Month: November 2019

Saturday Music: Molly Tuttle

Roots music. The name suggests an adherence to tradition and a reverence for the elders. While there is much truth in that characterization, roots genres such as old time, blues, bluegrass and Americana are continually refreshed with exciting and talented young performers. These are musicians who show a mastery of the traditional styles that goes well beyond their years while also probing the opportunities beyond the traditions. Thinking of musicians I have long admired, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Alison Krauss, and Bryan Sutton all were—at one point—young bluegrass whippersnappers who pushed those boundaries and set new standards of excellence. Heck, Chris Thile—at the ripe old age of 38 who has been playing like, forever, and is the host of public radio’s Live From Here—long ago graduated from the amazing kid mandolinist stage of his life to being just the amazingly talented musician who has unbelievable chops and musical ears. Thankfully, gifted young roots music performers keep turning up. People like Molly Tuttle, the exceptionally talented 26-year-old guitar flatpicker who has recently released a debut …

Our Year in Photos – 2019

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my annual tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come. Despite all the turmoil in our country and throughout the world, so many of us still have much for which to be thankful in 2019. Each December is a special time in our family, as we celebrate Andrew and Claire’s birthdays followed quickly by the holidays. Andrew did a bit of singing and celebrating with friends while in London, but both of the twins returned to Washington in late December 2018 during breaks in their school years. We were delighted to have everyone together again, if only for a few days, under one roof. The twins turned 26 last December, and less than two weeks later rolled off the family health care plan! I think that’s the new 21st century milestone for adulthood. As he pursues his Masters in Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, Andrew has maintained a busy singing schedule. Early in 2019 he …

Beyond Identity Politics

We all saw the same thing. Yet, what we saw differs sharply in our mind’s eye, and in our retelling of the story. Over the past two weeks, all Americans had access to the same impeachment inquiry hearings. We all saw the same witnesses testifying. We all heard the same Members of Congress asking the same questions (or making the same speeches). And yet, taken individually, what we saw and heard during those hearings differed widely. Why is there this contradiction if we all saw and heard the same testimony presented to the same Congressional committee? One answer to that conundrum may lie in the increasingly narrow ways in which we identify ourselves. It just so happened that I was reading Francis Fukuyama’s smart and insightful 2018 book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment during the hearings. A Japanese-American political scientist, Fukuyama’s thoughtful take on how our nation, and how much of the world, came to a place where we are identifying ourselves with a series of smaller and smaller tribes while …

Saturday Music: My Favorite Buskers

One thing I miss in my gap year is the morning commute. That may sound strange, but I do miss the interactions with fellow travelers. I miss the friendly conversation around music, politics, and coffee during my stop at Filter coffeehouse. I miss the 30 minute routine I established twice each day to sit on the train and read. And I miss the opportunity to hear street musicians—or buskers—on a daily basis. These performers put themselves out there for all to see and hear amidst all types of weather. The 30-to-90 seconds (or occasionally more) I was typically within earshot invariably brightened my day. As noted in Wikipedia, the term busking was first used “in the English language around the middle 1860s in Great Britain. The verb to busk, from the word busker, comes from the Spanish root word buscar, with the meaning ‘to seek.’ It was used for many street acts, and title of a famous Spanish book about one of them, El Buscón.” Thankfully, I still see buskers some days in Silver Spring …

In Praise of Women Moderators

When it came to the existential challenge facing our democracy, there was no debate at the debate. Every candidate for the Democratic nomination for president agreed that the corrupt and criminal enterprise in charge of the executive branch—now being called out day-after-day by the testimony of real patriots—needs to be removed. However, as you might expect, that wasn’t the surprise of last evening’s Democratic presidential debate, held in Atlanta. I watched the entire 2 1/2 hours and was generally captivated from beginning to end. I say that knowing that the debate wasn’t perfect. Where was former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, for instance? He has a much better chance of being first or second on the Democratic ticket than does billionaire Tom Steyer or Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. But even with its missteps, the debate was highly engaging on several fronts. Certainly, some credit for the night’s conversation with American voters goes to the smart group of candidates, even those who aren’t going to win. (I’m looking at Andrew Yang.) But I think a good deal of …

Boldness in Leadership

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times, is, as one would expect from the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, a thoughtful analysis that deserves to be taken seriously. At a time when the country has entered the public phase of Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry and as the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination—and perhaps the soul of the country—escalates during the twelve months before the 2020 election, there are lessons to be learned from the past. This 2018 work is a study of the life of four presidents and the ways in which they addressed major issues in fractured times: Abraham Lincoln (winning the war, ending slavery and saving the union); Theodore Roosevelt (responding to the sharp inequities and unfairness of the industrial revolution); Franklin D. Roosevelt (rebuilding a country out of the Great Depression); and Lyndon B. Johnson (the fight to ensure civil rights for all Americans). Kearns Goodwin observes that we have come through difficult periods before. In a more troubling sense, she also makes it clear that we have always had scoundrels in positions of …

Saturday Music: Al Petteway and Amy White

Acoustic duo Al Petteway and Amy White will celebrate 25 years of music together at a special Institute of Musical Traditions (IMT) concert on Saturday evening, November 23rd. Favorites of the IMT crowd (and former Washington, DC-area residents before a move to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina), these are musicians sure to fill the room at St. Marks in Rockville, the main IMT concert venue where I’ve heard them live through the years. Al and Amy’s music is eclectic yet uniformly lovely on the ears. Petteway is an award-winning fingerstyle guitarist (voted one of the Top 50 Guitarists of all time by the readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine) while Amy is a composer and singer who is no slouch on the instrumental chops as well. Their repertoire has been described as “original, traditional, contemporary Celtic- and Appalachian-influenced music with occasional nods to Blues, New Age, and Jazz.” That about sums it up. Al and Amy have provided music for the soundtrack for several Ken Burns documentaries, most notably The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. …