Monday, December 29, 2014

Balsam Range at Berryville Concert Series in Berryville, VA - Preview

For the past several years, we have begun our winter swing with a stop at the Berryville Bluegrass Series in Berryville, VA. The Berryville series,  a six concert series running from October through March to benefit the Clarke County High School Eagle Athletic Association, usually boasts fine national bands. The January 10th show is no exception with IBMA 2014 Entertainers of the Year Balsam Range headlining and the very good West Virginia band Circa Blue opening. Since moving to the new Clarke County High School, just outside Berryville, VA, the concert series has increased seating in a much more comfortable environment.

Promoter: Frank Jurney

At last January's concert, promoter Frank Jurney announced his retirement from actively promoting bluegrass, an activity he has long been active in for thirty or more years. Fortunately, his retirement lasted about a month before he found himself promoting local events and scheduling the Berryville Series. The next concert in the Berryville Series will be at Clarke County High School on December 10, 2015.

Balsam Range

Balsam Range has emerged from Haywood County, one of the most rural counties in westernmost North Carolina, to national prominence in a relatively short seven years. Named IBMA Entertainer of the Year at the IBMA Awards Show in October 2014, the group has been noted for their exceptional wall-of-sound drive, their eclectic choice of material including traditional bluegrass, rock, and country sounds all in a familiar bluegrass framework, combined with excellent musicianship, and first rate showmanship. The band was also named 2014 Vocal Group of the Year, and fiddler Buddy Melton was named Male Vocalist of the Year. The band brings deep experience and a fresh new sound to every performance.

Buddy Melton

Marc Pruett

Caleb Smith

Tim Surrett

Darrin Nicholson

Balsam Range - Everything That Glitters is Not Gold - Video

If you haven't seen Balsam Range live, don't miss this opportunity!

Circa Blue

We first saw Circa Blue at Gettysburg in 2013. I wrote then that promoter Rich Winleman, "often mines the under-exploited bluegrass resources of West Virginia. Circa Blue, whose name is most aptly chosen, is one of these bands. Circa Blue's music is an enjoyable blend of bluegrass and bluegrass related songs and covers with a good deal of humor." Since then, the band has made significant personnel changes, adding Malia Furtado on fiddle and Teri Chism on bass. There's no reason to think this quite good band hasn't improved itself with these changes, and I look forward to seeing and recording them at Berryville. 

Matt Hickman

Ron Webb

Steve Harris

Malia Furtado

Teri Chism

The Details
Clarke County High School

Clarke County High School is a new, modern facility with very good access and parking just outside Berryville, VA. The sound is excellent, the seats comfortable. Refreshments are provided by the Eagle boosters in the spacious and open lobby. This is a fine venue for listening to music.

The Auditorium

Getting to Clarke County High School
place your location in the o space and press enter for your
customized route to the concert

Clarke County High School is located at  627 Mosby Blvd, Berryville, VA 22611.

Tickets and Information

2014 – 2015 Ticket Prices:

Season Tickets (6 concerts) $ 132.00
Advance Ticket   $ 24.00
Ticket @ the Door   $ 27.00

*Deadline for Season Ticket Renewal is April 1st – Full payment is due by May 1st

Make checks payable to “EAA”
Clarke County High School
c/o Tammi Rhoads
627 Mosby Boulevard
Berryville, VA 22611

We accept VISA, MasterCard and Discover

*$ 2.00 convenience fee for all credit card purchases

For more information, call or email:

Frank Jurney

Tammi Rhoads
540-955-6130 x 7450 or 703-989-5627

This bluegrass show featuring Balsam Range with Circa Blue as the opening band promises to be a good one. Come on out and start the New Year right. See you there!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan - Book Review

I came across Herbie's Game, the fourth in Timothy Hallinan's Junior Bender series and reviewed it in August. I was attracted to the character, an unusual take on the detective novel in which the protagonist is a “professional” thief who solves problems for others who function outside the law. This was such an interesting take on crime and criminals I decided to keep an eye out for more Hallinan books. Sure enough For the Dead, the most recent in his, so far, more widely known Poke Rafferty series, set in Bangkok, was available, and I ordered it, read it, loved, and reviewed it. Next I checked out the local public library, which had The Fear Artist available for a two week download, which I quickly consumed, too. Which brings us to A Nail Through the Heart, the first novel in the Poke Rafferty series.

During my reading life, there have been a few writers whose work with a single character so consumed me I decided to read them all, more or less in order. John D. MacDonald's character Travis McGee was the subject of more than twenty novels set in Florida. Not a “private eye,” McGee characterized himself as “salvage consultant” and, surrounded by an interesting continuing cast of characters, developed the idea of the long running, serial character in crime fiction. Robert B. Parker's Boston detective Spenser (no first name) was a literary tough guy, both gentle and dangerous. Parker's prose was spare and the books a very fast read. The Aubrey/Matarin series of naval adventure novels by Patrick O'Brien set in the 18th and early 19th century starred sea captain (and later Admiral) James Aubrey and his ship's surgeon Stephen Matarin and twenty-one novels that combined exploration and adventure with fine writing. The Richard Sharpe series by Benard Cornwell follow the adventures of a soldier from a lowly grunt in the ranks to top commands during the Napoleonic wars. Not as intellectually satisfying as O'Brien, they nevertheless drew the reader in and then kept him (I guess mostly hims, but I wouldn't count on it.) reading through twenty-four volumes. James Lee Burke's Louisiana-based alcholic detective filled with anger and violence Dave Roubicheaux also attracted me through most of his twenty novels. While I've read multiple books by others, these writers represent highlights in my light fiction reading. I welcome Timothy Hallinan to this distinguished list. Interestingly enough, most of these fine writers kept my attention only through a central character. Hallinan has so far created three major characters, two of whom are currently running concurrently and both attracting readers with very different perspectives.

I decided to purchase the entire body of Poke Rafferty and Junior Bender novels as used books using Thrift Books, an online used book store as my source. (Thrift Books is, indeed, thrifty, with an easy to navigate interface and extremely low prices. I bought seven volumes in trade paper or hardback for about $4.00 a piece with free shipping. They arrived quickly and, while not new, are in good enough shape for both Irene and me to read them and then drop them without regret at campground libraries. It's a good deal.) A Nail Through the Heart is the first novel in the Poke Rafferty series. A benefit of reading series books in order is to see how the character and the author develop through the arc of the series. Thus I was surprised as I picked up Nail to discover Poke, who arrived in Bangkok as an itinerant travel book writer specializing in books exploring the more seemy aspects of Asian countries, already fully established with his girlfriend Rose, a former dancer and prostitute from the Patcong entertainment area of Bangkok. They live with a former street kid named Miaow. Since I had encountered them in different relationships in For the Dead, I was surprised to see them there at all.

When I wrote a note to Hallinan about this, he answered, “When I first got the idea for the series I wanted to make it clear from the outset that they weren't a me-love-you-long-time stories in which gorgeous nubile brown girls fall head over heels with uninteresting middle-aged white men. I had the idea for Poke while walking Bangkok, slums and all, on New Year's Eve 2002 and the moment I thought of him I realized he was married and fiercely in love with his wife. While I was writing my first series I was befriended by a little street girl who saw me writing in a restaurant and was hypnotized by my laptop, which were very rare in the early 1990s. Her name was Miaow, and we met up a few times a year for about three years until she disappeared. I figures if I put her in the books I could give her a happy ending, which I doubted life had given her. So Rose and Miaow entered the series during the first 10 minutes I was thinking about it, although they're not married in NAIL.” So much for the presence of both characters in the first Poke book, but that doesn't mean there isn't any room for growth and change there. Poke wants to marry Rose and adopt Miaow. In the midst of an increasingly convuluted plot, with Rose ready to take herself home for the night and an offer of marriage on the table, she opens the issue of their relationship in terms of Poke's past, her previous life, which she will always carry with her. She says she can't as the American Poke would like, “be fixed.” This rivetting scene defines the situation and shines a light on how Poke and Rose will continue to define and develop their relationship to themselves and others throughout this book and those to come, taking on the importance and nuance making this series exceptional.

Meanwhile, Poke's perhaps naïve view of the seamy side of Bangkok is challenged as the reality of the evils of child pornography and sex slavery, which make Bangkok the sex capital of the world, are elements he seeks to deny in his own relationships and he must confront them to reach a satisfactory resolution he and they can live with. All this takes place within the context of official corruption in the Thai police and torture going back more than a generation. Hallinan packed a lot of content into this initial Poke novel, which may be why the plot seems a little too thick at times. Regardless, the loose ends get tied up in a satisfactory fashion, and I'm eager to read the next volume as soon as Irene finishes it.

Timothy Hallinan

Timothy Hallinann lives about half of each year in Southeast Asia and the other half in California. He wrote songs and sang in a rock band while in college, and many of his songs were recorded by by well-known artists who included the platinum-selling group Bread. He began writing books while enjoying a successful career in the television industry. Over the past fourteen years he has been responsible for a number of well-reviewed novels and a nonfiction book on Charles Dickens. For years he has taught a course on “Finishing the Novel” with remarkable results – more than half his students complete their first novel and go on to a second, and several have been, or are about to be, published. Tim currently maintains a house in Santa Monica, California, and apartments in Bangkok, Thailand; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy-Hallinan.(profile from Hallinan's web site). Hallinan has developed three successful series arcs. They seem to run their course after six books. A new Poke Rafferty book called The Hot Countries will be out in 2015 and a new Junior Bender called King Maybe is in process

A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan (Harper, 2007, 328 pages, $12.21/9.95) is the first novel in the Poke Rafferty series set in Bankot, Thailand. It is a thoroughly engrossing beginning to a first-rate series of novels featuring Rafferty. While it is unnecessary to read the novels in order, I enjoy doing so, once I've discovered a writer whose work intrigues me. Rafferty operates in a morally ambiguous world where he is an alien looking in. He grows through the events in this book and throughout the series. I bought the book as used in trade paperback format. I recommend it highly. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Eighth Anniversary Post

Today is the eighth anniversary of this blog. During that time I have posted 1149 entries which have been seen, depending on which analytics I look at, over a million times. It means that on average, I have written 143 entries a year, or nearly twelve a month. A couple of days ago, I Googled “the average lifespan of a blog” to see if this were really any kind of accomplishment. I learned a couple of things. First, it's estimated that approximately 60% - 80% of all blogs remain active for less than a month. Second, I had asked the wrong question. Truly, the question I asked is unanswerable. That's because even if a blog is no longer maintained it is virtually immortal, as long as the Internet lasts and no-one takes it down. The correct question to ask is whether the content within the blog represents something meaningful and important to the person writing it. Throughout the past eight years, I've had to best job I've ever had. I've been provided with a forum to write, photograph, and consider two of the most important elements in my life: music (especially bluegrass) and books. I've developed habits of considering and writing about two areas of interest which are important to me, and apparently thousands of others. With my wife, Irene, I've traveled many miles and spent untold hours listening, watching, sharing, reading and playing while meeting people I never imagined existed who have, mostly, become our friends, people we look forward to seeing or communicating with through the many ways that today's communications permit. What a life!

First, let's look at some statistics, although increasingly I've come to believe that they're considerably less important than other habits, values, and experiences we've had along the way. During 2014 we've spent 220 nights on the road following the passion we've developed. We attended seventeen bluegrass festivals from New Hampshire to Florida and across the mountains to Tennessee and Ohio. Nevertheless, I'm constantly reminded of how many events there are, how many really good bands, how much fine music in bluegrass and other genres can command attention, and how little time and money we have to experience it all. But given time, age, and our resources, we're doing the best we can. In addition to attending festivals we visited 29 other events and individuals, each of which added to our store of experience, knowledge, and enjoyment. We visited (and wrote about) music shops, concerts, museums, jam camps, luthiers, performers in their homes (a special treat), jams, and small shows. We've come to treasure and appreciate the differences as well as the similarities found in these places and people who share this little world with us.

Increasingly, You Tube has become an important way for us to communicate about the music and musicians in our world. During its lifetime, our You Tube channel has accumulated 1190 individual videos, mostly singles. They have accumulated slightly over four million song plays, with the viral Josh Williams Bird Video accounting for roughly half of them. This year alone this fortuitous event accounted for roughly half of the 1.4 million hits the channel had as well as gaining significant interest from companies wishing to represent it (or me) in syndication, making all sorts of promises. I've allowed several to show the Josh Williams video on television for a single play, but declined to sign any agreements. While it's fun to have people come up to me to ask, “Are you Ted?” and thank me for the videos, or to have them leave comments, I still prefer to write. While we live in a society where people are increasingly more willing to view both their entertainment and learning material without making the effort to read at any length, I'm old enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to continue writing in larger chunks than most people prefer. Meanwhile, the latest and hottest of video experiences is a teen/hipster site called Vine where members post looped six second videos and most of the providers getting millions of hits and making fortunes are kids or twenty-somethings. I still want my readers to read what I have to say about where we've gone and what we've done, think about it, and maybe even communicate with me. As a part of that process, I've become increasingly active on Twitter, continue to keep up my Facebook page, maintain Ted & Irene's Most Excellent Bluegrass Adventure, and participate in various online forums including, since I returned after many years to playing the guitar, the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. Although I have a Pinterest account, I honestly can't figure out how it works or how to reach out to people through it. Overall, Social Media both contribute to the activity on my blog and You Tube channel and permit me outlets to express other interests that don't belong on a relatively focused blog. I understand that my online world isn't “real life” but still feel it helps me stay in touch with a wide variety of people as we, ourselves, become less mobile and begin to wind down.

During the year I posted thirty-five book reviews. Several people have suggested I segment the blog to keep the reviews from interfering with bluegrass content. I've stubbornly refused to do this, as I think my blog represents my story, or at least those parts of my story I wish to communicate. Just enough people have come up to me to thank me for book reviews or “friended” me on that marvelous book site Goodreads (the quintessential web site for readers) that I'm satisfied to keep posting book reviews with regularity. Here's a look at my year in books according to Goodreads. Four of the books are explicitly about music, but I also read avidly in American History, biography, mystery/thrillers, sports, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I've added a new twist to how I read books about music, which ought to be reflected in the coming year. I've found Spotify (a music streaming web site) to be an invaluable resource in helping me gain greater appreciation for the music of people I'm reading about. In reading biographies of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, I've listened to their music while reading and writing about it. I have at least two history of American music books on my list for 2015, and intend to create Spotify playlists to coordinate with these books, something I wish had been available to me. We'll see what happens with that.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the people who have made this whole project possible. First, and foremost, my wife Irene, who more-or-less patiently, has humored me and adjusted her schedule to make it possible for me to have time and space to read and write. She also serves as an effective filter, keeping me from burning too many bridges and as an incomparable line editor. She's put up with me for over fifty years, and it looks like we'll make though another one. Her own career as Queen of Merch deserves attention, but she much prefers to do what she does quietly and efficiently. But ask the artists for whom she sells. Meanwhile, there are at least dozens, maybe hundreds, or people who have taken time to correct my errors, supply information I ask for, and generally be helpful to me. They always add to whatever quality is found in these pages while not interfering with my trying to make sense of the world we inhabit. Thanks to all of you. See you next year.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays
Ted & Irene Lehmann

May We Find Some Peace in the New Year

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gibson Family Christmas & Getting There Through Vermont & NY

We've traveled to Ellenburg, New York for the Gibson Brothers annual Christmas show in their home town high school, Northern Adirondack Central School. December in New England and The North Country of New York is always problematic, and we prepare for cold as well as ice and snow. People who live in the North Country know how to stay warm and, generally not let the weather keep them from living their life, There was a pretty good snowfall north and west of our home in Keene, NH on Thursday, so the plows had had time to do their work. The roads were generally clear, giving us a winter wonderland drive along the 218 miles to Ellenburg,

Ludlow, Vermont

When you listen to the national weather forecasts, you often hear references to upstate New York, but to New Yorkers upstate generally means "Not New York City," which gives you little idea of the variety of terrain, cultures, and opportunity New York offers. North of the state capital in Albany lies the massive Adirondack Park (the biggest piece of wilderness east of the Mississippi, designated "forever wild" in the 1892 state constitution. We skirted the Adirondacks, driving north beside Lake Champlain to Plattsburgh, where we checked into our hotel, and then west across the southernmost reaches of the desolate Canadian shield, a rocky substructure extending to Hudson Bay the Arctic Ocean. The former Gibson Family farm (The Farm of Yesterday) lies a mile or so South of the border, as does Northern Adirondack Central School.

The Mountains Rise from the Champlain Valley Along NY 22

Lake Champlain

The Adirondacks Rise to the West

While Farms Still Exist, Wind Farming is Now the 
Big Industry Between the Adirondacks & the Border

WAMU's Bluegrass Country, the forty year old 24/7 bluegrass radio station's drive time DJ is two time IBMA Broadcaster of the Year Katy Daley's musical home. She's a native Washingtonian who thinks that snowfall requires rubber boots enough to get her to the car in order to drive to the basement garage of WAMU for her daily show. She and Shannon Gibson, the matriarch of the Gibson Family have become fast friends. Katy is here for a week of Pie Camp, rest, and to emcee the show.

Katy Daley & Shannon Gibson in the Kitchen

Shannon Gibson

Northern Adirondack Central School

Well....the picture above is the best one I could find, but on December 13 it's all surrounded by snow, and the wind comes sharply across a couple of thousand miles between Ellenburg and the North Pole. But North Country people are a hardy bunch. The Gibson Family Christmas brought a sell-out standing room only crowd of around 600 on a cold evening to welcome this popular family which has lived nearby since the turn of the last century. The auditorium was warm and comfortable in every sense. It was so crowded that a dozen chairs were placed at the back of the stage to provide additional seating. 

A Packed House

Gibson Family Christmas Set 1, Part 1 - Video

Sam Zuchinni & Kelley Gibson Warming Up

Brother and sister Tom Venne & Julie Hogan are the principals in a regional Plattsburgh band called Beartracks. Well known in the North Country and New England, they play a pleasing mix of bluegrass and classic country. Their country band, The Clem Hawkins Revival, featuring Eric Gibson on the electric guitar, plays around the area when Eric is available. They can be seen at the Wednesday evening Pot Luck supper at Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival.
Tom Venne

Julie Hogan

 Kelley, Eric & Leigh Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Eric Gibson

Kelley Gibson (Eric's Son)

Leigh, Eric & Kelley

Mike Barber

Eric & Leigh

Erin Gibson LaClair - The First Noel - Video

Julie Hogan, Tom Venne & Leigh Gibson

Eric Gibson & His Other Guitar

Leigh, Tom & Jule

Tom Venne & Julie Hogan

Gibson Family Christmas Set 1, Part III - Video

The Merch Table

Merry Christmas!