2nd annual “evening of thanksgiving” show, milkboy in ardmore, PA

eot1i was at the first one, ya know.  i remember it well.

it was at the arts scene in west chester.  aislinn bickhardt was there, before she was a mommy…sang “easy fires” with dad and melted me where i stood.  and of course, craig and tommy.  and craig, tommy and joe sherwood.

but then, there was wire and wood.

now, i had heard about this “wire and wood” thing.  from dean sciarra, who might have been one of their biggest fans back in the day…he gave me the minimalist cautionary briefing:  they were badass, and nobody could touch them back in the day.

and that night, i saw for myself what the fuss was about.

smiling for the camera at milkboy...
smiling for the camera at milkboy...

when rick bell and freddy ditomasso took the stage with craig and tommy and they began to play those songs, it all made sense to me.  and i could understand why craig didn’t really tackle this material in his solo shows, too…there was a form of alchemy here that, even with his considerable talent, really only made sense when this combination of personalities were all present and accounted for.

i never forgot it.

then, when this year rolled around and the subject of having me participate in the second “evening of thanksgiving” show and be part of the W&W set, i was beside myself…and i’d been looking forward to it ever since the subject came up.

i mean, i woulda been there anyway…but to be able to play, too…

so while tommy and i were in toledo with the dan may band, the three principles got together and ran through the songs they’d be doing for the show, and they recorded some acoustic demos of them for tommy and i to absorb before we got together to run them the following week.  rick sent them out on monday (our travel day from toledo) and i had them waiting for me when i got home.

the first thing i thought after hearing them all, back to back, for the first time was…it’s just a damn shame that these guys didn’t get a shot at recording these songs when they were still a cohesive unit, complete with their now-departed compadre, f.c. “fritter” collins.

“fritter” is still something of an enigma to me.  ever since i started travelling in certain circles, his name comes up with a frequency with which you might expect to hear aunt bea mentioned in sheriff taylors’ household back in mayberry – he’s still that much a presence, these years after having passed on.  if his name is mentioned in certain company, the din of conversation dips perceptibly.   those who were lucky enough to have known him revere his memory, and i find myself in awe of that.  his talents as a songwriter are unimpeachable, and there’s plenty of evidence of this in the work he left behind…not only the wire and wood catalog, but songs that he co-wrote with craig as well (including kathy mattea’s top ten hit, “you’re the power”, among others).

fritter was a founding member of wire and wood, so his ghost was very much present for this undertaking.

eot3craig decided, after the success of the first EoT show at the now-defunct arts scene in west chester, to make the show an annual event, and to make it a benefit as well…i don’t know whether or not the benefactor will continue to be the make-a-wish foundation, but they got the nod for this years’ show.  since the venue obviously wasn’t going to be a repeat, craig and larry arranged to move the show to milkboy in ardmore…and originally, the show was supposed to carry the entire night.  at some point, though, someone decided to add a late show for another artists’ cd release party..which meant that our 7pm show had to be completely evacuated by 8:45 for the 9pm show.

if you’d been at the show last year, you’d understand why this was a bit of a kick in the ass…it meant that everyone who contributed something to the bill had their sets shortened considerably.  last year, craig and joe sherwood did a set, craig did a solo set with tommy and his daughter aislinn, and then there was a wire and wood set after all that, and the show was a good length.  this year, everyone was off and on very quickly, and i think that it had the potential to feel rushed if you were in the audience…but then again, what the hell do i know?  maybe they appreciated the quicker pace and i’m just talking out my ass.

eot8after my recent passionate vow to stand up for myself and make sure that i was accurately represented to the audience, it took me less than a month to drop back into my old habits…they were out of inputs on the snake, so i ended up running everything through the princeton again.  obviously, i’m going to have to start bringing out the acoustic amp to safeguard against this…that way, they can take a direct box and split it out if the opportunity exists, but i can still have a faithful stage sound if they don’t.  still, the result wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  i took a minute to dial in a different model on the aura pedal for the resonator that worked a little better with the guitar amp.  oh, note to fishman:  the knobs you use on the aura pedals SUCK.  totally unreadable in a stage setting.  those chicken-head knobs that have made such a resurgence of late are popular with players for a reason – you can SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

just something to think about, larry…

eot9for the six song set, i had two dobros (one tuned to G for “yonder man” and “willin” and one tuned to E for “southern wine”), mandolin for “painted pony”, lap steel for “changing of the guard”, banjo for “finally found a reason” and baritone guitar for “memory like a river rolls”.

in other words, just another day at the office. 🙂

the thing that is intriguing for me, though – now a full four days after the gig – is that those songs are almost viral in their tenacity.  i woke up this morning with the chorus from “memory like a river rolls” cycling through my head, and likewise i find that churning banjo-driven hook from “finally found a reason” dropping in to visit pretty often as well.

let me tell ya something.

the inside of my head is a pretty friggin’ crowded place, and it’s not easy to get attention in there.

these songs are pullin’ it off without even trying.

that’s saying something.

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