March Promises Some Wonderful Music

As we head into March, the Institute of Musical Tradition has some terrific music lined up.   Those in the Washington area should check out one or more of the great musicians in town.

I been listening to bassist Missy Raines for years – first with Cloud Valley, then Eddie and Martha Adcock, and more recently with Claire Lynch and in a duo with flatpicker Jim Hurst.  She’s a seven-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association bassist of the year, and she’s just formed a new band named Missy Raines and the New Hip in honor of a new body part!  She’s at IMT on March 9th.

On March 23rd, flatpicker extraordinaire Steve Kaufman plays at IMT.  I haven’t seen Kaufman live, but I’ve heard and admired his music for a long time.  Kaufman runs a series of well-respected guitar camps during the summer and is a great teacher.  He’s also known for his long list of banjo jokes on his flatpik website.

A little boy told his mother that when he grew up he wanted to be a banjo player. “Oh no son,” his mother replied, “you either have to be a banjo player, or you have to grow up.”

What do you call five banjos at the bottom of a lake?  A good start.

And at the end of the month,  for you gypsy guitar lovers, John Jorgenson is in town for what promises to be a terrific performance.   I saw Jorgenson at IMT about two years ago, and he is simply an amazing guitarist.  Bring your flatpick and come join us!

Check out this video of Jorgenson playing Ghost Dance.

More to come…


My New Favorite Off-Season Sport, Part II

In late January, I wrote a post about the Washington Capitals and how their exciting brand of play was making hockey my new favorite off-season sport.   A play last night by Alex Ovechkin – the “Great 8” – just solidified that feeling.

First some background as to how I came to watch an entire hockey game uninterrupted at home.  Candice and Andrew were out while I was battling both a computer with a virus and a head cold, both of which came from my teenagers.  As for the computer, I normally have my laptop with me as I watch TV sports but Claire was using it last night. On Monday  Andrew had ventured off on the home computer into web sites where viruses lurk, and so we were down one computer waiting to get it debugged.  The head cold came, on the other hand, from Claire’s recent sickness.   I finally decided to just give in, curl up on the couch, and watch the entire Caps vs. Canadiens game.

And what a great decision that was!  After a wide open first period ended in a 2-2 tie, the Caps had to score in the final two minutes of the 3rd period to even the score.  Then after a scoreless overtime, the Caps won in a shootout.

The game was exciting enough, but as a bonus it included one of Alex Ovechkin’s classic goals.  In the first period, Ovechkin took the puck near center ice, banked it against the boards to his left, did a 180 degree turn to his right to avoid an onrushing player, and then picked up the puck again in the offensive zone.  A Canadiens player rushed him from the side and knocked him down, but as he was sliding on his butt across the front of the goal, Alex kept control of the puck and flipped it up over the goalie.  It was incredible…but of course this morning, Ovechkin was quoted as saying,

“No, normal goal, not sick.  Top 10 probably.  You have to try something new.”

But the Caps coach disagreed.  Quoted in the Washington Post, Bruce Boudreau said,

“I’ve seen that goal about a 1,000 times,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said of “the Goal” scored by Ovechkin from his back in 2006. “But [this one] was as amazing a goal as I’ve ever seen.”

As I expected, someone had it on You Tube by this morning.  Enjoy it for yourself.

More to come…


Willie and the Wheel

Fresh off their performance at the National Preservation Conference in Tulsa last fall, Western Swing band Asleep at the Wheel has joined with country music legend Willie Nelson for a new CD of Western Swing classics entitled Willie and the Wheel.  The Washington Post’s J. Freedom du Lac wrote a strong review of the album in which he said,

For several years, the iconoclastic singer-songwriter Willie Nelson has been surrounding himself with unlikely musical collaborators, from pop ditz Jessica Simpson and jazzman Wynton Marsalis to the rapper Snoop Dogg, with whom Nelson shares an abiding love of lighting up — and seemingly little else.

The pairings have produced more misses than hits as Nelson’s musical proffer has become wildly uneven. (Witness Nelson’s dreadful 2005 reggae experiment, “Countryman,” which should be filed in record bins under Jamaica Mistake.)

But for Nelson’s new album, “Willie and the Wheel,” he found the perfect partners: Western swing preservationists Asleep at the Wheel, who helped the aging country outlaw get in touch with his inner Bob Wills, to marvelously vibrant effect.

Bright, playful and exploding with verve, “Willie and the Wheel” is one of the first great albums of 2009.

Willie and the Wheel were on David Letterman on Monday evening.  Here’s the video, with a great turn by Paul Shaffer playing Western Swing piano.  Enjoy!

More to come…


The Chattering Class and President’s Day

Regular readers know I don’t delve too often into politics.  There’s just so many more interesting things to write about (such as the Nats finally landing a good free-agent in Adam Dunn – more to come on that in the near future).

But today’s Daily Kos had a posting by Markos that hits on an issue that I think deserves widespread reading:  the cluelessness of the Chattering Class.  Or perhaps that’s too charitable.  The issue may be that they are working to protect their own interests instead of seeking the truth.

This was all too clear during the campaign debates.  The instant polls were terrific because they showed – in real time and all too clearly – how out of touch the cable TV political commentators were with what the rest of the country was thinking.  As Kos says today,

In 2008, those snap polls made fools of the talking heads until the last debate, when they finally shut their traps and let the snap polls determine the winners. Because according to them in the previous three debates, McCain, Palin and McCain had won. The people, on the other hand, had drastically different thoughts on the matter. The gap between the chattering class and the populace couldn’t have been starker.

I watched those polls during the debates and saw this great divide first hand.  The DC Chattering Class really did blow it in calling those debates (and in so many other ways as well).

So why should we listen to them this week?  Again, from Kos…

The people who live in DC, who pretend to speak for the rest of the country, have no direct experience with what is happening there — and their attempts to handicap DC politics have more to do with the inside baseball games that seek to protect their own interests above all else. The fact that three and a half million Americans will have jobs as a result of the passage of this bill, or that people who are unemployed or living on food stamps will continue to be able to eat, doesn’t seem to graze their analyses.

As is usual, Frank Rich also got this right in yesterday’s column, noting how Obama had outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition.

I asked David Axelrod for his take on this Groundhog Day relationship between Obama and the political culture.

“It’s why our campaign was not based in Washington but in Chicago,” he said. “We were somewhat insulated from the echo chamber. In the summer of ’07, the conventional wisdom was that Obama was a shooting star; his campaign was irretrievably lost; it was a ludicrous strategy to focus on Iowa; and we were falling further and further behind in the national polls.” But even after the Iowa victory, this same syndrome kept repeating itself. When Obama came out against the gas-tax holiday supported by both McCain and Clinton last spring, Axelrod recalled, “everyone in D.C. thought we were committing suicide.”

The stimulus battle was more of the same. “This town talks to itself and whips itself into a frenzy with its own theories that are completely at odds with what the rest of America is thinking,” he says. Once the frenzy got going, it didn’t matter that most polls showed support for Obama and his economic package: “If you watched cable TV, you’d see our support was plummeting, we were in trouble. It was almost like living in a parallel universe.”

For Axelrod, the moral is “not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think.”

Here’s a third moral: Overdosing on this culture can be fatal.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, as both sides have their spinners who conveniently forget the truth.  It is more about the all-knowing culture that feeds on itself here in our hometown.  During this weekend, when we celebrate the accomplishments of two Presidents who would never have survived if you would listen to today’s political class, that’s a good lesson to remember.

More to come…


Two Modest Milestones

This week I passed two modest Internet milestones:  More to Come… welcomed the 4,000th visitor and I reached 100 “friends” on my Facebook page.

Stop laughing…

I take the blog milestone as the more satisfying.  My children won’t even let me friend them on Facebook, so I don’t put a great deal of effort into rounding up friends or in keeping my status updated.  (My most recent status update is from last Tuesday when I said I was ready for more news about the game of baseball and less (or no) news about A-Rod.  I still feel that way, so why change.)

More to Come… is much more like writing letters to friends.  The blog now averages almost 25 readers a day, which is fine with me.  And occasionally someone picks something up I’ve written and spreads it around, which is nice recognition as well.  That actually happened today, although the link was to a slightly altered version of my recent Readyville Mill post that was also posted on the blog at PreservationNation, the National Trust web site.  Mike West, writing in the Murfreesboro Post, picked it up and hopefully sent a few readers to my place of employment as well.

Wherever you read it, thanks for visiting, thanks for reading, and thanks for the wonderful comments.

More to come…


Lilly is Our Best in Show Every Day

Lilly at the River HouseWe all jumped for joy this morning when we opened the Washington Post and saw that Stump, a 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel, won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden last evening.  That’s because we have a 12-year-old Sussex Spaniel, Lilly, who we consider our Best in Show every day of the year.

Lilly came to us after life as a show dog, having won all the competitions her breeder thought possible.  The weekend before Thanksgiving in 2000 we went to a dog show to begin to get an idea of what type of breed we may want.  Like President Obama, I had been promising Andrew and Claire that we’d get a dog once we found a permanent home in Washington.  As seven-year-olds, they were searching the Internet nightly for information, and Claire would often bring printouts with pictures and information about a certain breed’s “kid friendly virtues” to the dinner table.

Sussex Spaniels were not on our radar screen, but as we stepped into the main building at the show we saw a group of dogs we didn’t recognize getting ready for their moment in the sun.  After asking, we found out they were Sussex Spaniels, and all four of us were hooked from the beginning.  Candice, David, and Lilly On our way to our car, we saw a woman putting two dogs into the back of her Volvo wagon and we walked over to talk.  It turns out she raised Sussex Spaniels, and one of the dogs she was loading up was Lilly, who had just competed in her last show.  To cut to the chase, we exchanged phone numbers, did our homework, and returned the next day and brought Lilly home with us.  It has been a wonderful eight years with Lilly at the heart of everything we do.

Lilly is friendly with us all, but she is devoted to Candice, which is a trait for these dogs.  They latch onto one family member and never leave their side.  Since Candice was the one around all the time when she first arrived, Candice was the chosen one.  Lilly will play nice with me because she knows I take her out in the morning, and Andrew and Claire both have their dog responsibilities that Lilly relies on.  But when Candice is out of the house, Lilly can usually be found by the back door (or more likely asleep on the couch near the back door), waiting for Candice’s return.

LillyStump is a repeat winner at Westminster, so we know what will happen next.  I’ll be walking Lilly the next few weeks, and we’ll get stopped almost every day by someone asking, “Is that a Sussex Spaniel?”  We’ll say yes, Lilly will lick their hand (if offered nicely), and we’ll have made a new friend.  It is a good thing we had Lilly scheduled for a trip to the Groomery today – she’ll need to look good for her turn on the green carpet.

Congratulations Stump, from Sussex Spaniel owners everywhere.  You’re best in show at MSG, but in our house you’d lose to Lilly.

More to come…


Restoring the Readyville Mill

The Readyville Mill sits on the Rutherford/Cannon County line near the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where I spent my childhood years.  At that time it was one of two mills remaining in the vicinity and was still in operation as a working mill for area farmers.  Some time in the early 1970s I played some bluegrass at the mill as part of a heritage days festival.  It was always a community center in this still-rural area of Middle Tennessee.

However, in the 1980s the mill was abandoned, a four lane highway opened up Cannon County to rapid development, and the mill seemed destined to either fall into the river from neglect or to be torn down for someone’s vision of a better community.  Luckily Tom Brady (not the Patriots quarterback) stepped into the breech.

A local website describes the mill’s background:

The Readyville Mill is the sole vestige of what was once a flourishing industry on the Stones River in Middle Tennessee.  Dating from the 1870s, the current Readyville Mill is a three-story building with an open fourth-story attic.  In the early 1900s, the mill supplied the area with electricity, making Readyville one of the first rural villages in Tennessee to possess electric lights.  Other products included ice, corn meal, refined flour, whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and lumber.  The mill was in continuous operation until the early 1980s. 

When I was in Tennessee a year or so ago, my brother Joe (the ornamental blacksmith and a great craftsman) took the children and me out to meet Tom and see the progress he was making in restoring the mill.   It was a great treat to see this place coming back to life.  And just today, Joe sent me links to two You Tube videos that show Tom’s progress.  I’ve posted both below and I think you’ll enjoy them.

More to come…