Voicings: Danny Gotham


repastThat’s how Danny Gotham describes performing live. And he should know, having been on stage with some of the best singers and musicians in the business. Gotham’s newest album is called “Repast” and it draws on many of those singers and musicians to create a generous feast of songs.

I sat down with Danny recently to hear his thoughts on the album, the differences between making your own recording and supporting others, and the value of making music in community.

Learn more about Danny Gotham’s current projects and thoughts on music, life, and baseball at DannyGotham.com.

Voicings is a series of interviews conducted by writer Tyler Johnson featuring writers, musicians, artists, and thinkers in their own words.

Poetry & Celtic Music at McIntyre’s Books

Come to McIntyre’s Books for a reading by three outstanding local poets and enjoy live Celtic music and dance. This year’s kickoff reading sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society is sure to be 2015’s most lively literary event.

January 25, 2015 at 1:45pm


David_ManningDavid Manning

David Manning is the author of eight books of poetry. Twice nominated for the Pushcart prize, he is also a three time winner of the NC Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate award. David will be reading from his just-released book “Soledad.” NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti says, “Manning recognizes each signpost on the plat, claims it, christens it, forgets nothing.” Listeners are fortunate to hear from one of North Carolina’s finest writers.

Alice_OsbornAlice Osborn

Alice Osborn is a Pushcart-nominated poet, editor-for-hire, writing coach and dynamic speaker/facilitator. She’ll be reading from her forthcoming collection “Heroes Without Capes.” These poems about the personal lives of famous and infamous figures from history, including Boba Fett, the Virgin Mary, and the Roadrunner, are sure to delight. Alice is the author of “After the Steaming Stops” and “Unfinished Projects.” She’s also the editor of the short fiction anthology “Tatoos” from Main Street Rag. Alice is an avid Irish step dancer and might be cajoled into kicking her heals if the audience is enthusiastic enough.

tyler_headshot_colorTyler Johnson

Tyler Johnson is an author, poet, and musician whose work revolves around traditional music and dance. Tyler will be reading from his just-released collection “Dancing the Haw,” which features poems set along the Haw River. His other books include “Tales from the Red Book of Tunes (fiction),” and “The Swamps that Close (poetry).” When not writing, Tyler can often be found playing Irish music for contra dances.

Haw BurnHaw Burn

Haw Burn plays traditional celtic dance music. Featuring Jon Amos on fiddle, Jen Hamel on guitar, and Tyler Johnson on tenor banjo, this trio is certain to get your toes tapping.


Click here for a map to the bookstore.

Gaelic Festival at Johnny’s

johnnys-logoCelebrate the Celtic New Year at Johnny’s in Carrboro on November 1, 2014.

Gaelic Song Workshop

It all starts around 5pm when Cape Breton stepdancer Stephanie Johnston holds a workshop on Gaelic songs. If you love group singing this will be a real treat. She’ll teach the words to several simple work songs. No previous Gaelic experience necessary!

phrasebookTalk Dirty to Me (in Gaelic)

Noted Celtic scholar Michael Newton will regale us with lowbrow language and inappropriate phrases from his new book The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic: All the Scottish Gaelic You Need to Curse, Swear, Drink, Smoke, and Fool Around. This will certainly come in handy on your next romp in the highlands.


Starting around 6pm there will be a Cape Breton and Scottish dance music session. Bring your instruments and join in! Although this session will focus on music of Scottish origin, we’d not be surprised if some other Gaelic musics crept in. Perhaps we’ll hear some tunes from Ireland, Wales, Brittany and Galacia if we are lucky. You’ll see familiar faces from the local traditional music scene, including Alison Arnold, Trish Hornick, and Gordon Arnold.


Stephanie will be offering an introduction to Cape Breton stepdance while the music plays. She’s been teaching this percussive dance in the area and some of her students may come to practice and show off their steps as well. If you’re interested in Cape Breton stepdance this is a great time to learn more about it.


Johnny’s has great food and drink. The Capp’s Pizza truck will be there as well. (Sadly, Carrboro as yet has no haggis truck.) You can enjoy your food inside or outdoors while listening to the music and song.

A Note for Contra Dancers

TCD is hosting the Wicked Whirlwind dance festival on this weekend. Earlier in the day you can dance to the music of Tickle, Scratch, and Groove with Susan Taylor and Janine Smith at the Carrboro Century Center. Then come on over to Johnny’s for dinner and music. Afterward, you can return to the Century Center to dance to the music of Contraversial with Shawn Brenneman.



See you at Johnny’s!

Photos of musicians and dancers by Chris Florio of FlorioPics. If you need a photographer, he’s the best.

Mini Concert

WRAL - Tyler and Bill

I sat down with Bill Leslie of WRAL to talk about traditional music and play a few tunes from my latest book. Alison and Gordon Arnold from Rip the Calico played along in the studio in Raleigh, NC. Bill Leslie is a terrific musician in his own right. He has a particular love of Scottish music and works with some high caliber musicians. Take a listen over at Bill’s website. A special thanks are due to Dan Gilvary for helping with this event. Dan is another wonderful musician and extraordinary humanitarian.

WRAL - Gordon WRAL - Alison






 Enjoy the music!


Why I Irish Dance

Alice Osborn is a dynamic poet, editor, and writing coach in Raleigh, North Carolina. What I recently learned is that she also has the Irish fiddle and dance bug. Bad. In my never-ending quest to understand why we dance, I reached out to her to find out just what it was that was drawing her deeper and deeper into traditional music and dance. This is what she said.

I can’t remember why I stopped dancing, but now I never want to stop. Since I was three to about twelve years old I took ballet and a year of tap in Northern Virginia. My last two years of dancing were with the Christina Heimlich International School of Dance and I especially loved the solo stuff. I re-started Alice Osborn - headshot1my dancing practice last fall when I joined Rince Go Halainn in North Raleigh, one of North Carolina’s only non-competitive dance schools. And get this, my teacher, Catrina Mineo, noticed that my folk dancing never left my body—it seems my moves were imprinted from 30 something years ago. That’s pretty cool and it gives me a great deal of hope that I can master this Irish dance thing.

I want to dance to feel more connected to my body again. To loosen up and let go of stress. As a writer, I’m all in my head most days and I’m totally ignoring what my body is doing. Plus I’m editing, sitting down and that’s way too much pressure on my lower back—my posture sucks! And within the content of my writing, I usually ignore anything that has to do with someone’s body. As an aspiring musician, Irish dancing is based on beats and it’s all about your timing. Plus Irish dancing is great exercise and I’m keeping my mind sharp learning all of the dance moves—it’s like learning to recite a poem, but much more intense.

With Catrina’s encouragement and support, I’ve been in three pub shows at Tir Na Nog. Where else can you drink a Guinness immediately post show? The first two shows I totally did some freestyle moves and at the second show almost fell over taking my bow. The third show was a lot smoother. I’m now practicing feverishly for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and need to kick my butt more. Ouch, my lower back is protesting.

Alice Osborn - dancingI’ve got my blue/brown school dress, wig, tights, bloomers and shoes all lined up and ready. My family thinks nothing of me doing butterflies, hop jumps, light jigs, reels and slip jigs in the kitchen. My six-year-old daughter, Erin, scours You Tube to help me find Irish dance instruction videos and “how-tos” for putting on your wig. Turns out you need lots and lots of bobby pins and a doughnut (I used this non-edible accessory in ballet class when I needed a quickie bun).

I had originally wanted Erin to Irish dance because I thought with her name she’d fit right in and figured she’d totally go for the sparkling dresses. But after a demo at another school’s open house, Erin adamantly said, “No!” She’s taking singing lessons instead and is my accountability partner.

Anyone can Irish dance as long as you’re willing to listen and learn. I’ve had back surgery for Pete’s sake. Some coordination helps, but you don’t have to be a kid! And you certainly don’t have to be Irish (I’m Scottish on my dad’s side—the wrong side, by the way).

It’s fun, it makes you smile, and hold your head up high. And when you’re dancing you forget about everything except the moves and the music. Erin Go Bragh!

Alice Osborn is the author of three books of poetry, After the Steaming Stops, Unfinished Projects and Right Lane Ends and is the editor of the anthology, Tattoos. She’s working on her next poetry book, Heroes without Capes. Her past educational and work experience is unusually varied and now it feeds her strengths as an editor for hire and writing coach who takes good writers and turns them into great authors. Her pieces have appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and is a leader in several women’s networking organizations. Alice lives in Raleigh with her husband and two children and three birds. When she’s not writing or Irish dancing, she’s playing her violin or guitar. Visit Alice’s website at www.AliceOsborn.com

What I Learned from the Elves

When my sons were young I used to tell them stories on the drive to school. They especially liked to hear great adventures, and our tales quickly grew in complexity to include the more elaborate plots of Camelot and Robin Hood. I don’t know how it happened, but I found myself starting to tell them the story of The Lord of the Rings.

As a writer, I get asked about Tolkien a lot, especially since some of my stories include an element of myth. People want to know if I think he was a great writer. Well, he certainly taught me a lot. Especially on those drives to school. My mornings went something like this:

Son 1: Tell us more Lord of the Rings, Dad.

Me: Hmm. Let’s see… where did we leave off?

Son 2: Frodo was at the Inn at Bree.

Son 1: The Prancing Pony.

Son 2: Yeah. There’s some guy sitting and watching him. He’s got his face covered up.

Son 1: I think it’s one of those black rider people.

Son 2: It’s not. Because there would be worms and stuff crawling out of the walls and there are no worms.

Son 1: Well, it’s somebody bad. Tell us, Dad. What happened?

I was astonished at the detail with which they could recount this story. And so on we went, day after day, week after week, much like the hobbits themselves, on our great adventure. I was, of course, always careful to leave them with a cliff hanger right before dropping them off at school.

All of this caused me to reflect on Tolkien himself and why my sons held such a fervor around this story. Was Tolkien a skilled writer? I would have to say not. His prose is not beautiful or elegant. But he crafted a great story. How do I know? Because I was enthralled with the story in the same way my sons were. But they had never read Tolkien. They had only heard me re-telling his story.

Re-telling is not common in contemporary literature. People tend to think of the story and the book as the same thing. They are not.

The separation of a story and its telling is clearer to me when I think about music. I play a lot of traditional tunes from the British Isles. These wonderful tunes are hundreds of years old, and have been rendered by many musicians over time. For example, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” is a tune that can be played lyrically, or very driving. It can be played simply, or be quite ornamented. It’s a wonderful tune whether it’s rendered by a beginner on the guitar or a master on the fiddle. The tune is separate from its rendering.

This is a useful thing to consider when writing. Of course you want polished prose. Perhaps even gilded prose. But ask yourself if the story will hold up when told and re-told by others who are not as skillful at the telling.

After all, the elves were great story tellers and players of song.

And we’re still talking about them.

Contra Dance & Book Release Party

book releaseTales from the Red Book of Tunes

Calling by Louie Cromartie

Music by Rip the Calico

Location: Pleasant Green Community Center

Date: March 23, 2014

Dance: 7-10pm

Beginner Lesson: 6:30pm

Admission: $10

Come celebrate the release of Tales from the Red Book of Tunes, the new book by author Tyler Johnson that takes you from a modern contra dance back to the murky myths where the music was born.

There will be a mini-concert featuring tunes from the book! Joining Rip the Calico will be special guest fiddlers Trish Hornick and Mairead Brady.

You can purchase the book online at Tyler Johnson’s Bookshop. Or pick up a copy at the dance.

  • Paperback: $15
  • Hardback: $25
  • e-Books from Kindle/Nook/Kobo/Apple stores


A note to non-dancers: This event is structured to allow participation from folks that are not regular dancers during the early part of the evening. You will be able to enjoy a concert and reading. You’ll be able to watch experienced dancers and have a try at it yourself. You are strongly encouraged to come to the beginner lesson at 6:30 because this will give you some important background information about contra dancing. It will help you understand the book. And it could just possibly save your life.

Please download and print the flyer and distribute at your local dance event!

Directions to Pleasant Green Community Center

The address is Pleasant Green Community Center Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Pleasant Green

From points north and east: Take I-85 through Durham to exit 173, Cole Mill Road. Take Cole Mill Road to the end at Pleasant Green Road, turn right, then make the next right onto Pleasant Green Community Center Road, the Center is 1/4 mile on the left.

From points west and south: Take I-85 to exit 170. Get in the left lane as exiting, and take a sharp left onto US 70 west. Follow the first traffic light. Turn right here onto Pleasant Green Road. Follow 2.4 miles and turn right on Pleasant Green Community Center Road. The community center is 1/4 mile on the left.

From Durham: Take Cole Mill Road to the end at Pleasant Green Road, turn right, then make the next right onto Pleasant Green Community Center Road, the Center is 1/4 mile on the left.

From Chapel Hill: Take NC 86 north, go to Mt. Sinai Road and turn right, follow to University Station Road, turn left, follow to US 70, turn right, turn left at first traffic light, Pleasant Green Road, follow about 2.4 miles to Pleasant Green Community Center Road, turn right, the Center is 1/4 mile on the left.

From Raleigh: Take NC 147 (Durham Expressway) when aproachng Durham. Follow through Durham and rejoin I-85 south. Follow to exit 170. Continue to light. Turn right, this is Pleasant Green Road. Follow about 2.4 miles to Pleasant Green Community Center Road, turn right, the Center is 1/4 mile on the left.

Spring Dance Romance 2013

swingIf you had special glasses you would see that as the dancers weave across the floor their souls entwine like vapor trails in the rafters. It makes a kind of spiritual soup with all of the burdens and joys in the dancers’ hearts intermingling like flavors: strong, sweet, and bitter. Whether it’s compost, the river bottom, or plasma in the center of the sun, something in the universe knows that soup is good.

Here’s what I found at Spring Dance Romance at Camp Sertoma this year. I invite you to share your thoughts and memories.

Banjo Heads

I play a Deering Maple Blossom tenor banjo. I love it, but it has a well-deserved reputation of being overly bright and powerful, owing to its bluegrass roots.

I’ve struggled with this for years, with various articles of clothing stuck inside, mechanical muting gizmos attached, and playing techniques where I vary the head resonance by altering the way I rest the side of my palm.

Recently, though, I installed a clear, plastic head. My goodness, has it made a wonderful difference. In the past I used a variety of natural, or faux-natural heads to try to get a more mellow sound. None of them compare to the thick, clear plastic head.

I’m getting a much richer, mellow, but still loud, thumping. I’ve said before that an Irish banjo should sound like the farting of metal frogs.

It’s getting there.