Music From 6 Potomac: Pain, Pain, Go Away


I spent most of last night curled in a fetal position crying my eyes out from the three-punch combination of neuropathy, arthritis, and migraines.

My neurologist has me on something new. Time will tell if it helps. I have more medical appointments in early October. The hope is that we can get things at least moderately under control before the cold weather hits.

There is a scene in Frank (2014) where a young musician, feeling uninspired, bathers about the mythical quality of pain creating great artists. His dumb ramblings are something I have heard far too often over the years.

“Miserable childhood. Mental illness. Where do I find that kind of inspiration?”

The truth is pain makes creating art even more difficult.

There are mornings when my hands are in so much pain that I can’t pick up my banjo without holding back a scream. That I pick it up anyway has more to do with the toughness of my family line than artistic vision.

While being in pain isn’t helping my creative mojo, being forced by arthritis to rethink how I approach the banjo, on the other hand, has. My brain has been on fire with ways to use a slide with the banjo.

I am also finding myself exploring early blues and jazz and blending some of that with country and rock. Then I add in the bottleneck. It’s a sound unlike anything I have heard from a banjo.

The earliest documented sighting of slide guitar only goes back to 1903, leaving things wide open for me to create something new. It is a sort of musical freedom I have never imagined possible.

On the electric side of things, the house wiring is safe, but my guitar rig is still caught in a ground loop from hell. We have a couple of fixes in the works. At least, dad does.

Full disclosure: when stuff like this goes wrong, my initial reaction is to turn the guitar amp into a bidet.

Conversely, my father, former plant manager that he is, makes a checklist of possible solutions and orders them in both cost and efficiency.

So, even when the physical pain I am in leaves me ready to throw in the towel, dad is there with a clipboard of ways to get back into the fight.

Once we have the electric good to go, I plan to go completely bonkers with the slide material. Just you wait. The Reverend Pillsbury is gonna make some noise.

As I write this, the sun has set over Crisfield and the nighttime round of pain is starting. My feet hurt so bad; it is becoming difficult to formulate my words. A swirling blend of cold, heat, crushing, breaking and stabbing through both feet that will steadily increase in intensity until about six or seven tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a long night, and I am so tired.

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you. My song Outrage debuts on streaming music platforms on Friday. Your support would mean a great deal to me. It’s my first ASCAP licensed original song. Not bad for a broken-down old banjo player.

Good night, folks. God bless.

— Patrick Crisfield, MD