Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Appalachian Weekend

Cherry Log Christian ChurchIt was a beautiful weekend in north Georgia as the Craddock Center held its annual Appalachian Weekend. Appalachian Weekend celebrates the art, craft and folklore of southern Appalachia. The Craddock Center serves to relieve poverty and illiteracy in the north Georgia area where it is located. For those who don't know, Cherry Log is located right halfway between Maxwell and Lucius (seriously, about 90 miles north of Atlanta).

For me, it was a beautiful weekend to see old friends again. Cherry Log Christian Church was my first ministry out of seminary, at the time a new congregation, so the invitation to come back for Appalachian Weekend and play was readily accepted. Many members of the church displayed their mountain crafts: Ron Midkiff's bead weaving, baskets by Jim Wieland and the unique painting style of C.W. Connor, just to name a few.

Dean PhelpsCurator Anna Fariello, a former research fellow with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and former field researcher for the Smithsonian Folklife Center, spoke on the revival of southern craft in the mountains during the Saturday afternoon program. It was an honor to precede her lecture with music. I've never been the warmup act for a curator before. I must say it was a grand experience. Wayfaring Stranger was, of course, on the set list along with other mountain gospel tunes.

It was while serving in Cherry Log that I first heard Five Pounds of Possum. During the fall when folks from the city would come up to drink in the dazzling fall displays in the mountains, art and craft fairs would pop up all over. I played at one apple barn, and after my set I listened to the group after me, and they played the best song about roadkill I've ever heard. Well, they played the only song about roadkill I've ever heard. From that point on I wanted to learn it. Now, with a little help from Google, it's part of the repertoire. Every performer needs a good roadkill song.

North GeorgiaThose mountains carry a lot of good memories. Although life's circumstances prevented us from staying long, our time in Cherry Log and Blue Ridge made a lasting impression. The draw of friendships made keeps the heart connected to a place, even after being away for years. Hearts are tricky that way. They can stay with you and stay behind all at the same time.

The mountains are beautiful, especially in the fall. The photo at left was taken from the deck of the friends' house where we stayed.

The people of the mountains are beautiful, native and newcomer alike.

On Sunday morning, we worshipped at Cherry Log Christian Church, and I sang Love Divine during communion. After that, we made our way back to our Indiana home.

We'll be back. The heart draws you back to those places, to say nothing of the stomach. We didn't get any barbecue from the Pink Pig. We've got to go back!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Four Miles to Go.

Saturday afternoon found me at mile 22 on the course of the Indianapolis Marathon. For three hours on a beautiful afternoon I got to remain stationary, play guitar and sing while an assortment of runners and walkers passed by.

Uptempo was the order of the day as runners needed a little extra push by that point, and having a very transient audience allowed me repeat songs. Route 66 got played several times. More than a few smiles broke each time I opened The 59th Street Bridge Song: "Slow down, you move too fast."

As the afternoon wore on, I started making up lyrics around "Four miles to go." The job was to encourage the runners who had already run 22 miles and just had four more to go. That may be an idea worth pursuing. You've come this far; don't quit now. Keep pressing on 'til you reach the end; you've only got four miles to go.

The afternoon was reward in itself with an assortment of smiles, claps and "thank you"s from the runners. I had forgotten to bring a water bottle, and one runner set his water cup down to share a drink with me. From the house across the street, a woman sent her son and his friend out to bring me a bottle of water. She sent them out later with cookies. I signed a CD and gave it to them. I think I got the better deal.

What a great time, and what a great opportunity to encourage some folks. We've come pretty far. Let's not quit with just four miles to go.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Picking with John.

I've been meaning to write about this for several weeks now.

If you've looked closely at my profile on MySpace, you may have noticed John Matsel listed among my influences. Although there is a group of folks out there that knows exactly who John Matsel is, I suspect there are many who don't know him from Adam's house cat. From what I know of John, I suspect he prefers it that way. I'm blessed to know him.

John is a retired Disciples pastor. I get the chance to meet up with him about once a year. It's always a time to remember. John learned a lot about playing guitar when Merle Travis's brother Tommy was a member of his church. He's a premier thumb-style player. He's sat with players like Merle and Chet.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit with John. We were at a men's retreat together, relaxing on the porch and talking about how we play when he said, "Let me show you a couple of chords if you don't mind." If I don't mind. Shoot!

He showed me how he played My Old Kentucky Home. He showed me a couple of handy six-string chord shapes that I hadn't used before. We played I Wandered Today to the Hills, Maggie, even though I kept landing on Great Speckled Bird. I showed him how I play Precious Memories. We agreed that the open E is one of the prettiest chords on a guitar. He offered suggestions and complimented what I did well. He emphasized, "You have to play it like you feel it." It was like having a master class with your next door neighbor.

John is one of my influences, but not just for how he plays. John's an influence for how he relates to other people. John's an influence for how he wants to share what he has with somebody else. Yes, John's one of my influences, because that's how I want to play, relate and share.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Broad Ripple Fall Music Festival.

This Saturday, October 13, the Broad Ripple Fall Music Festival will take place on 21 stages in 19 venues and will benefit 20 charities across Indianapolis.  The venues are all located between 38th Street and 71st.

The festival is uniquely organized in a decentralized way (individual promoters), yet with a common foundation: each venue will collect money for a charity of their choice. The fest will feature hundreds of Indiana musicians and will offer a good time for locals of all ages, not just the 21 and over crowd.  It will appeal as well to all musical tastes, from rock to hip-hop, electronic to acoustic.

Sponsors include NUVO Newsweekly, The Broad Ripple Village Association, Musical Family Tree, Rock Music Review, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hot Box Pizza.

The cover will be $6 at most venues and many will have none. After entering a venue at full price, attendees will receive a stamp that allows them to get into other venues for $3 off. Charities will receive 25% of money taken at the door for venues charging a cover, while venues with no cover will collect donations for the charity.

I am thrilled to be part of this event and will be performing at Boulevard Place Cafe, located at Boulevard Place and 42nd.  The charity that will benefit from Boulevard Place is Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.  Here's the line up for BPC.

  • Jason Hathaway 2pm-2:40pm
  • Dean Phelps 2:45pm-3:25pm
  • Marcy Hook  3:30pm-4:10pm
  • Brooke McKinney 4:15pm- 4:55pm
  • Chad Mills  5:00pm-5:45pm

Robin Coleman of Segment of Society Promotions is promoting the performances at Boulevard Place Cafe and at The Indy Hostel.  Please come out to support the musicians, the promoters, the venues and especially the charities that will benefit from a full and far-reaching day of music!