Many of you may know that I absolutely love being in a recording studio producing music.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my old pal, Davis Raines, and his group, The Band of Many Names, to work on a new project called “Turquoise & Silver.” We locked ourselves up for a few days at Fighting Okra Studios and had so much fun that we barely came up for air. Great songs that are well-rehearsed by musicians who are passionate about and dedicated to their craft make for a great session.
Over the years, Davis and I have worked together on several projects which are some of my favorites…search the web to see if you can find them (“Big Shiny Cars,” “Going To Montgomery,” “Parts Unknown,” “Mockingbird,” and more). The Band of Many Names includes the wonderful Pamela Jackson, who recorded a project at Fighting Okra Studios a few years ago called “Red Rock Heart” (more great songwriting), the multi-talented Mark MacKenzie (here’s a link to his bluegrass band, Fade2Blue, doing a cover of the Ace Ford song, “Orphan Train“), and bass player David Conrad of the Americana duo Conrad Y Skordalia (a fine writer and singer in his own right).
In this age where music is often streamed and consumed as ‘ audible wallpaper,’ it’s good to be reminded of the amount of work and collaborative effort that goes into creating and producing a new body of musical work. For me, it’s also important to not take for granted the small pleasure of popping an original CD, created with love, sweat and tears, in my car player (does your car still have a CD player?) and listening, uninterrupted, to some original music on the drive to Memphis and back.
What a privilege. Let me know if you’d like to work on a new record…I can be reached at…you guessed it…the Big Front Porch.
My, how the summer has flown! School is starting up in a few days, and the next thing you know, it’ll be Christmas!
Summers are made for spending time on a place like the Big Front Porch, and in addition to summer camps and a few select music gigs, that’s what I had planned to do this summer, but a little “bump in the road” popped up…seems a shady lookin’ spot on a routine mammogram turned out to be a nasty little tumor that needed to be addressed, so here at the end of summer I have now added (ta da!) breast cancer survivor to my resume`…God is GOOD.
I had the great blessing to be able to stay at Harrah’s Hope Lodge in Memphis during my treatment…a wonderful opportunity that no doubt that saved my low back, ‘cause as much as I love making that drive up and down highway 61 between Cleveland and Memphis, having to make it every day for a month would have done me in!
The experience of the past month seemed like a combination of moving into a freshmen dorm, going to summer camp, and retreating at a monastery. It was a reminder that folks all over are fighting tough battles everyday, but there is still a great measure of goodness and kindness in the world. Of the patients and caregivers I met during my stay, I will particularly remember Sameh from Egypt, who has been at the lodge for over 4 months with his wife while his only son, Karim, battles leukemia. Met several Delta folks, too, while I was there, and they all commented on my Fighting Okra shirt:) I also got some time in to brush up on my mandolin skills…
I was visited by Ya Yas, a contingent of the Delta 7, and old friends from Nashville…we all sat on the Big Front Porch (figuratively), shared some belly laughs, enjoyed the precious bonds of friendship, and seized the day.
As for timing, I suppose summer vacation was the best time to deal with this ‘bump in the road,’ but now it’s time to go full speed ahead. I have a new record (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Eye) that’s almost mixed and ready for release (more on that soon)!
I hope your summer vacation was filled with things that make you happy…family, friends, mountains, beaches, music, food, and joie de vivre. Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers…Come join me on the Porch sometime and share your summer stories…I’ve got some catching up to do!
That was the immediate reaction I heard from the citizens and guests who were in our fair city last Saturday night when thousands of new holiday lights were turned on downtown. The green space and walking trail were packed with people from one end to the other, and in a matter of seconds, Cleveland was suddenly bathed in magic and awe and wonder. It was a sight to behold and the event was the talk of the town in Sunday church hallways and grocery stores.
Now, let’s move the comma.
Oh my, goodness.
There was something else I felt among the good people of Cleveland at the lighting ceremony. Even though it’s early in the holiday season, I swear it felt like peace and joy andgood will. Did you feel it? Did you turn to someone in amazement and exclaim how beautiful it all was? Did you forget for just a moment the things that were troubling you? Did you feel hopeful? Did you feel the goodness? I did.
A thousand thanks for the goodness of those who made this possible…the original visionaries of the project, the 50 Nights of Lights team, the City of Cleveland crew, the sponsors, the donors, and the dedicated volunteers who put in countless hours of work on behalf of our community.
Oh, my goodness…what a community Cleveland is. May we all hold onto the magic, awe, and wonder these lights will bring during this season and beyond…and may we also share some goodness with each other along the way.
A good Labor Day to all of you from the Big Front Porch!
I confess that I’m ashamed to see that my last post was back during the spring, so I figure I owe you BFP fans some summertime catching up, in you’ll indulge me:)
The summer somehow, as summers seem to do, FLEW by, and we’re already two weeks into the fall semester…how did that happen? But the farmers are fully into the harvest and the sounds of football teams and high school bands fills the air on Friday nights, so it must be fall…..even if the actually temperature today in the Delta will hit 100 degrees!
A recap of this summer from the Big Front Porch includes a wonderful trip with friends to the Greenbrier in West Virginia in late May. Nice to be in the mountains again sitting on another beautiful big front porch talking about life and stuff…
Got down from the mountain in time to accompany the Ol’ Skool Revue band from the DMI for a performance at the Chicago Blues Festival in June. It was a fun adventure riding the City of New Orleans north through the night to the Windy City, a journey made by many Mississippi musicians over the years, altering the development of American music…nice to still be part of that.
Hopped off the train, took a day or two and then headed back up the road to Music City (Nashville) for the annual “Songs From The Heart” workshop/concert with cancer patients, caregivers, and professionals at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Some of the participants this year really took ownership of their song as well as their performance. There’s a CD and a DVD in the works…songwriting at its purest. It is always a privilege and an honor to try and help put those feelings into words and music.
Late June brought me the opportunity to join my pals, Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor, in a benefit concert on behalf of Faith Hospice in Michigan at Dr. John Mulder’s home on the banks of the Grand River. What a magical, beautiful evening, full of good music, good food, and good fellowship all for a good cause…it doesn’t get much better than that.
July 4? Vacation? What’s that?
The DMI Summer Camp for high school students interested in the music industry was held in mid-July, and we had a GREAT group of campers this year….some unexpected collaborations between unlikely pairing of students brought about some very original works, not to mention opportunities for getting to know each other in a way that shows we’re not so different after all…
Of course, there was the yearly summer gathering of the Ya Yas at the Alluvian in Greenwood for much needed R & R among old friends, but let’s just say what happens at the Alluvian stays at the Alluvian and leave it there…
The Big Front Porch had the opportunity to work on a very cool CD project with three of my favorite singer/songwriters: Kate Campbell, Tom Kimmel, and Pierce Pettis. They perform together as The New Agrarians, and they were looking for an opportunity to work on a recording project together. All the planets lined up to have them record in Studio B at the Delta Music Institute, and it was a BLAST! They’ll be finishing up the project in Nashville, but trust me…you’ll want to watch for this CD if you’re a fan of literate Southern storytelling in song….there’s some amazing work on this record.
And so that brought me to early August…a few days of re-grouping before the business of DMI kicked back in. I made a dash to the Coast and a dash to Secluseval and enjoyed the relatively uneventful days here on the Big Front Porch in the Delta. And now we’re in full swing again…harvest time.
I’ve got some new ideas in the pipeline for my next recording project so I’ll keep my nose to the grindstone and begin to flesh out characters and situations and histories and see where it leads…stay tuned.
I promise I’ll try and get on the Big Front Porch sooner than later…let me hear from you…we’ll sit awhile and catch up.
Well, I left the comfort of the Porch this weekend to celebrate my birthday, and what a birthday celebration it was! I was invited to march in the 30th Annual Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade as a part of the ‘O Tux Society by Malcolm White hizownself!
In being part of such a sea of green, I thought it proper to sport the Fighting Okra to represent Delta State, and it was quite a conversation starter. What a kick to enjoy the Pet Parade, the Children’s parade, and then march through a crowd of 65,000 people, strutting to a Dixieland brass band and exchanging flowers for kisses! Where else can that many people of all shapes, kinds, colors, and sizes get together and be NICE to each other?
My sister joined me for this celebration as she, too, celebrates a March birthday. We were both born in Jackson, Mississippi, and so we had a chance to ride through some of the old neighborhoods to see what we could remember, who lived where, etc…
Driving back to the Delta on this fourth Sunday of Lent, looking out onto the ready fields, I took time to listen to some podcasts of messages by Keith Tonkel, pastor of Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson. Keith and the ministry of Wells had a profound impact upon me during my young adult years, and hearing him continue to preach the Gospel in such a clear and loving way was a sweet encouragement. Those messages and seeing the tractors in the fields turning up the ground was a good reminder that, by grace, God is still keeping His promise to ‘make all things new.’
Here’s hoping you had a good and ‘green’ weekend and that your hearts and spirits are encouraged with the coming of spring. Let me know what’s ‘springing’ up in your world….
I woke up to this lovely Saturday thinking of several errands that I needed to run, and with ‘run’ being the operative word, I decided to see what I could get done on foot. While spending a few quiet moments pondering a passage in Paul’s first letter to Timothy while sipping a cup of Community New Orleans Blend coffee, I realized what a gift it is to live where I can walk to campus, the post office, the bank, a grocery store, a coffee shop, an art gallery, the cleaners, and our downtown area of stores and boutiques…nice:) It’s a lot like my hometown growing up, although Fayette was a hamlet (Pop. 1600) compared to Cleveland (Pop. 15,000). From where I sit on the Big Front Porch, the leadership of Cleveland and Bolivar County are doing a good job working to build and sustain a nice quality of life for folks here in the Delta. If you’d like to know a little more about Cleveland, here’s a link to visit: http://www.visitclevelandms.com
And since it’s a holiday weekend, I wanted to mention two great men who share January 15 as a birthdate: Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and work made a positive difference in the lives of many, and my daddy, James Monroe (Jimmie) Walker, whose life and love made such a positive difference in mine. He left this world when I was only 18, but I believe he would have been so pleased with my musical career and all that it has brought me. I still miss him…
When I lived in Nashville, I had the privilege of hearing the multi-talented singer/songwriter Don Henry perform often at the Bluebird Cafe…I wanted to share his song, “Beautiful Fool,” with you all as we head into this holiday…I hope you take some time to sit on your Big Front Porch and ponder peace and justice…thanks for listening:)