Grammy Award Nominations Don’t Get It All Wrong This Year

The Recording Academy announced their 2020 nominations for the 62nd Grammy Awards last month. While I could pan their General Field nominations as the typical generic, awful ear candy (in particular the controversial NasX-Billy Ray Cyrus fiasco), I won’t. Life is too short to rehash the basic fact that Pop Music Sucks. Moving on.

Drilling down on the Grammy categories I care about—Country and American Roots—the Academy didn’t get it all wrong this year.

The Country category starts at #26. Best Country Solo Performance. You know this year might just be different when this list starts with “All Your’n” by Tyler Childers. Wow. Just Wow.

  • All Your’n, Tyler Childers
  • Girl Goin’ Nowhere, Ashley McBryde
  • Ride Me Back Home, Willie Nelson
  • God’s Country, Blake Shelton
  • Bring My Flowers Now, Tanya Tucker

Wow. Of these, you’re only likely to hear Shelton on pop country radio these days. Childers’ Country Squire is very popular in certain quarters, as are the rest sans Blake, but… just… wow. Now the next category 27. Best Country Duo/Group Performance and beyond, bounces us back down to reality of pop country radio stars, so no worries that life as Nashville knows is it is in any danger. But Brandi Carlile and company got Tanya Tucker noticed again with While I’m Livin’, and Reba McEntire gets a well earned nod for her album Stronger than the Truth, as do the Pistol Annies for Interstate Gospel.

The American Roots Music category starts at 45. Best American Roots Performance. I gotta tell you, I’ve been an Americana guy for 20 years, but I wouldn’t necessarily know it from the Grammy noms. But I’m used to that. Before November, of these songs I’d only listened to Rhiannon Giddens’ “I’m On My Way”, really (that’s gonna scrabble my Top 20). I’ve Spotified some scrobbles since and they’re mostly not bad, though they’re not going to make the top of my year end list (except Giddens). Same for 46. Best American Roots Song, where I spun a bunch of Vince Gill, but didn’t consider “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” as an “American Roots Song”, nor the strongest on the album. I do like I’m With Her (Jarosz, O’Donovan & Watkins) but I didn’t love their effort this time around. People I know have good taste really like Yola’s Walk Through Fire, and it is pretty good for cat 47.

Bluegrass (48) contenders stream well, but I woulda put Billy Strings on top here. I like Blues but I’m no where near the market, as shown by my lack of scrobbles in categories 49 & 50. Delbert McClinton is always fun. Then in 51. Best Folk Album, Patty Griffin’s self-titled album is just on an entirely different plane of existence from the rest of the contenders.

So we’ll see what the Academy members vote come January 26, 2020.

Amelia Blake, an online friend of mine, will be in the audience in L.A. Between us Internauts, she deserves a trophy more than most of the nominees, but that’s life.


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Colorado is Growing

Pagosa Sun November 14, 2019

PAGOSA SPRINGS—More people moved into Colorado last year than moved out, continuing the State’s trend of population growth.  In 2018, approximately 239,000 people were attracted to Colorado and just over 203,000 people left, for a net gain of about 36,000, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) estimates released October 31st.

In April 2020, the US Census Bureau will be making their once-a-decade count of all residents, including these newcomers.  Efforts are already underway in Colorado to help ensure a complete count.  Region Nine Economic Development District and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments are coordinating efforts with the Colorado State Demographer’s Office.  Locally, the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce is organizing the Archuleta County Complete Count Committee.  Their first meeting is Friday, November 15th, 11 am, at the Chamber offices, 105 Hot Springs Blvd, in Pagosa Springs.

The large number of people moving into and out of Colorado will be a challenge for the Census.  In Pagosa Springs, Texas license plates aren’t unusual to see in traffic across Southwest Colorado, but statewide the largest number of new residents moved from California.  Over 28,000 people left the Golden State for the Centennial State in 2018, with almost 27,000 making the move from the Lone Star State.  Florida contributed about 14,000, followed by over 11,000 from New Mexico and over 9,000 from Virginia.

The road does go both ways.  Texas gained over 21,000 former Colorado residents in 2018, with close to 19,000 moving to California, and close to 16,000 moving to Florida.  Arizona attracted over 11,000, followed by the state of Washington.

The US Census Bureau is recruiting 500,000 temporary workers nationwide to help conduct the census next year, with some already in the field preparing for the decennial survey.  US Census staff in Archuleta County are anticipated to be managed out of Colorado Springs, with pay at about $14.00/hour [update $16.00/hr] and a flexible schedule.  For more information visit .

(Published in the Pagosa Sun, 11/14/19, update 11/26).

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ICYMI – The Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown 1864-1865

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, I blogged the diary of my ancestor Pvt. Orrin Brown, Co. E, 14th Michigan Infantry, who marched through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman. It remains some of the most popular material on this blog, now five years later.

As best we know, Orrin O. Brown was born in September 1836, at Wayne County, Michigan, to Orrin Brown, Sr. and Rhoda Weaver Brown of New York State. Orphaned at birth, his mother moved in with family in Will County, Illinois, only to become sick and die, leaving the baby to the care of relatives. In 1863, he went into the lumber trade and milling business at Sodus Township, Berrien County, Michigan. Answering the final call for service in the great War between the States for his older brother Norman, in October of 1864 he entered Company E, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry.

Company E mustered in at Kalamazoo, Michigan on the 13th of October, taking the train through Michigan City to Indianapolis where it met men from Illinois, going on to Nashville, Tennessee. The company helped with the clean up at Chattanooga from the 21st to November 3rd, when they departed on the train to Atlanta. Orrin saw the battlefield at Kennesaw Mountain and watched the city burn. Leaving on 15 November with General William T. Sherman’s army, he marched 300 miles through Georgia to Savannah, reaching that city on 11 December. The day after Christmas, he started marching northward towards Augusta and eventually ended up at Fayetteville, North Carolina, on 12 February 1865. His health failing, Orrin went to New Bern, NC, and boarded the U.S. Kennebeck on 30 April for a hospital at New York, leaving service in June 1865. He returned to Michigan and took up a career as a farmer. Orrin Brown passed away on 9 January 1909.

This is his story, written in his own words.

The original diary has been handed down through the family for 125 years. This version was set to disk from a typed manuscript in 1989 by John Shepard and Mary Shepard Gin, Orrin Brown’s great-great-great-grandchildren by way of his daughter Rhoda Brown Pugh, her daughter Lucy Pugh Tillstrom, her daughter Florence Tillstrom Shepard.  The transcription in PDF is available here. Original spelling and style has been left intact.

Please join us as we follow Pvt Orrin Brown, Company E, 14th Regiment Michigan Infantry, as he marches through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman, 150 years ago.

(c) 2014, 2019 for format and presentation, JC Shepard, Pagosa Springs, CO

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Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership

Pagosa Springs’ namesake hot springs provide a unique local resource in a steady supply of naturally hot water, bubbling up in geothermal hot springs around which the town grew up.

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to educate the community in small-scale, sustainable agriculture using local renewable energy. Over the last 10 years, the GGP raised funds and has constructed three grow domes along the San Juan River, behind the historic Archuleta County Courthouse in downtown Pagosa Springs.

  • Education Dome (2017)
  • Community Garden Dome (2019)
  • Innovation Dome (2019)

Local architect Courtney King, a LEED Accredited Professional, contributed a cluster site plan with a riverside amphitheater, set in the floodplain of a public park. The GPP domes provide an example of inspired landscape architecture and design in an area that has suffered from either a lack of attention or out-of-context modernist whimsey. The site has become a popular gathering place during local festivals and events.


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Strategic Doing—Putting Good Plans to Work

We all hove done strategic planning. Now it’s time to try strategic doing.

Ed Morrison is founder of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. A one-time economic development consultant, like many of us one day Ed found himself in a public policy strategic planning exercise thinking There’s Gotta Be A Better Way. He talked to a lot of other people who cared a lot about all sorts of different public and private action, and a core group of practitioners and teachers started working on that better way.

This book is the result. Based on case studies steeped in theory, without coming across as a text book, Strategic Doing is about getting things done. Too often I’ve stared at the plans on my shelves, and wondered why they sit there gathering dust. Now I have some ideas how to focus my plans on implementation—strategic doing is one way to put good planning to work.

Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership, by E. Morrison, S. Hutcheson, E. Nilsen, J. Fadden & N. Franklin, 2019.

  1. Create and Maintain a Safe Space for Deep, Focused Conversation 
  2. Frame the Conversation with the Right Question 
  3. Identify Your Assets, Including the Hidden Ones 
  4. Link and Leverage Assets to identify New Opportunities 
  5. Look for the “Big Easy”
  6. Convert Your Ideas to Outcomes with Measurable Characteristics 
  7. Start Slowly to Go Fast—But Start 
  8. Draft Short-Term Action Plans That Include Everyone 
  9. Set 30/30 Meetings to Review, Learn, and Adjust 
  10. Nudge, Connect, and Promote to Reinforce New Habits 

This book review (minus Ed’s video) originally published in the APA Small Town & Rural Planning newsletter Summer 2019, and was briefly trending #StrategicPlanning on LinkedIn. I first wrote about #StrategicDoing back in 2015.


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Quicksand Soup – Miss You Darling Doesn’t Miss

Sand Sheff has been one of my favorite Colorado Americana artists since my radio days at KRFC in Fort Collins. Sand is, I suppose more technically, a regional West-of-Nashville/East-of-Bakersfield Rocky Mountain Western & Country artist. These days he’s taken up with a band over at Moab, Utah, way–Qucksand Soup, featuring top notch instrumental talent, five great vocalists, and catchy and unique songs, self described as “alt.bluegrass” whatever that is.

Quicksand Soup has a couple albums out, and now up on Spotify and other fine digital music platforms. The main event is titled Miss You Darling, and the collection of 13 songs doesn’t miss. Opening track “Kimberley” is the strongest song on the album, almost catchy enough for pop country radio without being too saccharine for traditional country enthusiasts. The Sand Sheff original continues strong songwriting credentials from his previous efforts, in particular Sheff’s 2004 release, Free On This Mountain, which remains one of my favorite all time albums.

The ensemble continues with a mix of Sheff-penned songs and covers, including Merle Travis’ “16 Tons” (and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt…) The tongue-in-cheek “You’re Too Fine To Have Your Face In A Phone” is too saccharine, but also continues in Sand’s tradition of having fun with the music. The title track comes in 5th position with tight harmonies, and a nice little mandolin run among the fiddle and guitar work. Overall, the album brings together a variety of County & Western tunes appealing to a broad audience, town or country.

Quicksand Soup also put out a traditional Western album, Colorado Trail, also in Sand Sheff’s tradition of cowboy music (i.e. Cowboyin’, Dust), and the website has links to Country Sweetgrass and Western Gospel releases. If you happen to be in the Beehive State, the band plays in Moab every Wednesday night thru summer, then at Helper Arts Festival in Helpr, Utah, on 8/16/19, and the Salt Lake City Bluegrass Concert on 8/17.

My only quibble with Quicksand Soup, and a reason I delayed my review since the CD dropped this spring, is that I got hung up on the band’s name. I’m not usually one to judge a book or band by it’s cover, but I did. I could take the “Quick” and the “sand” is obvious. The “Soup” not so much. “Quicksand” is topical for a Country band, though entirely too common band name hence the appellation. I just couldn’t get over the “Soup”. So I played the music at home–the Spotify link dropped more recently so my Quicksand Soup scrobbles are under-represented. And I warmed myself up to my expectations of Sheff’s songwriting and performing skills. The music speaks for itself.


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Extremely Big Waves and Holes

Colorado seems to have emerged from several years of drought. As of June 11th, the US Drought Monitor monitored no areas of the state in even an Abnormally Dry state. A good winter has left great snowpack in the San Juan Mountains. A good spring has filled the San Juan, Animas and other Four Corners rivers. The grass is green. Life is good.

It’s a big change from the Summer of 2015, just four years ago, when our rivers ran low and the Animas turned Tang with the detritus of ancient Silverton mines. These two photos were taken at about the same place, at Durango’s Whitewater Park. Not a direct side-by-side, but you can see the river’s got elevation in Summer of 2019. Yet as they warn, there are Extremely Big Waves and Holes Due to Water Level. Earlier today, a guided raft on the San Juan River above Pagosa Springs flipped, even on 1/2 the top flows of last week. One of the tourists on board drowned. Life is short, be careful out there.


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Stinking Springs Canyon

This view used to be called Stinking Springs Canyon, before the realtors got ahold of it. Looking southwest, southwest of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

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Out Like a Lion–New Americana Music Marches In for 2019

Winter’s march to March and Spring has had a soundtrack of the Van Zandt family’s teasers for Sky Blue mixed with each of Steve Earle’s tracks dropped to tease his tribute album to Guy Clark. “Dublin Blues” also did double-duty for St. Patrick’s Day tunes. True to form, the collection of classic Townes tracks is a Lamb chop of an album and Earle delivered a Lion of an album in GUY which I’m just getting to know and love.

First, though, I have to acknowledge a trio of Western albums that kept the home fires warm from 2018 to 209. Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains, Dom Flemons’ Black Cowboys, and the Ballad of Buster Scruggs soundtrack got my pony through mid-winter’s snow. Add in James Steinle’s South Texas Homecoming and I’ve Scrobbled more music the first quarter of the year than I have in an entire year previous with Flemons at the top of my albums so far this year. I still think Dom got a raw deal at the Grammys, but at least we got Gillian Welch & David Rawlings’ version of “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”.

Now let’s talk about the new other stuff.

Bill Chambers’ 1952 came out early so I’ve played the title track “1952 Cadillac” often. Bill was a musical protege of Audrey Auld (and daddy for Kacey Chambers) and I can seldom play one without the others, but this album is a nice bit of Aussie Bill.

Hayes Carll and Ryan Bingham released on the same day, which really jammed up my Spotify feeds (plus the darn program just gets slower and slower on my old Mac with limited bandwidth anyway). Both albums–Carll’s What It Is and Bingham’s American Love Song–are good efforts that should satisfy their fans. Bingham’s single “Jingle and Go” and Carll’s single “None’ya” are both pretty catchy tho I did spin What It Is the most among the new 2019 releases. Call it a tie with the win going to the audience.

I’ve had a soft spot for Hot Club of Cowtown since they played little Murray County Central High School back in Minnesota about 10 years ago now. They brought out just 7 tracks on their January release Crossing the Great Divide–I’m not sure it’s up to their usual standards for Texas Swing but as always they have fun with a good beat. Dale Watson also always has fun, he of the Ameripolitan genre-bending soirées. Watson doesn’t disappoint with Call Me Lucky and some good old-fashioned Country music, roadhouse edition.

Before we go, I also have continued love and respect for my two favorite Favorites of 2018–Brandon Jenkins’ “Be the Revival” and Nancy K. Dillon with “Dutchman’s Gold”. It’s a year now since we lost the Red Dirt Legend. Ms. Dillon fits well into my Country AND Western soundtrack, too. And dog-gone it, let’s enjoy the making-a-living legends while they walk and play among us.


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Repost: Our Irish Elders (3.17.09)

In 1849, Thomas William Maloy married Anna Kenny, somewhere in County Roscommon, Ireland.  They soon departed Eire’s green shores for a better life in America, settling on a small farm in Upstate New York.

The Maloys—along with untold other Irish ancestors known and unknown—left all they knew and loved for the great unknown.  Thomas & Anna were certainly pushed by the Great Famine, when the population of Ireland declined by 20-25%.  However, all took a great risk to move forward to give their descendents—I and my family—a chance at a better life.

They left behind the clans who’d been together a thousand years
With music and the memories ringing in their ears
They brought with them tradition and the will to work and die
In the land known for freedom, soil and sky
The Elders, 1849

We have been very fortunate that Maloys still in New York recorded the facts and stories of Thomas and his brother and their children.  We know they came from County Roscommon via Canada.  We know that writers say the Molloy name in Connacht is typically derived from “O Maoil Aodha, ‘descendant of the devoteee of (St) Aodh’, from maol, literally ‘bald’, a reference to the distinctive tonsure sported by early Irish monks.”  We know that no Maloys were left by the time our American family went looking in the old country, although that hasn’t stopped us from continuing the quest to better understand where we come from.

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, as we lift a Guinness and sing Danny Boy, save a quiet moment to remember our Elders, the one’s who gave so much when we deserve so little.

(Originally posted 17 March 2009.)

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