Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writers Talk with Barbie Angell

A happy Thursday, dear readers!  As advertised, today we have Writers Talk, & this is someone with a refreshing & to my mind, quite unique take on the writing biz. 

As has been the case with several of the writers involved in this series, I’ve gotten to know Barbie Angell on Twitter, where I find her humor & her perspective on the world & its quirkiness to be both compelling & entertaining.  As I came to know Barbie a little better, I began exploring the poetry on her blog, & was delighted to find a fresh & unique voice, chockful of wit & demonstrating a sparkling facility for rhyme & rhythm— undervalued skills in "poebiz" these days.  Here’s a brief writerly biography:

It has been said that if Shel Silverstein & Dorothy Parker had conceived a child, the result would have been Barbie Dockstader Angell. Razor wit & simple rhyming verse combine to create an innovative style. Barbie has named it “poetry for the common man.” (Although she does have plenty of women readers as well.) Bitter, satirical, humorous & sometimes brutally honest, her portfolio contains everything from rhyme to free verse, children’s and adults, as well as short stories.
Barbie was raised in Illinois & has lived in the Asheville area since 1999. She has been writing since 1986 and has won awards both academically and artistically for her poems & short stories. Barbie has been published in small press books, magazines & newspapers throughout the years & has performed her work for audiences small & large around the country.
& yes, she does have an odd obsession with Alice in Wonderland.

Barbie Angell says: “my life is in progress….constantly seeking renovations but unable to find an affordable contractor.”

I know you’ll enjoy this interview, & please check out a video of Babrie Angell reading her "Ode to Shel Silverstein" at the end of this post. Then you can read two more of her poems—“the meeting” & “She’s Come Undone”—in the post just below; these poems are also posted or on the Writers Talk blog!

When did you first realize your identity as a writer? 
from the time i was 6 years old, my dream was to be a lawyer.  i had seen the t.v. show “paperchase”and desperately wanted to make that my life.  while i was living in the children’s home “Mooseheart”my english teacher Miss Ruch encouraged me & i won the only award that the school gave out for writing; the memorial day award.  i met Jerry Dellinger my senior year & he convinced me to turn down my acceptance to harvard & instead attend lincoln college where he taught theater.  by my second semester freshman year, he had become such a force in my life that i didn’t hesitate to follow his advice.  he assured me that i was a writer not a lawyer and he encouraged that up until his death in august of 2010.

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc. 

a great deal of my pieces begin with one line.  typically it’s something that i say in conversation or post on a social media site.  there are poems which i have been revamping for years and ones which took only a few hours.  i am constantly editing & revamping my work.  mostly i try to look at anything from a new perspective.  of course, this becomes difficult when the perspective i’m trying to steer away from is my own.  there is a piece entitled “the meeting”which i began writing in 1995.  it starts with the line, “i bumped into Truth on the subway”  i was hanging out with my friend michael horn at denny’s after seeing the movie “mr. holland’s opus”and for some reason i spoke those words.  at michael’s urging i wrote them down with the intention of using them in a poem.  it was a full year before i ever was able to continue that thought.  the poem was originally “completed”in 1996 and went on to help me garner much attention, multiple publications and achieve a 12th place out of 1400 poets in competition.  last year i gave it a complete overhaul and i still don’t know if i’m done with it.  at times i write while listening to favorite music for this is Peter Gabriel....but other times all i need is a place to sit and ideally be uninterrupted.

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc) ?

my poems are normally not accepted in the world of academic poetry.  rhyme goes in and out of vogue and most publications do not even finish reading a work in that style.  i consider my writing to be “poetry for people who don’t know they like poetry.” because of this, i typically get passed over in publications geared toward “traditional”verse and instead find opportunities in places where one does not normally find any type of poetry.  i currently publish my own books as it is difficult to find an entry into the world of publishing when one has an untapped area in the world of literature.  the bias in literary circles doesn’t bother me however.  if one is so close-minded that they will not accept rhyme as a viable art form just because it wasn’t written 75 to 100 years ago....then that is obviously their own issue to deal with.

Has being a writer affected your relationships? 

absolutely.  arguing with spouses in the past, the thought of, “are you going to write about this?’or “was that line or piece about me?”has come up.  when i was living in bloomington, illinois i was incredibly well-known as a performing poet.  this caused quite a large problem with my boyfriend at the time since i was garnering more attention than he was a musician.  we simply couldn’t go anywhere without my being recognized & asked to sign something or recited a piece.  i’m far less well known here in asheville, nc but it never bothered me at all.  i think that it’s really only an issue because i’m a performer and not just a reader or writer. 

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real”or “virtual”(in more than one sense) community. 
most of my community is online.  i’ve found them to be predominantly supportive, even if my style of work isn’t what they believe is the “correct”way to write poetry.  i get a lot of messages and critiques from people who attempt to convince me that i shouldn’t rhyme.  they seem to not notice that i do write in a variety of styles including micro-fiction, prose and free-verse.  but, as i’ve said, the anti-rhyme perspective doesn’t concern me at all.  if i painted my house green and green was someone’s least favorite color then their dislike wouldn’t bother why should a dislike for rhyme be an issue for me either?

What are your future goals in terms of writing? 

literary world domination.  : )  i’d like to get a literary agent and ideally be published with Grand Central Publishing.  my goal used to be Harper Collins because they published Shel Silverstein, but Grand Central publishes two of my favorite authors....Rachel Simon & Steve Martin.  i’d also like to have work in The New Yorker.  Dorothy Parker and Steve Martin were both regular contributors and i feel that my work would be well-received by the magazine’s audience.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be?  

the violin.  it’s an instrument which can be used both as a violin or a fiddle.  the versatility of it is reminiscent of my variety of styles and genres. as i understand it, a slight change in pressure and tempo can change the same combination of string, wood and space into an entirely different instrument.  that appeals to me and is precisely what i attempt to do with my words.  recently a theater company in illinois produced some of my poetry for the stage.  i wasn't involved with any part of the production, not the choice of poems, order of pieces or how they were performed.  i was happily surprised to see that some work, which i had always thought presented itself as comedic, came off well as dramatic or vice versa.  i was honored to discover that not only was my writing far more adaptable than i had imagined, but also able to be enjoyed as a performance even without me being onstage.

it is my habit online to type in all lower case unless i capitalize to illustrate respect or for emphasis.  this being an online interview i chose to continue this practice....i hope that it has not interfered with your understanding of my responses. : )  thank you for reading.

Two Poems by Barbie Angell

the meeting.

i bumped into Truth on the subway,
his clothing was ragged and torn,
and he looked with dismay
at Hatred and Rage,
and with pity at Anger and Scorn.

it seems he had left with the world in this mess
and had given up trying to try.
and he gazed up at me,
with this look so serene,
and the tear of Fate caught in his eye.

he had hidden himself in the details
by sealing up all of the doors.
he retreated inside,
just a new place to hide,
far from the violence and wars.

he had lost all his faith in Humanity
and Humanity lost faith in him,
as he started to fear for his sanity,
seeing children abused
and the face of Love bruised
while Ignorance lied on a whim.

’cause he needed a decade to think
and mix it around in his brain.
the Hurt we inflict,
the Evil, the Sick,
the Torture, the Horrors, the Pain.

he returned with a sense of frustration
that no one could help him defeat.
quite unable to find
a Peace in his mind
that would aid his attempts in the street.

see he couldn’t abide by Injustice
and he didn’t find Racism fair
and he just couldn’t see
why someone like me
could’ve found any reason to care.

i bumped into Truth on the subway
and our meeting just doesn’t seem real.
to encounter blind grace
in such a chance place,
that’s made up of concrete and steel.

barbie dockstader angell
© 1995-2011

She’s Come Undone.

I saw her today
and she’s still unraveling.
She twists her hands in her lap,
as if she could somehow knot the ends.
For a sense of closure maybe,
or to keep herself together.
Either way, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Pieces of her scattered across the coffee shop floor.
They mixed in with the stray cigarette butts
and empty sugar packets finally released
from the confines of their ceramic caddy.
And I stared at her.
Wanting to talk to her and let her know that
I was certain that a glue would hit the shelves of
some tiny, little environmentally friendly store for
$29.95 an application and she would be saved from
the daily chore of reassembling her jigsaw self.
But before I could decide just how to correctly
phrase all that was swimming furiously through my
brain, she was gone.
She left behind quite a bit of herself that afternoon.
And it took the bus boy a half an hour to clean up the mess....

barbie dockstader angell
© 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?”

Practice!  But you knew that, as does G. Willikers Moose (AKA, G. Willikers Moozart). 

Seriously, folks, I wandered into the music studio on Monday morning to get ready for my first student, & there was G. Willikers Moose on the 88s with a piano arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ain’t Superstitious”

Some guitar players in this house have been known to pillage piano arrangements for riffs, but this arrangement is pretty so-so—but let’s not tell Mr Moose that, ok?)

Funny thing, tho, none of my students seemed to even notice his playing….& he kept at it all day!

Focus, hand position—even a metronome!  The kid could go far.

Hope you all have a good day, & practice your scales!

Monday, March 28, 2011

“Meet Me in the Bottom”

Monday morning has come around again—hope it’s going easy on everybody!  If not, maybe some Monday Morning Blues will help!

Before writing a bit of background about today’s song, “Meet Me in the Bottom,” I’ll point at that, starting next week , the Monday Morning Blues series will be transformed to the Any Woman’s Blues series, & this will continue for the foreseeable future.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, as long-time readers know, the Monday Morning Blues series started as a way for me to work on recording old blues numbers, first on webcam & then later as mp3s. 

This month that changed, because I wrapped up a big (for me) recording project in February, & I slotted myself into the Homegrown Radio series as a way of making some of that material available to readers.  However, my focus over the next several months will be on performing, not recording, so I don’t see myself posting my own recordings here for awhile.  Given that, I decided that two blues vlogs per week was too much for Robert Frost’s Banjo, & since my interest is currently weighted toward the Any Woman’s Blues series, I decided to keep this series, but on the regular “blues day.”

“Meet Me in the Bottom” is a song by the great Howlin’ Wolf, AKA Chester Burnett.  There are a handful of performers who were absolutely crucial in developing my interest in the blues, & Howlin’ Wolf was definitely one of those.  The power & dynamism of Howlin’ Wolf’s vocals define a lot of what the blues means to me, & I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I followed the blues trail back to his own roots when I later became enthralled by the music of Charlie Patton & Son House, both of whom Howlin’ Wolf knew as a young man on the Dockery Plantation in Mississippi.  Howlin’ Wolf, along with several other notables, “electrified” the Delta sound when he moved north & became part of the post World War II Chicago Blues scene.

& indeed, the song I’m featuring today is a Howlin’ Wolf composition that’s essentially an updated version of the Delta standard “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” also known as “Roll & Tumble Blues.”  The song was recorded first by Hambone Willie Newbern as “Roll & Tumble Blues,” but the very similar Muddy Waters’ song, “Rollin’ & Tumblin’,” is copyrighted in Waters’ name (McKinley Morganfield).  Not only has “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” been covered by countless blues artists, both major & unknown, but the song, which has an odd variant on a standard blues progression by starting on the IV chord, has also been re-done as follows (a partial list!):

  • “Travelin’ Riverside Blues” & “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” (Robert Johnson)
  •  “Brownsville Blues” (Sleepy John Estes)
  • “Goin’ Back to Memphis” (Sunnyland Slim)
  • “Down the Gravel Road” (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
  • “The Engineer Blows the Whistle, the Fireman Rings the Bell” (RL Burnside)
  • “Red Sun” (Johnny Shines)
  • “Meet Me in the Bottom” (Howlin’ Wolf)
  • It’s also related to “Minglewood Blues” by Cannon’s Jug Stompers, tho that’s not a slide song

As blues aficianados will know, this particular video comes from a legendary 1966 Newport Folk Festival, which included a true dream blues line-up of Son House, Skip James, Bukka White & Howlin’ Wolf.  There is a longer (10:25) version of video, which you can watch here—this includes not only a heated exchange between Son House & Howlin’ Wolf as the latter introduces the song, but also some rather amazing clowning with the guitar by the Wolf himself.  This version just features the song itself—vocal & slide guitar by Howlin’ Wolf, backed by the great Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Andrew McMahon (bass), Sam Jones (sax), S.P. Leary (drums).

Hope you enjoy this amazing music!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Photo of the Week 3/27/11

Alpaca with Hay
North Gray's Creek Rd 
(our property, our alpaca Mo!)
Indian Valley, ID
Thursday 3/24

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Any Woman’s Blues #7 – Susan Tedeschi

Saturday is upon us—almost before we knew it!—so it’s time for another edition of Any Woman’s Blues.  On Monday as part of the “electric” Monday Morning Blues, I posted a video of Susan Tedeschi playing “Voodoo Woman,” & promised to feature Tedeschi in an upcoming Any Woman’s Blues feature.  As the week progressed, it struck me that there’s no time like the present, so Ms Tedeschi is our featured blues guitar player today.

Susan Tedeschi grew up in the Boston area, & began public performance as a singer at age 6, when she had an understudy role in a Broadway musical.  She began performing in bands in her teens, & attended Berklee College of Music, from which she received a Bachelor of Music degree in performance & composition.

Tedeschi formed the Susan Tedeschi Band in the mid 1990s, & released her first album, Better Days, on Oarfin in 1995.  Her follow-up album, Just Won’t Burn (the title track is today’s second video) was released on Tone Cool in 1998, & this one created some buzz, as it topped out at #2 on the Billboard Blues charts, & was also among the Billboard Top 200 albums for the year.  Tedeschi has since released four more albums—most recently, Back to the River on Verve in late 2008.  This album was nominated for a Grammy as Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2010, which was Tedeschi’s fifth Grammy nomination. 

These days, Tedeschi is devoting her efforts to the Tedeschi Trucks Band, formed with her husband, slide guitar ace Derek Trucks.  Tedeschi has collaborated with Trucks since their 2001 marriage, particularly in the band Soul Stew Revival. 

Tedeschi is a bit unusual in this series on blues guitarists in that, although she had an early start in music as a singer, she didn’t start playing guitar until her 20s.  She has developed well, with a passionate guitar style.  She usually plays either a D’Angelico guitar (see second vid & lead-off pic) or a Fender Telecaster (first vid), tho she occasionally performs on acoustic as well.  Her sound has a heavy rhythm & blues slant, & her bands typically include sax & sometimes Hammond B-3 organ, staples of the R&B sound.

As far as her vocal ability: Wow!  & you can intensify that Wow with either profane or mild modifiers.  Tedeschi is simply a great blues singer, one who can stand up to comparison with any singer in the history of the blues.

This will be the last Saturday edition of Any Woman’s Blues.  Starting on Monday April 4, I’m going to move Any Woman’s Blues to the Monday Morning Blues slot.  The new “Monday Morning Blues/Any Women’s Blues” series will continue to feature women blues guitarists for the foreseeable future. 

Hope you enjoy this great music!

The picture of Susan Tedeschi leading off the post is by Wiki Commons user Xophersmith, & is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Homegrown Radio 3/25/11 – John Hayes

Happy Friday!  I’m checking in for my final turn at Homegrown Radio—thanks everybody for your encouragement & support.  I’ve had nice, complimentary feedback on the songs & that really meant a lot to me.

The last song is my take on Charlie Patton’s “Banty Rooster Blues,” a song he recorded at his first studio session in 1929 in Richmond, Indiana.  Interestingly, he also recorded “Peavine Blues” at that session, which is very similar in terms of riffs.  In fact, when the great Rory Block recorded a cover of “Peavine Blues,” she combined the lyrics of the two songs.

Lyrically, I stick close to Patton’s original, but the musical arrangement is fairly different.  For one thing, I play the song in open D (capoed to the key of E), whereas Patton played it in open G.  You might think that a song played on a guitar in one open tuned key would be the same as in another open tuned key, but because the notes on the open strings have different relationships to each other, this is not the case.  For instance, the lowest bass string & highest treble in string in open D are both the tonic note—they are the note D, while in open G, these same strings are the fifth tone of the G chord (again, the note D).  This means that riffs in one open tuning don’t transfer easily to the other.

I posted a video version of “Banty Rooster Blues” some time ago, & as the videos went, it wasn’t a bad version.  This one is better, however: for one thing, I did a lot of work over the winter to ensure that I was playing in better keys for my voice, & found that I was tending to pitch songs a bit low.  So rather than singing songs in D as much as I used to, I’ve moved many of them up to Eb, E & F.  By & large these can all be played on an instrument tuned in open D with the use of a capo. 

I’m expecting to announce a very exciting musician for next month’s Homegrown Radio, but I’ll hold off on the actual announcement until everything is 100% for sure—please stay tuned!

& in the meantime, hope you enjoy “Banty Rooster Blues!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #27

The Adams County Leader   Official Paper of Adams County
Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance
Published Every Friday by E. E. Southard
Matter for publication should reach this office not later than Thursday noon – earlier if possible

February 13, 1925

Dear Friend Southard:
In order to get you to answer what is to follow am sending check for $2.00 in payment for one year’s subscription to your valuable paper.  And now, Mr. Editor, as I have become quite a fiend on cross-word puzzles, will say that I have struck one which I am unable to solve, and am asking you or someone to help me out, so here goes. Why does our sheriff’s office require a permanent deputy at a salary of $900 per year whose residence is at Meadows?  Do they need a sheriff up there more than we do down here at Sourdough?  Is it because their moonshine up there is not as good as ours?  I think this is a needless expense.

With best wishes, I remain,
Yours as ever,
S. N. York

Editor’s Note: As the writer says he is a fiend on cross-word puzzles, we shall be obliged to refer the questions back to him for solution as he has had much more experience than we in such matters.  The logical parties to answer would seem to be the officials in whose department of work these matters fall.  However, just as a matter of information, we believe the people of the northern part of the county want Mr. Steckman as a deputy sheriff up there, and as they pay about a third of the county taxes, possibly the board may think they should have what they ask for.  This latter of course is only a surmise.

February 20, 1925

Mr. E. E. Southard, Editor, Adams County Leader, Dear Sir:
On February 13, there was published in the Adams County Leader a letter from S. N. York in which the writer asked for information on a question in which all taxpayers of this county are interested.  I request the privilege of replying to Mr. York through the medium of your paper.

As to our extravagance in maintaining a resident deputy sheriff at New Meadow, it would appear that Mr. York has had a change of heart since he was chairman of the county board in 1922, for at that time a resolution of the board was passed by the terms of which the county agreed to pay $50 per month toward the salary of a deputy sheriff at New Meadows, the village of New Meadows to raise the balance.  It is presumed that this generous offer, which was sanctioned by Mr. York, was not acted upon.  A request was made by the sheriff at the January 1925 meeting for retaining a deputy at New Meadows, and this was sanctioned by the board.  The board has also learned that it is cheaper to retain a deputy in Meadows than it is to pay mileage and expenses incurred by the sheriff in traveling from Council on matters of official business.

Mr. York is to be congratulated upon the law abiding community in which he resides, but if conditions should, unhappily, be reversed there, and the need of an officer becomes apparent, the needs of that community would receive the same consideration as are the present needs of less fortunate sections of the county.

The writer is willing to overlook the insinuations cast by Mr. York’s letter because, as he states, he has become a crossword puzzle fiend, and no doubt it has had a more serious effect on him than he realizes.
Yours very truly,
A. C. Thorpe

February 27, 1925

Editor Leader, Kind Sir:
It was not my intention when I wrote you of recent date to enter into a personal discussion with anyone as to how the affairs of our county are being run, for I know from experience what kind of a job it is to be a county commissioner, and I found it to be a man’s size job.  And knowing what the officers are up against, it was not my intention to criticize anyone personally.  But Mr. A. C. Thorpe seems to have taken more or less offense as to what I had to say in my letter, in fact, he speaks right out in church-- and it reminds me of a Ford car, the way he kicks back, and in his reply of the 18th, it has considerable of the same rattle as the lizzie.

So I feel that I am entitled to a little more of your valuable space in replying to same.  About the employment of a permanent deputy sheriff, Mr. Thorpe—it is true, as you have said, the records do show that a deputy was employed at Meadows while I was commissioner, but why did not you go a little farther into said records?  If you will but take the trouble, you may be able to find our reasons for doing same.  The fall that our highway was being built in the Meadows valley, the construction camps of same were filled with what was considered to be an undesired element of people, and through the urgent request of the residents up there, we allowed our sheriff to employ a deputy for a period of three months.  But it seems, Mr. Thorpe, when his three months were up, instead of dismissing the deputy, you retained him and gave him a straight salary.  Now, that amount of money would pay the expense for several trips of our sheriff to make up there, don’t you think it would, Mr. Thorpe?  But I like you just the same, and my regards apply to all the members of the present board, as well as the former board.

Yours truly,
S. N. York

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"So you know"

[I'd kind of misplaced my dear friend L.E. Leone, but I've found her again!  Here's her latest, a sweet love poem—enjoy!]

So you know

There's a lot of real
Estate between the hippy
Dippy free love ass-
Hole and the clingy co-
Dependent. There’s a doable
Double wide where you and I
Or any other couple can be
Unafraid, intoxicatingly
In love, entertainingly inter-
Twined with still plenty of
Air and outsideness, our
Skinned knees and silly words, heart-
Felt as felt hats with feathers
In them, twice as goofy,
Three times as strong, and half
As lonely, as independent as
Ever, where the distance
Between lips can contain a novel
Or a French fry, I'm just

L.E. Leone
© 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

“Voodoo Woman”

Happy Monday, folks!  This will be a post that’s short on words but long on music—appropriate enough for the Monday Morning Blues.

Our musical offering today is Susan Tedeschi’s take on “Voodoo Woman,” a hit for the Queen of the Blues herself, Koko Taylor.  If you don’t know Tedeschi’s work, you must check her out—she’s a phenomenol guitarist & singer, as the video will attest.  In fact, she’ll certainly be making an appearance (date as yet to be determined) right here on the Any Woman’s Blues series—one big reason I’m going short on the background info today.

Stay tuned for lots of fun posts this week, & enjoy the music!

The picture of Susan Tedeschi leading off the post is by Wiki Commons user Xophersmith, & is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Photo of the Week 3/20/11

Old Barn, Barbed Wire & Sagebrush
Gray's Creek Rd
Indian Valley, ID
Saturday 3/19

Please check out the new Ed's Redeeming Qualities blog! Great music & lots more!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ed’s Redeeming Qualities Blog!

Hello again!  I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled program for an exciting announcment! 

During my time in San Francisco, it was my great good fortune to become friends with the folks in a remarkable band called Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.  The three band members I knew during that time are still dear friends, & in fact all have appeared on this blog before: Dani Leone appears regularly under her pen name of L.E. Leone, (& here) & has also appeared wearing her musician’s hat both under her nom de steel drum, Sister Exister & as herself; Carrie Bradley has been a guest both on the Musical Questions series & on Homegrown Radio, & Jonah Winter participated in the Writers Talk series (here & here too).  Some of my happiest evenings in San Francisco were spent at Ed’s shows at the Hotel Utah, Kilowatt, the Bottom of the Hill & Spikes.  I’d also have to say that my friendship with these folks was a big factor in my turning to music more seriously in the later 90s & beyond.

Ed’s music had to be experienced—it’s hard to sum it up to the uninitiated.  Allmusic’s entry for Ed’s Redeeming Qualities will give you some idea:

A quirky folk group who defy an easy placement in genre, Ed's Redeeming Qualities' instrumentation—guitar, violin, ukulele, bongos, accordion, cardboard bass, and drum -- suggests folk music and the songs run the gamut of influences from rock, country, calypso, and klezmer. A reviewer described them as the "David Lynch of folk music," which is as apt a description as anyone has come up with.

But here’s a better suggestion—head on over to the new Ed’s Redeeming Qualities blog to hear the band’s original four members—Dani, Carrie, Dani’s cousin Dom Leone, & Neno Perrota in video footage from back in the 1980s!  The post is at this link.  You’ll also get a thumbnail sketch of the band’s beginnings &—to follow soon—some information on the first-time digital (CD and download) release of the original home-recorded and homemade cassette tapes that comprised their early years!

Hope you take a few minutes to swing by the Ed’s Redeeming Qualities blog & consider following &/or subscribing!

Any Womans Blues #6 – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

A happy Saturday to you!  Although I’m way behind time,  I’m happy to be back on track with the Any Woman’s Blues series.  Things have been hectic here around Robert Frost’s Banjo central as yours truly is now expanding my guitar teaching practice to the town of McCall—which essentially is making me into a commuter & making for a long day in the middle of the week.  Still getting used to this schedule!

Today’s artist is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a truly great singer & guitar player.  But as we enjoy her music, it will also be interesting to consider the concept of musical genre, since that was a vexed question in Tharpe’s career.  On the one hand, Sister Rosetta Tharpe became a big star singing gospel music; on the other hand, she also performed blues & jazz with the likes of Count Basie & Cab Calloway, & sang & played in nightclubs.  At points in Tharpe’s career, this crossover hurt her popularity with her gospel fanbase—after all, blues has been characterized as “the devil’s music.”

Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin in 1915 in a town called Cotton Plant, Arkansas.  Her mother was also a musician, as well as a preacher, & young Rosetta was a prodigy: she was performing on guitar at age four!  When her family moved to Chicago in the 1920s she was exposed to the sounds of blues & jazz, & began to incorporate them in her playing.

Throughout the 1930s & 40s, Tharpe’s star shown brightly—in fact she was one of two gospel artists allowed to make V-discs for the overseas troops during World War II.  Her popularity continued with thru the 1940s, & she had a big hit in “Up Above My Head,” which she recorded with Marie Knight.  However, in the early 1950s, Tharpe & Knight recorded some straight ahead blues sides, & there was a backlash from the gospel fans—neither regained their popularity after this, & Tharpe spent quite a bit of time touring in Europe.  In fact the first video, which shows her performing the classic blues “Trouble in Mind,” is from the "American Folk Blues and Gospel Caravan,"  a show that toured the UK in 1964.  Tharpe was part of a true all star roster with Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Reverend Gary Davis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, among others.

Early in her career, Tharpe is usually pictured playing a National Triolian (a resonator guitar
see pic at top of post), but she took up the electric & is playing a Gibson SG in both of these videos.  In addition to her place as a great performer of both gospel & blues, Tharpe is also seen as a pioneer of rock & roll.  Tho she died in relative obscurity in 1970 & was buried in an unmarked grave, her reputation has grown again.  A number of musicians—from Little Richard to Johnny Cash—have acknowledged her influence, & she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2007.  A fund raising 2008 concert made it possible for a marker to be placed on her grave in Philadelphia’s Northwood Cemetary.  In addition, January 11 is now officially Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania.

Hope you enjoy the music of this dynamic performer!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homegrown Radio 3/18/11 – John Hayes

Happy Friday!  I’m back with another shot at Homegrown Radio, & this week I’m featuring a song I’ve done since I began performing solo that is in a bit of a different blues style—it’s “Katie Mae” by the great Lightnin’ Hopkins.

I posted a video performance of this song what seems like ages ago.  Generally speaking, I’m not all that satisfied with the performances in those videos, but the “Katie Mae” take wasn’t bad & still gets some hits on YouTube.  However, I both play & sing better now than I did when I made those videos, so I’m happy to post the version of “Katie Mae” I put on my cd, RFD Blues.

In this version, I’m doing the song in the key of F—playing the chords in E in standard tuning with a capo on the first fret.  “Katie Mae” is a straight ahead 12-bar blues tune with delightful lyrics, & I’ve always found it a joy to play.  It also makes a good song to start a set because it moves along & is light-hearted.  Tho I’d like to say I first heard one of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ versions of it, I must admit that my first exposure to the song came in my high school years when listening to the Grateful Dead’s Bear’s Choice album.  It was sung by Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who was a doggone good blues singer.  But nobody can do it like Lightnin’!

Anyway, if you’ve been following along, you know the info on the music from the cd.  I’m not selling the cds online, only at live performances.  However, you can get the mp3s for all the songs for free as follows:
Two ways to do it.  If you’re only interested in downloading a handful of the songs, the easiest way to do this is to go to the DivShare page at this link.   Once on that page, you’ll see an embedded mp3 player that should have “Preachin’ Blues,” the first song on the playlist queued up.  Below that you’ll see a button that reads “DOWNLOAD,” & still further below that, three columns containing the songs.  All of these should be highlighted except “Preachin Blues.”  If you click on a song, it will then appear in the mp3 player.  When you click on the DOWNLOAD button, you will download the song that’s currently in the player.

If you’d like the whole playlist, along with jpg images of the CDs front & inside covers, you can download that as a zip file right here.  The zip file is 49 mb, which is about average for the typical music CD's worth of song.

Hope you enjoy “Katie Mae”!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Writers Talk with Juliet Wilson

A happy Thursday to you, & time for Writers Talk.  Our interviewee today is a poet whose work I admire for her careful observation of the natural world, & who also admirably combines her poetic efforts with a keen awareness of how we must all put our best effort forward if we are to preserve that world for future generations.  She is also a blogger whose efforts have been recognized both for her raising consciousness about environmental issues (she is listed on the Best Green Blogs Directory) & her blog also has been recognized by Blogger as a Blog of Note.

Juliet Wilson is an Edinburgh based poet, reviewer, adult education tutor & conservation volunteer. She writes mostly haiku and free verse, much of which is inspired by the natural world. She has been widely published in UK poetry journals and online. She blogs at Crafty Green Poet & tweets under the same name, she also edits the online poetry journal Bolts of Silk. Her chapbook Unthinkable Skies was published in 2010 by Calder Wood Press.

Please check out Juliet Wilson’s poem “Blackbird Lawn” at the bottom of the interview (a new wrinkle, & yes, it will also appear on the Writers Talk blog).  I know you'll enjoy the interview!

When did you first realize your identity as a writer?

I loved writing compositions all through school but I first realized I was a writer when I was about eleven and wrote my first poem. I first actually made space for writing in my life when I was living and teaching in Malawi and had few distractions and so more time for writing. It was several years after returning to the UK that I really started taking writing seriously. Even now my identity as a writer is changing, I recently started writing short stories and also teaching creative writing in the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning programme. 

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.

I write a lot of haiku and for most of them the process is the same. I take an observation and note it down then I think about all the elements that should be in a haiku (juxtaposition of two images, seasonal reference etc) and present the observation in haiku form, trying to capture that elusive aha moment that is central to the best haiku. I’m always aware though that one person’s aha moment can so easily be another person’s ‘so what?’.

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc)

I’ve been blogging at Crafty Green Poet for over 5 years. I also edit the online poetry journal Bolts of Silk, which gives me a look at the other side of the publishing and editing process. Editing has really helped develop my critical eye and to become more analytical of my own poetry. I am active on Twitter, which I consider to be part of the publishing process as well as the marketing process. I have self published one poetry chapbook (Bougainvillea Dancing) which raised money for charities working in Malawi. I have had one chapbook (Unthinkable Skies) published by Calder Wood Press, a small publishing company based near Edinburgh. I need really to become more disciplined in terms of sending out individual pieces to journals and competitions.

How has being a writer affected your relationships?

I’m not sure that it has….. I have an understanding partner!

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

I have a lot of acquaintances in the Edinburgh poetry scene, but the literary scene has never really been my main community. I have several friends who aren’t writers at all and that feels important to me. I ‘know’ a lot of writers through blogging, Facebook and Twitter, and that feels like a nice virtual community!

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

I’d like to have a full collection of poetry out at some point. I'd also like to write more short stories. 

Blackbird Lawn

This male blackbird has one white eyebrow
but sings as beautifully as the rest.
His mate is the brown of polished chestnuts
with a beak as bright as his.
Dutifully they collect food, wait
every morning for the scattered raisins
to carry to their brood.

Soon they will come to the lawn
with large-mouthed, speckled young -
teach them to pull worms from grass,
to recognise the footfalls
that promise sweetness.

Juliet Wilson
© 2010

from the chapbook Unthinkable Skies, published 2010 by Calder Wood Press

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shades of March (revised)

[Hi folks.  I posted a version of this poem on Saturday, but really wasn't satisfied with it.  So here's a revised version for your viewing pleasure!] 

Shades of March

the snow: incoherent on the hill’s south face scraped
raw to sagebrush & barbed wire fencing by rain

a string of white UP reefers on the Ontario, Oregon siding a
bicycle ditched in gravel ballast by the tracks

say goodbye

standing water in a pasture reflecting a dishwater
gray sky a pile of corrugated tin & 2x4s under a tarp

a yellow building collapsed under snowload on a
flat roof the street closed down by concrete barriers

say goodbye

in incoherent snowdrifts a horse head's painted on
a satellite dish beside a derelict white homestead

say goodbye

a redwinged blackbird's feral trill in bare limbed willows a
Greyhound bus churning north along a black glass highway

the snow can’t keep its coherence the
bitterbush black in thick rain under a long gone sky

say goodbye

Jack Hayes
© 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011


Time for the Monday Morning Blues once again on Robert Frost’s Banjo!  Hope you’re ready for some deep blues this morning.

Our featured song is “Louise” by the great Mississippi Fred McDowell.  For those who’d like a more full biography of this seminal country blues figure, pleasure check out McDowell’s page on Allmusic.  The brief version will follow:

Mississippi Fred McDowell actually wasn’t born in Mississippi, but in Rossville, Tennessee in 1904.  In fact, he stayed in Tennessee until he was in his 20s, where he  performed in Memphis & elsewhere as an itinerant street musician from his teenage years on.  At that point he moved about 50 miles south to Como, Mississippi, which lies in the hill country just east of the Delta region.  Here McDowell kept his music up on a semi-professional basis, but his main occupation was farming.  He was finally “discovered” during the folk music revival of the 50s & 60s, & was only a full-time professional musician late in his life.  I should note that tho the Delta area is more renowned, the hill country has also produced a number of notable musicians—in addition to McDowell, RL Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough & many others came from this region—in fact, McDowell was a mentor to a number of these musicians, including Burnside & Hemphill.

McDowell was known for his slide playing, which he learned as a child, apparently using a hollowed out steer bone as a slide when he was young.  Later, McDowell favored glass slides.  His guitar playing was also characterized by a heavy use of drone bass strings & by what are often one-chord harmonic structures.  Don’t let the one-chord nature of a song like “Highway 61” or “You Got to Move” fool you, however—this is not “simple” music in any perjorative sense.  The rhythms & the counterpoint are both complex. 

As is the case with all this month’s Monday Morning Blues songs, “Louise” is played on electric guitar.  Although Mississippi Fred McDowell famously proclaimed, “I don’t play no rock & roll,” he did play electric guitars a good bit—most of the McDowell videos on YouTube seem to feature him playing an electric.

This is a great song—hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Photo of the Week 3/13/11

Trumpeter Swans on Payette Lake
McCall, ID
Wednesday 3/9

Hope you like the new larger picture size!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shades of March

the snow can’t maintain coherence a
white UP reefer on the Ontario, OR siding a
bicycle ditched in black snow by the tracks

say goodbye

thick standing water in a pasture a
sordid gray sky a yellow building collapsed under
snowload on a flat roof

say goodbye

the snow can’t maintain coherence a
horse head painted on a satellite dish be-
side an abandoned white homestead

say goodbye 

a redwinged blackbird's feral trill in
bare limbed willows a Greyhound bus churning
north along a black glass highway

say goodbye

long gone long gone inside a gray sky 

the snow can’t maintain coherence the
bitterbush black in thick rain

say goodbye

Jack Hayes
© 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Greetings from the Gang at Plum Alley Music

Now isn’t that just the sort of crowd you’d expect to see hanging out in a studio where hardcore Delta blues music is being recorded?

Actually, this studio audience is still hanging around from a recording session Eberle held for one of her students—but long time readers know that both Eberle & I are both pretty much obsessed with stuffed animals.  This is only a relatively small selection of the full crew.

Otherwise, a quick note to say: no Any Woman’s Blues tomorrow.  The last few days have been hectic & I’ve not had time to do the feature justice.  Any Woman’s Blues will return next week, however.

For tomorrow: a new poem(!) written a couple of days ago.  Hope to see you then!

Homegrown Radio 3/11/11 – John Hayes

Howdy, folks.  I’m back for week two of my Homegrown Radio stint, & I have a tune for you I think you’ll enjoy.  I also have news about downloading—for free!—the songs from the cd I’ll be selling at my performances this spring & summer.

Today’s song is a great Charlie Patton number called “Green River Blues.”  If you don’t know about Patton, please check out the link to his Allmusic biography; without question, he’s one of the most important figures in the history of the blues in general & the Delta blues specifically.  He recorded 54 sides between 1929 & 1934, & these include some Delta standards—in addition to “Green River Blues,” a short list would also include “High Water Everywhere,” “Stone Pony Blues” & “Moon Goin’ Down.”  He’s a major figure in Robert Palmer’s seminal blues history, Deep Blues—a must read for blues fans even if Palmer’s romanticized view often clashes with a more strictly historical approach (for the latter, I highly recommend Elijah Wald’s Escaping the Delta). 

I recorded this song using the Regal resonator in the key of E in standard tuning—pretty straight ahead—& relied on heavy string damping to create a solid rhythm.  Patton’s rhythms were very complex, & while I’m not trying to imitate his specific rhythmic, I am trying to create a real drive on the guitar.

Now for the download news!  Two ways to do it.  If you’re only interested in downloading a handful of the songs, the easiest way to do this is to go to the DivShare page at this link.   Once on that page, you’ll see an embedded mp3 player that should have “Preachin’ Blues,” the first song on the playlist queued up.  Below that you’ll see a button that reads “DOWNLOAD,” & still further below that, three columns containing the songs.  All of these should be highlighted except “Preachin Blues.”  If you click on a song, it will then appear in the mp3 player.  When you click on the DOWNLOAD button, you will download the song that’s currently in the player.

If you’d like the whole playlist, along with jpg images of the CDs front & inside covers, you can download that as a zip file right here.  The zip file is 49 mb, which is about average for the typical music CD's worth of song.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!  In the meantime, please enjoy “Green River Blues.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writers Talk with Jack Varnell

It’s Thursday, & time for Writers Talk!  I’m most gratified that we can include Jack Varnell, AKA The Emotional Orphan, in this series.  His poems are memorable: flashes of emotion & image, & are very direct, a characteristic he shares with one of my own favorite poets, Kenneth Patchen.  Here’s a brief writerly bio:

Jack Varnell is a contemporary prose poet & writer living in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga. USA

Usually writing under the pseudonym "The Emotional Orphan", & predominantly an online writer, he has been published at Culture Sandwich, The Literary Burlesque, Verses In Motion, Undead Poets Society, Sick Of 'Em, Pigeonbike Poetry, & Red Fez

Print Selections include Guerilla Pamphlets 7, & due this spring from Popshot Magazine, & All The King's Horses-Volume 3 in the 'Expression of Depression' anthology series from LittleEpisodes/Little Brown Book Group in the UK

Jack's blog is Emotional Orphan.
His RedRoom author page is at this link.

Please be sure to check out Jack Varnell’s poem “Wolves at Bay” over at the Writers Talk blog—& now, on to the interview!

When did you first realize your identity as a writer?
I began writing at a very young age. I wrote a short story called “Freddy the Rat” at around age six. It was around the same time my mother held a figurative gun to my head in order to encourage me to play the piano rather than concern myself with silly games like baseball. I had seen “Ben” with Michael Jackson, and “Willard” - those cheesy 70’s movies about the rats, and decided the theme from Ben needed to be the song I did in my recital. “Freddy the Rat” was homage to him. Ben. Not Michael.

Since I never really attended school successfully, I really didn’t write too much in my teens and early twenties. My imagination was always on spin cycle, and I was more concerned with living the stories that eventually become poems. I read all the time, and developed a keen taste for some of the masters like Hermann Hesse, Sartre, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche and the likes, but missed a bunch of the more familiar contemporary authors, and studied few contemporary poets. I tended to lean more towards a spiritual, philosophical, or even utopian or dystopian type of write, so when I did pick up a pen it was usually something flavored by those writers. My writing output was limited, with the exception of sappy, silly love letters, legal briefs, letters to the Parole Board asking for leniency, and Writs of Habeas Corpus for my hoodlum buddies.

I am a recovering addict, clean for seventeen years now. In rehab I was told I was told I was an “emotional orphan”, and that I needed to learn how to get in touch with my feelings at a deeper level. Journaling on a daily basis was the tool they used to have me learn that, and I discovered that it worked, and more importantly offered a way to express myself in a truthful and creative manner. I rarely do fiction, and have been writing essays, stories, shorts and poetry since then. Much of my work is under the pseudonym “The Emotional Orphan” for that very reason.

Describe the creative process involved in any one piece you’ve written—this could be book, a story, a poem, an essay, etc.
Most all of my poetry follows a similar pattern, and it is a little different than most poets I have known or read about. I generally am focused on the actual who, what, where, when, and why of my own life experiences. I don’t usually shy away from topics that are not that easy to swallow because that is how a lot of my life has been. I have had a colorful and exciting life with exposure to things most have only seen on television or read in books. Anything I may be exposed to may end up on the page at some point. Some have notebooks of stories, poems, etcetera. I have phrases, anecdotes, half finished pieces, observations and random thoughts.

My writing usually includes two important factors. The first is honesty. I cannot succeed if I am afraid of telling the truth, or with too much concern of how it will be interpreted. Secondly, my experiences are the key piece of evidence in my crimes against poetry or literature.

Could you describe your relationship to the publishing process? (this can be publishing in any form, from traditional book publishing to blogging, etc)
At this point, my relationship with the publishing process is a bit like two teenagers at a school dance. She is the homecoming queen, cheerleader - too pure for any car backseat. I am the acne scarred guy, leaning against the wall staring lustfully at her from across the room. The secret weapon is poetry, not beer. 

I have been writing, and refraining from doing submissions for about two years, and simply focusing on the art, and the mechanics involved. I also want my voice to be heard so I read any and all journals, lit mags, and different publishers with the intent of learning where that voice might get heard. I did a little self publishing test online to evaluate the potential, and timing for a chapbook or larger collection.

I’ve been experimenting with Broadsides, and simply writing to build an arsenal of poems ready to be …somewhere.

Having a sales and marketing background, I have also been somewhat a student of the changes in the publishing world and who is responsible for the success of a writer. The reality is that ultimately the writer controls his own fate. Branding has been important to me with the Emotional Orphan Blog, and  twitter, tumblr, posterous, and many other social media outlets, blogs, and writing / arts communities.  So, if you look at your business card and the words Penguin, Copper Canyon, or something similar is attached to the company you work for, I have done half the work already.

How has being a writer affected your relationships?

Although writing is a solitary exercise, I have been given so much from the writing community from across all genres, and forms. My real world relationships may have been minimized a bit.They have been replaced by a strong core group of creative and talented friends who support each other and offer critique and feedback, from an honest perspective with the intention of perfecting their craft. Writers like Caroline Hagood, Laura Mercurio Ebohon, Fran Lock, and Jodi MacArthur, whose writing styles are completely different, have been particularly gracious and instrumental in sharing words of wisdom and making sure to pay attention to my work that gets “out there”        

Besides them, there are possibly hundreds of writers online that I read as often as I can, and many others who lend support through Facebook and other social media outlets. Daily, I am embarrassed by running across someone that I meant to keep up with that I have neglected to read.

How would you describe the community of writers you belong to—if any?  This may be a “real” or “virtual” (in more than one sense) community.

I have some long time friends and writers who I try to interact with regularly. I also float in and out of various groups designed to support, enlighten and critique each others work. The HIGHdra Syndicate is an outstanding group of young writers and poets who study at the feet of the masters from the Outlaw Poetry Movement. We are pretty headstrong about making some noise, and a difference in the publishing world, and the reception and recognition of poetry at large. Outlaw poetry, as described by the incomparable S.A Griffin just last night, is not picking up guns, robbing banks and going on the lam, it is about having a finger on the pulse of society and having the courage to shake things up a little in order to wake up the masses. Poets like S.A., A.Razor, Rafael F.J.Fajardo, Scott Wannberg, John Dorsey, and infinite others have been doing it for a long time. There are many others like Frankie Metropolis, Edaurdo Jones, Diana Rose, Murphy Clamrod, Jason Hardung, High Jack Flash, Jack Shaw, Christian Alvarez, Yossarian Hunter,  Newamba Flamingo, Sean Hogan, and a host of others are making some noise. Publishers like Epic Rites Press, and Wolfgang Carstens are giving an outlet for the voices of writers like Rob Plath, John Yamrus, Jack Henry, and Karl Koweski, while keeping alive the words of Todd Moore, one of the original Outlaws and a master no longer with us …in the physical. We believe pretty strongly in the power of both the spoken and written word and make use of any and all tools available to connect with the masses. These tools include everything from banged up antique typewriters, to iPhones, and our internet radio channel on BlogTalk Radio.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the community of artists and writers at Little Episodes. Primarily based in the UK, LE has a stated mission of “Dispelling the notion that art is a corporate commodity-Giving the artistic industries back to the artist- Promoting the arts as a platform to incite empathy and understanding.“  It is an incredible community of support, and talent that has proven to be an indispensible place to give and take in order to grow as an artist.

What are your future goals in terms of writing?

For now, my intention is to keep writing, and submitting. I have had some success, but I don’t necessarily measure that in number of books or poems published. It is more about gleaning all I can from those more educated, and experienced, and following the proven method of getting the words out there. I tend to be a little analytical about it all. The words of my fellow writers are more powerful to me than how often I have been published, the rejections with critique more valuable than the acceptance letters.

I think finding a cure for my aversion to apostrophes and extreme addiction to ellipses may be equally as important, and I do have a secret desire to actually finish an English class one day. Hopefully royalties from my first book may provide the means to actually go to college. For a while, at least.

Bonus Question: If your writing were a musical instrument, what would it be?

Let me clarify, would a machete be considered a musical instrument?

Seriously, I think my Mother’s statement many years ago about how I would one day regret that I didn’t pursue the piano with a little more dedication holds true. I believe a piano would accomplish what I would like to with my writing. It has the potential to offer intense and powerful music, while also having the ability to calmly tickle the imagination and take it to places unseen. There is a journey to be enjoyed, and if you just close your eyes it can take you almost anywhere through the good, the bad and the ugly. For the bad and ugly, it offers a solution and some peace. You can find a home there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Adams County Makes the News - Adams County Leader #26

The Adams County Leader    Official Paper of Adams County
Price $2.00 Strictly in Advance
Published Every Friday by E. E. Southard
Matter for publication should reach this office not later than Thursday noon – earlier if possible

June 22, 1923

Our groceries are fresh, new stock, the best to be had in the market, ordered specially for your table.  When you buy from us you get good stock—no leftovers or bankrupt, worm-eaten groceries here.  We sell them fresh and clean and good to eat.

February 22, 1924


Somebody who signs himself “D. J. C.” and says he’s “principle” and instructor at “C. R. Academy of Learning,” presumably located in Caldwell, writes what he or she seems to think a real sassy letter to the Leader, taking us to task for something he or she thinks the paper may have said about his or her old home town.  Evidently, they do not teach either penmanship or spelling at this “academy of learning” nor do they teach, apparently, decency and ethics, else this “principle” and “instructor” would know enough to sign his or her real name.  And “Crooked River” as a post office is not a very prominent place, to our knowledge.  But, since he or she promises to go back to Caldwell soon, and it’s to be hoped, stay there, we’ve no cause to complain, as we view the matter.  But we’ve an old spelling book at this office which we’d just love to loan this “principle” of Caldwell’s “creditible" seat of learning, in case in some misguided moment he ever again desires to write some scorching letters to the newspapers.

February 29, 1924

The Leader was a little hard on an anonymous letter writer last week who seems to have turned out to be a woman.  The paper, of course, had no way of knowing, or of even suspecting, that the writer was not a man.  If the name had been signed, such a state of affairs could not arise.  Any letter that cannot be signed by the true name of the writer had very much better not be written.  Newspapers do not wish to publish names without the consent of the writers, but they certainly have a right to know who their correspondents are, especially when they seek to criticize the paper and perhaps threaten it.

March 4, 1924

Complaints have come to my office that the law prohibiting Sunday dances is being violated in several places throughout the county.  All laws were made to be enforced, and I hope that it will be sufficient to call your attention to the fact that the law of this state prohibits Sunday dancing under a penalty of from fifty dollars to two hundred dollars and up to ninety days in the county jail.  Now, if you get caught again violating the said law, do not blame the officers.  The best advice that I can give you, if you must have Saturday night dances, is to see that you have standard time, not monkey with the clock, and quit promptly at twelve o’clock.

B. J. Dillon, Prosecuting Attorney

January 25, 1924

Soon we are to have radio movies, according to scientists.  Then we may sit by our own firesides and watch Mary Pickford and Tom Mix kill ‘em off and rescue ‘em, and do their other remarkable stunts, if they have any.  Really, life is getting too soft.  If some guy will invent a bellows, now, to pump air into our gizzards, we won’t even have to breathe.  Then all we’ll have to do will be to sit around and cuss the country.

April 25, 1924


That there is great danger of the hoof and mouth disease, prevalent in California, obtaining a foothold in Idaho seems evident from the extreme precautions being taken to keep it out.  The governor has issued a proclamation calling for strict quarantine enforcement, and a patrol squad has been placed on duty along the state line to protect the state against inroads of the disease being started by immigrants or shipments from California.  All passengers and shipments are being stopped and fumigated or otherwise disposed of.  For this purpose, deputy game wardens and other officials are being used for a state line patrol.


Charles Lappin, while cracking bones for his chickens, had the misfortune to get a splinter of bone in his right eye, and it was necessary for him to go to Boise Monday to consult a specialist.

See us for oyster shell grit, ground bone and all kinds of poultry supplies. 
Cool – Donnelly Co.

March 7 and 8, two performances, the local movies will show “The Ramblin’ Kid”, the noted Wild West picture from the story by the former Council resident, Earl Bowman.

H. F. Garett, internal revenue man engaged in securing income tax reports from people generally, spent Tuesday in Council.

For Sale – One-ton Ford truck, $125.00, or will trade for good wagon.  H. Fassbender, two miles northeast of Council.

The Weiser River has been opened for Salmon fishing, and many are availing themselves of the opportunity.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Sunday, March 6, 2011

“Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”

It’s Monday morning again, & time for some blues!  I found a really interesting version of a great song, & it will get your day off to a musical start, guaranteed.

On Saturday’s Any Woman’s Blues post about Jo Ann Kelly, I included a video of her gritty & intriguing slide guitar version of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues.”  As a result I was looking around YouTube for other interesting variations on James’ song.  In addition to the original (which you can listen to here, & the version by Chris Thomas King that was featured in O Brother Where Art Thou, there’s also an amazing version by RL Burnside, much altered & containing some harrowing personal experiences (Burnside’s version is here).

But perhaps the most unusual version I came across is an instrumental take on “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” by Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar.  Landreth & Cashdollar are both players of the highest caliber—Landreth was named Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year in 2005 & when not performing as a solo act, he is highly in demand, having played behind John Hiatt, Jimmy Buffett, Buckwheat Zydeco & others.  His slide playing is intricate, with a complex left hand technique that employs chords & chord fragments in conjunction with slide work.

Cindy Cashdollar is one of the best Dobro & steel guitar players on the planet, & in addition to spending time as a member of Asleep at the Wheel, she has backed a number of notable musicians, including Bob Dylan, Leon Redbone, Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Butterfield & others.  She is also a frequent guest on Prairie Home Companion.

I must say the idea of an instrumental version of “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” first struck me as odd—the words are so starkly beautiful.  But Landreth & Cashdollar produce a beautiful piece of music in this duet
—wonderful interplay between the two of them, & they both bring out the song's haunting quality.  However, should you like to see the words, I’ve included them after the video—or you can just follow the link above to hear Skip James' original version!


Hard time here and everywhere you go
Times is harder than ever been before

And the people are driftin' from door to door
Can't find no heaven, I don't care where they go

Hear me tell you people, just before I go
These hard times will kill you just dry long so

Well, you hear me singin' my lonesome song
These hard times can last us so very long

If I ever get off this killin' floor
I'll never get down this low no more
No-no, no-no, I'll never get down this low no more

And you say you had money, you better be sure
'Cause these hard times will drive you from door to door

Sing this song and I ain't gonna sing no more
Sing this song and I ain't gonna sing no more
These hard times will drive you from door to door
Skip James
(that's Mr James in the pic leading off the post!)

Photo of the Week 3/6/11

Union Pacific Reefers on a Siding
Ontario, OR
Saturday 3/5

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Any Womans Blues #5 – Jo Ann Kelly

It’s another blues Saturday here at Robert Frost’s Banjo, & what an interesting artist we have to feature for you today!  But although she was a major talent, the fact is that many folks have never heard of Jo Ann Kelly, & that sure is a shame.

Comparisons, as we know, are invidious, & maybe insidious too.  Still, it’s interesting that Jo Ann Kelly’s powerful, take-no-prisoner’s singing voice is often compared to the great Janis Joplin’s.  They were indeed contemporaries, tho Kelly outlived Joplin by 20 years: Jo Ann Kelly was born in London, England in 1944, just a year after Janis Joplin was born in Texas.  Joplin, obviously, was a superstar; Kelly has become almost a footnote.  & yet her singing can stand with that of Joplin or with the singing of most any blues performer you want to name, male or female.  Bonnie Raitt once remarked, "It was hard to do "Walking Blues" for instance, but I was not born with a voice like Mavis Staples or Jo Ann Kelly."  Let’s just say that getting put in the same sentence as Mavis Staples is about as good as it gets.

Of course this series focuses on guitarists, & Jo Ann Kelly was also a first-rate, dynamic player.  She played in a “country blues” style that drew on the influences of the great Mississippi players like Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson & especially Memphis Minnie, who Kelly held in the highest regard.  Kelly was an adept fingerpicker & played both with & without slide.  Although she often performed solo—& in fact turned down offers to join both Canned Heat & Johnny Winter’s band—she worked & recorded with a number of noteworthy players: she jammed with the Yardbirds & shared a stage with Son House; & she recorded with both Woody Mann & John Fahey among other notables.

Jo Ann Kelly produced 6 LPs during her lifetime (as far as I can determine), & then there were re-issues & compilations following her tragic & untimely death from a brain tumor in 1990.  At least some of these recordings are still available on CD, including her compelling eponymous debut album. 

For myself, I must say that at Kelly’s best, I can’t think of any better contemporary country blues performer with the exception of her younger contemporary, Rory Block—who thankfully for all of us blues fans is still going strong.  Jo Ann Kelly & Rory Block share many of the same qualities: besides masterful guitar chops & strong singing voices that are able to convey powerful & direct emotion, both Block & Kelly are able to tread that fine line on which someone stays “true” to a tradition while at the same time being innovative & making the tradition something personal to themselves.  The two videos of Kelly I've selected illustrate this well.  The first, “Nothin’ in Rambling,” is her take on a Memphis Minnie song; the second is a cover of one of the greatest Mississippi blues songs, Skip James’ “Hard Times Killin’ Floor.”  Kelly re-set this as a slide piece, which seems a stroke of genius, & gives us a revision that’s both inventive & faithful to the great original in spirit.  There have been covers of “Hard Times Killin’ Floor” by a number of artists, but I would have to say that to my ear, Kelly’s is the best re-make of James’ masterpiece.

Hope you enjoy this fantastic music!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Homegrown Radio 3/4/11 – John Hayes

Yes, you read that right: I’ll be your Homegrown Radio entertainer this month.  As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m just wrapping up a 3-month recording project, so I’m taking the liberty of letting you know about this very homegrown recording operation each Friday in March on Homegrown Radio

Now you may be glad to hear that a sales pitch is not in the offing.  I’ll only be selling the actual cd (called simply & appropriately, I think, RFD Blues) at performances.  However, by the month’s end—probably much sooner—I’ll be able to provide you with a link where you can download any or all of the songs for free in mp3 format.  The album will contain 15 songs—just over 46 minutes of music.   

I’d orginally envisioned the album (or albums—at one point I played with the idea of two cds) as being more diverse in content, but by in large the songs by “non trad blues” folks just didn’t quite make the grade.  I’ll keep working on these songs & probably will perform them until I can get them to the proverbial “next level.”  I also dropped several traditional blues cuts that weren’t quite up to level of the best tracks.  This left me with following 15 cuts, which I feel completely comfortable about taking to the general public. 

1.    Preachin’ the Blues (House/R. Johnson)
2.    Katie Mae (Hopkins)
3.    Highway 61 Revisited (Dylan)
4.    Green River Blues (Patton)
5.    Poor Lazarus (trad.)
6.    Banty Rooster Blues (Patton)
7.    Black Snake Moan (Jefferson)
8.    Rainy Day Blues (Hopkins)
9.    Moon Goin’ Down (Patton)
10.    Cool Drink of Water (T. Johnson)
11.    Mama Tain‘t Long ‘Fore Day (McTell)
12.    T.B. Blues (Rodgers)
13.    From a Buick 6 (Dylan)
14.    Weeping Willow Blues (Fuller)
15.    Highway 61 (McDowell)

Seven of these songs have appeared previously on the Monday Morning Blues series, but the cd versions have gone thru the mastering process, so the sound should be noticeably better.  Another song, “Cool Drink of Water,” is a different take than the one that appeared earlier, & in a different key.  

Today’s song is, as you see, the lead off song to the collection, Son House’s boisterous “Preachin’ the Blues” (with a bit of lyrical interpolation from Robert Johnson’s thoroughly revised version of the song, which is also known as “Up Jumped the Devil.”)  I’m playing the Gold Tone resonator guitar slide style & capoed on the second fret to put the song in the key of E.   

Hope you enjoy the song, & stay tuned for more Homegrown Radio & download information!