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

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

Real Country

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

There was one upside of being stuck in traffic – and then stuck in the car wash line – on a February day with 60+ degree weather. The Bluegrass Junction station on Sirius XM radio was featuring a live concert of The SteelDrivers – a band I highlighted in my Favorite Roots Music Albums of 2015 post last December.  (Oh yeah, it was also the winner of the “Best Bluegrass Album” in that other little year-end list – The Grammy’s.)

After playing “If it Hadn’t Been for Love” from their first project (the black album), fiddler Tammy Rogers mentioned that “some singer you might have heard of – named Adele” – had covered that song earlier this decade and featured it in her Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD.  I knew Andrew would love this.

So I returned home and told Andrew the story.  I mentioned that Chris Stapleton – who wrote and sang on the original SteelDrivers version – just won Country Album of the Year for both the CMA and Grammy’s, which gave me some faith in the ability of the country music industry to recognize real country when it bites them in the behind.

We listened to the Adele version, and laughed ourselves silly, over the introduction.  But hey, Adele is a great vocalist and this is a top-notch cover.

Then I played Andrew a song by Chris Stapleton off of his Traveller album, so he could hear what a great country voice sounds like.  Here’s the tune “Tennessee Whiskey” first made famous by David Allen Coe and especially George Jones.

I was saying something like, “Now that’s real country” when Andrew asked, “Have you heard the mash-up of six bro-country tunes that are all alike?”  No?  Really?  (Yes, I find out I’m the 6 millionth person to view this…but I am a bit slow.)

Anyway, if you want to know what’s wrong with most of what comes out of country radio, listen to this mashup of “Six nearly identical hit country songs” that were “separated at birth.”

Thank God for Chris Stapleton, The SteelDrivers…and Adele!

More to come…

DJB

60 Lessons From 60 Years

Here are 60 things I’ve learned in my (now) 60 years of life:

1.  Discipline is remembering what you really want.

2.  The graveyard is full of folks who thought the world couldn’t get along without them. (Mary Dixie Bearden Brown and others)

3.  Baseball is (much) better than football.

4.  I have been lucky in love.

5.  Few things sound better than a solo acoustic guitar played by Doc Watson (Deep River Blues), Tony Rice, (Shenandoah), or Norman Blake (Church Street Blues). Or, if you want to go next generation, Bryan Sutton (Texas Gales).

6.  Good things can come from bad situations, if you’ll stop wallowing in your sorrow and seek out the good.

Tom Brown 1948

Tom Brown, 1948

7.  I have become my father.  I repeat many of the same stories. (Did you know that I paid more for my last car than for my first house?)  I read funny articles from the newspaper out loud at the dining room table, sometimes to the consternation of my wife and children. I cackle when I laugh. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Southern liberal who believes that government can make our life better, and I have TVA to prove it. I have good-looking legs, even at age 60. I can’t see worth a damn without my glasses and – if you ask Candice – my hearing is suspect. I think Molly Ivins (God rest her soul) and Gail Collins tell more truth in one short newspaper column than any politician tells in a book-length campaign bio. I love to read. Body and Soul and the St. Louis Blues – the only two songs my father could play on the piano – are still among my top 10 favorite songs of all time.  I wish I had more of my father’s faith and compassion, but I still have 30 years to work on that and catch up with him.  I think it is pretty neat, at age 60, to have a father who turns 90 this year – especially when that father is Tom Brown.

8.  I will cry at the movies, so I need to bring a handkerchief.

9.  Neckties are a highly overrated – and in my case an increasingly irrelevant – piece of clothing.

10.  All things considered, I’d rather live in a community full of old buildings.

Downtown Staunton

Downtown Staunton, VA

11.  The movie Selma was not – in my opinion – the “Best Picture” of the year in 2015, but it was the most important.  Everyone (and especially Southerners) should see it. We forget too quickly how difficult it was to attain rights for all, and how much pressure there is, even today, to restrict or even take away those rights.  We are nowhere near a post-racial society.  I grew up in the South in the 1960s. I remember those images on the television. I saw how blacks were treated then.  It was terrible. In some ways, it is still terrible. After seeing Selma, Southerners should also visit the High Church of Doing the Right Thing – otherwise known as the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.  We can do better.

12.  A colleague gave me this big, 1950s-style ashtray for my office with a quote attributed to Amelia Earhart that says, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” He thought it sounded like me, and I couldn’t agree more.

13.  Stephen Carter, in his book Civility, captured much that is wrong in America today when he said, “The language of the marketplace, the language of wanting, of winning, of simply taking – the language of self – (has supplanted) the language of community, of sharing, of fairness, of riding politely alongside our fellow citizens.”  The best description I’ve read of Libertarians – who epitomize the language of self – is that they’ve politicized the protests of children who scream through tears, “You’re not the boss of me.”

14. “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.”  (Jane Jacobs)  I love old buildings.  I always have.  We grew up in an early 20th century house on Main Street in Murfreesboro, and I loved visiting my Grandmother’s Victorian-era house on Second Avenue in Franklin. Candice and I renovated two old houses in Staunton, where we spent the first half of our married life.  Old houses are especially nice for putting you in a physical and spiritual continuum – there were people in that house before you, and you realize you are just a steward of this place for the next generation.  You can connect with the joys and hardships of those who came before, and you can prepare the house for those who come after.  The best places I’ve been in life have a real connection to the past, and yet feel remarkably livable for the modern world.

WWJJD T-shirt

Andrew’s WWJJD (What Would Jane Jacobs Do?) t-shirt

15.  Education, experiences, and travel trump “things” hands down. When you have a limited amount of money to spend, go for the things that feed the soul and widen your perspective, not the things that will collect dust in your house or take up more space in your garage (or, God forbid, a storage bin).

16.  “Baseball is like church; many attend but few understand.”  (Wes Westrum)

17.  Take the train whenever possible.  It is civilized and, short of walking and riding a bike, it is the most environmentally friendly way to travel. I am writing this right now on a train home from New York City.  In a few minutes I’ll wander back to the cafe car. I ride a train to work every day.  Even with Amtrak working as a second-class citizen when it comes to transportation systems and the Washington Metro suffering breakdowns from lack of funding and maintenance, train travel still beats the alternatives.  Unfortunately, American mass transit is dying. Imagine how well our transportation system could run if people demanded, and politicians funded, train travel.

18. Try to see yourself as others see you.  In more than half of my career, I’ve worked with an executive assistant.  The good ones – who are perceptive and honest – see you in a myriad of situations and understand you in ways that few people do.  One of the best I had the privilege of working with wrote what I took to calling a “Users Guide to DJB” when she left.  It was rather eye-opening to read.

19.  When you buy something you plan to keep for a while (shoes, cars, a home), buy the best quality (not necessarily quantity) you can afford, without overextending your budget.  This approach is why Candice and I tend to keep our (one) car for a decade or more, and why we raised two children in a house with about 1800 square feet. Oh, and you need much less “stuff” than you have.

20.  Those who accept life and their own limitations are likely to find more in life.

21.  The 9th inning of the 5th game of the 2012 NLDS never happened.

22.  If YouTube had existed when I was young, I don’t know if I would be a better guitar player, but I know I would have saved myself a lot of trouble picking up the needle and putting it back (and back, and back) in the grove to try to learn that special lick.

23.  “Make yourself useful, as well as ornamental” is good advice I learned from my Grandmother.  (Mary Dixie Bearden Brown.)  My Grandmother worked hard her entire life, but as you can see in the picture below, my Grandmother was very pretty as a young bride.  Naturally, I inherited my big ears from the Brown side of the family.

Grandmother and Granddaddy Brown

Mary Dixie Bearden Brown and George Alma Brown – my Grandmother and Grandfather

24.  Fear isn’t a solid foundation for any healthy relationship.  So why is so much right-wing fundamentalism based on a fear of God’s wrath?  In my experience, She cares for all her children, not just the ones who have drunk the Kool-Aid.

25.  Speaking of fear, Kris Kristofferson hit the nail on the head about hatred of things we don’t understand in Jesus Was a Capricorn. Truer words than “Reckon we’d just nail him up if he came down again” were never spoken. Thanks to Darrell Scott for resurrecting this song (pun intended) on his wonderful Modern Hymns CD.

26. Don’t you just love it that 2015’s Super Bowl (#49) was hailed by many (I’m looking at you Sally Jenkins) as the “best Super Bowl ever.”  What did it feature?  One confirmed concussion, and one probable concussion that the Patriots covered up.  (The Onion had a telling headline:  “Super Bowl Confetti Made Entirely From Shredded Concussion Studies.”) A horrendous arm injury by one player.  Oh, and a fight in the end zone on the next to last play.  Yep, that about sums up the NFL these days.

27.  I think Wondrous Love is just about the best hymn ever – in either version (traditional as heard below from Blue Highway, or reworked for the Episcopal hymnal).  I hope my family remembers – when I’ve gone to my reward – that I want it sung at any service/celebration in my memory.  And remember to sing the last verse (in the Episcopal hymnal) a cappella“And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on” sounds incredible when unaccompanied.

28.  The intelligent mind is able to live with paradox.  Such as the paradox of why I’m proud to be a Southerner. (Read this piece from The Bitter Southerner, as it sums up my views on the subject pretty well.) Yes, we have this awful racial history that continues to this day, which I wish our region could overcome. And yes, we have bourbon.

Bulleit bourbon (photo credit: The Adventures of Sarah & Derrick)

(Photo Credit: The Adventures of Sarah and Derrick)

29.  Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.

30.  When you are paying the bill at a restaurant out of your own pocket, tip at the high-end of the scale – 20% – unless the service is awful and the server is rude.  If the service is great, consider giving a bit more.  This is especially true at breakfast.  Many people don’t understand this idea, and it is generally because they have never waited tables.  Waiting tables is very hard work, when done right.  I did it for a year almost 40 years ago, and I still remember the long hours on my feet, the late nights, the times when you do a terrific job and the diners still stiff you.  It never hurts to thank someone, and tipping a bit more than expected is a way of saying thanks.  (The tip up to the norm is payment for service.)  This lesson doesn’t apply in places like Copenhagen, where they pay service staff a living wage. But I think I’ll go to my grave in the U.S. with service staff just scraping by.  Many waiters and waitresses are working two jobs (or more) just to cover basic costs of living.  Tipping at the high-end of the scale is one way I can help them out.  (And while it is a little different, I also recommend tipping street musicians – or buskers – when they are good.)

NOLA Street Musicians

A New Orleans Jazz Trio

31.  If you are going to share a car with someone for more than two weeks, it would be hard to beat Claire as a traveling companion.

Claire and DJB at Glacier

Hiking in Glacier National Park with Claire as part of our two-week cross-country trip in 2014

32.  “I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth.” (Molly Ivins)

33.  Chris Thile is from another world.  There is no other explanation.

Chris Thile at Merlefest 2012

Chris Thile with the Punch Brothers at Merlefest 2012

34.  The Christian Right is neither.

35.  I definitely “married up.” Candice is very intentional about our life together, as a couple and as a family.  I would probably miss half (or more) of the wonders of our time together, but she has helped me see the little grace notes that make up our life.  Almost thirty-three years later, I would do it all again.

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014

With Candice, on our 32nd anniversary, in Copenhagen (March 2014)

36.  Visiting all the Major League Baseball stadiums is a worthy bucket list goal for any red-blooded American.  I’m proud  to say I am more than halfway there.

37.  Everyone should have the chance to be surrounded by – and learn from – passionate and talented people at least once in their lifetime. My entire work career has been one when I’ve been surrounded by such individuals.  However, on the personal side, I was lucky in my “earlier life” to sing as part of the Shenandoah Valley musical group Canticum Novum.  I’ve seldom heard such a pure soprano as Custer LaRue, who was one of our eight-to-twelve singers (depending on the gig).  Among other highlights in her career, Custer was the “singing voice” of Reese Witherspoon in the movie Vanity Fair. (I should probably add that she sang a solo at Claire and Andrew’s baptismal service!) I count myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sing with Custer, and with Debbie, Lucy, Kay, Peter, John, and Dick, (plus others) under Carol Taylor’s direction.

38.  We have an “almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”  (Daniel Kahneman)

39.  “Bad trades are part of baseball – now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?” You should watch the movie Bull Durham twice a year – in February/March, to get your juices going, and in November, to put the season you’ve just lived through in perspective.  Best. Baseball. Movie. Ever.

40.  I still miss my mother every day.

41.  Barbecue is a gift from the gods.  One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get to travel to cities all across the U.S.  When I can, I eat at great barbecue places, such as Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City and The Rendezvous in Memphis.

42.  My father (as he nears age 90) likes to say that growing old is not for wimps.  I’m beginning to worry that I understand what he means.

43.  Nineteen years out of twenty, the lowliest man on a World Series-winning baseball team can give better quotes than the Super Bowl-winning coach.  Baseball players and managers speak with eloquence and  intelligence (even if it is Yogi Berra-type eloquence).  Football players and coaches either talk gibberish (“We used the cover 2 and flex”) or just grunt.

44.  One thing I have not figured out in life is how I happened to have such wonderful, talented, and thoughtful children. It is a mystery. Andrew and Claire taught me so much before they turned 21, and I continue to learn life lessons from them.  I feel blessed and humbled every day.

Andrew and Claire's 21st Birthday

Andrew and Claire’s 21st Birthday

45.  There are many things said in churches that I find hard to believe.  What I do believe is that love is more important than doctrine.

46.  World War II was shorter than the NBA playoffs.

47.  I was fortunate to grow up in a town where I could walk or bike to school, church, the grocery store, and my job.  It was a great way to live as a child.  I have since lived in three towns that were compact, walkable (or had great transit), and human-scaled. My children can get around major cities all over the world because they learned to walk, bike or take the bus and train here in Washington. I feel we have given them a great perspective on how to live in community.

48. When someone needs help – a word, a card, a lift, a meal, a changed tire – try to be there for them. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of each of these things, and I can tell you how much they mean to both the giver and the receiver.

49.  “Cowardice is easy. Courage is hard.” (Ron Johnson, Missouri Highway Patrol, after his work in Ferguson)

50.  “There is no substitute for excellence – not even success.”  (Thomas Boswell)

51.  There is no crying in baseball.  Oh, and there should never be a pitch clock.

52.  It is wonderful when your children take up your interests.  I have always loved photography and music.  So I was thrilled when Claire showed a real talent for photography (especially black and white) and Andrew likewise showed a talent for music.  We do our job as parents when we open up the world’s possibilities to our children.  I simply count myself lucky that among their many talents are two that I can understand and appreciate.

Lake at Mohonk Mountain House by Claire

The Lake at Mohonk Mountain House (Photo credit: Claire Brown)

53.  I have been loved by some wonderful people. All I can say is thank you.

54.  Never underestimate the impact one person can have on the world. Dean Smith, the famous basketball coach for the North Carolina Tarheels, died last month. One of the most amazing things I heard about Coach Smith through the many tributes that poured out in early February is that the Baptist Church where he worshiped and that shaped his advocacy for minorities was booted out of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 for licensing a gay man to minister.  (Being booted out of today’s SBC wins “bonus points” from me, and I grew up a Southern Baptist.) His former pastor said of Smith, “He was willing to take controversial stands on a number of things as a member of our church – being against the death penalty, affirming gays and lesbians, protesting nuclear proliferation.”  I also read a great appreciation in the Washington Post by John Feinstein.  After asking Smith to provide more details about his helping to desegregate lunch counters in North Carolina in the 1950s, Feinstein recounted that Smith asked him who told him the story.  Told that it was his pastor, Smith responded that he “wished he hadn’t done that.”  Feinstein replied that Smith should be proud of that work. And here was the kicker: Feinstein wrote, “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.’” 

55.  There have been times when I did not get something I thought I really wanted.  But in most cases, I found something better.  (Or, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, “You can’t always get what you want…but you just might find, you get what you need.”)

56.  I have always enjoyed a wide variety of music.  I’ve been privileged to play bluegrass and to sing Josquin des Prez…and lots of things in-between.  I subscribe to the words of the immortal Duke Ellington: “There are two kinds of music.  Good music and the other kind.”

57.  I am fine with the fact that not everyone wants to hear my opinion and is eager to know what’s on my mind. Opinions are like noses…everyone has them.

58.  I believe in the Church of Baseball.

59.  A  few years ago I became intentional about saying “thank you” to someone every day.  It is one of the smartest things I ever did. Thank you.

60.  Savor every moment. It passes faster than you can ever imagine.

(With hopefully much) More to come…

DJB

Beer and Bluegrass

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen

Beer and bluegrass.  Betcha never thought of that combination before.

Yeah, right.

At a festival that took “parking lot picking” to its logical conclusion (i.e., it was held in a parking lot next to the Clarendon Courthouse Metro Station), Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen rode to the rescue when the organizers of the Clarendon Arts & Crafts Beer Festival’s Acoustic Music tent were struggling with a bad sound system and horrible logistics (the sets were almost an hour late in starting). When the Dirty Kitchen band finally began their set  in the tent’s lengthening shadows, we were only ten minutes away from the festival’s posted closing hour.

Somehow, with six Virginia Craft Brewers and about a dozen local food trucks to choose from, it didn’t seem to matter!

Christie LeneeThe artist who was really shortchanged in the logistical and sound mess was Christie Lenee.

This finger-style guitar tapper was new to me, but she has obviously been making waves in the acoustic music world for a while. Her inventive sound reminded me of Michael Hedges, but she clearly has taken a range of influences and made them her own.

She began with the beautiful Breath of Spring from a new all-instrumental CD entitled Chasing Infinity.  Four tunes later, she had to call it a night to make way for the headliners.  It was much too short, but enough to whet the appetite for more.

Take the time to listen to her studio version of Breath of Spring:

After Lenee’s too-brief set, mandolinist Solivan and his band – fresh from winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Band of the Year award – tore into those bluegrass standards The Letter and Ain’t No Sunshine. Banjoist Mike Mumford’s Line Drive gave him room to stretch out, and the entire band showed their considerable chops on a tune I requested of Frank before the show – Tony Rice’s Is That So. Chris Luquette on guitar led the way, followed by Solivan on fiddle, Mumford on banjo, and Danny Booth on bass.  Dirty Kitchen didn’t hit too many songs from the new album Cold Spell, but they did showcase She Said She Will. The band played their full hour set and may have kept going, except that the cops were shutting us down.

At the end of the evening, it was a satisfying festival and a very satisfying show by FS&DK.  We’ll go out with the video of She Said She Will (and don’t try and say that three times fast, as WAMU’s Katy Daley finds out at the front of the clip).

Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB

Congratulations 2014 International Bluegrass Award Winners

Dear Sister It took 10 months, but the 2014 International Bluegrass Awards caught up with my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post from December. Turns out, my picks were prescient.

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards were presented on Thursday evening in Raleigh, NC.  Three of my five choices from the end of the year were winners at the IBMA showcase.

Let’s begin with congratulations to Claire Lynch for winning the “Song of the Year” award for Dear Sister.  I recognized this as a special song back in 2012, and have loved this tale taken from letters written before the Civil War Battle of Stones River in my hometown of Murfreesboro. Claire co-wrote this lovely tune with Louisa Branscomb. It is one of her best ever, and highly deserving of the award.

Claire Lynch with DJB

Thursday was a big night for banjo phenom Noam Pikelny. His Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe – one of my picks in December – won Album of the Year at IBMA. This is not just a terrific concept album, it is a terrific album period. Fantastic music from a group of amazing musicians.

Noam Pikelney

Pikelny also took home a second IBMA award – Banjo Player of the Year – which is only fitting for a banjo master who takes a classic fiddler album and makes it his own.

Frank Solivan and Chris Luquette

Another pick from my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – took away IBMA Honors as Instrumental Group of the Year. I wrote about their handling of the Tony Rice instrumental Is That So earlier this year, which convinced me they could tackle just about anything. Congratulations to this DC-area band, which is playing in Arlington on October 12th.

John Starling and Tom GrayFinally, I also want to congratulate bass player extraordinaire and my friend Tom Gray, who was inducted – for the second time – into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame this time as a member of the original Seldom Scene.

The three surviving members – Tom, John Starling, and Ben Eldridge – were honored in Raleigh and then joined the current band to play Wait a Minute.  When I spoke with Tom’s daughter Julie this morning at the Silver Spring Farmers Market, it was clear she was so proud of her dad.

She should be…what a wonderful musician and gentleman.

So there you have it.  A wrap-up to a great year of music. There were many other terrific award winners you should check out, but I especially want to congratulate Tom, Claire, and those musicians who have touched me for years.

Let’s go out with the Claire Lynch Band performing the beautiful Dear Sister at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, here in the nation’s capitol.  Well worth a listen.

More to come…

DJB

 

 

Claire Lynch Band at Home at IMT

Claire Lynch with DJB

Monday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions show at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church had the feeling of a “living room concert” as founder and emcee David Eisner put it. The Claire Lynch Band – in what has become an annual tradition – put on a  musically adventurous yet still familiar and engaging show for a full house of family and appreciative fans.

The 2 1/2 hour concert had all the elements of a Claire Lynch show:  great singing by Claire and the band, sick guitar work from Matt Wingate, jazzy fiddle from Bryan McDowell, and lots of fantastic bass from the incomparable Mark Schatz. There were a number of swing tunes, which fit Claire’s voice to a T, tossed in with the bluegrass and folk.  While performing songs from her most recent CD, the first-rate Dear Sister, Claire also reached back into her catalog, especially including tunes from the Watcha Gonna Do CD from 2009.  The Mockingbird’s Voice and Barbed Wire Boys were two standouts among many.

There’s so much to like in Claire’s work these days…but I’ve written about her music here, here, and here in the past couple of years…and it is getting late.  Thanks for the fantastic show – a great way to kick off the week!

I’ll end with a video of White Train, another song performed this evening by The Claire Lynch Band.

Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB