Month: January 2020

Searching for Utopia

Americans have a long history of living with an eye on the horizon, seeking something shiny and new. The first religious communities of New England, founded to escape the tyranny of the established churches in Europe, led to Roger Williams and others leaving those new settlements for Rhode Island to escape the tyranny of the Puritans. The Jeffersonian search for freedom in land led to grid-and-garden patterns of development across much of the Midwest and West and, eventually, the push out of the city into the “land” of the suburb. Communitarian journeys to places like New Harmony, the Shaker villages, and (a personal favorite) the 19th century English town of Rugby, Tennessee are part of the story. Henry Ford noted that, “We shall solve the problem of the city by leaving the city,” so Ford, George Pullman and other industrialists, up to and including today’s Silicon Valley elites, have constructed company towns and “E-topias” to build something new in the land of opportunity. All of these examples and many more are part of Alex Krieger’s …

Connect and Care

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to break into a rant? Come to think of it, that could be an opening line from an Andy Rooney parody. I’ve been thinking of that cranky curmudgeon from CBS’s 60 Minutes recently as I’ve listened to some of our political discussions. Rooney would fit right in as a television pundit in our age of grievance. I am afraid I understand the allure of grievances all too well. The temptation to rant is very enticing at times, and on very serious subjects, no less. For example… In recent weeks I’ve had the thought that what the world needs to hear is my take on the grating personality of Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. Most recently he claimed his team was “favored by God” after they beat Ohio State in the college football semifinal. I usually quote the late Lewis Grizzard on God and sports:  “As best as I can tell, God was undefeated in all sports last year. Anybody who won thanked Him, and I never heard a …

Saturday Music: Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass  began playing together more than 18 years ago, and they remain road warriors today, making up to 175 tour stops a year. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, these five musicians play bluegrass music and much more on traditional bluegrass instruments. In fact, Greensky Bluegrass fits nicely into the progressive bluegrass and jam band category begun lo those many years ago by Sam Bush and the New Grass Revival, II Generation, and others. Today, they are often compared—and share the stage with—String Cheese Incident, the Infamous Stringdusters, and similar bands. While they’ve played hallowed country music halls such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, they also play to large audiences in venues less frequently connected to traditional bluegrass acts, such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. The band has been described as “a live force of nature renowned for bringing rock ‘n’ roll showmanship to high-energy bluegrass…. Their unpredictable performances remain the stuff of legend attracting diehard devotees who typically travel far and wide to experience multiple gigs.” The internet has a …

Towards A More Perfect Union

To a historian, the beginning of the Senate’s impeachment trial of Donald Trump seems to be an appropriate time to consider our nation’s history.. Trump has been impeached for his actions to involve a foreign country in undermining the 2020 election and—by extension—undercutting the right of U.S. citizens to choose their own leaders. We will certainly hear a great deal of fake history—both of the recent and founding fathers variety—this week. For the real deal, I turn instead to one of our country’s most prominent historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scholar Eric Foner. The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution is Foner’s most recent book, bringing together a lifetime of scholarship around this most contentious era in our nation’s history. And in spite of its look at a period some 150 years in the past, this is work with great resonance for this day, this political climate, and the major questions of how we will advance as a nation. As Foner states in his preface, …

The Work Still Before Us

As we celebrate the life and work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, we are reminded of how far we’ve come in terms of racial justice and equality in America. And—this year more than most—we are also reminded of how so very far we’ve yet to go. In honor of the work of Dr. King, I quoted author Michael Eric Dyson in 2019 from his book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, where Dyson argues of Martin Luther King, Jr. that America has “washed the grit from his rhetoric” in order to get to a place where he can be seen and admired by the country at large. Yet it was King who said that the country’s race problem “grows out of the…need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel…that their white skin ordained them to be first.” Difficult words for many to hear, yet, “This is why King is so important to this generation, to this time, to this …

Saturday Music: Mavis Staples

There is no better musical artist to celebrate during The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend than American icon and national treasure Mavis Staples. Her reach and impact as a once-in-a-generation artist has been astounding. Staples is a member of both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Award winner, a Kennedy Center honoree, and a recipient of the National Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. As someone who began singing during the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. King, her longevity in the spotlight is a testament to her magnificent talent. Mavis Staples performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and sang at President Barack Obama’s White House. And she’s still going strong. “At a time when most artists begin to wind down, Staples ramped things up, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums in her 70’s with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that prompted Pitchfork to rave that ‘her voice has only gained texture and power over the years’ and People to proclaim that she ‘provides the comfort …

The Top 1 Percent

You, dear reader, have just clicked onto my 1,000th post on More to Come. As it says in the tagline, you’ve found my observations and recollections on places that matter, books worth reading, roots music, the times we live in, and “whatever else tickles my fancy.” That last one gives me license to touch on just about anything. But don’t worry. Contrary to the headline, this isn’t a rant about income inequality. I’ll explain in a moment. More to Come was created in 2008 to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over, I simply continued writing. Originally I would send random thoughts on a few things I cared about to friends, family, and other travelers on the internet who might share the same passions. Over the years the blog changed to have a more definite focus and look. In 2016, I began writing an email each Monday morning to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation about things that were on my mind. This discipline led to a regular …

Uplifting Preservation

There are times when the personal takes on global implications. Last week was one of those times. It began when I discovered that a former National Trust colleague, Raina Regan, has begun a fascinating self-help project for preservationists. Here is Raina’s description of this work: One of my goals for 2019 was to be more intentional with my free time, which resulted in a rekindled love of reading. I was really drawn to self-help books, and according to my count, I’ve read two dozen of them in 2019. As I read each one, I considered how they would apply to me and my work in historic preservation. At some point, I decided I wanted to take what I’ve learned and share it more broadly with the world—and Uplifting Preservation was born. Uplifting Preservation is a once-a-month newsletter on the Tiny Letter platform where Raina shares her perspective on a specific book, such as Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, and its relevant concepts …

Saturday Music: Red Molly

“Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme.” One of the all-time great lyrics. And the inspiration for Red Molly, a talented Americana/folk group that features smart songs, tight 3-part harmonies, and an infectious spirit. I’ve always appreciated how this band moves easily between country, blues, folk, and bluegrass, incorporating and weaving pieces from all those various strains—and more—into their music. Red Molly’s website notes that their “innovative instrumentation is suited for roots-rock and heartful ballads alike,” and “the alchemy of their personalities onstage draws even back row listeners into a sense of intimacy.” I can vouch for that last description, as their onstage alchemy also draws in viewers on the internet. With a little bit of luck, I had the good fortune last evening to catch their live-streamed show from the famous Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. The band’s bio page provides the basics about these talented musicians. Dobro player Abbie Gardner’s songs and performance “have the punch of rhythm and blues.” On guitar and tambourine, Laurie MacAllister “draws inspiration from classic folk and …

Eighth of January Revisited

Ten years ago today, I wrote the following on More to Come: “For all who love great old-time fiddle tunes, here’s a little luncheon treat. One of my favorites among the old-time tunes is the Eighth of January, which many will remember from the old Johnny Horton country hit The Battle of New Orleans. (The date of the battle was January 8, 1815, and Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas school principal who wrote the words to the song to interest children in history, used the fiddle tune for the music.) The Eighth of January is a sweet little melody that’s relatively easy to play but has lots of possibilities for variations. I found this video by Roland White with a nice short mandolin version. I wrote about Roland and his brother Clarence back in March 2009 when they were featured in the Fretboard Journal. So, on January 8, 2010, enjoy the Eighth of January in a more timeless mode.” UPDATE: I was reminded of the post here in 2020 because a friend’s birthday falls on this auspicious …