Sunday, October 28, 2018


What? Again?

Has the word "massacre" become our middle name?
It sounds insane.

The headlines of hate spew hotly, freely from a semiautomatic clip;
a spiral trip.

A bomber today, a bullet tomorrow
adds to the men of constant sorrow.

Our skin color, our God, our political bent no longer free;
we are all targets of opportunity.

All of us.

Our point of reference remains ourselves, to reach the roof,
both capable – and incapable – of peace.
And truth.

We share the same blood, our global humanity,
and yet, we can't seem to find
common identity.

Keep striving, the burning fever must break soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Another stellar class

I'm a little reluctant to say this, because I am on its board of directors as well as an officer (secretary) and I don't want to jinx anything, but the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame seems to be running pretty much like a well-oiled machine these days.

The 17th annual induction ceremony was held last night at the J. Smith Young YMCA Third Avenue Event Center with yet another spectacular class of inductees: legendary North Davidson softball pitching coach Billy "Chief" Gerald; North Davidson softball standout pitcher Danielle Glosson; East Davidson girls' basketball star Anna (Freeman) Healy; Thomasville's five-time state champion basketball coach Woody Huneycutt; Lexington tennis standout Varner Sink, and sensational Central Davidson state champion swimmer Caroline Smith.

George Feezor, a benefactor of West Davidson athletics and the creator of Fab Masters, perhaps one of the most dominant slow-pitch softball programs in the state, was inducted posthumously, and Lexington's Tim Holt, one of the most humble and sincere human beings you're ever likely to meet, was inducted as the "Unsung Hero", primarily for his volunteer work with Little League football programs.

This year's class brings a total of 128 inductees into the Hall over the past 17 years, which means we're averaging 7.5 inductees per year. I don't know who claims the one-half fraction – maybe that person gets an extra yeast roll at the ceremony banquet.

One of the best moments of the night was Glosson explaining how she first learned several months ago about her pending induction. Board member Dale Odom, who coaches the American Legion softball team of which Glosson assisted, asked Glosson if she would do him a favor and call Chief Gerald to inform him of his induction. It seemed appropriate because Gerald was her pitching coach at North Davidson. Glosson said she'd be delighted.

At the moment Glosson was dialing Gerald, Gerald was dialing her. They simultaneously informed each other of each's soon-to-be induction. That was cool. Very cool.

The Hall of Fame has come a long way in 17 years. The first induction ceremonies were too long. The very first year, the Hall inducted 14 inaugural members, and each inductee had a presenter. Consequently, patrons were lucky to get home before midnight.

Over the course of time, the Hall has tweaked and polished its program. There are no longer wordy presenters. Most inductees take less than 10 minutes – and usually only about five minutes – to say thank you.

Consequently, I was home by 8:30 p.m., in time to watch Purdue dismantle Ohio State, and then watch the Dodgers win the National League pennant.

It's good to be part of a well-oiled machine.
•   •   •
You can access the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame Web page to nominate future candidates and to read the biographies of the current inductees at:

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Eleanor's home run

After following Americana string band Underhill Rose for the past six or seven years, I found it a bit unusual to look up at the stage and see a lead guitar, a bass guitar, a drum kit and ... a banjo.

That's not a combination you see very often, I think. Yet Asheville's Eleanor Underhill (banjoist of the aforementioned Underhill Rose) easily made it work to satisfying proportions.

She was in town Friday night, performing at High Rock Outfitters for the Lexington release of her first solo CD, "Navigate the Madness". Backing her up were three talented musicians in their own right – Silas Durocher (lead), Matt Lane (bass) and Chris Pyle (drums) – whom she calls Eleanor & Friends and who play fairly regularly at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in Asheville.

Eleanor played five or six songs off of her new album, several Underhill Rose songs, an unpublished tune or two that could eventually show up in the UR catalogue and a bunch of covers ranging from Steve Miller to Prince.

It was kind of a revealing evening. I'm used to seeing Eleanor as one half of Underhill Rose (with Molly Rose Reed the other half) singing beautiful harmonies.

Interestingly, last night really wasn't about seeing Eleanor come out of her musical comfort zone. In my world, it was more about me coming out of mine.

It became abundantly clear to me that musicians like Eleanor are probably filled to overflowing with their art and consequently utilize other avenues of expression to get their musical exploration out there.

I was also impressed with how easily all the talent on the stage glided from one genre to another and how they seemingly enjoyed (eyes closed, brows furrowed) each tune they performed. Their solo bridges, as usual, highlighted their talents, as well as their love for what they do.

I can't do anything musical except listen to it. But even that, as a member of the audience, requires a subtle talent to discern and appreciate what you are hearing. I think that's a revelation that came to me last night. We are the artist's sounding board. They need us and we need them.

That's also why I wasn't sure what to expect from Eleanor last night when we walked into HRO, but when she was done with her show, we came away impressed and satisfied.

Well done, Eleanor.
•   •   •
On a side note, Eleanor's performance was highlighted by the arrival of her parents, Roy and Jane, who were on hand to celebrate Jane's birthday.

Roy, of course, is the host of the long running PBS program, The Woodwright's Shop. It was evident for all to see the obvious pride both Roy and Jane have for their daughter's accomplishments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eleanor's bold move

A couple of years ago, during a set break at an Underhill Rose performance in a small venue near Hickory, singer Eleanor Underhill and I sat at a table and had a casual little chitchat about writing – she about her music, and myself about the direction of my blogs.

We compared notes. The gist of our discussion centered around becoming a little more edgier. She confided then that she'd gotten some criticism for being "too light" or "too sunny" in her craft, although I'm not sure how edgy you can be while playing smile-inducing instruments like the banjo or the harmonica, both of which I think she is a virtuoso performer.

Eleanor Underhill makes her solo debut at High Rock Outfitters on Friday.*
 Eleanor is also a prolific songwriter and there's no way I could have known then that her unpub-lished catalogue no doubt included tunes that I didn't know about and that would never show up in an Underhill Rose concert, where she performs in the Americana genre with co-founder and friend Molly Rose Reed.

But a door has opened. Molly is in the final trimester of her and her husband Tyler's first child, due in November, and Underhill Rose currently is taking a break from touring.

So the timing is perfect for Eleanor to release her first solo CD, "Navigate the Madness." It's a collection of 12 tunes that she's birthed, tweaked, nourished and refined over time. Some of the songs were written years ago; others are of more current inspiration.

She will be performing Friday night at High Rock Outfitters, starting at 9 p.m., in the Lexington release show of her CD. She had her Asheville (where she lives) release show a couple of weeks ago, featuring five backup musicians. At HRO, she'll have three musicians behind her: Matt Lane on bass; Silas Durocher on guitar, and Chris Pyle on drums.

"I will structure the show a little differently than I did the Asheville show," Eleanor wrote in an email. "We play around here all the time so I felt compelled to do something that was a bit different. At High Rock, we won't be playing the album front to back but instead we'll play about 75 per cent of the songs mixed in with some unpublished originals, Underhill Rose songs that I penned, and fun covers."

This will be a different Eleanor than we know from the harmonies of Underhill Rose. She provided me digital access to her album for review and you can immediately see the artist in her exploring eclectic new avenues of thought and curiosity. The email came with hashtags marked #haunting, #psychedelic, #folksy, #fusion, #baroque-pop, #jazzy. It's all of that, and more.

The email did not come with lyrics or liner notes, so I don't know which musician contributed what, and I'm not always sure of what I heard in the voice tracks, so my review is, admittedly, incomplete. But some of the tunes I liked included "Never Meant to Say Goodbye," "Before I Head West Again," "Captured in Arms," and "You Know I Would." Pay attention.

It's good to see Eleanor step out like this. I don't know if she feels like she's out of her Americana comfort zone or not, but artists are often compelled to follow their muse and take us with them on the journey. Heck, I didn't know the banjo could sound like that. It's bold. It's fun. And, yes, it's edgy.

*Photo by Donnie Roberts

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Crossfire hurricanes

Before I write another word, let me make it clear that I understand the hurricane damage suffered by millions of people in this country in the past month or so is next to unbearable and that the loss of life is horrifying.

Even today, as I write this, isolated portions of Davidson County, located at least 200 miles inland from any hurricane landfall, are still without the incredible convenience offered by power, and there has been enough property damage to keep contractors busy for months.

But in point of fact, this area has been hit by the tropical storm residue of two hurricanes within four weeks: Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

We were literally in a hurricane crossfire. Florence came inland from the Atlantic coast in mid September, making landfall near New Bern and giving us here in the Piedmont plenty of rain and wind gusts close to 40 miles per hour as she made a crazy westward track against the jet stream before looping northeast.

We parked our cars in the treeless parking lots of nearby businesses.

A tree in our neighborhood fell and took out the power for a few hours.
 Then, this past Wednesday morning, Michael came up through the Florida Gulf coast, still a Category 2 hurricane when he hit Georgia.

By the time Michael reached Davidson County on Thursday, he was a tropical storm. And for one hour, at least, he was packing wind gusts of 55 miles per hour right outside my house. He was going from west to northeast, urged along by the jet stream. Go figure.

I was a little nervous. I can't remember the last time I saw rain come in horizontally. Does rain ever hit the ground if it falls sideways?

A tree in our neighborhood fell over, blocking a road and taking some power lines with it. I could tell that my neighbors across the street were suddenly powerless. No lights. They had nothing to do except go to their front porch. That's how you can tell the neighbors have no power. They come out and stand on their porch.

Strangely enough, I saw this event happen in real time from my dining room window. I saw the sparks fly as the wires broke free from the pole. I called the utilities department, got a live voice, and within 10 minutes a fire truck was on the scene, barricading the road. An hour later, an utilities crew was working in the storm, which had abated significantly. And less than three hours from my call, power was restored.

That was amazing.

Natural disasters and their impact are relative, of course. The damage in Lexington is nothing compared to what happened in Mexico Beach, Fla., which has been virtually obliterated. And yet, there's been flooding and ponding in the streets of Denton. Hampton Road, the shortcut between Davidson County and Clemmons, was under Muddy Creek.

All we can do is cope and make our way the best we can.

Until the next disaster.