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The Blue Buccaneers, seeking out new trade routes, discover Australia!

Day 6  Geelong, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia. Still no sign of kangaroos or kookaburras, but acclimating to  the environment quite easily, thanks to the unparalleled congeniality of the natives. We arrived on Tuesday the 17th of March 2015 after an arduous three day journey made longer by the total absence of February 16th.


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(presumably our Captain on the SS Qantas)


Upon arriving in Melbourne we were taken to the mansion of the nation’s president Dobe Newton (president of not only the Australian Country Music Association, but also the Fitzroy Bowl’s Club, The legendary Bushwackers, and probably a number of secret societies that we don’t know about.).

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(In addition to his presidential duties, Dobe Newton paints life-size 3 dimensional landscapes) 

 

We boarded a marvelous moving contraption called a tram to make our way to Newport to meet with the rest of our crew, murderous expatriate Rick Plant and fiendish fiddler Sarah Busuttil. Pete and I, while bleary-eyed from our upside down schedule, were blown away by these antipodean pirates. (Well, we knew Rick would be good, having played and travelled with him in Nashville Before he emigrated to Australia with his wife, the wondrous Sherry Rich, and their offspring. But Sarah? Yikes!)

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Our second day was spent acclimating ourselves  to the mysterious world of the antipodes. We ventured down to the Merri Creek to forage for food and familiarize ourselves with the avian population, coming upon some ancient petroglyphs, which we plan to have interpreted by the natives. 

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Merri Creek

 

 

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Merri Creek Petroglyphs

 

We then boarded a land-going vessel called a “tram” (we must get those in Nashville!) and made our way to the city center of Melbourne, sampling local Hungarian fare and procuring a new suitcase for Pete, his having been mysteriously damaged by the crew of the HMS Qantas. Upon arriving at the sutler we were delighted to find ourselves across the street from the legendary Queen Victoria Market, the city’s largest provider of fresh fruit and vegetables, and whatever other culinary treats one might desire! With mouth-watering joy we wound our way through the empty stalls, our spirits only slightly dampened by the fact that the market is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays. From there we procured a land schooner to be sailed throughout our time on this mighty island, and we sped off into the crowded streets of Melbourne, both of us trying hard to remember which side of the lane was left, which direction on the roundabouts was clockwise, and exactly how to respond to the Australian well-wishers shaking their fists at us and encouraging us with their colorful colloquialisms.  

 

On day three after procuring drums and a sound system we made our way to the Fitzroy Bowls Club with President Dobe Newton, the legendary singer of the Bushwackers who we credit with enabling us to get here in the first place. (And here the Australians are free to substitute “credit” with “blame”.) In addition to being the president of the Fitzroy Bowls Club, Dobe is the president of the Country Music Association of Australia. With such an eye for talent, we were excited to perform for the president, but after a few tosses across the green, President Newton declared that I appeared to have not a bit of natural aptitude for the sport of lawn bowling. 

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   After a bit of “tucker” (food), Dobe hit the stage accompanied by Sarah Busuttil (Bushwacker # 92 and Blue Buccaneer # 28) and Tony O’Neill (Bushwacker # 47). They did a rousing set that included a dance lesson from their Australian Bush Dance record and the anthem “I Am Australian”, now a staple of school anthologies. (An aside: my introduction to Australia was the “Kookaburra” song in grammar school.What a treat to have them laugh at me in person years later!)

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Sarah, Dobe, and Tony O'Neill

 

We then hit the stage, and at points were lucky enough to be joined by both Bill Jackson and Marisa Yeaman, two wonderful songwriters I’d had the pleasure of meeting during their sojourns to the other new world. 

 

 


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Fitzroy Bowls Club sing-along, with Marisa Yeaman and Bill Jackson

Tall Ships Races Fredrikstad Norway 2014

ARRRR!! We had a wonderful time at Tall Ships Races Fredrikstad 2014 in Norway!   The British Blue Buccaneers (Pete McLeod and Tracey Bearmore) and I arrived on Friday 11 July on the island if Isegran and were greeted by our new friends Bård and Tora from Norgesexpo, where we stayed in an historic house nestled in the grounds of Isegran’s fort built in the 13th century.


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   On Saturday evening we played our first concert, in the city center. With piratical tactics we coerced the Swedish Sea Shanty group Gråskägg (Grey Beard) to join us for the second half of our show. They were wonderful! Per played guitar on demand, and I forced Kai to follow me with a mic for my trombone solo. (Perhaps better unamplified!) We’re hoping footage shows up soon, most likely so we can destroy the evidence. After the show we all returned to the house to sing into the wee hours. 

 

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    On Sunday and Monday evening we played at a tent on Isegran, and after Monday’s show we caught a ferry to board the English Tall Ship Tenacious, a turn of the century vessel refitted to allow for handicapped and blind crew, where we gave an acoustic concert at the invite of our new friends Nick and Sue, who were crewing on the leg to Bergen Tall Ships. A grand time and a wonderful tour of the ship! As midnight approached I hurried back to Isegran, where an orchestra was performing a live accompaniment to fireworks at 12, right over our house. Beautiful!

 

 

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   On Tuesday we watched the Tall Ships leaving for Bergen, and in the evening played at a party for the volunteers at the festival, which was great fun. The volunteers, staff, and sound-people at this festival were absolutely wonderful, and It’s a pity that the next Tall Ships race doesn’t go there again for another 4 years.

 

 


    On Wednesday morning we arose with the sunset on a much quieter Isegran, greeted by a deer and a fox, and I drove the Pete and Tracey to Oslo to return to England until we reconvene in August. 

Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival 2014

 

 

 

   Once again we had a roaring time at the big Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival in Fort Walton Beach Florida.  We had a conga line and  some great sing-alongs, and the weather was perfect!

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The wonderful crew that organize the festival asked us to return in 2015 for our fourth year, and we can't wait!  Along the way we saw many of our old hearties including Captain Davy Duvall.

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Pirates of the Carrabellean!!

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We had a most successful raid on the Pirates of the Carrabellean Festival, AKA the Carrabelle Riverfront festival. So successful, in fact, the mayor gave us the key to the city! (Rumor has it the locks were changed immediately!) 

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   Pete hauled away or heaved to or something…  Pete_Heaving_to_on_the_Governor_Stone1_resized.JPG

   We sailed into Carrabelle on the historic schooner the Governor Stone (propelled magically without its sails), and upon arriving Maria played a rousing version of "Morrison's Jig".  

The local grocer even adjusted their sign for the pirate festival: 

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Alo Over the weekend we witnessed the Fishy Fashion Show, the spring collection using fabrics and materials that sprung from the seas and the beaches near Carrabelle.  We also had plenty of pirates singing with us.     Fishy_Fashion_Show_King_and_Queen_resized.jpgFishy_Fashion_Show_King_and_Queen_resized.jpg

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Captain's Blog Blue Buccaneers Raid on the Virgin Islands, 2014

Day one. I arrived on the island of St Thomas in the Lesser Antilles with a new crew. I have not breathed a word to them of my past misadventures, or the crew who so ruthlessly marooned me here last year, leaving me to subsist on whatever coconuts and feral mongooses I was able to catch before being rescued by a blues band from Bismarck who were sailing by. At this juncture it would seem I have no cause for suspicion. The quartermaster is a Czech named Pulkrabek who speaks not a word of English but is able to sing in his soon to be adopted tongue; the bosun is an Italian named Kowalski: her looks betray her skills on the violin, leading me to believe that she is not in her mid twenties as she appears and claims, but is actually in possession of the knowledge of the whereabouts of the fountain of youth, which would come in handy right now; (I mistook said fountain for a Pissoir some years ago.); the gunner is a Scottish calligrapher who was chosen for the voyage strictly by virtue of his name: Thorneycroft. We've secured a vessel and purchased provisions at a local sutler named kmart and are seeking out additional crew at Magen's Bay for Wednesday night's raid on Latitude 18 near the village of Red Hook. We will undoubtedly splice the main brace in honor of young Thorneycroft's birthday and reconnect with the dread brethren pirates of Red Hook, chief among them Barefoot Davis and Captain Rick.

 

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Day two. After spending the night in a swamp of mangroves first mate Pulkrabek and I have secured passage in a vessel to St. John captained by master Senterfitt. Tonight we return to Tickles at the Crown Bay Marina on St Thomas. If my memory serves me well (it usually gets the order wrong) Tickles is named after St Thomas' ruthless executioner Bartholomew Tickles. (I'll try to verify that.) Tickles sits at the ferry dock for the Water Island ferry which carries dozens of residents and visitors to Water Island daily, across the peculiar liquid the island is named for.

 

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Day three. After a most successful engagement at Tickles Dockside Bar we scoured the island of St Thomas seeking lodging in the dead of night. We were told to look for a makeshift tavern at a dock nestled in a mangrove swamp where a benevolent barkeep named Nancy would meet us to provide us with a room in her home for the night. Within an hour of shutting our eyes a storm started, a topical symphony of rain and wind, and made me grateful to be sheltered here among the mangroves. 

Waking up the next morning on yet another strange plank to the singing and cooing of the birds who dwell amongst the mangroves, I find myself on the anniversary of my birth, another year passed, filled with gratitude to the crew who have without complaint gone on the account with me, foregoing the luxuries of home for unpredictable levels of comfort (and often discomfort) and questionable outcomes, joyfully embracing lives of mysterious adventure, and I feel grateful to the crews who came on earlier raids, without whose pillaging skills I would never have returned to these waters. (It is in this light that I came to realize that what I thought had been an act of marooning last year by a mutinous crew was actually the result of a sort of nautical sleepwalking on my part.)

Today we leave St Thomas for the island of St. John, where we will with luck celebrate the birthdays of myself and Master Thorneycroft by seeking out a feast of raw fish. Should we be unsuccessful in our search, we will placate our appetites by donning underwater swimming glasses and staring at fishes that are still alive. This evening we will play a quieter set (sensitive pirates!) at the Inn at Tamarind Court, the villa where we'll be lodged for the night.

(Photo Jeff Lange)

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Happy New Year!

Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers are getting shipshape for a wonderful 2014! We're booking festivals through the year, including a two month tour of the United Kingdom and Europe lasting from mid-June to mid-August. Check our calendar frequently for updates, and if you want us to come play where you are, let us know! In February we're doing out annual tour of the Virgin Islands, and in March we'll start recording our new CD.

 Here's a Happy New Year video of "A Good Year to You":

 

And here's a Happy Birthday version, complete with lyrics:

 

Christmas 2013

Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers had a wonderful time playing A Pirate's Christmas,  at the greatest of venues, The Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee, as part of the monthly Bluegrass Underground series. We played songs from "A Pirate's Christmas" and "A Slide Guitar Christmas", had a fantastic crowd, and were even joined by a roly-poly captain from the North Pole. Photos coming soon to the journal.

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2013

We have just released a new video, in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day! It was directed by Ryan Newman, shot by Ryan and Tommy Wilson, and edited by Chad Davis, and stars plenty some Blue Buccaneers and fetching lasses! The single is available at CDBaby.com and at 
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/talk-like-a-pirate-single/id674718406
Fire away, me hearties, fire away!!

 

 

We Have a new Holiday CD available this year, "A Pirate's Christmas"!! To hear samples go to the "Music" page, and to purchase go to the "Buy" page.

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Pirate Pair

The new CD "The Blue Buccaneer- Songs Inspired by the Golden Age of Pirates" is here! The treasures have arrived and are ready to be plundered! Order them now, that's an order!

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Our latest single and video, "Yo Ho Ho (Pirate's Christmas)":                                               

The CD "Alchemy" is temporarily out of stock, but downloads of the songs are available at CDBaby.com and

iTunes. We'll be reprinting the CD's in 2013. Front Alchemy Jpg Because making a CD is an expensive proposition, we're also putting out what we're calling a "Virtual Tip Jar", a chance for you to help offset the costs and allow us to keep doing what we do. Any amount will help. Thanks!

Virtual Tips

We're creating a whole new e-mail list, so please sign up, whether you're been getting our e-mails or not!


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Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers at The Brixham Pirate Festival in Brixham, England

We had the greatest time playing at the Brixham Pirate Festival in Brixham, Devon, on the southwest coast of England. The weather was perfect, the festival was filled with fine looking pirates, and the crowds sang our songs with gusto!

               

Ireland Shows Kilkenny and Tramore

Well blow me down, I seem to have forgotten to put down the guitar and pick up camera to take pictures of my musical engagements. Well, the interiors of these establishments are even better than the exteriors. Thursday night Tony McLoughlin and I did a solo show at the Vic in the lovely seaside town of Tramore, and last night I was backed up at Ryan's in Kilkenny by the talented and good looking Tony McLoughlin band: Kevin Lonergan, Johnny Gleason, Conner O'Brien, and Tony. The house was packed and the pirate songs were bellowed by a gusty bunch with Irish brogues.

 

Shed shopping in Ireland 2

In my continuing search for a tool shed for my Shelby Park Estate I came across this fixer-upper in Kilkenny on the banks of the River Nore in Ireland. granted, it may be a little spacious for the lawnmower and hoes, but I'm thinking my dog Errol could use a slightly bigger doghouse. 

  

Shed Shopping in Ireland

While in Ireland I'm researching designs for a toolshed, somewhere to keep my lawnmower, bicycles, and weed-whacker in East Nashville. Here are two possibilities. The first is a nice little norman number in Ballyhack in County Wexford, perhaps a bit more practical due to it's squareness. The second is Ireland's oldest civic structure, Reginald's Tower in Waterford, built in the early 13th century. I was hoping to just move it over, but am having a difficult time getting in touch with this Reginald bloke.

 

Captain's Blog, February 1717

What is this strange place? Why has my crew marooned me here with only a musket and a fishhook? Will I ever see The village of French Lick again? 




Day 8. Still no sign of other humans. Wasted only bullet on hallucination of reindeer. Diet of salt water, cactus leaves, and conch. Grasp of reality growing more and more tenuous. Slowly slipping into madness.


 


Day 12... Still no sign of other humans... keeping company with a strange dragon-like creature. Hallucinations persisting. If no food soon, may have to resort to eating my new friend.

 

 

Day 14... A skull washed up on shore... Alas poor Yorick... I knew him... He hath borne me on his back a thousand times...


 

Day 16. "Rescued". Was taken in a flying ship to the land of Puerto Rico, and quarantined in a structure with unnatural looking inns that have names like Cinnabon and Margaritaville. I am more terrified than I was after being marooned on that island. They are warning me of an impending journey to a strange place called Texas and then on to Nashborough.


Captain's Blog, Virgin Islands, February 2013

February 16, 2013

It has been five days since I arrived in the leeward islands with the Blue Buccaneers, and so far the journey has been tremendous. The dread pirate Blueballs (born Mark Miller) and I stowed away in a southbound galleon headed for the settlement of Miami, where we convened with the dread pirates Joe Bloe (born Joe Luoma) and Mr. Eel (born Ric Lee). There we managed to secure passage on a brigantine headed for the port of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St Thomas, in the Lesser Antilles.  Upon arrival we managed to procure a wagon for the eleven days we’d be in St Thomas and St John, and meandered our way to a rooming house in Tillett Gardens. There we were shown our lodgings by the beautiful Panamanian Jessica and the equally beautiful Carolinian Abigail, and soon met the duke Eric Tillett, the tattoo artist Chill, and other fine upstanding residents of the area. 

    Soon after our arrival the fair Jessica charmed Robyn, the restaurateur of Bistro 4560 at Tillett Gardens, into hiring us for a concert on our night off. After casting off our duffles we took the wagon to a pub called Latitude 18 to meet up with our confidant and provocateur Barefoot Davis, who advised us on upcoming raids and warned us of an eventual gathering of the brethren of pirates. 

    Tuesday we found what ragged equipment there was available to us hidden in a storeroom at Hull Bay Hideaway and made our way to Magen’s Bay, an inlet peopled with tourists of all levels of inebriation, and had a fine swim to wash off what remained of the parasites that attack the northern climates. That evening we performed at Sugar Bay and connected with a few comrades, and then prepared for our performance at Tillett Gardens Wednesday night.

      Wednesday morning I awoke early to the sonorous sounds of the native avifauna of the island,  roosters. Oh what a sweet melody that created, in what seemed to be choirs in a wonderful stereophonic counterpart to the melodies of the local Canis lupus familiaris (dogs), who had a delightful song of call and response. Quartermaster Joe was entertained through the night by these lovely creatures, who seem to revel in the ever rising suns created by the all-night trading posts that cater to the nighthawks of the island.

     I forged a trail to a large emporium of provisions with the name Plaza Extra, next door to an even larger emporium called “Big K”, and was able to  purchase fresh eggs (no doubt from the families of our local songbirds!) bread and vegetables, and large sacks of citrus to ward off scurvy. After a lovely repast with Kelli Kocapelli, a lovely sojourner at the guesthouse, we made our way to the port of Red Hook for some 

(At this point the rest of the text seems to have been lost at sea. Visual accounts of the two week voyage remained, however, and in the coming years we will do our best to reconstruct the events that occurred.)

Captain's Blog, November 2012

Captain’s Blog November 16, 2012 Ahoy me hearties! I fear I’ve fallen behind on reportage of our journeys, but that happens when we’ve had as busy a year as we have! Since our raid on the Virgin Islands in February, we’ve had a bounty of wonderful gigs, including pirate festivals in Fort Walton Beach (Billy Bowlegs), Columbus Georgia (Southern Pirate Festival), Memphis (Mid-South Pyrate Faire), the Pensacola Pirate Festival, and the Pirates of the High Seas Festival in Panama City Beach. We played at the wonderful Big Top Chautauqua in Bayfield Wisconsin, and at the great Minnesota State Fair, and next year promises to have even more pirate festivals. We found some fine nightclubs that struck our fancy, in particular Eddy Teach’s on St George Island Florida and The Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais Minnesota. We’ve had wonderful planned and spontaneous collaborations with belly dance troupes in Memphis, Panama City, and Columbus, and celebrated International Talk Like a Pirate Day in Nashville on Lightning 100 Radio with Mary Brace and with the fine folks at Music City Roots at the Loveless Barn, and the video contest we hosted with the Pirate Guys at ITLAPD.com was a rousing success. We’re ending the year with a new CD, “A Pirate’s Christmas” destined to be the best pirate Christmas CD ever made! Photobucket Southern Pirate FestivalMid-South Pyrate FaireEddy Teach's, St George Island Photobucket Music City Roots High Seas Parvava High Seas Parvava Byron's Mid-South Pyrate Faire 2013 promises to be a wonderful year! We’re returning to the Virgin Islands in February, recording a new CD in the spring, and all the pirate festivals we played have asked us to return, something that rarely happens to pirates!! We want to send a heartfelt thank you and huzzah! to all our friends and fans around the world.

Captain's Blog, West Indies, 2011, Chapter 2

On the tenth of March we once again waged an attack on the village of Cruz bay, at the Inn at Tamarind Court. We were mightily joined by the fairest of maidens, Cat Braaten, who harmonized magically and sang the Shanty “No Stoplights in this Town, Penned by the honorable Allan MacPhee, also in attendance. The following morning we made a stealthy getaway, boarding a frigate bound for St Thomas. We returned the skiff we had used to navigate the islands, and boarded the most amazing vessel, a sloop which gave one the impression of FLYING over the ocean. Why, even when approaching the Island of St Croix, our destination, I could swear I saw the village of Frederiksted from above, as if I were a bird! Perhaps I had fallen asleep during the journey and had this fanciful dream, but the other Blue Buccaneers amazingly shared this hallucination! After securing lodging at the picturesque and most comfortable Jasmine Manor in Frederiksted, a villa operated by the wondrous hostess and Yoga instructor Vicky Pederson, (though I’m still unclear of what “Yoga” is; something from the orient, no doubt.), we made our way to Cheeseburgers in Paradise, east of Christiansted. After performing for about an hour we were visited by the most wonderful group of pirates, including Michael “Captain Kelly” Belcheff (see last year’s tour log) and the revolutionary John “Ol Chumbucket” Baur, the creator of “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. The carousing was great, and the lovely Tess managed to plunder copious doubloons from the patrons. Ol Chumbucket even wrote a missive about us for a paperless journal (http://stcroixsource.com/content/arts-entertainment/2011/03/01/buccaneer-band-bringing-pirate-music-vi). St Croix Pirates March 13th: we find ourselves readying for an attack in Rainbow Beach this afternoon, perhaps our most dangerous of the entire tour.

Captain's Blog, West Indies, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011, Jolly Roger Tavern, Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Photobucket I seem to have gained the trust of my crew and, for the moment at least, feel to be in their good graces––though power is a tenuous thing when one is out at sea leading a crew of miscreants and criminals who could turn on you at any time. I’ve seen it on other voyages: one hears “Yes, sir” and “right away, sir,” but behind that submissiveness is a cask of powder ready to explode in the face of the tormentor at any second, and on long journeys void of carnal pleasures, light in compensation, and lacking in desirable victuals, one focuses their rancor on the nearest man who could be misconstrued as the oppressor. It is, therefore, imperative that I choose my battles carefully in the days ahead, as we may or may not come face to face with the prey that will give us a momentary sense of survival on this often tumultuous sea . I had collected my crew the final weekend of February from the Island of Key West, the southernmost island in the territory of Florida. When I came upon them they were at the end of a week-long binge of drinking and playing music at a tavern oddly named the Hog’s Breath, on the famed lane of perdition, Duvall Street. I gave them a few hours to sleep off their stupor, and we set sail for the port of Miami, abandoning one Steven Allen, their previous fretmaster, at the docks of Fort Lauderdale. After a somewhat uneventful voyage we arrived in Charlotte Amalie on the Island of St Thomas in the Leeward Isles, where we given lodging by the honorable Paul Dirks and his wife Edythe for a day of respite. On Wednesday the second of March we finally ended a long dry spell with an raid on Latitude 18 where we had the fortune of meeting for the first time the Brethren Pirates of Red Hook, a jolly bunch lead by Rick Holmberg and his first mate Andy, and in their company the beautiful lass Robin, all of them dressed in their full pirate finery. There was much merriment and posing for portraits. We were also joined by the pianist Danny Silber, an immigrant originally from the city of Bronx on the island of New Amsterdam. We were greatly relieved to confirm that our vessel was sea-worthy. BB & BPofRH by J Lange Portrait by Jeffrey Lange Jeffrey Lange TM & BB Portrait by Jeffrey Lange The next night we set sail for Jack’s restaurant in the Artist’s enclave of Tillet Gardens. Jack’s was named for the pirate Jack Rackam, so we felt we were safe in those environs. We were joined for the evening by the honorable Paul Dirks, and at one point were joined on stage by deep sea explorers Duane and Laura of the Admiralty Dive shop, there rehearsing for a production of a comic opera entitled Hair. The next morning we returned the skiff we had used to navigate St Thomas and we set sail for Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Once we arrived we managed to sneak undetected through customs and went directly to the Jolly Roger, the inn that would be both our home and our performance space for the following two nights. The Jolly Roger is staffed by a wonderful group of West Indians, among the nicest we’ve come upon in the Caribbean. The establishment has recently changed ownership, and it is our hope that they retain all the qualities that have made it a safe haven and favored destination for us. Jolly Roger- Lorne Sopers Bay- Lorne We left the port of Soper’s bay in Tortola on the morning of March 6th. We had to slip through customs undetected, and in the rush of Sunday morning comings and goings, our presence went unnoticed, though a young couple from the village of Manhattan Beach in the territory of California complimented us profusely on our previous performances. We boarded the ferry for Charlotte Amelie, and the passage was brief, smooth, and picturesque. Once we arrived back at St Thomas it fell upon me to procure a vessel for the following week’s plundering. Knowing that much of our coming engagements would take place on land, we found a dry goods store in the village of Tutu (oddly named Kmart), and the entire crew procured footwear made by Chinese cobblers. TM in Hull by Sand by Karen photo Karen Mason After a brief respite at Dirks Manor we made off for our next raid, the Hull Bay Hideaway. Lorne Rall, by this time having established himself as the boatswain, hung our Jolly Roger as well as the colors of the Brethren Pirates of Red Hook. The honorable Paul Dirks assisted us once again both musically and in the rigging, and we performed on a deck before a dance floor of sand. We were fortunate to be visited by both natives and friends from far off including my elder sister Karen and brother in law Matt visiting from the prairie of the new world, the aforementioned thespian deep sea divers, and the lovely Miss Jennie Alverez of St. Thomas. The greatest treasure was being joined on the deck (just when were about to sail away) by the steel pan player Morgan Rael. Monday the 7th of March I went to collect my siblings from their lodging and the three of us chanced to enter Blackbeard’s Castle, a loving tribute to the Icon of piratical show business. As we entered the castle, I was curiously surprised to hear a familiar voice, my own, emanating from the walls, and we were greeted by the young pirate J.W. and the fair maiden Erica who welcomed us as friends and we exchanged valuable information. During a repast at an inn filled with Mexican treasure, I received a missive that Masters Griffith and Rall had taken a stroll and were being held hostage by a pack of wild hounds. My suggestion that they respond by shouting at the dogs in Spanish or French fell on deaf ears, the crew informing me that the curs were neither poodles nor chihuahuas. Luckily a mongoose appeared and distracted the hounds long enough for the crew to escape. I left my flesh and blood at the ferry and hurried my skiff to collect my crew for our final raid on the island of St Thomas at the ferociously named Tickles, a waterfront tavern on what is called the Crown Bay Marina. We were greeted by a staff surprisingly happy to see us, leaving us the thought that perhaps we weren’t conveying the appropriate savagery befitting of pirates. Perhaps we need to don more bloodthirsty garb. Amid the crowd was a Scotsman named Stanley who had heard our shanties played by the honorable Doug Dick, a master of wireless communications in the lesser Antilles. Stanley was pleased to have won a recording of our works from the honorable master Doug Dick, and had been celebrating his success profusely. The following morning we left the manor of the honorable Paul Dirks and his wife Edythe and set sail for the magical island of St John. After a rare moment of repose at Cinnamon Bay, we set off to one of our favorite haunts, the Beach Bar in Cruz Bay, run by our old running mates Cat Braaten and Allan MacPhee. I spent a good part of the late twentieth century as Cat’s fretmaster in a series of raids on strongholds of higher learning, and on first meeting the honorable Mr. MacPhee learned of his ten year streak of avoiding the wearing of stockings. That evening we celebrated Mardi Gras, a carnival made popular in the Louisiana Territory, and it appeared we were witnessing the inauguration of quite a few youths into the world of intoxicants. We ourselves had a wondrous time, but I fear some of the younger celebrants were suffering from sea-sickness, despite being on land. The evening was given a wondrous sense of magic by the appearance of our long missed family Sam Wich and Fuego of the Pyros of the Caribbean, who gave a dazzling display of flame-twirling and fire-eating. Pyro's of the Caribbean Sam Wich dancing Sam Wich SmilingTom & Fuego jam Fuego Breathing Yesterday, the ninth of March, after a rare moment of repose at the Bay of Cinnamon, we traveled to the mystical land of Coral Bay for a raid on Shipwreck Landing, the establishment owned by the honorable Dennis Rizzo, for a night of joy and camaraderie with friends and the fabulous crew of Mr. Rizzo.

Dec 28 2009-Jan 25 2010, Virgin Islands Tour!!

Dec 28, 2009- January 25, 2010 The Monday after Christmas I caught a plane (actually, three) to St Thomas in the Virgin Islands, for a four week tour, two as lead guitarist for Last Train Home and two in a duo with my wife, Pru Clearwater. Eric Brace, drummer Paul Griffith, trumpeter Kevin Cordt, and Eric’s wife Mary Ann Werner met me at the airport. When I arrived, my suitcase was still in San Juan, so we stalled at a restaurant in Frenchtown while waiting for the last plane to come in. The four of them were very relaxed, the consequence of feeling that warm Caribbean breeze after the cruel onslaught of winter. The next three nights we stayed in a great, sprawling stucco and brick inn called Miller Manor. Miller Manor is situated in a bustling West Indian neighborhood of Savan in Charlotte Amalie, and has a number of decks that look out over the harbors of St Thomas, with huge cruise ships that dock in the east, Hassel and Water Islands in the middle, cargo ships in the west, and all manner of boats in between. In addition to guests visiting from all over the world, Miller Manor has a number of faithful permanent residents who all seem to love the proprietors, Marj and Harry, and their assistants, Dean, Val, and Rolando. Part of our stay there included a rooftop concert during our second week, and the evening was magical. We performed in the sweet breeze as the sun set over the bay, and local folks and their children, guests, and residents danced. Near the end of the show, we did “Feliz Navidad” and had an impromptu a capella children’s choir singing from the upper balcony. Miller manor View 4 Miller Manor 
Miller Manor View 3 Miller Manor View 1 The View from Miller Manor Miller Manor View 1 Another view from Miller Manor Miller Manor View 1 Eric before the Miller Manor gig Miller Manor gig 1 The gig at Miller Manor Dancing at Miller Manor Dancing at Miller Manor Kevin, Pru, and Paul Kevin Cordt Pru Clearwater, and Paul Griffith Kevin Cordt is not only a great trumpet player, he’s also one of the funniest people I know. Paul Griffith is not only one of the most recorded drummers in Americana music, he’s also a gas to be around, and kept us entertained with selections from a book about Elvis he was reviewing. Pru arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday we all took ferries to the British Virgin Island of Tortola, Pru coming on a later ferry after spending the day with our gracious island concierge and friend Edythe Dirks. (I can’t overstate the help Edythe has been to Pru and me, e-mailing us with potential gigs, introducing us to people, putting us up, helping us out in every way!) We arrived at Tortola’s West End, went through customs, and set up to play a three night stand at the Jolly Roger, a favorite club of ours from the past. We saw our old friend Lou, the owner, and a lot of our friends on the staff, who are mostly West Indian. The Jolly Roger is one of the first things you see as you enter Sopers Hole, the bay on the west end of Tortola. We rang in the new year there, and after the gig Pru, Paul, and I caught a ride to the north side of the island and the Bomba Beach Shack, well known for it’s all-night full moon parties. By the time we arrived everything had already mellowed out (though mellowing out seems to be part of the purpose of the full moon party), but it was a beautiful place to start the year. Jolly Roger Sunset NYE 09 My last sunset of 2009, on the West End of Tortola. Smuggler's Cove, Tortola Smuggler’s Cove, Tortola. A rough hike to a beautiful beach. On Sunday we returned to St Thomas for a few shows, and Pru and I stayed with our friends Brian and Gail, who spend their winters on St Thomas and summers on Cape Cod. Brian is very funny, and gave me pointers on guitar playing without ever touching one. We shared stories about our times living in Asia, and had breakfast on their porch near the point of Peterborg, while pelicans flew by below us. On Tuesday Last Train Home played an afternoon gig on St Thomas and then piled in the rental car to catch a ferry to St John for an evening gig at Island Blues in Coral Bay. On the way we stopped at the Beach Bar, a great waterfront bar owned by our good friends Allan MacPhee and Cat Braaten MacPhee. In the late eighties and nineties I toured a lot with Cat when I was moving from Minneapolis to Chicago to Nashville, and she was tearing up the college circuit. She moved down here about 10 years ago after gigging down here, and I first came here five years ago with Last Train Home. All of the Virgin Islands have their own special charm, and St John is the most picturesque of the U.S. Virgin Islands due to the fact that Lawrence Rockefeller bought the island when it was a sugar plantation and donated it to the National Parks. The north shore is filled with expansive sandy beaches, great for snorkeling and swimming. We usually make at least one trip to Cinnamon Bay, where there is a National Park Campground, a snack shop, and an archeological dig site where you can learn about the history of the area. It’s not uncommon to see wild donkeys roaming through the grounds. Coral Bay is the sleepier side of St John, and is a little less traveled and probably a little less transient and a little more artsy. A few years back when Pru nd I played Island Blues with The Big Happy, we had a crazy night, with an older hippie woman blowing her harmonica at me all evening (all in a single key, no matter what the band was playing in), and a man half submerged in the sea, waving a bottle of rum and yelping at Pru and Jill as they tried to sing and play. Last Train Home’s gig was much more civilized, a house full of music lovers. Wednesday we played at the Beach Bar, where we were graced by both Cat and Pru’s vocals. On Friday January 8th we went to the ferry dock on St Thomas at 7 a.m. With Last Train Home to catch the early ferry to St Croix, but they told us there was engine trouble and it wouldn’t be leaving until eleven. We went back to Miller Manor, where LTH had been staying, and had breakfast with Eric’s wife Mary Ann, who was flying back to the states that day, and when we returned the ferry still wasn’t ready to go. By two o’clock we had run out of time and took a taxi to the airport to catch a tiny plane to St Croix. We were met at the airport by our Virgin Islands agent Charlie Campbell, who I knew from his days in Minneapolis where he managed two of the twin cities best bands of the seventies, the hippie funk band Willie (Murphy) and the Bees and the Blues band Lamont Cranston, both of whose members appear on Bonnie Raitt’s first record. We high-tailed it to an outside dinner club on Eastern St Croix called Cheeseburgers in Paradise. St Croix is the funkiest of the islands, partially due to its proximity. It lies a good deal south of the St Thomas and St John, so there are fewer tourists, and we end up playing for locals and seasonal residents. This year we stayed in the beautifully dilapidated city of Frederiksted, filled with Danish ruins as well as fixed up buildings with thick stone walls and arches. At night you can walk down the streets and hear a wild mix of calypso, reggae, Mexican polkas, and Afro-cuban rhythms. Christiansted, the city on the north shore, is busier and a bit bigger, but this year we didn’t get over there. In St Croix we stayed at a great place called Jasmine Manor in Frederiksted, a wonderful inn consisting of three buildings a beautiful yard tiered by ancient stone walls, and a few amazing 200 year-old trees. The baobab tree next to the house where Pru and I slept is huge and thick. Legend has it that african slaves hid the seeds of the sacred baobab trees over in their mouths during their passage, and that’s how they came to grow here. It is awe-inspiring to be in the presence of such a plant. On Saturday we played at Chicken Charlie’s and saw a couple of old friends from St Croix, Michael Justis and Will Hart. I’d met Michael three years ago with the Big Happy, and at the time he was walking with a cane and about to undergo treatment for cancer. This time he looked about a foot taller and in great shape having kicked the big C. When we played there again on Monday they both sat in, Michael singing and playing and Will on pedal steel. On Sunday afternoon we played one of my favorite gigs in the universe, the 3:30- 7 shift at Rhythm at Rainbow Beach on the west end of the island. We swim during our breaks and our last set occurs while the sun drops into the sea. Such a buzz. The first few times we were there, the rastafarian bar-back Rass Boof sat in with us, singing “No Woman No Cry” with the greatest presence. (I filmed him singing it with The Big Happy, and I’ll try to post it on youtube when I get back to Tennessee.) The third year I was there we learned that Ras had died of cancer, so this time we dedicated “I thought I Heard a Train” to him. A few days later an old friend of his named Chico brought me a button with Ras Boof’s photo on it. Tuesday January 12th was Last Train Home’s final Island gig, a private party at Jasmine Manor, and it couldn’t have been a nicer night for it. Charlie cooked Chicken and ribs, Diana tended bar, and 50 Cruzans sat at tables on the lawn while we played in the beautiful, ancient villa. The next morning Pru and I caught a sea plane to St Thomas and a ferry to St John and checked in to the Inn at Tamarind Court, our home for the next three nights. Our rooms had great bamboo furniture straight out of Gilligan’s Island. The Inn is a cool, unpretentious hotel owned by the family of our Nashville friend John Condon, who runs King Easy records and has managed cool people like Darrell Scott. We played an early evening gig there, and then walked down to the Beach Bar to catch a set by Cat, T-Bird, and Wanda, and even sit in for a few tunes. On Thursday, after a rough day at Cinnamon Bay, we rehearsed a bit and headed over to do our duo gig at the Beach Bar. We had a great gig, due in part to a guest performance on the beach by our friends The Pyros of the Caribbean, fire breathers, twirlers, jugglers. It was an amazing site, right in the middle of our set. Having never engaged in this kind of thing before, we weren’t sure what to play, and I set off on a medley of fire songs before breaking into our pirate repertoire, much more appropriate. The performers were Fuego, Sandwich, and Chris, and I think from now on my piratical jig “Queen of the Spanish Main” will be dedicated to Sandwich. On Friday we braved the rain to hitchhike across the island to Waterlemon Cay, a nesting ground for turtles. Hitchhiking is a great way to go on St John, and we got rides from Bali Bob (a local who deals in artifacts from Indonesia) a family from Maryland, a Jazz pianist visiting from NYC, and a lovely St John-ian who was listening to Opera on her way from work. We played at Tamarind Court again, and followed it with a quiet night. On Saturday we left early for Coral Bay and visited Sushi, the sailboat where Fuego and Sandwich live. The sky was just clearing, and as we got off the dinghy a spotted ray swam beneath us, and then Pru dove in for some pre-show snorkeling, flirting a bit with a rare leather-back turtle. That night we were joined on djembe by one of Fuego and Sandwiches’ sailboat neighbors, Kenny, and had a great groove all night long. On Sunday Edythe’s bass playing husband Paul Dirks picked us up from the St Thomas ferry in the pouring rain, and we got ready for our show at Tickles Dockside Pub at the Crown Bay Marina. The show was a gas, with a bunch of our new friends there and a crowd peppered with old salts. Among our new friends were Duane and Laura Hausch, who run Admiralty Dive Center, subtitled “The Last Buccaneer”. Paul and Edythe had them over before the gig, and in addition to being a dive instructor, a captain, and a singer songwriter, Duane is quite an expert on pirates, so we had a lot to talk about. (He’s also been an engineer and an actor.) The next day Pru went out on an Admiralty dive with Duane and Johnny who lives with singer Becca Darling in Edythe and Paul’s apartment. Pru had a great time, diving around a wreck off St Thomas, and raved about Duane and Johnny’s expertise. After a few nights off, we played another outdoor gig at the club Wikked at Yacht Haven Grand, a short walk from where the cruise ships dock. It was another beautiful night, sweet breeze off the harbor, friends gathered while we played. Our new friend Jennie Alverez was there with her drummer boyfriend Robert Falzarano and friend Kelli. Jennie is starting to promote music in the islands, and booked the gig at Wikked, as well as finding a venue at the Antilles School for Pru to do her Infinite Field performance the following night. In Nashville her Infinite Field performances have consisted of a large cast of musicians, poets, a lighting person (Rich Davis) and a dancer (Gabriella Sabila), and in St Thomas she did a scaled down version, with just me playing to tracks, but she managed to transform the school classroom into a beautiful shrine with lights and fabrics borrowed from Edythe, a p.a. borrowed from Robert and Peter, and a poet named Jo-el came from St John with his friend Jess, and recited some great poems. The people who were there loved it, and there was some talk of trying to do another Infinite Field show on the beach, but our time on the islands was running out and we needed what little time we had. On Friday we took a ferry to St John to spend some time with Cat and Allan and play our final gig Saturday night at Shipwreck Landing. This time Shipwreck’s owner Dennis played bass with us with us, and we had a flurry of guests, including Jo-el, a flutist, a belly dancer, and all our pyro-pirate friends. On Sunday morning we walked to Soloman beach on the northwest end of St John for one last dip, and then we caught a ferry and returned to Edythe and Paul’s, and after the three of us had a nice beach-side dinner with Jennie, Kelli, and Robert, we went to pack for home.

Back in the USA! Sept-Nov. 2009

America!! Sept 12-Nov. 24 Okay! It’s been a long time since I wrote here, and it’s not due to some idea that Europe is superior to the United States. No, I’ve been traveling since I got back, writing, taking beautiful pictures, and loading them all onto my laptop computer. Unfortunately, my hard drive crashed, and all the pictures and words disappeared. But let me tell you, it was all great!! A day after I arrive, Dobe Newton, legendary Australian and lead singer of the Bushwhackers, Australia’s greatest folk rock band, comes to visit for the Americana Music Association’s conference. He’s there representing Australian artists, and he has a new solo CD out entitled “A Convict Can’t be Trusted”. The Bushwhackers have been around for thurty some years and do for Australian folk music what the Pogues do for Irish. On Friday September 18th Red Beet Records held a Happy Hour Showcase celebrating the release of their 3rd East Nashville compilation, which includes my song “Chano Pozo’s Shoes”. I played with some help from Jim Gray, Paul Griffith, Kevin Gordon, and Eric Brace, and accompanied Phil Lee and Audrey Auld on their sets. Great fun, and saw a bunch of folks from near and far that I hadn’t seen in a while. That Saturday night I was resting up for a Phil Lee show, an adjunct event during the AMA Conference, when Dobe called me up from 3rd and Lindsley to let me know an AMA act hadn’t shown up, and to ask if I could do my part to come to the aid of Americana. I got out of bed, grabbed my instruments, shot over to 3rd & L, and jumped on stage. I coerced Wallflower and great guy Fred Eltringham to play guiro on “Chano Pozo’s Shoes” and Dobe and Webb Wilder to sing on “The Pirate Song”. After the set, I sped over to my gig with Phil at Douglas Corner. Imagine my surprise when Dobe showed me the Tennessean the following morning! AMA Headline After a fine week of learning about Tennessee history from an Australian (Dobe), I caught a plane to Minneapolis/St. Paul to see my family and perform on a boat in the great Mississppi river. From there I flew to Pennsylvania for some gigs with Phil in the little town of Bethlehem (Godfrey Daniels, legendary spot) and the littler town of Barto (Landhaven B & B: tremendous!). Both were great, and we took a side trip to the Martin Guitar factory, where we were given the greatest tour ever by designer, artist rep, and long time Martin man Dick Boak. We met some great people in Pennsylvania, and played with a keyboard player named Gene who had been in a band with Phil when they were teenagers back in the 1860’s. That Sunday we went into New York City and appeared on Dave Marsh’s Sirius radio show and had lunch with Dave, his engineer, and an incredibly knowledgeable guest and good guy whose name is in my old hard drive. After a brief stop in Nashville, we headed down to New Orleans to play at a cool club called Chickie Wah Wah. We also toured the Voodoo Museum and had coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, both Phil and I dressed in black, and somehow managing to avoid being totally covered in powdered sugar. From New Orleans we went to the Catfish Festival in Conroe Texas, meeting up with such dignitaries as Mike Smith, Mark Germino, Steve and Jubal Lee Young, Kevin and Dustin Welch, and some fine local folks whose names are hidden in my hard drive. From Conroe we were off to an extended stay in Austin. In addition to our gig at the Cactus Cafe with Steve Young, I got to do session with Steady Freddie Krc and go kayaking on Austin’s Town Lake, where I was greeted by swans. (More fine photos lost for now.) After Austin we went to the legendary Blue Door in Oklahoma City, a great venue with only a blue door as a sign, a fact that hasn’t kept it from being a successful venue for years. Greg Johnson and company have been hosting some of my favorite acts for years, as well as creating a tribute to Oklahoma’s favorite son, Woody Guthrie. On Saturday we were off to the little town of Chester Arkansas, where for the second year running we played at Royal Wade Kimes’ Trail Ride. A beautiful setting in northeast Arkansas, playing for genuine cowboys and cowgirls. After a few days home, I was off to Ashland and Harrisonburg Virginia with Last Train Home. It was the perfect weekend for a drive with Eric and Jimmy along the Blue Ridge mountains and through the back roads of Virginia, the autumn colors bursting. (I’ll have to get some of Eric’s photos, though he didn’t have the one of me standing next to the town sign of “Cuckoo, Virginia”.) Last Train Home’s fans are the greatest, and responded with gusto when Eric threw me the spotlight for The Pirate Song, Chano Pozo, and other songs. After that weekend, I got to spend some long awaited time home, during which time my computer crashed and, on a better note, my wife Pru returned from seven weeks in Australia. The beginning of November brought another string of dates with Phil, starting in Fort Myers, Florida. We stayed with Phil’s old friends Frank and Phillis Greathouse, who run a cool vintage guitar store in Fort Myers called Real Guitars. We played a few nights in Fort Myers and one in Sarasota, a benefit for the wonderful WSLR. Before leaving, we were given the coolest jacket ever by Woody Hanson. Woody’s grandfather was a doctor who worked with the Seminole Indians, and Woody gave us each a beautiful jacket hand-sewn by the Seminoles. Tom in Seminole jacket c/o Woody Hanson Tom in Seminole jacket c/o Woody Hanson Tom and Phil in Seminole jackets c/o Woody Hanson Tom and Phil in Seminole jackets c/o Woody Hanson Next it was up to Tampa for a pair of house concerts, the first given by the wonderful Susan Reiss and her Lunazoot House Concerts. Then it was off to our weekend digs and the site of out next gig, Gram’s Place. Gram’s Place is a cool sprawling hostel in Tampa started in 1991 by the late Mark Holland, a big fan of Gram Parsons, and now run by his brother Bruce. The rooms are spread out through two houses, with a funkily comfortable courtyard where we performed that Sunday afternoon. I highly recommend Gram’s as a cheap and memorable place to stay on the road. Speaking of cheap and memorable places to stay, our lodging the next night, on the way to Savannah, Georgia, was the Hostel in the Forest, an environmentalist’s dream destination, just outside of Brunswick. The rooms are all second-story dwellings nestled in the forest. The whole place is set up to create the least waste possible. The trails through the woods are covered in white sand and wildly shaped boardwalks, so that I was able to go on a nice walk at night. Every guest is required to perform a chore when they stay, whether it be sweeping, cleaning the communal kitchen, or maintaining trails. I woke up to the sound of roosters crowing, and when I played my guitar on my stairs in the morning, dozens of chickens gathered around. I believe I’ve found my demographic. Chicken-pickin’. Cock-rock. From there we went to the Beautiful town of Savannah. I’d been there a few years back when I was on the “Ring of Fire” tour, and had a few days to check out the historic district, rent a bicycle, and even go on a ghost tour. Phil and I played at the Sentient Bean coffeehouse on the edge of the historic district, and got a bit of a chance to roam around. After the show we had pizza at Vinnie Van Gogh’s (great!) with Phil’s old friend and one time Dylan guitarist Jack Sherman. The following night’s gig in Raleigh was cancelled, so we blew off a guest spot that Thursday and headed home the next morning. After crossing the Georgia/Tennessee state line, I got a call from the Sommet Center in downtown Nashville, and my friend Nancy had been given an extra ticket to the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert. They put on the best show imaginable, playing the entire Born to Run album as well as plenty of requests, including an impromptu version of “Ring of Fire”, a song I played hundreds of times as a cast member of the Broadway show of the same name. I had a great few days off, with a little time for recovery (I’d caught a cold in Florida, go figure) and on Saturday Phil and I headed back east to play at Bentz Kirby’s Alien House Concert in Columbia South Carolina. After the long drive we had a wonderful time at Bentz’s. The show was a gas, and we met a lot of cool new friends, including the other performer Elaine Townsend, who I joined on stage for a number and returned the favor by playing on “Pirate Song” and Phil’s “Babylon”. I’ll gradually add more photos to these recollections, either from other sources or perhaps I can find a mad scientist to conjure up the ones on my old hard drive. But for now, I’m off to practice my Christmas songs!!

Ireland,England, Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, and home! August 28-Sept.12th

On Thursday, August 27th, we arrived in the City of Cork, me sporting a bruise from the Blarney Stone. I loved the city immediately. It is Ireland’s second largest city (200,000) after Dublin (2 million), and it has a great European feel to it. The Corner House Pub is off McCurtain Street, a lively place with bookstores, a great traditional Irish music store, coffee shops, a theatre, and plenty of pubs. We stopped at the venue and then went to the York St. B & B to check in, and met the lovely Monica and her three grandchildren, Rosey, Ruby, and Louie. They asked their grandmother if we were pirates, so we sat them down for an inspired version of “The Pirate Song”. The Corner House The Corner House Pub, Cork Phil’s gig was put on by the Cork Blues Club, and they were an attentive audience, despite the roar of the crowd behind them. Our hosts were a blues trio, and we met some great folk, including Peter Harding, a big music fan who had stumbled across Phil’s first record ten years ago. On Friday afternoon we drove down to the seaside town of Kinsale, parked in front of the pub where we were playing, and Rob and I walked up to tour Charles Fort, a structure built in the mid seventeenth century and used until the Irish republican rebels burned it in the 1920’s. The fortitude and impenetrability of it led our tour guide call it a “monument to paranoia”. Charles Fort Charles Fort Kinsale Harbor Kinsale Harbor We returned to the pub in time for the sunset on the harbor, and I struck up a conversation with a wonderful 70 year-old chap named Michael, who cranked up a Sydney Bechet CD in his car while we watched the sun go down. The pub was nice, the people were nice, but the gig was a bit of a challenge due to the roar of conversation. Kinsale Michael Michael Kinsale Sunset Kinsale Sunset The next day we meandered down to Peter Harding’s shop, and he outfitted us with great Celtic design belts. His shop has that great leather smell, and is decorated with some of his favorite Albums, as well as an old photo of Dylan walking down a Paris Street. Though we were a bit late for Saturday market, the streets were alive, and it was a great day for a walk. Later we played at the LV pub, a last minute fill in show provided by good guy Ronnie Costley. There was a comedy show going on at the same time, and after we all finished I had nice conversation with a veteran comic named Pat O’Shea. Peter Harding, Phil, Tom Peter Harding, Phil, Me Belt Shop The Belt Shop Sign in Cork Sign in Cork The next few days were spent Kris-crossing Ireland, with Sunday in Dundalk, Monday in Galway, and Tuesday in Dublin. In Dundalk we played at a music venue called the Spirit Store, and before our set I sat in with the local weekly traditional music jam, who play every Sunday from 6-9. I tried my best to lay down chords behind the button accordionists and fiddlers, and they insisted I sing a few songs. In Galway we played at the legendary Roisin Dubh, and they put us up in a comfortable flat around the corner. Though I didn’t get as much time to walk around Galway much, I loved what I saw, canals weaving through the town. I can’t wait to go back. When we do, we’ll try our best not to break the key off in the door of the flat again. Galway Canal Galway Canal Roisin Dubh The Roisin Dubh, Galway We arrived for our brief visit to Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, and it was electric. We were playing in the Temple Bar area near Trinity college, a wonderful mess of winding cobblestone streets filled with people. Dublin seems to have maintained it’s Irishness while hosting a greatly varied international community. I just love the energy of a city of people crowding the streets on foot, out of the insulation of cars. We met up with two great Dubliners, Stephen Averill and Ronnie Norton, for an interview and photo session. We played a short set of Phil’s tunes at a weekly benefit for the homeless called “The Ruby Sessions”, and the large crowd was the most attentive we had in Ireland, so much so that when Phil’s guitar didn’t work during the first song, the whole place could hear us play it acoustically. Ronnie, Stephen, and Us Ronnie & Stephen Me and My Monkey Me & My Monkey The following morning we caught the ferry from Roselear to Fishgard, Wales, a three hour ride. From Fishgard Rob drove all the way across Wales and England to London through a heavy rain trying to get to the Leytonstone Area of London for a show at What’s Cookin’. After missing a few exits and creeping our way through the clogged London traffic, we made it to the club at 9:00, our scheduled time to play. There was a full house at this weekly event, held in the upstairs of the Sheep’s Head pub, and the stage was decorated in a crazy fusion of Tex-Mex and funeral parlor, with a painting of Freddy Fender riding a horse behind the stage. We were sandwiched between Georgia songwriter Adam Klein and the Ugly Guys, London pub rock veterans who played revved-up Gram Parson inspired country rock. They wouldn’t be that out of place on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. Host and ringmaster Stephen Ferguson gets a good loyal crowd for What’s Cookin’, and promised us a few slots next time we’re in London. Whites Cliffs of Dover “The White Cliffs of Dover” (Liz Young sang beautifully of them in Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard the Third”) After a much needed day off in Sheerness, we boarded a ferry from Dover to Calais, a relatively short ride on what Rob called the world’s busiest waterway. We took some time to enjoy our short time in France, and I practiced my French on Rob and Phil, who seemed quite impressed. (I was a little less eloquent when it came to speaking to people who knew French.) Calais Friterie Friterie, which is French for “place to fritter away your time with Claudia” Pirates of Calais The Pirates of Calais Calais Peacock Calaisian Peacock On the way out of Calais we picked up a pair of hitch-hikers, a pair of young idealistic Brits named Marion and Sylvie, who were headed to Romania via Berlin. They had spent a few days in Calais, working at a squatter’s camp of refugees who’d been denied entrance to the UK. They had a world changing spirit that I had at that age, when I hung out with anti-nuke protesters in the native American neighborhood of Minneapolis, though I seemed a whole lot more naive. We took them through Belgium and let them off outside Utrecht, during a brief lull in the rain. After a long day of driving we arrived in the northeast Netherlands town of Delfstijl, at the home of DJ Roel Stabler. We were greeted warmly by his wife Tineke their enormous dog “Dog”, who is big enough for Phil to put a saddle on and ride to the next gig. We crossed the street to their neighbor Mario’s garage in which he has a full bar. There over multiple drinks Tineke and Mario’s partner Ina tried unsuccessfully to teach me to speak Dutch. They put us up for the night and in the morning gave us a feast before conducting a remote radio interview in their home. Roel & Tineke Roel and Tineke Ina, Mario, & Martin Ina, Mario, and Martin From there we went to another radio interview, with Johanna Bodde at Radio Winschoten. Johanna had really done her research, and after a lengthy interview we played four songs, including my “Ramblin’”. From the studio window you could see the big old windmill in the center of town, a block away. I say “old” because Holland is filled with old windmills and new windmills, which I wouldn’t be surprised if they powered the country, judging by the number. Dutch Windmills Modern Dutch Windmills Radio Winschoten Windmill The windmill outside Radio Winschoten From Winschoten we drove somewhat circuitously to our evening show in Spijkerboor, stopping to ask directions a few time and even going so far as to buy a map. (Once again frittering our money away on luxuries like maps!) Spijkerboor is a tiny village and the venue, the Café t’Keerpunt was an inn at the end of a canal where the workers on the canal would spend the night. The audience was great, singing with gusto (in a foreign language!) on “The Pirate Song” and Phil’s “Rat’s Lips”. After the show we stayed at the home of Jan and Maria in an even smaller village. Their home is beautiful, with a canal running through the back and a pair of horses in the yard. Jan & Maria's back yard Jan & Maria’s back yard On Sunday we drove to Hoorn on the western peninsula of the Netherlands, crossing the Afsluitdijk, the 20 mile dike that was built in the 1930’s, forming the big inland sea. I’m not going to pretend to understand it, but it has effectively changed what was once a huge bay into a lake fed by rivers, with a mixture of salt and fresh water. The ocean side is some twenty feet above the inland side, and from what I gather the levels are maintained by energy supplied by windmills and regulated by canals throughout the country. Afsluitdijk Afsluitdijk Dike Builders Dike builders We arrived in Hoorn, which was once a shipping center and home to some of Holland’s wealthiest merchants. The sight of everyone riding bicycles made me feel like we’d arrived in some kind of Utopia. The organizer of the show, Nico, met us at the train station (on his bicycle!) and we followed him to his friend Hank’s house, the site of the house concert. After the show Nico showed us around Hoorn, with it’s winding cobblestone streets, old buildings built at an angle so that they seemed to lean in on the streets at the top, and the wonderful lack of traffic, apart from pedestrians and BICYCLES!! The streets were clean, the people looked healthy and happy, and I felt like I’d found a bit of heaven on earth. Hoorn Castle Hoorn Canal Hoorn Unicorn Hoorn Unicorn, their mascot. (I KNEW they existed!) Dutch Cuisine Dutch Quisine On Monday morning we set off for northwestern Germany to be interviewed by Hermann Lammars Meyer, a country DJ, songwriter, and steel guitarist. He took us to the ice cream parlor in his village, which served Ice Cream that looked like spaghetti, and then we went back to his house for an interview and some songs. After sitting down for a great German meal made by his wife Anka, Hermann, Phil and I sat on his back porch and recorded an hour of trading tunes for Rob’s monthly radio program for ukcountryradio.com (including a German language version of “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother”). Hermann and Anka have a great back yard abutted by a cornfield, and their apple tree bears the best apples I’ve had in years. Spaghetti Ice Cream German Spaghetti Ice Cream Tom, Hermann & Phil Hermann Lammars Meyer On Tuesday we returned to the Netherlands and the town of Leeuwarden to meet up with DJ Mathijn de Wit and his fiancé Ling. After a delicious vegetarian meal we all drove to Dokkum for his program Tuesday Night Americana Club. That night we crashed at their apartment, and woke up to a feast of pastries and great conversation. Me, Marthijn, Phil, Rob Me, Martijn,Phil & Rob With Marthijn and Ling With Martijn and Ling Dutch Bikes Dutch Bicycles Wednesday marked our last performance, in the fantastically named Bergen op Zoom in southern Holland, a live taping for Dutch radio also featuring the American blues-rock band Frank Carillo and the Bandeleros. We washed up at our host Bert van Kessel’s house and then headed to the venue, nestled in an old part of a historic city, meeting up with the agent Joanna and radio presenter Jos. The program is taped in front of an audience in a building that’s been around for centuries, and the neighboring dressing rooms were being used by actors of all skills donning medieval garb for the dress rehearsal of a massive outdoor theater production, taking place on three stages, two on the grounds of the castle a few blocks away. The enormous stage behind our building featured multiple levels and a two story projection screen that showed both traditional scenes of the canals and city, and films of the actors that moved the plot along. After our set Phil caught a part of the show that involved pyrotechnics, and later Rob and I saw some of the show, which was actually the dress/ tech rehearsal. One day I hope some philanthropist will give the Nashville Shakespeare Festival that kind of budget. (I’m crazy about outdoor theater, theater for the masses.) Later Bert played us some rare Sir Douglas Quintet recordings and he and I argued playfully about songwriting. Bergen op Zoom actors Bergen op Zoom actors Bergen op Zoom Bergen op Zoom Set Bergen op Zoom dress rehearsal Bergen op Zoom dress rehearsal On Friday the three of us planned to celebrate the end of the tour by taking in some of Amsterdam, hitting the Van Gogh Museum and wandering the red light district, but the search for the ferry docks ruled that out, as the ferries actually leave from the town of Ijmueden, half an hour away. No matter, as the ferry itself was a fun, goofy experience in itself, a mini-cruise complete with a six piece cover band, a dance troupe, and a solo guitarist (all Bulgarian), and a karaoke show , as well as a cinema (of sorts), and plenty of decks on which to enjoy the North Sea air. The waves rocking me to sleep in our little cabin inspired me to get back to work on my sea-faring songs. Ferry to Newcastle The Ferry to Newcastle Tynemouth Priory seen from the sea Tynemouth Priory from the sea, four weeks after seeing it by land. Friday we disembarked in Newcastle, and Rob began that final drive to Edinburgh, dropping Phil and I off at an airport hotel before heading back to the Highlands. What a great guy, just thrilled about music, exposing people all over to songwriters and musicians. Many a time on our tour he opted to sleep in the van, and he was at every show showing support and seeming to enjoy it, in the face of all the crankiness that comes with touring. He was a great tour guide, and I already miss that Scottish accent. The best part was that it was “See ya later” instead of “goodbye”. Rob Waving Goodbye Rob waving goodbye. I found out that double-decker buses bound for downtown Edinburgh stopped every ten minutes outside our hotel, so after settling in I went to the city to take in Scotland (and the UK) one last time, and on that late Friday afternoon it was perfect, climbing the hill to the castle built into the rock above the city and wandering back on ancient cobblestone streets past pubs and parks, past the national gallery and other sites to take in on future visits, listening to accents and foreign tongues, and finally getting back on the bus, sitting in the front row of the top, and watching the sun set during the ride back to the airport hotel. Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Streets Edinburgh Streets Edinburgh busker Edinburgh busker Edinburgh Sunset Sunset. (The plane represents us leaving Scotland. However, we were not actually on that plane. I was standing in the grass taking the picture, and wouldn’t leave until well after sunrise the next day.)

England, Scotland, & Ireland, August 17-27

Photobucket Minster Workingman’s Club, Isle of Sheppey On Monday August 18th we performed at the Minster Folk Club, held at the Minster Working Men’s Club (the irony of us performing there was not lost on Phil and me) on the Isle of Sheppey. The Working Men’s Club is right next door to one of the oldest churches in England, the Minster Abbey, in a lovely hilltop town that looks over the sea on one side and the island on the other. The folk club meets in a room with an actual stage, and on our night five local singers each sang a song, I did a set, and then brought Phil up. It was great to hear the local blokes, including a folk trio, one who sang “Broke Down” by Rod Picott, and a version of “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, a song which I still have yet to tire of after performing so many times in “Ring of Fire”. They were a great audience, and (perhaps due to their proximity to the sea) were the best chorus yet for “The Pirate Song”. Photobucket Minster Abbey Sheerness These guys were collecting money for the Sheerness town festival, a tradition that’s been going on for years. Holly says they only still get away with it because Sheerness is an island, and that they scared her as a little girl. Scary is right. Sheerness Bunkers The Isle of Sheppey played a major role in WWII, and there are still reminders on the waterfront. On August 19th we left for York, a long drive in English, and were smooth sailing until we hit Doncaster, where the motorway was completely closed down due to a wreck. When we finally got to York, the satellite navigational system on Phil’s phone (dubbed "the Oracle" by Rob) placed us across the river from the club, and after asking dozens of people where the club was and how to get close to it, Phil came back with the super friendly manager Joe, who climbed in and took us there. York is a beautiful Roman walled city with Yorkminster cathedral, and great tiny winding street like the shambles. Though York itself was kind of a madhouse due to the influx of drunken tourist there for the annual horse races, we played at a hip place called the basement bar, on the ground floor of a venue called City Screen which houses another venue, cinemas ,and restaurants. There were two opening acts besides myself, a filmmaker/bluesman named Alex, who reminded me of a very young John Koerner, and GT, who had an early Tom Waits vibe going. Upon hearing that we'd neglected to secure lodging for the night, GT offered up his flat, a temporary squat that's the caretaker flat of a great hotel that is under renovation. The Hotel is a block from Yorkminster Cathedral and right in the midst of the great scenic city centre of York. The four story hotel and its pub is called The Judges, as it was built in the early 1700's as the mansion of a Judge, and these days there is a great gated patio (where we parked the van) for the Pub, which is open during renovation and where GT sometimes works. After the gig we went there, divvied up beds and mattresses, Rob went to van to cook up some sandwiches, and GT, Joe, a gent named Johnny sat around with us listening to bootlegs and talking. In the morning the far-too-early beer delivery man woke us up, giving us a chance to see Yorkminster, get a guided tour of the Shambles by GT, and feast on fine breakfast and conversation with the publican Andy. GT and AndyThe Judges, York The Judges Photobucket York’s Roman Wall Photobucket York Minster 2 York Minster Cathedral The Shambles, York Rob & Tom in York On Thursday, August 20 we rode through the English countryside from Liverpool to Glasgow, through high rolling hills passing Jersey cows, sheep. Cloudy and a bit rainy, unlike the rest of our trip. Really lovely place, old stone walls, mountains or moors in the distance, the sea off to the side. On Wednesday we stayed in Little Neston, south of Liverpool and just north of Wales, with Phil and Leslie Norman (Phil and I ) and Billy and Pauline Norman (Rob), in ultra clean modern houses. Billy Mason and Phil Norman have a duo called Upturned Collar, and they got a lot of airplay on BBC Mercybeat radio (Billy Butler) with their recording of "Just Some Girl", struck a chord with many a scouse, so the four of us performed it on air yesterday. (It was so popular they aired it again the next day.) We went to a pub called the Harp and a Chinese restaurant that evening in Neston, the village south of Liverpool where they live, which overlooks the bog and river, and Wales in the distance. BBC Merseyside, Liverpool BBC Merseyside, Liverpool Phil N, Pauline, Leslie, Billy, & Rob at Harp Inn Phil N, Pauline, Leslie, Billy, and Rob, at Harp Inn Billy has a lovely tradition of giving traveling performers sandwiches, and both couples sent us away with a feast of all sorts: sandwiches, cheese sticks, shortbread, fruit, cokes and juice, and crisps. Next tour we’ll make sure that Liverpool is on the way to every gig. We couldn’t just speed away from Mecca, so we headed back into Liverpool and went to the Beatles Experience museum at the Albert docks. It’s a great show, with a cool recreation of the Cavern, the office of Merseybeat magazine, and a special exhibit about John & Yoko’s bed-in for peace. Even though I’m a big fan of the Beatles and always have been, I kept thinking about the excellent parody film Eric Idle did called “The Rutles: All You Need is Cash”, especially the scene when their record sales rise dramatically when conservative protesters buy Rutles records in order to burn them. The night of August 20th we got into Glasgow for a radio show on Sunny Gavan Radio, and then headed back to Largs for a night’s rest before a long weekend. We arrived in time for a late night Indian take-away feast provided by Victoria Hotel proprietor and music promoter Tam Skinner, and shared with some local musicians and regulars. Tam is a great guy and friend to musicians, even though at first glance he may seem like a long-haired Scottish gangster. There was a full weekend of music, with Phil and I opening for Baz Warne of the Stranglers in a quiet room on Friday, and all of us playing with London’s Mick Kempe band on Saturday night, and on Sunday jamming with Mick Kempe’s band and later some local guys, Johnny and Alf, as well as enjoying sets by Ronnie Costley and Stretch Dawson. Victoria Hotel, Largs, Scotland View From Victoria Hotel, Largs The Victoria Hotel, Largs Largs Viking Viking Fish & Chips, Largs (My people preceded me!) On Saturday we heard that the Highland games were happening on the Isle of Bute, a short drive and a ferry ride, and more importantly, they culminated in a parade of dozens of drum and bagpipe bands. We took the ferry ride from Weymiss Bay to Rothsey and wandered up past an ancient castle complete with a moat, to the sporting grounds. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite of a Tennessee August, and before long we were freezing our asses off while the kilt wearing officials on the distant stage gave out award after award to various Highland dancers. Finally it was the bagpipers’ turn, and band after band marched out onto the field, wearing different tartan colors, but they too were all blessed with some award or another, and we needed to thaw out, plus we had to catch the ferry back in time for our gig. (Yeah yeah, a Minnesota boy complaining about cold while watching hundreds of people on the field wearing kilts. Speaking of which, I never got around to buying kilts while I was in Scotland. I’d better go back!) We wandered down to a coffee shop, past the crowds gathering for the parade, and then they came, band after band, led by staff-twirling and tossing mascots, the pipes and drums letting out a glorious sound, and I was smiling so wide that one of the drummers broke her stone faced concentration and smiled back. I was in Heaven, I’m still wondering how my songs would sound played with pipe and drum backing. On the ferry back we sat across from an old fellow decked out in full regalia, like, as Rob tells me Harry Lager, a popular music hall comedian. Bagpipe parade Photobucket Photobucket Largs reminded me of playing in little northern cities years ago, places like Superior Wisconsin, people coming in from the cold on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon for beer and some songs, never quite thawing out for most of the year. Even the flats had that old rock and roll feel to them, parties seeping out of the walls. In Largs, the musicians and bar staff would all gather in the upstairs bar after hours for a few more drinks and either fine Indian take-away food or a good meal cooked by Jill, Tam’s wife. On Monday morning Phil, Rob, Peter, Laurie, and I headed out for Stranraer, where we were catching the ferry to Belfast. On the way we happened upon the ruins of Crossraguel Abbey just past the River Doon (Bonny Doon!). We had a private tour, and took a little video footage of me playing dobro, part of a video collage I’ve been making over the past few years. Photobucket Crossraguel Abbey, Scotland After spending the night in a B & B in Stranraer, we boarded a huge ferry to Belfast. We sat with a pair of Scottish horse traders who owned a gypsy wagon, which perked up Rob’s ears, just the thing to draw attention to his traveling musical medicine show. When we were approaching Belfast, I looked at a map and saw that Carrickfergus was on the north coast of the bay. I first heard Sheila Lawrence sing that song beautifully at a Pat Gallagher St Patrick’s Day gig, and found the Van Morrison & Chieftains version, and I even tried warbling it myself a few times ( though “I’m drunk today, and I’m rarely sober” is one of the few lines that sticks with me.) Just the first of many discoveries ahead. We wound out way southward out of Northern Ireland, not even noticing the border, and headed to the prehistoric burial mounds at New Grange. There were three sites, and the tours for the New Grange mounds were sold out, so we caught a quick bus for the final tour of Knowth. The extremely dedicated residents from 3000 B.C. managed to transport massive stones great distances and place them in perfect alignment with the sun on summer solstice. The vertical stones that made up the walls of the tombs are etched with one of the biggest collections of Neolithic art. After our tour we headed for the still-unexcavated site of Dowth, another burial mound that archaeologists have yet to completely uncover. We explored, being careful not to disturb the artifacts left by the current caretakers, a herd of sheep. Prehistoric Burial Mound at Knowth, near New Grange, Ireland Ancient burial mound at Knowth, in Ireland Neolithic Art, Knowth Neolithic Art, Knowth Me standing atop burial mound at Dowth, Ireland Me standing atop ancient burial ground at Dowth Photobucket Our tour guides at Dowth On Wednesday, Phil, Rob, and I headed to the west Coast for a show at Dolan’s in Limerick. Dolan’s is a great venue, with a downstairs pub with food that features traditional Irish music seven nights a week, the music hall upstairs where Phil and I played, and a big rock and roll room out back. Mick Dolan and his crew welcomed us heartily, and after sound check Phil went to the dressing room to gugg (warm up his voice) and I headed off to explore the immediate area. When I returned, I struck up a conversation with a Nick Lowe look-alike named Bof and his friend Jo. After our set Bof heard we hadn’t secured lodging for the night and invited us to stay, so after the show we popped over to his flat. Bof worked for a few circuses in the past and one of his jobs was taking care of an elephant in a Dutch circus, so his place has cool elephant carvings everywhere. Dolan's, Limerick Dolan’s, Limerick Clock Tower, Limerick Clock Tower, Limerick The River Shannon, Limerick The River Shannon Our new friends Jo & Bof, Limerick Our new friends, Jo & Bof We headed next to the city of Cork in the County Cork, stopping on the way for a morning repast on a little side road near Churchtown. Chef Robert Chef Robert The restaurant at Church Town The restaurant at Churchtown The restaurant sign The restaurant's sign Photobucket The view from the restaurant

Ireland, August 27 THE BLARNEY STONE KISSES BACK!!

Photobucket On our way from Limerick to Cork, we saw the signs for Blarney Castle, home of the legendary Blarney Stone, which, when kissed, gives the kisser the gift of eloquence. Well, being songwriters and all, we had to stop. We paid our ten euros to get in and saw the beautiful ruins before us, along with scores of tourists. If I hadn’t seen the castle, I would have thought I was at Graceland. At Graceland you can have your photo taken standing in front of the gates, provided you pay the $10 for the picture at the end of the tour. At Blarney, after winding your way up the narrow spiral staircases behind other tourists (“oh, jeez Barb, I don’t think I can make it!”), you get in line to have your upper torso lowered into place to kiss the Blarney stone quickly while your photo is taken, available at the end of the tour for 10 euro. Well, there were a lot of anxious tourists, one weary old guy helping them all into place, and a light rain was starting to fall, so the old guy was trying to get them all through as quickly as possible. I took my position and he lowered me to kiss the wall and unintentionally (I assume) butted my forehead against the Blarney Stone while pulling me up and shouting “Next!”. Now I know I must have kissed the stone, but all I could think of is the knot growing on my forehead. Photobucket Photobucket (The photo I didn't purchase) I’m sure the Blarney Stone must be sending me a message, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. “Shut up and play your guitar”? “Don’t get fresh with me, Yank”? “You need all the eloquence you can get”? It will all come to light soon enough, in a meadow of four-leaf clovers. We did, unlike many of our brethren who were winding from the steps, take a good walk around the rest of the grounds, where there was a druid stone circle (real), and a witches den and kitchen (dunno), all very nice. We got back in the van and headed to Cork. I crawled in the back and slept, eloquently.

Scotland & England, August 7th-16th

Photobucket On Friday morning we went to the Belladrum Festival, held on a Victorian estate outside Beauly, Scotland, where we’d be camping over the weekend. Lugging all our belongings through the about-to-open fairgrounds to the Potting Shed stage, where Rob Ellen puts on his medicine show, a string of performances by up and coming artists, and a place for impromptu collaborations between artists. The area behind the stage was a cluster of tents and the Medicine Van, Rob’s headquarters for the weekend. We stowed our stuff in a tent and walked off to find some good Scottish fair food, as well as chasing down the artist liaison for meal tickets. I opted to postpone the haggis experience, settling for some other local fare. When I got back to the Potting shed stage Tim Scott and Matt Morrow invited me and Australian transplant/slide guitar bluesman Gypsy Dave join them onstage. (I didn’t taake any photos at Belladrum. Others did, and I’ll find them.) After the set I was pulled away by the beautiful sound of a crazy Slavic sound and saw a troupe playing out in the open, dressed in black and red, playing the most alluring gypsy music on sousaphone, accordion, sax, trumpet, violin, clarinet and drums. They were entertaining a crowd and drumming up business for their performance at the Hothouse stage. They were wild, Pied Pipers of Hamelin to my inner rat. It was clear that I would have to divide my attention between them and Nashville comrade Tommy Womack’s set at the Grass Roots stage. A few hours later Tommy, Phil and I, joined by Gypsy Dave, did a set called the Nashville All-Stars (not the first time I’d worked under that moniker), two songs apiece. Tommy played the first song I ever learned on guitar, the Velvet’s “I’m Waiting for My Man” (thanks to my brother Chris), and during Jemima I ran to the truck and grabbed a bass and Mark Dean Ellen jumped on the drums. When my turn came Isaac Sutherland grabbed the bass for a full tilt version of “Little Walter”. After our set I went to a great performance at a stage called “side burns”, a celebration of the bicentennial of the writer Robert Burns birth, called The Burns Homecoming. I learned about it from Cross eyed gals accordionist /singer Lisa, whose husband Bruce Macgregor played fiddle for the performance. The performance started with the three musicians (Bruce, Andy on keyboards, and a fine acoustic guitarist) playing a few Scottish traditional numbers, and then they were joined by a singer and by an actor named Hamish, who read wonderful poems and stories in old Scottish inspired by Robert Burns. Though I could only understand half of what he was saying due to the old manner of speaking, ( even a Scot told me they didn’t catch it all), the performance was incredible, and funny. There were touches of current events, like a rant about Bush and weapons of mass destruction, spoken in an ancient tongue, ending with a re-telling of Burns’ hallucinatory tale Tam O’Shanty, with the audience hanging on every word that they could understand. Through the performance the musicians segued seamlessly from style to style, at one point moving from a cool noir jazz feel to a Scottish reel, and between spoken word pieces the singer sang beautiful songs, some familiar to the crowd and some not. The performance ended with the musicians playing some traditional Scottish fiddle tunes, and the crowd was invited to dance. Two women were standing next to me, Sue and Heather, on break from their booth that sold African drums and jewelry and didgeridoos, and Sue invited me out to do this extremely popular Scottish dance (before I had a chance to observe!), and was very patient with me as I twirled the wrong way, stepped on feet, and laughed as we danced around in circles with all the other couples. After half a haggis roll (these things take time), I caught a bit of Glen Tilbrook’s great set, hit the potting stage again, and then found the Macdonalds, who graciously invited me to stay in their teepee. At Belladrum there is a camping area devoted to teepees that sleep up to ten people, and it was quite luxurious by festival standards, with a fire burning in the center to ward off the cold night. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket (Belladrum Concert Photos by Carol Keith - © eFestivals.co.uk) Saturday I showered (luxury!) and hunted down some coffee, wondered around the festival, and made it back for a fun set by Highland Cajun group the Cross-eyed gals, one of whom is Swedish (Sophie), and another who is not a gal (John, her husband), and I joined them on stage for the Randy Weeks song “Can’t Let Go”. I caught a bit of a cool young band 30 Miles to Breakfast future touring companions Robby Hecht and Carrie Elkin, Joe Cassidy and his band, and then went to warm up for Phil’s big gig at the grassroots stage. The show went well, and we had enough room up on that stage for the Rockettes to join us for our big dance routine. After the show we were interviewed by Kriss Ritchie for Panda films, and then I went back to the potting stage to throw together a band of Scots for my abbreviated set. I had Phil on drums Gypsy Dave, Matt Morrow, Lisa & Sophie, and Isaac on bass, and the crowd singing along on the Pirate Song, I had a great time. After that Phil and I ran off to do a live radio interview (he played the tender “25 Mexicans” while the rock band on the main stage pounded away), and then were filmed by John Dingwall of the Glasgow daily record. After that, I took in several bits of performances, including a combination burlesque and drag show, and hung around solving the world’s problems with my new friends. Sunday after striking the tents we climbed in Rob’s Medicine Show Van with Carrie Elkin and Robbie Hecht and started heading towards Glasgow for a radio show, passing through the beautiful highlands, driving along Loch Ness (no monster) and Loch Lachy, and a quick look at Rob Roy’s gravesite. Suddenly traffic stopped due to a motorcycle accident, and we were marooned with dozens and dozens of other cars in a picturesque mountain pass, complete with a bridge over a waterfall a quarter mile away. Rob made tea for us all and we broke out the guitars and took in the moment. Photobucket (Traffic jam location. Not so bad!) Needless to say, we didn’t get to Glasgow in time for the interview, and soon we were consulting maps, GPS systems, oracles, and tea leaves to find our way to the coastal town of Largs, where we were to stay for the night above the Victoria Hotel, a venue to which we’re returning on August 21st. We arrived to the last of the Sunday night revelers, and the owner Tam treated us like royalty opening the upstairs bar to us and running off to use his connections to procure us some pizza and Indian take-away long after the restaurants had closed. After a weekend camping in the midst of eight stages and twelve hours in the Medicine Van, the rooms above the bar suited us quite nicely. We had checked in during at midnight during a drizzling haze, and woke to a sunny day looking out over the Firth of Clyde (Firth being the Scottish word for a fjord or mouth of a river). I’m looking forward to our three day stint there. Photobucket Photobucket On Monday, with our ever capable ringleader Rob at the wheel, the five of us drove to Newcastle and to Tynemouth, where we played at a house concert in a great neighborhood two blocks from the waterfront. The next morning Robby and Carrie fled to Birmingham, and I went to the beach, took off my shoes, and had my feet massaged by the sea and sand, and then took a wander around the ruins of the Tynemouth Priory, which due to its loation still ad armaments from World War II, and over the centuries was attacked by a variety of adversaries. Photobucket (Me in front of my rustic fixer-upper) Photobucket (I feel like Slim Pickens!) Tuesday afternoon we took the short drive to Stanley and the South Causely Inn, a pub/hotel surrounded by stables, where we played at the Stanley folk club. Four local acts (including Jack B., the host) opened the show, and for the first time on this tour I did an entire opening set, which felt great playing for such an attentive crowd. Sue, a fiddler in one of the local acts, played a marvelous solo on the Pirate Song, graciously getting right up when I calle dher up from the crowd with no warning. She joined Phil and I again on Miller’s Mill Pond. Rob graciously slept in the van and Phil and I slept in a tiny but plush room above the pub. Phil swore that a mouse was stirring through the night, but I think it was the pills he was taking. Photobucket Photobucket In the morning Rob fired up the Medicine Van stove, served up three hot cups of tea, and we were off on to London. Luckily Rob knows history, so the long drives nevr get dull. In London we went straight to Barry Everett’s House of Mercy radio show, where we were greeted by super cool Barry, his partner Beck (a great blues singer), and a still-drunk-from-the-night-before Tenessean Dale Reno of Hayseed Dixie, shortly followed by Carrie and Robbie, fresh off a train from Birmingham. Barry had the four of us stand around the mike and take turns playing songs. Phil or Carrie, we’re not sure which, invited Dale to play a little mandolin with us, which he gladly oblidged, though he was a bit more reluctant when we suggested that perhaps a tune might not be quite right for mandolin. From the upbeat bluegrass chucking on Phil’s tender “25 Mexicans” to the upbeat bluegrass chucking on my Latin flavored “Chano Pozo’s Shoes” to the upbeat bluegrass chucking on Carrie’s tunes, Dale knew just what he thought the songs needed, even in his inebriated state. Well, whatever WE thought it sounded like, Barry loved it and had us do another round of songs. After the taping, we left London we drove two hours to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey on the west coast, the mouth of the Thames. It’s a nice, unpretentious town pebble beaches, and sidewalks and bike paths that run the length of the levee, all the way down to the village of Minster. We went straight to a feast of Indian food, and then bunked down for some badly needed rest, Phil and I staying with Rob’s ex sister-in-law Tina and her daughter Holly, who’d been with us at Belladrum, and Rob, Robby, and Carrie staying with Rob’s brother Mark Dean Ellen. Photobucket Holly & Tina, our gracious hosts in Sheerness The next morning Phil, Rob and I headed to London for the taping of Phil’s debut on the Bob Harris show on BBC 2, probably the biggest country show on British radio, and we had a great time. Though I knew Bob Harris had a great reputation, I’d forgotten that he’d been a host on the inflential music television show “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. He was great and very gracious, as was his producer Al, and Bob asked us about East Nashville, our home, which is getting a great reputation even outside of our neighborhood! Photobucket After the interview we went to our gig at the Green Note in Camden, with Robby, Carrie, and I doing short sets, followed by Phil’s set. The Green Note is a cool venue run by two women Raisa and Immy, who were involved in another London venue, The Borderline. It reminded me of a Greenwich Village folk club (the ones I used to play with Dave Van Ronk, Ian and Sylvia, and Bobby), and the show was fun, despite me having to look at Phil’s back the whole time (which may not be a bad thing.) On Friday the five of us were off to play in Brighton, the lively seaside city on England’s south shore. Phil and I caught a cab downtown from the club, passing the incredible Turkish-style pavillion built by Prince Albert in the 19th Century, and by the turn of the century pier, lit up in amusement park grandeur. Downtown we went to Radio Reverb (radioreverb.com) for Del Day's show "Songs From The Ark", and had a fun interview, after which I handed Del my CD, which he swore would get played on his show frequently. Mike Lance (notnowfrank.com) had organized a show for us all in the upstairs of a hip pub called the Open House. Rob designated me emcee, and we had another fun show, at the end of which we bid adieu to our new family members Carrie and Robbie. On Saturday, Phil and I played at a coffee shop called the Grub Café in East Grindstead, a lovely town in Sussex, and on Sunday we went to Tunbolt Wells for an appearance on BBC’s Radio Kent with Dave Cash. Dave Cash has a rich history in broadcasting was a DJ on pirate radio stations, rock and roll stations that would broadcast off ships to be out of the jurisdiction of the BBC and British regulations. When the BBC saw their popularity, they started a new station (Radio One) and hired some of the DJ’s. Dave has an extensive web site, and the first thing you see is pirates! Photobucket Phil Lee, Me, & Dave Cash @BBC Kent

Scotland, August 2-7, 2009

Welcome to my blog. There’s a first time for everything! I’ll promise to fall behind, seeing as how I don't like to interrupt the here and now until it's the there and then, but I’m going to try to keep at the most a week behind on my travels. (Check the calendar to see where I actually am!) The morning after Phil Lee’s record release party at Norm’s river roadhouse, Phil and I left Nashville for Edinburgh, via Washington and London. The flight to London was pleasant enough, with Phil losing and finding boarding passes, an I-pod and a phone, and turning on his charm with the English flight attendants, who threw packets of pretzels at us across the plane. In London we went through customs and must have looked like a pair of hobos in the standing in lines with dozens of Islamic families dressed in clean white robes. Even the children were immaculate, peaking out at us from behind their parents’ and grandparents’ legs. Photobucket In Edinburgh we were picked up by Phil’s partner Peter Barbour and his girlfriend Laurie, and were driven directly to an interview at Radio Leith with Kevin McEwen, which went surprisingly well considering how long we’d been up. After a meal at a sidewalk café on Rose Street we took the four-hour drive to Inverness and the Scottish Highlands, my head occasionally nodding off despite the increasingly breathtaking beauty of the Scottish countryside. We were even greeted by a rainbow just south of Inverness, as if the scenery wasn’t enough already to dispel any Brigadoon-inspired cynicism. Photobucket From Inverness we went to Dingwall in search of Rob Ellen, DJ, Medicine Show ringleader, promoter of good music, and at the moment, chauffer for a couple of American song-writing rounders. We finally caught up with him in Strathpeffer in Ross-shire in the Highlands, where we stayed for the following four nights at the MacKenzie house, run by the wonderful Steve and Clancy Macdonald and their son Angus, big music fans and owners of Square Wheels bike shop in Strathpeffer. In a successful attempt to avoid jet lag, we stayed up and went to a pub where we met the promoter Rob Ellen, his brother Mark, and two other musicians, Texan Tim Scott and Scot Matt Morrow, and their American friend Cassandra, who were also staying at the Mackenzie House. Photobucket Photobucket On our second day we drove to Ullapool, a fishing village on Loch Broom the west coast of Scotland reminiscent of the film “Local Hero”. We stopped for a drink at the Argyle Hotel and took in the view of the harbor, and then had an interview on Rob’s Medicine Show program on Loch Broom FM. Rob played “The World is Drunk”, (its first performance on radio!), and then it was off and running with a crazy Phil Lee interview. After the interview we stepped outside and saw another Scottish rainbow and walked down to the Argyle for a fine meal of locally caught sea bream before our performance with local band The Confederates and Mark Dean Ellen (No Comebacks). PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket On Wednesday I went with Peter Barbour and Laurie to Culloden battlefield, the site of the last battle fought on British soil, in 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie returned from exile in France to re-take the throne of Scotland from the British, but was defeated. It’s great museum, laid out with information, artifacts, and recorded recitations of the two factions on opposing walls. While I was there a storyteller gave a presentation on the aftermath of the war, the devastation and the complete suppression of Scottish culture. (Their music couldn’t be played, their language spoken, and even kilts were outlawed until the reign of Queen Victoria.) Near Culloden is Clava Cairns a cemetary built between three and four thousand years ago, circles of stone surrounded by monoliths, with single corridors aimed at the direction of the sun on the day of the summer solstice. It’s funny how much more in touch with the earth and seasons they were than us in the “information age”. Photobucket On Wednesday night we played at Hootenanny’s in Inverness as a part of the Belladrum Fringe Festival, with three floors of acts coming to the weekend festival. Phil and I played on the main stage on the ground floor, on a stage big enough to handle our dance moves. The crowd dug Phil. An hour later I did a solo set on the third floor in a great room filled with comfortable people on couches, and the crowd was great singing along on the sing-alongs, and Glaswegian Matt Morrow got up to play with me for the last two songs, without a moment’s warning. That evening I also got a taste of some music from new friends the Cross-Eyed gals, 32 Miles to Breakfast, and Mark Dean Ellen. Our time in Strathpeffer was a perfect introduction to the Highlands. There are biking and hiking trails through the hills surrounding the town, which the Macdonalds have helped develop. One day I took a long hike up through the forests and to a lookout point that looked over thousands of acres of undeveloped mountains and forest, a gorgeous sight to behold, and then down an ever-narrowing path surrounded by raspberry bushes. I gorged, and then cut through a golf course (Scotland!) and a forest.

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