help wanted

We have the tools at hand to build a nice online community at Almost every video we made from 2006 until recently is in the media archives, along with all of my books, and a lot of other material.

I was never well-organized. Coming from stage, radio, and live television, I learned early on to let everything go once the curtain goes down. You save the funny and embarrassing stuff, but the rest is forgotten quickly. As a disorganized trained improviser, the idea of every post being stored away seemed silly. After all, who would want to hear a banjo workshop from 1998?

Now that I am taking a shot at organizing things, I find myself physically unable to do so.

Here’s the deal: I have incapacitating nerve pain in my hands, feet, and neck. The pain increased exponentially over the winter to the point where sleeping, eating, and sometimes even thinking are impossible. The lack of sleep is wreaking havoc upon me because insomnia is not good for epileptics. I am having at least two seizures a week – and I usually bang myself up when I fall. I can’t walk without a cane, and even then, it’s only a few steps, leaving me basically housebound.

I am doing my best to keep myself together, but working in this kind of pain is nearly impossible.

As much as I would like to attempt wrangling this site back into shape, I just can’t do it by myself.

The goal of this place was always for you to take the steering where at some point. If any of you want to put your heads together and help make this place a useable resource for everyone, let me know.

Hear This: Piedmont Blūz

I discovered this wonderful duo on Spotify today; Piedmont Blūz.

Excellent musicians, but what caught my eye and sound processor is the graceful ease the duo has with the music, the audience, and each other. This is as close to what I experienced thirty or forty years ago as I have come across in a long time. Subscribe to their channel, tune in on streaming media, and get a taste of not only some sweet music, but the spirit of this American art form.

Valerie Turner is a lady who can wrangle a resophonic guitar with the best of them. Wow. Just, wow.

Hello, Old Friend

I am not one for hanging on to worldly possessions. My friends and family often become cross with me for handing seemingly random people everything from instruments to the jacket on my back. I am not crazy, I just happened to be paying attention as a kid in Bible study.

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21

I would rather my treasure be other people. Dear Old Dad and I have known more than a few pickers who grew old with vast collections of instruments that literally rotted away to punky wood and crusty metal.

One thing I have kept since I was a teenager is my Dobro 33H guitar. If you have read Just This Banjo or watched any of my guitar videos through the years, then you know this brass guitar and I have been to hell and back a few times.

As I posted earlier, I am dragging out both of my resophonic guitars, basically relearning the craft to work around my arthritic and nerve-damaged hands. My steel Dobro 33D was first to get dusted off after nearly two years. I have it tuned to open D, and I am finding the tuning a lot of fun.

I tuned the Dobro 33D to open C. It’s an odd and quirky tuning I discovered years ago when somebody posted a handwritten explanation by John Fahey. I have used it on the banjo and guitar a few times, but today – as much as my hands will allow – I started digging in. The slide really sings in this tuning. It will be a lot of fun discovering what new tricks this battered and worn guitar can teach this equally beat up musician.

Patrick and his OMI Dobro 33H

Presently, I am in no shape to go in front of a camera. As the warm sunshine gives me a break from this constant pain, I will be using both guitars to continue the new workshop series. When I can find a guitar with a scale and neck profile suitable for my hands, we will move from open to standard tuning while keeping things geared for players with different abilities like myself.

It should be a hoot.

Sick Day

I intended to livestream Songs for Sunday today, but the unseasonable weather over the last few days has pushed me to my limits. We are trying to coordinate with pain management, and things will improve when springtime kicks into high gear – but, right now, I am in intolerable pain around the clock. As much as I want to get this weekly hymn sing going, I am hurting too bad today. We’ll give it another try next week.

Simon Jones’ How Things Work Is A Masterpiece of Musical Storytelling

I have never met the members of Harp & a Monkey, but we connected somehow over the years. I consider them to be friends, and if I ever found myself in the position to get into a studio, the group would be my first choice for both collaboration and backup.

So, I was curious to see Simon Jones not only launch a solo project, but something so outside-the-box that I had to take a few days to wrap my brain around the recording.

The project is titled How Things Work. I have never heard anything quite like it before.

The idea is simple. Simon tells the listener how things work. The twist is that the lyrics are inspired by Ladybird Books and backed with a swirling, almost hypnotic soundtrack. It shouldn’t work, but there is a sweetness to the presentation that I found completely charming.

For example, here is Navigation At Sea:

It’s quirky, sweet, educational, as innocent as a picnic in the park with teddy, occasionally discordant in the right ways, but most of all entirely unique. The mind behind the music and words is every bit as deeply interesting as the songs themselves.

It’s an album that teaches us how things work, when the real magic is in the production. It’s beautiful, and Simon Jones is in both a class and genre all to himself. Bravo!

YouTube Trouble

Kicking off my last video, I played a slide version of Nearer, My God, to Thee, a 19th-century hymn written by Sarah Fuller Adams. My guitar was in open D, I was using a slide, and I was playing my own arrangement of the song.

A music rights collection agency in India hit the video with a copyright claim. Much like the pirated version of The How and the Tao of Old-Time Banjo sold on Amazon through an Indian publisher, there is not much I can do.

This is a bogus claim, but allows the agency to place ads on the video. I contested the claim, and now I have to wait thirty days to find out if my channel will be closed over this nonsense.

The videos are all backed up on Jetpack and Vimeo, so there is no danger of losing the content presently – but there is a real chance I could be losing the channel. Being the Irish street fighter that I am, there is also the chance I could decide to leave the platform because I am Patrick.

In other words, download your favorite video, subscribe to the channel if you have not yet done so, and maybe get out on social media to raise a bit of hell over this kind of abuse to help not just me, but every content creator on YouTube.

Whatever happens, we will continue to forge ahead. I am still trying to find some way to live and work with increasing difficulties and chronic pain. Asking the students to organize the videos accomplished nothing, so it’s just me, dad, and this massive chunk of agony trying to sort it out. If things go pear-shaped, just be patient. I’m doing my best.

Patrick’s Guitar Lesson One: Rhythm & Slide

Patrick teaches folk guitar from his unique perspective.

In this lesson, the guitar is tuned to open D.

Lyrics and chords for the country blues arrangement of Nearer, My God, to Thee can be downloaded here:

YouTube is having copyright issues with my personal arrangement of a hymn written in the 1840s. Just in case, an alternate copy of this video is on Vimeo.

Maximum Effort

A while back, I put down my guitars. My hands are just about unusable. Simply getting dressed and brushing my hair is difficult on bad days. I figured that my Dobros and I had a good run, but you can’t set the world on fire with wet matches,

Well, like something out of an old movie, a kid facing even greater adversity came along.

The guitars are out of their cases. I can no longer change a set of strings easily, but we have a cool guitar shop up the road that can get the Dobros set up while I try to get my strength up to start putting something together,

I can’t do the left-hand gymnastics on the acoustic like I used to, but I’ll pick up an electric guitar somewhere if we need to focus on chords.

Good grief, my hands hurt.