Or, as they say, “April showers bring May showers…”
I spent a few days last week in Holland, Michigan, taking in the cultural traditions of this Dutch-American town I’d never visited before and busking in the sunshine during the annual Tulip Time festival with my powerhouse pal Grace Van’t Hof (banjo/uke/vocals with Sinner Friends + art/design). It’s a beautiful thing to see people celebrating a shared sense of connection and identity in any kind of positive way, and this was a fine example of that.
I saw a champion Town Crier, “Dutch” dancing (which may have been invented in the New World but that’s ok), lots of people in Dutch costume and I tasted some Dutch delicacies (Banket for the win). My question is, how do we take that feeling of togetherness and bring it into a city of many different cultures and traditions coexisting side by side? Read on…
Happy Springtime Everybody! In this email I will share some recent links to interviews I’ve done, catch you up on what I’ve been doing the last couple months, tell you a bit about the big solo album I’ve been working on, and of course I will share some very exciting events that are coming up. Let’s start with the gigs!
Friday, May 17 – Ferndale, MI – Rust Belt City Limits at Valentine Distilling Co. Cocktail Lounge w/Hillbilly Executives
Sunday, May 19 – Hamtramck, MI – Detroit Square Dance Society Spring D’Ants at Ant Hall wsg Henry Barnes and Sean Fen
Sunday, June 16 – Ann Arbor, MI – SOLO SHOW AT THE ARK – This is such a big deal for me, my solo debut at this fantastic venue. Please help me spread the word, send your friends out and come see the show if you live anywhere nearby.
There will be more gigs to tell you about but I plan to send another email before the show at the Ark. I will be promoting that show as well as the big big reggae square dance (happening June 15) on Border City Roots, Allison Brown’s radio show on CJAM 99.1-FM on Thursday, June 13, 10:30am-12pm, and yes, you can listen online! This is a beginning to an answer to the question I posed at the very top of this email, and it has to do with opening up our Detroit Square Dance Society events to include other kinds of dance music, sharing our different traditions and mixing it up in the name of a bigger party with more fun for more people. This also brings me to sharing some of my
I appeared on Border City Roots last month and had a great time playing live in the studio, sharing some recordings and getting interviewed by Allison. If you’d like to hear the full show, why, just follow this link right here!
I also enjoyed the great honor of being featured on a recent episode of Keith Billik’s Picky Fingers Banjo Podcast. Keith has been doing great work, making this podcast for and by banjo players. (Full disclosure, I also contribute to the podcast as an occasional interviewer.) It is pretty banjocentric but non-banjo players have told me they found my interview immensely enriching and entertaining. So if you’d like to hear that, well, just try this link out, this one right here!
Solo Album In The Works
I imagine most of you know that I’ve been pretty obsessed with early fingerstyle banjo, aka “classic banjo” for a while now, as my Instagram feed will attest. Now I am really going for it, making an album entirely devoted to some of the works of Joe Morley, who I like to call the Mozart of the Banjo, and that is the working title of the album.
I’ve already had a great recording session with Ben Belcher (for double banjo pieces) and another with pianists Tessa Hartle and Kevin Allswede (for banjo-piano pieces). Next week I have one more session with Tessa and another one with Grace Van’t Hof (ukulele) and Rachel Pearson (bass) to record a very special piece by Joe Morley, his tribute to Hawaiian music entitled Mauna Loa.
Trusting this all goes well I will move into the mixing phase of the project at the end of this month and get the puppy mastered some time in June! I’m hoping to have prerelease sales available as soon as July and an official release in the fall. Stay tuned, and be very very excited because an album like this doesn’t come along very often. In fact, I don’t think an album quite like this has ever been recorded…!
What The Heck Have I Been Up To
Honestly I’ve been practicing fiddle/violin and banjo more and more the past few months and it’s been very hard for me to take myself away from music practice to mow the lawn, let alone write a massive email. So I’m pleased to really be doing less things but with more focus.
I have been playing with some local bands, such as the Hillbilly Executives, who play Nashville-style Honky Tonk. That’s been a fun outlet for me. And I’ve been working hard on promoting these local square dance events. I’ve enjoyed the efforts of so many promoters over the years who put so much hard work into creating an event and getting folks out. Now it’s my turn to take on that role, at least some of the time.
The Brooklyn Folk Festival with Lovestruck Balladeers was an absolute dream come true. I had an incredible banjo session with the Clarke Buehling, Jerron Paxton, Frank Fairfield and others, I got to see so many great friends all at once, and I got a huge amount of satisfaction from rehearsing every day with the band for two weeks and then absolutely killing it on stage. That performance was one of the great highlights of my career, I have to say.
Directly after the festival we went into the studio and recorded more good takes than we know what to do with. The timeline for album release is yet to be determined, but just wait, there is going to be one sweet-hot Lovestruck Balladeers record heading your way later this year!
I will be on the faculty of Blues Week in Port Townsend this summer, July 28-Aug 4 so if anyone is thinking about exploring an interest in acoustic blues, I just have to say, come on out! And if anyone has blues fiddle links to send my way, please send me everything you’ve got.
At the end of this month I’ll be at the American Banjo Fraternity‘s Spring Rally. Some of you may recall me gushing about the experience I had when I attended a couple years ago. Now I am so excited to see my old banjo friends again and introduce a few new faces to the scene as well. This early fingerstyle banjo music was the most popular form of music a hundred years ago. Today it’s almost entirely forgotten. I am trying to keep it alive and spread it around as it’s a delightful style that brings joy and connects us to the depth of our shared American history.
Happy Mother’s Day, Everybody
Thanks to all the mothers out there. Without you, none of us would be here.