Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hot Mustard at the Potash Amphitheater - Swanzey, NH

The Potash Bowl - Swanzey, NH
Swanzey, NH is a small town of about 7500 people in southwest New Hampshire, about four miles south of our home in Keene. It consists of four hamlets including Swanzey Center, where the Potash Amphitheater is. Each summer, for the past seventy-two years, the residents of Swanzey have produced a nineteenth century play called "The Old Homestead" set in Swanzey by Denman Thompson which enjoyed a moment of national attention in the late nineteenth century. This year will be the seventy-second consecutive revival of this drama celebrating the joys of simple rural farm living, since it's rediscovery.  It's the third oldest outdoor drama still in production in the country, according to the brochure.  This year's production takes place on July 19, 20, 21 at the Potash Bowl. But the town of Swanzey has built a lovely tree-shaded glade with a stage in the front, which it sees a need to use more than three days per year. And so, they've begun presenting a free summer concert series. We went over there on Friday evening to see our friends Hot Mustard.

Hot Mustard

Hot Mustard came began to come together a few years ago when regional banjo master Bruce Stockwell and his student Bill Jubett applied for a New Hampshire Council on the Arts grant to explore and develop double banjo arrangements. After a while, it seemed like a good idea to take the project public. With Bruce's wife Kelly on bass and Bill's now wife April Hobart Jubett, they formed Hot Mustard and won the Jenny Brook Band Competition, held in recent years under the direction of Michelle Canning at the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival, coming up June 27 - 30, 2013. The win earned them a place in that Sunday's lineup and a paid gig the following year. Since then they performed regularly around the region at festivals, concerts, and in club gigs, becoming a regional favorite and deserving wider attention for their strong, creative covers along with some jazz inflected newer materials. 

Bruce Stockwell

April Jubett

Bill Jubett

Kelly Stockwell

Hot Mustard - In the Blue Diamond Mines - Video

The Potash Amphitheater 


Meanwhile, there's a very attractive, spacious facility that appears to me to be almost ideal for some promoter to offer a good, traditional or varied music bluegrass festival. The natural amphitheater is gently raked, providing excellent sight lines, there's nearby parking, a good space to provide spots for vendors. and a spacioous, attractive stage only needing a little improvement in lighting and a sound man.  Convenient to southwestern New Hampshire and southern Vermont, as well as northwestern Massachusetts, it could very well draw a good crowd, given a good lineup and reasonable publicity. Just an idea....

We were glad to be introduced to this new, to us,and promising  facility and are always happy to see Hot Mustard. We hope we get back there to see more music soon.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gibson Brothers – They Called It Music – CD Review

The Gibson Brothers have released their eleventh album in a twenty year career to rave reviews. After six straight number one's on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts, it's little surprise that this one is climbing up the bluegrass charts too, including the Billboard Bluegrass Chart.  There's no reason they won't get there with this masterpiece of new work, also. Their body of work, for that it has certainly become, carries with it the burden of continuing to create new material within the unique band sound and sensibility characterizing Gibson Brothers songs. When they release an album, it always presents music that represents the best they can offer. There's a level of thoughtfulness and sincerity in their material that many other artists can only hope for. In this album, TheyCalled It Music, (Compass Records and all recording outlets) they've once again achieved their goal and may even have surpassed it. In a year in which they lost their father, their work shows added depth and maturity, combining a sense of loss with the inevitable triumph that follows. Even more than in previous releases, They Called It Music grows in depth and nuance with repeated hearings. While it's good on first hearing, repeated playing of the songs in this collection leave no doubt about the continued growth of this group. The songs meld together into a whole that's even greater than its parts.The Gibson Brothers also record with their real road band, a rare treat these days.

Containing twelve songs, six written solely or in collaboration with others by Eric and Leigh, with the six others carefully chosen from new and historical sources. They reach back as far as 1913 to rearrange a song by Austin Taylor as well as including new songs by or in collaboration with Joe Newberry and Shawn Camp. Other songs look as far away as Loretta Lynn and Mark Knopfler. Each one brings a particular sensibility of its writer while never straying from the quality of compassion, loss, joy, hope, and encouragement the Gibson Brothers exude. The CD is appropriately dedicated to the late Kelley John Gibson (1941 – 2012) whose life has inspired so much of their work. Let's take a look at each one:

Leigh & Eric Gibson

Buy a Ring, Find a Preacher by Eric and Joe Walsh, with an assist from Leigh opens the album with a lilting ditty that at the same time speaks to the dilemma faced by every worker on the road.

I've had one foot in and one foot out
You've stood firm without a doubt
Words that always worked before
Tonight can't make you stay.

The refrain of a guy who just has difficulty committing, but it may not be today. The problem is one faced especially by musicians on the road, confronted with temptations and opportunities not regularly available to all travelers. Nevertheless, the singer is closer to making the choice to commit to his loved one while still wishing to remain on the road. He suggests a music man shouldn't have to make the choice between two kinds of lives and loves. Regardless, there's a happiness in the song and not a hint of doubt, finally....

The title song of this CD “They Called It Music” is destined to be one of the Gibson Brothers masterpieces, quickly moving from workshop form, where we first heard it, to the concert stage, to recording, to shooting up the charts. The song was suggested by a question Joe Newberry, Gibson friend and frequent writer of excellent songs for the duo, had asked an old musician in the mountains. When asked about what they called his style of music, the old man responded, “Son, they called it musc.” Eric couldn't resist the response, which grew into this great song. The Gibson Brothers tend not to be “in your face” about their music, but with this song, the Gibson Brothers' gentle way challenges the concept of musical genre as inferior to matters of melody, lyric, meaning, and intent. Music transcends daily concerns like money and reaches to the core of human experience. The music comes from within, not requiring those who make it to read or learn it, but rather to respond to it and make it.

They called it music
in the church house, in the fields
It was honest, it was simple
And it helped the hard times heal.

The song has reached the #1 spot three times on the Bluegrass Today chart and is #1 on a recent XM/Sirius chart. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Bluegrass (sales) chart. 

They Called It Music - Video

The Darker the Night, the Better I See is a Joe Newberry song tailored for Leigh's voice. Written from the point of view of a perpetual honky-tonker, the song suggests that the singer's vision becomes better the darker the night becomes. It also carries within it, the thought that the difficulties and dark times which enfold us at the hardest periods in our lives carry with them the light that can lift depression and sadness. The final line, beginning, “You heard me right” suggests the singer is aware of the ambiguity of finding light in the midst of darkness, and is grateful for it. For some, this song carries the message of a good gospel song within the life of one confronting hardships. 

The Darker the Night, The Better I See - Video;

Some years ago, Shawn Camp, one of the most creative young song writers around, and Loretta Lynn wrote Dying for Someone to Live For, another song taking two opposites and fitting them together. This CD is filled with remarkable contrasts: dying and living, darkness and light, sundown and sorrow. This song, written in ¾ time, seeks to find the antidote for loneliness, and. as usually happens, it's another person, in this case, unknown. The singer questions why he can't find another person to fit into his life.

And the weeping willow cries
Every time a good love says goodbye
I hear the tide coming in on the shore
I'm dying for someone to live for.

The melody lies firmly on Clayton Campbell's able bow as it cries out loneliness and loss. Leigh and Eric's voices blend and caress the song in its unvarnished sense of loss and longing. 

Dying for Someone to Live For - Video

Eric's banjo introduces I'll Work it Out, a song of hope and confidence in the face of the kind of serious problems that face us as we encounter the big questions in life. The banjo is essentially a cheerful instrument that drives this song through difficulties to unknown but inevitable strong solutions.

When my last bridge is burning
and I cannot find a friend
With whispers all around me
Sayin' no way he can win
I'll work it out, I'll work it Out
I'll find a way to work it out.

An example of a Gibson Brothers song many years in the making, Eric took an incident from the period when he was anticipating the risk of turning to making music full time and allowed the weight of time and the complementary skills of his brother to come together into a song of optimism and hope relying on familiar themes and responses without ever resorting to cliches or hackneyed language, showing the art and skills of a thoughtful poetic craftsman. Such simplicity is not easily achieved.

Mike Barber

Written with Shawn Camp, Something Coming to Me has been an enigma to me since I first heard it months ago. As I listened and wrote at 4:45 AM I looked to Eric's superb Journal on the Gibson Brothers web site. Turns out “something coming to me” has multiple meaning, most of which appear in this wonderful and nuanced song. As Eric says, it refers to a new idea or event just over the horizon; what's coming in the future, no matter how unknown. It can also refer to what a person has earned through effort and sweat. It asks “where are the rewards I've worked so hard for?” The song looks backward and forward simultaneously. Leigh sings:

My Momma told me son,
there ain't no guarantees
But ain't I got
Something comin' to me?

The plaintive loneliness in his voice accompanied by his elegantly simple figures on the guitar communicate both loss and hope, the possibility that through work, love, and prayer the future will open up is always there. “The road of love just winds on by me, I don't know where it leads.” Finally, the “something” in the song is help and understanding, gifts we can all ask and pray for, whether, like the singer, we know how to pray or not.

Something Coming to Me - Video;  

Mark Knopfler's “Daddy's Gone to Knoxville” is a bouncy song featuring Joe Walsh's complex mandolin figures and elegant timing as well as fiddler Clayton Campbell's oh-so-excellent backup and solo work. The lightness and freedom of the road provides a carefree view of the world which is well-interpreted by the almost always happy sound of the banjo. Who can keep from smiling when the banjo is there?

Left in this dusty old world without joy
Lost in the weeds like a forgotten toy
Makes me wonder what I'm hangin' round here for.

The loss of loved ones inevitably leads to questions about the value of life. Eric wrote this very bluegrassy song that, typical of some of the best bluegrass, asks difficult questions in a sunny, forward looking way. It suggests that the hope for the future is difficult to grasp, while always just out of reach somewhere down the road. Not the least bit bleak, the song still lingers on the edge of loss as Dusty Old World asks, “What's a man to do?” The instrumental work of the Gibson Brothers always services the song. All five members of the band, each a master of his own instrument, seek to complement the lyric and tune, never intruding, but always contributing. Listening to Gibson Brothers music means developing an increased appreciation for the backup instrumental work of each man, without its ever intruding on meaning or effect. Creating such wholeness may be what makes the Gibson Brothers band great. 

Home on the River is a Delmore Brothers song. As the Gibson Brothers become more interested in their own image as a “brother duo” they appear to be seeking out earlier works by brother duos to include in their CDs. This is a gospel song featuring most prominently the voices of the two brothers which blend and twine so effectively.

Joe Walsh

Roy Hurd and Elizabeth Hill wrote “I Will Always Cross Your Mind,” a touching love song redolent with references clear to anyone who spends much time in the Adirondacks – the ridge line, morning sun warming the skin, lonesome wind whispering in the pines.

Run if you must from my memory
Let the night tell you that it's gone.
When you stop to catch your breath
There I'll be right beside you
gently holding on.

Bob Paisley, of Southern Grass and Danny Paisley's late father, covered Sundown and Sorrow the Hank Williams version of the Pee Wee King/J.L.King song of lost love. It's a lilting bluegrass love song. The kind of song that belongs on every good bluegrass album. The distinctive Gibson blend keeps this otherwise pretty prosaic song working. Mike Barber's bass, as always in Gibson Brothers work keeps his beat always in the right place at the right time, driving the song forward with the best bass players in the music. There's also a solid guitar break from Leigh. Throughout the CD, Leigh's guitar is always present and contributing without gratuitously calling attention to itself with unnecessary virtuosity. The song makes a worthwhile nod to an earlier era of bluegrass that influenced the current music of the Gibsons. 

Clayton Campbell

The Songbird's Song” written by Eric after hours of tossing without sleep in Denmark, is a most fitting end to this fine album which speaks so much to the brothers' sense of loss after their Dad's death.

Now the birds have beat the sun up
I don't know what they're singing for
But they ease my mind from racing
I'm not as lonesome as before
And I know it may sound funny
And I know it could be wrong
But it seems like life is out there
In a little songbird's song.

While the song seems elegiac, expressing loss and loneliness, it nevertheless sees the daybreak, the dawning of a new reality just ahead and looks forward with hope. Joe Walsh's bird song on the mandolin captures the bird itself in all its fullness. The longest song on the CD, it brings a fitting end to a great piece of work. Words don't always suffice, so the fiddle, the ooh, ooh, ooh of the singing duo along with Clayton's drawn out final note fade out as the sun rises.

It's impossible to escape the fact that much of They Called It Music was written and all of it recorded in the period after the loss of Eric and Leigh Gibson's father, who appears in so many of their songs, and who's spirit is redolent in so many more, from their reminiscences of life on the farm in rural upstate New York to their gratitude for the musical heritage and work ethic he passed on to them. Many of the songs reference loss and grief. Nevertheless, the essential optimism of the best of the Gibson Brothers' work flows clearly and naturally through the fabric of this magnificently structured and rendered CD. Those who merely download cuts will inevitably miss out on the massed effect of this project, which continues to haunt and inspire, growing in richness and detail with listening to each song and hearing the work through and through in its entirety. By refusing to be stampeded into releasing annual albums; by refining and developing each song through multiple performances, workshops, and work sessions; by carefully selecting appropriate songs from a treasured world of contemporary and historical writers, the Gibson Brothers continue to forge the future of their own music, while never losing contact with what brought them to where they are. They Called It Music, as both an album and a song is worthy of recognition in the world of awards, but, perhaps better still,  as a significant contribution to how we, as listeners, live our lives.

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Many thanks to John Saroyan, Katy Daley and, always, Irene for ideas that helped me approach this CD with new eyes. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker - Book Review

It's time for beach reading, and Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker (Ballantine Books, 2013, 432 pages, $26.00) surely fills the bill as he provides a reasonably compelling but un-challenging piece of roman à clef involving a thinly disguised Kennedy-like family living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and in Palm Beach, Florida committing unpardonable crimes and then using their power and wealth to cover the crimes to protect “the Senator” and allow him to do his good work for America. The novel may have its greatest appeal to Kennedy haters and conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, Walker develops his narrative in an at least feasible argument while populating it with plenty of duplicitous characters each with his or her own motives as his protagonist, George Becker, seeks to restore his own public and private self.

The novel opens in 1996 at a Palm Beach party where George Becket's roommate at the University of Pennsylvania takes him to the winter compound of Senator Gregory, the current patriarch of a large, wealthy, and powerful political family. While there, in a near drunken stupor, he observes Jamie Gregory and his cousin Peter Gregory Martin as they rape the beautiful Kendrick Powell who's in a drunken stupor. Cut to Philadelphia, where George is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. A stranger named Roland Andrews, who styles himself as a representative of the shadowy Josh David Powell, a real estate developer as rich as the Gregory's but not well known, who's seeking revenge against the Gregory's for the rape and ruination of his daughter. George, confused and defensive, tries to rationalize his part in the incident, while Andrews seeks to induce him to return to Palm Beach and file a report with the local District Attorney. Of course, nothing comes of his report and Kendrick commits suicide. Andrews returns and promises George that nothing will ever go right in his life again.

And nothing does. Move forward to Cape Cod in 2008, where George is an assistant district attorney in the Cape & Islands district handling driving under the influence prosecutions, One day, while eating his usual solitary supper in a bar/restaurant, Bill Telford, the father of Heidi Telford, whose body was found nine years before on the grounds of the local golf club, and who is known as “Anything New Telford” by local law enforcement for his continual dropping of information about his daughter's murder. His information and interest frighten and challenge George who begins to undertake his own investigation of the incident. With initial clues provided by Telford, and unsolicited help from the lovely Barbara Belbonnet, whose loyalties are, at best, clouded, George begins to track all the possible participants in Heidi's murder, discovering they have all been placed out of the way in comfortable sinecures by the Gregory family in order to buy their silence.

Walter Walker, an attorney himself, uses dialog well to move plot along, and for much of the course of Crime of Privilege, the writing is crisp and the plot develops well. A number of situations occur, placing George in jeopardy, out of which he manages to extricate himself while the tension of a good thriller builds. Expectation of a plot twist that never occurs, much to my disappointment since it was such a logical shift in direction, is dashed as Walker takes readers to a much more predictable and conventional conclusion. Regardless, Crime of Privilege provides a page turner which mostly keeps the reader going as Walker takes George from his Barnstable, MA surroundings on trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica, France, and other romantic locales. While violence in several episodes is treated with tension and explicit language, Walker pretty much falls short in exploring George's emerging relationship with Barbara, who should be a more interesting character. 

Walter Walker

Walter Walker is a full-time trial attorney in San Francisco and the author of five novels, including the critically acclaimed A Dime to Dance By (Best First Novel by a California Author, 1983), The Immediage Prospect of BeingHanged (called the best mystery of the year by The Philadelphia Inquirer), Rules of theKnife Fight, The Two Dude Defense. Walter stopped writing in the mid-90's while he concentrated on his law practice, which had become hugely successful. In 2003 he was a finalist for California Trial Attorney of the Year. Crime of Privilege is his sixth crime novel.

Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker ( (Ballantine Books, 2013, 432 pages, $26.00) is appropriately released just in time for what is commonly called “beach reading,” regardless of whether the reader is actually on the beach or not. With locales in Cape Cod and Palm Beach, Crime of Privilege is more specifically “beach reading” than some others. The major villains in the book closely resemble the Kennedy family, making the book particularly attractive to Kennedy haters and conspiracy theorists. Nevertheless, the book flows well and keeps the reader going. I received my copy as an electronic galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly - Book Review

I'm old enough to remember Mike Hammer ruthlessly gunning down bad guys and killing evil women with equal glee. Then came the somewhat more sensitive male detectives who work at conquering their problems while solving crimes. Slowly, as times have changed, the images of crime fiction heroes have changed, too. Now, we see the emergence of a new kind of woman detective. No longer are we entertained by tea and crumpets served by little old ladies solving crimes, but contemporary career women who use the assets they have to overcome evil in interesting and arresting situations filled with all the blood coursing excitement of a tight plot fraught with all the difficulties the genre presents. Anonymous Sources by Mary Louse Kelley (Gallery Books, June 18, 2013, 352 pages) does the job, presenting an attractive and sexy hero who's tough and spunky enough to accomplish her task while complex enough to remain interesting and unpredictable throughout. Mary Louise Kelly, in her first novel, appears to be a comer worth watching.

Alex James is a young reporter for the Boston Chronicle working higher education and getting an occasional byline. Thom Carlyle, son of the counsel to the President and recently returned from a year at Cambridge University where he was the Harvard Scholar, has apparently fallen from the roof of one of Harvard's houses (dorms) and killed himself. There's no evidence of foul play, and the reader is the only person who knows he has been killed. Alex has a good eye for elements that don't quite fit, and she begins snooping around with the support of her editor, the canny, crusty Hyde Rawlins. Alex, after some preliminary sleuthing, is convinced that Carlyle's death is no accident and convinces Rawlins that the death is worth investigating and that the answer lies in England where she, too, had studied. Off she goes....

Once in Cambridge, we meet the impossibly beautiful (and equally nasty) Petronella Black, the lusty Lord Lucienne Sly, and a mysterious Pakistani physicist who weekly receives large cases of bananas. Each clue presents Alex with several choices, and she doesn't always take to right one. One error she continues to make, as she has earlier in her life, involves falling into the wrong bed. She also loves British tea and gin & tonic in almost equal measure. Nevertheless, she's an indefatigable reporter, a smart person, and a likable character hiding a secret which adds depth and interest to her character. As the plot becomes increasingly complicated both British and American intelligence are involved and Alex is faced with a series of dilemmas not knowing whom to trust. The story builds in tension as she moves ever more deeply into the world of international intrigue and intelligence. 

Mary Louise Kelly
Author Mary Louise Kelly is herself an experienced reporter who's worked in both newpapers and television. She is a guest host for NPR’s news and talk programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and Weekend Edition Saturday. A Georgia native, her first job as a local political reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution began her journalism career. In 1996, she made the leap to broadcasting and her assignments have taken her around the world: to the Afghan-Pakistan border, to mosques in Hamburg, to refugee camps during the Kosovo conflict, to the peace talks that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland, and to the Iraqi desert. She is a Harvard graduate and has a master’s degree from Cambridge University in England. Currently, Kelly teaches national security and journalism classes at Georgetown University.

Alex James is a mostly believable woman who is neither a man in disguise nor a sopping romance character caught in a mystery story. She's only a little bit better looking, more competent, and sexier than a real woman, making her a good protagonist for a very readable summer novel. The novel is made up of over fifty short, punchy chapters, many with effective cliff-hangers that succeed in keeping the reader engaged and moving forward. There are plenty of well-disguised clues and plot twists to help maintain interest. The book never becomes preachy or boring, even when digging into Alex's deeply hidden secret or her more serious problems. Mary Louise Kelly is a first-time novelist who bears watching and the book's end suggests the possibility that Alex James will make a welcome return. Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly (Gallery Books, 352 pages, $26.00) is a first-rate summer read, fun and tense enough to keep a reader going. The book was supplied to me by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle. If you should decide to order this book, please consider entering Amazon through the portal on my site or clicking on the links throughout this review.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter - Bood Review

First time novelist Lea Carpenter has written a luminously beautiful meditation on the nature of war, courage, commitment, motherhood, and patriotism within the context of our long, and seemingly irresolvable conflict in the Middle East. (Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter, Knopf, 2013, 288 pages, $24.95) Jason is missing. Sara, his mother who lives in relative seclusion in Chadds Ford, PA, relives her life as a single mother, skilled editor, and trusted colleague and Jason's as a highly accomplished warrior, having chosen his direction in life at least partly out a desire to discover his father. Jason is lost somewhere in the Middle East while serving on what might be his final deployment. The language is stunning, filled with understanding, mystery, and love. The settings are abstracted, leaving moments of demanding training and dangerous action abstract. Carpenter avoids the language of war while creating, admiring, justifying, and questioning warfare's use and relevance. The cloud of ambivalence hanging over this haunting and challenging narrative places the role of war and the warrior in a context of love and loss while asking questions that must forever be unresolved. A beautiful and impossible to set down piece of writing.

Sara, comes to work at the CIA as a general go-fer, making coffee and running errands, where she meets David at a conference. While thirty years her elder, he is attractive and engaging. She becomes pregnant and Jason is born. David continues in and out of their life, always a distant and mysterious figure coming to visit for brief stays before leaving for jobs and places he cannot talk about. Sara, while rising as an editor for documents written within the agency, shows little interest in where David is or what he does, even while developing increased skills and importance in her job. When he is reported killed, she moves to Pennsylvania while still continuing to work for the agency. She devotes her life to raising her son Jason and living quietly in seclusion while she writes, runs, and gardens. She is cared for by a number of men in the agency who become Jason's godfathers, helping to look after him, to point him towards Ivy League universities and a possible career in government service as he develops as both a fine athlete and student. Eventually, he determines to follow a life of service by attending the Naval Academy and, upon graduation, opting for training as a SEAL, a special services designation growing from World War II's underwater demolition teams. (Fortunately, an extensive glossary of the meanings of all the service-related acronyms used in the book is appended at the end. I'll not clarify them or rely on them in this review.)

The book continues to cycle between episodes of Sara reflecting on Jason's character and physical development and Jason's own reflections about learning to control and cope with physical challenge, developing the requisite survival and attack skills, while managing pain and fear. Jason, after seven or eight years in the special forces has developed through a series of deployments involving perhaps hundred of individual missions, into a valued, trusted, and reliable “operator.” His internal life is one of control, discipline, and a deep belief in the cause to which he has committed himself. The story emphasizes his competence rather than any questions he might develop about the value of what he does,which he apparently doesn't question. The central metaphor for his efforts is the brotherhood of the special forces, their reliance upon each other in times of crises, and their ability to cope through the telling of stories within their number. The stories never emerge as blood and guts tales of adventure, rather staying within the realm of the brotherhood. Sara, meanwhile, continues her life of worry, love for Jason, and seeking to maintain her own equilibrium through the lonely years she lives almost completely for him.

The abstracted language Carpenter uses creates a sense of detachment running through this compelling novel, never allowing the reader to experience the same level of distance the major characters do. This detachment helps keep the reader driving through, even though a sense of both hope and loss surround the narrative. Sara is seen by her neighbors and the “godfathers” as a person of courage and selflessness. Carpenter makes this spirit palpable. Meanwhile, Jason, like his namesake, always hovers on the edge of becoming a tragic hero.

It's easy to fall into the media stereotypes fostered by film and TV of the special forces officer. He (or more recently she, also) can be a person of action, working and acting without insight or self-examination. He can be a nearly psychopathic zealot, always seeking and finding the most violent and spectacular solution to hostage or assassination scenarios. In this tale, the characters are more nuanced and clearly drLiven by a combination of patriotism and self-sacrifice within a context of controlled physicality. Their intellect is never far from the surface as they explore the nature of being who they are while they do what they do. As the novel resolves, the reader gains in admiration and understanding of the characters and their commitments. 

Lea Carpenter

Lea Carpenter graduated from Princeton and has an MBA from Harvard. She was Founding Editor for Francis Ford Coppola's literary magazine, Zoetrope as well as Deputy Publisher of The Paris Review until 2005. She lives in New York with her husband and their two sons where she produces programming for the New York Public Library. This is her first novel.

In Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter (Knopf, 2013, 288 pages, $24.95) creates a believable and barely bearable world in which espionage, action, and commitment drive the usually hidden forces seeking to forward America's goals in the world by making them deeply personal and fully real. Her tone is almost elegiac in nature, as she follows a mother's hope and fear through the immediate period of her missing son's ordeal as well as the challenges presented to both mother and son as they follow their needs and abilities. The novel stands on its own as a powerful tale of love and loss. It also works well as a meditation on the nature of patriotism and commitment. The writing is powerful and evocative, drawing the reader forward while exploring existential issues of life and death in thoughtful and challenging ways. This book is worth reading. I read Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter as an electronic galley provided to me by the publisher through Edelweiss. If you decide to purchase it, please consider ordering it throught he Amazon portal on this blog to help support its efforts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival; June 27 - 30 - Preview

 Photo by Sherry Ravlin, Logo by Marla Singleton

The camping gates to the 13th Annual Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival open at The Tunbridge World's Fair Grounds in Tunbridge, VT on Wednesday, June 26 at 8:00 AM and the fun begins at 6:30 PM with the annual covered dish supper followed by a dance and show this year featuring the Clay Hawkins Revival Band, a classic country band featuring Julie Hogan, Tom Venne, Junior Barber with Eric Gibson on Electric Guitar. Jenny Brook has emerged as the premier summer bluegrass festival in New England, bringing a solid lineup of national and regional bands, a wide-ranging program of events and activities, and a family spirit that cannot be beaten to a wonderful site nestled into the very rural Green Mountains of Vermont while remaining easily accessible by Interstate Highways providing access from nearby New York and further away.  

This year's lineup features the first Jenny Brook Appearance and only New England appearances this summer of The Lonesome River Band and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. These two highly regarded bands have won so many IBMA awards I can hardly count them. Russell Moore is the five time IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year while IIIrd Tyme Out has won seven Vocal Group of the Year. Sammy Shelor has won IBMA's Banjo Player of the Year five times as well as the $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. The James King Band will also be making it's debut at Jenny Brook this year. King, who has won numerous SPBGMA awards as Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year, has built perhaps the best band he's ever had and is back at the top of his game. Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, IBMA 2012 Emerging Artist of the Year, will also be making its first Jenny Brook appearance. The Ohio-based band brings tuneful, earnest Scruggs style banjo and traditional bluegrass to a festival well-know for its traditional roots.   The Gibson Brothers, 2012 IBMA Entertainers of the Year as well as Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year awards, return to headline Friday and Saturday night's performances.  They have appeared at all Jenny Brook festivals except the first one.

 Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
Russell Moore

Wayne Benson

Lonesome River Band
Sammy Shelor

Mike Hartgrove

 The James King Band
James King

  Barry Crabtree

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

 Evan McGregor

Returning Favorites
The Gibson Brothers
Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson & Mike Barber

Returning to Jenny Brook this year will be several national bands who have been favorites there for years. After more than forty years on tour, The Seldom Scene brings what once seen was a revolutionary addition of other genres to the bluegrass stage. Adding songs from the world of rock and folk music of the early 1970's expanded the bluegrass repertoire to permit new and more interesting music to enter in.  

Seldom Scene
Dudley Connell

Lou Reid

Nothin' Fancy
Mike Andes & Tony Shorter

Chris Sexton

Nothin' Fancy has rapidly become a fan favorite at Jenny Brook. Combing the singing and songwriting of Mike Andes with the virtuoso fiddle contributions of Chris Sexton, Nothin' Fancy mixes light hearted good humor with excellent versions of Country Gentleman favorites (much better, I think, than the currently touring tribute band ever manages). The band has a record of consistency in personnel and quality that rivals some of the best bands in the business.

Audie Blaylock & Redline
Audie Blaylock

Russ Carson

Audie Blaylock & Redline has emerged with a distinctive voice of its own as Audie Blaylock has established himself as leader of his own band. After stints with Jimmy Martin and Michael Cleveland and some subsequent struggles, Audie Blaylock's song selection and strong band represent traditional sounding bluegrass at its best. Enjoy this fine band with its young and excellent side men.

Tony Holt & the Wildwood Valley Boys
Tony Holt

Aubrey Holt

Tony Holt & the Wildwood Valley Boys are lineal descendants of the fabled Boys from Indiana. They sing covers of that band's best known work as well as excellent traditional work of their own.

Smokey Green & the Boys Reunion

Always a favorite among audiences in New York, New England, and Florida, Smokey Green returns to Jenny Brook, where he is well loved for his novelty songs and classic country covers. His reunion show should be a rare treat.

Choice Regional Bands
Hot Mustard

Hot Mustard, a double banjo quartet serving up mostly classic covers, made its debut performance at Jenny Brook three years ago and has since performed at many regional bluegrass events. 

Erica Brown & the Bluegrass Connection


Mason Zink Band

Seth Sawyer Band. 
Seth Sawyer

The Jenny Brook host band always assembles a solid group of local pickers to feature Seth Sawyer's song writing and singing along with regional stalwarts the Daves, Orlomoski and Shaw..

Other Attractions

Nestled in the gentle hills of the Green Mountain of Vermont in Tunbridge, the ambitiously named "World's Fair" grounds are a wonderful site to hold a bluegrass festival. They have a large number of water and electric sites as well as many hidden nooks and crannies for groups to form compounds or camp along a burbling, young branch of the White River. The festival has a justly deserved reputation as a jamming festival, represented by the presence of the Grass Seeds Stage where pickup bands as well as established ones come to vie for a place on Sunday's lineup as well as a possible booking for the following year. The Grass Seeds Stage is hosted again this year by regional banjo player Michelle Canning, now majoring in Traditional Music at Morehead State University in Kentucky.

Michelle Canning

The Grass Seeds Stage at the Gazebp

Kids Academy
Aaron Foster

Under the direction of Aaron Foster,a graduate of the Academy and now an advanced student in the bluegrass program of East Tennessee State University, and professional music teacher Mike Turk,  the Jenny Brook Kids Academy has been resurrecting itself. Not limited to very young pickers, the Academy meets three times for long enough to provide help and develop a performance, but not too long to make it a burden. Details can be found here.

The Jenny Brook Bluegrass University will once again hold classes and provide lessons for bluegrass beginning pickers. The staff are all well-known New England teaching professionals, and the charges are more than reasonable.The Jenny Brook Theater will present PG or G rated films for young people in the evenings.

Mike & Mary Robinson's Bluegrass Gospel Jam and Sing

Workshops and Sugar Shack Jam

Each evening a structured slow-jam is featured after closing outside the sugar shack under cover. This year three bands will lead the evening jams:
Thursday - Hot Mustard
Friday - James King
Saturday - Nothin' Fancy

Provides a great opportunity to jam with the artists.

The Details


 A good variety of food, craft, and instrument vendors are always available at Jenny Brook. There's a shortage of local establishments available for shopping, although there's a local convenience grocery in Tunbridge, as well as a food store and a hardware store in nearby Royalton. Don't miss breakfast at the Sugar Shack or maple flavored soft ice cream and other snacks.


A variety of ticket plans for multi-day or day attendance are available for those attending Jenny Brook. It's now past the early bird period, but you can purchase tickets and get further ticket information HERE.

Swimming in the River

Emcee - Evan Carl


 Candi Sawyer - Promoter

The Jenny Brook Stage

Plenty of Shade

How to Get to Jenny Brook
Click on the link at the bottom of the map and then input your address in A

If you require more than a twelve foot clearance, follow these alternative directions: If you are coming by car, or have a low profile camper such as a popup, you can take the shorter route of Vermont Route 14 south to Route 110 north instead of I-89. THERE IS A LOW UNDERPASS OF ONLY 12 FEET ON ROUTE 14!

The late Lonnie Mathews and Candi Mathews Sawyer