The musician and music teacher becomes a music parent.

I've grown up around music. It was my "second language" spoken in my household as a child. And I learned it much as native-born children of immigrant families do - orally and aurally. I heard the sounds and the relationships. Sure, I learned to interpret pictures of chord shapes on the guitar, and scribbled out song lyrics and place the chord changes over them, but I never learn to transact in the written language of music. After a few years of playing guitar as a teenager, my ears told my fingers where to go faster than I could process the information visually...

April 4, 2018. Fifty years ago today.

Ten years ago I was in Memphis for the annual International Folk Alliance Conference. Even though we were largely sequestered in a fancy hotel and convention center, with a high rise sunset over the Mississippi River and the flat delta floodplain in Arkansas, one could quickly escape to some more "real" experiences despite the tourist trappings. BBQ ribs and the blues of course, but many of us also took the time to make a different pilgrimage as well.

The National Civil Rights Museum is in the old Lorraine Motel, frozen in time on the outside at the moment that Martin Luther King Jr. drew his last breath. Inside the museum is an incredibly powerful experience, confronting lynchings, boycotts, segregation and Jim Crow all up close and in your face. The end of the tour brings you to the balcony where the dreamer died...

I spent today chasing ghosts. In late 2014 I learned the story of my great-great-great grandfather (3G) Aretas Culver from Bristol Connecticut, and the tragic story of his Civil War regiment, the 16th Connecticut Infantry. Unlike other units that are celebrated for noble or heroic sacrifice and sturdiness in battle, their story was marked by epic failure at Antietam, and their eventual surrender in North Carolina and subsequent imprisonment at Andersonville...

3,000 miles without the radio on gives one plenty of time to ponder - the past, present and future.

One of my favorite things about the road is the stuff between the shows. The mortar of a tour that fills in around the bricks. The conversations, the view through the windshield, the moments that give one pause to reflect on coincidence or predestination.

My just completed week in Florida certainly checked all those boxes...

The annual turning of the calendar is always a good time to take stock of things. To evaluate and reminisce about what happened, some looking forward and planning for things to come. In our "share everything" social media world nowadays, posting my thoughts on the occasion make me but one of many tens of millions....

As I wished an as-yet unmet cousin very late last year (as in a few hours ago :), here's to good health, much love, safe harbor in all storms, and a full belly soon after hunger gnaws. And if we want to make 2018 better with our fellow humans, let it begin with me and you. Cheers, Sláinte and to all a good safe night. Here's hoping none of us are those people they talk about on the news tomorrow.

We have spent a lot of time trying to learn more of my wife's Polish family this year, without a ton of success. This lovely piece showed up in a Polish Genealogy group today, and I love the idea - the "Carol of the Absent"...

It seems only fitting that the first song I wrote on the beautiful Lowden guitar I was gifted by my Irish cousins would pay homage to our working class ancestors in County Down. I imagine the Christmas holiday was a bit more dark in their day, struggling to get by...

A novelist, a filmmaker, and a guitarist/composer collaborate on a trailer for a novel. The last of those happens to be my pal Michael DeLalla. Read Michael's notes below, then watch the five minute clip and tell me you don't want to see more or read the novel...

Happy Friday - what little thing might we do to make someone's world a little better today? Imagine what it would be like if millions of us did?

Truthfully, millions of people DO do little - and large - things each day to make someone's world better....

 

Gratitudes for this Thanksgiving Eve. Maybe the most fundamental of all, to the people who brought me into the world and were my world in my childhood...

Sometimes it's the small and mundane stuff. Turning a leftover chicken into delicious Moroccan stew. Grinding through some minor 5th grade math struggles. Doing a small kindness for some folks doing some great hard work. And listening to someone figuring out a very lovely "Amazing Grace" on the fiddle. All in all, a simple harvest moon kind of night. At peace, for the moment, in the moment.

Every time it happens, I think of those kids at Newtown. The circumstances change, the body counts fluctuate, the excuses rarely do. Neither do the ghosts that visit me. Their class picture, along with their teacher and the others. I squeezed my kid extra hard and long tonight, because I still can. She was in kindergarten when Newtown happened. I'll never forget what she asked while we struggled to explain; "were they bad kids?"

I shed a tear or two; I wish I could say it was for the victims and the families in Las Vegas. They are far more than I can comprehend. It was a tear for my own numbness at yet another mass murder, and my apparent indifference, because if I haven't helped find a solution, after Newtown, the Navy Yard, San Bernandino, or Blacksburg, or any of the dozens of others that scar my memories in the last 20 years, I must be part of the problem.

Feeling overwhelmed? Me too.

It is breathtaking and stunning to take in all that has transpired since I finished last month's essay. Armed Nazis, Klansmen and Confederate sympathizers marching in lockstep through the streets of a city here in my state. One catastrophic hurricane unleashed on Houston, while another takes aim at Florida and the southeast. Wildfires in the west consuming iconic and revered landscapes. Flooding displacing millions in other parts of the world. Never-ending wars and barbarism sprawling across the lands which birthed most of the world's religions. A lunatic strapping a nuke to a rocket in North Korea. Arctic permafrost melting to a degree not seen in recorded history. All amid the ongoing daily routines, of getting ready for school, and work, and tending to the mundane rituals of life.

It seems huge and crazy, and out of whack....

And so it is done. The last first day of walking to school. I can now say with some certainty what the distance is between kindergarten and 5th grade - astonishingly short.

We began this journey 6 years ago, but in some ways our innocence about the world then versus now seems so quaint. Newtown happened within a few months of our starting this journey...

It is heartening that after flipping the odometer this many times, that one can still feel special on this day thanks to a few kind words and well-wishes from friends close and casual, and physically near and far. Each comment allowing me the gift to reflect for a moment on how or where we connected, and to think of that person in that moment. How they might be doing this very moment that they reached out to me.

I realized something not long ago that is having profound implications for me personally. I have "outlived" the imaginings of my youth...

The connection between my electric guitar and one of my favorite fruits

Music has always been in my house. I suppose it was inevitable that I would play guitar, and probably the only reason I didn't start until I was eleven or so was that Dad's classical was impossible to play, and his Supro Belmont electric only slightly less so. It took that long to be willing to put my fingers through it! But I wanted "into the club", and guitar was going to be my ticket, so I endured the seemingly six-inch high string action on the Belmont and tried to play barre chords.

By the time I was fourteen, I was craving a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar...

Most certainly an AnceStory of unintended consequences and lifelong implications.

My parents, sister and I just returned from the trip of a lifetime, the "Last Great Nuclear Family Vacation" - a 16-day odyssey to the homelands of our ancestors in Ireland and Scotland. While my parents had always had some interest in visiting "someday", two factors conspired to bring it into startling real-time relief....

"Paddy," I asked of my companion, "what do you think of when you look out there across the sea?" I had met this gentle soul a little farther back down the road towards Donegal town on the way to the spectacular cliffs at Slieve League. Soaring nearly 2,000 feet in elevation from the water's edge, breathtaking is a bit insufficient description....

Long ago in what feels like a galaxy far far away, I went to grad school at UMass to be an Environmental Engineer. My first year I lived in Northampton in an apartment, and right at the beginning of the semester this woman answered our call for a roommate. Alyssa Sheehan had just returned from living abroad in China and Japan, but she was from nearby Springfield.

I can honestly say I've never met anyone like Alyssa before or since...

Where to begin on this just completed, epic nuclear family odyssey to Ireland and Scotland? It was partly my discoveries in our family history that got my dad excited to go. He had expressed a desire to bring a little soil from his grandfather's gravesite in Forestville CT to return to the "Auld Sod". When I learned the grave location of Andrew McKnight and Sarah Milliken (his grandfather's parents) in West Calder, Scotland just a few weeks ago, the mission was set....

May 25, 2017. Reflecting on a year's anniversary, with love to cousin Lee and a toast to Aunt Margaret

I am flying into the sunrise, soon to land in Dublin. Sometime during this crossing of the Atlantic we have crossed midnight and into tomorrow. It strikes me here at nearly 40,000 feet above this blue ball, that this morning marks exactly a year since a significant milestone - one that more or less led to this trip with my parents and sister.

My cousin Lee and I met in person for the first time last April near Nashville....

Along with tons of other plants over the decades, Grandma gave a rose bush to my parents some 40 years ago. A few years back, my sister rescued its scraggly and dying self where it was shaded by a now full-grown tree in my parents yard. She transplanted it in her yard at home in Maine, where it had an unfortunate run-in with a roto-tiller....

For those with absolutely no interest in coaxing green things out of dark dirt and wonder "why do they do it?" as well as those with green thumbs or obsessive orchid disorder.

May 1st is always a bit of a personal pivot point for me. I'm often on the road for large chunks of March and April, and my absence usually results in weeds choking my gardens. They impose their chaotic unruliness over my carefully tended beds like an army of Orcs pillaging the good green Shire. Adding to that, deer come and graze on the new shoots of the bulbs I've stuck in the ground. I often walk around with my morning coffee looking for small signs of hope in the carnage, emulating the Michael Jackson look with a single glove for tugging at a strand of ground ivy here and bedstraw there. The proverbial equivalent of peeing in the ocean, but to clear a few square inches of precious garden space from the marauders somehow does my psyche good in spite of the magnitude of the discontinuity....

So today is #DNADay. We live in amazing times. In the 1950s Watson and Crick first described the crazy macro molecule that carries everything about living species wrapped up in a double helix. A few years ago a massive effort finished mapping out the entire human genome...

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Tour Dates

  • 05/28/2018
    ConcertWindow.com - Lincoln, VA
     
  • 06/07/2018
    Isis Music Hall Lounge - Asheville, NC
     
  • 06/10/2018
    Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Morgantown - Morgantown, WV
     
  • 06/14/2018
    B Chord Brewing Company - Round Hill, VA
     
  • 06/23/2018
    Mountville Folk Festival - Aldie, VA
     

HAPPENINGS

SPECIAL THANKS

Andrew is a grateful Endorsing Artist for Elixir Strings and Fairbuilt Guitars, and a member of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Touring Artist Roster. He also is a member of The Standing "O" Project and Concerts in Your Home.

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