Stories behind the Songs:

"Music Says Go"

This song was inspired by Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon, bluesmen who started recording in the 1920s, and played and toured through the 1970s. When I read an interview with Hammie Nixon telling about his life, it really struck a chord. He would settle down and then he'd see John Estes coming down the road, coming to get him to go play music, and he would always go. Once he was plowing, and left his mule and plow standing in the field. He said he had been married twelve times or more, had grandchildren everywhere. Now, I'm not celebrating dads who don't support their children—I think we should all be responsible for our own children and any children around us. But his story moved me. Following the spirit, following creativity and the work that connects us with other people—sometimes it leads to hard choices. But the music says go.

sleepy john and hammie

Photo by Vance Cox: Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon & Yank Rachell - Smithsonian Folk Festival July 1972, Washington DC

"Big City Blues"

When I went to graduate school in Philadelphia, I met some wonderful blues and jazz players who were generous in sharing their traditions with me. But city life was just too much for me. Wrote this sitting on a porch on a farm in Penns Valley.

"Dancin' to Aretha"

With all RESPECT to the Queen of Soul. We used to have house parties, dance and carry on with friends late at night. It seemed like everyone else in the central Pennsylvania mountains was asleep as we'd walk out of the house on the ridge and see a few lights twinkling in town. I'm thankful for my friends who are still here, still dancing to Aretha.

"My Heart Can't Count"

Cole Porter's songs have always seemed to me the epitome of sophisticated heartbreak, and I tried to express that in this song.

"Daddy's Got the Babies"

I left my mean drunk ex-husband five years ago. The blues have always been a way to express your own story. When my ex wouldn't let me see our children, I was heartbroken, but I found that other people were in the same situation. This song is for all of us—you can feel it and still sing about it.

"Twelve Going on Twenty-Four"

For my daughter Pearl, one of the times she came to live with me, in the years of her misbehaving.

"Elk Creek Café"

Seriously, if you are anywhere NEAR central Pennsylvania, check out this wonderful micro-brewery, local food, local music gathering place in Milheim. Thanks to Tim Bowser, Gary Gyekis, and all the folks at Elk Creek who had faith in my music.

"Wild Turkey"

I was staying with some friends, having a cup of coffee early one Sunday morning when a friend came downstairs. Without even saying "Good Morning," she said, "I love Wild Turkey. It's like heavenly nectar." That sounded like a song to me! She went on to tell me about her history with Wild Turkey, and here you have it. Please drink responsibly.

"Jesus and Jack Daniels"

I grew up in the Appalachian culture where you drink and sin and sing honky tonk songs on Saturday night, then go to church Sunday morning to be forgiven. At one point that finally just seemed crazy! And as a full-time musician working my way through graduate school and beyond, alcohol became a problem for me as for many others. Get help if you need it.

"Fly Away"

For my son and my daughter. Thanks to Kimbo for turning my quiet acoustic version into a VanMorrison kind of anthem.


This is the Susquehannock American Indian language name for the Susquehanna River, particularly the place where the West Branch and North Branch join and the river flows directly south, near where I grew up. The missionaries in the 18th century translated this as "Place of the Devil" but the original meaning was "Place of the Spirits" because this confluence was an ancient place of peace and treaty making. The sound of this name captivated me and I wrote this song to honor this beautiful river and the American Indian people who are still here.

"Only a Dollar to the People in Power" (the Berwick Nuke)

True story, written thirty years ago. Unfortunately the message is still timely. Thanks to my sister for reminding me of this song.