Tag Archives: at least we’re hot

Casey Henry

You may remember in the past I've written about the group of women I jam with sometimes. We call ourselves At Least We're Hot because although we may be somewhat short on skill and polish on our respective instruments, we're not short in the looks department (if we do say so ourselves...and we do!). And of course for efficiency's sake we shorten it to the Hotties. So when we got together on Saturday for the first time in a year and a half, we called it the Hottie Reunion.

The reason it's been so long is that our mandolin player moved to Atlanta. She is one-third of our lead players, so losing her was a big deal. But she was in town for the weekend so our joyous reunion took place with all in attendance except Julie (our Scruggs-style banjo player) because it was her due date for baby #2.

As always we ate a bunch (Janice, our bass player and hostess had provided a variety of wonderful appetizers) and talked a bunch and finally got around to picking. I like our jam group because there is no pressure. None of us practice our instruments, so we never really get any better, but that's okay. It's more about just having fun and visiting. Music is the means, not the end in this case. So we could all relate when Connie (our clawhammer banjo player) told us what she had said when her husband asked her if she was going to practice in preparation for our get-together. She said, "No, because then my fingers would be sore!" It made perfect sense to us!

We started out, as we always do, with some two-chord songs, to ease into things: "Fireball Mail," "Angelina Baker," "Little Birdie." Then we graduated to three-chord songs like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "The Crawdad Song," and "Wandering Boy." As we got warmed up we did some of our big hits like "Blue Suede Shoes," "Tear My Stillhouse Down," and "Wild Iris" (a Kate Campbell song which Kelley, our guitar player, sings the fire out of). We ended, as usual, with "Banjo Pickin' Girl."

We all had such a good time that we scheduled another get-together for next month. I think all of us are super glad that it will work out for us to pick together again. Maybe we'll even get Julie and her six-week-old baby to come out so we can ooh and aah and break in that kid's banjo ears early!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Well, after a short 37 hours at home I'm again packing up the car, but this time it's not for work. It's to Georgia for our family Thanksgiving. In addition to the turkey and ham and organic vegis and dairy products, I'm also bringing my banjo and fiddle so that we can do a little pickin'. It will be a mini At Least We're Hot reunion as our mandolin player, who moved away to Atlanta 🙁 , will be joining us. I'm hoping we can revive some of the old hottie favorites.

I have to make this short, as there's baking to be done, but I hope all of you have a very happy Thanksgiving, filled with food and music. We'll see you on Monday when we'll have some DVD packages to tell you about, as well as an exciting holiday promotion. Have a great weekend!

Casey HenryLast night our jam group At Least We're Hot got together and picked. Our jams have been somewhat more irregular than we'd like lately due to the occurance of big life events (marriage, birth, divorce, graduation) but now that those are past, for the most part, we hope to resume our weekly schedule. We gathered at Connie's house in the woods and were greeted with a lovely spread of vegis and hummus, cheese and crackers, fruit, cookies, and, later, Oreo pie.

This sparked a discussion of how girl jams are different from boy jams. I did an entire paper on this topic in college, but that focused mostly on how the jam participants interact with each other in the jam itself. This particular discussion focused more on the incidentals. Such as: whereas we usually have snacks and drinks at our jams, if boys have food at their jams at all it will likely be beer and an open bag of Doritos.

After one of our early jams at our bass player Janice's house, Kelley (our guitar girl) happened to mention to her husband Ned when she got back home that Janice's candles had smelled nice and that her clothes still kinda had that smell. His reaction was, "You have candles at your jam?"

One other thing that we have at our jam that I've honestly never seen at a boy jam is a baby. Julie's 3-month old daughter Eva accompanied her mother and we tried our best not to get distracted by Eva's cuteness. She's a pretty good baby, but what with the nursing and your run of the mill being-fussy-because-someone-is-not-holding-me, Julie got to play maybe 30% of the songs we did while she was there. What women will do in order to be able to exercise their picking chops!

Casey HenryLast night the girls in At Least We're Hot gathered here at my house to do a little picking. Officially there are six of us (myself-fiddle, Connie-banjo, Julie-banjo, Kelley-guitar, Myrna-mandolin, Janice-bass) but each time we get together we never know for sure who will be able to make it. Last night's combination of people---Kelley, Janice, Connie, and me---resulted in my being the only lead instrument. Connie is working up some breaks on her clawhammer banjo and so far she plays "Angelina Baker" and "Old Joe Clark". Outside of that, every break was a fiddle break. That suited me just fine! And it was really good practice. In between our Hottie jams I normally don't pick up my fiddle so whenever we pick is the only practice I get. I found out it makes a huge difference to my muscles whether I'm just playing one break and then passing it on to someone else vs. playing four breaks in a row on a tune like "Soldier's Joy." Stamina really comes into play.

The same thing is true when you're practicing by yourself at home. That's why it's important to play your songs or tunes multiple times in a row. If you just play it once or twice through, you're not giving your body the time to build up its playing muscles, its stamina and endurance, which are all things that will help your playing in general.

Casey HenryI just got back from the weekly At Least We're Hot jam session. I thought that I played pretty well tonight (I play fiddle with this particular group). At first I thought it was because it had only been five days since our last jam, rather than a whole week, so I was a bit more in practice. But then, on my drive home, I was reflecting that I probably played about as well (or as badly) as usual, and for some reason I percieved it as better. Maybe it was because I was in a good mood. Maybe it was because of my new shoes:

Pink Flowerdy Docs

In any case, I think that often happens---that our perception of how we play has little to do with how we actually play. Sometimes people will get very discouraged over having a bad playing day, but it almost always is not as bad as they think. (Of course, it works in the opposite direction, too. If you think you played awsomely, it may not have been much better than average.) It's the same principle by which I judge my hair. Some days I think it looks great, for no particular reason; some days it looks awful, for no particular reason. But to everyone but myself, it probably looks almost identical.

I don't know what factors go into how we percieve our playing, but take that into account when you think you've played badly. Don't get discouraged. But then, when you think you're playing awesomely, try and hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. It can only be good for your playing!

Casey HenryAt tonight's jam the banjo player, Julie, who is about to have a baby any minute, said this: "If I'm still pregnant Saturday I really want to go to the banjo workshop!" (Ned Luberecki and Tony Trischka are hosting a banjo workshop at the East Nashville School of Music on Saturday, the 28th of February.) You don't hear that every day!

Casey Henry...this is what you would have seen:

Myrna Talbot

Myrna Talbot tearing it up.

Kelley Luberecki, Julie Pennell

Kelley Luberecki, Julie Pennell really concentrating on the chords.

Janice Young

Jancie Young, holding us all together.

...and this is what you would have heard:

There's More Handsome Men Than One

Banjo Pickin' Girl

Come Hither to Go Yonder

Tear My Stillhouse Down

Soldier's Joy

Wilson's Clog

Arkansas Traveller

Fireball Mail

Long Journey Home

Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe

Casey HenryI've just returned from our kinda-weekly jam session made up of women mostly living in the East Nashville/Inglewood/Madison area. I've written about them before (here) . We call ourselves At Least We're Hot. They were tickled at the article I wrote about them in the January issue of Banjo Newsletter (alas, the article is not online; you have to get the actual print copy to read it). They made copies to paste in their scrapbooks.

We played our big hits: "Angelina Baker" (a favorite on account of it having only two chords), "More Handsome Men Than One" (an important fact to keep in mind), "Come Hither to Go Yonder" (not the banjo player's favorite, but the rest of us like it), and we ended with what may be our all-time favorite: "Banjo Pickin' Girl," the old Coon Creek Girls number. (We played more songs than that, obviously, but I'm not going to itemize our whole set list. We don't want anyone stealing our material! <G>)

We're at the point now that we're actually trying to play the tunes we've been playing for months now a little faster. We are even considering honing in on a dozen or so songs, working on our arrangements, and taking them out to play at some nursing homes. Look out big time, here we come!

Casey HenryOne of the gals in my At Least We're Hot picking group (which I've previously written about here) just got a new banjo and we're all very excited. Connie's husband Jeremy surprised her with it as a Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary present. Made by Chuck Lee, down in Texas, it is a beautiful instrument that plays wonderfully.

Here are Connie and I at our jam last Saturday... (Photo by Myrna Talbot.)

Connie Garrett and Casey
Connie wrote a nice story about her new prize possession on Chuck Lee's Blog. Up to now she's just played rhythm clawhammer (bum-diddy, bum-diddy) but, inspired by this banjo she's got "Old Joe Clark" down I think, and maybe "Angelina Baker," which is our biggest hit, by the way. We look forward to hearing them at our Hottie Christmas Party on Monday!

Chuck Lee, coincidentally, says this: "We own a bunch of the Murphy Method videos (guitar-bass-fiddle-mandolin-banjo), most of the older music cassettes by your parents and family.  I learned my first three-finger banjo songs with your mother and I learned my first clawhammer songs with your mother and Lynn Morris.  Your family has had a positive impact on my family.  Thank you." We're always happy to spread the music!

I now must go and finish putting up my Christmas tree!

Casey I have three completely unrelated things to tell you about today. The first is absolutely non-bluegrass and non-banjo related. You must watch Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. It is the creation of Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) and his brothers. It is brilliant. You can get it on Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog - Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Acts 1, 2 & 3 for $3.99, and I promise, it will be the best four bucks you spend today. Possibly the best four bucks you spend this month.

Next, The Murphy Method and FiddleStar are teaming up to sponsor a camp in Nashville on September 25-28, 2008 (just before the IBMA convention). All instruments will be offered---Casey is teaching banjo. This is the first ever Murphy-Method-sponsored camp event. More details will be forthcoming, but you might want to seriously consider coming. It will be more fun that you can even imagine, and there will probably be some clogging...

And lastly, my report from the weekend picking party that Murphy told you about Monday, and that Red will tell you more about tomorrow. At said party I was playing mostly fiddle, my worst instrument, by far (well, actually, followed pretty closely by the mandolin). Murphy and I were playing some fiddle tunes at a slowish pace, accompanied on guitar by her sister Argen, and then Tuck Tucker (Dobro player who used to play with Red and Murphy and Company). Gradually we attracted more people to our little session until we got to a point where the jam clearly out-stripped my fiddle abilities, but I just kept on holding it and playing what I could and chopping the rest of the time.

Now, apparently when I'm holding a fiddle I LOOK like I know what I'm doing (so I've been told). At the party was a great bluegrass fiddler named Randall Collins. He was checking out our little session, taking a break from his own high-powered jam at the other end of the pavilion. He was observing us from the edge of the circle and said to me, "Fiddle one," or something to that effect. We'd already played all the tunes I knew, so I chose to repeat "Arkansas Traveler," one of my best (if I do say so myself). Part way through the tune he leans over and says, "Keep playing, I'll get my fiddle," or something to that effect. I thought, "Oh, no," because I could see exactly where this was headed. I was fairly sure it had more to do with the fact that I was wearing shorts and a snug t-shirt than with my fiddling.

He came back and asked what tune we could play together. Desperately, I called "Turkey in the Straw," and kicked it off. About half-way through the first A-part I could see Randall register the fact that I am not a very good fiddle player. It went around the circle once. When it ended he asked in a bit of a shell-shocked manner, "Is there another one you want to do?" I answered, "I've played all I know," and he quickly extricated himself from the situation. I thought the scenario was a fine demonstration of why we call our little jam group "At Least We're Hot." Clearly being hot can fool a lot of people, and it makes up for a multitude of things, including lack of skill on your particular instrument.