Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"I'm On A Horse!"

Actually, I'm playing my banjo to a horse ... this is a satire, based on the OLD SPICE commerial that was to most popular ad of television in 2009. It was filmed for my friends at WLEX, the NBC affiliuate in Lexington for the WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES coming later this fall.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lost Little Girl

I had songwriter JJ Grey and The Duhks on show #515 of WoodSongs. The broadcast went well, the theatre was full, the crew was great. Usually, when I am surprised that the hour is over (we tape the show in one solid 59 minute take) it usually means that it will be good ... and this show fulfilled that for me.

After the taping was over, we did the radio promo's and the TV spot. Things have changed and we don't do those at the Theatre anymore, which is better for the audience, I think. Anyway, it was time for the encores.

Now, a few months earlier a WoodSongs crew member named Ruth Adams was at the Saturday morning Farmer's Market in downtown Lexington. This used to be great event, situated along Vine Street along three blocks of sidewalks and farmers would set up their tables and tents along the way setting out freshly picked tomatoes and corn and everything you could possibly want. People would stroll along with coffee and kids in hand, musicians would be set up on each sidewalk corner, singing ... or "busking" as it is called ... to the hundreds of people milling about on a lazy Saturday morning.

There was a little girl busking that morning, a little tiny explosion of a smile, playing her guitar and harmonica, belting out everything from Dylan to Neil Young. Ruth called me up and thrust her cell phone in front of the little girl as she played.

"Not bad for an eleven year old kid," says I.

Fast forward several months now back to the stage on WoodSongs. The encores are about to begin and I notice through the TV lights this little girl sitting with her parents toward the front of the theatre with her guitar in her lap. Turns out she's a JJ Grey fan, so I go with the moment and invite her up onstage to get it autographed.

Of course, she wasn't about to limit the opportunity to just that, and proudly announced that she loved JJ Grey and actual re-wrote one of his songs. Oh really ... and it occurred to me that this might be that little kid I heard through the cell phone a few months back.

So, I pulled the mic off the stand and held it in front of her ... and Almira Fawn unleashed a beautiful guitar and harmonica rendition of Appalachia, while JJ Grey stood on stage in total, complete surprise.

We had quite a conversation after the show. I met her dad and mom. Don and Umi were very supportive parents who deeply loved Almira, and it was very clear to me that they were supporting Almira's own passion, not pushing her to do anything. Almira was driving this boat and mom and dad were there to help her set sail.

Eight weeks later, I worked with her mom and dad and, on WoodSongs show #523, Almira Fawn was a featured guest on the broadcast, the youngest I've ever invited. That broadcast just aired on PBS stations across the country. The pic above is Almira on that show with her guitar teacher, David McLean.

This past week, Almira's mom was beaten to death outside her home here in Lexington. I don't know where this story is going to go, or how it is going to end. My own son is about Almira's age and I can't for the life of me ever imagine this kind of shock or pain being injected into his little life. All I know is that on Tuesday, Almira was getting ready to move to Nashville and begin her new career with her new manager and agent. She had her home, her family and her life.

By Thursday she was placed into protective foster care and her mom was gone forever.

I'm hugging my kids a lot lately. I'm consumed with them and telling them I love them a lot. And my heart goes out to little Almira and what is left of her family. I hope in the core of my spirit that she ends up being OK. And I hope she uses her music to heal again.

Maybe you can help her, just go to and buy one her CDs.

friend and dad

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Robin & Linda Williams, Si Kahn, Appalshop ... and a snowstorm.

Well, the day started out like a nice, normal winter morning. Up early, coffee in hand sitting in front of my fireplace at the farmhouse leafing through my notes for the show taping later that evening.

Then, it started to snow.

Now, a lot of you folks live in areas where snow and flurries are no big deal. I grew up in upstate New York. When I was a kid, it would take three feet of snow and chains on the tires of the buses before anyone would dare even think about canceling school.

Last winter in Kentucky they canceled school in 16 counties because it might snow. It didn't snow, but the fact that it might was all it took to shut 'er down.

So, when I looked out the window this cold morning and saw flurries ... panic set in. I flip on the TV and, yep, sure enough: school is canceled everywhere.

What would that mean for WoodSongs? Robin and Linda Williams are soldiers of the road and they were driving in from northern Indiana. I called them on their cell and, yes, they were on the highway heading for Lexington.

Si Kahn had to catch a flight from North Carolina to get here. I check the flight schedules online ... cancellations all over the south but oddly enough Si's plane is scheduled to leave on time. As the morning rolls on, his flight departs, snowstorm and all.

That means the artists are showing up and we will have a show. The show was sold-out, but will we still have an audience? Heck, will we have a crew? WoodSongs is all volunteer run ... nobody is paid to work or take risk. The snow keeps coming down, the roads get icy. Three members of the Hippy Chick Strings are trapped in their homes as plow trucks haven't come their way. The reservation line gets filled with messages from audience members canceling their seats for the evening.

We get to the Theater about 2pm and, lo and behold, we have a full crew inside setting up speakers, running cables and making coffee. The WoodSongs Crew showed why, yet again, they are the best in the world. Robin and Linda get to town and Si Kahn makes it to the Kentucky Theater for sound check.

Everybody is in good spirits, sound check defies the laws of physics and we are ready for the doors to open.

A whole six people wander in.

Good grief. Si flew all the way here. Robin and Linda are featured artists nationwide on A Prairie Home Companion. And only six folks take their seats?

OK. Take a deep breath. Robin, Linda and Si are all friends of mine. They know the deal when the weather works against a show. But still ...

And that's not the only problem. The reason Robin, Linda and Si are on the show is because Appalshop in east Kentucky is celebrating their 40th anniversary, and this WoodSongs would be a tribute to them. Someone from Appalshop is supposed to travel to Lexington and be on this broadcast but east KY was being hammered with snow and those mountains are not fun to navigate when your car tires are slipping across the mountain roads.

The clock edges toward seven o'clock. I peek through the curtains and by now over 100 folks have braved the frigid temps and snow and are in their seats. Hey, on a night like this I'll take a full-third of a house any day! Finally, a brave Marcie Crim from Appalshop arrives last second and she's ready to come on stage.

WoodSongs fires up and the audience sounds as loud and energetic as a sold out crowd. Robin and Linda and their Fine Group play their hearts out. Si offers up songs from his new CD and talks about his new book. Marcie does a great job explaining Appalshop and WMMT radio ...

... and it all happened for free. Nobody got paid a cent to struggle through the cold day and make this WoodSongs happen. It shows that, when it counts the most, passion will always trancend payment. The heart is always more powerful than the wallet.

Anyway, I can't wait till spring ...