Monday, May 31, 2010

Greate people AND great places.

I took the weekend off from blogging, as usual, but it seems like now I have so much to catch up on. Rather than give you the play-by-play, I just want to talk about one thing: people. This has been a fantastic tour, and it's all because of the people I've met along the way.

Every town I've visited has become my new favorite place, every person my new best friend, and every dram my new favorite drink. I think it's some ├╝ber-combination of enjoying both where you are AND who you're with. I've certainly enjoyed the luxury of both.

The best thing I've done here is to stay with the locals, rather than getting hotel rooms for every gig. Of course, that began as a business decision, seeing no other way to make any money on the tour, but I don't think I'd change a thing even if I got a £500 a gig. The breakfasts around a table, multiple home-cooked meals, the backyard vegetable gardens, the musical instruments strewn about apartments and homes, the suggestions you can't find in a guidebook, the residential neighborhoods you'd never otherwise see, the laughter, and the late-night stories, have all made me smile as much as the wonderful audiences in my shows.

Many of the folks I've stayed with I've never met before, and they feel like good friends now. There's a certain beauty in people who offer their homes and couches (and I suppose the people who are willing to accept such an offer). The folks who take that kind of risk are a special breed -- the ones with an eye for adventure. That's all I've got now ...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Indie Record stores and Baked Potatoes.

Greetings from Glasgow. I'm looking forward to tonight's show. It seems like everyone I know has a friend in Glasgow, so I should be meeting lots of friends-of-friends tonight. Last year's show at The Liquid Ship here was a riotous good time. It's also where I learned that Scotch is delicious. I'm looking forward to reinforcing that belief. I haven't had a drink since we left Islay, mostly because it dries my throat out -- a tricky combination when you have long performances daily. But tonight, I think, I'll have a dram with some friends.

Tomorrow we're headed to Edinburgh where I will get to satiate my craving for The Baked Potato Shoppe on Cockburn Street. I will tweet a play-by-play, so come follow me if you are really excited about vegan haggis.

Something else I'm looking forward to is playing an in-store at a fantastic record shoppe in Edinburgh tomorrow at 2:30. The store is called Elvis Shakespeare, which I think is a great name. (By the way, roll your "r" in the word "great" to get a touch of the brogue ... it'll make you giggle. "Grrrrrrreat.") You all know how much I love independent record stores, so I'm especially looking forward to playing there Saturday.

Speaking of record stores, I saw the news that EarX-tacy is moving to the Douglass Loop. That really excites me, both because I'm glad they are able to stay in business and more selfishly because it's really close to my house. Also, now the Douglas Loop has more shoppes than the entire town of Inveraray, Scotland, where I awoke this morning. Now all the Loop needs is a liquor store. Wine Market Deux, please?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

UK Tour update.

Every time I play a show, I have a new favorite city. It's probably wise that i booked my last show in Edinburgh, seeing as Edinburgh is usually my standard answer to the question, "What's your favorite city in the world?" These last few days on the Isle of Islay and the Isle of Mull have been pretty amazing as well though.

Last night's show at The Craignure Inn was fantastic. My voice hurts from the singing and talking, but I feel like I know half the island now. I love that every morning we wake up, venture about the town and on to our next destination ... and somehow we run into friends we made the night before. This morning on the walk to the ferry (yes, we have been on four ferries thus far), a tour bus driver popped his head out and said, "Crackin' good time last night, thanks!" Then we stopped at the little shop on the ferry (these ferries are like small cruise ships), and the shop worker said he'd been listening to Butch's CD.

By the way, a big thank you to all who have bought CDs along the way. It really helps with our travel costs, which are ridiculous. We aren't used to paying $5 a gallon for gas when we're on the road, even though I kind of think Americans should be paying more. That's another argument and another blog...

Tonight we are in Inveraray, Scotland, a lovely town in between the Hebrides and Glasgow. We head to Glasgow tomorrow, so tell your friends there to be at the Liquid Ship on Great Western Road around 8:30. It's a free show, and we're selling CDs cheap so we don't have to take them home with us.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whisky, Islay, Laphroaig specifically

I think part of the reason I adore Scotland is because it reminds me a lot of Kentucky, both in the scenery and the people. There's something a bit more magical about Scotland, however, as if you truly might see a unicorn or dragon or monster. There's also the accent. The brogue counts for a lot.

What reminds me most of Kentucky, however, is the hospitality. On many levels, it's hospitality squared. Everyone I met on Islay, and specifically everyone at Laphroaig, went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of. Festivals are often like that to the performers, but on Islay, that had nothing to do with the locals' attitudes towards me. They are just genuine please-and-thank-you folks, who treat others as they would like to be treated.

Laphroaig saw hundreds of visitors, perhaps more, in and out of the distillery yesterday, and Butch and I sang all day long. Our sound man, Dougal, kept us laughing, and we played for a bit, breaked for a bit, received our Friends of Laphroaig certificate and official dram, played for a bit, had a dram of Cask Strength Laphroaig, played some more, picnicked on the bay, played some more, climbed through the heather on the rocks by the beach, played some more, explored the distillery, played some more, and talked to loads of people from all over the world. The fabulous Simon (from Laphroaig) took us to a marvelous dinner. I had the vegetarian option: macaroni and cheese with a side of chips (perfectly delicious steak fries). Not the healthiest, but, hey, a day on Islay feels like a week of vacation.

I also partook in a Master Tasting of various Laphroaigs later in evening, as well as enjoyed a private tour of the distillery. I'll write more about the deliciousness of the whiskys in another blog, but let's just say it was wonderful. The variety was impressive, even among the single brand, and the 30-year-old smelled like port wine but tasted like spice. Here's a trick: let a piece of dark chocolate melt in your mouth, then take a sip of good Scotch. The flavor combination is mindblowing.

I was not the only woman in the room, but I was definitely the youngest -- barely older than the Scotch I was drinking. I've decided that I should make it my new mission to introduce the young folks to good Scotch. Maybe I'll hold a Master Tasting at my house. I think there are a lot of bourbon drinkers who would also enjoy Scotch if they actually had a chance to taste the good stuff.

Anyway, if you like Laphroaig, consider becoming a Friend of Laphroaig. It's similar to the Maker's Mark Ambassador program, and they give you a lifetime lease on a single square foot of land in Islay. I signed up immediately after my last gig in Glasgow, when Matt and Peter from introduced me to the magic of Islay whisky. When you visit the distillery -- and I'm pushing for a big group of Kentuckians to come over with me for next year's festival -- you can visit your land and collect your rent in the form of a dram of Laphroaig 10-year-old. Who's in?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Islay, Scotland.

Islay. Midnight, Monday. Say it with me, folks: EYE-luh. Don't pronounce the "S." You're welcome ... you are now in-the-know. It's EYE-luh. EYE-luh. That's right. You've got it now.

It's unbelievable here. Butch and I left the mainland of Scotland at 6:00pm on a majestic ferry that made its way across the sea to Islay. There's a small airport on the Isle, but flights are pricey and we've got instruments that don't always fit on small planes. I'm glad we took the ferry in because I've never seen anything like the approach to Islay from the sea. There are green hills that jet out of the sea, surrounded by small archipelagos that look like sea creatures just biding their time to emerge. Some have ancient ruins on them, and others have lighthouse. Still others seen untouched by humanity. It's a beautiful sight, and I felt a bit like a voyeur encroaching on nature, though I know I'm hardly the first to stare in awe.

This particular ferry took us to Port Askaig, about 20 miles north of Port Ellen, Laphroaig, and our hotel. We opted to leave the rental car on the mainland because ferrying it across was £89. Unfortunately, we hadn't arranged a taxi, probably underestimating the ruralness of Islay. And despite the bright sun, it was after 8:00 at night when we set foot on the island. We found an information booth that had just closed up, but a lovely gentleman was hovering nearby. He pointed us towards a taxi service number. Being musicians, however, we can't afford to start taking £30 taxi rides across the wilderness, and we asked if there was another way into town. The man disappeared for less than a minute before coming back and saying that another lovely gentleman would be happy to give us a ride to our hotel.

Just like that. So not only are we being led to a car as if we were all old chums, but this wonderful man told us about the island and the distilleries and the landscape and views, all while delivering us front-door-service to our destination. Of course, the minute we arrived at the hotel, I ran into the only person I know who lives on Islay, who just happened to be making some arrangements at the Machrie -- the golf course/hotel where we are staying.

Really, I wish I could do the scenery here justice, but even a photograph wouldn't capture the mystique. At one point during the drive, we took a corner, where the sun just shot across the sea, bouncing off the water and onto the hills, making everything a topaz sparkle. I gasped and chastised our new friend and drive, "You knew that was coming, and just wanted to see our reactions." He laughed and agreed that it was spectacular.

The amazing thing is that it is equally dramatic everywhere you look. As I type, the sun is hovering, barely out of sight, with just a hint of an aura behind the mountains, ready to pop back up by 4:00 am probably. It's like a child playing hide-and-seek, hiding in the most obvious place, but we pretend like we have no idea where she's gone. I'm going to sleep now, a well-deserved sleep after such a long day. When I see the sun emerge from her hiding place in the morning, I'll pretend like she's been well-hidden and will spend all day tomorrow looking at everything she shines upon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dragons, motorcyles, castles, oh my.

It was a late night at the motorcycle club/venue. I crashed around 2:00, but Butch partied with the locals. I'm hoping that doesn't catch up with us on our insanely long drive to Scotland tomorrow. Lots of good folks, and the place reminded me of the Air Devils of my youth... good times. We crashed at the club, in hostel-style accomodations, and I was surprised when, an hour after I awoke, about six bikers emerged from various other rooms. We had a lovely chat about Welsh politics over some strong coffee. I think they've all taken off on their bikes now, since apparently, I am extremely adept at bringing sunshine and warmth to the various countries I visit. Not a drop of rain since I arrived, and barely a cloud in the sky. You're welcome, Britain.

Yesterday I saw loads of dragons and an awesome castle -- that's awesome in the literal sense, not the urban vernacular. I never cease to be amazed by castles. This one was Caerphilly Castle, built in the 13th century and despite being in ruins, it still has a moat and towers you can climb. In fact, there was a wedding going on in the Great Hall when we arrived, which was extra cool.... you could actually envision what a mighty feast would have been like in the 1200's, despite the bride being in your standard sleeveless wedding gown.

The dragons, unfortunately, were all at gift shops and above buildings. Red dragons are the symbol of Wales, and I think it's a mighty symbol indeed. In fact, I'm determined to leave here with some sort of red dragon souvenir, whether it be a keychain, a sticker, a sparkly t-shirt, or a football. It's the perfect mystical creature to be a country symbol. I mean, dragons are fierce. The unicorn or shrieking eel would be much less intimidating to an intruder.

Another observation: In England I was told that I wouldn't understand anything the Welsh said. Then I get here in South Wales, and it sounds like home. I've got some wonderful family friends from Swansea, and I've known them my whole life. So, to me, the Welsh accent is always what I thought of as the standard British accent. Here in Crumlin, the accent is a bit more pronounced than our friends, but it sounds completely normal.

Okay, off to see something pretty. Wales just has these ridiculous mountain views... and i'm hoping a good cream tea as well.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

UK Tour: Yew hedges, Earls, and black cider.

Cirencester is a party town. Who knew? We played a place called The Vaults, which is in the basement (or vaults, I suppose) of a former English mansion. At one point the building was turned into a private school, but it's now a meeting hall/conference center with a most excellent pub underground.

Last night's show was fun. Neil's band was great (Neil is my most excellent host in Cirencester), and I wish I'd had enough cider in me at that point to dance. After Neil played, there was Carmela from Florida who sang beautifully and with whom I played some accordion. There were also many many friendly folks just hanging around, and I made a few new friends. It seems that everyone in Cirencester has an excellent sense of humor and is quite clever. So after hanging out with the locals, I took the stage for a quick set, yodeled, sawed, and sang.

But not before I discovered Black Cider.

It's John's fault. Neil's bass player and a proper lumberjack. He is responsible for maintaining the Earl's property -- yes, there is a proper Earl, with lands and fields and horses and guest quarters -- including the world's tallest hedge yew. It's an impressive hedge yew, and the Earl's estate is massive. We spent part of the day yesterday on a walk on his lands, enjoying yet another absolutely gorgeous and warm day. Without rain. John the lumberjack also knows how to make cider taste extra good. I'm told it's a teenager's drink, a la Boone's Farm, but it was Black Currant with a pint of Strongbow. Delicious.

I feel great this morning, however, and I think Butch and I are going to do some sightseeing before today's gig in Crumlin, Wales.

One of these days I'll play in a place with WiFi, and I'll figure out how to broadcast the show live on

Friday, May 21, 2010

UK tour: luggage, dulcimers, tourism

Last night's gig was fun. We played a small pub seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but there was a nice crowd of folks who turned up. The excitement was that Butch's luggage had not been delivered to our first gig, but we'd managed to borrow a guitar. Last night we had no backup plan, and though the airline said they'd have the guitar to us by 5:00, it had still not turned up at 7:45.

I had an accordion, but my songs don't sound right with solo accordion and voice. I tend to use the accordion more like an organ or like a lead guitar, so I just didn't want to sing my originals that way. Hence, Butch taught me 4 chords on the dulcimer, just in case. It was kind of fun, actually, and even when the Delta delivery man appeared right at 8:00 as the gig was about to begin (he received much applause from me!), I opted to sing "Whisky in the Faucet" as a double-dulcimer number. Butch played lead, and I played rhythm. If I had a roadie, I'd be tempted to always do that tune on the dulcimer, but there's no way I'm going to haul a fifth instrument around to all my gigs.

We headed to Cirencester last night to visit my good friend Neil, who has saved our behinds multiple times on this tour already, both with a housing crisis and a last-minute PA fiasco. Last night, he had hot pizza and cold beer waiting for us as we pulled in about 11:30. This morning he cooked a proper English fry-up for breakfast, even providing mushrooms for the vegetarian (me). Delicious. Then we wandered around the city, looking at Roman ruins, winding streets, posh shops, divine tea and cookie eateries, and even a lovely walk on the Earl's property. Yes, Gloucestershire has an Earl, and said Earl is kind enough to open up his vast property to the locals for horseback-riding or hiking.

Speaking of hiking, the weather has been absolutely glorious since I landed. My rainjacket is packed away somewhere, and I wish I'd brought flip-flops. I only brought 3 t-shirts, and I've washed 2 of them already for re-use. This morning I went for a brisk walk by myself (even a bit of a jog because it's easy to forget how miserable running is when you are looking at cathedrals and stone cottages and gorgeous gardens), and I came back hot and sweaty from the weather, not the effort expended.

I love that I've had a little time off lately. It's really nice to be able to sit and write or go for a morning walk. Usually when you're on tour, there's a 6-hour drive to fit into your schedule, leaving no time for alone time or tourism. The UK is perfect for a more-relaxing schedule. I actually feel like I saw some cool stuff today. I'll post more photos later.

Gig tonight: The Vaults, an olde (note the "e") pub in Cirencester ("SYE-ren-cess-ter"), along with Florida's Carmela Pedicini, of 'Radio Free Carmela and the Transmitters' with a reduced part of her new band Passerine and Cirencester's own Tourettes; alt-covers band extraordinaire. Loved the Vaults last time I was there. Should be a good show!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Good gig, now to Wales.

Quick note from the British version of a truck stop, which is infinitely nicer. There's not the lingering stink of cigarette smoke that you find off I-65, nor are there any sketchy people. Everyone here looks so proper, it feels more like a mall.

Last night's show at the Cross Keys Folk Club was great fun. We played in "the barn," a small stone room that felt just like an English cottage. It was a quiet crowd, polite, no one spoke at all. One man sat in the front row and harmonized with all my songs, which was a surprisingly fun addition to the night. There were at least four people who showed up specifically to hear me ... so that was nice.

Anyway, we're off to have lunch in Wales because, well, we can.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Manchester, flying, friends.

You'd think that it would be really easy to find the time to write while you're on the road. So much of it is travel, and there's so much just sitting-around-waiting. Although, somehow the sitting-around-and-waiting usually happens when there's no internet service. Or when you're completely jetlagged.

This morning, I woke up feeling great, but that's thanks only to Kirsty McGee. I'm happy to call her a friend, and she was the most wonderful hostess yesterday as I trudged zombie-like to her apartment. Before writing further, I suggest you listen to her music, especially if you like my music. We don't sound alike, but our influences are similar. I love her old-school vaudevillian style and her beautiful voice. Check out this video/song on YouTube; it always makes me smile.

Anyway, I arrived at Kirsty's house yesterday morning after a day of travel. The travel wasn't bad, and I managed to get about 3-4 hours of sleep on the plane. It was pretty good sleep, for a plane, but the 3-4 glasses of wine that brought on the 3-4 hours of sleep kept me from having a total bright-eyed landing.

The wine wasn't my fault. I got bumped to Business Class. I used the hippie new age technique of visualization to will the Business Class seat into reality, but I think having a Delta connection was the driving force. And yes, I've become a bit of a princess with International Travel. It's like that episode of Seinfeld; once you go First Class, you can never go back to coach. The seats weren't as large as I remembered (or perhaps my bum isn't as small as I remembered), but the down comfortable, feather pillow, and glass of champagne made up for any inconvenience. (Oh yeah, I forgot about that glass of champagne. Oops.)

Anyway, one of the awesome things about Business Class is that during dinner, they sneak up when you're involved in your game of on-flight trivia (Attention trivia players on Flight 64: that was me in seat 1F. Yeah, I won.) and refill your Pinot Noir when you don't notice. So it's not until after the warm assorted nuts, the goat cheese salad, and cream of asparagus soup, that you noticed you're already so relaxed that you can save your Xanax for the coach flight home.

The vegetarian entree was a fancy cheese ravioli with pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes with fresh basil. Quite good. I went with the Tiramisu cake for dessert, but I think I should have had the ice cream sundae. I thought it was just a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but the guy across from me ordered it. They serve you the plain scoop, then bring out a tray of various toppings and custom-build the sundae for you. Noticing my ice-cream envy, the flight attendant offered me two desserts, but I opted out, remembering that my seat wasn't getting any larger.

It was a nice ride over, not just because of the service, but because I was seated next to a really nice man named Doug. He had been stuck in the States for a few days because of the volcanic ash nonsense and was flying to England for business. We talked a lot about music and the business and traveling, etc., which is why I got distracted and didn't notice the sneaky flight attendant re-filling my wine glass.

But I managed to stay awake all day long, even as I followed Kirsty all over downtown Manchester hanging up posters for a show she's promoting next week (In today's episode of SmallWorld, it turns out that the show we were hanging up posters for was for James Apollo's show -- the guy I wrote about last week who was playing in Louisville. Coincidence!) Anyway, we had a nice pint about 5:00, then Kirsty cooked the most delicious dinner, full of vegetables.

That's all for now ... Butch arrived this morning and we're headed off to tonight's show. Cheerio!

Monday, May 17, 2010

UK tour begins today ...

I'm about to take off on the fun travel part of my British tour. I actually like riding on planes, so I'm excited about the trip. Besides, I have one Xanax left just in case things get a little rough. For those of you who've missed my blogs recently, I'll be in England, Scotland, and Wales until June 8ish.

I was thinking it might be fun to make this tour a Scavenger Hunt created by you, my favorite blog readers. So post your demands, and Butch (Butch Ross, my tour mate, who knows nothing of this Scavenger Hunt) and I will do our best to supply photographic evidence of our finds. I expect most of you will offer up ridiculousness, but if someone out there wants to add something normal or fun such as: a cream tea, some Scotch that's older than I am, and a Glaswegian I can't understand, that would be cool too.

Last time I toured the UK, I had trouble finding the time to blog regularly, but I'm determined to do better this time. I've also got the trusty FlipCam ready. Unfortunately, I'm just better at taking lots of video than I am at editing it together on a timely basis. My YouTube channel is:

Those of you on, I may be broadcasting some live shows, depending on how much of Stickam I can actually figure out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An a-political political blog.

I was a political science major in college. Mostly it was a philosophy-type degree on political theory, but the focus my last year was on the American electoral system specifically: why people vote. I don't remember the details or numbers anymore, but I remember there really is no mathematical explanation for why people vote.

The chance that your individual vote will affect the outcome of an election (we're talking America here, not proportional representaion systems) is some absurd 10 to the negative 42nd power or something. I can't remember exactly, but your odds are better at winning the lottery in most states. So it makes sense that voter turnout is low, but what doesn't make sense is that anyone turns out at all. There's clearly some other factor in there that just can't be measured -- the sense of duty, or the guilt if you don't, or some idealism and hope that we all keep hidden in our cynical minds.

All that being said, I voted today. I'll be in England on election day -- I know, I know, totally UnAmerican, but amidst my running round town getting everything I need to be gone for a month and getting the housesitter/roommates situated, I went and voted early. It was just one more thing on my massive To Do list, and honestly, I almost just skipped it in favor of the the dry cleaners or a fancy coffee drink. But I'm glad I went.

A lot of you have asked me who I'm voting for for Louisville Metro Mayor. I've thought -- probably over-thought -- about this long and hard, and I've decided to avoid posting an endorsement. My blog isn't political, and I'm sure many of you are tired of receiving things in the mail day after day, looking at yard signs, and seeing politics take over Facebook. So the last thing I want to do is turn this blog -- one that I think most of you turn to for a laugh or an adventure story -- into a political platform. I also don't want to turn the comment box on Blogger or Facebook into a forum for arguments. That's what the Courier-Journal or VilleVoice websites are for.

I also get annoyed when musicians and artists start spouting politics in general, so until I have the money and clout start a foundation, I think I will avoid such discussion. Maybe. I get more and more tempted as I get older to start using the blog for a bigger good deed than just entertainment. But for now, I think I'll keep mostly quiet. Mostly.

I will say that if you want to know who I believe in for Louisville mayor, message me and I'll discuss. But let's leave that to one on one and not the blog.

(Of course now that I'm saying that, I'll whine that there's one particular Democratic candidate who I most definitely did not vote for. His daily posters in my mailbox are driving me mad, especially this week when on Monday I received one stating how he was a "Green" candidate, then his campaign continued to send three more posters this week. The greenest thing about that is that they went directly into my recycling box.)

I think somehow the message of this blog is that it's easy to go out and vote. Primaries are important, and your local elections are probably the most important of all. Vote early at 810 Barrett Ave if you will be out of Louisville on Tuesday. It's easy, and it took me all of 2 minutes to show my ID and fill out my ballot. The trip to the dry cleaners wasn't nearly as easy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Homegrown Lunch. Mmmmmm.

Hmmmmmm .... salad for lunch. That's not usually something I get excited about. For the most part, I enjoy a fresh salad, but it doesn't usually satisfy me. That's probably more mental than anything; I just feel like a salad should go with a sandwich or at least a slice of fresh-baked bread. But this salad is yummy and satisfying because it's the made of the first pickings from my garden.

My romaine seedlings have gotten to the point where they need thinning. Well, really, they were at that point last week, but I just can't stand picking lettuce like it's a weed. So I waited a week until there were at least leaves on it, then picked the unnecessary baby lettuce heads and turned them into this delicious salad. Throw on some radishes (spicy!!!), a bit of baby spinach (too impatient to wait for full growth), a carrot, and whatever veggies can be found in the fridge, and I have a yummy salad. A satisfying, yummy salad, because everything tastes better when you grow it yourself.

If this were officially a food blog, I'd post a well-lit photo of my delicious salad. But it's just a lowly musician's blog, albeit from one who writes about food and gardening quite a bit.

By the way, blog readers, you'll find a bit more focus coming to the blog over the coming weeks ... so share this blog with friends if you know folks who like travel stories and adventures at scotch whisky distilleries. Also, if you enjoy the blogs, and feel like helping out an independent musician whose travel costs are adding up quickly (£200 for the work permit alone! That's ££ not $$), you can buy an MP3 from Enter discount code "blog" for an extra 10% off the already lower-than-iTunes prices. Wow, I sound like a department store commercial. I'm sorry.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Packing superstar.

Normally when I go on a trip, I pack the night before. Sometimes I even wait to pack until the morning of my flight. It always works out. I mean it's not like I'm camping or anything. If I forget my toothbrush, I can go to the store. Occasionally, the forgetting-of-the-toothbrush will coincide with the getting-bumped-to-First-Class. This is extra awesome because a tiny toothbrush comes with your First Class Welcome Kit, along with toothpaste, lotion, and chapstick. But I digress because I'm daydreaming about First Class ...

Either I'm becoming more responsible, or I'm really excited about this trip. I've actually already started packing, and I don't leave until Monday. The goal is to pack as light as possible, which is difficult when packing for three rather different climates. The south of England is like a nice spring day. The islands of Scotland are like a warmer-than-usual winter day. And then there's New York City in June which is, well, hot. And there's trying to fit that all into a bag small enough to carry on-board a RyanAir flight.

Packing for the Bahamas was way easier. It involved: sundress, sunscreen, sunhat, swimsuit.

I'm pretty good at packing though, like I think I could do it for my talent in the Miss American pageant. That's right, I'm that good (except for the toothbrush thing).

Still, I'm curious if anyone has any brilliant packing secrets ... or horror stories?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bring back Intermission.

I love the movie Gone With the Wind, but I think my favorite part is the Intermission. What ever happened to intermissions at the movies? You know, right after Scarlett clenches her fists by the tree on a hill and declares that she'll never be hungry again, the music swells, the lights come up, and the Entre'Act music is played. It's like the 7th inning stretch, except it's easier to go get popcorn, and the popcorn is much tastier.

Nowadays there are sooooo many epic films coming out, and I think consumers and movie theaters would both do well with Intermissions. I know I'm not the only person who doesn't like to sit still, and honestly, I rarely ever go to a movie that's over 2 hours, unless it's Harry Potter. I'd be more likely to go see a long film if I could be promised a bathroom break and a chance to refill my extra-large popcorn (who actually does that??) and grab some Sno-Caps.

I saw Avatar this weekend, which I actually liked, but if the director insisted on making it almost three hours, I seriously think there should have been an intermission. There was a natural place for it, and I tried to use New Age visualization techniques to yield a Gone-With-the-Wind-type Intermission, complete with James Horner pennywhistle tunes. But, no, I sat there, did chair yoga the last half an hour and formed the idea for this blog in my head.

Henceforth, all other long movies shall be streamed on Netflix instant, when I've got plenty of chances to pause, make popcorn, stretch, change clothes, and play my own pennywhistle music. As God as my witness, I shall never be hungry again during the movies.

(P.S. Help me get to England by buying an MP3 ... ... thank you!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Merideth from Wicked is awesome.

About a year and a half ago, I found a new friend. Through the wonders of the internet and mutual acquaintances, I ended up having a cocktail with one of the cast members of the National Touring production of Wicked. Merideth Kaye Clark, who is the standby for the lead role Elphaba, also happens to be an original singer-songwriter type who was looking to put together a show in Louisville during the run of Wicked. Friend-who-cooks-Pancakes and I set up a show for her, which was filled with Louisville friends and also half of the cast of Wicked -- a funny little mix of folks.

If you're wondering what a standby is, it's sort of like an understudy, but a bit more coveted of a position. The standby is basically always backstage, just in case the main actor isn't up to performing the role that night. In a role as huge as Elphaba, you've got to have a solid backup ready. My voice gets tired just thinking of doing one performance, but eight a week seems impossible. So Merideth has performed the role oodles of times, and she even has her own set of costumes tailored just for her.

She's back in Louisville for a short while, and before I go further, please make a note in your calendar right now to go to the Monkey Wrench on Sunday night at 10:00 to hear her sing. Clearly she's got a great voice, but on Sunday, we'll get a chance to hear songs from her upcoming album. I imagine with the resume she's got, she'll be playing much bigger venues than the Monkey Wrench in years to come.

The big news she's recently announced is that, after two and a half years on the road, playing Elphaba over 100 times in over 30 cities, Merideth has decided to leave the cast and head home to New York to finish her new CD. Some people probably think she's nuts to leave such an awesome role behind her, but I actually think she's even more awesome to do just that.

I remember when I left my producer job at CBS News in NYC, then started playing music around Louisville, loads of people thought I was crazy. But it worked out okay in the end. Sometimes you just need to make your own creativity, even if you've already got a fun job. And I'm sure Merideth will find that pursuing her own music, despite the challenges of not having a tour bus and booking agent, will satiate her artistic needs more than sitting backstage and waiting to be painted green -- my words, not hers.

Merideth and I had lunch today, and I lost track of time while we talked and laughed and had a merry old time. She's a super-smart lady (she even has a degree in neuroscience or something from Emory) and I love an independent woman who knows what she wants. I'll be at her show on Sunday at the Monkey Wrench, 10:00 (it has to be late because it's got to be after Wicked), wishing her the best of luck in her blossoming career. See you there!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's going on this weekend.

I'm not feeling particularly creative today. My ToDo list is insane, and I'm tired of the paper-cutting machine at Kinko's -- oops, I mean at FedEx Office (what's up with that, anyway?). Rather than tell you a funny story about my Cinco de Mayo margaritas, I'm going to talk about some live music events this weekend that will likely be a good time.

James Apollo will be in town May 7 at The Vernon Club, 1575 Story Avenue. It's a $7 cover, but for that you get the lovely and charming Butch Rice (not to be confused with the lovely and charming Butch Ross, with whom I'm touring the UK in two weeks), as well as eremy*JIrvin, whose stage name I find a bit as confusing as Yim Yames, but I can get behind some wordplay. It's kind of like Pig Latin, but way less annoying.

Anyway, James's manager sent me a cool CD called "How Hard a Heart of Gold Can be" a while back, and I've been listening to it quite a bit. People so rarely send me CDs, and I'm always curious when someone has a manager. I'm still waiting for someone who is actually in the music business to take on that role for me. Anyway, I actually liked James Apollo's CD, hence this blog saying you should go see him. His one-sheet says his songs are formed by the imagery of William Faulkner (I'm a sucker for a Faulkner reference). Thankfully, his songs are much less confusing than a Faulkner sentence, and they are way shorter as well.

Also, it appears that he is touring with a band -- a difficult task for a singer-songwriter type, but really cool for a Louisville audience. I'm hoping to make it out to the show tomorrow night. Maybe I'll see you there.

Butch Rice, James Apollo, and eremy•JIrvin

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Road food is a challenge.

So we all know I'm a vegetarian who doesn't really enjoy eating crappy processed foods. This is difficult while on the road, and it makes me somewhat understand why my Australian friends tote Vegemite around the world. I know that Vegemite is processed, but it's nice to see people with that level of commitment to the foods they eat.

When I go on a short tour, it's a nice excuse to eat out. Usually, Peter and I use the tours as research for our Find-the-Best-French-Toast-in-the-World quest, which is part of the reason I consider elastic pants a packing essential.

This upcoming UK tour, however, is more than a few days long, and I really don't have the money to finance the French Toast quest. This means I'll need to fill up on breakfast and snack when I can the rest of the day. The problem, however, is that the best snack food in the UK is: chips (that's French Fries to you). The last time I was in the UK, the locals in Bury encouraged us to try their favorite snack, the "chip butty," which, I kid you not, is basically a toasted bun slathered in butter, then loaded with french fries and few dollops of catsup and mayonnaise. Okay, so it tasted amazing, but my elastic pants don't stretch that far.

Since I don't have enough room in my luggage, nor do I want to sneak food through customs, I'm trying to plan ahead for proper road snacks, lest I fall down the chip butty hole.

Fellow musicians and travelers, what are your favorite healthy road snacks that don't require refrigeration? And that can be found in quaint little British roadside snack huts?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pianists with nails are like Chefs with no body fat.

Yesterday I was doing the dishes when I heard a strange noise and felt my thumb tingle. As I looked down and did a double-take, I realized I had broken a nail. I don't think this has ever happened to me before because, like any good piano player, I have never had any nails. Apparently, I've been so busy and stressed out with tour planning, teaching far too much, and Derby madness, that I have forgotten to clip and/or bite my nails.

I had a manicure once, as part of a friend's 30th birthday spa package, and basically the woman looked at me with pity and -- after I refused her offer of "acrylic tips" (ewwww, wouldn't that mean I'd have to get tiny decorative palm trees and polka dots?) -- basically gave me a hand massage for half an hour before sending me on my shamed way.

But really, I think a pianist with long fingernails is sort of like a skinny chef. Not to be trusted. I clipped my nails immediately and reminded myself to practice more so that never happens again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Derby recap 2010.

Apologies for the lack of blogging the past week. It's Kentucky Derby time, which for those of you outside of Louisville, is essentially like two weeks straight of New Year's Eves. Now that it's been since last week since I've written, I feel a bit like I have writing constipation. There's a lot to get caught up on, and I don't know where to begin.

Some highlights: Friend-with-a-house-in-the-Bahamas (FHIB, best moniker of all, I think) came over last week to keep me company while I made lists and tried to get organized. Instead of supervising, she ended up completely overhauling and physically cleaning my house, like with rags and dustpans and beating rugs outside. I hadn't really moved into the house in any sort of organized way, and things had been in random places. Now the mantle looks like an HGTV show, the jukebox looks like a shrine, and the clutter is neatly stowed away in the basement. I still can't believe what a good housekeeper FHIB is, despite the fact that she has a maid. Anyway, it's a neat feeling, knowing that I sort of know where to put things. I actually think I'll put away my guitars when I roll in at 3am after a gig. Well, maybe. Thanks, fairy godmother FHIB!

Derby was good. I didn't win much. I had the show horse to show, so that was a nice $7. But even though I sat there and thought, "Hmmmm, Calvin Borel on a horse with longer odds than most ... that would be a smart bet," I didn't bet it. Hmpf. When I was a kid, I picked the winner every year. Again, hmpf.

I played a crazy Derby Eve party with Danny Flanigan's band. We played our final note at 3:56 am, something I haven't done since I was first starting out. It was a good time, and I forgot how much Danny's originals can totally rock. I think I'm used to seeing him in sensitive songwriter mode, when he's secretly a rocker. No one ended up in the pool this year, however, which was bizarre. And of course, I heard about various celebrities who showed up there, but I am terrible about recognizing people out of context. I also lost my voice that night because I sang for 6 hours with less monitor than I'm accustomed too. My own fault, but it's annoying to be back on voice rest.

That's all the Derby re-cap I can fit in today. I'm deep in the throes of putting the final touches on my UK Tour, which starts in two weeks. I'm daydreaming of that little Baked Potato Shop in Edinburgh, charming cream teas in Wales, drams of rare whisky on Islay, and playing to audiences who have innate respect for the troubador. Food, drink, and music. Stoked.