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Mike Craver
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Summer 2008

The Red Clay Ramblers with Fiddlin' Al McCanless
The Bible Salesman
-- Honored with a Stamp
Stephen Holden on Cabaret vs. Arena
Josh Harris
Oak Grove Folk Festival
Summer "Lunches"
Sheet Music

I now have CDs of THE RED CLAY RAMBLERS with Fiddlin Al McCanless available in my Store. This album was released by Folkways Records in 1974.

It features the basic original trio of the Red Clay Ramblers (Tommy Thompson, Jim Watson and Bill Hicks) and the added fiddling of Al McCanless who was in a pre-Ramblers configuration called "The New Academic String Band", which consisted of Al, Jim and Tommy.

I was joining the Ramblers about the time this album was recorded and I appear on only one cut: "I Got The Whiskey". Other personnel on the album include Tom Carter and Laurel Urton. The custom CD has been reissued by Smithsonian Folkways. Dig the left part of the cover photos -- it's the alley way entrance to the old Cat's Cradle when it was on West Rosemary Street!

THE BOTHY BAND Honored with An Irish Stamp

Triona Ni Dhomhnaill writes to inform us that the Irish post office has issued four commemorative stamps honoring 4 Irish trad bands: The Bothy Band (the band Triona played keyboards for), De Dannann, The Tulla Ceili band and Planxty. FMI: www.irishstamps.ie

My local Wachovia branch is beginning to look like a supermarket in Zimbabwe.
Many minds are thinking of starting a Citizens' Revenge Movement. Somewhere somebody is sharpening the guillotine blades, and hitching up Dobbin to the tumbril cart. And little old ladies who've seen their retirement money disappear are pulling up their socks, putting on their bonnets, and packing the knitting needles.

Is it just me or does anyone else have a sneaky suspicion that almost anyone who is even minutely connected to the financial crisis, anyone who works for Washington or the media conglomerates or for the towers of the "Free Market" for that matter, will be tarred with the same brush as the geniuses and Masters of the Universe who got our economy in this mess. They're not going to be trusted, much less tolerated, in the days to come. Many of these guys and gals still have a job and a built in retirement package. They will all walk away from all of this. The Bailout Plan has evidently left in all sorts of loopholes for Universe Masters and their minions, in regard to capping executive pay and puncturing golden parachutes, the kinds of things to which the American public has been overwhelmingly opposing. Does anyone besides me envision a "trust crisis" and a nasty Capra-esque revolt by the general American public? I only hope that huge criminal indictments aren't too long in coming.

And what is it about these Saxophone playing heads of the Fed Reserve ?
According to Wikipedia, Ben Bernanke was an All-State saxophonist, playing in his high school's marching band, when he was growing up in South Carolina. Everybody probably knows by now that Alan Greenspan also plays the saxophone, in his youth he played with Stan Getz. IS THERE AN AUDIAL/CRANIAL/ECONOMIC CONNECTION HERE?

The Demise of the Cabaret Artist
and the Listening Room?

In the shouting, brawling world of mainstream pop, the essential qualities of a cabaret performance — intimacy, emotional vulnerability and interpretive subtlety — have little place. In many ways cabaret embodies artistic values that are the antithesis of those promoted by that monstrous star-making machine, “American Idol.” In Simon Cowell’s critical lexicon, the words “too cabaret” are a damning indictment.

“American Idol” treats singing as an Olympic-style competitive sport in which songs, edited into fragments, no longer tell stories. Their remains become heavily amplified exhibitions of stamina and ego by performers for whom youth, beauty and novelty matter as much as talent.

For the majority of Americans, live music is now an arena-ready event that exalts raw physical energy and the kind of prowess measurable in athletic terms. The typical concert is an orgiastic rite of communion between the public and celebrity. Demolished to make room for coliseums where blood sports rule, the romantic cubbyhole has become as anachronistic as the notion of privacy itself.
--Stephen Holden NYTIMES 10/26/08

Clyde Edgerton has a cool new book out. It's called the Bible Salesman, and it's funny as hell. We are toying with the idea of working it up as a readers's theatre piece with music.

"This is the Hour of Lead -- Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons recollect the Snow --
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go."

-- Emily Dickinson, from "After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes", quoted from article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/13/08

Dr. Ralph Stanley for Obama!!

Daring To Say that Loans Made No Sense, by David Carr.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing a "Palin/Clinton joint appearance" on SNL

Daily Show 9-3-08 - Throwing Their Own Words Back -- Karl Rove with his pants WAY down! Plus Bill O'Reilly and Dick Morris.

"I'm convinced that the immediate mass flip-out over the Palin nomination can't be entirely explained by sexism, elitism or partisan animosity. It was a symptom of just how much the presidential future is a suspense movie scored by Bernard Herrmann." ---Sarah Vowell, NYTIMES 9/07 full op-ed article

Jim Watson and I (plus our cd Meeting in the Air) got a nice mention in an article in the New York Times, 8/13. It's all due to Clyde Edgerton. Clyde wrote a piece about music for the Paper Cuts book blog section of the newspaper: LIVING WITH MUSIC: A Playlist by Clyde Edgerton

Shawnee Press of Nashville, TN has just released a songbook of many of the songs from SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN, the hit Off-Broadway musical and regional theatre stalwart created by Connie Ray and Alan Bailey. Mark Hardwick and I did the musical arrangements.

The glossy new SMOKE Songbook contains over 14 songs from the show plus background material and cast photos. It is scored for vocals, piano and guitar, and it includes chord symbols and tabulature.

The songbook is on sale for $19.95 which includes free shipping and handling in my store. Mike's Music Store

Oil City, California!!!

In July I did 3 weeks of OIL CITY SYMPHONY at the Fullerton Civic Light Opera in Fullerton, CA. We performed in the Plummer Auditorium of the Fullerton Union High School, a beautiful old Spanish Colonial revival style edifice, designed Carlton M. Winslow and built by the WPA in 1930. The Plummer is a large house (1300 seats) and also features a Grand Wurlitzer Organ, original to the building, which has been restored and is used for pipe organ concerts. They wouldn't let me play it, but we did get to serve punch and cookies underneath a huge 75-foot long, 15-foot high mural entitled "Pastoral California", painted by W.P.A. artist Charles Kassler in 1934.

I was joined in the cast by Shawn Stengel, Molly Wassermann and Mary Murfitt, who directed the production. We got a really great review in the LOS ANGELES TIMES . Shawn actually took the press photos featured in the TIMES review. Also, the one below of us serving punch and cookies beneath the WPA mural at Plummer Auditorium.(l-r Mary, myself, Shawn, Mollie.) More excellent Shawn photos of OCS Fullerton and many others at his SmugMug photo site

While we were there we did some sightseeing -- Disneyland, of course, next door to us in Anaheim, plus some jaunts to Hollywood, Santa Monica, and to the fantastic new Getty Center Museum .

On July 21st, Mary took advantage of the new California marriage laws to gethitched to her long time girlfriend Bonnie Hundt. The ceremony took place at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood, and was offciated by Artistic Director James Mellon who also happens to be a minister in the United Church of Religious Science. Old friend Cass Morgan, who was down in La Jolla rehearsing a new musical called "Memphis", came up for the day and she and I sang "My Girl" in the ceremony. Molly Wassermann sang a song called (appropriately) "Mary's Song," and Mary's friend from college days in Kansas, actor Tyrees Allen , read a poem. Tyrees had driven in from location in Texas just for the afternoon. After the ceremony, which was very beautiful, touching and hard won, the wedding party repaired to the Eclectic Cafe, right around the corner on Lankershim Blvd., where a jolly time was had by all. (Mary and Bonnie at right)

I've done this show (Oil City) so many times, it has been such a huge part of my life, it's beginning to feel like one of the eternal verities. Worlds may come and go, empires may rise and fall, fashions may change and theatres may open and close, but Oil City seems to operate like a divine Swiss Clock, and it always leaves 'em laughin' when they go!

We must be very lucky because the morning after we left SoCal there was a 5 pt. earthquake not very far from where we were staying!

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Josh Harris. He was killed August 30th in Afghanistan, where he was a special Warfare Operator First Class U.S. NAVY SEAL. He had been temporarily deployed overseas from his assignment at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in Virginia Beach. He had received the Bronze Star, among many other medals and commendations.

Although I didn't know Josh well, his mom Evelyn was a friend of mine, member of my church and fellow "theatre nut". Josh attended Lexington Senior High School (my alma mater) where he was a an all-county and all-conference football player. But he had wide and varied interests, and ended up studying art and architecture at Davidson College and UNC-C. He lived in NYC for a time, where he pursued a career in graphic arts before joining the Seals in 2000. From all accounts he was an extraordinary young person. It hits home when this happens to people you know, and especially when it happens to someone who was really trying to make a difference with his life. article in Hampton Roads

"Oak Grove Folk Festival

Bill and Jim and Joe and I had a good time playing at the OAK GROVE FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL. It's held in Verona, Virginia, just north of Staunton. It was an especially convivial weekend because we got to do the gig with the great Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group, featuring our own Jim Watson, and Jimmy Gaudreau, and also old friend and multi-instrumentalist/entertainer par excellence John McCutcheon was on hand, wowing the crowd as usual. Also on hand was singer Joyce Breeden, and blue stone sky. The festival is produced by the Theatre Wagon of Virginia and happens on the site of the Oak Grove Theatre, an outdoor stage company founded by Fletcher Collins in 1952. Fletcher and his wife Margaret were local and national legends, fostering and encouraging theatre and performing arts in the region and beyond for many years. They are also the parents of Dr. Francis S. Collins, of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Tom and Gail Watts made a video of the last song of the weekend, Francis singing "All the Good Times Are Past and Gone", with Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH7UEXkLjT4.

The Oak Grove audience section only fits 250 people, and the stage lighting and sound are excellent so it is an intimate musical experience underneath tall towering oaks, and the festival audience is devoted and lovingly attentive. The weather cooperated Saturday and part of Sunday -- beautiful sunny yet un-hot pre-Autumn skies. Sunday was beautiful too but then a Shenandoah storm blew up. We didn't know whether to continue or not. I set up my piano twice only to tear down when the drops started falling. The afternoon concerts finally continued, sans sound system, in the enclosed pavillion next to the stage.

We stayed at "Willoughby", a big rambling 6000 sq. foot house, incorporating many additions and styles of architecture, and dating back several centuries when Augusta County went all the way to the Mississippi River. Willoughby, surrounded by 200 acres of farmland and perched on a hillock overlooking Staunton, is currently occupied and owned by Margaret and Oakley Pearson who were our genial hosts for the weekend.

"Summer LUNCHES":

LUNCH AT THE PICCADILY enjoyed two productions this summer, the first at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, in Fayetteville NC, in July, and then at the Parkway Playhouse, Burnsville, NC the first week of August. review in ASHEVILLE CITIZEN

RADIO GALS in Raleigh:
Raleigh Little Theatre did an excellent production of RADIO GALS earlier this summer

Haskell Fitz-Simons directed the production.

The cast for RLT's production was Hazel: Jo Brown, Gladys: Susan Burcham, America: Katherine Hennenlotter, Rennabelle: Rose Martin, Miss Mabel: Greg Dixon; Miss Azilee: Brent Wilson, and O.B. Abbott: Don Smith.

It was a lot of fun to have RADIO GALS produced in the Triangle. There was a nice review in the June 5th edition of the NC INDEPENDENT WEEKLY, and RLT's production was an "INDY PICK".

Yesterday's Papers:
Spring 2008
Fall/Winter 2007
Summer 2007
Spring 2007
Winter 2006/07
Fall 2006
Summer 2006
Spring 2006
Fall Winter 2005
Spring Summer 2005
Fall/Winter 2004/05
Summer 2004
Winter/Spring 2004