Advent day 9

Today is my 49th birthday. Friends and family celebrated with me at an Ethiopian restaurant in Clarkston. Wow, what a difference a week makes. The CD's should arrive by Thursday, the printers will finish by Wednesday evening. I am a year older, both my children are happy. I am blessed with great friends, good health, and more. My shipments will go out into the world by Saturday at 1pm. This project does not put me back in the game; it reminds me of the pleasures of being an artist. Atlanta had its upteenth day of rain today. Onward. 


Advent day 2

     Why would I want to put out a cd now? Already I know it will be rushed, lost in the holiday shuffle. If I had more time to concentrate on my job, my family, our Christmas decorations. Everything would be ok if only I had wrapped the lights around the natural pine garland I bought a week ago. And yet. It's been so long since I made music in this way.

     Yesterday I sang in the sanctuary of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City - the hymn Flee as a Bird and my arrangement of Psalm 30. I felt God's presence. After sitting down my daughter immediately leaned over and pointed out that I had a new zit on my nose. 

     Psalm 30 came almost last on my list of my arrangements for the verse project. Had I proclaimed anywhere in the songs "that my soul may sing praise to you"? Or was it just because our choir sang the psalm, with the normal focus on 'weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning' sometime in the fall? I don't know. Simply, the little spirit blew a little breeze, for this project is little, and and I pulled out all the Bibles and luxuriated in the creative process. Plus, 'weeping may last for the night' is a great hook. 

     This feels like Advent, almost like fasting would serve the time period better than Charlie Brown Christmas music. Things are unmoored around here, or they could become that way quickly. Then I remind myself. This is why I made the album. It's an advent album. 





The music business provides lots of ups and downs, just like any career. Sometimes I like to ruminate on the negative aspects, but today I'm enjoying lots of great memories from the past 15 years of playing music. Here is a random list of my proudest achievements, gigs and experiences.

1. Playing with Arlo Guthrie at Tonder Festival in Denmark. 2006

2. My live Cecil Sharp Project interview with Jackie Oates and Andy Cutting in the London BBC studios. 2011

3. Watching the yachts from the stage AND playing at the Newport Folk Festival. (the first year Bob Dylan returned to the festival after his performance in 1963). 2002

4. Playing in the Netherlands. I think i've toured in this country ten times. These are the kindest people for whom  I've ever had the pleasure to play. Festivals, theaters, house concerts, rock clubs - you name it, I've played it. My fondest memory is of the lovely woman in Eindhoven who is a sound engineer, a grandmother, has her classes listen to Joni MItchell songs, and gives singer/songwriters with a very scratchy throat a shot of Jaegermeister. 2001-2013

5. Receiving a five-star review for Camilla and earning a Best Albums of the Year award for Camilla from Songlines World Music Magazine. 2012. 

6. Playing the first Austin City Limits music festival in 2002 and getting all of my friends backstage passes!

7. Harmonizing on Walls of Time with Peter Rowan at Thacker Mountain Radio in 1998. He was the first player of his stature who encouraged me to pursue a solo career. Peter was guest #6. 1998

8. Playing two years of Thursday happy hour shows at Stubbs BBQ in Austin, TX with amazing players such as Billy Bright, Bryn Davies and Eamon McLaughlin. Free chips and queso! 2000-2002

9. Hearing my NPR All Things Considered interview, which I thought would be a disaster, actually turn out quite well! I recorded it on my 40th birthday. 2010

10. Every single moment of rehearsing and performing with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.  I had dinner with him afterwards and then he came back to our house and joined the afterparty. We served him coconut cake AND caramel cake. 2010

11. Having Devon cream tea on the terrace with fellow Cecil Sharpians at the Shropshire farmhouse, UK. Such a marvelous musical experience. I'll always be grateful to Alan Surtees and Neil Pearson for inviting me. 2011

11. Having my album Twilight and my song Mistress BOTH be named to the 50 Classic Texas Albums and the Top 50 Songs about Texas in Texas Music Magazine, respectively. 2012

12. Working with engineer and producer Erick Jaskowiak and players Steven Sheehan, Fats Kaplin, Bryan Owings, and Bryn Davies for my album Camilla. All of them came over to Atlanta for my two sold-out CD release shows (except Fats - he was playing with Jack White in Paris). Best recording experience of my life. 2012

12 and 1/2: Playing my first CD release show (Twilight) at The Cactus Cafe in Austin, TX - about 18 months after I worked there! 2001

13. Singing harmony with my daughter on the Decatur Book Festival children's book stage. She was seven and she nailed it. 2011

14. Meeting Marian King's son (from song Camilla) in Denver at a show. He brought me flowers. He was five and with his mother the day of her beating and miscarriage in Camilla, Georgia. 2012

15. Reading an article about my album Golden Apples of the Sun AND a short story based on my songs in the Oxford American. 2009

16. Playing with Kristian Bush (Sugarland) and Ellis Paul at the annual Eddie's Attic Thanksgiving show. Those two fine artists invited me to join after the show had already sold out, and then paid me the same pay they received. Amazing. Eddie's Attic kept me going for ten years in Atlanta/Decatur, mostly through the generosity and encouragement of Eddie Owen, Shalom Aberle and Bob Ephlin. 2007. 

17. Playing the cabin stage at Merlefest. What a rush. 2005

18. Playing Tales of the Islander (about Walter Anderson) to such an appreciative crowd in Ocean Springs, MS, in an auditorium full of his artwork. Thacker Mountain Radio. 2010.

19. Playing with Dar Williams (Europe, mid-2000's) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (Eudora Welty project, late 2000's)

20. Playing to a room full of librarians (my core audience, truly) and winning the Coleen Salley Storytelling Award at the USM Children's Book Festival. 2012

21. Buying a new dress at the thrift store for receiving my award Best New Artist at the Austin Music Awards, TX. 2001

22. Playing the Mountain Literary Heritage Festival in Harrogate TN (borders w Kentucky). I liked the show, but I so loved meeting Kentuckians such as Silas House, Jason Howard and Marianne Worthington, who love their region and their region's music. They invited me into their post-concert music circle and all of them sang along to Lay My Burden Down. 2010

23. Thacker Mountain Radio Christmas show. Writer Larry Brown wrote the short story "Beam me up, Scotty" for our show and read it live. 1998

24. Playing for President George Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the Crawford ranch, TX. I was picked because I was a band with a female lead and I could lead singalongs. Endless stories about this experience. 2002

25. Joining my first band, Ed Dye and the Sincere Ramblers. Ed took us to Robbie McCoury's rehearsal dinner after-party and I promptly told Del McCoury that I was a rhythm guitarist just like he was. Ed Dye almost had a heart attack that night. Sorry, Ed, and rest in peace. 1997

26. Playing a Robert Earl Keen Texas Uprising Festival with Rich Brotherton.  2001

27. Learning Barbara Allen and Knoxville Girl for William Ferris' Southern Folklore class at the University of Mississippi. With this experience, and my overall experience in Southern Studies, my quests both to write songs about the South and to be a career songwriter and musician began. 1997

28. Receiving my second Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for Camilla the same night my husband, Joe Crespino, received his second award for his book Strom Thurmond's America. Mississippi is for lovers. 2013


I could go on and on. I have been blessed and I am grateful.









Brad Paisley's "The Accidental Racist"

Brad Paisley’s new song, “The Accidental Racist”, begins with a story about a ubiquitous Starbucks barista complaining about the Confederate flag t-shirt Brad Paisley is wearing when he orders a coffee. Brad responds, through the crafted interpretation of a Nashville songwriter team, with the following: “When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan.”

 Just like “Sweet Home Alabama,” Paisley claims that he should be able to celebrate his beloved South-land without being accused (by people like Neil Young, or the Starbucks barista, or LL Cool J) that he is racist. He asks, why is the “red flag on my chest somehow…like the elephant in the corner of the south”? What does that even mean?

 Perhaps Paisley does not understand the conundrum of the Confederate flag because he grew up in West Virginia in a town that was 99% white during the 2000 census. Perhaps he forgot that West Virginia formed as a Unionist state during the Civil War.  Or perhaps he just wishes not to be judged for things he views as ridiculous as wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt. While Paisley views this as common sense, I instead see a clear depiction of a person who feels entitled to something he or she wants at the expense of history and of others.

 I have a different view of the Confederate flag, shaped primarily by when I went to Ole Miss football games as a child in Mississippi in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before each game began the Ole Miss marching band, “The Pride of the South”, would surround the football field while cheerleaders rolled out a Confederate flag the size of the ENTIRE FOOTBALL FIELD. Everyone in the stands had a Confederate flag, of course, and we all held them up proudly as the band began to play ‘Dixie’, so slow and beautiful. This was the starting point of the game, and the basis for everything.

At the time I didn’t know that Dixie was a blackface minstrel tune romanticizing slavery written in 1859 by Daniel Emmett from northern Ohio. I didn't know that nobody besides white people didn't wave Confederate flags, and I didn't know why. I didn't know why there were no black faces in the football crowd. I didn't even know that the term 'Ole Miss' signified the slave name for the mistress of a  plantation. 

The lyrics of The Accidental Racist and of my experience at the football game are similar. Both seem to be based on a child’s perspective. A child does not understand what propaganda is, though he or she can easily be led to believe it.  A child thinks his or her own selfish wishes matter more than everyone else’s. I’m not sure why The Accidental Racist mentions Reconstruction and then skips over the horrific history of Jim Crow, of lynchings, and of the Civil Rights Movement, or the centrality of the Confederate Flag to the Ku Klux Klan or various other terrorist groups as we are all presumably “still siftin' through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years.” I think the writers of this song are lying. They have sifted through nothing. Instead, they have utterly skipped over those 150 years after the end of slavery and the Civil War because, frankly, it’s easier. It’s much more convenient to live in blissful, willful ignorance than to learn about the South and the nation’s blood-soaked history of racism.

If Brad Paisley knew even one-tenth of what there is to know about how the Confederate flag has been used in this country, and is still being used, he wouldn’t wear the t-shirt.



My children and I love children's books, obviously. And so do my friends and fans on Facebook. So we made a list, together, and it is below. I didn't repeat books, and I didn't put the names of authors or illustrators - not because they aren't important, but because I couldn't type it all. Please check my facebook friend and fan pages for more details, or just email me. This list is random and long - and includes everything from board books to chapter books. Someone (well, actually, dear Catherine Elder) asked me about my favorite children's books. I'll mention just one for now: The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill   Sometimes I still dream about it. 


The Velveteen Rabbit

The Little Engine That Could

The Giving Tree

James and the Giant Peach

Where The Wild Things Are

A Wrinkle In Time

Stig of the Dump

Alexander and the Magical Mouse

Die Rosarote Kristal

My Side of the Mountain

Not Now Bernard

Little Blue Truck

The Phantom Tollbooth

Ferdinand the Bull

The Sea Thing Child

The Giver

The Elephant’s Child


Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor

My Father’s Dragon

Big Red Barn

Are You My Mother?

George Shrinks

Ten Apples Up On Top

Frog and Toad

Goodnight Moon

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

The Lorax

Charlottes Web


Nicolas Bunny

The Little House in the Big Woods

The Secret Garden

The Stinky Cheese Man

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge

The Littlest Angel

Freddy the Pig

Half Magic

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Snowy Day

And I Mean It, Stanley

The Revolt of the Darumas

The Thirteen Clocks

There’s A Nightmare in my Closet

Christina Katerina and the Box

The Mitten


Moo Baaa La La La

Dear Dolphin

Charles Addams Monster Rally

The Sea Around Us


Jenny Linsky books

Marvin K. Mooney

Whoa Joey

Miss Nelson is Missing

The Tin Forest

There’s a Monster at the End of this Book

Two Bad Ants

The Wretched Stone

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Watership Down

The Black Stallion

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Trumpet of the Swan

Bread and Jam for Frances

Little Bear

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The Runaway Bunny

The Boxcar Children

McElligot’s Pool

North to Freedom

Sylvester the Mouse with the Musical Ear

Green Eggs and Ham

Blueberries for Sal

Scaredy Squirrel

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

Keep the Lights Burning Abbie

The Little House (!)

Make Way for Ducklings

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Miss Suzy


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Quiltmaker’s Gift

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Franklin the Turtle

Meet the Woodland Folk

Brendon Chase

Noggin the Nog

The Blueberry Girl

The Paperbag Princess

Mole and Troll

Miss Rumphius

Each Peach Pear Plum

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt


Mouse Paint

The Little Critters


The Cockatoucan

A Little Princess

The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Linnea’s Windowsill Garden

Harry the Dirty Dog

Wacky Wednesday

Cattle Drive

The Cow That Wouldn’t Come Down


A Regular Rolling Noah

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Curious George

Mr. Putter and Tabby

The Metamorphosis

Bridge to Teraibithia

Noisy Nora

In The Night Kitchen

Neverending Story

Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse

Your Monster Momma Loves You So

Fanny’s Dream

I am a Bunny

Peek A Who

St. George and a Dragon


Wilfred Gordon McDonald Patridge

Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book

Stuart Little

Andrew Henry’s Meadow


Paddle to the Sea

The Child’s Garden of Verse

Wolf Story

The Ver Persistent Gappers of Frip

The Little Red Hen

Anne of Green Gables

Little Women

The Wind in the Willows

Ramona & Beezus

Ribsy the Dog

The Prince and the Pauper

Gulliver’s Travels

Her Stories

Noah’s Ark (Barbara Shook Hazen)

Old Turtle

The Tale of Three Trees

The Paper Crane

The Orchard Book of Greek Myths

Misty of Chincoteague

Where the Red Fern Grows

Three Little Horses

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

The Precious Present

Treasure Island

Nobody’s Boy

Barrington Bunny

Winnie the Pooh