If Your House Was On Fire

Yesterday was the day of global climate action. I participated in spirit from home but I am 100% with the strikers and protesters. If your house was on fire, you would show up and call for a solution, wouldn’t you? I’ve been calling for action, thinking about and changing my own behavior and talking with everyone around me for such a long time, and I’m hopeful that it’s not too late for positive action to keep our planet habitable.


My neighborhood, from where I write to you now, has some of the worst air quality in the country, and construction is about to begin on a new bridge to Canada, which will only increase traffic in the area. Nestle is pulling 400 gallons of water from Michigan aquifers PER MINUTE and paying next to nothing for the privilege (#boycottNestle, for so many reasons… That’s Ice Mountain in water bottle form. Actually, just boycott disposable water bottles altogether, please. You know they are not going to be recycled…) With all this in mind, we still have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for… Read on!


Merry Greetings from the End of Summer,


Just a few more days til the fall equinox and then the days get shorter and cooler and the leaves start changing and you KNOW I’m a Pumkin Spice kinda gal! Just kidding, I’m really not. In this email you can read about:


– Upcoming Shows and Events
– The Latest News of the New Album, “Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project”
– Highlights from the Past Couple Months
– One Little Video


Upcoming Shows and Events
So much is coming up! Here we go:


This Tuesday, Sep 24, I’m playing some Galax style fiddle tunes with my sister Hannah Lewis on guitar and with Micah Spence on banjo at two screenings of the film Fiddlin at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I’m also in the film for about two seconds, as it’s a film portrait of some of the fine musicians of the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, which I’ve been attending since 2002.


Saturday, Sep 28, Detroit Square Dance Society is facilitating a square dance at the Corktown Rhythms Festival from 3-4:15, followed by West African drum and dance, and a Salsa dance party!


The first weekend of October I will be at the American Banjo Fraternity fall rally, and I will be presenting a concert/workshop there.


The next Sunday, Oct 6, I am performing and teaching a workshop at the FolkFaces Fest in Darien, NY.


10/10 – Robin Theater in Lansing in a duo with Laurel Premo (whose new record is just about to be released. I’m on it and it’s fantastic! Check it out…) sharing the stage with Ethan Setiawan & Louise Bichan


10/12 – Detroit Square Dance Society returns to its venue of origin, the beloved Gaelic League in Corktown, for a good old-fashioned Potluck and Square Dance.


10/25 – I’m performing in the concert of the Banjo Gathering in Norfolk, VA.


11/9-16 – Touring with Lovestruck Balladeers in the Midwest!
GAR Hall, Peninsula, OH (near Cleveland) – 11/9
Belt House, Toledo, OH – 11/10
Brink Lounge, Madison, WI – 11/13
Focal Point, St. Louis, MO – 11/14
Honky Tonk BBQ, Chicago, IL – 11/16
and we will be celebrating the physical release of OUR new album…! Available ONLY at our shows.


Which brings me to the next topic of interest:


What’s Going On With the New Record?
So, great news — my new album, “Mozart of the Banjo: The Joe Morley Project” has been picked up by a very special record label. It isn’t time yet for me to announce the name of the label or the official release date BUT I have completed 100 unique limited-edition souvenir pre-release copies that I will have with me, available only at shows. There will be a slightly different, official release in the next couple months and you will certainly hear about it from me.


Your interest in this project has been a big motivator for me since the beginning and I can’t thank you enough for all your support. The album will be available via the label’s website as well as all digital platforms very soon!


Highlights from the Past Couple Months
Too many things happened this summer to fit in one message short enough I could expect anyone to want to read, but here are a few highlights, in sort of backwards chronological order:


– Last Wednesday I went to see GWAR with a dear friend who had never seen them. (I saw them in 2004 or 5 I think, in Maine, in the middle of winter!) This is not an experience I would recommend to everyone but for many people I would say you must see GWAR if you ever have the chance. I’m very enthusiastic about this but I’ll leave it at that for now.


– Last Monday and Tuesday opening for Patti Smith at the Royal Oak Music Theater with local honky tonk all-stars, the Hillbilly Executives.


– Performing solo and as accompanist to the Commonwealth Dance Collective last week for the Detroit Public Television benefit concert celebrating the release of the new Ken Burns documentary about country music. It was a great show all around, it went so smoothly and I met a bunch of great people whom I hope to see again soon.


– Performing with Laurel Premo in front of people for the first time in beautiful Traverse City, MI. I played on her new record in the spring and we decided to explore more material together, which is resulting in some live performances. Very exciting material, really flexing the creativity muscles together, HOO!!


– Square Dance in Clark Park for the first time ever was such a sweet success! The weather was perfect, we had a great turnout and I hope we can do it again next year.


– Grand Masters Fiddle Contest in Nashville (I won 3rd in Traditional category), visiting dear friends there, a memorable songwriters’ night with Nick Woods (I also played on his record.)


– Wilson County Fair an amazing experience as always, played lots of great tunes with Corbin Hayslett, also won first place in the fiddle contest there and third place in the banjo contest.


– Such a sweet and wonderful Galax this year, lovely weather, lots of great jams, I got 9th place Bluegrass Fiddle and, more excitingly, 8th place (aka Turd Place since it’s the brown ribbon) in Old Time Band in a new band with my sister Hannah Lewis on guitar, Micah Spence on banjo (Hannah and Micah have a cool album worth checking out, too), Grace van’t Hof on banjo-uke, and Daniel from Asheville on bass. Whooooo, we raged! I wasn’t expecting to win any ribbons, just wanted to get up there and do our thing. By the way, our band is called Biscuits And Cravy.


– Blues Week in Port Townsend, WA, was an incredible experience as well. Such a high concentration of dedicated musicians isn’t easy to find outside of Galax…


I’ve been doing a bit more teaching lately than I have in recent years and I’m enjoying it very much. It’s such a great challenge, so rewarding and so instructional, really. One of the best ways to learn and relearn is through teaching.


One Video
I just found this video from last summer of Yours Truly playing second banjo to Greg Adams’s lead on A Banjo Frolic, by Joe Morley, with Lindsay McCaw on baritone fiddle. This piece will appear on the new album with me playing lead and Tessa Hartle with piano accompaniment. It will also appear on the follow-up banjo duets album with me and Ben Belcher but that’s a bit farther down the line…


For more fun videos of me playing the banjo (and selfies with dogs, and more but not much more) check out my Instagram page. More virtual fun with screens!


Friends, I’m sure as soon as I send this I will wish I had included something more, but for now this is all I’ve got. Be well and stay cool. Or warm. Whatever works for you.