As I write this, I’m listening to mixes from a new recording that’s coming out at the end of March. Chris Stapleton is singing harmony notes I didn’t know existed on Billy Edd Wheeler’s High Flying Bird. I look outside and see Great Taylor Bay through the Eucalypts. It’s morning on Bruny Island in Tasmania where Jan I have been the last three nights. Earlier this morning, just before sunup, we saw wallabies feeding on the lawn outside. We arrived in Australia on December 27, and we’ve already played a festival this year. Woodford Folk Festival is a giant spectacle with 200K plus people of every stripe dancing and enjoying the music under a very intense summer sun here down under. This coming weekend we play the Cygnet festival near here and then continue our run with shows in Melbourne, Wollongong, Narooma, and Sydney before getting home on January 20th. We built enough free time into the schedule to visit friends and see the sights long the way. Our three days here have been amazing, eating good food and enjoying the beautiful landscape and wildlife on this most southern state in Australia.
The new record, Where the River Meets the Road, focuses on West Virginia music. Besides High Flying Bird, there are songs by Bill Withers, the Bailes Brothers, the Lilly Brothers, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Doc Williams, Hazel Dickens, Edden Hammons, Larry Groce, and John Lilly. I also contributed two originals, both about my own family. After a long year of touring, we got home in late October and I started the process, recorded in November, mixed in December, and now am finishing the liner copy as 2017 begins. I had a blast making the record and tried my best to showcase the wide range of music from my home state. I had good helpers and I’ll leave it at that - you’ll hear more soon!
2016 started with a tour of the UK and Ireland, followed by a tour of the US with Lunasa, then a Midwest run with Old Man Luedecke. I played a very cool concert with Paul Brady in Dublin, on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. At the end of April we stopped in Athens Ohio to work on a recording with my old friend and mentor J.D. Hutchison, which came out in October. I played the Telluride Bluegrass festival for the 40th time. There were a few Hot Rize shows in there, including a show at Red Rocks with String Cheese Incident. Soon after a trip to Tønder Fest in Denmark, we played a waterlogged Winfield festival in Kansas. It was good to be back there after many years. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco and Farmers Branch near Dallas rounded out the year of performances.
But that’s just the business side. My son Joel got married in January, and Jan got two new granddaughters in August and September. In between we saw Niagara Falls from a boat, and I cut my head on a rock on a beach in Malibu. Jan and I got to visit Hawaii on the Lunsasa run, and we took an amazing helicopter ride to the glaciers above Atlin, British Columbia in July. We got our families together for an early Thanksgiving in Nashville, which means our new kitchen is now officially broken in. Then we recharged and made another record. I wrote to Senator Bob Corker, and still need to write to Senator Lamar Alexander, and US Congressman Jim Cooper. So it goes. Happy new year everyone.