I love this picture of Joni Mitchell so much…her youth, the buttery California light. I love it all. There are only a few days a year in Texas where the light has this golden quality, and those moments always remind of my days in California. Okay, enough about the light, but it never fails to strike me how different the light is between the two places. For some reason, she’s been on my mind this month, and then I read recently that she’s been very ill since March. In fact, listening to “Ladies of the Canyon” as I plink out this post. I’ve always felt a connection to Joni, and I’d like to tell you why she was such a big part of my adolescence and early twenties…but that’s a long story to be saved for another day. A very long story.
Today being the 115th birthday of Amelia Earhart had me thinking of a song my father used to play written by Red River Dave McEnery, titled "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight". I have always been in love with this song and for some reason during my mid twenties I was on a quest to find a recorded version of this song. At the time I was living in DC and stepped into a small record store in Silver Spring, Maryland, just to browse. I picked up a copy of Freakwater's 1993 Thrill Jockey release Feels Like the Third Time. My youngest sister, Jess was with me, saw what I had in my hand and said, "oh, I think you'd like them, I saw them at Iota." I flipped over the CD to see the track names and right there on track #10 there it was… my song! My heart flipped and I'm pretty sure I squealed. I could not wait to get home and listen to it. What happened next is that I also fell in love with the band. I was so pleased that my quest for a peculiar, seldom recorded song led me to find a band whose weird voices definitely struck a chord. Synchronicity.
Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean have voices that are pretty in a Mary McCaslin, Alice Gerard and Hazel Dickens, Lucinda Williams, Victoria Williams kinda way. To me they are as crystalline and lovely as Allison Krauss and Patty Griffin, just a lot more honest, whiskey smoked and hard working. They are the voice of a woman who's tired like she's been waiting tables all day, has had it up to here with your shit, and has better things to do with her time.
I remember going to see Catherine Irwin at a SXSW daytime show and recounting that very story of stumbling across her music while looking for the Amelia Earhart song that my father used to sing… she smiled. Awkward. This reminded me of a night years before when I waited on Lucinda at the Ausitn Grill in DC and told her that I'd just seen Darden Smith the week before at The Birchmere and he was raving about her just released Sweet Old World, she stared at me with her heavily-lined eyes without blinking and said, "can I have a Dos Equis?" Again, awkward.
There are two things that I will forvever be grateful to my father for. One is for perfectly seasoning my cast iron skillets, and the other for taking me to see Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys at Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Illinois. Their gray suits, ties and white Stetsons just killed me. Because I had musician parents my musical tastes have always been eclectic, but that summer night in Illinois, I fell in love… with Bluegrass. I really did.
I named my teensy stationery biz, Bean Blossom Press, after his Bean Blossom Festival.
Today would be the centennial birthday of Bill Monroe.
Tonight when you're gazing at the harvest moon, give a little nod to Bill's Blue Moon of Kentucky