...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

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March 14, 2005 || 1:11 am

Yesterday was, in its simple way, a perfect day in West Alabama, the kind of day that makes you nostalgic for it before it's even over, that makes me not want to leave here, ever.

After a Friday night grilling steaks and playing late-night pool at the 28 Club with Chip (in its way also rather perfect), it was up in the morning for a day of bluegrassing at the ABMA showcase in Bessemer. It was a beautiful sunny day, clear blue sky, no humidity, a warm breeze. Up we drove to the Bessemer Civic Centre, where the showcase (10 hours, 20 bands, jam sessions upstairs) was being held. It being too beautiful to go inside right away, we started out playing under the acacias in the car park, attracting a few onlookers and greeting fellow musicians as they arrived.

Then it was inside to start the jamming in earnest, taking up residence upstairs with Ted's father George and some of his band members, including their wonderful and absolutely poker-faced mandolin player. They say of him that you know when he's getting into it because he does the 'chicken thing', closing his eyelids half way. We completely missed lunchtime, amazed when we realised it was 3pm. Chip was doing magnificently on two hours sleep and I was also going strong despite not much more.

Our slot in the showcase was at 4.30, and having already played solidly for five hours, we were obviously good and warmed up. It went well. We had a lot of fun on stage, the audience loved us and applauded every break, we goofed around a bit enjoying being in costume, and then as we were leaving the stage, the compere grins at us and whispers 'Sam Jackson wants to see you.' Sam Jackson? who's that? He's a promoter, someone says, he books bands up in Nashville....Nashville?? the Kudzu String Band suddenly have visions of fame. People are coming down the hallway to the dressing room saying nice things about us and we are in our little bluegrass heaven.

And sure enough, Sam Jackson turns out to really be a promoter from Nashville. And he wants our promotional pack. Watch the stars in our eyes as we sit out in the car park having a post-gig Crown grinning and giggling, while Ted goes inside to talk to him for what feels like a rather long time. He comes back and tells us that he may want us to play at Bean Blossom. Now this is the ultimate. We can't believe it. Bean Blossom, for those of you who don't know, is the oldest bluegrass festival, started by the great Bill Monroe himself. Apparently Sam Jackson said that's where the Reel-Time Travellers got their break, and now they're on the Cold Mountain soundtrack! Even if it never happens, that giddy feeling of pride and excitement - the four of us like five-year-olds dreaming of glory - will be savoured for a long time.

So of course, now we're high. More whisky, then back inside for more jamming, upping the pace with some Cajun tunes, giggling to ourselves at how well we did, savoring the compliments, before leaving to go back down to Perry County, via some food and more giggling. Beers in the car on the way home. What are we going to do now? We can't sleep, hell no. So we pile down to Chip's place and he's come up with a plan. We're going to make a bonfire and sit out and get drunk and see the sun come up. But this is West Alabama, and making a bonfire involves a bulldozer. So, at around midnight last night, I was riding around in the cab of Chip's 'dozer, going down the highway from his jobsite to his house, across a few ditches just for the hell of being able to do it, and scooping up a few felled trees to douse with gas and make a bonfire. Riding a dozer in the dark is probably one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.

And then we sat out under the huge starry sky, told stories, drank beer and whisky, lost some members to the irresistible pull of wives and sleep, listened to Django beaming out from the car stereo. We went to Waffle House in Selma to assauge those late-night cravings, talked about the state of the world and the state of Alabama, and watched a perfect dawn break over the quiet, still fields, before driving home in the clear pink morning light, watching the sun rise in my rear-view mirror, and through sleeping Greensboro to my bed.

You can't have days like that in London.



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