Friday, April 22, 2005

Take a walk on the bright side

Well, it's drizzling today as we get ready to leave Athens OH. I heard it's gonna be rainy and cold this weekend in Pittsburg PA. Maybe snow on Sunday! But we all don't need more darkness in our lives. Lord knows we all have enough challenges and so here are a few things that I can think of on the bright side of this tour leg.

Got to meet my 1 year old neice. My brother and his family moved to Johnson City, TN, just in time for us to come there and play. My nephews are 7 and almost 6 and I haven't seen them in at least two years (they were living in England while my brother had a job over there). I had some fun conversations with my oldest nephew, Clay, and his brother Edgar was surprisingly astute and observant. And Evie just has a permanent grin on her face -- how lovely.

We got to play a song with Julie Lee in Nashville. She's got the voice of an angel and the disposition of a saint. Look her up on the web -- she has a beautiful site as well as spirit.

Saw some great music in Atlanta. Capt. Soular Cat wowed us on the main stage before our set at Dogwood. Those guys rock. Hope to see them again. Then, that night, we all thought we'd found Mark Smeltzer's long-lost uncle or something when we saw Baby Gramps. Oh... my... can't hardly describe him but you should just try to find him in concert or get his DVD if you want to be amazed.

Driving through the Smoky Mountain National Park. Rain couldn't spoil this beauty.

Seeing my friend Aimee (we've been friends since college, 19 years) and her husband, and their new baby Ian. Ian is teething but it's a wonder to meet him and see this lovely family grow.

Woodsongs Show. That was a real experience and I hope we can do it again. It's archived too if you missed it.

That's a start anyway and you know what? the rain has stopped at least for now. Good sign and also time to check out.

Check out some beauty of your own today -- just keep your eyes and mind open and you will most likely be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Paying Dues

It's embarrassing that I haven't written a single word since we entered British Columbia. We were gone from KC for over 5 weeks and I barely got us to Tacoma, Washington. That was the FIRST WEEKEND. So many things happened before and after. But I've pretty much dug myself in a hole from which I will never climb out. Much as I want to continue the "We Tried" story, I just can't bring myself to write another word about it. So, until I get over the writer's block, I decided to simply try to get everybody up to speed on our current tour. Thanks to my dad's eagle eyes, we found and purchased a 1997 Ford Econoline conversion van with emergency funds thankfully loaned to us by Big Guy Loans in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our old friend Leo loaned us a 4x6 trailer to haul all our crap and, with the last minute addition of a trailer hitch and license plates, away we went. So what follows is what's happened since. Those seeking thoughtful prose may just as well give up and go read a good book. But for everybody else, here's the Reader's Digest version...

Thursday, April 7th: Played The Station Inn in Nashville Tennessee for the first time. This is the preeminent bluegrass club in Music City. Opening was our new pal, Julie Lee, who we met last October at IBMA in Louisville. We all jumped in with her on "Stillhouse Road", before doing our own thing in front of a small, but receptive audience. Thunderstorms pounded Nashville for the entire show.

Friday, April 8th: Played The Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee. A smaller but more enthusiastic crowd (of mostly employees) rocked and rolled with us all night. Everybody told us, "next time you come here, the place will be packed!". Then we squeezed into our new van and drove all night to Atlanta. We arrived at about 6am just before the sun came up. Uhhhgggg.

Saturday, April 9th: Played two shows at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Once again, weather kept the crowds away. But we made some new friends and sold some CD's before regrouping for a show with blues-woman, Donna Hopkins at The Mambo Room in downtown Atlanta. The highlight of the show was the opening act, Baby Gramps. I can't possibly try to describe what this guy does. I'll just say that he played a strange form of solo blues that left the entire band gape-mouthed and screaming at the tops of our lungs.

Sunday, April 10th: Played a set at The Red Light Cafe' in Atlanta with our friend Paul Snyder's old band, Whoa Nelly. Not too many people came to this one either but we had fun regardless. After the gig, we repacked the van and drove to a very sketchy Motel 6 by the airport for some much needed rest.

Monday, April 11th: Played a few tunes on a local Atlanta community radio station before heading out on the highway for a short drive to Athens, Georgia. After the Motel 6 the night before, we decided to treat ourselves to a slightly more expensive Best Western just out of downtown. Betse and lucked out but Ike and Nate had to move to three times before settling for a "only slightly stinky" room.

Tuesday, April 12th: Played a set at Tasty World in downtown Athens between a world music fusion group called The Would Be Farmers and local Athens bluegrass heroes The Packway Handle Band. Continuing the trend, there were few people attending but those that were there were very pleased by our performance. Mercifully, the owner of the club gave us $50 for gas money after the show.

Wednesday, April 13th: Left Athens for Knoxville, Tennessee. Drove through Smoky Mountain National Park. Due to weather, not much in the way of Mountains were seen. There was plenty of smoke, however. With tax day looming over us, we checked into a Comfort Inn advertising high speed wireless internet which turned out to be completely fictional due to an electrical storm which affected their connection. Laptops were pulled out and tax software was anguished over for the rest of the night.

Thursday, April 14th: Tax anguish continued the next morning before we suited up and headed to play The Blue Plate Special lunchtime show on WDVX in Knoxville with Tony Furtado. Despite the early show, we turned in a solid performance and (hopefully) made many new fans amongst the listeners of this popular live show. Then it was back to the Comfort Inn for more numbers crunching. Everybody's stomach hurt by bedtime. Moral of this story: self employment taxes are punishing.

Friday, April 15th: Woke up early to finish printing tax forms. Then it was back to downtown Knoxville for banking and mailing. The stress seemed to melt away as each envelope slid through the wall.

Now we are back on the road en-route to Boone, N.C. We have a show there tonight and another tomorrow in Asheville, N.C. In the wise words of our friend Seamus McGreevy, "It's a hard life, but it's a good life too."

As yet, the van is still unnamed. So, for the rest of this tour we will entertain your thoughts on the subject. The person who submits the van name we like the best will win an assortment of live Wilders recordings from the western "We Tried" tour.