Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 28, 2016
BLUEGRASS MUSIC IS HUGE in Middle America! Many who follow this blog already know that, or you wouldn't be reading this. Bluegrass is seriously huge in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and all other Southern states. We love it! We follow it on radio (AM, FM, and Siruus) and CD, festivals and shows, and even at spontaneous jams. When a fan knows just where to look, bluegrass music is there and players and fans are having a grand old time!
       Such was the case on Monday night, November 28, 2016, when Bluegrass Monday rolled around at the Collins Theatre in Paragould, AR. The event is a 4th Monday tradition except during December. Just too much going on during the Christmas season. KASU-FM 91.9 on the campus of Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas, along with eight other local sponsors, hosted the Bluegrass Martins from Jefferson City, Missouri, for an early-Christmas concert. KASU-FM 91.9 Program Director, Marty Scarbrough, conducted introductions and the passing of the Cat-in-the-Hat hat for voluntary audience donations of at least five dollars each, all of which goes toward paying the band's expenses.
Marty Scarbrough with the
Cat-in-the-Hat hat
       The Bluegrass Martins are a family band of six siblings who sing and play the complete variety of bluegrass music instruments: Dobro(r), banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. The folks in the band are loaded with instrumental and vocal talent. They have the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) Midwest awards to back up their credentials.
L to R: Larita, Janice, Jeana,
Dale, Lee, Anne (in back)
Anne clogging, Janice, Jeana, Dale
Larita (in back)
  Dale Martin is the older son. He sings and plays guitar. Janice Martin sings and plays banjo. Jeana Martin-Faris sings and plays fiddle. Jeana is married to Eddie Faris of the Faris Family Bluegrass Band. Larita Martin plays Dobro (r). The younger son is Lee Martin, a singer and showman who plays a hot mandolin. The youngest daughter is Anne Martin, and she clogs and plays upright bass and fiddle. The band has great harmony vocals, and their instrumentation is spot-on!
       Hitting the highlights of the Bluegrass Martins' program, we will share their song selection before storms and power outages move through the Mid-South for the second day in a row:
       Joy to the World; Christmas Day at My House; Thistlehair, the Christmas Bear; Christmas Reunion; Avalina; Papa Played the Dobro(r); In the Sweet By and By; Jingle Bells; That's How Much I Love You; Oh, Christmas Candle; Bah Humbug; 'Til These Dreams Come True; Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Fireball Mail; Who Do You Think; Two-Steppin' Around the Christmas Tree; Goodbye, Little Darlin'; Orange Blossom Special; and the encore was a fine rendition of Train 45!
       The microphone settings made it a bit tough to hear words and song titles, but we think we got most of what was sung and said. This is a very talented group of young people who have been performing for at least 15 years. They play all over the United States and they know their stuff when it comes to bluegrass music. Visit their website for CDs, other merch, and tour dates.
       We would be remiss if we failed to mention Terry's Café, which is just down the block (201 South Pruett Street) from the Collins Theatre at 120 West Emerson Street. The café stays open from 4:30 PM until about 6:45 PM on Bluegrass Monday evenings to feed bluegrass fans before the show. The delicious catfish buffet, with tasty vegetables and desserts, is a treat for any hungry bluegrass musician or fan!
For more information:
The Bluegrass Martins  www.bluegrassmartins.com
KASU-FM 91.9 Public Radio  www.kasu.org  or  mscarbro@astate.edu
*Coming up at the Collins Theatre:  Monroe Crossing, January 23, 2017
*Coming up at the Fowler Center, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro:  Dailey & Vincent, April 1, 2017 -- No foolin'! (Tickets on sale now at ASU Central Box Office or Ticketmaster
Happy Holidays!
Pick away!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NOVEMBER 24, 2016
       MOUNTAIN VIEW, ARKANSAS, IS SPECIAL at just about any time of year. At festival and holiday time, she really shows off! If you have been there for Bean Fest or the Mountain View Bluegrass Festivals, then you know what it means for the little mountain town to strut her stuff, whether it is the beauty of springtime or Mother Nature's blazing fall colors.
       Thanksgiving in Mountain View means that the Ozark Folk Center throws a giant-size dinner with all the trimmings. Every meat, vegetable, salad, and bread you could imagine! The desserts come in countless flavors and unending supply. The Skillet Restaurant is totally prepared for the hungry travelers, and it fills quickly. The waiting crowd spreads to the outdoors, where even more people listen for their names to be called to come in and be seated. Somehow it all works and eventually everyone is seated and served. It's all buffet-style, and the efficient waitresses serve the guest's requested beverage. The Skillet handles the process in two four-hour seatings that are about thirty minutes apart. One could eat early or later in the day.
       Following a huge and satisfying meal, families can tour the arts and crafts areas at the Folk Center or take a walk around the downtown area to let the meal settle a bit. Christmas lights are up around the charming little square in town. It's a 'Norman Rockwell' kind of a place and time. When the last hungry guests are served their meals, the Folk Center has a lovely evening concert in the White Oak Theater just across the driveway from the Skillet.
       It has become a wonderful tradition for the manager of the White Oak Theater, Daren Dortin, to arrange for Pam Setser and her good friend Joni Bishop to sing and play gospel and favorite Christmas songs to top off a splendid day with family and friends.
Pam Setser, guitar and vocals
Joni Bishop, guitar and vocals
       Pam Setser is a well-known local artist who sings, writes songs and plays a variety of acoustic instruments: guitar, mountain dulcimer, and the very popular spoons. Folks love to see her wear out those spoons! Pam began performing with her family's band, the Simmons Family. She also performs with the Leatherwoods, Apple Setser and Rounds, and with other artists like the fine fiddler Tim Crouch. At a recent Mountain View Bluegrass Festival, Pam appeared as a guest artist with her friends Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl, The Whites. It was amazing!
       Joni Bishop is an artist who draws, paints, and creates unusual stringed instruments out of whatever is at hand--cigar box, tin can, lid from the tin can, and whatever else is within reach. In addition to her talents in the visual arts, Joni sings, writes songs, and plays guitar, mountain dulcimer, and hand-made cigar box banjo. Joni is originally from Wisconsin; however, she now calls Nashville, TN, home. Her parents came to America from Latvia, and Joni sings her songs in both English and Latvian. Joni's songs sung in Latvian are completely charming!
Pam on dulcimer and vocals - Joni on guitar and vocals
       Pam and Joni performed on this Thanksgiving evening by singing separately, alternating first one and then the other. They also sang together in such lovely harmony. Here are the songs they chose to sing to get the audience into a holiday mood:
     Wayfaring Stranger; 12 Gates to the City; Beulah Land; Grandma's Garden; Unclouded Day; Christmas Wishes; Toys; I Saw the Light; I'll Fly Away; I'll Be Home for Christmas; Soul Cake--God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Blessed Assurance; Will the Circle Be Unbroken; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Endless Christmas; Little Drummer Boy; Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland; Mary Had a Baby, My Lord; Walkin' in Jerusalem; Silent Night (English, Latvian, then in tandem with both languages); and We Wish You a 'Happy Thanksgiving' to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The audience was spellbound. Most audience members visited with these two friendly artists after the concert.
Joni (left) and Pam (right) sharing a moment
with fans after the concert
       The concert was the perfect way to end an otherwise perfect Thanksgiving Day in Mountain View, Arkansas. This writer is grateful for the friends who traveled with me and for the friends who shared their day with us by performing after Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks, Pam! Thanks, Joni!
       Each artist has CDs and other items for sale at her website. For further information about the artists, the Ozark Folk Center, and Mountain View, AR, please visit the following websites:
Pam Setser   www.pamsetser.com
Joni Bishop  www.jonibishop.com
Ozark Folk Center State Park  www.ozarkfolkcenter.com
Mountain View, Arkansas  www.yourplaceinthemountains.com
Happy Holidays!
Pick away!

Friday, November 18, 2016

NOVEMBER 5, 2016
       KATE CAMPBELL IS A PK! You Southerners out there know perfectly well what a PK is...She is a Preacher's Kid. In her case, a Southern Baptist preacher's kid from Sledge, Mississippi. Being a preacher's kid means that she's moved around a lot and she's heard a boxcar load of Sunday morning sermons. Sunday night and Wednesday night services, too, more than likely.
       Given that background over the years, Kate became a complete sponge, absorbing the thoughts, the feeling, the ways, the songs, the heartbeat, the good and bad times, the lifestyle of people all over the South, regardless of race, color, religion or the lack thereof.
       There are storytellers who write it down for folks to read; some share their stories via the spoken word, and singer-songwriters deliver the story in their songs. You know who they are: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, Congressman John Lewis, J.D. Vance, Rick Bragg, Minton Sparks, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Pete Seeger, Louisa Branscomb, and Claire Lynch, to name a few, plus our subject for today, Kate Campbell.
       While it has been many a year since I last saw and heard Kate Campbell, I jumped at the chance to go with a friend to Center for Southern Folklore to hear the artist I remember from quite a while back. Judy Peiser handles the goings-on for the Center, located at 119 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103. Judy and I got reacquainted prior to Kate's performance, and it was great seeing both of these fabulously "uppity" women again!
Stage at Center for Southern Folklore
       Center for Southern Folklore is completely funky! It's a great spot for entertainment! Nothing matches anything else, great posters, folk art, and collected items are on the walls, Christmas lights stay up the year 'round, and stuff is just kinda stuck here and there. It all works! You can sit pretty much wherever you want. A wonderful hostess brings popcorn and asks what you would like to drink. Artists mingle with the crowd before and after their concerts. It's a lot like a house concert but at somebody else's house!
Judy Peiser introducing Kate Campbell
         Judy Peiser introduced Kate and the artist settled into her chair with her guitar. She got her foot positioned just right on her footstool, checked the microphone, and off she went with Miles of Blues followed by The New South (gotta have a fluffy, expensive little dog like a Bichon Frise), and Mississippi and Me. See Rock City (Sissy from Mississippi) was followed by Fade to Blue and Yellow Guitar (from a short story by Eudora Welty). Kate took some time to talk about Galway to Graceland, a song about going to see the King (Elvis). The song was written by Englishman Richard Thompson.
       A Cotton Field Away brought remembrances of times when Elvis wasn't the king. Cotton was King and downtown Memphis still shows vestiges of the "white gold" heyday in the 1930s and '40s.
       Delmus Jackson was the black man Kate met at her church, and to whom she gives much credit for his influence on her. Delmus had nine children and times were hard, but he took the time to talk to Kate. They understood each other. Delmus explained that he was "working for the Lord, and seeing His face will be his reward" when the Lord says, "Well done". Her song about this simple, hard-working man brought tears.
       Galaxie 500 and Crazy in Alabama are about how the train of change is coming fast, maybe a little too fast for Alabama to keep up. Other Southern states struggle with change, too. Lay Back the Darkness is a dream about laying down the blues for good, if that day ever comes.
       Bud's Cement Boat has a fooler of a title. Bud's boat was actually the "Sea Mint", and part of the boat may still be visible somewhere in Alabama today.
       Kate Campbell's encore was Joe Louis, and it was about a person who had boxer Joe Louis' furniture in his den! While Kate sang, Judy Peiser slipped a beautiful piece of folk art onto the edge of the stage. The work is called "Brown Bomber".
Brown Bomber
       The show was brief and we would love to have listened late into the night. We had hoped for Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon and also Funeral Food, but we will wait for the next time that Kate brings her wonderful, quirky Southern stories in song to Center for Southern Folklore, maybe in her Galaxie 500!
CDs we picked up at the show: The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1), Save the Day, Blues and Lamentations, and Wandering Strange. Kate Campbell has these and several more available at her website. The Folklore store has a good supply of Kate's CDs, too!
Kate Campbell sightings soon:
March 6-9, 2017  Provincetown, MA  Cape Cod Songwriters, Sloan Wainwright and Tom Kimmel. Contact David Roth davidrothmusic@gmail.com or 508.360.8325.
2017 Ireland Tour with Kate Campbell -  9-day tour of Counties Mayo, Galway, and Clare (counties could change). Contact Kate at info@katecampbell.com
For more information:
Kate Campbell  www.katecampbell.com
Center for Southern Folklore  www.southernfolklore.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

October 15, 2016
Dr. Nancy Chase on Bagpipes
     IRELAND TRULY DID COME TO TOWN and we who attended DR. NANCY CHASE's house concert in October just had no idea what was in store for us! It has taken this writer a month to even recover and figure out where to start with my blog about the experience!
       We could start with Dr. Chase's generous welcome, the light supper, and the mingling of band members and guests. Nancy has had practice at hosting house concerts, and she was ready for the BROCK MCGUIRE BAND. We found comfortable seating, ate our snacks, and we chatted with those around us as we waited  for the band to get into place.
       Dr. Chase brought the band out by playing her bagpipes, for which she has become well-known in our region. The pipes will make a crowd settle down and pay attention! Getting into place were PAUL BROCK (accordion and 10-key melodion), MANUS McGUIRE (fiddle), DENIS CAREY (piano), and DAVE CURLEY (percussion and Irish dancing on a large wooden board). Dave Curley suffered a previous injury to his arm, or we would have heard him on guitar, mandolin, and banjo.
L to R: Paul Brock, Denis Carey, Manus McGuire
       The program began with Paddy in London and The Old Blackthorn Stick. The tunes came from James Morrison of County Sligo, Ireland, and from Jimmy Shand of Scotland. Then came Blue Bell Polka (which we in America know as Flop-Eared Mule), The Frost Is All Over, Tom Moore's Downfall, Lucy Campbell, and the Genevieve Waltz, named for Manus McGuire's wife.
       The next treat was Dave Curley's dancing on the wooden board to The Blackbird (from County Kerry). Next, Denis Carey held us spellbound with his beautiful Emigration Suite, Goodbye to the Loneliness. Dave Curley arose again to dance to some reels out of Quebec, Canada. Dave sang Paddy's Lamentations, which told of a warning to countrymen about what he found in America--fighting for Lincoln. He went on to mention that Choctaws here in America in the 1840's sent money and buckwheat to Ireland during the terrible famine.
       The last songs in the first set were Because It's There and The Coalminer's Reel from The Flanagan Brothers.
      Set two began with Dave Curley dancing to three reels from Sligo: Miss Langford, Humours of Westport, and Come West Along the Road. The reels were followed by The Flowing Bowl, McGoldrick, Carey Fergus (Dave singing), Cooley's Galway Rambler, and Skylark (Dave dancing).
L to R: Manus McGuire and Dave Curley
Dave Curley Irish Dance
      Next up was the moving Isle of Hope, the story of the first person to be processed on Ellis Island in New York. The person was Danny Moore, age 15. Ellis Island closed to emigration in 1943.
       The next tune was Connaught Man's Ramble (The Rambler), and it was followed by an air by Paul Brock. The song was Love (or Darling) of My Heart, about longing for one's homeland.
       Paul Brock entertained us on melodion with Chase Me Charlie, Dance Boatman Dance, and Poor Old Liza Jane.
       As the concert began to wind down, we heard The Rose and the Heather, Boys of the Town, Drowsy Maggie, and The Red-Haired Lass. The Brock McGuire Band's encore was the familiar tune called The Irish Washerwoman.
       The people who attended the concert were completely mesmerized during the entire performance. The Brock McGuire Band is such a fine group of amazing entertainers. "Miss them at your peril," as my friend from County Clare, Maura O'Connell would say.
       We can now add the Brock McGuire Band to our growing list of incredible Irish musicians: Maura O'Connell, Karan Casey, John Mock, Sean Og Graham, Gerry O'Beirne, Frankie Gavin, Tommy McCarthy, Louise Costello, and more whose names escape me at this moment.
       Here are two amazing albums which have not been out of the CD player for the last month!
"Green Grass--Blue Grass" - a collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and other American bluegrass artists.
"Hands Across the Water" - a collaboration between American and Irish musicians to benefit the children of Southeast Asia who were affected by the tsunami. Both of these albums are stunningly beautiful. We suggest that you add them to your collection.
     More Information: www.brockmcguireband.com


Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14, 2016
     The Collins Theatre in Paragould, AR, is the home of Bluegrass Monday, which means that the fourth Monday of each month, KASU-91.9 FM (on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro) and some wonderful local sponsors provide super bluegrass music to folks from miles around. The events are free; however, the hat is passed for a suggested minimum of a five-dollar donation from each fan. Even better is the fact that all proceeds go directly to the musicians who perform on a particular evening. KASU-91.9 FM Program Director, Marty Scarbrough, does the MC work and even passes the 'Dr. Seuss' hat for the donations. Prior to each Bluegrass Monday show, Terry's Café, just down the way from the theater, opens at 4:30 PM for their delicious buffet dinner. They serve until about 15 minutes before the show, so fans can eat dinner and get a bit of exercise when they walk back to the Collins Theatre. It's a wonderful experience!
 THE FARM HANDS  BLUEGRASS QUARTET performed at Bluegrass Monday on September 26, 2016, and they are one terrific band. Accomplished musicians with deep prior credentials, the band really knows their bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music. Band members are TIM GRAVES (Dobro and vocals), DARYL MOSLEY (bass and vocals), KEITH TEW (guitar and vocals), and DON Hill (banjo). The band mixed in a bit of comedy and conversation about fried pies, but their music is just second to none!
     Here is what we heard: Anywhere Is Home, I Never Go Around Mirrors, Foggy Mountain Rock, The Way I Was Raised, Back When Mama Prayed and Daddy Plowed, Medals for Mothers, Nashville Skyline Rag, The River Claimed 109, In a Country Town, Jesus Blazed the Trail, I Saw the Light, Over in the Glory Land, The Dobro Chimes, Dig in the Dirt, Tell Me Baby Why You Been Gone So Long, The Streets of Gold, Am I a Fool for Hanging On, Ask the Blind Man--He Saw It All, and a medley of I'll Fly Away, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Glory Glory Glory--Must Be the Hands of our Lord.
     Information: www.farmhandsquartet.com
     BREAKING GRASS rolled into Paragould from their homes in Mississippi and Alabama on October 24, 2016, and this hot young band is already working on their fourth CD. With several band competitions and even Uncle Dave Macon Days under their belts, they are fast becoming seasoned bluegrass professionals. Band members are CODY FARRAR (guitar and lead vocals), TYLER WHITE (fiddle), JODY ELMORE (banjo and vocals), BRITT SHEFFIELD (bass and vocals), and ZACH WOOTEN (mandolin and vocals).
     Here are some of the songs we heard from this up-and-coming band: Carry On; Callin' Baton Rouge; High on the Mountain; Diggin' Up Georgia; Medley: Mr. Sandman, My Girl, Hotel California, I Want It That Way, and Nothing but a Heartache; Nothin' Like Bein' Blue; Cold Rain; Shine; I Guess You Had Other Plans; There in Heaven I'll No More Lonesome Be; That Ol' Grave Is Just a Hole in the Ground; Carry Me Back to East Virginia; Not My Time to Die; April Rain Is Coming Down; So Much for Pretending; Short Shorts; Taking and Giving; Warning Signs (Think I Love You); You Left Before I Could Lie; God's Still Good; I Feel You Near (Cody, for his dad); Be Assured; There Ain't No Need to Shoot Me for It Now; and Uncle Pen
     Information: www.breakinggrass.com
Coming attractions at The Collins: THE BLUEGRASS MARTINS  November 28, 2016
Information: www.bluegrassmartins.com 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

October 8, 2016
     The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was formed in May of 1935 and it was dissolved in June of 1943. During that brief span of time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal agency put 8.5 million mostly-unskilled men (and a lesser number of women) to work constructing public buildings, roads, public parks, and airports. 
     The wages were low but times were hard, and at least it was an income. Women were consigned to even lower-paying activities such as sewing, bookbinding, caring for the elderly, school lunch programs, nursery school, and recreational work. Ellen Woodward, director of women's programs in the WPA, pushed for women's inclusion in the Professional Projects Division, where women were treated more equally to men, especially in the federal art, music, theater, and writers' projects.
     Cedar Forest in Lebanon (Wilson County), Tennessee, was beginning to take shape in the early 1930s, and the beautiful Cedar Forest Lodge (which still serves visitors today) was built during the span of the mid-1930s into the early 1940s. Cedar Forest Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Cedars of Lebanon State Park is an active, busy place with a huge variety of activities which take place the year 'round.
     WPA DAY was begun at Cedars of Lebanon State Park several years ago in tribute to the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC) and the men and women who worked so hard to establish the many roads, buildings, parks, and recreational outlets throughout America that we still enjoy today.
     The most recent WPA Day was held on October 8, 2016, a bright and sparkling autumn day. Activities were spread out all over the park, especially around the Lodge. Here are some of the activities which took place throughout the day: a cornbread cooking contest, arts and crafts, demonstrations of weaving, chair-making, blacksmithing, wood shingle-making, and soap-making. There were pottery makers, basket weavers, split-rail fence makers, a cross-cut saw contest, and traditional music by a variety of local musicians who are keeping old-time string band music alive.
     For information about WPA Day and Cedars of Lebanon State Park, contact Wayne (Buddy) Ingram, Park Manager, at wayne.ingram@tn.gov or at (615)443-2792. You may also wish to contact the Friends of Cedars of Lebanon State Park at www.friendsofcedars.com
     Here are some photos from WPA Day of October 8, 2016. Why not make plans to go to WPA Day in 2017?