Month: March 2009

Home to Tennessee

One of the great things about going home has always been the chance to get together with my brother Joe and play a little music.  So last week when the children and I were in Tennessee, I eagerly looked forward to heading out to Joe and Kerry’s house with my guitar and mandolin in tow. Joe (with a beard grown for a play at the Arts Center of Cannon County) had told me that his oldest children had begun to pick up the banjo, guitar, mandolin, and fiddle.  And sure enough, as we pulled out our instruments my nephew Joseph joined in with some clawhamer banjo.   It was great fun to play along with the next generation of pickers. Joe is an ornamental blacksmith and we had a good time checking out his new wares as well as his expanded shop.  Joe and Kerry essentially built their house by themselves, and it was great to see the new stairway they designed and constructed to open up the living room.  Joe’s shop is usually on the annual studio …

On the Trail of Uncle Dave Macon

Andrew, Claire, and I spent much of today in Readyville, Tennessee, with my brother Joe, sister-in-law Kerry, and their family (more on our visit in a later post).  Joe is an ornamental blacksmith and fellow lover of bluegrass and old-time music.  So it seemed fitting – after a day of playing Old Joe Clark and other tunes with Joe and his son Joseph – that I take Andrew & Claire on an educational trip by hallowed ground:  the burial place of Uncle Dave Macon. Affectionately known as the “Dixie Dew Drop,” Uncle Dave was a vaudeville performer and one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry.  He came out of a 19th century performing sensibility, but also was one of the first country musicians to take advantage of the new technology of radio. After his death in 1952, Macon was buried between Murfreesboro and Readyville in the Coleman Cemetery.  A new road to Cannon County now bypasses the cemetery, but I turned off the four lane and went over to the Old Woodbury …

Taking the Steam Powered Aereo Plane to that Desert Island

The last album in my review of top five albums to take to a desert island may be my all-time favorite.  I’ve long loved John Hartford’s quirky, hippy-bluegrass Aereo-Plain album.   So it was only fitting that last night, as I was returning from a dinner in Nashville with a long-time friend, I turned on Del McCoury’s Hand Picked show on XM Radio’s Bluegrass Junction and what was coming out of the speakers but Steam Powered Aereo Plane.  Damn, Del has great taste in music!  I was reminded all over again of why this album is on my list. What do I love about this album?  Let’s start with the cover.  My mother hated this cover when I was a teenager and my wife hates it still.  I loved it so much that I had the father of a high-school friend who was a commercial artist do a charcoal drawing of Hartford with his shaggy beard and aviator glasses.  (My friend Judy’s father had a side business of doing spot-on drawings of photographs from 1970s record albums.)  …

Five Albums for a Desert Island – Sgt. Peppers

There’s not a lot you can add to all the words that have been written about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The Wikipedia entry for the album is one of those that drives people who hate crowd sourcing to rants, because it probably runs longer than the Wikipedia entry for World War II . (I haven’t actually checked that out, but it makes a good line so I’m sticking to it.)  If you want to read about the echo effects, the engineering, the late night recording sessions, even how that great, thunderous E chord at the end of A Day in the Life was produced – you’ll find it all there on Wikipedia.  And that’s just one of countless articles and books written about the Beatles and this music. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been a source of endless fascination since it was released, and I was certainly smitten as a young teenager.  This is probably on my list as much for what it represents about my youth as for the album …

Time Out – For More Albums for a Desert Island

This is album #3 that I’d want on my iPod on a desert island (see the earlier two posts below), and it is the only pure jazz album on my list. Growing up, my brother Steve was the jazz fan and my father had always enjoyed Teddy Wilson (one of the two pieces he could play on the piano was “Body and Soul” in the Wilson style.)  I grew up  listening to rock and then gravitated to acoustic folk which led me to bluegrass, Celtic, Americana, blues, and the like.  I wanted to listen to music I could play, and I never stayed with the piano or guitar long enough to be a jazz player.  But I’ve always enjoyed the music and have a healthy sampling on my iPod – everything from a lot of Miles Davis to a lot of Oscar Peterson. Time Out was the first jazz album that really caught my ear, and that’s the reason it is on my top five list.   I was captivated by the changes in time signature and rhythm.  It all …

Good Food, Good Friends

I’m in Louisiana for work and took the opportunity to meet one of our volunteer leaders and his wife for an early dinner in New Orleans.  Jack and Mimi are incredible preservationists who enjoy life…and especially the part of life that involves good New Orleans food.  What could be better? They took me to a neighborhood restaurant named Clancy’s.  It has been a favorite of Mimi’s family for decades and Jack sent along the following review to let me know where we were headed: Classic New Orleans restaurants fall into three basic categories: Originators, Innovators and Upholders. Originators have been around as long as the trees and specialize in dishes of the same vintage. Stimulated by the originators’ example, innovators create food that in some instances barely resembles its inspiration. Upholders are the bridge between the two. They are created by restaurateurs and chefs who express their passion for traditional New Orleans cuisine by giving diners another outlet for enjoying it. In the process, these restaurants develop specialties. Some are personalized versions of established regional classics — …