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America’s Soul Live just keeps getting better.  On Tuesday, August 16 at 7:30, Jon & the boys are joined by one of America’s finest songwriters, Mike Fleming, and one of Colorado’s most interesting young songsters, Willie Hammond. Willie’s jazzy/folk keyboard-based tunes (with lyrics from her mom, Yvonne), Mike’s compelling Americana compositions, and Jon’s nuevo-cowpoke musings will provide a fine, fine evening….one of the very best.  Of course, Johnny, Ernie & Jeff will be on hand, and Kit will lend his formidable pickin’ skills to Willie’s fine tunes.  A file with all the info’s attached.  Reservations are suggested.  Hope to see you at the Pickin’ Parlor on the 16th.

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I’ll be in Elizabeth, CO this Saturday with my pal Barry Ward for a great concert series put on by Coyote Creek Concerts for the Elbert County Music and Arts folks.  This is my first Coyote Creek concert, but I’ve heard nothing but raves from the folks who have played it.  For those who are unfamiliar, Elizabeth is a beautiful spot on the prairie east of Denver.  Check out attached flyer, and I hope you can join me Saturday evening, July 30 at 7:30 for what promises to be a fine show.

Ernie Martinez is an incredible musician and super-sideman who’s helped define my music over the past dozen years or so, and who has become an indispensible part of the America’s Soul Live series.  He’s stepping out of his sideman role for an evening at Swallow Hill in order to introduce his new CD, Blue Range, a collection of “cowboy songs done bluegrass style.”  The CD release concert is on Saturday, July 16 at Swallow Hill Music, 71 East Yale Ave., Denver, CO. Info: and tickets:  www.swallowhillmusic.org or 303-777-1003.  It will be a fine evening with Ernie being joined onstage by many of the area’s finest pickers and singers.  More info. is on the attached pdf flyer.  Hope you can make it to Swallow Hill and support Ernie’s new venture.

An incredible ASL this month!  Jon (Dawson and the Jon Chandler Band) and Timothy P. Irvin (Timothy P. and Rural Route Three) were regularly featured at many of Denver’s legendary nightclubs, and they’ve put together a honky-tonk/western swing/rockabilly who’s who to recreate some of those fine times.  Dubbed Little TimmyJon & the Can’t Hardly Playboys, the band includes Ernie Martinez, Johnny Neill, Dana Vernon, Chris Stongle, Butch Hause, Kit Simon and some special guests.  ASL – Tuesday, July 19 @ 7:30…the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada.  This will be a great ASL…don’t miss it.  The attached pdf file has all the info.  Hope to see you at the Pickin’ Parlor.

Thoughts on Kansas

Carl Sandburg dubbed Chicago the City of Big Shoulders.  Perhaps back then, when the growing cities of the Great Lakes and East Coast bustled with what can only be termed a uniquely American sense of promise, but I think not now.  It’s a mega-city of whatever northern and northeastern urban America has become; its soul (with minor distinctions) long-since melded with Philadelphia, Detroit and even the Big Apple.  No, such a heroic designation today should and likely would be bestowed by the great poet on what songwriter Michael McGuinness calls the middle of the middle west…Kansas.  The Land of Big Shoulders, surely.  Broad, flat, muscular, strong, vast, it’s a place where the concept of the land is omnipresent.  Even its urban areas are mere minutes from the fields, swales, gentle hills, creeks and rivers that combine to create much of the world’s finest farmland. 

Kansans think big.  Make that wide.  A 70-mile jaunt to dinner and a movie is unexceptional.  Farms seem limitless and ranches extend forever.  No mountains, no oceans, no 300 day-a-year moderate climate, it is instead a place where the horizons force you to look outward, a place where you don’t climb the ladder, you walk the line.  It’s a marvelous state to both ponder and realize life’s possibilities. 

Its history is fascinating.  Home to the Osage, Pawnee, Comanche, and Kansa, pivotal to the formation of today’s United States as a battleground between Union and Confederate philosophies, invaluable to the formation of the country’s livestock and rail industries, and, from my perspective, home to what have become romantic notions of the American Frontier.  Dodge City, Coffeyville, Wichita, Abilene, Fort Hayes, ad infinitum.  The Earps, the Mastersons, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill, the Daltons, Wes Hardin, ad infinitum. Kansas sends shivers down the Wild West aficionado’s spine. 

Politically, it leans right, but with the strong streak of populism found wherever people grow things.  It gave us both Bob Dole and Kathleen Sebelius, which tells us either everything or nothing.  Several of my Kansas friends and acquaintances (particularly the educators and entertainers) are hidebound liberals, and some (particularly the landsmen and merchants) are equally conservative.  They’re all Kansans…proud to be Jayhawks and Wildcats, and proud of the unique place they and their cousins, the Nebraskans, hold in America’s soul.  

Pat and I drove through Kansas in late February in the midst of a 300 mile-long storm of frozen rain and snow to attend a memorial service for my friend Dick Wellman.  (In fact, it’s 75 degrees outside on a late June morning as I write this, yet I’m cold as a St. Vrain trout just thinking about that winter sojourn across Kansas.) Even while concentrating on the road in horrible conditions, I could still feel the lure of the place.  Pat thinks it’s our age.  As a teenager, she couldn’t wait to get off the farm and out of small town Nebraska.  As an adult, there have been a thousand times she’d have given anything to go back.  Circumstance always prevented it, but I’ve always been lured by the rural Midwest, as well. 

Driving west to east across I-70 in a storm is pretty intimidating.  You try to take your place in line behind a semi…far enough back to be able to see, and hope the trucker can see, as well.  Idiots abound, and take to the left lane as if it’s a spring day in Guadalajara.  Infrequently, they’re seen stuck in the median, standing outside their overturned vehicles staring into the distance, or even at the next town’s diner, their steering wheel-molded hands clasping a hot cup’a joe.  Through the mist and the clouds, the churches of Kansas stand tall against the weather, and the height of the omnipresent grain elevators is rivaled only by the magnificent church steeples. Catholic, Methodist, Mennonite, Baptist.  Kansans take their faith seriously, and being a Kansas preacher is, by all accounts, a pretty good job.  And no, 99.999 percent of Kansans don’t have any love for the Westboro Baptist Church, either.  (Of course, it’s not really a Baptist church, having no affiliation other than appropriating the name.)  It’s a festering boil that’s only tolerated because Midwesterners actually understand the concept of free speech.     

We stayed in Hutchinson, Kansas the night before Dick’s funeral.  (Kansans call the place Hutch.) Our trip had taken about double its estimated time, and my pals from the Hole in the Wall Gang were in even worse shape, having left later, thus encountering the storm’s full wrath.  The Brunetti clan – Tony, Denise, John and Anthony – caravanned with Greg, Dale, Pineapple and Monty on the twelve hour crawl from Denver.  What’s more, they had to return the next day after the service.  (It’s the way western folks do things.  “If I don’t sleep and drive a few extra hours, I’ll get home in time to tan that buffalo hide or teach that new mustang how to count to ten.”)   We all hooked up the next morning in nearby Sterling, Kansas at a brunch/lunch put on by the American Legion in honor of Dick, and met a lot of people we knew, and a lot of people we’d heard about.  We also picked up a great recipe for baked pork chops. 

Dick’s children were charming, as we knew they’d be.  Of course, Brad’s already one of us, since he’s in the Hole in the Wall Gang, and it was a great pleasure – make that an honor –  to meet Greg, Alan, and Emily.  I already felt as if I’d known them for ages, just from talking with their father.  Since Dick’s death a few weeks earlier, I’d corresponded with Alan and Emily at length, as well as with Tricia Bridgess, a marvelous e-conversationalist. Alan’s wife Lora Lee is lovely, and seemed to take Dick’s death especially hard.  She, like her husband, is a fantastic musician, and it must have been tough for her to take up the piano duties at the funeral.  Some time after Emily, Greg, Alan and Brad’s mother Myrtle passed away, Dick remarried JoAnne, and it was a substantial pleasure to meet her children, as well.  Pat and I got to know JoAnne fairly well before she unfortunately succumbed to cancer, and it was moving to see how much they loved and respected Dick.

Dick’s service was both humbling and moving.  It was held on what would have been his 90th birthday.  Despite the weather, just about everyone came.  The Methodist church in Sterling was packed to overflowing, and the pastor gave a fine treatise on the meaning of Dick’s life.  All too quickly…it was over.  In no time, it seemed we were at the frigid cemetery, where Dick’s remains were interred next to those of Myrtle.  An old friend of his whose name I’ve misplaced read a resolution in memory of Dick adopted by the Kansas State Legislature.   It noted his life as an exemplary Kansan, a warrior, farmer, rancher, father, husband, and adventurer.  It was, and is, a true family treasure. 

Following the service, Pat and I headed back to Hutchinson to spend time with Race and Marnie Proffitt.  Race’s mother Marse had been Dick’s friend and companion for a few years, and we’d gotten to know all three of them at Gang functions in Denver.  Race and Marnie had recently moved from Denver to Hutchinson, landing in a spectacular home that boasts stunning architecture and a pet chicken in the backyard.  Their dog and the chicken get along famously, and they don’t have to buy many eggs these days.  Race’s brother and sister-in-law joined us for cocktails before taking back off for Coffeyville.  Later that evening, we had a fine time as the Proffitt’s guests at the Prairie Dunes Country Club, and they had us about halfway convinced to go home, pack a trailer and move to Hutch.

The trip home was uneventful, but pretty somber.  Pat and I talked for hours about Dick and his world.  About the people that surrounded him, and how lucky we were to have become part of that circle.  My admiration of the Midwest was renewed, and I had the feeling that as long as there’s a Kansas, we Americans are in pretty good shape.

 

An exceptional America’s Soul Live is planned for Tuesday, June 21.  Bay Area favorites The Mild Colonial Boys join Jon and the boys for an incredible evening of original Americana and Celtic music.  The Mild Colonial Boys are John Caulfield, Rory McNamara, Fergus Feely, and Kyle Alden, each in their own right respected musicians and songwriters in America and Europe.  Together, their harmonies and musicianship are singular, indeed.  Plan to be at what will surely be one of the very best editions of America’s Soul Live on Tuesday, June 21….Hope to see you there.  All the info’s on the attached pdf file.  Remember:  Reservations are suggested.

If you’re in or near Colorado, there are a lot of things going on in the next few days….

 1.  Barbed Wire Books in Longmont, CO is hosting an incredible group of authors on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.  Thirty authors will be at Barbed Wire to meet, greet, talk about their work and, of course sign books.  I’ve performed at the store before, and it’s a wonderful facility.  Drop by and say “hey.”  Barbed Wire is at 504 Main Street in Longmont.  303-827-3620.   Since I’ll be hanging around for five hours with some amazing authors, at least drop by and bring me a cookie. 

 2. Tuesday’s America’s Soul Live will be one of our very best.  Gary McMahan is the quintessential cowboy poet/singer/songwriter and his pard Mike Hurwitz is a virtual “diversity program” of Americana styles.  Ernie, Johnny & Jeff will join us and Toby the Dog promises to refrain from unacceptable activities.  Call Kit at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor for reservations…303-421-2304.

3.  I’ll be joining just about every cool artist in Denver on Thursday, May 19th at Red & Jerry’s in Sheridan, CO  (Hampden & Santa Fe) for an amazing benefit for Aaron & Katherine Lamana Banks.  This young couple suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident, and this benefit will help them face the enormous financial cost of their recoveries.  Timothy P. Irvin is putting this shee-bang together, and the line-up is pretty impressive…(besides me, I guess.).  Timothy P. Irvin (Timothy P. & Rural Route III, Flash Cadillac), Chris Daniels (Chris Daniels & the Kings), John Magnie (the Subdudes), string wizard Ernie Martinez (every band in the continental U.S.) , The 17th Avenue All-Stars, Jim & Salli Ratts with Butch Hause (Runaway Express), Chris Stongle (every great band in Denver, including Chris Daniels and the Kings and the Hazel Miller Band), Denver’s fiddler of choice Johnny Neill, Jeff Graves (Ouzo Project, Jon Chandler & the Wichitones), Dana Vernon (a million bands, and one of America’s finest guitarists) & many more…..6 to 9 p.m….303-789-2913. 

4. Saturday, May 21…THORNTONFEST!   I get to play my home town, Thornton, CO, during the day, no less.  Ernie, Jeff and I will be on the Marketplace Stage at Thorntonfest from noon to 1 for this great outdoors festival.  Grab a little lunch, come on by and soak in the sun…plus, if you didn’t bring me a cookie at Barbed Wire Books, bring one (or three) to us at Thorntonfest.  108th and Colorado Blvd.  Get the whole scoop right here.  http://www.cityofthornton.net/festivals/thorntonfest/Pages/default.aspx

5. The following week is one of the most important of my life.  My oldest son Ben is marrying Miss Savannah Janke, and Pat & I will be hosting family and reflecting on how fine life can be.    

Take care, everyone……

Jon