“Exterior beauty, without the depth of a kind soul, is merely decoration.” ~ Unknown
The need for travel remains ever present as I continue trolling through Asheville shots. Fog is a glorious, peaceful phenomenon, isn’t it? Conditions have been right for fog in Kentucky over the last few days. I’ve seen some lovely photos from folks out and about, mostly in the country. I should be one of those folks shooting, but I’ve been too busy sleeping or working. So, I’ll enjoy the fog from the Blue Ridge Mountains for now.
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves”. ~ William Arthur Ward
Over the last few months, Stacy has returned to things she loves like playing guitar and photography. It’s really important to do things you love. They don’t have to be big endeavors or expensive hobbies. Perhaps you love reading or gardening or long walks. These activities can feed parts of your soul that nothing else can nourish. Never forget to feed your soul.
“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
Now, here’s a guy who can say a thing or two about attitude. Our Hero has been quite ill of late. He was sprung from the hospital today. He suffered a nasty infection that’s lasted a month too long. He’s not been in the hospital that long, to be clear, although he probably should have been. Hopefully, he’s turned a corner now. If his attitude, and his doctor, has anything to say about it, he has. I tell you what, both of my folks are amazingly strong human beings. They happen to be really good people, too.
“When you compare yourself to others, you miss the miracle of who you are.” ~ Mastin Kipp
I don’t have a handy picture of Jen Reynolds right now so this book cover will have to stand in for her. What I do have is a great big place in my heart for her. Though we are several years apart in age, we have many, many things in common, not the least of which is our love of literature. Jen knows lit and the business of books better than just about anyone I know. I value her taste and opinion in books, as well as her thoughts on music and art. We can have meaningful conversations about many things due in large part to our shared love of reading. She gets me, and I am more grateful for her friendship than she’ll ever know. Someday I might actually catch up with her in person and get that missing picture.
“Train your mind to see something good in everything.” ~ Buddhist proverb
Doesn’t it seem a lonely little trash can? I want to animate him, give him a voice somewhere between James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, with bushy eyebrows and a long, red tongue and a pouty-turned-sassy personality like that little scrap of paper named Bill. You know the one from Schoolhouse Rock. “I’m Just a Bill, Yes, I’m only a Bill, and I’m stuck up here on Capital Hill” Bill. And with that, before we go down the rabbit hole of politics, I’m going to bed. Bob Ross painted happy little trees. I’ll animate happy little trash cans. Seriously, I think I need some sleep. LOL
“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” ~ Bernard Meltzer
Judy Sackett had seen Willie Nelson when he was a youthful 69. She enjoyed him back then, and loved the idea of seeing him again. So, off we went to the Outlaw Music Festival. Judy is a blast to travel with. She enjoys people. She enjoys food. She enjoys learning new things and going new places. I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger. We hadn’t been in our seats long before this couple made friends with us. We didn’t get their names, but I sure wish we had because they were awesome. He was especially fun, as you can see. The couple in front of us were nice, too. The young man especially. In fact, he took up with Judy, hanging on to her later in the evening when the whiskey kicked in and everything began to spin. Once, when I returned from the ladies’ room, Judy had another man chatting her up. I don’t know where he came from, but he wasn’t sitting near us. I had no idea she was such a dude magnet! I told ya, she’s a hoot to travel with. I’m glad we made some fun memories and met some great people along the way. If anybody down London (KY) way recognizes this couple behind us, tell ’em we said howdy.
I’d never seen Old Crow Medicine Show before, and let me just say that I hope I haven’t seen the last. This band is everything that’s great about music. They opened the festival, and frankly, they didn’t play nearly long enough. These guys are toe-tappin’, fun lovin’, high-energy Americana-bluegrass-country-swingin’ righteous musicians start to finish. Bruce McCain turned me on to them many, many years ago when he sang Wagon Wheel at Angie Bliss Fanning’s ranch, but for whatever reason, they kept flying under my radar. Not no more! These guys switched instruments as much as Lady Gaga switches outfits, and they played every one of them like masters. They’re great with an audience, they’re great with each other, and they ought to be a lot bigger than they are. I absolutely loved them.
The Head and The Heart played next. They had lots of fans at the festival, and I was glad for that, but they were not my cup of tea. I’m sure their records are lovely, but I don’t want to talk about them. I do want to talk about Sturgill Simpson, the third act of the evening. I became a big fan when Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was released in 2014. This Kentucky boy breathed new life into what passes for country music these days (Chris Stapleton notwithstanding). He was like a big breath of fresh air for me. Didn’t hurt one bit that he was born in Jackson either (that’s Eastern Kentucky not far from where I was born for those unfamiliar with Kentucky geography).
Sturgill did not disappoint, though he did not play a typical country set to be sure. He came out with both barrels blasting Brace For Impact (I’m terrible with titles but I think that was it). He never let up. Seriously – he rocked the entire set, blistering electric guitar in hand. In fact, he played guitar more than he sang. His connection was quite obvious with the other Kentucky home boy, drummer Miles Miller from Versailles (or as Sturgill rightly pronounced tongue-in-cheek, “Vers-eye” lol), and they played off one another to great effect. Perhaps the best of the band was bassist Chuck Bartels. This guy was perfect and it was his melodic solidity that bound the jam all together. It was great to watch them bob and weave around the way the songs were recorded versus the way they were interpreted live. You don’t usually see someone as young as Simpson do this sort of thing because it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t always work. When it does, it’s magic. And it’s exactly that kind of chemistry that makes live performing so important to the creative experience. Players get better and their material evolves and gives way to new melodies, new riffs, new structures, and ultimately, new songs. So, at first I raised an eyebrow at the sometimes stark departure from the song, but ten minutes in, I understood what I was hearing and fell in love all over again. It was gutsy, raw experimentation, and an audience doesn’t always get the opportunity to watch it unfold. It was a real gift, and I respect Sturgill Simpson even more for doing it.
And then came Willie. God bless his 85-year-old heart for hitting the road and sticking to it. Walking is hard for him, that is obvious, but his love for his band, for the audience, and for the music is equally displayed. You can tell that he especially loves his sister, whom he introduced as “my little sister, Bobby.” More than once he tossed the ball into her court and she played it to perfection each time.
I don’t think Willie played anything from his new album, which is completely brilliant by the way, but then, with sixty+ years of hits, he didn’t have to. He started with 1973’s Whiskey River. When released as part of the Willie Nelson and Family Live double album of 1978, it was the track that lead me to becoming a lifelong fan. A lot of people couldn’t believe I’d never seen Willie perform live before this festival, though I kind of had. More accurately, he’d seen me. When we played Farm Aid in 1990, he stood backstage with our manager during our set and remarked, “That’s a girl playing drums. Far out!” There weren’t many of us gal drummers back then. Willie enjoyed my playing, and although I didn’t get to meet him so he could tell me that in person, I was happy enough that he had kind things to say. If memory serves, we had to leave before he played later that night. Hence, I’d never seen Willie perform live.
My favorite part of Willie’s set was Sturgill returning to the stage to play the closing tunes with him. It was like watching the generational torches burn at once. Plus, Sturgill’s playing prowess fit right in with Willie, despite the powerhouse set he played earlier in the evening. He’s becoming the consummate player, that Sturgill. You may have caught him on SNL with Chris Stapleton a few months ago. It was peel your face off raucous, kind of like his set at the festival, though he was much more traditional and in-the-pocket for Willie, and that for me is the mark of an excellent player. He’s going to be around for a long time, and I hope Willie’s able to keep playing as long as he wants, too. I especially hope he’s able to continue giving these young acts the boost they need to be heard by his loyal fans. Willie is one of America’s greatest talents and one of our greatest citizens. He deserves every accolade given him. I’m so grateful I had a chance to see him play live after all these years of loving his music.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. ” ~ John Lubbock
When Willie Nelson looks at you, you snap the shutter and hope you didn’t shake. Judy Sackett and I saw Willie at his Outlaw Festival at Riverbend. There will be more, but for now, sleep. Goodnight, Willie. Thanks for the special day.
“Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, but from what you do consistently.” ~ Unknown
I love Joni Mitchell. I was a little late to her party with 1988’s release of Chalk Mark In A Rain Storm, but it didn’t matter so long as I got there. It’s a desert island disc for me. You wouldn’t think so given her early monumental works like Blue (1971), Hejira (1976), and Court and Spark (1974), which is a very close second to Chalk Mark on my list followed by Night Ride Home (1991), but it is my standout Joni Mitchell record start to finish. I loved her mid-career sound that really hit its stride on this recording. She had embraced burgeoning digital audio and used it to perfection as only she could. Plus, Chalk Mark is loaded with so many of my favorite players there’s just no way I wouldn’t fall in love. And the funny thing is, this record may have never crossed my path if we hadn’t been on tour for our self-titled release the same year it was released. CD’s were coming on hot and heavy in 1988. It was big news when you could buy a new release for only $18. (Highway robbery? You bet!) One of our stops on tour was a disc manufacturer and distributor plant. I don’t remember which one it was, or even where it was, but I remember they set us loose in the warehouse and said, “Pick out anything you’d like.” Talk about a kid in a candy store: rows and rows of floor to ceiling shelves filled with music. Both Kiya and I walked out with over-stuffed bags (plural) of discs and cassettes, the latter were still the medium of choice for most people back then. In fact, now that I think about it, my introduction to this record was actually a cassette. In any case, I remember seeing it on the shelf. I don’t know what drew me to it, but I knew I needed to hear it. It always pays to follow that sort of intuition. I was transported out of the van, out of my body, and into a place that only exquisite music can take me from the very first note I heard. Even now, I listen to it and I go somewhere else. I can only describe it as a place of pure calm. Those songs are emblazoned into my brain and they resurface at the oddest times. Take this photo from Craggy Gardens, for instance. I hear Joni singing My Secret Place (lyrics below) with Peter Gabriel. You can hear it here. I hope you enjoy it!
My Secret Place, by Joni Mitchell
I’m going to take you to
My special place
It’s a place that you
Like no one else I know
I don’t go there with anyone–but
You’re a special case
For my special place
For my secret place
People talk to tell you something
Or to take up space
Guess I’m only talking
To be talking to
Your pretty face
I don’t talk much to anyone, but
You’re a special case
For my special place
My secret place
I was born and raised
In New York City
I’m just getting used to Colorado,
Oh street bravado
Why did you bring me to
A place so wild and pretty?
Are there pigeons in this park,
Muggers after dark,
In these golden trees,
In the secret place?
I’m going to take you to
My special place
It’s a place no amount of hurt and anger
I put things back together there
It all falls right in place,
In my special space
My special place
Once I saw a film
In New York City
That was shot in Colorado,
Girl meets desperado
In the trembling mountain trees
Out of all of the girls that you see
In bleachers and cafe windows
Sitting, flirting with someone
Looking to have some fun
Why did you pick me?
For the secret place