I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and isn’t having too much trouble getting back in the groove in the New Year. Everybody wants to be in Florida in January. Record snow fall and freezing temperatures around the country makes that even more so this year. But, though there’s been no snow, it hasn’t been exactly balmy here in the Sunshine State either. More hard freezes than usual are not doing the citrus and ornamental plant industries any good. My tangerines in the back yard have done just fine, but then they get a lot of protection from the big oaks towering overhead and the lake nearby.

My music year is off to a fast start with a very eventful January. First, the final tallies on the Folk DJ Radio Chart came out and “Welcome Home” finished as a top 40 album for 2010 based on worldwide airplay. Maggie Ferguson at WXOU in Auburn Hills, MI picked it as her Best Regional Album of the Year, Lilli Kuzma at WDCB in Glen Ellyn, IL picked it as a top 10 favorite and Al Kniola of WVPE in South Bend, IN rated it in their top 30 albums of the year. I am, to say the least, thrilled! January has been BUSY!! Ten shows here in Florida in January is a record pace for me. House concerts have been the bedrock of the packed calendar and four of those shows (yep, four) were “virgin” house concert presenters. This put me in front of a lot of new faces and introduced them not only to my music and the rich Florida Folk music scene, but also introduced them to house concerts, the very best way to hear and appreciate original acoustic music. Thanks to Gina Killgore, Barbara Sheen Todd, Alona Smith and Pat Feeley who hosted great shows in their homes and enjoyed their introduction to the world of house concerts.

Special thanks go to Pete Gallagher and Randy Wynne of WMNF in Tampa. Both welcomed me on their radio shows to promote my packed schedule in the Tampa Bay area. Pete and Pat Barmore host the Florida Folk Nights on Tuesday and Thursday every week in St. Pete Beach and Bradenton and they were kind enough to make me the featured act at both events while I was in the area. And, another great supporter, Shelley Eckert, booked me in at Sacred Lands in St. Petersburg and the Pinellas County Folk Festival at the Heritage Village in Largo during my Bay area run.

A real highlight was a wonderful house concert hosted by Barbara Sheen Todd at her home in west St. Petersburg. Barbara’s first house concert effort, her home on the water makes a beautiful setting. Barbara is a long time supporter of the Florida Folk scene and was the initial VP of the Will McLean Foundation. We had a full house of around 45 and Barbara marshaled a considerable corp of assistants from her friends and fellow Rotarians to prepare an elaborate spread of food and refreshment. It was a real treat and I hope to be able to share some video soon from that event. Thanks so much Barbara for a fantastic evening!

Everyone in the Tampa Bay area should know about, get tuned into and support The Hideaway Café on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. John and Nicole Kelly have a very special room there and the line up of acoustic music they have booked (as many as 6 nights a week) is awesome. As it started out (and remains) a recording studio, the sound is absolutely stellar with John hovering over the knobs and faders with the care that only a dedicated professional sound engineer can give. Friday the 28th we recorded a live show there in front of a standing room only crowd. The Winterlings opened the show for me at a little before 8 pm and really got the crowd warmed up.

In addition to the recording being done by John I was also shooting video from two stationary cameras. It would have been better if I had actually turned them on. I thought I did, really! But, you have to punch “record” twice, not just once like I did. So when I looked at them on about the third song I was disappointed to see no red lights shining. The second set, however, did get videoed and it included a very special treat. My friend Gove Scrivenor (who has recorded with the Carter Family, Doc Watson, Emmilou Harris, John Prine and so many more and toured with Jimmy Buffett and Delbert McClinton) came to the show and did a short three song set to get the second half of the night underway. Gove, of course, was fantastic and you can look forward to seeing him at the Hideaway for a full show soon. Stay tuned for news of a potential Live CD release (if the recording works out as planned)! Get on the Hideaway Café’s mailing list, check out their website and go support this great listening room in St. Pete. Ellis Paul will be there in February – get your tickets now as he will sell out quickly.

Alice Schaeffer hosted me in her Music4Me&You series down in Ft. Myers on Saturday January 29th. Alice has hosted several Florida favorites, including Garrison Doles, Roy Schneider and Annie Wenz, as well as “foreign acts” like Stevie Coyle, Walter Strauss and more. The set up there is great and Alice has cultivated a loyal group that trusts her musical tastes. I was able to fit in a surprise guest there as well. My Nashville friend, David Llewelyn and his Swedish sweetheart and music star in her home country, Ida Kristin, were spending some time in the warmth of Naples and drove up for the show. I got them to do three tunes at the beginning of the second set to introduce themselves to Alice and her audience – they were great! It was a very fun evening with an enthusiastic crowd and I was treated to what Alice tells me was a very rare standing ovation at the close of the show. I’m looking forward to returning for more shows down in the far southwest of Florida.

This month I head out to the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. I’ll leave on Friday, February 11th and play at the Mockingbird Café in Tallahassee that evening. Saturday I’ll stop in Cullman, AL at Berkley Bob’s for my fourth show there. Then Sunday I’ll be outside of Nashville in Whites Creek in the Treetop House Concerts series. Check my Facebook events page or my website for more details. Folk Alliance will be busy this year as well. I overbooked my showcases and ended up with eight. But they’re spread over four days so it won’t be too bad. Memphis promises to be cold this year so I’ll start hitting the EmergenC early and taking my woolies. Here’s my showcase schedule for those of you who will be at the conference:

Wed 12:40AM Rm 1922 - Access Presents The Timothy Hay Loft

Thu 10:30PM Rm 1710 - LilFest II

Thu 12:00AM Rm 1723 - National Media/Americana Rhythm

Fri 3:00PM Rm 1827 - Cynthia's Music/Ceili Productions

Fri 11:10PM Rm 1914 - Access Film-Music

Fri 12:10AM Rm 1929 - Texas Sugarbaby

Fri 1:15AM Rm 1927 - ListeningRoomNetwork (ConcertsInYourHome)

Sat 11:00PM Rm 1806 - Soona Songs

I’ll be back in Florida throughout March with the Will McLean Festival and a few other shows including Central Florida Folk’s “Last Sunday Concert” (formerly the Leu Gardens Series until the city trimmed its budget).

Then in April I head to the Midwest for shows in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Hope it has warmed up some by then! You can always keep track of me on my calendar which appears on all of my websites and social network pages.

Drop me a note to let me know how you’re doing and I hope to see you at a show soon. Remember, the world needs more house concert hosts, even for very small weeknight shows. Take a look at this video (click the secure link to connect) from my friends at ListeningRoomNetwork.com / ConcertsInYourHome.com. It tells you how simple and easy it is to enjoy great acoustic music with good friends in the comfort of your own home. Try it, you’ll like it!

All the Best,

Doug