I am drawn to and into music, and I am not ashamed to admit it! My practice of promoting peace and happiness through the spirituality of sound and music has been lifelong. I listen for the music of everyday life, but I like to live true to my own pulse. In the same way a professional musician would use dynamics to enhance music, I use music to enhance my life....and I try to share as much of that as possible. I am an American living my life in two places -- Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.A.; and I am enjoying peace of mind...most of the time.
View all posts by Carla Maxwell →
I’m excited to announce that Bing Futch, Adrian Kosky, and I will host the first Delta Blues Dulcimer Revival — April 16th, 17th, 18th, 2020 — in my American home in Clarksdale, Mississippi (affectionately known as The Holy Moly), a historic building in the birthplace of the blues!
There will be classes for all mountain dulcimer skill levels, focusing on early blues/roots music.
The event will last three days and be a related event to Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival, giving revival registrants an opportunity to enjoy a taste of the Mississippi Delta’s cuisine, learn about the region, and to explore up-close-and-personal this historic city’s music! Mississippi is known as the birthplace of American Music and Clarksdale is part of the Americana Music Triangle!
The Delta Blues Dulcimer Revival is for mountain dulcimer blues fans who are looking for a fun immersive learning experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
Adrian and I have been in Australia and have been playing a bit of music and doing a little road-tripping. We went to New South Wales, on our most recent road-trip. What fun we have had with our dulcimer-world friends!
This is a beautiful time of year to travel north from Daylesford, Victoria. We spent nearly three weeks visiting with dear friends and making new, genuine, friendships and real-life connections with people, as well as sight-seeing and enjoying Australia’s wildlife. I’m feeling very blessed by wonderful relationships and experiences.
We played music with Richard Troughear, strumming cardboard dulcimers that he made out of Ikea packing materials (cardboard!). Because he is an expert luthier, specialising in sound quality, these funny instruments sounded fantastic!
Richard’s wife, Delphine, offered familiarly-Southern but delightfully-Australian hospitality to us (including our little Miss Jelly Bean) at the beach and in a beautiful Brogo AirBnB cottage (it was dog friendly!). Wombats and wallabies were everywhere! Take a look at my video below:
Adrian and I also enjoyed visiting with our friend, Terry Hennessy, a luthier who built Richard Fariña’s dulcimer. Here’s a video of Richard Fariña playing the dulcimer built by Terry Hennessy:
Terry is a fascinating friend, an outstanding artist, a great storyteller, and a very nice person to know.
https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js Terry performed for us, playing two of his bizarre, hand-crafted, instruments. Terry Hennessy is an artistic luthier, to say the least. Each of his instruments have a beautiful look, feel, and sound, along with a bit of eccentricity!
In the Blue Mountains, Adrian and I had a visit and played music with a facebook friend who we had not previously met: Anne Bowman. Anne is an extremely talented artist/illustrator, a great musician, and a wonderful tour guide. She is also an active participant in social media related to the dulcimer. She is definitely a dulcimer enthusiast, like my hubby and me! Here’s a little selfie-video of the three of us playing together during our jam.
We are all good friends who enjoy jamming, walking in the rain forest, and having high tea together now!
It’s a really long commute between my home in country Victoria and my city life in Clarksdale, but it’s definitely worth the hassle of international travel!
As soon as my hubby and I arrive in this historic downtown blues precinct (where we live), we feel like we are on a movie set. The city scenes are surreal , to me. The contrast between the decrepit and the dynamic in downtown Clarksdale is amazing. Decrepit is a harsh term, I know. But, honestly, that’s what I see very near me, when I wander around downtown. Often, I walk on broken glass that has fallen from disintegrating windows in the neighboring building. It makes my heart ache to think I can’t do anything to stop some things.
I try not to dwell on what I cannot change. Even when I notice the worst, I try to look for a positive change or beauty in the movie-like scenes, when I return to Clarksdale. I like to imagine the scenes could be cleaned-up for safety reasons, and then reinvented as real movie scenes for entertainment. People need safety AND entertainment!
I see that there is a whole lot of beauty in Clarksdale, though. I see wonderful changes that directly improve my mental attitude, as well as the view from my apartment window. There are new street signs, beautifully painted windows in revitalized retail shops, lovely new sidewalks with accessible ramps; old, new, and growing businesses are thriving, and people with positive energy are thrilling the community by their good works. I see circles/cliques changing, overlapping, combining, enjoying differences. Those are exciting changes! Good on ya, Clarksdale!
I’m always thankful when businesses I like (like Skimke’s BBQ) are still in business, when I return to Clarksdale.
There’s live blues music every night of the year in Clarksdale! I’m ALWAYS thankful for more music in my life! Besides the fact that it’s so close to my Memphis family, that’s the thing I like best about returning to my home in Clarksdale.
I love the city life that allows for walking to downtown music venues, radio shows, and restaurants. Last night I enjoyed going next door to the live taping for future airing on XRDS.fm radio with Charlie Musselwhite, The Dave Luning Band, Gary Vincent, Meghan Maike, Red Paden, Roger Stolle, and Robert Birdsong at The Clarksdale Sound Stage – just around the corner from The Holy Moly! WOW! Talk about entertainment! What an experience! It was fantastic!
AND, the food in Clarksdale is amazing! Sometimes even breakfast service (Shack Up Inn and Bluesberry Cafe) comes with music! I love it! There’s a local saying: “Clarksdale, it nice!” But if you don’t mind me saying so, Clarksdale is cool and it’s getting cooler all the time! I’m happy to be back!
Last weekend I had a blast, busking at the Port Fairy Market!
I was lucky enough to get to play along with my husband and my brother-in-law — two of the best musicians I know! It was fun to watch the crowd gather as we rocked “Shortening Bread,” across from our friend’s market stall where shortening bread was actually being sold out! Fun!!
Of course, it was great to see money being tossed in the guitar case, but my happiness didn’t come from the money earned busking. It came from being with people and making music with my husband and his brother!
I love watching people bounce to the rhythm as they walk by or as they stop to listen and dance. When babies begin to bounce, that’s when I know we’ve got the music right, for sure. Money that is tossed in to the case is nice and very much appreciated by us buskers, as people never have to do that — there’s no obligation for anyone to give buskers money. They do it because they want to, and I watch them in amazement and appreciation.
Of course, my smile might get a little brighter when the $5 and $10 bills get dropped in to the case. When that happens, I probably bounce a bit more, myself — enjoying the fact that other people are really enjoying the music we are making.
I had to take a break during one of the songs to rest my hand, but I had time and strength to snap iPhone photos of my hubby, Adrian, and his brother, Kevin, before getting back to playing.
Kevin Kosky in Port Fairy, Victoria
Adrian Kosky in Port Fairy, Victoria
After about an hour of busking, we happily spent our earnings on market food! Market food! Yum!! Thank you, Port Fairy Market friends! I hope to see you again someday. 🙂
Adrian and I have been taking a few road trips, since being back in the U.S.A. We have been in Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, spreading our dulcimer love wherever we go. We’re hoping to get down in New Orleans, Louisiana, soon! I’ve never been to Louisiana. My fingers are crossed.
We have our Aussie friend and bandmate, Phil McNamara, visiting for three months, as the first guest Artist-in-Residence at The Holy Moly. So, we enjoyed having Phil join us on our trip to Mt. View, Arkansas, recently. While we were there, we visited The Dulcimer Shoppe, and we met the owners, Jim and Betty Woods, along with the Ozark Folk Center’s 2016 Southern Regional Mountain Dulcimer 1st Place winner, Irma Reeder, and her husband Scott Reeder. Phil got a good dose of dulcimer world. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw some dulcimer playing in his future!
In May, Adrian and I spent Memorial Day weekend with my parents and other family members in Kentucky. It was great to reunite with relatives and friends I haven’t seen for a few years and to meet the newest members of my family. During a family picnic on a beautiful Kentucky farm, we shared our mix of Memphis-Melbourne-Mississippi Delta original/traditional music (which I cannot even clearly describe here……you have to see it and hear it, to believe it. Believe me!).
We are in Clarksdale now, reflecting on music past, making a bit of new music, and looking forward to all the music to be made. Holy moly! We’re excited about what’s coming up at The Holy Moly!
“It’s good to have fun on a road trip; but, oh, how you have to know how!”* And, I’m wondering where our next road trip will take us. I’m ready to strum on!
Adrian and I are in Australia, traveling, brainstorming, and searching for that thing we will do when we return to the U.S.A. next month.
We spent some time in Stanley, Tasmania, visiting a friend. While we were there, we played a few traditional American fiddle tunes on Australia Day!
It doesn’t seem to matter where we play dulcimers or Strumsticks, people are fascinated by these wonderful instruments.
Last night Table Hill played a few tunes (with our friend Phil) at the Leonards Hill Hall Country, Western, & Old Time Dance — an annual event that has continued for over 40 years.
It wasn’t easy for Adrian and me to play music and entertain people whenever we wanted, last year. We had built ourselves in to the restaurant business we were running. We focused all our physical and mental energy on moving forward with that part of The Holy Moly revitalisation project.
This year, we are still moving forward at The Holy Moly, but now that we have sold the restaurant and have good tenants in that corner of our building, we are focusing on adding more music in our lives. We are working out the specific details of presenting music in The Holy Moly Theatre. I’ll write more about that soon.
Moving forward, I’m excited to say that my friend and bandmate, Phil, is planning to visit Clarksdale in Spring 2016! Yay! Another Australian coming up to the Mississippi Delta for music!!
For more than a year, my husband and I worked hard on creating a small business in Clarksdale, Mississippi, inside our renovated old masonic temple building, “The Holy Moly.” We managed everything, from the gutting of the physical space and redesigning of the old pharmacy into a beautiful cafe, to the cooking, selling, and serving of the food at “The Holy Moly Drug Store.”
It wasn’t easy. Many of our days were spent waiting for The Holy Moly Drug Store customers in the lonely, historic, blues precinct in downtown Clarksdale.
We knew the job of creating a business in Clarksdale would be hard, but we were both surprised at how lonely it was. When we bought the building in 2012, neither one of us were prepared for the loneliness ahead.
While working, we looked on the bright side. We kept reminding ourselves that we were doing something good in bringing life back into the old masonic temple building and to the corner of Third Street and Issaquena Avenue.
When the renovation work was finally over, we knew that we had built our own place to play whenever we wanted to; we just didn’t realise how little time there would be for entertaining! The actual work of running the fast-food restaurant business kept our instruments and singing voices quiet, most of the time.
At The Holy Moly Drug Store, Adrian occasionally played from behind the soda fountain and entertained a couple of enthusiastic customers and, rarely, he strummed and sang for a full restaurant (with all 22 seats filled with diners). (Both of us were needed behind the counter to keep the business running and our customers served.) We cherish our memories of moments when we could actually play music, chat with customers/visitors AND serve them food & beverages.
Unfortunately, most of the time Adrian played on The World’s Smallest Stage, it was depressing for both of us, as the shop was often empty. Both of us thrive on fun, and we love to entertain other people.
In September 2015, my husband and I sold our restaurant business and leased the cafe space to new tenants in The Holy Moly. We haven’t sugar-coated (no pun intended, this time), our description of The Holy Moly Drug Store business and how we were challenged with creating a successful business.
Before we sold it, my husband and I never hid the fact that we wished/prayed for someone to come along and buy the business (and make it better) and allow us to focus on something else in our building.
In October, The Holy Moly Drug Store was closed by the new Australian owner/tenants. They plan to update the equipment and change the menu, once they arrive in the U.S.A.
So, this is why I currently have free time to reflect, blog, and contemplate the future of The Holy Moly project.
As I reflect, I remember the music I made in Memphis. I miss it. I miss the activities. I miss the meaningfulness. I miss the people, the fun, and, especially, the music.
People in Memphis seem to have a special interest and enthusiasm for music! I enjoyed music in so many ways, there in Memphis. I think I had more enthusiasm for making music when I lived in Tennessee. I don’t know where or when, but I might have lost my passion for pushing for more music! I hope that by writing this out, I am challenging myself to be enthusiastic again.
One of my most challenging and exciting musical moments in Tennessee was performing at the Memphis Zoo in November 2006. It was a rainy, cold, early morning event, which was not well attended because of the weather and, possibly, a football game. I think there might have been 6 or 8 people at any one time in the Zoo’s audience that day, including my mother and brother and the girlfriend of a bandmate.
Of course, Mississippi (the birthplace of American music) folks have a passion for music, too. People from all over the world come to Clarksdale, because it is the birthplace of the blues.
My husband and I have enjoyed visits from our friends who have come to Clarksdale during their Americana Music Triangle adventures. Blues music brought them to Clarksdale for a short visit, but facing their crossroads will bring them back for more music, I believe.
I have to believe people want to come to or return to Clarksdale for more music — all kinds of music! Now that I am not working at The Holy Moly Drug Store business, I’ll think on that. After all, it was music that brought me here.
Within the next few weeks, I’ll be returning to Australia where I will stay for a few months. I’ll be keeping Clarksdale in my head and heart, hoping to figure out how to bring more music to this old masonic temple building that is now known as The Holy Moly. Holy moly!
I’m about to re-enter music-workshop-world — not just Memphis dulcimer workshop world — but general music workshop world — at The Holy Moly, in the downtown historic blues precinct of Clarksdale, Mississippi! This is so exciting!
I chose to study the mountain dulcimer in my leisure time, through workshops and independent practice, when I attended the Memphis Dulcimer Festival and took a beginner dulcimer workshop, in 1990. The workshop method of relaxed, casual, hobby/leisure learning among other people with similar interests, without academic pressure, was perfect for me. I was able to learn to play a string instrument at my own pace and enjoy making music for the simple joy of making music. I enjoy the schedules and the organisation and group activities that an academic world provides, but I do not enjoy the stress of taking tests and receiving scores nor the guilt and shame that sometimes comes with all that.
I get inspired when I see and hear inspired musicians. I learned this about myself when I was a teenager, and I was reminded of it in 2000, when I attended my first week-long mountain dulcimer workshop in Swannanoa, North Carolina. That was the year I decided I wanted to host/facilitate educational, entertaining, music gatherings. During my return for a second week-long mountain dulcimer workshop at the Swannanoa Gathering during the summer of 2001, I began my plan to host mountain dulcimer events in a classroom that was available to me in Memphis, Tennessee. By the end of 2002, I had planned and hosted the first Memphis Dulcimer Gathering with Larry Conger and was scheduling a second annual event. My first mountain dulcimer event was a great success, as it was a lot of fun and, for me, confirmed that the world needed more music workshops for people like me who just wanted to make more music.
A lot of musical fun was launched in 2002 from the first event I hosted with Larry Conger and a couple of friends. The Memphis Area Mountain Dulcimer Club was started and commenced its monthly meetings. In 2004, I co-founded and became the first president of The Memphis Dulcimer Gathering, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organisation. The Memphis Dulcimer Gathering & Folk Festival, an annual September event, came to be just as beautiful and musically-nurturing as the old Memphis Dulcimer Festival that had inspired me. I felt blessed to be part of a world of positive musical movement.
Unfortunately, in 2007, I attended my last week-long mountain dulcimer workshop in North Carolina, the same year I resigned as president of the Memphis Dulcimer Gathering, Inc. My life’s circumstances were changing for the better, but my connection with Memphis dulcimer workshops and house concerts was fading.
Since 2007, I have had a continuing daydream, though. For years I have been imagining hosting events that would interest and entertain musicians…..all kinds of acoustic musicians….not just Memphis dulcimer players. I also dreamed I might be able to join in a jam as my Memphis dulcimer-playing-self and feel warm and included with acceptance, as well as confident with my playing skills, sharing the joy of community music-making. (That dream actually started in 2000 in Swannanoa, North Carolina, as I heard all the musicians come together to jam in the evenings, when the workshop hours were over. I don’t think I had ever before heard music so beautifully played and enjoyed.)
Although you won’t hear many mountain dulcimers, on any night of the week, live music can be found, here in Clarksdale. And, some Clarksdale musicians go on world tours, advancing with the musical momentum of the Mississippi Delta. But, the Mississippi Delta needs musicians to come here for mutual inspiration. I need musicians to want to come here for inspiration, whether to learn more about the blues or to be inspired by Americana music, in general.
So, here I am ready in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the historic downtown blues precinct, to co-host the Juke Joint Jam Academy, a Clarksdale Juke Joint Festival related event, with my husband. I encourage other musicians to gather here to study instruments that interest them and become inspired to make more music, start a music club, lead a music workshop, host a house concert, or just enjoy the music of Mississippi.
To learn how to host music events, I recommend attending music events.