Comments? Suggestions? Requests? Use the Paper and Pen Open Page!

Have requests?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Now you can post them here on the new Paper and Pen page.  To comment on the Pen and Paper page, go to that page (click on the Pen and Paper menu heading, below the picture of the studio at top), scroll down to the end of the Comments, and add yours.  Newest comments are always at the bottom.

You can, of course, also post relevant comments under any individual post./CL

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Merle, Hank, and The Art of the Song

“I look for songs in the world around me”—Merle Haggard

I’ve been taking Merle Haggard for granted, for too long.  And suddenly, he’s gone.


Merle Haggard (, photographer not identified)

Merle has been a part of my life since the ’60s, so much a fixture that for me his contribution is hard to assess.  In order to explain his appeal, the temptation is to descend into intellectual frothery, like a review of the new Hank Williams movie in The New Yorker by one one Amanda Petrusich, who describes Hank’s catalogue as bridging the gap between “what the body wants (whiskey, sex, vengeance) and what the mind has vowed to forsake (whiskey, sex, vengeance)”—whatever that means. She goes on to characterize Hank’s status among country fans as “a high-water mark for sad-sack troubadours.”

Maybe Amanda Petrusich’s not old enough to remember the Sad Sack comic strip, but for those who are, that’s a slander.

There’s a better review of the film (which I guess I’ll have to see) by Michael Smith in The Tulsa World:

“I Saw the Light,” a film biography about country music legend Hank Williams, is the cinematic equivalent of a Wikipedia entry.

This dreadful movie hits the man’s historical mileposts, showing his alcoholism and his death at 29, but it gives no insight into the creation of his music.

It’s as though songs like “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey Good Lookin’ ” just happened.

That’s how tone-deaf the film is in understanding how a singer-songwriter crafts his music. The only thing this movie has cookin’ is boredom. . .

No, I haven’t forgotten Merle.  Michael Smith gets to the heart of the problem: Merle Haggard was really fine singer, a vocalist with, as John Lincoln Wright once said to me, “such a pretty voice.”  But he was an even greater songwriter, and ultimately that will be his legacy.  There was talk, while Merle was alive, of a film about his life—and what with losing his father, youthful truancy and crime leading to prison, there is plenty of history—but we have to hope that if it’s ever done, it won’t be another “cinematic equivalent of a Wikipedia entry.”

The question is, as Michael Smith implies, and Amanda Petrusich ignores: How do you bring the songs to life?  Can you explain “how a singer-songwriter crafts his music”?  I don’t know the answer.  Maybe you just look harder at the songs.

Merle Haggard’s father played fiddle, and it was said, sang (and looked) like Jimmy Rodgers.  James Francis Haggard died of a stroke when Merle was only 9.  Was that where the seeds were sown?  Or was it just the powerful musical talent just bursting through, part of his wild, youthful rebellion.  It was if he was born writing songs: when he was not running away, getting into trouble,

Through it all, the songs still flowed.

Over decades of trouble, fame, and more trouble, Merle Haggard never stopped making up songs. The country-music star seemed afflicted with a song-writing compulsion, much as Woody Guthrie was.

He penned his first ballads as a child. By later life, he claimed to have written 10,000 of them. . .

He had always composed, he said. He described his childhood self staring out of classroom windows, thinking of songs. Haggard recalled an uncle telling his mother, “if you want that boy to amount to anything, you better take that guitar out of his hands” (Jill Leovy, Los Angeles Times)

Thank God she never did.  And the world became the grist for Merle Haggard’s songwriting mill.  Much, much later, in 2004, Los Angeles Times writer Robert Hilburn reported:

Merle Haggard, the country music star who really did turn 21 in prison, just like it says in one of his songs, figures it cost the IRS nearly $100,000 the day an agent came to his ranch near here to try to figure out what goes into writing a hit.

Haggard’s tax return was apparently kicked out by the computer for too many business deductions and the agent wanted the songwriter to show him how the 200-acre spread in the mountains helped him do his work.

During a walk around the grounds, Haggard explained how a creek inspired one song, a flower bed led to another and a bulldog jump-started a third.

“Finally, this fellow looks at me and says, ‘Why, Mr. Haggard, everything you do is a write-off,’ and he started pointing out other things I should have declared,” the songwriter says, laughing so hard his whole body shakes.

“What he saw was that writing for me is an impulse. I don’t sit down with a pencil and paper and try to come up with songs. I look for songs in the world around me.”

I suppose in a sense every songwriter looks “for songs in the world around me,” but Merle Haggard had the gift of not only seeing what in his life needed a song, but of telling the listener why.  That’s really the function of any kind of writing, or art (and Merle considered country songwriting an “art form”), but Merle had the knack of telling it in simple, direct, and hauntingly melodic language.  LA Times writer Jilly Loevy again:

Simplicity was his creed, Haggard told Hilburn in a 2003 interview. “You’ve got to remember songs are meant to be sung,” he said. “You are not writing poetry.”

Meaning it is not just meant to be read, as poetry in the modern age has become, but sung.  It’s not ‘poetry’ in the literary sense, but “Life’s Like Poetry”:

Life’s too short to think about right or wrong
And the only thing I wonder about is where you’ve been so long
Baby finding you gave my whole life reason and rhyme

But life’s like poetry and in my poem bay
Until now there’s always been a missing line

Merle wrote that song for Lefty Frizzell, not long before Lefty died.  Ever since he was a teenager, Merle idolized Lefty, and masterfully made Lefty’s vocal style his own (Merle’s first club performance was after Lefty heard him sing in the green room, and insisted he perform on stage); listen to both Merle’s and Lefty’s recordings of “Life’s Like Poetry”:

(from the 1975 ABC album, The Classic Style of Lefty Frizzell)

(from the 1975 Capitol album, Keep Movin’ On; Merle’s long-time Capitol producer Ken Nelson succumbed, partly, to the lure of the ‘countrypolitan’ sound on that recording, which makes Lefty’s better.)

Merle was not only a deceptively plain wordsmith, but he was also a storyteller.  Indeed, all of his songs, one way or another, tell a story, implied or directly.  Again, that’s true of most songwriting, but Merle’s little (or sometimes large) stories draw not only on his own experience, but do so in a way that draw the listener in as well.  They never fall prey, as so many self-styled ‘singer-songwriters’ do, to heart-on-your-sleeve autobiography.  Merle’s own experiences and observations are the starting point; in an almost startling transformation, they become universal.  As Merle said of Hank Williams,

“There are lots of people who have written hits, but most songs don’t stick with us because you know and I know and the songwriter knows he’s just telling us about something that never really happened. But then you listen to Hank Williams’ ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You),’ and everybody knows this ol’ boy had his heart stepped on more than a few times. That’s what I’ve always wanted people to feel when they hear my songs.” (quoted by Robert Hilburn)

In a magazine/website called Performing Songwriter, interviewer Bill Demain in 2007 asked Merle, “Any advice for songwriters?”

Songwriting is an individual task. Mine comes from inside somewhere. Unexpectedly. I may go a year and never write anything, then write five songs in one day. I’ve been scared that it was over with a lot of times. I thought, “Well, this is it. I guess I’m not gonna write anymore.” And then I’ll come back and write something. It’s drawing from experience. Lefty Frizzell once said, “You don’t have to have lived the things you sing about, but you got to believe them.” And I think that’s true. But it’s better if you’ve experienced it.

Robert Hillburn came to see Merle in 2004, apparently armed with a folder of song lyrics.  He showed them to Merle, who after discarding one,

picks up another piece of paper. It’s “House of Memories,” a slow, haunting ballad also written in the mid-’60s but not one of his biggest hits.

“Now, here’s a song I still like,” he says. “It feels a little more me. To me, every word fits in the song. Nothing is in there just for show. That’s one of the most important lessons a writer can learn. You can’t fall in love with a $50 word or what you think is a clever rhyme and try to squeeze it into a song if it doesn’t work.”

(from the 1967 Capitol album, I’m a Lonesome Fugitive)

Aside from many of Merle Haggard’s classics, like “Mama Tried,” “Swinging Doors,” “Someday We’ll Look Back,” and so many others, the song that always affected me the most was “The Farmer’s Daughter” (from the 1971 Capitol album, Hag).  It’s a simple song about a father coming to terms with his daughter marrying a “city boy from town,” whose “hair is a little longer than we’re used to.”  The singer has to not only reconcile himself to losing a daughter, but he has to realize he trusts her judgement.  The song speaks to everyone who has married girls whose fathers looked askance, or worse, and to every father who has married off a daughter.  But it’s also a song of reconciliation and hope, on many levels, composed while the ‘counter-culture’ of the ’60s and the Vietnam War were still stirring up bitter passions. Merle himself was identified with the traditionalists (“Okie from Muskogee,” “The Fightin’ Side of Me”), but his real interests as a writer were in the personal, not the political.  Here the personal transcends the political, and becomes universal:

The Farmer’s Daughter

Tonight there’ll be candlelight and roses
In this little country chapel that’s almost falling down
There’ll be tears in this old farmer’s eyes this evening
When I give my one possession to that city boy from town

His hair is a little longer than we’re use to
But, I guess I should find something good to say
About this man whose won the farmer’s daughter
And will soon become my son-in-law today

Mama left eight years ago December
And it was hard to be a Dad and Mama too
But, somehow we made home of this old farmhouse
And love was all my baby ever knew

He could be the richest man in seven counties
And not be good enough to take her hand
But, he says he really loves the farmer’s daughter
And I know the farmer’s daughter loves her man

(Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

This wonderful performance is from a live concert; not sure of the date:

Merle Haggard died on his 79th birthday, April 6, 2016. /CL

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HA’ppenings: Claire Lynch Returns April 2nd



The Claire Lynch Band (Publicity photo from website, uncredited)

The delightful Claire Lynch Band is returning to the area this Saturday, at the Boston Bluegrass Union’s regular venue in Lexington, the former National Heritage Museum, now the ‘Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’.  From the BBU website:

Claire Lynch has long been recognized as a creative force in acoustic music and at the forefront of women who have expanded the bluegrass genre. With her 2013 award, Claire  has now earned The International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” title three times, as well as two GRAMMY nominations.

Dear Sister, her [2013] album was also nominated for IBMA’s 2013 Album of the Year.  Recently she was awarded the prestigous 2012 Walker Fellowship and $50k grant for her music and songwriting accomplishments. She has been a huge crowd favorite at Joe Val and BBU concerts for years. Joining her is two-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year Mark Schatz, virtuoso guitar and mandolin picker Jarrod Walker, and mandolin, fiddle, and guitar powerhouse and 2009 Winfield national guitar champ Bryan McDowell.

Tony Watt and Southeast Expressway will be opening the show.

Claire is reported to be taking time off from the road, so this may well be the last chance to see her for some time. Go to the BBU website to purchase tickets.  Details:

Saturday, April 2, 2016

National Heritage Museum
(Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library)
33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA
7:30pm (box office opens at 6:30pm)
$25 for Members
$27 for Non-Members

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HA’ppenings: Surprise Old-Time Fiddling on the Show

Last Friday evening (11Mar16) I opened a brightly-colored mailer that had come in to WHRB the previous Saturday, to find a CD and a note from fiddler Matt Brown.  He said that he and guitarist Greg Reish were going to be in town for a concert at Club Passim on Sunday, and were available to visit Hillbilly at Harvard.  So with a brief flurry of emails, we were able to arrange a time, and Saturday (the 12th) the two showed up at 11, bright-eyed and ready to play.

Matt and Greg arespeed-of-the--plow both scholars and teachers of old-time country music.  Matt is at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, teaching fiddle, banjo, and guitar; Greg is Director of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University and “a recognized authority on oldtime and bluegrass guitar styles.”  They have a new album of fiddle-and-guitar duets out, called Speed of the Plow (title of one of the tunes).  They are both engaging, talkative, knowledgeable, and terrific musicians.  I had fun chatting with them on-air, and listening to them play a good handful of fiddle tunes from the album.

Here are Matt and Greg with “Indian Ate the Woodchuck”:

That’s not on the album, and that’s not at WHRB (they had to squeeze in beside me at the board you see on the blog header), but it’s a good example of Matt’s clear, confident playing, and Greg’s solid guitar accompaniment. If you want to learn a whole lot of mostly unfamiliar fiddle tunes, or just try a little flat-foot dancing in the living room, pick up a copy of Matt and Greg’s album.  Neat stuff!  You can find it at, and elsewhere.  Matt’s website is HERE, and Greg’s is HERE.

I hope some of you caught the live segment and got out to their workshops at the Passim School, and to the concert last Sunday night. /CL


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Another Great Joe Val Festival!—Part II

[Continued from Part I, HERE]

Saturday evening, following Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle, the ladies of Sister Sadie unleashed some powerful and poignant vocals in the main hall.  This is a an all star band that features two very different singers, the strong but luminous Dale Ann Bradley, and the room-filling Tina Adair (whose solo on “How Great Thou Art” approached grand opera levels).  Here they are (click on a photo to see a slideshow):

I got only a couple of shots of Joe Val Festival favorite and old friend of HAH, Greg Cahill and The Special Consensus, Chicago’s gift to bluegrass.  Back in the ’80s (I think it was) Greg and the gang used to show up to play in Allston at a place called the Kinvara Pub.  They would play live Saturday morning in our Sumptuous Studio A (it was then), and then in the evening at the Kinvara.  Greg also has a first-class band, but unfortunately I heard little of them, and nothing of The Gibson Brothers (also HAH studio veterans and long-time favorites of mine); Saturday nights I tend to poop out.  Click to see larger:

Sunday afternoon, we were treated to a JVF rarity, an old-timey group called the Foghorn Stringband.  They were terrific, reminding me of long-gone favorites the Highwoods Stringband and The Freight Hoppers, but reaching out further with old gospel and blues.  These are the roots of old-time country music, in addition to the the snappy dances tunes and breakdowns, and to my mind fit right in with traditional bluegrass style.  Check out some of the videos on their website, HERE.

Just came across an account of their visit (these folks are from the Northwest and even farther north, as in Alaska!) to Framingham, from their website:

We had a fantastic weekend at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival just outside of Boston in Framingham, MASS. From the moment we walked in the door, the festival had a welcoming and friendly air, and folks there really embraced the Foghorn Stringband, despite the fact that we are an old time string band! Ha! We like to dispel the bluegrass vs old time chasm as frequently as possible as these musics are so intertwined, and we love them all. It’s all country music as far as I’m concerned! We felt well-loved and met many new friends and fans. The festival is held in the Sheraton Hotel, and with the winter weather, there was really no reason at all to go outside. We had everything we needed indoors: tunes, food, and our beds. We performed a main stage set, as well as the Sunday night dance to close the festival. We hope to go back there soon! It is a wonderful tribute to the music of Joe Val.

“It’s all country music as far as I’m concerned!”  Me too!  The Foghorns bill it as “Ass Kickin’ Redneck Stringband Music.”

Here are some shots of the band (click any photo to see them larger):

David Parmley and his new band Cardinal Tradition were a surprise.  He’s a little like Danny Paisley, in that some of us still think of him as the kid in his father’s band, The Bluegrass Cardinals, but this is a group of seasoned professionals, and David’s hair is all white.

By coincidence, my friend Steve Bartlett had just the month before sent me a YouTube video of David Parmley singing Lefty Frizzell‘s “I Never Go Around Mirrors,” (written by Whitey Shafer and Lefty), saying “Sacrilege, but he’s as good as George on this.” Or, I should add, as good as Keith, or Merle, or maybe even Lefty!  So I was thrilled to see David step up with his red-coated compatriots and sing it.  Here’s the video that Steve found, not from the festival, but I can’t resist:

I took no notes, so can’t recall the other songs they did, and I’m sure ‘up and coming’ is the wrong descriptor to use for these fellows, but they’re terrific.  David told me after the set that they’ve got an album in the works (on Pinecastle, I think he said), and will be at the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival in Vermont (23-26 June).  Here are a few photos (click to see larger)

The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band moved us a whole skip and a jump past old-timey, traditional bluegrass and country, to modern West Coast sounds.  Larry Flint went to John Jorgenson’s guitar workshop, and I think was disappointed that John played mostly mandolin on stage—but he ain’t no slouch on the mando, for sure.  Ace Boston (Berkeley faculty) fiddler Darol Anger joined the band, which also featured veteran songwriter and longtime JJ associate Herb Pederson  on banjo (click to see larger):

Sunday afternoon closed with the band I’d been awaiting for a year—The Del McCoury Band, which last year had been snowed out by the Saturday-night blizzard that closed Logan Airport (but failed to put a dent in the Festival, otherwise).  I wasn’t disappointed.  This, in my view, may well be the top bluegrass-style country band in the nation, and they held the nearly-full room captivated for nearly two hours.  It is simply amazing that Del, “no spring chicken” (as my mother used to say of me), can still hit those exciting high notes, and the crackerjack band (Del’s sons Ronnie and Rob, fiddler Jason Carter, and bassist Alan Bartram) is the best that high-energy bluegrass has to offer.

What impressed me most was the inventive way Jason Carter weaved his fiddle into the songs.  How much rehearsal, I wondered, had to go into those arrangements, which he had clearly worked out with Del and the others. There were a lot of great fiddlers in the two days I was at the Festival, but none were more a part of every song than Jason—who also sang in the trios with Del and Rob, plunging into the vocal mic with the fiddle, rather than retreating back to his own.  Color me amazed!

(Click for larger pics)

There was much more, of course, at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival than I have highlighted here: other Main Stage acts, regional Showcase Stage bands, workshops, master classes, a Trade Show room, constant jamming in the hallways and lobbies—even a masseuse!

Congratulations to Stan Zdonik, Gerry Katz, Sheila Selby, Reuben Shetler, and the cadre of volunteers who made all this happen.  And thanks to the Sheraton in Framingham for hosting this signature event for the last few years. It certainly is nice to be only a few minutes drive from one of the premier events of its type in the United States. /CL

[Note: For somewhat higher-resolution versions of the (admittedly inadequate) photographs, go to Flickr HERE.]

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Another Great Joe Val Festival!—Part I

Once again the Boston Bluegrass Union pulled off another flawlessly-executed (at least as far as we spectators could tell, and that’s what counts!) Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Presidents’ Day weekend at the Sheraton in Framingham.  At least this year there were no blizzards, nor as far as I know no rampant flu to keep bands away, so it must have been a piece o’ cake—right?  Well, we all can guess how much planning, organization, and hard work it must take to for an event to take over an entire hotel for three days—and it’s an all-volunteer effort, so congratulations to the BBU!

I missed Friday’s festivities, but did get to the main hall Saturday evening to see  The Lilly Brothers honored posthumously with the BBU’s Heritage Award.  Everett Lilly’s son Everett Alan came from California with songstress daughter Ashley, and took the stage to perform with another member of their band Song Catchers, and a few ringers from the Boston area, including Jim Rooney.

Rooney, of course, had known Everett and B, The Lilly Brothers from his days as a teenage country-music fan (see his book In It For the Long Run, now available as a full-length audio book, read by the author himself!—see HERE for download links).  Jim was kind enough to come by Hillbilly at Harvard Saturday morning, where we spent the better part of an hour talking about The Lilly Brothers and playing some of their music, including (of course) a selection from the recordings Al Hawkes made for his Event Records in Vermont, some 60 years ago.  Al himself was an Heritage Award recipient a couple of years ago, and joined Everett Alan Lilly on stage.  That’s Al in the red hat; click on any of the photos to enlarge them in a slideshow:

I decided to bring a camera to this festival.  So I’ll regale you with a few more photos.   Saturday I was using a Canon SX50 that I was trying, and Sunday my Rebel 2Ti with the Tamron 18-270 mm lens.  Neither lens is very good in poor light, and I was shooting from back in the audience, so the resolution isn’t great—and then they’re shrunk for this blog.  For better versions go to Flickr, HEREFor professional work, see Darwin Davidson and Jennie Scott.

Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice were scheduled but unable to make the Festival last year (or was it the year before?), and I missed them in Raleigh at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in 2014, so it was a long-anticipated treat to catch their Saturday evening show at the JVF.  And fair to say that they tore up the place; this is just one hot band, in the best hard-drivin’ honky-tonk bluegrass tradition; I’ve been a fan of Junior since his days on Rounder, and have been playing the string of terrific new albums on Rebel a lot.   Big news (to me): Junior has just jumped to Mountain Fever Records, with a new album in the works called Poor Boy’s Pleasure.

This is a tight and entertaining band, with virtuoso performances by the individuals.  I was especially impressed with how Jamie Harper on the fiddle drove one selection after another; some shots (missing Jamie and banjo player Jason Davis); click to enlarge in slideshow:

I had never seen Steve Gulley before.  His records did not prepare me for what a good singer he is; he has a slightly husky voice, like Vince Gill‘s, but on stage he can cut loose (as Vince can) with a rich tenor that will carry a country song to new levels.  Here’s Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle; they were joined mid-set by multi-award winner Dale Ann Bradley; they are clearly old friends, and their camaraderie was evident (click a photo to enlarge with slideshow):

[Continued in Part II, HERE]

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Joe Val Festival News: Del McCoury Coming, Lillys Honored

JOE-VAL-2016logoAlready scheduled for Sunday afternoon (February 14th) at the annual Joe Val Festival, The Traveling McCourys will become The Del McCoury Band!  Del of course was ‘snowed out’ last year (remember the snowstorm here that snowed in a lot of musicians and fans that Saturday night, and closed Logan Airport?).  And this year, just a few days ago on January 23rd, Del and the band had to cancel a concert at Sanders Theater in Cambridge (part of the Boston Celebrity Series) because of the blizzard that hit the Mid-Atlantic states.  That show was to have been a tribute to Woody Guthrie, featuring a program of his unfinished lyrics that Del had set to music.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some of those songs on Sunday at the Festival.

Del McCoury Band-MagnoliaFest

The Del McCoury Band (from the band’s website)


This will be the 31st annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, and the 14th* since it moved to the Sheraton in Framingham.  Having the Festival in my backyard is a great boon.  Each year fosters a wealth of impressions and memories, not just from the stunning lineup of acts on the Main Stage, but from the contacts and conversations in and about the environs of what becomes, on Presidents’ Day Weekend, The Bluegrass Hotel.

This year the hotel rooms sold out in one minute (!), when sales were opened on November 17th.  However, there are plenty of rooms in overflow hotels. See HERE.

Lilly Bros-Folkways cover

The other big news is that Everett and B, The Lilly Brothers, will be honored (posthumously) with the BBU’s Heritage Award.  It was Tex Logan who talked the Lillys into coming to Boston from West Virginia, and the 17 years they spent playing at the rowdy Hillbilly Ranch sparked a flame that led to the vibrant bluegrass scene we have in New England today.  Jim Rooney, whose association with the Lilly Brothers and Tex when they were The Confederate Mountaineers (see the posts on Tex HERE and HERE) says he will come in to Hillbilly at Harvard Saturday the 12th, to talk about the Lillys, and of course Don Stover.  It’s even possible that Everett Allen Lilly will come in, too; he is Everett Lilly’s son, and will be accepting the award for The Lilly Brothers Saturday at the Festival, about 5 PM.  Everett Allen and his daughter Ashley will perform with their band, The Songcatchers, Saturday evening as well.

Performers on the Main Stage this year will be an ensemble of returning JVF stars and local favorites, notably Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, The Spinney Brothers, The Gibson Brothers, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice (who also couldn’t make it last year, much to my disappointment), Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys (who played on the Hillbilly show last year), and (among many others) The Del McCoury Band.  For the complete, if still ‘tentative’ on the waiting-to-be-updated web page, see HERE.

And of course there is the usual potpourri of up-and-coming Showcase Stage bands, workshops, a Kids’ Academy, the Trade Show, and much else.  Go to the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival page on the BBU website, and there you’ll find much more information and you can buy tickets.  See you there! /CL

UPDATE: 14th?  or maybe the 13th?  Stan Zdonik tells me:

Indoor festival started in 2000.  We did 3 years at the Holiday Inn [Dedham].
Then we moved to Framingham in 2003.

That makes this year the 14th.  But Sheila Selby tells me that the Sheraton’s in-house package says it’s the 13th.  Since this is an empirical question, I expect someone will come up with the definitive answer.




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Hall of Fame Induction Show Sunday, January 31st

mcmaa new logoThe long-named and long-lived (since 1979) Massachusetts Country Music Awards Association has fallen upon hard times, failing to mount its traditional splashy Awards Show and its holiday jamborees this fall.  Although focused on South Shore bands and performers (where, after the ’70s, most of the local country action has been), the MCMAA’s Hall of Fame has spotlighted Massachusetts natives from all over the state, and beyond.  So it is good to hear that Ron Hill, the Chairman of the MCMAA Hall of Fame has taken it upon himself to keep the nominations, voting, and induction process going.

The Induction Ceremony and show is scheduled for January 31st:






Lots of music and dancing from 2:00pm to 6:00 pm
There is no food at the VFW so bring snacks and there is a McDonalds next door and Shaws is just around the corner.
Admission $10.00 50/50 raffle & DVDs for sale
The 2012 Hall of Fame show DVD with John Penny, Rex Trailer and Richie DuBois is available today and is truly a keepsake.


Inductees this year are:

Anne Marie Collins, Pete Grover, Ray (Carl Stuart) Shackt, and Chuck McDermott.
Hat tip to Gordy Brown for keeping us apprised of MCMAA Hall of Fame developments. /CL



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Laurie Lewis in Town January 16th

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.20.26 PM

That’s from Laurie Lewis’s website.  I looked because the Boston Bluegrass Union has been ambiguous about the name of the band.  Laurie’s regulars are The Right Hands.  Gerry Katz in his email promotion called this different aggregation, with typical whimsy, The Left Hands.  Whoever wrote the blurb on the BBU’s web page decided to play it safe and just advertise ‘Laurie Lewis and Friends’:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.43.10 PM

The tiny photo looks like The Right Hands, but we’ll stick with Laurie Lewis and The Other Hands, who are three-fifths of the Righties, at any rate: long-time partner Tom Rozum, bassist Andrew Conklin, and Laurie herself.  The new two are fiddler Darol Anger, and banjo player Greg Liszt.

We can now go on to discuss the name of the location, once ‘The Museum of Our National Heritage’, then ‘The National Heritage Museum’, and now the unmemorable ‘Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’ (and Laundromat?).  But instead, let me just remember that in my report on the Joe Val Festival last year, I mentioned Laurie’s set:

. . . Then there was a perfectly luminous set by Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands.  I confess that, while I’ve played Laurie’s music for many years, I have perhaps taken it for granted.  Maybe it’s that the records don’t quite do her justice.  There’s something about a live performance, even from the middle of the auditorium, that can bring an artist into focus.  It just seemed to be a special moment.  I saw Jim Rooney after Laurie’s set, and he clearly felt it, too: “That alone was worth the price of admission,” he said; there might have been a tear in his eye.


Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum (Photo by Hali McGrath, used by permission)

I expect you’ll experience an equally luminous performance on the 16th.  It’ll be worth the trip.  Check out the details on the BBU website, where you can also buy tickets. /CL



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Tex Plays “Christmas Time’s A-Coming”

As a follow-up to the two posts on Tex Logan, HERE and HERE, this from Gordy Brown—

What better way to wish you a Merry Christmas. Tex performs his composition. He is an Inductee to our MCMAA [Massachusetts Country Music Awards Association] Hall of Fame and died this past year.

Christmas Time’s A-Coming – Tex Logan’s 85th Birthday
6 min – Uploaded by Fred Robbins

Tex with Bill Monroe
3 min – Uploaded by Tom Adler

Thanks Gordy!  /CL

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Off to Virginia—Pre-recorded Show on the 12th

We’re off to visit daughter Sarah and family, taking Amtrak Northeast Regional No. 93 Monday morning, and returning Tuesday the 15th on NER No. 174.  This time I decided to try Business Class, for the alleged greater legroom between seats (called ‘seat pitch’ in the trade—we have the Amtrak Guest Rewards Mastercard, so it just requires more points).  Some years ago I traveled overnight to Washington, DC on a Regional Business Class car, but it had a flat spot on the wheel under me, which made for a restless night, not to mention trying to sleep in a coach seat.  Memo to Amtrak: Bring back the sleepers on the NE Corridor!

So no Country Calendar announcements next week.  You can post them yourselves in the Comments field on the Country Calendar page on this blog, however; see the menu above.

Remember the John Lincoln Wright Memorial Christmas Party Sunday the 13th; see the post below.

And remember to vote for the Ameripolitan Rewards.  See HERE.

Back on the air on the 19th, for the Hillbilly at Harvard Country Christmas Extravaganza: “Four hours of the very best and the very worst of country Christmas music.”  Well, not really the worst; unfortunately major country artists invariably release woefully overproduced pop music for Christmas, which won’t be high on the list.  In our case “the worst” are mainly the silliest.

And Rhonda Vincent has a new Christmas album out, which I just got in the mail.  Four of the songs are Rhonda-penned originals, too.  You know this one won’t be overproduced!/CLRhonda-Christmas Time

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