[Aaron Jonah Lewis] …Is Sexy

I was just driving home from a gig in Detroit and thinking I’d like to see a bumper sticker that says SAFE DRIVING IS SEXY. (Drivers in Detroit are insane.)

And then I started thinking what other boring, obvious things could be said to be sexy on a bumper sticker — KINDNESS IS SEXY, GOOD DENTAL HYGIENE IS SEXY, REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT IS SEXY, RESPECT IS SEXY — and then I start getting into what wouldn’t work at all — JUSTICE IS SEXY, MASHED POTATOES IS SEXY, KITTENS IS SEXY, FRIENDSHIP IS SEXY — and the borderline misogynistic — WASHING THE DISHES IS SEXY, LOOKING GOOD IS SEXY — although those aren’t really sex-specific, and, well, what can I say, I’m sorry. I just thought of this and maybe it made you smile. Maybe you have your own ridiculous ideas for …IS SEXY bumper stickers. If you do, please send them my way.

And that’s how I’m starting this month’s post. I promise to ramble further at the end of this message with some more serious thoughts (or funnier, possibly, depending on your perspective) so just scroll down if that’s all you’re after. But first I will share with you my

– Upcoming Tour Dates, Including Incomplete Listing of UK Tour Dates
– Book Project and How You Can Participate
– Recommended Listening/Viewing (aka Media I’ve Ingested Since Last We Spoke and Friends I’ve Seen Recently Whose Music I Think Is Great)
– Book Report


I dont have a lot of gigs of my own in the immediate future but I will tell you about a couple things that are coming up soon that I’m excited about as well as the gigs I do have this summer.

First, I AM GOING TO SEE THE GEORGE CLINTON AND P-FUNK this Friday in Kalamazoo!! Not a big deal for some, I know, but honestly, P-Funk is one of the most important musical influences in my life and I haven’t been to one of their shows in probably twenty years.

The weekend after that, here in Detroit is the Crash Detroit Brass Band Festival, with over a dozen wonderful human party machines coming in to play for free all over the city. I’m hosting up to ten of these crazy musicians for the weekend because I can and I love hosting people. That’s what my house is for.

Then I’m going to Augusta Old Time Week/Blues & Swing Week in Elkins, WV, where I will be on staff, providing music for classes and teaching my own “Swing Fiddle for Old Time Fiddlers” class, plus 1-2 one-off workshops that are TBA.

And then there’s Clifftop followed by Galax, my personal Mecca. (See you there! You know who you are.)

And now I can give you an incomplete list of our Corn Potato String Band UK tour dates, since there are more than a few that are TBC —

17 August – London – Green Note
18 August – Purbeck Valley Folk Festival (aka PVFF. It’s fun to say. Try it.)
19 August – Barry, Wales – Hang Fire Southern Kitchen
21 August – Pembrokeshire, Wales – Burnett’s Hill Chapel
22 August – Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire – The West Barn
23-24 – TBC
25 August – Meltham nr. Huddersfield, Yorkshire – The Carlile Institute
26-28 – TBC
29 August – Towersey, Oxfordshire – Musically Monstrous at the Three Horseshoes
30 August – TBC
31 August – Birmingham – Moseley Folk Festival
1 September – Didmarton Bluegrass Festival
2-4 September – TBC

And then we have more Corn Potato gigs in the US as soon as we get back —

Sep 7-9 Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, MI
Sep 9 – The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI
Sep 12 – TBC in Kent, OH, or Buffalo, NY
Sep 13 – House Concert in Binghamton, NY
Sep 14 – House Concert in Manhattan, NY
Sep 15 – TBC somewhere in the northeast
Sep 16 – House Concert in Albany, NY
Sep 18 – TBC
Sep 19 – Naples, NY
Sep 20 – Fort Hunter Barn – Harrisburg, PA
Sep 21 – ArtYard – Frenchtown, NJ
Sep 22 – Wanakena Town Gazebo, Wanakena NY
Sep 23 – Rocky Top Concert Series, Sprakers, NY
Sep 24 – TBC

And that’s it for Corn Potato for a while. Remember to check my website calendar or the Corn Potato calendar for up-to-date info. Two more gigs in September when I get back to Michigan —

Sep 28 – Thunder Bay Folk Festival in Alpena, MI, with Emergency Bluegrass System
Sep 30 – West Bloomfield Public Library, West Bloomfield, MI, with Kyle Rhodes and Hannah Lewis

When we get into October I go to Chicago to start a Midwestern tour with Lovestruck Balladeers — Tour dates TBA so stay tuned. Definitely got some great music coming your way!


Since February I’ve been working sporadically on an instructional fiddle book tentatively titled Classic Nashville Honky Tonk Fiddle. I’m not going to tell you everything that’s in it but it will include a lot of transcriptions. I have consulted with some experts but before I call my transcribing duties finished I’d like to know if you have any great recorded examples of Classic Nashville Honky Tonk Fiddling that you think ought to be included. If you can think of something, like the name of an artist and a song, maybe even a link or an mp3 attachment, please send me your suggestions.


I went out to see my friend’s reggae band at El Club last Wednesday (yes, that’s how I celebrated my 4th of July) and they were SO GOOD. I’m going to see them again tomorrow. They’re called King Mellow & Mellow Runnings. They are the real thing. So talented. So positive. Do you ever remember how great reggae music is and then feel sad for a second because you know you forgot for a minute? Remember. Reggae is so good. Especially a full band with backup singers who dance, a super-charismatic and talented lead singer and a fun, tight backing band.

They were opening for well-established blast-from-the-past dancehall deejay King Yellowman, who was incredible, honestly, like nothing else I’d ever seen. SO MUCH ENERGY it was almost frightening and the vibe was fun, positive, beautiful.

On the last tour with Roochie Toochie in St. Louis after a gig I went to my friend Ethan Leinwand’s late-night gig and sat in with him, which was such a treat. His piano blues playing will knock your socks off, and everyone who plays with him is wonderful as well. Check out his online stuff and go see him if you’re in St. Louis. He plays most every night.

Before the tour I went to visit my friends at Earful of Fiddle music camp in Michigan and spent some time with my pals Betse Ellis and Clarke Wyatt, aka Betse & Clarke. They make GREAT fiddle and banjo music together, and they also just started a band with my friends Ryan and Kelly, aka The Aching Hearts, so now you can see this video they made of their song Beware, Oh Take Care and know to watch out for their Short Round String Band.


I can’t remember what I read. I read and immediately forget. It’s 2 in the morning and my neighbors are blasting Banda music across the street so that isn’t helping either.


Two unrelated thoughts for you this time.

The English language is so vast and conglomerative that it’s likely you will say one sentence every day that has never been spoken before in history. Or so I read somewhere once. Anyway, I sometimes think about that when I’m going to the grocery store to get a very random selection of items. Has anyone in the world ever gone into a store to buy celery, marshmallows, corn starch, laundry detergent, and nothing else? Who cares, it doesn’t matter.

I had the same thought tonight while I was playing. Naturally, the language of music is even more vast and conglomerative than English (See this fun and comprehensive video to learn more about the near-infinite variety available in music — Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?), and the same can be said of visual arts, other forms of performance as well as athletics, including chess, and I suppose it applies to most human interactions as well, except perhaps in some totalitarian societies.

But that’s not my point. This near-infinite variety isn’t the reason I care so much about music but it doesn’t hurt. I don’t usually think about it at all, the way I don’t usually think about how funny it is that each person or each football game is unique. I just thought it was a fun thought to share and it led me to think about how even simple mathematical functions can produce infinite variety (see this Wikipedia article on cellular automata) and how these functions along with fractal geometry make it possible for the blueprints for a giant oak to be contained within a little acorn.

Okay, that’s one thought. Here’s another:

As a player of old music I end up in a lot of situations where I’m surrounded by other players of old music, and I always have to wonder how so many people will painstakingly recreate the sound of an old recording (I certainly do sometimes) and then stop there. That’s an excellent first step but what I’m really interested in is not recreating the sound of an old recording but exploring and trying to relive the impulse behind the making of that recording.

For example, you could listen to a great field recording of a long-dead fiddler from Kentucky, and think about the fact that the recording captured one performance of the tune. That fiddler would play the tune a little different if they played it again the next day. That sense of freedom and innovation is at the core of old American music, and maybe more. As I’ve heard some folks say, if nobody ever made up new tunes we wouldn’t have any tunes to play at all! So where does that creativity come from? Where is the tradition, the community that informs that creativity, i.e., the creativity to do more than reenact old recordings? Where is it now? I have a few answers of my own but I’d love to hear your thoughts.