“You’re doing better than you think you are. Keep going. You got this.” ~ TinyBuddha
I’m staying at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in DC for the conference I’m attending. I had no idea the history of this place until I got here. There’s a large display in the front window of the variety of things that have happened here; everything from Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural party (a tradition that held for 70 years) to Frank Sinatra performances (among others). My favorite, of course, is that the Beatles stayed here during this first US tour in 1964. There’s a great display in the West portico with this original set list written on Shoreham stationary. The notes in the display (below) will tell all about it. My only disappointment during this trip is that I wasn’t put in the Beatles wing, but hey, my BFF Beverly Howell just got tickets to see Sir Paul next summer in Arlington, Texas checking off #1 on her bucket list, and that makes up for it completely.
“You will see in the world what you carry in your heart.” ~ Creig Crippen
Despite the pouring rain on Saturday I really wanted a photo of the band outside because the Old Grassy Christian Church is your quintessential mountain church nestled between hills with a stream running alongside it. The only real way to make that happen was for me to go into the rain. So, I did. I slowed the shutter speed to pick up some rain trails, snapped 5 shots, then headed back inside. But the best shots were of the band looking out onto the foggy mountains; an angle that Ben saw as soon as we opened the doors. He was right.
“Just like the moon, we go through phases.” ~ Unknown
Bluegrass picker and old friend Mike Havens is doing a CD of bluegrass gospel tunes featuring Keith Prater, Tyler Peyton, Rob Peyton, and Debi Horton. You’ve met the fabulous Debi back in 2016. In all the years I’ve know her she has never changed. I love her beyond all telling, and Mike? He’s a stand up guy that I love more every time I see him. Let me tell ya, we didn’t let yesterday’s rain dampen our spirits one bit. I had the best time with this bunch ever was in the little country church at Mize, Kentucky. For me, this photo totally sums up our time together. They won’t use it for their cover, of course, because it’s not exactly screaming Bluegrass gospel, but if they ever wanted a cover with personality, this is the one. To make my day extra special, a bald eagle flew over me as I was passed through Neal Valley not a mile from mom and dad’s house. I couldn’t believe it, so I asked aviary expert Jodi Stacy if what I saw was even possible. It’s possible indeed as they’ve made a great come back in Morgan County. A beautiful day with many of the Creator’s beautiful creatures.
“Train your mind to see the good in every situation.” ~ Unknown
Two weeks ago today Tanya Comingdeer and Marilyn Craig were enjoying a second day of music and fellowship at the 2-Pony Ranch. These women worked their butts off to make that weekend happen. They cooked, they cleaned, they tugged and pushed and pulled and carried and worked up a sweat to make sure everyone had the things they needed. I think I’ve said before, on that Sunday, I had one of my classic nasty migraines that kept me in bed most of the day though I did make myself get up and go out for most of the music. As the sun began to set I returned to my convalescent room and drifted off. At some point I either dreamed or heard a real voice outside my door say something like, “Okay, girlfriends, the place is clean.” I awoke Monday morning to find that, indeed, the place had been cleaned and then realized the voice had probably been real. Angie said Marilyn and Tanya had done the work. If that’s not incredible love and devotion I don’t know what is. I am so, so, so, so, so fortunate to know these women and count them among my friends, and I’m eternally grateful they look after Angie and each other.
“If we could look into each others hearts, and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.” ~ Marvin J. Ashton
I knew it was going to be a great night when I walked in to find colleague, friend, and fellow drummers Kathryn Lybarger and her husband, Jack Schmidt (bottom photo), preparing to perform as part of the drum line performing the part of the Borneo Drummers from Joni Mitchell’s Hejira (I think that’s what they said, I didn’t catch all the details). Well known Lexington drummers David Farris, Tripp Bratton, and Dave Hamon were also part of the line (below). But it was Kathryn that inspired me. Every time I see a photo of her playing drums, usually as part of the March Madness Marching Band, she’s all smiles just like the photo above. Drummers who smile while they play bring a little something extra to the song, a certain joy that otherwise remains hidden. Omar Hakim, Simon Phillips, and Carter Beaufort all smile when they play and their tracks always sound extra joyful.
I’m really proud of Kathryn for taking up drumming. She’s never afraid of trying new things, in fact she loves trying new things, and she’s really taken to drumming like a duck to water. She and Jack have been playing for several years now and I hope they continue. Drumming in good for the soul and so are smiling drummers.
“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” ~ Mark Caine
Once more I was honored to photograph a very special event this evening; the Joni Mitchell Tribute concert at First Presbyterian Church. The show was part of their Music for Mission series, this time organized by Anita Courtney, the same brilliant woman who organized last year’s Leonard Cohen Tribute. A few of the artists performed in both shows, but tonight featured a few new acts, one of which was my friend Melissa Snow-Groves. I just photographed Melissa and her family (David Hurst, Juni, and newborn Rory) last weekend, so it was really cool to see her again so soon. I’d heard Melissa sing in the church choir and the Bach Choir, but I had no idea until tonight just how truly powerful and gorgeous her voice is. She sang Blue, the title track from Joni’s 1971 album of the same name. I made myself as small as I could in the seat by the piano so I could try to capture a somewhat unique angle that you don’t usually see. I don’t know if the rest of the audience could feel the power of her voice, but from where I was, I was absolutely blown away, and I just can’t say that about too many vocalists. Did I mention she’s an excellent pianist, too? If I had heard nothing else tonight but Melissa I would have called it a great night. As it happened, there were a lot of beautiful music and musicians in this show. It was anything but a blue mood, and I’m still just floored over how gifted Melissa is. If you ever have a chance to hear her sing, don’t miss it.
“Make a list of things that make you happy.
Make a list of things you do every day.
Compare the lists.
I got home so late last night that I just didn’t have the energy to talk about the incredible evening I’d had. I posted my brief photo of Marlon Hurst at his stereo and a couple of folks speculated that I had been at rehearsal. That wasn’t true, but as you can see, there was much music and merry making involved just the same. A few weeks ago, Marlon asked a few of us if we’d be interested in listening to music, specifically music on vinyl LP. Naturally, we all said yes. Last night we did just that. I had not seen Marlon and Kathy’s new home, so I got the ten cent tour prior to a perfect pita pizza dinner. It set the tone for an evening of artistry and appreciation.
Marlon explained how he and his brother David used to sit and listen to records; really listen, without talking, to absorb the nuanced sounds and the art of compiling album sides. In our hurried digital world, (adulting forces us into some level of this) we don’t take/have the time to listen or perhaps appreciate what we hear. And with CDs and singles being all the rage now, the art of the album is all but lost except to those of us of a certain age or true audiophiles. This was our chance to revisit an act that we had all once embraced. An act that, for each of us, had became a life altering experience. I knew it was going to be a great night the second I walked in and David was playing Joan Osborne and Trigger Hippy, a band I’d never heard of. It set off a discussion about performers we’d seen before they hit it big, not coincidentally, like the time Michelle Shute and I saw Joan Osborne at Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville just before Relish hit the airwaves. She wasn’t even on the big stage at Phoenix Hill. She was on the small stage upstairs usually reserved for local bands, which wasn’t weird at the time considering she’s from just down the road in Anchorage, KY. I also don’t think it was coincidence that the last time I remember a deep music listening thing like last night was with Michelle Shute. She and I used to spend hours listening to music, and she’s been extremely influential in expanding my musical palette over the last 30 years. Anyway, if the rest of the evening had been a disaster, it would have been totally worth it just to get turned on to Trigger Hippy.
However, the evening was anything but a disaster. We sat with full bellies in comfortable silence before the killer Marantz stereo that instantly transported me back to Johnny Barker’s room a la 1980 where we listened endlessly to music through a similar set-up. What a great memory. For this night, we had each been tasked to choose one album side to share, and prior to its playing, we said why we chose it. We drew numbers to determine the night’s rotation. Stacy Yelton was supposed to be with us, but she fell ill (likely the same bug I’d had earlier in the week). Still, she sent along her album choice, and as fate would have it, she was #1. She may have also won the night with her selection of Pete Townsend and Ronnie Lane’s Rough Mix. Her original 1977 pressing was pristine, of course, and it was a recording that I don’t think any of us knew about, even David, a long-time Who fan. The music had only the faintest hint of The Who sensibilities but you could clearly hear the coming Townsend solo a la White City choreography. It was a brilliant first selection. David’s choice of Radiohead’s OK Computer followed. Its 180g soundscape expanded our senses with a compressed cacophony of flavors. I drew number three and my selection was 1983’s Synchronicity by The Police. It was this recoding that won me over as a devoted fan. They were at the peak of their craft as a band; their furiously fast paced sloppiness corralled into a masterpiece. Next up was Kathy. She went with Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit, which drew a gasp from me because, 1: I adore him, and 2: Marlon and Kathy had actually turned me on to him last year. Again, me thinks no coincidence. If you don’t appreciate just how good Porter and his band are, sit between the speakers, close your eyes, and just listen. You’ll come to understand his beauty before the first cut has ended. Andrew Perkins drew hurrahs from all of us when he revealed his fifth place selection; Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Apparently lifted from his mother’s broad collection, the LP was still wrapped in its original plastic sheath replete with $7.99 Walmart price tag and “Grammy Nominated” sticker. In case you don’t understand the significance of that, Thriller went on to win 8 Grammy’s and sell 60+ million worldwide. As Andrew said, “It’s the biggest selling greatest hits album that isn’t a greatest hits album.” We really came full circle with Marlon’s choice of Jefferson Airplane’s reissued mono recording of Surrealistic Pillow. Though I’d heard White Rabbit many, many times before, I’d never heard it in its intended state or in context of its album side. I came away with a whole new appreciate for Jefferson Airplane. You can’t imagine how good this record sounds for a 1967 release. It had no problem standing its ground beside the other, more modern selections. Interesting that Airplane’s Grace Slick was the only female representation of the evening. I don’t think that means anything except that we all noticed. That in itself is just another reason why I love my people. They pay attention.
Thank you, Marlon, for suggesting we slow down long enough to appreciate the music we love. Thank you and Kathy for opening your home and making me feel welcome. Thank you Andrew, David, Kathy, Marlon, and Melissa (David’s wife and late-comer to the party) for the songs and music and camaraderie. You are my people and I love every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for including me in your journey. If you’re reading this and you used to sit in your room with friends and listen to music for hours on end, I highly recommend you call those friends, invite them over, turn off the TV and computer, and turn on the stereo and just listen. It’s better than any drug you’ll ever swallow. Promise.
I’m too tired to go into what an incredible evening I’ve had. I’ll save it for tomorrow. For now, let this photo tease you a bit. It involves the Brothers Hurst, a lot of music, a lot of laughter, and more love than words can express. Squeeeeeeee.