Not My Average Radio Interview

Macon musical history

A bit of Macon musical history

Folks in Macon, Georgia, take their musical roots seriously.  (Think Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, Little Richard.)  So on Friday morning when I was booked for an interview on WNEX, The Creek – a new Macon radio station featuring Southern roots music and local issues – I assumed it would be different from the local NPR stations where I normally find myself talking about preservation.

I was right.  And (with the possible exception of my time on the Honolulu public radio station), it turned out to be much more fun than my average NPR radio interview!

We were in town to launch our National Treasures campaign for the Ocmulgee National Monument.  Lands affiliated with the Ocmulgee National Monument have been home to Native Americans for more than 17,000 years.  However, over recent decades the places with ties to the site have been threatened by urban sprawl, the subdivision of forested tracts, and ownership fragmentation. The National Trust and our partners are seeking to re-designate the monument as a historical park, expand the current boundaries, and study ways to protect related areas in the river corridor.

So I showed up at The Creek’s studio (which looked something like a well-loved fraternity house) on Friday morning with a colleague and the president of the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative.  We met Brad Evans, one of the owners, who asked a couple of questions to prep before we went on the air and indicated that they would play a tune halfway through the interview.  It came out that I was a John Prine fan, and Brad said, “What would you like to hear?”  I responded that I thought Paradise was a good cautionary tale for those who don’t take preservation seriously.  So we go into the interview, have a great conversation about why this place matters, and then Brad queues up the song by asking if Paradise was a good tune?  “Absolutely” I replied, and that familiar voice came across the speakers.

“When I was a child my family would travel, down to western Kentucky where my parents were born…”

While the song was playing, Brad asked what else we might discuss when we came back, and I suggested that we spend a bit of time talking about other National Treasure campaigns. I mentioned that I thought listeners to The Creek might enjoy our work on Nashville’s Studio A and Music Row.

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

So as John Prine wrapped up singing of Paradise being “five miles away from wherever I am,” we began to talk about the Music Row campaign on the air.  I noted that Studio A was not only the place where hundreds of country music classics had been recorded, but that Chris Stapleton’s Grammy award-winning album Traveller was made there after the studio was saved.  I suggested that had it been recorded anywhere else, this classic country album would have sounded different.  When it comes to recording studios – as with much else in life – place matters.

Brad wrapped up the interview and then told his audience that he had some Chris Stapleton lined up next.  I responded, “Man, you are good!” and he replied “I’m a pro – if you don’t believe me, just ask me.”  We laughed, and then away went Chris Stapleton with “Nobody to Blame.”

Oh man…if I ever get to do a preservation interview again when I can call on John Prine and Chris Stapleton for help, then you’ll know for certain I’ve died and gone to heaven.

More to come…

DJB

Adventures in Moving

Andrew moving

Andrew surveys the progress in our “Adventure in Moving”

My father, after helping with at least the fifth move of one of his children to some new town and new apartment through the wonders of U-Haul, declared that he had “enjoyed his last Adventure in Moving.”

U-Haul no longer uses that phrase for their tagline, but after driving two full days from Tennessee to Washington with a van of family furniture, I am channeling my dad.  No more adventures in moving for me!

Andrew and I flew to Nashville on Monday, where my sister Debbie met us at the airport and deposited us at the U-Haul office to pick up our van.  Then my niece’s husband Jason and their daughter Kate joined us to help load the van.  They were a godsend (not to mention Andrew’s many contributions over the three days), and we quickly had all the pieces of my dad’s home that were moving to Maryland strapped in and ready to go.

Uncle Dave Wagner

Uncle Dave Wagner

We already have a family bedroom suite from the Bearden side of our family (my grandmother’s family), but after my father passed away we inherited furniture from Uncle David Jefferson Wagner.  You may recognize the first two names.   Uncle Dave was like a grandfather to my dad, and I was named for him (along with my mother’s father – Thomas Jefferson Roberts).

Dick Poynor Chair

19th century chair made by Williamson County African-American craftsman Dick Poynor (in its new home next to a church pew from First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro)

We were also thrilled to pick up two chairs made by African-American craftsmen in Franklin, Tennessee in the mid-nineteenth century.  My father worked with Williamson County historian Rick Warwick to confirm that one of the chairs was made by Richard “Dick” Poynor (1802-1882) while the other was an all-hickory Patton chair (another Williamson County enslaved craftsman).  Warwick’s 2005 book on the region’s material culture – Williamson County: More Than a Good Place to Live – describes Poynor’s life and work as follows:

“Richard “Dick” Poynor was born a slave in Halifax County, Virginia, on June 22, 1802….The Poyners were well-established as craftsmen in the community as Robert Poynor’s estate inventory of 1848 included ‘mechanics tools, some shoemaker’s tools, some blacksmithing tools and some chairmaking tools.’  It is assumed that Robert taught his slave, Dick, the art and mystery of chairmaking….Sometime between 1850 and 1860, Dick obtained his freedom and, if tradition is correct, purchased the freedom of his second wife, Millie….By 1851, Dick had moved from the Robert Poynor farm near Brentwood and was working at his horse-powered chair-factory and hillside farm off Pinewood Road in western Williamson County, 12 miles from Franklin.”

With the help of his son, Poynor produced hundreds of chairs in his factory.  The “classic signature of a Poynor chair is found in the graceful arching mule-eared post secured with a wooden peg in the top slat.”  My father had written a small note to go along with the history of the chairs that implored us to “keep them in the family.”  Candice and I are thrilled to have both of these chairs.

Early on Tuesday, Andrew and I set out for the 13 hour drive home.  One of the flukes of geography in Tennessee is that between Gordonsville and Cookeville, one drives over the Caney Fork River five times along I-40 in about a ten-mile stretch.  On Tuesday, that whole stretch was covered in fog.  Then I had to adjust to being passed by 18-wheelers…and having the winds whip our van.  The 4% grade coming down the Cumberland Plateau is especially interesting in a truck, and Knoxville traffic is always challenging – no matter the vehicle.

By the time we made it to Bristol, we were famished and ready for lunch.  But rather than take the quick bite from a chain along the interstate, I had to introduce Andrew to “State Street” in Bristol – where one side is in Tennessee and the other in Virginia.  We found a great place to eat, and Andrew straddled the state line…in the middle of the street.  (The kind folks who stopped and let us take our picture had – no doubt – seen many others do the same.)

Andrew in Bristol

Andrew (and his Beyoncé shirt) have a foot in Tennessee and a foot in Virginia on Bristol’s famous State Street

Along the way through this beautiful section of our country, Andrew and I listened to about 20 podcasts that he had carefully “curated” to appeal to my interests.  We especially enjoyed the 99 Percent Invisible podcasts about various aspects of design.  It felt appropriate that we were driving through some well-designed communities and were also carrying pieces of well-designed furniture that had meaning for our family.

Oh, and we talked and caught up on life.

Tuesday evening found us in Staunton, where we spent the evening with our good friends Doug and Tidge Roller.  More architecture talk (Doug is a retired architect) and good food in historic, downtown Staunton, before hitting the bed.

We were fortunate in that traffic was light for the interstate between Murfreesboro and Silver Spring, and even the Washington beltway was manageable.  We arrived home mid-day on Wednesday, unloaded our van (Jeez, that old furniture is heavy) and then returned the van.  I loved being with Andrew for 3 days, and having the chance to catch up with family and friends.  But…no more adventures in moving for me.  At 61, it is time for a younger generation to take over.

Andrew and I listened to some of his music on the way home – Chicago House Music, Beyoncé (of course), 70s and 80s soul and disco music, and more.  But the song that kept coming back in my mind was the Steve Earle tune he wrote to try to capture the classic “bad hillbilly murder ballad” feel.  Carrie Brown includes the classic line about Bristol, “I shot him in Virginia. He died in Tennessee.”  So here you go – enjoy a little bluegrass murder number with Earle and the Del McCoury band.

More to come…

DJB

Observations from the Road (Or “The Deer Isle’s Locally Sourced Food and Music” Edition)

Yellow Birch Farm Dinner

With our fellow diners at the Yellow Birch Farm dinner on Deer Isle

During our first week on Deer Isle in Maine, we have jumped enthusiastically into the local food and music scene.  Sometimes the outing was planned.  At other times the opportunities were serendipitous.  But isn’t that how we are to live?

This is one long “Observations from the road…” post, which could be titled “My, Maine has so much to offer in locally sourced food and music.”

Our first two encounters with food and live music were unplanned yet set the stage for our visit.  Upon our arrival at Pilgrim’s Inn last Sunday evening, we saw someone carrying a guitar into his cabin.  After meeting Richard Perlmutter and his wife Judy the next day and determining that he did – in fact – have a guitar with him, we agreed to meet up after dinner on Monday for an impromptu jam session.

Serendipitously, we found that the Whale’s Rib Tavern was open for dinner at the Inn on Monday (we had mistakenly thought it was closed both Sunday and Monday evenings), so we quickly booked a reservation and had the first of what has become a string of terrific offerings over this past week.  I had the halibut, which was so wonderfully tasty, before we joined Richard and Judy in one of the cozy gathering places at the inn.

Fish from Whale's Rib

Fresh local seafood from the Whale’s Rib Tavern (photo credit: Pilgrim’s Inn)

Now, had I known that Richard has won multiple Grammy and national music awards, was the founder of the remarkably successful Beethoven’s Wig choral group, and has played professionally his entire career, I might have been less inclined to offer to sit down and play a few folk and popular tunes.  But as far as I knew when we started, Richard was this very easygoing and friendly person who had a nice little parlor guitar and a Martin mandolin that he was carrying with him on a “tour that’s more vacation than tour.”  To bring you up-to-date, here’s how Richard’s website describes his work:

Beethoven once said, “If my music had words it’d be a lot more popular.” His wish has come true!  Modern day “co-writer” Richard Perlmutter has added lyrics to Beethoven (and Bach, Mozart, et. al) that have propelled the works of the old longhairs to the tops of the charts, and introduced them to new audiences everywhere.

Despite the fact that he’s forgotten more music than I’ve ever known, the four of us – joined about halfway through by a family visiting from Ireland – had a delightful time playing tunes and trying to remember lyrics.  (Lesson #1:  Always bring a fake book.)  Over the course of our first 36 hours on the island, we had met the man who produced the first Nickel Creek album (when they were ten years old), played Irish tunes on the mandolin for a gentleman who loves to attend sessions back in Dublin, and had the first of several wonderful meals.  What could be better?!

Deer Isle has limited restaurant offerings, but there are several that are very, very good.  Whale’s Rib Tavern has never disappointed – for either breakfast or dinner – and we heartily recommend it for those visiting the Downeast section of Maine.  Everything is locally sourced, and the menu offers just enough for everyone to find something appealing.  We have discovered a number of favorites, but the Blue Hill rope raised mussels, roasted garlic cream, and fried leeks (especially those friend leeks) are extra tasty.

Mussels

Mussels with fried leaks at the Whale’s Rib Tavern (photo credit: Pilgrim’s Inn)

Our second evening of combining exceptional food and music came about because Candice had spent time online to scope out things to do around the island.  Stonington has both an excellent farm-to-table restaurant that overlooks the working waterfront and an active music venue across the street in the historic Opera House.  But before we made it to either one on Friday – when we had reservations – we discovered a wine tasting at Water’s Edge Wines that helped jump-start the evening.

Living in the moment, we took the time to chat with the owners – Ken and Bette Kral – while sampling some excellent wines and cheeses.  Along the way two ladies joined us at the shop and in the course of our conversation we found they – like us – were heading to Aragosta for an early dinner.  Hillary and Yvonne had been classmates in a New England boarding school some 25-30 years earlier and were spending the weekend together to catch up and enjoy Deer Isle.  Over the course of the next 24 hours we ran into them three times (it is a small island) and by the time they left to head home on Sunday we were sharing life stories and hugs in the parlor of the Pilgrim’s Inn.

Lobster ravioli

Lobster ravioli, a signature dish at Aragosta, after I’ve taken a bite or two!

The daughter of a gardener and a chef, Aragosta’s Chef Devin Finigan grew up in the kitchen and the garden in nearby Vermont.  The offerings at Aragosta are wonderful.  Candice and I split a serving of Blue Hill Bay oysters, the signature lobster ravioli and the Old Ackley Farm duck (with house gnocchi, confit, blueberries, Morgan Bay Farm bok choy and green coriander).  What a terrific meal, made all the more remarkable by the view out our window.

Stonington Harbor

View of the Stonington harbot from Aragosta

But our Friday was not yet complete, as we had tickets to the Deer Isle Jazz Festival at the Stonington Opera House.  The opening act was a terrific group of high school musicians from the George Stevens Academy.  Then they were followed by Dafnis Prieto’s Si o Si Quartet.  Oh. My. God.  What a talented musician.  What an incredible group.

Dafnis Prieto

Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet (photo credit: Stonington Opera House)

Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto has received a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and numerous prestigious commissions and awards, all honoring the originality and craft of his work as a composer, bandleader, drummer and educator. Prieto has entered the top echelon of a new generation of artists blending Cuban and American traditions to achieve fresh aesthetic goals.

The Si o Si Quartet features longtime Prieto collaborators Manuel Valera on piano, keyboards, and melodica; Johannes Weidenmueller on Bass, and Peter Apfelbaum on tenor and soprano saxophones, bass melodica, and percussion. Si o Si is a thrillingly multifaceted ensemble, with an orchestral richness to match its rhythmic complexity and breathtaking energy.

I am not generally a “drum solo” fan…but I could have listened to and watched Prieto all night long.  He was so musical, so full of energy, and yet so seemingly effortless in his playing.  Valera stayed with him on the piano and filled out the quartet sound along with Weidenmuller.  Apfelbaum’s sax work was terrific.  I was – to put it simply – blown away to be hearing this level of music in a town of a few hundred people at best.  We met a couple at the Pilgrim’s Inn the next morning – easily identified as a jazz fan by his Downbeat t-shirt – and it turns out they have been coming to the jazz festival for years.  I just love these small summer festivals that draw such incredible musicians to such beautiful – and inspiring – places.

So Saturday rolls around and once again the serendipitous meets up with the planned.  As we were pulling into the inn after lunch, I noticed a couple of guys under a tent with guitars in hand, and remembered that the community bulletin board had a notice about “bring your instrument and play” time on Saturday afternoon next to the post office.  I joined Jim, Mike, and a third player who came later, and we worked through bluegrass and country music standards for about an hour.  Jim was “practicing” for his regular gig at 7 a.m. in Stonington at the “Church of the Morning After” – a jam session with fishermen along the waterfront.  He encouraged me to join them, but I noted that 7 a.m. services were for folks who didn’t really have a “Night Before” – and we had plans.

At virtually every restaurant on Deer Isle, we’ve seen local providers, such as 44 North Coffee (a wonderful coffee roaster right around the corner from the inn), and Yellow Birch Farm.  These local providers are keeping the best chefs supplied with locally sourced food.  And Saturday night we had plans to see those two things joined at a farm dinner at the Yellow Birch Farm.

We joined 13 other new friends (an amazing seven of us from the Washington area – including three who live in the Watergate, where my offices are located, a long-time National Trust supporter, and a couple who found rooms in local houses for the Si o Si Quartet and all the other performers at the Opera House).  We began with cocktails, followed by a farm tour and a wonderful two hours of food and conversation.  Held in the 19th-century barn that is the Greene Ziner Gallery, we were surrounded by beautiful artwork by farm owners and artists Missy Green and Eric Ziner and fortified with a fresh and well-prepared dinner.  Halibut was the main course, but I was especially taken with the tomato tart and the blueberry (of course) dessert.

Dessert at Farm Dinner

Dessert at the Yellow Birch Farm dinner

As we rolled out a bed this morning to attend church at St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church (what a great choice of a saint for the Deer Isle community), we wondered what this week will bring.  But we’ve already made new friends, heard new music, and tasted some of the best of the bounty of Maine.

More to come…

DJB

Long Hot Summer Days

This seemed like an appropriate tune to feature on a weekend when the temperatures have approached 100 degrees, and the heat index is off the charts.

I’ve loved Sara Watkins’ version of this John Hartford tune since she released it on a solo album.  Here she plays it with her old band mates from Nickel Creek.

Sara Watkins

Sara Watkins at Red Wing Roots Festival 2015

If you want to hear Sara play this by herself, with a little Hartford-like foot-tapping rhythm thrown in, take a look here.

Enjoy…and stay cool.

More to come…

DJB

Red Wing Roots Music Festival 2016 (Or “Thank God for Sierra Hull”)

Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull at Red Wing Roots Music Festival – July 8, 2016

Everybody experiences growing pains.  Even music festivals.

2016 was the fourth year for the Red Wings Roots Music Festival held in the beautiful Natural Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, Virginia.  Hosted by the Steel Wheels, this regional Americana and roots music gathering in the Shenandoah Valley has been eclectic from the beginning, and not all the musical acts have been of the same quality.  But the festival had maintained a nice balance between audiences that were there to party and have a good time and for those who came to listen to some of the country’s best acoustic musicians. (Chris Thile, Sam Bush, I’m With Her, Tim O’Brien, Jon Jorgenson, Claire Lynch, Sarah Jarosz, Del McCoury, and Darrell Scott all showed up over the first three years.)

But with the ominous warning on the front page of this year’s festival guide that there would be more “plugged in and turned up” bands, a shift was clearly underway.  Friday’s lineup confirmed that approach…and the balance between the different audience shifted.  Not for the better.

I can take electric guitars and drums with my roots music, but the result better be worth it.  We arrived on Friday in time to catch the end of what appeared to be an energetic set from Front Country, with spirited vocals from Melody Walker.  Our real goal was to hear the full set of mandolin phenom turned thoughtful adult musician Sierra Hull.

Sierra Hull at Red Wing 2016

Sierra Hull with Justin Moses at Red Wing 2016

I’ve heard Hull play over the years at Merlefest, beginning in her mid-teens, and she always had the chops to play amazing bluegrass and traditional music. She was the first bluegrass musician to win a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music.  Her first album post-Berklee hinted at some new directions, but it wasn’t until the recently released Weighted Mind (produced by Bela Fleck) that she came into her own and broke away from the “I can play incredibly fast and clean bluegrass” camp.

At Red Wing on Friday, she and bassist Ethan Jodziewicz (recommended by no less a talent than Edgar Meyer) displayed her stripped down music, often featuring just the mandolin or octave mandolin and bass in songs and tunes both beautiful and complex.  The duo was expanded on about a third of the set to include dobro and banjo player Justin Moses, which allowed Hull to showcase more of her traditional chops (on the tune “Bombshell” for instance, which closed out the set).  Her “Black River” video is a great example of the direction of her new work.

Hull’s 75 minute set was the highlight on Friday, which was otherwise filled with forgettable music (with the exception of Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens).  The biggest disappointment was The Steep Canyon Rangers, who have left their smartly crafted bluegrass songs to become a noisy party jam band.  Too loud, too much smoke, too many flashing lights, too much dancing around the stage by the fiddle player.  Please.

So expectations were low for Saturday.  Thankfully, the musicians more than beat that low bar.

Don Flemons

Don Flemons at Red Wing 2016

First up was Don Flemons.  A founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons was the consummate old-time entertainer in the style of Uncle Dave Macon and other pre-WWII acts.  His work digs…

…deeply into ragtime, Piedmont blues, spirituals, southern folk music, string band music, jug band music, fife and drum music, and ballads idioms with showmanship and humor, reinterpreting the music to suit 21st century audiences.

He had the crowd in the palm of his hand after the first song and never let up.

Don Flemons at Red Wing 2016

Don Flemons wows the crowd with his brand of old-time music

So that was a satisfying start to what ended up being a very nice day of music.

The next true revelation was Mipso, a North Carolina tradition-based band that writes and sings very smart songs with contemporary themes.  Mipso’s four members – Jacob Sharp (mandolin), Joseph Terrell (guitar), Wood Robinson (bass), and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle) – sing beautiful harmonies around intricate tunes and rhythms.

Mipso 2016

Mipso at Red Wing 2016

In both theme and temperament, the (band’s recent) album finds an interplay between the sunrise and the twilight – a tug-of-war that’s itself an old-time tradition. From “Eliza,” a lively waltz-time romp, to “Bad Penny,” a surrealist dream sequence with an Abe Lincoln cameo, the album revels in the seesaw spectrum of experience and memory, where technicolor carnival hues blend with grown-up sadness and the whispers of ghosts. Mipso’s color palette, like its soundscape, is radically inclusive.

“We come from a place where traditional music is a living, changing thing,” fiddle player Libby Rodenbough said. “So we feel like having an ear for all kinds of stuff is not only true to ourselves, it’s a nod to the tradition.”

Take a listen to “Bad Penny” and you’ll get a feel for the dark Southern Americana where this band – playing music that sounds like the 1920s and 1930s but with themes as relevant as today’s headlines – resides.  (And to keep the surreal vibe going, it is recorded in a Colorado canibas factory.)

 

 

Chris Smither

Chris Smither

 

Tony Furtado

Tony Furtado at Red Wing 2016

The rest of the day’s music continued at this high level.  Chris Smither combined wonderful fingerstyle guitar with well-written songs (and a beautiful cover of “Sitting on Top of the World”).  Multi-instrumentalist Tony Furtado – supported by mandolinist extraordinaire Matt Flinner – had the crowd in awe of his instrumental talents, especially on slide guitar.  And finally, the host for the festival – The Steel Wheels – put on their usual high energy show and added a few friends to the mix.

Hull and Moses

Sierra Hull and Justin Moses trade dobro and octave mandolin licks at Red Wing 2016

We headed out satisfied, thanks to Saturday’s wonderful music (and Sierra Hull’s beautiful set on Friday).  Let’s hope that for the 5th Red Wing Roots Festival next July, we’ll see fewer plugged in bands and more of the incredibly talented acoustic  musicians who have made this such a wonderful way to spend a summer weekend.

More to come…

DJB

Acoustic Music is Alive and Well

Christ Thile

Chris Thile of The Punch Brothers at Red Wing 2015

“When you go to heaven and hear singing, it will sound like these three women.”

So opined Chris Thile after the Americana trio I’m With Her finished a short yet moving set in the first half of an incredible three hours of music last evening at the Kennedy Center.  The concert hall’s acoustics were ringing all evening as the sold out crowd not only enjoyed the beautiful harmonies from I’m With Her’s Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, but also the instrumental talents and music-making of mandolinist extraordinaire Thile and the Punch Brothers, along with Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyers, virtuosi of the banjo and upright bass respectively.

The Kennedy’s Center policy against photography leaves me using old photos from other concerts, but that hardly matters. The music was the focus last evening.

Thile was invited to curate a four-day American Acoustic Music Festival, and Friday evening’s show was clearly the headliner.  The Punch Brothers  opened the first half of the show with a tight set capped by the raucous Rye Whiskey.  I’m With Her followed, with a beautiful set of tunes with interwoven harmonies that belied the fact that this group hasn’t played together for much of this year. Finally Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyers closed out the first half of the show by demonstrating the musicality, technique, and compositional skills that made them the trailblazers they are in this genre. (And yes, there were jokes throughout the evening about first playing with people when they were eight.)

 

Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck, performing at Merlefest, 2012

The generous 90-minute second half featured collaborations among all the musicians, and that was when the magic was really made.  Fleck joined the Punch Brothers to kick off that half with one of Bela’s tunes from the influential 1980s album Drive, featuring the first of numerous delicious twin banjo romps between Fleck and the incredible Noam Pikelny.

Punch Brothers

Noam Pikelny

Virtually every tune in the second half was a highlight, beginning with Meyer and Fleck joining the Punch Brothers to play Blue Men of the Sahara, their composition from Strength in Numbers: The Telluride Sessions – an album that helped transform acoustic string music in the 1980s. O’Donovan and Jarousz took turns singing striking leads with the Punch Brothers. Fleck and Gabe Witcher played a wonderful banjo/fiddle duet in honor of Dr. Ralph Stanley – the last of the original triumvirate of bluegrass (Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs) – who passed away the night before.  (That led Pikelny to quip that Stanley’s death led to the crash of the entire world economic order.)

Watkins, Jarosz, and O'Donovan

Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing Roots Music Festival on July 11, 2015

As the night came to a close, Sara Watkins led the entire crew in the first of several encores – John Hartford’s Long Hot Summer Days. Three tunes – and many more moments of high musicianship and amazing technique later – Chris Thile and his friends left everyone satisfied.

And I’ll leave you with a John Hiatt tune – Crossing Muddy Water – that was played last evening by I’m With Her.  Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB

Observations from the Road (The Celebrity Sighting – Obscure Music – Edition)

Aoife O'Donovan at Red Wing

Aoife O’Donovan

I have been on the road forever it seems.  So here are a few “Observations from the road…” posts which are – as always advertised – quirky and perhaps not ready for prime time.  You’ve been warned.

Celebrity Stalking:  True story.  As I was walking through National Airport earlier this afternoon following a flight back from Chicago, I noticed two young ladies carrying cases for a guitar and mandolin.  I had been focused on getting something for a late lunch before rushing to the office, but my brain did engage to the point where I said to myself, “That sure looked like Aoife O’Donovan – and I bet that was Sarah Jarosz with her.”

At this point you may be asking yourself, just who are Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz?

Well, for music lovers who veer away from the Taylor Swift variety of music, they are two-thirds of one of the most terrific – yet widely unheralded – music groups today:  I’m With Her. (And no, they are not connected to the Hillary Clinton campaign.  They’ve had the name for a couple of years.)  Sara Watkins – known to most as the female fiddle player and singer in Nickel Creek – is the third member of the group, and they gave a terrific performance last year at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival.

I quickly turned into the celebrity stalker, following them down the escalator towards ground transportation.  As they were headed into the women’s restroom (I’m not making this up), I called out “Ladies!”  Aoife, who was trailing, turned back, and I caught up and said, “I’m so looking forward to your Kennedy Center concert tomorrow night.”

Jarosz and O'Donovan

Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan at Red Wing 2015

She smiled and asked if I was on her flight.  I told her no, that I had just seen the two of them walking through the airport and wanted to let her know how much I enjoyed her music.  We exchanged pleasantries for 30 seconds or so, then I turned to catch my cab.  I refrained from saying that her “Oh Mama!” is the first song on my playlist about half the mornings when I listen to music while walking or exercising.

When I was a barmaid you were my mead
When I was a brave knight you were my steed
When I was so lonesome I wanted to cry
you came to me in the night…
You cried oh mama sing me a love song
pour me some bourbon and lay me down low
and ooh baby my poor heart is breaking
I feel the ground shaking right under my feet just put me to sleep

I’m With Her is playing with Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers, plus Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer on Friday evening at the Kennedy Center.  I’ve had my tickets for weeks.  Should be a terrific show.

The Humidity Tour (or perhaps The Whiskey Tour):  In the past two weeks I’ve traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, Houston, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois – with a couple of brief stints in Washington thrown in the middle. Just about every one of those cities experienced major thunderstorms or otherwise violent weather while I was there. One of my colleagues quipped that I was on “The Humidity Tour!”  After about 145% humidity in Houston on Tuesday (only a slight exaggeration), I agree.  Perhaps some band would like to take up that for the name of their next jaunt around the South.

I’ve also been fortunate to find a few good bourbon bars while on this tour.  The best was probably Husk in Charleston (thanks to colleague Greg Kidwell for the recommendation).  Edgar’s Proof and Provision at the Georgian Terrace Hotel (across from the Fox Theatre) in Atlanta wasn’t bad. And while Andrew and Candice made plans to take me to Jack Rose here in DC for Father’s Day, a freak power outage changed those plans.  We’re scheduled to return on this coming Sunday, and with 2,687 bottles of whiskey on the wall, I can’t wait!

A Walk-Off for #20:  While in Houston, I took advantage of an Astros home stand to visit number 20 of the 30 Major League Baseball ballparks in my quest to see them all.  Minute Maid Park is a relatively new park in downtown Houston (and surprisingly urban in feel) with a retractable roof and excellent sightlines for baseball.  (That roof was needed on Tuesday evening.  Did I mention the humidity?)

Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park – Now two-thirds of the way through my MLB ballparks quest!

The Astros were playing the LA Angels – the second time I’ve seen these two teams in the last three weeks.  But where all the fireworks happened in the first inning in Anaheim (with back-to-back jacks by Trout and Pujols), this time the Astros waited until the bottom of the ninth to load the bases and then get a walk-off, two-run single.  It was a great night of baseball, and now I’m two-thirds of the way through my bucket list of MLB ballparks.

To celebrate, let’s pour a bourbon and wrap this up with Aoife’s acoustic version of “Oh Mama!”

More to come…

DJB