Roots Report

Kathleen Edwards. (Photo: Neil Swanson)

Okee dokee folks… Today I was thinking about substance abuse in the music community. I know that big rock stars have always been famous for getting on stage smashed but that is so passé. A lot of folks may never admit to having a problem with substance abuse or even want to discuss it.


When I started as a performing musician in the mid ’80s I relied on alcohol to get me through gigs. I had stage fright and needed the lubrication of cocktails to loosen me up. I often paid the price as alcohol made me very sick — it triggered migraines, and I wound up in a bad way for days after. One of the last times I drank was when I secured an opening spot for the duo that was a huge influence on my music career, Aztec-Two-Step. I was VERY nervous about this show and when I arrived at the venue I downed a big glass of vodka to get me through it. Big mistake.

I played the show but when I later listened to the recording of the set — which I thought I had played well — I realized you could tell how drunk I was. That coupled with feeling like shit for days afterwards convinced me that it was time to bag the booze. I quit drinking completely in 1989.

Using substances while you play is your call but remember that you are performing for an audience and what you think may be great playing might actually suck. Watching drunk, stoned, stupid people TRYING to navigate through a song is not entertaining. I have seen locals as well as big names fumble through a set because they were impaired. To me, someone who is trashed on stage is not a professional. Intoxication causes poor performance, tardiness, communication issues, and more. As a musician I don’t want to be that way and as an audience member I don’t want to see it.

The legends that were stoner stars have mostly turned to teetotalers and many of the ones that didn’t are dead. So, think about your substance abuse. It could be masking serious mental health issues or causing you serious physical health issues. I have personally seen substance abuse ruin musical aspirations. Assess yourself. Read on…

If you are a fan of Canadian songstress Kathleen Edwards you were probably disappointed when she gave up music and opened a coffee shop. In the years since, glimmers of hope for her return kept popping up. A couple of years ago she sold her coffee shop, released new music and has been playing sporadic shows. I have been waiting for her to play a bit closer to our area but the closest shows she is playing on this tour will be at The Iron Horse in Northampton, MA on June 17 & 18, and at The Spire in Plymouth, MA on June 22. These shows are short trips that will be well worth it. For more, keep your options open and get to: and

On May 3 at the Meeting House, part of the First Unitarian Church on Benevolent St. in Providence, activists and folk music icons Claudia Schmidt, Sally Rogers, and Emma’s Revolution will perform as part of the 2nd annual Every Day is Mothers’ Day tour. Join forces with these ladies to celebrate women’s voices and “lift up mothers and foremothers, trail blazers and hell raisers of all kinds.” It’s a rare moment to hear all of these amazing performers, long-time peace activists, feminists, storytellers, and songwriters in the same room. For more, “Keep On Moving Forward” to: emmasrevolution. com/every-day-is-mothers-day

About 15 or so years ago I used to stage manage The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in upstate NY. I did it annually for five or six years. I had to stop because it was overwhelming with the camping, the heat, the long days, and the weeklong lack of technology that hindered a lot of other work. I loved this festival and worked with many greats like Del McCoury, Steve Earle, Sam Bush, Chris Thile, and so many more. I just received the announcement for this year’s fest and I wanted to pass it along. If you love bluegrass, camping, and a fun atmosphere then this is definitely worth the three hour drive to the Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, NY. On the schedule this year, July 17 through 21, are the Del McCoury Band, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Steeldrivers, and many more TBA. Of course lots of pickin’ and grinnin’ happens in the campground! For more, pounce over to:

At the United in Westerly you can always catch lots of great shows and films. Coming up: An Evening with Leo Kottke on April 5, Lee Fields and the Monophonics on April 12, comedian Todd Barry on April 27, and The Wood Brothers on May 10. Set your compass in the westerly direction and get to for more.

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