It has begun!
First, let me say that I am so grateful to everyone who has purchased or downloaded the new record, to anyone who has helped me set up a show over the past few months as I plan this massive tour, to the good friends who are lending me a place to crash or their equipment (be it camping or musical equipment, any kind of equipment) and to everyone who is planning on coming to a show, or who has already come to a show. These next few months are shaping up to be the trip of a lifetime, and I am so excited that it is underway.
Day1: Nashville, TN to Louisville, KY - Haymarket Whiskey Bar & The Sound Cellar
The first day of this massive trip was somewhat intimidating. I woke up very early with little sleep to say goodbye to Haley, with every intention of falling back asleep, but alas, it did not happen. I spent the morning double checking everything I had packed, running to Corner Music to see if I could find anything worth picking up for the trip, and generally just being too excited to focus on much of anything. I had so little focus, in fact, that I forgot to bring any toiletries of any kind. I finally got everything in the truck, bid adieu to Batman, and hit the road.
Once on the road I found myself 2-3 hours away from Louisville with about 7 hours until I had to be there, so I started practicing getting lost. I pulled off of old Interstate 65 and headed down some of Kentucky's wonderful scenic byways. I took a very roundabout way to Mammoth Cave National Park, cruising down two-lane highways and being treated to glorious views of Kentucky's rolling hills and farmland. I coasted through the park, one I have visited on several occasions, and took in the dense woods that sit above the world's largest cave system. I did not stop this time to do a tour, but the tours I have done in the past have been fantastic, although I do tend to nail my head on solid rock every time I enter the caves. The two tours I have done are the Historic Tour and the Frozen Niagra Tour, and both are well worth the admission fee. The Historic Tour takes you through both narrow passageways and the massive halls that the Mammoth Cave is known for. Visitors have been taking tours down there since 1816, and although it is prohibited now, they used to write their names and messages on the cave walls. Now those messages are protected as "historical graffiti." I wonder if a Banksy piece will ever be protected...
People also used to believe that the caves had special healing powers, to the point where a hospital was set up in the Mammoth Cave to treat patients with tuburculosis. Patients would spend years in the cave and almost never recover, in the process losing pigment in their skin and color in their eyes, as well as their minds. Pretty creepy, but awesome.
The Frozen Niagra tour takes you through another part of the cave that was discovered by an entrepreneur who decided he wanted to find an opening to the cave that was closer to the highway than the traditional historic entrance. So he got some of his cousins and a few sticks of dynomite and blasted straight through the limestone and found a whole previously undiscovered portion of the cave. This portion has some of the more typical cave attractions like stalagtites and stalagmites, including one beautiful formation called Frozen Niagra. I would highly suggest these tours to anyone passing through central Kentucky. You get to experience complete and total darkness!
After passing through Mammoth Cave, I hopped back on 65 through one of my favorite towns in the country: Cave City, Kentucky. Cheesy and touristy, this town has everything you could want from the Kentucky Action Park, to Dinosaur World, to the Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum, which is just a building filled with hundreds of taxidermied from around the world. Kentucky at its finest!
I drove up I-65 a bit longer before detouring once again to check out Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace. The grounds were pretty cool and featured a handful of old log cabins from the period of Lincoln's birth as well as a nice little hiking trail. I didn't stay very long, but I did pick up a book of Lincoln's quotes, quips and speeches. I expect them to pop up a few times in the coming months.
I spent the rest of the day flopping around northern Kentucky, riding the Bluegrass Parkway for a while, getting lost on some backroads only to wind up on the Bourbon Trail passing the Jim Beam Distillery. I took in the rich smell of the unfinished whiskey that flooded the truck and followed several meandering roads that dipped in and out of the hollows and hills. I enjoyed the scenery as much as I could, knowing I will not be back to the south until October. The weather was perfect and the roads were smooth.
When I arrived in Louisville, I took a walk down to the beautiful waterfront park, at the suggestion of my old friend Michael "Chiggen Legs" Parkinson (formerly of Oceans and Orchestrated Follies [lol]). After relaxing at the park for a minute, I headed to Haymarket Whiskey Bar for my first show of the tour. The whole ordeal was a bit confusing, as there was a back part of the venue that was hosting a rock and roll show and then a PA up front, where I was to play, that was separate. The whole gig was super laid back, if ill-attended, and I had a great time. I hung out with the awesome St. Louis rockers Blackwater '64 and Louisville punk band Nowhere Fast's Seth Robinson, who played an acoustic set. I had a great time all in all, tried some fantastic bourbon (my favorite was the Four Roses Single Barrel), and got a good night's rest.
Day two started relatively early, with me once again trying to avoid the Interstate and get onto the state highways and byways. I took an alternate route to Indianapolis that passed through Bloomington, IN, which I had heard for years was a beautiful part of Indiana, most recently by my friend John Lindenbaum (of The Lonelyhearts and Nadalands). I was not disappointed. The scenery is beautiful as the south bleeds into the midwest, as rolling hills turn to farmland, and as the forrest becomes less wiry and more bold in its demeanor. I rolled through the Morgan-Monroe State Forest and was pleasantly surprised by the winding roads and wooded scenery.
I finally got to Chicago and picked up my good friend Keith Campbell who I will be playing 5 shows with on this tour. We gutted out the traffic and jet out to Chesterton, Indiana, which is an awesome little town with a great population of music listeners. We played at The Sound Cellar, an all ages venue, with Indianapolis singer-songwriter Mike Reeb, local band Sweet People, and Chicago scene hero Dave Davidson of Maps & Atlases. The music and crowd were both superb, Keith and I killed some time before the show wandering a boardwalk maze that followed a small creek behind the venue. We decided it would be the perfect place to high school kids to have parties and scatter when discovered by the cops. After the show, we said our goodbyes and hit the local T-Bell for some late-nite grub. I have mixed emotions about the experience and I think Keith said it best: "Eating Taco Bell is like hooking up with an ex-girlfriend; you remember why it was awesome, but you feel real bad afterwards."
I am about to pick up Keith once again and head down to Champaign for the evening to play at Mike N' Molly's. I look forward to coming to a town near you! Thanks for reading!
Jason Isbell - Southeastern
The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing
Loretta Lynn - Greatest Hits
Alabama - Livin' Lovin' Rockin' Rollin"
Hank WIlliams - 20 Golden Hits
Hayes Carll - Flowers and Liquor