Folkies are good folks

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

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!

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

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

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.

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.

The Fantastic Florida Tour

February 16th, 2012

It’s been ten days since we got back from Florida. I should have posted some travelogue by now, but I have excuses.
1) I had a lot of unpacking and laundry
2) I injured my shoulder doing all that unpacking and laundry
Nothing serious, but I could barely move my arm for a couple of days and I could not even lift a cup of coffee (that part is serious). My sister, who lives 1000 miles away from me, hurt her shoulder on the same day,
And so, without further ado, Florida.
Yes, we played shows. Audiences and hosts were fabulous. We shared a show with The YaYas which was incredibly fun. I really thought we would have to separate Jay and Aidan. We did a couple radio shows On WMNF with Jeannie Holton and on WLRN with Michael Stock. Perhaps our appearance on the television program Studio 10 confirms that we are now folk stars. But you don’t care about any of that do you? the real story is all about the odd places we visited and the interesting people we met.
Let’s start with the folks we met on TV. They signed me up to be a potential bone marrow donor. There was a spunky young woman who had received chemo therapy which cured one illness and gave her another! Yikes. A bone marrow transplant saved her life. The donor was not a family member, not a friend or a friend of a friend. It was a total stranger and an unlikely match. Her story was pretty moving and I agreed to be on the bone marrow registry. All it took was a short form and a quick swab. Done. Want to learn more? www.BeTheMatch.org
We also met a park ranger pilot, a rock star, and a friend of lions, tiger and bears. Oh my.
Tom is a pilot for the National Park Service. Maybe that doesn’t sound that impressive to you. Did you know there is only a handful in the country? I didn’t know that. He just bought a uke, and he had a bottle of Malbec so we had a lot of common ground. Then we met the lead singer and songwriter from from The Shaprells. What? You never heard of them? Google it. When his wife heard we were musicians she told us the he was a singer. He never mentioned it. Then they came over to our campsite for a visit and she played us a few of his songs. He didn’t know she had them on her i-pod. I was busy getting my kind and supportive face on, but no need, The Shaprells rock! They were psychedelic rock just before it became popular, signed to Chess Records and pretty big in the midwest. And finally we met Andi at the Canoe Outpost. She is fun and energetic, drives a golf cart like she stole it, and volunteers at a wild animal refuge. She took us to see the lions, tigers, bears, lemurs, wolves and more at Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary. Some animals come from places can’t keep them anymore. Some are rescued from places that should not be allowed to have animals. We met an adult lion that had never had its paws on the ground before arriving at Elmira. www.elmiraswildlife.org

And as long as we are on the subject of animals, we had an armadillo at one of our campsites for a day, saw wild pigs, gators, and porpoises, and encountered buzzards which we were warned might try to eat our windshield wipers.
And of course we saw a couple of wacky places. Solomon’s Castle clad in tin from an old news press… you can still read some of the articles.

An odd statue of Beethoven compelled us to take a photo with our own Beethoven. I say its odd because it is in front of a housing community (I think) which is shaped a bit like pyramids. And there is a little sphinx in front of the Beethoven statue. You can’t make this stuff up.

We are off to Cape Town. Pictures and news when we return.

Winning Through Procrastination

December 29th, 2011

Its an unlikely title. Surely it makes you wonder if I will actually finish this installment.
Hi, I am Christine and I am a procrastinator. I am a great planner and a great starter. However, I finsh most things at the last minute fueled by panic and desperation. This week my procrastination was rewarded.

During the holidays, we usually give something to the folks that collect our trash, deliver packages and mail, etc. That’s one of my holiday responsibilities. I had a list, I had plans. On December 28 I had not done anything. DEcember 29 I finally got around to it. Today the trash collectors came by. I happend to be out back not terribly far from our bins. They guys seemed surprised, probably assumed I had forgotten them this year. I got a smile, a big wave, and… a little happy dance. Made my day. There were smiley faces on my mail! Score one for procrastinators everywhere.

I realized that this year has given me a lot of rewards for my lack of timely initiative. Last year’s January tour was pretty light, becasue I didn’t start booking early enough. So we ended up sharing a lot of shows. They were the best shows ever. In the summer I didn’t plan ahead enough to get ready for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. So our friend John brought us a tent. And set it up for us. In the fall I neglected to make travel arrangements around the Cyclades and settled for staying on one island for a week. Turns out there was a ferry strike, plans would have been ruined we would have been disappointed. But no.. since we had no plans everything was fine.

My procrastination extends into the songwriting as well. I am nearly in a panic about the next cd project. But we were recently asked by a friend to write a song for his organization Go Outdoors USA. He asked that we use a phrase that I had shared with him months earlier along with my enthusiastic plans to use that phrase in a song “really soon”. I never used that phrase and so it was still around, waiting to be written. And now it is in a brand new song that will serve a purpose.

Go ahead. Procrastinate. Or maybe procrastiate tomorrow. You just might get a happy dance, kindness from folkies, a relaxing vacation, and a new song.

Happy New Year.

Ten Last Minute Holiday Gifts For The Musicians In Your Life.

December 22nd, 2011

Throughout the year may of you have come to see us at shows, opened your homes to us, fed us, and been unbelieveably supportive of the creative path we have chosen. Thank You!! We can’t imagine a better gift.

But if you have other musicians in your life and you need one more hannuka gift, a stocking stuffer, or a table present, we have some thoughts. What’s a table present? This is one of Aidan’s family traditions. Everyone gets one last small gift on the the dinner table to be opend at the end of dinner. I’m guessing it was designed as a way to get the kids to behave through dinner. But its a fun tradition that we carry on.

So, here are ten affordable, easy to find gift ideas.

For the health and well being of a musician you love:
1) Infinity Bands – they are how I stay in shape on the road, small, light weight, easy to use.
2) Water bottle with built-in water filter, its a lifesaver.

For a little inspiration that may lead to a new song you love:
3) A volume of your favorite poetry. The language and the phrasing provide a lot of inspiration.
4) Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo. Interesting interviews by some great songwriters on their process, method, influence, etc.
5) A blank book and a nice pen. I know many folks work on a computer, but there is something special about the act of putting pen to paper.

To keep your favorite musician safe on the road:
6) A Flashlight. Comes in handy way more often than you’d think.
7) Tire Pressure Gauge. Obviously Aidan’s suggestion. It will help accidents (he says) and improve fuel economy.

A few tools of the trade to help your musican shine.
8) Capos. This is also Aidan’s idea. He can never have enough, full, short cut… different colors.
9) Strings. Also Aidan’s idea and I am pretty sure there are some tape wound accoustic bass strings under my tree right now.

Something that costs absolutely nothing but means a lot to your favorite musician:
10) Send out a short email to a few friends with a link to your musician’s web page or facebook music page.

Happy Holidays! We love you and we hope we will see you soon.

A Surprising Holiday Gift

December 15th, 2011

I gave myself the gift of “no pressure to write songs”. Although Aidan and I try to always be writing, I thought that since we would be busy doing holiday stuff we should not really worry about writing songs this month. Not that he worries. I worry. I obssess. When we finish a song I am usually convinced that it is the last song I will ever write.
So this month, I have made cookies, hung lights, drawn and mailed cards, shopped, wrapped and decorated. And I was given the gift of a song.
I should explain that we have been working on a project that will result in a new CD. It is more specific and focused writing than we have done in a while. It has been more difficult than expected. I know that my brain has been slowly meditating on the ideas but I was not “working” on a song. And then Aidan played some notes, and I sang some words. Suddenly there was a song. I cleary see where the song came from. I understand the inspiration, and the path from inspiration to song. But I had never given this any active thought.

Hope you find some magic this holiday season.