Walter Hensley would have been 80 years old on March 18th. For a bluegrasser, he would still be in his prime. I sure do miss him and wish he could be a part of this new album that I’m working on. He always had a magic about him that infected the rest of us when we were recording. It was such a thrill to work with him. He wrote “Upper Elk Creek” for our self-titled CD “James Reams, Walter Hensley and the Barons of Bluegrass” and he wrote the title track for our next album together “Wild Card.” I hope you’ll contact your local DJs and ask them to play a tune or two of his in honor of his memory.
What does your Thanksgiving table look like right before everyone sits down to feast? Is it groaning under a perfectly browned turkey or ham with those little pineapple rings and maraschino cherries? Is it stacked high with sweet taters, green bean casserole, cranberry relish/sauce (I’m not getting into that debate!), hot rolls dripping with butter, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream waiting in the wings? And when you gather together, will you share what you are most thankful for this year?
I recently had someone ask me to sum up Thanksgiving in one word…and I said, “Grateful.” Then, of course, I had to clarify that I didn’t mean the Grateful Dead, that would be Halloween! But, in all truthfulness, I am grateful for so many blessings that have come into my life. I am grateful that I survived vocal chord paralysis many years ago and can still do what I love best…sing! I’m grateful for all the new friends that I’ve made since moving to Arizona. I’m grateful for the opportunity to perform with so many talented musicians. And, of course, I’m grateful for my family and loved ones!
But it’s even more than that…I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here on this earth and the opportunity to make a difference if only in one person’s life. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand…that’s the giving part that often gets overlooked in this holiday season. So when you’re looking at a mountain of leftovers after everyone has pushed back from the table, box ‘em up and share them with the homeless in your area. It can be a great teachable moment for kids as well as a blessing for everyone involved.
I hope your Thanksgiving is full of thanks and opportunities for giving as well.
I am just so excited about the upcoming 15th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Jamboree. The Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture will be hopping with all that we have going on. Starting with the kickoff concert on Friday night, featuring yours truly, the weekend will be jam packed with all things bluegrass. This year we’ll also include the NY premier of the documentary “Herschel Sizemore: Mandolin in B” with a Q&A by the director/producer Rick Bowman. Lots of exciting workshops are planned plus a new one that I’m leading this year “Jam Camp for Kids.” I hope this one becomes a permanent addition! And our concert performances on Saturday night feature bands from NYC as well as Colorado and Virginia. Don’t forget the Brown Jug Award…this year’s winner is a hot item on the awards circuit. So come on out to the best little festival in NYC! You’re in for a real treat! For more information click on the Jamboree menu on my website.
Unlike a box of chocolates (“Are you trying to make me fat???”) and for less money than a bouquet of flowers (that die in a few days anyway), you can’t go wrong with the gift of bluegrass music on Valentine’s Day!
I know that not everyone is a romantic. Some guys get pretty nervous when Valentine’s Day rolls around and they haven’t got a clue what to do to impress their sweetie (and last year’s offer of a new bass boat might not have been as well received as some had hoped). Well, bluegrass music can save the day. How about a song that combines two of your favorite things…fishing and the love of your life? Set the mood with the bouncy bluegrass tune “I Caught a Keeper (when I caught you!)” What sweetheart could resist a sentiment like that???
Or perhaps you’re a straightforward kinda guy whose tongue gets all tangled up by sweet nuthins’. You want a song that will just come right out and say what you mean. Well then, I suggest “Just Loving You” as the perfect way to express yourself without actually having to use words.
Both of these songs are available on albums of mine and I sure would appreciate it if you contact your local DJ on Valentine’s Day and request one of these tunes to be dedicated to that special someone in your life. Or, if you own the albums (Wild Card and The Blackest Crow), then turn the lights down low, pour a couple of beers into a glass (trust me, they like that!), put the albums on the CD player, and get ready for some snuggle time as you gaze deeply into your loved ones eyes and let the songs do the talking. Hearts will melt, I guarantee!
Although not really known for songs that are spine chillers, bluegrass does have it’s share of haunting lyrics. Take “Cold Statesville Ground” for example. I shudder every time I sing this one. It’s told in the first person from the viewpoint of a deathrow inmate heading off to the gallows for a particularly gruesome murder that he seems to gleefully describe. You want goosebumps on Halloween? This is the song for you.
Not into the gory details? Well, how about “Cruel Willie?” This quirky little tune describes how a love ‘em and leave ‘em ladies man finally gets his comeupppance. Both of these songs appear on my album, “Troubled Times.” So drag the CD out and humm along this Halloween. Or better yet, give your favorite DJ a call and request them so everyone can have a listen! Have a safe and Happy Halloween.
Hi folks! I’ve been hanging out back east playing some festivals and getting ready for the Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Jamboree coming up in September. Have to admit it’s kinda nice to escape the dog days of Arizona’s summer! Of course, trying to explain that dry heat isn’t as hot as the temps make it sound usually gets me a skeptical look followed by a comment like, “Well, so’s a blow torch, but you don’t see me standing under one!” So I decided I would lighten up your day a bit by providing a few good-natured laughs at the expense of my home state of Arizona. Enjoy (and stay out of the heat)!!
It’s so hot in Arizona that…
- the birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
- the potatoes cook underground, and all you have to do to have lunch is to pull one out and add butter, salt & pepper.
- farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs.
- the trees are whistling for the dogs.
- you eat hot chiles to cool your mouth off.
- you can make instant sun tea.
- the temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.
- you can attend any function wearing shorts and a tank top.
- you discover that in July, it takes only 2 fingers to drive your car.
- you discover that you can get a sunburn through your car window.
- you notice the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
- you actually burn your hand opening the car door.
- you break a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.
- you realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
A sad Arizonan once prayed, “I wish it would rain – not so much for me, cuz I’ve seen it — but for my 7-year-old.”
Well, we’re back from our whirlwind tour of New Mexico and the far eastern edge of Colorado. Let me tell you, it’s just as hot there as back here in Arizona!
And speaking of hot…we really blazed it this past weekend. We were joined by my buddy, Doug Nicolaisen, who plays with James Reams & The Barnstormers back east. Our regular banjo player, Tyler James, was unable to make the trip so Doug stepped in and lit the fires. Doug is so talented on this instrument, he amazes me every time! But don’t take my word for it, Judy Muldawer was sitting in the front row and captured some outstanding video…check out “Ain’t a Bump in the Road” on YouTube. I even had a long time member of the Southwest Pickers association come up and tell me that our band was the most exciting band they had seen since the concert series started 11 years ago! (And I didn’t even have to pay him to say that!)
The Holly Bluegrass Festival was so much fun. I love going to towns where the Bluegrass Festival is THE event of the year. Everywhere we looked there were signs and posters promoting bluegrass. I doubt there was a single soul living any where in the area that didn’t know the Bluegrass Festival was going on that weekend. Playing on the town square while kids and families gather round just takes you back to the roots of bluegrass, this is what it’s all about.
Looking forward to the Palisade Roots and Music Festival and the Aspen Bluegrass Sundays concert next weekend. While the temps might be cooler up in the mountains, but we’re planning to heat it up!