Thou Shalt Love Thy Bandmates

Anyway, riding in a van for a week turned us from “Friends

and Brothers” to angry inmates who couldn’t wait to bust out.

Fifteen Years.  That’s how long Shades Mountain Air has been together, at least the core of Greg and Nancy Womble, Gary Furr, and Don Wendorf.  We have spent a couple hours a week most of that fifteen years weekly at Greg and Nancy’s house, practicing, horsing around, composing, arranging, learning and growing from one another.  We’ve only had one personnel change in all that time–Don’s son, Paul, our outstanding fiddle player, left us to move on with wife, kids, career, to Texas, and so, we were four again for a while, then found Melanie Rodgers.  Mel has added dynamic new joy to our sound, and is now a part of our 15th Anniversary Live Album that is now available.     (Go to the website store for our new CD click here!)

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Shades Mountain Air at Moonlight, 2013

The album sounds great!  We hired Fred Miller of Knodding Off Music to record and engineer our live concert.  Fred did a fantastic job and we are so happy with the result.  He captured our live sound and energy.  It sounds like us!  There is NOTHING like live music, and though it’s fun to be in a studio and monkey around with something until you get it “perfect”, there is a corresponding loss of that spark that performers-audience and a venue provide.  We did it at our favorite gig–Moonlight On the Mountain in Bluff Park in Hoover, Alabama, with Keith Harrelson, as always, handling lights and sound.

I say all this because Shades Mountain Air is more than a band.  We have become family together.  We love playing together, singing, creating, whether anyone is listening or not.  Greg and Nancy’s kids grew up having to hear us every week in their house. We have been through life crises, griefs, and changes Continue reading “Thou Shalt Love Thy Bandmates”

Jim Hurst Can Play a Guitar

Jim Hurst picks.  He came dangerously close to Herb Trotman's "10,000 note limit"
Jim Hurst picks. He came dangerously close to Herb Trotman’s “10,000 note limit”

Last night, I went to hear JIM HURST, IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Guitarist of the Year.  That means he is a fast-pickin’ guy.  “Bluegrass,” like few other labels, can lock you in.  The people who love and adore it who are more on the “traditional” side (Has to be like Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs played it or it ain’t bluegrass) will leave you for growing, experimenting and deviating.  The rest of the music listening world (Country, whatever that is anymore, sheesh!), folk, indie, etc. is disinterested because they never get beyond stereotypes like “Deliverance” and the Beverly Hillbillies. Continue reading “Jim Hurst Can Play a Guitar”

Pat Terry and the Eye of the Artist

 If we learn to look at life with the eyes of the artist, we

will see an entire universe that is “a gift of mercy.”

Workshop
Pat pondering how to help a workshop participants song

It’s odd that a musical preacher who writes songs, cut his teeth and got called to ministry during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s would have met Pat Terry so late in life, but that’s the way life winds sometimes.  I had heard of the Pat Terry group back when he was starting out—Pat is just a bit older than me.  I heard his songs, but my musical journey got put on hold for a long time as marriage and children and years in graduate education and pastoral ministry took me in different directions.  I continued listening to music and playing and singing, sometimes in church and mostly by myself for my own pleasure.

Pat Terry, meanwhile, was on a journey of his own, too.  After many years, first in the very spontaneous and joyful Jesus Movement musical world, and then for a while in the increasingly industry-captivated contemporary Christian musical world, he moved on.  He had a good, long run as a commercial songwriter in Nashville, with a string of songs for many well-known artists like John Anderson, Travis Tritt, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Tanya Tucker and the Oak Ridge Boys.  He learned the Nashville craft and all the while continuing his own inner journey of writing from the heart.

So it was that a few years ago, Greg Womble, my friend and bandmate who plays the banjo publicly, and I, who play it out of earshot but love it, went to Atlanta to Continue reading “Pat Terry and the Eye of the Artist”

Think Globally Listen Locally

Corporations are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but the net effect can be the disappearance of everything that makes the place where you live distinctive.

Got a notice from my friend Steve Norris that our friend Dale Short put us on his “Music From Home” radio program yesterday.  (LISTEN) (SMA is on the first program)

Thanks, Dale!  “Music From Home” is local artists.  I appreciate that there are still programs here and there in a world in which globalized corporate mass culture (which is short for “controlled by a few people who are not always interested in the music”) threatens to gobble up everything.  Music and making money have a long and unhappy marriage.  They love one another and need each other but they can’t make each other happy.  Their families were so different.  They hurt each other and use each other all the time.  Sometimes they have to separate to get on with life.

Dale Short of “Music From Home”

The internet and programs like Dale’s provide hope that artists, musical worlds and songwriters can collaborate and pursue their craft in different ways.  The web is already having a salutary effect on music.  It is possible to skip the narrow funnel of corporate mass marketing that has produced some great stuff but also turned away some great music that people would like.  This is why listening rooms like Keith Harrelson’s Moonlight On the Mountain and other great places struggle to make it and deserve our support.

These changes will be painful for a while, as they are in publishing and in every field.  But as with all things human, there is also possibility for many good things, too.  Hope you’ll support local artists, internet radio and local radio programs, and local venues and businesses.  Corporations are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but the net effect can be the disappearance of everything that makes the place where you live distinctive.  Supporting local life (which means “I am willing to pay more for what I like’) is a way to protest the gobble ’em up and kill ’em off so I can have a house in Santa Fe culture.

We need to pay attention–how we spend our money, what we listen to, and where we direct time has massive implications for our future.  Be purposeful in your life.  It matters.