Dear Companions, Another year has drawn to a close and it has been in many ways a great one for us. Tom Rozum, the Right Hands, and I have traveled perhaps a bit too much, but there is nothing that I would look back and say no to if I had a choice to do it again. We have seen incredible natural beauty, from the hills of southern Tennessee to the piney woods and placid waters of New Hampshire; the saguaro and palo verde of southern Arizona to the driftless area of Wisconsin; the Sawtooth Range of Idaho; and all manner of places in between. And all the while, we have been lucky enough to play music with great musicians, making new friends and renewing bonds with old friends. Somehow, we have managed to mostly be in places of great beauty, so no complaints (except that my camera died in July and I have yet to replace it). I feel blessed and lucky to be alive and well.
This last year has not been without its great sorrows, though, and we have had to say goodbye to some of our heroes and dear friends. Among them Warren Hellman, Hazel Dickens, Warren Argo, Kenny Baker, Wilma Lee Cooper, Jim Rothermel, and Bill Bardin. This seems to be happening more and more each year, and I guess that's just part of the deal if you live long enough... the trick is to stay engaged and to love even with the knowledge that we my have to part before we're good and ready. Make way for new life!
Happy New Year!
Don't forget to sing early and often.
In the month of July, Tom Rozum and I saw perhaps more ospreys than either of us have seen in our lives so far. These beautiful "sea eagles" were nesting and raising their huge young all over the Potomac and its tributaries, and were everywhere along the Rogue River in Oregon. A few years ago, seeing an osprey was perhaps a once-a day experience while we were rafting, but this year their numbers seem to have exploded. This seems like it can only be a good sign for the health of the rivers, and we welcome them back!
Our month on the East Coast was fantastic, with so many different sorts of experiences coming so fast that I can hardly remember anything. This is a good argument for keeping a journal, which is my perennial New Year's Eve resolution. Sometimes I keep it, sometimes I don't. This year I definitely should have.
August is shaping up to be a busy month for the band, playing in CA, WA, and WI. Come visit with us if you can.
Don't forget to sing! Laurie
Kenneth Clayton Baker June 26, 1926 - July 8, 2011 Kenny Baker was the fiddler whose individualistic style helped define the music of Bill Monroe for 25 years. When I first saw the Bluegrass Boys in 1972 or 73, Kenny was the Bluegrass fiddler. His fluid bow arm, phrasing, and distinctively swingy tone and attack were often imitated but there were few who could really pull it off. Like them all, I tried, and failed, to be Kenny Baker, and in the meantime became the fiddler I am, whose playing has maybe just a hint of Kenny Baker on my better days . I was lucky enough to meet and jam with Kenny at the Golden West Bluegrass Festival in Norco, CA, when I was a fledgling fiddler. Unlike many members of the "national acts," Kenny used to make the rounds of the campgrounds and hunt up a good jam. I happened to be in the one he chose that weekend. The next day, during Bill Monroe's stage show, when someone hollered out a fiddle tune for Kenny to play (I believe it was "Leather Britches"), Kenny pointed his bow at me and said, "There's a little girl out there plays it better than I do." I was so flustered and pleased by his attention, and of course there wasn't a bit of truth in his statement. He was so supportive of me, and since then whenever we were at the same event, he would go out of his way to talk to me and tease me, which I happily took as a sign of affection. These days, it seems like it gets more and more difficult to tell one player from another on almost any instrument, and I value Kenny Baker's artistry even more. His tone and choice of notes were instantly recognizable, and oh, so beautiful. There will never be another like him.
Best of the West
I am so pleased to tell you that I have been selected by the Folk Alliance Region West to receive their "Best of the West" award this October, at the annual conference, to be held in Eugene, OR, Oct 20-23. Now I'm all in a tizzy about what to wear! Thank You! Tom Rozum and I would like to extend a great big thank you to writer/historian/naturalist John Page Williams, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for his generosity in sharing with us his boat and his knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Special thanks to Luanne Johnson of Biodiversity Works, and semi-finalist for the 2011 Laurie Lewis Friend of Mankind Award, for helping to ease the trials of the road.