Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bean Blossom...again!

Corrina on the Bean Blossom workshop stage with Danny Paisley.

Colonel Peva was talking on BGRASS-L about a young lady named Corrina who's getting a lot of attention for her fine fiddling. She was everywhere at Bean Blossom in June 2006. She was invited to fiddle on the main stage with the Bluegrass Strangers and also with at least one other group (maybe Karl Shiflett?) Here she appears on the workshop stage with Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass.

Late at night Corrina and her good friend roamed the jam sessions. Corrina played a few tunes here, then went to another and played a few there. She said she wanted to get around the whole campground and pick with everybody. Her zestful approach makes me believe she probably did just that. In every instance Corrina was charming, respectful of the jam she'd entered, and proceeded to play some fine, fine fiddle. Look for this young lady in the coming years!

I'm excited to hear from Colonel Peva that my friend the great photographer Nobuharu Komoriya and other Japanese bluegrass fans will be among those at the Uncle Pen Days festivities at Bean Blossom ( this September 20-23. The great J.D. Crowe will be inducted into Bean Blossom's Hall of Fame. 'Nuff said! Looking forward to seeing his mug on the wall among the likes of Monroe, Stanley, the Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin....right where it should be! Crowe is always a quiet, kind of smirking, pretty-haired instigator at the big Saturday night "do's" at Bean Blossom and he always adds a whole lot to the overall sound of what's happening onstage. In June J.D. got out there with the outlandish Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives in their flaming fuchsia-ish early Beatles kind of suits and did his poker-faced banjo playing thing. You had to be there. But it was cool. The crowd love Crowe! Join us in honoring J.D. at Bean Blossom this fall!

I think this September at Uncle Pen Days will be bigger than ever as folks stop off there on their way to IBMA. Brown County, Indiana is a beautiful place in the fall...the leaves will likely be turning and there'll be a snap in the air. If there's a good crowd, look for me on the roof of the stage along about Ralph Stanley time on Saturday - and be sure to smile for the camera!

Friday, August 18, 2006


I'm out on sis's porch on a perfect August afternoon after spending four hours cutting huge dead limbs off of tall pines (that's hard work, especially when you're on your tippy toes cutting them as far over your head as you can reach). Sitting here answering email, I look over to my right off this big lovely porch high on a hill and there's a deer standing at the bottom end of two rows of fir trees that form a green canopy down her driveway. Looking up, I see three peaks, a deep blue sky and puffy clouds; a perfect day. The sun is sifting through the branches above the deer and she looks like some poised starlet. I know if I go for my camera she'll dash for safety. Sometimes you just have to look and...oh, another has joined her! It's like they're in a picture frame of beautiful green trees. They seem to be eating something in the road though I can't imagine what that could be. Their ears are perked, their white tails are flashing. I'm having a real blessing.

Can't resist; I go for my camera(up two flights of stairs and down) just knowing they'll be gone...yet they remain! I start clicking and inch slowly toward them, stopping now and then. I close the gap to maybe 70 yards; what a sight. They casually turn and walk off into the rich fern and maples. Moments later I see them bounding through a clearing in the woods. I stop at the foot of the driveway and stay quiet, hoping they'll come back; their tails like flags flashing in the grove 100 yards away. I'm still. I hear a sound to my right and gently turn -- 40 yards away walks a wild turkey hen. It don't get much more country than right here on the mountain!

For me, this is serenity.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Junk Brothers, Recycling, and HGTV

You know I've survived half a century somehow without ever getting close to being addicted to television. But now I'm beginning to wonder about myself. This summer sis is renovating her house to a large extent and I'm here dealing with the day-to-day project as she pays for it by working in NYC. Seems like HGTV is on the tube about 24/7 these days. I draw the line at all those craft shows. And admittedly I think a whole lot of what they do to people's houses is questionable at best. I mean, I would file suit if they did that to MY house (but I don't even live anywhere in particular). Seems like bold primary colors are what they're doing to people's houses; crimes punishable by....whatever.

BUT....I really love the Junk Brothers, Jim and Steve Kelly. Have you seen that show? That Jim has the cutest smile and reminds me exactly of Will Pinkney, huntsman of the Golden Valley back over there in the Old Country where I spend my favorite months of the year. Anyway, last night Jim and Steve drove around in their truck and picked up an old 70s console TV set from the curb and also a very funky (and nasty) 2 piece sectional couch that had been totally trashed. In a half hour (TV time) they cut the console up and turned part of it into a base for this really cool aquarium (I reckon you had to be there) and then took the couch all apart and turned it into a really cool couch with a reversible copper/fabric arm end that served as a table for your drinks. Very cool. Part of their gig is they take these amazing creations they've made from seemingly unredeemable JUNK and sneak it right back to the people whose curbs (trash) they "stole" it from. They put down the newly recreated piece, ring the doorbell and run for the truck, trying to get there so they can watch the reaction of the recipients. Pretty funny gig, I think - and well worth watching. I'd like to have those boys work on some of the furniture in this house! I've had a high-50s red naugehyde couch with fabulous chrome legs sitting on end for more than a year since neither my sister nor I can figure out how to get the screws into the wood inside. They keep going wrong somehow. Help me, Jim!

Along those lines, sis and I took those 3 or 4 cast iron sinks from this big ole house to the metal recycling (walk-in) dumpster down at the Town Hall on Monday. By Tuesday, when we're in Lowe's pricing new cast iron bathroom sinks and finding they're like $600 for a nice-looking one and she's hemming and hawing about how she really didn't want to get rid of the nicest sink but feared telling me (the clean freak) because she thought I'd have a tizz (she's right). Now that sucker must have weighed 100 pounds, easy. So who gets stuck walking back into the metal dumpster today - all alone - and having to pick mounds of metal this and that off same sink and having to leverage it alone into a rusted out wheelbarrow and drag the thing (the wheel on the barrow was flatter than a pancake) across a long stretch of concrete and leverage it up in my truck? All this while sis is in NYC getting a pedicure or something.

Things are coming along nicely up here on the mountain. I'm almost out of junk to haul off, though I wish the Junk Brothers would just happen to come up the drive. I'd give them something they could have fun with. How 'bout a real live bear, boys? Might make a nice arm chair...many daytime bear sightings -- 200-pounders -- in the area in recent days.

The Bean's 40th

Paul Williams and Bobby Osborne: Setting the bar for high lead singers.

Hsueh-Cheng "Ryo" Liao, Bluegrass 45 fiddler, at Bean Blossom: Bluegrass builds bridges. My buddy Shin Akimoto tells me "Ryo" worked for Rebel Records and played fiddle on a Jimmy Arnold album. Sounds like authentic bluegrass credentials to me!

I have about a million photos from the June 2006 Bean Blossom pilgrimage. Many will appear soon on the Bean Blossom website: but in the meantime, above are a couple I thought might be fun to share. Over on the bluegrass bulletin board, BGRASS-L: folks have been discussing the incredible high lead singing of Paul Williams, so when I stumbled across this photo of Paul with Bobby Osborne, thought by many to be the greatest high lead singer, it seemed like I should include these two on my blog.

If you like bluegrass and don't know the high lead and tenor singing of these two "naturally high" singers Paul Williams and Bobby Osborne....well, you just need to check them out. They truly set the bar for high lead bluegrass singing. Both men are 70-something, a time when most folks are winding down and sitting in a recliner watching reruns of I Love Lucy, but these road warriors are out there showing the young'uns how it is done - and blowing the doors off. Hats off to Paul and Bobby - two of the cleanest, clearest singers you'll ever hear anywhere.

I sure enjoyed watching Hsueh-Cheng "Ryo" Liao, original fiddler for the Bluegrass 45, onstage. Colonel Jim Peva and others have pointed out how music can heal wounds and bridge gaps between cultures. Bluegrass was born at a time when there was a lot of healing to be done between Japan and the USA. In 1971, the Bluegrass 45 first came from Japan to America and caught more than a few bluegrass ears with their energetic, dedicated-to-tradition, take on bluegrass music. Their shows always include some traditional Japanese songs as well as many bluegrass standards. The 45 first appeared at Bean Blossom back in 1971 and made many new fans there. A couple of years later the great Japanese photographer, Nobuharu Komoriya came to America and photographed our bluegrass world through the eyes of his culture, making breathtaking photographs at places like Bean Blossom. Later he published a wonderful book, "Blue Ridge Mountains: Friendly Shadows." Sadly, that book is out of print. Komoriya is a top shelf photographer and his images of bluegrass in 1973 (?) are among the best I've seen anywhere, particularly those of a "younger" Bill Monroe.

Bluegrass 45 member Akira Otsuka has lived in the US for many years and many of you will know him from his playing (mandolin) with Peter Rowan, Grass Menagerie and other groups as well as his involvement with the Kids' Academy at Grey Fox; Akira's lead-singing, guitar-playing brother Josh (also possessed of the famous Otsuka grin) resides in Japan, as do brothers Toshio Watanabe (bass) and Sab Inouye (sp?, banjo). Many of you know Toshio and Sab from their long involvement in IBMA, bluegrass recording, their bluegrass distribution business B.O.M. Limited, and the Japanese bluegrass magazine, Moonshiner, which has great pictures but is difficult to read if you don't understand kanji . 'Course I like reading pictures the best, anyway.

More later.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cinnamon Toast, Sis, Recycling and Scooter the Blue Tick Beagle

My life is probably a lot more exciting than yours. Take this morning. Sis is on holiday and I wake to the smell of cinnamon toast. So? Sis never rises before me here on the mountain. Something's amiss and I begin the day by breaking a routine -- I don't make my bed before going downstairs. I am one of those strange people who adheres to routines such as bed-making, turning off lights and...doing dishes as I dirty them. In fact, when working in the kitchen with sis, I am often scolded for putting away things before she has the chance to use them. Things quickly go downhill . Sis vows to do the dishes, picks up the nest around her chair, and even rinses out the Diet Pepsi cans and puts them in the recycling bin on the porch. I'm thinking...what is she not telling me? This behaviour is WAAAAY out of character.

But it simply turns out that she has a conference call later on and wants to go ride her horse prior to that call. She has her life organized so that seeing her horse is merely a two hour round trip drive...not bad, eh? Add in grooming before and after riding and you might get like 30 minutes or an hour to actually ride on a day when you have anything else at all to do.

I remind sis that there are 4 cast-iron pedestal sinks out in the barn that I've vowed to carry to the town recycling this morning - but I need her help to get them in the truck. She doesn't want to do it, but fears the wrath of MaryE (it is horrible) so she pitches in and we make short work of stubbing our toes, pinching our fingers, losing our tempers and getting all that stuff into the truck. Down to see Joe at recycling; they have a metal disposal walk-in dumpster that's heaped up with cast iron sinks, lawn mowers, washing machines, andirons...and today we add rusty tractor chains, 3 cast iron sinks and a few small items to the heap.

So sis zooms off to her horse and I start to head for home when I pass by the town kennels where they have dogs up for adoption. I hear this a hound speaking and turn in shock....there stands a blue tick beagle!!! You can't imagine what passes through my mind just then but I rush over to this little hound and give it all my love (and I've got a whole lotta love for a hound). This is a sweet, sweet little guy named Scooter. Now would any of you be needing a beagle named Scooter? I hope so. Right now he's got a good temporary home here in the Catskills. They take incredibly good care of the dogs there at the town offices. They have nice kennels and a big dog run and a long list of volunteers who come every day and walk each dog at least twice. They have food, water, cover and even human attention. But I have to tell you it breaks my heart to see a blue tick beagle at the town kennels! So if any of you need a sweet little dog (NOT an indoor kind of dog) named Scooter, get in touch with me. He's not neutered, but he's sweet and might make someone a good hunting dog - and surely a loving pet. I'd have him myself but my life on the road isn't conducive to having a pet, sadly.

Let's find Scooter a home! (I'll try to post a picture later).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bean Blossom!

Murdoch from Scotland (left)

Jim Peva, master and host of the biggest and best campsite at Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom Bluegrass park, reminds me that I've yet to write about the eight glorious days I recently spent at the 40th annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass festival. But let me backtrack a bit.

It was the mid-1980s when I first made my way to Bean Blossom (BB). Bill Monroe was still very much alive and it seemed like wherever you went on the grounds he was there in front of you. Now he's been dead for nearly 10 years and BB still feels a bit that way - like he's still there - especially on some of those VERY early morning walks out among the trees and around the lake. Monroe liked to take those walks with Bentley and it's easy to imagine Monroe's spirit lingering there still.

One of the things that stands out most in my memories of Bean Blossom is the Peva campsite with its huge, always-burning campfire, Liars Bench and rustic seating, the big cast iron tripod with its grill and some good food always a-cookin.' I've eaten many a bacon sandwich there at the Pevas. Seems like their door is always open, especially to the many guests from other lands who find their way over to Peva Hospitality Central. Every year we're graced by visits from some of our Japanese friends - the Bluegrass 45 guys and so many whose names I've forgotten. This year we had Murdoch (hope I spelled that right) from Scotland with his cut-it-with-a-knife burr along with the Bluegrass 45.

I remember last year introducing this sweet little older Japanese man to the Gillis Brothers whom I'd been photographing backstage. He was down at the bottom of the long flight of steps and I motioned him to come on up as it was clear he was seeking an autograph. It was kind of funny. He was all a-quiver and I thought that was quite odd for an older Japanese man (perhaps the Japanese are losing some of their reserve?) and he was just like turned inside out to meet the Gillis Brothers and ran up all those stairs with a grin that spanned the miles and sort of embraced one of the Gillis' and said he loved them. Pretty funny, but I knew how he felt. See, I've felt the impact of the Gillis BROTHERS a time or two myself. Larry and John together will jolt you slam off your seat and kick you in the gut on your way to the ground. So it really wasn't that surprising that this little man was all in a tizz after sitting through a set of in-your-face Gillis music experienced in the serene natural sanctuary of Bean Blossom. Does it get any better than that? Call it what you will; special things happen at the Bean.

As usual I digress, but perhaps that's my role. What would be cool is if I can find the photo of this man I made with John and Larry. His grin says it ALL!

To jump ahead, I'm thinking the Uncle Pen Days being held September 20-23 ( this year near Bean Blossom, Indiana, may be especially wonderful because they immediately precede the IBMA festivities ( only four hours' drive away in Nashville, Tennessee. IBMA runs from September 25 through October 1). Make it a nice little bluegrass trip - first to Bean Blossom, Indiana, the "bluegrass mecca", and then on to Music City USA and the IBMA wing-ding. Not bad, eh? And you really could use just a little more bluegrass after that, so why not plan to head on up to Kentucky right after IBMA and visit the IBMM in Owensboro ( ) then swing over to the great festival near Rosine Kentucky( ) at Bill Monroe's restored homeplace October 5-8. Besides the thrill of seeing the old house so beautifully appointed, you'll get to meet a whole bunch of true blue bluegrass fans and hear a whole lot of bluegrass music played Monroe-style. It's a great little festival and well worth a visit.

But now...back to Bean Blossom. Dwight Dillman has taken Monroe's park and, while taking pains to preserve the "Monroe flavor" has actually succeeded - at tremendous expense - in making it a much more comfortable place to camp. Some of the amenities include flush toilets, hot showers, and plenty of gravel as well as lovely shaded campsites in groves of trees with electric and water hookups. While he could have cut down all the trees in the concert area to make room for more lawn chairs, he kept a goodly number to provide shade and, again, to preserve the "feel" of the old Bean Blossom during the days of Monroe. I like that. While the old stage has been replaced with a new, larger one, I can only see that as a good thing.

I suppose arguing about which festival is best is kind of pointless because we probably all have strong opinions about such things. I'll say I've had some really fine times at Bean Blossom and several good, life-long friendships have formed there, but I suppose above and beyond all the things I like about BB is the feeling I have when I go there, especially late at night walking around to the jam sessions. There's just this feeling that Bill Monroe isn't too far off. He's there in the faces of children as Molly Cherryholmes takes the time to coach them on a fiddle tune at the kids' camp. He's there onstage with Tom T and Marty Stuart as they do a Jimmy Martin tribute; he's there on Sunday morning as Miss Margie Sullivan stands up with her mountain-moving conviction and preaches an old timey message; he's there in the licking flames of Peva's campfire on a chilly fall night as old friends gather there and talk softly, maybe pick up a guitar or a fiddle and play one....

That's just a peek into why I like Bean Blossom....and go there again and again.