I’m writing to you from an AirBnB in Denver where 27 other people are staying. I’m in a room with six other people and it’s not a big room. Bunk beds, body odor, close quarters, and lots of rules, including no music playing, ever.
But! Earlier today I played on a big stage for thousands of people at Swallow Hill Brewgrass with Mark Lavengood Band and it was a blast! (Visit my Instagram page for a photo…) First ice cream of the season was pure delight… They really know how to do it around here. I hope to come back to Colorado again soon…
And now, instead of playing my banjo and practicing for my big solo show at the Ark next week I am writing to you, so it all works out all right.
I have just a few key points in this email for you:
– Saturday, June 15, Square Dance + Reggae Concert at Ant Hall in Hamtramck!
– Blues Week July 28-Aug 4 in Port Townsend, WA!
– Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project
– The Past Two Weekends Have Been Heavenly: ABF Rally and Wheatland TAW
– Indiana Fiddlers Gathering in Battle Ground, IN, June 28-30
Square Dance + Reggae Concert
You may be wondering, why do anything different with the square dance? It’s been going great and the new venue, Ant Hall, has been wonderful. Well, it’s been going so well that it seems like a shame not to try and expand our dance community and share what we’ve got with more people. Plus, King Mellowman & Mellow Runnings are just amazing and I know that everyone will be so glad they were able to join us for this one night. If you’re anywhere near Southeast Michigan I highly recommend coming out for this one! Click the link for all the details, and please share on FB and tell all your friends. Everyone is welcome! The more the merrier!
My Solo Debut at The Ark in Ann Arbor
The Ark… It’s such a big deal to play there! Ever since I first started performing professionally I would hear my mom say, “You should play at The Ark!” Ten or fifteen years later I finally got to play there with Corn Potato String Band and now I am making my solo debut there. It’s a real milestone for me and I’m looking forward to sharing a very special evening with all who attend. I will play some pretty okay fiddle tunes and some mostly decent banjo tunes, I’ll sing a few old numbers too I guess… Just kidding — I’m going to blow your minds! Bring welder’s masks because I WILL MELT YOUR FACE with the intensity and jollity of my music and stories. There will be some Real Surprises that I’m very excited about, and one very special guest, the Outrageously Talented Tessa Hartle, who will play piano accompaniment to my classic banjo pieces. Tell your friends, share the FB event, and bring your whole Father’s Day celebration out to The Ark. You will be so glad you did. Oh, and you can buy tickets here!
I’m excited to announce that I will be teaching a class on Blues Fiddle at the Port Townsend Blues Week this summer. I will be out there with a great faculty, a few of whom are also Lovestruck Balladeers with me. This will be my first time out there so if you have any interest at all in spending a week with enthusiastic masters of acoustic blues, do consider reserving yourself a spot and keeping me company at my new camp experience. Check out the lineup of teachers they have this year, it’s quite impressive! This is the website to learn more and make reservations: Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop
Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project
Start getting excited — I have completed the recording stage of my solo classic banjo debut album! I’m calling it Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project, since I decided to dedicate the entire album to the greatest composer of the classic style, Joe Morley. In my shows I often draw parallels between his life and the life of Mozart. Although there are many notable differences between them as well, they were both gifted child prodigies, prolific composers, quite well-respected in their lifetimes yet died poor and buried in unmarked graves.
I’m making this music because I love it and because it’s increasingly rare these days. It’s like an endangered bird and I want to bring it back. It’s thrilling music, very easy to enjoy, and it connects us to parts of our cultural history that are often overlooked. It bridges the gap between classical and folk, too, which I also find very appealing. Most of the recordings for the album are solo banjo with piano accompaniment (with Tessa Hartle), with a couple of banjo duets (with Ben Belcher), some solo banjo, and one special Hawaiian-inspired piece with baritone ukulele (Grace Van’t Hof) and string bass (Rachel Pearson).
I’m currently working on mixing the album and plan to release it in the fall. I’m thinking about putting together an Indiegogo pre-order offer — Would you would be interested in that? Write me back and I will put it together if it seems like enough people would like that. I am so PUMPED about this album!
ABF Rally and Wheatland TAW
Last weekend I went to my second rally of the American Banjo Fraternity in Newark, NY, and it was just a dream come true to be surrounded by such enthusiastic and knowledgeable practitioners of this all-too-rare form. As a lifelong lover of learning and music, I was in heaven. I was blessed with the unexpected honor of being invited to perform the Saturday night concert, which was a thrill and a half, let me tell you. It was a little bit thrown together but I think we pulled it off all right. (“We” being myself on banjo, Gail Verbridge on piano and cello banjo, Becky Schneider on second banjo, and Grace Van’t Hof on baritone ukulele.) Other highlights included ultra-nerd throwdowns regarding strings and other setup choices, historical tidbits and other anecdotes being scattered about constantly, classic car lunch, and Becky’s incredible solo concert with Drew Frech on second banjo and Gail on cello banjo and piano. She is amazing!
The weekend before that I went to Wheatland Organization‘s Traditional Arts Weekend in Remus, Michigan. It was so good to connect with old friends and play some tunes, check out some workshops, dance my little butt off and just enjoy the beginning of summer with a sweet gathering of beloved Michigan music and dance folks. For those of you anywhere near central Michigan, this weekend is a real treat. It happens every Memorial Day weekend. Wheatland also has a much bigger fall festival that has great music acts from far and wide.
Indiana Fiddlers Gathering
One last festival to promote before I sign off — Lindsay and I (aka Corn Potato Duo) will be at the Indiana Fiddlers Gathering again this year along with a wonderful collection of fiddle-driven bands we love, such as Foghorn Stringband, Steam Machine, and Big Possum Stringband. If you’re anywhere nearby the last weekend of June… again, what can I say, if you can make it out you will be so glad you did.
Hope to see you again soon!