Q&A July 2012, Part I
8/6/2012 (updated 8/6/2012)

Re: Touring with Buddy Miller?
Hi Richard: First of all, congrats to the LA Kings. This is from a lifetime Red Wings fan (did I hear someone say "rebuilding?).  What a run!  When they got to the second round, I thought they might just go all the way.

Gracious of you. The Wings are my second-favourite team.

I see pics from the Camayo Cruise where you're performing with Buddy Miller. Any plans to tour with him on terra firma? In Knoxville, TN, we get to hear Buddy (and Julie) a lot on WDVX.

No plans to tour with Buddy.

And as long as I'm at it, do you pay attention to the Tour De France? I'm a couple of months younger than you. As with you and hockey, this is my later-in-life sport. Best wishes. Dean

I especially pay attention when a Brit is winning. I ride my bike down the beach, where it's just like Holland.

Just saw the July 2012 Frets and Refrains camp on the schedule, is there a plan for this to be held next year as well? Thanks, Bill Schanck

We have already put in motion Frets and Refrains for next year. It will be at a slightly earlier time - details soon. To dispel a few early rumours:

The success of this year's camp does not mean an increase in the number of attendees. I think we got it about right this year, so we'll cap it at around 110 students.

Most of this year's instructors will be back next year, and we may add a teacher or two.

We may change the Thursday night concert to another day, or have it at the camp. To be determined.

Rather behind the times, I caught up with Jefferson Starship's "Tree of Liberty" album and their version of Genesis Hall. How does it feel to be covered by Paul Kanter when you started your career in Fairport being compared to Jefferson Airplane?  That album also covers Phil Ochs's 'I ain't marching anymore' - which you have reprised more recently. Any comments on why Mr Ochs's songs still have resonance? best wishes, Alastair Thomson

I had no idea of this cover version, how bizarre. I'll have to dig that one out. When I did a Phil Ochs cover, I did add some verses to make it more contemporary. Sometimes overtly political music does have a sell-by date, and won't speak necessarily to succeeding generations. Probably Phil's more lasting songs are those that are more veiled in metaphor.

Re: "band camp" question.
I attended your Frets and Refrains camp last meet, truly a memorable time had by all. Quick question? On the discussion around "opening your mind" to new music you played a bit of a Shakespearian Lyric (may have just been Elizabethan) backed by a jazz ensemble and asked out opinion. Personally I thought it was awful but...  We never got your opinion and I am very curious, what did you think of it? Fred Ball

The piece was 'Blow. Blow. Thou Winter Wind' by Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. I was curious how the group would react to it. There were some positives, and a few negative opinions. My own opinion is that it fails on just about every level. Much as I am a fan of Cleo and Johnny, I feel this is making complex something that should be understated in its delivery, and it ends up sounding pretentious and 'arty'. It fails to convey the purpose of the lyric, and doesn't make for good jazz either. It may appeal to the Performing Arts Centre crowd (which C and J played to a lot) who would also be familiar with some Shakespeare and some Classical music, and might stomach the artifice of it all. I feel songs in Shakespeare plays are best sung by the actors, who would hopefully render them in a more earthy fashion.

So, was Fret and Refrains as wonderful for you as it was for us campers?

It was very special for me, and I think for all the teachers and staff. It was a great bunch of students - roll on next year!

Given the sensitivity musicians have about stealing from other musicians, do you think Noel Coward was ever criticized by the wags of his era for stealing from Gilbert & Sullivan?

Good question, to which I don't really know the answer, but I would imagine it would be seen as more of a tip of the hat.

I recall your posting on Facebook a nice photograph from Doc Watson's hometown in NC. Doc was a national treasure and I had the privilege of seeing him perform with Merle in the mid '70s. Over the years, did you cross paths with Doc on the folk festival circuit? What was your impression?

I never met Doc, alas. I saw him play a few times, and he was quite extraordinary, everything you would want from a country/old timey musician - great technique, great taste, great soul. He was the whole package.