It was a packed sweaty house at The Woman’s Club on Friday night bygod, with friends family and neighbors coming from far and wide, a perfect setting for the holy roller swagger of Bust It Like A Mule’s voice. The hootenanny was more of a 'twisted Prairie Home Companion', or 'drunken Mark Twain' than book reading, with myself reading in the voice of the storyteller, punctuated by original songs inspired by the book. There were babies crying, bottles being knocked over, laughter, mayhem, and a general southern hallelujah vibe. Which is what a hootenanny should be, can I get an Amen?
One of my favorite parts of the whole thing was the front row being full of children (some of them mine) in spite of some of the adult content. At first, I was apprehensive about this, there being curse words and all in the story, but then I realized I was raised with and by men like Cotton Kingfisher, and back in my day, those men told it like it was, and their colorful language, stories and lives inspired me beyond words. Most of these men are dead and gone now, and I realized I am passing their crusty school of hard knock spirit down to my kids and others, and this makes me happy. At one point I was reading and looked up and locked eyes with my 2 year old nephew Macsen, who was rapt with attention. We stared at each other until I had to look back down at the book, and this gave me chills having my little nephew staring up at me with his fierce blue eyes, waiting for the next wild thing Cotton Kingfisher was gonna do. Since then, whenever I recite the book to him in the storyteller’s voice, he laughs. That is all I need for artistic validation.
I can't thank my collaborative musicians enough for giving their blood, sweat and tears to this project:
My brother Jacob The Kid Mannan is a true folk artist whose blood runs through Bust It Like A Mule just as much as mine does, and this is why the beautiful songs he sings in a ‘high okie voice’ add so much to my words and bring some people to tears. It’s because he’s my kin, because he’s a hard ass worker, family man and poet songwriter who creates because he can’t not, just like our grandpa JE Jones. It was a beautiful thing to share the stage with him on this project.
My wife Jenny Anne put together programs, managed music, produced the show with me and contributed and performed original songs. She is my creative partner and has always been, back to the days in Nashville, TN, before we were married, painting and smoking together barefoot on a humid porch. We should have known back then that you just can't take us apart, we will always be together making something together. That made this hootenanny all the more special to be able to look over at her playing and singing her beautiful southpaw songs and see her smile at me.
Workin Man Kevin Morgan not only wrote amazing wild rambling originals just for my book, he drove 3 hours one way with a baby and pregnant wife to be at our hootenanny and sing n play his ass off then break set and celebrate with High Life. Jenny Anne said at one point while he was playing and singing like the new American folk bard that he is, she looked over and realized he had grease in his fingernails from busting it like a mule as a wind turbine technician. That about sums up our creative group, my book, the music, and the hootenanny.
It was a helluva a party that was spiritual in some strange way, and us four on stage ended the night breaking down and taking the trash out, just as it should be.
I'll tell y’all about our follow up Hootenanny at Auntie’s Bookstore next time, and in the meantime, we’re working on recording an album for the music, recording an audiobook, and doing more shows locally and on local radio. But until then, if you’d like to see the show, you just let us know, and maybe we can do it for you on the front porch.
Love you all,