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

Music From 6 Potomac: Shocking Developments!

There is an old joke about a unit of soldiers lost in the desert.

The men, tired and filthy, with no water to drink, let alone bathe.

Realizing his troop’s demoralized state, the colonel calls everyone to attention.

“Men” he says, “I have good news and bad news.”

The solders clamor to hear more.

“The good news is, we are finally going to have a change of underwear.”

The men cheer.

“Now for the bad news. Jackson, you change with Thompson. Wilkins, you change with Smith. . .”

I am in similar straights.

The good news is my electric banjo is back.

The bad news is the main issues are stemming from bad wiring. Bad household wiring. Ugh.

This is a repairable scenario. The first thing is to have an electrician fix the house wiring. I can modify my electric rig. I can swap out my single coil pickups for humbuckers. A power conditioner will help with some of the noise. When those things are in place, things should be up and running. It’s an easy checklist, but an expensive one.

The guitar store in Salisbury is interested in selling my Dobro 33D.

It’s a one-of-a-kind guitar that has traveled with me across America, Ireland, England, and a big chunk of Europe. I can’t play it anymore with my hands jacked up, so it’s silly to hang onto it. We should be able to get close to what it’s worth, and that would cover most of what I need to get the electric banjo going.

Still, as much as I try not to hang onto things, it will hurt to let it go. With no support, it looks like I have no choice.

While I am figuring out what to do, we will keep going with the acoustic banjo for a bit.

I uploaded a rough track of The Rolling Stones’ No Expectations only for patrons today. More fun stuff is on the way.

I am thankful I can keep going with the acoustic, but it is hard on my arthritic hands. I dropped my Somerset twice today. The arthritis hurts almost as bad as the neuropathy.

It’s been a long and kind of sad day. Pain is out of control. Need to get some sleep as I have a dentist appointment in the morning.

At least I have clean underwear. . . Or do I? The way this day has gone, I better go check!

God bless,
— Patrick

Music from 6 Potomac: Flowing with the Current

One of the interesting things about pioneering is that you have to deal with the unknown. New territories mean new challenges. New challenges offer untold opportunity to do something stupid. This is the way.

Case in point: my electric banjo.

When I had it in the shop, the repair tech called. He said he was having trouble fitting the electronics into the body. Thinking that it was no big deal, I asked him to screw down the cover plate. What could go wrong?

What I did not know, and, so you know, I don’t know everything, is that the potentiometers in the instrument are thin. As in less than a dime kind of thin. The new electronics are as thick as a double stack of flapjacks.

Something broke getting wedged in. Of course, it did.

I was going to keep using it anyway. Then, something happened that changed my mind. The fourth string lost its winding. This was before the string itself broke. The freak failure resulted in a starling whirlwind of thin wires as I cursed like a rabid pirate. I have been playing all this time, and that was a first. Just weird.

So, two things are happening. First, the electric is going back to the shop. The tech will either rout the old body or use the replacement I picked up for this sort of emergency.

Second, I am recording with the acoustic again for a bit.

The funny thing is, we’re getting cool takes with the acoustic. Go figure.

It was a struggle at first. In fact, the first round of recordings had me so frustrated that it about broke me. We took a break and came back fresh. The second time around, I threw caution to the wind. Improvised a new arrangement of Lewis Collins as we were recording. I let go of everything and let myself get lost in the thing I love. It’s about as close as this broken body will ever get to flying.

Dad was working the mix. He said it’s good. You’ll be able to tell me yourself soon.

More updates soon.

I need to go watch something bad enough to take my mind off the neuropathy pain.

Hurting something awful tonight. I need something spicily, cheesily, stinks on ice bad. Foul. Halloween approaches. So, I am reaching for the Star Wars Holiday Special of Halloween specials… The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, 1976. It’s got Kiss and The Osmond Twins. Oh! The pain!

God bless,