Thursday, March 22, 2007

Midwest Tour Wrap-Up

I am back home in the beautiful sunny south, after 10 days in the Midwest. I enjoyed the trip quite a bit. I've written about the first leg of the tour... After the last Chicago gig I went to Keyeser, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison. The difference between downtown Chicago and downtown Keyeser was noticeable :) Here's a couple photos of downtown Keyeser, along with the baseball field, with a little leftover snow. If you know me, you know I'll take the sleepy small town over the big city anyday. I played at a charming little church coffeehouse, and had a great night. The crowd was wonderful, and to add to the night, they had mini-cheesecakes and Dove chocolate candy. At the end of the night, I packed up my stuff, and filled my pockets with what was left of the Dove!

The tour ended on Sunday night in St. Louis, which has always been one of my favorite cities, though it's been almost 10 years since my last gig there. I played at The Focal Point, which is the premier listening room in St. Louis. Many, many thanks go out to Stacy, host of Backroads on KDHX Radio for helping set up the show, and promoting it for me.
I saw lots of wide open spaces and farmland, here's a little shot from out the window on I-57 that pretty well captures the view from my Camry window for most of the trip.
The Midwest is quite a bit like the south, nice folks, welcoming small towns, and great food. It's just a little colder, and a lot harder to find sweet tea. Also, I guess the people talk different.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kip Kip Hooray!

I had the great pleasure of playing 2 gigs this tour with my friend Kip Rainey. He is the mandolin player from my 'County Line Road' CD. He lived down in Auburn for a couple years, and we played a handful of shows together back in 1999-2000. He moved up to Chicago, where he plays in the band Tangleweed. He learned mandolin parts for many of my new songs, and we had a great time playing the Arts Alive Concert Series last weekend, and Fridays at the Ford this past weekend, both in the Chicago metro area.
After so many years as a solo artist, it is always a thrill to have someone join me on stage, and even more of a thrill when it's a great musician like Kip, who also happens to be one of the nicest people I know.
We will definitely be trying to play some more shows together when I'm back up in the midwest, so keep an eye out for that. Thanks Kip!

The Midwest Regional (Pizza) Final

In the spirit of the NCAA tournament, I decided to have a little tournament of my own while out in the midwest this week. I wanted to find the best pizza, and after narrowing down the possibilities, the regional final came down to Quatro's in Carbondale, IL vs. Giordano's in Chicago. I mentioned Quatro's in the last post, they have some great deep dish pizza. Giordanos is a Chicago classic with the unique stuffed pizza. It was a great classic matchup, and the fact that is was a single elimination tournament played into the outcome... Had it been a best 4 out of 7 series, I think Quatro's may have been able to pull it out, as it is an easier pizza to eat several days in a row. Giordano's is so heavy and hearty, it's not really an every day kind of meal, but when it comes right down to it, Giordano's is the best pizza in the Midwest. Congratulations !

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Life is good in Southern Illinois!

I've had a great couple of days in Southern Illinois. Yesterday was one of the greatest food days of all time. It began at lunch with a trip to 17th Street Bar&Grill in Murphysboro. You may recall they were the winner of the Dave Potts 2005 Best Ribs Award. In addition to that prestigious award, they are also the only 3-time winner of the Memphis In May Rib Contest, which many people may actually consider to be a bigger deal than the DP Awards :)
I had a full slab of their delicious baby back ribs. It's also just far enough south that they have swet tea.

That would normally be enough food for one day, but at dinner I got invited to a local pizza joint called Quatro's. You know I am picky about my pizza, let me tell you I was not disappointed.
Their famous deep dish pizza was fantastic. I have a souvenier cup to commemorate my visit! The mischevious looking guy with the cheese dripping from his hat is Quatro's logo. I guess that's Mr. Quatro himself.

Another reason why Southern Illinois is such a great place to be, is because of one of my favorite radio stations, WDBX in Carbondale. They have 3 folk shows that air weekly, and I played live on 2 of them yesterday, Folk Fiasco and Special Folks. It is very hard for an independent, acoustic artist to find radio support, and WDBX goes above and beyond the call of duty.

If all that weren't enough, I've also had a couple great night of jamming with other musicians. The host of Red Bud Hill House Concert, where I'm performing tonight, is in a band called the Bone Dry River Band. They were over last night, and i sat in for a few songs (even got to play some bass), and they backed me up on a couple of Chris Knight tunes. There is yet another songwriter in the house, JP Jones, a poet-songwriter from Rhode Island, and we had a song circle Tuesday night.
It's been a great trip, and that's even before tonight's house concert, which I'm very much looking forward to.
Tomorrow I'm headed back to the big city up north where the wind blows cold and the pizza crust is thick. Very, very thick!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Michigan, Chicago and the pizza bowl

I'm writing today from Maquoketa, IA, I'm staying with my friends Scott and Michelle Dalziel. ( I came in last night from Chicago, where I played a library concert series in Rolling Meadows. Kip Rainey, who is a great mandolin player from the band Tanglewood, joined me on stage. Kip used to live in Auburn and we played some gigs together many years ago. He also appears on my 'County Line Road' CD. It was a blast to play with him again, and he'll be at my show this coming Friday night as well.
Before the gig, I ate at the Chicago Pizza Company, home of the original Pizza Bowl. It was pretty crazy, it was just what it sounds like, a big bowl of pizza.. The bowl itself was made out of pizza dough, and filled with pizza ingredients, with the cheese on top. On Friday on my way back through Chicago, I plan to find a Giordano's. I'm sure you'll hear about that!

Saturday night, I was at the Trinity House Theater opening for Rachel Davis. It was a great night, I could play that venue every night... Rachel is a GREAT performer, with an amazing voice, if you have a chance to see her, you definitely should. ( Here's a picture of the stage at Trinity House.

There is a little snow on the ground here in Iowa, but is melting as we speak, as I continue to hit some nice Midwestern weather.
Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Carbondale/Murphysboro, IL, I'll give you an update from there.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Chris Knight - Trailer Tapes

Many of you probably know I'm a big fan of Chris Knight. He's an alt-country, sort of hard-edged songwriter from Kentucky... If you heard his music, and heard mine, you wouldn't figure he'd be one of my favorites, we're pretty different, but I think the man's a genius..
Anyhow, he just released a CD called 'Trailer Tapes'. It rough demos he made back in 1996,just him and his guitar in his barn in Kentucky. It was before he was signed to a label. It has a couple songs that made it on his first CD, but most the songs are unreleased. Some of those unreleased tunes are just awesome, everything he writes is so real. No pretty, not usually happy, but very, very real.
If I could write a song like him, I don't know if I would, but I know that I wish I could.
'Rita's Only Fault' is the highlight of the CD for me, check it out if you get a chance, I can't promise you'll like it, but I can promise that it's very, very good.

Back up north...

I'm back up in Michigan. Thank goodness it's about 40 degrees warmer than last month! I got up here this afternoon, and just finished a house concert at my friend Shelley's house, whom I met about 8 years ago at The Java House in Conyers, GA. (notice, I just used the word "whom", and I believe that was gramatically correct). She had never hosted a house concert before, and she and her husband John were great hosts and had a nice crowd. Here's a photo from the show taken by Shelley with me, and some of the backs of the heads of her friends.
Tomorrow night I'll be back at the wonderful Trinity House Theater in Livonia, MI, one of the coolest venues anywhere. I'm opening for Rachel Davis, a fantastic songwriter, she won the Telluride Troubadour Contest back in '03 when I was a finalist.
I'm taking some pictures on this trip to put up here on the blog, but I have one of those very old digital cameras (can digital cameras be old already?) that uses floppy disks, and my laptop doesn't have a floppy drive, so you'll have to wait till I get home to see all the excitement the Midwest has to offer.

I'll be writing again soon, maybe when I get to Chicago Sunday I'll let you know about the pizza!