Sweet Second Week at the Full Moon

For our second week at the Full Moon Resort we were actually treated to a full moon and it looked just incredible castings it’s light across the grounds as I headed from  the fire circle back to my room in the Morning Star Lodge.  The second week of our Fur Peace on the Road workshops was every bit as great as the first week……and that says alot.  It was a bit different…..Jorma was the sole teacher and he had a nice class of 10 students.  There was no one else at the Full Moon, so we had the place to ourselves.  The student count was evenly divided between repeat offenders and first timers.  One of our …..we’re so happy to see you again……repeaters was Bob Doherty and it was great to see Bob along with his wife Carol at the Full Moon in Big Indian.  Bob liked the just over two hour drive from NYC better then the long trip to Ohio…….but that wasn’t the only thing.  He really summarized our Full Moon trip when he said……”I’ve been to the Ranch 25 times and this week has been every bit as special.”   We have such a special thing going on at the Fur Peace Ranch and the good news is that we have been able to bring the spirit of Fur Peace with us for these “On the Road” workshops.  Several of the students all said the right thing…….”This food is great……not as great as the Fur Peace kitchen, but still great.”  Yes, indeed,  we like to hear that kind of report and I was glad to relay it to Queen Deb and King Chris. 
For the second week, the relentless rains gave us a partial break and it was nice to see and feel the sun. The first day the rains came down so hard on the metal roof in the barn deluxe, where JK was teaching, so we moved the class up into the Performance Space.  This worked out great as the room served as a classroom, jam room, practice space and it was where we took the stage for the student performance.  The student performance was nothing less then spectacular……there were many special moments. Bob D.  got pressed into service several times and did a great job every time!!!  Nick had Bob join him on mandolin for a couple old fiddle tunes that were very authentically played……you definitely got that old time feel…..Bob also accompanied Jill on an angelic version of “Don’t Think Twice….”  and I too was able to persuade him to add some pretty mandolin to one of my favorite Gram Parsons tunes….”Hickory Wind.”   I must give a BIG UP to my friend Collin Rocker who played one of his fine originals…”Soggy Dollar Blues”……at my request.  Collin is the fine son of Jon and Lori Rocker and they are one beautiful family.  Collin’s playing has been progressing at a nice pace, and his songwriting is keeping right up with the playing.  I’m feeling a John Prine vibe and that couldn’t be anything but a good thing.  Another “young gun” Eli performed a couple nice pieces….one slow and one fast…both with alot of taste.  Another highlight came at the end of the performance…….Vanessa Kaukonen joined me on stage to play one of our perennial favorites…..the great Tim Hardin  song…..”Seems Like a Long Time.”  Like alot of the songs I play, I’ve been playing that song forever and love it just as much as when I learned it.  When the chorus came around most everyone was singing it with us…..very powerful ……and if that wasn’t enough…..Izze was right there sitting with Mom being the great girl she is…..I look into the near future and can hear her throwing in a nice harmony.   So……Yes…..the student performance was a great time!!!
We had another treat coming at us later and I’m not just talking about the great pesto coated salmon that was served for dinner that night……At about 8:00 pm we all joined up in the living room / reception area of the Valley View House for a TRUE living room concert with Jorma and a very special guest…..Happy Traum.   Now Happy is an old friend of Jorma’s and the two of them played just like you would expect two old friends to play…..considerate, respectful,  joyful and with alot of good cheer.  JK started things off with a song that never grows old….”That’ll Never Happen No More”  and he ended the 90 minute set with an eternal version of “Re-enlistment Blues.”  The vibe in the room was relaxed and special…..could it be the ambiance of this 100 year old house or the comfort of having several parlor couches to sit on?  Without mics and amps …….and in this wonderful setting…..it was a living room concert to set the standard by.  So the laid back 30 miles from Woodstock feel came through as Jorma and Happy traded songs …..sometimes joining in accompaniment ….and at other times just listening with a big smile on their face.  Happy is a true American Treasure and it was great to hear him play.  A long time ago he played with Bob Dylan and he has a great way of interpreting a Dylan song….in fact the last time he was at the FPR to teach he taught ….”Classic Bob Dylan Songs for Fingerstlye Arrangements”. So….you get the picture. Well,  the Captain himself, JORMA, requested that Happy do “Buckets of Rain”……and Happy said he would be happy or should I say glad to play that request, but first ……he had a different Bob song to play…..Well, next came a version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”  that brought wonder to us all.  We sure had us a good time at the Valley View House that night and I sure hope that good feeling will be staying with me for a long time to come.  After the show all the campers were fired up……more fire!!……and we headed over to the Performance Space for a late night jam session.  Much like the week before….we sat in a big circle and everyone took turns picking songs and playing parts and to say it was a whole heap of fun and talent a blazin …….well, that is about right.
So before you know it ……it’s Friday and we’re wrapping up two weeks at the Full Moon Resort.  We all say our goodbyes and secret handshakes are exchanged…..I could be sad to say bye……but instead I’m happy to have got to say hi…..we sure had a great time!!!  Jorma is still the Road Warrior that he has been for all these years on the road and he takes control of the kon and points it towards Ohio……. Southeast Ohio to be exact …..and we’re off.  Twelve hours later ……the Kaukonens are dropping me off in my driveway.  I’m tired but still ablaze with the joy of a good road trip with a very special family of friends….. Izze you are the best……a joy to travel with……. and you know what…..the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree!!!!   Give Thanks!


I’ll be putting together a final recap of our great time at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York in the next few days. But first…..One of our dear Fur Peace friends has been in touch with me lately……..he has a bad case of Reggaemalidis. Some of you may wonder what that is about……..so, I’ll tell you. You see Steve has caught the vibe and caught it bad.

It happens when you dig in deep to Reggae music and it bites you with a solid one-drop riddim……add some conscious lyrics …….and you are taken by the sounds and can’t get enough of it. So……Steve reached out to the I, knowing that I am all about Reggae, and asked me for some recommendations. I sent him a note with my TOP TEN and have decided to put it out there for all to see and feel………….I would encourage any or all to submit there Top Ten Reggae favorites and we’ll drop them into the comments section of CHECKIN THE LEVELS…….Here’s mine….

1.) Marley – Natty Dread
2.) Marley – Survival
3.) Tosh – Equal Rights
4.) Culture – Two Sevens Clash
5.) Heptones – Night Food…..Unfortunately……out of print….I think they are getting ready to release a deluxe version
6.) Bunny Wailer – Black Heart Man
7.) Gregory Isaacs – Cool Ruler
8.) Gregory Isaacs – Soon Forward
9.) Dennis Brown – Wolfs and Leopards
10.) Spear – Marcus Garvey

Yes, these are all from the classic days…….that’s where my head and heart are at…….classic roots and culture! My favorite Reggae CD at this moment in time is by the EASY STAR ALL-STARS it is called Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Dub Band. This is a real fun listen….the Easy Stars are the ones that did DUB SIDE OF THE MOON in 2003. That CD was tremendously successful …. it was a reggae version of Floyd’s – Dark Side of the Moon. So ….. for the new release they have taken the Beatles’ classic, Sgt. Peppers, and they perform the album in its entirety with a special guest vocalist on each track. You get to hear Luciano doing “With a Little Help from my Friends”……Matisyahu does a crucial cover of “Within You Without You”……My favorite might be…..the mighty U – Roy doing “Lovely Rita”…..but the whole thing rocks nice and steady. Great idea and they have collected some of Reggae’s greats to sing the songs. Before making the trip to Big Indian for our FPR on the Road Workshops, I took a short but full trip to N. California for the Sierra World Music Festival.

What a great event this is and my tam is off to the fine people who are responsible for putting it on. The festival has been going on for years and it is known for presenting some of the finest music in the World ……especially Reggae sounds…..at a very nice spot in Booneville, California. This year’s lineup was top shelf……my favorites were……The Easy Star All-Stars, Heptones, Abyssinians, Sly and Robbie, King Sunny Ade and the Itals. I’m already looking forward to doing it again next summer. Alright, Peace and Good Vibes……………Nuff Respect!!!!!

The Lioness at Zion

Before we broke camp at Fur Peace in Ohio we had a big session and it is amazing how many folks noticed our camp mascot …..Miss Kitty…..was missing. She is a fixture around the Ranch and she has been with us now for many years. Miss Kitty showed up at FPR one day all ragged and hungry…..she didn’t trust people and was not approachable. We would put out food for her and she’d eat it up and slowly we gained her trust. Vanessa and I were the first ones she would allow to pet her….anyone else she would run from.

But over time she became very friendly and accepting of everyone. She’s an outside cat and when she would hear our cars pull up she would come out of the woods or from under one of the porches to greet us. She’s become one of our I-ficial greeters and she is very loving and she makes the rounds among the students when camp is in session, spreading the love around.

Well last month we came in one day to find her with an abscess sticking out of her side that was about the size of a pear. I noticed it when I petted her and called it to Vanessa’s attention we both agreed it had not been there the day before. So……. I called up the Doctor…..this being Dr. Eric Eisenberg, a.k.a. “Grateful”, of Stoneyridge Vet Clinic

Hawaiian shirts are the official unifroms of Stoneyridge Veterinary

Hawaiian shirts are the official unifroms of Stoneyridge Veterinary :)

Proud Lioness

Proud Lioness

Grateful is an old friend of mine from college days and we’ve been friends for 30 years. He told me to bring her on over and he’d check it out. Bringing her over means a drive to Dayton, about 2 and a half hours from the FPR. I left right from work and got there just about the time he would be closing the clinic for the day. When he saw her condition he decided to go right into the operating room. A couple of his fine staff members stayed on to help. We were all in the operating room to watch the Doc in action and I’ve got to tell you I can’t believe what came out…..I won’t go into details, but he told me I did the right thing by bringing her right up. The operation was a success and she stayed at the clinic for about two weeks while they brought her back to health. While she was out for the operation they gave her a haircut…..she had to be shaved on one side for the operation anyhey, so it made sense to give her a proper haircut while they were at it. She’s back at the Ranch once again making her rounds and she’s doing well. In fact….never better…..and she’s also sporting a real nice look. Thanks Grateful…… We are grateful for all your good
deeds……YES – I…….

We Could’ve Played All Night!

Hey CK……..check it out…..another report coming at you and it’s fresh. Well,  our first week session at the Full Moon Resort  was bombastic fantastic and we have started into the second week.  We did the orientation last night for Jorma’s class and today, classes will start in earnest.  But…..before I delve into this week’s adventures I want to let you know about what a great student performance, instructor performance and KILLA’ late night jam session we had on the Thursday of last week.  The weather here in the Catskills was very wet for our first week…in fact one of the owners here at the resort was telling me that they have had rain 24 of the last 28 days…..and I thought Ohio was getting it all.  Anyhey,  we never let that dictate our good times and I’m sure some folks across the country wish they could get some of that…rain or shine the Fur Peace is always a good time.  So…..Thursday was a nice sunny day and that’s a good thing.  Our plan is to do the student performance and then take our customary student photo out in front of the Valley View House on the porch.  But, alas torrential rains come in and we take the student photo inside on the stage of the performance space where GE has been teaching and where all the performances take place.

The student performance was really special.  You know it’s all special to me, but the student performance is always one of my favorite times during a camp weekend.  The room is set up nice….there is a nice stage,  cool lighting and the woody cabin ambience of the room is making things very IRIE  indeed!  Craig Keaveney, a FPR repeat offender who we are always so happy to see,  started things off with an unbelievably cool version……and mind you….acoustic version….of a Hot Tuna classic from the Yellow Fever recording….
Bar Room Crystal Ball.  Mon, oh mon…..he nailed it and gave the song dimensions that you never knew existed.  Very cool CK,  after you left I was reasoning with the Kaukonens and they echoed my feelings on what a great version you did.  So that was the beginning of what would be a great afternoon student performance.  Our student performance is like an open mic…..but as Jorma says….a lot more amicable….we all like each other.  Just about everyone came up and played a piece and the performances were stellar!!!  I got to jump up there a couple times myself…..Steve Saracco and the I laid down a good take on Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me”. Dylan is one of my favorites and I have been playing that song for a long time and it was just great to get Steve up there to play with me. He has been coming to the Ranch for a long time and we have been talking about doing a song together for almost as long.  Steve is a good player  but a little shy and it really stoked me that we finally got to jam on a song together.  Later in the show…..I asked GE for
an assist and he joined me for a SMOKIN  version of  ”Smokestack Lightning”. We really jammed it out and there was a moment where I thought we might have to call in Fireman Bill…..GEs guitar stings were blazing.  The final touch of the student performance was GE’s class ALL taking the stage for a moving version of “Road Runner”…beep ….beep!!!!

Now we could have ended the day right there and it would have been full….but more greatness was to come.  After a great dinner GE and Jorma returned to the performance space for a very intimate and wonderful performance that was completely unplugged…..no mics, no monitors.

GE and his students

GE and his students

These two friends have great chemistry and it showed through during the 75 minutes that followed.  They each took turns playing songs and they played together so well and graciously.  GE added some great leads to “Come Back Baby” and “Trouble in Mind” and gave Jorma some solid riddims to paint a blazin lead over.  The Cap played real nice with GE too.  GE’s song selection was ……should I say….very cool. Real nice take on the Townes Van Zandt classic “Poncho and Lefty” and as great  a guitar player GE is….I love to hear him sing.

Their performance wrapped up at around 10:00 pm and since the weather had been too misty for outside jamming we had secured permission from the Full Moon bosses to keep the Performance Hall open till 11: 00 pm so that we could all jam down for a bit.  Well… jam down we did.  We had about 14 guitar pickers a pickin and everything was smooth.  You know things could get moshy with so
many players but this was not to be the case.  With everyone listening to each other and graciously adding to the songs the vibe was cool and tight.  Well, before you know it….it was 11:00 pm.  Now both owners of this place are gracious, cool and carry a vibe that makes being friends easy.  Henry was on duty this night and I go over to him and ask for a little bit more time…..”No problem Mon”…so we plan to go a little longer…..maybe another half hour…..this happens three more times and before you know it ……it is 12:30 am.

We probably could have kept on going all night, but we didn’t want to push it too much……so we called it a night…..and it was a night to remember.  Thanks Henry…..you da best. We ended our jam session with “Mona” into “Who do you Love”  into “Not a Fade Away” and that is indicative of the kind of night it was.  We all were throwing songs into the mix and during the course of the jam we covered…Blue’s classics…..”King Bee” with CK doing a very good Howlin Wolf vocal …..”Big Boss Man”…..During these jamdowns the lead parts were tossed around the room with everyone adding their touch…..songs were extended and fired up.  Alot of harmony singing too…….”Angel from Montgomery”  and “Just my Imagination”  were fun… as were our two Band songs “The Weight” and “Cripple Creek”.  It was one of the best Ranch Jam Sessions I have ever heard and as I headed up to the Morning Star Lodge to lay down for the night I was smiling the whole way up the road……I’m almost positive that I went to sleep with a smile on my face and a joy in my heart……Give Thanks!

Jammin’ at Full Moon Resort

It’s been a busy first half of our camp season and my intentions of being a daily or somewhat regular blogger have gone by the wayside….however, today I’m feeling the vibe and I thought I’d give a full report on what we’re up to.  I’m here in Big Indian, New York for our Fur Peace Ranch on the Road adventure to the Full Moon Resort.  Everything is going great and this place is really nice…the vibe is right and the beauty of creation is all around us.  The Full Moon is located in the Catskill Forest Preserve and this is a beautiful location in upstate NY….a half hour west of Woodstock and two and a half hours north of NYC.  We have a great group of students who have joined us here. Jorma and GE Smith are the instructors and they both have full classes of enthusiastic students.
The main building on this 100 acre wonderland of mountains, fields and streams is called the Valley View House and it is a turn of the century inn that has been nicely cared for and maintained by the present owners who have been running it for the past 9 years.  There are alot of similarities between the Full Moon and the Fur Peace……The setting is campy,  the natural environment around us is stellar, the food is great and the staff is very nice and accommodating. So ….this is really working out…..even better then this optimist could have hoped for. Furthermore…..there are no phones in the rooms,  no tv’s,  and no cell service for a good 20 miles around us…..however……if you can believe this…..one thing they do have…..that we wish we did have……is wi-fi service.  Indeed, I’m sitting in the main house right now,  enjoying a cup of GE coffee and connected to the internet.  I know I’m drifting from the report…..but a word about GE coffee.  When GE is at the Fur Peace,  Deb and I can always count on coming in to prepare breakfast and the coffee is already made…and we arrive before 7:00 am.  This normally, almost always happens when GE is in da house…..or should I say ranch.  GE coffee is extra strong….just the way we like it.  This is accomplished by doubling the coffee content or as Deb and I do…..using less water.  So…when we get the pleasure of drinking or making a strong and stiff cup of joe we always refer to it as GE coffee.
The workshop spaces here are nice and the rooms very cool too.  Jorma is teaching in an old barn that has been converted into a performance space and GE is in a building that would remind you of an old roadhouse in the mountains.  The instructors have been really putting it out there and the class time and dining time fills the days.  We have a good mix of students…..some of our favorite peeps are here and we have also had the pleasure to meet some nice new folks.  Two of our CROs……cherished repeat offenders……have made long journeys to join us here…..Steve S.  is here from Bhudapest and the father / daughter team of Mark and Ally Lee from Maui are here as well.  Old friends and new friends are making up quite a great mix. So …..we are having a super time and the music instruction that the Fur Peace Ranch has become famous for is flourishing.  This afternoon we’ll be doing the student performance, always one of my favorite times during a camp session,  and tonight we’ll be treated to a very intimate performance by Jorma and GE.   We really like the Full Moon and we’ve already decided we’ll be back……and I don’t just mean for next week’s session ……but we’re making plans for 2010. Hey …..Speaking of 2010.. Vanessa and I have been working on a killer schedule for 2010 and we are deep into it and making alot of progress…..plans are to have it ready and posted early August.  I don’t want to spoil any surprises but one thing I can tell you is ….WE are planning a return trip to the wonderful Miracle Springs Resort and Spa (HL)  in Desert Hot Springs, California in February of 2010.  They will be our first workshops of 2010 and they will take place from Feb. 8th — 12th and Feb. 15th –  19th.  The first session will be with Jorma and Marjorie Thompson, who so wonderfully assists Jorma with his class,. and our old pal, Michael Falzarano.   The second week will reprise GE Smith’s acoustic lead class, and he will be joined by the Captain of the Camp, Jorma.  Look for details to emerge on the Fur Peace Ranch website in the not too distant future and sign-up for the FPR on the Road MHS 2010 will commence this August as well.
I really love being at the Ranch…..and indeed you could argue that there is no place like it.  However,  I’m really digging these road trips and On the Road workshops……California desert in February…….New York mountain retreat in July……what more could a ranch manager ask for.