Notes from the Road – The Gas Hog Tour 2008 – Day 10 and 11, July 19 & 20 Ah Edisto – this is a magical place here in out in the backwaters of SC. We rose slowly with coffee and a light breakfast. Judy continued to nap while I ventured out. Very first thing I ran into Cary and Susan Taylor, old friends and essential members of Jack’s / Ronnie Cox’s band (Cary on bass and harmonies, Susan on banjo / guitar and harmonies). Truly kind folks and among my favorites in this crowd. I went ahead and settled our chairs in a good shady spot and continued to chat with this one and that one. The morning comfort soon dissolved as the heavy, humid air around the river began to heat up. An occasional breeze kept it reasonably comfortable in the shade. We sat in a little group of Bill and Barbara Derby, Chuck and Pat Spano and, eventually, Paul & Tami. I had my old Martin out noodling with tunes and played requests from our group for a bit. Paul & Tami joined in and offered a tune or two. But as the heat rose the cool, black waters of the Edisto beckoned. Judy and I grabbed available tubes and headed up river with Daniel Bolling, our songwriter friend from New Mexico. It’s a reasonable walk, about ¾ of a mile or so, to a spot through the woods where a landing has been built with a ladder reaching down to the flowing, dark tannic water. The water is a bit low (though not nearly as low as we’ve seen it in past years) making the entry (a rear facing sitting flop into your tube) a little precarious. I almost went over backwards, but made a nice save to keep from being the butt (pun intended) of more serious jibes on the float down. You’ve got to watch for submerged logs and stumps which in certain circumstances can prove an unpleasant snag in the below water line parts of your anatomy. In years past the river was low enough that in places logs were out of the water so that you had to scramble over them as the river pushed you insistently against them. Two years ago when we were here for Jack & Judy’s wedding the river had sandy shallows that left you doing a little “butt dredging” if you didn’t position yourself well in the current. But none of that on this trip – all obstacles submerged and / or avoidable. A wonderful float down (20 or 30 minutes) among the sweet gums and the cypress (and one overhang with poison ivy that needs to be avoided). Cooling and refreshing. Back at the encampment we settled back under the trees and played some more tunes. Judy disappeared for a nap at some point (she hasn’t been sleeping well so this is her chance to catch up a little). Lon & Lis Williamson had pulled in as we were headed out for our float down the river and I soon spied them headed to the pavilion, instruments in hand. Now Saturday night at these gatherings is the “big show.” Danny Harlow, a fanatic about “doing it right” sets up a full sound system that will accommodate as many as five players at a time with first rate mic’s, monitors, the whole schmere. Danny control,s the sound all night, even when he’s on stage, and does as well or better in terms of the quality of the sound as any festival you’ll attend. Then Jack sets a line-up of the artists on hand and, after the pot luck dinner at 6, the show gets underway at about 7:30 or 8 pm. There were, by Jack’s count, 125 attendees this year so the pavilion and the surrounding grounds next to the river were well packed with devoted fans of this music – what a treat!! It was still a little (ok, a lot) warm under the pavilion when the show started. There are ceiling fans, but instead of moving the air it was more like they were early mixers churning pancake batter – there’s some thick humid air on the Edisto. One attendee commented that she’d come out of the river yesterday afternoon and didn’t know when her bathing suit would ever dry out – November I told her with due dispatch. Jack and the band kick off the evening with a few tunes, including a breathless . . . ummmm . . . out of breath . . . ummmm . . . well, I don’t know how she does it, rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Susan Taylor – she forgot, nor slurred, nor skipped a single city at full speed while playing along with the band. And we flowed on from there. Florida, as I mentioned before was well represented and Jack, serving as MC, commented and complimented throughout the evening about the strong and vibrant, though little known, folk community in our sunshine state. Steve Blackwell was mentioned along with FOFF, the concerts series in Tampa (that’s you Gloria), Orlando, South Florida, Jacksonville, etc. and the wealth of songwriters and musicians that hail from our home grounds. Hannah’s Whirl, Lis and Lon, Tom Shed and I all put on our best shows and had the crowding hooting for more from the Cracker Nation. Paul and Tami did us proud following right after Jack & crew; Lis and Lon graced us with their ever more prolific out pouring of originals (I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather sit and listen to); Tom included Will McLean’s “Dance of the Sandhill Crane” in his exceptional 3 song set; and, I shared “This Old House” (the new version), got the crowd rocking with “Steam Train” (with a vigorous assist on mandolin from Danny Harlow) and, since Jack had mentioned Steve Blackwell, I ended with “Welcome Home.” This is a dream audience to play for – so energetic and totally into the music. Now, the later acts came on towards midnight to 1 am. An old favorite of mine, Dana Kurtz (huge, powerful blues voice) has been joined in the past six months by young Mammi Mensch – a deep voiced young charmer with a soul heavily steeped in traditional music. They, and particular Mammi, just knocked me off my pins – oh my what talent!! Then to finish off the night, one way or another, came Eric Swartz. If you haven’t seen this guy you need to screw up your courage and check him out. He is an outstanding vocalist, a magnificent guitarist, a genuinely honest and true soul, and, without a doubt, one of the funniest, most creative and evocative songwriters I’ve ever come across. I had heard just a little of Eric at Folk Alliance, but I had missed the boat – this guy is the real deal. His set, in which Jack joined when he could quit laughing, had you alternately sitting gape jawed, crying laughing and awed by what Eric was laying on you. If this guy gets within 200 mile of you, go see him. But, leave the kids at home – Eric’s style is brutally honest, direct and evocative – i.e., there are some words and images you don’t want popping out of your 12 year old’s mouth. But there is an honesty and commitment in what he does that will win over any adult, guaranteed. The big show finished up at around 1:30 am. Being old and worn out as we are, Judy and I retired to the luxury of the camper and the AC. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Sunday, July 20, 2008 Slept in a little – finally rolled out at around 8 am or so. Since we didn’t crash until around 2 am that’s actually not enough sleep. But we took it easy getting up, having something to eat, etc. I got dressed and, first thing, broke camp (taking down the awning, raising the stabilizers, hooking the camper up to the car, etc.) so we’d be ready to hit the road soon. Then we went out to say our goodbyes. We usually hang out a while on Sunday, but this year (since I’m on tour) I wanted to bite off a chunk of the 8 hour drive up to north West Virginia where my next gig is. I took time, since I’d done the sweaty work, to take a plunge in the cold river water, cool down and bathe with the environmentally friendly soap I had brought for just that purpose – Ahhhhhhhhhh . . . Time to go – goodbye Edisto and all you wonderful folks. Thanks so much to the Eubanks family that host us here for these gathering. Mary Lib is the “queen mother” of the gathering and her sons, particularly Neil, work hard all weekend to make sure everyone has anything they need. And, of course, the spirit of Gus Eubanks, Mary Lib’s husband, who passed a few years back, is with us always. You guys are the best! See you again soon. Now the road with two of us is different – not better or worse, just different. We talked / gossiped a bit about all kinds of stuff. Then I turned on the iPod and set the cruise control. Judy settled into a Stephen King book she’s reading. I was vigilant about getting the maximum benefit from the lower gas prices in SC – drained it down and got 25 gallons at $3.77 just south of the SC / NC Border – woohoo!! We headed north up I-26 and I-77 past Charlotte. As we got up around Winston-Salem the road grade began to increase and the Ford really started to work. As we passed Statesville and neared the Virginia border the mountains began to rise on the horizon and the views made it hard to keep my eyes where they needed to be. Into Virginia we crossed the Blue Ridge Plateau and then descended a little to Wythesville where I had decided we’d put in for the night. We pulled into the campground I had selected and I set the camper in place while Judy went to take a shower. I got out the grill and soon we were eating steaks with green beans and sweet potatoes (I eat more hardily when Judy’s about). Tomorrow on to West Virginia.