I haven’t done a newsletter since the holidays. But I have been posting via Instagram, Facebook & Twitter- and you can follow me via the top right of my site. I've also taken to Pinterest to organize my favorite articles and areas of interest. Which is another way to say that I'm an information hoarder. Or a seriously curious cat. Feel free to add me here and I'll follow you back! Anyhow, please scroll down for a grand roundup of my musical life since the holidays:
This is a photo that Fiona Dickinson took of me before a solo house show that Tom Hymn put together in Grand Rapids. I had a great time trying out new material that I've consistently been writing in between other music work. I also played a set of solo music at Northern Naturals in Traverse City. It was nice to share a bill at one of my favorite Michigan venues and trade back-ups with my friend Gitis Baggs.
I also worked for the Gift Of Music after-school Program again this past season in conjunction with Communities In Schools. I worked with a handful of teachers, some of whom are in the "twang-rock & jelly roll" band The Go Rounds, and my hip-hop, psych-soul band Maraj. Watching The Go Rounds rock a music-style mash-up at the beginning of our classes was a true marvel. Here’s a picture and a video by Cam Tarnas in all it's free wheelin' glory!
This has also been a year of benefits for me. I played for the WMU Peace Center benefit with Bowhunter, the JFON Benefit with Maraj, The ISLAND Institute Benefit with Gitis Baggs, and the Follow The Buffalo benefit that I coordinated with a songwriter-in-the-round theme. I capped off the benefit season by playing fiddle tunes with the Square Dance Kalamazoo board at the twice annual all ages square dance.
My band MARAJ also had a HUGE dose of excitement this past February. Here’s a post that I wrote in the midst of the hoopla: “MARAJ made this NPR Music list of 10 featured entries out of nearly 7,000 bands in the contest. We're so hyped and grateful!!! "On "Gettaway," the eclectic Kalamazoo, Mich. hip-hop collective fuses styles and spits lyrics in a way that awed judge and All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton: "The moment it ended I cued it back up to the beginning and watched it all over again. Great flow, incredible charisma. Just a very magnetic, captivating performance. I was also moved by the simple message of hope for better times. It was the first video I gave a perfect score." Here’s the full NPR article.
Check out this "Move On It" single if you’re curious to hear what my Coopdeville self sounds like in Maraj. I'm the one starting out the track with a rapping hook.
The shot above is from a show we played at the new Majestic Theater cafe in Detroit. The shot to the left is from playing at this year's Jammie awards show in Grand Rapids. It's been great to play there several times this past year.
Maraj also opened for Vox Vidorra at Founders in Grand Rapids for their CD release party this spring. They gave one of the most moving performances I've seen in a long time. They had a string section, a full, tight band and a one Molly Shultz who had me utterly entranced with her voice and her embodiment of each song. I highly recommend getting their new album and melting accordingly.
Maraj also played a free show at Bells Brewery this spring. It was particularly magical to vibe off of the springtime, post finals vibe of the crowd. If only we could have a crew of vivacious dance students rocking OUT in the front row at all future shows!
Ken Campbell photographed this sweet scene below from a surprise party thrown in honor of Tony Roth- or T-Rex Roth as he's known in Kalamazoo. I was really glad I could make this party. Tony and Joyce are not only integral to the Kalamazoo music scene, but they're also important friends, mentors, and parental figures for me. I wrote a birthday song for Tony that I played there to the tune of the old-school birthday song that I first heard Frank Youngman play at the Wheatland Music Festival. I gotta admit, I was more nervous to play that song than I've been before many-a-show. But it was totally worth it to see Tony & Joyce cracking up- or to hear them rather... I was looking down in attempts to remember the new song and not break out laughing myself.
You can learn more about Miss Muse here.
And on to the other side of the musical spectrum...
This April, my friend Fiona Dickinson and I played at Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for an annual event put on by Spectrum Health called "Evening Of Remembrance". We played for 4-500 people who had experienced loss in the last year, and who were connected to the Spectrum Health Hospice Program. It was a real honor to play music for this service, and a treat to soak in a line of harpists playing as people were being seated. This experience also gave me more encouragement to develop and offer a program of hospice music in the future.
Here's a photo from a great contra dance that I played with my string band Bowhunter in Traverse City, and another photo us os playing for the New England Literature Program's 40th anniversary party in Ann Arbor. The guest in the second photo is our folklorist, fiddling friend Emily Hilliard who runs a pie blog called Nothing In The House.
This is a shot taken while singing a tune called "Peg & Awl", which is an old traditional song that we recorded an arrangement of on Micah Ling's new album Kingdom Come. This was during an Earthwork show in Traverse City to make up for one that got snowed out earlier this winter.
In early May, I played a basement show in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo has a rich DIT scene, which is short for do it together. You can check out the DIT Kalamazoo blog here to get a better idea. Anyhow, I was excited to play with a great bill of women musicians, and even more excited when I realized that the show was in the same house that I lived in for a spell in college.
Another highlight from this spring was recording a song for an untitled Michigan basement tapes project that Matt Jones is taking on. I was initially wondering how Matt was gonna follow up that great Deep Enders record. Knowing Matt, this seems perfect. This project already has people sparking and talking and perking their ears up, and sharpening their craft- and taking risks in a basement with their friends. I can't wait to hear this statewide lo-fi scene mixer compilation amalgamation. It's turned into a mammoth responsibility, but Mr. Jones is a natural behind the Tascam and a modern day Alan Lomax, turns out.
This spring, I’ve been working part time again for SEEDS with the Quest program. “SEEDS is a nonprofit organization with a 15 year tradition of partnership and arts integration in northwest Michigan. The Earthwork Music Collective believes in the intrinsic power of music to raise community and self-awareness. Together, we are planning a journey - a quest - to reconnect K-12 youth to their own sources of creativity, power and voice.” This year’s theme is local food, and a rotating group of musicians will be writing songs with kids in northern Michigan cities until the showcase performance on July 2nd.
And now I have finally, nearly caught up with myself. What a quarter (and some change) it has been... Now I have a little more time on my hands until the last push of SEEDS work, and before the summer season of music festivals, recording projects and work on my own slow-burn of an album. Thanks for reading friends.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.