May 2013 Newsletter
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
THIS SPIRITED CITY
Sunday April 14th was a very special day for me. I had spent the previous six months producing Lori McKenna's new record, and we had just wrapped up a 10 concert/11 day tour at a beautiful venue in downtown Washington DC. After the gig, the promoter led us up to the venue's roof where the whole capitol was laid out before us, from the Washington monument to the White House. We were high on this beautiful vista, grateful for this country where we get to play music for a living.
On Monday April 15th, I flew home to Boston. I was so excited for the start of school vacation with my family that I'd had Lori book me on the first flight at 6 am, though I knew I'd be operating on what could charitably be called four hours of sleep. We had a wonderful reunion in the minivan, with the boys in the backseat still in their pajamas. I spent the day puttering around the yard, pointing out all the incipient signs of spring. I remember my oldest proudly informed me that we had exactly three daffodils. Bleeding hearts and peonies were peeking out of the soil. The lilac and hydrangeas were leafing out. It was an invigorating and hopeful day.
Hopeful, that is, until I learned of the explosions at the Boston Marathon. I was instantly pulled between yearning to unplug and retreat with my family, and wanting to scroll through endless websites and Twitter feeds to glean details of the tragedy. We had hoped to take the boys down to Cape Cod to visit their grandfather and I had been looking forward to getting his house and its gardens ready for the summer. We decided to stick to our original plan, and for the next few days we kept the world at bay for the sake of our children, all the while craving all we could glean from the latest headlines.
I have never been personally involved in the Marathon, but every year we have friends, family and neighbors who run, cheer at the finish line, or work a block or two away. Everyone we know and love is safe and sound, but it's no stretch to say that we could have just as easily lost someone really close to us. We were extremely lucky, as some of our friends were more concretely impacted by this tragedy (find some Kleenex, then check out Jane Roper's heartwrenching blog here). As events that we have come to associate more closely with TV shows and movies unfolded in real time, against the backdrop of real neighborhoods and towns where our friends still live, it was all more than a little shocking and surreal.
Focusing on random violence is more than enough to leave anyone raw and dispirited. In troubled times, I normally lean on my work for comfort and emotional support. There is a gentle yet spirited defiance to creative pursuits in the face of violence and destruction. But for this particular tragedy, I was taking a well-deserved break from creativity. So I worked instead on teaching the fundamentals of taking a good cut at a whiffle ball. I worked at pruning away dead leaves and branches, and found solace in the dirt, pulling up weeds and planting new flowers.
I am relieved that the balance of this nightmare, thus far, has tilted more towards justice than vengeance. Our law enforcement officials did an admirable job of bringing in one of the two suspects alive, and I've seen very little of the prejudice and ignorance than can poison the atmosphere in times such as these. I am excited to get back to work, the good work of making music that kicks at the darkness til it bleeds daylight (as Bruce Cockburn so ably phrased it). But I will do so with the memory of the senseless loss we have endured echoing in my heart.
Ours is a stubborn city, one whose citizens revel in the trials and tribulations of blizzards, tangled streets and sports teams that break our hearts. We have been here a long time, and we know the difference between infamy and history. The two troubled young men accused of this heinous crime and whatever convictions they thought they had will eventually be forgotten. But the ones who ran towards the smoke and flames, and those who perished? We will celebrate and mourn them forever. Ours is a spirited city, and more than ever it is the one I proudly call home.
MP3 of the MONTH: The recent events brought to back memories of September 11th, and lines from my song "The Only Way" were recalled with a renewed and sorrowful relevance. So this month's MP3 couldn't have been anything but a newly-recorded version of "The Only Way," the hometown version, with a slight lyric change that brings it home for me. I have given away a song for free every month since 2001, but I am doing something different this month. You can download this month's track for the standard digital price of $0.99, but you also will be given the option to contribute more. At the end of May, I will donate all the monies generated from the sale of this new version of "The Only Way" to The One Fund, a charity established by our governor and Boston's mayor to help those most affected by the tragic events of April 15th. I thank you in advance for your generosity and plan to go back to offering my monthly MP3 free of charge in June.
MASSACHUSETTS: Lori McKenna's new record takes its name from our home state, and I played and sang all over the thing, having produced the whole affair. It's been really gratifying to see it get such a warm reception from fans and critics, including multiple 5 star reviews (and to think I thought that 4 stars was as high as you could go). That's all great, but I can truthfully say the only thing that matters to me is that I've never been more confident or proud of anything I've ever done musically than I am of this record. It was officially released on April 23rd, and if you haven't checked it out yet I encourage you to do so via iTunes, Amazon or one of our dwindling independent record stores.
Fri May 3rd - Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse, Dallas TX - 8 pm
I hardly ever get down to Texas but I'm so glad when I do. The musical culture of the state has been a part of my DNA since my high school biology teacher turned me on to Jerry Jeff Walker's "Viva Terlingua." This will be a co-bill with fellow Bostonian Meg Hutchinson. The venue is located in the Northpark Presbyterian Church.
Sat May 4th - The Church at Lake Cherokee, Henderson TX - 7:30 pm
Another co-bill with Meg Hutchinson, in a place I've never been before. The only thing I know about Henderson is that I'm going to be excited to be there playing my songs and sharing the stage with a friend.
Sat May 11th - Club Passim, Cambridge MA - 8 pm
It's hard to know what more to say of this room. It's been responsible for sustaining me over the entire arc of my career, and every time I return I know I need to bring my A game. For this show I'll surely be bringing the A+ game, as I'll have my fellow Barnstar! member Charlie Rose joining me on banjo, pedal steel and who knows what else. Colorado singer/songwriter John Statz supports
Sun May 5 - St. Petersburg FL **with Lori McKenna
Mon May 6 - Tampa FL**
ON THE HORIZON:
June 8 - Bull Run, Shirley MA
July 5 - Barnstar! at Oskar Blues, Lyons CO
July 6 - Barnstar! at Bluegrass In Paradise festival, Crested Butte CO