Monday, September 13, 2010

The Decatur Book Festival: Variation on a theme

Bookzilla grunts, "BOOOOKS"
Labor Day Weekend 2010: A couple of days filled with beer, barbeque, the great outdoors and lots of chillin’ out. An extra day off for those of us who labor for five days out of all but a few weeks of every year of our working lives.

In Atlanta, five years ago, the folks of the well-read and well-written Atlanta Journal-constitution decided to sponsor the first ever Decatur Book Festival. Now, five festivals later, Decatur (one of Atlanta’s thriving arts neighborhoods) is still hosting what has become the largest independent book festival in the country.
Labor Day. Book Festival. Whoever it was who was drinking that night five or so years ago and said, “Hey, let’s take the barbeque out of the Labor Day equation and replace it with books,” thank you. This new equation really rocks!

Meeting with poet, Alice Shapiro
Decatur’s town square and old-fashioned community feel is the spot that hits the spot for such a festival. With established and successful venues within reasonable walking distance of the town square, the festival supports poetry and prose readings, keynote presentations by internationally-recognized authors, an emerging authors stage, a fun and lively children’s stage, and good ol’ Southern-style story telling with enough room for a kids’ parade and a gigantic blow-up version of the festival mascot, BookZilla! Agnes Scott College hosted writing workshops and the keynote address by Jonathan Franzen; the popular coffeehouse, Java Monkey, featured surprisingly avant-garde poetry readings and Eddie’s Attic staged all-day events highlighted by a story telling session in the style of NYC’s non-profit, The Moth, and a singer-songwriter gathering around the stories and life of Eudora Welty. Famous in the folk and Americana music circles, Kate Campbell, Claire Holley and Atlanta’s own Caroline Herring shared conversation and some of their songs to a happily-packed house.

In the midst of and surrounding all of this fun and more, were booths galore (over 600) filled with books and authors and publishers and independent bookstores. Some activities were indoors, but most were outdoors, in keeping with the traditional Labor Day holiday setting.

So how does the beer fit into this new equation? It’s the location, location, location. Another plus for having the festival in Decatur is that the square is surrounded by a variety of restaurants, pubs and outdoor cafes to feed and whet the whistle of this year’s 70,000 plus festival attendees.

Choose from Eddie’s Attic with their burgers and sweet potato fries at the Rooftop Grill; the culinary cutting edge tapas for a midnight snack at The Iberian Pig; a cup of fancy Joe or a glass of wine at The Java Monkey or just a pint (or two) of some of the best hand-crafted beers in the country at the Brick Store Pub. Oh, and while you’re sitting under the umbrellas at the pub, you may be lucky enough to see a fishnet stocking-wearing unicyclist accompanied by a Poirot-like-mustachioed accordion player.

Now THAT is not your typical Labor Day weekend, but it’s one heck of a great variation on a theme!

A few links for planning your next Labor Day weekend at the Decatur Book Festival:  (pork cheek tacos--yuummm)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Patchwork River--Second Hunter Lauderdale Collaboration

Former Grateful Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter, has partnered with twice-Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale for the second time. And, for the second time, the team offer us an opportunity to take a musical journey through life mostly lived and now remembered--romance, regrets, love, questions unanswered, dreams not realized and an assortment of memories gathered in the quest of living life to the fullest.

Somehow, I always get the feeling that Robert Hunter is teaching us about history and the American culture in his lyrics. A man who loves the work of Rilke, and who has even managed a rhyming translation of some of Rilke's work doesn't just write songs that fill the spaces between the notes. That kind of writer has something bigger to say; if you pay attention, you'll get all of the lessons and you'll garner yourself a gold star for effort.

However, the greatest reward for going on this journey through Patchwork River is listening to Lauderdale's singing.

If you're used to his Grammy-award-winning bluegrass singing, you'll be surprised to hear Jim's delivery of the blues-like knockout, "Alligator Alley". It will slide right by you, if you don't pay attention, so pay attention. How about the humorous "Turn To Stone" with a chorus you'll want to sing along to, while you chuckle about your own teen-aged experiences with trying to talk to someone that you were infatuated with? Having heard Lauderdale sing this one live at one of his 2010 Merlefest performances, I can attest to the addictive quality of the chorus. I sang along all the way through!

There are also several slower waltzes on the new CD. Try "Good Together", "Tall Eyes", "Far In the Far Away" and my personal favorite "Between Your Heart and Mine" with your special someone. But don't let the music carry you away--the lyrics are all about life lessons and might hit home with those of us who've lived a few years past the newlywed years.

In their first collaboration, "Headed For the Hills", it was the musicianship that stood out. The best of the best of vocalists and instrumentalists bringing their best together for the sake of the song. This CD is cleaner and simpler, seeming to focus more on the singing with Lauderdale's voice right up front, and back up vocals from people who usually lead the singing. Think Patti Griffin, folks!

If you've ever dreamed a movie for your life that included a man, a woman, a worn down bar with a small band playing while you dance with your lover, then you've got a pretty good idea of where these 13 songs will take you.

A couple of lines from the song, "Patchwork River" to whet your appetite,

What you do for love alone will last;
the rest just clutters up your past.

Today is the official release date for Patchwork River, which can be purchased at and all the usual outlets. You can also buy the CD at any of Jim Lauderdale's performance venues. For a list of upcoming tour dates, click here, although you may not want to wait for a concert to buy the CD. This Hunter-Lauderdale gem of a musical adventure is even more worthy of seeking out sooner, because of the cover artwork by Tim Truman. Tim is an illustrator who has designed many of the CD covers for The Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna and Carlos Santana.


If you've never heard of Jim Lauderdale, this is a video example of how beautifully he sings. This song is from his CD, "Honey Songs". I believe that it's one of the most beautiful country songs ever written.

On the CD he sings this with the vocal harmonies of Emmylou Harris. Try singinging this one all alone, with only the strumming of your guitar. He is just amazing! See what you think.

You can also buy the new CD from Jim's own store at

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Poet Alice Shapiro Nominated for Pushcart

Friend and poet, Alice Shapiro has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Instead of waiting patiently, this creative lady built a project on her website, which includes other Pushcart nominees. The project, "The Change Interviews", features an audio segment for each nominee and a link to their website. And, if you prefer to read each poem yourself, there's also a link to the featured poem. What a wonderful idea and what a treat to hear each poet read his or her poem!

This is Alice's poem.

The Change Interviews project is also featured on the Library of Congress website, where you can explore other audio projects.
Alice is also nominated for a GAYA prize, "...the oldest literary awards in the Southeastern United States...The GAYA honors both independently published authors, those whose books are published by traditional publishing houses."
Our Ms. Shapiro is quite busy, yes, but not too busy to be finishing up her second book of poetry, so keep an eye out for that release. Alice's work has only improved, and her poems offer a musical treat to the ears. You may follow Alice via or

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Growing Genius

Where does genius grow? How does it happen? Is it in the big cities, with all the varied and marvelous cultural stimulation and opportunities galore, that genius is most likely to grow? Is it, perhaps, in the watermelon patch, the ballroom of a Western saloon or the back yard of a small town?

Last night I watched a documentary about Charles Wadsworth, the amazing man behind the huge popularity of The Chamber Music Series at The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. There was much that I found pleasing about this man, and there were surprises, but the biggest surprise was that this impressive man and talented pianist was born and grew up in Newnan, Georgia. That’s “NOO-nan”, for those who are not proficient in the dialect of this part of Georgia.

Just as Newnan, Georgia, nurtured and supported a budding talent and germinating genius, so has the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina, provided just the right mix of timing, support, opportunity and numerous stages upon which the previously put-aside musical genius of Bob Kilgore could once again play his guitar and experiment with new compositions.

For readers who are YouTube fans, you may already know Bob Kilgore, “the guitar guy”, who (to date) has had over a million views, a whopping 1,289,151, to be accurate. For others who are MySpace members, you may have a friend called Bob Kilgore who is a guitar-playing inventor, and for the few musically gifted of you who are guitar-players, you surely know about Bob Kilgore, the inventor of the harmonic capo. You know about him and his capo, because you’ve seen tremendous reviews in many major guitar magazines nationally and internationally!

A Yankee transplant to South Carolina, Bob Kilgore is the genius behind some amazing guitar compositions, unbelievable guitar work (which you can view on YouTube and MySpace) and the greatest thing in the guitar-playing world since, well, since the capo. Bob had an idea for the harmonic capo, worked up a prototype and sent it out to a number of professional guitar greats for feedback. A few years later, Kilgore is the new best friend of guitarists around the globe.
You don’t believe me? This is what the April 2008 issue of Vintage GuitarMagazine said:
"The Harmonic Capo is one of those ingeniously simple gizmos that makes you smack yourself on the forehead and say, 'Now why didn't I think of that!' It's a darn clever tone tool and one that's sure to reinvigorate the acoustic-fingerstyle scene."

Why, they even called it “Accessory of the year!” And if that’s not proof enough for you, how about Guitar Player Magazine, who said:

"...the coolest capo - and maybe the coolest gadget of any type - that we've seen in a long time...""It's incredible - you can combine fretted notesand harmonics in ways that would be flat-out impossible by any other means."

But don’t worry, none of these accolades have gone to the head of our small-town genius, quite the opposite, actually. While he will now accept compliments, he is still a humble and rather down-to-earth person, who is interested in finishing the newest guitar composition, working on the new classical guitar version of his capo and in improving his guitar playing skills.

The good news for those of us who cannot use the harmonic capo is that last July Bob released a new CD, “Back in the Day”, a joint effort by Weaseltrap Records and Homemade Genius Productions. You can sample some of the music by visiting Bob’s MySpace page.

Bob’s musical influences are quite varied. Having grown up in a house filled with musicians and music of all kinds, it’s no wonder that he shows signs of Steve Reich and John Adams in his compositions, as well as the influence of a personal connection to Michael Hedges.

Kilgore says that he has had more than one musical epiphany on his musical journey. “My first was in 1974, when I saw the Mahavishnu Orchestra.” He adds that, “they had to peel me off the wall after that show. It changed my life.”

Bob’s second epiphany came with the music and guitar playing of Michael Hedges. “Michael opened the door to the whole Windham Hill catalog,” Kilgore says, and then came his exposure to Steve Reich. “Here was intense, pulsating counterpoint like I had never heard before,” he tells us, and adds, “People don’t have much trouble hearing Steve Reich and Michael Hedges in my music, but all the others are there…”

With the making of the new CD, came a family reunion of sorts when Bob’s brother, Tim, joined him on the keyboard for the recording of 10 of the 16 tracks on “Back in the Day”. They had not worked together for 18 years. Joining them on some of these is Sarah Morris, co-founder of Greenwood’s Homemade Genius. (Look for more about Homemade Genius in a future edition.) Sarah plays the cello and violin on the recording. Tim Kilgore played keyboards and percussion on Bob’s first two CDs, “Phoenix Song” and “Epicycles”, which are also being re-released this July, along with the newest CD, “Back in the Day”. Each of the first two CDs will include three bonus tracks for the original 1988-90 recording session, but which were never released.

You can find out all about the Harmonic Capo, including how to get your own, at, and you can view videos of Bob’s guitar work by going to Or you can visit Bob Kilgore at his MySpace page and chill out by listening to some of the loveliest guitar playing anywhere today. Try it out,

You may purchase the new CD from his website or at, and at If you prefer instant gratification, mp3 downloads are available at and many other sites.

Hey, folks, stay tuned!