Sharing thoughts about Taylor Hicks and concert travels and other musical musings!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm MAAD - Help Me Understand

I’m MADD. Help me understand. I’m angry. Help me understand.

It was a nice Saturday evening following a family outing. The kids, siblings, were playing in a mud puddle in the front yard as kids often like to do after a good rain. The youngest kicked off his shoes, sending one spiraling towards the edge of the yard, near the street without sidewalks. As any kid would do, he went to retrieve it. But he never made it. A speeding driver who had probably been drinking changed five lives that afternoon. The older two siblings, a brother and a sister, witnessed the whole thing. They watched in horror as their baby brother left his mortal body and the driver left the scene, taking out mailboxes down the street until finally wrecking his car. Fast-thinking neighbors caught the driver and handed him over to the police as a frantic father tried in vain to save his young son. The mother, a co-worker of mine, has lost her baby.

I’ve been told before that writing can be a way to release anger and frustration, so my usual Taylor Hicks blog is being high-jacked to try to make some sense of a tragic and senseless event. I won’t call it an accident. It wasn’t an accident that the driver was speeding. It wasn’t an accident that he may have chosen to have a few drinks before getting behind the wheel. It may have been an accident that several mailboxes were hit. It was no accident that the driver left the scene. And it was no accident that a child’s life was cut short.

From the moment I first heard about this family’s tragedy, I have been angry. I just didn’t know until tonight. What do you say to a grieving family? I’m sorry just doesn’t seem to cut it. Even though I truly am sorry that they are suffering, that they have lost a child, that a child’s life has been cut too short, it’s just not enough to say “I’m sorry”.

Someone recently said, as a parent, we expect to pick out our baby’s crib; we don’t expect to pick out his casket. Yet, this young family has had to do that because of someone else’s choices. God gave us free will, the freedom to make our own decisions and choices. It’s up to us to figure out what are the right choices. I don’t believe, can’t believe, won’t believe that drinking and driving is a right choice. We’ve probably all done it, one time or another. I’m guilty. But I won’t be again. Not ever. No party, no alcohol, no favorite concoction is worth what this family is dealing with right now, or others who have gone before and those yet to face the harsh reality of someone’s choice.

The family had gathered at the funeral home for the wake and to receive friends and extended family. I’ve never attended a child’s funeral. I never want to again. He was beautiful as he lay there, angelic without wings. So perfect, so peaceful, so young. His young friends and family had decorated his final bed with stickers and loving messages, his favorite toys, his blanket.

I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. All I could do was ask God “why?” There was no answer. As I drove away from the funeral home, in silent meditation and contemplation, I realized why I couldn’t cry. I was angry. Angry that someone had carelessly cut short the life of another. Angry that this family had to suffer the loss of a child. Angry that someone had probably been drinking before getting behind the wheel of his car. Angry that the driver was speeding and left the scene as the child lay lifeless, his brother and sister witnesses to such tragedy.

How do I turn anger to understanding? I can’t, not alone, but with your help. The next time you have a couple of drinks, make sure you’re at home. If you aren’t, make sure you have a non-drinking designated driver, or know the phone number of your local cab or taxi service. When you’re in a hurry in a congested area, where children are often present, slow down, take a few extra minutes to get to your destination. Watch out for those young lives, protecting them as if they were your own children. It takes only a split second to change a life forever, whether it’s your own or that of another.

And above all, take time to enjoy your children, no matter how old or how young. Enjoy your grandchildren if you have any. Give them love and hugs and praise. Set the right example – don’t drink and drive, or use excessive speed.

God grant peace to this family and their friends.
God have mercy on the driver.
Lord, let me remember always the pain, and to never get behind the wheel when I may be impaired.

Now the tears are flowing.

In loving memory of Frank Alexander Brooks, age 5

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Taylor Hicks - A Night of Boots, Blues & BBQ

What a wonderful night for a BBQ! The sky was clear, then cloudy, then overcast, and then darkening. A storm was brewing. I’d been watching the sky for several hours, hoping that in spite of the gathering winds that the storm would blow over. After spending a couple hours watching several bands at Sloss Furnaces, with Madge (my GPS) in command and another car following me, off to the BBQ I headed.

A couple of wrong turns and missed turns and I was back within a block of Sloss. Ok, the car behind me was starting to give me hand signals – hands thrown up in the air. Those ladies were probably checking their Google maps to see where to go! Finally we were on the right track. I hit the interstate and the next exit. At the stop light we stuck heads out the window and decided we would just let Madge lead the way.

Way out in the middle of what seemed like no where, was the road that would take us to the farm where the BBQ would be held. The road started out wide enough to handle two passing cars. One more turn, and we find ourselves heading down a road not much wider than a golf cart path. If you met a car, someone had to go down the embankment will the other had to climb a hill! I just prayed everyone was heading TO the event and no one would be leaving!

The view because peaceful and serene. Trees lined the road with new tree sprigs peeking through the fallen leaves and pine needles. The road curved and turned continually, until we came to what could best be described as a ‘hairpin curve’ where the taillights and headlights could line up in a straight row. And the curve turned downhill as it snaked through the woods. We finally came to a small wooden bridge that crossed a still brook. As we cleared the woods, we could see the farm ahead.

Parking was no issue – there were plenty of places. My concern was how to get back to downtown Birmingham without having to back track the road I had just taken. After parking, I noticed a main road up ahead – that would be my exit later. As I would find out from another guest during the dinner, 18-wheelers have attempted to take that same route only to have to be pulled back out by a wrecker because they can’t make that hairpin curve!

I have but one regret of the evening, so let me get that out of the way right now. I have no pictures of the farm or the area of the party, other than those of the stage! Suffice it to say, this place was beautiful! The family home reminded me of the typical two-story white frame farmhouse. The barn was brick and stone with beautifully stained woodwork inside and out. The horses stabled in that barn lived in designer stalls!

Tables sat outside the barn, inside a paved road that circled the barn. The stage was set up across the road. A country band was playing for our dining pleasure. At one point, one of the ladies in the band was playing a ‘washboard’! That was a real treat! The BBQ was your choice of beef or pork (or chicken, maybe). Slaw and baked beans rounded out the meal.

While we ate and the band played, a couple of ladies walked around selling raffle tickets for a pyramid-style diamond necklace. $10 for one, or $20 for 3 tickets. I’m a sucker for raffles, so I bought some. It was for charity, and I knew it would not be my night to win it anyway. As I mentioned earlier, the sky looked like a storm was brewing. A couple of drops of rain fell, we looked at each other, and the clouds moved on over.

After dinner, various guests were introduced, including the wife of Alabama Governor, Bob Riley, Patsy Riley. Mrs. Riley spoke for the Governor who was home nursing a ‘blown out knee’ and wasn’t able to attend the dinner. A delightful lady, spoke on the need to help Hannah House Shelby, the charity that was benefiting from the event.

By the way, Hannah House Shelby is a home for abused women and children, a place of refuge when they need to escape the abuse. In existence for twenty years or so, it established its first actual house last year, and the mortgage had been paid off thanks to hard work, dedication and generous donors.

Before time for Taylor Hicks to take the stage, there was a live auction. One prize was three rounds of golf at some of the most prestigious courses in the Birmingham area. Another prize was a spa package. There were a couple of mini-vacations, dinner for 20 with the Governor and wife, and diamonds earrings the size of the tip of my pinky finger!

Let the bidding begin! I had my eye on those earrings, sight unseen! During the bidding process I finally had a chance to eyeball them personally – they would completely cover my earlobes – forget the diamond necklace, I wanted those big baubles! I jumped into the bidding fray, including giving the opening bid. Someone sitting in front of me (I’ll protect the innocent here) was flailing her arms in excitement and the auctioneer thought she was raising my bid! I think someone had to grab her arms to keep her quiet once they realized what was happening!

A couple more bids, and SOLD! I jumped up, waving my arms, only to hear someone shout out their bid – the auctioneer failed to say the usual ‘going once, going twice’ so the bidding had to be reopened. Needless to say, I hope that wife enjoys those earrings! I didn’t walk away empty-handed, though. I did win a mini-vacation to a location of my choice of three premium vacation spots. Now to play that trip!

Without further ado, Taylor Hicks was introduced and walked out from the barn to the stage, flanked by what appeared to be two police officers. They remained near the stage for Taylor’s entire performance.

I was on a mission tonight. I wanted to capture video, and so the number of pictures I would take would be limited. But hopefully, the video would more than make up for that! Taylor Hicks took the stage with his usual ‘Ray Charles’ sway and yelled out “Soul Patrol”. Yup, we’d found him alright, and were ready for some blues! Along with Taylor were Jeff Lopez on sax and flute and Brian Less on the keyboard. Taylor had his trusty guitar and harmonica.

Now this shindig was billed to be about “boots, blues and BBQ”. We’d had the BBQ for dinner, and many of the guests were in country western attire right on down to the boots and Stetsons. But what about Taylor? I’ve scoured my pictures, but all I can see is what appears to be a brown jacket over a darker brown shirt and jeans. I don’t even know if Taylor Hicks was wearing boots! What good was I that night? Hopefully the video will earn me forgiveness!

With a shout out of “Boots, Blues and BBQ”, Taylor Hicks and company began the set with “Call Me the Breeze”. During the song, Taylor gave intros to both Brian and Jeff. The sincerity in Taylor’s voice as he did so let everyone know that Taylor Hicks may be the star, but those who play with him are also star performers.

A bit of chit chat after the song and Taylor likened it to open heart surgery! Being the shy person that Taylor says he is, it’s understandable that talking off the cuff to an audience may not be the easiest thing for him, but he sure makes up for it with his music! “Moondance”, a Van Morrison tune, was perfect for a concert under the stars with Taylor Hicks and his harmonica!

Taylor Hicks talked about working on his new album, having been in the writing phase for the last several weeks. He mentioned having written about thirty songs, some of his best music, and that he wanted to do the fifth song he’d written while in “LA” as in “lower Alabama”. The song: Taylor’s own “Soul Thing”.

And true to what we’ve seen during Taylor’s previous national tours, Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” crept into the song! While I was concentrating on my video I could tell that those there, beside the Soul Patrol, were enjoying Taylor’s music.

Does Taylor Hicks pass on messages in the songs he used for a performance? I don’t know, but Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” seemed to be a prediction of the future. The song is great for an acoustic set with minimal instruments, but it’s been a rare experience for me to hear him do this number. And it was beautiful and very soulfully done! Jeff Lopez on the sax was to die for, too!

Now we are all familiar with “The Runaround” and its opening drum corps. Imagine doing that song without the drums! It was an interesting version, and one I hope to hear Taylor Hicks do again! From time to time it seemed like Taylor used his guitar for the drum sound. I was surprised that Taylor would do this song over “The Right Place”, which he has done on “Regis and Kelly” with just a keyboard and sax.

Before doing the final song, Taylor Hicks sang “On and On” by Stephen Bishop. This was not a song I was familiar with, but I did like it. And then the final number: “Where I’m From (Alabama Frame of Mind)”. I was in heaven! No words can describe the song, so be sure to watch the video.

Taylor was escorted back inside the barn when he finished his set, and with that, we were bade a good night and drive home safely. We said our good-byes and headed back to our cars. This time someone else would follow me back into town and to the Metro Bistro to hear Brian Less sit in with The Erin Mitchell Band.

Once back into downtown Birmingham, I decided to visit Metro and listen for a bit. Around midnight, when the band took a break, I decided I would take my leave and go to Ona’s Music Room to see what was going on there. I made it to my car, but by the time I got to Ona’s the sky had fallen and it was pouring rain. Do I park and go in or go back to the hotel? I parked, pulled out my trusty umbrella and walked in the rain to Ona’s.

After getting into Ona’s I found a small table to the right of the stage and sat down. Not being much of a drinker, I ordered a diet coke and waited for Spoonful James to come back from their break. There were whispers of Taylor Hicks being in the house. I turned around to look survey the bar, and sure enough, a tall young man in a cap with gray hair sticking out was walking through the back of the lounge area. Taylor Hicks was definitely in the house!

When Spoonful James came back to do their final set, Taylor Hicks joined them to sing a couple of songs. Actually, he sang one song with them and then stopped until his harmonicas were brought in to him. With case in hand, Taylor went back to the stage and sang for a little more than 15 minutes! Video from that performance can also be found below!

WOW! An evening of boots, blues and BBQ had turned into a terrific night full of Taylor Hicks! One of those two-for-one evenings! Enjoy the video and what few pictures I took – links are below!

Video BBQ: Call Me The Breeze
Video BBQ: Moondance

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Dare You - A Soul Patrol Challenge

When I was graduating high school many decades ago, I was honored to win the "I Dare You" award. During times like we have experienced this past week-end, I'm reminded of this book, a book which is based on daring us to make a difference.

So right now, I dare each of you to make a difference - a Soul Patrol Challenge, if you will. None of us are happy with the amount of donations that were actually received by Kid One from the convention. Let's make a difference. We can do it. Let's make individual donations. Those who went may be tapped out from the experience, but those of you who didn't, hopefully you are willing to accept the challenge. Donate! No matter how small or how large, just donate.

Let's show everyone what we are made of - let's make a difference for Kid One (or your favorite charity if you prefer) - but let's make a difference - and maybe make even Taylor Hicks proud of us!

To donate to Kid One, follow the link below!


Some of My Favorite Pictures