Just Another Beautiful Day in Silver Spring

Silver Spring Farmers Market 07 19 14Have I mentioned recently how much we love our local farmers market?

Candice and I were downtown bright and early at 9 a.m. to do our weekly shopping at the Silver Spring FreshFarm Farmers Market. (Julie at Evensong Farm sells out of her eggs quickly, so the early bird gets the worm…or, more appropriately, the best eggs in the Washington area!) We now buy more than half of our weekly groceries at the Silver Spring Farmers Market, and today was no exception. As I was waiting for Candice to pick through the ears of corn at the Spring Valley Farm stand, I looked up and saw this beehive of activity around food, flowers, and community – and couldn’t resist the shot.

After making our stops at Talking Breads (the scone this week was especially tasty with my eggs at breakfast), North Cove Mushrooms (for our usual pound of shiitake and oyster mushrooms), Blue Ridge Dairy (love the butter and Greek Yogurt) and many more stands too numerous to mention, Candice commented on how the sights at this week’s market made her reflect on the bounty of the earth. We eat so well because these wonderful people work so hard to provide us with tasty and healthy food.  Thank you all!

My Silver Spring day actually began even earlier, as I jumped on my bike shortly after 7 this morning for an hour’s ride along Sligo Creek.  We have this little gem of a park that provides numerous places to walk, ride, and just enjoy some of the prettiest scenery anywhere.  The humidity was low this morning and the temperature was very mild – the perfect conditions for one of my favorite activities.

After the bike ride and the market, it was time to get a haircut at the United Nations of barber shops:  Raphael’s Barber Shop just a block-and-a-half from our house.  Tamara is the owner and she cuts my hair, while we catch up on kids, travel, and stories of Georgia (the country) – her native home.  Ebrahim has been there the longest of the other barbers, and his son now works in the shop as well.  So besides the Republic of Georgia, other parts of the world represented among the barbers include a couple of countries in the Middle East and Asia. It is great – many of the folks there are regulars and everyone is treated like an old friend.  I told Tamara today that I’d come every Saturday to get my hair cut if I could afford it – and she encouraged that thought, saying she needed to build her retirement fund!

Afterwards, I went one block from Raphael’s to one of the great craft beer shops in the region:  Fenwick Beer and Wine.  (Don’t just believe me, as they were voted “Best Place to Buy Beer” in the DC area by the readers of City Paper two years in a row in 2013 and 2014.)  Claire has developed a taste for I.P.A.s, so with her home for a couple of weeks I stopped by to pick up a few offerings.  Of course, I decided to try the Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City with my lunch today…so it wasn’t all for Claire’s benefit!

Tonight we’ll actually have to get in the car and leave Silver Spring – but our trip still has a connection to home.  Andrew is part of the National Symphony Orchestra Chorus singing at Wolf Trap tonight to accompany the epic 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey The music is very challenging (three singers per part, with some sections having measures in 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 beats to the measure all at the same time!)  Andrew says he has seldom had to concentrate so hard to make sure he doesn’t get lost.  We’ll take a picnic to the park – and enjoy some of the great food we bought this morning.

So Andrew will help wrap up our beautiful day in Silver Spring…even if we are down in Virginia at the time.

More to come…

DJB

Pokey the Preservationist

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing Roots Music Festival 07 11 14Last Friday I was sitting outside on a beautiful summer day at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival, listening to Pokey LaFarge.

Yesterday evening, I was skimming some YouTube videos to learn more about Pokey’s music when I came across a TedX talk entitled Pokey LaFarge:  Evolving Through Preservation.

Whoa!  Could it be that Pokey is not only a great musician with a hot band, but also a preservationist?

Well yes, that’s exactly what he is.

Take a listen to this TedX talk from St. Louis – and after the music history lesson you’ll hear Pokey’s thoughts on how young people are taking old buildings and using them for new uses – just as they are doing with music and fashion. They are claiming these places and making them relevant today.  Just as we’ve been preaching in my day job at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

And as Pokey reminds us…he’s only 30 years old!

Who knew that the next generation preservationist could come in the form of a hip traditionalist musician who happens to love his adopted town of St. Louis.

More to come…

DJB

 

An Amazing Day of Music at Red Wing

Sarah Jarosz at Red Wing 07 12 14Saturday at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival was one of those days when the music starts off great and then – when you think it can’t possibly be sustained – it keeps getting better.  (The last day that rivaled this one at a festival was day two of Merlefest 25.  It is interesting to note that the Steel Wheels were involved with both!)

Duets were the order of the day in the early afternoon at Red Wing II, beginning with Bernice and Bryan Hembree playing as Smokey & The Mirror.  He writes great songs (St. Alban’s Day, Will and Woody) while she has a powerful and beautiful voice (showcased on a cover of Dylan’s Buckets of Rain).  They were the first out of the chute today, and the Hembrees set a high bar.

Mandolin Orange – an acoustic duo featuring Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz – were up next and played a beautiful set that we caught while eating lunch (and Kline’s ice cream!).  With just a guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, they crafted songs that were  simple yet compelling.  At the end of this post, I’ve included a beautiful video from FreshGrass at MassMOCA with Mandolin Orange playing Hey Adam.

This year the Red Wing folks figured out how to stage their shows where it was possible to walk back and forth between two stages and hear all the major acts with no interruptions.  So up next was another duo, Eric Brace and Peter Cooper.  I met Eric a few years ago when his band – Last Train Home – played at the National Trust conference in Nashville.  And when we caught up later in the day, I was able to tell him what a terrific job he and Peter Cooper did in the blazing afternoon sun.  Cooper has my dream job – professor of country music at Vanderbilt – but he’s a pretty good songwriter and musician in his own right.  Both Brace and Cooper had strong originals in their show, but the first highlight of their set was a beautiful cover of Herb Pedersen’s Wait a Minute, which Brace dedicated to the late Mike Auldridge.

The Stray Birds at Red Wing 07 12 14The duos gave ways to a trio as The Stray Birds followed Brace & Cooper.  I called out The Stray Birds as a band to watch in my Best of Bluegrass 2013 post, so I was eagerly awaiting their set at Red Wing.  They didn’t disappoint, with a wonderful hour of soulful country singing. Maya de Vitry and Oliver Craven, along with Charles Muench on bass, sing and play songs that sound as old as the hills, but with an understanding that seems impossible given their relative youth.  Craven contributed an original (Come Back Today So I Can Sleep Tonight) and their version of Blue Yodel No. 7 is sublime.

Maya de Vitry at Red Wing 07 12 14

The only bluegrass band (of sorts) on the bill on Saturday followed, as The Brothers Comatose from San Francisco took the main stage for an energetic and satisfying set. Two brothers – Alex and Ben Morrison – front the group, which included a terrific fiddle player named Philip Brezina.

Tim O'Brien at Red Wing 07 12 14

At this point in the afternoon, I joined my friends Oakley and Kay at Tim O’Brien‘s songwriter showcase.  He began with his well known hit for the Dixie Chicks, More Love, and then worked his way through songs he’d written (a recent one about the Charleston, WV, chemical spill) and those of others he admired (Mick Ryan’s Lament). The hour zipped by.

Red Wing Festival Sarah Jarosz 07 12 14

The incredibly talented Sarah Jarosz (photos at the top of post and above) then took over the main stage. Playing a beautiful octave mandolin for much of the set, she displayed impressive songwriting, singing, and instrumental chops (the latter featured on mandolin during the instrumental Old Smitty).  Alongside a cello and fiddle, this roots chamber music recalled everyone from Norman and Nancy Blake to Crooked Still and much more.  Check out the video of Build Me Up From Bones.

It would take two old pros like Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott to follow Jarosz without feeling intimidated by the youthful prodigy. And these two incredible instrumentalists, songwriters, and singers put together a hell of a show.  I can’t recall the last time I stood for an hour to listen to music and felt like the time rushed by.  That happened today.

O'Brien and Scott 07 12 14

Darrell Scott 07 12 14

I’ve heard With a Memory Like Mine on multiple occasions, but Darrell’s gripping tale of a father meeting his soldier son returning from war – written with his father Wayne Scott – was especially powerful this afternoon.  Likewise, these guys ripped through Long Time Gone and traded licks until you figured they had to have used them all up…then they had some more.  O’Brien’s Not Afraid O’ Dyin’ led to some on-the-spot arranging, as Tim called out chords for Darrell in a bit of an improvised interlude stuck in the middle of the tune.  Seeing Scott play guitar up close – and hear him sound like an orchestra on just six strings – was a revelation.  It was an unbelievable set, that they closed with the gospel tune House of Gold.

Then finally, it was time for our hosts for the weekend.

Steel Wheels 07 12 14

The meadow in front of the main stage was full-to-overflowing for The Steel Wheels – hosts of the Red Wing Roots Music Festival II.  The set was largely familiar, but that’s just what the friends, family, and fans had come to hear.  Trent Wagler has one of the most distinctive voices in Americana and roots music, and he was supported by the tight and talented Steel Wheels.  Rain in the Valley ended a 70 minute set that closed out all too soon for most at the festival.

With a drive home set for early tomorrow morning, we took off knowing that whatever followed, we had heard an amazing day of music in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Thanks Steel Wheels for a second great year.  May there be many more to come.

Let’s end with two beautiful videos – Mandolin Orange and Sarah Jarosz.  Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB

 

Pokey Laps the Field at Day One of Red Wing

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing 07 11 14The second annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival in spectacular Natural Chimneys Park began on Friday afternoon under a beautiful summer sky.  The promise of the inaugural festival – hosted by the Steel Wheels – brought out an even larger crowd this year.  And for the most part the music didn’t disappoint.

My friend Oakley Pearson and I arrived in time to catch the full set of Furnace Mountain, a band from the Berryville, Virginia, area.  Comprised of Aimee Curl on bass and vocals, Danny Knicely on mandolin and fiddle, Dave Van Deventer on fiddle, and Morgan Morrison on bouzouki, guitar and vocals, Furnace Mountain is a first-rate roots music band.  Knicely is an especially inventive mandolin player, and he displayed some great chops and songwriting skills in today’s set.

Caravan of Thieves was a band I wasn’t familiar with, but they grew on me very quickly.  Their web site has a catchy – yet pretty accurate – description of this group::

Driving gypsy jazz rhythms, acoustic guitars, upright bass and violin lay the foundation for mesmerizing vocal harmonies and fantastic stories. It’s theatrical and humorous. It’s musical and intense. It entertains, dazzles and defies classification while welcoming the spectator to join the band throughout the performance in momentary fits of claps, snaps and sing-alongs. If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired.

That last line is pretty funny.

Caravan of Thieves at Red Wing 07 11 14

The band plays hot gypsy jazz, but the vocals have pop sensibilities.  Fuzz (I’m not making that up) and Carrie Sangiovanni sing wonderful harmonies.  And these guys try anything – one of the wildest being their take on Sympathy for the Devil with a little bit of The Devil Came Down to Georgia and who knows what else thrown in.

Carrie Sangiovanni at Red Wing 07 11 14

 The Hackensaw Boys played a spirited set of old time music while we caught some supper.  Then came the best band of the day – by a wide margin.

Pokey LaFarge was playing his second Red Wing festival, but he put on a set as if he wasn’t going to get paid unless he won the crowd over.

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing 07 11 14

With a mix of early jazz, ragtime, blues and western swing, LaFarge – backed by a hot acoustic trio and a three-piece horn section – grabbed the crowd with Bowlegged Woman and kept the joint jumping all the way through until Central Time.

Pokey LaFarge and Chloe Feoranzo at Red Wing 07 11 14

Pokey LaFarge at Red Wing 07 11 14

The songs – while they sound old – are often LaFarge originals.  They played a number of tunes from his newest self-titled CD (which was produced by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.  Column interruption:  Candice used to work for Ketch’s father in a Staunton-area private school and she taught his younger sister.  Who knew Ketch would go on to such stardom…in old time music!) 

In any event, LaFarge is a great entertainer with a hot band.  Pokey really did lap the field today.  If you get the chance to see them, take it!

The final full set we stayed for was for The Dukhs.

Jesse Havey 07 11 14

The Duhks at Red Wing Music Festival 07 11 14

The band was battling some sound system issues at the beginning, and was not as sharp as the reunion tour configuration that played Red Wing last year.  They featured songs from their new CD Get Beyond the Blue, and I always enjoy singer Jesse Havey and the band’s version of Death Came A Knockin‘.

The crowd quickly gathered at the main stage for what was clearly to be the night’s big act, Trampled by Turtles.  However, three songs into a very loud set that was all beginning to sound the same, we headed out into the night.  It was refreshing, after the overbearing noise of TBT, to get in the car and have Claire Lynch’s beautiful Dear Sister come up in the iTunes rotation.  Now that’s music!

But to remember the best of Day 1 of Red Wing Roots Music Festival II, let’s go out with a video of Pokey LaFarge’s Bowlegged Woman.  Whoa!

More to come…

DJB

 

 

A Weekend (and More) of Celebration

Friends of Elvis at July 4th parade in Takoma Park 2014A pre-July 4th visit to Mount Rushmore, the annual craziness that is the Takoma Park July 4th parade, our traditional Independence Day picnic at the wonderful Franklin Knolls pool, Claire returns after six weeks in Vienna, Andrew knocks it out of the park with a National Anthem, Dad turns 89, and two days with dear friends to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary and an 80th birthday…I can’t imagine a better July 4th weekend (and a bit more).

My celebration of things Americana began last week.  While on a work trip, a colleague and I took a short detour in the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit Mt. Rushmore.

It was my first trip there, and the monument is as awe-inspiring as advertised.

I took the expected pictures of the monument – from the front, with the state flags, and from the perspective down at the sculptor’s studio.

Then I did something out of character – and took my very first selfie.  I was actually pretty pleased that I knew how to do it – so pleased in fact that I quickly emailed a copy to Andrew, Claire, and Candice.  My colleague got a big kick out of this, and promptly took a picture of me taking a selfie!  Great fun.

Mt. Rushmore, June 25, 2014

Rushmore Slefie 06 25 14

Rushmore selfie in progress 06 25 14

When July 4th actually arrived, we began as we always do…sitting along Maple Street in Takoma Park watching the quirkiest Independence Day parade in the Washington region.  As you can see from the photo at the top, this year we had the “Friends of Elvis” in the parade.  (The guy on the right is a regular at the Silver Spring farmers market on Saturday mornings.)  But the float I really wanted to see was a first time entrant:  the Takoma Park Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team!

Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team July 4, 2014

As you can see, Good Dog did not disappoint!

We then joined long-time friends for a picnic at our old neighborhood pool – Franklin Knolls – for the annual July 4th cookout.  With our traditional dish of deviled eggs in hand, it felt great to be back with friends in a wonderful setting.

Then our day changed, as we headed to the airport to pick up Claire, who was returning from six weeks of study abroad.  We’ve all missed her and the reunion was joyous.  Of course, she came home, took a shower, and then headed out with Andrew to her close friend’s July 4th party and fireworks at the Georgetown waterfront.  As she said in the caption to this photo, what could be a more American homecoming than beer and mac & cheese on the 4th of July!

Claire's American Homecoming July 4th, 2014

The next day, Andrew was asked by friends at Franklin Knolls to sing the national anthem before the final home swim meet of the season.  As you can see in the video below, he nailed it!  We chatted with friends, saluted the swim team seniors, and then headed out for the weekend’s final celebration(s).

While driving to West Virginia, we called my Dad who celebrated his 89th birthday on July 5th.  It was great to hear that he was doing well – and that he was already one-third of the way through the book we’d sent along as a present.  (I know my father!)

Candice and I were on our way to Parkersburg, WV, for a very special celebration. Two dear friends from our time in Staunton – Katharine and Madison Brown – were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary along with Madison’s 80th birthday.

Brown's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration - July 5, 2014

It was great to join their family and a lifetime of friends to celebrate.  Katharine is Claire’s godmother, and we’ve enjoyed their friendship since we both moved to Staunton about the same time in the early 1980s.  We also had a blast touring their beautiful family home (now in 5th generation ownership) and taking the Julia-Ann Historic District walking tour (co-edited by Katharine) on a picture perfect summer day.

Katharine and Madison's House in Parkersburg

We have much to celebrate this July 4th weekend…and we’ll wrap it up with Andrew’s version of the national anthem.  Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB

 

 

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Tom and  Helen Brown Wedding, June 30, 1950Today – June 30th – was the 64th anniversary of the day my parents were married.

I just hung up the phone from talking to my Dad, who turns 89 this Saturday (July 5th).  Since Mom died in 1998, I’ve always tried to call him on their anniversary, just to let him know I’m thinking of him. I’m so glad I reached him tonight.

When he answered the phone, I asked him how he was doing.  “Oh fine,” he answered.  “Today is my anniversary.”

“I know,” I replied.  “That’s why I’m calling.”

He went on to tell me that he drove over to Franklin, Tennessee, today. By himself.  Mom and Dad both grew up in this wonderful town, and they were married in the old Baptist (now Presbyterian) Church downtown.

“What did you do there?” I asked.

“Oh, just went by the church.  It was locked up, so I just sat outside and reminisced.  Then I went over to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee and reminisced some more.”

“Well,” I said, as I was  having trouble holding back the tears, “I think that’s a great thing to do.  I just wanted to call and let you know how much we all felt the love the two of you had for each other.”

We chatted a bit more, I said “I love you,” and then hung up.  Dad doesn’t hear too well these days, and I didn’t want to continue shouting into the telephone.

When I got off the phone, Candice said, “Your dad went over the to the church today?”  I told her he did, and added, “What a romantic.”  She said, “Well, at least you come by it naturally.”

That’s my dad…still in love with the woman he married 64 years ago.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.  I love you.

More to come…

DJB

Helen and Tom Brown, 1950

Thomas Merton’s Revelation About Slack Key Guitar…

Cyril Pahinui in Honolulu…or how life on the road can become a bit confusing.

Since the middle of May, I’ve traveled to Detroit, Honolulu, Chicago and Plano (twice), Seattle, Louisville, New York City (twice), and occasionally I’ve been here in Washington.  On Monday, I leave for Hot Spring, South Dakota.

It has been a month where I’ve been with great friends and colleagues and have seen and experienced so many wonderful things…but they do have a tendency to get jumbled up when you spend so much time on planes and trains.  So forgive me if I have a famous monk playing some wonderful slack key guitar along the way.

Here’s my grab-bag – in no particular order – of things sacred, wonderful and (perhaps) absurd from a month on the road.

Cyril Pahinui is the Epitome of Cool

I was in Honolulu to work with colleagues and partners to try to save the Natatorium, a beautiful if neglected saltwater pool and war memorial.

Natatorium and Waikiki Beach

While there, my colleague Brian Turner and I – both lovers of roots music – made it a point one night to find some slack key guitar.  Why not – we were in the home of this uniquely Hawaiian style!  And we hit the jackpot.

Cyril Pahinui is as close to slack key royalty as you’ll get. Son of the legendary Gabby Pahinui, Cyril is a slack key master in his own right. He has won three Grammys and his music is soulful.

Cyril Pahinui Slack Key Master

And I’m here to say that the man is the epitome of “cool.” We talked with Cyril prior to his set, and he was gracious and gentle.  He played a guitar with beautiful koa wood. He was never in a hurry, but always warm and welcoming.  For our part, we were relaxed and enjoying life sitting at the feet of a master.

Thomas Merton’s Revelation

On a completely different topic, I was walking downtown in Louisville earlier this month, when I came across this:

Thomas Merton's Revelation

It is my experience that historical markers about spiritual revelations aren’t found on every street corner.

 

Merton in Louisville June 2014

When so many historical markers in the South are about wars (Revolutionary and Civil), it is refreshing to see one about social justice. Thanks to the good folk of Louisville.

And speaking of social justice…any day you get to hear John Lewis speak is a good day

Earlier this week I was participating in a Juneteenth event the National Trust was co-sponsoring on Capitol Hill when Congressman John Lewis made an unexpected appearance. In five eloquent minutes where you could hear a pin drop, this “icon of icons” spoke about his recent visit to the site of Mount Zion Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Today – June 21st – is the 50th anniversary of the brutal murder of three Civil Rights Workers who traveled to the church to investigate its burning by white racists determined to stymie voter  registration of African-Americans.

Congressman Lewis spoke about the power of place and the importance of memory. His life has been lived in a way that gives his words added strength and meaning. When we think about the relevance of history, we need only turn to the words of John Lewis speaking about James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – and how their sacrifice led to a thousand college students coming to Mississippi in that fateful summer to register voters.  The place has been remembered and remains a force for change today, as we still struggle to provide voting rights not just to the rich and powerful, but to all Americans.

The Struggle for Rights is a Long One

In Detroit, there was much to see in a city with a proud history and a difficult present.

Underground Railroad Memorial in Detroit

On a walk between meetings at the National Main Streets Conference, I came across this riverfront sculpture which commemorates the Underground Railroad.  The slaves and a “conductor” look across the Detroit River to Canada – and freedom. When we think of Detroit’s troubles today, we do well to recall that Americans have long dealt with difficult issues against impossible odds. I recall the words of historian David McCullough speaking at a National Trust conference shortly after the 9/11 bombings.  His message:  history can tell us that we have dealt with adversity throughout our past – if we will only listen.  Those who trumpet current issues or political fights as the worst or most difficult ever simply don’t know their history.

Dinner for a Cause

A sustainable food system is one of those challenges we’re facing in today’s world. A group in our area working to build that system is the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. On one of the few days I was home this past month, Candice and Andrew joined me at Arcadia’s annual Spring Farm Dinner – a fund-raiser for their mobile market and other efforts to provide healthy food in the food deserts of Washington.

Arcadia Farm Dinner June 2014

Held in the farm field at Woodlawn Plantation – a National Trust Historic Site – the dinner was a culinary delight.  Chefs Nathan Anda and Ed Witt of the newly opened The Partisan and Red Apron butcher shops were the featured chefs for the evening.  Meat was a big part of the evening, although I was most taken with a “coddled egg.”  (Yes, Andrew and I had some sophomoric fun trying to top each other describing the ways to coddle an egg.  My best was, “You allow them to drop their dirty clothes all over the floor” which may have been too close to home for Andrew.) 

 

Arcadia Farm Field Dinner June 2014

It was a wonderful evening for an important cause.  Thanks to the good folks at Arcadia for all their great work.  We’re proud to support you.

So at the end of this rambling set of remembrances, join me in island time, with a video of Cyril Pahinui’s beautiful rendition of Gabby’s signature song  Hi’ilawe.  Aloha.

More to come….

DJB

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