Monday, November 27, 2006

Jovial Company, Joe, and J.O.

As we do every year (24 and counting for me; longer than that for many other family members), we ventured down to Old Man’s Cave State Park to spend three days with Kate’s family over the Thanksgiving holidays. It was a wonderful time – thirty-five people hanging out in eight adjacent cabins, talking, eating and drinking, and hiking. Lots of hiking. For you non-Buckeyes, there is actually a corner of the state (the southeast one) that butts up against West Virginia, and that can be considered to be relatively scenic. It’s not the Grand Canyon, but there are canyons, and ravines, and caves, and hills that the natives somewhat euphemistically refer to as mountains, and miles and miles of unspoiled natural beauty. It is, in fact, one of my favorite places on earth, at least partly because of the wonderful memories I’ve accumulated there over the past 24 years. There are four generations of us now; the nephews and nieces are all grown up and have kids of their own. But they still drive from Chicago and Washington D.C. with the toddlers in tow to be a part of it. I think that speaks volumes. In this day and age we’re all a part of something remarkable – a functional family – and at the end of three days everybody still likes each other. I’m so thankful that I can be a part of it.

So we hiked at places called Conkle’s Hollow and Old Man’s Cave and Rock House and Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. My mother-in-law, who will be 90 next month, joined us for the paved hike down to Ash Cave. There’s something to be said for those hardy German genes.

On Saturday, my niece Heather and I ventured down to Athens, Ohio, the home of Ohio University, where I went to school back in the pioneer days. Okay, but it was the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. Close enough. We strolled around the deserted campus, which will soon be home to my youngest daughter Rachel, and I realized that I will indeed look forward to visiting this idyllic little college town on a fairly regular basis. I picked up a few used CDs (Destroyer, Cat Power, Sandy Denny, Iron and Wine, Sparklehorse) on the cheap at Haffa’s in uptown Athens. Haffa’s opened when I was a student at O.U. in the mid-‘70s, and it’s still there. That was great to see.

Before we left on Thursday I received a very gracious e-mail message from Joe Henry. Joe Henry is a music producer, friend to the stars, Hollywood maverick, father, husband of Madonna’s sister, and the best singer/songwriter you’ve probably never heard. At any rate, I wrote about him in the latest issue of Paste because I really love his music, and he was kind enough to send me a wonderful reply. Sometimes I wonder if all the late nights and weekends spent staring at a keyboard even matter. And then I receive a note like that and I remember. If I can help a few people connect with such a talented artist, then I will be happy.

Finally, another friend, Jeffrey Overstreet, is about to publish his first book, entitled “Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies.” Y’all should read it. You can check out a review of JO’s book from Publisher’s Weekly right here.


Anonymous said...

Did Joe happen to mention what projects he has in the works for 2007?

Anonymous said...

Speaking as Heather's father, she enjoyed her afternoon with her Uncle Andy. And if you consider the Nixon-Ford-Carter years as pioneer days, how about the Kennedy-Johnson years when some of the rest of us attended O.U.? Prehistoric, perhaps. Anyway, I'm always struck by how well the family functions, vs. reports from others about their families. We are certainly blessed that we all get along so well, despite differences in age, geographic location, religious and political beliefs and opinions, and all the other things we use to keep others at a distance. The family still has some points of friction, but they are certainly minor ones, and always have been. Our younger daughter, Jessica, missed the get together for perhaps the first time she can remember, and she was thirsting for information when we talked to her by cell phone on the way home.

It was good to spend time with you and the rest of the family.

Andy Whitman said...

Anon, Joe is currently producing another criminally overlooked singer/songwriter, and he'll start recording a new album in early 2007. I know a bit more than that, but I hope that whets your appetite. I know it whets mine. The rest needs to come through the official PR/label channels.

Anonymous said...

typing this from the Donkey Coffee on West Washington in Athens. Congrats to Rachel for picking the first and finest university in the state of Ohio!

Back when I was a student in the oh so recent G. W. Bush days, I considered Hoffa's the money pit because I couldn't leave without dropping a $20 on used CDs.

Southeast Ohio is God's gift to motorcyclists and driving enthousiasts, but I digress.

jackscrow said...

Conkle’s Hollow is my personal favorite of the ones you mentioned.

My backyard is pretty good. My frontyard too. Come down sometime during mushroom season and we'll take a trek while I avoid showing you all my best spots.

Athens is a great place, for the most part. And it is one of the reasons, apart from true love, why I drive 84 miles one-way everyday from 7 miles southeast of Athens to Cowtown.

But I'm a country boy.

PS- Andy, you really should give the Todd Snider a listen.

And BD, you really should stop by the Donkey sometime when JD Hutchison is playing. He is truely a great songwriter and one of the unknown wonders of Athens.

Anonymous said...

joe henry is a great singer and album maker. i love what he does. "scar" might be my favorite of his batches. he also recorded an album of hymns sung by mandy troxel. this recording never came out. it was made under the direction of t bone burnett for possible release on squint. much was done by t bone and others to try to get this album out, but it just didn't happen. mandy ended up putting out another version of the album recorded by herself with equipment borrowed by john andrew schreiner (who helped get it mixed).

Jeffrey Overstreet said...

To be mentioned in a blog post by Andy Whitman is enough to make my month.

To be mentioned within a paragraph of Joe Henry, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, makes things that much sweeter.

Thanks, Andy. You don't know how many times I asked myself, while writing my book, "Will this movie-writing be as much fun to read as Andy Whitman's music-writing?"

You think I'm kidding. I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Could we get a hint regarding the identity of the criminally overlooked singer/songwriter?

Andy Whitman said...

"Could we get a hint regarding the identity of the criminally overlooked singer/songwriter?"

Sure. He has a musical son who is more famous than he is, a musical daughter who is almost as famous as he is, and the unfortunate distinction of bearing one of the most ostentatous, blue-blooded names in all of music history.