Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and The Glory Band

The Glory Band of Roadtrip Angels 

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Just home from an epic road trip to Santa Cruz. A 72-hour adventure filled with music, friends, french toast with butter, tidal pools, redwoods, and elephant seals.

I’m a Michigan expatriate. Since 1993 I have lived hundreds, and now thousands of miles away from family. I lived in Nashville nine years, long enough to say “y’all” like a real rebel damn yankee and to call some of Nashville’s finest artists, musicians, and songwriters my friends. Some of these friends have become what I call my Nashville family.

Now living in Santa Barbara, I take any opportunity to road trip along the coast and connect with my Nashville family. So on Thursday morning, I drove up the 101 to Santa Cruz, for what turned out to be a dazzling musical adventure of a lifetime.

Emmylou HarrisRodney Crowell and the Glory Band graced the stage of the gorgeous historic Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Friday night. The Glory Band is Steve Fishell, Byron House, Jerry Roe, Jedd Hughes, and Chris Tuttle. The Santa Cruz show was their kickoff to a two-week run. And geez-o-pete, it kicked!

Richard Thompson started the evening off with an acoustical set. Yes, Richard Thompson. His charming, luring, and delicate melodies and lyrics kindled the glow in the auditorium.

After an hour of Richard’s amazing songs and guitar playing, Emmy, Rodney and the Glory Band took the stage. The glow in the room quickly ignited into musical fireworks.

For two hours Emmy and Rodney sang classics and new songs from their recently released “Old Yellow Moon” album. Highlights included: Emmy, Rodney, and Richard singing “Glasgow Girl”. Insane guitar playing by Jedd Hughes – his smile as bright as the sparks flying off his fingers o’er his red electric guitar*. The entire band shaking the stage with heart thumping boot stomping music. The Santa Cruz crowd dancin’ in the aisles. Uno, dos, tres encores.

It was a glorious evening of ocean air mingling with heavenly harmonies onstage and joyous shouts and laughter from the audience.

The next morning I had a grin muscle hangover from smiling and sore calves from heel stomping and toe tapping. So, for breakfast I ordered french toast with butter. Lou Reed** may have preferred french toast with no butter; however, not me. Being raised in the Midwest, a pad of butter is as sacred to me as a communion wafer is to a Catholic.

After breakfast, I sat on the bus chatting with Emmy and Les the soundman, as the band boarded for the trek to Santa Rosa. Then Smooth, the bus driver, called the departure. Time for hugs and goodbyes.

I’ve learned it’s easier to not watch the bus pull away. I suppose it’s a practice of non-attachment, as I am prone to fits of nostalgia at the moment of goodbyes to loved ones.

I walked back to my hotel room, listening to the hum of the bus. A raven cawed. His call drew me to attention. I sighed. My breath on the exhale sounded like the hum of the bus.

I paused and thought, “I am harmonizing with the sound of the bus.”

With each step, I felt the rhythm of my breath keeping me in time with the present moment. No falling back to grasp at the weekend, and no rushing forward to bemoan how much I’d miss my Nashville friends.

In the moment of paths parting, instead of an ending, I saw a new adventure starting. With my journal and snack bag riding shotgun, I hit the Pacific Coast Highway.

A few miles into the winding way of the ribboned Highway 1, listening to “Old Yellow Moon”, I reflected on the words “glory band”. Emmy, Rodney and the Glory Band are brilliant artists and musicians doing what they love and shining beauty in the world through songs and music.

I recalled the brilliant folks in my life who shine beauty through their gifts of painting, poetry, yoga, songwriting, and friendship. All players in the Universal Glory Band. I reckoned anyone who shares their heartsong with others is rockin’ in this band. And, through all my moves (five) across the county, I realized there is a Glory Band of Road Trip Angels around me at any and all moments of life.

During my road trip home, I experienced events confirming this. At every stop along the serene and exhilarating Highway 1, Glory Band Road Trip angels appeared.

A few miles north of Monterey, I stopped and did a few yoga stretches. Embraced in warm sunshine, I felt cradled in peace and serenity. Listening to rolling waves, I thought of Smooth, the bus driver. I’ll never forget his warm welcoming smile after the show. I saw Smooth’s smile reflecting in sunlight dancing on the blue sapphire waters in the calm tidal pools.

At a turnout south of Carmel, I saw two German tourists delighting in the acrobatics of two precocious crows. I watched, as captivated as I was watching Steve Fishell, Chris Tuttle, and Jedd Hughes’ fingers dance, glide, and float over their pedal steel, guitar strings, and keyboards.

At Pffeifer Big Sur State Park, regal redwoods along the trail formed a cavalry of Glory Band Road Trip Angels around me. These kindred spirits welcomed me into their forest home. I felt as cozy as when I was backstage in the dressing room listening to Emmy and Rodney rehearse “Glasgow Girl”.

The elephant seals at San Simeon Beach reminded me of The Glory Band’s rhythm section. I delighted in the solid sea creatures singing bass and crawling in perfect cadence on the sand. The way their bodies rolled across the sand and then delicately slither-swam into the ocean reminded me of bass player Byron House and drummer Jerry Roe playing rhythms and grooves.

South of San Simeon, I espied a bobcat quietly walking in the field at sunset. I thought of Maple, the ultimate guitar tech and road manager. Stealth in his converse sneakers, he magically appears out of the ethers with Emmy’s tuned guitars and hot herbal tea. He makes the qualities of quiet and subtle look so cool.

During the entire eight-hour adventure home to Santa Barbara, I enjoyed heartsongs from life’s Glory Band of Road Trip Angels.

The Santa Cruz weekend was an epic road trip. And, the epic road trip continues. Because when I choose to be open to life’s simple splendors, every moment is a brilliant mile marker on the road trip of life.

Glory be to music, friends, and nature. And the Glory Band of Road Trip Angels, ever at my side, as I enjoy life’s road trip ride.

The Glory Band. It’s the players in your life at this very moment.

Pay attention. Be open. Be ready. Oh Glory! Let’s all jam in the Glory Band of Road Trip Angels!

Emmylou, Rodney and The Glory Band

on Austin City Limits

*Jedd Hughes guitar was made in Nashville by Jeff Senn. It’s an original Senn Pomona. Jedd modified it by putting an original 1954 fender telecaster bridge pickup in it. He then sent it to Gene Parsons, who installed the infamous B Bender system. In Jedd’s words, “it allows me to mimic pedal steel style guitar sounds ala Clarence White from the late 60s/70s.”

** Rufus Wainwright talks about Lou Reed and french toast with no butter.https://www.facebook.com/rufuswainwrightofficial