Sunday, November 25, 2007

When I Grow Up

I talked with my sister by phone this week. We had shared similar experiences recently.

My sister is one of the most resourceful people I know. She's been knitting and crocheting as long as I can remember. A few years ago, she learned to spin yarn. At that point I told her, "Next you'll be raising sheep."

Now she runs the whole process. She raises sheep and sheers them. She cleans and dyes the wool. She spins it into yarn. She knits it, and she also weaves.

She recently had a couple of her weavings accepted in a juried art exhibit. She's not only resourceful; she's good.

She told me about the compliments she had received from other exhibitors. These were people who have been spinning and weaving a long time, folks who were masters of the craft, and they took the time to tell her that they like her work. What a great feeling it is to receive praise and encouragement from people you respect!

Last week I attended a gathering of the Indianapolis Guitar Society for the first time. The IGS is a group of pickers that meets in one member's garage on a Sunday afternoon three or four times a year.

Comer "Moon" Mullens, a former national champion thumb-style guitarist, was the featured performer that day, but several folks took a turn at the mic. These were really good, experienced musicians. Some have toured and done extensive musical work.

I arrived late, so my "reward" was that my turn on the stool was immediately after Mr. Mullens. [Note: I have a new musical high point. It's the day that Moon Mullens opened for me.] Later, a few of the fine pickers paid me compliments like how cleanly I played. Now that will help a fellow keep practicing!

When I grow up, I want to be a respectable player. I would be nice to be the kind of guy who made folks wonder, "What was he like back in the day?" But more than that, I want to be the kind of player that can offer compliments, support and encouragement to the younger folks coming along behind me.

That would make life worthwhile.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Andra Moran

Andra Moran is a very talented singer, guitarist and songwriter from California, now living in Nashville. She's also part of my tribe of Christians, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I first became aware of Andra when we each appeared on a compilation CD, Disciples Sampler. Then, along with a few thousand Disciples, I've been blessed by her presence in the worship band at General Assemblies (the biennial gathering of U.S. and Canadian Disciples) in Portland and Fort Worth.

This past week, Andra led worship at a conference on new church planting for a group sixty or so pastors, lay leaders, and denominational leaders. Her musical gifts are obvious, but Andra is also a very gifted worship leader. She skillfully led us through three days and five worship services, stitching it all together nicely with coffee. (In a way, you just had to be there.)

I came away from the event enriched and in possession of two of Andra's CDs. The Someday Sessions (2003) is a short collection of seven tracks, mostly original tunes. It's recorded live, which features Andra's vocals and guitar with some supporting guitar work from Chris Cottros. The liner proclaims, "no vocal tuning," but none is needed. Andra's soprano rarely strays off-pitch, and she nails her beautiful melodies dead on.

Listening (2005), released on the Insta-Rock label is a fine studio effort recorded at Alex the Great in Nashville. She assembled a stellar cast of supporting musicians for the project, and the production stays out of the way, allowing her writing and vocal stylings to shine through.

To pick up a copy of these recordings or If Not For This, Andra's first release with friend and co-writer Josh Elson, visit her web site at

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Open Mic at Cognizant Coffee

John W. Rockwell sings about his Open Mic Night Tragedy, but last Friday at Cognizant Coffee was no tragedy. It was, in fact, a delightful evening of music.

Jason Hathaway, formerly of the Tecumseh Flyers, began hosting a new open stage at Cognizant Coffee last month. After a somewhat slow start in October, last night several musicians came out to lend their talent to the lineup.

Cognizant is a great place for an open mic. The room has the ambience of its Fountain Square location. Being on Prospect, near Deano's Vino and Radio Radio, it picks up some walk-in traffic. Performers sit in the window area by the front door, so folks walking by see that live music is happening.

In addition to Jason and myself, Chris Wolf was in the house with a new song. Greg O'Haver and his trusty Guild entertained with songs from the sacred and secular, the humorous and thoughtful. Neighborhood songwriter A.J. played a set of his tunes, closing with a bit of Tom Petty.

A highlight of the evening was when another member of the Tecumseh Flyers, Steve Guichelaar, unpacked his mandolin and joined Jason on stage for some old Flyers tunes and gospel standards. Greg had his dojo, and we couldn't resist joining in.

Open stages are a lot like Forrest Gump's famous box of chocolates. You really don't know what you're going to get. Friday night at Cognizant Coffee, we enjoyed a sweet musical sampler. The box gets opened again on Friday, December 14 at 7:00.