New Heathens

Banjos in Heaven

There's one New York City moment I'm sorry I missed from the Great North Woods; last night's closing party for Banjo Jim's. Anyone who reads this blog and/or my e-mail blasts (sigh, mom) knows that for the last few years, Banjo Jim's has been my home base. Banjo's offered me residencies when nobody else would offer me gigs. Banjo Jim's picked me up and got me going again -- as a solo performer -- after my band went frizzy.  Banjo's literally resurrected my music "career," and for that I'll always be indebted to lovely Banjo Lisa, the owner, and all her kind booking and bartending staff.

It's worth a very truncated look back at some of the magical, moments that I was lucky enough to be a part of at Banjo Jim's. Like...

Jamming with Todd Snider at Brooke Lunde's Newville Sessions (that's Emory Joseph, Brooke, Todd, Keith Christopher and Aaron Lee Tasjan up there -- lotta' talent on that stage!)

The Zevonathon.

Performing at a tribute to the Carter Family and later a tribute to Blaze Foley hosted by the wonderful Elena Skye and Boo Reiners, two artists whose spirit of inclusiveness and appreciation of great, underheralded musicians was perfectly in synch with Banjo Jim's. (Read what Elena had to say about Banjo's here.)

Blaze tribute video:

Carter Family tribute pix:

Performing at one of Li'l Mo's Field of Stars songwriter circles with a few artists who I just thought were incredible. Read Li'l Mo's memories of Banjo's here.)

Fronting The Ramblers during a Lucinda Williams tribute for a couple songs. This gig was put on by Jeremiah Birnbaum.

Of course I'll always be thankful to Banjos for giving me my first solo acoustic residency. It really gave me an opportunity to learn a new way to perform, write new songs and try them out in a supportive, public environment. (I include in these memories getting to sing with two of my favorite duet partners, Charlene McPherson and Drina Seay.)

Smurfette and I even saw the late, great Odetta play at Banjo Jim's on our first date.

Banjo Jim's was that rare, special club where the artists that played there regularly were like part of an extended family. The first and only thing Banjos cared about was good music, not the number of fans or beer cans that passed through its doors. Really, that ethos made Banjo's too good for the New York street hustle anyway.

Like dozens of other artists, I'm so sad to say goodbye to Banjo's (and it's $3 Tecates!). But in remembering that sweet ol' club I like to paraphrase John Steinbeck, whose musical incarnation, Woody Guthrie, was the patron saint of Banjo Jim's. Wherever there's a club that books artists just because their music is good, Banjo Jim's will be there. Wherever there's a club that honors loyalty above draw, Banjo Jim's will be there. Wherever there's a club that gives musicians a supportive environment to grow, Banjo Jims will be there. Banjo Jim's will be there in the way a dozen pickers hoot when they harmonize on a song written by someone who didn't get his or her just dues. And when an artist writes a song that touches scores of hearts, because he or she was lucky enough to play in an environment that nurtured, why, Banjo Jim's will be there.

Is that pithy enough? Thanks for everything Banjo Lisa, Banjo Drina, Sean and Jeremiah. We'll miss 'ya!

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  1. Wow surprised no one had commented, yet. Odetta? Does she do blues? Looks like a drinkin place with devils music :<

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