Since I had a down-day in Bethlehem today, I dropped in on “my kids” down the street at Holy Infancy. My PASELA kids are now 1st graders, but I’ve developed relations with the new Pre-K and K classes. We sang some of the old favorites, and I was serenaded by them with some of their Christmas songs. Always a delight and nice to experience their spontaneity again. Off to Amity tomorrow for a day and evening of song.

I had my first session on Tuesday with Young Audiences of NJ and its Creative Beginnings program. It’s aimed at early childhood child-centered arts activities, and an emphasis on enabling teachers to use their own creative capabilities. I’ll be working with other experts in the field as well as other artists, poets, musicians, theater folks, etc., similar to what I’ve done with PASELA. A good start.

I had the pleasure of attending and playing two songs at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards on Monday in Hellertown. I’ve always enjoyed checking out my fellow LV musicians and friends, recalling old barroom warstories, and listening to some new music (at least for my ears). This was the best run one of these things yet, thanks to Ian Bruce, the Meadows and Steve Walker, who managed sound for the evening.

I got to hear some new music from young(er) folks, Brittany Ann is wonderful new songwriter from Bethlehem, Dave Cahill channeled Django, good blues from Mike Dugan, a couple of crisp oldies bands, and cool Allman Bros. group The Mississippi Pig Farmers. Cool.

I was honored, along with Mike, Steve Brosky, Jake Kaligas, Tommy Zito for Twenty Years of Music to the LV. (Twenty? That’s revisionist history.) I used my walker to get to the stage….

Godfrey’s won Best Open Mike – along with the King of Open Mike’s, Phil Stahl.

Godfrey’s won the Musicians Choice – Best Venue, This one is special since it’s voted on by the Lehigh Valley Musicians, all who recognize the great audience, sound and hospitality that makes Godfrey’s such great play to experience live music. Thanks to you all.

Back to working on Christmas songs…. I have to relearn ’em every year.

Good to be back home. I’ve spend a good deal of time driving lately, but found a great podcast to keep me in a good frame of mind. Utah Phillips is now laying down ~17 minute reflections upon occasion and can be found on Itunes. Utah is one of the great voices in folk music, recognizing how important “sub-industrial” music is to our culture. Bruce comes from the union side of things, is quite the historian, and a gifted storyteller. He also speaks from the heart.

The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, as he goes by, has been a tremendous influence in what I do, having seen him perform at Cafe Lena’s, just as I was discovering this lively (and live) art in the late 60’s. He began to play Godfrey’s in the late 70’s, along with sidekick Rosalie Sorrels, and that was a dream come true. A consummate rascal and raconteur who cared about the club and its folk music audience.

Utah has curtailed his live performances due to heart problems, but has taken upon himself to report in from Nevada City, CA, via the internet, and his sessions are pithy, funny and instructive, and its great to hear his wise words as well. Check it out. www.utahphillips.org/

A marvelous RR in NJ – no travel problems – and the music teacher Mr. Bond sat in on trumpet. He played on Charlie Stone and literally blew us, the kids and his fellow teachers out of the water. Phew! There’s a a lot of music teachers who have mighty chops and often don’t get to “show off” for the kids. thanks, Mr. Bond!

Of to the Lehigh Valley Music Awards in Hellertown tonight and I will catch up with some of my friends in the biz, play a song and hear some new folks as well. I’ll check in tomorrow with the details.

Crack o’ dawn again… 5:30 am start, but it was worth it with two energetic sets for the 5th and 6th grades at Grant School. Good show, lads. Back to CT on Wednesday.

We had the pleasure to play for the primary kids (pre-K thru 3rd grade) in Dutch Neck, NJ. It’s really neat to play for relatively young kids – though they may not be able to immediately reference the styles and influences we cover, the overall message gets out: there’s a lot of great music out there, and, perhaps more importantly, live music is wonderful. That’s why I love playing with Don, Nick and Kevin. The lads and I love LIVE music, and it shows.

We made the front page in Roxbury, NJ recently. Cool bunch of kids singing “I Like Peanut Butter”. Yes!

Long day, starting at 5:30 am to get to East Brunswick, but it ended up in style at one of the best open mikes in CT, Roaring Brook in Canton, CT. Run by Stan Sullivan, food by Anne Ramos, Nature Center by Jay Caplan. The Northford Boys (Pete Prizzi, Ron Anthony and myself) hit the road and we actually played one after another. I played an old Bo Carter song, former Mississippi Sheik from the 30’s, “I got the Whiskey and You got the Gin”, one I pulled from my Shimersville Sheiks repertoire. Eric Parradine sat in, and it was fun – I hadn’t played that song this century and more. Good to catch up with my acoustic friends in CT.

We returned to our annual gig at Hammarskjold Middle School for the six grade. We’ve been doing it for ~ 10 years perhaps, and its always at 8:00 AM – crack o’ dawn. Best set of six graders yet! Done by 10:30 – amazing.

RockRoots had the privilege to perform for the Forum School in Wycoff, NJ on Tuesday. The gym was packed with teachers and kids. Special needs kids, and that makes it special for us. The “give and take” is real and deep, and the band rises to the occasion. The Peanut Butter Kids knocked it out of the park, lots of dancing, and several memorable reactions of the teachers. Music is a powerful force for all that is good in the human condition. We felt it today.

Crack o’ dawn tomorrow in East Brunswick, NJ. And the Roaring Brook Open Mike in CT at night to help me keep grounded. Another day of driving/music/driving/music/driving. It’s what I do.

I trekked up to New Hampshire on Sunday for a NEFA conference, in search of gigs in the Great Northeast. Matchbook.com is the site of various artists like me looking to expand into NE. Always a mixed bag.

I met some wonderful artists, including two folks I’ve appreciated from afar. Bill Shontz, from the legendary family music duo Rosenshotz, a fine clarinet (etc.) player, and founder of the Children’s Music Hall of Fame. It’s a new site for finding folk like myself, playing for kids and families. Check it out: www.childrensmusichalloffame.com My music will be up soon.

Another fellow I enjoyed connecting with was Jeff Warner, another member of a duo Warner and Davis. A tape drifted into my hands and ears while booking Godfrey’s. A wonderful folk performer for many years, and, as I found out, son of two folklorists who did alot of work in NC, and collaborated with the legendary Frank Profitt, old time banjo player and man who took it on himself to find and preserve his own family’s and region’s music. Frank was a banjo maker, as well, and Mike Cooney first introduced me to his fretless banjo.

Not many booking folks there, but it’s the first year of the conference. Meeting fellow artists tends to make the event memorable.

Back to Newark for a Pottery Barn Toddler concert – my banjo took a header, so I got some repairs to do. These kids are dangerous! ..but lovable, too. Some familiar faces, including a mom and son who can’t travel in the car without Peanut Butter in the CD player. Glad I can be there to get you through.

PASELA has come out with a video on the arts/education project I just wrapped up this year. Check it out. I wasn’t around for the live taping segments, but it captures the flavor of the experience. http://www.artliteracy.org/pasela-video.html

Off to CT for an Alzheimer’s gig in my old hometown, Madison. These folks like to sing and dance. Why not? Little Feat did a great song – “Old Folks Boogie” says it all. The beat goes on….

I car-surfed I-95 today onto Long Island for my umpteenth toddler tour – crack o’ dawn (pre-dawn, now that the clock’s turned) – and arrived at Roosevelt Fields mall. I’m actually finding the right parking tower – that’s spooky. A small and friendly crowd of moms and kids, and little kids, and babies, too.

I employed the hands-on route today – put the music in their hands early, and then put music on their lips later. God bless the plastic egg shakers! Very parent friendly…. And, as I moved along, I brought out the esoteric stuff. And, as I’ve found with my Alzheimer’s friends, the hand movements makes the music immediate and sensate.

I’ve wondered, while I’m in my “performance” mode, whether I’m reaching the really wee kids, but today I was taken by one girl, perhaps 10 months old, who was transfixed on me and the LIVE music. She set her eyes on me and wouldn’t let go. Makes me ponder the power of music….

Onto Delaware tomorrow, crack o’ dawn….

Election day 2007, and the schools are closed except for the Family Services folks here in North Branford. I got to play for the pre-K up to fourth graders, and it was a mile from my house! I’m used to hopping in the car and driving for hours, but not today!

Tomorrow, Long Island and then to Delaware on Thursday, so it was good to close to home while it lasted.

We traveled up to Succasuna, NJ to play four sets in the Middle School and Elementary School – a long day. Kevin played the first two, then he set off for his evening gig in Boston (a real long day for him) and Wayne drove out for the second two.

I tailed back to Bethlehem for First Night on the Southside at my occasional haunt, Tallarico’s Chocolate. It started slow, but then the chocoholics came in. Some of my wee folk fans showed up and entertained us all with singing and dancing. A good way to end up a day doing what I do best – playing music.

We were off to NJ again today for a doubleheader in Colonia and our yearly visit to Madison, NJ.

The Colonia school featured a 2nd grader dressed like Johnny Cash. As the show started up, I asked him up – he said he played guitar – and adjusted my guitar strap, cranked up the amp…. he started out on “Smoke on the Water”, the band kicked in, and… it… was… great! He knocked it out of the park! I love surprises.

We have played Sabatini school every Halloween forever, and it truly is the best costumed group of kids we run into. This year, in the audience, was John Lennon and both Elvis and KISS were up on stage with us. Elvis shook that thang, and KISS sang “I Like Peanut Butter”, in costume and shades, and the guy’s tongue really is that long! A good way to celebrate a RockRoots Halloween.

Another great New Jersey name! We played the ES and MS today, just off Rt 78 in middle NJ. Yup; it was fun.

Both Kevin and Donnie had gigs the night before and were tuckered out, but they came through like the troopers they are.

Crack o’ dawn tomorrow – yet another great Jersey name Succasunna!

This past weekend kicked off the frenzy of Halloween parties – and I love it. It’s the wonderful opportunity to shuck off our every-day personae, and take a spin in another character. Why not?!

Friday night , I played at a day care facility in Orange, CT, where I played for several spider men, princesses, football players and folks decked out as parents. We raised a ruckus, for sure.

Saturday gave me two opportunities to play, one at a birthday party for Nick in Old Lyme, and for a private party for adults in Madison. It was nice to have a weekend of “local” gigs for a change.

The birthday party in Old Lyme was in a magnificent old house on the main street in this classic Shoreline town. I got to play in the front hallway – great acoustics – for a really good group of kids. One dude appointed himself as roadie, and helped me set up my stuff. Green cake with a rubber chocolate skin – good, though.

The evening performance was a great change, playing for older folks (at least, older than me…) in small sitting room. Nice folks, good food, and every Halloween gadget one has ever seen: talking mummies, ravens, skeleton pirates, etc. I was struck by the fact that older folks like to sing along, whether its “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” or my more personal favorites like “Branching Out” and “Giants”. Folk music has always been a social lubricant, and its nice to see it work its magic.

Next week, more Halloween fun and a big RockRoots tour in NJ.

A long drive to Annapolis, MD, but well worth it. Lots of toddlers and moms, one dad. I was particularly amazed by several infants who were totally bug-eyed with the live music, entranced by all the sound, kids and the live music. Amazing!