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Past, Present , and Future not necessarily in that order

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

WHAT WILL BE
This week we head to SERFA. For the unindoctrinated that is the Southeast Reagional Folk Alliance Conference. It is a three-day gathering of musicians, DJs, concert presenters and other folks in the music business. The idea is that we get some business done – learn from each other, discover new music, maybe even book some shows. All of that happens. But it is not the reason that people attend these conferences. The true reason is that like each other’s company, particularly in a setting where we are not distracted by other people, places, or things that don’t relate to our musical lives. It is an amazingly fun weekend which always builds strong bonds between the people that participate. Oh, and the sleep deprivation makes it really funny. Here are a few quotes from previous conferences:
“I can’t operate the milk” (Christine)
“Can I touch your monkey?” (MaryBeth Zamer of the Twangtown Paramours to Aidan)
“Gordon, don’t let the chicken bite the pig” (Christine)
“Things don’t just happen by accident, not good things anyway” ( Mark Dann our fearless recording engineer)

We leave for Switzerland right after the conference. Updates and pictures from both adventures next month. And maybe some swiss chocolate if you are nearby.

WHAT WAS
We were in Texas last month. It was our first real trip to Texas and it was fantastic. We have been to Kerrville before, but the Kerrville Folk Festival is like its own nation, so it doesn’t count as Texas. We did some shows with Karyn Oliver and Rob Lytle. We call ourselves (and a rotating group of others) The Elevens a nod to our musical meeting at Kerrville in 2011. FYI Karyn has a new cd out. She played some of the songs in Texas and they are fantastic. www.karynoliver.com

The people in Texas were incredibly nice. Brian Kallinec hosted us in Houston. Brian and his wife Pam opened lots of wine and served lots of cheese and we got to hang out with the nicest folks. Went to the art car museum, it was awesome. Click on the art car tab at www.artcarmuseum.com. In Austin Matt and Tonya Hiland were kind enough to put us up and put up with us. We had gluten free pancakes for breakfast. My first taste of gluten free stuff. Amazing! And in Arlington we were welcomed by Karen and Craig. They had a lot going on last month, but they still made us feel at home and very well cared for. Aidan will not stop talking about the homemade muffins. I am going to have to get recipes. WE had kolaches in West, TX and arrived home to hear about the accident there. Surreal. Not sure why all I mentioned is food, but sometimes that’s how we remember a trip.

WHAT IS
Right now, our friend Leni Engels has a very new book called the Book of Mom. She is a nurse, mother, and music fan. She put all of that into this guide for new mothers. Including lyrics from a bunch of songs from great artists, and our First Two Wheeler. While we are away, go take a look at www.thebokofmom.com There will be a quiz next month (okay not really, but you should check out the book ).

Have a wonderful Memorial Day.
New CD will be available when we get back next month!!
We are heading to northern California for a few shows in June.

The Glamorous Life of a Folk Star

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Ever wonder what it’s like to be on the road as a traveling musician? It is a fantastic affair, one glamorous adventure after another. This week we have travelled from South Carolina to Florida for the purpose of playing music for Floridians. But when not on stage, the high life continues.

We drove seven hours, most of it in the rain, and fell asleep exhausted. But when we awoke we were rewarded with a superb sunny day in North Florida. Went for a nice walk and finished the drive, spent a little time by the bay before our first show.

Day two was an easy drive and a great show. We spent the evening with Alice, a great hostess who has lived an interesting life and shared stories about her travels. The next day we had lunch with old friends. They are also musicians, but play a different style from us. Nice to hear about their music trials and triumphs.

A visit to a historic site, a hike along a river bank, and dinner under the stars. Yes, a charmed life we lead! I had a difficult day concentrating since I knew Marshal Rosenburg was recording percussion for our new CD. I wanted to be there, but I wanted to be here. I paid bills and answered emails while sitting outside at a picnic table. A caterpillar fell on my head. Screams ensued. Glamorous indeed.

Did a little SERFA business. Did a little work on the Texas weekend of shows coming up in April. Listened to new CD mixes sent by Mark Dann. They are sounding good! But working on these songs remotely is a challenge.

For those of you keeping score on last week’s post, snacks eaten: many, band aids used:2, extension cords used:2 (he really is never wrong), flashlight used:once, gratuitously (maybe he is a little wrong once in a while). Yes, I used office supplies.

We are playing a show this evening, and tomorrow I begin work on the CD artwork, outside under the oak hammock. I guess it is a glamorous life.

Travel Rituals

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

I am packing to head to Florida for a few weeks, and I can’t wait. We have been homw for five weeks, our longest stretch in Greenville. I think I could be on the road full time with no home base. I know Aidan would hate that. We both love to travel, but he likes having a home base and getting in a few projects around the house.
Long before we were musicians we did a lot of traveling. These days, traveling in our camper van, it’s not really like leaving home. Still, I notice that some things about travel never change with us. We have rituals, do you?
I like to clean the house before we leave; do all the laundry; put clean sheets on the bed; put out fresh towels. Sometimes a traveling troubador comes by our place while we are gone, so it’s good to have a clean house. But really, I have always done this. I trim my bangs. I pack snacks as if we will never find a store. I pack bandaids and antiseptic as if we will never find a store. Hey. I get hungry, and I get cuts and scrapes. We usually go through all the snacks and most of the bandaids.
Aidan likes to make a list of things to pack or things to do and check off those things as he goes. He backs up his computer. He brings extra extension cords (?) and extra flashlights. He says he likes to be prepared. But I know that this is not entirely true because he lets me arrange our travel plans.
When we first traveled together for vacation I would make the plans. To me a plan is a flight out and a flight back. Done. After all, I have snacks and bandaids – I am ready for anything. Aidan likes hotel reservations, transportation, maps, ideas of places to see. We have arrived at a state of compromise. We have some reservations, some plans, and some times when we will be tumbleweeds. We will have plenty of snacks, and bandaids, and extension cords and flashlights.
How do you like to travel? Do you have any rituals?

Hope we see you somewhere down the road!

Amazing Guest List

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We are lucky to have very talented friends. And we are very lucky that those talented friends are also very generous. We asked some folks to play on the upcoming CD… and they said yes! Our philosophy about having folks play on our songs is simple: ask folks that we love and let them do their thing.
First up, Tom Prasada-Rao. Tom is an interesting guy. He is a fanastic songwriter and plays a million instruments. He produces some of the songs on the album and he adds guitar, keyboard, created some percussion loops. We give Tom a lot of room to suggest ideas, and he does. But he always puts the song first. Never suggests anything because it suites him better, never tries to take the spotlight (which he could do very easily!!). He really gives the songs a lot of breadth and variety.
A funny thing happened while we wer at Tom’s studio. Neale Eckstein phoned and said that he wanted Tim Burlingame to play on a song we recorded with Neale. We trust Neale’s judgement, but we had never heard of this guy. He is with a duo called Sweet Talk Radio. Coincidentally our freind Rob Mattson was hosting them at a house concert. Rob has good taste. We asked Tom and his wife Cary if they new Sweet Talk Radio. Second coincidence, they are singing harmony on Cary’s new CD. Trusting our friends, Tim now appears on one of our songs plaing guitar and banjo. You have to know that banjo was not our idea. But it works.
Pat Wictor played on “Desdemona Weeps” on the last CD. We knew we wanted him on this one as well and we sent him two songs. Neither of us thought about what he would play. We just knew it would be good, and it is. Deni Bonet is a violin/viola/guitar/ukelele player, songwriter, fun performer. Deni didn’t just play violin on a song, she gave us three distinct parts that each stand alone or could be used together. I can’t even think in those terms. Marshal Rosenburg, who plays with the Buskin and Batteau Trio, will be adding percussion any day now. I can’t wait to hear it.
There are risk. We ask folks to play and we are not even in the room when they do. The results could be something we don’t like. But that never happened. And of course there is the risk that you ask amazingly talented folks to play on your song and they are so good they overshadow you. Surprisingly, that never happened. They just make the music better. These folks didn’t just play, apply their craft to a song. They really gave their creativity and their unique talents. It is unbelievably generous and I hope the end result is worthy of them.

Folkies are good folks

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The folk community never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps there is something in the character of people who are interested in lyrics and stories that also makes them likely to care about people.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we would be touring in Florida and were still looking for some dates. An old friend, who we hadn’t been in touch with for a while, offered up her home for a house concert. She doesn’t host concerts. Just this once. Just to help us out. Two other friends, both of whom we know only through music, offered us a place to stay while we are touring. Just to help us save a little money. Just to help us out. On New Year’s Eve we were out with friends and some folks we had just met asked where we perform locally. We don’t. So our friends says “play at my house”. We arranged a date. She doesn’t host house concerts. (Well, she has done one other – Cosy Sheridan, so we are in great company). Just helping us out.

I have played music for a while, met a lot of people. Nice people. But not this nice. I have worked a lot of jobs with nice people. But not this nice. This community welcomed us, nurtured us, and continues to support us in ways I could never have imagined.

Though we can never say thank you enough, THANK YOU.

From Book To Song

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

So how does a book lead to a song? Here’s the short version of how a few of the books inspired us. These books led us down a curvy path, with a few detours, but each led us to a song.

Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle
I chose this book after the possible discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012 and started reading it in September. I was reminded that the Higgs field was theorized in 1964. So for 48 years physicists have been in search of this one particle that justifies the theory. Bazillions of dollars and hours and brain cells expended. And they feel like it’s important work and worth the effort. No one has characterized these Nobel Prize winners as obsessed. I have been looking for the perfect black boots for a few years. They would justify my theory that the right boots could explain many of my questionable fashion choices. Similarly, I bet there are some folks out there who believe there is a perfect pair of jeans out in the universe. I haven’t spent nearly as much money, time or brain cells on it, yet I feel it is important work.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
This book was given to us by Aidan’s friend Joe. I read it while on tour and then took the first, long driving shift. I write a lot while driving. It was election season. Everyone seemed to have a strong opinion and an even stronger desire to express that opinion. The book made we wonder if, despite all our interest and opinions, any of us has any idea of what happens in the capitol, or why. Do we really understand the side-deals, the motivation, the long view? And do we really care? Do we care enough to research, speak-up, follow along for years? Or do we just loudly opine once every few years. And I was driving.

Reading Lolita in Tehran
I wanted to re-read this following the Arab Spring events. I was very drawn to the idea of women actively fighting for their own destiny. The book is not about women leading a loud, public protest. It’s about small, quiet, personal revolutions and how they can lead to bigger things. While I was reading, Aidan said we needed to write another song with Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus in mind. That was the perfect fit.

Hope you enjoyed these little back stories. Maybe I will share a few more. And I hope that whatever you are reading takes you on an inspiring journey.

The Books!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

As promised, here is the list of books which inspired the new CD. They are in no particular order:

The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway, The Penguin Group 2008

The Worst Hard Time – Timothy Egan, Houghton Mifflin 2006

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls, Scribner 2005

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi, Random House 2003

Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle – Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press 2012

A Walk In The Woods – Bill Bryson, Random House 1998

Three Cups Of Tea – Greg Mortenson and Oliver Relin, Viking Penguin 2006

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith, Grand Central Publishing 2010

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak, Alfred A Knopf 2005

The Voyage Of The Beagle – Charles Darwin, Collier and Son 1909

I was surprised that many of the books we read inspired no song although they were wonderful books. There were books that yielded great discussion, books that inspired one of us, books that took each of us in different directions. But these were the first ten that inspired our creativity in such a way that we were able to write one song, together. The process was interesting. It was odd. My favorite moments were when Aidan would come up with a musical phrase mid-read. Seriously he would set the book down, pick up the guitar and play. Three Cups of Tea and Voyage Of The Beagle were two moments that I remember, and I really understood what he was expressing.

Sometimes I would finish a book and ponder it for a while until I was quite sure about what I would write, as with The Cellist of Sarajevo and Reading Lolita in Tehran. Sometimes a book would take me in a completely unexpected direction as with Higgs and Abraham Lincon Vampire Hunter. We re-read A Walk In the Woods specifically for inspiration on a particular song. Its a funny book, and we thought funny would be a good approach to this topic. But it did not yield funny.

All in, a great experience. I highly recommend each of these books or really any that appeal to you. Spend a few quite hours and see where they take you. One final note, many of the books were recommended or lent to us by friends. A couple by strangers. Read a good book lately? Share, pass along, swap, recommend. I think it would be fun if you each brought a book you are finished with to our shows. We can all have a book exchange between sets.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Hello and Happy New Year
We hope you had a great holiday season and are enjoying the begining of a brand new adventure.

2012 was pretty amazing. I have to admit it didn’t seem like it while it was whizzing by. But, looking back across the past twelve months all at once a little overwhelming.

We got in a bit of foreign travel, visiting South Africa, Spain, and Italy. They were all beautiful places, each unique in scenery, food, culture and people. And they were each unique in the travel experience. Cape Town South Africa was a place of contrasts – the ruggedness and beauty of its landscape, the struggle and generousness of its people. Barcelona Spain is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen and I rekindled my love of classical music there. The Veneto region of Italy was a collection of tiny towns that each had its own story to tell… and part of the story is told in food and wine! We won’t be able to do as much this year, but I am sure we will get in a couple of trips!

There was a lot of family news… two weddings, a new baby girl, a teenager!, job changes, a doctor in the family!, and lots of visits. Aidan and Siobhan dove with the whale sharks.

Musically we had a very fulfilling year. We played some house concerts that were new to us… Alice in Florida, Amy in New Jersey, Bruce & Sue and Ihor & Marisha in New York, and Barry in Massachusetts all welcomed us into their homes. What were they thinking! Those were our favorite shows of the year since we love the opportunity to spend time getting to know folks after we play. We used our music to build some awareness and raise a little money for a couple of non-profits. This year we will get better at that and make the events even more worthwhile. We re-connected with The Elevens – a group of our fellow Kerrville NewFolk 2011 alumni. Had so much fun sitting around and playing with them that we have decided to try and put some shows together this year. Thinking about having a gaggle of musicians at your place??

And we accidently started to record a new CD. I blame (and thank) Neale Eckstein for tricking us into it. We did a song with him and then ran into Tom Prasada-Rao who helped us immensly in puting together the last CD. He had free time when we had free time so… Finally we spent part of the holidays with Mark Dann who lives near my Mom. Did some recording with him on the night the world was supposed to end. Since it didn’t end, we finished up the rest of the songs.

Each of the songs is inspired by a book. It has been a really fun project. For me. Like the last project, it was my idea and I cajoled Aidan into it and tortured him with it a bit. I will be sharing some of the stories about how each song evolved and will post the list of books son. New CD in March !!! We will be doing a CD release here in Greenville, and then hitting the road. We want to be everywhere, so please let us know if you want to host a house concert, or suggest a place. We would also love to play at libraries, book stores, book club gathering, anything book or reading related.

This month we are staying home and taking care of the non-music side of the CD. Not my favorite thing. So next month we will load up Beethoven and head to Florida. Hope to see some Florida friends and snowbirds down there.

Hope this new year works out great for you. Since we get to share a little bit of it with you, we know we will have a great one!

Post storm musings

Monday, November 5th, 2012

How did this happen? It’s November!
I know, I do this all the time, but seriously I have no idea how time gets away from me. A day or two passes, then it’s a week and then… So happy Columbus day, and Halloween and good riddance to Sandy. Hope you all are okay after the storm and that damage to your homes and communities are minor.
Our show in Brooklyn this Saturday was cancelled. We are sad to miss the chance to play with the amazing Suzie Vinnick. You would love her. Have a listen online if you are not familiar with her yet. That is the extent of Sandy’s impact on us. Wow, are we lucky! I recall the days of coming home to a tree on our roof and no power or water. At least it wasn’t cold. But I also remember sharing pulled together meals with neighbors and taking our guitars to the street to entertain folks and give them a reason to gather with each other. Those were really great days, so I encourage you to try and find the good in the hardship, embrace the folks around you, build community.
So this is what’s been going on with us; we did a northeast tour in September, met really wonderful people, ate a giant birthday macaroon made by my niece for my sister, saw a 1500 pound pumpkin, missed the pumpkin boat races, wrote a song at 1:00 am in an empty parking lot, went to Texas for a music conference and reconnected with “the elevens”, played our first show in our town, played a benefit and helped make some dough for a great non-profit called Dog Repair, met up with friends from Tokyo and Athens who were visiting the US, re-learned the art of bread baking.
Oh, and we started recording a new CD. It will be out in April.
Next week we head to upstate New York to a music conference. It is a good place to network, learn more about our business and our craft, be heard by folk enthusiasts, and hear great music. But it is also a great place to meet old friend, make new ones, and really bond with this community of vagabond players and amazing supporters. We are hosting a couple of music showcases on featuring all duos and one featuring other folks from the south. It’s nice to be able to introduce people we love to others and return the favor that so many people gave to us.
For the first time in many years I will not celebrate my birthday by eating my way through NYC. I will be home and I am not sure I am happy about that, but at least my clothes will still fit. We plan on hanging around Greenville through the end of the year.
In February we are going to Florida. I still need to fill in a lot of dates for this tour. You’d think that it would be easy since we used to live there. Nope. If you have any ideas or if you are interested in hosting a house concert ideas please let me know.
After the new CD is out, we will be touring like…. hmmm, I don’t have a metaphor or simile for that. We will be touring a lot; East Coast and Texas. Again, if you have ideas and suggestions (or the aforementioned metaphors and similes) I would be grateful.
I will be back in touch soon (well, I have good intentions) and will let you know about the progress of the new recording and fill you in more about those “elevens” that I mentioned.
I miss you guys!

The story of a traveling potato.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I try to have a theme to these rambling writings. Gathering my thoughts, I wondered how I might tie together adventures in Cape Town and a game reserve in South Africa with a music and vacation trip to Georgia. Surprisingly the thing that unifies these experiences is the fact that I am lazy and unproductive.

City of Contrasts
We have had an exciting couple of months. You know we went to South Africa and I promised some pictures and stories. Cape Town is beautiful and rugged, developed and wild, breathtaking and heartbreaking. We hit a lot of the tourist list things… saw penguins on the beach, cape of good hope, table mountain, botanical gardens, national gallery, Robben Island, and a game reserve. We also did a few things off the tourist map; went to some of the townships, the District Six museum, played a gig. I thought I knew a bit about the history of South Africa, but visiting these sights made me feel incredible naïve and uniformed. Like the other contrasts that make up Cape Town, the evil genius of the architects of apartheid and the prevailing strength of the people of South Africa make the place amazing. If you want to know more just ask me, I would love to share a couple of stories.

The conditions in some of the townships were shocking to my western eyes; millions of people, families, in tin shacks without plumbing in communities with epidemic aids and tuberculosis rates. But the people were extremely friendly and open willing to share their experience. There are grass roots community programs that are significantly affecting the spread of aids. Folks are committed to education and overflowing with creativity. So many people with next to nothing were so willing to share with people who actually have nothing. I used to think I was community oriented, active and involved. I am a potato.

Wild Things
We went to the Aquila Game Reserve. An aquila is an endangered black eagle. We saw two. It was pretty luxurious place to stay. We took two jeep rides out into the reserve lands and saw a ton of animals – spring boks, james boks, eland, zebra, elephants, rhinos, hippos, ostriches, lions. We were charged by a water buffalo, they pack a punch. We saw a couple of lions having scuffle – loud and rough. We saw a couple of different lions mating – neither loud nor rough, and surprisingly fast. We saw a rhino peeing – a lot. There are also some animals in pens. It was odd and sad to see this after seeing their cousins out in the open. These leopards and lions had been rescued from farmlands and other spaces where they would be killed. We also saw baboons… not at the game reserve, just out on the highway.

Tamer Things
Back on familiar turf we played a wonderful show for GoOutdoorsUSA.org and got to meet their tireless volunteers and hear about the good work that they are doing. We used to live in north Georgia, so we really appreciate their dedication to keeping the area beautiful and wild. I have never actually helped with any of the physical work… as you already know, I am a potato. There will be another event with them in the summer that will give you the chance to roll up your sleeves and pitch in plus enjoy some music. I got a big surprise when my cousin Tony and his wife Maureen showed up. They live several hours away but just happened to be in the area! Aidan’s sister Siobhan was also in town so it was a bit of a family affair. We would have asked Siobhan to sing, although I know it would make my voice seem tiny and insignificant, but she had a bit of a sore throat.
The next day Aidan and Siobhan went scuba diving with the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. There were manta rays, saw fish and black tipped sharks in the tank as well. I took pictures. (because I am a potato).
I spent the following day with Siobhan at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Neither of us had ever been there Jimmy Carter’s story is both interesting and inspiring. I never knew he gave up a coveted naval career working with nuclear submarines to return to Plains GA because he felt he could do more good for people. I didn’t know he got into politics only because he felt the local election process was corrupt. I didn’t know half of the work he’d done around the world since leaving the white house, such a rich life, with so much contribution to the world. It made me feel like such a…. well, you know.