Out in the High Lonesome

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Well, I was…

Got back yesterday evening from a trip to Wide-Spot-in-the-Road, where Clan Mondo visited my in-laws. It was a short trip — less than 72 hours all told, but with the Spawn’s new job and such, we have to squeeze our travels in as we can.

While I’ve made this trip a slew of times over the past 27 years or so, I did something this time that I hadn’t done before, chiefly because I didn’t know the opportunity existed. As I approached the Wide Spot exit on Monday evening, I noticed a new highway sign, informing me that the same exit would conduct me to the US 23 Country Music Highway Museum. While I was aware of the region’s connection to country music (various roadside signs list the better known musicians of each county as one passes through), I hadn’t known there was a one-stop shopping opportunity of this sort. Turns out it has been there for a bit over ten years, and I resolved to check it out the next day while Mrs. M and her mom did some family stuff and the Spawn hung out with her cousin who will enter college in a few weeks.

The ladies dropped me off at the museum, which is in an attractive building behind the local tourism board.

CMH Museum

Part barn, part church, both appropriate reminders.

It was 1 p.m., and the Interwebz had informed me that the museum was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised to go to the door (at the picture’s left edge) and find it locked with a sign saying it was closed. I flagged down Mrs. M, who was pulling out of the parking lot, getting ready to abandon me to the elements for an hour or so. Fortunately, a very sweet young woman chose that moment to emerge from the tourism building. “We haven’t changed the sign, but normally Mondays and Tuesdays are only open by appointment. But since you’re here, I can go ahead and let you in. And when you’re done, you can just visit in the tourism building til your wife comes back.” Mrs. M and I agreed that seemed more than reasonable, so she headed on her way, I handed the lady my four dollars, and she conducted me through the gift shop to the museum proper.

The exhibit space isn’t overly large — about the size of my classroom at the college — but there were numerous exhibits celebrating the musicians who had come from the region, from old timers like Hylo Brown to current country hit king Chris Stapleton, whose exhibit is the first one visitors encounter.


The vest is the one Stapleton wore to his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

Of course, the biggest exhibit was dedicated to local girl Loretta Lynn, with a video presentation and a variety of memorabilia, stage outfits and the like. But other exhibits commemorated such past and present stars as Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, the Judds, and even Billy Ray Cyrus — I was pleased to see his exhibit mentioned his role in one of my favorite movies as well.

I probably spent the most time lingering at the exhibit of a singer/songwriter whose work provided some of the soundtrack of my youth at when I’d visit my grandparents in Nashville:


This one’s for you, Nerd Girl!

All told, I had subjected everything to scrutiny after about half an hour, and adjourned to the gift shop where I chatted a bit more with my friendly tour guide. A family drifted in, contributing another $14 to the museum’s coffers, and I took that as my cue to head back outside. Fortunately, Mrs. M and her mom had already returned, so I got in the car and headed back to the hotel.

In a way, the museum reminded me a bit of the history of the genre it recognizes. It’s a little bit old fashioned and not terribly sophisticated. Doubtless Nashville offers many more slick and polished displays of memorabilia. But this museum is simple, straightforward, and honest, and Paintsville takes justifiable pride in it. It seems much more real than the more touristy fare one might find elsewhere. And since I find that to be true of the best country music as well, the Country Music Highway Museum seemed absolutely appropriate, and I’m glad I went, even if it took me a decade to find it. And here’s a little lagniappe, from the abovementioned Hylo Brown.

See you soon!

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A Footnote: Goodbye to the Performance Paisley

(Some theme music.)

I forgot to mention that the other night’s show marked the first time in a number of years that I did a music or reading gig without wearing my long-time favorite blue paisley shirt. I started out a few years ago with the blue one and a white counterpart, but the white one got torn during the cleanup after the flood last fall, so the blue one got even more wear.

And it has become rather worn, but that isn’t really the problem. The problem is that it is now about 1.5 to 2 sizes too large for me (or, I suppose, I am correspondingly too small for it.).  I went with a Hawaiian shirt on Saturday, and I suppose that will be the stagewear of choice until and unless I find something suitably 1966 in my (still capacious) size.

I know it’s just a shirt, but it’s odd how bits of the routine take on a presence of their own. Whether I was teaching, doing a reading, or playing a gig, I felt comfortable and at least somewhat presentable — or as close to it as I get. But things change, I guess, and we have to find comforts elsewhere. There’s probably a lesson in that somewhere, but I probably left it in another shirt.

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In Which the Berries Play a Birthday Party and Make New Friends

Last night we made it back to the venue we tend to think of as our home, Columbia’s Art Bar, as part of a 4-band bill celebrating the club’s 12th anniversary.

ArtBar Chalk

I made it to the venue at about 7:15, and since we were the only band playing indoors, I was able to go ahead and set my gear up on the stage, which I had done before the other guys showed up. Still, in my next life, I think I’ll play harmonica or something — loading would be much easier. As we would expect of Columbia on the cusp of August, conditions were steamy, and I spent a lot of the evening drifting from the outdoor performances to the air-conditioned indoors. (I was also wise enough to slug down a 32-oz. bottle of Powerade before leaving for the venue, and to gulp down a lot of ice water at the gig — I didn’t want a repeat of my last visit.) Major props to the other three bands and the crowd, however, who toughed it out for greater or smaller chunks of the duration.

We had never done a show with any of the other bands on the bill, but I actually welcome shows like that — it’s a chance for me to discover cool new sounds and for the band to make new friends. Tonight was no exception.

First up was Fidelio, the latest incarnation of a collaboration between Amelia Quint (vox, gtr, keys) and Zach Toman (likewise), along with a new rhythm section, whose names I’m afraid I didn’t catch.


Their music was an interesting blend of classic rock influence with a Southern Gothic vibe, moody and powerful. Ms. Quint’s vocals remind me at times of Ann Wilson’s from Heart, and Mr. Toman’s fretwork ranged from supportive to scorching. Meanwhile the bass and drums laid down patterns of groove and intricacy. Nice to meet y’all — I hope to see you again really soon.

The next act were local rockabilly stalwarts The Capital City Playboys. They slammed their way through a 45-minute set of thrash and twang, and had the audience’s serotonin flowing.


Opening with a nifty cover of Link Wray’s “Branded”, they segued smoothly from tune to tune, and even threw in a cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” that recognized Lemmy’s own love for the intersection of country and rock. The crowd, which grew as night fell, ate it up like good barbecue, and there was much shimmying and shaking to be seen. The local alternapaper has said these guys may be the town’s best live band, and they may have a strong case.

The real headliners came next, with the continuing return of crunch merchants Hot Lava Monster, who are retaking stages after a fallow period.

Hot Lava

The band’s groove and heaviness called early Soundgarden to mind, and there were serious chops on display (they can cover Tool, which is a serious achievement), but the band’s bluesy Southern identity remained clear and potent. Unfortunately, we were doing soundcheck inside during a lot of their set, so I didn’t get to hear as much of it as I would have liked. I imagine I’ll remedy that in the future. I certainly hope to.

So then it was our turn. We were kind of chomping at the bit, and took the stage about ten minutes before we started playing. As we were tuning up, putting set lists in visible spots and so on, a woman over to the edge of the stage, and came up the steps, standing near/leaning on Justin (our bassist) and Joseph (our keyboardist). I’m guessing her blood alcohol level was somewhere between .10 and “schnapps”, but she was friendly enough, as we learned. “What kind of music do y’all do?”

“Well, rock and roll. Kind of a 60s thing.”

“Can I dance — be y’all’s showgirl?”

“Well, we’re really more of a go-go dancer kind of band, but hey…”

Her attention drifted a bit, and she started examining the bass and keys (and the corresponding musicians) fairly closely. She asked if she could get behind the drums and sit in my lap, but decided to return her attention to Joseph instead of scaling my vocal monitor and maneuvering her way around my gear. I guess there’s a reason they call a drum set the traps. I’m not sure Joseph was technically molested during all of this (he is the youngest guy in the band), but I have to extend kudos to his lovely wife Kasey for not mounting a punitive expedition.

The woman wandered away after a couple of minutes, and we got rolling. We did a 15-song, 45-minute set, and I think we did well. We kept the energy up and while it wasn’t an error-free show, I think only the band members noticed any mistakes. I was quite happy with our performance, and I’m glad that we continue to progress and grow.

As we broke the gear down after, we also received our pay, which was larger than usual — enough to pay for the mixing of one of the songs in our next planned recording project. So it was a good night all around, and I made it home by about 2:30 feeling good about this whole rock and roll thing — even if I’m stuck behind the traps.

Happy birthday, Art Bar, and many happy returns, for you and (I hope) for the Berries as well.

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Pre-Gig Potpourri

It’s going to be a late night, as the Berries are the closing act for Art Bar’s celebration of 12 years of live music. We’ll go on midnightish, and if we’re lucky, we’ll see you there!


As I noted yesterday, I finished my five days of 5Ks. I’m taking it easy today, lest I repeat the brush with heat exhaustion I had last time we played in Real City. Still, I did feel a bit of accomplishment when I crossed my imaginary finish line yesterday. My weight loss is somewhere around 45 lbs. from when I started, about 80 from my all-time high.

A friend of mine asked me last night if I was noticing any changes in the wake of my progress to this point. I think I have in some ways, but sometimes it’s stuff I don’t immediately notice. For example, I used to take stairs one at a time. That is, I would use my right leg for climbing up one stair, and then bring the left leg up to the same stair, repeating the process all the way up the steps. Lately, though, I’ve begun going up the stairs like most folks do. That may not seem like much, but it’s a difference I notice, and I find a bit of pleasure in it.

Likewise, I’ve seen a change in my drumming. I’m playing a little faster now, a little busier. (My friend called this “the Bruford effect”, but that’s an exaggeration. I’ve gotten faster, not more talented.) I also am less tired between songs and at the end of practices. We’ll see if that holds true tonight.

Most notably, however, my standard walking pace seems to have sped up. Several times in recent weeks (and most recently yesterday), I’ve been walking somewhere with friends, and I suddenly notice I’m about 10 feet in front of them. Given that for most of my life I’ve been Tail-End Charlie, it’s an odd sensation. It’s also odd because although I’m tall, it’s not a long legs issue. In fact, I’ve joked for years about having gerbil legs — I’m 6’4″, but I only have a 32″ inseam. Had my arms and legs grown in proportion to the rest of me, I’d likely be above 7 feet tall. I just seem to be walking faster.

I’ve got some things going on at the beginning of the week that are going to throw me out of my routine, but I’m hoping they won’t be too much of a setback. We shall see.


The Spawn successfully completed her first workweek, and really seems to be enjoying the gig. When she comes home in the afternoon, she frequently tells me about cool stuff she’s found in our special collections. She was impressed by a nice gilt-edged edition of Edward William Lane’s translation of the Arabian Nights this week, but she says she hasn’t gotten to the really cool stuff yet. Sounds to me like she may be finding her niche.


Small-town oddity. I’ve noted that I live just over a small hill from campus — a couple of minutes’ walk to my office when it isn’t lethally hot. While we do have some woods in our neighborhood, this ain’t Evangeline‘s Forest Primeval. Which just made it odder to discover an arrow plunged into the ground in our side yard, near a creek. The angle indicates that someone probably launched it over the treeline. It now sits in the kitchen, but I’m starting to wonder if I need a Spartan phalanx to go get the mail.


Yesterday marked the 134th anniversary of the birth of Edward Hopper. What better way to celebrate than by placing an advance order for In Sunlight or In Shadow, a collection of Hopper-inspired short stories by folks like Megan Abbott, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Joe R. Lansdale, and oh yeah… me? Lawrence Block curated this little literary exhibit, and offers a really cool story as well. Go ahead and order — it’ll be worth it.


And of course, some music to wrap things up. As I mentioned recently, I’ve been on a bit of a prog kick, and this has been part of it. Featuring several veterans of the Canterbury scene, these guys took their name from a highway directional sign. This is Hatfield and the North, with “Let’s Eat (Real Soon).”

See you tonight, or at least for the traditional post-show review tomorrow!

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“He’s Skiing on One Ski!”

(See here for the title source.)

I was reminded of one of my favorite silly movies today on the treadmill, as I was finishing up my attempt to do five straight days of 5K walks. With about 1.2 miles to go, I noticed the feeling of something brushing against my left calf. I glanced down to see that my right shoe had become untied, with the laces flapping around as I walked.

This presented a dilemma. As I’ve previously noted, if clumsiness were an Olympic event, I would be a favorite to medal. So while some folks might be able to step off the treadmill, tie their shoes, step back onto the treadmill, and cruise on, I am not among those people. In my case, that would simply have been a plea to get George Jetsonned. Another option would have been to hit the Stop button, which will pause the treadmill for 30 seconds before shutting down, presenting most people with a pause option. However, I would not have had the ability to stop, turn around, step off, bend or sit, retie the shoe, get back on, and hit the restart button before the timer expired. And for some reason, breaking the day’s 5K into a 3K and a 2K (even consecutively) just didn’t feel kosher to me, and would have cheapened the week for me somehow. (Yeah, I’m weird. Have we met?)

So instead, I decided to chance it, and in fact made the last mile-and-change without stepping on a lace or getting it caught in the treadmill for a bathetic version of The Isadora Duncan Story. So score one for perseverance, I guess. In any case, I completed my five straight days of 5Ks, and that clears me for the weekend, since I have a show tomorrow night. Still, I think I’ll check my laces better next time.

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QotD: Prog Rock Edition

Through the magic of YouTube, I’m watching a BBC documentary from 2008 on English progressive rock, which (as I’ve noted) is the yang to my garage-rock yin. (And I would argue that they find a sort of Hegelian synthesis in psychedelic rock, so it all makes sense — to me, anyway.)

It’s a lot of fun for me, and it’s cool to see the variety within the overall genre, from the sweet, slightly stoned jazziness of the Canterbury bands to the chameleonlike aspects of Yes and the pomp and stomp of ELP.

And then there’s King Crimson. I’m at the point in the doc where Bill Bruford leaves the happy cosmic pixies of Yes to join Crimso (not a typo — more of an inside joke), a move the documentary compares to “going over the Berlin Wall… into East Germany.” Which brings us to the QotD, from Dr. Bill himself:

Everything you’ve ever heard about King Crimson is true. It’s an absolutely terrifying place. Whatever you do before you join King Crimson, would you please not do it when you’re in the band?

You might see the appeal in this for a curmudgeon like me. And it helps that they absolutely crush whatever they play. After I saw Crimson some years ago, I told my friend (and occasional commenter) Michael Dearing, “If the Nazi invasion of Poland had needed a band, and had these guys been available, this would have worked just fine.” And I meant it in a good way.

So Bruford’s line gave me a laugh, and so I shared it with you. And here’s an example of what he meant:

See you soon!

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In Which the Spawn Enters the Workforce (and a Locked Room)

Today was the first day of the Spawn’s first paying gig, working at the college library. It’s a bit of a late start for a summer job, but we had to wait for the new fiscal year to get rolling, and she expects the gig to continue into the semester — given that she finished her freshman year with an extremely high GPA, she’ll likely be able to afford the few hours a week, and it’ll help her pay her sorority fees as well.

She spent part of yesterday worrying about what to wear, because she wasn’t precisely sure what her duties were going to be. I pointed out that since she’s a student worker, everyone would probably just be glad that she was clothed at all, but Mrs. M was more helpful, and the crisis was averted.

I got back from my walk this morning in time to see her off for her arduous 5-minute trek to the library, and she made it home about four hours later. “So how’d it go?”

“Not bad,” she said. Her job seems to involve cataloging/inventory in the college’s Special Collections section — well, really, the room. Apparently, she spent the day checking items off the library’s master call list and placing them in proper LoC order — a task that she reports may wind up being Herculean, if not Sisyphean. However, in the process, she says she found some pretty cool items. (She reported this to me as we wandered back onto campus so that she could provide proof of citizenship to our HR people.)

“I found one book that dates to the 1800s,” she said. “It’s a little biography of Martin Luther’s wife, and it was a gift from some guy to his wife. I thought it was sweet. But I guess they’re both dead now,” she added after a pause. I agreed that was how time typically works, and pointed out that’s probably how the library got the book in the first place.

She also informed me that only she and the library’s director (her boss) have access to the room, and that she basically spent her shift locked in the room — which has its advantages, because the climate control keeps things comfy. She said it was cool to start at that level of trust, but added that being my kid may have helped. I hope so.

She also reports that she said hi to the Dean as he passed through, and that our director of tutoring is already hoping she can steal the Spawn away once the school year starts. (The Spawn hopes not: “If I tutor, I’ll have to talk to people.”) She also asked the Spawn if she reads as quickly as I do. (The answer is no, but she’s still a very fast reader.) Having taken care of her HR business, we went for celebratory sno-cones, and she said she thinks she’s going to like the job. Her next shift is tomorrow.

Of course, she also asked, “How much of my paycheck will go for taxes?” I told her she’d probably get it all back this year, except for Social Security. “Why do I have to pay that?” she asked. “It’s not like it’ll be there when I’m old.” And another conservative is formed.

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