Where There’s Smoke There’s… Corn Potato String Band, Volume Two!!

Party People In The HOUUUUUSE…!

I’m back in the D and I’m staying warm amid the below-zero temperatures with the help of a forced-air heating system, lots of hot tea, and dreams of the future. Winter is my time to thrive, in terms of sitting in front of the computer and writing to you. I hope.

Anyway, here’s what I have for you in this particular newsletter:
– The big news! Corn Potato String Band, Volume Two is almost here.
– Upcoming tour dates, aka Please help me find a gig
– News and videos from the American Voices Abroad tour in Eastern Europe with Tumbling Bones and from the UK tour with Luke Richardson
– Too much personal information
– Extensive book report (I’ve read a lot since my last letter to you) and some of what I’ve been listening to

Let’s dive right in to the big news — I know some of you have been anxiously awaiting this new record, and this one especially goes out to those of you who have asked for a record with more vocals. We’ve creatively decided to call this, our second record, “Volume Two.” That’s because it was recorded during the same ten-hour session during which our first record was recorded. Ben Belcher has created complementary artwork which you must see to believe. And, what else can I say? All the songs are pretty good. T’he official’ release date is Valentine’s Day but I have a ‘prerelease’ link for you right here — Free streaming or pay what you like (minimum $7).

Plans for 2015 so far include a trip to New Orleans in February (Mardi Gras and Roochie Toochie), followed by Breakin Up Winter outside of Nashville in March, then a US tour from late March through April. I’m still holding out hope that we can go back to Europe for May/June festivals but so far I don’t have the gigs — Anyone got any ideas for us? In July we’re planning a short tour in the Northeast with Roochie Toochie And The Ragtime Shepherd Kings, then we have Clifftop and Galax. In September and October we will be in the UK and Ireland again (at least that’s the plan) as I have confirmed us for the Moniaive Michaelmas Bluegrass Festival and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Here are a couple of things coming up soon here at home:

– On Saturday, Jan 31, Lindsay and I will play a Corn Potato Duo set at Northern Lights Lounge in Detroit, supporting 7Layers, our friend Leor’s funk band. We saw them play for New Year’s at Tony V’s and had a blast. I wore a tux.
– The following week, Feb 7, we play the 6th Annual Benefit for Doctors Without Borders, at the AOH in Redford. We are joining many other great bands for the event and there will be good food and drink, I’m told. Event details are here.

So maybe you’re thinking, “It’s nice to hear from you, Aaron, but why have you waited so long to write?” Well, I’ve been more busy than usual, and I am thankful for that. On the other hand, I had about a two-month stretch there without a single day off, i.e., I was either playing or traveling or both every day for almost two months. Yes, I got worn down a bit once or twice but I loved every minute of it and would gladly do it all again. First came the American Music Abroad tour with Tumbling Bones, whom I love so dearly. We went to Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Ukraine, spent a week in each country, taught many workshops and played many concerts, met the nicest people and great musicians (Shota!), got treated to incredible food (PAPA NASH) and drink (homemade Georgian wine!), and learned so much about the music and culture of these beautiful countries. Here are a few of my favorite videos from the tour: Here. They reflect some of the variety of music we covered, including two of the ‘country songs’ we learned (Georgia and Ukraine) — In every country we learned a song from that country, and I also have a video up there with a great (and the only) Georgian country singer, Shota.

Touring with Lindsay and Luke after the tour in Eastern Europe was a return to familiar territory. I got to teach a workshop (thanks to FOAOTMAD) to a great group of fiddlers and was able to work with the same people for more than three hours for the first time in my teaching career. I loved it and hope to do more like that again. After the workshop weekend we toured for two weeks solid without a single day off, and every show was a blast. By now I am more familiar with England and Scotland than I am with the US, I have toured there so much. And I’m coming back again soon!

I’m going to skip the personal stuff, just because it’s boring and irrelevant. Well, OK, I was just going to brag about my new attempts to cut down and fatty, sugary foods and work out to get in shape. But I’ve only been at it for a week so who knows how long it will last. I’m feeling pretty good but I have no idea if I’m losing weight because I don’t own a scale. It all started with a friend telling me about his diet and how reasonable it sounded, while around the sime time I heard about the Seven-Minute Workout. Seven minutes? I bet I can do that… Try it, I dare you! (And if you don’t like the annoying songs there are other versions without them.)

Since I last wrote (was it September?) I’ve done a lot of reading. I can’t even remember everything I read, but here are some of the memorable ones:
– The Sirens Of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut — I’ve read a lot of Vonnegut but not this one. It’s one of my favorites of his now. It incorporates many familiar motifs of his into a fairly compact and powerful read.
– Best American Mystery Stories of 2014 — I bought this one at the airport because I finished the Vonnegut before the tour even started. And I loved it! I’ve never really read mystery stories before, not since The Hardy Boys when I was a kid.
– Autobiography of Charlie Chaplin — I’ve always been fascinated by the man and he’s a good writer, too. Lots of interesting stories and thoughts from a genuine nonconformist, pacifist, and entertainer.
– The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende — I’d heard the book is way better than the movie and it is! There is so much more going on and the imagery is just wonderful. Lots of fun, I found it inspirational.

I know there were more but I can’t remember them now. Maybe they weren’t that good. I hope you’re finding the time to read, perhaps curled up by the fire? “What about what you’ve been listening to lately, Aaron?”
– Lindsay picked up a great ska compilation (skampilation?) in London I put on when I’m doing the dishes. It’s called Ska Mania and it’s a good mix of original Jamaican ska and seventies/eighties British ska.
– Lots of Bulgarian folk music I picked up in Bulgaria
– The new Two Man Gentlemen Band album, which they gave me after I played with them a few months ago in Detroit
– “Yodel the Cowboy Way,” by Riders In The Sky, definitely not an instructional record, impossible to sing along with but very beautiful. I got this one from John Hatton
– My friends Lac LaBelle’s new record, and the record of Nick Schillace’s band, Detroit Pleasure Society.
– And I’m still rockin out to Spinning Jennies, “Från Rotterdam Till Lilla Wien.” What an amazing and unique Swedish bluegrass group. So fun!

All right gang, that’s all for now. As always, your responses are most welcome. Help keep me from feeling lonely.

I hope that you stay warm and well all winter long; let’s meet again soon.