Saturday, September 24, 2011


 The last month has been rough. Everybody is trying to recover form the storm, and as I've mentioned before, some never will. Last night I attended a party thrown by one of the small towns up the line for everybody who helped them during and after the storms, this included Fire, EMS, Police, Rangers, and civilians who stepped up to do the job. It was a nice evening to sit, chat and share a soft drink or a beer with the folks we work with all the time, except this time, there were no bodies involved. Lots of laughs, hugs, and a few tears of joy or relief.
 As for me, I've been trying to sort it all out and figure out where I fit in, or not, and where I should go from here. Lately, I have been coming home from work and throwing myself into my banjo. Not that I think all this practice is going to make me any better (it can't get worse), but because I find solace in just being with the instrument and making some sounds that please, sooth, and take me away from my thoughts. Plus, I can tell my teacher that I am "practicing EVERY night".
 But the truth is I have been leaning on music more and more lately for an outlet. I can't play worth a damn, but I am really beginning to get lost in the good music of others, those with a true gift and love of the art form.
 I am sure I have mentioned in an earlier post that I live in an area that is nearly unique for it's talent density. My banjo instructor is known and in demand worldwide and he live a couple of miles up the road. I could drop names here, but that's not the point. The point is I take for granted what I have available in my neighborhood.
 Well, lately I have stopped taking it for granted and started to seek out opportunities for good music and the experience that comes with it. Levon Helm lives in the next town over and has a party at his house every week or two. People come from all over to enjoy his music at the Ramble. You may know of Levon from his years in The Band, but since he nearly lost his voice, he has become a different man, at least in my eyes. In addition to his great music, Levon has always been a solid man and member of his community. Unpretentious, friendly, sincere, and a genuine person of value.
 I have known about Levon, his Ramble, and his contributions to the community for several years now. I have had the opportunity to attend the Ramble in the past and let it slide. I am thinking now it was pretty foolish on my part. I gratefully accepted a pair of tickets to his ramble next week.
 Here is a video Levon did a while back. While it might seem like any other video to promote one's music, let me point out that the farm used in this video is in fact a genuine farm located in my town, and the "Mr. Gill" who appears int eh video is in fact Jack Gill who is one of the largest corn producers in out state. A fine man, war hero, and upstanding member of the community in his own right.  The stories he relates are genuine, he is not an actor. The first song is shot, I believe in Levon's studio, the second one is shot at Snyder's Tavern, which is a place most folks would never stop at if they were driving by. It is located 'off the beaten path' and frequented by locals and sportsmen. These are real people and real places and real feelings expressed in this video. So although it is over 20 minutes, I invite you to enter with an open mind, perhaps an open beer and let yourself be transcended.

Only Halfway Home

Levon Helm | Myspace Music Videos

 So I write here about a nationally known person, but for me, he's a local dude that is continuously a man who is doing the right thing. I judge a man by what he does, not what his publicist says. I don't think Levon has a publicist, but I can tell you he is one hard working son of a gun, just look at his schedule. The funny thing is, sucessful as this guy is in his 'second career', he never turns anyone down. He has played at high school fundraisers, weddings, and family parties. He seems to play for love and for that I identify with him.
 Tell you a quick story about how I got these tickets: My Chief does all the landscaping work for Levon and he approached him about some tickets. As the Chief tells it: He said to Levon "I have this guy in my Department who is a big fan and he is always there for me when I need him"... Levon interrupted and said 'Sounds like my kind of guy, how many tickets would he like?'
I guess burying myself in music is better than a lot of alternatives. Right now I can't seem to get enough.

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