Sunday, December 20, 2009

WoodSongs HD-TV

Subject: The WoodSongs High-Def TV Drive,

Dear Friends & Fans of WOODSONGS,

How can we ever say Thank You! to everyone who supported our broadcast ... Thanks to the audience, to the radio stations and public television stations that broadcast our show, to the artists who travel to our hometown of Lexington, KY to appear on our stage ... and to the absolutely amazing WoodSongs Crew who volunteer to produce 44 new programs each year.

2009 was a banner year for WoodSongs, everyone from Judy Collins to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band graced our stage. Already, our 2010 schedule is filling up with incredible roots artists from around the world who want to meet the 2 million listeners and viewers of WoodSongs. Our goal is to enhance and improve our broadcast so that we can rise up to the challenge and level of the music we are presenting.

That's not always so easy ... even though WoodSongs is all-volunteer run (me, the engineers and TV directors, the crew, even the artists who appear on the stage are all volunteers) it still takes a great amount of resources to keep the show growing. Hey, it costs a LOT to work for FREE! Our show is sponsored by you, the audience ... not big corporations.

So for the first time, and we do this with great caution and respect, we will invite the audience to directly suppport the show.
There are three ways you can help:

a) Keeping attending the WoodSongs show tapings. You folks are AWESOME and you make WoodSongs look and sound great every week as you fill the Kentucky Theater. Thank you!!!

b) Become a WoodSongs Partner. This next year we hope to increase our family of WoodSongs Partners by an additional 200 people. It is fun, simple, fast, cheap, you get cool stuff plus it really, REALLY helps stabilize the show financially. If you are already a Partner, Thank you! Maybe you can invite your friends and co-workers to be part of our musical effort.

c) We need to turn the WoodSongs TV broadcast into a high-definition program.

We are doing great on TV. Nationwide, public television stations (thanks to Insight Communications and KET) have been airing our show coast-to-coast. But the TV world is quickly converting to high-def ... and WoodSongs is only basic, standard def. If we don't move now we will begin losing this massive TV base we have achieved. Staying standard-def would be no different than if we stayed mono while the world turned stereo. We must upgrade soon.

So, we are trying to raise $260,000 ... yes, you are reading the correct number ... to buy the hi-tech gear, switchers, lights, lens and cameras we need to make WoodSongs the biggest, the best, the most successful broadcast of its kind in the world. If you are comfortable enough to pitch in, every $10, $25, $50, $100 counts ... heck $1000. If you want to make a small, medium or legacy donation, we would love to talk to you.

To be clear: WoodSongs is thriving, healthy and doing great - we simply need to make it BETTER as fast as possible.
Somewhere out there, there is a music-loving angel reading this who can become the biggest "WoodSongs Partner" ever.

To support the WoodSongs High-Def TV Drive, please call us at 859-255-5700, email or mail your support to WoodSongs, PO Box 200, Lexington KY 40588.
Yes we take credit cards. Yes you can make a large donation into WoodSongs, Inc (501-c-3) and take a tax credit.

As always, Thank you!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Somewhere In My Broken Heart


The greatest threat of injury we face in this life comes not at the hand of our enemy, but from the the hand of the one who claims they love us.

Our greatest pain comes from one who was thought to be the greatest source of comfort. The circle of love has always been an exhilarating ride that, inevitably, plunges many into the shear depths of heartbreak and hell. I admire those who have been dealt kindly in this regard ... they are the lucky ones.

Love places us at great, grave risk. The one we love has a harsh, powerful and deadly weapon at their disposal ... the ability to simply change their mind. The loss of love is our most cruel of all pains, because it is often done at the hand of one we loved, needed and trusted the most. Don't ever take for granted that the person you have deep affection for will be there tomorrow ... the first step for total loss is often complete confidence. And trust.

There is no shield for this. No defense. No protection. No warning. We can accomplish many things in this life except for one basic fact: we can not change anybody's mind about anything. This is something they have to do themselves.

And so Billy Dean came on WoodSongs this past Monday night, carrying in his work-bag of songs and stories probably the most honest and devastating song about loss in recent country music history. "Somewhere In My Broken Heart" was a huge, heartbreaking ballad of intense personal devastation and it rocketed to the top of the charts and helped Billy sell over 4 million albums. He co-wrote it with the great songwriter Richard Leigh, who joined Billy on stage Monday night.

And as they sang the song during the show ... Billy is a fine singer and a talented and rich guitarist as well ... I couldn't help but reflect back to losses and love lost. Even my own. The song connects because so many have felt this emotional knife plunge deep into our souls at the hand of one we trusted and needed the most.

And, my, how the walls of an empty home can thunder in a tsunami of dark stillness at four in the morning ... I encourage anyone who has felt the stunning silence of someone you love drifting away from you to check out the song on YouTube. Here's a link:

This clip is the music video of the song, filmed back when a music video was about the song and not just a blatant marketing vehicle to sell product. I wish record companies got it through their head that the audience only cares about the song, not the marketing plan. Oh, well.

So, a tip of the glass to all on the mend, to any who have carried the weight of someone leaving, to those who have felt the coldness of a steal blade piercing through their soul as the one you love gives up ... and walks away.

I've been off the blogging effort for a while. It's been an unusual and busy four months, to say the least. I've been traveling a lot, working on the new Ravenwood CD, working on the Caney Creek motion picture, Walden is still being shown on PBS stations and it is now released on DVD, WoodSongs has had several special event shows, two kids ... you get the idea.

Next week, a double broadcast event with Sam Bush ... and for the first time in our show's history, I will have a co-host on a broadcast. Thanks for listening and supporting WoodSongs!


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Michael Martin Murphy and Tom Rush

I remember the very first WoodSongs show.

It was in Kevin's old studio behind Flagfork Farm on Broadway in Lexington. We could barely seat 15 people. My friend Rob "The Beatnik Cowboy" McNurlin was the only artist on the show.

Times have changed.

We now pack a 400 seat concert hall every Monday no matter who is on the show. The audience comes regardless. Blind Boys of Alabama, Jakob Dylan ... or 11-year old Almire Fawn. The Kentucky Theatre fills up. To stand on that stage before the show starts remains a moving experience for me, I feel the same rush each week as I walk up from behind the curtains and see so many that support the WoodSongs idea.

And speaking of "rush" ...

I recall being in junior high when "Wildfire" first came out. I would crank up the radio each time it did .... I loved that song. So you can imagine what a total blast it is that Michael Martin Murphy would come on the show, not once, but twice so far. Each time, he and I would have dinner afterward and I would get to know this very kind hearted, true-to-the-core artist that I've admired for so long. And we talk good-cop, bad-cop politics, which is a lot of fun. MMM is a tremendously intelligent man who cares very much about society and music and who almost single handedly reintroduced the music of the American west to an entire generation of young people.

And speaking of "Rush" ...

Tom Rush has been a musical mentor for me in many ways. His passion for the unknown artist and for using his fame as a stepping stone to introduce artists like Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor ... not to mention Shawn Colvin, Susanne Vega and Dar Williams ... to the music public is a template for generosity not seen since Pete Seeger's early days. It was Tom Rush's example that gave birth to my phrase "... you don't have to be famous, you just have to be good" that I use on the show each week.

Imagine the rush ... Tom and MMM on my stage at the same time.

... and who ever said folk music was boring :)


Monday, March 02, 2009

The Dimensions of Art

It is the difference of seeing a Van Gogh online, verses seeing it in a museum. It is hearing the album in your earbuds, verses watching the concert onstage. It's viewing the song on YouTube, verses singing the song to your family gathered in the living room on a winter night.

It's two dimensions vs three ... the great artistic war of the new century.

Years ago, all art was three dimensional. It captured all of your senses and immersed you in the baptism of another artists life and spirit. It wasn't reproduced, it was experienced. That is what art, true art, is for.

This changed with the advent of two wonderful inventions: the photograph and the record player. Let me repeat: they are wonderful. But only when they and their resultant offspring are kept in their proper place.

The photograph, which morphed into television, computer screens and iPods, captured a three dimensional soul ... whether a person or a mountain or a flower in a vase ... and relegated it down into the two dimensional world. In perfect form, this would inspire others to go out and experience the mountain, meet the person and smell the fragrance of that beautiful flower.

The same with records and radio. These musical arts that, one time, thrived in a three dimensional world of small stages and clubs and courtyards, front porches and living rooms. Soon, the art was was captured and relegated down into the two dimensional world. In perfect form, and this often worked, the record and the radio would motivate the audience to learn that song or go see that artist in person.

Not any more.

We are, for the first time in human history, dealing with a generation who experience art and music primarily in the two dimensional world.

And that's a shame. Kids today experience art and music in cheap $15 earbuds, computer speakers, iPods, computer screens, TV and a couple of speakers wired to their stereo. It has become a very rare thing for kids and families to see music performed in person. venues, in this economy, are closing by the dozens and America is becoming venue starved. The opportunity for three dimensional art is becoming harder to find.

Even the "star system" is designed to remove art from you, selling you on the insane idea that only the "Star" is truly qualified to play music, therefore you are relegated down to a two dimensional participant. Your role is to buy the record. The farther the music industry can push you away from your own music, the better customer you become.

As the audience surrenders to the two dimensional world, and artists loose their ability to capture their attention as two dimensional art saturates people with an endless bombardment of mundane artist efforts, we must look to other artists who figured out a way to marry the two worlds together.

Pete Seeger comes to mind. Pete released his records, went on TV when he could, got played on radio ... all in an effort to get the three dimensional world, his audience, singing. And it worked.

The finest, truest role of the two dimensional media is to get real people involved with real art.

I try to do that on WoodSongs. The two dimensional media platforms are, as I said, wonderful. And a very powerful tool to inspire. But not replace. At the end of every show I try to encourage the audience eto use what they just heard as inspiration to play their own music.

And that's what I hope you do. Use WoodSongs, successful as it is on radio, public television and online, as a wellspring of inspiration to turn it all off and play your own song. Sing to your children. Play for your friends. Re-baptize your heart in the magnificent world of three dimensional art.

It is like a wonderful paradise of music and art.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009


It is snowing as I look out my farmhouse window tonight.

The woods feel so silent and still, the wind is just barely there, pushed away by the soft sounds of a fireplace in the next room. Without the kids here, the house is very still, very pensive. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for their return.

But I am torn with a lot of feelings tonight. A confusing tsunami of disappointment, regret, resignation ... and loss.

My mind is vivid with a technicolor memory of when I was still living in New York, long ago. Seventeen years old. Sleeping on a cot in the attic of a friends house by myself with everything I owned in a brown paper bag.

I had a part time job at a grocery store. I would change the prices on shelf items. They gave me a can of Lysol and a steel wool pad and I would scrub the ink off and then stamp the new prices on. A few years later that was all replaced by bar codes. But I was at my job this afternoon, an angry and ripped-to-shreds teenager that was put in a position to have leave his home.

I remember forcing myself to stay busy at my job. I needed the money now. I promised my friend I would pay rent for the little attic room. The feeling of that empty, hollow hurt in my chest is still there when I think back. I remember it very clearly. I was mad. I was scared. I was fed up.

And I was still just a kid.

And I remember looking up and seeing the tall, husky figure of him as he walked down the store isle to me. I called him dad, but he wasn't. I found out just a few years ago that I had another dad who died before I was born. That little piece of information answered a lot of things for me. I could never figure out why I was always treated differently, why I never fit in, why I didn't belong there. Then I found out. Dad wasn't my dad. And I carried this man's name publicly, but it wasn't really mine. I had two names. A public one and then a secret one that I could never say out loud. It made me not know who I was, or who I belonged to, or who I was supposed to be.

So I handled it all like I was still a kid.
Because I was.

And he walked up to me and asked how I was doing. And I said OK, too proud to ever look up. And he put his hand on my shoulder ... I don't ever recall he ever touched me before or after this day ... and said, "Let's go to the diner next door for a hamburger."

So, I put down my can of Lysol and my steel wool pad and left the store with him. That was OK, because, after all, this was HIS store and he gave me this part time job. And we sat at the diner counter and he didn't say much. I didn't say much. But he wanted to know if I was OK and he handed me some money in case I needed it. And then he left.

That was the closest I ever felt to him. I wanted to run out of the diner and grab him and hug him. I knew he cared about me. I knew that, in his heart, he didn't see a difference if I was his or not. And if left to his own inclination, he wouldn't treat me any different than my brother, who was his actual son.

But he wasn't my dad. And I wasn't his son.
And it mattered to me that I was reminded of that from others constantly.

And so I left. I left New York and went as far as I could without leaving the nation and landed on the Mexican border in Laredo, Texas and began a search, a journey that finally led me through trials and errors and stupid mistakes. I would have given the world to have a father to help me navigate through it all.

That journey led me to Melody. And Rachel. And my own son, MichaelB. And I learned from the things I missed, and try to be the best dad I can be for them. I tell them I love them constantly. They have a hug whenever they want, and when they don't expect it. I tell them that, someday, they will be in trouble. They might have done something bad that might even be their fault. They will be embarrassed or ashamed. And that's the day they will need their dad the most. And I will be there for them. No matter what. Always. And forever.

But tonight ... the snow is turning to ice tonight. And the cold is creeping into the farmhouse and I really need to put a another log in that fire. But I don't move, I don't leave this screen until I've finished writing.

Because Poppy died today.
And I didn't really know him that well. And he never really knew me. I saw him a few months ago and he was frail, no longer the husky Bull of a man I remember. I walked into the hospital room and he took my hand and he asked me how I was.

And for a moment, as I held his hand, I was seventeen again. And scared. Living in an attic and angry and alone. But only for a moment. Because I'm not a kid anymore and times and people change.

Poppy is gone, and I will forever miss the man that took me for a hamburger and sat with me that afternoon at that diner. And I will always regret that he and I never could get past what other people impuned on our relationship. I needed him, but could never tell him.

Instead, I put all that energy into my children. They are the life and light and joy of my life. And I sit here tonight, mourning my step father's passing ... a man I really never knew very well. Writing in this farmhouse thinking of my children ...

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for their return.