Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 19, 2015

Joni Bishop, Nashville singer-
songwriter, entertaining guests
at the house concert

     JONI BISHOP is a Nashville singer-songwriter of the highest degree! She refers to herself as a "creativity troubadour," which implies that it isn't only about the music. It is certainly a lot about the music, which she has honed throughout the years from the tender age of about eight. This excellent self-styled fingerpicker drew inspiration from the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon. That comes through in her music. Joni's original songs are about home and Grandma and quilts and gardens. Her vocal and instrumental arrangements are entirely her own and they are unique. It is a pleasure to watch and listen to Joni as she spins her musical tales. Joni plays her mountain dulcimer from a standing position with a strap around her neck, such as a Dobro(r) player might play that instrument. She is entirely comfortable with her guitar or her dulcimer, and she weaves a little talk and some singing into each selection.
     Joni's creativity has spread out in all directions, and when she performs, she brings along stunning original works of art and amazing cigar-box guitars which she builds from the box upward. All the parts, everything. The instruments are playable and most are for sale, as are her other art works. You may have figured out by now that Joni Bishop is one of a kind. She has blazed her own trail and made herself a name in Nashville, TN, and wherever she goes to perform.
     We first heard Joni Bishop when she performed with Pam Setser on Thanksgiving Day 2015 at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, AR. We already knew Pam as part of the popular group Apple-Setser-and-Rounds. Joni was such a pleasant surprise! We knew we wanted to hear her again. When she mentioned that she would be at a house concert in Olive Branch, MS, just before Christmas, we definitely wanted to be there. At Joni's suggestion, we contacted homeowners Richard and Mary Sojourner about attending the invitation-only performance. We had to wait until somebody canceled--the house was already full. When Richard e-mailed us, we were thrilled to learn that we could attend. The home was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and there must have been at least 50 people who attended. It was Joni's sixth performance for the Sojourners, so people knew what fun was in store.
Pam Setser and Joni Bishop perform at the
White Oak Theater, Mountain View, AR
      Joni's song selection for the evening was perfect for the season: Away in a Manger, Little Drummer Boy, When God Made You, Mary Had a Baby, We Three Kings, Grandma's Garden, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Christmas in the Trenches (a John McCutcheon song that you must hear), Toys, Endless Christmas, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, two Old English carols: Soul Cake interwoven with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, What Child Is This, On the Road to Bethlehem, Stone by Stone, Send Yourself Home for Christmas, Threads, Dream Anyway (in honor of Mother Teresa, written after the Nashville tornado a few years ago), Buzzed (Texas Swing number about coffee and love), Mary Did You Know, Children Go Where I Send Thee, Twelve Days of Christmas, Amazing Grace, I'll Fly Away, Ain't That Love, repeat of Christmas in the Trenches by request, and Silent Night (sung in English and Latvian, Joni's family's native tongue).
     Somewhere in the middle of the program was a pause for wonderful food and beverages. The Sojourners know how to have a house concert! Special thanks go out to Richard, Mary, and all those other family members and friends who helped with the concert. We cannot wait for the next one in 2016!
     Want to hear more Joni Bishop? Visit her website to listen and learn more about this amazing, talented artist. Do yourself a favor and order a CD or two! You'll be glad you did!
     For more information:  www.jonibishop.com
     Pick away on your cigar box guitar!

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015
Flyer from The Lucy Opry
     THROUGH THE MODERN MIRACLE of electronics and YouTube in particular, Memphis bluegrass music from the late 1970's and 1980's has come alive once more! We have Jackson, TN, guitarist-vocalist KEVIN WRIGHT to thank for this splendid YouTube link! (See link below) Settle in with that cup of coffee or hot chocolate and be ready to smile or shed a few tears for things and people we know and those we remember fondly whenever that G-run is struck.
     Whether it was Yarbrough's Pickin' Post, the beloved Lucy Opry in one of several locations (Fite Road, a Quonset hut, the Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center, or a one-room schoolhouse), or the Tennessee Gentlemen Bluegrass Shack in that same one-room schoolhouse 'way out on Pleasant Ridge Road, it was bluegrass in Memphis. Oh! What a happy time that was! Check out some very important bluegrass names on that flyer!
     Click the link to the past in Memphis bluegrass:  http://youtu.be/3LTVVM8CHUo
     Enjoy the link. You will want to watch it more than once! We are all trying to keep bluegrass music alive in the Memphis-West Tennessee region. Do your part. Find a jam, grab the instrument out of the closet, and loosen up the fingers. Get ready to pick!
Tennessee Gentlemen Bluegrass Shack and Sign
4325 Pleasant Ridge Road, Lucy, TN

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

DECEMBER 12, 2015
Mother Nature's splendor at Blanchard Springs in Arkansas

       TAKE SOME MOUNTAINS, add some rivers, throw in a few earthquakes, and a lot of rain, ice and snow, and multiply by 70 million years (more or less), and the results are caves, caverns, creeks and streams, waterfalls, and beauty that is unsurpassed. Throw in some park rangers, some critters, spelunkers, and visitors from near and far, and one begins to appreciate Arkansas, known as the Land of Opportunity.

       This writer is an admitted fan of the annual event around Blanchard Springs, Fifty-Six, AR, known as Caroling in the Caverns. The location is a few miles north of Mountain View, and during the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the caverns are lighted with soft candle-like lights which emphasize the formations from the dome down to the stalactites and stalagmites that tell the 70-million-year story of Mother Nature's handiwork.

Fans enjoying the beauty of Blanchard Caverns
before the show begins
*NO photos, video recording during the performance
        Fans of the event wait with their tickets in the lobby of the Visitors Center before they travel down by elevator about 216 feet to the semi-dark room. The Center supplies each visitor with a cushion to sit on. Caves are damp--wet, even. About 100 people are seated in bleachers. Six carolers wait in the darkness and they begin to sing "Silver Bells" as they descend the stairs to turn and sing to the audience. Oh! It is just magic!

       The carolers, dressed in seasonal splendor, are Robert Gillihan (mandolin, vocals), Mary Gillihan (choral director, bells, vocals), Marion Spear (vocals), Pam Setser (group leader, guitar, dulcimer, spoons, vocals), Ron Haynes (guitar, vocals), and Abby Spinks (vocals). Their masterful harmonies bring such Christmas joy to the room. How the musicians move around in the slippery darkness to pop up here, there, and yonder is amazing! Special thanks to Pam Setser and all the carolers for their wonderful, inspiring work year after year! Thanks, y'all!

L to R: Ron Haynes, Pam Setser, Mary Gillihan
Marion Spear, Abby Spinks, Robert Gillihan
wishing us a Merry Christmas as we leave the caverns
Thanks to Vic Setser for his help with photography

        The song selection for this performance is as follows: Silver Bells, I'll Be Home with Bells On; Beautiful Star of Bethlehem; Joy to the World; Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella; Do You Hear What I Hear; When He Spoke; There He Is; O Come All Ye Faithful; God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Mary, Did You Know; The Bells of St. Mary's; Deck the Halls; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; Santa Claus Is Coming to Town; White Christmas; The Ozark 12 Days of Christmas (a Mary Gillihan specialty); Jingle Bells; Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree; Old-Time Christmas; Angels We Have Heard on High; Silent Night; and as the group departed, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We left with them, singing right along!

       As we depart the Visitors Center, we are asked to walk across a shallow, squishy pad of water, Woolite(r), and another ingredient. The procedure is brief, painless, and not damaging to shoes or feet. The purpose is to try to control white-nose syndrome in cave bats. The syndrome is deadly to bat populations, and the staff at Blanchard Caverns is trying to control the spread of the disease.

      This writer recommends a weekend (or longer) in the Ozarks any time you can get away, especially for Caroling in the Caverns. You will need to select your weekend, your day, and the hour you would like to attend a performance. Shows are generally at 2:30 and 4:30 PM (Central). There are good hotels, motels, and B-n-B's in and around Mountain View, AR. Splendid restaurants in the area will suit just about every taste. We enjoy the Rainbow CafĂ© on the Square, JoJo's Catfish Wharf with its great view of the river, and Tommy's Pizza. We were sad to learn of the passing of Tommy Miller (1943-2014), who had strong ties to Memphis, TN, and who loved his life in Mountain View. Tommy's family continues the fun and good pizza at the restaurant. R.I.P. Tommy!

Santa Claus lands on the lawn of Pinewood Cabins
Why not pick (or sing) a Christmas song right now? You already know the words!

For more information:
Web:  http://YourPlaceintheMountains.com
E-mail:  mvchamber@mvtel.net
Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce: Phone (Tickets/Info): 870.269.8068
Toll Free: 888.679.2859


Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3, 2015 
     YOU WELL KNOW how much you and I and so many of our readers love 'our' bluegrass music. We especially don't care for anybody messin' with our jams, our iPods, our CDs, our TV shows, or our radio programs that are bluegrass- or old-time music-related. We just don't like it a'tall!
       Along comes SIRIUS XM and their threat to preempt or abandon Bluegrass Junction on Channel 61. Many of you subscribe to that service for the one bluegrass music channel that is available, don't you? Your channel selector never moves, right?
      Here are some things that you can do and in a fast hurry! You can E-MAIL the men in charge of SIRIUS XM. Both of them! They are Steve Blatter at steve.blatter@siriusxm.com and Scott Greenstein at scott.greenstein@siriusxm.com.
     Here is a suggested note for that e-mail:
     I would like to strongly express to you my OBJECTION if the Bluegrass Channel 61 is
     preempted or removed altogether.
     I hope you understand how upset we will be if bluegrass is taken off for one second.
     Very sincerely,
     _______________ Your name
     Call Sirius XM at 212-584-5100 and let your voice be heard. ASK FOR A MANAGER! That's important! If you have a subscription to SIRIUS XM, ask for a refund for the weeks that SIRIUS XM will be off the air as a trial run. If you don't call or write, the Bluegrass Channel 61 could be removed permanently. Don't let that happen! Bluegrass musicians have contacted me already, saying that they will drop their subscriptions if the Bluegrass Channel 61 is taken off the air.
     The full story about this coming event is in www.bluegrasstoday.com. Be sure to read it.
     Get busy! This is your fight to save SIRIUS XM Bluegrass Channel 61. If you snooze, you lose!

     Pick away!