with Flynn Cohen in Amherst on te%

The Old Pueblo

The Old Pueblo- Chris Brashear, House of Hollis Music ©2011, ASCAP

 

When I’m sad and blue

There’s a place that I find

That I go back to from time to time

I leave New England and its rain and snow

To the Old Pueblo is where I want to go

To the Old Pueblo is where I want to go

 

 

In the Old Pueblo where I spend my time

The streets I walk bathed in sunshine

A home I love and never leave behind

And friends I have that give me peace of mind

Dear friends I have that give me peace of mind

 

We’ve run those rivers, walked the trails

Saw the desert stars heard the coyotes wail

And when I die I want to stay right there

With the cactus, sage and creasote air

With the cactus, sage and creasote air

 

 

The lightning streaks across the southern sky

Where clouds billow up

Holding rain on high

It’s pourin’ down away over there

On the other side of town

But here the streets are bare

On the other side of town

But here the streets are bare

 

 

I don’t mind the heat as much as some folks do

The older I get it just feels better too

Climb Frog Mountain when it gets real bad

Take a breather up there

In the cool, fresh air

Take a breather up there

In the cool, fresh air

 

 

When I’m sad and blue

There’s a place that I find

That I go back to from time to time

I leave New England and its rain and snow

To the Old Pueblo is where I want to go

To the Old Pueblo is where I want to go

 

And it’s way out West where I want to go…

Robert Fraker: A Remembrance

Robert Fraker: A Remembrance

 

On a particularly frigid evening a few years ago, Robert and Lillian Fraker came here to my house in Amherst for our usual festive dinner and a few hours of music making.  Robert came through the door, eyes beaming. As we were sharing our first pour of red wine, he practically purred as he spoke of the glory of a deep cold night, the stars clear above and the snow glistening below.

 

Ah, memories. Where do we keep them? How many do we have? Thankfully, when I think of Robert, I know I’ll have quite a few of them. Perhaps more importantly, all the ones that rush to me, like that very first one above, leave me with the same warm feeling. This is, of course, exactly what Robert wanted to leave to us, his friends and family. A more erudite gentleman and compassionate soul you will never meet.

 

There’s no mistaking that Robert shared a few qualities with my dad, though their personalities certainly differed considerably. Robert, like my dad, was driven by a curious nature; and reading books was as satisfying and necessary as food. I grew up in a house where the house inside overflowed with bookcases, and my dad lined one wall of the garage with more bookcases, floor to ceiling. I learned early on that people who read, and read a lot, know things I want to know about. I tend to gravitate to folks like this, and they are often older than me.

 

Robert and Lillian are in the book and manuscript business. The first time I ventured out to their office with Robert one day, he couldn’t wait to show me several special manuscripts they had collected. These were things that would eventually end up in special collections or university libraries. A letter from a Lincoln contemporary, treatises on early American agricultural practices and poetry from lesser-known New England writers were all in his purview. His excitement was palpable and, with the green, lush countryside surrounding the house, you felt like Winnie Pooh was showing you his honey pots.

 

People don’t realize it, but this is the stuff of greatness. I can hear Lillian cackle at that, but it’s true. Like Robert’s old mandolin, the old songs he sang and the old tunes he played, all this history stuff matters. It just takes the right people to care about it enough to not let it slip away.

 

Which brings me to his passion that brought us together in the first place: music. As you might expect, Robert had a broad appreciation of music with respect to genres. But he was a devoted listener and practitioner of old-time and bluegrass music. I mean the real stuff, lonesome or hard-driving, danceable, gritty, raw and daring. And he loved to sing. He wrote songs and tunes, and some very good ones. I recorded one of his tunes, Louisville Suite. (As we like to say, “it’s a mighty fine number.”) I was honored that he liked some of my songs. It wasn’t long after I first met Robert and Lillian that we started to get together for informal music sessions. I was surprised to find they had learned the lyrics and parts to a number of my songs and were ready to sing them! That’s another example of joy that money can’t buy.

 

Robert loved the island of Crete, and he and Lillian traveled numerous times over the years. My own experience living in and traveling periodically to Italy and Betsy’s own work as an anthropologist in Italy was always of interest to Robert. When we would get together, there was generally a lot of talk, debriefing on our latest travels and current projects– and our experiences of having a deep connection with people and places outside our own country. It is clear to me that the gentle and engaging Robert that we all knew here at home was the same one known to his friends in Crete.

 

When I received word that Robert had passed away, I looked outside my window and saw the wind stirring the tree limbs and rustling the early buds now on display. Being around Robert Fraker was always reaffirmation that the best things in life are right in front of you, to nurture and be nurtured by and to be forever grateful for.

 

I’m heartbroken but ever so thankful to have had Robert in my life.

 

5/4/2017

 

Holidays 2016

As we enter the holiday season, I’m happy to announce some exciting things that will help start the new year. Or, maybe, will help ease the pain given the fraught political climate.

First, I’m very excited with the release of the Piedmont Melody Makers CD, Wonderful World Outside. Along with Alice Gerrard, Jim Watson and Cliff Hale, this CD has 16 great tracks of old-time country and bluegrass music. That’s right, I’m bragging about it because I love it. Check it out and get yourself a copy if you haven’t already.

In early February of 2017 you can expect the release of Songs for the Southwest, a CD collaboration with Todd Phillips and Peter McLaughlin. This is a recording of all original songs about the Southwest and the Colorado Plateau and was the culmination of a song writing residency provided by the Museum of Northern Arizona. Again, some very beautiful music here, carefully produced and arranged by Todd Phillips. I can’t wait to hold this one in my hands.

Finally, I’m looking forward to performing as part of a special concert on January 18, 2017 at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA. This concert, In It Together, is sponsored by the Watermelon Wednesdays concert series and will also be a fund raiser for some regional organizations working on social justice issues.

Check the tour/home page for all performance information.

Peace and love everyone. Keep sowing the seeds and fertilize it with the music too.

Chris

Lost Soldier Son

Lost Soldier Son © Chris Brashear (House of Hollis Music, ASCAP)

our family is proud of their lost soldier son
not because they believe in the flag or a gun
they miss him because they remember him well
and loved him so dearly for the day that he fell
 
all I knew was a picture some stories they told
about young carl junior that good hearted boy
we had a connection I’ll tell it to you
he liked the good music now just like I do
 
I see a kind face staring down from the wall
every time that I pass through my grandparent’s hall
it’s almost reflection his face so like mine
my uncle carl junior now in the grave lyin’
 
my mother remembers the day that she heard
as she learned of her brother she spoke not a word
a small yellow paper received on that day
it read killed in action in France far away
 
they still love him dearly it all seems so sad
grandmother, grandfather, my mother and dad
they cherish the last things he won from afar
that one purple heart and a bright silver star
 
now nothing can bring the boy back to the fold
but his precious memory ever lovingly hold
when the music is playing and we’re all gathered there
our spirits rekindled no more to despair
 
our family is proud of their lost soldier son
not because they believe in the flag or a gun
they miss him because they remember him well
and loved him so dearly for the day that he fell

Santa Fe Train

Santa Fe Train © Chris Brashear (House of Hollis Music, ASCAP)

I think of times when I was young
I traveled near and far
it doesn’t seem so long ago
I saw the world from a railroad car
 
for many years, rode the line
through the boone’s lick
the great train would roll
cross fields of grain, muddy river plain
my heart would often go
 
(chorus)
 
the engineer’s hair is gray
the worn out engine can’t even go slow
I listen for that lonesome sound
can’t you hear that whistle blow
 
I spy ten boxcars silent and still
they remind me of yesterday
their rusted frames worn and bent
faded letters read santa fe
 
the great steam engine’s quiet and cold
the metal chimes in the howling wind
the boiler’s rusted, whistle cracked
never hear her blow again

Post election 2016- Ruminations

As we watched the results come in on election night, 2016, the sinking feeling started early and bottomed out in what was, for me, a sleepless night. God– all of those creepy scenes from apocalyptic movies, roaming armed bandits, fascists, and the general disintegration of civil society– somehow now seemed as plausible as a Trump presidency. That kind of mind racing wore me out pretty fast, and, I knew, was not going to help me anyway. Like most everyone, I had to get up in the morning. The hounds are barking, but they aren’t at the door.

In less than ninety days, though, they will be. Not for me, but quite possibly for hundreds of thousands of young people currently protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enacted by President Obama in 2012. This represents one of the many real problems that the Republicans (re= fascists) in control now face if they try to enact what they say they will do. They will soon discover a very unruly country to govern.

Hillary Clinton was a disaster for the Democratic Party. I saw it coming, though I did not predict she would lose to Donald Trump. I make no claims to clairvoyance. Hillary was the unfortunate albatross for a party that has abandoned the working class for at least a generation. The Democratic Party had been the go-to place for progressives, women, and minorities because it advocated for them– enough anyway– on civil rights issues affecting them. But in the world of neoliberal economics, money comes first. So unions faded into the background or disappeared entirely, and Right-To-Work states began to pop up all over the map. New jobs began to mean low-wage jobs. And where was the Democratic Party?

The Democratic Party is in ashes. Bernie is already scrambling to set up a new house. I do think there is hope there, because the economic message is there. And, for all of its faults, the Democratic Party embraces diversity and looks like the America that actually exists.

There are so many critiques of this election, my head is spinning with them. A lot of them are very nuanced and smart, and I like reading them. We still don’t know exactly how things will play out. I ran into my neighbors next door who were on their daily walk. We stood there and kind of shook our heads in dismay over the election. Bruce said, “Well, we’ll just take care of each other.” I loved that, because that’s what it’s all about.

Resist, organize and take care of each other.

11/13/2016

Ranch Hands- Chapter 2

The Story of Fiddlin’ Doc and his Red Gate Ranch Hands- Chapter 2

When The Golden Leaves Begin To Fall, that’s a good number, one of my favorites,” Doc said, seated at the bar. Alex scooted a beer into Doc’s hands.

Alex: “Well, Doc, you seem to have a song for every season and occasion,” the bartender chuckled. “I’m looking forward to hearing the Ranch Hands again. What’s it been? Seven months or so?””

Doc: “Yeah, I can’t get down here with them boys too much. Hard work in the summer and everyone goin’ which-a-way.”

Doc listened quietly to the murmur of conversations emanating from various tables and bar stools around the restaurant. He’d begun to feel more at home here at the Lumberyard, and he would come in from time to time. Cindy Nelson would almost always be there to greet him; he’d tip his Stetson hat to her and then stride over to the quiet corner of the bar. The light was just right, and there was usually some music playing in the background. The menu parchment was turned to the small plates. He had a particular craving for the crispy Brussel sprouts.

Alex strolled back to the end of the bar to check on the old cowboy.

Alex: “So, how are you feeling after the election?”

Doc leaned back, breathed in slowly, exhaled and rested up against the bar counter.

Doc: “I think that Trump feller is worth less than a spoiled ham. Looks like one too. Craziest election I’ve ever seen. Remember what Will Rogers said? ‘A fool and his money are soon elected.’ Will was arguably the smartest man to ever throw a lariat– and good at it too. Well, you know, it’s all put me of a mind to bring out a new song. But the Ranch Hands like to play the classics, you know.”

Alex: “Well, Doc, there’s no crime against doing your own song. At least, not yet. What’s it about?”

Doc: “Did you hear about them Bundys out in Oregon? Well, they may be ranchers, but I don’t see how that means they shouldn’t pay no taxes or have all that federal range land for themselves. I don’t abide by that. So I wrote a song about Cliven Bundy. Damn fool,” Doc snorted.

Alex: “Wow! I can’t wait to hear that one.”

Doc: “Well, I might try it once if the boys want to. It’ll swing and have a good beat to it, some good changes.”

Alex: “Fantastic!”

Doc: “I think we might do Don’t Fence Me In. That’s one of my favorites that the Sons of the Pioneers used to do. I always liked the message in that one.”

Alex: “Seems like that story really connected to you.”

Doc: “I’ve been raising livestock for a long time. I know what fences are for. But that land out there with no fences on it is where any cowboy leaves his heart. That is the country as it should be, and it belongs to everyone.”

“One more…” Doc continued, looking sadly through his tired, hazel eyes…. “that suggests itself to me.” Rubbing his chin pensively, in a slow, ruminating voice: “Somewhere Between…There’s a wall so high, it reaches the sky, somewhere between me and you. That’s a Merle song. And it seems to fit somehow. Right now. I think it is a song I need to sing.”

The bartender walked back over to the beer tap and carefully poured another glass of fall amber. He parked the glass in front of the Fiddlin’ Doc.

Alex: “Doc, this one is on the house.”

Fiddlin’ Doc and his Red Gate Ranch Hands

–Live!!!–

At the Lumberyard

Saturday, November 19, 7:00 p.m.

Review- The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, At The Ryman

I remember that vinyl record so well. The white cover with the Civil War figure in the middle, the studio photos of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Mother Maybelle Carter, Vassar Clements and the Dirt Band members, and all the rest. In a lot of ways, the original Circle album had everything I needed as a young musician just beginning to explore the guitar, banjo and fiddle. I was not alone, as almost every musician I’ve ever known in the bluegrass world has a copy. Musician friends I know in the “triangle” area of North Carolina do an annual show, performing songs from the original recording. For many folks, it was the recording that introduced them to a few foundational musicians in roots country music. But it wasn’t just that. The music was alive; you could hear Earl Scruggs or Roy Acuff talking, and then they’d kick off a song.  Doc Watson said, “How does it go Vassar?” and Vassar Clements launches into Down Yonder. You felt like you were right there with them. The recording was made and released in 1972. That was an election year. Richard Nixon won in a landslide. Remember what happened to him? I do.

So, here we are in 2016, only days after a tumultuous Presidential election that has left many of us bewildered and uncertain about the days ahead. I’d say we need the Will The Circle Be Unbroken song– and the spirit of these recordings, past and present– now as much as ever.

On this fine collection recorded live at The Ryman Auditorium, current NGDB members Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, John McEuen and Bob Carpenter are joined by Jimmy Ibbotson, Vince Gill, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglass, Byron House, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell and Jackson Browne. It is a relaxed and heart-felt performance that is a trip down memory lane. The NGDB, in many ways are a conduit band for what we now just call “Americana” music. They could embrace west-coast rock & roll and 70’s popular music with country, blues and bluegrass.

From Jackson Browne singing Truthful Parson Brown to Alison Krauss singing Keep On The Sunnyside, this celebration of 50 years of the NGDB is a winning combination of songs and musicians collaborating to make music that says where they came from– and, hopefully, continues to inspire musicians in the future. It still works for me.

Chris Brashear