Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am grateful. I am a blessed person with too much and I am grateful. Right now we are in Sioux Falls, SD. Today is Wednesday. We’re broke down, waiting on a new transmission, that won’t be ready until Friday. Stopped for fuel, got in to drive off and nothing! We still have 958 miles to travel when we get rolling and in the meantime, we’re sitting still. Even still, I can’t be anything but grateful. I’m grateful for the obvious stuff; my wife (my heart), my daughter (my life), my friends and family, my music, etc. I’m also grateful for the fact that we broke down in a place where we could get the transmission fixed properly. I’m grateful that I have a band of guys with me that I can depend on. My guys made a conscious decision to stay here and face this with me, for that I am incredibly proud and grateful. It’s hard to be on the road, to do it alone, for me, is unimaginable. I’m grateful for the people that support me behind the scenes at Gracetone (my company) that work so hard to make our lives run smooth. I’m grateful for the fact that we have a safe, comfortable place to stay while we wait. We started the trip home in Moscow, ID. We traveled 1,000 miles through plenty of desolate country that would NOT have been hospitable to us if we’d broke down there. We broke down 15 miles from a dealership that services and repairs our brand of vehicle. We broke down in a town that has a classic rock station that happened to play one of our songs on the radio last night. Just that little thing (a big thing to us) was special and wouldn’t have happened if we had blown through here like we were intending. I’m even grateful for the little stuff like being walking distance from Starbucks and Mexican food! It would be easy to focus on the cost of being here, the missing of my family and whatever, but I can’t / won’t do that. I’m just not wired that way. I have to focus on what I see which is just an avalanche of blessings. God is great and I am blessed!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My 5 Desert Island Discs

My mind is wandering this morning (yes, it CAN be a dangerous thing...), so I thought I would write a blog about my 5 favorite albums. I decided to call it my “Desert Island Discs List”, because that’s what I’ve always heard it called. The inferred question being, “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 5 CD’s, what would they be?” Soon my thoughts of CDs were taken over by the idea of being stranded on a deserted island. Would I really be worrying about CD’s? If I was, how would I play them? More importantly, however, how did I come to be on this island? Plane crash? Shipwreck? Was I taken prisoner by an evil genius, like in James Bond movies and left to die here after being interrogated for hours? In fact, if I was the captive of an evil genius, would he allow me to choose 5 CDs to keep me entertained on the island that is supposed to be my prison? If he did, should I take a really long time to decide in the hope that he’d lose interest and I could more easily escape?
If I table the ‘why am I here’ aspect of this already slightly unsettling and potentially horrifying scenario, I am left with the practicality of survival on a deserted island. Is this place truly deserted or are there cannibals or dangerous animals that I will have to fend off? If there are animals, can I eat them if I catch one? (also, can you eat a cannibal? is that morally okay since they would surely eat you...) What about snakes, (of whom I am NOT a fan!)? Would it be like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway? He managed to do pretty well after he got acclimated to the situation. He did however end up with a bizarre assortment of stuff to survive with; ice skates, a volleyball, etc. Apparently he was NOT asked what 5 CDs he’d like to have with him. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that I have a made a thorough reconnoiter of the entire island and found it to be strangely absent of any other life forms...yeah, right.
I think if I was to be stranded on a deserted island and being a fan and longtime viewer of the show Survivor, I would first like to have fire. A LOT of fire. As Jeff Probst is always saying “Fire means life.” I would ask for an entire carton of Bic disposable lighters. Yes, I realize that disposable lighters would be bad for the environment, but I’m stranded on a deserted island at the moment and if and when I am rescued, I will return here in a boat and restore the island to the way it was...I promise. Next, I’m going to need shelter. This one was tough because it needs to be comfortable, dry, warm or cool depending on the outside conditions, etc. Therefore, I choose a tour bus. They are familiar, comfortable to sleep on and if cannibals or snakes attack, I can just lock the door. The following items are necessary without any explanation; a CD player (apparently), a shotgun, ammunition, Spam, fresh water, bathing suit, a big knife, a machete, a small knife, another shotgun (in case something happens to the first one), a GPS, a satellite phone, a flare gun, flares, my guitar, pictures of my family (this is assuming that they are not with me), salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, a skillet, a coffee pot, coffee, plenty of socks, a solar powered generator, crackers, a BBQ grill, a hammock,...
As I look over my list so far, I realize that this is going to cost quite a bit. The tour bus alone is about $500,000.00 and after it’s been on an island, it’s probably going to be greatly depreciated. No resale value there! (by the way, when they deliver the tour bus, couldn’t I just catch a ride back with the delivery person?) This brings me to the question; “ In this scenario, is money ‘no object’?”. Is the question; “If you were a jillionaire and allowed to prepare yourself to live on a deserted island, what 5 CD’s would you take?” I have to say that sounds pretty unrealistic to me. If I’m a jillionaire I could afford more than 5 CDs. Also, if I’m a jillionaire wouldn’t I have a staff of people around me that would theoretically protect me from inadvertently finding my way to a deserted island all alone? A more likely headline would be; “Famous Jillionaire Guitarist Almost Lost On Deserted Island, Saved By Very Efficient Staff Members”. If I am a jillionaire, I would definitely have a personal flying machine, like a jet pack or something (in addition to my Segway of course), so I could probably just use that to escape. (That is if I’m the captive of an evil genius of course) I guess to be fair the question should be; “If you are NOT a jillionaire and you find yourself stranded on a deserted island through no evil machinations of any sort and while money is an important consideration your mind is focused clearly on the 5 CDs that you would like to have with you to listen to, understanding that these are the last 5 CDs you will ever listen I to understand that this scenario contains no ‘happy ending’?!? I’m going to DIE on this island?!? Suddenly my appetite for Spam is disappearing. As are my thoughts of what music I want to hear before I die from starvation and exposure. Or maybe I die of thirst because I can’t get fresh water. When I was a jillionaire, I had plenty of fresh water but now I’m just a poor, unfortunate soul with 5 stupid CDs to my name, dying of thirst on this uncharted deserted island. Or maybe there were cannibals after all and they were hiding in those caves that I saw on the other side of the island but I was tired and thirsty and ready to get back to my listen to my CDs...God this Spam is starting to turn my should never eat Spam in the hot salty air! The salty ocean air is scratching my CDs too! Soon they’ll be unlistenable! What was that noise?! I think I hear something in the jungle...
Okay, so the question as I now understand it is; “You are going to die. You are not rich and no one can save you. You are going to die alone on an uncharted deserted island, far, far removed from any known shipping lanes and the chances for rescue are nonexistent. While you are going to die...soon...for some unknown reason, the gods of fate have seen fit to allow you to have in your possession 5 CDs and a device to play them on. If you can stop your mind from dwelling on the fact that you are DYING(!!!), and can concentrate on music purely for the purposes of enjoyment (in these, your last few hours before delirium sets in signaling that final sweet slumber) what CDs would you take with you to this ISLAND OF DEATH?”
That’s the question?....well...hmmm...alright...I guess...

Live - Donny Hathaway
Stone Crazy - Buddy Guy
Electric Ladyland - Jimi Hendrix
The Violin Concertos II - Mozart
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

WAIT! I’ve got it! What if, when the cannibals come for me, I play my CDs to them and they, never having seen a CD player before, are fascinated by the magical box of sound and decide that I am one of their gods! They take me back to their caves and give me food and fresh water and through my time with them, I gain their trust and convince them that cannibalism is just not morally cool. Then we all work together and build an outrigger canoe and we row ourselves into the shipping lanes and are rescued by an oil tanker (probably owned by BP!!) we return to the US, get the cover of People magazine, (one of the cannibals gets caught up in a love triangle with Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson and ends up on the cover of the National Enquirer...Hollywood can be more dangerous than a deserted island!) get interviewed by Matt Lauer, meet the President, who gives me the Congressional Medal of Survival or something, we get to make a cameo in The Hangover 3, get invited to be interviewed on the CBS morning show and turn them down...after we stop laughing! (who watches the CBS morning show anyway?!?), we do Leno, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Letterman (where we jam with the band of course) we do Jimmy Fallon just to jam with The Roots (oh, Fallon’s alright, but he seems like he’s just trying a little too hard..),National Geographic wants to have me host a reality show and the cannibals and I are invited to be Grand Marshals of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! (all of which can only help the sales of KUDZU - out Jan. 11, 2011)

Monday, November 08, 2010

1968 - Martin Luther King's Prophetic Last speech - Remember

Snapshots from Memphis

Recently, I took a trip to Memphis for a project I’m working on. I’ve always had a real affinity for Memphis. Some of my biggest musical influences come from there; B.B. King, Little Milton, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis of course, the flow of music that has passed through Memphis from New Orleans up through the Delta and northward has probably been the single biggest path of influence in contemporary music. So I went to Memphis to soak up some of those ghosts. Feel the weight of the air that men like Howlin’ Wolf pushed out of their lungs to sing something like Moanin’ At Midnight. Even though I live just 3 hours east in Nashville, the vibe is completely different. There is a rhythm to southern towns for sure but at the same time they are all very distinctive in the way they feel, the way people walk and talk and just the ‘texture’ of them.
I went to Memphis to soak in that feel for a while and see if she would ‘shake the muse’ so to speak. “Hello Memphis, I write songs, whaddya got? Anything left in the old tank?” I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what I found, so I can say Memphis is still there!
The coolest moment of this particular trip though was sort of an unexpected one. We went to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is in the old Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The museum is a profound space. A well done introductory film of Dr. King’s life and his pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement begins a self guided tour and it takes you to the actual motel room he occupied on that fateful day as well as to the room where the shot was fired from. All in all, a very profound and thoughtful trip in and of itself, but we weren’t done. The next day was a cold and rainy one and we were sort of wandering around Memphis, talking about the city and what we were seeing and almost as an afterthought, we decided to drive by the Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ Headquarters; the site of Dr. King’s final speech.
We entered, although I’m not sure visitors are even permitted! We were allowed, after signing in, to go into the sanctuary by ourselves! A huge, stately space. I’ve been in a lot of churches when they’re not having services and I’m always awed by the stately silence they have. Just a deep, peaceful air. This one was no exception, a large room, the center of which was occupied by the podium from which Dr. King made his speech. We approached the spot and when I stood there, the feeling was overwhelming. This was the spot where a man, who knew he was destined to die because of his convictions, boldly stood and espoused those very convictions and exhorted the audience to keep the faith. The air felt solemn, heavy with the kind of somber, passive awareness and resignation of a witness. Thanks to an iPhone and YouTube we were even able to sort recreate the speech. Even from little cell phone speakers, Dr. King’s voice was powerful and we all got chills. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. King’s speeches lately and I’m so grateful for the technology that allows us to access these kinds of things! I hope we can put the ideas of people like Dr. King back into the forefront of our consciousness. Just simple ideas; respect, dignity, peace...really simple.