Tucson Opry May 30

First Tucson Opry at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, AZ. Hosted by Chris Brashear and Peter McLaughlin, house band the Hot Club of Tucson and special guests Salvador Duran, the Small Glories and Whitney Rose.

San Juan River Music Trip July 2022

Join us for a four night, three day San Juan River rafting trip. Music, side hikes, petroglyphs, geologic and natural wonders. Ask for Cody Little at https://www.tsekoohoutfitters.com/

See you on the river!

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.


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.


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.


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


At the Lumberyard

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