Author - Paul Schatzkin

Old Folks Night At The Bluebird

Under the Neon Bluebird: On the left, Don Henry;
hiding under hats L-R: Tom Kimmel, Dana Cooper and Michael Lille

The Bluebird Cafe figured pretty prominently in my early days/years in Nashville.  I went there a lot.  I don’t go there as much as I used to.  Since the venue was a featured location in the TeeVee show Nashville for several seasons, it is near the top of most visitors’ ‘must see/do’ list when they come to Music City – which means reservations are very hard to come by unless you jump on the website within minutes of tickets going on sale.

It’s kinda like Yogi Berra once said of a popular club in New York,

Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded.

I don’t monitor the Bluebird schedule like I used to, and if Dana Cooper hadn’t called me and let me know this show was happening, I would have been kicking myself if I heard about it after the fact.

Because all of these guys – especially Michael Lille and Tom Kimmel – played a pivotal role in those early years.

I think I first heard Michael Lille at the Commodore Club on West End in 1994.  The first thing I noticed about Michael was his approach to the guitar, it had a very ‘Michael Hedges/New Age’ quality to it – very unlike the shredding metal sound I heard from most plugged-in acoustic guitars (I still hate that sound).   Then he performed a song called ‘Life On the Run’. The song describes a trip Michael took to Indonesia, and waking up to the sound of “laughing children at the edge of the sea” – and contrasts that to his (our) lives in Western what–we–call ‘Civilization.’   I’ll put the only recording of the song in a playlist below, here’s the chorus:

They kneel on the ground
And raise their heads up to the sky
And thank the lord for another day begun
The wheel goes around
Far away on the other side
You and I live life on the run

To this day I cite that as the moment I realized that there was more to Nashville than the popular perception (think Hee Haw) that most people outside the 440 beltway have of the city – that there is a deep well of talent that flourishes just beneath the thin crust of mainstream country music business.  That was one of the two primary motivations at work when I started to ask the people I was meeting ‘what would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet?’ This was 1995, so a common answer was ‘what’s the Internet?’

Similarly, I met Tom Kimmel at the Bluebird,  in roughly the same time frame that I met Michael Lille. I was still on a bit of a ‘spiritual’ quest at the time – I had worked ‘A Course in Miracles’ while I was living in Los Angeles before coming to Nashville.  I heard Tom perform a song called Angels.  That chorus also resonated with me:

We’re lifted up by Angels
Higher than the world
Strong enough to leave it
Bound to learn the secrets
Angels never heard
We’re lifted up by Angels

I was still playing a bit myself in those days, covers mostly. When the show was over, I introduced myself to Tom and asked if he had a recording of Angels that I could learn the song from. Tom said it was not recorded on any of his CDs but kindly offered to send me a cassette and lead sheet and I learned the song from that.

Fast forward to the spring of 1995: Tom was one of the first people I approached with the idea of selling CDs on the Internet.  Unlike most of the people I spoke with, Tom had some idea what I was talking about because he had participated in the “Internet Quartets” – a traveling series of Bluebird-style ‘in the round’ shows promoted by folk-on-the-web pioneer Alan Rowoth.

“That’s a great idea!” Tom said, “I’ve been thinking I need a home page of my own.”  He not only needed a home page, he volunteered to help with the enterprise.  He introduced me to Michael Camp singer/songwriter with some tech experience.  The three of us talked it over, we each pitched in ~$300 to secure some server space and a domain – which turned out to be ‘songs.com‘ – and the rest is history.  Ancient history by now.

Dana Cooper, the Hardest Working Road Warrior in All of Show Business, was one of the first people we signed on to the service.

And Don Henry… well, I started talking to Don in the early days but never quite managed to get him on the site.  I’m glad to see he’s finally got a website.

So, I go waaaaay back with all these guys, and it was just heart warming to hear them all again for one night.

As he was introducing his first song, Tom told a story about the first time he ever played at the Bluebird, “for a room full of little old ladies…”  And I could not restrain myself from blurting out from my seat,

Tom, those old ladies are our age now!

So, yeah: Old Folks Night at The Bluebird 🤣.

I had the presence of mind to bring my camera:

 

And I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorites of their recordings.  Not all of these songs were performed that night, but some of them were.  I have included two tracks from Dana Cooper’s latest CD, I Can Face The Truth – which Dana said that night is his 30th album!  I’ll will have more to say about that one in a future post.

In the meantime…

 

Our National Dilemma…

…as neatly crystalized in the title of a podcast that showed up in my RSS feed last week.

Commentary Magazine is a tolerable source of conservative perspective on current affairs – which is to say, a useful alternative to the MAGA/QAnon/Tucker Looney Tunes that passes for ‘conservative’ in some circles these days.  This episode offered a recap of the recent primary elections in Ohio and Nebraska and a preview of the primary in Pennsylvania.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

I  keep sources like ‘Commentary’ and Andrew Sullivan in my daily infostream – along with the usual left-leaning sources like the NYTimes and Wonkette – just to keep the Fitzgerald Quadrant of my cerebral cortex in reasonable working order.

This Just In:
Why Ya Gotta Love Baseball

In the 1980s, when I was living in Hawaii, Ted Turner’s WTBS cable superstation was our only live TeeVee and I started watching Atlanta Braves games My new-found fandom was eventually rewarded with tickets to the first World Series game ever played in the former Confederacy, Game 3 of the 1991 Series between Atlanta and the Minnesota Twins.

Sometime during those years I went to San Diego to see the Braves play the Padres.  I was rooting for the visiting team.  What surprised me was the derision and verbal abuse directed at me (and my then first future ex-wife Georja) just because we had come to San Diego to root for the Braves.

How absurd, I thought.  Show some respect for the opposition: If there was no opposing team there would be no game for fucksake*.

I think that’s why I found this story so heartwarming:

Watch Blue Jays fan’s gesture after Aaron Judge
 home run bring young Yankees fan to tears

(I originally saw this story in an online publication called The Athletic, but that site is behind paywall so I found another source with similar footage)

I hope to read in tomorrow’s sportsball news that Aaron Judge found Derek Rodriquez before today’s game and signed that ball for him.

Baseball: possible evidence that there is a loving God.  Even in San Diego.

–––

*This rule does not apply in Boston.  If you go to a Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway Park, you root for the Red Sox, I don’t care what team you grew up with.

 

A Word About This Month’s ‘Buster’

Back in May of 2020 – during the pandemic –  I got a kitten.

The woman who gave me the kitten told it was a male, and for some reason now lost to posterity I started calling him “Buster.”

When I took Buster to the vet, they informed me that the kitten was actually female.  I was relieved because snuggling a male cat seemed oddly gay to me (yeah, I know, #homophobic).

However, In the interest of gender neutrality I kept the name (does that mean I have to declare her pronouns?).

Buster is now a full grown cat,  but for the sake of those who are new to the list or missed the original posts, I think I’ll go back and use photos from the first year in the banner for the weekly(ish) ‘Buster Sez Hey!’ emails.

The one that I’m using this month (May, 2022) is from the first weekend I had her.  She’s pretty much ‘fresh outta the box’ I brought her home with in this one.

Buster Comes Home, May 28, 2020
*

Signs of the Season 5
The Elusive “Green Fringe”

Fall is my favorite season, but the middle of April is my favorite time of the year.

That’s  when the foliage begins to return, when the grey landscape of winter takes on a fringe of green.

I see it everywhere – on my morning walks,  when I’m driving around and see a hill in the distance that has begun to show hints of the green to come.

It’s the fringe, and its suggestion of renewal (another winter survived!) that appeals to me.

But, boy, is that fringe hard to capture in a photo.

Here are a few attempts.

Not my best work ever, but, well… you get the idea.

In another week or two, the foliage will be filled in, summer will near, and the scene won’t change much util October.

These photos were shot with an iPhone 13 Pro and edited in Adobe Lightroom and Luminar Neo.

And if you have any doubt as to the fleeting quality of the weeks just past, well, this is what my neighborhood looks like now (May 2, 2022):

The Last Dandelion

Every morning for the past several years now (thanks, Jerry), the first thing I do once I hoist myself out of bed is put on my sneakers and go for a two-or-three mile walk before I re-plant myself in a chair with my coffee and laptop.

Over the past week  or so (late April) it seems this year’s crop of dandelions have all come and gone.  Mostly they look like this now:

…which is to say, they have scattered their seed to the wind and what remains will return to the earth for another year.

But a couple of mornings ago, I found one that was nestled in among some bushes, still completely intact in its ‘just before it all gets blown away’ phase.   It made a nice image with the macro lens on my iPhone 13 Pro.

***Wisdom From A Typewriter #65***

I was not familiar with the author Emily St. John Mandel until earlier this year when I tuned into the HBO Limited Series Station Eleven – the ‘show about a pandemic created in the middle of a pandemic.’  That series was simply one of the most compelling things I’ve watched on the TeeVee in the past year, at least.

This past week I learned – via Ezra Klein’s podcast – that Mandel (St. John Mandel?) has a released a new novel, Sea of Tranquility. 

I found this quotation in the in the first few pages.  Kinda reminds me of myself… I go through life with the pin in one had and the grenade in the other, wondering where I’m gonna toss it….

Also, it’s a perfectly sublime Sunday afternoon here in the Treehouse with Buster.  I am not missing working in the mall on weekends.