Gallery

Europe, Part 2: Bangor, Northern Ireland (continued)

Greetings and welcome back to the series of posts about my trip to Europe in the Fall of 2016. When I left off, I was talking about playing in Fealty’s pub in Bangor, Northern Ireland in late September 2016. I forgot to say that the fellow who gave me his windbreaker (necessitated by my having left my jacket and coat at home in Brooklyn) in Fealty’s was originally from Arizona, and that it was a dad-windbreaker. The kind of windbreaker that my dad would wear, or your dad, or, if you are a dad, you. And apparently me, because I wore it all through EU, until I found a suitable replacement. (oh yeah. The day I replaced the dad-windbreaker. *that* was a banner day.  Stay tuned for that, you won’t wanna miss it.).

At Fealty’s, I met Rodney and Jennifer Cordner, a wonderful couple from Portadown who took me under their wings for a few days.  I was introduced to them via Facebook through my friend Gary Moorehead of  Massachusetts (It’s worth pointing out, that as much as I think social media contributes to the downfall of society, here’s a decidedly positive thing about it. I was able to easily make 2 lifelong friends because of a mutual friend on Facebook). Rod and Jenny are fun, warm, bubbly, funny, nurturing, creative, and plain old fun. Rod will talk your ear off, and did mine. He loves an audience and has the Irish gift of gab. His dad was from Texas (met Rod’s mum in Ireland, and then, I think left and went back to the US) and Rod never misses an opportunity to remind you that he is part Texan (and part Cherokee as he claims). Rodney is a singer-songwriter as well, and endlessly entertaining. Jennifer is sweet, kind, generous, and possessed of an deep, strong, unconditional love.  She treats Rodney’s hurricane-like conversation style with a bemused forbearance. Jenny has heard his stories before, many times, and has got a few stories of their own, as it happens. Neither Rod nor Jenny ever met a stranger. They drove me around, fed me, housed me, and took me sightseeing. Rodney lent me his guitar (“a teckaminny”) for that first gig. Oh and they taught me some of the lingo, which I drank in in wonder, as I drank in everything in wonder.

Here’s some Irish lingo I learned:

They Irish say “wee” a whole lot. Every sentence, like (That’s another Irish-ism, putting “like” at the end of a sentence like that): A wee spot of tea. a wee bit of juice. a wee walk, a wee gig.
“How’s about ya?” means “How are you?”
“What’s the craic?” means what’s going on or where may a good time be found.
“a brave drop of soup” is a big, hearty, bowl of soup.
someone who is incredibly drunk is “bleuthered.”
Someone who has “popped his clogs” has died.

First on the sightseeing agenda was the Mountains of Mourne, or Mourne Mountains, in County Down. It’s a granite mountain range in the Southeast part of NI, full of misty Celtic myths, Game of Thrones filming locations, endless stone walls, and sheep.

 

 

Rod and Jenny

 

 

Rod and Jenny’s front garden in Portadown.

 

This was a resort town where we stopped for tea on the way to the Mts.. can’t remember the name of it.

 

Jenny.

 

It gets windy.

 

The stone walls, the green, the sheep, the sea.

 

Jenny and Me. Do not, I repeat, do not be jealous of my sweet dad-windbreaker, I implore you.

 

A map.  Mourne Mts are at the bottom, Portadown is kind of in the Middle-West, under Lough Neagh.  Belfast and Bangor, Northeast.

Red Lentil Stew

I don’t usually take or post pictures of my food. In fact, maybe I never have. But I made a really good batch of red lentil stew tonight so I’m breaking the rule. It’s not the first time I’ve been tempted to post a picture of red lentils. I eat a lot of them. They are really hard to mess up unless you burn them. You can’t really overcook them (unless, you know, you burn them) and they cook really quickly, unlike regular lentils (wikipedia tells me red lentils *are* regular lentils, only de-husked). The shops around me, many of which are Pakistani-owned, sell a lot of them so I always have some on hand.

This stew had lentils, water, tomato puree, lemon juice, and a little bit of garlic powder. I didn’t add salt because the tomato puree had salt already. I simmered it over the lowest flame I could get on the burner for close to two hours and it turned out perfectly. I added some spinach at the end which quickly steamed.

Gallery

Back

I’m back in New York after 3 weeks or so of touring (in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio) followed by a week of visiting my parents in NC. It was great being on the road again, and an experiment of sorts because it was my first extended stretch of shows since transitioning out of ministry work. I hit the road with a lot of questions. Will I enjoy playing? Will I be good? Will people come? And will I make enough to make rent? The answer to all of these questions is, for the most part, yes. I had good shows, and enjoyed connecting with friends I don’t get to see that often.

Being back in NY feels — well, it feels ok. There’s a certain loss of momentum that comes with not having any performances coming up soon. I’m always happier if I have shows lined up. I’m working on booking the next batch of shows, and thinking about what the next batch of songs might be like. It’s been on my mind to record a collection of hymns. Either an all-original collection, or a mixture of some original and some traditional, or, perhaps something more conceptual like a double album of half doubt-songs and half faith-songs. This latter idea has received some good feedback, but I worry it might be too gimmicky or too forced. Part of what I already do (I think) is explore the edges and overlaps where faith intersects doubt. Really, they go hand-in-hand, and I’m not sure I’d want to hear any songs of faith that were entirely devoid of doubt, or vice-versa. So maybe my next album will just be plain old Jason Harrod songs without any special thematic emphasis. But at least, the gears in my mind are turning.

Here’s a picture of a construction site I took on a walk tonight through Midwood, the neighborhood just South of where I live:

Link

Joy

It’s January 30th. phew. what a day. The Trump Presidency has been a roller coaster and we’re only eight days in. I’m beat. I should post earlier in the day.

I did hear a poet — well, Christian Wiman. I think I started the month talking about him, so maybe it’s fitting that I end the month talking about him, too. I went to another reading of his the other night.

He was talking about joy, and how joy and happiness are not the same, because joy can be — I’m trying to think of the right word — attained, obtained, experienced, gifted, evinced — even in the midst of deep sorrow. Happiness, not so much.

Paul and Timoty say in the letter to the Philippians to rejoice always. This constant-joy seems inextricable with gentleness, and with peace.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” — Philippians 4:4-8

Seems like good advice for these times.

The older I get, the more content I become. Not in a lazy or resigned way, but in a way that, I think, reflects a deeper sense of gratitude and surrender. Thanks to God for giving me that. For gratitude itself is a gift. As is surrender.

By the way, have you been praying for Trump? No, me either. Maybe I’ll go do that now.

See you tomorrow

Jody/ Women’s March

Today I met up in Times Square with my friend Jody, whom I’ve known for 15 years. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other outside Washington State, where I go often on tour. After some initial scrambling around trying to find his colleague a place to charge her phone — scrambling which involved being seated in and perusing the menu of an Applebees, JOdy and I found a place to settle in and just talk. He was a sight for sore eyes, and it reminded me of all the great times I’ve had playing in Washington State — particularly in the State Parks, where Jody was a Ranger. Sometimes people ask me if touring is lonely, but in fact the opposite is true. When I’m tour I’m less lonely than when I’m at home, because I’m usually staying with and hanging out with friends or friends of friends. It’s one of the reasons I love being on tour, and one of the reasons it’s hard to come home.

Today was the day of the women’s march(es) in Washington and other places. I’m proud of my friends and family who went, who made signs, who got out of the house and marched. I’m also a little regretful that I didn’t go. I saw a lot of women, and some men, carrying signs on the subway. “Love Trumps Hate,” “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” “Yuge Mistake,” and lots of signs riffing off the “P” word that is recently in the news thanks to the President. My favorite poster was a cartoon of Donald Trump being chased down the street by a rolling-pin-wielding Statue of Liberty.

Yeah so Donald Trump became president. I’m still a little stunned by that, and have a hard time believing that it’s an actual thing that happened, and not an element in the the plot of some movie in which someone goes back in time and inadvertently alters the future (Whoops, Donald Trump is president! Better go back and Fix it, McFly.) I was very vocal in my dismay over Trump on Facebook last year, and now I’m out of things to say. I feel a bit numb about it, but also am trying to practice acceptance, and am allowing myself some hope that it won’t be as bad as we think. I’m sure I will write more about this later. For now I’m going to go fall asleep while reading short stories. Oh yeah, I’m taking a fiction writing course! More on that later, too. Good night.

Another David McKnight Post

I posted yesterday about Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill violinist David McKnight, who passed away last night. In 2013 a reviewer from the IndyWeek newspaper called me “milquetoast.” David took umbrage and posted the following sweet and hilarious comment in my defense:

“I am really shocked by this “assessment” by the person who is privileged to serve as Music Editor of Independent Weekly. I am a free-lance writer myself and I respect the right of journalists to make critical comments in reviews, analysis pieces and commentaries in columns and articles so designated as opposed to straight news reporting.

But these editorial aspersions against the musicianship of Jason Harrod of Durham and New York are like ice hockey infractions such as cross-checking, interference and tripping. This journalistic slight is blatant, out of the blue, highly unjustified and not related to any thoughtful or sincere reviewing of the concert Jason Harrod brought to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Of course, the Indy Music Editor probably didn’t even attend the concert, no cierto? I don’t like press fights because they just make everybody feel miserable, but as one who has been playing music for many years in the clubs, coffee shops, restaurants and also showcasing “public arts in the streets” of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill as an ongoing protest against career-ending partisan political regulation of journalism in the Triangle, I am really upset that a star writer from such an important publication as Independent would “skate across the ice” to deliver a hit on such a creative, thoughtful and kind individual and marvelous singer-songwriter as Jason Harrod.

Maybe Independent has it in for songwriters and bands which can attract a following among the young people of the Triangle without subjecting them to the horrors of perdition and moral condemnation. Maybe Indy thinks that people such as Delta Rae and Jason Harrod should be targeted for ridicule because parents can bring their children to their concerts without fear or trepidation that their kids will be subjected to negative, abusive or violent song lyrics but instead wholesome sounds of songs about life, adventure, friendship, romance, discovery and personal fulfillment.

As for what Grayson Currin called Jason Harrod’s “milquetoast folk-rock,” I wish to state my view that Harrod’s songs are of the highest musical and harmonic sophistication. I was pleased to be invited to play violin on Jason’s great song “Carolina” at the Aug. 9 ArtsCenter concert. In fact, Jason also asked me to play on two other songs in the same concert, and I needed to call upon all the string music training I have acquired in playing classical orchestral music and “fiddle parts” for other folk, country, jazz and rock singer-songwriters in the Triangle in order to render a pleasing and harmonious “string section” parts for those inspiring Harrod originals. I wish we had had a “live recording” capability for this concert because then, as a violin-viola-mandolin-guitar player, I could put at least these three songs with violin accompaniment on a web site so that readers of Independent could listen and decide for themselves how these guitar-bass-violin-drum arrangements came together on the stage of the ArtsCenter auditorium. Then they could vote on whether the level of musical depth attained the level of good traditional “milquetoast folk-rock” or maybe even exceeded it!

I saw a number of people from the Triangle at the Jason Harrod concert who had heard me play in other settings but not with Jason, as we have only met a few times in the 20-plus years since Jason, as an aspiring young Durham singer-songwriter first jammed with our musicians on Ninth Street in Durham, including at the old Ninth Street Bar and Grill. Jason was well-received back in the early ’90s, and we are proud of his artistic and musical successes in going on the road all across this country in all the years since we first played on Ninth Street as well as his fine recordings through the first two decades of his music career.

Did Grayson Currin even listen to the most recent CD released by Jason Harrod? And as far as “wandering around on stage” is concerned, Harrod was anything but spaced out at his ArtsCenter concert. He was very focused, had excellent rapport with the audience, performed his two sets with great style, technical mastery and personal charm, and was enthusiastically received by those in attendance, answering their enthusiastic request for an encore at the close of the concert.

I wish I had seen this “pasting” of Jason Harrod by Independent before and not after I participated in the concert as a guest player at the acoustically pleasing ArtsCenter because I could have told my friends there that I would try to exceed the expectations of “milquetoast” fiddling and try at least for some crispier Melba Toast string work! Indeed, even in these later years of instrumental performance, I was just as “keyed up” for this show as for those “in the good ol’ days of the ’70s and ’80s.” I consider Jason Harrod’s great singing and guitar-playing, as well as his fine band accompaniment, as being on a similarly high level of artistic tone, quality, content and exposition as the music of other great Triangle musicians I have worked with including the late Brother Yusef Salim, Rebecca and the Hi-Tones, the Duke Street Dogs, Pattie and Jack LeSueur, Jewelsong, Bruce Emery, the David Spencer Band of Raleigh, Alan Wolf, David King, the Triangle Folk Jam, and Cleaver Smith & Swenson.

Maybe it is Independent’s philosophy that people who simply live and work in Durham and the Triangle cannot be considered candidates for compelling vocal and instrumental musicianship. Oh well, all is not lost. It won’t be long before the Ciompi Quartet will be firing up on all cylinders for the 2013-14 season. The Ciompi Quartet will be teaming up in September with the highly popular folk duo, the Kruger Brothers, in the refurbished Baldwin Auditorium at Duke, and I already have a ticket, so I am hoping there will be plenty of wine and cheese, or at least some fancy milquetoast, at any receptions marking this promising classical-folk concert collaboration.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the three Jason Harrod songs I played on at The ArtsCenter were in the keys of F, G and A Flat. Just as the key of E Major has four sharps, the key of A-Flat Major has four flats. So if you play a major scale from bottom to top in A Flat Major, you will be these notes: A-Flat, B-Flat, C, D-Flat, E-Flat, F, G, A-Flat. If you start out on the G string of the violin, you play the low A-Flat note with the first finger just a half step away from the “open G,” then a full step to the B-Flat with the second finger, another full step to the C with the third finger, then a half step to the D Flat with the fourth finger, then cross over to the D string and do the same thing beginning with the first singer a half step up from the open D string without playing the open D itself!

Our friend Don Martin of Raleigh, a former clarinetist with the North Carolina Symphony, likes to play a lot of songs in B-Flat in his popular music combos. The key of B-Flat has two flats–B-Fat and E-Flat. So one time when guitarist David Spencer was bantering with Don Martin after another B-Flat song call, Spencer said, “I’ll see your two flats and raise you one to E-Flat.” (The key of E-Flat includes the notes E-Flat, A-Flat and B-Flat.)

For fans of bluegrass music, you’d have to wonder if even the great Lester Flatt himself would ask his band to play a song with four flats. Someone faced with four flats would be better off just getting a whole new set of tires. But for Durham-New York singer-songwriter Jason Harrod, a song can be arranged in any suitable key, and you can take your pick of sharps and flats.

If this is “milquetoast” instrumentation, then somebody please pass the chips and dip!
As for Jason Harriod’s new CD “Highliner,” I just hope all fair-minded friends of folk-rock music in the Triangle will give it a listen regardless of whether they prefer milquetoast, bagels or sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuits to start their day.

David P. McKnight

Dave played with a group called Cleaver, Smith, Swenson, and McKnight. They have a lot of streamable and downloadable music on their website, all of which features David. It’s great stuff.

David McKnight

I’m feeling a little bit wrecked on hearing of the passing of violinist David McKnight who was a fixture of the Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill music scene. In addition to being a gifted musician, he was one of the sweetest and smartest people I have known. He was a terrific writer and would occasionally email essays he had written on a variety of topics. David loved North Carolina and its people to his core. I will miss his kindness, trueness, and the ineffable twinkle in his eye (He was always “up to something”.) He was troubled, too. But he was rich in friends and music. I will miss him dearly. Please read this lovely tribute from the Charlotte Observer: