We’re on our way back to Michigan full of gratitude for what has been an incredible trip full of memorable experiences.
First we set out for St. Louis where I was at the helm for one last Folk Alliance Region Midwest conference. With endless thanks to all the undaunted volunteers, it turned out to be a smashing success. Read more about that here: http://farmfolk.org. We left St. Louis (wondering for more than a few minutes why we weren’t heading home for some much needed rest) and hit the road for Mountain Home, AR to perform for a sweet crowd of music lovers at the UU gathering place – a concert set up by our super talented friend, Kim Richardson, and hosted by a sweet couple – Art & Pam. As we spent the next couple days driving further south to Austin where we visited with Rod’s daughter, son-in-law and grandson (no, that’s not a typo), we were finally able to unwind and recognize the unintended healing properties this trip was starting to reveal.
After a couple of quiet nights in Austin we set off to Houston for our show at Songbird Sanctuary – a wonderful concert series hosted by Tom Yeager who Rod and I met at a number of Folk Alliance conferences. I had hoped to take a detour to Round Top where the Junk Gypsy Warehouse is located only to find out that they won’t be open till Christmas or later. So now, a little ahead of schedule, we spot some cars pulled over just outside of the city at a sparsely populated roadside park near a small bayou. We take a little walk to shake off the road rash and then pull out the banjo and viola to run through the trio of tunes we were planning to spring on the unsuspecting crowd. (Fortunately for us, we were to find that no one was of the traditional ilk so it turned out ok.)
Tom and Sara live in a charming neighborhood at the edge of downtown Houston. They have a beautiful 100 year old home that remains one of the few still intact on this street where both Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt once lived. Tom and Sara KNOW how to do a house concert. We are virtually unknown in Texas and while Tom prides himself in introducing new artists to his audience it’s no easy feat to get folks out to here “who?” None-the-less, he corralled a room full of enthusiastic, generous, ready-to-have-a-good-time people which made for such a fun show. By the end of the night we felt like we’d just made some great new friends in that house full of kind-hearted Texans – natives, transplants and visitors.
The original plan from Houston was to take the next three days to get back home. But Monday night, after our concert in Arkansas, we got a phone call from a one Joseph Leavell who we had the pleasure of meeting in St. Louis at our conference. He had evidently gone home and looked up our music on Spotify (didn’t even know we were ON Spotify? What’s Spotify?) and apparently he liked it so much he wanted to throw us a last minute house concert. He saw that we were going to be in Houston and figured we’d have to come right back through Dallas where he lives. He made us an unbelieveably generous offer that we could not refuse and words just can’t express our gratitude to him for making our last night in Texas so magical. This is another example of what is meant by “it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality”. We were happy to reconnect with a man named John, who is one of the bookers for a major Dallas concert series, another in attendance was a great singer/songwriter named Bill Nash, who runs a camp at Kerrville, and nearly everyone there had some connection to, or story about, visiting Michigan. But the most amazing thing, after we closed our first set with Crocodile Man – watching all the faces light up in a way they hadn’t quite yet – we stood up only to be accosted (in the best way) with a big bear hug for playing a Dave Carter song by a man named Tom Noe. Turns out that, not only did he know Dave personally – as did a number of the folks in attendance – but Dave stayed at his house on occasion. Tom proceeds to tell us the story of how one morning at breakfast, he and Dave have a conversation about (much more than, but in simple terms) science & religion – evolution. It was this conversation that gave root to one of Dave’s most covered works of genius called “Gentle Arms of Eden”. Tom, a ‘secular humanist’ scientist (self proclaimed atheist) is one of the most kind-hearted loving warm beings we have ever met and the reverence on his face when he spoke of Dave was bright and beautiful. We decided to share a few more of our own songs and then open it up to the other musicians in the audience. First Bill Nash, who shared his gorgeous version of Dave Carter’s “When I Go”, then our host Joseph performed his own wonderfully hilarious “award-winning” song, “Jailed in France” and a snippet of another that made my face hurt. Then Tom finished things off with (what else?) “Gentle Arms of Eden”. No kidding. It was magic. And then as if that weren’t enough, he played the Peter Mayer song “Holy Now”, with an additional verse that he’d written, with Peter’s blessing. It was hard to leave, but we knew we had to put some hours in so we headed out feeling like we’d just made some more wonderful new friends, especially in Joseph, our host, and with the promise that we’ll be back as soon as we can make it happen.
Every single person we met in Texas took us into their hearts and made us feel so welcome and cared for that we almost didn’t want to come home. We’ve been to Texas a handful of times, and we were supported and surrounded by the family of Kerrville New Folkies. This time we were on our own, so we thought. We were not. In both Houston and Dallas we were treated with respect, kindness and extreme generosity. It’s really hard these days to accept that we’re worthy of this. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’re not. But now, as Rod and I sit in the car mostly in silence with our own thoughts, we occasionally look at each other, shaking our heads in disbelief at what we’ve just had the immense good fortune to experience, we recognize that we will spend the rest of our lives working hard to at least get somewhere close to worthy of what we have already been given, which is way more than we ever imagined.