Every year at about this time I become engrossed in a project. I love history and I love genealogy and I do research year ’round on my family. But when my BIG family reunion is on the horizon, I get deeply involved and that is all I can think about for a few weeks, before and after. That’s where I am right now and what I’m doing when I’m not writing here. I am the “keeper of the tree” of our family and I’m doing my best to update it with some new babies and spouses, plus look on the web for missing members of the family, too. This family reunion is different from what most people think of when they think reunion. For most people, a reunion is a gathering of your grandparents and their descendants, so you are with your aunts and uncles and first cousins, for the most part. Maybe you include the brothers and sisters of a grandparents so there are your parent’s first cousins, too. But this reunion is the Cunningham family and it is all of the descendants of my great-great-great grandparents. They had 12 grandchildren and 110 grandchildren, so in 1908 the reunion had 158 people attend. The reunion has been going on since 1888 or so, every August, in the the heat of the summer (a time when the farmers could take a day off) they gathered by a pecan grove and a creek to eat barbecue and visit. The tradition carries on, despite the invention of air conditioning. We still have about 200 people a year come to the reunion, but on our 100th we had over 600 there. I sort of expect this year’s reunion to be smaller with the price of gas, but we will see. Unlike my other reunions that are gatherings of closer family, my closest family members will be the kids and grandkids of my mom’s first cousin and the son of my grandfather’s first cousin (are you following all of this?). Mostly it is people that are so distantly related we don’t even figure it out, we just attend, visit each year, and love one another because we have that shared heritage.
If my writing is sporadic, this is why. I started doing genealogy over 30 years ago and I discovered that it is like reading a fascinating novel with lots of plot twists and exciting stories. It is enthralling and I want to get back to it and immerse myself in it—but no one else cares about it, really. Okay, some of my family like to hear the reports, but it isn’t something to share with most people without seeing their eyes glass over.
But, I did get out for some music last night, the KB Talent Showcase at Antone’s. My friends Bruce Kalmick and Ricky Brown head up KB and are great guys and booking agents. I worked with them at the radio station and have gotten to know them a lot better now that I am booking bands and discovering up-and-coming talent. That is primarily what their showcase was for last night, to show off some of their artists.
I got their early so I wouldn’t miss two of their established, premier artists, Doug Moreland and Susan Gibson. I enjoyed them both immensely, they are very talented. I got the tail end of their set. Doug is working with Ray Benson on his next CD. I don’t see any reason that the Doug Moreland Show couldn’t be playing the casinos, the European tours, the theater stages around the country like Asleep at the Wheel does, as they develop. Doug is a showman. No Miss Molly last night.
Granger Smith and Rodney Hayden did a little song swap. I had not heard Granger Smith before, though I’ve heard of him. He was very good. I liked him. Handsome, too. I was familiar with his songs from myspace, but I enjoyed hearing them again. He’s a good songwriter.
The Charlie Shafter Band played. Ricky has been telling me about this band and I liked what I had heard on myspace, but they are something else in person. They will be playing at Momo’s next month and that will be a show to see. They are not country at all. They are more like Dan Dyer, John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz…. hard to pin down what that genre would be called, but very interesting lyrics and musical arrangements. I told someone that “unpredictable” was a good word to describe them because there were surprises in both music and words with every song.
Bo Cox, Hunter McKithon, and John D Hale did the next song swap. I was maybe most impressed with Hunter there. I had never heard of him before, but sought him out today on myspace to hear more.
Rich O’Toole, Drew Womack, and Owen Temple were on stage with a songswap when tiredness set in and the pull of genealogy took me home. I hadn’t seen Drew in a while and loved hearing his voice again.
Bruce, the co-owner of KB, sent out an email today thanking folks and made the comment “now let’s all hope Janice Williams gives a good review of the show.” Well, of course he knows I’m going to give a good review of the show. I don’t write about shows that are bad unless I know that NO ONE INVOLVED is going to read them. My one complaint or piece of advice to newcomers (or old pros) playing these kinds of showcases is to realize what a showcase is. A showcase is (by definition): “A setting in which someone or something may be displayed, especially to advantage.”Â A showcase isn’t a 90-minute concert or a short show to avid fans. It is an opportunity to really wow people who have never seen (or heard) of you before. There is only the shortest, most limited opportunity to really show what you have, so it surprises me when an artist goes through that “what should we play now?” discussion or plays a cover song. There were surprises and I was wowed last night, so that was fun and that’s why I enjoy seeing new artists.
And on the subject of music. I have received a wonderful supply of records lately, some that have been graciously given to me (not expecting a review or a mention) and others I have bought. Then I find myself feeling guilty that I haven’t written a cohesive review of them and put it up here. I have been impressed by some, some might be a tad boring, and one has a cut that I thought would NEVER end (it’s not from a local so when I get to it I will tell you about it). But today I listened to some of Aaron Watson’s “Angels and Outlaws” album on the way to work and loved it. I must listen more and give you a full critique. The song about waking up and smelling the coffee was my favorite.
When I listen to albums, the days of sitting down and listening to every cut while reading liner and notes and studying the artwork are gone. When I was at the station one night years ago I put on an album that I had foolishly told a musician that I would critique for him (I never ever promised that again and won’t today either, unless there is money involved). I put it on and was doing some other work at my desk while I listened. Quickly, I realized that the album was already over and I had missed it because I was doing other work. So I started it again and, next thing I knew, the CD was over again and I hadn’t listened again. I gave up at that point and stuck a Cross Canadian Ragweed CD into the player. It was an older CD at the time, but I hadn’t heard the whole album so I just put it on to have something on the player. I’m not a big fan of Cross Canadian Ragweed, by the way, because they are more rock than I like, but I like them okay. But as I continued doing what I was doing, song after song would play that would make me sit up and go “That’s a good song, what is that?” and I would have to get the cover and see what the title was and who wrote it. I mean that song demanded my attention and I heard every cut clearly because it required it, not because I had to put in effort. That is still, I’ve discovered, what a good album will do. Mostly I’m listening to a CD in my car or at the office on the computer speakers. If it can grab me and impress me, if I can remember a single song when it is over, that makes me very happy. Aaron’s album is probably his best yet. I will give it a full review one of these days (maybe on a new page on the website instead of here), but I can recommend it after one listening today without reservation (well…. unless you DON’T like country music, fiddle, swing, steel, or Jesus).