May 2017 Newlsetter
Monday, May 01, 2017
THIS LAND IS OUR LAND
The opening line of my newest album declares "I am just a Yankee boy, born and bred in Boston," and I have proudly lived my whole life in New England (actually, just Maine and Massachusetts). Though I now actively celebrate the history and landscape of my home in lyric and songs, there was a time growing up when I couldn't wait to leave. Like many young men before me, I fell under the spell of the American west, as woven into the tales of Edward Abbey and Cormac McCarthy, and sung by the likes of Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Townes Van Zandt and so many others. Though I never did go west for good, I did spend one memorable college semester studying conservation biology in Arizona, which remains a formative highlight of my youth.
Last fall, a folk festival booking finally gave me occasion to visit Moab, Utah, whose red rocks and rivers and canyons I had always wanted to see. I went hiking in Arches National Park before my sets at the festival, and the scenery didn't disappoint. It took me 42 years to see this particular area of the country, and all I could think of was "I've got to somehow show this to my boys." A couple weeks ago, the opportunity to introduce my family to the region came when we took our first true family vacation (in years) in advance of a concert in Moab at the tail end of the boys' public school break.
We spent a magical week together hiking the southwestern Utah slickrock, visiting state and national parks, exploring well-known and unmarked trails, looking for lizards and snakes, and even drove some UTVs out into the desert, splashing water with every creek crossing. We yodeled into the natural echo chambers of rock formations, had some minor spills and close calls with weather, and lost an entire afternoon scrambling up an unmarked canyon that we felt we alone discovered. You can imagine the boys' delight when we later learned that its given name is "Jackass Canyon." We got out onto the land early every morning, hit the pool every afternoon, and fell asleep completely exhausted every night. It was, in a word, perfect.
New England occupies an important and influential place in our country's history and culture, but I wanted my boys to know it isn't the only place. Woody Guthrie's famous song sings of redwood forests and purple mountains, of ribbons of highway and golden valleys, but many places in modern America look much the same, a glut of unchanging billboards and fast food franchises. Still, it's not hard to find unique and singular landscapes throughout America if you get a little off the beaten path. It feels easier to do that out west, where there is so much public land you can often literally camp by the side of the road, or pull off and spend the day just walking up into the hills.
Though it lately seems we're better known for our tumultuous culture and crass leaders, this country is so much bigger than any one person or their politics. There is so much American landscape out there, mountains and valleys and rivers and canyons and more just waiting for us to reconnect, leaving us changed and inspired after we return home (and after Canadian dates with Rose Cousins last month, I know the same holds for our neighbors to the north). I feel recharged after our recent trip out west, and though my boys already know Woody's unofficial national anthem, I bet anything they see it in an entirely different light next time they sing it. When that wonderful chorus comes around I know they will feel, just a bit more viscerally, that this land truly is our land.
May we never forget.
COVERS RECORD: You may notice below that I do not have many gigs this month. That is because I'm going to take some time and head back into the recording studio. I'm excited to announce that I'll be working on a new covers record, drawing from the 14-year tradition of my annual Under The Covers concert at Club Passim! I'm not ready to reveal much more right now, but know that while I have a great team lined up to help me explore some new musical horizons, I'll need your help again to bring this project to fruition. More on that soon. For now, I'm just going to hole up with some good friends and have some fun making music for the people.
MP3 of the MONTH: A year ago we lost one of Texas' (and America's) greatest songwriters, Guy Clark. I think it's a fitting tribute that this month's track is a cover of one of Clark's signature songs "Desperados Waiting For A Train." It was recorded live last year at Club Passim, with Jake Armerding on fiddle, Rose Cousins on vocals and Zachariah Hickman on upright bass. It's available for free for the month of May and the month of May only. Go get it!
Sat May 6th - Club Passim, Cambridge MA - TWO SHOWS! 5 & 8 pm
This place has been ground zero for so much music, from the folk heyday of the 60's right up through today. Most of my closest musical friends--Lori McKenna, Josh Ritter, Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Mulvey and on and on--I met in this room. Every show I do here is played like the last show of my life. That is not hyperbole, this place is that important to me. My single-show stands here always sell out so we're trying two shows this time around, at the very civilized hours of 5 and 8 pm. Tickets are moving fast, so get your early or late tickets now. I'll be joined by Zack Hickman on upright bass and The Western Den's Deni Hlavinka on harmonies. Lula Wiles' Ellie Buckland is opening both shows and will join us for some mischief as well. You don't want to miss this.
Sat May 13 - Common Fence Music, Portsmouth RI - 8 pm
Rhode Island! Why don't I ever play in you? You're literally right there next to me, so how come we are still kinda strangers? Let's change that with this show. Never played here before, but all the cool kids do, so I want to as well.
Sat May 27 - Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret CT - 8 pm
This show was originally scheduled for January, but due to a rare scheduling mixup on my part it was moved to this date. It ends up being good that we had to move it, as I am now 5 months better at music than I was in January. I love this place and always look forward to my return.
Sun May 28 - Secret Show, Mid-Cape Cod, MA - 7:30 pm
The good folks at Vinegrass are hosting a private 40 Seat only concert for me. Why all the secrecy on the location? I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you. Here's how it will work. Order your tickets in advance, and all ticket holders will be emailed the day of the show announcing the location. It will be between Dennis & Orleans. We recommend having dinner before but deserts, coffee, tea, beer, and wine will be available. Email email@example.com with any questions. Let's do this!
No sideman gigs this month, but you never do know where I'll pop up next.
ON THE HORIZON:
Aug 13 - Energy Park, Greenfield MA