1. Greetings from icy Memphis!
This winter has been flat-out crazy! What else can I say? Drove up here for a little family reunion of cousins and have been forced to extend my stay… till a little more ice melts. Of course the occasional ray of afternoon sun through the glistening branches outside the window is beautiful—and my sister’s house is a very nice place to be marooned—especially now that the power is back on!
Welcome everyone. Hope you are all warm and dry.
2. March News
a. Songwriting retreat for May just confirmed!
I’ll be hosting a small, unique songwriting retreat this coming May 18-24 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s part of the very fine Doe Branch Ink series of writing retreats, and I’m excited about the opportunity. If you’d like to know more—for example, how to participate—I’ve set up a webpage of info HERE.
Registration, as of now, is open.
b. Ireland seats remain for my July 26-Aug 4 tour of Ireland’s scenic, soulful west coast.
We’ve got a small number of seats available for my July 26-Aug 4 tour of Counties Mayo, Galway and Clare. These tours are so special. If you’re curious, all the info’s HERE at my website, included a FAQ page and a gallery of Ireland photos from past tours.
[Note: August tour with co-host Kenneth Robinson is sold out.]
c. Waymores on the radio
Thanks to Erik Balkey and Hudson Harding Music for all the radio play the Waymores debut album is getting!
If your local folk-college-or-community station doesn’t have the CD (and would like one), just reply to this email and we’ll have a copy sent, pronto.
Bob McWilliams of Kansas Public Radio recently called the album, “…a wonderful collection” and “a tremendously FUN album… of catchy folk-pop, with Byrds and Beatles influences.”
To listen to a sampling or buy the album at CD Baby, click HERE.
FYI the Waymores are the talented Don Henry and Sally Barris (and me).
d. New Agrarians
Speaking of debut albums, pre-release copies of the New Agrarians debut album are now available.. It features a soulful batch of folk-gospel-soul songs we (mostly) collaborated on, and they’re stitched together with Memphis-Muscle Shoals thread. It’s a real labor of love.
You can order the album via a PayPal page we’ve set up HERE.
3. TK Very Short Story of the Month: “A Grandmother’s Tale”
She says she is a grandmother, but that hardly seems possible. No spots on her hands, the lines on her face mere suggestions. But as she speaks of her grown girls having children of their own, the light of experience glints in her eyes, and I imagine she is about my own age.
We are flying from Denver, and she’ll be getting off in Kansas City—heading home, she says, after a visit with her own grandmother.
“Your own grandmother!” I say. “May I ask how old she is?”
She smiles. “One hundred and five.”
“Good God!” I say. “Well, what a blessing that you’ve still got her to cherish.”
“She lives with my aunt and uncle,” she says, “both of whom are in their eighties. They’ve all been doing amazingly well, but lately I’ve begun thinking of them as a three-legged table. If one goes down, I’m afraid the other two will follow.
“You know,” she says, “Grandmother’s quite remarkable. I walked into her room yesterday, and she was staring out the back window. I sat beside her and asked what she was seeing. ‘That tree,’ said Grandmother. ‘That leaf.’”
The tree, a sturdy oak, had lost its leaves weeks ago, but somehow one hardy brown leaf dangled from a low hanging branch.
“That’s me,” her grandmother said, pointing to the leaf. “I’m the last one hanging on.’”
4. March Food for Thought: On Writing
Having just been invited to host a songwriting retreat in May, I thought a few words on writing might be in order.
“Every professional songwriter I know—people who do it 100% for their living—is terrified every time they sit down to write.”
—Janis Ian, songwriter & artist (b. 1951)
“The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.”
―Arthur Miller, playwright & essayist (1915-2005)
“Songwriting is too mysterious and uncontrolled a process for me to direct it towards any one thing.”
—James Taylor, songwriter & artist (b. 1948)
“Everything in the world of soul has a deep desire and longing for visible form.”
—John O’Donohue, author, priest & philosopher (1956-2008)
5. Recommended: Eaarth, by Bill McKibben
In light of the completely mad winter most of the northern hemisphere is enduring, I want to revisit a book that’s helped me grasp the notion of climate change better than anything else I’ve come across.
I saw Bill McKibben on Letterman one night and was thoroughly impressed by his good-natured intention to share his knowledge and wisdom on global warming without demonizing anyone who hasn’t grasped the gravity of the planet’s predicament.
If you’d like to get a better hold on the darn thing, Eaarth is as helpful and apropos today as it was when it was published a scant three years ago. (Plus it’s in paperback now.)
6. Great Songs of the Month
Ice-bound in Memphis, my thoughts have drifted to Dusty Springfield’s classic pop-soul album, Dusty in Memphis, and to one of my favorite tracks on that record, Just a Little Lovin’, which is also the title track on Shelby Lynne’s amazing, spare 2008 Lost Highway release.
I’m thinking it might be fun to compare those two very different takes on the same song, which was written by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (writers of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, On Broadway and other gems).
Both tracks are available at iTunes and other outlets, or you can stream them for free if you have the free Spotify app on your computer. (Visit Spotify.com to easily download and install. Then you can search by song title or artist… and stream away.)
Please note that iTunes and Spotify license the material they feature, which means they pay songwriters and copyright owners. (It’s the right thing.)
OK, here goes:
“Just a Little Lovin’”
Writers: Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil / Artist: Dusty Springfield
From Dusty In Memphis (Atlantic Records/1969)
Produced by Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin & Tom Dowd
“Just a Little Lovin’”
Writers: Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil / Artist: Shelby Lynne
From Just a Little Lovin’ (Lost Highway/2008)
Produced by Phil Ramone
Love, Peace, and Come on Spring!