Adam's Blog

A New Release and Staying Positive in a Trying Year 

Hello and happy holidays! This will likely be my last blog post of the year. Adios 2020! 

As a performing artist I miss playing live in the worst way. Before the pandemic hit I was all set for a busy year with some great gigs lined up. It all changed in the blink of an eye and I had to rethink how I did everything from lessons to performances. I played all of four gigs in nine months which lead to frustration and guilt that I couldn't contribute to the household income as much as I'd like. Fortunately my wife has an essential job that insured we had income coming in. And thanks to technology, I am able to teach, do some internet shows, and do video production work for the family business, Homespun Music Instruction.  

Having a chronic condition puts me in a high-risk category, so I have been stuck at home through the worst of this health crisis which amplified my angst. Just before the shutdown in March I had started tracking demos from a flurry of songs I had penned the previous year. Making lemonade from the lemons we were dealt forced me to rethink my approach to work.

I took the time craft my latest project called "Legacy," a deeply personal collection of songs. I had written "Legacy," the title track around 2017, and had multiple requests for a recorded version. In February of 2020 my dad, Happy Traum, was in California so I took advantage and set up my home studio. The two of us did a duet on the song about my growing up surrounded by music and passing that gift along to my teenaged son. We also did Steve Earle's "Hometown Blues." This session was the start of this project.

I had found a new muse in the recording/production rabbit hole. I started playing with arrangements and adding subtle enhancements to these relatively simple songs. I enlisted the help of my musician friends to help out, adding bass, guitar, mandolin and a nature sound track. I also had friends who offered me gear and moral support and feedback while getting my ProTools chops in shape.

This may be the best album I have recorded. Although "Legacy" has heavy notes in it, I tried to balance the frustrations of an isolated life with humor and hope. The last track I wrote was in September of 2020. "Ash on the Windshield" was penned and tracked within weeks of it's completion. I wrote it for my fifteenth wedding anniversary as a gift to my wife. It was inspired by the wildfires that were burning a few miles up the road. 

I think about albums as a snapshot in time of where we are as artists at any given moment in our lives. My approach today is very different than my very first solo record in 2006. I look back at some of those tracks and cringe, but a friend heard the "Meant to Be" album and was raving about how great he thought it was. I guess we are our own worst critics. Having had the luxury of using this time to create something that may give others joy and inspiration reassures me that I am on the right path. Although it is always terrifying for me to release new material to the world, the reward always outweighs my irrational fear.

The silver lining to the pandemic is that my family has grown from an already-close unit to having what I expect will be an unbreakable bond. If I had been on the road as much as I had planned to be in 2020, my son and I might not have had the chance to do taekwondo together, or started our family reading time after dinner. I would have missed some of the inside jokes at the expense of Carole Baskin and her odd-looking husband with the weird mouth. The excitement of looking forward to another season of "The Mandalorian" or "The Boys" might not have seemed as vital to our sanity.

With all the struggles in the world, including people who are food insecure who need jobs and housing, and those who were unfortunate enough to get Covid, I think about just how fortunate a person I am. I have a great family, friends who support me, and my health. There is a roof over my head and food in the fridge. There are more songs in the cue for another record and I didn't even mention my band, Wolf Run's project we have been chipping away at through these dark months. 

I look forward to the day when we I can play live again. I can't wait to feel the heat of the stage lights, and the rumble from a PA vibrating from my toes to my head. The chance to share music with an audience excites me more than ever, and gives me something to look forward to. Sharing a stage with my musical compatriots and feeling wrung out after a night of playing is something that can't happen soon enough. But in the mean time, I'm going to enjoy each taekwondo class, each terrible joke from my young teen, every delicious meal my wife cooks, and each beautiful breath I get to breathe. 

I hope we can figure out how to put petty grievances behind us, and see our brothers and sisters as a part of an extended family that we treat with kindness and empathy. A rising tide lifts all boats, and It is my holiday wish for everyone out there that the tide lifts us all up 2021.

Happy holidays!

Adam Traum

Adam's website:

Link to Legacy release:

Legacy project almost complete and Music During a Pandemic 

I realized today that I haven't done a blog in a too long a time so here it is. I promise I will try and keep up as I have a lot to tell people about.

We woke up yesterday to apocalyptic skies that looked like something out of the Bladerunner reboot. The foul mood I started the day with included a low-grade headache that wouldn't abate and a scratchy throat due to the smoke from the California fires. In spite of all that, I took my weekly voice lesson which helped clear out the pipes and lifted my spirits. I hugged my boy and had an extra cup of coffee and the ominous, rust-colored day got a little brighter. 

Such is the world we are living in these days. I try to take comfort from the small victories and appreciate all I have, including a family at home I love, good health, beautiful instruments, good friends, a good dog, a house I am comfortable in and food in the cupboards. Do we really need anything else at the end of the day?

I miss playing out like crazy and have moments of frustration feeling powerless over what is going on in the world. What I do have control over is whether I let circumstances dictate my creativity. So I have been using this time to be productive writing lots of music, recording a soon-to-be released solo CD, teaching and pre-production on a few new Homespun Music Instruction videos. 

I am very excited about my progress for the new CD called Legacy. It is my most personal collection of songs to date which started as simple demos that didn't quite fit with the project my band Wolf Run is recording. The songs are a little quieter than the band's CD and after listening to the tracks all together I realized they tell the story of where I come from, where I am and where I am going as a person and an artist. Yesterday I got the master back for my upcoming single Legacy and it came out better than I could have imagined being the newbie engineer that I am. 

This project has been an important exploration into developing my skills as a sound engineer and editor. It has inspired me to do more producing of other artists and learn more about sonic production. While I have only dipped a toe in the production pond, I find myself transformed in the way I listen and play music. The different frequencies that pull emotional strings has bled over into my playing, singing and writing.

If I may borrow an idea from the great fingerstyle guitarist Alex De Grassi, I am thinking about music in 3D. Tempering the brassy tones from the guitar bridge for maximum impact with the smooth, rounded quality north of the sound hole near the fretboard that gives comfort and resolve. I started playing with old Nashville tricks like weaving paper in the strings of my tele to give a "brushes on a snare drum" feel low in a mix or taking an empty plastic easter egg and "tuning" it will salt and rice. As I am closing in on the final stages of the Legacy album which features my father, Happy Traum, good picking buddies and bandmates Josh Yenne, Jack Hines and David Thom, I have to recon with the idea that art will never be perfect but is a snapshot in time of what we do and who we are as artists.

As of this writing I have roughly fifteen days until the end of my Indiegogo campaign to raise money for production costs. I am a little over halfway to my funding goal and I'm sure you will be hearing about it if you follow me on social media. If you want to know more about the project please visit my campaign link above. 

That's all I have for this blog, but I will be putting more up soon. I will be talking about my project with Wolf Run soon and may even have a track or two to share. Thanks for supporting working musicians wherever you can. Take care of yourselves and try to be kind to your fellow humans!

July 2019 Travels 

It's been a great summer of traveling, playing and writing. In Early July I went back to the East Coast and did an amazing show to celebrate Pete Seeger's 100th birthday. I was asked by my father, Happy Traum to join a great ensemble featuring Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Simi Stone, Tony Trischka, Liz Mitchell and Dan Littleton. We did two sets and each performer led a few songs each. It was a stormy night everywhere but the Maverick Concert Hall, a historic and gorgeous building. It was like Pete was watching over the night's music and he alone held off the rain!

At some point during the evening of music it went from a wonderful night where everyone was enjoying the performances to something else. The sound of the voices singing harmonies and later the audience singing along with the encore of "We Shall Overcome" made the hall shake in a resonant hum that felt more like a church service than a concert. It was recorded and archived by the Smithsonian Institution and I hope to be able to share the concert in the near future. I don't know if the energy will translate to video but I look forward to hearing the music again.


L-R: Jay Ungar, Adam Traum, Liz Mitchell, Dan Littleton, Happy Traum, Tony Trischka, Simi Stone, Molly Mason  

Photo by Jane Traum

From Woodstock I met up with Colin Gilmore where we played two nights of house concerts in a gorgeous house built in the 1800's in Camden, NJ. We played varied sets acoustically with small but responsive audiences of 20-30 people each night. The acoustics were amazing and the second night's show can be heard at

We were also treated to a tour of the new Victor Recording Company building a few towns away in South Jersey and it was such a fun experience. They have resurrected the label and I had forgotten how influential the Victor label was. 

From the Philadelphia area we met up with our good friends Pete and Maura Kennedy and played in my old stomping grounds of Vienna, Virginia, at Jammin' Java, a great hall with a fantastic audience. It is always a pleasure and an honor to play with the Kennedys. They are such pros and amazingly cool people. I wish I saw them more! 

L-R: Pete and Maura Kennedy and Colin Gilmore at Jamin' Java

After a night of rest in Old Town Alexandria, Colin and I wandered around, got some lunch and then headed up to Oxford, PA., to meet up with the Kennedys for for our second of three shows together. We were playing in a beautiful church in Southeastern Pa., and we had a really responsive crowd. The organizers were really great to work with and I look forward to playing there again. After the show Colin and I stayed with a friend of his and Charlie hooked us up with a late night dinner and a place to sleep. We had a nice morning hang and I got to swim in Charlie's saltwater pool as my shower before rolling up to New England.

On the ride up we live-streamed Colin's grandfather's funeral which was touching and I felt like I got to know his Grandfather Dan in a touching ceremony. It was a pretty brutal ride up to Tiverton, RI, but we made it in time for sound check and played a great last show with the Kennedys. It all ended too soon and as always it's hard to say goodbye to such great friends. 

After the show we got back in the car and drove to stay with Bob Borden, an old teacher of mine in Guilford, CT. Bob I had been back in touch with after many years. He is a great guy and he and his wife Margaret have a lovely house just outside of New Haven.

The next morning I dropped Colin at the train in New Haven and I headed back to Woodstock for a few days to visit my family. It's always a funny feeling after traveling with someone for so many miles to find yourself alone in the car by yourself. I eventually got back to Woodstock, NY, after being re-routed several times to Woodstock, Vermont. Technology!

I get a little afternoon nap in and a walk with my dad at Cooper Lake and then we got some dinner. After dinner I crashed hard and basically slept until the next morning. The next day I saw my sister and her family and left early on a Tuesday ready to sleep in my own bed and see my wife and son. The trip was uneventful except for being a little cramped. I finally got home to an excited dog and non-plussed cats.

For a few days I was a morning person on East Coast time but quickly reverted to my nightcrawler status which was compounded but a weekend of gigs in Virginia City, NV, at the Red Dog Saloon with Wolf Run (electric), my trio with Jack Hines and Kendrick Freeman. We took two cars up as Jack was going on a short adventure after VC, so i split my time with the two drivers on the way up.

We got to the Red Dog and saw Loren and Sue Purcell and as always it was great to see them as well as good friends Glen Buschine and Molly Malone, two great musicians in their own rite. We played the first night and it sounded really good but there were a few things to iron out as it was our only second gig with Kendrick on drums. Saturday we took some time to figure some things out and we had a fantastic show with a good arc of material and solid attendance. After the show we bellied up to the bar and had a birthday drink with Sue and Loren. It was her birthday and it was the least we could do. 

We stayed a cool B and B with a guy named Bud who just opened and was a great host. It was a cool 1850s house with tall ceilings and was nicely renovated. The views of the mountains and valleys were pretty incredible and it was a nice place to call home for a few days. I have to mention that he had a cattle dog named Tic who really ran the show! 

Kendrick and I got up earlier than I would recommend and headed back down to the Bay Area and we made it back about 1:00, enough time for me to crash hard for a few hours before my wife and son got back from an outing. I love traveling and feel fortunate to get to play all over, but there is something special about coming home to the familiar where my coffee tastes like it should and I can hug my boy and kiss my wife. 

L-R: Jack Hines, Kendrick Freeman and Adam Traum

Photo by Molly Malone 


A gig with Happy Traum, a new video and other adventures  

It occurs to me that I haven't done a new blog since last year so here goes another. It is hard to believe we are already into mid-February and I'm taking it as a good sign that this early in the year I've been busy gigging and producing online lessons in addition to writing songs for a new release. So here's what's been on tap so far this 2019.

On January 19, I had the pleasure of playing with my father, Happy Traum, in Sonoma, for a KC Turner Listening Room show at the HopMonk Tavern. It was a really special show where we traded songs and got to spend a few hours performing together. I'm always amazed at Happy's continual growth as an artist and curiosity as a musician, even at the spry age of 80! I played a few new songs and my bassist and brother from another mother, Jack Hines joined us on stage for about half the set. The nearly sold out crowd loved it and quite a few people sent me emails to let me know how fortunate they felt to have been there. As I get older I realize how experiences like these are what we and others take with us, and how truly remarkable these moments are.

For the second year in a row I braved the 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, where I saw some old friends, met some new people including two killer jazz guitarists Lisa Liu and Paul Asbell. Asbell has a great new CD out. I also visited with my old pal Teja Gerken, and relatively new pals Eric Skye and Mark Goldenberg. I also did a 2018 show with Goldenberg who blew me away.

At the NAMM show I fell in love with guitar models at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company booth as well as few Bourgeois guitars and a killer electric made by George Lowden. I got to hear James Nash pick a little both at the Santa Cruz Guitar party and at their booth. I also did some reconnaissance in the microphone and software section since I've been embarking on building a basic home studio. Man alive! Talk about a deep rabbit hole.

On February 2, I did a double header and covered some serious miles. I did a workshop at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California, which was a lot of fun and then played as part of a songwriter in-the-round night at the Mudpuddle Music shop in the Niles Canyon district in Fremont, California, with Michael McNevin and Chris Hansen. These two artists played great songs and I felt honored to be in their company. The tiny room hosted a sold out crowd that was attentive and responsive and are true music fans. If you are in the Bay Area try to catch a show at Michael's shop. It's cool and funky and one of a kind.

On February 9, the Straw Wattles, featuring Jack Hines and Josh Yenne, played at the HopMonk Sonoma and we had a blast. I genuinely love playing with these guys. We share the lead vocals and stretch out on some jams as well. If you haven't had a chance to catch this lineup you should. My compatriots are each badasses in their own rights and together the joy we have playing together and mutual respect for each other shows up each time we play.

I also released a new downloadable video on Homespun Music Instruction called Take the Lead!  which is a basic lesson on developing leads. Last July I also released Basic Mandolin for Guitar Players, which has sold very well and is a great intro for guitar players who have an interest in playing mandolin. I am about to produce another video on ukulele for Homespun as well.

I am attaching a new song called "Something Good" which I really like and has had a good response when i've been playing it live. You can also check out my SoundCloud page for more of my songs. Keep your eye out for another Live From the Kitchen Table podcast where I am going to invite some friends in studio to pick a few songs and share some mic time.

I will be doing my best to keep up with my blog posts and do them as close to monthly as I can. Thanks for taking a little bit of time to check this out!

Adam Traum


Hanging at NAMM with guitar playing heavies Teja Gerken, left, Eric Skye and Mark Goldenberg.


Playing at the HopMonk Tavern with Happy Traum, right, and Jack Hines, center. Photo by Jane Traum

MerleFest 2018 

My favorite forms of exercise these days are swimming and taking my dog on long walks (no this isn't a personal ad!). I never belonged to a swim team or anything like that but I joined the local pool about five years ago and eventually started swimming twice a week with some really great athletes who were college and olympic competitors that put up with my slow but burgeoning strokes.

After a particularly hard workout in the pool I had a message to call my mom as soon as possible. No one ever wants to hear a voicemail like that! It turned out my dad had laryngitis and couldn't make MerleFest for the first time in 30 years. Homespun, my family's business has a workshop stage that Happy emcees every year and we had decided that I would skip this year a few months ago. I was able to sub out my gigs and cancel my lessons and within a day had booked a flight from San Francisco to Charlotte, NC. I slogged out of bed at 2:30 on Thursday morning and left for the airport and made it to Wilkesboro, NC, by the Thursday night.

I was lucky enough to catch the last half of Kris Kristofferson's set and heard him play one the finest songs ever written, "Sunday Morning Comin' Down." After that Robert Earl Keen came out and killed it. What a start to the festival. I had an early workshop on Friday to get to and was pretty spent by the time REK finished with a rousing version of "The Road Goes On Forever." 

I got to the Homespun Stage and saw the stage manager, Karen, the sound man, Greg and Jim who was doing tech on the stage. They were totally professional as I knew they were from years past and the weekend started with a very nice workshop on thumb picking with Mike Palmer and Larry Nixon. It was a great start to the weekend's music and we were joined by a few terrific young pickers, Josh Gilforth and Jonah Horton. All these guys can flat out play!

As I settled in to my role as emcee, holding down the fort the day rolled on. A few standouts included Rosie and the Riveters, Roy Book Binder's "Greatest Blues Show on Earth," which I was proud to play a song on. He also turned me on to two new names to me who were incredible, Jody Carroll and Richard Ray Farrell. Roy is always entertaining and never ceases to amaze me watching his unique right hand style. 

Friday concluded with stories about traveling with Doc Watson with Jack Lawrence, T. Michael Coleman, Joe Smothers, Bob Hill and David Holt. It made me miss seeing Doc at MerleFest but his memory was properly celebrated and made me proud to have seen him play as many times as I did. 

Friday night was a late night watching Mandolin Orange, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, topped off by Southern rocker and country star Jamey Johnson who has pipes to kill for. As I wound down and crawled into my Holiday Inn Express bed, which made me feel no smarter, but was appreciative of all the same, I drifted off to sleep hearing echoes of the bluegrass root-fives.

Jet lagged and tired, Saturday was a hard wake. I downed some coffee had some rubbery eggs and made my way to the Homespun Stage to do a one-hour workshop that I thought would be empty but to my surprise there were actually people there who asked questions and were engaged. Who knew the festival crowd could be so hearty? I'm not surprised, really.

Still feeling a little like I was standing in the shadow of my dad I did my best to keep things running. It felt a little like I was missing a tooth without him there since my longest memories are of my folks being there.

My workshop was followed by Richard Ray Farrell's who channels old blues players and is deep in that tradition. Seeing him sitting in the corner as I was teaching a blues song I felt a little bit like a poser but I suppose I've spent enough time digging into old records that it's just my own insecurities and neurosis of which I have many! Richard, who I felt a real kinship to played like the devil and I was transported to the days of staying up late with my buddy Javier in Savannah, where I lived from 1995-2000. We used to stay up all night drinking whiskey and trying to figure out Blind Blake licks. 

I was spelled for a while for a lunch break but felt compelled to introduce my long-time friends Marcy Marxer and Cathy Fink. These two women are known for doing kids shows but don't be fooled. They can play as well as anyone out there which they quickly demonstrated that opening their set with the Django tune "Dark Eyes" on uke.

I was taken aback by the depth and power of songwriters Si Kahn and Joe Jencks. I hadn't heard Joe before and his voice was as powerful and his guitar playing was impressive. He did a song he wrote with veterans that left no dry eyes in the room. 

Jody Carroll did a set that was potent and a lot of fun. He and his girlfriend Sigrid were incredibly gracious and sweet. We spent a lot of time jawing getting to know each other and I'm sure we'll see each other again down the road.

Mitch Greenhill closed the stage out with his presentation on being "Raised by Musical Mavericks." He presented slides, played a little and although it was too sparsely attended and should have been earlier or even scheduled for Friday, I was profoundly moved by his stories.

One of the hard things about running the stage was that I caught very little music relative to what was going on in The Pit. So many great acts were there but Saturday night I managed to catch Sam Bush who is always stellar and finally got to see Jim Lauderdale with Buddy Miller and the North Mississippi All Stars. What a set! Buddy played "Wide River to Cross" and the range of material was awesome. I was left feeling a great reverence for the breadth of music that is out there and all the amazing performers' skills. 

After the final set was over on Watson Stage I went to the Midnight Jam and caught Mandolin Orange playing with Tommy Emanuel, who I would have the chance to meet and hang out with on Sunday, Buddy Miller played "Bright Morning Stars" that was incredibly powerful. I worked up the nerve to introduce myself to Buddy and he couldn't have been nicer! I also got to chat with Luther Dickison whom I had met years ago in New Orleans. 

Sunday was equally hard to crack my tired eyes open but I had a Cabin Stage set with Joe Kyle on bass so I was also excited. We met at the Hampton Inn for more pre-cooked eggs and sausage and the always needed coffee. We ran down our tunes and set up on the Cabin Stage. I had to calm my nerves with a few deep breaths looking out over the expanse. For so long playing with my father at MerleFest gave me a certain amount of security and confidence that my playing would be accepted and this was the first time I was flying solo.

While I was missing Happy being there I was also looking forward to seeing how my own style and original songs would go over. I felt really good about my set. The cobwebs were expunged from my pipes in our rehearsal and I turned out to be in good voice. Having Joe there was so helpful too since I have an injured right middle finger which has impacted my fingerpicking. I can still do it but not with the same flow as when I have the use of my middle digit. After our set we got a lot of great feedback and I think I may have at least a new fan or two. 

After my set I caught the always-inspiring Alison Brown and later the Steep Canyon Rangers with Steve Martin. I also got a chance to hang with Jerry Douglas and Tommy Emanuel for a little while. They were so fun and it was good to get to know them a little bit. 

While I wish I could have been at MerleFest under better circumstances, I was grateful I could sub out my West Coast gigs and be there for my family to represent Homespun and my family. I don't know if I could have pulled it off as easily five or ten years ago but sometimes being thrust into something gives you the opportunity to show what you have.

I'm happy to report that my dad is on the mend and hopefully our next MerleFest will be together. I also have to acknowledge my wife for insisting that I needed to go and help out while she picked up the slack of watching our son. I also saw too many other friends, new and old, to mention in this blog but suffice it to say I'm grateful for the opportunity to be making music and be a part of something I love.


Live From the Kitchen Table Podcast 003  

Check out my latest podcast of Live From the Kitchen Table. I have some new songs and have dusted off some old ones too. I dedicated this podcast to my good fried David Ian Robins who sadly passed away a few short weeks ago. He was a man who lived life on his own terms and if he was on your side he would be the best kind of friend you ever had. Enjoy this episode!

Adam Traum

A Visit to Larry Cragg's Shop and Other Musings 

I was in Marin County doing my usual teaching rounds when my friend Linsday called me to tell me he was dropping his new Collings D2H off with legendary guitar tech and repair man Larry Cragg. For years I've held Cragg in very high esteem not just because of his clientele, but also from the stories I've heard about the quality of his work. 

My Collings CJ had a buzz at the seventh fret for some time and since Lindsay was going to be there I decided to drop by and check out his brand new axe. I also saw it as a sign that I should get Cragg's opinion on whether I'd need a full fret job or if a set up would suffice. We immediately hit it off as we all are Collings fans. 

I walked into his workshop and my jaw nearly hit the floor looking at photos of rock gods and progenitors of modern music hanging everywhere Classic amps, soldering irons, cables and parts were everywhere! There was a rack full of guitars and cases strewn on one wall. Needless to say, I felt immediately at home. In the corner by the door was a painting of a Carlos Santa record cover that Santana had given to Cragg as a gift. He explained that Santana has been his client for over 40 years, even longer than Neil Young! The man is a veteran guitar tech and had some great stories to tell. In spite of being friends with many of the worlds rock icons, he was so unassuming and warm that looking at him you wouldn't know he was a legend among guitar aficionados.

I got a call back from him yesterday saying my CJ was done and we made an appointment for me to pick it up. I have to say, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. He straightened the neck, got my frets milled and "woke up" the top, a specialty of his. I have no doubt my trusted friend, the guitar, will sound better than ever and I will report soon with a sound file to share her newly opened up sound.

In other news, I've been working on some new songs including the attached rough mix of a tune I wrote with my friend Denis Loiseau. Jack Hines was nice enough to play bass on the track and I was playing mandolin, guitar and vocals. Let me know what you think of this new tune. 

I've also been gigging like crazy and I'm proud to see the seeds I planted in 2006 when making the transition from being a professional photographer and photojournalist to a working musician are taking hold. I'm inspired by the musicians I'm getting to work with and they make me better with each gig I do. One of the things I love about music is that there is always something to learn, someplace new to go and new territory to cover. 

Keep your eyes open for a second podcast coming soon. My first podcast got great feedback and I look forward to getting out my second "Live From the Kitchen Table" podcast. Enjoy your upcoming July 4th weekend and look for more blogs, videos, podcasts and songs!

Post Script:

I picked up my guitar yesterday and the neck is beautifully straight and it plays better than it ever has! Thank you Larry Cragg.


Live From the Kitchen Table Podcast 001  

Welcome to Live From the Kitchen Table, a blog and podcast with a series of lo-fi recordings that are stripped down and frequently done on my iPhone or other hand-held devices. I wanted to bring an intimate vibe to these recordings that put the listener right in middle of the music as it's being created. I hope you enjoy these podcasts!

Adam Traum

MerleFest 2014 

I was invited to attend MerleFest 2014 with my father, Happy Traum to play a few sets with him and help out at the Homespun Learning Stage in the Mayes Pit. 

Before I left I borrowed a Calton Case (a super protective fiberglass guitar case) from my friend Teja Gerken. He told me that the case used to belong to our mutual friend Scott Nygaard, a world class guitarist in his own rite, and that the case had already travelled to MerleFest at least once. I was glad to see it return with my guitar inside it. Although the Calton Case was a beast to carry I felt good knowing my instrument was well protected after seeing the video "United Breaks Guitars" a few years ago!

I flew into Charlotte, North Carolina, from San Francisco, and had a few hours of down time while waiting for my father's flight from Albany, N.Y. Once my dad arrived we rented a swanky SUV and rolled out to the Blueridge Mountains foothills where the festival takes place, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Coming from the drought-stricken state of California I was reminded of how green everything gets and the immediacy of the dense humidity in the south.

I spent about 12 years living south of the Mason Dixon Line first in Northern Virginia and later Savannah, Georgia, and knew what to expect. But being there again reminded me of how my understanding of Americana roots music was deepened profoundly by hearing the sounds of the south including the breezes through the trees and the sounds of bass-filled streams everywhere! The sight and smells of lush fauna and flora came rushing back to me. 

After stopping for "dinner" at a Starbucks, which was really about the coffee, my dad crashed out since we had an early start and I went over to see Alan Jackson play on the main stage. I was expecting a country show with "Chattahoochee" and other Jackson hits, but was pleasantly surprised to see a star-studded bluegrass band with an amazing talented young woman sitting in on mandolin named Sierra Hull. Don Rigsby was on backing vocals and Rob Ickes was on dobro. Jackson was so relaxed and humble and said he was grateful to be playing with a great bluegrass band, and to be able to pay a tribute to the music he loved listening to growing up.

Friday morning Happy and I got down to the Mayes Pit and played our set. It went by incredibly quickly but it's always a pleasure to play with him. There were some amazing performances that day including Rory Block, Roy Bookbinder and many others. 

Rory Block put on a great show as always and amazingly continues to improve every time I see her. Roy Bookbinder has the most interesting sense of time. He studied with Pink Anderson and others but has a style all his own.

Friday evening I saw Tim O'Brien and Daryl Scott, two of my favorites. Man alive, those guys put on one of my favorite sets. A perfect combination of loose and tight! After the show I got a chance to say hi to Tim and met Daryl for the first time and was doing my best to play it cool. I had become a fan of his music when I saw him play with Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, with Patti Griffin and Buddy Miller. I was glad that he was so nice and didn't spoil the image in my head of songwriter and performer who was as cool as his music.

After that I saw another great band the Old Crow Medicine Show. I hadn't had a chance to see them live before and they didn't disappoint! It was a great set and they burned it up. 

Saturday I got a chance to play with Happy again, this time at Roy Bookbinder's blues stage. With my jet lag somewhat worn away and a set already under our belts my dad and I played a great set. Poking around online I found a video of us playing Dylan's "Buckets of Rain" which can be seen here:

Saturday brought more great music including one of my favorites, the Sam Bush Band, that to no surprise threw down! They tore it up with traditional bluegrass and got way out on some jams that elevated the night to a new high.


Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder were great as always with Cody Kilby and Bryan Sutton scorching the strings on their dreadnaught guitars. 

The sleeper of the night for me was hearing the Steep Canyon Rangers. They are a band that has a great approach to traditional music and write really good songs. Although they may be known for their work with Steve Martin, this is a band that stands on their own merits and I would recommend checking out one of their shows if they come around.

On Saturday night I corralled Joe Kyle, Jr. and Warren Hood of the Waybacks and Dr. Banjo himself, Pete Wernick to play a tune for the Midnight Jam. It was a madhouse backstage and onstage, but what a treat to play with these guys and for a responsive audience.

Sunday came around and I had heard a lot of bass players picking their "root to fives" and more Lester Flatt guitar runs than in the past year, but with a day off to hang and watch music my dad and I rolled over to see the Kruger Brothers, Jens and Uli, on the Hillside Stage. With the mercury rising with the humidity and precious few shady spots we got our daily exercise climbing up the hill to hear these Swiss-born and raised musicians brought Southern American roots music to a new level of elegance. Their sense of timing and space floated up through the trees like they were born in the Blueridge Mountains. As a side note, they moved just outside Wilkesboro to Deep Gap, just up the road from the festival.

Closing the festival was my son's namesake, Merle Haggard. I have seen Hag before, but it is always a treat to see him sing "Silver Wings," "Big City" and "Okie From Muscogee." His old-school country approach of playing the songs as they were written in a no-frills way always reminds me that a great song doesn't need a lot of window dressing if it's a great song.

My final thoughts on MerleFest are about not seeing Doc Watson there. I don't want to diminish the impact of the music and the success of the festival, but somehow it was like looking at the New York City skyline without the World Trade Center towers standing there. Something big was missing. Doc was a force of nature and even though his presence was waning bit by bit over the years he was always a beacon. Something that told me I was on the right path and that I had chosen my guitar heroes wisely. Time passes and legends pass, but honoring their memory by carrying the torch further is what has kept the roots music I love around for generations. 

On the flight home to California where the bugs aren't as big and neither is the hair, I was able to make some notes on the festival and what inspired me. To me, the wonder and joy of music is that there is always someplace new to go whether you are a player or listener. 

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