“It takes a big person to avoid small worries.” Robin Sharma
I’m itching to play music again in a big way. I came across this shot from last year’s Reel World String Band / Sam Gleaves gig at The Lyric and it reminded me of all the wonderful gigs I’ve been lucky to play over the years. The really crappy gigs, well, the lighting wasn’t nearly this good. I’m also itching to get back to England and see my boy Jon Durno, bassist and human extraordinaire. I’m thinking I might do something about both these things this year, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
“The Lord will bless you for being kind to people.” ~ Reva Hubbard
Last night as I was pouring over Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, relishing the ancient art of vinyl album covers, something caught my eye. Tusk is an elaborate vinyl package, even among double albums. There are slips inside slips inside the outside cover. Of particular interest were the outer (or middle) slips. Instantly, it was 1979 and I was back in my tiny bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of a second-hand stereo, where I scoured the intricate collages for hours. Now, they reminded me of Peter Beard‘s work. In 1993, I came across a book called “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa” by Jon Bowermaster. It captured my attention for two reasons: 1. Beard is a fascinating artist known primarily for his collage diaries (he sometimes uses his own blood to draw on them) and 2. I’ve loved Africa since early childhood, particularly Kenya where Beard has a home called The Hog Ranch. As Tusk continued to spin its quirky pop tunes, I pulled out my copy of the book. I rifled through the pages, memories flying back to me; Beard’s friendship with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen who wrote the autobiographic Out of Africa, one of my all-time favorite books), the sheer beauty of Africa, the shame of big game killers, the privileged life that afforded Beard such an adventure that most people, certainly most artists, could never have. And then I saw it: a photo from one of the Tusk collages. Beard made the collages for Tusk. I knew about Peter Beard before the Bowermaster book. He’s listed on Tusk’s credits. As someone who used to absorb every piece of information from albums, the connection between Beard and Tusk had been buried in my brain all these decades, subconsciously rolling around, waiting to resurface. It was a beautiful moment to reconnect with these two things I loved so much when I was younger. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to go to Kenya and Tanzania, roam the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve, and wake up “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” What a blessing that would be, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the blessings Tusk and Peter Beard have given me for decades. I’m lucky that they’ve come back home.
“We do not deny the reality of death, or the degradation of suffering. But we do claim the victory of life over death, of light over darkness. And so we defy anything which would degrade our humanity.”
~ Fr. Mark Brown
Working my way through the vinyl archive I came across a pivotal album for me; Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Lisa Clevenger Fannin gave it to me for Christmas in 1979, just a few months after its release. The double album made a huge impression, and it’s still my favorite Fleetwood Mac album. It was their follow-up to Rumors, one of the highest selling, chart-topping albums of all time. How do you follow that, really? In Fleetwood Mac’s case, you let Lindsey Buckingham do whatever he wants. By all accounts, he drove the band insane with his constant experimentation. Critics panned it, but music and sound enthusiasts heard the brilliance right away. Lindsey doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves, as a guitarist, and especially as a sound engineer. Not all of his experiments are great, but when they are, they’re really great. Tusk is loaded with audio brilliance. It contains songs that have stayed with me for nearly 40 years like Brown Eyes, Beautiful Child, Sisters of the Moon, and of course, Tusk, featuring the USC Marching Band. It’s an epic track; the album a masterpiece. Thank you, Lisa, for the gift of a lifetime. It still sounds as great as the first time I dropped the needle on it.
“Edit your life frequently. It’s your masterpiece after all.” ~ Unknown
Remember this name: Sam Gleaves. This young man is so incredibly talented I could easily go overboard with the adjectives. Not only is he a gifted singer and songwriter, he is as sweet as he can be. He’s a gentle, kind soul; an excellent showman, and totally at ease on a stage. He sings and writes traditional Appalachian music that gives me chills. His voice is smooth, and he’s not flat like many traditional singers tend to be. But don’t let the ‘traditional’ part throw you. He writes about contemporary issues, and it’s refreshing to hear them set to the traditional mountain style. It’s exactly the way tradition can grow without losing what made it beautiful in the process. Really, I just can’t sing (ha ha) Sam’s praises enough – he’s that good. He’s a Virginia native, but he lives in Berea now when he’s not touring the world. So, Kentucky’s going to adopt him, at least I think we ought to. Sam Gleaves. Remember his name. I guarantee you’re going to hear a lot about him, and I’m extremely honored to have had the opportunity to photograph him with Reel World String Band and Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
“The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one.” ~ Nishan Panwar
Some of my favorite moments in life have been instruments under stage lights. They’re such noble things, these stringed boxes; big, small, tall, short, shapes of all kinds. Sure, the people who play them are wonderful, but consider the instruments themselves for a moment. They’re just waiting for the right person to come along to release their magical powers. I’m looking forward to things calming down a bit so I can process the photos from Sunday’s Reel World String Band show. If the quality of music was any indication, I think I got some good shots.
“How does one measure the worth of one’s life? Is it how much money you make, or how famous you are, or how big a house you live in, or how expensive a car you drive? I don’t think so…you ask yourself: if you’ve helped a few people along the way, if you’ve provided for your family and tried to be a good example for them, if maybe you end up leaving your one small corner of the world better than you found it, isn’t that what it’s all about?” ~ Tom Bartholomew
Tonight, I had the honor to photograph the passing of the folk activist torch. The Reel World String Band’s show at The Lyric Theater featured Grammy Award winners Kathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. Together, they ushered in Sam Gleaves, Tyler Hughes, and Deborah Payne as the next generation. It was a fabulous show that I was truly blessed to be part of it. Look for more in coming days.
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
~ Henry Miller
You’ve not met Larry Adams yet. I’ve known him for as long as I can remember because he’s from up around Cannel City. He was my art teacher in High School. All four years I refused to take typing and other elective courses just so I could take his art classes. He was overseer of the yearbook staff my Senior year (on which I was a photographer). But what was most formative for me as a teenager was that he let me be in his band(s). Adams, as he is simply known, is an excellent musician. He especially loved Waylon Jennings. He plays a Waylon tele, adopted his fashion style, and has that same cool demeanor Waylon, and Willie, and the boys had. Adams had all that style and talent long before Waylon became popular, however. I’m not sure how many people remember that about him. Adams was one of the most important figures in my raising, which I doubt he’s aware of, and even if he was, he’d play it down because he’s a pretty humble man. I ran into Adams on my way out of Pickin’ In the Park. I had someone get his attention, so when he turned around it was like the paparazzi had arrived. Pretty funny stuff. We didn’t speak. We didn’t have to. I shot, he smiled and tipped his hat to me. That was all that needed doing. Today, I learned that one of our old bass players, and his former teaching colleague, Gary Holbrook, died. We didn’t play but a few gigs together. They neither one made a fuss over my gender, and that’s good people right there. I owe Adams a debt of thanks for teaching me so much, and I hope that Gary’s playing a great tune right now. I’m grateful for all of it.
“Don’t just slay your demons, dissect them and find out what they’ve been feeding on.” ~ Andres Fernandez
It’s been a long beautiful day. I, with several of my colleagues from Special Collections, had the opportunity to attend a Brené Brown workshop; Rising Strong. It was sponsored by UK’s Work+Life Department. UK does some things very well, and their Work+Life program is one of them. The day-long workshop was presented by Cindy Reed. You might recall that Annie Bassoni and I were doing yoga with Cindy back in January. In addition to being a yoga and meditation instructor, Cindy is also a psychotherapist. She started facilitating Brené Brown workshops with her colleague Cindy Hutchinson not long ago. If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown, look her up. You’re probably familiar with some of the very positive things she has to say. Things like “What we know matters but who we are matters more.” Needless to say the workshop was inspiring. When it was over, I played paparazzi and photographed Ruth Bryan’s jazz band. They were playing a cookout at the Victory Christian Church in the Kenwick neighborhood: my old neighborhood where I lived with my BFF Jim Brown many years ago. The church was close enough to throw a rock to our old house. It brought back many good memories. The whole day was wonderful, and I’m grateful for every second of it.
“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
This is Austin Tackett and Andrew Preston. Together they’re known as The Woodsheep. Or The Woodchucks as Jill LeMaster kept calling them. They played Pickin’ In The Park Saturday. They were so good I bought a CD. I so rarely do that for bands I’ve only just heard that I can’t tell you the last time I did it. So, obviously, I liked them a lot. They played as a duo. Though the CD offers other musicians, make no mistake that these boys are the real deal. Their voices blend really well, and their songs are equally good: a rarity a la Everly Brothers. Tackett and Preston are a refreshing mix of traditional folk and bluegrass with contemporary singer/songwriter leanings. I caught up with The Woodsheep after their set. Austin (I think) is from Flemingsburg, and Andrew (I think) is from Van Lear. They met at Morehead State where they’re both still in school studying Traditional Music, although Andrew is a double major (Psychology was maybe his other major). They just started playing as a duo last year. I see great things for them if they keep gigging; tighten up those sweet harmonies, fire off those hot licks. Did I mention they’re just as sweet as they can be? It tickled me to hear such great music from two Eastern Kentucky boys that are also kind. They restored my faith in music and Hipster beards.
“Something powerfully good and infinitely expansive is seeking to breathe through you, lifting your life to its highest possibility. Say yes.” ~ Marianne Williamson
If you’re in the Central Kentucky area, and you see that Bruce Lewis is playing at a club, you should really go hear him. He’s a fabulous singer and a killer guitarist. Bruce was amongst the musicians that entertained us at Erin’s dinner party last night.
Bruce can play anything, and he played quite a range of genres for us. He moved seamlessly from Hendrix to some little jazz number. The room was captivated by him. Did I mention he’s Erin and Whit’s cousin? The whole family is a talented bunch I tell you. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re as sweet as they are gifted. I was honored to be in the audience.