Connectivity has been spotty and time sort of precious these past few days since leaving Morris, Illinois. The Gephard Woods Dulcimer Festival was an absolute blast - a beautiful setting and a whole bunch of time to kick back, visit with folks and pick a little. I only taught two workshops, so the rest of the time was spent hanging out and getting interview material for the podcasts. And performing, of course.
Saturday's weather was perfect, a little hot, but kind of windy and simply gorgeous. After my workshops and musical set - I went over and hung out at the booth of Greibhaus Instruments, where I met Jerry Cripe and Nancy Lewis. Jerry was interviewed by Ted Yoder (whom I also met) for a recent Dulcimer Players News podcast and it was great to meet him in person. His solidbody electric dulcimers are quite a thrill - with sweet tones and wonderful playability. Dan Landrum, DPN editor, let me play one on a couple of visits to his home in Chattanooga and I secretly lusted after one. Funny thing, that.
Jerry handed me an endorsement deal after I sat and played for a spell - he's building me a solidbody dulcimer in exchange for some publicity and references; my first dulcimer endorsement. This comes at a great time, as I'm just about to begin recording some projects and wasn't happy with the solidbody tone I've been getting from the Lapblaster. Don't get me wrong - it's great for rocking out with the band, but it doesn't have the dulcimer tone that I need for some other quieter situations. Jerry's instruments sound great even unplugged, so this was an amazing offer and I'm looking forward to receiving the instrument in about a month or so.
Saturday evening found a large group of us dining at Maria's, an Italian restaurant. Got to spend some time hanging with my friend Lauren and Ken Kolodner, which we did again Sunday morning at McDonald's. Lauren's just a cool chick, great hammered dulcimer player - and Ken is a phenomenal player also, not only of hammered dulcimer, but also fiddle. He graciously played some tunes into a recorder for me to learn later during the Friday night jam at the Days Inn and we got to know each other a little better. Ultimate respect. There were so many folks there that I got to hang out with, Keigh and her brother David Lynch - the Jackson family, who brought smiles and farm fresh eggs, the wonderful Susan Trump. I roomed between Dan Landrum and the legendary Brian Bowers, though I didn't see or meet Brian until Sunday, when he complimented me on my set; very cool. Unfortunately, 60 m.p.h. winds and rain ended the festival early during Brian's set on Sunday afternoon and the crowd dispersed pretty quickly. I met a lot of new friends, some of whom came out specifically to see me, and that's something that I'll probably never get used to. I mean, wow Talk about a mind-blowing thing. When someone tells you that you're the reason they've driving for miles, how humbling is that? That's not something I'll ever take for granted - and I hope I'll always be able to spend time with the people who make those journeys.
The drive out from Illinois wasn't too bad - stayed in Connorsville, Indiana overnight and then continued on to Charleston, West Virginia where I stayed at the home of Bob Webb and Heidi Muller. Bob is a consummate performer and producer; we had a lot of fun hanging out and talking late into the night before arising on Tuesday and heading down into the city where he and Heidi sponsor a Music Mentor program for inner city and at-risk kids. Considered the "bad part of town", these kids were full of love and appreciation for the mountain dulcimer, which has been instilled in them by a year-round music program designed to help them find outlets and alternatives to drugs and violence. One of the kids there was Shalor Gore, 2nd place winner of the youth mountain dulcimer contest at the Vandalia Gathering. 1st place winner, Hunter Walker, was also there (we met in Townsend, Tennessee when I played at the Pickin' Porch earlier this year) and we had a good time playing and jamming later on that evening at the home of Jim Probst, out in Lincoln County - true country in the hills of "Almost Heaven." These kinds of trips are just amazing, there are blessings to be found everywhere.
I left West Virginia this morning and am now shacked up in a Super 8 located next to Roscoe Village, where festivities will get underway on Friday. Didn't get to visit with Kendra Ward and Bob Bence or Jerry Rockwell like I wanted, but got here nice and early, which means I can catch up on some of the mountainous editing that needs to be done for Dulcimerica. Upon arriving in Coshocton, I made a bee-line for Wildwood Music to say hi to Don and Marty (who is celebrating a birthday today) and to play some of the exquisite mountain dulcimers they've got hanging on the wall and hidden in the back. I can't afford a $1700 Blue Lion, but it was sure nice to pick on it. I can't even afford a $500 David Schnaufer model McSpadden, but it was nice to pick on it. I might be able to afford a, well, nevermind - perish the thought.
Reason number four that I love my wife: no matter how many instruments that I bring home, she never threatens to turn them into firewood or sell them on eBay. That is one of the marks of true love.