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The 101 to the 134 to the 210 to...


“She’ll take I-15 to I-40…”

Loaded up the Highlander and were off by 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. Our route: THE 101 to THE 134 to THE 210 to THE 15 to THE 40. A couple of hours through mostly clear Los Angeles (ok—San Fernando Valley) traffic and a lunch stop at the original Del Taco in Barstow, CA (we all have our list of sacred places, the original Del Taco is one of ours). Hit the 40 at about noon, and the rest was smooth sailing all the way to Holbrook, AZ to tent up at the famous Wigwam Motel on old Route 66. I’m a sucker for the whole Route 66 thing and ask myself is it because of the song or the history, probably a little of both. Laura and I can’t resist staying at the Wigwam any time we head this far east. Dinner at the El Rancho Inn of Holbrook, our first taste of what I’m sure will be many Mexican food meals with green chile sauce.

Friday morning, off we went, after a quick breakfast at Joe and Aggie’s (eggs with green chile sauce!). Stopped by a roadside stand to look at some petrified wood, then off to make Albuquerque by 5 to meet up with our new friend Lester who hosted us for the night. A great visit, talking about music, bicycles, and before the night was over…Lester busted out his accordions so he and Laura could play a couple of duets. Too much accordion fun, and it was off to a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning we headed a few miles south to get to Kristina Jacobsen’s place in South Valley, ABQ, where she is so generously hosting us for a few days. She and her boyfriend Bruce greeted us with coffee, bagels (lingonberry jam!) and eggs. She told us about the cool features of the neighborhood (very casual, somewhat rural vibe—in fact, later that day, coming back from the grocery store, we saw a guy talking on a cell phone while riding his horse). She and Bruce headed off to some receptions for her students at University of New Mexico. Laura and I settled in and rested a bit, saving some energy for the Saturday night show at Unity Spiritual Center, East Mountain’s Second Saturday Coffeehouse in Edgewood, NM, where we opened for Kristina’s band, Merlettes. Soundcheck was at 5, so the plan was to leave Kristina’s at 4, with Laura and I caravanning behind Bruce’s SUV carrying Kristina and additional Merlettes Steff Chanet and Dair Obenshain. Dair got delayed, so by 4:25, Laura and I were sent on ahead, and barely made the 5 check-in time. Eugene Wagner, the night’s soundman, is a mellow guy, easy-going, yet very pro. The PA is ready for us. By the time I set up my pedal steel (Kristina asked me to sit in on couple of numbers) and uncase my guitar, the three Merlettes have arrived and get their soundcheck happening.

Unity provided us with a delicious dinner, and very quickly, it was time to play. The night’s host, Anne-Marie Lax, said a few words to the audience and then introduced me. Second Saturday Coffeehouse is a listening room, a great venue with very attentive listeners. It is such a pleasure to play to people who are reacting to nearly every line of the song, and every word of the stories between songs. It’s a very cool and subtle collaboration between the audience and performer. The terrain of Edgewood, NM is very similar to Lancaster, CA, where I grew up and lived most of my life, so my songs referencing growing up in the desert found common ground. Following my set, I have a nice conversation with a woman in the audience who grew up in Ridgecrest, CA (another Mojave desert town). We compare notes about wind and sand and dust and she tells of her recent visits to Ridgecrest to take care of her father. A couple of other conversations are cut short, because it’s time for MERLETTES.

Merlettes are great. Saturday night they performed as a trio, though they often add upright bass and drums at bigger venues. They do arrangements of classic country songs, along with Kristina Jacobsen’s originals. Great interplay between Steff’s mandolin playing and Dair’s fiddle, with nicely blended three part harmonies. Towards the end of the first set Kristina busted out her Oahu lap steel guitar, throwing down some tasty fills and solos.

Too quickly, set one was over. After a few cookies and more conversations with members of the audience (and me trying to stealthily check to make sure my pedal steel is in tune), set two of the Merlette’s show started with some very nice duo work with Kristina and Steff. Dair joined for a few more before Kristina invited me to play pedal steel on “Me, My Dog and My Guitar,” a great song from her album Three Roses. To close out the night, Laura was also brought onstage to add accordion to “Maison Dancer,” a song written by Kristina and our friend Sonya Heller. It’s an uptempo Cajun style tune. A fun ending to a great show, and even more fun to play with some great musicians. VERY BIG THANKS to Anne-Marie Lax, Eugene Wagner, Fancy-Ruff Wagner and the other volunteers and audience members at Unity Spiritual Center East Mountain Second Saturday Coffeehouse, and VERY BIG THANKS to Kristina Jacobsen and Merlettes.

After a few minutes to meet and greet more with the audience, it was time to pack it up, head back I-40 to Albuquerque. Dair rode back with us, a nice chance to get to bond with her a little more than playing a three-minute song together.

Back at Kristina’s, we unloaded the car and put our tired folk-music playing heads to rest. Looking forward to Tuesday’s show at Kristina Jacobsen’s Songwriter Showcase and Listening Room at Winning Coffee Company in Albuquerque.

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