One of the unexpected surprises of retirement has been my decision to fill some of the available time with music. It’s surprising because music, like math, is not something that comes easily to me. I can’t write music, I don’t read music and I definitely can’t sing music, but, in the past, I have derived great pleasure from listening to music. Upon entering retirement however, I soon realized that music has value beyond being just sound projected from a car radio.
While sitting at my computer in the man cave and crafting eloquent blog posts for Easin’ Along, I discovered early on that it’s a lot easier to concentrate if easy listening, or light classical music is playing in the background instead of Sports Center or cable news. Soon I was digging out a number of CD’s from a large box that had been stored in the attic and playing them on a decade-old CD player that I connected to a Bose Radio. Being cursed with a somewhat obsessive personality, I next found myself pouring through the racks of a used CD store searching for more melodies to marinate the man cave. A new retirement activity had suddenly, and surprisingly, been born.
Equally surprising was that I discovered that my preferences for different types of music was wider in range than I had thought previously. I have a very large collection of 60’s and 70’s music on my MP3 player that I listen to when I work out at the YMCA. This has been my usual “go to” form in the past. Now however, good Mozart piece stirs me on occasion. I am fond of classic country music, and I LOVE Bluegrass.
Thanks to the satellite radio in Freddie (my car) I have recently tuned in to 70’s folk music, bluegrass gospel, and even some disco. It’s been fun and I’m certain that I will explore some more forms as I dig a little deeper into the CD stack and move further down the radio dial.
I know what I don’t like too. That list includes the music I don’t understand like hip-hop, new age, or rap. I’ve never been a fan of hard rock or heavy metal.
About a week ago I received an email from a friend who was promoting a concert of Blues music being given by the Smoky Mountain Blues Society on the following Sunday afternoon. My only other exposure to the Blues had been a trip with some friends last year to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi which I enjoyed very much. In trying to decide if I really wanted to go, I thought, “why not”, for once a concert was being held before my bedtime…I bought a ticket.
The concert was held in an old building that had been converted into an entertainment venue in a revitalized part of town. There were about 125 people in attendance of all ages including a 30-something young lady who danced throughout the entire concert. She obviously had some professional experience and paused just long enough to take the picture shared below.
The Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue is composed of five gentlemen, several of whom are award winning blues musicians. Mark Hummel is the lead singer and blues harpist (harmonica). He is joined in the group by guitarists “Little Charlie” Baty and Anson Funderburgh. R.W. Grigsby plays bass, and Wes Starr plays the drums (a note of interest is that he holds the drumstick in his left hand between his index and middle finger).
Together they are sensational and Mark has to be one of the most accomplished blues harpists in the world. He can flat out play. Little Charley’s guitar rips were amazing and brought out thunderous applause from the crowd. Anson’s play was equally as good. Mark Hummel describes the group’s trademark sound as “Texas meets California meets Chicago”.
The afternoon was truly delightful and the Smoky Mountain Blues Society is to be commended for getting them to make a stop as they were on their way north from Atlanta. During a break I was able to speak to Mark for a minute and he told me that he makes his home in Castro Valley, California, but spends a lot of time on tour. He was gracious enough to sign a couple of CD’s for me and let me take his picture. R.W. Grigsby signed them as well.
The concert flew by, but I have posted several pictures here as well as a short video of their performance in the side margin of the home page. Please take the time to view it, the guitar solos are well worth the effort. I have also posted a five minute video of the concert on the Easin’ Along YouTube channel which features solo rips of several of the band members as well as Mark’s excellent harmonica solos. Be sure to increase the video to full screen size.
I’ll be Easin’ Along now, but a musical afternoon like this proved to me once again that when music and retirement come together, the outcome quite often produces great harmony.