Bluegrass in the depths

Yesterday I drove three hours south with Chris and Maggie to McMinnville, Tennessee, to Cumberland Caverns. We were there to see a show put on by the Bluegrass Underground featuring Tim O’Brien, one of our all-time favorite musicians. The band included two other of our heroes: Bryan Sutton, one of the cleanest and most adventurous bluegrass flatpickers working today; and Danny Barnes, founder of the Bad Livers and dubbed by O’Brien as “the mad scientist of the banjo.” We’d never seen Barnes live, and that tipped the scale for me.

The show was excellent. O’Brien played for about two hours with a short break, staying away from the singer-songwritery material that I don’t care for all that much. O’Brien, Sutton, and Barnes are phenomenal instrumentalists. And O’Brien is one of my favorite singers, highly thought of and even still underrated.

McMinnville is a short drive from the home of our friends the Bradshaws, so we let them know about the show and they came as well. Afterwards they invited us back home for beans and cornbread (nothing better), and Chris and I played some music with their daughters and son. We were on the road by about 8:15pm and home a bit more than three hours later.

Tim O’Brien is a fairly political guy who leans to the left; I’m more sympathetic to his thinking than I used to be, but still I find a lot of it cartoonish (not his fault, just how I view leftish thinking in general). He writes the occasional political song, and for me they don’t usually wear that well. But last night he performed one from his new CD Chameleon which I thought did a great job of poking satirical fun without being cliched or overly mean to its targets. It is called “This world was made for everyone,” has a Woody Guthrie feel to it, and musically it reminds me of the chorus from “Eight more miles to Louisville”.

Now back in school I studied hard to learn our history
Of the pioneers who headed West to reach the shining sea
Oh our forefathers fought the fight to make our homeland free
Somehow they tamed the wilderness and they did it all for me

     This world is made for everyone, especially for me
     God made its riches manifest, showed us our destiny
     We thank the Lord who gave us our robust economy
     This world was made for everyone, especially for me

New Englanders, they fished for cod, their business sense was sound
They traded it for rum and slaves before they turned around
These Puritans then hunted whales, they threw away the meat
They boiled the blubber, made the oil that lit our city streets

There’s gold and silver in the veins of this land we got from God
And when our oil starts running low there’s plenty more abroad
And everyone around the world wants to live the way we do
Of course we know what’s good for us is good for those folks too

Now the sun shines down upon us reflecting off the smog
Today I’ll wear a safety mask while walking with my dog
And if you’re talking politics, there’s lots we can discuss
But this world was made for everyone, especially for us

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2 thoughts on “Bluegrass in the depths

  1. Well, glad you were able to swing down and enjoy one of the landmarks in my hometown. Cumberland Caverns is a neat little place. Sorry to hear about your “left leaning” friend, maybe you can have some kind of intervention or something to get him back on the correct path. :P

  2. Sorry to hear about your “left leaning” friend, maybe you can have some kind of intervention or something to get him back on the correct path.

    Matt B,

    I suspect that reality has scheduled near-term interventions for all of us, no matter what direction we lean.

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