Tag Archives: The Stray Birds

The Low Down Review – No. 25

28 Feb


Best Medicine: A few months back, on a Wednesday night, buddy and songwriter Dan Johnson sent me a text message. I was sitting on the couch and settling in for the night in Schenectady, NY, watching a FRONTLINE on retirement. Dan was up in Richmond, VT and settling in to a night listening to a Stray Birds live performance. About half-way through each of our shows, my beer, and Dan’s coffee, he sent a prophetic update, “Oh, you’re gonna love this tune man – best medicine – have you heard it yet?” I hadn’t.

The next evening, my lady and I headed up to Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY to give a listen to the Birds ourselves. We, like many, never tire of hearing them perform. Before one of their last songs of the evening, Maya (fiddle, guitar, songwriting, banjo, vocals, harmony, holy shit these folks are talented…) starts to tell a story about some downtime before a gig I shared with them a couple of years back at The Moon and River in Schenectady.

The trio was killing time over on Jay Street, and wandered into The Re-Collector, a packed-full, used-record, and assorted collectibles store. The owner, Kurt (a king amongst characters) caught their interest, and they struck up a conversation with him. He hung on their minds, and they wrote a song about the man, and tapped into a serious and beautiful element of his (and our) humanity. They titled it, “Best Medicine.”

After the story, and a nod to my lady and I, they eased into the song, and when they finished that first chorus, I let out an audible breath that sounded something like, “Pffffwwow.” Oliver looked right at me from the stage and said, “Yeah…” The chills took me over, I closed my eyes, and felt my heart teeter over towards explosion. Beautiful, simple, pure, layered, sincere, soulful, melodic… Heartfelt. There are only adequate adjectives to conjure in the English language. I suspect that I’d have to dig back into ancient Greece or an aboriginal language in order to find a true description. Charlie, if you’re reading this, that was a special moment in my life. For real.

A while later, and long after Maya, Oliver, and Charlie packed up their gear and headed out for their next show to share their song, I headed to the Re-Collector in the gray Northeast winter drizzle. I introduced myself to Kurt, told him this story, and asked if I could take his picture. I can’t be sure of the last time he had smiled, it looked like it may have been some time, but the energy behind the smile that shot across his face would have blown apart any bulb Edison could have imagined. He took to the task with a seriousness that I’ll describe as reverent, and tender, holding a notebook with the statement, “Music is the Best Medicine” written on a page in black marker.

Because of that song, and despite the weather, we felt pretty damn good that day. That, my friends, is some strong medicine, the best medicine.

Re-Cycling: I’ve been reading and writing with a specific purpose this past month or so. I’ve been charged with the honorable duty of writing three songs, one for each of the first three novels in William Kennedy’s Albany Cycle, “Legs,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” and the Pulitzer Prize winning, “Ironweed.”

I’ve been a fan of Kennedy’s ever since I decided to read “The Ink Truck” in one sitting, while researching for a graduate class paper the night before that paper was to be handed over. Coffee kept my body awake, but Kennedy kept my soul alive that night. I rebelled, was threatened with failure, and came out even on the other side with a stride. I then read every work available in chronological order, and I haven’t been the same since. I imitated the man’s written style as much as I could, though my vocabulary wants for expansion when placed next to his intonational trove. I shaved with a straight razor, placed a fedora atop my head, and explored Albany with the prejudicial, “home town” cataracts sliced away. Few match him, in my world. So to be asked to write three songs is an honor indeed, and flush luck in the deal.

Why was I asked? Well, the Albany Public Library hosts a music oriented book club, lead by the rocking and oh-so-groovy Charmboy bassist Sarah Clark. She caught the word from senior songwriting correspondent, Matt Durfee that I’m a Kennedy fan, with an inclination towards fanatacism. Together, the two of them cooked up a series which pairs songwriters and the authors they love with the book club and the authors they love. Discussion, songs, and interpretations stirred into a unique night over at the library. The Kennedy night is Wednesday, April 16, in Albany, NY, and you can read up and attend for the all-welcome fee of free.

From the Library, “The Reading Music Group departs from its usual discussion of musical nonfiction to host Albany singer-songwriter M.R. Poulopoulos. Poulopoulos has been writing songs inspired by William Kennedy’s Albany novels “Ironweed,” “Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game,” and “Legs.” Part book discussion, part music performance, this is a one-of-a-kind event, and the first of a new discussion series featuring works of literature that have inspired works of song. This event will take place in Albany Public Library’s Pruyn Room.”

Here are the details via the rudimentary facebook page…

From the Low Down: In other show news, I’m headed down to Hastings on Hudson, Peekskill, and then onto Manhattan this weekend. I’ll be rolling strong in the first two shows with my musical compatriots, and good-time buddies in South County. I had sworn off the City for years, but am slowly making my way down there. If you know some folks down in NYC, send ‘em on out to Rockwood Music Hall at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. I’m bringing the good stuff.

I’m also jumping into the house concert scene as a host. So, in addition to playing shows for y’all, I’ll be hosting them here in the cozy environs of my living space. First up for the series, which I’ve named, “Rebel Darling Presents,” is Ian Fitzgerald, a first-rate songwriter based out of the Boston, MA area. When I first heard him play a handful of his tunes in a hotel room in November, I sat struck by the depth and brilliance of his songwriting. Here’s a video of Ian’s “Melinda Down the Line,” which was featured in the the New York Times article on “The Old Guitar.” Seats are very limited for this Friday, May 23 show in Schenectady. BYOB, pot-luck dinner, and $15 suggested donation. Y’all are the first to know about this, so send an email to info@rebeldarling.com if you want to reserve a seat now.

Join us, won’t you?

As always, folks thank you for everything. Spread the word and share the song… Forward this email along to others you think would be interested. Definitely share the music, and head on out to catch an upcoming show, be it Rebel Darling with the boys, or a solo show… Your support keeps the wheels rolling. Thank you. See you out there.

– Mike

I’m already dreaming of summer travel…

If you would like to receive the Low Down Review via email, click here, or send an email to info@rebeldarling.com

Saturday, April 27 with the Stray Birds

25 Apr

LtR – Maya, Oliver, and Charlie – Photo by Jake Jacobson

Now, for those of you who have been on this email list for a while, you’ll likely recall the name The Stray Birds. I first mentioned them in LDR 13, then again in LDR 15, again in others, and also posted a photo of Maya bearing down on her banjo in LDR 20. I’m a fan, you get the idea… Even if you’re new on this list, you might know the name already. If The Stray Birds are brand new to you, I strongly suggest that you give them a listen; they are a trio of young musicians with a masterful grasp on both musicianship and songwriting. They are hardworking, traversing the country for packed show after packed show, and their dedication to each other and their music is both amazing and admirable. Great folks, those Stray Birds.

That hard work is paying off too, at least with rich experiences. They’ve been featured on the renouned World Cafe Live, selling out the house, and recently recorded a spot on the revered Mountain Stage radio show, which also featured banjo luminaries Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. They have been interviewed on more than one occasion for No Depression, the, as they put it, roots music authority, and their recent, eponymous album, The Stray Birds was listed in NPR’s top 10 Americana Albums for 2012. Quite a resume here, folks, for a band just a few years old.

The Stray Birds – 2012 release

And we’re bringing them to Albany, NY’s backyard, folks. On Saturday, April 27th, I’ll perform as Rebel Darling (more on that later) with John Rice and Ryan Dunham from the Red Haired Strangers for an opening set for The Stray Birds. Here are the show details:

A few of us are making a day out of it up in Rensselaerville, and plan to hike about the Huyck Preserve. There will be food and drink at the show, but if you’re looking for a bite or a beverage before you head up to the Center, grab it at The Palmer House Cafe. You’ll definitely enjoy the food, the atmosphere, and the beer. I’ll probably head down there after the show for a drink or two. You’re welcome to join. In fact, I dare ya.

Huyck Preserve – Photo by AllOverAlbany.com

Thanks so much, folks. Let’s get ourselves out and enjoy the Spring. Don’t forget to take a peek at the schedule, and get yourself a copy of “Harvest the Heart”. Much love your way…

– Mike

Click here for “Harvest the Heart”

The Low Down Review – No. 18

25 Jul

Hospitality by the Unnamed, to Protect the Generous

In Hospitality: After playing to an empty room in Montour Falls and an unsuccessful attempt to find a spot to crash, I found myself stuck at a Comfort Inn in Corning, NY on a Friday night during the Finger Lakes Wine Festival (Read: artificially jacked-up prices; there were plenty of rooms left, despite the tour buses). I grabbed two handfuls of fruit out of the bowl by the door and decided to start Saturday fresh with some busking in Centerway Square. It was a beautiful morning, and while I hadn’t slept much for a week, I felt refreshed. In the square, some folks were setting up for a Farmers Market. I asked them if they had, or wanted any acoustic music to accompany the vendors. They looked at me with distrust, gave no answer and said that I should go talk to the guy inside. Okay. I carried my guitar case and a few CDs inside.

At first, he viewed me skeptically, saying something about not knowing if I could, or if he could allow it, etc. I passed a disc across the counter. He mentioned that I could play out on the stage in the Square if I wanted. “It’s a public space,” he said. He’d even turn off the background music for me. Nice. I set up shop on the stage steps, and started picking out some tunes. A few bucks here, a few bucks there, some folks gathering ’round to listen, a young kid who liked the tunes. He got a disc after he asked his sister for a dollar. “But I only gave you a dollar,” he said. A kind guy who looked like he underwent throat cancer surgery sat on a bench with an “In Search of God” book open in front of him. He read passively, tapping his foot, later telling me he was a drummer. He claimed his retriever, “Sammy” was his only true friend in the world. A teenager in a punk band, with no money sat for a while, nodding his head. It was a good turn into the noon hour and I was feeling all right. Corning’s Gaffer District had other plans, however, and they didn’t include me.

You can’t be here. It’s not allowed.” I was in the middle of “No Diamonds to Toss.” The voice seemingly came from nowhere, and I suddenly felt like I was a kid again cutting through Mel’s backyard. “We have a band here at 2:00 p.m.” It was just after 12:00. I killed the song on the spot as the rest of the Gaffer crew looked on from a table set off to the side. I took a breath. “Well, where can I be,” I asked. “120 feet from the Square.” So be it, and so I go. The folks listening looked confused.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to hate on Corning’s Gaffer District. Seriously, I’m not. That would be too easy, and I benefitted from the outcome; I ended up finding Corning Art & Frame, a great custom framing shop that sold hand-made cigar-box guitars and bass guitars, as well as music memorabilia and a few customized instruments. I made some decent money busking outside that shop in a little less than an hour. I also want to avoid eliciting sympathy. There is no need for any of us to feel bad here; I was more surprised and then confused by the exchange than anything.

I am sharing this story because it’s a vivid example of what I’ve been experiencing with greater regularity over the past few weeks. Namely, people employing an aggressive, arrogant and hostile attitude in an attempt to realize what’s seen in the mind’s eye and forcing a singular vision – I’ll call them “rulers” here. All this situation (and others) called for was a conversation. You guys getting the same out there, or are the planets aligning against me? Maybe it’s me that’s changed. Or maybe the reason is that I’m traveling and meeting more people. But frankly, I’m done with that shit. A message to the rulers: You can rule without meHat tip to the great guys at Record Archive in Rochester, NY for the suggestions and albums.

Thankfully, for every ruler I met recently, I found at least 10 on the conversational side, and I’m grateful for the time they shared with me. I didn’t even agree with half of them, but understanding meant more than agreement with these folks. That’s some good news, and as James, who drove me to the Kansas City, MO airport on Sunday, told me, “I’ve met many more good people, Mike. Many more.”

Speaking of conversational folks, I arrived at the Black-Eyed Susan Acoustic Cafe in Angelica, NY for a Saturday night performance – folks familiar with the LDR might remember this location from the LDR 14, and those of you who are new, check the link out. The folks there again provided me with a memorable evening full of laughter, stories, delicious food, music and general joy. If you need one reason to visit Angelica, NY, the Black-Eyed Susan is a great one. Don, Karen, Jim, Caedren, and Matt, Thank you… Your hospitality is graceful and natural, and your friendship is a true delight. I hope to see you folks again in the near future.

Nipper Found a Place in Corning

Take the Parkway: If you’re a musician or sound engineer in NY’s Capital District, you’ve likely visited Parkway Music. If you’re a musician or sound engineer around here and you haven’t visited Parkway, you better get yourself over there. The folks behind the counter are consummate professionals, are easy to talk to and willing to share not only their knowledge but a few stories to place that knowledge within a digestable context. Even if you’re just a beginner looking for your or your kid’s first instrument, the folks at Parkway will help make sense of the array of options and pair you up with the best fit.

And while I’m on the topic of good fits (you had to know that I’ve been leading you into some news), the Parkway guys recently put me together with the latest member of my instrument family, a Martin D-18 1937 Authentic. This guitar, while newly made, came from Martin’s Custom Shop, which means that it’s hand-crafted by one person, a truly individual guitar. The guitar was built according to the 1937 specifications, hence the date attached to its name. The specs include a solid Adirondack Spruce top, solid mahogany sides, back and neck, solid Brazilian Rosewood purfling and headplate, and a solid black ebony fingerboard and bridge, just to name a few features. In common language, it’s a beautiful, booming instrument with clear, crisp, and even tone. I’m still shocked, and consider myself lucky that I can play it every day. I owe Matt, Madison, Charlie and the guys up at Parkway a great deal of gratitude. Here are some photos from home:

From the Low Down: On Sept. 1, I’ll participate in a campfire of an unusual sort and in an unusual location: right in the bustling center of Cambridge, MA where open fires invite the PD and FD to break up your party. This campfire is sanctioned, however. I’ve been invited to play Club Passim’s “campfire.” Labor Day music festival, and I’m very excited. The folks at Passim scheduled me in for a Saturday songs in-the-round with Sierra West, Jim Trick, and Marianna Bell.


A few musicians I know and shared stages with are also slotted to send their tunes out to the Cambridge crowd: you’ll find the sweet harmonies of the Brothers McCann, the driven soul of Ryan Fitzsimmons, and incendiary and soothing sounds of The Stray Birds (Catch The Stray Birds’ new video for “Railroad Man” here…). I’m truly honored to share the bill with so many established and up-and-coming talents at the historic Club Passim.

Tonight (Wednesday, July 25), catch me teaming up with the Lost Radio Rounders and Cousin Clyde from a slew of good acts, including his latest collaboration, Kim and Clyde. We’re meeting at the Voorheesville Public Library (NY) at 6:30 p.m. for a show titled, “Wildwood Flower: Songs of the Original Carter Family”.

On Friday, I’ll be in Rensselaerville, NY for an 8:30 p.m. performance as a member of Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers. The show is part of the library’s annual fundraiser, the Festival of Writers. I wrote about our part in the Festival in LDR 17. Check it out and arouse your curiosity…

And as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

– Mike

P.S. Here’s a photo I wanted to share from a recent backpacking trip in the ADKs (it’s been a good summer):

Sunrise, Crane Mountain, NY

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The Low Down Review – No. 17

10 May

Outdoor Orchestra: Once the warmer weather moved its way over to my doorstep, I started spending some time each morning out on the porch. Leaning on the rail, cup of coffee in hand, I listened to the robins sing out, the crows caw their way from tree line to tree line, the woodpeckers knock away the bark and bore down, and the house sparrows chirp and tweet. I listened through the din of the cars because the birds quieted down when they passed through. Many simply flew off.

With that as a day’s start, I found myself chatting with a buddy of mine about the messages one can find in nature’s sounds. That is, messages of warning from the birds, if the “peepers” suddenly go silent, if the crickets quit their fiddling, etc. I told the story about the time I turned around on a Yellowstone trail when the birds hushed, and the magpies tracked my every step. Armed with only a bowie knife and a bottle of water, I wasn’t about to explore that nervous tension.

Within minutes of the chat, I checked my email and found a review of Bernie Krause’s, “The Great Animal Orchestra,” (Little, Brown & Company) a book that calls on us to pay better attention to nature’s sound and music. Serendipity. After reading the review and sharing the coincidence with my buddy, I headed out to buy the book. Here’s the review – Jeremy Denk provides a descriptive, compelling and concise summary. Krause provides a compelling narrative as well, and I finished the book in under a work week.

There is quite a bit of what may be considered activism in the book. Specifically, a call to preserve what’s left of the planet’s wild spaces. To Krause, a healthy habitat exhibits rich and diverse sounds, and these sounds are fading. Some will undoubtedly hold his activism against him, but I can’t blame the man, and I certainly don’t hold it against him. Through the course of his four decade career, he’s experienced, first-hand, the deterioration of 50% of the habitat he used to visit to record. The man has been to just about every continent, as detailed in the book, so it’s not as though someone developed half of his backyard.

In fact, I share Krause’s concern with the disappearance of wild space (I touched on it briefly in LDR 12), but I hadn’t yet thought of it in detailed terms of soundscape. This past weekend, while hiking the Plotterkill Preserve in Rotterdam, NY, I decided to take a very close listen to my surroundings and what I experienced was dissonance between the visual and the aural. Take a look at the below picture. I snapped it while resting:

It’s a beautiful scene, right? A peaceful locale to sit and enjoy nature… Well, as Krause states in the book, a picture tells only part of the story. Here’s what you may not imagine when staring at the cascade: the pitched rumble of high-altitude jets, the thrum of the low-flying propeller planes, the popping compression of tractor-trailer air-brakes on the NYS Thruway, the gargle throat pipes of motorcycle “mufflers,” and the distant buzz of lawnmowers. When man-made noise peaked across the soundscape, it seemed that the birds simply gave up. Thinking back, I had always heard this, but I hadn’t actively experienced the dissonance. If the sounds fade, what messages are we missing? Krause answers the question with detail, acumen and a vibrant story-line.

Krause’s book gave language to thoughts that were brewing in my mind, and I thank him not only for the book, but also for all his work in recording nature’s symphony, or “biophony,” as he termed it. His experience with the Nez Perce origin of music story is a beautiful account of humility and awe; it floored me. Nature made the music first, and as Krause argues, we could do better by ourselves to open our ears and start listening to the song.

Remaining Bookish: I’m in the middle of refining a new tune. I’ve titled it “Comanche Moon” and found the lyrical content in two books: Larry McMurtry’s epic Western novel, “Lonesome Dove,” and the tremendous non-fictional account of the settlement of Texas and the forty-year battle with the Comanches, “Empire of the Summer Moon” by S. C. Gwynne – watch and listen to Gywnne describe his book here… If you haven’t read either of these books, I think the lyrics to “Comanche Moon” may provide you with a general feel. I’m hoping to bring this tune to a live performance in the next week or two. Read the lyrics to “Comanche Moon.”

Still working between the bookends, this summer, I’ll team up with buddy and longtime Palatypus collaborator, Matt Durfee, and some of the folks from Black Mountain Symphony, including Charles Burgess for a night of tunes from the Anti-Rent War. That’s right, the Anti-Rent War, a period of New York State history in which farmers revolted against the Van Rensselaer family, and feudalism by another name, the incomplete sale. We’re calling ourselves, “Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers.” The research for this show has been a delight, and certainly an informative experience.

For the project, which is part of the Rensselaerville Festival of Writers, we’re using a book titled, “Tin Horns and Calico” written by Henry Christman. We’re using the lyrics found in the back of the book, and putting music to them – the heavy lifting done by Matt and Charlie. I’m working on an original tune for the show, assembling bits of the sweeping arc of the story together, and taking lead on a tune called, “The Landlord’s Lament,” a tongue-in-cheek, if not outright mocking tune told from a landlord’s perceived perspective.

Catch “Big Thunder and the Anti-Rent Ramblers” at the Palmer House Cafe, in Rensselaerville, NY on Friday, July 27th at 7:00 p.m. for a bit of NYS history, and a few beers.

SNEAKY NOTE: Matt Durfee is leaking new tracks from his upcoming solo album, “Little World.” Get yourself a listen…

From the Low Down: I’m happy to announce that the teasing I did in earlier LDRs was for good reason. I’ll be teaming up with folk phenoms, The Stray Birds for a show at the Moon and River Cafe on Monday, June 4, starting at 8:00 p.m. They debuted in the top 20 on the Folk Charts. Get there early; the seats will fill fast.

As you can see from the below schedule, I have quite a few shows on the near and distant stretches of the horizon. I’m excited about these shows too (I can’t tell you how honored I am that these folks have taken a chance on my tunes, or are welcoming me back); this Friday, I’m playing a show at a luthier’s co-op, a place which services and builds guitars, sells vintage instruments and serves beer. Such a great place to sing out a set… So it leads me to a question: do you folks want more information on individual shows listed here in the LDR? I take pride in sharing where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to with you folks, but I’m starting to think that it’s at the expense of what the future holds. Holler back at me, and let me know if y’all prefer more info on the up-and-coming.

I have more good news about the folks over at WEXT. They produce a great program where listeners can sign up to be the D.J. for an hour to share their own favorite tunes. A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to head into the studio to record a segment and spin tunes by songwriters and musicians that have influenced and continue to inspire me. They titled the program “My Exit,” and you can listen in to my hour on Monday, May 28th at 8:00 p.m. as well as on Sunday, June 3rd at 10:00 a.m. For those of you outside of range, stream the station on the web here… I posted a quick note on my chosen set on the website and you can view that and the set-list here…

So, I think that’s it for now. Be sure to write back with suggestions on the LDR; I’m looking forward to chatting with you about it. And as always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I simply can’t do it without you.

– Mike

If you would like to receive the Low Down Review via email, click here, or send an email to info@mrpoulopoulos.com

Playing DJ

2 Apr

Earlier today, I traveled over to the WEXT studio in Troy, NY to record a quick spot for their My EXIT program. Here’s the deal on the spot: The folks at WEXT allow an hour for a guest DJ to spin whatever their pleasure may be. This is not only a great way for the listener-supported station to directly involve their listeners, it’s also a way for listeners to connect with one another, and perhaps influence some of the programming…

DJ KTG set me up behind the mic, asked me to record a few promo lines for the show, and then I was free to fill in the talking points. DJ Dave Michaels stopped in to say hello, and seemed a little surprised that I didn’t pimp out Greenhorn in the set. As you see from the below list, I was strictly spinning tunes that have influenced and currently do influence my approach/es to songwriting (Click here for a pdf of the set list…).

I’m hoping I did these wonderfully talented people justice during the hour. I kept the chat to a minimum so I could fill the time with songs. I’m also hoping you folks tune in to hear the program, or generally tune in to WEXT to enjoy what the good folks over there spin. Check the Calendar for an update on when the spot cruises the radio waves…

Here’s the set list with artist links (NOTE: Artist – Song / Album):

1.) The Stray Birds – Birds of the Borderland / Borderland
2.) Jeffrey Foucault – Train to Jackson / Ghost Repeater
3.) Danny Schmidt – Grandpa Built Bridges / Instead the Forest Rose to Sing
4.) Danielle Miraglia – Home / Box of Troubles
5.) Kelly Joe Phelps – Plumb Line / Tunesmith Retrofit
6.) Chris Smither – Time Stands Still / Time Stands Still
7.) Mark Erelli – Everything in Ruin / Little Vigils
8.) Jill Andrews – These Words / Jill Andrews – EP
9.) Danny Schmidt – Boils Down to Blood / Make Right the Time
10.) Chris Castle – All Kinds of Time / Last Bird Home
11.) River Wheel – Hell Waiting / The Sound We Made
12.) Jeffrey Foucault – Heart to the Husk / Horse Latitudes
13.) Red Haired Strangers – Pumpkin Hollow / Hilltown Sessions
14.) Mark Erelli & Jeffrey Foucault – Wyoming Wind / Seven Curses

Let me know what you think of the set, y’all…

The Low Down Review – No. 15

11 Feb

Just Around Town: Sometimes just walking around town can bring you to places unfamiliar or to those with a new look. A few days ago, I headed down to lower-Madison Avenue in Albany, NY. While trekking up the hill on my way to some tasty chili at Bonobo Coffee and Espresso, I came across a neglected store-front display with a Western Pioneer theme.

The Old West on Display

As you can see, the only backdrop provided is two scenic paintings, and the figures are arranged oddly with many of them fallen, or knocked down. And yet, on a closer look, it seems as though thought and care was given to the initial presentation.

I had never seen figurines like this; they’re too big for kid play, and seem to be for modeling… They might be dolls. The scene reminded me of the documentary, Marwencol, about Mark Hogancamp’s fantasy world. Check that out…

Here’s a couple of other images I snagged:

On the Line: Monday night, as I sat down to dinner, the phone rang. Fork in my mouth, I let it ring out to voicemail. I put down the plate, hit pause on the movie and hit play on the phone. Richard Genest, owner, Moon and River Cafe, left the message: “Hey, Mike. I’m with Oliver and Charlie who say they met you at NERFA. They’re from The Stray Birds, but they’re playing with their other band, River Wheel tonight and tomorrow. Hope you can make it out.”

My dinner went cold, and I made it out for both nights. These guys are serious players, and they can craft a tune, sturdy as a barn, delicate as a rose corolla. The sound is old – guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, upright bass – but their melodies are as fresh and as right as rain. They can plunge the depths, and then ease you right up through them to enjoy the surf. Both The Stray Birds and River Wheel are strongly recommended for you folks who dig acoustic music. Man, they’re a lot of fun to listen to.

Tuesday night, we hung out late, real late. The guys introduced me to Kariki, a dice game laden with the art of bullshit. I’m carrying that game with me, and plan to introduce it to the late-night crowd here…

Wednesday morning, sluggish and heavy from little sleep, I answered the phone. Oliver was on the line, in the car, on the way to the next town. I’m going to ask that you folks stay on the line; we may have something to announce for later this year…

Norris Hauls…

From the Low Down: Sorry for the brevity, folks. I’m sitting in Stoneham, MA right now, but I wanted to drop a line before I headed out tonight. I should be getting ready for tonight’s show in Cambridge at Toad, a great spot for beer and music, I’m told, but I’m hanging with some good folks. I’ve wanted to play this room for a couple of years now, and I’m grateful to Lawrence Scudder (viola, Danielle Miraglia, “Box of Troubles”) for the invitation. I’m playing the opening set for “Truck Norris”, and as the facebook event page says, “Don’t miss this or Chuck Norris will kick you in the fucking face!”

I’ll be around Boston all weekend. I’m playing Sunday night at The Burren during their Backroom Music Series (hat-tip to Tom Bianchi, bass, Danielle Miraglia, “Box of Troubles”). I’ll be sharing the night with Tom and his friends, as well as songwriter Eric-Jon Tasker.

It’s shaping up to be a great weekend, and I’m excited to bring Greenhorn to new ears. So if you’re in Beantown this weekend, or know someone who is, send ‘em out and along for the song. We’ve already started in on the good times, and good company is always welcome.

As always, folks thanks for everything. Spread the word and share the song… I couldn’t do this without your support.

– Mike

P.S. – If you’re looking for a good laugh, I recommend this…

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