Blue Yonder in Nova Scotia!

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We are getting ready for a big adventure! My band, Blue Yonder – the extra cool five-piece line-up with special guest Rob McNurlin – will headline the 28th annual Hank Snow Tribute in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Do you think we are excited? I can’t begin to tell you!

To make things even more memorable, we are starting our adventure with an appearance on Mountain Stage!

Details and photos to come. This is a preliminary blog to make sure I still remember how to do this. Stay tuned!

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Days 19 to 24 – May 28 to June 2

The home stretch! George and I rose early-ish on Memorial Day and drove all the way from Austin to Memphis. Google clocked it as 647 miles, and it sure felt like it.

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The next morning we drove to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. George has been attending Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro and recently transferred to Glenville State College here in West Virginia. He was anxious to see some friends on our way through, so we did what we could to make that happen. I went into Nashville and eventually found myself at Douglas Corner where I signed up for the open mic. That’s what a songwriter is supposed to do in Nashville, right? I was glad to meet up with my old buddy Ray Sisk, whom I knew from Asheville back in the 1980’s and haven’t seen in 35 years or more. Hi Ray!

George and I met up the next day and drove to Beanblossom, Indiana, where we attended the John Hartford Memorial Festival.

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John Hartford was a remarkably talented musician and songwriter and one of the most creative and prolific entertainers ever to pick up a banjo. Or a fiddle. Or whatever he darned well felt like. He wrote the song “Gentle on My Mind” when he was in his late 20’s. It was a huge hit for Glen Campbell and remains one of the most beloved and performed songs in the world. The success of “Gentle on My Mind” afforded John a rare and precious opportunity to follow his creative impulses wherever they would lead him. And they led him down several interesting paths over the next three decades. He wrote many more wonderful songs, became a  accomplished instrumentalist and was a champion of old-time music in Nashville. He also became an avid riverboat enthusiast and wrote and performed many songs on this theme.

During the last decade of his life, John spent a lot of time in West Virginia researching the music and life of Ed Haley, considered by many (John included) to be the best fiddler of all time. John was working on a book on this subject at the time of his death in 2001.

I recently wrote a song called “When John Hartford Met Ed Haley” and submitted it to the John Hartford Memorial Festival Songwriting Challenge, and won third place. Part of my prize was a pass to the festival and an opportunity to perform the song on the main stage of the festival.

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George and I enjoyed the festival. It as a little hot, then a little rainy, then a little hot, and on and on like that, but we still had a good time. I think George had other things on his mind than taking photographs, so I have borrowed some additional images from the Web site https://www.johnhartfordmemfest.com/home

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Tired and muddy, George and I decided to head home on Saturday – one day earlier than we had originally planned.

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It was a most excellent adventure and a time I will never forget. I loved the scenery, the generosity and kind hospitality we received, the opportunity to play a lot of music, and the chance to see friends and family. But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip for me was getting to experience it with my son George. Few fathers and sons have this opportunity to spend 24 days together, travel more than 5,000 miles, and share the music and experiences that George and I have had during the past month. I love you, George!

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Photograph courtesy of Gary Mortensen.

Dy 18 – May 27

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I love community radio! Many of you already know that I host a weekly show called Honky Tonk Holiday over WTSQ-LP 88.1 in Charleston, WV, every Sunday afternoon from 2-4 pm EDT – streaming online at wtsq.org. Many of my friends share this interest and host radio shows as well. Our hostess in Austin, Sharon Sandomirsky, hosts Strictly Bluegrass over KOOP 91.7, and she invited George and me to be her guests last Sunday morning. It was fun! You can listen online to the show until June 10 at http://www.radiofreeamerica.com/show/strictly-bluegrass-koop-radio.

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From KOOP we went to Threadgill’s “Armadillo World  Headquarters” for their Gospel Brunch with John Emery’s Hillbilly Revival, featuring my buddy Floyd Domino on piano. Threadgill’s features a nice menu, and George was pleased with the veggie offerings (not true of many other places we have been on this trip). Thank you, Threadgill’s! We enjoyed the food and music, and I’m glad I was able to get in a nice visit with Floyd later in the day.

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Next stop was Lambert’s restaurant in downtown (located on Willie Nelson Boulevard, no less!) to hear the great Beth Chrisman and her band the Morning Afters. They were kind enough to invite me up for a couple of numbers. Beth was a member of the Carper Family, who played a few of my songs, including “Come When Mama Calls,” quite possibly the song we are doing here.

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House concert that evening – what a day! The concert was hosted by a nice woman named Elise and was sponsored by the Austin Friends of Traditional Music, and I am grateful to them. The concert went very well. I was especially pleased with, and proud of, my son George, who joined me for several numbers. Way to go, George!

Thank you, Austin!

Day 17- May 26

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Broken Spoke – George and I played tourists on Saturday. After some sleeping in and visiting and listening to music with our most excellent hostess Sharon Sandomirsky, we headed out to hear a fine set from my friend Sophia Johnson and her band. Later we went to the world-famous Broken Spoke. What a place! The history and music seems to emit from the rough-cut floor boards in this ageless place. George signed up for the Texas Two-Step dance lesson before the band revved up, then we both enjoyed the Derailers. They were pretty good and played non-stop for more than two hours. Lots of smiles on the dance floor, though we left before the end. We had our fill of Austin fun for the evening.

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http://www.brokenspokeaustintx.net/

 

Day 15 – May 24

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Terlingua – I have always been fascinated with the “ends of the earth”: Key West, Shetland, Alaska, Ushuaia (look it up!), and now Terlingua, Texas.

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Sure, there are more remote and exotic destinations in the world, but few places with such forlorn mystery, such lush desolation, so much unattainable potential. It’s an official Ghost Town, for heaven’s sake!

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I discovered Terlingua a few years ago at the suggestion of Texas songwriting stalwart Butch Hancock. He lives near here and recommended a visit. When I finally got here, my overwhelming reaction was, “This?!?” But a few hours later, while jamming on the expansive front porch of the general store, it all became clear. I said to myself, “This!!”

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George and I spent the morning in Big Bend, drying out from the devil storm we had last night. Then we drove out of the park to Terlingua. Things were a little quiet there by comparison with other visits, but we could still feel the magic. My gig was at the Starlight Theatre in “downtown” (LOL) Terlingua.

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I played a small, but intimate concert, while people were eating…

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I shall return!

 

Day 14 – May 23

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Big Bend! One of the most beautiful and imposing places on earth! George took some great photos, but pictures cannot convey the gargantuan scale of this place. It is difficult to grasp how far away an object might be or roughly how high a rock cliff or a mountain ridge would actually measure. Not that it matters! In many cases the successive ridges and valleys tail off into a purple horizon.

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Plenty of wildlife to be seen. This javelina and a bunch of his buddies were rooting around by the side of the road when we happened by. One even came into a neighboring campsite the next morning! They are very bold and dangerous.

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George fiddling up a storm – we were nearly swept away by a powerful late-afternoon boomer that swept through the park. George wanted his picture made while playing his fiddle on a mountaintop in west Texas. He sounded good!

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I love this place!