The new year has started off with a bang! I am thrilled about so many
exciting opportunities that I’ve already had and I look forward to
many new adventures down the road.
I wanted to recap some of the wonderful shows, travel locations and
achievements I’ve made so far in 2016.
The year began at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV in
January. I had such a great time meeting folks like Don Edwards, Sour
Dough Slim, Robert Armstrong, Pip Gillette, Hal Cannon and Andy
Hedges, among many others. Not only was I treated very well, I was
strongly encouraged by the cowboy community to continue my pursuits to
create my upcoming album on Black Cowboys.
One of my favorite moments in February was hosting the Lead Belly
Tribute at Carnegie Hall. Backstage I had the chance to reconnect with
three other traditional black folk musicians: Josh White Jr., Guy
Davis, and Jerron Paxton. We had a great session playing John Henry
backstage amongst ourselves. I also had the great pleasure of meeting
Italian harmonica master Fabrizio Poggi who has been playing with Guy
Davis for the several years. Overall, the Lead Belly Fest featured an
elaborate array of artist including Buddy Guy, Eric Burdon and Edgar
Winter. We enjoyed paying tribute to the Legendary Songster, Lead
When performing at the Clifton Center in Louisville, KY I got to
reconnect with my friends at the Jug Band Jubilee. Michael L. Jones
was kind enough to take us to a historically black cemetery in
Louisville to show us the headstones that he along with the other
board members of the Jug Band Jubilee and Kentuckiana Blues Society
had put up for Lousiville blues pioneers Earl McDonald, Sylvester
Weaver and Sara Martin. Michael’s book Louisville Jug Music: From Earl
McDonald to the National Jubilee is an essential read for anyone
interested in these musicians and more.
I took one of the shortest trips to Berlin in my life this past April
to play at the Pop 16 Festival. Besides my own performance, I got to
take in a screening of American Epic, a documentary exploring the
early history of recorded music in the US, including Mexican and
At the beginning of May, I got to participate in a concert event
unlike any other, The Knoxville Stomp! My friend Matt Morelock and I
put together a plot to transform my concert at the Bijou Theatre into
a weekend extravaganza! This brought together the biggest minds in the
field of folk music, record collecting, and ethnomusicology. The
concert included a menagerie of special guests but the two major
highlights were the record listening session on stage around a vintage
Victrola and a live cylinder recording. What an amazing experience!
Though I would have loved to stay the whole weekend, I had to jump on a plane to NYC to participate in a tribute for Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Hosted by NY Guitar Festival, the Tribute was a powerful night of
gospel music! You should have seen the folks in lower Manhattan jump
up and down, raise their hands and shouts praises to the Lord! It was
a wonderful occasion to share the stage with Alvin Youngblood Hart,
Valerie June, The Como Mamas and Ruthie Foster who I had all worked
with previously. The newest person I got to see what the exquisite AJ
Ghent and his wife Marla! AJ is the son of legendary Sacred Steel
guitarist Aubrey Ghent and AJ brings all of that power to his playing
with a wonderful modern twist! Besides these wonderful musicians on
stage singing lead, we were blessed to have a rhythm section of heavy
hitters Luther Dickinson, John Medeski, Dominic John Davis, And Daru
Jones holding it all down for us!
It made me laugh to know that the old church song, I’ll Fly Away,
ended out both the concert in Knoxville and the concert in NYC again
showing how songs can transcend the often cumbersome lines of musical
genres. We approached them two different ways and both audiences fell right in with us! Hallelujah bye and bye!
In conclusion, the year has been action packed but I’m up for whatever
else might come my way! I hope we will see you down the road!
The American Songster