All entries filed under Godfrey Daniels

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.

This was a long time coming, with Mike Duck putting together a nice slate of performers for the evening including Bev Conklin, Alyssa Allen, John Huie, Mike, myself and Bakithi Kumalo, the real deal. Bakithi is Paul Simon’s bass player but I’ve known him as Robbi Kumalo’s husband. Robbi is on my Playground CD and was a pleasure to get to know. She and her two daughters moved here from Long Island while Bakithi was on a two and a half month tour with Simon. He eventually moved to the

Lehigh Valley to be with his family. His history is quite amazing, from growing up in South African Apartheid to performing on the world’s biggest stages and then settling in our humble Lehigh Valley. He is a humble and genuine human being.

Bakithi is a true professional and I was excited to have the opportunity to play with him. It turned out great and there was a full house on hand, as well.

The group had a chance to rehearse some of the tunes ahead of the show and Bakithi was a real sport. Mike wanted to do Call Me Al. It was obvious that Bakithi didn’t want to do it and was really uncomfortable with our amateur rhythm on the song. I’m afraid Mike didn’t read the signs. When you play major stages like Bakithi does, you have to respect his experience.

Alyssa Allen

There’s was an appreciative crowd on hand as we did a round-robin among us. Bakithi did a great opening tune, having every one repeat a South African call and response and then encouraged everyone to do some full-throated singing behind his kalimba. He won the audience on the first song. Mike, Bev and John followed with their songs and it came around to me. I did We Are Welcomed in the spirit of the evening and Alyssa added some great harmonies and it came off wonderfully. Alyssa followed with an Anais Mitchell song that blew folks away. She was the real sleeper of the evening, later doing a kick-ass Respect that shattered everyone. Bev did Spooky and a great version of Motherless Child, like the pro she is. Mike played strong rhythm guitar and held down the emceeing for the evening. I got to do some noodling on mandolin as well and had some good moments. And I played cowbell!

I started the second set with Bruce Cockburn’s What About the Bond, a new one for me, with a reggae feel. Bakithi picked up on it right away and we connected nicely on it, with Bakithi doing a bass lead in the middle. There were nice dynamics and I didn’t screw up the words, especially since they applied to theme of the evening. I think it was a surprising departure for the audience, expecting a folkier selection from me. When it came around  again, I served up I Can See Clearly Now and the audience was singing along from the get go. Nice to have a crowd like this.

We did a great version of Bob Marley’s One Love and it would have made the perfect finish. I had my fingers crossed. But Mike really wanted to do Call Me Al, and once he announced it, the crowd cheered and there was no turning back. We were able to do a reasonable version of it and the audience ate it up. I felt bad for Bakithi but he is a pro and played for the audience. I’m glad we didn’t do This Land is Your Land that Mike had in mind. It wasn’t necessary. Solid ending and a standing ovation.

Mike worked his tail off in promoting and producing the whole concert for months and months and I was proud that he pulled off a great show and got a full house for us. I was tickled to share the stage for the first time with Bev Conklin and Alyssa proved her chops in front of her Touchstone colleagues and a new Godfrey’s audience. I played well and enjoyed not not having to front the show for a change.

Strange ephemeral image in the sound room.

A good night at Godfrey’s.

I have always had mixed feelings about these awards and the ceremony that happens annually this time of year. This one was the 20th and the event has pulled itself together remarkably over the years. It was initially the brain-child of a child-brain hippy, held at various bars, banquet halls, theaters, etc. but now is a polished production at the Musikfest Cafe. It’s still in a bar situation though, as I was remembering giving my Life-Time Acheivment Award speech several years ago. Half the crowd was at either end of the venue, chatting it up with friends at the two bars. But, still, it is now a professional event, with videos, live bands, “celebrities” and a roomful of musicians, old friends and music supporters. Good for us all.

This year was a good one for Godfrey Daniels, taking home Best Performance Venue, Best Music Supporter and Best Open Mike. These all reflect the respect that the local music scene appreciates what the club stands for, all the more amazing because it’s not a bar (!!!!) and it is not a industrial-sized complex. These are the awards that I’m really proud of, and they reflect on the hard work that Ramona LaBarre, Dina Hall and the entire Godfrey’s community put in to maintain our excellence. I merely bask in their dedication and sweat.

I am also proud of the many poets, players, artists and creative friends who won individual awards. It’s really hard to find any larger artistic recognition in this Valley and this event helps to celebrate their efforts in our community. Amen. You know who you are.

There was some lousy weather coming in about the same time that things were about to begin, and that tempered my enthusiasm for going. I was only up for a couple of awards and not nominated for several that I had anticipated would have been over the last year. I was aiming for Best Album with my Troubadour CD and it got no mention. I was not nominated for Best Folk, one I have won over the last few years. I was surprised but would not have minded having someone else win it. I also had hoped Lessons from Peter would be nominated for Best Original Song. I felt somewhat miffed about the selection process, grounded in popular votes and not by a panel for merit. Folks don’t get to hear my CD or see me perform since I don’t play the barroom circuit. I remain invisible. So it goes.

I was nominated for Best Web Site, and would have liked to win this one, especially for the great work that my friend Mikc Duck puts in, developing and maintaining a pretty awesome site. You are on it now. It has provided me the chance to keep in touch with my performance base while giving me the chance to become a better writer through this blog. That’s the real value for me. I remain creatively engaged as an artist. Reflect. Reflect. Reflect.

I thought that I should go, just to bump into my fellow musicians. I owe them that much. I truly regret deciding against going. The weather turned out to be less than ferocious. I could have done it. Lesson learned. Sloth and indolence prevailed.

I did win Best Children’s Performer, one that I have, literally “grandfathered” over the last decade. I win it because I am ubiquitous – I’ve been doing it for several generations. And, there are so few of us doing this in the Lehigh Valley. I’ve had the chance to see Kira Willey’s work and she is as professional and fun as I am. She has some great exposure on PBS TV-39, with great production values. It would be nice to have her recognized as such. But, I hang on to these honors, for some internal reason.

I also received the Best College/Community Radio Personality for the 3rd or 4th year running. Again, I remain ambivalent about it, (especially the “personality” part) and share the airwaves with some much more committed radio programmers. I win this one because of my overall presence in the arts scene, and not because of merit. A.J Fritz, Tom Druckenmiller, Steve Capwell, Geoff Chambers, and many others in community radio all put in lots of time and expertise in their on shows. They all have years of being gatekeepers to what is best in creative radio, regardless of genre. Again, I value being recognized.

I came to realize that the cast for Troubadour took home individual honors. Dan DeChellis (piano), Craig Thatcher (acoustic Guitar), Nyke Van Wyk (string instrumentalist) and Kevin Soffera (drums/percussion and studio producer). That’s pretty good company there, and I wish we could have shared in its recognition.

Again, I was a fool for not attending and perhaps my ‘fragile’ ego stood in the way. But, I guess I can blame it on the weather.

It was a pleasant surprise when an opening set for John Gorka plopped into my lap when Russ Rentler (Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band member w/ John at Moravian) declared himself a walking petri dish and had to cancel his set. This is a rare opportunity to share this stage with my friend (and his audience!)

John’s been in town for a couple days so I’ve had a chance to catch up with him. He is one of maybe four men I consider my brother. I’ve heard that I’m part of his show with his rap about PA scrapple, mentioned in the same sentence together. Thanks, John.

I prepared a short 4 song set, meaning to be brief on a Sunday night show. Kevin Soffera texted me before the show, asking to find some standing room to hear John. We decided to do the set as a duo. It turned out great!

Kevin set up his cajon gear and a bag of shakers, tambourines, etc. We came out to a completely full audience with lots of friends in the crowd.

We started out with We Are Welcomed, the final cut on the Troubadour CD, and one that is just a duo. It was the first time since we played it in his studio. It fit like a glove and a great simple tune to introduce us. It’s cool that the song has really solidified since we recorded it as a new song.

I chatted about scrapple, Catholic Schools Week with RockRoots, and some of my connections with John. We share the same sense of ironic humor (no surprise there) and it shapes our live shows beyond the music.

We dialed up Stan Rogers’ Giant, again a nice fit with John’ show. He has a very nice intro to Stan’s visits to Godfrey’s and he finishes his set with How Legends are Made. We pretty much smoked it, and Kevin’s percussion was tasty and my guitar roaring.

We did Lessons from Pete next and it turned out wonderfully as a duo and the build at the end worked nicely with just the guitar and his percussion. It was well received and gave us the opportunity to plug Saturday’s concert.

I decided to bring out Song for the Life, a Rodney Crowell tune that I’ve pulled out of my way-back set lists, and one I’ve been working on in my kitchen this week. I’ve put together a tight little arrangement is straight ahead. I play on using it for an opening encore song for the concert. (Boy, that’s arrogant, assuming an encore…). The guitar was slightly out of tune but I hope I’m the only one who notices.  It was a spot on finisher for my set.

 

I introduced John and exited stage right. Done for the evening and now a chance to see my good friend in his element. He has become a consummate performer, with humorous and warm stage presence to match his rich voice and incredible songs.

I am blessed to be in his large circle of friends.

I was looking forward to returning to the friendly confines of Godfrey Daniels for First Night, the annual multigenerational folk show. This year, I had to reconfigure the concept with Dina Hall’s absence. But, I’m glad I trusted my instincts by booking myself with emerging songwriter Rachel Marie with her wonderfully quirky (and self-effacing dad) Bill Schachter. It turned out to be one of the nicest New Year’s evenings I’ve shared in recent memory.

I did a kids’ show to start off with at 7 pm. There was one kid, a highly charged boy named Charlie. I, thankfully, knew what I was dealing with, so, with only a handful of folks in the house at the time, I was able to attend to him while talking about my recent explorations in TA techniques. Scarves, etc. But I was able to get Charlie involved in a reasonable way, engage the adults and talk about what I do. After four sets the day before, I negotiated this gig with one kid in a good manner, and then took 15 minutes to get ready for two sets of adult material.

The hard work was done for now.

Bill, Rachel and I did two sets in a round robin, two songs and pass it on. The format was great. I started out with Green, Green Rocky Road to get folks singing and away we went. Rachel and I did Soar, a tune I played on her earlier.y CD, and it was refreshingly bright. From there on, the onstage banter and chat among us was quite entertaining and full of wit. That was no surprise, upon reflection. The interactions were quite breathtaking and full of love. It was, for me (and once again), an amazing personal and spiritual experience to sit in between two such amazing friends, a father and daughter and my fellow artists in front of an appreciative audience. It can only happen here, on this stage.

Each of us took some chances tonight, and that’s what I really got out of the show. And a fine show it was!

Rachel is an amazing songwriter and vocalist, dealing with life-style and career challenges while my friend Bill is dealing with serious health issues. Both of them addressed some heavy stuff tonight with humor and directness that is signature for both of them. And they pulled it off with integrity, class and musical craft. That gains my utmost respect for them both. 

I had a great time being the glue. I got to play Green, Green, Rocky Road, Santa Assassin, Lessons from Pete, a Bruce Cockburn instrumental Foxglove and others, and finished with, appropriately, Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning. We got a big round of applause at the end and left the stage satisfied with a very nice evening of music at the end of the 2018.

I couldn’t think of a better way to exit this year, stageright at Godfrey Daniels.

 

I have the opportunity to perform in front of a Godfrey’s listening audience every once in a while. Tonight, my friends Jenn McCracken and Mike Dugan (Cheek2Cheek) invited me to do a small set for a homeless benefit at the end of the first set. I started with Santa Assassin, a nifty little blues that gets folks attention. A good opener. I followed with Lessons from Pete to maintain some songwriting cred. I invited Mike up to play on Zat You, Santa Claus cold – no problem. He nailed it, I added vocal trombone, inviting the audience to join in (which they did in spades!). It was a riot. I finished with Pete’s False From True, a two-chord blues wonder, which gave Mike lots of space to shine. This was a keeper, since he plays on this tune on Troubadour. All in all, it was a particularly satisfying mini-set for the home crowd.

I actually sold some CDs, including a couple of Peanut Butters, thanks to the lasting power of The Cat Came Back. The lady who bought them will give them to her now twenty-something kids as stocking stuffers. The legacy lives on.

This was the fifth annual gathering of Steppin’ Out! on the Friday after Thanksgiving and the first gig after our set at Liederplatz last August. I think we finally have a solid concept of being more than a reunion affair, an actual performing ensemble. It’s been an interesting process this fall in preparation for this gig. We’re a pretty good band.

We are somewhat handicapped with Reid being a full-time performing musician in New England. We have to set up gigs like this months in advance to accommodate his schedule. I’ve been the band secretary and creative director so it’s been up to me to guide the project. We put together three rehearsals prior to Friday with four, five or six members and did a lot of homework via emails, dropboxes and other useful social devices, and, we are smarter as musicians as well. (I hope). Each session was particularly professional and productive. These dialogues create communication and trust and go a long way to our comfort on stage. Lots of funny chatter as happens with good friends.

I pulled up our two-hour set from Musikfest and started from there. I put out feelers for new material from the folks and everybody came up with new stuff. That’s a sign that we are all creatively invested in the band. Peggy, Kris, Hub and I offered some challenging songs, I pulled up Troubadour tunes, Jeff put together a rock and roll medley and counted on Reid’s amazing skills as a spontaneous and gifted improvisor. The antennae is always up with him.

I put together two strong sets and brought them to the four hour rehearsal on Friday afternoon (with Reid) and it was, again, remarkable how we were able to roll through the material, work on some details, pass out the leads. We really got things ready for the show later on that evening. It’s great working with a real performing unit. We took a three-hour break to come back for a sound check and run a few songs.

I had hoped to take a break before the show but I found myself having to help out setting up the room, making coffee and working the counter due to our usual shortage of volunteers at my shows. Pisses me off, but I have to jump in when there’s a need at the club.

We hit the stage a little after 8 pm and started out with Choo Choo Cha Boogie, a tight opener and Reid immediately followed with Buzzy’s You Got What It Takes, nailing his vocal gymnastics at the end. With that opening statement, we settled into our comfortable banter with the audience and rolled out the set of old favorites and the new tunes. Peggy came up and made her presence a real part of the band, now quite energized as a singer and performer. We were really listening to each other, adapting to various wrinkles in our execution and I know that the audience is engaged by the process.

Set One:

  • Choo Choo Cha Boogie  – Hub (tight opener)
  • Got What It Takes – Reid (straight R&B with killer vocals)
  • O’Reilly Drinking at the Bar – Dave (irreverent swing)
  • Bloodshot Eyes  – Jeff (country swing fave)
  • Mr. Bojangles – Dave ( a new ballad that I almost got right)
  • False from True  – Dave (extended blues, Peggy’s voice and leads)
  • Chuck E’s in Love – Peggy (this is a new one that connects)
  • Love Me Like a Man – Peggy (Bonnie Raitt classic that Peggy owns)
  • Rosie is a Friend of Mine – Dave (new one that the band is working on)
  • Til the Money Runs Out  – Kris (Kris steps up with a Tom Waits tune -welcome to the band!)
  • Walkin’ Stick –  Dave (quick version that brought a “not tonight, ladies” comment
  • Delilah – Reid (this one always has a visceral response from the crowd.)
  • Tightrope – Hub (we did great for the first time in front of people)
  • Yulesville – Dave (a trip into jazzville with red shades for all)
  • Lessons from Pete – Dave (it was nice version with good colors from everyone)

I was particularly gratified that, thanks to Concert Window on the web, my daughter Rosalie could catch the first set from her home in Italy. She said said, “Spectacular show tonight! So glad I could tune in. You guys looked like you had a blast ?“. That’s very cool.

The second set settled in quickly with our country swing set, a Beatles set, some old favorites (as got out the mandolin and Jeff fronted the band from guitar and piano, Hub played great drums.) and finished up with our rock and roll medley. We came off stage to a standing ovation but I was winded. We hadn’t planned an encore so I was grasping at what to do. Kris mentioned we didn’t do Don’t Call Me Early, and, bang, that was the perfect way to end the evening. It was serendipity, falling out of a mistake I had made in forgetting it in the second set.  But it was a well-rehearsed new song and referenced getting up in tomorrow morning after this gig; it also got people singing and we almost nailed the ending (no one else noticed…). It turned out to be spot on for the final coda on the show.

Set Two:

  • She Made Me Lose My Blues – Dave (tight, sprightly bluegrass opener)
  • Going Back to Tennessee – Peggy (a new one from Peg that Hub owned)
  • Seeds and Stems Again –  Dave (a righteously pitiful country tune that was fun)
  • You Can’t Do That – Reid (another new one that Chris wanted and it was good break from the country)
  • Lady Madonna – Hub (Hub owns this one, too, and the band responded)
  • Zombie Jamboree – Dave (silly nonsense that folk appreciate, tight though)
  • 24 Robbers – Reid (Fat’s Waller tune that breaks the mold, and, again, tight)
  • I’m an Old Cowhand – Jeff (Jeff fronts the band on guitar with a band favorite)
  • Song For You- Hub (Hub did it wonderfully, with mix of piano and organ on the keys. It was great to hear him take charge)
  • Santa Assassin – Dave (again, with the attitude. It is short and sweet)
  • Mandolin Tunes – Dave (the tunes came off well in spite of Terry in the audience)
  • Texas Swing  – Hub (Hub’s festive Texas Swing tune that re-introduces the band)
  • All Shook Up / 20 Flight Rock/ Jailhouse Rock – Jeff  (people got up and danced!)

Encore: Don’t Call Me Early – Dave (an unexpected rouser of an encore)

Reflections on the evening to follow.

 

 

I set up this gig with my friend Kris Kehr on bass at Godfrey’s, looking for some sort of presence this summer, especially with a new CD coming out. I, of course, had no product in hand (…next week for sure, Rocky) but perhaps spurred some interest for tonight’s show.  I notoriously have a poor turnout for my sets at Godfrey’s but was glad to see folks come in off the streets before we went on at 8 pm, each a warm surprise.

Kris and I have a long time respect for each other and having his support on stage as a musician and friend means alot to me. Even with just two players, we are able to deliver a remarkably full sound to go along with my esoteric repertoire. He has a chance to improvise and play “lead” on bass, and still sink back into his support position, so he has a chance to express his creativity while supporting my music. Win/win. And the audience digs it.

The first set was well over an hour, which surprised me and seemed to fly by. I played some new and some old tunes, while having the chance to chat about the songs, my kids’ music, my travels and recent gigs over the last few days. The banter among the audience, Kris and myself is worth the price of admission.

By the way, tonight’s door charge was part of Ramona’s summer pricing: $10. I joked that they (the audience) were sitting in the $10 seats.

In spite of blowing the initial song’s (Ireland) intro, I was able to pick up the pieces and deliver some strong music. This Martin still focuses my guitar play, Kris is there to give me space to explore my guitar work, and there is a friendly and appreciative audience for me to react with. This is why Godfrey’s exists on this planet. Welcome to my living room.

We did well, got a prolonged ‘ovation’ at the end and finished with a very raucous Giants to send the mob back onto 4th Street satisfied, if not foaming at the mouth.

My friend Mike Duck has put in tremendous effort to put together a concert for No Place for Hate, a national (and locally, Bethlehem School District) program to promote understanding, diversity and anti bullying in schools. I’ve done several of these with Mike and Pentley Holmes here at Godfrey’s and this was a bigger effort on Mike’s part. In spite of posters, flyers, social media and more, we played to a house of about 20 people. Such is life in the Lehigh Valley.

It was a particularly good show with some quite talented folks from our musical community: Dina Hall, Mike, Pentley Holmes, John Huie (Beth. School District percussion teacher), Alyssa Allen (Soul Folks) and myself. Put together by Mike, he was able to steer the music towards the positive (some great Sam Cooke, Motown, CSNY and more) and included some original music by Mike, Pentley, Dina and John. Some magic moments and nice humor.

I supplied We Are Welcomed, Bright Sunshiny Day and Step By Step.  They all were on point with the thrust of the evening and I was glad I could add some substance to the proceedings. I especially love the chance to sit in on mandolin. It’s a rare and beautiful thing that stretches my creativity.