Eric 2009/08/05 8:40am

I'm home after a wonderful week and a half out on the road with the band. We started in Cornish, ME, at the Ossipee Valley Bluegrass Festival. We have so many friends from that area, having played in the region so many times through the years. It seems strange to say that it feels like home when I'm six hours from my family, but it does when we play in Maine. They even forgive us for being Yankee fans. We closed the show and then drove to Manchester, NH, where we caught a plane in the morning in order to play a late afternoon set in Columbus, OH, for the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Festival with proceeds going to St. Jude's Childrens Hospital. I had tuned my banjo down for the flight, and it refused to ever come back up for me, to settle down, during our show. I can usually rein in the tempermental instrument (and the tempermental me), but it was a real struggle (on both counts). I kept thinking, "I'm teaching at Augusta this week, and I can't even tune!?" Oh, well. I did the best I could, and I was proud to be a part of a beautiful cause.

We taught at Augusta in Elkins, WV, from Monday through Thursday. Once again, it was a thrilling experience in so many ways. We had wonderful classes with friendly people eager to learn. There were also many memorable moments outside the classroom...jamming with Herschel Sizemore on old Flatt and Scruggs tunes, playing on-stage with David McLaughlin and Mike Witcher, picking with National Flatpicking Champion Tyler Grant, Sharon Gilchrist, and Casey Driessen...witnessing Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum create magic, or art at the very least, on-stage with just a guitar and mandola (he's nicknamed it Nelson Mandola) and two perfectly matched voices on "The Oak and the Laurel." I believe the absolute highlight of my week was getting to hang out with one of my banjo heroes, Tony Trischka. I was delighted to find that he is as nice a person as I've ever met, funny and down-to-earth, in addition to being a monster banjo player. After Leigh and I had breakfast with him one morning, Leigh said to me, "What is wrong with you? You have a chance to talk banjo with one of the greatest of all-time, and the two of you spent the entire time quoting "Napoleon Dynamite?"" Leigh had a point. My friend Katy Daley says that movie-quoting is a way for males to say "I like you," kind of like punching each other on the arm.

We drove all night Thursday to get to Nashville to play a showcase in front of a bunch of arts center promoters from all over the country. I was proud of the band. We had fifteen minutes to make an impression, and we all felt good about our performance. We finished the tour on Sunday in New Jersey at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater, NJ. The river was rising throughout the show and the spectators had to keep moving their chairs to keep from getting wet, but the mood was light and happy, a perfect way to end a successful stretch of music-making.