I headed up to Madison Green for my first farmers’ market of the year. A four hour drive that wasn’t too bad for a Friday and got there with a half hour to spare – time to meditate and then set up. It was a gorgeous day, with temps in the low 70’s and a mild breeze. I started out facing the market traffic and played my adult stuff, and, I must say, I was playing well for so early in the season. There were few tips, of course, but I got to chat with a fellow guitarist who was into Guilds. Always nice to sway guitar talk.

About an hour in, I noticed a few families setting up blankets behind me, so I did a 180 and faced the open Green for the rest of the gig. Kids, parents, grandparents started to gather and eventually we had a good connection – puppets, scarves, shakers spread out in front of me. I’m giving out my kids’ CD these days to the parents (hopefully they still have CD players). With about a half hour left, I asked the kids to gather the flotsam in front of me and put things back in the bags. I played a few more tunes and packed up my car for the ride home.

Daughter Rosalie was supposed to meet me for dinner, but she forgot. That gave me a head start back to Bethlehem and I could get back by 9:30.

I got some nice tips from the vendors who appreciate what I do for the market, especially the work with the kids and families: a nice bag of bagels, some craft cheese and a bag of greens and some scallions. Only about $35 in tips.

I was armed with a variety of CD’s for the trip and had a great time being able to take in full CDs, a rare treat these days. I always question myself about doing this three-hour gig with eight hours of travel, but I always enjoy getting out of town and having some time to ruminate on the road.

Thursday was the wrap up assembly for my Big Plans residency at Wm Penn ES. I got there early to work the core group on our songs and was reminded of the lack of focus these kids have, and how that’s not a big problem – they are kids. It was fun to see them relish performing on this stage in the middle of the school (open air format), and they took turns rolling around on the carpeted stage. I felt pretty good that they would handle the songs well.

The space filled up with K – 5th grades with the teachers along the sides in folding chairs. I’ve played here many times and I like the space and its unique layout. Full house!

I started with I Like Peanut Butter, the Tutti Tah and we were rolling! Even the older kids were engaged. I followed with The Cat Came Back which I prefaced with my pandemic discussions about the song having racist origins, something I promised my Black teaching artists that I would do. I have done the song at this school for years and it was requested by some of the tenured teachers who remembered it. It worked well, with the kids picking up on the chorus, getting the teachers to sing it and getting the kids to respond to the teachers chorus. This works great!

I Can Be – final assembly: Kayden, Karla, Skylar, Zahari, Jacen, Amerveer and Xavier.

I brought up the core group (who were sitting on the side of the stage) to do our Down By the Bay verses and it worked pretty well, in spite of being fairly vanilla in the writing. Still, they took well to the spotlight. I followed with Giants with two of the core group kids playing thunder tubes. It was then time to premier the Big Plans song I Can Be. Aaron, my liaison at the school, projected the words on the screen behind me so that it would be easier for the audience to sing along. It worked well, and the core group did fine, with all the clever nuances and movements that bring some charm to the song. I’ve used this chorus at Fountain Hill, linked with a Bruce Cockburn lick on the guitar. (I was glad to have that chorus and lick in my repertoire, considering the shorter residency). It came off well, short and sweet.

I finished with All Around the Kitchen which never fails to get every one up and dancing. I introduced the water sprinkler, the car dealership (forgot the name…) and then brought up kids to demonstrate their own moves. It always works to see the kids come up with moves and names. Then, I always ask a teacher to come up, with several of her fellow teachers (she gets to pick ’em). This particular teacher had already expressed that she wanted to come up, so she was ready. She did The Gritty and her friends did The Charleston, Around the World, showing some quick thinking and ingenuity. The place rocked. A great way to bring everyone together at the end.

I packed up my gear and headed off. The shy East Indian boy waved to me as I drove off among all the parents picking up their kids, and it was a nice payoff for the work I had done, on the micro and macro levels. Now, I await the check from Doug. I’m not even sure what I’m getting paid.

Second visit and time to get down to work on our Big Plans song.

I refreshed our version of Down By The Bay, and the kids had some good recall of the words, motions and reactions, but, as we went through the song, I realized how scattered these kids are. (pandemic?) A mix of too quiet, too bouncy, too unfocused, while still doing some good work. So it goes with a after-school program, I guess.

Since we have to come up with some verses on several jobs suggested last week, we picked up on truck driver, teacher and actor. Again, what once was a fairly productive process, the focus and verbal responses were all over the place. This puts it in my hands to come up with more of the content and rhymes. The kids get caught up in the rhymes and less on creating sentences and story arc. This was a tough session, and not as much play as last week.

  1. A cup of coffee and I head for my semi-truck.

Fill up with soccer balls at the warehouse, just to make a buck

I could do this forever cause I’m a lifer,

I think that I’ll be a truck driver.


  1. I have a classroom at Wm Penn with girls and boys,

Math Spanish, Reading, ; there’s so much noise.

Summertime you’ll see me down the shore; I’m a beacher.

I think that I’ll be a teacher (Sit Down!)


  1. At our talent show, I’m going to do my act.

A very dramatic scene, and that’s a fact.

When I grow up, I’ll read the script on the page,

I’ll think that I’ll be an actor on the stage. (Take a bow)

After our sweat shop session, I loosened things up with my scarf routine, and it was a great way to finish out the day. I’m glad we’re in the central library area, carpeted and nice open space. And, we are the people left in the building.

We covered our faces with the scarves and then came up with facial emotions. We then explore “writing” with the scarves, letters, names, etc. It’s a great swirl of colors. I then do Jelly in the Dish, with the kids launching their scarves at the end of the verse, and then trade scarves with each other. Controlled chaos with a visual payoff that is quite psychedelic, frankly.

I was pretty spent after today’s session. One more session next week and then an assembly. We’ll never be ready for the assembly and I’ll have to carry the load, but I can do that.


An interesting gig was offered to me recently; a one-day camp for diabetes-1 kids and families at Cedar Crest College on Sunday: CampConnecT1D. The pay scale was quite lucrative and I figured I could do it well. The theme was health and mental welfare through music. Right up my alley. There were about 15 kids with their parents. The local radio station B101 was there, as well.

I was asked to do two hours but negotiated for an hour and a half, considering our collective attention span. I followed Dr. David Holland’s presentation, spotlighting how the arts can affect emotions, which fit in nicely later on in my show.

Rain stick for Tropical Vacation

I was set up under a big balloon arch, with pillows for the kids and chairs for the adults/parents. A few blow-up guitars, mikes, keyboards were scattered about, and, as I started with I Like Peanut Butter, I encouraged the kids to take a lead on the props. They did and instantly came out of their shells. I followed with Tutti Tah, encouraging the adults to participate. We were on our way. Tropical Vacation, Down By the Bay, Giants, Branching Out, We Gave Names to the Animals (with shakers) and more.

As we headed into the home stretch, I broke out the scarves and we explore emotions, with Dr. Holland coming up and demonstrating being vexed, one of the more curious emotions brought up by the kids. We then did some scarf-art with the alphabet and followed with Jelly in the Dish, with kids (and, eventually parents, nurses and staff joining in) dancing, tossing scarves in the air, and sharing them with each other. I’ve been doing this exercise quite often recently with great effect as a closer.

I took time at the end to reflect on what the kids, and then the adults, liked about the show. This is a great was for folks to vocalize and establish a vocabulary on the arts experience. This was wonderful, as well.

Pizza and hoagies followed and I got to talk with some of the nurses and Dr. Holland about the session. They loved it. I picked up the check (with a 10% tip) and drove back home feeling fairly righteous about the event and my part in it. And I got paid well.

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.

Wm. Penn ES

Big Plans – day one. We gathered after school in the library with six kids, a small but mighty group of four boys and two girls. We did I Like Peanut Butter to loosen up. And then we worked on Down By The Bay to work on some rhyming and creative thinking skills. The kids caught on and we added some interesting layers to the verses with sound effects and motions.


Did you ever see a fox chewing stinky sox (P. U.!) Down by the bay (And then….)

Did you ever see a horse slamming the doors (4 count – clap)  (And then…)

Did you ever see a panda peeling bamboo in Atlanta (peeling with teeth) (and then…)

Did you ever see an owl doing the macarena with a fowl (one girl leads the macarena). Yeah!

Nice session with great engagement. We’ll be able to do this one at the assembly in a few weeks.

Big Plans is the topic to get kids to think about what they want to be when they grow up, and be able to ask questions of adults on what they do. I handed out my Playground CD in order to inform them as to what I do. It’s a shame that only one kid has a CD player at home. I spent some time looking at the cover and hoping they would ask some questions. I gave them ‘homework’ for them to come back with questions for me. Good luck.

I asked the kids for ideas as to what they want to be and we came up with: a truck driver, teacher, famous singer, fire fighter and soldier. One loquacious boy offered that his dad drives truck so he was able to come up with some good material (soccer balls to a NJ stadium), sleeper cabs, coffee, waffle house, and more. A good start for next week.

We did the Tutti Tah, Super Star and broke open the bag of instruments, got up and danced, explored the space and finished with reflection on what we did during the session: danced, spilt water, CD, Down by the Bay, I Like Peanut Butter, jobs, and had fun. They did a good job on recollecting and I asked them to share some of what we did when they got home.

It was a very good opening session and the kids were engaged, and I picked up clues as the various learning styles of the kids. (One girl was very soft-spoken but a great dancer…) Another is a particularly young boy, but eager to play along.

A section of the outside wall had collapsed on Monday. The school moved some classes into other parts of the building. Sheesh.


Early Childhood Learning Center

Having retired RockRoots in the last month or so, I’m down to occasional solo shows. I don’t miss the long drives into deepest, darkest New Jersey.  (Actually, I got a lot of thinking done…) This one came from a PTA mom who wondered if I was still playing for kids (??!!). You bet.

From the PTA lady, “The kids loved it so much and the teachers said it was awesome!” nice.

I love playing for preschoolers – their energy, their glee and their curiosity. It’s a treat to see the teachers have some fun, too. That’s a big part of my fee. I was paid well for this one, and I was glad that got what I asked  – what I deserve.

After dealing the the traffic cop, the front office folks, I was guided to my workplace for the morning – a carpeted library!! Oh, yeah, my kinda space.

My liaison was a great help. She scouted down some water, supplied an extension chord (and plugged it in!), and made me welcome. Nice to not play in an echo chamber like the gym – what I had pictured in my mind. She also asked for three short sets, roughly 20 minutes – I fought for 25. I’ve not done something like this small scope but figured out 4 songs to do. It was fun to do as a sprint.

Here’s my thought process as I play my set. Perhaps it’s TMI, but it’s place where I exercise my creative juices so that I can claim to be an Artist.

Each session had about 75 kids apiece, enough that I was glad I had my small amp and mike setup. I introduced my guitar and we counted the strings, listened to the bass E and the high E. I talked about the wood, and that it was born in Nazareth. Why is called a flat pick?

I started with I Like Peanut Butter, complete with clapping, hand-motions and a freeze, stuff that breaks down the doors with little kids and teachers. I then introduced my Superstar response, again with gettin’ up and moving. Also, a nice pat on the back for their cooperation. We did the Tutti Tah, which really demolishes all sense of decorum. I wasn’t sure what to follow that with, but I figured I should play guitar again, and settled on Down By The Bay. A simple call and response, rhyming, rhyming and rhyming. Lots of spontaneous rhymes which the teachers often grin. As I was playing, I notice I had a short time left and made the song short. Time flies.

I had prepared for the big ending: Jelly in the Dish. I use scarves for this one, and had gotten in a new stash of them so that I could have one for everyone. We used them all. I immediately say, “Let’s hide!” and all put our scarves over our heads. This really centers and quiets the crowd. We then played with unveiling a variety of faces (they get to chose, but I always add “your teacher””). Again, modeling emotions.

I get the kids to spell the alphabet with scarf movement, A, O, Z, and their choices. Then we do the first letter of their name (ownership).  I really love how the room is morphing into a sea of  swirling colors. Psychedelic.

Now it’s time to dance. Jelly in the Dish is a great tune, once a jump-rope rhyme, now transposed to my kitchen. I love playing funky music on my Martin, and the kids get to dance in their own safe and creative space. At the end of the chorus, I say “Jelly in the Dishhhhhhh…..” and ask the kids to toss the scarves in the air, something they usually do on their own, but this creates a controlled splash of color in space. I then ask the kids to trade scarves with a neighbor, and that’s a great social device. (I am so manipulative)

I surrendered to the chaos by having the kids come up and put the scarves back in the bag. The kids get to “break the plane” to enter my performance space. A good choice in the moment. Connection.

I get the kids to sit down and make my final comments: first of all, share something we did with your parents at home, and then asked they liked, getting them to reflect on what just happened, and arming the kids a vocabulary to vocalize. (One kid said she like the microphone.) I then ask some of the teachers what stood out to them: rhyming, movement, coffee, Martin guitar, fun. It’s always informative, and often humorous. It’s also good to acknowledge their input and the kids get to hear adults converse in the room. Community.

I packed up my small gear and wheeled out my stuff to the front of the school, still running on adrenalin. (It does catch up to me later in the next day or so.) I’ll be sending out my kids’ CDs to the music teacher, in spite of the fact that few teachers have players in their classroom. One teacher had primed the kids before hand with my I Like Peanut Butter CD. Always amazing at the life and longevity of my music. That feels good.

There ya go. I was busy.


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.


As I found out on Friday, Sláinte is pronounce “slan – cha”, which means “to your health” as in a toast to one’s friends. I was glad to pick up a gig at Arts Quest on St. Paddy’s Day and it paid well. I decided to call up my friend Kris Kehr and see if we could work up a couple of sets of Celtic music, with him on bass and guitar. He, of course, said, “hell, yes!”

I was ambivalent about the gig, mostly because I was a week out from another serious operation, and my physical ability to pull it off. I have years of material though, and, with some rehearsal, I felt I could do it. Besides, both Kris and I need the money. I came close to cancelling, and I’m glad I didn’t.

I prepared a list of songs I’ve been doing in bars for years, a couple of knock-off Irish standards and several mandolin medleys. (There was a time when I had three gigs on a St. Paddy’s Day.) I also picked out some Americana songs that would fit the ballad style for the occasion. Kris and I did one Facetime session on songs and another on mandolin tunes.

Kris put in a lot of time researching the songs and I sent him links to my renditions I did during my productive pandemic You Tube work (My library paid off). Several of these tunes have some difficult chord changes, often foreign to the average American ear, so we dug deep. The session pointed out, quite strongly, that my mandolin chops have deteriorated considerably over the past few years, due to age and less frequent gigs. And Kris had to figure out these subtle chord changes. I was worried about my fingers.

Strong songs: Don’t Call Me Early, Roseville Fair, Ireland, Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast, Giant and Giants. The more obscure tunes went well: Ballad of Ned Kelly, Part of the Union, Skewbald, Wild Rover and All for Me Grog. I threw in a capella: Rambling Rover and The Irish Ballad, and they always do well. The mandolin stuff was shaky, by my standards, but we stumbled through them.

We were the opening act in Commons area, now known as Pallet and Pour, with a large bar, tables and chairs, food vendor, and it included an open space extending up to the second floor. I wasn’t expecting a large crowd and I was becoming confident that we could pull it off. Thankfully, the sound man had the PA settings from our gig a couple of months ago, so we were ready and comfortable on stage. Praise be to the competent sound guy! We led off with some of my more recent tunes and away we went!

I planned on mixing Irish songs, some mandolin tunes and an occasional a capella bar song and throw in a few folk songs as well. The mix made for an interesting and, hopefully, entertaining show. There were folks who caught a portion of our sets before they moved upstairs to the two other venues supplying music, as well as Celtic vendors in the floor above us. We were the warm-up act, somewhat posers for an Irish music festival, and I was fine with that.

As I found out later, Arts Quest was charging $33 tickets for the event, and that precluded some of my friends from entering. I also acknowledge that the price made it possible for us to get our profession-grade pay scale. It certainly limited the attendance for our set down in the “free” area. Still, it was nice to be included in the festival’s programming.

One interesting moment came late in our second set, where I opened up my somewhat racy bar-only repertoire with songs like The Dogs’ Meeting (“arse hole”), and Cuckoo’s Nest (a not so-thinly-veiled seduction ballad). A small camera crew trickled down to video some of my set during Cuckoo’s Nest (“at the bottom of the belly lies the cuckoo’s nest”) Oh, no! I extended the instrumental, left out the culminating verse, and finished with the after story, including, “every night he claps his hands on her cuckoo’s nest.” Such is my legacy in the world of folk music.

I was glad to have Kris in support, and have the chance to make some money in my home town, and play music with my friend. Sláinte!

Valley Forge Middle School

Valley Forge Middle School

I’m a little leery of RockRoots gigs these days, concerned with recent health issues and impending operation next week. But a single gig seemed to be something I can handle. It was no problem and quite enjoyable.

We were booked for a mid-morning assembly for 300 6th graders at Valley Forge Middle School in Wayne, PA, a mere hour’s drive from home. I got there with an hour to spare and the custodian brought down a cart and it was an easy load in. We were all set and ready to go at 10:30.

I was told by the gentleman checking IDs at the front that VFMS had quite a few music students in the building, and, as it proved during the show, the audience was quite hip to exploring our music and history with us. Music in the schools makes a big, big difference!

Sixth graders are a great age to play for, especially in the middle school range, and these kids (and teachers) were glad to be there. The show went smoothly, the lads playing well and my conversations/patter with the audience was loose and fun. The kids were cool, and started to get up and dance as we went along. Teachers were smiling (I mentioned that sixth grade teachers were so much looser that eight grade teachers…). And, by the end, the auditorium was jumping. The PTA mom was quite happy with the show. And I was glad that the band nailed it again. Such pros.

I got back home a little after noon with some Chinese takeout in hand, and only a little the worse for the wear.  A good day on the road.

I was lucky to pick up an Easton Public Market’s Acoustic Kitchen on Saturday (having to cancel one in early March). It’s a good gig for me, especially since the PA is provided, if (big IF) I can find parking near the venue. I was able to load in the back and find a space out on Northampton Street.

I invited my good friend and fellow radio programmer Steve Capwell to join me for the session, and Steve is a pleasure to play with. Armed with a small array of harmonica’s, Steve is completely at ease with me tossing songs, keys, etc. at him. He’s free to play along on tunes he’s comfortable with (usually Blues). I also like that he is at home with playing to the room acoustically, no mikes and that really fits the situation since folks are there to eat, socialize and catch some music if they want to. We’re there for atmosphere, folks.

I like to mix it up with the families, kids and parents and I had many nice interactions with some of the younger folks. It kind of takes them by surprise, actually. And there are folks who actually come to hang out and hear the music. A nice, friendly situation that gives me the opportunity to work my “magic.”

Steve made the evening move quickly, and we had a good time. At the end, I got my check, and the manager loved what we did. And, I got an artisan pizza (basil, cheese, spinach and bacon) for the road. A good gig, indeed. Thanks, Steve.

This was an unique opportunity to have Cindy’s voice heard, especially since the GD book has been released. I had shortcomings (as pointed out by Cindy) in the book, especially with the omission of photos of Rosalie Sorrels. This was a small way to atone for that.

I planned on adding some songs from some of the folks we were to talk about. I worked up Rock Salt and Nails (Utah Phillips, covered by Rosalie), Roseville Fair (Bill Staines), How Legends are Made (John Gorka), Louise (Paul Siebel). I had a few others in mind but circumstances made me change to these songs.

The chat was open and interesting, talking about the early days about the club. It was particularly nice to see Cindy smiling, and, at the end, Cindy said there was so much more to talk about. Indeed, and I hope we have the opportunity to do this again.


Some video: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.notaro.12/videos/1293294011531368


I love these family birthday parties. A family who frequents my Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market visits asked me if I’d do a birthday party for their son Nithin’ 5th. Tucked away in a housing development in Center Valley, I pulled up in the driveway with loads of cars parked on the street. The party was jumping with kids in the basement and adults chowing down in the kitchen. I was set up in the ‘great’ room with a chair and nice rug, couch and a few chairs.

I made the point, as I started out, that parents should respect the community nature of the event and not talk among themselves in the back. They didn’t, and I’m glad I made the point up front. I took it from there and rolled through I Like Peanut Butte, The Tutti Tah, I Wanna Be a Dog, etc. I broke out the bag of instruments, the scarves and the room became a vision of color, movement and laughter. It lifted my soul.

I was particularly moved by the diversity of folks with lots of blended families, Indian-Americans and the like, young families and grandparents, etc. I also took time to thank the three young girls who could have dropped out of the festivities for being “too old” to join in. I complimented their involvement and how that was important for them to model for the younger kids.

One mother said it was the best birthday party ever, even if it was for kids. And there was Cake!


I returned to this wonderful Preschool in Vineland, NJ, one I’ve played every couple of years as a solo and with RockRoots. Miss Carol, the director and founder of this facility was welcoming, as usual, and the staff was glad I was there, too. I had two sets at 10 and 11 am for about 120 kids and 25 teachers, all splayed out on the carpeted floor of the indoor recreation room, a space with fantastic art and creative equipment – well thought out on many levels.

All Kids First Preschool, Vineland, NJ

It’s quite a hike to Vineland in southern Jersey, so I had to leave before 7 am to get there. The travel was fairly easy, but one never knows what traffic is like in between. I’m still in a bit of a fog recovering from my operation last month, and my kids repertoire is showing some rust. Still, I have faith in my abilities to make things work. (I got lost during Bear Hunt…)

Creative artwork on the wall behind my space.

I had hoped to distribute rhythm instruments during the first set, but knew I didn’t have quite enough to initially go around for 120 kids. I experimented with dealing out instruments to the first three rows, and then have the kids pass them on during the song. It didn’t work due to the age level, and the kids not knowing how to share. The teachers came to the rescue though, and saved my ass. I also tried the same thing with a limited number of scarves, and, though the sharing of scarves worked better, the chaos bit my efforts. We had fun anyway.

I gathered myself for a second set, willing my way through the next 45 minutes. This time, I distributed both instruments (to the first few rows) and scarves to the back rows and that worked much, much better. With the help of the teachers, the sharing element concept worked well this time. Always something to learn, especially when I embrace the chaos.

It was a long drive home and found myself wrung out upon my return mid-afternoon. There is a noticeable recovery lag these days and I find myself trying to figure out how to book my gigs these days. I need the money and I find a return on the the energy spent, grateful for the opportunity to get my feet back on the ground again.

I was looking forward to sharing the Godfrey’s stage with friends Tom and Betty Druckenmiller on Wednesday, rescheduled from a snow date the week before. I am still in recovery from my bladder operation (and cancer diagnosis), and still dealing with some fatigue and depression. I know I can count on playing some music with friends to help me out.

I had decided to focus our session on Family Music, and how we are shaped by making music with spouses and kids and parents. There were some interesting ideas brought up.

We talked about groups like The Carter Family, bluegrass brother acts, and other important folk acts like The McGarrigles, The Roches, Happy and Artie Traum and more, and how those collaborations functioned (or not..). Betty and Tom shared their history of making old time music together, Betty’s journey on taking up fiddle mid-life, and raising their son Nathan in the tradition.

While referencing my own family music history, though I never was able to play with my family members, I did recall singing in church pews with my family, and next to my dad Wayne, an accomplished choral singer in his own right. Though not in the folk tradition, it was an important influence in my singing in public and in a safe space. No small thing, and it was a pleasant reflection on my development as a musician.

As always, Dave’s Night Out was a stimulating experience for us all, and that includes the small audience.

I picked up a quick fill-in gig at Art Quest’s “bar” Pallet and Pour on Friday. I quickly asked Kris Kehr if was available and he jumped right on it. It is a three set gig (something I’m not accustomed to, these days) from 7 to 10 pm in an open space on the first floor of the Steel Stacks building. It’s pretty strange in that it’s a large gathering space that folks headed to other events in the building pass through, so I’m always amazed that some folks actually hang out for our music. The good thing is that a sound engineer and quality sound is provided.

I’m still in my recovery stage from my recent bladder operation, feeling considerable fatigue and related pee concerns, but I am driven to get out and perform, just to see where I’m at in my recovery and for the benefits of simply playing music again.

My daughter Rosalie happened to be in the house for an Improv Festival with her buds from RI, so it was great to have her come up and give me a firm hug. The foursome caught the first set before they had to go on stage upstairs. Several other couples hung out for the greater part of the evening and I took some time to thank them for sticking around, and get some back story on why they were there. It was a good way to get grounded in this large space.

Kris and I played well, especially considering my rust and several months between gigs together, but, I can always could on my good friend for playing with his “ears” on and head in the game. I truly love his ability to knock off leads on his bass, giving us a chance to stretch our sets over a three-hour span. We did a fine job.

The gig did set me back physically the next day, but I came to realize how playing music helps in my recovery.


This was one of the tougher gigs I’ve had recently, and one I lost some sleep over the night before. I am recovering from an operation the Thursday before and in some discomfort. Still, I figured I wouldn’t cancel and grit my way through. It turned out okay, but not without some dings.

Eve Russo sponsors Music Mondays every week with various Lehigh Valley musicians. I’ve been on several times, and, the last time a few years ago, I mentioned that I was working on a book. She said, “Let’s do this when it comes out.” So here we were.

Eve does her homework by sending me a list of questions a week ahead of time, so I was well prepared with what she wanted to discuss. There were questions about my impetus to form the club, was it easy to find talent, how does the club rank among folk clubs in the country. During the first segment, we sat on the couch and chatted. It went well.

The second segment was with me set up to play a song, sitting on a stool. Again, the questions went well, Eve was quite engaged as an interviewer and things set up nicely for my one song at the end of this session. I followed with John Gorka’s How Legends Are Made on my Godfrey’s Martin. I’ve been rusty recently in my guitar playing, and the GD Martin seemed stiff, so I had to really dig in to make the guitar sound good. I was thinking, ” Time to get this axe worked on.”

I got through most of Legends, but started messing with the chords (though not noticeable to everyone but me) and I flipped a few words in the next to last verse. I was feeling some fog. Otherwise, it came out well and I stuck the ending chord in style. Cut to wrap up.

I was supposed to play a short instrumental outtake ( a minute or so) but got cute. I thought I’d play some of Stan’s Giant, started to go into an open tuning, and when they came back for my tag, I was hopelessly out of tune, and spent 30 seconds tuning my guitar before I started singing “I work at a place…” . It was embarrassing and the sourness hung in my brain for the next few days. Again, there was an exhausted fog in my brain. I felt the fool.

The reactions to the interview went well on Facebook, but I knew I could and should have done better.


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.

Another stimulating evening with George Hrab, a prolific songwriter, performer and thinker. We’ve been doing these sessions the last week of the year for several years now, and they never fail to amuse and inspire me.

Tonight, we spent a lot of time talking about George’s Ukrainian heritage and he played two songs in Ukrainian. It was quite interesting. We talked about why Eastern European music is always in minor keys. We talked about his dad as a musician, playing in wedding bands and more. The audience seemed to drink it all in. And I loved the sparks.

I chipped in with Don’t Call Me Early and Giant. George liked that it was a waltz and how it is different than a straight 4 beat. There’s a lilt and swing to the 3/4 beat while the 4/4 is insistent.

I asked if he had “The Artistic Moment” when he realized he was an artist, not just a musician, podcaster, drummer, etc. and said he knew early on that he was an entertainer, even as a child. I talked about the moment, driving away from one of the CT Teaching Artist sessions when it dawned on me that I thought like an artist, not just a folk musician.

The series has financial support this year from Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission and it is living up to those standards: talking art.