Greetings from Interstate 70 West in central Kansas

It’s another West Coast Tour getting underway or overway. I was talking with Sue about how many times I’ve travelled west to California by way of interstate driving and I came up with the number ten. Truck stops, rest areas, wind turbines and donut shops out here on the prairie. Today we’re making our way through Kansas to Colorado for a show tomorrow night in Vail, the start of our Fall Pour Tour 2019. We’ll be pouring songs and stories from The Painter’s Bucket, a collection of unreleased songs I’ve written or co-written from 1983-2017.

We’re seeing expansive fields of corn and soy. And, of course, as many beef cattle grazing on the prairie grasses as there are forty foot tracker trailers hauling who knows what down the interstate. We just passed a sign that said, “One Kansas farmer feeds one hundred and fifty people.” I wonder how many people the entire farming community in Kansas feeds? It’s one of the joys of driving west, all of the signage.

Signs about Jesus, pizza, beer, wood-fire steak and bbq, choose life, Peterbilt and antiques.

Now we’re starting to see pumpjacks. A pumpjack is the above ground mechanism that lifts the liquid out of an oil well.

The soybeans here have golden-brownish tops. They are the leaves. They brown and fall off before the pods are harvested in October.

Round bales are laying in fields waiting for winter feeding.

Onward to Colorado…

Back to Tennessee

Back in Tennessee

Going to Britain in May was much warmer than on our last tour in November of 2017, which was a chilly one. I toured Britain five or six times, always in May, and had wanted to try a different time of the year. I remember one night on the November 2017 tour when we were so cold, and so ready for more than just moments of sunshine. That’s an expression you’ll hear in a BBC weather forecast that always makes me smile. But enough about the weather.

Note to folks traveling with carry-on instruments. British Airways can’t guarantee the space anymore. Their overhead bins are smaller now and not as wide. Had it not been for a hanging bag closet, our instruments would have gone into the checked baggage hold. That may have been the end of Lomo and Mildred, our Martin guitar and Lyon & Healy banjo.

We hired a small, compact Renault Captur that served us well. Driving on the wrong side of the road, shifting with your left hand and driving on roads meant for horses has become familiar enough. I am grateful all was well, considering the many squirrels driving way too fast and texting. In York we had to park under some trees that were having a bird gathering. They covered the car with digested mushy peas and chips that would have worked well in plaster repair. It was laughable.

renault_gimped

We are grateful to all of our hosts, presenters and friends who kindly shared their homes, concert venues and new stories with us. Our tour was called The Pour Tour because of the new record, The Painter’s Bucket, and we poured songs out of the bucket, as well as many cups of builder’s tea and a few bitter pints. Builders Tea is a strong, thick, sweet made tea with milk and often multiple teaspoons of sugar. Boiling water, poured over a teabag (black Assam) placed directly in a mug. Then stirred with a spoon, a drum stick or any building site implement that comes to hand until it’s strongly steeped. Yes indeed. No shortage of caffeine.

It’s good to be home in Liberty for a couple of weeks. We’ve had a visit with Willy, our neighbor’s bull and the girls. They added two calves to the herd while we were gone. They love bread and apples. We’ve cut the grass and weeded some of the garden. The basil, sorrel, thyme, sage and chamomile are doing fine, but the peppermint isn’t. I was amazed at how well the herbs had done since we hadn’t seen them in over six weeks.

In the winter we had stink bugs and Japanese beetles. Now we’re having the millipedes. If anybody has any ideas about how to collect rent from them or how to evict them, please let me know. We’ve tried peppermint oil, diatomaceous earth and Ortho home defense.

We got to go to the Smithville Jamboree this past weekend and had a big time. We heard some great music, saw our friends from Quarter Springs Farm, picked a few banjos at the Nashville Banjo Company booth and got some chocolate honey from The Honeybee Farm & Pantry.

We have some new venues coming up later this month in Abingdon, Roanoke and Jonesborough. Here’s a link to the shows page. Then in late July and early August we’ll be in the mid-Atlantic doing shows from Hanover, Virginia to Brunswick, Maryland. We’re looking forward to the new venues, as well as the older familiar ones. I will be doing a radio interview on Sunday, July 28 at 11 am with Robbie White and Weasel on Forbidden Alliance at WOWD-LP Takoma Park Community Radio.

I will be doing an update to the website hopefully before we head out for the mid-Atlantic tour on July 26. Don’t forget, you can listen to all of the music from the Another Life record as well as the latest, The Painter’s Bucket at my website.

Looking forward to seeing you at a show while we pour songs and stories from The Painter’s Bucket, as well as a few cups of tea and some bitter pints.

Much Happiness,

Billy

Grand Pop Cage and the Pop Gun Repair

My pop gun was broken, and Grand Pop Cage could see that I wasn’t happy about it.  We each got a ten ounce bottle of Coca Cola out of the frig and sat at the bottom of the stairs out back on Symington Avenue. The bottles of pop were delivered every Saturday from Uncle Lou’s grocery on Wilkens Avenue, which had the longest block of row homes in the city.

We sat on the two bottom stairs side by side and commenced to solve the broken pop gun. Grand Pop Cage was a tinkerer, a retired railroad man and general repair, fix-it kind of guy.  The other elders of my family would say, “he can fix anything.”  We finished our pop, and Grand Pop Cage held the pop gun in his hands and scratched his head with his eyes. He then began the repair.

Grand Pop Cage smoked cigars and drank whiskey.  His overalls smelled like Swisher Sweets. He turned this and tuned that, and the leaves fell from the oak tree in the backyard.

I twisted my hair behind my ears, and he twisted the barrel and tweaked the trigger.

Grand Mom Cage called out the backdoor, and said it was time to leave. Grand Pop Cage handed me the pop gun, and I cocked the handle and aimed at a leaf on the ground in the grass.

Just as I was ready to pull the trigger the Beatles’ Help came on the radio and distracted me. I lifted the pop gun, and the leaf was spared, only to be raked up and burned in a pile the next day in the back alley.

Grand Pop Cage waved goodbye and said, “I’ll see you next Thursday Billy.”

 A drawing by Carol Dant.  https://www.redbubble.com/people/caroldant?asc=u  A drawing by Carol Dant.  https://www.redbubble.com/people/caroldant?asc=u

Smiles & Miles Mugshot Tour UK 2017- Part 3

 The Church of St Thomas a' Becket built between 1256 and 1260 in Heptonstall, in West Yorkshire. Thanks to Rick and Alison for hiking up to the church.

The Church of St Thomas a’ Becket built between 1256 and 1260 in Heptonstall, in West Yorkshire. Thanks to Rick and Alison for hiking up to the church.

Here we go with the third installment of words and pics from my Smiles and Miles Mugshot 2017 UK tour in Oct and Nov. I’m writing from Nashville on an early Spring morning, having just finished some yoga. I’m sipping some Guayusa tea to get my motor running, sitting on the futon watching the change of light, a time I always am grateful for.

With Halloween behind us, Sue and I headed for the lovely village of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, to stay with good friends, Rick and Alison. I met Rick Sweetnam at the Beverley Folk Festival in 2010 and have been friends ever since. We enjoy talking about music and particularly all things Led Zeppelin. Rick smiled as I told him a story about seeing Led Zeppelin open for The Who in 1969 at Merriwether Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Rick puts on shows at the Trades Club in Hebden but thought it might be fun for me to play at The Live Room, a venue in nearby Saltaire, a World Heritage Site. I had visited Saltaire a few years ago and had enjoyed seeing the Salts Mill, a textile mill built in 1853, now an art gallery that hosts the world’s largest permanent collection of David Hockney artworks. The Live Room is located in the Caroline Social Club in Saltaire. The promoters, Ron and Hilary were gracious hosts, and the mixing desk was a bigger version of the Allen & Heath Zed mixer that I use in my studio. The room was good sounding, cabaret style with a pub on the side. The soundcheck was fun with the room empty, a nice resonance bounced off all of the wood. Ron was a superb mixer. Ron had this to say about the evening: There were many outdoor fireworks displays on Friday night. Indoors at the Live Room, however, we had some musical pyrotechnics to match anything going on outside. The opening act was Billy Kemp, born in Baltimore but a long time Nashville resident who played a 1930’s Martin guitar and an opened backed banjo, named Moe and Bart, respectively. A Grand Ole Opry performer and a great songwriter and raconteur who had a very relaxed and accomplished manner. Opening with ‘Death & Taxes’, his delivery reminded me very much of Loudon Wainwright III. In the 1980’s Billy hosted writers nights at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. He mixed great stories with very well-crafted songs, many from his new album, Another Life, all delivered in a very clear distinct voice with great musicianship on both guitar and banjo. He finished his set to great applause with ‘Mr. Wilson, the Stonecutter’, stone cutter being a term used to describe people who drank too much ‘falling down water’. Ron mentioned the fireworks because Guy Fawkes day or Bonfire night was only two days away. Thanks Ron, I had a wonderful time performing for you. I’m looking forward to my next visit to The Live Room. Thanks to Rick and Alison for taking Sue and I on a few wanders Saturday while in Hebden Bridge.

 Billy, Sue, Alison, Rick and one of their two great cats, Caeser or Pompey

Billy, Sue, Alison, Rick and one of their two great cats, Caeser or Pompey

Sunday morning it was off to Manchester for a show at the Players Theater in Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire. My good friends Chris and Ian promoted this show and delivered a full house by twisting the arms of most of the attendees. We decided to name their production company, Arm Twister Productions. Needless to say, the company is just staying afloat because of their liability insurance costs. Thank goodness they didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to the show. I may not have been able to play all of the demolished chords in my song for Willie Nelson, I Wish You Well.  The show was in the pub above the theater, and it was a wonderful evening, seeing some folks I knew and then making some new friends.

 The Arm Twisters- Ian and Chris and The Product- Sue and Billy in Manchester

The Arm Twisters- Ian and Chris and The Product- Sue and Billy in Manchester

Just a bit east of Cheadle, across the Peak District National Park, we headed out early Monday morning to the former coal mining community of Barnsley to teach a songwriting class at the Honley School and perform at a guest spot at the Barnsley Folk Club. We stayed in nearby Penistone with good friends, Dave and Joy Bottomley. Dave is an Epiphone guitar enthusiast and a fantastic Piedmont style guitar player. He coordinates the shows at the folk club in Barnsley. Later on in the tour I played a show with Dave in Newcastle. The Honley school songwriting day was a real joy. Sue and I got to spend an hour with two middle school classes and write a song in each class. Then in the afternoon, each class performed the newly written song in a concert for an assembly. The students were studying space, and the songs they composed were called Light Years Away and You Take Me To The Galaxy. It is pure magic to see the students come alive and work on a song together. Thanks to Nicole and everyone at the Honley school for making the song writing day possible.  

Just a couple of days later, it was an evening of tunes, songs and stouts at the Barnsley Folk club. Dave Bottomley has been keeping this folk club together for many years, and I must say, it is one of my favorite places to play in all of England because of the spirit and enthusiasm of Dave and so many of the singers and musicians there. We were on the second floor of the Trades Club, and Sue and I had a big time with everyone. Thanks to all of the singers and musicians for their songs and tunes. I am already looking forward to visiting again in 2019. Thank you Dave for your passion, playing and time that you always seem to find to give to the club. And thanks for taking Sue and I to the chip shop to have lunch with you and Sarah in Penistone.

 The Chip Shop in Penistone

The Chip Shop in Penistone

 Sue, Sarah, Dave and Billy at the Chip Shop in Penistone

Sue, Sarah, Dave and Billy at the Chip Shop in Penistone

Our next stop was back to Filey on the northeast coast of England in North Yorkshire. We were hosted by Chris Lee, who was promoting the show for Friday night at the Woodend Creative in Scarborough, just north of Filey. The show at Woodend was a co-bill with the King Courgette band from York, hands-down my favorite vegetable string band in the world. Chris has been promoting shows there for many years, and it always proves to be an event to celebrate. There was a fashion exhibit on at the gallery/concert space and getting to dance with the mannequins was an added bonus. I definitely had my daily amount of fiber intake that day considering the mannequins and the Courgettes. King Courgette was ripe, bursting with syncopated sweetness, string fever flavor and toe-tapping, boys in the band shouting that convinced all of us that vegetables really are good for you. Many thanks to Alfred Hickling for coming to Nashville last spring and sharing warm drinks and co-writing a few songs on Another Life.

 Hot Chili McGrath, Wild Zucchini Bill, Spring Onion Sue, Beet Root Billy, Papa Courgette, Stringbean Slim and Bad Apple Two T's Curtis

Hot Chili McGrath, Wild Zucchini Bill, Spring Onion Sue, Beet Root Billy, Papa Courgette, Stringbean Slim and Bad Apple Two T’s Curtis

The next morning, Saturday, Nov 11, it was off to Newcastle for a show with Piedmont singer and musician, Dave Bottomley, for a Sunday afternoon show at the Monkey Junk Blues club in The Cluny. Sue and I drove up the coast and spent a few hours in the seaside village of Whitby, a place I have wanted to go for years. Whitby has a maritime and mineral heritage, and is also home to the gothic Whitby Abbey ruins, an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s, Dracula. I found it ironic that Whitby, in old Norse means white settlement, while the town is famous for its Whitby Jet, a black gemstone which is actually a mineraloid, derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure, similar to coal. Come to Whitby where things are black & white. Sue and I had a lovely wander through the town and found a small cafe for lunch. It was a bit windy with a chill that day, and I had a big mug of cocoa while Sue had a cup of joe.

 Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

We arrived in Newcastle that evening, my first visit, and stayed with our friends, Dave and Joy from Barnsley. The Monkey Junk show was the next day, and it was a wonderful afternoon, shuffling through a mixed bag of blues with Dave. We shared the presentation going back and forth with various blues numbers that we both knew. I hadn’t done a blues gig in a long time and was grateful for the opportunity. Dave is an amazing musician, singer and writer. For those of you in the UK and for others who will be visiting, a trip to see Dave Bottomley perform is recommended; well-crafted original songs, obscure covers, passionate singing and superb finger-style guitar playing.

 Billy with Dave Bottomley at the Cluny

Billy with Dave Bottomley at the Cluny

On Monday, Nov 13, we were off to the Lake District, southwest of Newcastle, a three hour trip, for a house concert in Windermere and the final show of the tour at Zeffirellis, a cabaret style restaurant and music venue in Ambleside. We gently drove on the A roads for most of the trip as to avoid the motorway and to see the beautiful countryside, just north of the Yorkshire Dales. We were heading to the home of John and Annie Hawson, friends I had met years ago at the North Wales Bluegrass festival in Conwy. John is a songmaker and singer who writes narrative, catchy melodic tales; my favorite being about a wild back country woman and another about a pesky, bothersome black crow. Annie, originally from Scotland, a singer who makes music with a choral group in Windermere, is the kindest, gentlest person in the multi-verse, always ready for a chat, a listen and a smile. We stayed for days, and Annie and I got to collaborate on several meals together, which was fun for me, mixing ideas and ingredients and getting to cook on an AGA cooker, which was in their home when they moved in. The perfect stovetop for a simmering pot of beans and drying your jeans. Needless to say, it was mid-November, and many cups of tea were also enjoyed.

The house concert at John and Annie’s was on Wednesday evening in the Yoga and Music studio. The wood stove was in good form, and folks piled in for an evening of songs and stories. John sang a few, Richard Tordoff played some tunes that had rich, harmonic arrangements, Matt France sang his own songs, and Tony Rothwell played his Martin guitar and sang a song about a desk…. A few ales, stouts and nibbles were consumed besides the music. A few friends from previous visits were on hand, and some new ones were made. John’s friend and an acquaintance of mine, Jonty, showed up and had some fun stories to share as well as a can of beer he gave to me that I can’t remember the name of but was one of the strongest beers I had ever sipped, and I really only took two sips, but don’t tell Jonty, he would be disappointed. I am drinking a tea to John and Jonty this morning. Here’s to the next time we are together for story, song and sipping.

 Sue, Billy, John and Annie in Windermere

Sue, Billy, John and Annie in Windermere

The last show of the tour wasn’t far from John and Annie’s in the lovely village of Ambleside, just north of Lake Windermere.  Zeffirellis had a cabaret style room upstairs, and the crowd was nearly full and ready for a show. The soundcheck went well, and I had a good long chat with the soundman who had recently been to Southern California. We shared people and places that we knew. It is a small planet with a big smile.

Of the three, people, places and things, the one that I hold closest are the people. Thank you to all of the hosts for sharing a pallet, the presenters for sharing a stage, and the folks and fans, old and new, for sharing their listening skills and time at the gigs. Sue and I are thankful and grateful for every cuppa, every conversation and every M & S on the motorways.  And also to all of the English motorway drivers who managed to navigate around me without incident. There is a warning on the motorways of England that says Keep Your Distance, which is good advice that I tried to follow during the tour. Richard Thompson wrote a song by that title that has to do with affairs of the heart. I saw him at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum a few years back as part of the Americana Music Festival and Awards, and I got to ask him if the song title came from the motorway sign, and he said, “yes, you’re on to me, it’s awful isn’t it, having to stoop to motorway signage for inspiration.” Do keep your distance on the motorways, but please keep in touch when a thought occurs that you would like to share. I am raising my mug this morning to our friendship and am looking forward to the next time. Onward and upward.

 Billy at Woodend, Scarborough, England photo by Sue

Billy at Woodend, Scarborough, England photo by Sue

I hope you have enjoyed these recollections. They are most likely dotted with exaggerations, memory distortions, stretchers, inventions and other thoughts bordering the truth. I can’t claim accuracy but am grateful for the memories I now share with all of you who were there…

Much Happiness,

Billy

 

 

 

Western Two

Friday, April 6, 2018. Sue and I arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay with Sue’s Aunt Jane. Jane is Sue’s Mom’s sister. She lives in an adobe style home just outside of the city. It is Friday night and we have driven from Ft. Stockton, Texas. We had dinner and great conversation as both Jane & Sue are remarkable story tellers, sharing stories as they hadn’t seen each other in about thirteen years. There was lots to catch up on.

 

 Sue and Aunt Jane catching up in Santa Fe, April 6, 2018 Sue and Aunt Jane catching up in Santa Fe, April 6, 2018

We had a show booked in Las Vegas, New Mexico on that Sunday that had cancelled so we were able to enjoy the entire weekend with Jane. On Saturday, April 7, Jane took us to the Center for Contemporary  Arts and we saw an exhibit by two artists, Ceil Bergman’s, The Linens, and Tom Joyce’s, Tc- Curie Point. The Linens were large works that Bergman did over a number oy years. It was impressive to walk into the main exhibit room and see so many large works side by side. I was struck by what I kept calling her question bone image that recurred in many of her linens.

 

This is entitled, For Duchamp (After the Large Glass) http://www.cielbergman.com/xl2xd1ils9dijj1dj5rtm8jy6udpl6

The Tom Joyce exhibit was different. The metal artist worked for forty five years and the exhibit suspended nearly 25,000 lbs of equipment, supplies, tools and other objects that were once incorporated, made, used and/or laid to rest in the artist’s studio. It was dark in the space and I was a bit nervous walking under all of the weighted materials.

 

Suspended heavy metal of Tom Joyce. http://www.ccasantafe.org/current-exhibitions/1408-tom-joyce-tc-curie-point

After leaving the exhibit, we went into downtown Santa Fe, had a rest and chat at a coffee shop and then browsed a few shops and smaller galleries before heading back to Jane’s.

We left Aunt Jane’s in Santa Fe and headed to Tucson, Arizonia. We had a show booked on April 11 at the Monterey Court, an open air courtyard with a nice stage, lights and sound. The courtyard is surrounded by small shops and art studios and festively decorated. Thanks to Greg Haver and everyone at the court. That was one court room I’d like to visit again. Sue and I camped that evening just north of the city. The desert is great for sleeping as the temps drop when the sun goes down. We did hear coyotes yipping before we fell asleep. They were close and the clarity of the yips in the night air were as chilling as the air itself.

The next morning we got out early and started making tracks to California. Our next show was on April 15 in Thousand Oaks at their library. That gave us a few days to get there and we got to stop at Joshua Tree National Park for one evening. We entered the park off of Interstate 10 near Cottonwood Springs. We were hoping to camp deep inside the park but all of the sites were booked. There were a few sites left at Cottonwood Springs thankfully. We arrived early enough to set up camp and take a hike. We got back to camp and fixed a pinto bean dinner with a side of sustained winds that made it difficult for our Snow Peak stove to stay burning. It was a beautiful night for star gazing but the winds continued throughout most of the night, making sleep hard to find because of a flapping tent. It was comical. Sleep did eventually visit but it was short lived. The next morning we drove through the park, stopping along the way for photo opts and settled on breakfast at the Crossroads Cafe near the west entrance. The coffee, tea and grub were a welcome treat after a night of sustained thirty mile per hour winds. Oh, the wind, the wind, the wind.

 The desert fan palm oasis at Cottonwood Springs The desert fan palm oasis at Cottonwood Springs

We left the Crossroads Cafe, stopped by Pioneer Town for a dusty peek and then we were off to Malibu for our visit with Jane and Tom. Jane is Sue’s cousin, whom she hadn’t seen in many years. Her husband Tom plays the tuba and it made me smile to hear him practicing. I love the tuba. Tom is a music editor for film but also plays in the community orchestra. They hosted Sue and I for a week and we had a wonderful time with them. We had our own little film fest and watched a couple of Terrence Malick films and the Florida Project. Thank you Jane and Tom, a house filled with beauty, music, story and then some. And thanks for letting me have my way in your kitchen. Sue and I got to visit a few must sees in Malibu, Paradise Cove, Point Dume and walks in the hills. Here are a few pics.

 

 Everybody’s gone surfin’  Everybody’s gone surfin’

 

 Happy hikers in Point Dume. Happy hikers in Point Dume.

 A bored trio... A bored trio…

 Malibu Sue... Malibu Sue…

Our show at the Thousand Oaks library on Sunday, April 15 was well attended and my very first solo California gig. It’s a wonderful concert series and got to see some friends, Merlin, Debbie and Russ. Sue’s cousin, Jane, was able to attend and see Sue perform for the first time. It was a great start to our California shows.

After staying with Tom & Jane, we headed over to Merlin & Debbie’s who live in a house that they built in Thousand Oaks. We stayed just a couple of days and had the best time. We got to go with them to a little league baseball game that their grand kids were in. We shared songs, drank tea and managed a wonderful hike into the mix. Thanks to Debbie and Merlin for sending us on our way with a bag of Yerba Matte. It’s late July and I am still brewing a cup every morning.

Next we were off to Sherman Oaks for a hang and a song with good friends, Craig and Ali. Craig is Craig Eastman, the best darn fiddler in the multiverse, whom I met back in 2015 while working on a record with Jeni Hankins and Ali is Ali, who always brings out the best in everyone. Thank you Ali for great conversation and creative ideas and punctuations. My friend, Dillon O’ Brian introduced me to Craig and I am ever grateful to him. More on Dillon in a bit.

 

We got to do some rehearsing with Craig in his fab studio for some shows coming up in the central coast near San Luis Obispo, or SLO as it is called. This was going to be the first time I got to play some shows with Craig doing my songs. We had the best time exploring arrangements, as Craig always brings layers of expression and emotion to every thing he is a part of. There is song and dance in every cell of Craig’s being. He is a song and dance man. His music spills effortlessly into the flow. Their dogs, Buster and Willie, always present, helped us along, with intermittent walks being ever watchful, mindful and cute.

 

 Craig, Sue and Billy rehearsing again in Atascadero, near Slo... Craig, Sue and Billy rehearsing again in Atascadero, near Slo…

The Tuesday night before we headed to the central coast, Sue and I got to see my good friend, Dillon O’Brian at his musical gathering at Ireland’s 32 also in Sherman Oaks. You’ll find Dillon and company there nearly every Tuesday singing songs that have changed the way we move in the world, like hearing David Jackson sing, Some Broken Hearts Never Mend or Dillon sing his, Fearless Love or a Jimmy Webb song. I got to sit in and sing a Marjy Plant song, The Wheels of Love and Chuck Berry’s, Nadine. We also got to see song mixer extraordinare, Dave Way. Thanks to Dillon and friends for a big time.

On Wednesday morning we were off to Atascadero to stay with Charley and Anet, two of the greatest higher evolved beings on the planet. For years they presented the Brickyard Theater in their courtyard and now that the theater has drawn its final curtain, they on occasion host a house concert. We were also in the central coast to perform two concerts at The Screening Room at Cherent Ranch Studio hosted by Brent Keast.

Charley and Anet sometimes host the Tibetan Monks and it was our good fortune that one was staying with them during our visit, Geshe. I got to attend a meditation one morning that Geshe directed. Geshe made dinner one evening and served some delicious dumplings called popo’s. He was always smiling and ready to lend a hand. Thank you Geshe for your service and your smile. His service is to remind everyone to be mindful of others and to always try to be in the moment and pay attention

 mug shot at Craig and Ali’s mug shot at Craig and Ali’s  mug shot with Anet, Sue, Billy, Charley, Craig and Geshe in Atascadero  mug shot with Anet, Sue, Billy, Charley, Craig and Geshe in Atascadero   Craig, Sue and Billy at the Brickyard Theater  Craig, Sue and Billy at the Brickyard Theater   The bells at the Mission San Miguel... The bells at the Mission San Miguel…

Many thanks to Brent, Charley and Anet for hosting the central coast concerts. We had the best time with everyone and are looking forward to the next time.

Northern California and back east to follow…

 

Dusty, Flat & Wind Blown- Journal from the West…

It’s Friday, April 6, 2018, and Sue and I are driving north on state road 285 in southern New Mexico just out of Carlsbad heading towards Santa Fe. We performed in Ft Stockton, TX last night. The tour started in Conway, Arkansas on Tuesday, April 3 at the Faulkner County Library.

 Cowboys, Boxing, Music and Dance Hall in Ft. Stockton

Cowboys, Boxing, Music and Dance Hall in Ft. Stockton

The gig at Conway was a small audience as a storm front came through with tornado warnings. Sue and I were camping on the Arkansas River at Toad Suck, an Army Corps of Engineers park. We were tent camping and hammered in the stakes with extra verve and attention. At the show, I knew the entire audience from previous shows I’d done there. Marketa, Alice, Jan and Glenn were there. Marketa wasn’t getting around as easily and was in a wheelchair and her good friend, Alice, was helping her around. Marketa told the story of how her grandmother would cut a storm in two so the storm wouldn’t touch their house. She’d grab a hatchet, go into the backyard and throw the hatchet into the dirt. Marketa said once a tornado came through, and her grandmother threw the hatchet. The storm split and devastated houses on either side of hers.

 The tent at Toad Suck, Arkansas April 3, 2018

The tent at Toad Suck, Arkansas April 3, 2018

Did I say it is flat out here? We’re twenty miles south of Artesia, New Mexico. We’ve seen pecan groves, brush, telephone and electrical lines. And then the occasional oil jack pump and cattle. Did I say it is dusty?

 The Pecan Groves in New Mexico April 6, 2018

The Pecan Groves in New Mexico April 6, 2018

In the morning after Conway we headed for Texas. We made tracks to Abilene. We had a reservation at the Abilene State Park near Buffalo Gap for Wednesday night, April 4. As we drove to Abilene, we listened to the many tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King on the radio. We got to the park just before dark and were able to get the tent set up just before the sun went down. Abilene State Park was much quieter than Toad Suck. At Toad Suck, there is a dam, and it creates a white noise, which I don’t mind for sleeping. But at Abilene, the nights sounds were the sounds of nature, various night birds and the occasional coyote.

We just reached Artesia. We just passed a car wash, and there were several RVs in line to wash the dust off. It would probably be a long wait for the rain to wash it off here. Did I say it was windy here? One thing we noticed was the litter. There are strong winds here, and it must be difficult to keep the litter from blowing everywhere.  Artesia has the railroad running through north/south. We saw some cars like we’ve never seen, most likely hauling oil. 

 

 Train heading south in New Mexico April 6, 2018

Train heading south in New Mexico April 6, 2018

 Train cars probably filled with oil. New Mexico April 6, 2018

Train cars probably filled with oil. New Mexico April 6, 2018

We rose in the morning at Abilene and packed up and headed south on SR 277 to SR 67 south. 67 was a two lane with gas and oil on both sides. At times you could smell the oil. The oil fields were scattered with the jack pumps and compressor stations.

 Compressor station in the oil fields. West Texas April 4, 2018

Compressor station in the oil fields. West Texas April 4, 2018

We’re twenty seven miles from Roswell. We’re either gonna fill up or beam up. The state roads heading north and south are straight and long. Towns separated by thirty or forty miles. In Red, our Volkswagen Golf, we are a minority. The road is traveled by mostly trucks, semis and pick-ups.

 Straight road, trucks and big sky. Highway 285 New Mexico April 6, 2018

Straight road, trucks and big sky. Highway 285 New Mexico April 6, 2018

Seven miles outside of Roswell and we’ve already felt signs of an alien presence.

 Roswell, New Mexico April 6, 2018

Roswell, New Mexico April 6, 2018

Heading north now on 285 on to Santa Fe, next town up, Vaughn just went by the 44 Ranch, looks like miles of brush. They had a neat brand with a non-angular, curvy 44. 

 Cowboy in New Mexico April 6, 2018

Cowboy in New Mexico April 6, 2018

I read a short story by John McPhee about cattle rustling in the west and the many different brands that ranchers use. John pointed out in the story how some brands are easier to duplicate and others that are easy to change, like an F to an E. The curly 44 may be one that is safe when it comes to changing. Just passed mile marker number 155. Just passed 156…dusty, flat and wind blown.

Much Happiness, Billy and Sue April 7, 2018…

Smiles & Miles Mugshot UK Tour 2017- Part 2

Smiles and Miles Mugshot Tour UK 2017- Part 2

Howdy friends and neighbors. 

Here’s wishing everyone happy holidays and warm days. It’s cold in Nashville tonight as I sit at the keyboard. Sue and I have had some time to sleep late, go on urban hikes and make a greens and beans dinner nearly every week we’ve been back. And as a matter of fact, we’re making it tonight for our friends Kenny and Teresa. Kenny is Kenny Raduazzo who engineered my latest record, Another Life.

Now it is the next morning as Kenny and Teresa showed up, and I didn’t write very much last night. Most of the morning has been attempts to open a spreadsheet that won’t open. I’m still waiting, and so have turned my attention back to my blog. So here goes…

Sue and I left Filey in the morning on Saturday, October 21 to head over to Liverpool for a show at the West Kirby Arts Center. My good friends, Peter and Gabi of The Good Intentions, had recommended the venue, and I’m so glad they did. The venue is a former Unitarian Church and, indeed, the stage was on the pulpit. When we arrived at the Center we were welcomed by Tony who is the director of the arts center. The stage was filled with hay bales, a charming touch, and I spied an acoustic piano behind the bales. I asked Tony if I could use the piano for the show, and he acquiesced. He proceeded to move the hay in order to get the piano into position. I got to perform two songs that evening on his piano, Kings of the Grandstand and Whatever You Do. I love playing the piano and don’t get enough chances to do it. We had a great crowd, and the sound was superb, a really good sounding room.

 Peter, Billy and Gabi in Liverpool

Peter, Billy and Gabi in Liverpool

 Billy at the piano on the Wirral at West Kirby Arts Center

Billy at the piano on the Wirral at West Kirby Arts Center

 

Sunday morning we were off back east to stay with Alfred and Sarah in York. Alfred is the fiddler, banjoist, chief songwriter and front person for the King Courgette band. We stayed in York for two days, did some laundry and got to use a tumble dryer at Alfred’s parents house nearby. We had tea, played some music and actually got to dry, really dry our jeans in an hour. Otherwise, it may have taken all night to happen. Thank you to Mick and Jane…

 Mick, Papa Courgette, and Sue in York. Sue is happy because her jeans are dry...very dry...and warm!

Mick, Papa Courgette, and Sue in York. Sue is happy because her jeans are dry…very dry…and warm!

Tuesday we were off to Hull not too far away. We were going to the home of Norman and Fiona. The following evening I had an opening slot at the Cottingham Live Back Room with Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby. The gig was super fun. I got to do two opening short sets. Both Cathryn and Brian had their eye on my Martin 2-17, and I had to stay close to it for fear of someone pinching it. Many folks in the room liked the guitar, and there was even talk about offering the guitar for a door prize. Everyone was in agreement except for me and Sue. We still had a lot of touring to do, and my small guitar with a big sound, Moe, was very nervous that night. We finished up and headed back with Moe in tow, and everyone slept well except for those folks that wanted to take Moe home with them.

 Fiona, Sue, Norman and Billy in Hull.

Fiona, Sue, Norman and Billy in Hull.

 Brian, Cathryn and Billy at Cottingham.

Brian, Cathryn and Billy at Cottingham.

The next morning, Thursday, October 26 we headed back to York to Alfred and Sarah’s for a show Friday night with the Courgette’s and The Corner Laughers at the Post Office Social Club. The Social Club reminded me of our American Legion Halls like the one in East Nashville off of Gallatin Road. You know the place, front door, front room with bar and back room door, back room with dance floor and performance stage. The room had vibes galore. It was filled with people I didn’t know, and they listened to all of the stories and the songs that they had never heard. An encore at the end with all three acts proved a high energy, toe tapping send off.

Leaving York the next morning for the Lakes reminded me of Maryland, my Maryland. Last year for a break and a field trip Alfred Hickling and I went to a place called Kiplin Hall. Our route out of York this year took us near Kiplin, and here’s why it had me thinking of Baltimore, where I grew up. Kiplin Hall is where George Calvert grew up, Secretary of State for James I and founder of Maryland.  The time for all of that was 1579-1632. When I pulled up to the Jacobean English country house, there in the parking lot was the Maryland flag flying proudly. 

 Billy at Kiplin Hall in 2016. Photo by Alfred Hickling

Billy at Kiplin Hall in 2016. Photo by Alfred Hickling

 Billy at Kiplin Hall in 2016. Photo by Alfred Hickling

Billy at Kiplin Hall in 2016. Photo by Alfred Hickling

 My summer place at Kiplin Hall.

My summer place at Kiplin Hall.

Sue and I traveled across the Yorkshire Dales westbound for Windermere, the home of Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter. Our hosts, Annie and John, live in Bowness-on-Windermere and we were able to stay there for five days. It was the first real break of the tour, though I played two shows while there at The Mortal Man in Troutbeck, just north of Windermere. The Mortal Man is a traditional Lake District inn that has been serving fell walkers since the late 1600s. A fell is a dialect word used in north Yorkshire meaning high, uncultivated land. My good friend, John Hawson-singer, writer and guitarist, plays there in the pub nearly every Tuesday for an open sing evening and suggested I try the room out for a concert. I met some good folks there during my two evening stay. Playing in the pub on the second night proved a success. Pub singing in England is the combination of song and/or tune and ale consumption. It truly lifts the spirit whether you partake in the ale or not. The Mortal Man is typical in that the ceilings are low with exposed beams, a stone floor and mahogany everywhere including my guitar. Oh, and also, the ale is superb. Tom T. Hall would have loved the Mortal Man. Good songs, stories and stouts. 

 Sue, Billy, John and Annie at the Lakes.

Sue, Billy, John and Annie at the Lakes.

That’s all for now folk’s. It’s time for me to watch an installment or two of David Simon and Ed Burn’s, “The Wire.”  I had mentioned to Sue that I had never seen the series, and the first two seasons on DVD showed up in my Christmas stocking. Better late than never. 

See you in a few weeks with the third and final installment of the Smiles and Miles Mugshot Tour U.K. 2017 blogposts.

Here’s wishing everyone all good things and a happy New Year.

Much Happiness,

Billy