I had the great fortune of being invited to play with two of the greatest drummers in the world tonight. In my eyes, Jeff Sipe is the epitome of a complete percussionist; lacking nothing. His resume ranges from Steve Kimock, Bela Fleck, Phil Lesh & Friends, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Jimmy Herring and on and on. It was not only an honor to play music with him but also with the incredible Bill Berg joining on drums as well! Bill played on the famous Bob Dylan record “Blood on the Tracks” as well as many Leo Kottke albums and Cat Stevens records. I heard Jeff Sipe refer to Bill as “the teacher.” Needless to say it was a treat to sit between their bass drums Friday night in Brevard, NC. 185 King St. has been hosting a special day-after-thanksgiving “Holiday Jam” for 10 years now. Mike Guggino and Mike Ashworth from Grammy winners The Steep Canyon Rangers are on the corners of the picture here and the great Corey Bullman is to my right. I was very humbled to have joined these top shelf musicians on stage tonight, enjoyed meeting them and rapping with them afterwards.
Portland is a wonderful place. I’ve certainly enjoyed the rarities of this city and the subtleties of general west coast culture. My path has crossed with some rather diverse and eclectic people so far. The first homestead were staying with now is with a black English woman who works as a marketing director for Pandora internet radio. While getting aquatinted to the Alberta Arts neighborhood, we stopped in the local hippie organic food co-op yesterday when the person beside me dropped a huge glass container of dried peppers in the bulk section. It quickly felt like some kind of military defense testing for tear gas or something. People were coughing and crying..pulling shirts over their faces to the sensation of burning eyes and flaring nostrils. It was all worth it though when the young cashier with black frame glasses and über tight blue jeans walked over and said “..Ya know, that’s really interesting because those were dried red peppers in that jar,” in the most Portland kinda way. That show Portlandia really does nail it to a tee here. I had my first experience with ‘you-forgot-your-bag?’ today when I saw a righteous pair polyester pants at a shop downtown. “We’re a bag-less company, are you cool with carrying your clothes with you,” she asked as she handed me the change. Since Melanie and I found some bicycles to commute around town on, we had to wrap our new threads around our neck and waists to make it back to the house with them. We’ve just been looking at each other and laughing a lot, her & I. We saw an all chick punk band play tonight. What a partner she is to travel with, Melanie is. I still can’t believe I have her…
The food here is unquestionably well spread and fervently styled. One of the coolest parts are these parking lots throughout the city that are packed full of food trucks that never move. If you look hard enough you can find stuff like bourbon blueberry and basil doughnuts & strawberry honey balsamic vinegar and black peppercorn ice cream. It’s always nice to see local sustainability wherever you go. I was lucky to stumble into the most incredible record shop today..a tiny hole-in-the wall tucked away in the north east corner. Reverend Gary Davis was playing “Sally Where’d You Get Your Liquor From” as I opened the door and walked in. Whouda thunk? Anyway, just felt like saying hey before bed. I’ll try and check back in a few days. PS (for all of you baseball fans out there) Melanie’s lil brother made his MLB debut a week ago today. He was called into the game at a sold out Fenway Park to face David Ortiz in the bottom of the 7th inning with 2 outs & the tying run aboard. He worked him to a full count and threw a third strike to Big Poppi!! We all did somersaults when we heard it!! Just unbelievable. Sending all my love back home to you guys. Be blessed.
Last night The Blood Gypsies & I had the rare opportunity of opening for The Slide Brothers downtown at The Asheville Music Hall. It was one of the more nerve-wracking gigs I’ve played in a long time! Aubrey Ghent particularly has been one of my absolute favorite steel guitarists ever since I first heard him back in high school. Calvin Cooke and Chuck Campbell were there too of course, making it a clinic of Sacred Steel mastery…the true elders of black steel guitar; the Godfathers of the electric church. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I got there for soundcheck but quickly realized they were some of the kindest guys I’d ever meet. I deemed it necessary to go up to each of them individually before loading my amps in, shake their hands and tell them how much they’ve influenced my playing over the years. I told Aubrey in-particular…”Man! I wish I could’ve had breakfast with you the day you recorded ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee!’ for Arhoolie records. Your vibrato and phrasing on that melody was one of the reasons I had to learn how to play lap steel. Your left hand is a force of nature! I am so happy you are in Asheville and I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to play before you guys.” He just kinda stood there looking at me smiling and said “Weeell alllllright.” It was great hanging with them and making sure they felt like rockstars. By the time I got my rig dialed in, I hit a couple notes and Calvin Cooke came running out and said “Ah Man! What is that?! Let me hit a couple licks on that!!” I gave him my Supro and steel and he leaned into it for a minute…that was a great moment. His eyes got real big and said “I like this…man, you gotta sit-in with us tonight!!” I just tried to play it cool from then on. I said something like “Yea man, that would be cool with me,” while secretly doing cartwheels in mind. It was a great night! The Blood Gypsies played very well (you better believe we were well-rehearsed) and I had the best time joining The Slide Brothers on stage. When they invited me up, I was the 5th steel player on stage (and the only white guy too!) but I will always remember that feeling of Aubrey Ghent playing a solo and Calvin turning to me and saying “you’re next!” I hope I can pass the torch to a younger steel player one day like they did. Getting high fives from your heros is one of the greatest feelings you can experience.
What fun it was to play live on one of the greatest public radio stations in the country! I feel very fortunate to be playing with The Aaron Burdett Band now. It was one of my goals this year to play on WNCW and getting in there in February is a great feeling. It was funny putting the face to the voices of the radio hosts I’ve been listening to for years driving around in my truck. Scotty Robertson did our interview that afternoon and talked with us between songs. Such a great place with incredibly kind people who are so well versed in the local music scene and history of the area. It’s a real treasure to have a radio station like them around in our community.
Yahoo, my first post on this blog! I must extend a sincere thank you to my dear friend Gary Reckard for all he has done to help get my website up and running. He’s been a huge help, and for that, I am grateful. It’s been a busy couple of weeks in Asheville. I finally burnt out my clutch on my truck and have since gone over 2 weeks without wheels, as it’s being repaired. There were some long days, lots of carrying amps around when the trail of rides began in the morning through the day until a gig that night; living out of a backpack, not being back by the house for a couple days at a time. Luckily though, I have some really sweet friends who got me where I needed to be on time. I was fortunate to join Robertino Rusell last Thursday night at The Asheville Music Hall for a song as he took 2nd place (out of 11!) in the finals of the Brown Bag Songwriting competition. There was some really impressive music that night and I felt lucky to have been there for all I was able to witness. I played the next night at the Altamont Brewery in West Asheville with Anya Hinkle, Stig Stiglets, Jed Willis, and Nate Buchanan & crashed at a friends house in Henderson Country, falling asleep next to a fireplace after the gig. The night after that, I hit it with The Blood Gypsies at the Bywater, and finally crawled into my own bed that night. This Saturday, I’m really excited to crank up the lap steel rig with Aaron Burdett Band at The Isis Music Hall, opening for Big Daddy Love.
Here’s to staying healthy and shooting for 300k miles on a 4 cylinder!!