Monday, December 18, 2017

The Gibson Brothers North Country Christmas Show 2017

Every year, in mid-December, we head north to Ellenburg Depot, NY for the Gibson Brothers North Country Christmas Show held in the school they graduated from a few (not so few any more) years ago, Northern Adirondack Central School. Every year the modern school auditorium, seating a little over 600, sells out for this much anticipated return of the two brothers who've helped introduce this small farming village just five miles south of the Canadian border to a larger audience.

By now, winter has settled in. A deep chill cuts through us southern flatlanders in ways that no amount of piling on more clothes really stops. If you're from the North Country, a name applied to help differentiate from Upstate, which is really anywhere north of New York City and West Chester County, you learn to make winter work for you, keep moving, and make sure there's plenty of venison in the freezer. You also head for Florida, if you can. For those of us who know and love it, the North Country and its strong, resilient people is a place to nourish and treasure.

The Gibson Brothers - New Fallen Snow

Northern Adirondack Central School

Eric Gibson, Jesse Brock & Joe Newberry 
Warming Up

Early Arrivals

The Auditorium Fills

Shannon Gibson Comes to See Her Boys

Gibson Brothers with Erin Gibson LaClair - Light in the Stable

The Gibson Family grew up on a small dairy farm just a few miles north of Ellenburg Depot. They began singing in church and learned a love of country music from their father, the late Kelley Gibson. They went to bluegrass festivals in southern Quebec and around the region. They both graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, which recently awarded them honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees for their contributions to the College and the region. Since becoming full-time musicians, they have twice been named Entertainer of the Year by IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) and the last nine of their recordings have reached #1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts.

The Band

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson

Mike Barber

Jesse Brock

Sam Zucchini

...and Guests
Erin Gibson LaClair
Photo by: Amy Lee

Joe Newberry

People who've had the opportunity to watch the Gibson Brothers carefully know that simply buying their recordings or listening to them doesn't capture the essence of what sets them apart from other bands. At a Gibson Brothers performance, what goes on between the songs is nearly as important as the music they make. The loving, yet humorously bitey interaction between two brothers only separated in age by eleven months is crucial to a full appreciation of their appeal. The clip below offers a three song medley seeking to capture some of this magic. It also includes a remarkable song called "Christmas in the Trenches," which recreates a moment from a Christmas a hundred years ago in the Ardennes forest. Make sure you catch Joe Newberry singing it. 

The Gibson Brothers - Three Song Medley

Joe Newberry's name has long been familiar to fans of A Prairie Home Companion, the NPR weekend evening entertainment show hosted by now retired Garrison Keillor. Newberry's singing, multi-instrument playing and song writing, though, have long been known fans of folk music, old-time, and bluegrass. He's written a number of songs with and for the Gibson Brothers including "Singing as We Rise," "The Darker the Night," and "I Know Who's Tears." He's also credited as co-writer with Eric Gibson on IBMA 2013 Song of the Year "They Called it Music." The current Christmas tour has the added excitement of Joe's presence. Here's a dual banjo instrumental with Eric and the rest of the band that brought the house down. 

The Gibson Brothers with Joe Newberry - Breaking Up Christmas

Afterward - The Merch Table Was Crowded

The Road Home Was Clear and Cold

The Boats Wait For Summer in Champlain

...And the Mountains Are Clear and Cold


 The Gibson Brothers with Erin Gibson LaClair - Go Tell It on the Mountain

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Yee Haw Music Fest - Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center - January 18 - 21, 2018

 Agri-Civic Center - Okeechobee, Florida

The YeeHaw Music Fest, held in the Agri-Civic Center in Okeechobee, FL, will run from Janury 18 - 21, 2018 with the gates opening at Noon on Monday, January 15th. Each year since moving from its previous location in YeeHaw Junction, thirty-three miles to the north, this festival has grown, improved, and become an increasingly rich and varied event catering to bluegrass and country music fans from within Florida and from a huge geographic area beyond. Ever since assuming ownership, Ernie Evans and his wife Deb, as Evans Media Source (EMS) have worked to rebuild and expand this festival. The 2018 version will be the most extensive and interesting one yet, gwith significant improvements in the stage, lighting, sound, vendors, and more.

Ernie Evans - Festival Promoter

Ernie Evans has re-imagined the bluegrass festival as a week-long journey, akin to a land-based cruise with activities taking place every day from the opening of the gates on Monday at noon to the Sunday morning Gospel Music Jam, which many festival goers attend before packing their trailers and motor-homes for their return trip. Using the building and grounds effectively to offer a range of musical and social activities, while leaving time to explore the region, eat at nearby restaurants, go fishing, or seek other enjoyment, the festival offers much, beyond the world class music it features.

Tuesday - January 16
Bingo - 1:00 PM

Michael Reno Harell - 7:00 PM

Michael Reno Harrell, story-teller, folk singer,and entertainer is a national treasure. Coming from North Carolina and known throughout the country for the songs he writes and sings, weaving his narrative seamlessly around his evocative stories of his rural childhood and the gritty present. He tells stories of nostalgia, humor and triumph over adversity. His appearance represents a musical addition to the festival, starting it off with a his solo performance on Tuesday evening. His appearance is open to the community for $10.00 at the gate and free to ticket holders for the festival. Don't miss Michael Reno Harrell. Here's a sample of one of his songs:

Michael Reno Harrell - The Nickel

Wednesday - January 17

Traditional Potluck Supper - 5:00 PM

Bring your favorite covered dish for the annual pot luck supper. The festival provides the main course while you provide your side dishes and desert. 

Open Mic "Radio Show" - 6:30 - Hosted by Greg Bird

WEMS (Evans Media Source) - Blue Country Radio - 8:30
YeeHaw All Stars and Guests

Dave O'Brien

The Lineup
T. Graham Brown (S)

Country legend T. Graham Brown, a native of Arabi, GA, whose career includes three #1 country hits and eight other top ten songs along with having recorded thirteen studio albums, will appear for one ninety minute set at YeeHaw Music Fest on Saturday night. He has continued an active career, with a 2014 album Forever Changed, which he co-produced, receiving a Grammy nomination.  His 1986 #1 hit, Hell & High Water, below, was recorded in 2014.

T. Graham Brown - Hell & High Water

The Cleverlys (Fr)

The Cleverlys have been described as a "GrassHipPop Fushion" band which specializes in bluegrass based humor. They're a unique sound, look and appeal to the YeeHaw stage. They break down some of the walls in bluegrass with their off-the-wall humor and well-disguised musicianship. They cover songs from across the genre spectrum, turning them into bluegrass. Below is their interpretation of Beck's Loser.

The Cleverlys - Loser

Darrell Webb Band (S)

Darrell Webb is a veteran performer who's been around for longer than his young looks would suggest. He's played with some of the best and fronted several increasingly good bands. Often noted for his deep traditionalism, his work is also sprinkled with diverse influences making his music always interesting and sometimes cutting edge. His present band is one of his best yet. 

Darrell Webb Band - Crossroads

Donna Ulisse (Fr)

Donna Ulisse is a Nashville veteran who came to town as a country singer and has distinguished herself as a singer/songwriter leading her own bluegrass band, while continuing to write hit songs for herself and others. In 2016 she was named IBMA songwriter of the year. Her mellow voice and deeply felt songs resonate with her experience and her immersion in bluegrass music.

Donna Ulisse - Back Home Feelin' Again

Dave Adkins (S)

Dave Adkins exudes enthusiasm and a huge talent for song interpretation. People complain that contemporary bluegrass has lost its soul, but maybe it all has just been concentrated into this Kentucky-based singer. Last year at Sertoma, Dave appeared with a new band well-designed to support his unique style of country inflected bluegrass. His strong voice and commitment to excellence show through in every performance. 

The Dave Adkins Band - Put Some Grass In It

Larry Stephenson Band (F)

Larry Stephenson brings his crystal clear tenor voice, a deep love of and respect for traditional bluegrass and a seasoned band featuring bluegrass banjo great Kenny Ingram to the  YeeHaw Music Fest. His experience goes back to the early1970's, while his sound, uniquely his own, has echoes of great singers throughout bluegrass history. 

The Larry Stephenson Band - Where the Soul of Man Never Dies

Monroe Crossing (T)

Monroe Crossing comes from the great bluegrass state of Minnesota, and often displays is Nordic roots in its singing and accents. But don't expect any chill coming from this warm, musically diverse, and exciting band which throws a mixture of bluegrass tones and colors at its audience, always treating them like grown-ups. 

Monroe Crossing - Fraulein

Sideline (T)

Sideline ain't a side project any more! They're playing over 100 dates a year and they bought their own bus. They've had a few personnel changes over the past couple of years, each one strengthening the band. They may be the most exciting, and fun to watch traditional cover band touring today. Popular Dobro player Brad Hudson has left the band to stay closer to home, replaced by former Grass Cats lead singer Bailey Coe, who you're going to love. Troy Boone, a recent ETSU alum, on mandolin is a fine singer and mandolin player. Nathan Aldridge graduated from high school and now will really concentrate on fiddle. New father, Skip Cherryholmes, will continue to deliver excitement, while his father-in-law, veteran Steve Dilling tries to keep the whole melange in line. Go-to bass player keeps the beat for everyone. Always fun!

Sideline - Knee Deep in Bluegrass

Swinging Bridge (S)

Swinging Bridge is a very good bluegrass band located on the Southwest side of Florida in the 
area around Englewood. They play a good mixture of traditional bluegrass, featuring strong instrumental work and enjoyable singing. It's always a pleasure to see these guys. 

Swinging Bridge - County Fool

Remington Ryde (T)

Remington Ryde is a regional band from central Pennsylvania which sponsors its own bluegrass festival during the summer. They have experienced significant lineup changes in the past year or two, so it's a little hard to know who will show up. Regardless of who appears, they'll work hard to try to entertain. 

Remington Ryde - Mr. King

Scattered Grass (F)

We enjoyed seeing and meeting this young band last year and look forward to seeing them again. Twin sisters Moe and Spider Prevatt with Sean Campbell and Justin Mason are still a mite raw, but so clearly having a good time and enjoying the scene, I'd have to be a real curmudgeon to be critical. 

Scattered Grass - Little Georgia Rose

Alligator Alley (S)

Alligator Alley comes from Southeast Florida, a little removed from the western bluegrass hotbed in Charlotte County. Nevertheless, the band is enthusiastic and contributes significantly to the jamming culture at Evans Media Source festivals through the hard work of Dobro player Justin Mason. Meanwhile, they love bluegrass and are working hard at it. 

Alligator Alley - My Father's Prison

The Details

Tickets: Information about tickets can be found at the Evans Media Source web site here:
Three Day Festival Tickets purchased in advance - $72.00   Call (904) 886-8378 or order on line
Reserve seats are $5.00 Extra - Bring your own chairs - No High Backs 
There is nearly unlimited rough camping, but sites with water and/or electricity are nearly sold out. You might wish to call to put your name in line in case of cancellations, but you can 

Official Festival Host Hotel - The nearby Pier II Resort is the Official Hotel for YeeHaw Music Fest. Call and ask for festival rates. The resort is less than four miles from the Agri-Civic Center.

Other Accommodations: There are a number of other hotels and RV Parks convenient to the Agri-Civic Center. Check Google maps. 

How to Get to the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center
To Map Your Route - Click on the Map Below
Place Your Location in the O Space & click

Festival Emcee - Jo Odum

See you there!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A-List by D.P. Lyle - Book Review

A-List by D.P. Lyle (Oceanview Publishing, 2017, Oceanview Publishing, $14.95/$9.99) is a lively, detective procedural set in New Orleans, which always provides lots of local colorful characters to story lines. Kirk Ford, a movie star with a “pretty” face has woken up in his hotel room with the dead body of his current girl friend lying beside him. That’s the entry to the plot of the second outing of the Jake Longley Novel by D.P. Lyle, a veteran writer of crime fiction and real crime books. Jake Longley, something of a slacker son ex-baseball player son of P.I. Ray Longley, proprietor of Longley Investigations, is eyeing the beautiful, lithe, Nicole Jemison as she exercises and he fantasizes, when the phone rings, providing an entry into the fast-paced, intriguing world of this second book in a new series set in New Orleans, where the death occurred. In strong, hard-boiled detective writing, A-List starts off with plenty of snappy dialogue, strong place-setting description, and driving plot to capture the reader and propel the story forward with these two likable problem solvers whose looks and tastes for life and each other make them both attractive and the nutrient for the pleasant diversion to come.

While Jake seems to be a reluctant detective and Nicole a willing and talented apprentice, the chemistry between the two jumps off the page. They often appear, almost, as willing, attractive sex kittens eager to roll around in the hay or luxuriate in the shower before getting on with the business of solving the crime. However, considering the present climate, this might not be an auspicious theme for a contemporary who-done-it’s interpersonal plot line. Nevertheless the setting and situation are made for a good story. The murdered girl is the niece of Tony Guidry, identified as a local mobster well connected with the political and law enforcement authorities. The initial bail hearing with its gawking crowd in the background sets the hierarchy of power in notoriously corrupt New Orleans. It’s up to Jake and Nicole to find the keys to this very promising romp.

Lyle uses well-wrought, fast-paced dialogue to reveal character and plot. He is a real pro at this, combining punchy, brief description with dialogue to make the book a consistent page turner. This combination often differentiates the newcomer to genre fiction from more experienced writers. Early in this reading, the first with this writer for me, I couldn’t tell whether the dramatic tension resulting from these strong story telling traits would continue. His continued precise, vignette descriptions of characters and settings throughout the book display his ability to sustain the tone. Such sparse immediacy is often the work of very careful paring down to essentials found in good popular writers of contemporary fiction, where readers insist on getting on with it.

As the story proceeds, it develops that both Kirk and the dead Kristi had Ketamine in their systems, suggesting the possibility that a third party has somehow entered the locked room to strangle Kristi. The book is flawed, with a guilty suspect emerging too soon, as the trick in a who-done-it is to introduce the character, yet keep guilt hidden as long as possible, allowing the guilty person to emerge as a surprise. This separates it from a procedural, where we may know the guilty party but find intrigue in the process of discovering who it is. Let me know if you find the same issue.

A-List contains an interesting emerging father/son relationship between the seemingly shiftless Jake, a former major league pitcher whose career was shortened by injury, and his father Ray, the head of Longley Investigations and a smart, hard-working guy who always puts work first. It adds some depth to Jake who turns out to be less of a slacker than he tries to appear.

D.P. Lyle

Lyle is at his best when revealing plot and character through dialogue. Setting becomes the backdrop for the revealing dialogues he creates between his people. He has a clear idea of what motivates each one as characters emerge in their discussions with others, each one letting the reader in on important details. He is an experienced writer who has written several other series as well as several books about how to write detective fiction. After many years practicing medicine as a cardiologist, he now writes non-fiction about forensic medicine with an eye toward supporting other crime writers. He also maintains The Crime Writer’s Forensics Blog.

A-List by D.P. Lyle (Oceanview Publishing, 2017, Oceanview Publishing, $14.95/$9.99) resonates with skill, insight, and the plain hard work of good writing. But, about ¾ of the way through the book, I think I solved the crime. This is a disappointment in a book with fairly intriguing characters, lots of excellent dialogue, and the always intriguing setting in New Orleans, to discover a plotting flaw that may give away the doer through a plotting error. Nevertheless I enjoyed this book while discovering a new, to me, writer who has the added attractiveness of having written several other series as well as books designed to help aspiring and practicing mystery writers cope with technical details about writing. I read A-List as a pre-publication electronic book provided by the publisher through Edelweiss on my Kindle app.

Please remember that books I review are available in various editions at If you order them through a link on my blog, I receive a small commission and you pay no more. This title is currently available on Kindle for $0.99.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson - Book Review

Walter Isaacson’s huge biography Leonardo da Vinci (Simon & Schuster, 2017, 624 pages, $35.00/16.99/14.88) big, thick, heavy, beautifully illustrated provides a wonderful journey through the life, mind, and works of a genius who lived more than 400 years ago, but whose creativity, versatility, and imagination rebound through the ages to still affect our sensibilities today. Isaacson, whose previous biography of Einstein I also read and reviewed, stands as one of the major public intellectuals in America. Because he, himself, approaches his subjects with such appreciation and wonder, his books serve to open the minds of their readers, making the subjects accessible to ordinary folks.

Was Leonardo truly the greatest genius of all time, or did he happen to come along when all the conditions were right for a single person to capture and embody huge chunks of the world’s knowledge and experience? Science, math, engineering, art, sculpture, and technology were all encompassed in his studies and interests. His observational skills were without peer. He has obsessive about following through on questions that occurred to him, for instance, insisting on a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy to build invisible skeletons under the skins and clothing of his paintings.

Leonardo, born in Vinci, a town near Florence, Italy in 1452, the illegitimate son of notary Piero da Vinci, who was able to help promote his artistic efforts despite never having legitimated his brilliant son Leonardo, was apprenticed to an artist in Florence where he soon distinguished himself as a master of perspective, color, and drafting. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Leonardo moved restlessly from Florence to Milan to Rome, and eventually to France, where he spent his last years attached to King Francis I and died in 1519. Leonardo is renowned for his great paintings The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper as well others. Beyond painting, his achievements and ideas in engineering, technology, anatomy, military science, mathematics and further were recorded in his journals. Many of his discoveries and speculations were lost for hundreds of years, because he neglected to publish his writings and drawings, while abandoning or procrastinating in completing many of his most famous paintings. Despite this, on his death he was recognized throughout Europe as one of history’s greatest geniuses, a reputation which has only become brighter through the ages.

Mona Lisa

If you’re a person who goes to museums or enjoys paintings and painting, you’ll never look at a canvas or drawing with the same perspective (pun intended) after reading Isaacson’s chapter on the “Science of Art,” which explores Leondardo’s deep and inter-related developing ideas spreading far beyond art into the realms of science and math. “Just as he blurred the boundaries between art and science, he did so to the boundaries between reality and fantasy, between experience and mystery, between objects and their surroundings.” (270) Thus the sciences become metaphysical, moving into the space where observation interacts with belief and knowledge.

Isaacson makes the discovery, search, acquisition, and verification of Leonardo’s work into exciting detective stories, bringing the tales into the present day while remaining thoroughly in the 15th and 16th centuries. Names like Bernard Berenson and Kenneth Clark vie with Sforza and Ludivico as important in the Leonardo story, giving the whole book a shade of a contemporary thriller without the boiler plate of Dan Brown. A hint of a Mona Lisa smile flits around Isaacson’s mind as he weaves the story of how art, technology, and science first combined in Leonardo’s ceaseless search for more remains alive with the search for the Master. The chapter on La Bella Principessa, a previously unattributed drawing, provides as good detective writing as any novel while its owner covers Europe and the U.S. to confirm the insight which had first prompted him to purchase the piece.

Leonardo's Drawings

Leonardo’s intellectual development from being a believer in experience as the best teacher to combining his own current experience with traditions and knowledge handed down from antiquity in writing, architecture, mathematics, science, optics, engineering, sculpture, and art help him create the qualities that so characterize the Renaissance as re-birth and new birth of how to know. Much of Leonardo’s writing becomes a treatise on ways of knowing. Isaacson delights in exploring Leonardo’s mind through his almost limitless works distributed worldwide to libraries, museums, and private collectors. Leonardo’s experiments with using shadows, colors, shapes as well as his thought experiences recounted with words and illustrations suggest the breadth and intensity of his quest. “Just as he blurred the boundaries between art and science, he did so to the boundaries between reality and fantasy, between experience and mystery, between objects and their surroundings.” (270) Thus the sciences become metaphysical, moving into the space where observation interacts with belief and knowledge.

Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography. He is also the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. In Leonardo da Vinci, he emerges as a benevolent character himself, taking joy in his own searches as he seeks to fathom the genius of this exceptional character in human history.

Perhaps no artist, no character, in history has left so much data while remaining such an enigma. Yet, as Isaacson brings his narrative to a close, Leonardo becomes increasingly difficult to encompass. His passions, his intelligence, his ceaseless questioning followed by obsessive studies helped lead him to some understanding of the answers he sought leaving those viewing his work with a certain frustration. While giving so much, Leonardo, like his most famous painting, holds himself slightly aloof, leaving uncertainties for us to contemplate for eternity.

Isaacson challenges the reader. In his discussion of Leonardo’s thoughts about how water flows and eddies, he interrupts the discussions to say, “Try noticing all that when you next fill a sink,” (432) stopping the reader to consider staring deeply into the bowl of water after shaving. His own delight at exploring Leonardo’s world, his insatiable curiosity and his ability to illustrate revelations clearly and precisely intrigue and elevate the author’s own thinking. Isaacson’s books on Leonardo, Franklin, Einstein, and Jobs detail the exploration of the world through the eyes of geniuses most of us can’t fathom ourselves, let alone illuminate for the thoughtful reader. I bought my own copy of Leonardo da Vinci and give it my highest recommendation.

Some thoughts on how to read this book: I bought Leonardo di Vinci as a hardback book on the recommendation of a commentator who mentioned the quality of the photographs, which are very good. However, if I were to purchase it again, however, I would buy it as a Kindle book, even though, at present, the Kindle version is more expensive than the hardback. I found it advantageous to access the largest image available on Google Images using my browser to focus in on small details as I read. Many of the details Isaacson writes about emerge on such close attention. It would be better still, to be able to examine the originals in detail. Unfortunately…..