First off, I love my band mates. These two guys just make my songs come alive and I so enjoy performing with them. While driving four hours to rehearse was a bit grueling, the fun of working out arrangements with Rick Heyman and Michael Parker was invigorating. It has been like that for these past nine years and I look forward to every session. Now if I can figure out how to get them into the studio….
Well, secondly, the Folk Festival is a remarkable event in Tucson. Think of it: Five stages, over 100 acts, for about 10 hours a day for TWO DAYS, in the heart of the city, ALL FREE to the Public. It is amazing that such a professional show-of-shows can be executed each year by a team of volunteers. From their humble beginnings around a kitchen table 32 years ago, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association has turned into a fantastic organization and a real credit to the City of Tucson.
Next, I’m blown away by the talent of the many friends I have made there over the years. Here are some photos of just a few of the musicians I so admire:
John Coinman, one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet, is a hell of a songwriter and composer. His band mates are outstanding. Blair Forward (bass) and Larry Cobb (drums) have been playing with John for years. Neal Harry (whom we call the “Jimi Hendrix of Pedal Steel”) is a superb addition we get to enjoy in Tucson.
Don Armstrong often performs solo. He and his late wife Victoria have written some of the most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear and Don still sings them wonderfully. We were lucky to have him joined by his many stellar musician friends this year. It turned out to be too difficult for me to get them all in a single photo. On the left is Nick Coventry on fiddle, hidden from view is Michael Ronstadt on cello, that’s Michael Markowitz on Mandolin, Don Armstrong (leaning with guitar) Slim Rost on bass, Gary Mackender and Alvin Blaine on Dobro (and anything else handy). Behind Don, blocked from view, is Jim Lipson providing percussion. Jim is the prime-mover of the Tucson Folk Festival. All of these guys are TOP-NOTCH musicians with many years of performing experience. I was EmCee for this stage and told the audience they had just seen over 300 years of performance experience and 50 of those were Don’s.
Heather “li’l mama” Hardy and her band have a way of bringing the audience to their feet. In fact, it happens every time. That’s bassist Larry Lerma in the straw hat – the keeper of the groove.
Young Elizabeth Tighe (pronounced “tie”), who surprisingly is only 16, got some strong back up this year from “I Hear Voices” singers Suzy Ronstadt and Bobby Kimmel and Bobby Ronstadt on accordion, Michael Ronstadt (again) on cello, Michael Markowitz on Mandolin and Tom Potter on percussion.
She did a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Your No Good” with all those Ronstadts and Bobby Kimmel (founder of the Stone Poneys) backing her up. Delightful.
There’s way too much to cover in one post but I want to tell you that my friend Jim Pipkin (aka Jim Gahar) opened the festival in fine form with accompaniment on harmonica by Cliff Cordes. Jim writes story songs that paint pictures in your mind.
And my friend Eric Ramsey, possibly the best slide-blues player in Arizona right now, won the 2017 Stefan George Memorial Songwriting Contest. One of his two entries was a tribute to Stephan George (another friend we lost in 2015).
Eric also gave a workshop on slide guitar that I was able to attend. I don’t know that I learned what he taught, but I sure enjoyed the session!
There were of course many many more friends performing but it would take too many pages to mention them all. I heard some really good home grown music and provided some of it myself. And what more can one festival performer ask for?