Below is the Winter 2007 Update email I just sent out to those on my email list. On my Myspace page they call things like this a "blog" - so I guess I can now add blogger to the many adjectival hats that I wear.
December greetings from Maryland.
About every nine months or so I email everybody on my list (which I've actually checked multiple times)
to say 'hey' and let you know what's happening here in Lake Orbegone.
The past couple months have been nicely busy. My last two DC-area shows (October's house concert in Takoma Park with John Seebach and the annual Thanksgiving show in Herndon with Jimmy Gaudreau) were both fully attended, fun evenings. And our fiddler friend Jon Glik - for whom October's show was a half benefit - received his much-needed liver transplant in mid November and is doing well.
Early November's Alabama trip was also fun, with the inaugural mandolin class at the new Alabama Folk School in Nauvoo and a return engagement in Huntsville for the folk society there.
I still enjoy teaching (both privately and in workshops). And if there's a trend in the past year, it's been towards more mandolin workshops. This summer I had the pleasure of teaching the intermediate mandolin class at Augusta's Bluegrass Week (which to my delight coincided with contradance week for the only time ever) as well a return to the the California Coast Music Camp deep in the redwoods (where I led my first week-long bluegrass band workshop in addition to a flatpicking class).
Below is my current schedule - which includes things in PA, NY, NJ, MD and FL in the next couple of months. (The current big endeavor is that I will be driving down to Florida and back in February - and I'm trying to arrange some shows and workshops en route. So if any of you in NC, GA, SC or FL might be interested in hosting a house concert or workshop please email me. Also: I expect to be in Atlanta the last weekend in February, and the local folk group there is looking for use of a house that can sit 30+ folks for a concert there.)
Though my intimate guitar recording project is lying fallow at the moment, the muse has recently called me to learn a rash of Celtic fiddle tunes. It began by hearing "Dick Gossip's" reel played by Steve Hickman at a contra dance about two months ago and has continued at a lovely cadence ever since. (I find myself particularly drawn to jigs lately, a la "Morrison's", "Geese in the Bog" and "Maggie Brown's Favorite".) I've also - having spontaneously tried a few in teaching situations with great success - started researching and playing rounds; if all goes well, in about three weeks I will be the world's foremost authority on rounds on the mandolin.
nb: my three extant CDs are all now available for downloading on iTunes and CD Baby et al.
Two brilliant documentaries:
Les Paul: Chasing Sound
No End In Sight (about Iraq)
One great biopic:
Ma Vie en Rose (about Edith Piaf):
When flying, forget about the $300 noise cancelling headphones - just use some decent earplugs. They kill the loud white noise and make longer air trips much less fatiguing.
EMAIL LIST ANN LANDERS
Surprisingly often people say to me "I know I haven't been to a show of yours in a while - but PLEASE keep me on your list". I'd like to set the record straight (as well do my bit for holiday season stress-reduction): unless you ask to be taken off the list (or are involved in a tragic romantic scenario with me) - you will be on the list Forever. That's my promise to you; I don't give up on people. (But do let me know if your email is changing.)
A BIT OF BLUEGRASS HISTORY
A number of beloved songs contain things which defy conventional logic. I always wondered, for example, why Mrs. Charlie - of "Charlie on the MTA" fame - would dutifully 'hand him a sandwich through the open window' each day instead of the 50 cents he needed to get off the train. (But then again I've never been married).
Well many years ago West Coast fiddler Jim Moss was on a business call with Bill Monroe's son James - while Bill was also in the office - when he decided to inquire about a vexing narrative element in "Footprints in the Snow", one of Bill's signature numbers:
Jim Moss: So, ah.. James... can you ask your father something for me?
James Monroe: What is it?
Jim Moss: Well, it is about the song Foot Prints In The Snow....
James Monroe: The boy on the phone wants to ask you something about
Foot Prints In The Snow.
Bill Monroe: What does he want?
Jim Moss: Ask him... (testing the waters) if in the song it is snowing?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know if it is snowing in the song..
Bill Monroe: Yes, it is snowing..
James Monroe: Yeah, it's snowing
Jim Moss: I thought so.. (that worked all right)
Jim Moss: Ok, ask him, does the girl gets lost out in the forest?
James Monroe: The boy from California wants to know if the girl gets lost out in the forest?
Bill Monroe: Tell him yes the girl is lost. (it sounds like Bill is reading or doing something else)
James Monroe: Yes the girl is lost.
Jim Moss: (also, now I am the boy from California!!, I wonder what the meaning of that is?)
Jim Moss: Ok, ask him if she dies in the snow.. When he finds her is she dead?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know if she dies in the snow?
Bill Monroe: ( pause.. ) Yes she dies out in the snow.
James Monroe: She dies in the snow.
Jim Moss: Well, now here is one last question, James: Why is it that he blesses that happy day when Nellie lost her way only to die in the show? Why is he happy that
she is dead?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know why is you are happy that she is dead?
Bill Monroe: (...real long pause....)
Bill Monroe: THOSE OLD SONGS.. WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY MEAN!
James Monroe: We have work to do here, is there anything else I can do for you?
Winter has finally arrived here in Maryland. (Having been lulled by the
weather's almost unremitting mildness in December and January, thoughts
of immunity from the bitter cold had naturally started to take root.)
As those of you who've been on my email list for a while know, I usually
just send regional emails, but about once a year, I like to send a global update. (It's good to keep the list current and also to see how many more folks have left AOL by now.)
As some of you know, I was under-the-weather with intestinal troubles for a good part of the spring and the summer; required surgery for same in September; and, following a successful recovery, started playing out again in November. (During the same few weeks in the early fall I also needed to replace my car and put my cat of 13 years to sleep; as I wrote in a note on my website, I felt as though I'd won the Entropy Trifecta.)
Am feeling quite well. And glad to be doing what I love again full-time.
Recent fun shows included a New Year's Eve gig in Morristown with my NYC trio and last month's duo set at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.
30th ANNIVERSARY: 1977-2007
Last week I was scanning a local cajun/zydeco dance calendar and noticed a listing for a March Beausoleil show that said "30th Anniversary Tour" - and thought, hmm, let's do a little math here - and - crikey! - 2007 is my 30th Anniversary as well.
To wit, it was in February of 1977 that I (along with then duo partner Gary Mehalick) started performing full time, up in the Boston area.
In 1979, in the liner notes to our first recording, I wrote: "We are thankful that we've been able to support ourselves playing this largely non-commercial music that we love; we'll probably continue being fieldhands in the garden of the American musical tradition for some time."
Eight weeks ago Dan Miller (editor of Flatpicking Guitar magazine and producer of my instructional recordings), posted a 6-minute excerpt of "Whiskey Before Breakfast" from my Flatpicking Primer DVD - and it's been viewed over 6000 times already ('crikey' take two.) So the other day, following a recording session for my still-in-process new CD, John Seebach and I videoed a couple of the tunes we've been recording for YouTube as well: http://tinyurl.com/2r7eh5
My '30th Anniversary Tour' kicks off in March with my first visit to Reno, Nevada, followed by a week in northern California (one of my favorite parts of the country to play in). And in April I'll be returning to my old NYC stomping ground for a show with my northern trio, the Sultans of String, as well as a Mandolin Workshop Day in Manhattan.
I continue to enjoy teaching almost as much as performing. This year has seen the mandolin side of my instructional endeavors expand. I taught a week-long post-beginner mandolin class at Common Ground in Maryland last July, and just recently completed a series of four monthly Saturday afternoon workshops here at my house. It's fun teaching some new material, and I look forward to taking a couple of the new workshops on the road with me next month.
(It also helps that the mandolin community is perhaps the most coherent of all the instrument communities at this point in time, thanks largely to the extra- ordinary mandolincafe.com website).
I will be teaching at two excellent music weeks this summer: the California Coast Music Camp (bluegrass band and advanced flatpicking) in the majestic redwoods, and at Bluegrass Week at Augusta (intermediate mandolin) in Elkins, West Virginia.
(Dance Week runs concurrently with Bluegrass Week this year, so there will be some serous contradance talent afoot that week as well.)
--a new "My Instruments" page, with photos and details about the instruments
--updated and revamped "Audio Downloads" and "Links" pages.
1. Cold Weather/Energy-saving Tip
I keep the heat down in my bedroom - and a blow dryer at the head of my bed. A quick blast by the dryer makes the bed most inviting (and doing it as you're getting in works well).
2. Web-Induced Mail-Order Caution
We live in a strange world. Every day I get phishing emails from people trying to steal my PayPay or ebay info. I don't know why it's possible for them to function so freely. Another tawdry area of human activity is mail-order.
If you're looking for a good price on anything online (as I was recently) the first Google hits you get are price comparison sites like NexTag.com. And you usually see some impressive prices, from all sorts of legit-looking and -sounding vendors. BUT when you actually read the feedback for those vendors you find that most of them are trouble. For instance,I just re-checked NexTag for LCD TV's and found a "Trusted Vendor" with a four-star "Seller Rating" called PC Nation. But the review page informs us that out of 252 reviews, 61 were negative. So read the not-so-fine print before you order anything.
3. Something Fun
If you're a fan of (or even just familiar with) Ken Burn's documentaries, then you will likely appreciate the Old Negro Space Program - "A film not by Ken Burns."
Stay warm. And we hope to see you again before long.