Blog Archives

Hi, it’s Kathy

Five reasons “all I wanna do” is listen to Sheryl Crow

Civil dissonance

The Magic Strings of Helen Flannigan Spalding

Every day is perfect if you let it be one

Until I saw a small boy with “J-Council” carved into his haircut, I thought I had become the biggest J-Council fan.

Turns out, there are plenty of us. We gathered Sunday at Timber Rattler Stadium for “Keep it Wisconsin”, featuring Cory Chisel, J-Council, Adriel Denea and the Bodeans.

The weather, theme, music, talent and crowd combined to make it a perfect afternoon at the ballpark. Of course, according to J-Council’s “Sun to Sun,” every day is perfect if you let it be one.

But, really, yesterday we didn’t even have to try. We just sat back in the sun and let the music wash over us.

Opening act The Priggs got things rolling with a lively set, followed by Adriel Denea and J-Council. Fun fact: uber-talented keyboardist Alex Drossart and bassist Matty Day played in four of the five bands. That means they spent roughly three straight hours on stage.

Everybody joined in the fun once Cory Chisel got rolling, including the crowd. Special guest Hillary Reynolds jumped in for a few tunes and the whole stadium sang “I’ll Fly Away” and “You are my Sunshine.”

All that happened before the headliners even took the stage. The Bodeans used to be called Da Bodeans, which is another fun fact and one my sister Kathy did not believe when I told her yesterday. In any case, it was fun to head down to the field and cap off the afternoon/evening dancing to the Bodeans.

The whole event was a fundraiser for the Refuge and, if J-Council, the first product of the Refuge’s artist in residence program, is any indication, it’s a very worthy cause indeed.


We thought we were the biggest Jon Wheelock fans, until we saw this little boy with J-Council carved into his hair.


We’re not going to shave our heads, but we’re all J-Council fans too.


We like his unique style of music, and the passion with which he sings it.


We enjoy the whole band, two of which played four separate sets Sunday afternoon.


It was a perfect day for a Keep it Wisconsin concert.


We love that Jon Wheelock’s guitarist is also his dad and a legendary musician in his own right, Steve Wheelock.


Cory knows how to work a crowd and, at one point, had us all singing a spiritual on a Sunday afternoon.


It was pretty cool to see the Bodeans up close and personal. Molly especially enjoyed the accordion.


DJ Tra has his own gig this coming Thursday night..

Choose Your Own Festival Favorite (a post by Molly)

You decide to go to a music festival in downtown Appleton. There are a lot of different artists, but you’ve only heard of a few of them. As you approach College Avenue you hear the sounds of many voices, guitars, basses, and drums all mingle together in a communal cacophony, but one sound cuts through the rest: the twang of a single banjo. Do you follow the sound or continue on your way?

You follow the sounds to a busy cafe. A hush falls over the crowd as a man at the front of the room launches into another impossibly fast folk tune. You take a seat and try to follow his hands as they fly about the instrument. As the set progresses, you can’t help but wonder who this man is, and how you never realized how much you love the banjo before.

The man at the front of the room is Hubby Jenkins, Brooklyn native and member of the Grammy award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. Between the amazing banjo and guitar pieces, Hubby engages the inner child of the audience by reading aloud from a choose-your-own-adventure book and making each decision based on audience votes. He also gives a crash-course on the history of African American folk music (aka American folk music) throughout each set. The freedom and levity of his children’s books contrasted the limitations and difficulties of African American musicians throughout American history. As the audience members progressed through the adventure of the book, they also followed the adventure of African musicians as they traveled across an ocean, through slavery and oppression, discrimination and appropriation, to the present day. The banjo, as I learned, was a slave instrument adapted from traditional African instruments. By the time white musicians began playing the banjo, slave musicians had been cultivating that music for centuries. Still most people associate the instrument with white Appalachian music, and fail to realize the role black musicians played in that movement, a trend all too common in American music.

While the audience at Lou’s Brew last Friday night managed to emerge unscathed from the Haunted House on Chimney Street, we also gained a new understanding and appreciation for those original folk musicians who managed to maintain their culture while in bondage, and the modern artists who bring that culture to new audiences.

The man begins to tell you a story, do you choose to listen?


Hubby Jenkins also brought his folksongs to life with his great voice


Easily one of our favorites of this year’s Mile of Music


The audience at the City Center Atrium also got to go on an adventure with Hubby

Heart and soul in the City of Love

Requiem for a cello

The Magic Strings of Freddie Presto

In our house, we love music. We are shower singers, kitchen dancers, and piano plunkers. Right now, in our living room, there are 13 instruments, ranging from a piano to a didgeridoo, and at one time someone in this house has played them all.
Still, to a person, we understand that we are music’s wingmen, not its soulmate. We play music; we’ve never been inclined to tear apart a piece and work it, measure by measure, until we’ve nailed it down. We appreciate the gift of music in our lives, but we are not its most gifted players.
Still, I found Mitch Albom’s latest book, The Magic Strings of Freddie Presto, fascinating.
Music narrates the book and tells the colorful story of Freddie Presto, “the greatest guitar player to ever walk the earth.”
While it may seem audacious for any mortal to speak for music, Albom, a proud member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, does it with humility and respect.
His passion may be music, but Albom’s gift is in the written word and he infuses his unlikely narrator with authenticity. Music always has been one of life’s greatest story tellers. Albom’s innovative book makes that clear.
I read The Magic Strings of Freddie Presto straight through and it lingers still, in the back of my mind, when I think about how deeply the gift of music can penetrate (and occasionally torture) some of the best people I know.
I highly recommend this book, for musicians, story lovers and people looking for a worthwhile distraction.

Random family photos 2008 (including first day of school) 002

Both my boys played the baritone, based mostly on the their ability to carry the instrument.

Katherine's birthday and HRB 012

I like my living room best when it is filled with people playing instruments.

Katherine's birthday and HRB 016

Here’s a young Molly and her cello.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

I just think it’s a cool book

The Peridot Project: Hope rests in shadows

The first time I listened to “Lonely Work”, a brand new single by a branded new musical group, I found the juxtaposition of sweet music and sad lyrics intriguing. Unrequited love hurts my heart, yet there I was humming along.

Each time I listened, though, I heard more optimism woven into the compelling harmonies and score. I loved the image of a shadow on a shoe, as described in the lyrics.

So, asked by one of the band’s founders and lead singers, Hillary Reynolds, to create a reflection, I wrote the following piece:

Hopes rests in shadows.

It retreats, sometimes, from desperation’s scalding glare, gathers itself under the cool shade of sturdy trees, regroups in quiet corners among cracker crumbs and lint.

It’s there, though, in the rings left by half-empty glasses and pencil sketchings of half-baked dreams. Hope lives in unpretentious places – wine-soaked corks, dull keyboards, worn running shoes.

Strum-soothed, stride-tended, sweat-nursed, lyric-healed, hope feeds on common things like effort and risk.

The search for hope can be lonely, just like the search for love. You have to approach them honestly, with your father’s open heart and your grandma’s fearless soul.

Hope and love trade leads in life’s sweetest dance, bowing low to beckon. You just have to be brave enough to step out on the floor.

I wonder what you think when you listen to the song. Does it conjure up images of your first love? Do you think about how contagious love is? Have you ever been lonely in love?

Check out Peridot, a group that grew from the Hillary Reynolds Band, featuring Hillary and fellow Berklee College of Music graduate Trevor Jarvis.  Here’s a link to Lonely Work. Give it a listen or four and let us know what you think.

blurry Hillary

Here’s a nice, blurry action shot of Hillary and Trevor when they were the Hillary Reynolds Band.

Mile of Music 117

We caught up with Hillary at Mile of Music this year.

Hope Rests in Shadows