Kevin & Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews

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A Website for Al Grierson

1948 - 2000

photo of Al Grierson with a harmonica and floppy hat Tragically, Al died in a flash flood November 2, 2000.
Below, Al’s friends share their parting memories and thoughts.

Biography

When he isn’t on the road singing songs and playing music, Al Grierson lives in a red 1977 International Harvester school bus on an armadillo farm just outside the mythical hamlet of Luckenbach, Texas, where everybody is somebody. Not that he wasn’t already somebody when he got there, but most of the folks in Luckenbach have titles to show what kind of somebody they are--like fire Marshall Jimmie Lee, fish Commissioner Junior and Sheriff Marge. The job of Poet Laureate was open when Al got there a few yews ago and he was given the job and the title by the legendary Magnolia Thunder Blossom, president of the Luckenbach Ladies’ Lynchin’ League and editor of the town’s monthly news sheet, The Luckenbach Moon.

Somehow in the midst of all this, he’s managed to write some songs that have moved performers as diverse as Pittsburgh activist and singer Anne Feeney and Texas honky-tonk legend Ray Wylie Hubbard to learn, perform, and record them. His first solo recording, "Things That Never Added Up To Me," was released to world-wide critical acclaim in 1995 and his second, "A Candle For Durruti," received a similar reception following its release in 1999. His songs are now standard fare on folk music programs from Galway to Guam and from Australia to Estonia.

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CD Reviews

image of CD cover not available
Things that Never Added Up to Me
graphic of a quill pen by Mark Horn, Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
graphic of a quill pen by Kevin McCarthy
cover of the Candle for Durriti CD
A Candle for Durruti
graphic of a CD by Kevin McCarthy

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Remembrances of Al--For the Roses

Tragically, Al died in a flash flood on November 2, 2000. He was just a few miles from home, returning from a performance at a nearby high school.

  • Jack Hardy has written this song in remembrance of Al.
  • "I never met Al and, unfortunately, I will now never have the pleasure. From what I have read, I gather he was a larger-than-life individual whose companionship would always guarantee an interesting, eclectic time. There’s too damn few of these people to lose one so early. At least the poetic visions of his music will always remain." (by Kevin McCarthy)
  • "Al Grierson and I met on his first visit to Kerrville in 1993. I was sitting in a *huge* and not-very-inspiring circle when Al sang "Fifty Cent Sneakers." I was sooooooooo impressed with his astonishingly and achingly beautiful lyrics. I immediately tiptoed up behind him and suggested that he follow me to the nearest vacant tree and do a one-on-one swap. Every song he sang was magical and transporting. I could not wait to present my festival "discovery" to all the writers there. To a person, the finest writers at Kerrville--a "writers’ festival"--were totally knocked out by Al’s work. He was the first person I looked for at Kerrville each year.

    We also got to see each other on the road from time to time. At Folk Alliance in Portland, Al held court in the "Smash the State" suite which we organized, wowing everyone there. After the conference, he and I got into an animated discussion of how we couldn’t bear singer-songwriters who had no traditional background. We retired to the bar (at 9 AM) and began a most memorable drinking session at which we swapped traditional tunes without a repeat until the bar closed. Rory McLeod, Chris Chandler and numerous other performers joined in over the course of the day, and by mid afternoon Al and I were "in fine form." At one point in the early evening I recall dragging Mike Fleischer, and then David Warren over and insisting that they listen to Al. During his "audition" for Mike, Al fell sound asleep. Mike says to me, "I think he passed out!" "Naah," says I, "He’s just contemplating." I kicked him in the shin, and Al woke up, and picked up on the same syllable where he had left off. I think his session with Mike led to his Folk Era connection. Around 1 AM some earnest young Irishman came over and in great alarm told us he feared that we might have "Brendan Behan’s disease." Of course, we both did, and we knew it. We howled and most gratefully accepted his invitation to drive us where we were going.

    A few months later I had a chance to meet his wonderful wife, Claudia, and their beautiful daughters, Hannah and Aurelia, while I was touring in Oregon. I did a house concert with Al at their home. Not too long after that, Claudia ended the marriage. Al was quite philosophical about it, and retained deep affection for her.

    I quit drinking in Sept of 95, but Al was still hitting it pretty heavy when he showed up at Kerrville in ’96. We had a long talk about alcohol/the Muse/self-destruction and I think it had some small part in his decision to quit drinking.

    In 1998, when I was president of the Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union, I had the opportunity to book the entertainment for the national AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh. I brought Al up from Luckenbach to play for the 2500 delegates. He had a ball, and stayed with me at my little country cabin home.

    In my opinion, there has not been a finer lyricist in my lifetime, or a more beautiful and romantic heart. With his typical humility, Al was so pleased that I perform his songs--when the truth is that it is a joy and an honor to sing them.

    The last time I saw Al was in late October in Austin...shortly before he died. We did a house concert together. The turnout was relatively small, but Al put on a great show. I wasn’t feeling quite as inspired, and solicited requests from the audience. Al suggested that I sing my "Al" repertoire--prompting lots of jokes about, "well, enough of my songs, now let’s hear Anne sing some of my songs." But, of course, I sang the two songs of his that have been a staple of my repertoire since I met him.

    After the concert, we got into a discussion about lyrics... he had started it with a criticism of one of my songs, with which I heartily agreed. Emboldened at that point, I said, "While we’re on the subject, in ‘Daddy"s Gone to Texas,’ it’s always bothered me that you sing ‘Daddy’s Gone to Texas,’ but his heart’s still here with you." As the singer of the song is clearly *in* Texas, while singing to his beloved children thousands of miles away, I thought it would be clearer if Al sang "his heart’s still there with you." Al replied that, as far as he was concerned, in the truest spiritual sense his heart was always literally with his children, that he was spiritually with them all the time, no matter where his physical body ended up. He stuck by the line, and I agreed. His girls are too young to fully appreciate the truth of his feelings for them now, but I believe he will be with them forever, as he will stay in my heart and the hearts of all he touched. (by Anne Feeney)
  • "The closing lines in Hamlet are appropriate-- ‘...Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest’-- or as Al might have wanted, let them also have roses." (by Bill Hahn)
  • Al,

    Sorry to hear about you dying, friend.
    At least you went out with a biblical flourish.
    I feel an epic folk song coming on.
    I feel There’s a better place making ready for you.
    Jack Hardy just called me with something sad
    stuck in his infamous throat and it was you,
    dirty old hat and all. We will miss you.
    We’ll sit around campfires to come and,
    staring through that gap in the circle,
    we’ll sing you a song. Songs. Old ones,
    new ones you never heard. We’ll do that
    year after year until the circle closes up
    like a cool battle scar or gets filled with
    some raw kid sporting poetry, good humor
    and some of your wry beatnik dust on his shoes.
    Well cal him Al and he won"t know why.
    We’ll tell him to be careful of the rain.
    Good-bye Al, see you soon enough. (Tim Robinson)

  • i met Al at "texas songwriters in the round" a show i produce each month in art texas. he came along with steve brooks, a featured songwriter. i thought "who is this guy in the battered hat?" he seemed quiet, alive, relaxed and present.

    after the set we had a jam and al sang a few songs for us. what a beautiful sound his voice was and such humility. if i had known that was the only time i would i hear him (a)live, i sure would have paid more attention...

    as it was, i was graced with him and steve coming back to my ranch; we decided to get in the llano river in my natural jacuzzi. the moon was full and the river was full of moon. we sat and cooled off, it had been in the 100’s all summer here. we talked, joked, sang and raptured in the sweet water. i remember when we walked out, i held his hand as the rocks were rough on his feet.

    we all went to sleep, vowing to make a songwriter’s haven here at my place. that was in the middle of august 2000.

    that’s the last time i saw him, tho we talked on the phone several times. he is scheduled to perform at the the next songwriter’s event in december, 2000. i will dedicate that night to him and i will realize the fine line that is our lives and the beauty of each person. i feel that he is somewhere very good and smiling down on us, the water his transport home.

    i propose to start an annual songwriters event called "for the roses" here at my ranch in honor of him and to remind all of us that we are powerful support and inspiration for each other. if any of you are interested in putting this together with me please contact me at sing@enchantedrock.com.

    god bless, you al, i miss you and love you. (jeri arsenault)
  • Wobblies of the World Unite! Hey Al, still remember your dissertations & fervour for the rights of workers, not to forget a few drunken rants by us all. Keep on strummin’ & shake up the holy choir. Condolences to your tribe of family & friends, Nick Collier (still at the Georgia Straight in Vancouver, where Al was editor in the 70s). (Nick Collier)
  • What a terrible, terrible thing.

    I can’t say I was a close friend to Al... If I sat back and thought about it, we probably met face to face less than 10 times, with maybe ten or fifteen email messages between us.

    But in that way that all of us in this community can quickly feel like we’re family -- especially those who frequent festivals, and especially Kerrville --

    Reading this news of Al’s passing this morning was a sad, sad shock, as if a distant, eccentric, but much loved uncle had left this earth.

    Bulky Al, with his old hat pulled down over his eyes, sometimes suspenders holding things up, usually a bandana around his neck, was always a sign for me that: Yep, it’s May, and yep, I’m in Texas, and thank God for all of it. He was fun, with a fine sense of humor, a sweet voice, and a genuine and innocent love for the music.

    Online, I remember with fondness his occasional rants on the folkDJ-list a few years back, always willing and ready to jump into the argument, usually with a good (and good-natured) dig.

    In person, his tent was pitched across the road from us at Camp Coho/Villa Vino, and he’d be one of the first up in the morning because he had to go to work.

    Sometimes we’d have a coffee together, and he’d say "I’ll be thinking of you today, you guys cooling off in the Medina. Have fun, and I’ll be back tonight."

    I live a long, long way from Texas, and don ’t know much about these things, and wonder if it was the Medina that got him... Jesus Christ, what a shame this is.

    From all of us here at Camp Hoboken, For the roses, Al. (Christian Bauman)
  • "Al, the first time we met was at the Ballad Tree at the Kerrville Folk Festival and Jack (Hardy) was there too. He played "The Zephyr". You played "The Flowers of Auschwitz" and I played "Sacrificial Ice Cube," You were very supportive of my music which being a newcomer at the time meant a great deal to me. Jack was very kind as well, and we later walked around the festival grounds with Jack in his pointy Wizard cap, and I thought...wow, this is a magical place and these people make it that way...The last time I saw you you we were all going to play at The Whole Bean in Austin before it closed down, and the owners had some emergency and had to cancel at the last moment. Instead you and me and Chris Chandler and a dozen folkies or so went back to my house and traded songs for hours, and you loved my newest song at the time. It was "Down The Track," and it was then that I knew you loved trains. Poet rides the train. I’ll miss you Al, and I’ll miss hearing you say "For The Roses." Rest well my friend" (Summer Droit)

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