Archive by Author

I’ll Bring You a Song

11 Oct

You all are the best. You been with us for 2 or 4 or 7 years now, most of you. That’s meant 5 albums and almost 1,000 shows from our end, and we’ve loved every damn minute on the stage and mile on the highway. It’s time for TUS to take a quick break, maybe just for the next few months (who’re we kidding? we won’t be able to stay off the road for more than 2 weeks…) while we work on a whole bunch of projects we’re pretty excited about. More to come on those. And TUS will be back soon. But we thought we owed you a homemade loving lullaby in the meantime, just to keep you company while we’re out to lunch (and complete with Lucy Elliott on the dirty dishes – listen carefully…)

I’ll Bring You a Song

“To hold your breath forever is to lose it in the end –
you have to let it out and let it in,”
you screamed to me as we were tumbling, cartwheeling the corn
in tribute to the seed we’d thrown to spring.
The summer in its fast fires and its dry skies
an altogether wilder burning thing…

However perfect, flawed, or far, may we remember as we part:
the road does not have to be hard, but it will be long.
I’ll count in rings around the trees, kick up seasons laid in leaves,
until the next time that we meet, and I’ll bring you a song.

The weather wasn’t always with us.
Still, we worked long, and the harvest was good.
Another life awaits me to the west now –
a forest on the isle of the linden wood.
I’ll walk a while through that land,
until I know I always understood…

However perfect, flawed, or far, we may remember as we part:
the road does not have to be hard, but it will be long.
I’ll count in rings around the trees, kick up seasons laid in leaves,
until the next time that we meet, and I’ll bring you a song.

Time and time again, I take my troubles to the wind.
I wind them up, and they begin to helicopter off and laugh

and scream and burn and breathe and float and softly sing…However perfect, flawed, or far, may they remember as we part:
the road does not have to be hard, but it will be long.
I’ll count in rings around the trees, kick up seasons laid in leaves,
until the next time that we meet, and I’ll bring you a song.
Until the next time that we meet, and I’ll bring you a song.


Music Makes Us a Tribe

3 Oct

The Harvest Moon Festival in Yorkville this past weekend was an awesome night.  Good music, a fun audience, killer Octoberfest brew, and a beautiful vibe under the harvest moon on the banks of the Fox River.

It got me thinking… what IS the music festival all about experience about?  Why do we, as a culture, worship Jimi Hendrix’s set at Woodstock, Miles and Dylan at their respective Newport shows?  Sure, great performances are key.  But for truly transcendent performances, there’s something else in the air—and festivals provide their own special version of that. There’s something essential and near mystical in the rare atmosphere of a good musical festival.  Maybe it’s the idea of tribe.

Lately, I’ve been reading “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn.  A major theme in his works is the idea of the tribe, a group of people who come together for the purpose of working together.  A tribe isn’t a commune.  A commune is exclusionary: it’s an attempt to get away from the rest of the world, and only open to people who hold a certain value or point-of-view.  But a tribe is inclusionary: it assembles around an activity or way to make a living. If you can extend the group’s living to include yourself, says Quinn, and can do so without being a hindrance to others, you’re welcome to join.

A great music festival is just this; the only difference is that the activity—instead of making a living—is enjoying music and art together.  There’s no need to sort through who’s “in” or “out” of the group: the fact that everyone’s made the choice to go makes them part of the tribe.

The festival: Relax, it says.  This music means something to all of us.  We’re all here together.  These people are my people. We share this thing and love this music enough to come here, so… yeah.  We’re good to go.

I think festivals relax us on a subconscious level, fire up our old psychological instincts, and open us up to unique experiences. As long as you’re not disrupting someone else’s experience… you can do what you want.  You can sit front row, or at the back of the scene.  You can dance like a nutcase, or chuckle at the people who do.  You can hang out at the edges and share the moment with a friend or lover.  You can do anything you want. Yes, the music is central to the experience, but the music is also the framework for something bigger… for the atmosphere and energy that feed right back into the music itself. That’s the point.

Our good friend Tim Easton gets it.  Here’s a song of his about all that:


I’ve had a string of amazing, beautiful, crazy experiences since joining TUS six months and about 100 performances ago. Playing a couple of beautiful autumn festivals has been a really great way to cap off my first season of touring with these folks.

Take care!  We hope to see some of you in Rosedale, MS this weekend, or wherever, whenever we next roll through your town.  I am already looking forward to it!


Harvest Moon Festival – September 28th + 29th!

28 Sep

What is a Harvest Moon, you may ask? According to my sources (Wikipedia, other people standing near me . . . Mom), it is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. What is an equinox? An equinox occurs twice a year (once in Fall and once in Spring) and is when the earth’s axis is tilted neither away nor towards the sun causing the center of the sun to be on the same plane as the earth’s equator. Because of this, the length of day and night are approximately the same length!

In honor of the Harvest Moon (also know as the Wine Moon, the Singing Moon, the “Blue Corn Moon,” and the Elk Call Moon – thanks internet), we’ll be playing the Harvest Moon Festival in Yorkville, IL along the fox river with some wonderful friends this Saturday, Sept 29th! What could be a better way to celebrate than with a fresh crop of great music and good brews? Come join us?

When asking others about their fond memories of the many a Harvest Moon, this song came up with a twinkle in the eye:

“Shine On Harvest Moon” – Laurel & Hardy (1939)


And in case you want to sing along (and see just what a harvest and a Harvest Moon Festival really looks like . . .) just follow the moon, he’ll guide you:  [youtube=]


21-String Salute to J. Tom Hnatow

24 Sep

That’s how many strings a pedal steel has, right? We never did fully comprehend the complexities of that thing — any of us but Tom, that is. And the rumors are true: Tom is moving on this autumn to big and bright futures outside of These United States. It’s nothing terribly tabloid-worthy or dramatic (we still haven’t mastered the Early Career Headline Grab). Just a good time for him to do so, with some pretty amazing opportunities on the horizon. He’ll be touring with our dear pals The Mynabirds this fall, working with producer extraordinaire Duane Lundy at Shangri-La in Lexington, and getting out from behind the pedal steel again for some good old-fashioned picking and sinning on Vandaveer’s upcoming murder ballads release.

As anyone knows who lent us a floor or a boat or a trailer or a desert sky to sleep on, Tom was my most consistent collaborator in TUS over the last 7 years, 5 albums, almost 1,000 shows. He’ll be missed hugely, by all of us, personally and musically. For me, it was the talents that people didn’t get to see as often that I’ll miss most, his creative force outside the context of the pedal steel and electric guitar (we all know he’s a master of those): piano, banjo, dobro, truck stop windshield squeegee — hell, he even arranged a horn section for a B-side from the new album. We’ll find a way to get that and some other little TUS nuggets out into the world later this year (more on that soon), but for the time being I felt it appropriate to pay tribute in the simplest, most direct way possible, with a one-off tune from a rainy afternoon in Pennsylvania, just me & Tom.





p.s. Oh, yeah, and if anyone tries to tell you it was anything but awesome sound & fury right up til Tom’s departure, just show them this picture from Columbia, MO, last Saturday night, and ask them to keep an eye out for my upcoming piece in the Onion, “Wild Llama Rages Across These United States, Leaving Trail of Destruction and Hot, Hot Licks.”

Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

18 Sep

Chasing shadows through the new Bob Dylan album, Tempest – with its mirrored halls of old phrases and snatches of song – got me to revisit Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the Bard’s own late-period masterpiece. The last play he wrote himself, it can be read as a paean to the act of creation itself – with Shakespeare as Prospero, the wizard at the heart of his island, all powerful, creating illusions in the air.


Of course, much like Dylan, Shakespeare is far too rich to pin down to one meaning. But Prospero’s final speech in the play seems to echo Shakespeare’s own feelings. The play, and his life itself, are nearly over… all that remains are the hoped for applause – which will “set him free.” It is one of the most memorable of Shakespeare’s speeches, and one of the finest “goodbyes” ever written.


“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I

have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free.”


John Gielgud as Prospero


J. Tom Hnatow