Well, it’s really just a treasure chest of pleasures to do what I just got to do last weekend. I have been looking forward to the John Hartford Memorial Festival since December, when I was invited to be a part of it. And boy, was I. Besides three solo sets (all different material), I got to play, on my sets and theirs, with The Atomic Duo (my good buddies, the talented and challenging Mark Rubin and Silas Lowe), with my brotherly soul friend Ryan Spearman (I love playing music with him!), and then… with Frank Lee and The Freights. This is The Freight Hoppers, minus David. He couldn’t be there, and I got called in, not to sub for David. NObody can do that. But to be BE, me, yep, that’s what I was. It was challenging, satisfying, and a bit nerve-wracking sometimes, playing with those guys. I can honestly say that was the most I’ve gotten to rock since the last Wilders show in February. (Hey, we have two local/regional shows at the end of June, go to the band site for deets.) It was a supreme honor to play two sets with the Freights – The FH were THE imminent influence on The Wilders when we were getting going with our band.
I got a little teary, both on-stage and off, talking about or listening to stories of John Hartford. I never got to meet him, but honestly, I’ve been making tribute to him for years now. I will continue to delve into his music for the rest of my life. I challenged myself to sing a couple of his songs (besides playing fiddle tunes I love that he loved too). I learned “Delta Queen Waltz” and “Back in the Goodle Days”. The latter, I heard a couple more times during the weekend, but I bet nobody else did that particular waltz. It’s a very lovely, old fashioned, sentimental song. I loved it. I’ll continue to sing both those songs from now on.
Thanks to everyone who is working so hard to get this festival off the ground. It’s an ongoing project that can take up a lot of lots of people’s time. They do it for love. I treasure the opportunity to be a part of this meaningful event, and it’s not just about the one weekend for me either. Come and see it next year at the green and shady Bill Monroe Memorial Campground, Bean Blossom, Indiana… end of May/beginning of June.
I am truly honored to be a part of the John Hartford Memorial Festival this weekend at the legendary Bill Monroe Music Park and Campground, Bean Blossom, Indiana.
Anyone who has seen a few Wilders shows knows how much John Hartford’s music means to me. Pretty much every time I play, I ask the audience how many are Hartford fans. These days, it depends on the audience – sometimes not many answer with a cheer. Of course, that’s a bit sad, since that means there are a lot of people who haven’t had the pleasure of taking in some of that gentle voice, sweet fiddling, and smooth banjo picking. I hope some people go home after I mention JH and look him up online… happily, there is a wealth of live footage, recordings, and of course commercially available albums. Thankfully, John Hartford left us with an incredible amount of music. Every time I play on stage, I think about him and make a little private tribute when I try to make this note that much sweeter, or throw in a little longbow variation to a tune segment. I’ll be learning his songs and the way he played great old tunes for the rest of my life.
This weekend, I get to play three solo sets (probably not all solo – the spirit of collaboration is a big key to making tribute to this man) – also, look for me joining some friends on a set or two. With so many amazing bands and artists to watch at this festival, I don’t know how I will manage to rock some jam sessions too, but I am determined somehow to make that happen!
I am so excited that I am now on the Quicksilver Productions roster… more specifically, their Cavalcade of Stars! I love that. One partner is a long time friend and fellow musician, the other a newer friend to me, and together they make up a powerful team. I may be focusing on solo performing now, but I thrive on teamwork. I am working with 12×12 Management as well, and this whole package is pretty incredible… I’m eager to hit the road running, and thanks to this team, I think we’ll all be running wild!
I’m getting ready for a solo set tonight – every time I play, I try to think of a new way to connect with the audience. That may be through playing a familiar tune, or it may be adding an element of surprise – maybe even shock! I’m not sure which way it’s going tonight, but I’m excited to try some new music out – I’ll be opening for David Burchfield and The Great Stop, at Davey’s. Show starts at 9.
I’m heading down to Austin this weekend. No, not for SXSW. A whole bunch of my KC pals will be down there to represent next week and I’m really proud of them. I am not in the position to be doing that conference right now. Instead, I am playing a house concert and doing a fiddle workshop. I think house concerts are one of the best ways to get the intent of acoustic music across. I love to drive things home in a small room, and also a small room of listening people is a powerful backdrop for a subtle, emotional, quiet moment.
The information about this weekend, March 10-11, is on my Tour page.
Then I’m heading to Lafayette, LA and vicinity. I hope there are some fiddlers down there who want to learn more about old time fiddle and fiddle technique. That area of the country is swarming with amazing musicians. I think also that spurs interest in the hearts of audience members who want to be a part of the music. I’d love to help folks like that.
And then, I’m heading up to Arkansas with my pal, Anna Roberts-Gevalt. We’re going to visit Violet Hensley! My dear 95-year-old fiddling friend. I’ve written about her before. And I will again. Here’s a link to a piece on Violet from CBS Evening News.
On the way there, we’ll shoot up to the MO Ozarks and play an afternoon at Copper Run Distillery… this fine place tucked into the mountains outside Branson. Cindy Woolf works there when she’s not making music – and sometimes both at once. I think she’ll join us for some songs that day, March 18!
See the Tour page for the scoop… also see the Live Online Fiddle Lessons page if you want to meet me on the ‘web for a lesson.
I’ll be teaching an Intensive Fiddle Class this Thursday, February 23, at Wintergrass in Bellevue, WA. What’s an “intensive”? It’s a workshop with a very specific set of goals. I created a curriculum for the class, and plan to carry it out during the few hours I’ll have with a classroom of fiddle students. My classes are usually geared for an intermediate player. What constitutes an intermediate player? It varies. If you can play a scale in each of the common fiddle keys (G,D,A,C – there are a few more to know but these are the most common), and you can play a simple tune by ear, and you know where the notes are on your fingerboard, you are an intermediate player.
I use old time tunes to help illustrate principles of good technique. I hope that I am a little different from most old time fiddle teachers in this way. To me it is essential that a player learn their scales and arpeggios thoroughly (an arpeggio is a chord, played one note at a time) – these are the building blocks for everything musical. I try to help a player find joy in playing something seemingly simple, perfectly and beautifully. I want to help lessen frustrations that most of us have – the things we “can’t” do. Language choice is a part of my teaching approach. I believe very deeply that our semantics can help or hinder us in reaching our artistic goals.
I have discovered that I love taking square format photographs – yes, I’m using an iPhone to take them, and yes, with an app – but I think of these as my “digital snapshots”. When I was a kid, my Mom let me use her Brownie camera, and when I look back now, I realize that the square format spoke to me way back then.
I have an artist page at Fine Art America, and if you want to take a look, here’s a small preview:
As The Wilders take a hiatus, I’m looking at some new options. I will continue to do my solo shows, and have at least one new collaboration starting to form. Details to come later. In the meantime, I’m excited to announce a couple of upcoming bookings. Also, send me a message or leave a comment if you want to find out about my online fiddle lessons. Let me help you love your fiddling.