Well hello there! It’s been a great month of touring and solo acoustic shows. About to head back to Athens tomorrow to start the southeastern portion of the tour (band shows on the weekends, mainly.. psyched to turn it up and rock!).
Many highlights. Both NYC shows, playing at The Living Room and for Brooklyn Songwriters Exchange, were a treat as far as sound, support, and fun times go. Gotta love New York. Opening for one man folk/punk act Hamell on Trial in Baltimore was cool. He puts on a wild show. Sharp wit, that one. Went to two awesome parties one weekend- a packed house party with friends and folks from all over the world and a kickin dj in DC, and my friend Ygal’s engagement party in NY. Persian-Jewish engagement party with the works. Like the coolest wedding ever, except it was the unparalleled party before the party. Had fun with the wild folks of Thomas, WV, plus hanging out with singer/songwriter Ashley Brooke Toussant and her crew in Ohio for two shows. And it was great getting back to Chicago for a quick visit. What a city! Drove up to Skokie to Ken’s Diner for possibly my favorite hamburger ever and also had Lou Malnati’s deep crust pizza in the city. Been great having a few days catching up on sleep and taking it easy in Bloomington.
A definite, major highlight was a late addition show in West Virginia, near Marlinton and Monongahela National Forest. Busted a tire on a mountain road, but made it to the show and was immediately thrust into a scene of wonderful people doing important community-based work and living healthy in the mountains. Talk and consumption of demolition derby, hot apple cider, brownies, hearty stew, West Virginia coal-mining history, shadow puppetry, accent-thick spoken English I could hardly understand, late night grilled cheese party, vinyl record listening, honey from a block of honeycomb, running on a water mill (dangerous), Pearl Buck’s birthplace and childhood home, and much more in the span of 18 hours. Left that area with inspiration for a future as-yet-unwritten album, but I know the stamp of the people and region will be on a song cycle down the line.
Watched the film Matewan last night, about the story of Bloody Mingo and the Matewan Massacre of 1920 in coal mining country, WV. Will Oldham plays the preachin’ son Daniel. Excellent film from the late 80s. The soundtrack was supposedly on Rounder Records but I couldn’t find it. By the way, have you visited the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label website? Spent some time on there recently. It’s a folklore treasure-trove, and despite all the talk about the questionable value of labels these days, I encourage you to head to www.folkways.si.edu and start exploring. Integrity abounds.
Well, goin backwards, but here’s the start of a blog post I didn’t revisit to finish from a few weeks back. Might as well throw it in here. Gives ya a quick word on the first few days of the tour..
“Hello from Amherst. Been a fine few days touring in New England. All the leaves will be gone in a few weeks or so, but for now the landscape is ablaze with the gorgeous colors of the fall- browns, yellows, light reds. Been a while since I’ve spent time driving around the region, and it’s been an enjoyable ride. Turns out there’s no microphone in New London, CT, so I basically busked in the coffeehouse to mark the first night of the tour. Things got better. Next night at Club Passim was excellent- wonderful venue and staff, and it was great seeing friends in the Boston area. Took a trip to an impressive animal hospital in Jamaica Plain with my friend Ellen and her ailing dog Zorba (he’s better). The hallways and atriums were named after pets and featured their photos on a plaque. The ‘Ollie’ Williams Internal Medicine Wing. The ‘Spot’ Jackson Atrium. Stuff like that.
Last night was a highlight at The Red Door in Portsmouth, NH. Fun crowd of locals hanging out on a Monday night. The night’s curator, Tristan, stood the excellent band (Englishman, from Lexington, KY- made me think of Midlake a bit. Great songs, voice, and harmonies) and I to some whiskey at The Press Room, where most of the crowd had meandered after the show. Stayed at Tristan’s cabin across the river in Kittering Point, Maine. Beautiful place. Drove out to a beach and skipped stones with Englishman for a bit this afternoon. Maine is top notch. Portsmouth is a really cool little town, too. Turns out it’s the 3rd oldest city in the states. Home of pirates and prostitutes a long time back. Not a Puritan town in its founding. Englishman found a graveyard with some neat inscriptions. One stone read something to the effect of ‘He faced the king of terrors with no fear’. King of Terrors. Doesn’t sound too Christian. Must’ve been an interesting place.”
Been enjoying some new music lately- Mark Knopfler (Get Lucky and Shangri La), Anais Mitchell’s folk-rock opera Hadestown, Neil Young’s new Daniel Lanois-produced record, Le Noise, and Justin Rutledge The Early Widows, Justin Townes Earle’s new one, The Tallest Man on Earth’s The Wild Hunt, and Dear Companion, the Jim James-produced record by Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore, a song cycle about the damaging nature of mountain-top removal coal mining. Those and more have been in rotation on the road.
Look forward to seeing y’all at the shows down south!