June 13, 2017 – Jessica Fleet Smith

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I’ve known Jessica Fleet Smith for a few years now. I’d always see her and her husband at Mimosa Market, a small bodega up brewery gulch in Bisbee, Arizona – one of those places tucked just far enough away that few tourists ever find it. She’s a unique creature, light-hearted and quick to smile, and always seemed rather shy. That’s part of what makes her so intriguing, I think. Effortlessly beautiful but secure in her relationship, appearing shy but absolutely confident enough to stand behind the microphone and perform in front of a gathered crowd. She’s a very genuine person, reserved and gutsy at the same time.

Today’s image is an unconventional one. I shared it on Facebook a few years ago after she performed with a group called Chasing Light at the Sidepony Express music festival. The classroom, news publications, critiques, and art critics drill into photographers that if the image isn’t tack-sharp, it isn’t worth looking at. This convention of “the image must be technically perfect” robs the photographer of so many opportunities. I’m a fan of atmosphere, of motion-blur, of selective focus – of the certain kind of mood that can be established using these tools. I think there’s something emotional and ethereal about images like this, taken from the crowd, imperfect and out of focus, and let’s face it – I’m no longer in the classroom, no longer pressured to make somebody else’s idea of the perfect picture.

I think this image captures Jessica’s bravery (and her distance) quite well.

Out of the Blue, the group Jessica is currently working with, doesn’t stray from Bisbee very often. But if you’re taking a trip down to the copper town that once was – if the fake, theme-park atmosphere of Tombstone doesn’t distract you from heading further south – I’d be sure to look ’em up. You can follow Out of the Blue on Facebook here.

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June 11, 2017 – Ghost Town Gospel

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Lifted from their website, I couldn’t say it better myself:

‘Ghost Town Gospel is straight out of Oakland, blending traditional American folk influences with elements of punk, pop, and protest music driven to create a candid portrait of life in a broken America. Relentless touring musicians, you’ll be sure to find Ghost Town Gospel at a music hall, festival, dive bar or sidewalk near you.’

I had the pleasure of connecting with this group a few years ago, just before New Years Eve. One of their band-mates was an old college friend of mine, and they played a set at The Bisbee Grand Saloon before crawling up the mountain to unpack their gear at my hilltop home. A booze-fueled evening of living-room jams, huddles around laptops watching videos, telling stories and pouring beverages ensued, until that sun came up.There’s nothing like connecting with energetic creative folks, and there’s nothing like live music. If you ever get the chance, this is a group of people worth looking into.

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June 10, 2017 – Flip Cassidy

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Flip Cassidy and the Junkyard Gospel:
“Raw, rusty Americana folk-punk perfect for driving on long desert highways. Pairs well with whiskey.”

“The Reverend Flip Cassidy is a rusty man who plays rusty songs on rusty guitars. The Junkyard Gospel is a howling, raging acoustic sound bellowed forth with a voice like a rusty saw blade. His solo performances are known to be highly energetic and infectious, surprisingly loud, and have even caused rippling, whiskey-induced fervors in audiences, fellow performers and bartenders alike.”

Living in a celebrity-obsessed culture, I genuinely believe that a distinction must be made between pop stars and musicians. Pop stars are, in so many ways, packaged products, manufactured for mass-consumption. Pop stars are the Skittles® and soda of music. There’s certainly showmanship, charisma, and skill in the celebrity circuit, but the salt-of-the-earth musician is an entirely different animal. Traveling from town-to-town – drawing people together in parks, at farmers markets, saloons, and theaters – there’s an army of talented folk out there.

Musicians connect with people, hang out and have a beer after their set, tell you about the road, and occasionally crash on your couch. Pop stars have a celebrity that renders them inaccessible, walled-off by security, by entourage, by wealth. Going out to your local pub and watching people make music right before your eyes is a magical experience. Everyone should go out to see live music more often. These guys live out of their cars, on buses, in cheap motor lodges – they have stories, passion, and a measure of honesty and bravery.

Flip Cassidy blew through town and drew one helluva crowd. Not only is this wandering poet a musician, but an insanely talented photographer – naturally we had a lot to talk about. When he rolled through town a year later, I bought his old twelve-string guitar. It’s currently resting on the corner of my study. I highly recommend you take a look at his music and his artwork. This guy is always making something, and he produces really amazing work.
Check out the Junk Yard Gospel
Check out Flip Cassidy Photography

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June 09, 2017 – JP Harris

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A ran across this character in Arizona several years ago at a saloon. He and his crew were all very gracious and made some great music. It almost sounds deceptive to apply the term “country” to these guys, but that’s what they insist they absolutely are, eschewing all of the confusing classifications of music in this modern age. I can dig that. But this isn’t the kind of country you might imagine, what with pop country, americana, and other folk sub-genres . JP Harris has an edge, and I think it’s pretty apparent when you look at him.

A while after I met him, I was foolishly angered when one of my Facebook photographs – today’s photograph, in fact – wound up in an article without my permission. I was pretty hot-headed back then and didn’t react kindly, but I’m hoping there isn’t too much love lost (but hey, it’s difficult to tell). It’s hard to accept how little currency a photograph carries these days, but in a world where everybody is in the picture-making business – in a world where everybody has a camera in their pocket, on their phone – it’s just one of those things.

In the final analysis, “Facebook” means “free to all.” I don’t have to like it – just as musicians, I’m sure, have to suck it up when dealing with digital distribution and file sharing – but I guess that only means that I have to continue to adapt and try to find new ways of building value in the images I make.

Challenge accepted.

JP Harris was born only a couple of weeks after me, in the year of our lord 1993. According to the bio I found on his website, “he left home on foot at the age of 14, traveling via thumb and freight train, living the next 4 years mostly from a backpack, a tarp, a bedroll. Eventually landing in the northeast, he worked as a farm laborer, equipment operator, lumberjack, luthier, and carpenter.”

It ain’t about the age of the model – it’s all about the mileage. And JP Harris has lived at least a couple of lifetimes in his thirty-four years.

His first all-original album, “I’ll Keep Calling,” won “Best Country Album of 2012” in the Nashville Scene. He won the same honor at the Independent Music Awards, landed a cameo on NPR’s ‘American Routes,’ and collected accolades in various print publications. Rolling Stone has named JP Harris one of 2014’s “Country Tours Not To Miss,” as well as one of “21 Must-See Country Acts at SXSW 2015.”

Check out what’s going on with JP Harris today.
You can find him on Facebook here.

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June 06, 2017 – Logan Phillips

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Lifted from his website, Logan Phillips explains what he’s all about in words more eloquent than I could conjure. Suffice it to say, being in the room while this man speaks is an experience; I have never been moved by spoken word or poetry, ever in my life, until I met this man. I’ve been moved to tears by Steinbeck and been affected by Virgil’s “Aeneid,” had my mind twisted and perplexed by Hume, questioned my reality because of Descartes and questioned my morality because of Kant, but I had never been struck, emotionally, by spoken word poetry. I had never seen an artist so skillfully weave his stories.
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“Poetry is holding the center, not hiding in the margins: we construct our world through words. Poetry is the art of putting into words all that which is otherwise unsayable, of constructing other ways of knowing.

No matter where I’m working––the DJ booth, the classroom, the art studio, the stage––I’m creating a poem; stringing together disparate elements to say something new, creating connections in collaboration with everyone in the room––

E.E. Cummings said he was ‘overly fond of that precision which creates movement.’ Poetry is word precision, poetry moves the world forward.”

~LOGAN PHILLIPS

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A lot of people immediately disregard poetry as something that just isn’t for them. The word itself, ‘poetry,’ elicits the trauma of under-enthusiastic English teachers and classmates murmuring, passionless, one after the other, lines of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost in sterile high school classrooms. Many of us have a negative association with all kinds of art specifically because they were taught so poorly. Logan’s mission is to illustrate that poetry can be meaningful and moving, that it’s accessible and culturally significant. He participates in education programs and seeks to inspire creative passion in our youth, which is no small task.

I’ve enjoyed sitting-in during several of his readings, and encourage you to take a look at his work. You can learn more about him at his own website here.

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May 31, 2017 – San Rafael Valley

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To end the month of ‘places’ I figured I’d share a picture that doesn’t really require many words. Sunrise in the San Rafael Valley, in southern Arizona along the border, is some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever set eyes on, traveled through, camped in. There’s no other place in the world like this little pocket of heaven; it’s high desert, remote, dangerous, and hot, but it’s also unique, majestic, and largely untouched by man.

It’s the picture of heaven – at least, if you were to ask me.
Farewell, May. Let’s see what June has in store…

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May 30, 2017 – Tumacacori

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“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Tumacacori is the site of Mission San José de Tumacácori, an 18th Century Franciscan mission. It takes its name from an earlier mission site founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1691, which is on the east side of the Santa Cruz River south of the national park. This particular mission was founded at an extant native O’odham settlement and represents the first mission in southern Arizona.

The later Franciscan mission, now in ruins, was never rebuilt once it was abandoned after repeated Apache raids in the 19th century. Nearby Tubac was besieged in 1861.

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