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

Terrific Roots Music Coming to Washington This Fall

Del McCoury BandWe’re into fall here in the Washington region and that means that the acoustic music scene is busy pointing toward those holiday concerts.  But before December arrives, there are a few highlights for lovers of bluegrass, Americana, and roots music in the District of Columbia.

This Monday, the Blue Moon Cowgirls and flatpicking champion Orrin Star are featured at the Institute of Musical Traditions concert in Rockville.  I’ve heard Star before, and he’s a treat for those who like the old flat top.

Country singer extraordinaire Patty Loveless will be at the Birchmere on November 1st.  She’ll no doubt be featuring tunes from  her new album, Mountain Soul II. The original Mountain Soul was a terrific album, and the follow-up begins with a great version of that old country classic, Busted. (Well the bills are all due and the babies need shoes, we’re busted…) Sure to be a great show.

For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive, folksinger John Gorka is playing on November 20th at the historic Avalon Theatre in beautiful Easton Maryland.  Gorka has one of the most distinctive voices in folk music and I believe I could listen to him sing the phone book.  (There’s also a nice Historic Hotel of America – the Tidewater Inn –  in Easton for those who would like to make a weekend of it.)

The next evening,  Saturday November 21st, the Del McCoury Band – just about the best traditional bluegrass band on the circuit today – will be at the Birchmere.   They also have a new album, entitled Family Circle, out later this month.  Del and the boys never disappoint.

As I wrote earlier, Irish harper Grainne Hambly will be at the National Geographic Society on Friday, December 4th, with the Irish band Teada.  They will be performing as part of their Irish Christmas in America tour.

Finally, Monday, December 7th, will pose a real dilemma, as both IMT and the Birchmere have top-notch Christmas shows.  I’ve attended the IMT Celtic Christmas show featuring guitarist Robin Bullock and husband/wife duo Al Petteway and Amy White for a number of years.  With Bullock and Petteway, you have two terrific guitarists and this show is always a treat.  But the same night, the Birchmere has booked my long-time favorite Jerry Douglas along with Irish singer and song interpreter Maura O’Connell for their own “Very Jerry Christmas.”  Few people can interpret a song the way O’Connell can and her newest CD is a collection of acappella duets entitled Naked With Friends. (Click on the link and read the great review at Fiddlefreak.) The friends include Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Mary Black, Kate Rusby and more.  I love hearing O’Connell live, so I expect I’ll be at the Birchmere on the 7th for that show.

To give you a hint of what you might hear on the 7th, I’ve included a video of Maura O’Connell in a duet with Nanci Griffith and with Jerry Douglas on Dobro playing the Griffith tune Trouble in the Field. Simply sublime.

More to come…

DJB

Bluegrass Hair and Obscene Solos

Del McCoury BandThe bluegrass world’s answer to the satirical paper The Onionthe always off-kilter Bluegrass Intelligenceris at it again with several not-to-be-believed posts from the world of roots music.

In the wake of last weekend’s DelFest Bluegrass Festival and bad weather in the mid-Atlantic region, BI’s intrepid staff reports on how rain, hail, and gale-force winds could not dislodge the “bluegrass hair” of the host Del McCoury band. As reported by BI online:

On Saturday, an unfortunate combination of gale force wind, torrential rain, powerful lightning, and crushing downfalls of hail rocked DelFest, the popular musical event hosted by the Del McCoury Band. Importantly, the relentless onslaught of life-threatening weather was not sufficient to disturb the hair of anyone in the McCoury family.

Another BI post reported on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that a solo by  guitarist extraordinarie Bryan Sutton was “pornographic and obscene.”   What, you didn’t hear about that one from Nina Totenberg?  Well, the NPR legal affairs reporter can’t be expected to catch everything.  That’s why we depend on the Bluegrass Intelligencer.

The Roberts Court today ruled against former Kentucky Thunder guitarist Bryan Sutton, declaring his extended solo on “Get Up, John” from Merlefest 1998 to be obscene and gratuitous to an extent not protected by constitutional First Amendment free speech provisions.

The report continues by noting:

Justice Roberts, writing for the court, condemned the music’s “undeniable appeal to man’s basest instincts” and he stated that it left the average person feeling “soiled, depleted, and deeply ashamed for having enjoyed it.”

As a public duty, I’ve posted a video of Sutton playing that obscene video from Get Up, John. Remember,  you have to be 21 to enjoy!  Read the full stories on both and keep laughing!

More to come…

DJB

Catch Some Acoustic Music during May in Washington

Del McCoury BandThe Washington, DC area will be host to some terrific acoustic music acts during the month of May, ending with a stellar lineup at DelFest over the Memorial Day weekend.  With the coming of beautiful spring weather, this is a perfect time to hear some live music.

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of the Monday Night Concerts of the Institute of Musical Traditions.  The 2008-2009 season wraps up in May, but not before a May 4th concert in celebration of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday (I bet they’ll be some righteous sing-alongs) and the final DC-area concert of the Canadian band Tanglefoot on May 11th.   According to the IMT website, Tanglefoot is “Stan Rogers meets Van Halen.”

For some straight-ahead traditional bluegrass, check out the DC Bluegrass Union’s Spring Concert on May 9th with Dan Paisley & Southern Grass.

Bluegrass ExpressThen over the Memorial Day weekend, all bluegrass lovers in the Mid-Atlantic region will be heading to Cumberland, Maryland, for the second annual DelFest, hosted by the Del McCoury Band.  There’s a stellar line-up, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Leftover Salmon, Sam Bush, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Tim O’Brien, the Infamous Stringdusters, and Joe Craven.  If you really want to be authentic, take the Bluegrass Express train from DC to Cumberland for the festival!

Speaking of Tim O’Brien, he’ll be teaching masterclasses this summer at the DC Bluegrass Union Bluegrass & Old Time Camp, July 13-17th, in Westminster, Maryland.  O’Brien is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who can play any type of music and does it well.  Wish I could take a week off!

I love Del McCoury’s version of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightening, so I’ve added the video from a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.   Hope to see you around at some live music venues this month.

More to come…

DJB