All entries filed under Godfrey Daniels

I had the chance to return to Godfrey’s stage for a Sunday family concert on Sunday afternoon, part of series of concerts sponsored by Just Born Candies (think, Peeps and Mike and Ike’s). I was feeling a little out of practise but figured once I was in the element, things would flow. And it did.

I started out with Shovelin’ and prefaced the song by asking what the kids did in the recent snow storm. Several kids said, “Snow man”, but one boy said, “I threw a snow ball at my mom.” It’s moments like these that are spontaneous and delightful that the whole audience picks up on. The song has a strong blue motif and I could sense the dads relaxing a little, knowing that I had some chops and that there would be some real music played.

We did the Tutti Tah next and off we went. Lots of laughs, chat with some of the bright kids sitting up front (I always engage these kids, regardless of the show’s pace. The conversations always lead to curious thoughts). The Cat Came Back, I’m Gonna Tell, Bear Hunt, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Giants, We Gave Names to the Animals, A Place in the Choir, and Jelly in the Dish. I finished off with Magic Penny, a nod to Valentine’s Day this week.

I broke out the rhythm instruments for Names and scarves for Jelly in the Dish, and the mandolin for I’m Gonna Tell, banjo for Place in the Choir. It was good to shake off some the rust on those instruments.

It was an hour-plus show, and it was a raucous good time. “Embrace the chaos.” After the show, I’ve been offering my CDs for free and it provides a good chance for folks to toss some extra bucks into the kitty. I pulled in an extra $70.

Perhaps the most curious moment happened during Peanut Butter and Jelly, where get the boys/men to take one part, and the girls/women take the other. One child piped up that he/she didn’t know which gender they were. I spoke up and said, “Be both.” It turns out that the child was trans, something I should be more aware of. I was lucky that responded the way I did, and, later, found out that the mom was glad too.

There are always moments where I have to respond “in the moment” and I’m glad I have the artistic sense on how to shape these moments and make them part of the show.

It felt good to be in front of full house of families again. I did it well.

I was looking forward to sharing the stage with Doug Ashby, bluesman, fellow radio programmer and folk historian. His band Tavern Tan is a regular treat at Godfrey’s and my respect for him as a musician in the Valley is quite strong. We’ve never had the chance to swap songs before so this was a good chance.  For extra credit, my sister Janet, daughter Rosalie and her fiancé Jourdan were in attendance.

My voice has been ravaged from this non-Covid flu, and I limped my way through my songs, avoiding some of the high notes. It wasn’t pretty but thanks to a hot microphone, I managed, to a degree.

Doug’s love of early blues has given him a strong repertoire of Robert Johnson, Memphis Minnie and other legendary recording artists. I started with Stealin’, a Memphis Jug Band tune and we were off and running. We swapped Robert Johnson tunes, and we talked about the poetry of these blues and went into detail on ‘she’s got Elgin movements’, something we seemed to return to during the evening.

I invited my friend Steve Capwell up on the stage about 45 minutes in, and, as I found out, Steve and Doug were former Tan-mates (no surprise), so Steve was able to fill in with some fine harp work. All of us are folk programmers and players, so it was muy simpatico. I was able to supply Walkin’ Blues, Santa Assassin (with Rosalie, in the house), Prodigal Son and a few others.

It was a good crowd, for a change, with about 25 folks in the house. The conversation was light but we were able to keep things entertaining and musical.

As I’ve been doing recently, at the end, I went around the audience asking what they liked. This has been a pleasant surprise with a DNO audience. Folks were open and forthcoming: the stories, the way we listen to each other, the instruments, Steve’s harp playing. One gentleman brought up my playing Magic Penny for his young son years ago. (I did a reprise.). They also enjoyed our knowledge and respect for this music and its history.

There were lots of great moments, some good music (in spite of my beat-up voice) and something we can do again in the future.

 

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect for Dave Fry Day at Godfrey’s on Saturday. I knew my TAMA friend Jennifer Ridgway wanted to celebrate my time with TAMA and as a Teaching Artist, but she enlisted Ramona to pull together the local community to drop on by. It turned out to be pretty special.

Bethlehem Mayor W. Reynolds

First of all, I was not looking forward to any kind of spotlight but, in the course of the afternoon, came to appreciate the community I have around me, and it became an opportunity for us to all get together and socialize. I just happened to be at the center.

Daughter Rosalie and her new boyfriend Jordan showed up from RI and son Jaimie, his wife Chelsy and grandson Jayden came up from Pottstown. An unexpected delight for the afternoon!

MC Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna, TA and Touchstone alum, was the emcee and set the tone for the afternoon, as I was ensconced in a make-shift throne. To lead off, Bethlehem’s Mayor William Reynolds spoke briefly about how the arts are healthy for us individually and as a community. He presented me with a fine Proclamation that was particularly well written.

 

Jenn came up and spoke about my history with Teaching Artists of the

Jennifer Ridgway of TAMA

Mid-Atlantic (TAMA)

with several comments from my fellow TAs in the organization, and, indeed, our weekly Monday mornings during Covid were wonderful gatherings of some pretty extraordinary artists. We became good friends during a very hard time.

I was particularly glad that the festivities were to celebrate my career as a teaching artist, as opposed to my music and my Godfrey’s life. Folks from those slices of my life have no real opportunity to see my work in schools, and today was a good way to share the world of Teaching Arts.

Poet Marilyn Hazelton

I was also glad to see and hear from my good friends in our local Teaching Artists of the Lehigh Valley. Bill George, Marilyn Hazelton, Bill Christine, Mary Wright, Doug Roysdon spoke about how we have all benefited from our small, tight community, sharing demonstrations of our pieces. Lots of fooling around and being creative: movement, poetry, music, and other wonderful explorations over the last four years.

Bill George of Touchstone Theater

Bill Christine brought up a raft of friends to give me a rousing kazoo chorus, and special appearance of my grandson Jayden. Special.

Bill Christine’s Kazoo Chorus

I was pleased that other long-time Godfrey’s friends mentioned Cindy Dinsmore’s hand in Godfrey’s place in establishing the artist-friendly atmosphere here in  Bethlehem and good community friends like Anne Hills, LA Williams and others. She deserves a Cindy Dinsmore Day and I’m sure that will happen.

Good friend John Gorka phoned in to say hello. Special treat !

My friend Jaqi Tice presented my Lessons From Pete, adding a melody to my recitative version, and accompanied by good fellow Craig Thatcher. I appreciate her time and effort putting it together, as well as her many other contributions to the event. She remains a dear friend. There.

Having fun!!

I took it upon myself to insert myself in the festivities with my TA exploration Jelly In The Dish, one of favorite routines I use with kids. Few of the people in the room knew what was coming. I was really looking forward for this opportunity get everyone up, moving and playing with the scarves. Craig sat in on guitar. We pushed the tables back and filled up the space controlled chaos, dance, colors. Grandson Jayden really took the spotlight with his movements and big smiles. I think the event really prospered from the exercise, and I got to show my TA chops. I even included a reflection at the end where folks brought up what they liked: Scrapple, using the whole room, scarves in the air, mixing socially. Later, I came to appreciate that I had never experienced the volume of Godfrey’s so filled with such floor to ceiling movement and color. Mission accomplished.

Other folks came up and talked about my Covid series of daily posts, my radio work and other curious reflections on my work in the community. Anne Hills came up and sang a snatch of “Magic Penny” that encapsulates my philosophy well: “Love is something if you give it away, you’ll end up having more.”

There was cake, lots of snacks and soda and lots of folks talking with each other, reconnecting with old friends and making new friends. It was satisfying to have my kids experience the love and respect I enjoy in my home town. A special afternoon, after all.

Ann, Cleveland, Dave, Danielle

A small audience for tonight’s Dave’s Night Out with poets Danielle Notaro, Ann Michael and Cleveland Wall. I looked forward to doing this format with my friends and with a spotlight on poetry instead of music. It was different and quite enjoyable. I

I started out with Rosie is a Friend of Mine which quite ironically features the words, “She’s like poetry that doesn’t rhyme.” A bit of whimsy to open up the evening. We did a round robin of the women’s poetry, and they are all professional readers as well as excellent poets.

Ann and Cleveland

Dave And Danielle

In the middle, I asked Cleveland about her work with “embodiment” in poetry, or how to intentionally incorporate (literally) physicality to the process of performing poetry. Great discussion. I did John Gorka’s Branching Out as a nice example of poetry in song, and it stirred up some poets from the ladies. (In the spirit of the evening, I didn’t do any instrumental breaks in the songs.)

I asked all of us why we do what we do, in my case, making albums and in their cases, chapbooks and live readings. Again, this format works well and we did some deep-digging on the creative process. I know the audience and my friends appreciated the session. “Make something out of nothing” was my response.

In my happy place

I finished up with Green Green Rocky Road (to clear the pallet, so to speak) and played it well. It was a good choice, especially with the verse “hooka tooka, soda cracker, does your mama chew tobacco”.

I then I realized that this was a good opportunity to employ my ‘reflection’ exercise, and asked the audience members, and then the poets to reflect on what they liked about the session. It was great to get the audience to come up with their thoughts and made for good way to wrap up the evening.

Greg Buragino and I have been attempting to recreate the epic Amy’s Jam from down in Boyertown several years ago, to little success at an Emmaus coffee shop, Greg’s patio and a ski resort in Macungie. Though we’ve become a circle of good, steady friends, our outreach has been spotty. After striking out at Bear Mountain, we decided to move the jam to Godfrey’s. Tonight was the first stab. It was pretty good.

Several familiar faces showed up, plus some new folks, including a Cajun trio and a couple visiting from Baton Rouge. It was a good mix of tunes and entertaining banter. It bodes well for future sessions. Several folks commented that Godfrey’s is the perfect place for it, especially for my friend Rich who got to play (and not haul) a real piano.

I started off with Roseville Fair, and as it came around again, St. James Infirmary, both fairly easy chord changes with a wrinkle or two to make things interesting. Hotel California was a new one for me, several jazz standards, a couple of banjo/fiddle tunes and, as the 9 pm hour rolled around, I finished with I Heard It Through the Grapevine (and got the lyrics right this time…). Not everybody was playing along so I figured I lean on the Cajun trio to finish it out, since they traveled the furthest. A good move.

I realized that, after many years trying to establish this jam elsewhere, Godfrey’s is the right place for it, and the players feel that, too.

 

Sean, Fionna Hennessey are the backbone of Blackwater, the Lehigh Valley’s longest running Celtic Band, and the three of us did a DNO six years ago. Seems not so long to me. The topic last time and for tonight was Family Traditional Music, since we have a brother and sister. I remember sitting between them last time, getting lost in the familial harmonies.

Tonight I came in and found Sean and Fionna all set up, with a gargantuan pedal board set up in front of Sean, center stage. Cool. Sean does a lot of solo gigs where he has to fill several hours of Celtic music so this setup gives him a band – lots of tools (toys?) to play with. Sean also has a large Ipad with lyrics set up near the floor, with a foot switch device to scroll songs and lyrics. Last time I called him on it and he said he had stroke several years ago and can’t recall lyrics any more. I don’t blame him, especially with these long ballads. It is quite a set up.

I got a sound check in with “Part of the Union” and cooled my heels until 7 pm. I planned on starting with Don’t Call Me Early, and I had a very Sean moment: I had the Union beginning in my head, and. for the life of me, couldn’t remember the Don’t Call Me beginning. (I think I’m still functioning at lower level with my recovery). I shifted into We Are Welcome instead and I was back on my feet. Still….

It was a particularly good crowd for a DNO, in spite of being only 6 days removed from St. Paddy’s Day. We set off and Sean is well-versed in chatting with the crowd, opining on Celtic matters and introducing songs. A well-oiled machine so we had no problem with the show. The mix of Sean’s strong vocal and guitar, Fionna’s harmony and flute made for a very fat sound, with the sustain of the flute supporting the chord chops.

I chimed in with Roseville Fair and Giant. Towards the end, Fionna said that what seems to be her staring lovingly at Sean was simply trying to read Sean’s lips to anticipate his getting the words right. Chuckle.

A good night of music, and, as always, intellectually stimulating. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

I am the perennial opening act for Jack Murray’s annual Hankathon at Godfrey’s on New Year’s Day at Godfrey’s. I usually do three songs and hand things off to Jack and his band. And, usually, all the good Hank songs are snapped up by the band. Well, tonight, I decided to start off with Your Cheatin’ Heart and follow with some cheatin’ songs, desparate for a theme. It actually was a good idea.

Your Cheatin’ Heart was released after Hank died and became a hit, covered by none other than Ray Charles (’62) and known as “the song – for all intents and purposes – defines country music.” It’s short and sweet and I did a manageable job on it, commenting afterward of how studying Hank’s vocals and slurs made his music very emotional. It was nice to finally sing one of his songs at this event.

I followed with Paul Siebel’s Honest Sam, a thinly veiled tune about megalomaniacs like Donald Trump, again about cheatin’. This one dealt with card games. I added a comment on Mara Lago and threw me off on the following line (“sails his ships out on the sea”) but I landed on my feet and finished the song. (No such thing as a perfect set…)

I followed with a great cheatin’ song, She Left Me For Jesus, a rather raucous country tune I picked up from my friend Reid Tre. It’s pretty audacious with phrases like: “if I ever find Jesus, I’m kicking his ass” and “I bet he’s a commie, or probably even a Jew” and “why, the last time we made love, she called out his name.” It was cool to lay this on a full house at Godfrey’s and it was well received. An aggressive and somewhat controversial selection on my part, but it was a good choice.

I decided to do a fourth song, and end on a positive note, with Jerry Jeff’s My Old Man, a gorgeous song, a simple song (G Dm D G) that waxes sentimental about a rambling fiddle play, a dancing woman and a legacy of good songs. I managed to do the song with minimal help from the lyrics in front of me (oh, how I hate to do that….) and it landed quite nicely.

I introduced my friend Jack and his band The Blue Tarp Wranglers, talking a little about wrangling blue tarps in difficult situations (an apropos description of what Jack has to deal with), and quickly got of stage. My kind of gig.

Jack followed with two sets of classic country, with plenty of harp, steel and guitar leads to fill a warehouse (drives me up a wall, sometimes) and the sold-out audience loved it all. Jack’s quite a mensch in putting this evening together and see him pull it off in style. I’m glad to be able to open for this event every year.

Ramona’s birthday, as well.

Saturday night after Thanksgiving seems to be a good night for this type of show at Godfrey’s: Craig Thatcher, Dick Boak and myself, sharing the stage with songs and tales, similar to previous Dave’s Night Out shows. I had two gigs earlier, including an outdoor tree lighting at Touchstone at 5 pm, so I was slightly “out of breath” for this one, but one I was looking forward to – very little pressure for me.

The show was sold out a day before, and Craig was hoping to do two shows. Nope. Not enough time to broadcast a second show, and definitely not in my wheelhouse for a three gig day. When I got to the club after 6 pm, Craig already had his gear set up, with amp, an array of pedals, a fancy guitar mike, two Martins, a Martin stool. Dick had his autoharp through an amp as well. I plugged in my mahogany Martin into the system and with my vocal mike, I was ready to go. As it turns out, I think Craig over committed to his “sound” and it tended to overblow the stage sound for the night. But, that’s how Craig rolls these days.

The round-robin idea works well for this evening, so I started out with We Are Welcomed, a nice opener with room for Craig’s lead and a solid song for me. Craig followed with several nice instrumentals, original songs and a song that he worked up for a Loretta Lynn dedication in Nashville earlier in the fall which I played mandolin on. Dick was concerned with his ability to play autoharp being slightly out of practice and with some right hand issues. As it turned out, he stepped up big time with his original songs that he and Craig have worked out over the years.

Craig loves to share some of the amazing gigs he still plays and, as he talked about the Loretta Lynn gig with Chris Martin, he dropped the fact that Vince Gill was in the audience and gave him a thumbs up during the show. Craig’s audience love these vignettes. I followed by saying I was in Easton that morning, Santa was in the audience and gave me a thumbs up, too. There ya go. Matching his Vince Gill with the man himself, Santa Claus.

It was particularly pleasurable to physically sit between Craig’s big guitar sound and Dick’s phat autoharp sound. I closed my eyes a drank it in.

Playing with these guys definitely brings my A game, so I played really well, with tunes like Rosie Is a Griend of Mine, Lessons From Pete, Don’t Call Me Early and a few others. The time went quickly and it was wonderful to play to a full house at Godfrey’s, with many familiar faces in the crowd. I tried to pull the show in around an hour and a half, but Craig wanted to do two hours. Besides being a tad bushed after a long day, a two hour show is a bit much for an audience to sit through. We finished up at an hour and forty minutes. I am certainly appreciative of having the opportunity to share the stage with Craig and Dick, both incredible artists in their own right.

I was able to sell a bunch of books, as few CD’s and was glad to finish my day on a high note.

As it turns out, all three of us contracted Covid this week, so we did pay a price for the gig.

I am constantly blown away with my guests on a Dave’s Night Out. Tonight was a particularly good one with two songwriters who have never met before, Andrew Dunn and Pete Gustavson. There were a few more people tonight, some friends of Andrew or Pete, but still not what should really be happening for this series. The format of conversation, music and philosophy is pretty radical but makes for some deep and satisfying (for me) entertainment.

The theme tonight was how the Covid lock-down affected our creativity and our songwriting. Both Pete and Andrew had divergent ideas, Pete alone with his wife and three daughters (no home studio there), and Andrew seeking community, and myself, with my 500 songs-a-day process.

I broke out my SE Martin tonight, somewhat neglected over the last few months, and it served me well. Clean and loud. I started with Don’t Call Me Early and passed it to Pete. Pete’s the real deal and over the course of the evening, his voice and his guitar set the bar pretty high for us all.

Andrew brought along a side man, Todd, on bass and guitar, and he chipped in a nice addition to the overall tone of the evening. I’ll admit that Todd distracted Andrew several times but no big deal. Andrew played some wonderfully emotional songs, as did Peter. I felt in awe of being in between these creative spirits.

I deferred to Pete and Andrew, and offered up Lessons From Pete towards the end, but also did Tropical Vacation, as I talked about my work writing songs with students. It worked well in this format and a rare chance for me to exhibit my Teaching Artist side.

Great moments throughout the evening and come away in awe of the creative friends I have in my life. Thanks, Andrew and Pete.

 

 

Alex Radus and Dave Fry

I’ve been lucky to present some of my friends who are quite talented songwriters, and Wednesday’s guest, Alex Radus, is no different. I’ve been an Alex fan-boy for several years now. His new album, recorded at Godfrey’s, is called Tributaries, and that was a good point to start from.

I took it as river-like tributaries that have shaped our music but he also mentioned that tribute is part of that equation. Spot on.

I started out with a Mississippi John Hurt as one of my early influences, especially with his two-finger picking. I did CC Rider, although rather sloppily. Alex picked up on that did some fine fingerpicking with one of his tunes. As we moved through the night, the mix of styles and songs was quite entertaining.

I ended up doing Barnyard Dance on my arch-top Martin, my Fountain Hill tune I Can Be… and Take Me To The River. We talked about how our instruments often shape what we play or write songs.

Again, a small audience that included my daughter Rosalie, so that’s pretty good. The conversation was stimulating and Alex’s songs were wonderful. He was a delight to have on stage with me.

Basic RGB

I was looking forward to getting back to my Dave’s Night Out series, especially since last month’s session was cancelled for Covid protocols. Rolly Brown is a world-class guitarist, excellent songwriter and we have developed a friendship over the last decades here in Eastern PA. I had tagged this session: Music Helps, Making Music in the Pandemic. Rolly had developed a wonderful series of live broadcasts online during the pandemic, and now hosts three shows a week, featuring three songs and an instrumental. We had a good chance to disect his philosophy on starting it out, and how it has blossomed into a nice community for his music.

I talked about my route through the last two years with the individual videos/songs that I did over 500 days in a row, and continue now by posting songs from my copious You Tube library. We had a good chance to get it all out and found, as always, a highly intellectual, informative and humour format.

Rolly backed me up on several songs (Simple Gifts, Rodeo Rider, Branching Out, Shoo That Fly, while showcasing several of his original songs and instrumentals. He is a brilliant player and storyteller. We’ve both upped our game during the pandemic.

Of course, there was under 10 people in the audience, several of whom came up to see Rolly. I find it disappointing to not have an audience for my work, especially in my home town.

Pealing the plastic off the pick guard.

I did introduce my new Martin SC-13E, and play a full song on it for the first time (Branching Out). As we sat on stage before the show, Rolly noticed that I hadn’t taking the plastic off the pick guard yet, so we decided to throw that into the show. It was pretty funny and raised some attention on FB. Made in Mexico, it has koa wood back and sides, a nice spruce top and an unique shape to facilitate playing up past the 12th fret. It played really well, and I could feel it teaching me things that all new guitars do. This is going to be a good guitar.

It was a good night spent with a fine guitarist and friend, and I can’t think of a better was to spend my night out.

It’s always an honor to play at Godfrey’s and I appreciate the challenge that it provides. I was looking forward to sharing the stage with good friend Kris Kehr and I decided to bring out the full rack of guitars for this one.

As always, a disappointing turn out here on my ‘home court’ with only about 9 folks in the house. Still, Kris and I put on a good show, lots of good chat and we played really well. I guess all the farmers’ markets and my 365 series had me in good shape.

It was fun to prepare each guitar for particular songs – open tunings, capo placements and use each for different styles of songs. It provided for a good variation in sound. I didn’t break any strings and really enjoyed the differences that the guitars provided.

Kris does his homework and had to prepare for several new songs (for him). We talked after the show about avoiding ‘clams’. He did fine and also afforded me a big comfort zone in presenting the songs.

As always, I’m disappointed that I can’t get an audience here at the club. I did one of the best shows I’ve done in years.

 

Guitars and mandolin: Martin 000-15M (’19), Martin M-36 (’80’s), Republic Tri-cone, Gibson mandolin (’20’s), Martin C-3 (30’s), Sigma 12-string (80’s), Martin 000-1R (’90’s).

Sunday was a curious day on the planet. I prepared material for my morning DIY radio show, picked up some fine art work from my long-time friend and artist Barbara Kozero and headed to the station for my show. There were the various blips in the presentation but I pulled off a pretty good show (even if Tom Druckenmiller preempted my baseball set. (grrrr….).

I headed back to Godfrey’s to catch some of Pete’s Posse, an incredible New England acoustic trio. Another world class act this weekend at the club. (Ramona rocks!)

I decided to head over to Arts Quest for the 21st Greater Lehigh Valley Music Awards. I found out that they were charging nominees and came close to bolting. But, my friend Allison Gillespie rescued my ass with a free pass with her band. It proved to be a god-send. I got in. Sometimes I’m pretty arrogant.

The production was much better this year, though some of the performing acts still don’t know that a short set is sweet. (Always the critic…) As they rolled through the awards, the Godfrey’s Best Open Mike came up quickly, and I didn’t quite realize I should go up and get it. (Slow….). But I went up and waved and walked off. No need to speechify. As the event proceeded, I picked up the Godfrey’s Best Performance Venue, the Best Community Radio Programmer,  and, finally, (a surprise…) my Best Folk. That one I was not expecting at all.

I reflect on the six awards tonight, after running the small but mighty Godfrey’s Open Mike, I try to compartmentalize the afternoon at Arts Quest. I enjoyed the nods from lots of familiar faces (I am easily confused these days…) as well as hanging out with friends in the biz: players, newspaper writers, etc. This truly is a community experience. It’s nice to feel the support at this social level. I cherished each and every small moment with these friends.

The Radio award was interesting. I’ve received it fairly fraudulently for the last couple of years. There are other more heavily invested that me. But this year, I am spending a lot more energy in my shows, so this one finally felt deserved.

The Children’s award is a fairly default award. Though it feels good, my fellow nominees are deserving, especially Kira Willey. I have thought about retiring from this award, but today was a good pat on the back for my legacy, more than anything. I made a great acceptance speech, “I proud to be the oldest person in this category (children’s music)”. Nice feedback from folks.

The Folk award was quite unexpected. Several other performers have won this recently, with far more exposure in local bars. I really thought folks had moved on. I truly appreciate this one; folks continue to see me perform in various venues, with various bands, and as a solo, so, I guess, I’m still out there. I suppose Troubadour air play  and a few CD’s has helped a lot.

I was particularly gratified with the awards that Godfrey’s picked up: Outstanding  Performance Venue and Outstanding Music Supporter Organization, along with the Open Mike Venue. Together they signify the respect that Godfrey’s has in the Valley, but also how the “team” has shaped that respect. Ramona’s booking, Dina’s web design and radio show, my radio work, Nick on sound, etc. and the Board’s support, too. We beat out several larger venues and a multitude of bars, as well. That is mighty sweet.

I had to leave early to open Godfrey’s up for the open mike. I was particularly proud to inform Lou about his part in the Open Mike award. It was a low-key evening, as usual, but I take pride even on the quiet nights at Godfrey’s.

A full day of music.

 

 

I am usually ambivalent about opening for this evening’s show. Having done 7 hours at Peeps and two sets at Godfrey’s in the past two days, I was honored to do it for my friend Jack Murray. He asked late in the process so I had almost resigned myself to sitting out, and that would be okay.

Hear my Martin roar!

The nice thing about this gig is that can make it brief – three songs – and get off stage to make room for the six-piece band. I wasn’t bound to do Hank Williams’ tunes (or, I ignored it) so I picked out Rosie is a Friend of Mine, Golden Bird (second night) and finish with Legends. I joked that John’s song was what Hank Williams would have written if he were John Gorka.

I stood for this one and felt my voice was a little strained, either from stage stress or vocal fatigue from the last few days. It felt good to do a solid short set and be done for the evening.

Blue Tarp Wranglers

Jack has a crackerjack band, The Blue Tarp Wranglers, with some great players, so there was lots of sparkling leads on Jack’s mix of Hank, Ricky Nelson and other country songs. He does a great job gathering the songs, presenting them with class and allowing his sidemen to shine. Jack had a full house, too…. on a New Years’ Day night. Impressive. Ramona’s birthday.

 

Daughter Rosalie whipped up an Italian pasta dish for Sister Janet and me and we dined above the sound of the first set.

I did what I thought an adequate set but got some nice feedback from some friends and acquaintances about the songs. Golden Bird stood out and I think surprised people. And a friend said my Martin commands the audience to listen. That’s a nice thought. I was surprised to get back some positive vibes for my set. Sometimes I just don’t know.

A good start to 2020 though.

It was a struggle to find folks to play this gig this year. In the past it was billed Three Generations of Godfrey’s with myself, Dina Hall and an emerging songwriter from the community. Dina’s backed out and the younger folks are quite interested. So, I called my friend Kris Kehr to see if he was available and willing and he jumped right in.

I was hoping to attract some younger folks to the early show – we billed it as family-friendly. That turned out to be a good thing. Although there were no young children, there were some tweeners with their parents.

Kris and I decided to split the material and that turned out to be a great idea. Folks are used to seeing Kris as my bass player but were not familiar with his large repertoire of folk and original tunes. He took folks by surprise.

I started out with the playful family stuff – Cat Came Back, We Gave Names, etc. to connect with the teens and the general audience familiar with my “classics.” I actually screwed some of them up – part fatigue from Peeps the day before and part creeping senility. But we settled in nicely.

I pulled Blue Mule out of nowhere and it sounded great. Probably 20 years since Kris played it. I introduced Golden Bird for the first time in front of folks and it found its legs and seems to be part of a new repertoire. I found out it was written by Levon Helm. Damn!

Kris brought out a 12-string, octave mandolin, mandolin, Martin 6-string as well as his bass. This made it possible for Kris to back me up with a wide swath of sounds. Voodoo Chile sounded great with my mandolin and Kris’s Martin capoed up the neck. And when we finished off the evening with Here Comes The Sun, one that we had never played before, Kris chimed in with his mandolin which really sparkled with my Martin capoed up five. It was also a great tune to ring out the old year.

It was remarkably a “family” evening with Kris’s  wife Julie and his precocious daughter Lili. I was glad to have daughter Rosalie in from Italy and sister Janet in from Ann Arbor. We got to play for our families. There were lots of familiar faces in the audience and some newcomers, too. In fact, one couple dropped a $100 bill in the donation basket. Folks enjoyed the show.

Kris was really grateful for the chance to play his music on this stage, a brand new experience for him after all these years of friendship. People ate up his originals as well as his solid backup on my material. I have no problem having him take excursions on his bass as leads in my songs. His work on Lessons from Pete and Giants sounded particularly good tonight. The lead bass takes people’s ears by surprise.

It was an early New Years Eve for everyone and that was greatly appreciated. It’s been a rather tough December but being able to play for my family, with my friend Kris, and a Godfrey’s audience made for a wonderful way to end 2019.

My good friends Jenn McCracken and Mike Dugan do an annual benefit show at Godfrey’s and they ask me to do a short set as part of the evening. Mike is one of the Lehigh Valley’s premier guitars, and has been for years. He and Jenn have put together a fine duo that covers blues, swing/jazz and classic rock and they do it in a very friendly, folkie way. That’s why it works at Godfrey’s.

I did a four song set in the middle starting off with Santa Assassin as a solo. It always catches the audience by surprise, even though I did it during their show last year. It’s short and sweet and delivers every time. I followed with Zat You, Santa Claus with my vocal trombone (getting the audience to chime in with theirs – what a hoot!). Jenn came up for Mary Had a Baby that rolled very nicely, with audience singing.

I took advantage of having Mike around to play lead on Nadine. I finally have the lyrics and cadence down on the song and Mike did an extended lead, complete with a great distorted ride that kicked the song up a notch. We did a great fade at the end. It was a really good and tight set. I’m good in small spaces.

Not bad for a freebie.

The ole gang gets together annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the last 5 or 6 years. This year we had a Musikfest gig in August so we actually have quite a bit of material worked up. Kris Kehr has settled in on bass and the other band members have accepted his dedication and work on the material. Thanks to our regular gigs, Hub is playing piano more, Jeff working on drums and Chris getting back to his steel guitar work. We don’t show as much rust as we once did. Reid remains off in New England but is playing all the time so I have little worry about his performance chops. Peggy is singing regularly, too. Still, the band is not tight like it used to be. And that’s okay, I guess.

We had several practices for this and came up with new material to perform, trying to still explore our collective creativity as a band, as well as simply enjoy each other’s company. Our rehearsals are actually filled with wise cracks and friendly jibes. We enjoy our long friendships.

Reid came into town early so we gathered at 1 pm on Friday and ran through the two sets. Peggy and I got our signals crossed and she came after we packed it up around 4 pm. We got together to straighten out the sound check at 7 for the 8 pm show. We could have used the time earlier.

The first set went well but I was working up a sweat. I was feeling a little winded after the long rehearsal in the afternoon. I wasn’t 100% and I don’t think the band was either. I was disappointed in having half a house as well and didn’t feel the energy of the audience as before. We didn’t remember our arrangements/leads as much. I also think too much.

Set 1.

  1. Choo Choo Cha Boogie (F) – Hub
  2. Lose My Blues (G) – Dave
  3. Your Mind’s on Vacation (E) -Reid
  4. Walkin’ Stick (Am) – Dave
  5. Panhandle Rag (E) – Chris
  6. Good Hearted Woman (E/F) – Hub
  7. Till the Money Runs Out (E) – Kris
  8. Mr. Bojangles (D) – Dave
  9. Chuck E’s in Love (A) – Peggy
  10. Rosie’s a Friend of Mine (A) – Dave
  11. Angel from Montgomery (D) -Peggy
  12. Lessons from Pete (Am) – Dave
  13. Got What It Takes (A) – Reid

I totally blew Peggy’s Angel tune by starting it off as a waltz. Troopers that she and the band are, we managed to finish the song while not totally owning it. It was novel and I challenged the audience to figure out what we did wrong. As usual, we cover our asses with style but I know there is no pride in screwing it up for ourselves. Chuck E’s in Love also suffered from not rehearsing it full band in the afternoon. I feel badly for Peggy’s sake. I even screwed up Lessons from Pete and should have kept Bojangles tighter, nothing noticeable but to me and the band. It was exhausting.

We regrouped for the second set.

Set 2.

  1. Bloodshot Eyes (A) Jeff
  2. O’Reilly Drinking at the Bar (G) Dave
  3. Don’t Call Me Early (D) Dave
  4. Yulesville  – Dave
  5. Till There Was You – Hub
  6. No Milk Today (C) – Reid
  7. 24 Robbers (G) Reid
  8. Jigs (D) Dave
  9. I’m an Old Cowhand (F) Jeff
  10. Don’t Take My Picture (C) Jeff
  11. Rodeo Rider (D) Dave
  12. Texas Swing (C) Hub
  13. encore: Soul Shake (Reid and Peggy)

There was less anxiety for me in the second set. There were fewer powerhouse songs and I think we were more comfortable with the house and the situation. Hub took a chance with his solo Beatles’ song and did fine (though never to his satisfaction). We were able to hit the critical ending to Don’t Call Me Early (yay!) and 24 Robbers was pretty good. I was disappointed with the set of mandolin Jigs, in that the band wasn’t quite familiar with the subtle chord changes to really bring it home, but I played it well and Jeff drove the tune on drums. It didn’t rise to the power of the old days. Rodeo Rider reestablished some credibility and Jeff’s set as front man is always welcome. The encore Soul Shake was a straight ahead rocker and both Peggy and Reid really delivered on a song we had briefly run through before the show. Folks loved the show.

I had a chance to talk with Hub’s wife Donna at the counter as we packed up and said our goodbyes for another year. It was good to hear from her and the audience’s point of view. She said that the crowd picks up on different aspects (outside of our myopic view) that make for a good show. The humor and side-talk is still pretty funny. We play well and have a powerful array of instruments, arrangements, talents and a very diverse repertoire. We obviously enjoy each other’s company and the joy of playing together. Donna enforced that last point: people come to see us play together. It is, after all, play.

I found myself wasted after the show and into the next day. I invest heavily in pulling off a Steppin’ Out! show since I am the nominal leader. It’s hard for me to perform without the confidence that I maintain when it’s just a solo, duo or trio – too many moving parts, leads, endings, etc. in a large band like this, especially with the few gigs and rehearsals that we do. But, I remain tremendously proud of this group of friends and professional musicians. We are still a great band.

 

Sound check

I was lucky to enlist Craig Thatcher and Nyke Van Wyk to join Kris Kehr and myself for a set of Troubadour material at Godfrey Daniels’ Day at Musikfest. This Liederplatz stage in the Sun Inn Courtyard is a perfect arena to perform at this festival and features the great sound of Terry and Dave. They truly make the experience comfortable for every musician (even if the musicians don’ know how to do a sound check….). Craig and Nyke had a gig later that afternoon so I made sure we had an early set. Kris had just come back from his family beach vacation, but, as it is with professionals, we settled in quickly, got our sound down and started off at 1:30 pm.

Liederplatz audience

I worked up a set that had a variety of pairings, duos, trios and a full quartet. I started out with Kris on Don’t Call Me Early and a whimsical Giants, brought out Craig for We Are Welcomed. Craig hadn’t played on this one before and I mentioned off mike during the tune that it was modal D and he picked up on that immediately and played accordingly. (One of many instances of great stage communication – more to follow) It was a good, solid start to the set, with good audience interaction, not that they have a choice at my concerts.

Thumb chord in Don’t Call Me Early

Rosie is a Friend of Mine is a strong, uptempo song, locally produced (Bill Hall) with lots of space for Craig and Nyke leads. I was able to stretch their leads in the moment and both got applause for their efforts. (Again, this was an indication that folks were really listening, almost a jazz-type of respect for the players). The ending (stay on the four!!) was nailed, another point when I had to direct C. and N. in the moment. It worked, to great effect.

I, unfortunately, missed Ten Men on the set list (I really need to play it out more), but continued with a great version of False From True, a Pete Seeger blues that was a highlight of the set. It pulled things back tempo and dynamic-wise and brought it down to my simple acoustic riff, the base for the song that lets the lyrics shine. Again, Craig played the first lead eloquently and the rondo that I’ve added to the song made for a great second, extended lead. Kris gets to lead off with four bars (a nice jolt to the audience and a nod to Kris’s creativity), followed by Nyke, Craig and myself. The audience picks up on that we are playing a game with and for each other. There are two lines in the song that resonated today that I sang with conviction and brought acknowledgement from the crowd: “No song I sing will ever change a politicians mind” and “No song I sing will take the gun from a hate-filled mind.”  The Power of Pete. The song finished with grace and the recognition from the audience of what had just happened – and with only two chords!

Nyke

Stan Rogers’ Giant was next, so Craig took a break. The open tuning, the arcane lyrics and the modality of this makes it a delight to perform and experiment with. Having Nyke’s violin and creative mind simply takes this song to another level. Nyke and I had done this on Monday, so everything was comfortable. Kris, though, hasn’t had much opportunity to experience this, so I was tickled that he had a chance to be on stage for this one. In the middle, I bring the song out of its chord structure and put in a simple two chord space that sets up Nyke’s freedom. Again, I can present a solid rhythm pattern that the other players recognize on the fly. Nyke got another warm round of applause, one of the gifts that I can give my friends.

Craig

It was a good spot to have Craig and Nyke do their duo set. Craig does a nice acoustic finger-picking Blind Lemon Jefferson tune See That My Grave is Kept Clean that they have updated, and yet with great respect for the tradition it comes from. He followed with his collaboration with Dick Boak, Steel Town Refrain, a song about the rise and fall of Bethlehem Steel and the new Bethlehem. He gave a nice introduction about his father sitting in this courtyard the first year he played Musikfest. Spot on. I signaled to Craig that he should do an extra song (I’m no fool…) and he and Nyke did their Irish rocker Where the Shannon Meets the Sea, blowing away everyone in the place. They are a tsunami of sound as a duo and I stand in awe of their prowess on stage.

Yes, I had to follow that, and, mentioning that from the stage, I had to figure out how to move on. As I watched from the side, I decided I should break the mold and do an a Capella song: Tom Lehrer’s The Irish Ballad. It was a good choice but not without risk, especially in these rather violent times and my spotty memory. If people hang in long enough, they hopefully realize that it’s in jest. I was amazed that I was getting through it until I screwed up the last verse. Drat. Sometimes the little mistakes stick out the most when I reflect on the set as a whole. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. This blog helps me see the bigger picture.

Dave and Kris

I was glad to have The Crawl up next, one that Kris and I have performed for a while, and one that is up to snuff over these summer months’ of farmers’ markets gigs. Straight forward and strong presentation. Good. Back in gear.

We headed for home for the last twenty minutes with Louise. Again, I hoped to break the flow and insert a solid and gentle Paul Siebel country song, Louise. I sing it well, it has a nice story arc and the leads are short and focused. Nyke and Craig split the lead, again all communicated among us with nods and recognition from every one.

We teed up John Gorka’s How Legends Are Made, and without much fol de rol, I launched into an aggressive, uptempo version of the song. Nyke and Craig are not very familiar with this one, and John rarely leaves room for leads, but the tune lent itself to a really strong presentation, and had an almost rock feel to it. It surprised me how full the song sounded as a whole. John would have liked it this version, I’m sure.

We had ten minutes left and decided to bring it home with Lessons From Pete. Craig, Nyke and I did this on Monday, and with Kris’ bass, I knew this would be a great closer. It was. Craig and Nyke did short leads early and then the extended lead at the end developed nicely. I’ve been featuring Kris on the first part and I depend on the other players to back off completely, which, of course, they did. It becomes a special dynamic zero point to build from. It came back to Craig and Nyke’s rhythmic violin chops propelled this excursion (Nyke know when not to play, but support. It’s one of his great strengths as a player. It’s no wonder why Craig really doesn’t need a band for this kind of gig.)  Craig brought the heat to the climax and we gently brought it down the final lyrical statement and landed the ending. I extended my thanks to the audience, reintroduced the band members (Craig made a point of mentioning me, too – I forget these things…) and gracefully we exited stage left, with three minutes to spare.

Sometimes I wish I could jump out of my brain and skin and watch from the side. I’m all caught up in the heat of the moment and wash of the music and I wish I could experience the set as a spectator. This is where writing about these sets helps me do that, to the best that I can.

The quartet had a remarkably clean sound, unlike the final act of the day (too many guitars…) and made for an intelligent and stimulating presentation. One comment on FB – “Glad you’re so tight with Craig & Nyke along with Kris, the instrumentals were powerful & heart felt. I could feel the electricity between everyone (no pun intended)”

That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

The Final Set List:

Don’t Call Me Early
Giant
We Are Welcomed
Mr. Bojangles
Rosie is a Friend of Mine
False From True
Giant
Craig and Nyke: See That My Grave is Kept Clean, Steel Town Refrain and Where the Shannon Meets the Sea.
The Irish Ballad
The Crawl
Louise
Legends
Lessons from Pete

The end of another Musikfest – my 35th.

Jeff Sund, Kris Kehr and I had done this project as a Dave’s Night Out in November of 2018 and found it to be a very satisfying collaboration of our own repertoire of Cockburn material; we had many of these tunes in our musical DNA, if we didn’t actually play them ourselves. We put in a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago and got together earlier in the evening to run through the songs and quasi-arrangements. I got to play mandolin on songs I didn’t front, Kris played bass, twelve-string and octave mandolin and Jeff had strong guitar arrangements for his tune and could play leads on others.

We decided to play straight through for an hour and a half, and perhaps that was a mistake. There was a really small audience on hand with some folk new to the club as well. Though we played well, there was not a critical mass of people to generate a spark and I felt a little awkward in the presentation. It was partially due to the summer season but I always chalk it up to my lack of a following for my adult material. Bruce Cockburn is not exactly a house-hold name, either, though with a devoted following.

I was glad to have a chance to play Creation Dream and Foxglove, two nice instrumentals/tunes I rarely play live, though they are good kitchen tunes for me. Kris and Jeff did nice renditions and I nailed Barrelhouse and Tokyo but missed doing What About the Bond since the set was getting long. We finished up nicely with Rocket Launcher and Wonder Where the Lions Are. Some folks drifted in toward the end (there was a Arts Quest concert cancelled due to a suicidal man on the Steel Stacks), so we were able to give these folks a solid introduction to Godfrey’s.

Kris did a great job of preparing bass parts for a whole raft of material which really cemented the evening’s presentation. I could have done more work figuring out mandolin riffs on the other’s songs and working on vocal harmonies. It remains

  1. See How I Miss You (G)
  2. Blues Got the World (G)
  3. Southland (C)
  4. Burn, Baby Burn (G)
  5. Foxglove (C)
  6. Peggy’s Kitchen Wall (D)
  7. Love Loves You Too (D)
  8. Tokyo (E)
  9. Coldest Night of the Year (D)
  10. Creation Dream (D)
  11. Waiting for a Miracle (C)
  12. Pacing the Cage (E)
  13. Barrelhouse (E)
  14. All the Ways I Want You (G)
  15. What About the Bond (Am) omitted
  16. Rocket Launcher (E)
  17. Wonder Where the Lions Are (E)

It was a virtual Dave’s Night Out tonight with Dakota Dave, Dave Fry and two Dave’s in the audience. Epic.

I weaseled my way onto the bill for Friday’s show with Dakota Dave Hull. Dave is a long-time friend, having booked him with Sean Blackburn in 1982. That duo was one of the best acoustic duos on the folk circuit at the time with great vocals, hot leads and wonderful swing tunes. Dave had become one of the premier ragtime guitarists on the planet and it’s been over 12 years since he’s been at Godfrey’s, though he did a house concert at Space Mountain a couple of years back.

The April season means smaller audiences at the club. Tonight, we had seven.

I worked up a 45 minute opener with some newer tunes, ones that needed some exposure in front of people. I had a good runthrough in my kitchen this morning but, as I always discover, playing on stage always creates some chaos in my brain. I had success with Part of the Union, Giants, Bojangles but blew some lyrics on Ten Men and couple others. Still not up to snuff. I haven’t had meaningful gigs to prepare for and tonight showed I still need some nose to the grindstone during off periods. It was especially tough with only seven people (and DDH!) in the audience.

I’m sure it was a good set, but it felt a little wobbly. 

Dave did a great set (he started a little akimbo, himself) but his deft picking kicked in with superb rag tunes on four different guitars. He can pull off an entertaining evening without singing a note. That’s something special.

We agreed to finish off the night with two songs together. He suggested Victory Rag, one I could play mandolin on. The early rehearsal was rough but the finale was actually pretty good. I claimed myself the Ramen of Mandolins – I can noodle with the best of them. We did Green, Green, Rocky Road, a Van Ronk tune to end the night. That worked nicely. Dave ended with an encore rag piece.

In spite of a molecular crowd, it was a high-quality evening of folk music.

Knockin’ On Heavens, Part of the Union, Voodoo Chile (mandolin), Ten Men, Tokyo, Foxglove (open tuning), Bojangles, Giant. I love my Martin guitars.