January 2017 Newsletter
Monday, January 02, 2017
MESSINESS & MYSTERY
It is ironic that the holidays can be both the most hectic and crazy time of year and an ideal time for introspection. The respite from touring gives me room to breathe and meditate most clearly on where I have been and where I might yet go. I've been thinking a lot about God and country--two things that people on the coasts have recently been oft accused of ignoring. These two concepts are inextricably linked in America, and our idea of one can limit (or expand) our notion of the other.
I am not interested in a God that can bound in a single book or circumscribed by the righteousness of any one religion. According to the modern American prosperity gospel, God is like a best friend who comes through for the faithful, like the ultimate bro or wingman. My faith is defined by mystery, by the notion that God is so fundamentally awesome that I can never fully grasp its breadth and depth. Each important question we ask leads ultimately not to an answer, but to more questions. As Rosanne Cash once sang, "God is in the roses and thorns," and I am devoted to its messiness, mystery and omnipresence. For this severely lapsed Catholic, anything more comforting and certain reduces God to something much less interesting and useful.
The aftermath of our recent election provides some interesting parallels with modern American religious discourse. I've heard some analysis and voter feedback claiming that white, Christian America is representive of the "real USA," and that this victory belongs to them. This myopic, reductive point of view cheapens our country in the same way that exclusionary religious piousness diminishes God. This is an enormous, diverse and beautiful country, with deserts and forests, plains and shorelines, and communities of hard-working, decent people everywhere you look. Though the working class certainly deserves a fairer shake, I find it troublesome when any one, particular group lays claim to being the most righteous or patriotic. The America that I love cannot be confined within a single demographic or voting block. When America is walled off behind a more restrictive and exclusive identity, it is reduced to something far less worthy of celebration.
Lest it seem I've veered off into a sideline in punditry, please note that all I explore above are just some of the things I sing about every night. I could not separate these beliefs from my music any more than I could the air I breathe from my lungs. This stuff has informed American song since before Woody Guthrie sang of this land belonging to you and me, and may it continue to inspire us forever.
For 2017, my 18th year as a professional musician, I'm looking forward to exploring all of the messiness and mystery in song with all of you. Something tells me I'll have ample opportunity to do so. I'll leave you with the last verse of Troubadour Blues, which proves more prophetic every day:
So let me thank you Mr. President
To me you've been so kind
For the well of inspiration does dry up from time to time
Each time you open up your mouth
you give me so much I can use
Every day another reason for the troubadour blues
BEST-OF LISTS: I was honored to see For A Song featured on several notable lists at the end of 2016. "Look Up" was featured on NPR's list of Songs Public Radio Couldn't Stop Playing. DJs at favorite stations of mine like WBJB in Brookfield NJ and Folk Alley singled out the album, and Fervor Coulee's Don Teplyske made it his number 1 album. Have you heard it yet? Pick up your copy on cd, vinyl or digital today!
MP3 of the MONTH: To kick off my 18th year as a professional musician, I'm featuring this cover of Jesse Winchester's "A Showman's Life." To be fair, my life only vaguely looks like this a very small percentage of the time, but I love this song. I usually try to do something unique with my covers, but in this case my take on the song owes a heavy debt to Buddy Miller's version. Buddy had Emmylou on his cover, and I have Rose Cousins, Zachariah Hickman and Jake Armerding on mine. You can download it for free for the month of January, enjoy!
SUB ROSE SONGWRITING RETREAT - Songs from Three Mile Island
Mon Jan 9th - Club Passim, Cambridge MA - 7 pm
Tue Jan 10th - Club Passim, Cambridge MA - 7 pm
What happens when a dozen songwriters get stranded for a week on a primitive island in Lake Winnipesaukee? Come listen and find out. It's an evening of all-new works from the Sub Rosa Collective. The Club Passim Iguana Music Fund sponsored this group of castaways for their 6th Annual Songwriting Retreat last June. Six months on, we're holding our reunion, sharing intimate songs arranged for a big band and lots of backup singers. These shows will feature Kris Delmhorst, Dinty Child, Sean Staples, Zachariah Hickman, Charlie Rose, Rose Polenzani, Jocie Adams, Kristin Andreassen, Dave Godowsky, Laura Cortese, Dietrich Strause, Miss Tess, plus Brian Webb (on Jan 9th) and Annie Lynch (on Jan 10th). Purchase tickets for Mon Jan 9th or Tue Jan 10th. We do different songs each night so, better yet, come both nights!
***SHOW RESCHEDULED for SAT MAY 27***
Sat Jan 14 - Vanilla Bean, Pomfret CT
I'm sorry to announce that I cannot perform at this favorite CT venue of mine as originally scheduled on Sat Jan 14th. But I am very pleased to announce that we were able to find another date and the concert has been rescheduled for Sat May 27th. Thanks for your patience, and I'll see you here in May!
Fri Jan 20th - Columbus Performing Arts Center (Shedd Theatre), Columbus OH - 8 pm
Contrary to the song on Little Vigils where I sang "I've had enough of Columbus, Ohio," I actually love the town and this concert series. I don't know who that guy in my song is, but he ain't me. I'm really looking forward to coming back and to putting some positive vibes out into the world on Inauguration day. Purchase tickets today
Sat Jan 21st - G.A.R. Hall, Peninsula OH - 8 pm
I've never played here before, but I'm looking forward to my first time. The building originally served as a meeting place for Civil War veterans. Can you think of an artist who actually recorded an entire album in just such a place in Western Massachusetts (HINT)? Might have to dust off Blue Eyed Boston Boy or Dear Magnolia for this one. Buy tickets
Sun Jan 22nd - Mountain Stage, Athens OH - 7 pm
I grew up listening to so many of my favorite artists on Mountain Stage, and have always dreamed of playing it myself. Seventeen years ago, they actually invited me with just a couple of days' notice, but I was convalescing from what would be the first of three collapsed lungs over 2 years, and I couldn't travel or sing. I have always hoped they'd ask again, but they never did. Until now. Very excited to make this happen after so long a wait, please join us.
No sideman gigs this month, but you never do know where I'll pop up next.
ON THE HORIZON:
Barnstar! Is Back!
Feb 1 - Daryl's Place, Pawling NY
Feb 2 - Parlor Room, Northampton MA
Feb 3 - Once, Somerville MA
Feb 4 - Barre Opera House, Barre VT