2021

2021 will be remembered, by me, as the year I put down the guitar.  Possibly for good. My hands, racked with old injuries and arthritis,  make playing my guitar a study in pain.

Understand, the banjo was just something that happened. My dream was  to play the guitar. The shiny honking huge Dobro 33H has been a part of  my identity for most of my adult life. People talk about paying their  dues, but I suffered to work past my handicaps to make music. The case  of my guitar wears a patchwork of scars from my adventures.

I will not lie. I mourned for a bit. It does seem unfair from a  certain perspective. If I played classical music or something deemed  serious by the arts world, there would be some kind of medical  assistance available specific to my trade. Unfortunately, as with my  learning disabilities, hearing loss, and epilepsy, I am on my own to  sort this out.

As this was happening, the diabetic neuropathy in my feet started  going out of control. The pain is around the clock and indescribable. A  shifting swirl of every unpleasant sensation my nerve endings can  conjure up. It can be difficult to maintain my composure, and it is  almost impossible to sleep.

One of the worst things an epileptic can do is miss sleep. With the  pain keeping me awake, I have a couple of seizures a week. The postictal  stage afterwards can last from hours to days. I have had a couple of  bad falls, so my aching joints are taking a beating.

As I was sorting all of this out, Meatball, the feral Main Coon we  adopted last year, was always by my side calming me down. The big beast  weighs over 17 lbs. He drapes himself across my chest at night and purrs  like an outboard motor until I fall asleep. I love him more than  chocolate.

With my parent’s support and two cats for company at night, I started  rethinking everything we were doing. Social media is just too much for  me, so I pulled out. I can’t stand the ‘please like and subscribe’  shameless commerce of YouTube, so we got out of there as well.

Building patrickcostello.org took months of work. It turns out,  trying to put together a massive website while in screaming agony and  your brain in a blender from seizures is not at all easy. While the site  still has some flaws, I got it up. Now I need help getting things  running smoothly.

While I was working on the new page, I started experimenting with a  bottleneck and found it a good workaround for my hand issues. It is hard  to say at the present moment, but it feels like I am on to something.

To take the slide banjo even further, I commissioned a solid-body  electric banjo. This was my second attempt, with the first being a good  design botched by not one, but three builders. Well, attempt #2 cost me  an expensive deposit and yielded me nothing. A five hundred dollar  deposit is a lot of money for me, and I was tempted to quit.

When the guy who learned guitar with his teeth and mastered slide to  compensate for hand issues is ready to give up, you know things are bad.

Unfortunately, the sound in my head won’t let me quit. We took the  neck from the first failed electric banjo and, as I write this, a  gentleman in Delaware is Frankensteining it to a Strat body. I should  have it soon.

Rocky showed up at the end of summer. Screaming up in a tree, right  before a big storm. He is a ginger tom, and a wonderful pain in the ass.  He is smart, sassy, and gentle. I did not want a third cat, nobody in  the house did, but he has proved to be a joyful addition to the family.

We have several exciting projects that will begin being released  soon. As hard as this time has been, I have to admit working side by  side with my dad is a remarkable gift. Maybe I am being forced to slow  down and strip away extraneous stuff so that I can focus on the  blessings surrounding me every moment. Even nights when the neuropathy  pain is unbearable, I am aware of how lucky I am.

I still have to get to Johns Hopkins to fix my bilateral BAHA (Bone  Anchored Hearing Aid)—but I cannot make that trip until the seizures are  under control, and that cannot happen until the pain is under control.  So, I am stuck with limited hearing. That makes playing slide extremely  challenging, but the added difficulty also makes it more fun.

My main goal for the upcoming year is to save up for a wheelchair. I  can walk around the house, and I can get around short distances with my  cane, but I have not been to the Bayside in so long. It wouldn’t be safe  to put my epileptic self on an electric scooter, but I could push  myself down to Jenkins Creek and Brick Kiln. I miss my seagulls.

So, bring on the new year. We have new books, videos, and a big  surprise in the works for the coming months. Dear Old Dad will be  offering lessons soon, and I will do the same as I am able. I can’t  wait.

(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I

A country classic with a bit of improvised slide thrown in.

Grab your banjo and play along, with or without a slide. Just play!

G                     B
Pardon me, if I'm sentimental
C               G
When we say goodbye
                                D
Don't be angry with me should I cry
            G              B
When you're gone, yet I'll dream
               C           G
A little dream as years go by
                       D            G
Now and then there's a fool such as I 

        C                           G
Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
D                    A  
You taught me how to love
            D
And now you say that we are through
      G              B
I'm a fool, but I'll love you dear
C               G
Until the day I die
                       D            G
Now and then there's a foo

I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down: Frailing Banjo Blues & Slide Workshop

A quick workshop on frailing blues and bottleneck. We use the song I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down (page 44 in Songs For Sunday) from basic frailing to adding in some fun slide licks.

I am in open G tuning. Don’t just sit there watching the video passively, grab your banjo and play along. Post a video or audio file in the forums, so I can hear your you are doing.

Basic Frailing with Slide Practice & Sing-Along

For this workshop, you will need:

  • Banjo tuned to Open D (aDF#AD)
  • Bottleneck*
  • Something to jot down chord progressions, lyrics, or even write a quick tab

I will do a separate video on the spoken-word part of Rock Island Line in a few days. Adding that to this workshop would have been counterproductive.*There is no “right” bottleneck. Try a bunch and use whatever gets you there.