This will be our year + BI shuffle

ZombiesCatsCradleThe Zombies
Pat Sansone
Fri, April 18, 2014
8pm – $32.00 – $35.00

Cat’s Cradle
Carrboro, NC
http://www.catscradle.com

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As invasions go, this one didn’t seem either strategic or tactical, but being the mid-sixties, the British invasion left a permanent musical imprint. It was rebellious and cheeky, fueled by the skiffle craze that had already taken over the UK. It burst right through Bobby Vinton, Fabian, Skeeter Davis, and Bobby Darrin, taking a rightful, and righteous (IMHO) place next to The Beach Boys and Roy Orbison. Pop meet the next generation.

All of a sudden, our white bread ears were listening, dancing, and yes, screaming to The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, The Yardbirds, Peter & Gordon, Animals, Stones, and The Kinks. Factoid Alert: One May day in 1965, the USA’s Top 10 in the Hot 100’s was ruled by the British Commonwealth, with one exception, Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

And they kept on coming ashore. The Who. The Hollies. The Zombies. These mostly blues and guitar-based bands, bringing with them a healthy respect for their own R&B heroes, most of whom lived right here in the U.S. Long, floppy hair and mod clothes horrified our parents. These are the people they warned us about.

The Zombies “She’s Not There” took five months to hit #2 in 1964, followed a year later by “Tell Her No” which only got to #6. Odessey and Oracle (1968), released after the band broke up still enjoys critical acclaim and included “Time of the Season,” often sound-tracked as the definition of the 60’s.

To say I was looking forward to seeing The Zombies at Cat’s Cradle when they played there for the first time in 2012 would be as understated as a little black dress, matched only by my initial-excitement-followed-by-sheer-terror at scoring an interview with original member Rod Argent.

Half expecting their musical, road-weary age to show through the edges of their performance, their energy level and extraordinary talent circled around and surprised me. For weeks after, I chided everyone I know who didn’t go. I was now invested in The Zombies. Again.

In an unrelated email sometime this past January, Cradle owner Frank Heath added a quick PS saying “Zombies will be coming back to Cat’s Cradle in April, by the way.” Yes, I would be interested in talking with Rod again.

So, as not complete strangers this time, Rod Argent and I caught up a few days ago on all that’s happened since they were last here in 2012. And they haven’t just been laying about this last two years.

First big surprise for the band was the call that Eminem wanted to re-sample “Time of the Season” for his 2013 single “Rhyme or Reason,” an angry spew toward his absent father. Second, was the new Chanel perfume ad for Coco Mademoiselle airing on TV starring Kiera Knightly that’s set to “She’s Not There.”

And they’re barely off the boat from a five-day Moody Blues Cruise performing with Roger Daltry (The Who), Carl Palmer (ELP), Starship and Little River Band. Argent claims they were almost too busy aboard the ship to attend all the shows. They’ve been having a ball and doing what they love. And there’s a new album in the works.

“I can’t remember exactly what our set list was,” Argent responded when I asked how this show might be different than two years ago. “Obviously, some of the staples are there. We can’t not do them, you know?”

“Some things from Odessey and Oracle, “Time of the Season,” “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” we have to do those. Also Argent’s song “Hold Your Head Up.” Plus a couple other early Zombies songs “She’s Coming Home” and “I Want You Back Again.” We love doing that one on stage now. Several songs from the Breathe Out album as well.”

I reminded him that when Frank brought me back to meet them that they had offered me a glass of wine, which I politely declined since I was my own designated driver, and in hindsight, I wished I’d taken them up on. I got a speeding ticket on the way home that night as I was blissfully singing “She’s Not There” at the top of my lungs. If I’d stopped, had the wine, that cop would probably have been long gone and I would have had wine with The Zombies.

His response: “Thing is, you should have had that drink then you could have apologized to him saying I don’t normally drive like this, but I’m a bit drunk.”

We both cracked up laughing and agreed not to let THAT happen again.

Special guest opener is Southern rocker and multi-instrumentalist, Pat Sansone, member of Wilco and The Autumn Defense.

Enjoy the interview!

DPM: Hi Rod, good to talk with you again. We’re looking forward to your return to Cat’s Cradle.

RA: You too, Deborah. We’re looking forward to playing there again.

DPM: I thought it might be fun to circle back and see what the last year and a half has been like. You were just beginning a tour in support of Breathe Out/Breath In.

RA: I’m not even sure where to start. The shows have been going great and a lot of cool things have been happening. We’re working on a new album. Eminem used “Time of the Season” in the background of his song “Rhyme or Reason” which is a sound-alike phonetically, but inserted totally the sentiment of the song and I thought that was great actually, to hear that, and throughout the song a lot of our original vocals were coming through and then he recorded a chorus himself with the new words and obviously rapping all over it.

That was very cool. Also there’s something that’s just come on, I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not yet, a big Chanel advert commercial on television with Kiera Knightly … very James Bondy … using “She’s Not There” which is very nice too. Lots of things going on and we’re having a ball playing as always.

DPM: One of my upcoming questions is what have been some of the biggest surprises this last year and a half supporting Breathe Out/Breathe In. Would Eminem resampling “Time of the Season” be a good answer to that question?

RA: Well, that was a pretty big surprise. I’ve got co-writing credits on his tracks, but I had to hear the version and okay it before it went out. He’s very secretive and protective of his tracks, and I can understand that. First of all, we were asked permission, and our publisher said “well, we’ve got to hear it first.” And he said “well, you can’t do that.” We said “How can we give permission if we haven’t heard it?” So he finally sent a link which only remained active for about a day or something where I could hear it. I can quite understand how he wanted to be protective of it. But I heard it and I loved it, absolutely no problem. I loved the fact that it was an inventive creative take on the original piece of material.

DPM: You said you are working on a new album. Can you and Colin actually find time and space to write while you are touring?

RA: Well, I can’t personally write while I’m on the road. I’ve tried and I can’t, but while we were back home, I’ve written a couple of things and there are couple of songs that are in the pipeline as well. So we started the recording of the new album. One track I like very much indeed that we’ve got down, actually both tracks we’ve got down I like very much, so that’s a start [laughing].

DPM: And you are recording in England?

RA: Yes, and that’s going to be hard this year because I’m moving house after 38 years and my studio’s in my house so I don’t know [laughing] how that’s going to work. When I get back I’ve got 38 years of furniture and everything else. It’s a big house, unfortunately, and it’s going to take a hell of a move, so that’s going to be taking up some of my time when I get home. It’s a question of actually finding the time to do the creative work and concentrate on that too.

DPM: What on earth prompted a move after all those years?

RA: Well, basically we wanted to move to a different area. It’s a very big house and it’s just my wife and myself in it now, and I guess we felt that if we were going to move then if we didn’t do it now, we’d never do it?

DPM: Downsize while you can still enjoy it?

RA: Well, it’s downsizing in terms of the property and the house. It’s like a sideways move really. We’re moving to an area we’d like to go to and it’s just a matter of doing that while it’s still possible [laughing]. The house we’ve got at the moment was built in 1815, it’s a very beautiful Georgian house, but strangely enough we wanted a bit more land now even though I want the building to be a bit smaller.

DPM:  2014 started off pretty great for you guys headlining on the Ultimate R&B tour in the UK with The Yardbirds, The Animals and Spencer Davis. Was it just members from those groups or actually the groups? That sounds like an incredible and amazing tour!

RA: Actually just members of those groups, which seems inevitable these days, but everyone’s been really enjoying it for real. Spencer Davis didn’t do it because he hasn’t been well, but instead we had Maggie Bell, who was great and is still singing beautifully. And a guy named Dave Berry, who had some big hits in the UK, though maybe not over here. He had a hit called “The Crying Game” which was beautiful.

DPM: Yeah, yeah, yeah … from the movie.

RA: Remember that? Yeah, yeah. Oh, good, you saw it. He was on the show and it was a lovely show. Great guys, really nice people. The Yardbirds actually had their original guitarist “Top” Topham from right at the beginning of the band with Jim McCarty and they were really great. All the bands were. It was a sold out tour, we were playing some beautiful halls. It was great.

DPM: I personally would love it if you would do one of those tours in the states, for crying out loud!

RA: Yeah, that would be good too. [laughing]

DPM: I’d buy a ticket to that. I was a big fan of all the British groups from the 60’s, but I think I told you that when we talked before.

RA: I think you did, and thank you for that.

DPM: And so now, you’re just off the boat! [laughing}

RA: {laughing] Just off the boat and THAT was great! Obviously we saw the Moody’s because we did the cruise last year as well and the Moody’s were obviously on the bill because it’s their cruise, but this time we had Roger Daltry. I saw his set which was brilliant, doing all the old Who stuff … really, really terrific to see that. I didn’t get to see all the bands because there’s always so much to do all the time and we had shows to do ourselves. But I saw, for the first time, a guy called Randy Hanson, who plays all the Jimi Hendrix catalog and Jim, our bass player, knew him from when he backed up the Kinks years ago. But Randy’s been authorized by the Jimi Hendrix estate to play Jimi’s material. He’s so bloody good. And it was great to see him. Being out there on a beautiful summers day listening to the wonderful Jimi Hendrix stuff was amazing. He’s toured with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding of the original Experience.

DPM: I saw them in 1966 when they opened for the Monkees.

RA: You did? Well, there you go! Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I loved Hanson’s take on Jimi Hendrix, so that was pretty great.

DPM: I know you’re busy and it’s your day off, so anything we’ve missed that’s important?

RA: It’s a pleasure to talk to you again, Deborah. We’re really looking forward to this show. I’ll say the same as I probably said last time, but we have a band that’s the reason that Colin and I are out here. It’s such a kicking band and there’s so much energy on stage. Probably the best band I’ve ever played with, I think. If anyone’s thinking of coming and haven’t seen us, do come along and check us out, because it’s really a great show and a great band.

DPM: I can attest to that. Rod, thank you so much for your time and I look forward seeing you guys soon!
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BritishGuitarBI Shuffle (British Invasion Shuffle)
Well Respected Man – The Kinks
Heart Full of Soul – The Yardbirds
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Gimme Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group
This Will Be Our Year – The Zombies

 

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Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition + instrumental shuffle

Mythmusica_Sm

Mythmusica Pyschosonic Expedition
with Jennifer Curtis, violin, and her UNC Violin Studio
Sun. Mar 23, 8 – until – Free
Cat’s Cradle Back Room
Carrboro, NC

BrownSlashBar-white-spaceRemember that really beautiful Sunday a couple of weeks back that was sandwiched between two winter weather events? I was enjoying an afternoon of Bows & Brews at Steel String Brewery in Carrboro. In a light cotton shirt and flip flops. I wasn’t there for the brews. I was there for the bows.  The bows of Jennifer Curtis and friends. They were playing Schubert’s cello quintet. There were five of them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jennifer. Musical totality. A natural and intoxicating extension of whatever she’s playing is dead-ahead commitment to the music from head to toe, inside and out. Her body and mind in constant motion. Her feet leave the floor and almost dance in the air as if the music might walk (or run) away with her, or she with it.

During a break the opportunity to duet with Dex Romweber presented itself. She on her violin, Dex on his classic Silvertone. It was a moment. Unscripted. Satisfying.

Jennifer-Dex
She was still in motion as she talked about Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition, an inter-disciplinary, multi-instrumental, and multi-cultural mythological/narrative performance based on “The Waste Land,” by T.S. Eliot produced and created by Jennifer and a handful of her UNC violin students.  “Come. Meet my students,” she invited as she pulled me over to introduce me to two of her students, Ledah Finck (composer/violin) and Avery McGuirt (violin/mandolin, loop pedals/vocals).

Ledah, from Boone, was five when she started violin lessons and now can’t imagine doing anything else. “Violin has always been a strong presence in my life, but I’ve wanted it to be my career as well as my hobby since I was 15 or 16.”

Growing up in Charlotte, Avery also started violin early. Currently a chemistry major at UNC, he stays very involved in the music program. “I was steeped in the eclectic musical tastes of my father, and was inspired to take up the violin when I was five. I started out studying classical music,but soon branched out into jazz and bluegrass. Here at UNC, I take lessons with Jennifer, as well as participate in the baroque ensemble and my quartet.”

In learning that Jennifer, who holds degrees from Mills College and Juilliard School, will not be returning to UNC to teach after this semester, I was curious what Ledah and Avery’s one take-away was from studyingwith Jennifer. They were clearly inspired by her.

“In my time studying with Jennifer, I have above all come away with her ever present sense of enjoyment and exploration in music,” said Ledah.  “Playing with her is never a job or work but an exercise in curiosity. She’s helped me integrate my more academic and worldly interests with my music playing-which is really what Mythmusica is about.”

Jennifer has been an amazing voice of artistic humility in an oftentimes very self-important academic culture,” commented Avery. “Her appreciation and use of a huge variety of musical styles and cultures continues to be an inspiration.”

Additional artistic guests who will be performing in the Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition include Ina Liu (violin/dance/visual arts), Kaira Ba’s Diali Cissokhi and Will Ridenour (koras and percussion), Robbie Link (bass), Chris Johnson (tabla), Skye Mcloed (cajón and bodhrán), and  film makers Prashant Bhargava and Petna Ndaliko. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more surprises.

JenniferCurtisViolin
Somehow these two lines from “The Waste Land” seem utterly appropriate:

“…A woman drew her long black hair out tight
and fiddled whisper music on those strings …”

What the Thunder Said, from “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

Click here to read the entire Q&A with Jennifer Curtis, Ledah Finck and Avery McGuirt online.

BrownSlashBar

ViolinNotesThe instrumental shuffle:

Jennifer Curtis & Dex Romweber: Minor Swing
Jennifer Curtis & Ledah Finck:  @ WCPE, the Classical station – performing a short excerpt from Mythmusica Psychosonic Expedition.

King Mackerel and the Blues are Running

KingMackerel1King Mackerel and the Blues are Running
The Coastal Cohorts in Concert
Thursday, Feb. 27 & 28, 8pm
$15/ Free for students
Playmakers Theatre, UNC Chapel Hill
https://memorialhall.unc.edu/

I tried living in the middle of the country. Didn’t work for me. Do you know how long it takes to drive to the coast from Memphis, TN?  Nine long hours. 491 excruciating miles. Today that would equal about 200 songs on your IPod. No amount of Drifters, or The Swinging Medallions, or even Jimmy Buffett can make that drive shorter or the sea closer.  I dreamed endlessly (and likely bored my landlocked friends) of living back in the middle of North Carolina, where in just a little over 2 hours, I could dig my sand-starved toes deep into the foaming surf. And eat seafood to my tummy’s content.

Sunset Beach, NC Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller, 2004

Sunset Beach, NC 2004
Photo by: Deborah Pardee Miller

Once I moved back to Chapel Hill in 1998, I near ‘bout burnt the road up between here and the beach. My younger sister, Kate, who somehow ended up in Vermont, and I share the need for warm sun, sand, and sea. On one of our long weekend trips to Beaufort, we wandered into the North Carolina Maritime Museum. Thumbing through CD’s, I laughed as I randomly pulled out “King Mackerel and The Blues Are Running” by the Coastal Cohorts (Don Dixon, Bland Simpson & Jim Wann.)  I mused out loud that I had gone to high school with Bland Simpson, though he was a couple years older than me. The CD came home with me.

With an impressive performance history from its first run at Rhythm Alley in Chapel Hill in 1985 through its most recent at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh in 2012, “King Mackerel and the Blues are Running” has been performed at venues up and down the coastline from Virginia to Georgia. And then there are those other venues like the West Bank Theater (NYC) and the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC).

Bland was old-classmate good enough to spend a few minutes with me talking about the history of the musical, how their fundraising performances have contributed to the environmental health of our coast, and the two upcoming shows at the historic Playmakers Theatre.

“We’re doing two nights; Friday is sold out, Thursday night has seats available,” said Bland. “It was a fun alliance to make to put it into context to the water in our world.  The history of the show is a very stout-hearted, light-hearted evening.”

The CD went to A rotation on first listen.  It’s one of the playlists I put on when I’m about 50 miles from the shore. It lures me on in to the beach like a rising wave, beckoning me to stay a while.  In fact, I’m listening to it now as I write, wishing that print media had a “push play” button so you could listen in.  If you love the North Carolina beaches, and I know you do, you’ll be instantly smelling salt air. You just might shag dance a little (or a lot.) Slurp an oyster (or two or three.)  Peel some shrimp (a couple or a pound). You might even be singing along as if you’d known the songs forever.  Holler if you want company.

Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Listen to some King Mackerel … go on. You know you want to.

 

Laugh Off + Zilch

You’re one of those people who believe your friends will never lie to you. You know the ones I mean … the ones who say “you should bottle this spaghetti sauce,” “You should run for office,” or even “you could make a living as a stand-up comedian.” If you’re still on the fence about that future as a comedian, here’s your reality check; a chance to hear and see some of the best out there.

NCCAFThe North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival (NCCAF), started in 2001 has become so popular and well-attended that this, the 14th year, has been extended to 10-full days reaching from Carrboro through Chapel Hill and all the way over to Durham.  Not bad for just a little festival created by Zach Ward, DSI owner and funny man in his own right. (DSI stands for Dirty South Improv. Now you know.)

It was easy to get Zach talking about both comedy and the festival, which started as a college invitational.  I simply asked if the festival was still run that way and speculated that they must have hundreds of comedians/improv groups begging to be included, then asked how many submitted this year.

Artist salon in Carrboro The ArtsCenterZach Ward, DSI feature“Improv, improv, improv (and standup and sketch and film),” he answered. “We shifted from an invitational model to a submission process after the second year of the festival. Acts submit in early October and are selected by the end of November. The festival has grown from 30 college improvisers in 2001 to over 500 performers each year since 2010. This year we had over 220 acts submit and 117 were scheduled.”

Aren’t you wondering what the process was for deciding who will participate?

“The process: watching lots and lots of comedy,” Zach said. “A small group of local performers and producers watch a majority of the submissions. We also travel and see acts live at other comedy festivals during the year. That helps a lot, when we are able to see and meet an act in person.”

This year also features the third Annual North Carolina Laughter Championship, where after a series of “Laugh-offs,” a winner will take away the title of “2014 NC Laughter Champion” and go on to compete in the SE regionals in Atlanta.  Also on the schedule: an Adult Spelling Bee, The Great Durham Pun Championship, The Monti, and Comedy Kingmaker, just to name a few.

Highlight acts during the festival include Beatbox (Chicago), NorthCoast (New York City), Magnet Theatre Touring Company (New York City), ImprovBoston (Boston), Billyhawk (Los Angeles), Red Letters (Oklahoma), and more.

Comedian Eddie Brill

Comedian Eddie Brill

And just to tickle my fancy, festival staff offered up an interview with Eddie Brill.  Eddie’s the guy who warms up the audience on The Late Show with David Letterman and formerly coordinated the comedy talent for the show.  Heck, yeah, I’d like to talk with him.

The festival runs from Thursday, February 6-Sunday, February 16 at the following venues in the area: DSI Comedy Theater, The Arts Center, Open Eye Café, Nightlight and FlyLeaf Books in Chapel Hill, and Motorco in Durham. Tickets are $5-$20 (depending on the event) and are available online at www.nccomedyarts.com.  10% of ticket sale proceeds will go to Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate and Beat Making Lab.

Read the full interview with Zach Ward and Eddie Brill online HERE.
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Music on Shuffle will be back!  Stay tuned.

Old-Time Jam + Pete Seeger + Shufflin’ and Jammin’

BanjoViolinOpen Old-Time Jam
First Wednesday of every month,
7 pm – Free

Nightlight
405 1/2 W Rosemary St
Chapel Hill
919-960-6101
http://www.nightlightclub.com

Let’s start with asking an age-old music question. No, not “when will <insert-name-here-of-your-favorite-band-who-broke-up> get back together?”  You were really going to ask the “what exactly is old-time music and why should I listen?” question, right?  In the encyclopedia that is my imagination, old-time music is what folks listened to before there was radio. It was the nightly after-supper, before-bedtime entertainment.  Typically played on stringed instruments, a fiddle and/or a banjo, it’s a folk genre steeped in tradition, to be sure, but whose tradition?  There are too many to count. Regional styles, from Appalachia to Texas, are as varied as the songs and players themselves.  Whatever you do, don’t confuse it with bluegrass. It’s not the same thing AT ALL!

Just ask the banjo. In old-time, the instrument is open-backed. In bluegrass, there’s a resonator on the back.  And let’s get picky. Old-time picking is clawhammer style. Bluegrass is finger-picking in a three-fingered style. Old-time music was going on before bluegrass and is often fiddle dominant. In bluegrass, vocals more often take the lead. And that’s a way over-simplified answer if I ever gave one.

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.  Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.
Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Emily Hilliard had a fiddle when she came to Chapel Hill from Vermont.  She didn’t have to look much further than her own folklore graduate program at UNC to connect with the cream of the traditional musical crop, Steve Kruger and Joseph Decosimo, two banjo/fiddle players also in search of a venue. Hilliard approached Nightlight to gauge interest in hosting, they said “yes,” and there began the old-time monthly jam.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

I asked Emily to go back to the very first jam back in Feb. 2010 …  what was that night like?  How many people showed up?

“The first jam in 2010 had a great turn-out,” said Emily, “with a fairly diverse crowd, from older musicians to Nightlight regulars who maybe had never really heard or played old-time before. There was also a pretty good range of skill levels–some seasoned musicians who knew a lot of tunes and could keep things going to folks who maybe played guitar or banjo or fiddle, but weren’t as familiar with the old-time canon of tunes to beginners. There were also a significant group of people who just came to listen and drink a beer and socialize, which I was hoping for–at its core, old-time is a social and community-based musical form, and you can participate by playing, dancing, or just being present, enjoying the tunes.”

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

“Overall I was excited and encouraged by the response and am glad it’s still happening, particularly in the Triangle, an area that played an important role in the history of American traditional (and independent) music,” she added. “I still maintain many of the musical connections I made there–I always love running into some of the regular jam attendees like Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie, Mike Sollins, etc. at fiddler’s conventions in the summertime.”

Hilliard passed the jam on to Zeke Graves and Steve Kruger when she moved to DC in June of 2011, and Steve then handed down his role to James Finnegan. Zeke and James keep the circle unbroken, even as it keeps changing.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Read the rest of my conversation with Emily Hilliard, James Finnegan and Zeke Graves for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY online here.
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Since we’re talking music, it just wouldn’t do to bypass a chance to Pete Seeger.  I’ve ready many columns and tributes over the last couple of days, but none more moving than the one by Arlo Guthrie.   When he was a teenage, Seeger first heard Bascom Lamar Lunsford play banjo at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival held in 1936 near Asheville, NC.  Lunsford taught him the basics and the rest is folk music history.

 Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.  Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis


Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.
Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis

Music on ShuffleShufflin’ and jammin’ the old time way:

Polly Put the Kettle On
Cripple CreekWildwood Flower
Sourwood Mountain
Will the Circle be Unbroken

Amy Ray (solo, sort of) + shufflin’ off near Buffalo

Amy-RayCat’s Cradle Presents:
Amy Ray
with Heather McEntire
Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 9:00pm – $15
Motorco
723 Rigsbee Ave
Durham, NC 27701

The two coldest and loneliest winters I ever spent were in Rochester, NY in the early 90’s. I looked for warmth anywhere and everywhere while my summer clothes never saw the light of day. In defiance, I taught myself to ice skate, drive in the snow, stack the perfect fireplace, and made achingly lonely mix tapes for all my friends back home in Tennessee. My job at the University of Rochester came complete with two interns, Melissa and Colleen, both from Buffalo. Their sure-fire tonic for the chill was the Indigo Girls “Southland in the Springtime” (Nomads Indians Saints, 1990). I was 42, they were 20. It blew me away and after I stopped crying, I went out into the frozen north and bought Rites of Passage, Indigo Girls, and Strange Fire.  Melissa Muenzner Dolan (who now lives in Cary and gets to experience true springtime in the South) and I have stayed in touch all these years. Coincidentally, she was on my holiday thank you project for this very reason.  When I told Indigo Girl Amy Ray that story, she double blessed it with a throaty laugh and a “that’s cool, that’s cool!”

Amy Ray has carved out a respectable and meaningful solo career on her own. (And, yes, the Indigo Girls are still together and touring this year.) For her new album Goodnight Tender (Daemon Records) recorded at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville (due out 1/28/14) she cherry-picked a band that includes some locally familiar players: Phil and Brad Cook (Megafaun), Heather McEntire (Mount Moriah), Terry Lonergan (Hiss Golden Messenger  and MC Taylor), and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). Then just for measure, and because she could, invited Susan Tedeschi, Kelly Hogan (Neko Case), and Hannah Thomas to add some harmonies. With another handful of musicians from Asheville and Charlotte, the result is rooted in old-time country, while lyrically new all at the same time. And it’s definitely Southern.  I haven’t stopped listening to Goodnight Tender since Thursday. It’s that good. There’s just something about melodic banjo and mournful fiddle that gets me right where I live. Not to mention lyrics like “Give me a moon to keep my fears at bay. Give me a dog that don’t run away. Give me a love that don’t fade. Oh, let me walk in decency.” – “Hunters Prayer”

Cat’s Cradle owner Frank Heath has long been a part of Amy’s life in music.  “I love Amy!” says Frank.  “Glenn Boothe (Local 506) and I were just talking about how we wished all performers were as on top of their shows and careers as Amy.  Even from the first time the Indigo Girls played at the Cradle back in the 80’s, Amy and Emily’s involvement in the preparation for their shows had a huge effect on the promotions and turnouts. And they’ve always played benefits, been involved in helping out younger artists, etc. on and on — more than just about anybody out there.“

Without Frank, I would not have just spent a Wednesday night talking with Amy Ray about playing in Chapel Hill and Durham back in the beginning, her very first song, writing melodies, who she kissed on New Year’s Eve, her new album, and her brand new daughter.

Read the entire Q&A with Amy Ray …

…and then check out this YouTube trailer for Goodnight Tender

musicnotes-long

Writing about Rochester and remembering all those mix tapes sent me on a revisit of what I was listening to back in 1992 … freezing cold … knee deep in snow fall … marriage falling apart … lonely as hell … happy ears :

Out of the Cradle (Lindsay Buckingham)
Automatic for the People (R.E.M.)
Unplugged (Eric Clapton)
Harvest Moon (Neil Young)
Blind Melon (Blind Melon)
Kiko (Los Lobos)
Ingenue (k.d. Lang)
New Miserable Experience (The Gin Blossoms)
The Extremist (Joe Satriani)
#1 Record/Radio City (Big Star)
Rites of Passage (Indigo Girls)
Doo Bop (Miles Davis)
Television (Television)

Gratefully Yours + anticipation + shuffling into 2014

One rainy October afternoon:
ExileMainStFeeling lucky to even be alive, which is another story altogether and for another day. Plugged in to my IPod, “Sweet Virginia” from The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street cycled up.  The opening guitar riffs, soon joined by harmonica, are unmistakable and instantly recognizable and suddenly there I was … back there … the day in Spring ’72  it came out … in Richmond’s  Fan district with friends sitting on their front porch which just happened to face Main Street … speakers balanced precariously in the windows blasting into the city street through a haze of smoke.  And us, balanced just as precariously on porch railings or steps or leaned back on two-chair legs in our Landlubber-with-the-3″-zipper- bellbotttoms.  Oh, we were exiled, alright. I will forever associate that song, that album with that time, that place, and that handful of people.

As I reflected on music shared with me through the years, I spent the next few weeks listening to my collection differently … with the idea that I’d actually stop and make the time to offer thanks for 1) either introducing me to something new – or – 2) encouraging me to go back and listen more carefully to an artist I hadn’t given much time to – or – 3) simply creating a new and indelible memory through the power of music. Much to my surprise, it became an over-arcing and joyful project as I began to write notes of “Thanks Givings” for gifting a particular piece of music, art, book, recipe or favorite restaurant. If part of this reads familiar, you’ve already heard from me … if you haven’t received yours yet, stay tuned, this is a long-range project!

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2014 Hi-Ho’s
All that I got to experience this past year just to make a new column for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY happen was an extra-large goodie bag overflowing with the stuff that make life shiny and bright – music, art, wine, food, and books.

In all, an embarrassment of riches that included interviews and small intimate concerts with long-time heroes Roger McGuinn, Bill Payne and Chris Hillman. An afternoon hearing Peter Ostroushko and our very own Danny Gotham. Talking Lovesick Blues with Chris Stamey via email. Musical evenings spent with my Cat’s Cradle co-conspirator, Liz Holm, both of us blissfully unaware that we didn’t have that much time left together. Watching Tess Mangum Ocaña rise up and conquer with Sonic Pie Productions. Another honey-we-got-the-band-back-together high school reunion. And, maybe best of all, meeting you all who came up to me at various events and places introducing yourselves (Mike and Ron, you know who you are), then making my day by telling me you came out to this or that because I told you to (Leah, Henry, Carol, Peter, et al).

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Liz
I liked Liz immediately the first time we met, which, of course, was at a Cradle show – Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. I introduced her to drummer Jody Stephens, and we were off and running. We quickly discovered all the things and people we had in common (I grew up in CH and went to CHHS with her sister, music groups & artists we shared a love for, small bars like the OC Social Club and the Dead Mule, etc. the list went on and on.) She was instrumental in my first real “big get” interview with the Zombies, followed by Little Feat.  And she humored me by coming to see groups she at first really had no big interest in hearing just so we could hang out … thanking me afterward for dragging her to Mickey Hart and Trampled by Turtles 🙂 And with colorful scarves and wraps, she always saved us the best seats in the house – stage right 2-3 stools back.

Her love and her pride for her incredibly talented virtuoso concert violinist daughter, Jennifer, was so bright and intense that she was the light in the room when talking about her.  Every show we attended, or every time we were together, we’d sit side by side and she’d update me on her successes, showing me picture after picture on her phone.  It was easy to feel I knew Jennifer already, even though we had never met.  My sadness at her loss was/is acute, made worse by having to miss her beautiful memory day out at the Haw River Ballroom. I miss you everyday, babe!

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Anticipation-junkie that you know that I am means I can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2014. Already penciled in are King Mackerel & the Blues are Running (Feb. 27 & 28/Playmakers Theatre), a South Wing show (Feb./TBA), Crosby, Stills & Nash (Mar. 24/DPAC), and Desert Rose Band (Aug./The ArtsCenter).

A while back as I was walking in my usual hurry-up with an old friend, he (being about 10 steps behind me) whoa’d me down and seriously wounded my strong sense of Southern-inity by saying that I had clearly lost my mosey.  Glory be, he was right. All too aware that life is full of every day gifts that fly right past unopened, my plan for 2014 is to take back my mosey. And, oh yeah, I’m counting on your help with that. For all of you who just saw me through one of the scariest bits of my life, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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ShuffleShufflin’ in to 2014
Home on the River (King Mackerel & the Blues are Running)
Story of Love (Desert Rose Band)
Marrakesh Express (CSN)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Simon & Garfunkel)
One Short Night (Grace Potter & the Nocturnals)
Everything by Mandolin Orange