New Look, New Band, New Website, New Release, and… a Puppy!!

It’s officially spring and we have snow on the ground here in Detroit. I just found out that I get to foster a puppy temporarily starting today and there is a LOT going on right now. Yesterday I provided music for the Detroit Jews for Justice annual Purim spiel, directed by Lindsay McCaw, and had a great time seeing some old friends. The spiel itself did a great job of drawing parallels between settlers in Palestine and landlords in Detroit. Buckle in for a full newsletter that reflects my full life! In this newsletter:

  • New Band! “Aaron Jonah Lewis’s Ragtime Banjo Revival Trio”
  • New Website! (Soft Launch)
  • New Release! (Upcoming)
  • Upcoming Gigs — Tour w/Willi Carlisle in May, Corn Potato Tour in July
  • Banjo Chat Podcast w/Hilary Hawke
  • New Videos
  • Book Report: Ace, by Angela Chen; The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

New Band — “Aaron Jonah Lewis’s Ragtime Banjo Revival Trio”

L to R: King Sophia, cello, vocals; Yours Truly, banjo, fiddle, vocals; Alex Belhaj, guitar, vocals. Photo credit: J. Lindsey Photography

I am so excited to play with these fine musicians! I’ve been playing with Alex for a good few years now, and King and I met recently through a mutual music friend in Detroit. I’m sharing some videos from our rehearsals on my Patreon —- If you haven’t subscribed to that yet, RIGHT NOW would be a great time to do so — For less than the price of a cup of coffee you can enjoy the warm feeling of knowing you’re helping me move forward with the cultural work I’m doing.

(And I think the new look speaks for itself here, yes? If you want to see the dramatic presto change-o, check out my IG)

New Website (Soft Launch)

I’m not very good with this soft launch idea. If it was truly that I wouldn’t be announcing it here, I’m just so happy with how it’s going. Check it out! Created with the help of brilliant web designer, artist and photographer Cory Marie Podielski, who also happens to be a fabulous square dance caller and a dear friend. IT LOOKS SO GOOD.

We are still in the process of adding more sections to the website, such as PHOTOS, VIDEOS, LINKS, and DOWNLOADS. Speaking of that last section, here’s more on the

New Release (Upcoming)

Ragtime Banjo Revival’s first release is coming out soon! This will be a streamable and downloadable recording of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, recorded with piano, cello, guitar, and uke. I’m preparing a physical sheet music edition of my original banjo arrangement of this piece including standard notation, banjo tablature, and download code, and featuring original artwork. I’m not announcing this to the general public just yet, but you can start getting excited. This special limited run will be available within the next few months. And, also in the next few months:

Upcoming Gigs

Here’s the real big one — The debut of the New Band, May 24 at The Ark!

Also, before that I’m doing a weekend of solo appearances in OH and IN:

Cleveland, OH – Thur, May 2 at The Treelawn – Tickets
Chagrin Falls, OH – Fri, May 3, at The Village Blacksmith – This is a semi-private house concert in Chagrin Falls with very limited seating available. For more info and to reserve a ticket call 440-543-4977
Columbus, OH – Sat, May 4, at Central Ohio Folk Festival, FREE EVENT
Fort Wayne, IN – Sun, May 5, Fiddle Workshop and House Concert, Email [email protected] for more info and to make reservations.

And then I’m going on tour in the northeastern USA supporting Willi Carlisle!

May 7, 2024 Tue Buffalo New York The 9th Ward at Babeville
May 8, 2024 Wed Toronto Ontario The Drake Underground
May 9, 2024 Thu Ottawa Ontario Dominion Tavern
May 10, 2024 Fri Montreal Quebec Bar Le Ritz PDB
May 11, 2024 Sat South Burlington Vermont Higher Ground Showcase Lounge
May 14, 2024 Tue Brooklyn New York Baby’s All Right
May 15, 2024 Wed Philadelphia Pennsylvania Johnny Brenda’s
May 17, 2024 Fri Portsmouth New Hampshire 3S Artspace
May 18, 2024 Sat Portland Maine SPACE Gallery
May 19, 2024 Sun Woodstock New York Levon Helm Studios

and it’s not too soon to start getting excited for the Corn Potato String Band Midwestern tour that’s happening from the end of July into early August — More dates TBA but for now we have

08/01/24 – Fort Atkinson, WI, Cafe Carpe BUY TICKETS
08/02/24 – Shawano, WI, Cotter Creek House Concerts 5:30 doors, Showtime 7pm Cotter Creek House Concert Series at the home of Joel Kroenke, email [email protected] or call (715) 853-6879 for more info and to make reservations
08/03/24 – Madison, WI, Sugar Maple Music Festival
08/04/24 – Madison, WI, Sugar Maple Music Festival

Banjo Chat Podcast w/Hilary Hawke

I recorded an episode with my pal Hilary Hawke for her Banjo Chat podcast. Check it out! Content warning: I talk about the end of the world as we know it, playing the banjo as a subversive act, and things we can do to support musicians.

New Videos

I’m posting a lot of great stuff to my Patreon every week (Subscribe now! It really makes a big difference) and here’s an example of a video I shared recently, from way back in 2022 at The Loving Touch with Alex Belhaj and Grace van’t Hof, A Footlight Favourite, by Emile Grimshaw.

And here’s an example of what the new band with Alex Belhaj and King Sophia sounds like! This is a rehearsal video from my house just last week. We’re playing Ragtime Oriole, by James Scott.

Book Report

Most recently I reread The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin. I’ll just share one of my favorite passages here. To set the scene, our protagonist, Shevek, a physicist, is visiting Urras, a planet rich in resources and natural beauty, from his home planet of Anarres. He is the first visitor from Anarres since the revolution that took place generations ago that resulted in an agreement in which the revolutionaries would have their own planet and leave Urras. He’s at a high-class party and someone asks him about what it’s really like on Anarres. He responds:

“…It is not wonderful. It is an ugly world. Not like this one. Anarres is all dust and dry hills. All meager, all dry. And the people aren’t beautiful. They have big hands and feet, like me and the waiter there. But not big bellies. They get very dirty, and take baths together, nobody here does that. The towns are very small and dull, they are dreary. No palaces. Life is dull, and hard work. You can’t always have what you want, or even what you need, because there isn’t enough. You Urrasti have enough. Enough air, enough rain, grass, oceans, food, music, buildings, factories, machines, books, clothes, history. You are rich, you own. We are poor, we lack. You have, we do not have. Everything is beautiful, here. Only not the faces. On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. The other faces, the men and women. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit. Because our men and women are free— possessing nothing, they are free. And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes…”

Thanks for letting me share that.

The other book I read recently is called Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, by Angela Chen. This book is packed full with super relevant information and is very easy to read. I found it compelling and very relatable, validating, and eye-opening. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has space in their life for some well-written and pertinent nonfiction, regardless of sexual orientation. And with that I will take my leave and say

Bye for now!

I hope to see many of you out on the road in the next few months. And before I sign off let me give you the chance to get yourself one of these limited-edition Dos Señoritas 10” vinyl records — They are sure to sell out this year! GET YOURS HERE

As always, sending the finest in banjo and fiddle vibes,
Until next time,

P.S. I did get a puppy today. Her name is Binah (pronounced BEE-nuh) and I’m not planning to keep her, just to foster her until we find her a long-term home. Fresh dog selfies are just posted to IG! and here’s one for those of you who don’t use the ‘gram: