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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An IBMA Moment - October 2007

So don't give up hope, folks, I've heard a bunch of the True Bluegrass and a good bit of good old time music here at IBMA this year. I reckon folks are still seeking to hear something "real" with some melody to it.

Last night around 3 am I saw a bit of a crowd gathering outside the main door to the Renaissance and stepped out there to find Dave Evans holding court there on a park bench seated next to Booey Beach (now just a shadow of his former self) and singing some of his fans' favorite songs. This was after walking down on 5th Avenue to say goodbye to my Paisley-Lundy-Eldreth buddies. Adam Poindexter plunked himself right down there, too, and we all enjoyed a bunch of songs from the powerful Evans.

It was a beautiful early fall evening in Nashville and a crowd soon gathered to drink in the beautiful soulful songs of Evans. Around about 4 am he decided it was time to go home so I slid off to catch a few hours' sleep.

Now my pals up in the California Bluegrass Association's suite are gearing up for a big post-awards show crowd somewhere around about 1 am, and I think I'll go up there and see if we can pick a few while it's still quiet. I'll try to keep you posted if I can, but a few folks have already come along to this free computer in the 3rd floor lounge sort of getting a little testy because i'm standing here writing so much, so I may have to let them have a go.

Really, though, don't knock IBMA in Nashville...I think this is the best place for it to be.

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IBMA - the Place to Be! -- October 4, 2007

Whether you like Nashville or not (how can you dislike Nashville, anyway?) this is the place to be this week of the year and I'm sure glad I'm here. Though I'm playing a couple of songs here on Saturday during FanFest, I'm proud to be an IBMA volunteer. I can't say how many thousands of bluegrass folks are here at the Renaissance Center this week but let me tell you it's just about everyone you can think of in bluegrass music today.

Right now 90% of them seem to be off at the Awards Show at Opryland but I'm one of the few who elected to stay behind at the hotel and man the fort. Several semi-quiet jams have sprung up on various floors and lounges around the hotel, but around 1 am tonight things are going to be chaotic around here as the winners (and losers) return to the fold.

But let me tell you a few things about what's been happening here in Nashville from my perspective. Of course Danny Paisley and his great band took this place by storm doing several showcases before pulling out of here late last night. If Paisley 'n'em don't win the Horizon Award at IBMA in 2008 then I reckon I'll eat my hat and just quit this outfit altogether. Those boys are that good and for my money they are playing the best brand of "old timey bluegrass" that anyone could possibly deliver. So mark my words: Horizon Award next year after their first Rounder album is released. In their showcases I'm proud to say that you just didn't hear Danny and them repeat the same old tired set from here to there -- no, they repertoire is such that they can pretty much create a new and fresh set list for every show. They did not fail to delight folks like me who followed them from place to place - from the big "official" evening showcase on Tuesday night where they brought the house down to the late night showcases over in the convention center where there were SRO crowds and a whole lot of hooting and hollering. They did such tunes as "Sail Away Ladies" and you just can't beat TJ Lundy's fiddling; and "Please Don't Throw Mama's Flowers Away" penned by our own Chris Stuart (what a great writer he is)...the crowd were way into the Paisley music (and I wore my "politcally correct" Paisley shirt in honor of Danny 'n'em) and were cheering the singing and picking even during the songs! Danny sang "The Room Over Mine," one of my current favorites.

Another real delight for me and people of the same ilk - those who are believers of the True Old Time Country Bluegrass sound -- were the showcases presented by Rebel recording artist Dave Evans. My favorite was the set he did on Tuesday night for Tom T and Dixie Hall - just he and his guitar and banjo slaying the crowd with his heartfelt song stories and cathartic delivery of the music that I love so well. I got to sit next to my old pal Mark Freeman and we were both reveling in the pure emotional impact of Evans' singing...the man next to me was overwhelmed by Evans' approach. And so it was the following evening when Evans appeared with a full band including son Tracy on guitar and Brian Wicklund on fiddle and Chris Davis on mandolin and (sorry I forgot his name) on Bass....great stuff....later he did a set featuring Michael Cleveland on fiddle and even later (I finally left this impromptu session around 4 am!) Dave was sitting outside the main entrance to the hotel on a park bench singing and picking Booey Beach's guitar and tantalizing a big crowd of folks as he delivered some of his most-loved songs, just he and his guitar. It simply does not get any better. I, wanting to be up close to this great singer had to settle for sitting in a potted plant; I think it was a ficus tree, and ended up with Adam Poindexter picking bugs out of my hair!

Had nice conversations with so many folks like Pete Wernick who told me of a Hot Rize/Red Knuckles retrospective book he's working out for that...and Roni Stoneman who was drawing folks to the University of Illinois book booth on Wednesday afternoon like ants to, what a funny woman she is. She said some amazing things that I just had to write down! Got to visit with so many friends from the L - Mike Ramsey had a look at my foxhunting photos from Wales, and i had a nice visit with RAndy and Judy Gehman and lots of folks from the California Bluegrass Association (who are responsible for my current wine buzz!) Had a nice visit with buddy Jon Weisberger who said he saw my previous message about IBMA to the L - he was reading it on a blackberry or some other small device -- poor guy - wouldn't wish that on anyone.

While thousands are now headed out to Opryland for the big Awards Show I'm comfortably ensconced in the 3rd floor lounge at the Renaissance Hotel on Commerce Street in Nashville. This is just such a great time I can't rave about it enough.

There's too much to say and I really need a nap (and several glasses of water right about now) but I'll try to tell you about a few things I've been enjoying. One really great thing about the IBMA is the "I" -- the international aspect. This is a great place to meet folks who are so keen about bluegrass music that they've come thousands of miles and spent their entire vacations to be here. Some of them are VERY good musicians -- and ALL of them are very enthusiastic. It is infectious (in a good way). I'm also pleased to say that while I am known to be a bit disillusioned with the general direction of the music that is referred to bluegrass these days there are, in fact, many people who are keeping with the "true faith" and carrying on the GOOD music, even today. Too, there is a fairly sizeable old time music presence here this year - so much so that Bob Carlin and friends organized an entire night of old time showcases last evening. Sadly I only heard parts of a couple of them, but Rebekah Weiler and John and Robert Montgomery led off the evening with some wonderful old time tunes. Then Carlin took the stage accompanied by Matt Combs, Mike Compton and Mark Simos, worth the price of admission. But I had a lot of bands to hear so I didn't get to stay for the whole evening. The evening was capped off by an old time jam which, unfortunately, I missed since I was firmly ensconced in a chair down on the 1st floor of the convention center listening to Dave Evans delivering classic, heartbreaking performances of such songs as "Barbry Allen" and "Short Life of Trouble." Yikes, it doesn't get any better!

Yesterday afternoon I did a photo mentoring session with my friend Becky Johnson. Sadly, only two people came to talk with us, but we had a good time visiting with each other. I was a bit tired since I'd stayed up until 7:30 am singing good old country twang songs with my old pals Mark Lilly and Rad Lewis (from Lilly's Mountaineers)...up in the lobby on the 20th floor of the hotel. That was a time to remember and I'll cherish the memory for a long time.

Roni Stoneman came to the University of Illinois booth to sign copies of her newly-released biography written by L member Ellen Wright....apparently a whole lot of folks came by to buy the book and laugh themselves to death at Roni's funny stories (she sure put a kink in my side).

The Paisley bunch concluded their set with "Take Your Shoes Off Moses" and more than a few folks were jumping up and down with the excitement of it all. These boys are reminding folks what bluegrass is supposed to sound like.

I met L-er Dave Blood and we were talking about Dave Burley who is largely misunderstood. I hope you all are keeping him in your thoughts and prayers as he faces the complications of a serious illness. He's a good man (even if he doesn't love Ralph as much as I do).

Now when Dave Evans did "99 Years" I thought he was going to kill the man who was sitting next to me on the first row in the Rebel Records showcase. He's a good-sized man, well over 6 feet tall and he commenced to crying, tearing pouring down his cheeks, and slinging snot all over (just kidding, sort of) and then wiping his eyes over and over and then Dave ended his set and he was kind of quivering. Though Mark Newton seemed to want to get the next act on (and keep the show on schedule) the crowd of folks who are fans of the True Bluegrass (such as that emoted by Dave Evans) wouldn't have none of that and stood and yelled so loud that Dave came back to do "One Loaf of Bread," perhaps his signature song. The man beside me, Fred from California was already in an emotional tizz, but when Dave launched into that number he leaned over to me and said, "I first heard him 18 years ago as I was driving down the road. I HAD to pull over right then and there. This is the FIRST time I've ever gotten to see him live." I looked down at Fred's arms which he was rubbing vigorously and saw that he had the "chicken skin" (or chill bumps) as bad as ever I've seen I was burning up and he was freezing to death. By the time Dave brought the Loaf of Bread to a close I, too, had the shivers. He's that good, folks.

So Tuesday night after seeing the Lilly Mountaineers only showcase I stayed up singing all these old country songs (my true love) with Mark and Rad and then I was tired all day but it's kind of fun to be on autopilot at these events. I could try to list everyone I've talked to and heard sing and play but it would probably be easier to say who I haven't seen! Anyone who says IBMA in Nashville isn't a good thing is clearly out of touch because it is GREAT here.

Take today, for example. After the Awards Luncheon, Pati Crooker, Shari and I decided to walk up to the Tennessee Museum to visit the great Marty Stuart exhibition there -- called "Sparkle and Twang" it's an exhibit featuring his wonderful photographs and memorabilia, a great collection of Nudie and Jaime and Manuel clothing from all sorts of country music stars...and well, it's just great -- and free! I spent a couple of happy hours there this afternoon and may go back again before I leave Music City. One of my friends said when she visited the exhibit earlier in the week Marty was actually there. He's so cool.

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Live from IBMA - October 2, 2007

Hello from beautiful downtown Nashville Tennessee where the weather is perfect and the streets are alive with bluegrass fans! IBMA here in Nashville is a wonderful thing, I think, and I'm enjoying every single moment.

As I've been sitting here in the lounge on the first floor by the Starbuck's counter and just in front of the five elevators that take folks up to about 25 floors of beautiful hotel accommodations, I've had visits with Roland White, Casey Henry, Larry Perkins, Sally Jones, Kathy Chiavola and probably a bunch more I can't think of right now. Folks are on their way down to the Exhibition Hall.

If you've never been to IBMA you're really missing out on a wonderful event. There are great jam sessions all around the halls and rooms and there are seminars on all sorts of topics relevant to bluegrass. On Wednesday I am doing mentoring sessions on Bluegrass Photography and there are loads of other mentoring sessions going on in the same room. Of course Thursday is all about the Award Show out at the big Opry House (I wish it were still at the Ryman Auditorium...the Opry House just doesn't have any charm at all and yes I have been to both)....seems like bluegrass BELONGS at the Ryman. But I can't argue with the fact that the facilities are much larger and better at the Opry House - or the fact that they can seat a whole lot more folks in the audience (which translates to lots of $$$).

Worked yesterday at the registration desk and I just love being a volunteer. It's not really like work at all....seems like just about everyone who walks up to the counter to get their badge and Bluegrass Unlimited backpack happens to be someone I know from a band or a festival or somewhere just down the road. It's fantastic. The hours flew by (with a break for dinner and a fine keynote address by Tony Trischka following by several "official" showcase bands) and soon it was time to go to the After Hours Showcases which run from about 11 pm until 2 am. You have to have some endurance to survive all the amazing activities at IBMA. I'm worn out already I confess but I'm going to keep on keepin' on.

From my seat here in the lounge I can hear several jams around the lobby - I think jamming is allowed on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors plus a few other floors, but I'll confess that I don't know the ins and outs of that situation.

Heard a great set by Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass who never seem to deliver anything short of a power-packed set of great old time bluegrass music. Heard the lovely sisters "Gold Heart" doing sets at two or three different locations last night, and the Steel Drivers were winning fans (and promoters) with their wonderful brand of acoustic music (great to hear Tammy Rogers playing that fiddle "like a man" and to hear her WONDERFUl vocals). There was so much more but really my brain is just about scrambled at this point.

Later on, after the last late night showcase had concluded I came across my old friend Akira Otsuka teaching some mandolin to a young man up on the 2nd floor. And Dave Evans was holding court around the corner with folks like Paul Kovac playing banjo and Larry Perkins sitting on a tall barstool taking it all in. Down in the convention center I'd been amused by the antics of Arnold from the Netherlands (Hillbilly Boogiemen) and the Davidson Brothers from Australia and a crazy guy named Sean from northern Ireland and James Faris, too....they were being as fun and silly as people who have gathered together to drink a few beers and share a lot of laughs with friends around the world can be.

Anyway, I need to go and get together some photographs and head down to the trade show now so I'm going to pass this computer on to someone else who might want to use it. If I have a chance again I'll write more but allow me to say that I think the IBMA in Nashville is a WONDERFUL thing - don't knock it till you've tried it.

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