Andy's Notes - An Intermittent Article Series

Room for RootsTour – Washington, DC, Area

by Andy May

September 29 – October 2, 2016

"Room for Roots" at the Station Inn - 2016-09-01

View full-size on Flickr

September was a busy month! With the big Station Inn Room for Roots CD release concert and my performance with Kenny Malone at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum behind us, we headed out to Winfield, Kansas, and the Walnut Valley Festival. In addition to my usual whirlwind of  my own sets and Acoustic Kids Showcases, I was honored to participate in a late night concert celebrating the life and memory of guitarist, Pete Huttlinger. Then it was back to Nashville for the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference. I attended several excellent presentations during the conference, and I performed in the Bill Wence Promotions showcase on Music Row at Bobby’s Idle Hour. That was a blast! The venue brought back some honky tonk memories for me, for sure –  it has the vibe! A few days later we set out for a two-and-a-half week tour which would take us to the D.C. area, Sweden, and Ireland. I call it the “Room for Roots Tour ,” and not just after my latest project. There were so many new and renewed connections that we made on the trip that the name fits on many levels.

Heading out:

On September 29, Lauren and I flew out to Washington D.C. for a house concert in Rockville, MD. We spent a couple of days visiting Dan and Amy Sheesley, friends of Lauren’s from her undergraduate days at Colorado State University some 40 years before. Our hosts for the concert itself were Chuck and Laura Woolery, who are, coincidentally, also Lauren’s friends from her CSU days in the 1970s. Chuck and Laura have created a wonderful, welcoming space (with great acoustics!!) in their home for events like this, and it was a delightful visit as well. I really enjoyed meeting this interesting and eclectic group of folks, and I know it was wonderful for Lauren to reconnect with them after so many years had gone by.

The show was great fun! We met many lovely folks who had come out for the concert, and there were some familiar faces in the crowd, too: Mike Licht, my cousin, who I hadn’t seen in way too long, and Bill Mulroney, whose album, Second Wind, I produced in Nashville some years ago. After visiting into the wee hours that night, we got up the next morning and drove out to Reston, Virginia, to visit with Ralph Lee Smith and his lovely wife Susie.

Ralph Lee Smith

Black-and-white photo of five men in long-sleeve shirts and neckties singing together
John Burke, Kenny Kosek, Andy May, Richard Blaustein, and Ralph Lee Smith at the NY Folklore Center, 1967. Photo by Jack Prelutsky. We were so busy yacking on this visit, none of us thought to take a picture! So, here’s one from the old days

Ralph is a dear old friend. He is also a renowned expert on the history of the American Appalachian dulcimer and many other aspects of American folk music. His book, The Story of the Dulcimer (second edition), was just published by the University of Tennessee Press after many years of the first edition being out-of-print. Ralph, now in his late 80s, plays wonderful dulcimer and harmonica and sings fabulous old songs. He was part of a great crowd of pickers and players that I fell in with when I was a teenager living in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. In fact, Ralph played harmonica with me, Kenny Kosek, Al Feldman, and John Burke when the Star Spangled String Band played Carnegie Hall in 1967. In those days, too, Ralph’s West Village apartment was home to many fabulous picking sessions. It was also just down the street from the wonderful old-timey fiddler Alan Block’s sandal shop, where a great old-timey jam took place every Saturday afternoon, and a few streets away from Izzy Young’s Folklore Center on 6th Avenue, which was the hub of the folk music world at the time. In Greenwich Village – The Happy Folk Singing Days – ’50s & ’60s, a book he co-authored with Madeline MacNeil, Ralph writes about all these things and many more.

Though the Folklore Center was a hot spot in the world of  roots music in the ’60s, Izzy moved to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973 and opened the Folklore Centrum there. Later on the very day we visited Ralph, Lauren and I would be flying out to Stockholm to visit Izzy, and later that week I was booked to lead a workshop and give a concert at his Folklore Centrum. There was lots of talk that morning about the old days. It was a great visit, but way too short: We had a plane to catch!

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00