Sunday, July 31, 2011

Live From The Dutch Barn at Old Songs

(Photo by Bill Spence)

Here's a snippet of my concert in the Dutch Barn at Old Songs Festival in Altamont, New York. This clip opens with me talking about my unusual double-fretboard dulcimer and then moving on to the original tune "Nowhere, Nevada."

"Nowhere" (Live at Old Songs) MP3

A Tale Of Two Ponies

In June, I stayed with Michael Vickey on the elevated shores of Lake Erie in Northeast, Pennsylvania (which is located, ironically enough, in the northwest corner of the state) and some great jams resulted. Vickey and Mark Zimmer of the Good For Nuthin' String Band lent dulcimer and guitar to an evening of music that was captured on recording, a portion of which is represented here. The regional differences of "Spotted Pony" meet face to face in this snippet from the session.

"Two Ponies" - MP3

I start off with the version of "Spotted Pony" that I'm familiar with and Mark Zimmer begins to play backup guitar. Michael Vickey soon joins in with his rendition and the two versions combine to form a lively jam. This is a sneak preview of "The RV Project: Official Album" available only to tour contributors.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gotta Lotta Catchin' Up To Do

Well, that look says it all, don't it? "MAN! Staying connected online when roving parts of the country with little to no cel phone service is difficult!" Suffice it to say that a LOT has happened since July 4th. Which is why you see me standing above on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium; former home of the Grand Ol' Opry.

Common Ground On The Hill was fantabulous - had a lot of great interactions with musicians and plenty of good jam sessions, some of which were captured on recording and will be heard in the upcoming "RV Project: Official Album." After departing, McDaniels College in Westminster, MD - I headed out on a mini-tour of Pennsylvania State Parks, stopping at Cowan's Gap in Fort Loudon and spending a few idyllic days at Trough Creek in James Creek.

Rita and I enjoyed a week of camping, hiking, mountain biking and just plain sitting around and doing nothing, which was mighty nice after that last burst of rushing around between New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland! After that bit of recharging, I headed up to Portage, PA for Portage Dulcimer Day and had a great time with JT Taylor and the folks who came out for a day of workshops and the concert.

With the final stop on the first leg of tour complete, I angled for setting out early in the morning to begin the long journey back home. Up to this point, Rita held together fast and braved the harsh weather and road conditions for a spectacular shakedown tour. However, knowing that the alternator wasn't long for this world, I knew that there would be trouble up the road and, as it turns out, it wasn't that far up the road. In fact - after rolling out at 6 am to traverse the Dutch country hills, Rita made it fifteen minutes before the engine began to sputter up those inclines and the headlights began to dim in concert with the dash lights - classic signs of a failing alternator. I cruised to a stop in front of an old abandoned restaurant and wrestled with the lack of cel reception before finally landing Triple A and getting a ride down to Bedford, PA where Rita was fixed up and ready to go for the rest of the way. A quick stop over north of Richmond, Virginia and we made it home in decent time.

Long enough to have a visit to Epcot and then.....

Jae, Sheri and I hit the road again - this time heading for Kentucky where we planned to visit some bourbon distilleries en route to the Indiana Dulcimer Festival.

The Indiana Dulcimer Festival was great, sharing the staff duties with Stephen Seifert, Lois Hornbostel, Butch Ross, Aaron O'Rourke, Rob Brereton and Katie Geringer. There was also Woodburn Day In The Park going on simultaneously, so Folkcraft dulcimer players were featured in the parade (we rode on a flatbed trailer.) There was also some razzle-dazzle showmanship going on that introduced me and Steve Seifert to a concert in the park, opening for and then sharing the stage with the Dixie Bee-Liners.

Unfortunately, Jae got ill during the festival; complications from the bronchitis that had been plaguing her while I was on tour. Luckily, she recovered enough to enjoy the rest of the trip; a journey to Nashville and all that goes with it!

While in Nashville, strolling Broadway, I sat in with the Craig Curtis band at Legend's Corner and Bart Hansen (guitarist for Loretta Lynn) at the Whiskey Bent Saloon. (Including The Stage, that makes three Honky Tonk Row establishments that I've performed at now.) We wrapped things up with a visit to the Ryman and then brought it on home.

We're enjoying some downtime, though a lot of this being home involves just getting ready for the next leg of tour! Coming up will be a return to The Pickin' Porch in Townsend, TN and a first-time stint at the Gateway Festival in Belleville, IL. I will do my best to stay on top of things as we go. The next big outing will be in September as I hit the road for the southern United States, west coast and midwest for a month. Of course, I've been pretty diligent about getting pictures and recordings (the latter, I'm working on) and you can catch up with all of the photos on Facebook using the following links:

RV Project Tour: Part One

RV Project Tour: Part Two

RV Project Tour: Part Three

RV Project Tour: Part Four

Monday, July 04, 2011


Wi-Fi has been hard to come by on the road, so I've checked in via social media for the past week or so. So much to say and show, with the big boundary being a little tiny touch screen on the iPhone. Since my last post, much has happened which has brought me to Westminster, Maryland for Common Ground On The Hill.

Old Songs Festival was fantastic! Though the weather was a little moist, it didn't deter the concert audiences from enjoying the music. It made camping onsite at the Altamont Fairgrounds a little like Woodstock, but everyone still seemed to have a great time. Aside from my sets on the main stage and in the Dutch Barn, I taught Three Irish Ballads, engaged singers with a Disney Songs workshop and also participated in a flute summit. My final workshop was all about right and left hand rhythms and turned out to be the most highly attended class. The Dutch band Kapriol' had come out and seen my set at the Old Songs community center on June 18th and we hit it off then, so it was a joy to have percussionist Ad Bos join me on-stage Friday night at the festival with the band inviting me to join them on-stage during their "Going Dutch" set in the Dutch Barn. The music was spectacular, the food was great and the mood was buoyant - a real feel-good festival atmosphere and I made lots of new friends!

After the festival, I ventured up onto the Helderberg Encarpment and relaxed, ate and played cigar box dulcimer before going to hang out at Bill and Andy Spence's house for a day, joining the Old Songs Festival staff for an Italian dinner and then departing on the next day for a whirlwind trip through Connecticut and then Mifflintown and Lancaster, Pennsylvania where all three days of workshops and concerts went splendidly.

July 1st brought me to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I toured the battlefields with Sam Fuson and then performed an epic eight hour set at the Garryowen Irish Pub. The owners had told me to perform for as long as I liked and, with a full house upstairs, I kept going until I literally just couldn't go anymore. From 6 pm to 2:30 a.m., I played, stopping only for bathroom breaks and once to grab an extension cord for my wireless amplifier, which ran out of battery juice due to the sheer length of the set. Deb and Sam Fuson were wonderful hosts and the folks at the Garryowen were a sweet and hospitable bunch, even allowing me a spot in the back of the pub to camp for the night. The next day brought a workshop and house concert at Sam and Deb's - another great opportunity to share the mountain dulcimer with folks who may have not been familiar with it. This was a rare show where I presented the music fully acoustic with no amplification. It sure is nice that way!

Finally, I hit the road for Westminster, Maryland and that's where I'm at now; sitting in Rita with the air conditioner doing its best to keep things cool while the slowly dying compressor wheezes and sighs and gallumphs on and off. I'll be here for a full week with performances at the Common Ground Festival on Saturday. The festival continues Sunday, though I have no performances scheduled, it will be nice to hang out for a while before heading off for a state park somewhere in Pennsylvania. I have no idea where yet - but I'll have a few days to chill out and decompress before Portage Dulcimer Day; my final stop on this leg of the tour.

Though this has been a long journey, in hindsight, it seems to have flown by incredibly quickly! When you're living each moment, they exist in perfect space, filling your life with the magical little (and large) experiences that are woven together into memories. When you look back, the individual pieces of the quilt seem smaller than when you were stitching them together; a curious quirk of the life already lived. All the more reason to sink deeply into life as it happens, enjoying each and every event, no matter how minor or major.

The RV lifestyle comes with a slightly slower pace for just about everything, and this mindset has taken me to some pretty amazing parts of the country where I've visited with lots of extraordinary and interesting people. For this day, where we celebrate the independence of the United States, it's extremely rewarding to have spent time in some of the smallest hamlets and to have cruised through some of the largest cities (a middle-of-the-night cruise through the streets of Manhattan was an eye-opener) with the end result being a better understanding of this country and its people. I'm grateful for the opportunity, humbled and overjoyed by the experience and blessed by each person I've met on the road. And to think that this tour has really only just begun!

Happy 4th of July! Have a great time today and tonight, whatever you do!