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Joseph E Bird

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music

will the circle be unbroken

I just finished watching a 16-hour documentary, Ken Burns’ Country Music.

I didn’t want it to end.

Rock and roll. Rhythm and blues. Funk. Soul. Classical. Americana. Roots. Never country. Almost never.

There was my Dwight Yoakam period. Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music. He was so country and old-school, he was hip.

Not long after that, Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin and produced American Recordings. Cash was old, the production bare, stripped down to Cash’s raspy, but still strong voice singing Nine Inch Nails and gospel and old folk songs. One of my favorite albums of all time.

I knew a little about Hank Williams. Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. Williams died in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Kathy Mattea was born just a few miles from where I was.

And somehow I knew that the music I listen to now, The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, Parker Milsap, has its roots in country music.

And then there’s this whole songwriting thing I’ve been tinkering with.

So when I heard about the Ken Burns film, I knew I was going to watch it from beginning to end.

And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s about music. There are beautiful voices, virtuoso instrumental performances, showmanship and charisma. But also performers who wouldn’t make the first cut in today’s made-for-tv singing competitions. Modest talent. Three chords and the truth. The truth being what it’s really all about. Triumph and joy, but more often struggle and heartbreak. Stories set to music. No achy-breaky heart. More like Roseanne Cash singing I Still Miss Someone at her father’s memorial.

If you’re a writer, you’ll find inspiration in the film. If you’re a songwriter, you should be required to watch it. It features some of the best songwriters ever.

I’m so lonesome I could cry. – Hank Williams

I’d trade all my tomorrows, for one single yesterday. – Kris Kristoferson

I’m crazy for trying, crazy for crying,
and I’m crazy for loving you. – Willie Nelson

Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son. – Vince Gill

I think I may be the only who saw it. Every time I try to start a conversation about it, seems like no one else has watched it.

Have you? If not, you can still watch the entire film online. Click the link below.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music/

the guitar

Come sit by the fire. I have a story to tell.

Ok, so it’s Verlon Thompson’s story. And Guy Clark’s.

whitey on the moon

I just got around to seeing First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong, first man on the man. It’s the 60s. You remember the 60s. Maybe you don’t. Young’uns. Crazy times, the 60s, culminating in 1969, of course, a year crammed full of historic events.

The movie sets the scene and doesn’t gloss over the turbulence of the day. There’s a snippet of a song, a poem, really, by Gil Scott-Heron that plays for a few moments, to illustrate that not everyone was thrilled with the space race. We should be spending money on other things, they said.

Whitey on the Moon.

Yeah, it’s easy to get riled up by the words, whether you agree or disagree. It’s easy to be offended. It’s easy to scream, right on.

That’s the power of the piece.

And it’s powerful because it’s poetry. Urban poetry set to music.

It’s hip and cool. The forerunner of rap.

Set aside the message for a moment. Listen to it as art. Appreciate the rhythms and the cadence and the genius of the form.

Dig it.

rich man’s frug

Meet my new unhealthy obsession, Suzanne Charny. She’s the dancer with the gloves.

She’s so aloof, so cool. And her hands in those gloves are mesmerizing. These days she’s an artist. Well, she always was. She’s simply changed media.

This is from the musical, Sweet Charity. Bob Fosse was the choreographer. It’s so much fun to watch. The dancing starts in a couple of minutes, after Shirley MacClaine gets settled in.

And when you try the walk – and make no mistake, you will try the walk – you’ll see how hard it is to keep your arms straight down while you’re leaning back. They make it look so easy.

Enjoy.

carnival dreams

you said you’d be pleased
to walk by my side
to breathe the night air
maybe go for a ride

so we walk down the shore
toward the music and light
with your hand in mine
feeling good, feeling right

then we stop for a drink
sipping cola on ice
and watch the wheel roll
and a toss of the dice

the carousel goes ’round
with the kids holding tight
never wanting to fall
but knowing they might.

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream

*

the smell of food fills the air
and it’s prodding my hunger
and your laugh fills my ear
makes me wish I was younger

i’d ask you to stay
to let go of tomorrow
let’s chart our own course
we’ll beg, steal, or borrow.

but our time is just this
cotton candy this eve
a quick kiss goodnight
and then you will leave

i’ll awake all alone
in the morning’s first light
and remember our time
in the carnival night

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

but my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream


copyright 2018, joseph e bird
.

nantucket sleighride

Snyder Family 1 for web
The Snyder Family Band in St. Albans, WV

A warm summer’s evening in Small Town USA, and some of the best music you’ll hear anywhere.  And that, my friends, is no exaggeration.  There will be no bad video uploads from me to taint the amazing musicianship of this family.  Look them up yourself.  You know how do to that.  Or take a look at Zeb’s take on Turkey in the Straw.

But they’re more than just another bluegrass band.  Zeb introduced one number as a prog rock (progressive rock) that Samantha wrote, and you could definitely hear the classical influence.  And Zeb’s got more than a little southern rock in his soul.  I don’t know if the two write together, but their play together is so tight, even as they take turns with virtuoso solos.  And there’s Dad – Bud – in the background, the glue that holds everything together as he puts down the bass line and keeps the rhythm.  The star of tomorrow?  Yeah, that’s Owen, who at twelve years old has a stage presence well beyond his years.  Mom?  She shows up onstage in some of the old photos on the internet, but she’s behind the scenes now, doing what all moms do, I imagine, and that’s keeping everybody in line as she manages the group.

In Small Town USA, they don’t care if you run all over the place taking pictures.  And backstage is just behind the yellow caution tape, where I got a chance to talk to Zeb and Owen and tell them how much I appreciated their music.  A great night, for sure.  Check out my photos below.

Zeb and Samantha 1 for web
Samantha and Zeb

Samantha Fresco for web
Samantha sings.

ZEb Fresco for web
Zeb high up on the fret board.

Owne Snyder plays for web
Young Owen.  You know you’re good when you can close your eyes while you play.

Bud Snyder for web
Bud is the rock, in more ways than one.  Happy Father’s Day.

zeb

This, my friends from around the world, is what Appalachian music is all about.  Not that I don’t love other music.  Just check out my Music page.  (Note to self:  Post some Foo Fighters, man.)  But everything about this video speaks to my world.  Zeb in his ball cap and his very non-millennial, non-hipster, Appalachian beard. The sled leaning against the wall.  The wood-burning stove.  Even the name.  Zeb.

And how can he be so good?  So easy?

The best part is Zeb Snyder and the Snyder Family Band is coming to my little town of St. Albans in June for the first ever YakFest.  Can’t wait.

these boys can play

I’ve kind of been viewing Pokey LaFarge as a little bit of a novelty act.  They may be completely quirky, but these guys are incredible musicians.  Don’t believe me, check it out.  That dude on the harp is insane.  The bass player is slapping like it’s nothing.  And yeah, the guitar player is pretty good, too.

morning jam

it’s monday.  time to get at it again.  you think you need a break?

no.

according to nathaniel rateliff and his night sweat buddies, you ain’t worked hard enough.

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