Happy Holidays 2005

I’d like to wish everyone the happiest of holidays.

This has been quite a year. I hardly know where to begin. I’m just home from a lovely trip to the Northeast where I had some gigs. I got to spend some time with some great friends, too, Sally Rogers and Howie Bursen, Martin Grosswendt (and his charming twin daughters), Steve Moscov, Mary Faith Rhodes (of John Pearse Strings), Jackson Buck and a few others. I played gigs with Paul Geremia (Johnny D’s in Boston), Peter Lang (Godfrey Daniel’s in Bethlehem, Pa.) , and Doug Yeomans (The Sportsman’s Bar in Buffalo) on this tour in addition to some solo concerts. One highlight is always the Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. I was on that stage for the first time some 33 years ago, and they’re still going strong! Did a couple of house concerts, too, one at Sally and Howie’s in Connecticut and the other at Jimmy Nikora’s place in Madison, on the way home. I love doing house concerts. No PA, no fuss, no muss. The drive was great, too, thanks in no small measure to my trusty iPod. I got to spend a few hours with my friend Fred Oster at Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia. I’m afraid I drooled all over his collection. Man, the guitars that guy has! It’s not nice to covet, but I did get a good case of the guitar lust while I was there. While I was on tour the Winter 2006 issue of SingOut! came out. There’s a very nice article about me in there written by Jerry Clark, one of my oldest and closest friends. Pick up a copy if you can. The article is full of all kinds of useless information. Seriously, it’s great to be featured in this venerable publication and I’m really honored.

A bit earlier this year I reconnected with my old friend Lonnie Knight and recorded his latest CD in my studio. Lonnie is doing my website now and he’s doing a great job. Lots of updates, more to come. Check out his album, too. Speaking of the studio, Pop Wagner has been in finishing up his latest album, and I’ve been recording a few folks (Joe Price, the Ditch Lillies, Charlie Parr, myself) for the new National Resophonic audio catalog. I’ll be mastering that project next week. Speaking of National, I’ve got a new National Baritone guitar. This one is a single-cone wood-bodied thing that is simply blowing me out of the water. Holy moly! Those guys just keep getting better and better. You can check out their website at www.nationalguitars.com. Speaking of nice new guitars, the Martin company sponsored my gig at Godfrey Daniel’s in Bethlehem, Pa. last month. They asked me to play one of their instruments for part of the show and brought over a lovely OM-18GE for me to play. A fabulous new guitar. A big thank you to the folks at Martin for that. I was sorry to give it back.

In January I had my annual winter trip to California where I got to hang out for three weeks or so. I did several gigs including one with Steve James, and that’s always fun. I got to hang out in Seal Beach with David Quinn (the fabulous furniture maker—www.quinndesigns.com), saw all my friends from National Reso-Phonic, and then went up North to Santa Cruz and the Bay area. Steve Palazzo is holding down the fort in Santa Cruz, teaching guitar, putting on house concerts, putting up wayward musicians and generally being one of the world’s great guys. My old friend Barb Montoro (she played bass on Hull’s Victory) lives out there so I got to see her, too. I did a show at Eric Schoenberg’s shop in Tiburon, too, and, as is my habit, drooled all over his collection. Man, the guitars that guy has!

This last spring I got to go back to England for the first time in over 30 years for a couple of gigs in Oxford. I also did a concert in Sligo, Ireland. It was a wonderful trip to both countries except it was entirely too short. Hopefully I’ll get to return before too long; I had a blast. The people were wonderful and the gigs were great. Big thanks to Duck Baker for the digs in London,  the Richardsons of Dublin and Aoife Flynn in Sligo. Couldn’t have done it without you all.

It’s been a tough year, too. In early June Steve Alarik passed away of an apparent heart attack. Steve managed the old Coffeehouse Extempore here in Minneapolis for many years in the 1970s and was a big part of our scene. A couple weeks later Dean Carr passed away. Dean was the first musician I met when I came here from Fargo in late 1969. He was a big fish around here in those days, one of the established guitarists. I was green, very green, and Dean’s generosity of spirit and friendship were really appreciated. He left the music business, but never the guitar. As shocking as these losses were nothing could have prepared me for the loss of my old partner Sean Blackburn. Sean and I traveled together for 10 years and made three records. Over the last dozen years or so I’d seen quite a bit of Sean and he was really doing well—singing better than ever, content, happy and together. I miss him more than I can say. He really was my brother. We did a couple of memorial concerts for him, one in Denver and one here in Minneapolis and we set up a memorial for him, as well. There’s information about this here on my website so if you have a mind, please check it out.

My radio show on KFAI continues, much to my amazement. Community radio is really important and this is my volunteer gig. My show did really well during the pledge drives this year (over 16k between the two drives) and that’s particularly amazing for a show on a weekday morning. You can listen to it anytime online; the individual shows are archived for two weeks.

My friend David Alderson continues to handle my bookings both on solo shows and with the Minnesota Guitar Wizards (with Peter Lang, Tim Sparks, Phil Heywood and sometimes Dean Magraw). I’m planning a short trip to southern California in January, some work in the Midwest in the spring, another trip out west later in the spring and hopefully another trip across the water this summer. I expect to be spending some time in the studio, too, and with luck I’ll have a new album before too long.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of stuff and not mentioning a lot of people but at my age that’s what happens. Please stop by and say hi at one of the gigs over the next year. And thanks a ton for the support.