Banging Out C Chords 

Rosanne Cash, in a recent NPR interview, said “I’ve got a lot to say and a lot less time to say it.” As I do the math, I am owning up to 50 years playing music in some shape or form.  Actually, it’s a little longer than that if I count a couple of years playing gym dances in High School. With or without the sock hops I resonate with a much younger Rosanne Cash when she suggests If I’ve got something to say, I better get to it. 

It’s probably that awareness of one’s own mortality that drives the Stones to do one more tour while Mick can still dance and Keith can still roll with his swagger. While Rosanne speaks of contributing, Mick and Keith may lean more in the legacy direction, but everyone tunes up one more time for a reason. 

The last couple of years have put my guitar in both musical camps. Today, the Who I Am project sees an opportunity and a calling, to use theological jargon, to contribute to the conversation. I realized a long time ago that love songs are not my strong suit; there are plenty of heavy lifters in that arena anyway. It’s the social commentary stuff, the behavioral people watching that I squeeze the most juice out of. The primary actors are putting on quite a show, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed, so there’s plenty of fodder for “what the world needs now…” 

One singable protest song will not the world save. One sermonette preached to a skeptical or even like minded audience will not change the river’s course.  See, I have gotten a little smarter in 50 years of banging out C chords. But, as Rosanne suggested, there’s plenty to say and the stakes have not been higher in my lifetime. 

Who I Am has some tunes in the production pipeline that I hope will titillate your social conscious skin. Or, just remind us all once again that love really is the medicine to heal what ails us. 

To paraphrase one author, “turn you passion into your mission.” Who I Am, or perhaps under other names, is underway to do just that. 

Peace to you and yours, 

Ken

Gluten, Tax Cuts, and Hula Hoops? 

What the heck is "Gluten" that so many people, including myself, would spend so much extra time and money trying to get free of it? If I can only break free, I'll be "free at last, thank God almighty, free at last." Gluten is like a tax cut, you think it looks good until you find out that not everyone will actually benefit from its ingestion. Hiding there amongst that sweet Carrot Cake with the orangy, sugary jewels of carrot on top, lies the inevitable fine print that may eventually zap you.

I used to think "Gluten Free" was the 21st Century version of the hula-hoop and perhaps it is in some circles, except in this case the "G" word is something that may not be worth the price of admission; whereas in childhood, my yellow hula-hoop was a "gotta have" worth everyone of my parent's pennies. Yellow plastic tubing became a combination family tradition, as "adults" gave it a spin, and 4th grade status symbol. Welcome to the discretionary spending world of the rising 1958 middle class. But WAIT, Gluten Free elevates me as well by announcing that my once ordinary body is no longer common, but rather selectively picky about the fast food I consume. My GF rating appears as a "healthy" brand on my hind quarters, separating me from everything at the golden arches except the Southwest salad.

So, welcome to the GF aisle at your favorite super market. May we hula-hoop our way to the back of the tax cut line, loose a few pounds in the process, and live long enough to free ourselves of the next yummy toxin.

"Heard a kid in the lobby..." 

Got a room with an alley view in Music City. Heard some kid in the lobby, probably playin' for free, sounded like a star to me. Found a honky tonk with an Open Mic and a line stretchin' way on down the street. Sang this song about a Florida boy, lookin' for a home in Tennessee, no one even guessed that it was me. 

A few lines from Music City, a song penned in Nashville, almost one year ago. The occasion was Americana Fest 2017. How can anyone with a guitar, surrounded by that much inspiration, not come up with at least some semblance of a song, rhetorically speaking. Well, next week I'll be immersing myself in the life giving waters once again, 2018 edition. 

 

Whatever your passion is in life, there is a conference or retreat or festival somewhere to feed your soul. In my Surf Shop days it was the Surf Expo in Orlando. In my Pastor days, it was Montreat, NC. In the late 60's, it was love fests like the Atlanta Pop Festival, with Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers officiating. 

What will amaze and feed me next week at Americana Fest will be the incredible talent of artists most of which I have never heard of, plus, of course, the cream off the top tier. 

A few more lines from Music City, Sunrise took me by surprise, she sure comes early. Took a vitamin with fried chicken, had some visene for my eyes. Walked the streets where legends walked and mingled with their source of inspiration. 

Whatever your passion, may we each find ourselves seriously mingled with the source of our inspiration

Peace to you and yours, Ken

Sprinkling or Dunking this summer? 

Buy a ticket to see Paramore, or Sheryl Crow, or Eminem, or Brother’s Osborne, or Muse, or The Killers, or Mavis Staples, or St. Paul and the Broken Bones, or any ONE particular artist of your choosing, and the height of your experience will be determined by how “good” that artist sounded and how captivating was that artist’s performance. Did you walk away mumbling to yourself, “that was amazing.” Was it a good full body and soul experience? I know how that feels, Paul McCartney left me mumbling to myself on two occasions. No doubt, you have had a full body and soul experience of your own. One artist can do that. 

I have become a “festival” person. More accurately, I have been a festival person since the trippy, mud-caked days of the late 60’s and beyond. I didn’t put it into words back then, but it was the festival “experience” that drew me. Sure, I’ve shelled out bucks to see the Stones, or some other act that I’m afraid I may never have the chance to see again. Or, Lucinda Williams in a small more intimate venue, but in general I’m into immersion. Don’t sprinkle me; dunk me good in the hot, sweltering waters of a summer music festival. 

“Who did you come to see?” I was conversationally asked at Bonnaroo 2018. After struggling for an answer more than once, I realized that there wasn’t just ONE particular artist who drew me to Tennessee. I can’t with authority speak for the other 76,000 attendees, but I have a strong sense that, like me, most came because they just wanted to be there and it didn’t really matter who was playing. 

Bonnaroo, I observe, has intentionally stepped up their campground game. They now have 9 Plazas sprinkled throughout the campgrounds that have vendors, food, showers, small stages for bands, comedy, coffee shops, yoga, artist panels, all night dance parties…. It is now possible to get immersed with your friends and never leave “home.” Bonnaroo is marketing the full body experience. And, by the way, there are 7 stages with medium to top tier artists playing just down the street. Roo does this, I observe, so that everyone can have a complete 24/4 experience. 

This is NOT a commercial for Bonnaroo! I may or may not go next year. There are other festivals at which to catch the “vibe” and build the “community” (two more Roo words you see printed and hear frequently). But if I do decide to return for a 4th Roo, I believe I will more intentionally immerse myself in the community of it all. I will find those 6 new friends I made this year and welcome them back. I will hang out at my local Plaza, and I will marvel and how 76,000 people can get along so well without threats, name-calling, and violence.  OK, I’m one of the old guys at Roo and I don’t revel in being called “sir,” but I appreciate the spirit of it all.   

My nickels worth is this, find you a good music festival to get dunked in this summer. Sweat, dance with people you don’t know, spend more money than you can afford, and for just 3 – 4 days, be ONE with a bunch of like-spirited people you will most likely not see again. In other words, get baptized in the sweltering waters of a summer music festival. Peace.

I thought my days of After School Care were over 

 

 

 

 

I thought my days of After School Care Parent Appreciation events were over. Thankfully, they were not! 

After work, you pull up to the school, show your appropriate ID, and pick up your kid or kids. That’s not all of it. On day X/Y/Z you return to be “appreciated,” entertained, and fed most kid’s favorite, chicken fingers and chips. 

With bassist and singer, Julie Klein, my non-parent place in all of this was to meet with a group of 12 year old girls before the show and help them flesh out the beat and song key to 4 songs they had composed. Guitar chords would be a bonus. 

Twelve year old girls have it all goin’ on at the same time, YouTube moves, split second changes in facial expression, bursts of energy, giggles, and in this case, a desire to perform …capital “P,” lest nerves get the best of them. 

With parents arriving, Julie on bass, Rich Williams on drums, and me on guitar, performed 8 original songs (calling ourselves Outside In).

The Program Director’s goal was to set a creative tone with a live band playing original compositions. I think we passed the audition. A local production company filmed the entire event and kept the show rolling, introducing each group of kids as they presented skits, slide shows, computer generated cartoon shows (how do you do that?), and finally the girl’s songs. 

Pride, grace, and patience were in abundance. Parents always seem to be grateful when little Johnny and Juanita are showcased. Plus, quality After School Care is a must for working parents, which is just about everybody. Worthy of note, these kids are not just playing hop-scotch, they are exercising and developing their artistic gifts, in addition to team and community building skills. All good stuff. 

Two personal notes: 1) Playing music with and for kids was refreshing and wonderful. 2) The day’s events brought back some warm memories of my own days of attending After School Care Parent Appreciation Events. No doubt I grinned then as much as these parents did. As I said in the mic at one point, “It’s all about the kids.”.”

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