May was a great month for “Pennsylvania Coal.” We've been enjoying our run on the Americana charts, and we continue to get lots of great feedback on the record.
We had an excellent show in Pegram, TN at the Musical Heritage Center at the Fiddle & Pick and my band consisted of good friends, Scott Neubert and Jon Weisberger. These guys are so fun to play with. It was only my second time to play a set with Jon, but Scotty has been with me for going on 20 years. I always say, “If I were Dorothy, Scotty would be the Scarecrow.” He’s been on this yellow brick road with me the longest. It’s great to have talented friends like these! Here's a video of "Better With Time" from that night: CLICK HERE
Since Jon went out to play with Chris Jones and the Knight Drivers the next week, I took Mike Robbins to play bass with me for our first time on-stage together. Scotty jumped in the Subaru with us, and we headed East mid-month. In Washington, D.C., Host Al Steiner taped our interview and set of tunes to be aired on TUESDAY, June 10 at 1pm ET on WAMU Bluegrass Country Radio. I also met program directors, Chris Tesky, Katy Daley and Lee Michael Dempsey. All these awesome DJ’s have been spinning “Pennsylvania Coal” and sharing the music with the DC-area since the record came out in February. It’s really great to have their support, and they even invited us back for a live performance this summer.
It’s really great to have family in the DC/Virginia area. My sweet Aunt ZuZu (Sister Andrea Verchuck, O.S.B.) lives at the monastery in Bristow, VA. She is my mom’s only surviving sibling and my coal-mining grandfather’s only remaining child. Aunt had rooms for us at the Benedictine Monastery guesthouse. These accommodations are what poets, scholars, writers and seekers long for – quiet, reflective and peaceful. It was wonderful to share my aunt’s way of life, faith and angelic demeanor with “my guys.” Being raised Catholic and visiting there all my life, I am very accustomed to it all, but it was extra special to experience it through the eyes of two musicians who didn’t have any idea that this kind of devotion even existed. There is an old silo on the property that the nuns turned into a prayer space after removing the top entirely. They installed benches inside, and a stained-glass artist inserted beautiful windows where the ladders and shoots used to be. The acoustics in it are perfect for singing and recording. This is at the top of the road at the edge of the award-winning garden that the Sisters tend. Scotty took a walk up there on Saturday morning and promptly went back to his room to fetch his guitar and recording device. He came back from there with a song he had written in the silo and played it for the sisters. They were so touched, especially by the song’s title, “God’s Ear.” Mike also got his soul’s fill from the stories the Sisters shared and from their warm hospitality. Scotty even remarked that he believes, somehow, he left there a better person.
After lunch, Scotty, Mike and I headed over to the little town of Washington, VA (Aunt and Sister Lisbeth joined us at the festival a little later). This is a town that George Washington himself founded. He named the streets but never actually lived there…hmmm. We were invited to come perform at the first ever Rappahannock Americana Music Festival hosted by Alma Viator and Ben “Cooter” Jones. Yes, that would be “Cooter” from “The Dukes of Hazard.” Ben even sang the theme from the show right before we went on. It sure was nice to see more familiar faces in the wings as David Olney and Sergio Webb listened intently to our set and smiled. These two played later that evening and really brought down the house. I got great photos of it all. I know we made new friends and fans for sure, and here’s hoping we get to go back next year. Alma and Ben are really on to something special!
Sunday morning we headed out to Parkersburg, WV to play the “Americana On The Levee" series at the Ohio Valley Rowing Club right there along the river bank. Such a beautiful setting. My sister-in-law and other family members from the area joined us there as well. Steve and Wendy Tuck were our hosts. Steve always makes room for traveling musicians coming through. He set us up that night in a lavish and historic hotel in downtown Parkersburg. Who knew that Tim Horton’s had a restaurant as far south as West Virginia. We had to stop and get just a spot for the road home to Nashville!
I got back to Nashville that night just in time for my first ever “Stage It” show with Eric Brace & Peter Cooper, joined by Thomm Jutz on guitar. We had a great time singing on each others’ tunes (mostly ones that Peter and I co-wrote together), and it reminded me of how much I love being a part of my songwriting community.
Speaking of community, I have been on the Flatrock Festival Committee for 7 years now, and May 24th marked our “7th Annual Hands Together in Flatrock Music & Arts Festival.” My duties include securing sponsors, booking the music, marketing and design, MC-ing and pretty much pinch-hitting at any moment. It’s a fun event and great PR for my growing South Nashville neighborhood. This year, I was able to showcase my dear friend, Claire Lynch and her amazing band. Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz also performed and knocked it out of the park. The Jake Leg Stompers, a new-to-me jug band that came highly recommended by good friend, Karen Leipziger, were just so fun and entertaining, and Sara Jean Kelley’s recommendation of “Som Do Brasil,” started us off with some incredible Latin music. Distinguished guests in the crowd included: Mark Newton, Dana Cooper, State Legislator Jason Powell, Mary Sack, Leslie Rouffe, Deone Jahnke, Alison Browne, Randy and Ashley Kohrs and more. (In my other life I was a music promoter, I think). We had great weather, great food and lots of artists displaying their wares. It was a fine day!
This last week of May, we were planning our big trip to Europe in September, and Carlton Moody came on as bandleader. Carlton came by the house to discuss band members, songs, tour, etc. I am very much looking forward to playing Belgium and France with my European band that includes my daughter, Justyna Kelley, who is currently living and playing music in France. Make plans to join us there, if you can.
While things may still move around, here are the annual IBMA "Bluegrass Ramble” showcases currently scheduled in Raleigh, NC in late September-early October:
9/30/2014 9:00 pm at Longview
10/1/2014 8:20 at The Architect
10/1/2014 11:00 pm Convention Center 4th floor ballroom
Also, IBMA is currently accepting nominations for their big awards show in Raleigh. The first round of votes is due June 9th. If you are a voting member of IBMA, please consider nominating me for:
1. "Pennsylvania Coal" – Album of the Year
2. "You Don't Run Across My Mind" – Song of the Year
3. “Irene Kelley” – Emerging Artist of the Year
See you on the road in June and thanks for continuing to call your local radio station requesting to hear more from “Pennsylvania Coal”. We are so thankful for your support!!