna Judd signed my dashboard,” replied June – as if this was something that everyone had in their car.  “Okay, why was Wynonna in your car and why did she sign your dashboard?” I asked, playing the role of straight-man.  And the story was pure Memphis, going back to the King himself.

As June tells it, Elvis (you knew there had to be an Elvis sighting somewhere in Memphis) was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  And since Elvis is dead (at least most people believe he is), they asked Wynonna to be the stand-in recipient.  She came to Memphis for the ceremony, and a friend of June’s was responsible for getting her around.  June had the only non-sportscar among the friends, so her Jeep was selected.  June said, “Sure she can ride in my Jeep – she just has to sign the dashboard.”  Wynonna apparently thought this was cool…and 10 years later June has a great story to tell.  But she can’t bear to sell the car!

I’ve met a lot of preservationists in my line of work, and I almost drowned in a Jeep going through a creek in Kentucky about 12 years ago to look at a historic site, but this story tops them all.  If June can talk Wynonna Judd into signing her dashboard, she can certainly talk some recalcitrant developer into saving a historic building.  Memphis is in great hands.

More to come…

DJB