So, I've been doing a LOT of work over the past few months and this is always extremely gratifying, obviously. A lot of musicians (particularly guitarists it seems) always feel like the last gig/session they did was the last time that they'll ever be paid to play music. Ever. I'm not sure why this is. My therapist has various theories involving massive insecurities and blah, blah, blah...but what does she know?
I've been on the road with Sam Lewis, and enjoying that immensely. If you're not familiar with Sam's music: check that shit out, folks. It's great stuff. The latest record is called Waiting on You. Right at the moment we are in Richmond, Virginia, and just had a lovely day off which we spent trolling hipster girls at Whole Foods and visiting historic Hollywood Cemetery.
Some of the more famous dusty corpses on the roster at Hollywood Cemetery include: Jefferson Davis, President #10 John Tyler, President #5 James Monroe, General Fitzhugh Lee, General JEB Stuart, and General George Pickett. As a bit of a Civil War buff, this was a treat for me, and I happily bored my bandmates Robert Richards (Bobby Dix) and Hunter Deacon to exasperated tears with charming and horrifying anecdotes culled mostly from Shelby Foote's venerable epic The Civil War: A Narrative. More moving than the big statues and monuments honoring the generals and statesmen were the hundreds of simple headstones of the privates, corporals, and sergeants who died in the Civil War. And the thought that this represents just a tiny fraction of the total number of people who died on both sides. Or, perhaps, on all sides, since in this, as in all wars, innocents with no dog in the fight at all ended up suffering and dying by the thousands.
A recent study disputes the previous long-standing accepted number of total combatant deaths of 620,000 and says that it's more like 750,000. One can (and I do) take issue with the Southern motives for that war, but you can't say that those men and women didn't serve their cause with valor and honor. Even if, to paraphrase Foote paraphrasing Grant, the cause was one of the worst for which people ever fought.
Anyway, we took pictures of old headstones and got sunburnt and then went back to the hotel and jumped in the pool.
We've been opening some shows for Chris Stapleton and we have a few more of those this summer. This has been great for a couple of reasons. First, Chris is just a joy to hear live. And second, I get to hang out with Derek Mixon, Chris's drummer, and hear him laying it down like the fucking badass he is. Opening for those guys with Sam at the Ryman earlier this year was definitely a high point and a special night. And I got to meet Bill Murray when we played with them in Charleston. And I saw an alligator. So that's been pretty cool.
I did a few shows with Bonnie Bishop earlier this year. Her new record Ain't Who I Was is getting deservedly rave reviews and she's really starting to take off. And my buddy Brian Hinchliffe is playing bass with her, too.
I played on Tomi Lunsford's new record, Come On Blue. Robin Eaton and Brad Jones brought me in on this project and it's a really cool album. I got to work with James Haggerty and Jerry Roe again, too! We've played a few live shows in Nashville as well, and did a taping for NPR's World Cafe.
And I am co-producing Jace Everett's new record Dust & Dirt. This started out as an EP, but looks like it will be expanding to a full-length record that should be completed by late summer. I really dig the sound and vibe of this new record a lot. But then I would, wouldn't I? I produced it. I think people are going to like it. Jace just got back from a tour of Norway and has also been hard at work creating a new podcast called Nashville Later. We are still recording our podcast, Talking Into Microphones when we can grab a spare hour when both of us are in town.
I also spent a couple of days at James Cook's Studio on the Ridge (in glorious Pegram) recording some tunes written by Louisiana's own Monty Russell. Monty co-wrote some Levees tunes with us and his new stuff is as good as ever. Derek happened to be in town, so the band was James, me, Derek, and Kevin Adams. This was actually the band that played on my first solo record. And...well, almost everything else I've ever recorded. It has been occurring to me more and more lately how incredibly lucky I have been in my career to work with musicians of this caliber. And then Kevin Gordon came over to play on a few tunes, as well! I've always wanted to track with Kevin so that was a real treat. As Jace said in a Facebook post, "that's a frighteningly good band."
The next day Kent Slucher came over to play drums and it's always a pleasure playing with Kent. And James whipped up some delicious gumbo and etouffee.
I wonder if, after I've finished writing this, I will go back and figure out how to create links to all this shit. Probably not. Well, you know how to use a search engine.
I'm now proud to be using Way Huge effects pedals, and many thanks to Jeorge Tripps at Way Huge and Bryan Kehoe at Jim Dunlop for bringing me on board. I've particularly been enjoying the Saucy Box overdrive. It's become a kind of platform for my tone, really. It has a superb transparency that augments my tone without coloring it too much or muddying it.
I don't have an endorsement deal yet with Elixir strings, but I've decided to ignore that and just act like I do have a deal with them. So I'm proud to announce that I'm now an official artist with Elixir strings!
I also endorse Magnatone amps and Nash Guitars, even though Nash doesn't do endorsements! This is going really well. I endorse Edward's Key Lime Pies, Patak's Lime Pickle Relish, and Frye Boots.
So I took a vacation, which I haven't really done...well, ever. It's not that I'm such a hard worker, it's just that when I do have time off I sit at home because the last thing you want to do when you're off the road is travel. But Mom and Dad and Matt and Nikki and David had planned a trip to the Badlands and neighboring stuff and I wanted in. And it was amazing.
Mom planned a fantastic trip covering Ashfall Fossil Beds, Badlands National Park, Rushmore, Crazy Horse and the Black Hills, Wind Cave National Forest, Carhenge and Fred's Fucked-Up Flying Car Thingamajig.
We ate and drank and took pictures of mountains and streams and tractors and lightning and Roam and more pictures of Roam and more pictures of food and some more pictures of Roam.
And then some eating. And then we looked at some mammoth and rhino bones. And that made us hungry so we ate some more.
We figured out the last time we were all on vacation (on a trip) together as a family was 1993 in Chicago, where we went to the Windy City Classic at Wrigley Field and watched Michael Jordan, already bizarrely wrapped in a White Sox uniform, go 2-for-3 with a double. And we ate a lot of food and Matt and I split a bottle of Jack Daniels and met Buddy Guy.
I took 160 Gigabytes of photo and video, so I'll be wading through that for a while, but then there will be a funny video or two or seven about our journey.
That's basically what I've been up to. Things seem to be going great. See you down the road.