At The Coop

At The Coop

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Dry Mouth Of Fear

        


         I had a bit of a scare at The Bluebird Cafe last night.
         There were ten writers on the bill, leading up to a featured set by the ever-irascible J. Fred Knobloch, who is a wonderfully cantankerous performer. I was the eighth writer to go on. As I often do when I'm that far down the list, I opted to stay outside after I checked in with host Steve Goodie. The music is pumped outside. I get a chance to visit with folks, and someone who wouldn't otherwise get a seat for the show gets to go in. A lot of folks travel great distances only to be told "Sorry. We're full." I try to make sure that at least one person doesn't have that lousy experience.
           When the weather is as nice as it was last night, I'll leave my guitar in the trunk of my car until about 20 minutes before I go on. Then I'll get it out, check the tuning, and play a little bit to loosen up my rapidly-getting-old fingers.
            Last night, I walked over the car, opened the trunk, and...NO GUITAR!

            I knew I had carried it out of the house, so I quickly looked in the back seat, and then in the trunk again (as if it would materialize there since the last time I looked.) I remembered checking to see if I had CDs in the pouch on the front of the case after I arrived at the Bluebird, so then I started worrying that maybe I hadn't locked the car after doing so. It was a terrible moment when I had to face the possibility that someone had seen me put it in the trunk and had misappropriated it while I wasn't paying attention.
           I could surely borrow a guitar to play some songs, but I wouldn't have my harmonicas, and how would I replace my gear? I was feeling worse by the second. I went to the door and asked the girl who was working if she remembered whether or not I had carried a guitar in when I went to check in with Steve. She didn't remember, but thought that maybe I had.
           Sure enough, it was leaning up against the corner of the bar and the sound booth.
           I was feeling much better, but I was shaking hard from the adrenaline. I still hadn't settled down by the time I got onstage. The crowd didn't seem to realize how torqued I was. In fact, I sold ten CDs after my set, but have you ever tried to play the harmonica while experiencing the Dry Mouth of Fear?
Let's hope that there is never a repeat of that performance.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dreams

        
 
          "You can't campaign with a machine gun."
          I'm not sure what that means, but apparently I said it in a dream one night last week. A couple of nights later, a guy came up to me in another dream and said "You can't campaign with a machine gun. I heard you say that the other day. That was so cool!" It got me to thinking about dreams...mine, and dreams in general.
          I'd be willing to bet that I'm not the only person who dreams about being able to fly. I have had dreams about flying at least since I was eleven or twelve years old, if not earlier that that.  In my dreams, flight is so easy. It's almost like treading water. I wave my hands back and forth in the direction of the ground and I rise right up. Sometimes I fly horizontally and parallel to the ground, but as often as not, the sensation is more like being in deep water (that I can breathe in, and not feel any more than I would feel the air) and moving at will, untethered from the ground. I have them fairly often, and I probably don't have to tell you what a disappointment it is to wake up and not be able to fly.
          I wrote a song one time from a dream I had about being in a wheelchair. Twenty years ago, we were living in eastern North Carolina, in a two-story house with a woodstove for heat. In the winter time, we would get a good fire going right before bedtime and then close the dampers down and go to bed. About an hour or so before it was time for everyone to get up, I would head downstairs and open the dampers, add a few logs, and then go back to bed. The living room would be nice and toasty in the morning. Around this same time period, I was playing music at a lot of biker bars and functions. If you hang around enough bikers, you'll start seeing folks on crutches and in wheelchairs. I guess it's only natural that those images would infiltrate my dreams.
         One night, I had a particularly vivid dream about being in a wheelchair. I was hanging out in a house with a bunch of other "wheelies". Somewhere (not anywhere nearby) there was a guy who had a motorcycle rigged so that he could ride it in spite of the handicap that had kept him chair-bound. We couldn't see him since he was way down the road somewhere, but we were somehow psychically connected to him. We he fired up his bike, we knew it, and we all went nuts. We rolled out into the front yard, hooting and hollering, because not only was he doing it, he was doing it for all of us.
        Then I woke up.
         I was halfway down the stairs to put some wood in the stove when it hit me. I was walking! Just a few minutes earlier, I had been stuck in a chair, but now I was on two feet and walking down a flight of stairs. It shook me up a little. Then I started thinking "What if it was the other way around?" What if I could walk and/or ride a motorcycle in my dreams, but woke up to life in a wheelchair? That day I wrote a song called "Morning Rolls Around". Within a week, I had recorded it with some of my picker buddies, and included it on a cassette that I put out.

          Another kind of dream is the waking one of "What do I want to do with my life?". They are actually aspirations, but we often refer to them as dreams. A dear old friend of mine contacted me the other day wanting to know how to purchase a copy of my "What's Not To Love About That?" CD to give to her elderly country music loving cousins. She told me that she thought "What's Not to Love" was the most beautiful song she'd heard in a long time. "Truly, truly lovely." She added that it made her glad to know that I was living my dream.
          I guess if my dream is to write songs that touch people emotionally, then yes, I'm living my dream. Now, if only I could fly....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Any Cock'll Do? Not According To Our Hens.

         
 
          Well, we solved the too-many-roosters dilemma.
          We had hatched some eggs from our hens before the coyote attack known as "The Great Chicken Massacree Of Twenty And Fourteen". The daddy rooster was an Ameraucana Black/Lav Split. We had three different kinds of hens...Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red. I built a homemade incubator out of a small Styrofoam cooler and a lightbulb, and put eight eggs in it.

          Six of them hatched. They were pretty danged cute.


          We lost one of the babies on the night of the coyote attack. The other five have grown to be beautiful birds. Unfortunately, three of the five turned out to be roosters. Along with the four pullets I bought at the Davidson Country Co-op, we had six hens and three roosters. That's not a desirable ratio at all. At least one, and most likely two, of the roosters had to go.

          Neither Nina nor I had any experience killing and cleaning chickens, but she told me that if I could kill one, she could clean it. That was the plan. I started studying on how to implement it. I could kill one easily enough, but the rest of the process seemed like an awful lot of work (and supplies) unless you were doing multiple chickens. I know people have killed a chicken for dinner on countless occasions, so it had to be easier than all the YouTube videos made it out to be. The other problem was that they were such beautiful birds that it almost seemed a shame to eat them. I started looking on Craigslist for people who were in the market for roosters.
          We were hoping to find someone who would give a rooster a good home and some hens to keep happy. Since the roosters carried the "Easter Egger" gene, we thought it would be easy enough to find someone who would want them. We were willing to give them away to good homes. As it turns out, there are a lot of people with way more roosters than they need. We also heard horror stories of people who collected free birds to use as bait for fighting dogs. One of our greatest fears was that somebody might use them for fighting roosters since they were pretty big birds.

          I found an ad for a fellow who said he was at the Triune Flea Market every weekend with about six hundred birds of different kinds. He also said that he was interested in buying birds. It's about forty-five minutes away, but I drove down there to talk to him yesterday morning. I didn't take the roosters with me. It was more of a seeing-what's-up kind of excursion. He wasn't there when I got there, but I did talk to two other people who had birds. Both told me to bring the roosters down and we could see about swapping for some hens. One guys birds looked kind of ratty, and he wasn't overly-friendly. The other fellow had some nice looking birds, and he also seemed to be a pretty nice guy...just a good old boy loving life. I told him I'd come back this morning.
          We were having trouble trying to decide which rooster to keep. Two of the roosters looked almost identical, and one of those two was huge. It was a toss-up between him and the third rooster, who is one of the most exotically-colored chickens I have ever seen. The hens decided for us. We went out after dark last night (the best time to catch chickens) and opened up the henhouse. The two hens were sleeping almost on top of the exotically-colored boy, while the other two roosters were perched away from the group with their backs to the door. The first one was a pretty easy snatch. I grabbed him up and dropped him into the dog crate that we had borrowed from the neighbors. Unfortunately, that caused a ruckus in the henhouse, so we had to wait an hour to go snag the second rooster. They spent the night in the dog crate on the front porch. This morning we were treated (?) to stereo-crowing.
          When I got back to Triune this morning, all of the vendors were raving over the roosters, and wanting to know if I had any more like that. I said "One...but he's staying with us." The guy who I traded with told me that he thought whoever bought them would want them for yard roosters. In fact, he told me that he was keeping one for himself. I felt pretty good about that. He was going to trade me straight up for two adult hens that were already laying, but he told me that if I wanted some slightly younger pullets, he would give me three. I took three Barred Rocks that are right around the age of our younger chickens, who are three weeks younger than the ones we hatched. He told me to come back any time.
          We now have nine hens and one rooster...a much better ratio. 
          I think everybody's happy.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Miso Shiitake Soup With Tofu

         I did a little experimenting in the kitchen today. I've been wanting to try cooking with seaweed, and I like the pre-packaged-just-add-hot-water miso soups that you can buy at the natural food stores okay, so I decided to make my own.
         I picked up some SHIRO brand miso paste (made with non-GMO soybeans) and some GENKAI Ito WAKAME dried seaweed yesterday at the international market when I was on the way home from getting new rubber put on my Nissan Versa tour bus. (Only two...what you might call semi-retirement.)  I also replenished our stocks of sesame oil and ZIYAD brand Red Hot Pepper Paste.
        This morning, I went to the nearest big corporate grocery store and bought fresh a ginger root, some shiitake mushrooms, some firm tofu, and some random fruits and veggies that our refrigerator seemed to be lacking.
       First things first. I cut about a third of the block of tofu into small cubes, and set them out to drain between several paper towels and on top of some newspaper.
        Then I cut about 1 1/2 inches off of the fat end of the ginger root. I peeled it, cut it thin slices crossways (this way you cut the fibers and don't end up with stringy pieces of ginger), and then chopped it somewhere between small and fine. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons. I cheated and used pre-chopped garlic. It's quicker, easier, and not so stinky on the fingers.
        I have a shallow stainless steel pot that I like to use for things like this. I put it on a medium heat, and added a splash (about a tablespoon, plus or minus) of sesame oil. Once the oil was hot, I added the vegetables that I had already prepped...some small-diced onions, some thinly-sliced celery, and some julienned (small thin sticks) carrots...along with the ginger and about a tablespoon of garlic.
Once the vegetables started to soften up, I added the sliced shiitakes, a teaspoon of the Red Hot Pepper Paste, and a tiny splash of soy sauce.
      The next step was to rehydrate the dried seaweed. You should always use way less than you think you're going to want, because once you place it in cold water, it gets HUGE. I wish I had realized that. I soaked it for five or six minutes, drained the water off (I used a mesh-style strainer) and then squeezed out any excess water. I then chopped half of it up into pieces that seemed like they would be comfortable to eat with a soup spoon. The rest went into the refrigerator for some other experiment. (I told you it gets huge.)
           The seaweed, after soaking, and before chopping.
            Once the mushrooms had softened, I added 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of the miso paste. After the paste dissolved into a broth, I added the seaweed and the tofu. Then I covered it and set it on simmer for a couple of hours. You could probably go shorter than that, but I like to give hot soups as much time as I can.
     It was very tasty, although I think next time (and there will be a next time) I will skip the soy sauce. Miso and seaweed are both already salty. The soup wasn't any more salty than the soups you get at most Chinese restaurants, but I certainly wouldn't have wanted it to be any saltier than it was. I found this homemade version to be way more satisfying than the instant packages.
     Don't be afraid to try this at home. I'm glad I did, You can use whatever vegetables you have handy, and the brand name items I used were what was available at my local international market. Use whatever you can find brand-wise.
     Good stuff!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Don't Care Who You Think You Are...



          Interesting night tonight at the “The Taste OF TSAI” event. I was scheduled to go on at 6:00pm with three other writers for an hour. One of the writers showed up with an extra (and unannounced) guitarist in tow. I had never known her to need an accompanist before, but suddenly there were five guitars and only four direct inputs for the PA. Only three of the mic stands had booms on them, making it difficult to hold a guitar and sing in the mic at the same time. We decided (with the blessing of the person organizing the event) that the best way to handle it was for half of the group to play the first half hour and then the other half play the second half hour. It seemed like a good solution for making the best of an awkward situation.
          At the end of the first half hour, two people left the stage. The accompanist stood up there tuning his guitar while the emcee talked and we tried to get set up for our half hour. Then the emcee announced us and added “Accompanied by Accompanist”. That was news to me, so  I turned to the guy and told him that I would rather that he didn’t play on my songs. (He doesn’t know them, and I’m used to doing the solo thing.) Steve (the other writer) said he would prefer that I go first, so I did. I started with “My Dog Jesus”, since there were a lot of folks there who had never heard me before. Then Steve did a song.
          When I stepped up to the mic for my second song,  Accompanist said “I’m doing one now.”
          I said “Really?”
          He said “Yeah!”.
          I unplugged my guitar and walked off stage. He started playing. The soundman (who was already having issues with Accompanist) asked me what was going on. I told him I got booted. I was ready to pack up and leave. Nina told me that she thought it looked bad, and that I should get back up. The soundman went looking for the organizer, who came up to me and asked “What’s he doing up there? He’s not on the bill.” I told him what had happened, and told me “Oh, no…you need to get back up there.”
          So I got back up and played “Dickel, Strait & Jones”. Steve did another song. I got ready to launch into my third song.
          Accompanist goes “I’m going to do another one.”
          I said “No. you’re not. You’re not part of this round. You weren’t invited, and your name is not on the bill. You’ve already taken one person’s slot.”
          He acted like I had spit on him. “I’ve already taken one person’s slot?” He unplugged his guitar while telling me “You’re a real jewel, you know that?” Then he stormed off the front of the stage while shouting “You don’t ever have to worry about me working with you again!”
          I stated that he never was working with me in the first place, and that he had crashed the round.  He flew through the crowd to wherever his guitar case was.
          I was pretty torqued at that point, so I decided to do a happy song, and told the crowd so. I launched into “What’s Not To Love”, and of course I had the wrong harmonica in the rack. Swapped harps and kicked it off again. Roared through the song, and took my bows. I was headed to the green room to put my guitar in the case, when accompanist walked by me in the crowd and says at the top of his lungs “You’re a real dick!” I kept walking.
         I was in the green room putting my guitar up, when he comes in and accosts me.
        “You’re a real asshole! You should never say on a mic that somebody crashed a round.”
        “That’s exactly what you did. You weren’t invited. Your name was not on the bill.”
        “They told me that I was going to accompany her and then be in the round.”
         I asked who “they” were.
        He told me "they" were the writer who he was there to play with and the organizer.
         I said “That’s funny, because the organizer asked me what you were doing up there.”
        He reiterated that he thought I was an asshole.
         I told him he needed to go look in the mirror.
        He turned away,  shouting “Go fuck yourself!” as he stalked out of the green room.
         I found myself wishing I was the kind of guy who would stomp a mudhole in somebody who acted like that, but fortunately I am not.
        Accompanist was in a one-hit-wonder band in the ‘60s, and hangs around Nashville pretending to something he’s not, all the while pretending to not be what he is…a self-aggrandizing opportunist. He sure hated getting called on it. I hated that I brought that drama to an otherwise fun event, but somebody had to say “That ain’t right!” I guess I got nominated. I sure didn’t enjoy it.

Addendum...because a lot of people have asked and/or wrongly assumed the identity of the perpetrator, it was NOT my friend Gary Talley. He has way more class than that. And besides, The Boxtops had more than one hit.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Personal Beliefs...Have You Questioned Yours Lately?

          W.C. Fields is purported to have said "Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer." I have heard many permutations of this, including "A man has to believe in something, and I believe I'll go fishing." and "Everyone's got to believe in something, and I believe I'll take a nap." Those sayings are clever and fun, but do you ever stop to think about what you believe and why you believe it?
          To the best of my recollection, the sun has come up every single day of my life. That makes me believe that it will come up tomorrow.  Whenever I walk unprotected in the rain, I get wet. I believe that will continue to happen. If I touch a hot woodstove, I will get burned. I believe that with all my scars. However, some things I believe are not so strongly reinforced by evidence that I can detect with only five senses. I just believe them. Sometimes I wonder why. Maybe experience is what makes me believe the way I do. Maybe it's logic.
          I believe that it is wrong to hurt other people, through words, actions, or any other means. That doesn't mean I haven't done it (and probably still do) but I still don't think it's right. Why? Because it feels wrong to me. If I wouldn't want someone to do something to me, I certainly have no business doing it to them.
          I believe that if someone is going to espouse a religious viewpoint or claim to be an adherent of a religion...any religion...they should know what that religion is and what it stands for. I do not believe that a message of peace and love is something that should be (or even can be) used as a weapon against other people. If you cherry-pick words and phrases from sacred texts in order to make a religion fit your mold, you probably have no business claiming that religion as your own...much less trying to force other people to adhere to it. I also believe that people are happier when they find a religion that fits them than they are if they expend their precious energies trying to shoehorn themselves into someone else's interpretation.
           Along those lines...I know that being gay is not a religion, but I believe that people who are gay and admit it to themselves and others are much happier and more well-adjusted than people who deny who they are and, as often is the case, carry out attacks on others for being gay. The fact that these attacks are often cloaked as coming from theologies whose main message is peace and love makes it even worse. I believe that because I have observed it. My friends (and relatives) who are gay and have come out about it are in a way better place than those in the closet.

          Other things that I believe...
          I believe that the United States government (or any state or local government in the United States) doesn't have any business making laws that favor one religious point of view over another, or one that furthers any religious agenda.
          I believe that having more money than somebody else doesn't make you a better person than them. How you let money affect you says more about "class" than how much money you have.
          I believe that corporations are not people.  Corporations are formed to offer the people who form them legal protections, and therefore should not be afforded the same rights and privileges as human beings. I believe that corporations should pay taxes. I also believe that churches should pay taxes. I believe that neither of those two entities have any business writing the laws of our country.
          I believe that the earth is ours to protect and not to exploit. You can't eat, drink, or breathe money when the food, water, and air are gone.
          I believe that two adult people who love each other should be allowed to marry, be they from different backgrounds, different races, different religions, or the same sex. Most arguments against that proposal are "religious" in nature, and therefore not grounds for legal opposition. The argument that marriage is about procreation is also worthless, since many people who are unable to have children are allowed to get married...people who get married later in life, or a couple where one or both of the people are infertile...as are people who chose not to have children.
          I believe that if you hate in the name of religion, then you're doing it wrong.
          I believe that your right to swing your fist ends just short of my nose.
          I believe in Americans' rights to own guns...but I also believe that if you have to wave your gun in other people's faces to feel secure, then you are really insecure...and probably dangerously so.
          I believe that alcohol and nicotine are drugs. As such, they shouldn't be any more legal than any other drug.
          I believe that marijuana should be legal to grow and consume responsibly.
          Until logic or experience convince me otherwise, I will continue to believe these things.
          I believe you have the right to disagree with me, but I'll probably believe you're wrong if you do.
          I believe that's enough for now. Have a good day.

"Two things that can be hard to find are courage and peace of mind
Well they ain't in a bottle and they ain't in the barrel of a gun..."

         

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Liquor? I Hardly Know Her! Part 2: I'm Not A Fool

         

          This is a hook I came up with based on all those old Robert Young (Marcus Welby, M.D.) television commercials where he would say "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV". It had several rough permutations ("I'm not a fool, but I play one when you wear that dress" and things along that line) before I settled on "I'm not a fool, I just play one on Jim Beam".
          I was back in North Carolina at the time, and I was finishing up a writing session with Donald "Rome'" Wood on a song we had started in Nashville called "You Can Lead A Man To Water (But You Can't Push Him In)", which was about some people's seemingly uncontrollable urge to make sure that everyone they come across in life is "saved". I had met Rome' at one of Doak Turner's 3rd @ Three gatherings in Nashville. Doak introduced us since he knew we were both from North Carolina, and it turns out that we had lived only about 45 minutes away from each other. At the time Rome' was going by his radio name of Dave Stone, which is how I still think of him from time to time. He had a radio show in Fayetteville, North Carolina and a weekly segment he called "The Writers' Block" where he interviewed hit writers from Nashville and played the pre-hit demo recordings of their big songs. He had invited me on the show (in spite of the fact that I didn't have any big radio hits) on the strength of the song "My Dog Jesus" which he had heard me play at Doak's. As I recall, I played that song, "That's What I'm Talkin' About" and "I Recall My Daddy" on his show.
     Anyway, after we finished up "You Can Lead A Man To Water", we had a little time left and I pitched the idea for "I'm Not A Fool" to Dave (that's who he was back then) and he thought it was worth writing. We tossed around a few ideas before he had to head back to Fayetteville.
     I beat the song around a little bit, and had a workable chorus and a pretty good second verse by the time I talked to Dave again. I told him what I had and asked him when we could get together to finish it. He said "Are you sure you want to share it? Sounds like you've got most of it written." I told him that since we had started it together that I felt like we should consider it a co-write. We got back together and hammered away until we got it mostly nailed down. He told me that he hated the line "A cap comes off a bottle, and evil genie casts a spell". I told him "too bad".
      I ended up cutting "I'm Not A Fool" for my "What's Not To Love About That?" CD. My producer Duane Sciacqua played some great Dobro parts on it, and my buddy Jose Primero (Joe First) added some tasty accordion. It's not a combination that you hear everyday, but I thought it worked real well.
     Rome' still hates that "genie" line....


    

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Liquor? I Hardly Know Her! Part 1: Jack In Common

         


          I've been thinking lately about how all the research I did when I was younger has helped me write drinking and barroom songs now that I'm sober (32 years!). One of the first songs that comes to my mind is the third song I ever wrote with my friend Bo Thomas Biermann. Bo is one of the better singers I've ever met, and a pretty danged good writer, but he is much happier as a small town guy who goes fishing after work and surfing in the summertime. Good for him for figuring that out.
          Bo showed up at my one bedroom dump apartment on 18th Avenue one day in early '06 with a hook idea " I chose the bottle, but she chose the Bible, and we don't have Jack in Common anymore" that in and of itself was not bad, but being who I am, I insisted on us changing it. We ended up writing a boy-meets-girl from a different walk of life-over a couple of shots of whiskey song called "Jack In Common". I recorded it with producer Duane Sciacqua, and it became the leadoff track on my 2009 CD "What's Not To Love About That?". Bo sang the harmonies, and his then-girlfriend Jessica Brooks sang a duet with me on the last chorus.
          Around the time that we wrote the song, my friend Suzy Q (Susan Davis) came out to visit from North Carolina. At one point she told me "I've heard that song twice since I've been here, and there's a part that has bothered me both times. It's when you say 'A little boy said'. I don't think a little boy has any business in the bar, much less in the song." Bo and I laughed and explained to her that we were saying "a little voice". I have been much more careful with my enunciation since then.
          I once sold a copy of the CD to a guy who heard me play at the Luna Star Café in North Miami. He took it to a party where everyone was apparently getting hammered and played it for the partygoers. That turned into an immediate scavenger hunt for Jack Daniels-related articles. He sent me an email and asked for my mailing address (which I am fairly protective of) and said he wanted to send me a gift. After explaining to him that my home was my refuge where I hide out when I'm not on the road and that neither my wife, nor I, nor our psycho dog appreciated uninvited "guests", I told him I would be happy to receive a token of their appreciation. Several days later, a package arrived. In it was a bottle of Jack Daniels Honey Dijon Mustard and half of a nice coaster set emblazoned with the Jack Daniels logo.
     I guess I'm living the life...and reaping the benefits...but I still won't drink to that.
     Cheers!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Heart Of a Hobo

THE HEART OF A HOBO
          My late friend Billy Phillips once told me that he had originally moved to Nashville to be a Gospel singer. Billy had Muscular Dystrophy and by the time I first met him at Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern, he was pretty much confined to a wheelchair. He told me that at one time earlier in life he had been able to walk, and even though he was a “wheelie”, he felt certain that he would walk again one day.
          Billy also had a great love of classic country music, and after a few of my songs caught his ear (and his heart) we started having conversations about songs, songwriters, songwriting, and life in general. We became pretty good friends,
          Billy used to sing at a soup kitchen that operated on Mondays at a church in Madison. It was a regular thing for him and he loved sharing songs with the folks who came in for what might have been their only good meal of the week. He called me up one day and invited me over there to play. While we were on the phone, he told me that he had a soft spot for homeless folks, and that his father had been a hobo. Billy grew up around traveling folks, and their family home was often populated with transient types that needed a place to lay their burdens down for a spell. One family had stayed with them awhile and left owing Billy’s family some money. They left behind the only thing they had of value, which was a box full of classic country record albums. That’s where Billy got his first taste of what eventually brought us into each other’s lives.
          While we were having our telephone conversation, Billy said “I guess God gave me a heart for the hobo.”  My immediate response was “That sounds like a great hook for a song”. We had never written anything together and decided that it was past time for us to remedy that fact. A few days later I went over to the house he shared with his girlfriend around the corner from the church with the soup kitchen.
          Billy was laid up on the couch. I pulled up a chair and we started discussing where this hook would take us. After a little discussion, came to the conclusion that the hook was a little clunky and would be awkward to sing, so we changed it to “God gave him the heart of a hobo”, which seemed like a better alternative. We talked about it a little bit, tossing ideas back and forth, when suddenly I had a thought. I said “What if God literally did give him the heart of a hobo…as in a transplant from a dead homeless guy?” Billy’s eyes got real big and he stared at me for a minute before asking “Can we say that in a country song?” I told him we could say whatever we wanted to because we were the ones writing the song. Furthermore, if he didn’t want to write songs like that, he shouldn’t call me up, because I was prone to write things from a different angle than most folks.  He was good with that.
          It took us a while, but we finally came up with the song “The Heart Of A Hobo”.
 

                                                   R.I.P. Billy...and teach them angels this song.

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jambalaya!!!


     It's my understanding that Jambalaya is "dirty" rice, flavored with pretty much whatever you want to put in it...so that's how I make it. Although each batch has its similarities, it's different every time I make it. It depends on what's in the fridge and/or the garden.
     I usually start by browning some sliced sausage links (I use turkey) in a little oil. In my most recent batch (the one in the picture) I threw in some leftover barbecued chicken drumettes after the sausage got brown. Then I added some chopped onion, sliced celery, some chunks of bell pepper, and a big old jalapeno pepper that I had cored, deseeded, and sliced. Nina has been growing some Chinese long beans in the garden...

...so I cut several of them into pieces about two inches long and added them to the pot. We also had half a dozen or so okra that were asking to be cut, so I obliged them and dropped them in along with the beans. Some chopped garlic, dried oregano and thyme, and a little ground cumin seed added to the flavor. Once that stuff started to cook down, I drained a can of diced tomatoes (saving the juice) and added them to the mix. Several minutes later, I poured the juice in, along with a little salt and ground black pepper. The final ingredients are a cup and a half of rice and three cups of water. I brought the concoction to a boil, turned it down to a low heat, and put a lid on it.
    About 30 minutes later, I checked on it. The rice was soft, so I turned it off.  Not long after that, it was on our plates and pleasing our palates.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Small World Tour: Day 3...Festival For The Eno...part 2

SMALL WORLD TOUR: DAY 3...FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO...PART 2
    Based on the audience reaction (and CD sales) my opening set was pretty well received. In addition to old friends (including my sister who I've known for 55 years, and my old high school sweetie and her younger sister who I've know for over 40 years), a lot of folks who I had never met came around the side of the stage after I was done to chat with me and buy CDs.
     One woman told me that she had only heard my last song, but had to have the CD. Another couple wanted the "what's not to like about that song". One man told me that "My Dog Jesus" was the most unique inspirational song that he had ever heard. Several people bought both CDs, often with a comment along the lines of "I've never heard of you before. You were great!". None of this hurt my feelings. Several people asked for "Circling The Drain" even though I had mentioned onstage that it was not on any of my CDs. I directed them to YouTube, and told them that I guessed that it had to be on the next record. I guess it does.
   Off to the River Stage for my second set of the day. I got there in time to catch the tail end of a set by Anne McCue, who as it turns out also lives in Nashville and has many mutual friends. Her band for the day was a pair of brothers from Raleigh, Dave (drums) and Ron (bass) Bartholomew, who were operating under the name The Blue Millionaires. I had met Dave last November when I played S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest. That night, he was the guitarist for Terry Anderson & The Olympic Ass Kicking Team.
    I played a lot of the same songs that I had played on the Grove Stage, and there were old friends and new faces in attendance. I started with "You Done Done It Now", which I introduced as "a song that contains two classic themes of traditional country music...infidelity and unforgiveness." After that, I played the title track to my new CD "One More Night In Nashville", followed by "What's Not To Love?". Then I played "Dickel, Strait & Jones", "Too Many Bubbas", and "My Dog Jesus". I closed out the set with "Inside That Box" and "Circling The Drain" (which I totally spaced on the words to, and then inhaled a bug or something.) It was a dramatic ending, but I choked my way through it. After the set, some folks came over to talk. One guy wanted to tell me about his friend who he thought I would have a "hoot" with if we ever ended up in the same room. It turns out his friend was Jonathan Byrd, who used to play at the Hyphen when Nina and I owned it. While we were talking, a young guy ran up and said "I didn't catch your set, but I checked you out online. "My Dog Jesus" is the best song ever!"
I packed up to hustle over to the Meadow Stage to catch Jamie Anderson's set which was scheduled to start at the same time my set was ending. As I was walking over, I heard "FORT KURTMEYER!"
There's only one person I know who calls me that...Mister Lightnin' Wells. We visited for a minute before I boogied up the hill to the meadow.
Jamie was in full swing, accompanied by Robbie Link on the upright bass and Tracy Feldman on the violin. She had the crowd eating out of her hand with such hilarious fare as "Your Mama Scares Me", "Menopause Mambo", and "Run". My sister Kate had met Jamie earlier in the day, but she didn't have a clue what Jamie was about until seeing her set. I do believe she was properly impressed. During Jamie's set, I was accosted by a cute young woman who had seen my first set. I thought she was going to climb into my lap, but fortunately my entourage (Alan and Jane) was there to protect my virtue. I did tell the girl "If I were you, I'd be awesome." which generated yet another hi-five. After Jamie's set, she and Tracy and I had a nice meal together, telling bad jokes and generally carrying on. I swear that woman is my sister from a whole different set of parents. Tracy shot this picture.

          After parting ways with Jamie, I started heading (in a roundabout way) toward performer parking, to change into cooler clothes and stash my guitar. Again, I heard someone call my name (this time from the beer garden) and ended up in a lengthy discussion with Isabel Taylor, who I had met last year when I played at The City Tap in Pittsboro. She is a songwriter as well, but her set coincided with my second set, so I didn't get to hear her sing. I was almost to performer parking when I realized that I didn't have my keys. Nina had parked the car after dropping me off for my first set. I parked my butt backstage at the Grove and sent her a text. It turned out that we were only about 100 feet away from each other, since she was out in front of the stage catching Dex Romweber's set. I got the keys and trudged on toward the car. There was a younger couple walking down the gravel road at the same time I was. The guy said "I saw you at S.P.I.T.T.L.E. Fest. You were badass. I hate that I got here too late to see you today." I thanked him for the kind words, and left them by the Port-O-Johns.
     After changing clothes, I wandered around a little bit, caught some of Andy Coats' set on the Chimney Corners Stage, and then hooked back up with my peeps down at the River Stage in time to catch John D. Holeman and Lightnin' Wells dropping the blues on everybody. Eventually, we had enough festival for one day, and so we headed for the car, and then the house.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Small World Tour: Day 3...Festival For The Eno...part 1

SMALL WORLD TOUR, DAY THREE: THE FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO
 

     Rolled out of our separate beds (I was missing her already) trying not to think about how early it was in Central time, where our body clocks were set, grabbed a light breakfast, and prepared for the 4th of July the way we like to spend it...at the Festival For The Eno. Hurricane Arthur had continued up the coast and left relatively cool weather in its wake. It's usually pushing the upper 90s or the low 100s, so the upper 80s was sounding pretty danged awesome. I decided to wear jeans, boots, and my new shirt from the thrift store to play my sets, rather than shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt, although I did pack a change of lighter clothes for changing into after my sets.
    It was about a 45 minute drive to the festival grounds (which beats the heck out of a 9 hour drive from Nashville) and soon we were rolling through the front gate. We said "Good morning" to Forrest the gatekeeper, flashed the All Access Vehicle pass, and heeding his admonishment to "keep it on the dashboard, brother", we slowly rolled through the grounds and around to the Grove Stage. I was greeted there by John the stage manager and the best sound team at the festival, Bo Osborne and Johnny Klein. I knew my opening set was in good hands.
     Jamie Anderson showed up almost right away, and gave me a copy of her new book "Drive All Night", (which she signed to me) and reminded me that I was in Chapter 21 "Don't Stand Too Close To The Bird", which is a recounting of her misadventures performing at The Bluebird Café in Nashville...her one and only time. I was looking forward to her mid-day set on the Meadow Stage, but I still had a couple of my own to play before then.
    My opening set on the Grove Stage was delayed only slightly by smartypants Gene O'Neill coming down front and asking if it was okay to "approach the star". After we shook hands, I got underway.
I started off with "(I Got My Heart) Broke In", the opening track on my latest CD, and then moved into a singalong of "What's Not To Love". After proclaiming my love for traditional country music, I played "Dickel, Strait & Jones". After that, I played "Inside That Box",  and I had just remarked that there was nothing like a good dead grandpa song to get a festival going, when an audience member shouted "Now all you need is a song about dogs and trucks." I said "I've got a dog song." Somebody else shouted "Jesus!", to which I replied "I think I can get Jesus and a dog into one song." Of course I can.  I love playing "My Dog Jesus" for folks who have never heard it. (On the other hand, those folks who have heard me a bunch of times and always insist that I play it even if I only get to play 2 or 3 songs need to go buy a download.) I followed "My Dog Jesus" with "Circling The Drain", and then there was some confusion about how much time I had left. The stage manager had taken a walk. I thought I had 11 minutes left, so I added a truck song ("That's What I'm Talkin' About") into my set, figuring I could still play "The One Hundred Letter Word" and "You Done Done It Now". Halfway into the song, the stage manager shows back up and tells me "3 minutes!". I finished up with "The One Hundred Letter Word", and saved "You Done Done It Now" for the second set.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Small World Tour: Day 2

SMALL WORLD TOUR...DAY TWO: Sleeping in an antique double bed with a footboard doesn't really work for someone my size. If I'm by myself, I can sleep diagonally, but travelling with my lovely wife makes it hard to get any sleep in a bed like that. Thursday morning arrived groggily and grumpily.
     After cinnamon buns and coffee, we finally started getting motivated to head out to our old stomping grounds of Fuquay-Varina. The Guardian Angel Thrift Store was waiting. It's a favorite shopping spot for three generations of my family. My plan was to have Nina drop me off at my buddy Walt Wetherington's guitar store, and then come pick me up when she and my mother were done shopping. Walt wasn't open yet, so I ended up perusing the goods at the thrift store...and spending money. I found a great shirt that I ended up wearing the next day while performing at the Festival For The Eno. I also struck gold digging through their racks of used CDs, which they sell for $1.50 a disc. I bought my mother an a cappella Bluegrass Gospel CD called "Heaven's Joy Awaits" by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, who are generally accepted as being among the best vocal bands in Bluegrass music. I also bought myself some music..."Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." by Bruce Springsteen, and a two-disc set called "Gimme Shelter...The Best Of Leon Russell". Score!
     When we finally got out of there, it was early afternoon, and Walt was open. We dropped by, checked out his nice new store, and bought a couple of sets of Elixirs. Then we headed toward the new coffeehouse/Bluegrass and Country Music venue owned by Bluegrass star Lorraine Jordan. I was hoping to catch up with her, give her a couple of my CDs, and book a date to perform there. (She and her band had played at a coffeehouse that my wife and I used to own.) As fate would have it, Hurricane Arthur blew out the power in that part of town a few minutes after we arrived. We headed back to the house to hunker down, try to get some sleep, and prepare for an early (and long) day the next day at the festival. I moved to a bunk bed to try to stretch out a little. Still didn't sleep great.

Small World Tour: Day 1

SMALL WORLD TOUR...DAY ONE: Wednesday morning we said "hasta la vista" to Sadie dog, the chickens, and the homestead, and left them in the capable hands of our trusty caretaker. We pulled out on the road on the tail end of rush hour and headed east in the Nissan Versa tour bus to the strains of Tom Russell's "The Rose Of The San Joaquin" CD. The weather was beautiful, traffic was light, cruising was easy. One gas stop, three rest areas, and a Bojangle's later, we pulled into Garner, North Carolina, hometown of "American Idol's" Scotty McCreery, and the town where I spent my high school years dreaming about being anywhere else but. Hugged my mama's neck and visited for a little bit.
We left there,and went to gas up again. While I was pumping, a fellow walked up and asked about my license plate.
"Tennessee" I told him.
"Whereabouts?" he asked.
"Nashville."
"Nashville? Do you know a guy named Cal Freeman?"
It turns out I do. Cal played pedal steel for Gatemouth Brown at the same time my friend Joe Sunseri was Gate's sax man. Cal had lived in Garner for a spell. I told this fellow that I had been to Cal's house when he lived locally. The guy says "I was his roommate. I remember you. You had a song about seeing red." I guess he did remember me. Small world.
Then we headed into Raleigh to the Berkeley Cafe, a place I have played a million times. Steve Howell and I were (some of, if not) the first musicians to play there. We had a "do-grass bluo" called The Lonesome Hound Dog Whales that played some original songs at a poetry reading there, prompting then-owner John Blomquist to start up a musician's open mic. The Berkeley has recently been bought and completely renovated by the owner of the recently closed and sadly missed Sadlack's Heroes. (Another place I have played a bunch,) Mike Spence and Rickey Bacchus were at their stations behind the bar. Bill Hickman was serving up his Wednesday Night Taco Special. Open Mic was in full swing. I went out and played a few songs for the hardcores on the back patio while awaiting my turn to perform.
Debbie Baggett and Jennifer Sanders were there. It was almost like Old Home Week(night). I played my allotted three songs "You Done Done It Now", "Inside That Box", and "My Dog Jesus". By popular demand, I played one more...A singalong of "What's Not To Love?". It was kick playing in the Berkeley again after so many years.
After a few more hugs and handshakes, we headed off for some much needed sleep.