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Happy birthday, kid.

When I tell audiences where I'm from every night, I tell them that the University of North Carolina is the only state university in the United States to have graduated a class in the 18th century. American audiences nod and look at each other, impressed. Some of them get out their phones to verify this amazing fact.

 

When I use that line in Europe, they laugh out loud. What a funny guy this folk singer is! So nice that he can make fun of his own country.

 

This tree is older than America. There are CLAMS older than America. Give us a break. We were all young and idealistic once. You grow up and one day you yell at your kids for doing all the dumb things you did. Pull your pants up. Get a haircut. Don't play with fireworks- you'll put an eye out.

 

Oh whatever. Go have fun. Be careful!

 

I love you.

 

Happy birthday, kid.

 

July 6-9

Northern Lights Festival Boréal

Sudbury Ontario

 

JUL 28 FRI

Durham Central Park

Durham NC

 

JUL 29 SAT

Saturdays in Saxapahaw

Saxapahaw NC


AUG 3 THU

The Purple Fiddle

Thomas WV


AUG 4 FRI

Club Cafe

Pittsburgh PA


AUG 5 SAT

Oak Grove Music Festival

Verona VA

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd 

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I Like Big Buds

Happy summer! We're excited to play the Northern Lights Festival Boréal in Sudbury, Ontario for the first time. Darcy Yates will join us on bass. Later on this month, we'll have a run through my home turf and then Johnny's.

 

July 6-9

Northern Lights Festival Boréal

Sudbury Ontario

 

JUL 28 FRI

Durham Central Park

Durham NC

 

JUL 29 SAT

Saturdays in Saxapahaw

Saxapahaw NC


AUG 3 THU

The Purple Fiddle

Thomas WV


AUG 4 FRI

Club Cafe

Pittsburgh PA


AUG 5 SAT

Oak Grove Music Festival

Verona VA

 

We're just back from our best U.K. tour yet. We'll be back in 2018. Thank you for your hospitality and enthusiasm. If you missed getting an album, you can order anything in the back catalog from Fish Records. Thanks to Peter Morgan of Fish Records for the work he's done on four successful tours. Thanks to the venues for opening your doors to a couple of cowboys.

 

I'm working on a song that needs sixteen simple lines. When it's finished, you could write it on a cocktail napkin. I've been working on it for about six months and I'm down to about one hundred and fifty possible lines on five pages and another twenty pages of notes. I offer this as a reality check for anyone who might be out there struggling with a song.

 

My friend Charles Humphrey III, bass player for Steep Canyon Rangers, just completed the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in 29 hours. So I reckon I can keep going on this song.

 

But the biggest news of all is this, live from my little piece of heaven:

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I like big buds and I cannot lie.

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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Pound for pound

We're in the U.K.  The heat is daunting. There's no air-conditioning. The exchange rate is horrendous. There's no majority government. No one knows who the prime minister will be in a few weeks. Fires. Stabbings. People run down with vehicles. 

 

The natural world seems to be carrying on as usual. The fox hunts the pheasant. Wild poppies grow in a wheat field. If all humanity ceased to exist tomorrow, this big beautiful Earth would barely notice. 

 

We've been walking around taking in all of it- the old buildings, the wildflowers, the changing landscape of this country. Europe is in general known in America as The Old World but it's renewed every day. This is the core purpose of art, to see the world in new ways. Through the senses of the artist we experience the world more truly, even through fiction, as our senses are renewed to the ever-changing world.

 

"There's nothing new under the sun." -- Ecclesiastes

 

"You could not step twice into the same river." -- Heraclitus

 

JUN 19 MON

The Musician Pub

Leicester, UK

 

JUN 20 TUE

The Golden Lion

Bristol, UK

 

JUN 21 WED

The Green Note

London, UK

 

JUN 23 FRI

The Live Room at Saltaire

Shipley, UK

Shrewsbury. This wall is likely medieval, though like the family axe it's had a few new handles and a few new heads... 

Shrewsbury. This wall is likely medieval, though like the family axe it's had a few new handles and a few new heads... 

Wild chamomile. The smell slows down time.  

Wild chamomile. The smell slows down time.  

Birmingham mosque. The city is nearly one-quarter Muslim and will soon have no ethnic majority at all. 

Birmingham mosque. The city is nearly one-quarter Muslim and will soon have no ethnic majority at all. 

Life finds a way.  

Life finds a way.  

Summer touring in a Cadillac, an unusual sight on the dual carriageway. You could put an Aston Mini in the trunk.  

Summer touring in a Cadillac, an unusual sight on the dual carriageway. You could put an Aston Mini in the trunk.  

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Perspective from 40,000 feet and 4,000 Miles Away

Saturday June 11

"There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness." -Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

As we drove over the overpass into the airport this morning, there was a man crouched behind a highway sign on the wrong side of the guardrail and a police officer about twelve feet from him, his cruiser blocking one lane, lights flashing. They were having, to say the least, an intense conversation. We had driven under the man and hadn't seen him. The conversation in our car would never return to wherever it had been seconds before. I'm still not sure what happened and I can't find any news about it.

All I know is when I spilled an entire can of tomato juice into my crotch thirty minutes into our first flight, it was no big deal. I laughed out loud. A towel and two cans of seltzer water later, I sat back down looking and feeling like I'd pissed my pants. I still smell a little like soup. I don't remember any of the small, or not so small, discomforts of the transatlantic flight. I'm a little tired. Whatever. I'm alive in a farmhouse in Staffordshire.

I hope that guy is okay. I hope you're okay, wherever you are. If you're not okay, hang on. It gets better. Here's a song of hope from a couple of jet-lagged cowboys a long way from home with laundry to do.

If you're in the UK too, you can see us live:

JUN 12 MON
Hive Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

JUN 13 TUE
Kitchen Garden
Birmingham, United Kingdom

JUN 14 WED
The Biddulph Arms
Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom

JUN 15 THU
The Place Theatre
Bedford, United Kingdom

JUN 16 FRI
Festival Hall, Market Rasen
Market Rasen, United Kingdom

JUN 17 SAT
The Bank Eye
Eye, United Kingdom

JUN 19 MON
The Musician Pub
Leicester, United Kingdom

JUN 20 TUE
The Golden Lion
Bristol, United Kingdom

JUN 21 WED
Green Note
London, United Kingdom

JUN 23 FRI
The Live Room at Saltaire
Shipley, United Kingdom

Your fan,

JByrd

 

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Reckon We Are

By the time most of y'all read this, we'll be in the U.K. which will likely be buzzing with the results of the general election. Speaking of buzzing: 

Governments change, music lives on. Come see us:  

 

JUN 12 MON

Hive Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

 

JUN 13 TUE

Kitchen Garden

Birmingham, United Kingdom

 

JUN 14 WED

The Biddulph Arms

Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom

 

JUN 15 THU

The Place Theatre

Bedford, United Kingdom

 

JUN 16 FRI

Festival Hall, Market Rasen

Market Rasen, United Kingdom

 

JUN 17 SAT

The Bank Eye

Eye, United Kingdom

 

JUN 19 MON

The Musician Pub

Leicester, United Kingdom

 

JUN 20 TUE

The Golden Lion

Bristol, United Kingdom

 

JUN 21 WED

Green Note

London, United Kingdom

 

JUN 23 FRI

The Live Room at Saltaire

Shipley, United Kingdom

 

Share it!

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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NC to UK

I've been cooking with my wife, riding bikes with my son, and practicing some new material with Johnny for these shows. 

 

JUN 9 FRI

Cat's Cradle

Carrboro, NC

 

JUN 12 MON

Hive Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

 

JUN 13 TUE

Kitchen Garden

Birmingham, United Kingdom

 

JUN 14 WED

The Biddulph Arms

Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom

 

JUN 15 THU

The Place Theatre

Bedford, United Kingdom

 

JUN 16 FRI

Festival Hall, Market Rasen

Market Rasen, United Kingdom

 

JUN 17 SAT

The Bank Eye

Eye, United Kingdom

 

JUN 19 MON

The Musician Pub

Leicester, United Kingdom

 

JUN 20 TUE

The Golden Lion

Bristol, United Kingdom

 

JUN 21 WED

Green Note

London, United Kingdom

 

JUN 23 FRI

The Live Room at Saltaire

Shipley, United Kingdom

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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Texas to U.K.

Thanks to everybody who came to our shows in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. We had a blast touring with our friend Corin Raymond and the legendary Mark Schatz on bass and banjo.  

 

We have one show at home before Johnny and I board that big ol jet airliner for the U.K. 

 

JUN 9 FRI

Cats Cradle

Carrboro, NC

 

JUN 12 MON

The Hive

Shrewsbury, United Kingdom


JUN 13 TUE 

Kitchen Garden Cafe

Birmingham, United Kingdom

 

JUN 14 WED

The Biddulph Arms

Stoke-On-Trent, United Kingdom 

 

JUN 15 THU

The Place

Bedford, United Kingdom

 

JUN 16 FRI

Festival Hall

Market Rasen, United Kingdom

 

JUN 17 SAT

The Bank

Eye, United Kingdom

 

JUN 19 MON

The Musician

Leicester, United Kingdom

 

JUN 20 TUE

Golden Lion

Bristol, United Kingdom

 

JUN 21 WED

The Green Note

London, United Kingdom

 

JUN 23 FRI

The Live Room

Shipley, United Kingdom

 

Your fan, 

 

JByrd

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Department of Homeland Insecurity

Saturday May 27

 

I'm honored to be closing the main stage tonight at the 46th annual Kerrville Folk Festival. When I first came here in 2002, I had one album and didn't even think of myself as a songwriter. I didn't know there was a thing called "singer/songwriter."

 

Tonight I've got one of the biggest gigs in songwriterdom. However, what I'm most excited about is bringing my friend Corin Raymond on stage. By the time he's been on stage a few minutes Corin Raymond will be an inextricable part of Kerrville history.

 

Corin tried to come here in 2009. He was refused at the border. He lost the price of his plane ticket and any gigs he could have been doing during that time he had reserved to be at the festival- easily thousand of dollars. Why? The festival had given Corin a volunteer position in order to save him the price of admission. Someone knew he belonged here in this dusty Texas festival that is half refugee camp and half Holy City.

 

What Corin discovered is that foreigners need a work visa to volunteer in the US. We're not about to let some outsider take an unpaid position away from a hard-working American who deserves to be unpaid, and unpaid well, for their labor.

 

The fact that Corin Raymond is walking straight into one of the biggest songwriter gigs in the US without ever being in the songwriting contest or "working his way up" is some small justice for that injustice. I also feel like we've smuggled great art into the country against the paranoid wishes of an artless bureaucracy that doesn't know the difference between a songwriter and a fighter pilot.

 

Rest assured my fellow Americans, the Department of Homeland Security will do anything to protect you from all the strange beauty that is trying to invade the USA and take all the unpaid jobs. But not tonight. Tonight, Corin is getting paid. Tonight, the enemy of the state is in the Lone Star State where, at least, they know a songwriter when they hear one. And they're going to hear one tonight. Corin Raymond is one of the best ever to grace this stage and that is saying a lot.

 

If you're here, I suggest you be in a seat at 11pm or you're going to hear about it later. If you're not here, I suggest you do whatever it takes to smuggle this big beautiful Canadian into your life.

 

www. corinraymond.com

 

Your fan,

JByrd

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Live on PRX

In case you missed it, here's an hour-long interview and live radio session with Corin Raymond and myself recorded in Tulsa with Scott Aycock and Richard Higgs. We play songs, talk about process and inspiration, and Mark Schatz even plays the banjo on a Diana Jones. Enjoy!

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

 

https://beta.prx.org/stories/205558# 

 

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The Little Path

This is a mural on an apartment building in Austin Texas. It's on the north side of Martin Luther King, east of I-35.

 

I love this city. I love this mural. My favorite thing about it however, is the path beaten into the grass beneath it.

 

Every day, people step up on this little hill and take selfies and group photos. All colors and genders. College students. Families with children. There's no place to park in front of it. There's no sidewalk or stairs. It's a busy road. People do it anyway. Every day.

 

That little path is there for every time someone looked at me sideways and said, "don't you need something to fall back on?" That little path says we need people who are weird enough to spend their entire day thinking about the difference one letter makes. We need people who spend years looking for exactly the right amount of blue in the green. We need art so badly we will do inconvenient and even dangerous things to get to it.

 

The hospital has a sidewalk and a parking lot. The bank has a drive-through window. Food? They'll deliver it.

 

Art doesn't need a path. People will make one. Heartbroken people. People who wonder. People who just need a good laugh or some sign that other people are weird, too.

 

In fact, if your life doesn't have any art in it, I wonder- don't you need something to fall back on?

 

****************

 

May 23 Tue

Shipping & Receiving Bar

Fort Worth, TX

 

May 27 Sat

Kerrville Folk Festival

Kerrville TX

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

 

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Happy Mothers Day

I was on the run from the law once for about three months. I rented an apartment, set up utilities, got a job, and navigated an emergency room visit with an invented identity. The US Navy and the police looked for me but they didn't find me. My mother found me.

 

My mother loves Jesus, America, and a good steak. Being impolite is just short of a sin for her. She did not turn me in. She called to make sure that I was safe.

 

When the Navy gave up and mailed my discharge papers home, she called me again to let me know. She drove four hours to see me play in a heavy metal band. She is not, to put it mildly, a fan of heavy metal.

 

The band didn't work out. Mama welcomed me into her home. I got a job and started another band. And another. Out of desperation I toured as a solo songwriter and accidentally hit my stride. Before I left home, Mama earned her Masters at night school while working full time at UNC and probably cleaning up after me. I did inherit this: If no one else will do the dishes, I must. Even at someone else's house.

 

Now I have a child and, Mama, I am so sorry. Oh God. It's hard. My only armor is this doctorate in Unconditional Love from the master.

 

Rock star. Saint. My mother. Happy Mother's Day, Mama.

 

Take your mama to a show. We have Juno-nominee Corin Raymond and two-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year Mark Schatz with us. 

 

Tonight! 

The Rock House

Reeds Spring, MO

 

May 14 Sun

The Vanguard

Tulsa, OK

 

May 16 Tue

McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Houston, TX

 

May 17 Wed

Gruene Hall

New Braunfels, TX

 

May 19 Fri

Lake Charles Raquet Club

Lake Charles, LA

For tickets call 337-274-2845

 

May 20 Sat

Lemon Lounge

Austin, TX

 

May 23 Tue

Shipping & Receiving Bar

Fort Worth, TX

 

May 27 Sat

Kerrville Folk Festival

Kerrville, TX

 

 

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Byrd Song

I assembled a Spotify playlist of other artists' recordings of songs I've written or co-written. Steep Canyon Rangers, Red Molly, Tim O'Brien- this is an all-star tribute to me! It's surprising, dazzling, and humbling to hear this much talent taking my songs places I've never been. 

 

 https://open.spotify.com/user/jonathanbyrd/playlist/4qM2R9t798WZZswQJl7BEw

 

Speaking of talent, Corin Raymond and Mark Schatz join us on this May tour!

 

May 10 Wed

Eureka Unitarian Church

Eureka Springs, AR

 

May 11 Thu

Buffalo River Concert Series

Fayetteville, AR

 

May 12 Fri

Newton County Cabin

Western Grove, AR

 

May 13 Sat

The Rock House

Reeds Spring, MO

 

May 14 Sun

The Vanguard Tulsa

Tulsa, OK

 

May 16 Tue

McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Houston, TX

 

May 17 Wed

Gruene Hall

New Braunfels, TX

 

May 19 Fri

Lake Charles Raquet Club

Lake Charles, LA

 

May 20 Sat

Lemon Lounge

Austin, TX

 

May 23 Tue

Shipping & Receiving Bar

Fort Worth, TX

 

May 27 Sat

Kerrville Folk Festival

Kerrville, TX

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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No one in my family should read this.

I always get blowback from my family about this story. I expect to catch hell again. I love y'all and I understand, but really you should stop reading now. Okay. Up to you.

I learned this story from a newscast thirteen years after the fact, which is a disappointing way to hear that your grandfather was murdered. Let me start here:

My grandmother, Pauline Barfield, died of a brain aneurysm in 1969. My grandfather, Jennings, had emphysema and needed care. Velma Bullard Burke was a coworker with Pauline at a department store and had already come in to help care for Jennings.

After Pauline died, Jennings married Velma. That was August of 1970. I was born in November. There are pictures of Jennings holding me, but I don't remember him. In the pictures, his enormous hands make me look about the size of a kitten.

In March of 1971, when I was four months old, Jennings died of what was then determined to be heart failure. Velma moved into her parents' home in another part of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the town where I was born. In December of 1974, Velma's mother Lillian showed symptoms of a serious stomach illness and died after being admitted to the hospital. There was no diagnosis or autopsy.

What only a few people knew about Velma is that she was addicted to prescription drugs. After Lillian died, Velma served six months in prison for writing bad checks. After Velma's release, she worked as a home health nurse for an elderly couple, Montgomery and Dollie Edwards. A couple of years later, Montgomery Edwards died. A few weeks after, Dollie Edwards also died from an undiagnosed stomach illness.

Velma Barfield went on to care for another elderly couple, John Henry and Record Lee. John Henry Lee died within months from what doctors said was a severe stomach virus. Soon after, Velma's boyfriend Stuart Taylor began to complain of severe stomach pain. He was admitted to the hospital and was dead within a matter of days. An autopsy was ordered. Before the autopsy was returned, Velma's sister called the police and told them that Velma had poisoned Taylor and others.

Velma confessed to poisoning the Edwards, John Henry Lee, and her own mother, Lillian Burke, claiming that she had only wanted to make them ill in order to hide the fact that she was stealing money from them to support her drug use. Later, she confessed to killing Stuart Taylor. She never confessed to killing my grandfather. Velma was convicted of one account of first-degree murder in 1978. She was sentenced to death.

In 1984, I was thirteen years old. I saw a newscast about a grandmother about to be executed in Raleigh. It was, of course, big news. There were protests and appeals for clemency. Her last name was Barfield. I had never met anyone outside my mother's family with that name. So I started asking questions. That's how I found out my grandfather was murdered.

Velma's legal appeals had been denied. Governor Jim Hunt denied the requests for clemency. Velma was given a choice between gas and lethal injection. Margie Velma Bullard Burke Barfield was executed on November 2nd 1984 at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. She was the first woman put to death by lethal injection in the United States, and the last woman to be executed in the state of North Carolina.

Fifteen years later, I was taking a coffee break with my friend Jerry Brown. We were building his studio and, in between construction, recording what would be my first album. I told him the story I just told you.

Jerry said, "You mean to tell me you haven't written a song about that?" And he sent me home to work on it.

It took me a long time to write this song. I read old newspaper articles. I found a book that Velma wrote while in prison, called "Woman On Death Row." I asked my family questions, but they didn't want to talk about it. Jerry Bledsoe wrote 'Death Sentence' about the murders and no one in the family would talk to him either.

Who can blame them? The only other person in my mother's family who seems to have come to terms with it is also a writer. I think telling a hard story is the foundation of healing. I think reading a tragic story is moving but writing it can save your life.

One evening, I was about to rehearse with a friend of mine in what used to be High Strung Instrument Repair above Ninth Street in Durham, North Carolina. My friend got a phone call and I picked out a dark new melody while I waited for him. These lyrics came pouring out just as they are, pulled and shaped by months of research and contemplation into this simple and gripping old-time murder ballad. When my friend got off the phone, I played it for him.

This song has been covered more than any other song I've written. Jack Lawrence recorded it. Larry Keel played it on tour. Before I took the stage for the first time at Merlefest, I got word that Sam Bush had already played this song in his set across campus.

You can listen to and purchase "Velma" here: https://jonathanbyrd.bandcamp.com/track/velma

You can order the album Wildflowers on CD here: http://www.waterbug.com/wordpress/product/wildflowers/

Thanks for reading and listening. Your fan,

JByrd

 

P.S. I'm playing in Ontario and Quebec next weekend. I tend to sell out shows up there, so buy your tickets now! Thanks

  • Apr 21 Fri

    Pearl Company

    Hamilton, Ontario

  • Apr 22 Sat

    Greenbank Centennial Hall

    Greenbank, Ontario

  • Apr 23 Sun

    The Black Sheep Inn

    Wakefield, Quebec

  • Apr 26 Wed

    Gladstone Ballroom

    Toronto, Canada

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Eli's Cotton Gin

In November of 1999 I took another trip with my mother, this time to Gilroy, California to see my aunt and uncle. My uncle managed a garlic plant in the Garlic Capital of the World. I was still working on my first record, piece by piece, as Jerry's studio come together. Wildflowers is one of only two albums I've started recording before having all the songs written. I didn't know I was making an album until maybe a year into it. 

The most striking part of the California trip for me was a road trip to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks- not the parks themselves, although they are some of the most inspiring places in our country. We've all seen pictures of the giant sequoias. But no one can take a picture that could convey the sweeping agriculture of the Central Valley. You can't photograph the immensity of it and still capture the character of it. I couldn't have imagined it. Driving through it changed the way I thought about food for the rest of my life.

We drove through orange trees, and absolutely nothing but orange trees, for miles on end. Bare fields were leveled razor flat with lasers for perfect irrigation, prepped for the next season's crop. Bales of cotton the size of boxcars sat waiting to be hauled to the gins- an invention that became the driving metaphor for this song. 

We stopped somewhere to pee. The smell of cow manure was overwhelming. My uncle said the feedlot was about ten miles away. That's a line in the song. 

We also had visited Pebble Beach, and the contrast of the places and people was irresistible. My narrator wishes he was rich enough to be in Pebble Beach, but he's proud of his work. 

Sometimes an experience is so rich, all a songwriter has to do is make it rhyme. "From Gilroy to Sequoia" begins the chorus.  

You can listen to and purchase Eli's Cotton Gin: https://jonathanbyrd.bandcamp.com/track/elis-cotton-gin

Wildflowers album on CD- http://www.waterbug.com/wordpress/product/wildflowers/

 

Thanks for listening. Your fan,  

 

JByrd

 

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The First Song on My First Album

In May of 1999, I took a two-week road trip with my mother. I was 28.

The plan was to drive from North Carolina to Yellowstone. The way out, we'd drive northwest across the Nebraska Sandhills, up into the Black Hills, and then into the park through Cody, Wyoming. Coming back, we'd head south and take that left turn at Albuquerque that Bugs Bunny always seemed to miss. Then Interstate 40 all the way home.

We made a deal about accommodations. We'd stay in a hotel every other night and camp out every other night. We had maps made of paper. We had cameras with film in them. We had no phones. Looking back eighteen years, it seems like we were pioneers in a covered wagon.

The nights we stayed in hotels, mom would pop up bright and early and I would moan and groan my way to the car. The nights we camped out, it was the other way around. The only major setback was an avalanche in the Sylvan Pass. We had to drive around on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which was a blessing. I don't think there's a more beautiful road in the world.

We woke up in our tent in Yellowstone to greet bison, elk, and geese heading down to a bend in the river. We heard about a grizzly bear and drove down to watch it turn a dead bison over with its teeth- the moment I truly understood what a grizzly bear is. We backtracked from a trail of blood north of Jackson Hole. We drove through a hail storm in New Mexico, where we could see lightning to the sides of us hitting and spreading out over the desert floor, turning sand into glass. We drove across Texas in the peak of wildflower season.

When we got home, I continued to work on my first full-length record in a studio that I helped to build, a place called The Rubber Room. When we had started recording, it was literally a closet. By the time my album was done, the studio had four recording rooms and a control room. I've recorded or mixed most of my albums there.

Though it was not recorded first, Wildflowers became the first track on the album Wildflowers. Not a particularly original title, but then wildflowers are not particularly original. No one wonders if the wildflowers will ever come out with something new. They are beautiful and dependable and simple. This album is the same.

The song Wildflowers is a retelling of the last leg of our journey, backwards this time, and on a train. I always wonder as I travel, what was this place like when there was only a footpath? When there was only a railroad? Songs live in places and this one lived along the I-40 corridor. I didn't know it when I was traveling, but I lost a girl while I was gone, and she's in the song too.

The whole album was played in an alternate tuning because I was learning it at the time. The tuning is DADGAD, from the lowest string to the highest. John Boulding of The Shady Grove Band plays the banjo, and boy howdy does he play it. Robbie Link played the bass. Tim Stambaugh sings the harmony. And that's it. The three instruments sound like a whole band, and we have to thank the engineer Jerry Brown for a little bit of that magic. He taught me how to make a record while we made my first.

Tom Paxton heard Wildflowers somehow, I still don't know how, and sent me an email. "What a treat to hear someone so deeply rooted in tradition, yet growing in his own beautiful way.” I asked him if I could quote him and he was quite gracious. It was my first really great press quote. I still thank Mr. Paxton every now and then for that.

You can listen to and purchase the early Byrd here: https://jonathanbyrd.bandcamp.com/track/wildflowers

If you're still stuck in 1999, the album is available on CD, http://www.waterbug.com/wordpress/product/wildflowers/

Thanks for listening. Your fan,

JByrd

 

 

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Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #8

I only have one thing to say in this Monday Report. I've known about this for a couple of years and I want to see it happen SO BAD. You can be a part of something awesome. But first:

 

I'm looking forward to playing some of our favorite venues this weekend.

 

THU APR 6

The Foundry

Athens GA

Neal Fountain on bass

benefit for Jacob Ohl who recently lost his lower legs in a train accident

 

FRI APR 7

White Horse Black Mountain

Black Mountain NC

Also live on WNCW at 1pm. Tune in! wncw.org

 

SUN APR 9

Muddy Creek Music Hall

Bethania, NC

"It's like church with beer." - Country Dan Collins

 

Later in the month we'll get to experience spring all over again:

 

FRI APR 21

Pearl Company

Hamilton ON

 

SAT APR 22

Greenbank Centennial Hall

Greenbank ON

 

SUN APR 23

The Black Sheep Inn

Wakefield QC

 

WED APR 26

Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

Toronto ON

 

All right. Now check this out.

 

My friend Luke Dick, he's a songwriter in Nashville. He used to drive a forklift. He used to teach philosophy. Now he writes hits. I wrote a song with him that Chris Kokesh and recorded on The Barn Birds, a song called "Sundays Loving You."

 

Luke spent part of his childhood in and around an Oklahoma strip club called the Red Dog. He's making a documentary about it and it's one of the most deserving artistic projects I've seen.

 

Humanity. Debauchery. Redemption. Forgiveness. Victory. It's all there. Please watch this: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lukedick/red-dog

 

Want to see more? Here's an even bigger bite: https://youtu.be/hSKPCKnmSb8

 

Want to see more? So do I! Let's make this thing happen. I chipped in $300 because I want to go to the premiere.

 

*************

 

Food:

 

We discovered yet another great taco truck in northeast Raleigh on Capitol Blvd, "El Tejano." It doesn't look like much sitting there at a gas station. I only pulled in because I was broke and desperately hungry after an afternoon of shopping for a hot tub. (Hey, I won't always be broke.)

 

Anyway I figure what's two bucks? I'll get a taco and make it home without yelling at my kid. There were no pickled veggies on the counter. No limes. Just a metal napkin dispenser and a tub of canned jalapeños. Not promising.

 

"Do you have sodas?" I love a tamarind soda with my tacos.

 

The man pointed at the gas station. "For drink!" he shouted. The gas station had what gas stations have. Nothing special.

 

But oh. Then the taco came. The meat. The freshness. The surprising spiciness. I had to give my wife a bite. We ended up getting six more. The chicken at a taco truck is usually an afterthought- you know, they have to have chicken so they get some at Sams Club. Not this chicken. Tender. Smoky. "Best taco truck chicken ever," said my wife.

 

She even got his card. "El Tejano." Capitol Blvd. Raleigh. Get you some.

 

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The Official Instagram Monday Report photo is from my weekend helping friends build a straw bale addition onto their home. It's a beautiful messy project. I brought them some daffodils from my garden in a plastic water bottle that I found in my truck. He took it and set it in the window of their future bathroom. "Our first art," he said, and we got to work. 

 

Now go give Luke some money. See y'all at a show. 

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #7

I met Rodney Bursiel in Wimberley, Texas at Blue Rock Studios

Blue Rock is a stone fortress and one of the best recording studios in the world, tucked high in a live oak forest in the rolling Hill Country. Everything at Blue Rock is the best. Rodney Bursiel photographs the artists who play at Blue Rock. Because Rodney is the best. 

He also photographs sharks, crocodiles, humpback whales, and now wild horses in France. Every iteration makes me see the subject in an unexpected and visceral way. Rodney Bursiel makes me wonder what photography even is. The texture is a super-realistic illustration. Or a classical painting. 

Follow Rodney on instagram. Every picture is incredible. Every picture will make you wonder how. 

More updates after these tour dates:

APR 6 THU
The Foundry
Athens, GA
benefit for 17-year-old Jacob Ohl, who lost his legs recently in a train accident. Also playing: Natti Love Joys and Dyrty Jay's Gangstagrass Gospel Hour

APR 7 FRI
White Horse Black Mountain
Black Mountain, NC 

APR 9 SUN
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC 

APR 21 THU
Pearl Company
Hamilton, Ontario

APR 23 SUN
The Black Sheep Inn
Wakefield, Quebec

APR 26 WED
Gladstone Ballroom
Toronto, Ontario 

APR 29 SAT
Eddie's Attic
Decatur, GA

Johnny and I stopped in Fayetteville, Arkansas this week to shoot some video with Red Barn Studio. Thanks to our friends The Steel Wheels for having us open for them at George’s Majestic Lounge while we were in town. 

Two days later, we were in Richmond, Virginia. One of the coolest things we’ve done lately is invite The McTell Brothers to open for us. They’ve been coming with their mom to see us for years, shyly asking for autographs and taking notes on what gear we were using or how our show had changed from the last time. Then one evening at a show, they gave us their CD. I of course asked them to autograph it. We listened on the way home and it was great! Fine guitar playing, harmony singing, and song writing. 

I think the McTell Brothers are eighteen years old now, though they sound like they’re from the 1970’s. They played a mesmerizing opening set opening at The Tin Pan, by turns sounding like the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles. Look for them to take over the world soon. 

We love The Tin Pan and are dreaming up a CD release show for the fall. The bartender creates a new drink for every show based on one of the band’s songs. This time it was a Temporary Tattoo, a mix of bourbon, lemon and ginger. One too many and it turns into a Permanent Tattoo. 

************

Food report: Our friend Bayard Blain, a great luthier in Fayetteville, greeted us with stewed venison and vegetables. I had a great chorizo and grits omelet the next morning at Arsaga’s Depot

We left Fayetteville very early the next day and got breakfast at our favorite spot in Little Rock, The Root Cafe. We stopped for supper at Graze, a vegetarian restaurant in East Nashville. Neither of us are vegetarians but we think they’re delicious. 

Then we had Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, which is right next door to Graze. Then we had an espresso for the road at Ugly Mugs, two doors down. Talk about touring right. 

But the best meal I had this whole week was homemade curry chicken and saag paneer, and a side of breaded bacon to welcome daddy home. Yes, breaded bacon- with cornmeal, pecans, brown sugar, and cayenne. Either she loves me or she’s killing me very slowly. 

************

We’re bringing Corin Raymond back! Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, get ready for the tall-teller and song-singer from the north country. He’s got a head full of hobo jungle fever dreams and a heart as big as Ontario. To top it all off like handmade tartar sauce on fresh Maryland crabcakes, Mark Schatz will be with us on bass. The show will be unstoppable. 

MAY 10 WED
Eureka Unitarian Church
Eureka Springs, AR

MAY 11 THU
Buffalo River Concert Series
Fayetteville, AR 

MAY 12 FRI
Newton County Cabin
Western Grove, AR 

MAY 13 SAT
The Rock House
Reeds Spring, MO 

MAY 14 SUN
The Vanguard
Tulsa, OK 

MAY 16 TUE
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
Houston, TX 

MAY 17 WED
Gruene Hall
New Braunfels, TX 

MAY 19 FRI
Lake Charles Raquet Club
Lake Charles, LA 

MAY 23 TUE
Shipping and Receiving
Fort Worth, TX 

MAY 27 SAT
Kerrville Folk Festival
Kerrville, TX

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Thanks for reading, y’all. You give all my dreams a place to go. Your fan, 

JByrd

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Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #6

We drove from North Carolina to Texas on Friday. Jackson Mississippi, in the lobby of the Rainbow Co-op, there was a chair masseuse and a fortune teller. The fortune teller's cards were fanned out across a dining table next to a chalice, colored stones, and a brass ankh. She had three customers in the fifteen minutes it took us to eat. The masseuse had one.

 

I love going to Texas. It gets warmer as you drive. Redbuds then dogwoods. Deciduous trees in leaf. Pines frothing. Somehow the speed limit goes up but everything else gets slower. Like the way people talk. Counter service. Making a left turn.

 

We even have a playlist for the Texas border. First thing up is Red Headed Stranger.

 

We did some stuff in Texas. Not shows, but the other part of the music business. I'll tell you about that but first:

 

March 22

George's Majestic Lounge

Fayetteville AR

opening for our friends The Steel Wheels!

 

March 24

The Tin Pan

Richmond VA

our friends The McTell Brothers open the show!

 

April 6

The Foundry

Athens GA

This is a benefit for 17 year old Jacob Ohl who lost his legs from the knee down in a recent train accident. Also playing: Natti Love Joys and Dyrty Jays Gangsta Grass Gospel Hour

 

April 7

White Horse Black Mountain

Black Mountain NC

 

April 9

Muddy Creek Cafe

Bethania, NC

 

Saturday night, after another fantastic experience in a growing list of fantastic experiences out at Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley, Johnny and I climbed their four-story tower and looked out over the Hill Country. Johnny took his phone out and put on Unfair Weather Friend from Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard's "Django and Jimmie." We talked about how much Paul would have loved this place he never got to play. We talked about how many friends he would have made here. We sent smoke signals out to the other side to let Paul know we miss him. (The Official Monday Report photo on Instagram is a shot of Johnny descending the stairs in the Blue Rock tower at midnight.)

 

I spent the next day deepening a friendship out in Wimberley, drinking Topo Chico and passing a guitar back and forth. We listened to The Pickup Cowboys next record through a board that was designed, built, and signed by Rupert Neve. We ate enchiladas and brewed Peruvian coffee.

 

I spent another half a day on Monday writing a song with a friend in an Airstream trailer parked outside their house. I heard some old familiar neighborhood music and said, "Is that an ice cream truck?!" We don't get ice cream trucks in the woods of Cackalacky. We ran out into the street just in time. They had a Mexican flavor called chamoy in a popsicle. The taste is a combination of pickled fruit, salt, and chilies. There's nothing else like it. Thanks to our friend Casto at Ome Calli in Beaverton, Oregon for introducing me to this distinctly Mexican flavor.

 

Our big-hearted host in Austin made us listen to our next record again in his study last night. His house is so full of great art and music, it is hard to believe he wants more of it. He'd even had a minor surgery that day, but his ears were still in good shape. This album sounds so good. I can't wait for y'all to hear it.

 

I'm very excited to have started dreaming of projects with my friend Rodney Bursiel, my pick for the Best Photographer in the World. He's in France right now shooting wild Camargue horses. I'm writing poetry about horses. Hmm.

 

Now we're back in the van with Andrew Pressman, on our way to Fayetteville Arkansas to shoot video and open the show for The Steel Wheels.

 

************

 

Food:

 

We had some great tacos in Birmingham Alabama at Tacos Dos Hermanos, a food truck on 14th street. Check Yelp for the actual location. Map apps have it wrong. It's worth the trouble.

 

We had a good breakfast at the original Kerbey Lane on Kerbey Lane in Austin. Now, I know Kerbey Lane doesn't need any more recommendations, but it's still worth recommending. I had the heuvos motuleños, a Yucatán dish with eggs, ham, beans, cheese, a red sauce, and fried plantains. Johnny had the brisket hash. We all had a damn fine cup of coffee.

 

Mostly we were fed by our hosts, which is also recommended but highly exclusive. Thanks to those who fed us. I believe that feeding others is sacred work and I try to receive it in that spirit.

 

*************

 

Water, life, spirit, and horses kept coming up this weekend. I went back and found a poem that means more to me now than when I wrote it.

 

Seven Horses

 

Seven horses swimming

All granite head and mossy eyes

Eleven bands of ripples wake

Iron brown and veed like geese

 

They stop for a moment in slow unison

The ripples gather around them in circles

Stones in the gravel bed of a zen garden

Stopping for a thousand years to pay their respects

To their destination, as if reaching it would relieve them of the struggle that they came for.

As if they have traveled this far to see God

And now they are afraid.

 

************ 

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

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Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #5

Peace Love and Music  

 

Johnny and I are driving across Indiana in the snow. We started in Iowa and it's been snowing on us all day, and all day yesterday too. We just passed a frosted fiberglass ear of corn as long as a bus.

 

Last night we played Byron's Bar in Pomeroy, Iowa. A week ago, my friend Bruce called to warn me about Byron's. He had booked the gig. "You're going to think you've gone to the wrong place. Just trust me."

 

On the way there, we stopped in West Bend at the Grotto of the Redemption. A couple we stayed with in Minnesota had told us about it, only it was hard to describe. We just had to see it.

 

The Grotto is a series of man-made above-ground caves containing Biblical scenes. There is a long outdoor row of Stations of the Cross. Every inch of every wall and feature is made of beautiful stones: rose quartz, petrified wood, geodes, conch and mother of pearl. There are rosettes and mosaics everywhere you look. There are statues of biblical characters imported from Italy. It's as mind-bending as anything I've ever seen. Hard to describe. You just have to see it.

 

I did snap a picture of Charlie Muench, who joined us to play bass on this tour, walking out through the arch at the end of the Stations of the Cross. It's our Official Instagram Monday Report photo.

 

Snow drifted into the gem-studded caves. The freezing wind burned our faces. We were told we should come back during nicer weather but I thought it added to the beauty and strangeness of the place. What does God care about the weather?

 

With this dragon's hoard of geological and evangelical wonders dancing in our minds, we drove through the snowy corn-stubbled backfields of northern Iowa, up to a white metal door beneath a sign that said "Byron's Bar." A hippie bear danced around the words. The sign was faded and the building had an abandoned air. There was no neon. No OPEN sign.

 

Charlie walked in and came back out to wave us in. Inside was a dimly lit bar with hundreds of posters taped to the ceiling. A tie-dyed backdrop hung over the back wall behind the stage. Byron greeted us in overalls and a tie-dyed shirt. A couple of friendly guys helped us lug our things in. We splattered the carpet by the front door with fresh snow from our boots. The walls were hung with glossy black and whites of musicians who had played there, beer signs, and folk art. The Grotto of the Declivity. It was 3pm and there were a few people there despite the accumulating snow. The wifi password included the number "420."

 

There wasn't a real PA. Just one of those Bose towers with four inputs and no monitors. Charlie found a woofer behind the tie-dyed curtain and plugged into it. Johnny and I ran our amps hot and plugged a single vocal mic into the tower. It was impossible to know what it sounded like in the bar, but the few who were there seemed to appreciate our soundcheck and settled in to watch and listen.

 

Byron made a little pizza for Johnny. The show was supposed to start at 5. I had a bag of chips and a sarsaparilla. We met John, the man who owned the inn where we were staying after the show. He said he'd feed us a real dinner later. We met Harlan, a friendly regular in a flannel. Robin and Jo behind the bar. Most of the fifteen or so people knew each other and seemed happy to be there. A man bought two cans of Coke at the bar and sat down in front by himself to drink them and watch the show.

 

They loved the show and let us know. People hollered for lyrics they liked. A couple got up and danced by the stage, the man in his bare feet. More people showed up, dragging the snow in as the night went on. I sold about four hundred dollars worth of CDs and t-shirts. I wouldn't have guessed there was that much money in the whole bar.

 

Byron got up during the set breaks and raffled off a six-piece wire brush set. A couple of bamboo backscratchers. A three way extension plug. When their winning tickets were called, people shouted and ran up to collect their dollar store prizes. These people knew how to make fun. Byron seemed to me more and more like a saint surrounded by his acolytes.

 

I mean look at Pomeroy, Iowa on a map. If I'd thrown a dart looking for gigs and it landed on Byron's Bar, I might have checked to see if anyone was looking and thrown it again. This old hippie had gathered all the weirdos, peaceniks, partiers, and music lovers from an hour's radius of cornfields and offered a place where they could be themselves. It was impossible to be weirder or cooler than Byron, so you might as well let it all hang out.

 

Byron asked me to sign a poster. Then he gave me a framed poster signed by everyone who had been in the bar. Our host John bought one of everything I had. The guys helped us load the van.

 

The inn was a forty-five minute drive, still snowing as we followed John west from Pomeroy to Storm Lake. When we got there, John's assistant Carla had set the table with bean soup, cornbread, and saucers of fresh fruit. On the stove, there was chicken with quinoa and more chicken in a jambalaya. Green beans with tomatoes. Everything tasted like home. I had double helpings of everything.

 

We fluffled across the snowy parking lot to our rooms. The snow was still falling as we went to bed. "If you decide not to leave tomorrow, just stay here. I won't sell out anyway." We had planned to leave at 4am. I checked the weather and decided we'd better wait and try to leave at 6.

 

That's what put me in this van. We did leave at 6am. We dropped Charlie off at Chicago Midway airport and he flew home to Philadelphia. We're almost to Ohio now and it's still snowing but please don't apologize for the weather. The Midwest looks pretty in the snow. The stubbled fields. The ash trees and spruce windbreaks around the farmhouses. Black crows like pips on a domino.

 

Thanks to the Aster in Minneapolis, the Jackson Center for the Arts in Jackson, The BARC Auditorium in Windom, and Byron's Bar for a weird and wonderful tour. I wish I had time to type all about it but it's my turn to drive.

 

************

 

Food:

 

On our way up to Chicago, we stopped in Dayton and found Taqueria Garcia Mobil, an authentic taco truck with the freshest, flakiest tortillas I've had in a while. Ghostlight coffee just a few blocks away made a perfect espresso for the rest of our day's ride.

 

We picked up Charlie in Chicago and dropped our stuff off at Freehand, a funky downtown hotel with bunk beds. Then we hustled off to the subway to get a bowl of pho at Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwich, a very unassuming little neighborhood joint. The food is better than you think it's going to be. Then of course we went to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

 

Friday morning, after our show at the Aster  in Minneapolis (which was moved due to an NBC interview with Steph Curry next door, another crazy story I don't have time to tell) we got an amazing espresso at Five Watt. I noticed Cinco de Mayo next door and we drove away with six of the biggest baddest tamales in the Midwest. It was down in the single digit temperatures, but the chicken with green sauce turned on the southern heat.

 

After we left Minneapolis, it was hard to find a good restaurant, but no lack of culture. A Mexican Pentecostal church was in full swing in the basement of the building where we played in Windom, Minnesota. The little Jackson Center for the Arts was outgrowing its walls with a newfound arts community. The good food was on our hosts' tables. As usual.

 

************

 

Charlie plays in a great band called The Stray Birds. Check out this awesome song, "Best Medicine

 

************

 

Almost every night somebody says, "That's one of the best shows I've ever seen." We're at the top of our game. Come out and see us:

 

MAR 22 WED

Georges Majestic Lounge

Fayetteville AR 

opening for The Steel Wheels! 

 

MAR 24 FRI

The Tin Pan

Richmond, VA

 

APR 7 FRI

White Horse Black Mountain

Black Mountain, NC

 


APR 9 SUN

Muddy Creek Music Hall

Winston-Salem, NC



APR 23 SUN

The Black Sheep Inn

La Pêche, Canada

 

APR 29 SAT

Eddie's Attic

Decatur, GA

opening for The Steel Wheels! 

 

Your fan,

 

JByrd

 

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Byron and Johnny

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Mighty Be Our Powers

This International Women's Day, I remember the summer of 1990, when I circled the glassy doldrums off the west coast of Africa for two months on a tank landing ship, the USS Sumter LST-1181. The Marines on board shined their canteens out of boredom. We threw our garbage in the ocean and it sat around and stank for days.

 

At the 60-day mark, the USS Milwaukee shot a line over and resupplied us with food, fuel, and- due to an arcane Naval policy- enough cases of Old Milwaukee for every man on board to have a single can of cold American beer. Sailors lined the railings to catch a glimpse of any female on board the supply ship, life-jacketed and boondocked, sexless as a pylon from 30 yards away, and yet as powerfully feminine as any bare-breasted enchantress on the cliffs of the Sirenuse.

 

After the ships parted ways, sober men sold their beers to the highest bidder for the ship-wide party. A drum kit appeared on the fourth deck and we jammed bad Zeppelin covers with half-remembered lyrics. Married men were allowed into the cryptic radio room for a single crackling phone call home to their wives.

 

Soon after, the order finally came to do what we were there to do. We helicoptered Americans out of Monrovia, Liberia. We left over two hundred Marines behind to protect Americans and American interests in the city named after our fifth president.

 

We never left the ship and the ship never docked. By the time we scrubbed off in Puerto Rico, we had been on the water for a month longer than Columbus on that first transatlantic voyage.

 

I wondered for years what really happened in the city that I only saw from the water, as unknowable then as all the women aboard the USS Milwaukee. About twenty years later I picked up this book and found out. The twenty-year-old me looking for the curve of a hip in a faraway pair of dungarees knew nothing about the power of women. Here is the grisly and breathtaking true story of how a coalition of Christian and Muslim women ended the Liberian Civil War with faith, cunning, and womanhood as their only weapons.

 

Mighty Be Our Powers

Leymah Gbowee

Winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005ENJZL8/

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