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    He's trying to break into what is becoming an increasingly competitive market. The third offering from Salsa Celtica their second for Greentrax is an exciting affair, surpassing even the spectacular energy of The Great Scottish Latin Adventure , which was touted as "a salsa album made by Scottish musicians in love with Latin music and by South American musicians in love with Scotland", yet on which the Latin element seemed to over-dominate just a tad.

    But I'd say that El Agua De La Vida ranks as the best integrated of the three albums yet, with an unstoppable fieriness and a good degree of commitment to both sides of the divide that transcends the moments where the joins are obvious, to the degree that it doesn't really matter.

    The traditional Scottish tunes are allowed to breathe as they enter the basic Latin texture. Admirably too, Salsa Celtica have toned down the bouts of silly forced high-jinks that marred their previous efforts, without letting go of the fun element in the playing.

    The basic eleven-piece ensemble is augmented to produce an awesome sound indeed, with blasts of blowsy brass and tinkling piano that enhance the party atmosphere.

    We even hear Eamonn Coyne's guest banjo percolating to the front of the mix when he steps forward up to the mike on two of the tracks.

    One of these, believe it or not, is Auld Lang Syne , at the thought of which I cringed at first - but the slinky, smoochy opening section soon gets the spirit going with a hair-down workout to finish.

    Sometimes I thought the vocal interjections just a little too enthusiastic, and amusingly I experienced a mondegreen moment on Whisky Con Ron I really did think they were singing "Whisky Gone Wrong"!

    But seriously, this is a really intoxicating release that should even appeal to those with a distinct salsa-allergy to coin a phrase - at least you know what you're latin' yourself in for.

    Saltfishforty is a dynamic Orkney-based duo Douglas Montgomery and Brian Cromarty who bring their own special stamp to the blending of the traditional music of their native islands with contemporary song - much of the latter being their own compositions.

    Their particular attributes are well illustrated on the dozen tracks that comprise Netherbow, their third album, which comes after a recording break of five years.

    Considering Saltfishforty comprises just two musicians, their live sound is admirably full, and this quality is well translated to the medium of CD, albeit here with a modicum of selective augmentation from percussionist Erik Laughton on a handful of the tracks.

    Highlights among the purely instrumental tracks are the genially storming set of jugs track 5 , the intriguing tune The Locks At Athy which the duo learnt from Kris Drever and sprightly, if nicely measured accounts of the title tune, a strathspey composed in the s by Rousay's then-postie Jimmy Craigie, and a wedding march composed for Douglas' neighbours on Burray.

    The closing track Svecia is a gorgeously dark-hued tune written and played on a viola part-made from wood salvaged from the wreck of the ship of that name which sunk off the coast of North Ronaldsay in , while the preceding pacy set of Cape Breton reels track 11 has a distinctly playful, almost La-Bottine-Souriante demeanour.

    As for the songs, and notwithstanding the high standard of the original writing especially perhaps the traditional-sounding A Ring On Her Hand, which was partly inspired by a George Mackay-Brown story , the pick of these is probably The Bride's Lament, a traditional song that Brian learnt through The Big Orkney Song Project.

    Brian's keen vocal work is well counterpointed by his own guitar and mando accompaniments and the intelligent pairing with Douglas's fiddle or viola or mandolin.

    Yes, Netherbow is a well-engineered, generous and thoughtfully paced record that lovingly and infectiously extols the virtues of these two musicians.

    Other than a couple of acoustic gigs as a duo, the year's seen a fairly low profile for Neal Cook and his Wolverhampton Americana cohorts.

    However, now they're back on the scene to kick up a storm with long awaited follow up to 's Asphalt Good.

    There's no major departures from the blueprint which the web sites calls a cross between the Replacements and Wilco, but which also features a fair dab of Neil Young and Green On Red , but it's served them well so far and it's far from broken.

    So, cranked up ringing guitars, throaty dust coated vocals, swaggering rhythms, and twangy melodies then, kicking out of the traps with Mindshakes, a gutsy slow burning guitars on fire song about screwing up things at home by not keep your 'damn mouth shut'.

    They keep it amped up and rolling with the circling guitar riffing Sore Eyes, a track that hints to the country side of the Stones as well as more current Americana heroes, keeping the pace moving with a Scorchers-ish Map and the jerky Dixie boogie Still In Love.

    But it's probably the slower numbers on which they shine best, here ably represented by a plangent Fair Warning, highway keening closer Windshield Blues with its speed bump time signatures and, arguably the album's highlight, Coming Home, a weary gravel under heel ballad that recently scored pole position in the Cosmic American Radio charts.

    They may never find the wider audience and sales enjoyed by such kindred spirits as Ryan Adams and Wilco but, along with the likes of Broken Family Band and Michael Weston King, they're a solid shining reminder that Americana is a matter of mind and musical attitude rather than geography.

    Largely recorded live in a Victorian concert hall to catch the ambiences, Peter Pan provides the title along with the recurring themes of escape and flight that surface in Lench's lyrics while the minimalist piano chords of Zweck's contributions reflect a bout of RSI that left her unable to move her right hand.

    Although the simple hymnal setting of Brother Jon and a jaunty handclapping flute and guitar strum through the trad Begone Dull Care stand out, it's more of an album to gain attention rather than make them overnight stars in the folk firmament, but they promise a brightly twinkling future.

    It's not just his keyboard skills that are apparent here as he shows a silky quality to his voice on the bluesy The Voice Within and the earthy vocals on Hot Dog show his range.

    The pick of the self-written songs is You Gonna Win which has a Howlin' Wolf quality to the music if not the vocals.

    There's a little Professor Longhair in Gambling Woman Blues and the enthusiasm of King Kong and the title track will have you joining in despite yourself.

    Four years in the making, Sandell has had to grab time for her solo debut solo between contributions to albums and live performances by Chris T-T, The Broken Family Band and Magoo, not to mention being one third of Emily Barker's band, Red Clay Halo, with whom she plays accordion and flute.

    Not surprisingly, favours have been returned here with appearances by, among others, fellow Halo member Anna Jenkins on violin, Barker, and T-T.

    As well as her regular instruments, Sandell also reveals her guitar and piano skills on a collection that mixes together self-penned material with a brace of covers.

    She has a light, airy and slightly quivery vocal with a girlish tone that sits well with a publicity photo of her playing acoustic guitar in a field of flowers.

    Unsurprisingly there's a fair amount of natural imagery with references to gulls and seals on Will I Lose My Love? There's patently the heart of a traditional folkie beating through many of her lyrics A Breeze Upon The Hill and Rowan Tree, especially , although the music sounds more influenced by pastoral 60s acoustic folk.

    The arrangements are caressingly simple and sympathetic, often weaving a dreamy mood around her voice, notably so on the tender cover of Wild Mountainside, the Trashcan Sinatras ode to the Scottish Highlands, where she's accompanied by just Anna and Emily on violin and guitar.

    The album's second cover is a sparse, piano accompanied version of Natalie Merchant's wearied bittersweet love song to the city's concrete sprawl, transformed here into almost a hymn.

    Keeping the natural world theme going, it features a musician credit for the rain. Let's just hope her work schedule doesn't mean another four year wait for a follow-up.

    Though a long-standing and well-regarded Fairport member, Ric's own back catalogue has been less than lavishly treated where CD issue or reissue has been concerned, and so this disc will be much welcomed.

    Its subtitle Instrumental Ballads provides the biggest clue, and its purpose seems to be to amass a representative clutch of recordings that demonstrate Ric's intense musicality and the magnificent breadth of his output outside of his work with Fairport and generally eschewing the more showy technique-driven material in favour of the more restrained elegance of his more classically- or jazz-inclined excursions.

    The disc's original recordings are culled from various solo albums and other projects, with a track apiece from the duo albums Second Vision with John Etheridge and One To One with Gordon Giltrap: If nothing else, it all goes to prove how superior and consistent a musician Ric is, over and above his signature work with Fairport, with so much more to offer the cognoscenti.

    Deserving of some special place in our affections, I'd say. David Kidman May In Griselda formed Waulk Elektrik, which for almost ten years provided an eclectic and pioneering meeting-point for traditional Scottish and Irish dance and 90s rave culture.

    A little after the eventual demise of that band she encountered the nyckelharpa, a strikingly individual if perhaps mildly unwieldy-looking stringed instrument of Swedish origin which is currently enjoying something of a renaissance among enterprising folk musicians newer bands such as Bellevue Rendezvous are eagerly taking up its multifarious challenges.

    Usually bowed, it has four playing strings one being a drone , with twelve sympathetic strings and thirty-seven chromatic keys attached to three rows of wooden tangents - and a range of three-and-a-half octaves!

    Gris instantly fell in love with its mesmerising sound, and ever since finally acquiring one just three years ago she's been eagerly exploring its myriad of sonic possibilities e.

    On Harpaphonics, Gris ingeniously incorporates the nyckelharpa's many and special sounds into an impressive array of settings, moods and textures.

    While selectively adding violin, viola, fiddle, chanter, piano and Hammond organ to her own armoury, Gris is further aided in her endeavours principally by James Dumbelton and Sam Yeboah on assorted percussion, with occasional contributions from other musicians including Louis Bingham, Toby Morgan, Alex Roth and Steve Turner.

    Gris first introduces us to the nyckelharpa's strange and beautiful resonances by performing Exordium entirely solo: The Irime Ice Warrior reel also featured on the disc's bonus video moves from rippling Carnatic raga-inspired motifs to funkier African bass riffs, while The Charmer and Treadlightly March incorporate samples into their exotic, Malian-inflected tapestries.

    But even though plenty else is happening in the soundscape, I too swiftly became addicted to the fabulous sound of the nyckelharpa itself, finding it hard to prise this brave, enchanting and most rewarding disc from the player.

    A remarkable sequel to My Prayer, Tamworth born Sandland's sophomore solo album confidently secures her a place at the top table of UK folk music with its assured fusion of traditional atmospheres and arrangements and contemporary sensibilities.

    As with the brooding title track, a tale of cruelty and curses inspired by Yorkshire poet William Watson's own The Ballad of Semerwater, much here draws on rural legends and stories, often with a supernatural basis.

    Underpinned by Phil Beer's fiddle, The Dancers of Stanton Drew revisits an account of a doomed wedding party whose insistence on dancing into the Sabbath attracted the attentions of a real devil of a fiddler, The Erl-King is an arrangement of Goethe's cheery epic poem about a gnomish being and the death of a child while, perhaps more familiar, she also visits country classic death song Long Black Veil for a duet with Beer to a simple mandolin backing.

    It must be said that the album doesn't have the sunniest of dispositions. Taken from Robert Burns and set to a spare piano and recorder backdrop, Mary's Dream tells of a lover lost at sea, the self-penned a capella Get Thee To The Drowning where Sandland's voice is at its nakedly purest deals with sacrifice by suicide, hanging, the Crucifixion and death by gassing in WWI.

    Downbeat yes, but rarely has misery, death, depression and doom sounded quite so stately and majestic. Deb Sandland - My Prayer Hairy Dog Spawn of a musical family dad played jazz bass, one brother's a multi-instrumentalist, the other musical director for the RSC , Tamworth born Sandland has steered her inclinations in a folk direction, initially working with Julie Thurman as unaccompanied duo The Aqua Sisters before expanding to a more fulsome five piece.

    That having run its course, she moved back to duo work again, this time with Phil Beer, eventually joining his band and recording a couple of ltd edition albums and contributing to the two Heart of England compilations before finally taking the solo plunge albeit helped out by the band with this album.

    She's got a soft, breathy autumnal evening and raindrops voice of deceptive depth that is brimful of assured poise and the confidence of experience but can, as with Don't Leave For The City and the closing My Prayer , still sound beguilingly innocent and wearily vulnerable.

    Falling between the trad and contemporary stools may make her hard to pigeonhole for audiences who like to know whether they're getting Kate Rusby or Thea Gilmore, but approach with open ears rather than closed labels and you'll realise she can hold her own with either and both.

    It works too, his delicate melancholic guitar tracery a perfect foil for her wasted on valium vocals. It's a sparse comic wash of sound like waves lapping on some lunar shore, vibes tinkling on Suzanne, lazy harmonica blowing across On The Low, a piano's nerves fraying the brief instrumental Baby Let Me and a cello scraping mournfully on the rustic chill out that is Feel the Gaze.

    Enervated in a good way it weaves a narcoleptic magic, never better than on a cover of Butterfly Mornings, a song hitherto to the best of my knowledge only ever before heard sung by Jason Robards and Stella Stevens on the soundtrack of Sam Peckinpah's classic Western The Ballad of Cable Hogue.

    Hope and indeed glory. Soft-spoken gentle-man Colum's one of the most captivating and genuine talents on the folk scene, and his latest inspirational and ambitious project is a lovely collaboration with acclaimed singer and clarsach player Maggie daughter of legendary Barra singer Flora MacNeill.

    It ostensibly takes its cue from the story of a voyage two centuries ago on the little vessel named The Seedboat, from the Hebridean island of Barra to Newry in Co.

    Down, by Donald, a young man intending to buy some whiskey for his forthcoming wedding; this ill-fated story is recounted in a bittersweet lament composed by his left-behind bride Catriona, which here is heartrendingly sung by Maggie with help, and some English lyrics, from Colum.

    The power of this song, rooted in the heritage of both Scotland and Ireland, also symbolises the continuing richness of the musical dialogue between the two nations, unashamedly rejoicing in the wealth of "shape-shifting" language they share.

    This piece is the catalyst for an intelligently-crafted sequence of songs and tunes that's loosely linked by the sea and drawn both from the wellspring of tradition and Colum's original compositions.

    It's both highly imaginative and delightfully stimulating in a wonderfully homespun way, and the two performers dovetail together immaculately, working hand-in-hand like the best-fitting of gloves.

    Their voices and sensibilities are as naturally and well-matched as the sounding-together of English and Gaelic.

    The catchy lilt of Calum's Boat gives way to one of Colum's characteristic slices of homespun philosophy The Wave Upon The Shore which resonates onward to and from the second, The Window Half Open, towards the end of the CD , while some typically puckish light relief is provided by Colum's irresistible, if slightly tongue-testing I'm A Terrible Man and the vibrant little morris-tune that Colum uses as the basis for Dance Like Billy-o.

    The emotional temperature is high when Maggie blesses us with her peerless renditions of some wonderful old songs: One finely managed though maybe less characteristic or expected contribution finds Colum and Maggie sweetly duetting on Burns' It Was A' For Our Rightfu' King, while Hebridean mouth-music makes its mark on the project with a sturdy waulking song in praise of Alasdair, Son Of Gallant Coll, and the disc ends in more tranquil mode with the yearning spell of The Castle Of Wild Waves.

    Like the whole disc, this reading is characterised not only by the performers' soothing, intimate vocals and careful, bright-eyed musicianship, but most important, also by its sense of life and vitality and an incurable optimism of the human spirit.

    Mick's been around music all his life: Latterly Mick's been concentrating on theatre work, among other things adapting medieval and ethnic vocal music for use in classical plays, but he's not neglected folk music, keeping his hand in with the London Irish session scene.

    But this slightly-offputtingly-titled CD well it is a bit of a mouthful! Having said that, it proudly encompasses a vastly more varied selection of source material than you might expect to encounter from Mick, even acknowledging his multi-talented nature.

    The disc is bookended by truly delightful performances of two indigenous songs from the north-east: On which subject, Mick couldn't have chosen a finer guitarist to complement the unique character of his own singing voice - notwithstanding the fact that Clive's immensely highly regarded as a skilled soloist, nay virtuoso, in his own right and here on Mick's record he's no mere subordinate support artist.

    Instrumentally, Mick demonstrates his considerable skills mostly on flute on a lovely Forest Fields a medley of Roumanian air, jig and slip-jig and a set of Midsummer Reels where you can marvel at Clive's extraordinarily sympathetic guitar work , also an intriguing, freshly syncopated "Irish-flavoured" version of Maid On The Shore though I hear as much of Eastern Europe in those dashing rhythms!

    Mick's treatment of Silver Dagger is set as a kind of Appalachian slow-drag-blues - and very effective it is too. As is Mick's own original song Where The Deerness Flows, a poignant lament for the loss of the west Durham coalfield and the area's industrial heritage that has much of the feel of a traditional Irish ballad.

    And last but not least there's Tres Damas, Mick's atmospheric yet simple setting of a traditional Sephardic text originally done for a RSC production.

    This is a landmark CD, as well as a brilliant portrayal of Mick's multi-faceted musical personality. Maggie, an attractive-voiced singer, has already released three solo albums in Germany two in collaboration with fellow-musician Mark Powell , and for her fourth she brings an unusual new flavour to the illustrious WildGoose menu.

    Maggie's special musical gift is the creative blending of English traditional songs with the stance, gait and instrumentation of medieval and renaissance-era music.

    Maggie and her musicians playing hurdy gurdy, recorders, crumhorns, flute, harmonium, mandola, cittern, guitar, bouzouki and percussion together make a predictedly bright, lively and busy sound, which, in consort with its typically hi-energy dance-bedecked treatments interposing saltarello, estampie or jig as appropriate , will by its very nature suit some songs better than others.

    The brightness of the settings, with their sometimes stylised dance-like textures and tempos, can give a false impression of insubstantiality which belies the thoughtfulness of Maggie's interpretations, and these can seem unduly detached.

    Rigs Of The Time might be judged too jolly for its message. In all, Maggie has produced a stylish, entertaining and fresh-sounding record that provides an interesting twist on the interpretation and performance of traditional song.

    The key is to acknowledge and celebrate its differences from the standard folk approaches to this material, and on those terms I found myself readily warming to the charms of Maggie and her Sandragon consort Mark Powell, Malcolm Bennett and Anthar Kharana, with guests Will Summers and Will Hughes.

    This is a really fine collection of original songs, many never before recorded or available, that together offer an eloquent, expansive and balanced and intensely thought-provoking account of one of the most controversial political situations in all of mankind's history.

    These songs, all but one the beautiful John Connery ballad The Road To Aughnacloy having been penned by the famed activist, singer and musician Tommy Sands over the course of several decades, are here performed by Tommy himself, with inevitably contributions from fellow Sands Family members Anne, Ben, Colum and "Dino"; and notably, the lovely singing of Tommy's daughter Moya brings an added poignancy to the four songs on this CD where she takes the vocal lead - A Stone's Throw, Bloody Sunday, Bessbrook Lament and Silent No Longer.

    Other folks making special guest appearances on the album include Pete Seeger, Dolores Keane and John Tams, while the deft, subtle instrumental backdrop, embracing inter alia the talents of Messrs.

    In spite of the disc's theme, this is not a depressing album, more an uplifting one. All The Little Children to Troubles one of a number of reflective songs that were commissioned by the BBC's John Leonard in , which sports a disquieting rippling guitar accompaniment.

    All of these songs are ideally judged both in terms of tone and pace although It might be said that the gait of the opening history-lesson Song Of Erin feels a touch too chirpily animated , but in the main it's very easy to get swept along in the exhilarating tide of emotion, especially perhaps in the overriding optimism and hopeful nature of the disc's final group of songs, from The Music Of Healing a duet with Pete Seeger, with whom Tommy penned the song back in and the rousing anthem Carry On, through to the inspirational, defiant Silent No Longer; after which, the closing number is a celebration of the new diversity, The Lagan Side.

    Perhaps it surprised me that Tommy's best-known song on the subject, the sublime There Were Roses, doesn't appear on the disc not even for completeness' sake , but most of us already possess a recording of it I suspect.

    Oh, and around the disc's halfway point, there's an instrumental interlude, A Call To Hope, a captivating whistle tune with unique resonances that was first played ad-hoc on camera by Tommy at a crucial hour during The Talks in The disc's presentation is absolutely exemplary, for, conforming to the label's house standards, the release comes with a fulsome booklet that incorporates Tommy's own helpful explanatory notes as well as all the lyrics to the songs.

    This release is a supreme achievement by any standards, which in presenting Tommy's even-handed response to the Troubles will very probably come to be regarded as a key contribution to our understanding of the events of the past 40 or so years of that stormy conflict.

    Tommy's known as the principal songwriter of the six-strong Sands Family group though it contains at least two other fine songwriters!

    It can't be said that Tommy's songwriting output is prodigious, however, for the release of Let The Circle Be Wide is a cause for celebration simply by dint of its being his first CD of original material since his only other new CD in the intervening years being a Christmas record.

    Rest assured though, for Tommy's not lost his touch in any way and I'm sure that many of the new songs included herein will swiftly become well-loved within the folk community, if not perhaps attaining quite the classic status of There Were Roses or Daughters And Sons.

    Tommy's trademark political and artistic integrity is stamped on every song he's written, and his dream of an Ireland without conflict remains as powerful and committed as ever; he addresses the global concerns of humanity in an accessible and attractive musical language that resonates with the universal appeal of traditional Irish music.

    The opening Young Man's Dream is actually based on the original version of Danny Boy, but has none of the hackneyed crooner's grandstanding of the popular ballad we all know, being instead a clear and fresh paean that "suggests the surrender of the singer to the song rather than the other way round".

    Another well-known tune, Lillibulero, weaves in and out of The People Have Spoken, a brilliantly effective political statement that draws parallels between two opposing Ulster catchphrases.

    Time For Asking Why is another time-honoured plea that transcends its simple philosophical conundrum. There's a heartfelt celebration of the late, great Tommy Makem, with whom Tommy was great friends, and at the other end of the emotional spectrum a light-hearted reel-like song of craic Balleyvalley Brae and a rollicking anecdote about the healing powers of a fiddle champion Send For Maguire.

    Fields Of Daisies is a modern-day broken-token song that really hits the spot, as does the evocative Carlingford Bay, while the tenderly voiced You Will Never Grow Old, dedicated to Tommy's brother Dino, is a slice of perfection that apparently took Tommy thirty years to write!

    The softly anthemic almost Seegeresque Keep On Singing is one of those optimistic numbers you can't shake from your consciousness once you've heard it, and Tommy's all-embracing idealistic positivism lingers on into Make Those Dreams Come True and the album's closing title song.

    One curiosity is Rovers Of Wonder, wherein Tommy conjures a musical alliance between himself and a group of Mongolian throat-singers.

    Which brings me to the observation that the musical backdrops Tommy employs throughout this set are exceedingly well-drawn and expertly recorded, with every strand of the sometimes quite busy and bustling texture admirably cleanly delineated and followed without distracting from the impact of the lyrics or Tommy's fabulous singing voice.

    Throughout, Tommy uses his music and song to pursue his goal of bridging cultural and political differences, and his universal vision of, and quest for, peace is as potent as ever.

    For this is a triumph of a record: David Kidman March The harmonica soon gives way to layers of horns, keyboards and Ian Siegal's soulful voice.

    The richness of the opener is in stark contrast to the spoken vocal of The Man, which provides some silky bass from Andy Hamill and strangled harmonica from Lee.

    This is music for smoky clubs with the audience right on top of the band. No Man's Land provides a funky beat and some more soulful vocals from Siegal.

    He certainly has added an extra dimension to his vocals. Doing What I Should Have Done is more upbeat than most of its predecessors and has some outstanding horns.

    The High Points is very jazzy and normally this would not be to my taste but Lee Sankey and the band win me over and they may do so with you as well.

    A return to the slinky bass for Frank's Brother, this time by Rob Mullarkey, gives us some more spoken vocals - maybe too much for one album.

    This sounds like the introduction to an old American detective film. National Steel guitar introduces The Unchosen and it soon goes off on a pseudo-blues riff that will have your head nodding and your fingers tapping.

    Monkey Lips shows, in my opinion, Lee Sankey at his best. This is over 5 minutes of class harmonica playing and I could listen to this all night.

    The longest track is saved for the last and has a big band feel to it, showing more of the bands versatility. Remember to leave your CD player on until the end or you'll miss a little harmonica and steel guitar blues.

    The second album, I've heard say, is the hardest one to produce but on this evidence then Lee Sankey and his group should have no fears about going on and becoming a force in British and world music.

    Is this guy cool or is this guy cool? The opening track, Drinking Game with its Steely Dan horns and guitar is a spectacular start to this, his debut album.

    This jazzy song profiles both Sankey's high-class harmonica playing and laid-back vocal style. The title track takes us back to the jazz tinged efforts of earlier in the album and it's a sound that pervades throughout.

    I Don't Like My Way Of Living is a classic title for a blues song and is one of the few slow tempo songs on the album.

    The closing track Where We Going To has a great riff and is a fine way to finish. This, of course, is a special edition and what makes it special is that you get an extra CD.

    The second CD provides five tracks, starting with the 11 minute She's Not Alone , a slow blues with the now customary top-notch harmonica. Three live tracks give an insight into what we can expect if we get to see Lee and his excellent band in the future.

    I think that this is a fantastic debut and I'm sure that it will continue to grow on me. At first glance I have to admit apprehension regarding the song titles and the potential subjective content.

    Lyrics that unimaginatively employ love song rhyming chestnuts such as moon, June and spoon and such , are a major stumbling block for these ears.

    Darn if five of the thirteen titles don't feature the word love or variations thereof. Here we go, this is gonna be a challenge! Brooks plays nylon string guitar on El Coyote, a commentary on recent developments regarding the porous U.

    Seven Eleven Heaven recalls a love affair that never got off ground following a chance encounter in a Citgo service station, while The Coffee Club is a portrait of the old folks who frequent a local diner.

    In the latter Santos names numerous ice cream makers, discards Texas' famed Blue Bell brand, and casts his vote in f l avour of Bronx made Haagen-Dazs.

    As a cohesive song collection, contrary to ordinary it is not! Score 5 out of Julian Sas is considered to be one of the best live acts on the blues-rock scene in The Netherlands and Resurrection is his first assault on the rest of the world.

    Starting with Moving To Survive, a fast blues rock with incisive guitar licks akin to Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, Sas sets out his stall with nine original songs.

    I love slow burners and Burnin' Soul is one of the best that I've heard. The band plays in the classic power trio format with Rob Heijne on drums and Tenny Tahamata on bass.

    Slide guitar from Sas is most welcome and, on this, he shows his class. Runnin' All My Life is powerful blues influenced rock and he's made the transition from being a big fish in the small pond of Dutch blues to swimming with the bigger fish very well.

    He has nothing to worry about and he is so easy to listen to. The obligatory power ballad comes in the form of All I Know as Sas strokes his Strat on this 7-minute epic.

    His sanguine vocal is well suited here and there's a telling guitar break. Ain't No Change is standard fare as far as blues rock goes and the eponymous title track stays on the rock side of the blues with fuzzed guitar.

    He's managed to keep his standards high throughout the album and Stranded is another high-class song even if the Bon Jovi style ballad isn't quite in the same sphere vocally.

    Junkies Blues is a gritty blues and the band play it extremely well. The only drawback is that it is let down by the vocal, which happens a little too often on this album.

    He closes with another 7-minute epic that embodies everything a power trio should be, gentle in places and powerful in others. This is, quite simply, three players at the top of their game.

    David Blue March Currently one half of Sugarcane Jane with singer-songwriter Anthony Crawford who produced and wrote 11 of the 12 songs , Alabama's Savana Lee not to be confused with Vancouver's Savannah Leigh Wellman whose band's called Redbird released this debut three years ago, but it's only now finding exposure outside of the USA courtesy of Sweden's Hemifran.

    Save for one track, the blues flavoured A Heart Needs A Reason which features Waddy Wachtel and Spooner Oldham, Crawford also played everything too, so it says much about Lee that she remains the dominant personality.

    Her voice slightly reminiscent of the young Nanci Griffith with a pop flavour to the trebly country twang but also capable of riding bluesy ranges on something like the moody The One Before Me, digging into a shade of Zooey Deschanel on the speak-sing Chameleon's All Star Love Band while Little Creeps and Uptight Situations channel the barroom swagger of Sheryl Crow.

    Stylistically ranging between the shuffle pop of Uptight Situations, Blue Monday's piano balladry and the campfire Oh Brother trot of The Wait, Crawford's songs suit her well and, in return, she brings them to emotional life.

    The only non-original is her cover of Steve Forbert's signature song Romeo's Tune, the tempo taken down a notch with mandolin backing.

    When she sings 'meet me in the middle of the day", you'll find yourself asking where. As a teenager, Philip Sayce was held in such high regard as to be invited to join the Jeff Healey Band and played with them at the Montreux Jazz Festival and many other sold out gigs around the world.

    He then joined Melissa Etheridge's band and was with her until Now temporarily on his own, he releases his debut solo album on Provogue, a label that is getting a reputation as the home of guitar players.

    Slip It Away is a Jimi Hendrix style hard blues which speeds up as Sayce launches into a solo that will take your breath away.

    This is followed by the acoustic led Angels Live Inside before he turns the power back on for the ballad, Dream Away and the rock with Sweet Misery.

    Blood On Your Hands is a standard rocker but a classy example of one. Sayce doesn't go in for too many solos but he puts in a good one here with touches of Bon Jovi.

    Cinnamon Girl is a classic Neil Young song and Sayce stays very close to the original feel. Alchemy is a slow, bluesy instrumental which showcases his playing ability and it works very well.

    Sayce is very easy to listen to although he is getting more and more adventurous as the album goes on.

    The title track has echoes of Foxy Lady at the beginning before going onto a heavy blues riff. This is a big, blues rocker and a feast of guitar playing.

    The bonus track, Arianrhod is another instrumental to satisfy the guitar lovers. Sayce uses just about every effect pedal in his collection.

    At over 7 minutes, it has a bit of a break just after 4. He then goes off into what is effectively a reprise of the title track, this time played on dobro.

    Philip Sayce is a worthy addition to Provogue's excellent stable of guitar players. Boz Scaggs - Dig Virgin Records America When you see the words Boz and Scaggs on the cover of an album, you can be pretty damn sure that you're in for some smooth, sophisticated soul, leavened with a fair smattering of grit - just to keep things interesting.

    Dig delivers all that, served up with the degree of professionalism you'd expect from a man who's been plying his trade for more years than he'd probably care to admit.

    Of course, the Scaggs man can't do it all himself and, for his first set of original material in more than seven years, he's called upon the services of lots of old pals to produce a sound that gels and flows despite the changing personnel from track to track.

    Tracks two and three - ' Sarah ' and ' Miss Riddle ' - show the side of Scaggs' music which least excites the old Hall backbone. Cool, smooth, laid-back, soul-tinged love songs that ought to be listened to only after midnight in an expensive penthouse apartment with the Gucci loafers casually kicked off on to the hand-woven Persian rug.

    It's really not my cup of tea at all but either of these could do a fair job of work of getting the likes of Barry White or Teddy Pendergrass back into the charts.

    And I suppose that, if push came to shove and I had to listen to this kind of thing, I'd rather it be by Boz Scaggs than many others I could name.

    By way of complete contrast, Scaggs can also offer up the wonderful ' Get on the natch ' - all growled vocals, choppy guitar, upfront drums and sharp angles.

    Reminds these ears of the Alabama 3 and is the dirty, raunchy side of Scaggs that I could happily groove along to from dusk 'til dawn.

    The rhythm section of East's bass and Robin DeMaggio's hand percussion lends the slow pace real depth. It is, quite simply, lovely.

    Possibly more renowned for his ability to achieve a certain sound and feel, it could be said that Scaggs' songwriting has taken something of a back seat in the past.

    That's not the case with Dig as, whether singlehandedly or in collaboration, the tunes and lyrics bear close scrutiny. It's an album with a variety of moods and one which is destined, I reckon, to become known as one of Scaggs' best.

    Minnesota-born Martha has latterly relocated to Montana; she's worked on the Cold Mountain movie soundtrack, and spent six years in East Tennessee as a key member of the highly regarded Reeltime Travelers until they disbanded in early During that stint, she won both first and second prizes at a songwriting competition at 's Merlefest; meeting up with Dirk Powell provided just the catalyst she needed to get on down and make a solo record, and The West Was Burning is the result.

    Martha's songs are at once straightforward and enigmatic, with a gentle organic feel, and really capture the essence of the backroads of the west "places where there's no exit number", as Dirk puts it!

    Having said which, it's not always easy to say what they're about, for even the more tangible imagery she uses has a peculiarly elusive quality that comes as much from an appealing looseness of expression matched in the music as from succinct, even wry observation from the other side of the barroom or tracks.

    The downhome authenticity and no-nonsense emotional intensity of Martha's personal vision at times recalls that of Gillian Welch, but hers is arguably a more measured, less overtly bleak view, with telling resonances evoked from the most simple activities "riding on a troublesome vine", indeed.

    Her musical settings complement the quivering timbre of her teasing, intimately fragile singing voice: Many also boast a raw, edgy rhythm coming from what often seems like a back-lot garage drumkit interestingly, drum duties are shared between Levon Helm of The Band and Amy Helm from Olabelle.

    The sound just sort-of comes together, I can't put it any other way. And naturally, Dirk himself augments his producer's role by playing among other things fiddle, electric guitar, banjo and mandolin, for he can't resist contributing just one instrumental Call Me Shorty , where his mournful fast-drivin' fiddle is very much in evidence.

    This album may sound at times slightly low-key, but it proves to be of significantly deeper impact - quite irresistible, in fact - and the quietly grainy charms of its music and poetry readily, if subtly, insinuate themselves into one's consciousness.

    A native of Dingle Co. Kerry, although Scanlon had been performing round the Galway pubs since she was 15, she first came to most people's attention when she provided the vocals for John Spillane's All The Ways You Wander on Sharon Shannon's Libertango album.

    Shannon repays the favour on Scanlon's debut, produced by and featuring Lunasa guitarist Donogh Hennessy, lending her accordion to a breathy voiced but jauntily earthy bodhran driven version of Cyril Tawney's Sally Free and Easy.

    Scanlon claims her singing style to be influenced by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, and while that's not immediately obvious there's no denying the quality of her timbre, not as ethereal as, say Maire Brennan or Sally Oldfield, traces of both in evidence, but still suggesting faerie folk qualities behind the cut peat flavours.

    Despite her background, there's only a handful of traditional interpretations here, the murder ballad What Put The Blood and the equally cheerful Molly Ban, but she has selected her diverse covers well.

    She writes too, and while Churchyard's the only one self-penned contribution here, it's something of a gem, a trad styled ballad inspired by False Knight On The Road and veined with Eastern textures.

    It's an impressive debut that bodes well for Scanlon's future. She actually has no input at all on the title track, a 90 second instrumental epilogue written and performed by cellist Caroline Dale.

    Scatter is a somewhat indescribable outfit. After releasing their acclaimed album Surprising Sing Stupendous Love back in , they then by all accounts made a hell of an impression at last year's Green Man Festival.

    Deconstructed folksong meets organised confusion, one might say Three possibly four of its eight tracks are ostensibly based on folksong - or rather, derive their inspiration from the mood of a particular folksong: She Moves Through The Fayre brings the most audibly recognisable statement of the source song itself, and here it's sort-of-chanted, wailed, by the ensemble's new vocalist Hanna Tuulikki.

    The title track nosedives off a Beefheartian pseudo-Japanese guitar riff to a jabbering cacophony of public-address and into a strident jazz ostinato passage.

    And by transporting the Dowie Dens Of Yarrow to the home of rebetika they're evoked as "a place of mystery and misery" in Scatter's intriguing arrangement.

    O Death is perhaps the strangest of all: All told, this is an extraordinary album, which takes the concepts both of folk-drone and radical jazz to new and often dizzying heights; but it takes an open mind and close listening to unravel its curious tapestry of delights, a mind that will be receptive to following Scatter's tangents wherever they may lead.

    It's primarily the latter, however, which is on proud display on this, his second solo album. He plays the banjo - and how!

    Steppin' In The Boiler House starts out with just that - Rig Root, like the title track later on, features Mark's "rock clogging" feet alongside his banjo - but then settles down to an enticing and varied menu that's not by any means all "flash Harry" picking.

    The enchanting delicacy of Eileen's Waltz forms a perfect foil to the rootsy galumph of the preceding Cajun Stomp, and the expertly controlled hoedown stringband runpast of Last Old Dollar featuring Tim O'Brien guesting on vocals and mandolin leads through naturally to the more reflective Season Of Joy and the beautifully poised original tune Robindale, inspired by the mountains around Asheville, North Carolina, that ushers in some seriously blistering picking on Slate.

    Mark's "house band" for the album sessions unites two seasoned veterans Missy Raines bass and Jim Hurst guitar with "young turk" fiddler Casey Driessen fiddle , while Tim helps out on several cuts and there are some notable contributions from Stuart Duncan fiddle , Jerry Douglas dobro and Bela Fleck mandolin too.

    There's a grand sense of fun on these sessions, everyone's having a ball yet they're content to let the pace ease back apiece rather than go hell for leather for effect - and the miracle is that there's still plenty of excitement and internal tension in the performances.

    And that makes all the difference of course. Tim puts it exactly in his booklet note: Tangible of New York is one such and they have some wonderful surprises in their catalogue.

    This is one to seek out now and play often during those moments when you need the Linus-blanket of feel-good music and a sunny day smile.

    We are in familiar Nashville territory but it is refreshingly good. For all of you who are tired of polished mediocrity, this is unvarnished honesty, impossible-to-resist rootsy, hatless ' country ' fare with a ' recorded live ' energy and songwriting of the highest calibre.

    His are catchy tunes with great hooks and lyrics which had me suspecting that he has his tongue in his cheek some of the time! Their echoes are all there on this track collection in the best possible way.

    Make Amends is produced by Tommy Spurlock who adds his own steely talents on guitars, mandolin, pedal steel, dobro, lap steel and bass. His assured, no-nonsense contribution made me check him out.

    What a pedigree and what an album! The album, which was two years in the making, opens with Any Direction, which is vibrant and fresh with a youthful vocal and stinging guitar.

    He stays with the funk for Take On My Beliefs but he rocks it up a little this time. His guitar playing shines through and the whole package comes across a little like Prince, who he just happens to think is a genius.

    Just Not Today has his vocal progressing all the time and still staying on the funky side. U Don't Mind has crisp drums from Arie Verhaar and this mid-paced funk grinder certainly shows up Prince as a major influence.

    Gone By Tomorrow is a slinky professional blues whereas Everybody's Gotta Be Somewhere is soulful and a strong contender for song of the album.

    The latter has one of his best vocals so far. Game Called Love is a big, ballsy, swinging blues with heaps of attitude. He rocks it up a little for It's Gonna Be Alright but this rarely gets out of the power pop genre.

    Last Goodbye is just Schill on guitar and vocal with a little harmonica added by Aram Raken. This acoustic track shows the talent behind the gloss and is a very pleasant finish.

    On this basis, Stefan Schill is certainly worth another listen. Danny's been quick to follow his fine collection Instead The Forest Rose To Sing, and he's done so with a telling if seemingly literal sense of continuity: The title track proves to be another equally catchy ditty with memorable join-in tag lines, expressing partly complex personal conundrums in maddeningly simple language.

    The close, intimate feel of the new album as a whole is managed as much by the lyrics as by the brilliantly simple and proudly unadorned acoustic-guitar-based arrangements, which mostly involve just Danny himself with occasional second-guitar embellishments courtesy of Will Sexton , some gentle harmony vocal work from Raina Rose and Carrie Elkin, piano from Keith Gary on and charismatic harmonica from Ray Bonneville on Ragtime Ragtime Blues which otherwise is probably the album's least memorable song.

    She was looking for some publicity for the game in her first visit here with the team since taking over as Executive Director some months ago. We talked at length when she called, and she invited me to a cookout at the home of her parents, Will and Dodie Hrynko, in Burdett, on a acre spread overlooking Seneca Lake.

    It was a party thrown for the players, so I got a closeup look at them a day before the game and got a sense of the camaraderie that helps carry them from city to city for 25 or so events -- individual games and tournaments -- each year.

    I actually arrived early, and so got a chance to talk to Desiree before the party got rolling. She told me about the road she took to her current job -- school, more school, a position with the Syracuse Chiefs baseball team, other jobs and, currently in addition to everything else on her plate , pursuit of a PhD.

    And she talked about the Wounded Warrior team. That effort is in the form of a camp, where the team plays softball with the kids and interacts through other games, bonding and showing the kids that they are not alone in the world.

    When the kids come to camp, said one player, they have a tendency to hide behind their parents, but by the end they are clinging to the players, not wanting to leave.

    And it is one that Desiree is crazy about. She learned about the team several years ago, when she was working for the Chiefs, when they hosted the Amputee squad.

    She was smiling, too, at the game against the Pioneers at Dunn Field in Elmira the next night. The visitors started fast, with three runs in the first inning, but then were blanked for three innings and fell behind But then, as the rain intensified, so did the Warrior offense -- the team scoring five runs in the 5th inning and then three in the 7th to win going away, The crowd was happy, the players on both sides seemed happy -- and while I had by that time lost track of Desiree Ellison, I assume she was happy too.

    After the game ended, and being fairly drenched, I made my way to my car and, as I pulled away, I heard and felt what seemed like someone pounding on my car roof.

    It took me a few moments to realize it was the sounds of a fireworks show over the stadium behind me. Most of the crowd had stayed for that -- a traditionally patriotic conclusion to an evening honoring patriots who, despite the loss of limbs, had risen to the occasion and showed what they show crowds dozens of times each year and what they show those kids at camp: Life can rob you of so many things, but courage and determination can more than even the score.

    I scrapped my column By Charlie Haeffner O dessa, NY, July 18, -- I wrote another column for this space -- one that rambled on and on, and that I ultimately found boring, and that I jettisoned.

    The primary reason for the rejection: It had to do with the fact that the Legislature stood virtually alone for those four years among area governments and businesses, almost all of whom were adamantly opposed to the project.

    It had to do with the environmental concerns in an area that depends on tourism -- an economic driver that could go horribly awry with a single ecological catastrophe.

    It had to do with the protests that followed that initial resolution -- the hundreds of arrests that ensued in the following months, and the clogged court up in the Town of Reading.

    It had to do with the folks on the Legislature who voted for the storage, and those who voted against it, and their reasons, where given.

    It had to do with the misguided notion by the Legislature chair that the storage proposal, four years ago, was about to be approved by the governor.

    That seemed like a big duh. I scrapped that column. It was too easy to beat up on a Legislature that stood alone for so long, seemingly fighting reason.

    She's a remarkable businesswoman who spearheaded the facility in Montour Falls that houses cats and dogs. Our animal friends are so very much better off thanks to her.

    Her name came to my attention when someone nominating her asked if I could be used as a reference. I said yes, of course. So, the number of females that I and various readers have spotlighted is growing: Belle Cornell, Jane Delano, Dr.

    But the count right now is 39 men and 5 women in the Hall of Fame. That disparity needs to change if the Hall hopes to retain a sense of validity.

    Balloting is currently under way. Click here to access a nomination form. I recently watched one of those wonderful black-and-white classic films -- "Meet John Doe," a Frank Capra-directed gem starring Gary Cooper as the title character and one of my favorite actresses, Barbara Stanwyck.

    What struck me upon this viewing it had been a few years since I had last seen it was the passion with which the average man and woman portrayed in the film embraced the idea of helping their neighbors.

    Back then, the chief forms of communication were radio and newspapers -- in this case a crooked, bad-guy-owned newspaper that spewed dare I say?

    Now, lo these 77 years later, we have much greater communication through the internet, but instead of drawing us together, it divides us.

    The newspapers now aren't as vile as the one in "John Doe," but with press reporters now doubling as media read that TV darlings, and with the rise of Fox news as a sort of extension of the governmental right, the effect is the same.

    The hero of "John Doe" threatened to jump off a very high tower as a form of protest. With today's lack of decorum, extreme and growing divisiveness, truth twisting, extensive welfare, religious extremism, toothless representatives and senators, government corruption I'm thinking mainly of Albany, but Washington fits, too , rampant pornography, an opioid epidemic, and the absence, for far too long, of the Brooklyn Dodgers, that form of protest rings truer now, I think, than it did in the film.

    For those unfamiliar with it, the film ends on an up note, with John Doe stopping short of jumping, carrying his ladylove to safety and, embraced by the common folk, effectively snubbing his nose at the nasty multimedia publisher-curmudgeon.

    Nowadays, John would have been ripped to pieces by either the left or right or both in the blink of an internet eye. Analysis prevails now, to the nth.

    Talking heads propound, and media wannabes spew their bile on blogs. Viral, instead of a type of illness, becomes a communicable way of life: Most everyone who commented agreed with the names I proffered, and some added others, in each case the name of a woman -- for it is hard to refute the fact that a male majority in the Hall of Fame makes it something of a boys club.

    The past four induction classes have seen an male advantage -- good picks individually, but completely gender unbalanced. Other names suggested to me since that column was published have included Belle Cornell and Jane Delano, local figures of historical import.

    Blanche Borzell was suggested, too. She is a longtime and highly respected physician and coroner. Add to that Carol Bower, the grand caterer who has long provided meals on site and at her home on Cass Road.

    I would hasten to add Kate LaMoreaux, a Watkins Glen High School swim coach of amazing success who still oversees an annual summer swim program and plays a mean dulcimer.

    I offer them with the thought that perhaps a reader might have missed a great opportunity for entertainment, and finds it mentioned here.

    Things have quieted down tremendously since graduations, and the heat index has gone sky-high. It was over yesterday and today.

    With summer here and thus no high school sports, my job has eased up, and just in time. I have to start thinking about the future in judicious terms.

    My annual visit to Bois Blanc Island in northern Michigan should help me recharge. I subsequently got a fairly clean bill of health from the doctor, but he also reminded me that old age comes to us all, and with it diminishing wells of energy.

    As long as my mind is sharp and my health holds, I will keep going It's Hall of Fame time The search is on for Schuyler County Hall of Fame nominees.

    That word comes from the Chamber of Commerce, the moving force behind the Hall of Fame. The Hall, instituted in , is a gathering of late and living Schuylerites who have passed a strict screening to become members.

    The list of the Hall of Fame members is not long -- just 44 entrants -- and the selection process less than consistent. It was held annually at its beginning, in the mids, and then took a break of three years, and then a break of another seven years.

    Then boom, boom, boom -- three straight years with inductions -- and then four off, and three off, and most recently a break of two years.

    The membership list encompasses agricultural standouts, political standouts, legal standouts, a woman devoted to the county history, a couple of doctors, educational standouts, and business standouts.

    Who this next time? Well, I would start with Jim Guild, a man of business foresight and a force in the downtown business community.

    His operations take up nearly a block of Franklin Street. Business visionary, religiously oriented, a landlord of several properties, Rotarian.

    The man is always thinking, and always doing. Some consider him a maverick, which might put him on the outside looking in, but I think the selectors should strongly consider opening that door to him.

    I would continue with J. This is a man of compassion who has helped many people over the years, including yours truly.

    Good God, what else do you need to do for induction? And I would heartily endorse the recently departed Frank Steber -- longtime and popular Watkins Glen teacher, and later a columnist Seneca Spectator for the local weekly and the author of three historical novels based right here in our historic backyard: He also served as president of the Watkins Glen Library board and the Schuyler County Historical Society, and had a wide circle of friends drawn to the gentleman he was.

    The last time I saw him, not long before his passing, he was selling and signing his books at the Historical Society Museum, and said he was planning another novel.

    Alas, that will not happen. But the Hall of Fame can. Beyond that, we need more diversity. I would suggest for instance that women be given a much closer look.

    Right now, there are only five female members of the Hall of Fame: We can do better than that. And while she predated Schuyler County, she was right here once, and historically significant: Or how about former Watkins Glen Mayor Judy Phillips, who has a long and distinguished history of public service?

    Or chronicler extraordinaire Glenda Gephart? Do you have a favorite or favorites? You can put in your two cents worth with the Chamber of Commerce until July Now that the year is ending And celebrations have ensued.

    We held our Top Drawer 24 party with only minor hiccups. Each party offers a new challenge or two, even after 13 years.

    Sports awards have been distributed. Meanwhile, signs of summer have arrived. And a carnival with it. And all great fun.

    And round and round we go But one day, the lottery or a sugar mama or some other stroke of luck willing, I will take the leap.

    Turns out that he actually leaped from a moving train, and was removed from the scene by the current-day Willoughby Funeral Home.

    I trust I have a stronger sense of self-preservation than that. I just have to pace myself. My doctor and my meds tell me so. I used to be athletic -- on the high school varsity baseball team.

    I developed some power left-handed. I could run rather fast, and throw bullets. Now, if I try to run, my left foot damaged last winter and my right knee the winter before scream out at me in protest.

    Even without those maladies, speed is not in my arsenal any longer. Nor, I suspect, is my ability to send a ball over an outfield fence.

    And my arm was never the same after a rotator cuff injury. It's enough, on occasion, to make me seethe. I used to play; now I spectate.

    As a fan, though, I find I can act on my admiration of others -- specifically of our high school athletes. And a fan I am.

    I especially admired the Top Drawer kids this year. Their achievements are, collectively, mind-boggling. And I admire the winners of the Susan Award, a sportsmanship-in-life honor named after my late wife.

    Escapism can be good -- as long as we keep one foot firmly placed in the reality of our existence: The end of a month school year is, for me, the end of a marathon -- with another looming not far ahead.

    But first comes the Island. It's as essential to me as the air. Sometimes there are bugs. The young lady did not like it, and thus did not remain the fellow's girlfriend for long.

    For the Island comes first. The Island has electricity and running water and modern restrooms -- all lacking up there when I was a boy.

    He did that once from New York -- from Odessa -- back when he was a boy and his Mom was alive. We met them coming in late at night at the Island airfield, just as the wind was picking up from a nasty storm moving in.

    The craft was getting knocked around pretty good as it landed. As I remember it, when Dave got out of that plane, he dropped to his knees and kissed the ground.

    Air travel can do that to you: All the world is a stage For plays in seven acts. From mewling turned to teenaged angst, We move to love and marriage pacts.

    To parenthood, to preening pride, Then to a certain slide. And in the end, when we revert To loss, we must abide. But on the way it's safe to say, and with no reservation That flight is not in any way Akin to preservation.

    In all, visits were paid to 10 schools for the presentation of invitations to 24 remarkable student-athlete-citizens selected for inclusion on the 13th annual Top Drawer 24 team.

    Cheplick widely known as Chep and I devised this team back in late , while brainstorming in his downstairs rec room. I had not had an exactly embracing experience covering Odessa-Montour sports at the outset, and a trip I had made to the Watkins high school office early in my online venture basically resulted in a rebuff by the principal.

    But Chep saw the potential -- the need, really -- for The Odessa File in Watkins Glen, and so I relented, and went down to cover a couple of sporting events The Watkins district, I discovered, was as far from O-M as philosophy and caution could take it, O-M being at the time both isolationist and guarded, and Watkins Anyway, we came up with the idea to have me pick Athletes of the Week, based on all that I observe -- which is quite a bit each week; I cover a lot of games involving the two schools.

    And then, not long after, we decided All-Schuyler All-Star teams might have value if selected by me seasonally. And that worked -- and then along came the idea for the Top Drawer 24 -- an annual team taking into account scholarship, athleticism, personality and citizenship -- "the whole package," I believe I first called it.

    Twelve years in now, we -- that is, Chep and I and a committee, and with input from area administrators and from the occasional parent always welcome -- have distributed medallions and certificates and cupcakes, I guess you might include, since they are a staple of our annual award celebration to honorees.

    Many of those were repeat honorees, especially in the early years; one girl made the team four times, and several three. Juniors, in fact, are generally outnumbered by seniors.

    Last year we had eight juniors, and only one of them is on the team again in this, her senior year.

    Each year starts fresh, especially now with spots on the team at such a premium. It is so much harder with 10 schools vying for the same number of positions as before: When we expanded, we took some heat on it.

    It was a bold stroke -- one devised by Chep -- and it paid off. The other eight schools value the award in a way that we have never seen it embraced in Schuyler County.

    Each school welcomes Chep and me in its own way. My favorite is Spencer-Van Etten, where administrators have the honorees' parents and even grandparents on hand for the presentation of the invitation.

    This year, with just one honoree, S-VE made the biggest deal of the invitation phase -- with parents, grandparents and sister waiting for the honoree, Mackenzie Grube, whose smile signified surprise and pleasure at what she found awaiting her when she was called to the main office.

    What is important to me and Chep has always been the kids -- honoring those who have earned it and challenging them to give back in the future; to become our community leaders or leaders of whatever community or state in which they ultimately reside.

    It has always been important to create a special feel to capture those special moments when the honorees are called forward one by one at the ceremony to receive the applause -- the encouragement -- of the assembled crowd.

    And the place that captures that mood is the Watkins Glen State Park Pavilion, up near the pool -- a place that evokes a timeless quality, so much better than an interior although it offers shelter itself, quite necessary in years past that brought us sleet and rain and, once, downright cold that prompted the park to light the fireplaces at either end of the structure.

    I have had the privilege, as I noted, of meeting with all of them. In the case of the Schuyler schools, I know each of the honorees, some better than others.

    And they are clearly an exceptional group. If you haven't seen the story about the team -- with each member listed and pictured and individually described -- you can click here to catch up.

    A nudge, if you will. If you can pull yourselves away from your usual routine on Monday evening, June 4th, come on up to the State Park pavilion for this year's Top Drawer 24 party -- located near the park entrance across from Seneca Lodge.

    Inspiration, thy name is I am encouraged because it never fails that I am inspired by young people who rise to the challenges that school and its attendant activities -- primarily sports -- pose to them.

    At my age, I am on the sidelines; so I take pleasure from there in their achievements, which appeal to the fan in me.

    It is also a time when I can, in some small way, help to congratulate them in a perhaps meaningful way -- through inclusion on this website's spring sports All-Star team or, beyond that, with inclusion on the Top Drawer 24 team of outstanding student-athlete-citizens.

    And beyond that, there is the presentation each year -- on the same night as our Top Drawer celebration at the State Park pavilion -- of Athlete of the Year and Susan Award trophies to deserving and yes, inspiring students.

    All of that is both time-consuming Because thought and study and discussion and worry can take a toll -- and that's what goes into such selections.

    The Top Drawer program, conceived more than a decade ago, has grown to encompass schools beyond the border of Schuyler County. We partner with 10 schools -- up from the original two -- to honor students who are among the best and brightest that our area has to offer.

    The Athlete of the Year Awards are the culmination of sports coverage on The Odessa File through three seasons at Watkins Glen and O-M, complete with an ongoing poll that tracks performances.

    In the end, poll points generally tell who the recipients should be. Naturally, those points can't be generated without a consistent effort on my part to observe.

    I see a lot of games or matches in the course of a school year, and learn the nuances of the players, and their athletic qualities -- among them precision, attitude, leadership and desire.

    That all plays, ultimately, into the selection of the Top Drawer 24 by a committee. And it plays into selection of the Susan Award winner each year -- or on a couple of occasions, winners.

    There are two this year -- two wholly deserving individuals. It was presented originally -- starting in -- to someone in Schuyler County, but has since become available to students from other Top Drawer 24 schools.

    Anyway, the Susan honoree is not always a sportsman in a traditional sense. The honoree might be someone who has met adversity in life with grace and dignity and a drive that never admits defeat -- or it can be someone who is like Susan was.

    That requires a sense of fair play, a core of kindness, and a single-mindedness in pursuit of goals, but with a sense not of self, but of the usefulness of those goals to others -- such as teammates.

    In other words, I look for someone who -- from my own personal standpoint -- is a mix of attributes that almost defy definition. For Susan could not be pigeonholed.

    But as the saying goes, I know it when I see it. Having said that, I find myself quite pleased with the selections on all fronts this year. The makeup varies from year to year, depending on circumstance and the pool of nominees.

    The honorees will be notified of their selection this week, and the team unveiled soon after. There have also been yet-to-be-announced Male and Female Athletes of the Year selected by this website at both Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen, and there are, as mentioned, two Susan Award winners -- one in Schuyler County and one out, also not yet unveiled.

    Things get started about 5 p. Athlete of the Year Awards are presented at 5: A Top Drawer 24 team photo is at 5: Speeches -- short, message-orient speeches -- begin at 5: Medallions, trophies and celebration follow.

    And you're all invited. Take a drive up there. There is no admission charge, either to the park at that point, or to the party. Have at it, historians Knowing how small that auditorium is, and how tight the stage space, I can only marvel at the challenges it presented.

    Schuyler plays nowadays are held for the most part in large high school auditoriums with sizable stages. Anyway, as the flyers attest: Being a newcomer I arrived here in , most of the names in the cast are ones with which I am not attuned, although some jumped out: Frank Steber and William Elkins chief among them -- teacher and lawyer, both beloved across many years.

    Steber died recently at the age of I in fact procured these flyers from the home of Mr. He is 94 now, and there with his wife Irene, Their daughters have been conducting a sale of material from the Elkins house on Route near Burdett.

    There I found the flyers this past weekend, while perusing Mr. Elkins -- a member of the Schuyler County Hall of Fame -- has been known widely for years for his legal and humanitarian efforts.

    His home reflects an eclectic taste -- political buttons, some old toy trains, postcards, shelves of non-fiction books and novels, magazines -- and a host of personal knickknacks.

    But it was the flyers that caught my eye -- still in mint condition, as fresh as the day they were issued. They were in a stack of various papers, along with three other flyers -- identical to one another and also mint -- touting the Republican candidacy of William N.

    Following his death, the County Courthouse was named in his honor. There was also, in that grouping, a American Legion membership card with Mr.

    I found a book, too, by another well-known local lawyer, the late Liston F. It was published in , when Mr. Hanlon, a lumberman who was a board trustee in the Odessa School District.

    An elementary school in Odessa is named in his honor. History has long fascinated me; I was a history major in college, and like to mix my fiction reading with biographies and such.

    Not to mention the late Jean Argetsinger, a community leader for years. Steber and Hanlon wrote novels, but little, as far as I know, about themselves.

    Elkins and Ellison are subjects who should yield a wealth of information -- just by talking to Elkins or to those who know him and knew Ellison.

    And there are plenty of Argetsingers around to discuss the family matriarch. Have at it, historians. Susan Hazlitt as Tracy Lord.

    Getchie Argetsinger as Dinah Lord. Janice Kranz as Margaret Lord. George Shannon as Thomas. Ann Ryer as Elizabeth Liz Embrie.

    Compese as Macaulay Mike Connor. Hugh Snow as George Kittredge. Frank Steber as Seth Lord. Genevieve Peck as Elsie. Ronald Nilsen as Mac.

    Fay Nilsen as May. Darwin Connelly as Edward. Among other names, backstage: The Hatsell's Music Makers provided music before the play and during intermissions: Most are just names to the newcomer, but they had key responsibilities.

    All leading, I imagine, to a couple of wonderful evenings 55 years ago. Kudos to the local robotics team that competed late last month in a world competition in Detroit.

    The event, under the auspices of the FIRST organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology featured four classes; the local team -- which goes by the name Mechanical Meltdown, and operates a robot it built and named Renaldo -- competed with other 7th through 12th graders.

    A total of teams -- out of 5, worldwide -- qualified in their division for the Detroit competition. There was a similar competition held the previous week in Houston -- representing countries from the Southern Hemisphere.

    The Detroit event was for Northern Hemisphere countries. The Mechanical Meltdown has seven members. Of them, five went on the trip. Two had unavoidable conflicts.

    Most of the kids' parents were there, along with a grandfather and aunt. All told, 40, people were in attendance, among them thousands of competing students -- making it the largest robotics competition in the world.

    Said Kathy Gascon, who serves as a coach: We were so pleased just to have earned our way there. Our team performed even better than I expected, and I am extremely proud of them to have placed 32nd among these truly world-class teams.

    The passion of younger days. It was engrossing, and satisfying, and called to mind my own minor experience in Washington, working for a few months for USA Today -- long after the Pentagon Papers and the subsequent Watergate mess.

    I was in D. But that was minor, a mere sighting across the dining hall. Call it a brush with history. And I did very well in my editing post, winning more than a dozen weekly awards.

    But try as I might to catch on there full time, I was rebuffed, and ended up leaving journalism for a few years.

    One of the reasons given me for the rejection came, off the record, from a full-time editor I had befriended. I was too old. Also too white and too male, those being important hiring characteristics at the time.

    I was too old 30 years ago. Anything near 40 was excessive in the eyes of the suits, I guess. Three decades have passed since then, and I find myself wondering: If I was too old then, what am I now?

    It is, after all, 30 years later. I think it might be true. An example of passion applied in my yesteryear: There was a murder there of a woman I knew peripherally -- the wife of a local attorney.

    Her name was Holly Gilbert, and she was 34 years old. She was killed by bullets to the neck and head from a. Police theorized that she had arrived home from running errands and had stumbled into an ongoing robbery.

    This occurred on Harris Drive, an upper-crust section of the city. The whole thing was a shock. And some of us had met Holly.

    When we did hear about it, there was no suspect; police had no idea who was responsible. But that night the story took a nasty turn.

    He had a year-old son, Leo, and Leo was now a suspect. Early the next day the boy was apprehended many miles away, hitchhiking along the New York Thruway near Buffalo.

    I remember that day, Oct. I remember because I got rather passionate during an argument in the newsroom about whether we could use his name, since he was only Normal practice involving teen crimes was that the names were withheld from publication.

    But this was different; this was murder, and so I felt the rules be damned. Some others in the newsroom held the more traditional viewpoint: At that age -- I was days away from turning 28 -- I tended to emotional extremes when I felt that rules were absurd and obstructionist; and so I did that day.

    I argued passionately and found, ultimately, that the powers that be at the paper leaned in the same direction.

    I remember all of this in some detail because of the prominent people involved in the crime; because the victim was more than a statistic to me; and because I felt it was just flat-out right to inform the public about what was transpiring on a story so important -- so affecting, really, that it still resonates with me all these years, nearly 42 of them, later.

    There is, in fact, a reproduction of the Watertown Times back page that day, Oct. And in a curve-cornered box at the bottom of one of several stories we carried that day was this: But that page aside, I remember the case too because of how it ended.

    Officials threw the book at the kid -- but it was a very thin, very light book. Then he would have to be turned loose unless he, for some reason, desired supervised treatment beyond that.

    I have no indication available that he did. That was the law back then, since changed. We have fulfilled our mandate to this county.

    All that remains of it are the memories -- of Watertown, which I left three years later, and of Holly Gilbert. The victim of a brutal crime. One such instance came while I worked at The Leader in Corning in the late s.

    The paper was celebrating its th birthday, and I was told by the publisher to write an account -- warts and all -- about a day in the life of the newspaper.

    The publisher failed to read it until 15, copies of the special section that held my story were printed and stacked for delivery, set to go out on a specific upcoming day.

    Within my story was mention of some friction that existed between the paper and Corning Inc. Corning is essentially a company town.

    The publisher discovered the specifics of my story a day after the print run, but before delivery, and had a conniption; he hated to rile the ruling class.

    Even mention of friction with Corning Inc. I snapped and told off the reporter right there, in front of everyone -- passion welling to the surface and spewing out across the conference-room table -- until the publisher stepped in and basically sent us to our respective corners.

    Then he said he would get back to us; would have a decision on what, if anything, he planned to do. The reporter and I avoided each other the rest of the day, lest violence erupt.

    The publisher's decision, I learned the next day, was to trash all 15, special sections and reprint them with my story reworked according to his specifications.

    Since the cost of the move was significant, I thought for sure I would be fired Anyway, I grabbed and still have several copies of the offending section, plucked from their pile before the destroy order was carried out.

    What they thought was what they thought; they were entitled to their opinions, as I am to mine. Sometimes a reader who didn't see things my way engaged me with direct broadsides -- which is to say unpleasant criticisms.

    There was one reader in particular -- a woman with a child in the local school district -- who I seemingly set off with regularity.

    On several occasions I had snarky emails waiting for me from the woman as soon as I awakened in the morning. I thought that if I really bothered her so much, she could stop reading right away -- but I don't think I ever suggested it to her.

    I tried to keep the peace despite a part of me just itching for a fight. But while I managed to avoid a direct confrontation with her, I seemed to naturally engage school superintendents -- a couple of them up here in Odessa over the years, and one in particular down the hill in Watkins Glen.

    People sometimes ask why I haven't always gotten along with superintendents, and I say it's because of the authoritarian nature of their job -- which is fine until the officeholder starts seeing himself or herself with rose-colored glasses; sees royalty when looking in the mirror.

    Yes, I've had my run-ins with them -- even got banned once from the sidelines of sporting events at the school in Odessa.

    The ban came in the form of a superintendent's directive that said I couldn't be insured, and should therefore steer clear of proximity to athletic action that might inadvertently injure me -- a directive which I ignored, asserting my right to be where other reporters could go.

    And I never heard another peep on the matter. Later, I was effectively banned from school buildings during classroom hours in Watkins Glen.

    I had upset the super with my news coverage, and he decided in response that I needed his specific approval to gain admittance.

    Since I had had a pretty free rein on my school movements up to that point, and saw no reason to kiss his ring, I never sought his permission.

    I stayed away instead, and the kids lost a degree of coverage. I might still muster up a fight or two down the road, but it will take more to spur me on than it used to.

    I'm even getting along with the current superintendents. With age comes a certain calm. At least it seems to be that way with me.

    To return to my starting point -- movies -- let me add something in the distinctive syntax used by Star Wars ' Yoda, something that sums up where I am.

    It's this simple, really: Long in the tooth I am. Fight I might; or might not. But try I will. Bruno and the Silverdome. In other words, time is fleeting.

    Surprisingly, quite a few folks keep popping into my head, undercutting my usual cynical stance that very few people can be trusted.

    No one walks truly alone. I have mentioned here before the man who challenged me -- mentored me -- as I began a journalism career.

    Robert Gildart was his name, a professor at Albion College, my alma mater. He was an author of Albion history , a journalist, an instructor and an emotional supporter.

    Those two men -- John Sr. They welcomed me there with open arms -- got me back in the journalism game after several years in the wilderness.

    That experience led, more or less directly -- gave the impetus -- to this website. But he has grown in prominence in my memory in the past couple of calendar cycles, ever since I stumbled upon his obituary long after his death at the age of But he came charging back into my consciousness that day, and has stayed there.

    His name was Bruno Kearns, and he was the Sports Editor at the first daily newspaper for which I worked -- The Pontiac Michigan Press , back between my junior and senior years of college.

    I was an intern -- the lowliest of the low, and treated that way by the City Editor, a disagreeable sort named Thorn.

    Kearns, on the other hand, had his own little world -- in a room separated from the primary newsroom overseen by Thorn.

    Bruno treated me with kindness and respect, and merely shook his head at Thorn's autocracy, telling me to "never mind" such excesses.

    Bruno -- an accomplished reporter, editor and columnist -- was instrumental in getting Pontiac voters to approve construction of the famed Silverdome, a football-themed stadium on Pontiac acres, rising from farmland like some sort of fevered dream.

    Its roof was fiberglass, held aloft by air pressure. I once sat so high in the nosebleed section at a Lions game that I got a closeup view of that roof; the playing field, by contrast, was so far away in that 82,seat building that the players looked like insects scurrying around.

    Yes, Bruno lobbied for that building -- even was provided with a plaque of thanks in a table in its press box that identified that particular space as his -- amid many big-stage events he covered in a long journalistic career.

    He covered all sorts of national and international events, but he was most at home A father of four -- two boys and two girls -- he was most comfortable, I think, reporting the local scene, and taught me something of the art of that particular deal.

    He took the time to show me the basics of writing a sports story -- at the same time teaching me the importance of local sports to the local readers.

    He was endlessly patient with me, for I was prone to mistakes brought on by ignorance, from a lack of experience.

    The man was a teacher. He had just read a story I had written on a local softball game. But you need to humanize it.

    You need more names. Who got the hits? Who drove in the runs? Who made a difference? Who provided the turning point? In contrast, I can't remember a thing that Thorn said to me out in the city room -- the main newsroom.

    All I remember of Thorn was his volume and the denigration he directed toward me. Sorry I forgot about you there for awhile. You deserved better from me.

    You deserved my gratitude for your kindness, for your direction, and for the wisdom you imparted. And, while I was writing this, I decided that the fate of the Silverdome needed checking.

    What I found echoed my melancholy mood. It reopened in and hosted several events, but closed again, this time permanently, in The roof was destroyed by a winter storm in Owners auctioned the stadium's contents in In , the Silverdome was condemned and prepared for demolition; the upper deck of the stadium was imploded on December 4, , after a failed attempt the previous day.

    Bruno Kearns, had he still been writing, would have fought that fate, I'm sure. And had he been alive to see that implosion, he might well have wept.

    This award is unique, and more difficult to attain than when we started -- although it was difficult back then, too. Whereas we started with just two schools -- Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour -- we have 10 now: And there are still only 24 slots on the team.

    If any of you folks out there have a specific nominee in mind, let me know, and send along some supporting information. The honor is open to any high school student in those 10 schools, 9th through 12th grades, although the tendency of late has been to lean toward seniors and juniors.

    Baseball conjures the past. I collected baseball cards when I was a kid; memorized the statistics on those of the Detroit Tigers, the team I followed.

    I lived north of that city. Later, after growing up and entering the workforce, I was a huge fan of Yankees pitcher Catfish Hunter, who was an inspiration after I moved to New York in the early s.

    I liked the Mets, too. I was there at Shea Stadium for Game 6 of the World Series against the Red Sox -- watching the two-out comeback that propelled the Mets to a 7th game and a world championship.

    I grieved when a former major leaguer named Bubba Phillips -- who played a decade in the majors from the mids to mids -- died of a heart attack in at the age of I had known Bubba when he played for the Tigers for a couple of years; he even attended one of my Little League games.

    See an account I wrote about that here. I sat in a living room of a condo in Florida in and talked with Brooklyn Dodgers great Pee Wee Reese, a friend of the condo dwellers -- who were residing in the same housing community as my parents.

    I was, of course, in awe. I still follow the game, but without memorizing annual stats -- although I can still tell without looking that Norm Cash, the Tigers first baseman in , batted.

    I can tell you how I was friends with a gentleman connected to the Little League Museum in Williamsport who got us credentials for three years running to the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown -- and even to a private gathering with Hall of Famers -- including Kaline, who I recall looking at me as though wondering what in heaven's name I was doing there.

    I was probably misreading the look, but I wondered the same thing myself. I have cards from all the sports, along with magazines, posters, autographed photos and so on.

    I know from speaking with the new superintendent at Watkins Glen that he feels there are too many sports in his district for such a small enrollment.

    But he is thinking more along the lines of trimming wrestling and boys swimming, each of which had somewhere around four participants this past season.

    It pictures a bunch of boys in baseball uniforms -- Bloomfield Hills Michigan Little Leaguers -- standing and seated in a team photo, along with their coaches.

    Yes, I played Little League baseball, and Babe Ruth ball, and even made the varsity at my high school. I was more a procrastinator than a doer.

    Unfortunately, there were no names printed on the back, as they were on a couple of other photos of my childhood. I remember the head coach was Mr.

    Mersky; he's standing on the right. I recall Bob Calhoun, standing third from right, who was probably the best athlete on the team; and next to Mr.

    Mersky stands Dick Strong, who was a close friend but, oddly, I forgot was even on the team until I studied the photo.

    Dick and I hung out together quite often -- playing board games he killed me time and again in Risk and listening to music in particular the Beatles, who rose to prominence in our teen years.

    We won the league title, but we started out dysfunctionally with Robin wearing what seemed like a perpetual chip on his shoulder that unnerved most of us.

    But along the way, he shed the chip, delivered some key base hits and helped us to the championship. I was pitching and playing outfield.

    By high school, I was a second baseman. And I hit something over. It was a storybook year, although I developed a nervous tic before games, blinking furiously as game-time neared.

    It drove my mother nuts, to the point where she scolded me gently, but firmly for it -- which only made it worse. Nobody ever said growing up was easy.

    It was, from my reading of the matter, a form of hazing abolished not long after my brother endured it. My Mom thought the West Point brace was an actual physical device to be worn, and that if I donned it, it might help overcome my slouch.

    She wanted one sent to us, though no such device existed. Which amuses me to this day. Anyway, I love you, Mom, and miss you. The Tigers, and me. I still have that glove, though the laces are shot.

    Wh ither goest our young? But honest to God, the things they were saying Tuesday had any number of adults using that time-worn and biblically-based term.

    Down in Florida, of course, all sorts of students are expressing themselves. A year-old boy at Watkins was arrested for just such an ill-conceived communication back in October.

    But there she was Tuesday before hundreds of fellow students in the WGHS Auditorium at a function prompted by an article on school violence and safety that she and Prien had published as part of the journalism curriculum under teacher Travis Durfee.

    I thought so highly of the effort that I published the speech here. I have nothing but admiration for what she and Prien did and for the many comments made, and questions raised, by their fellow students at the assembly, for this whole matter of school violence needs to be aired, and aired some more.

    The greater the communication, the greater the awareness -- and that can prove key. Being in school can seem safe, but the image of terrified students being gunned down in the hallways by a maniac is all too real -- too easy to imagine happening here.

    One school official in the area said the response time by state and county police to a school shooting would literally be only minutes, but that those minutes can prove so very costly.

    Locked doors and other defenses -- short of an armed guard -- can only hold off a gunman briefly. Protocols in place can serve as little more than delaying tactics, measures to keep the carnage to a minimum before a shooter can be stopped by law enforcement.

    His name is David Waite, and he carries a Glock with him. Not a taser, though. In those days, he said, such situations created hostage scenarios, with the perpetrators surrounded and talked down from further mayhem.

    It is a different era today. When asked if he would charge in after a shooter, Waite simply nodded yes. I have no doubt. Maybe there can be training, as one student suggested, in talking down or bringing down a student who suddenly pulls a gun in class; or more security; or One or more of those ideas might provide an edge if the horror ever visits local school hallways.

    It was, as expected, a celebration of everything going on around here of a developmental nature, with an emphasis on tourism: And then came the children -- or more correctly the young adults, embodied in juniors Sutterby and Fazzary -- with a look at the area from a completely different vantage point Those 12 WGHS students, along with a couple of dozen others who had met at the school in the days beforehand, conceded the beauty of the area, but decried an absence of jobs, especially in the winter -- and in fact the boredom of winter in a low-keyed community like Watkins Glen.

    More importantly, they said, there is too much of an emphasis on tourism; that what we need is large industry -- and greater opportunities for growth in careers beyond food service and antique shops.

    Ice cream and pizza shops are nice, they said, but not exactly career stepping stones. But coming at the end of a session focused on tourism and strides that have been made to enhance that part of our economic spectrum A local official expressed surprise at their presentation -- laid out effectively and with some gusto, humor and assuredness by Fazzary and Sutterby.

    The former wants to be a lawyer her father is the District Attorney and the latter wants to be a surgeon possibly orthopedic.

    In other words, they have hopes and plans, and will need to get away from here to start them rolling. That might depend upon the direction in which this county is heading.

    Will it embrace more of the same tourism, grantedly essential , or tourism plus growth beyond it? It really is quite a large question. Fazzary, Sutterby and the other students are representative of the plight Schuyler has long faced and continues to face: And after that ceremonial milestone?

    What is next for them? Will they circle back home, or keep on going? Where I came from Rotarian Stewart McDivitt, in suggesting I address the club, asked that of me: How did I end up here?

    But beyond a flippant answer, there are innumerable ones, for life is full of hundreds of variables, of intersecting facts and emotions and attendant decisions.

    I am, I suppose, a product of my parents, a peaceful, loving couple named Gus and Eleanor Haeffner, now both deceased. And I ended up here because of my wife, Susan, a loving woman, also now deceased.

    She was born and raised here; and she was family-oriented, with a need to be near her parents and siblings. That need led us here from Watertown, New York, where we had met and first lived.

    They provided upscale shelter and some fine cooking and an abundance of love. They loved their boys, for sure -- me and my older brothers, Bob and Jim.

    We three have all had reasonably successful lives -- those two more than me. Bob was career military, a West Point graduate and instructor who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel; Jim was career banking, rising to impressive heights at Comerica.

    After a short stint on Long Island which I was too young to later recall , we moved to the Detroit, Michigan area, and there I was raised.

    I opted eventually for the black-sheep role of the family, and the perfect career for a rebel: My Dad asked me several years after I entered that field when I was going to get a real job.

    He was money oriented; a traveling shoe salesman, and a darn good one. So why a journalist? I visited the Birmingham, Michigan public library with my Mom before I had learned enough to read any of its inventory, but the smell of the place mesmerized me; that and its possibilities.

    There I entered journalism through a class taught by a former newsman named Robert Gildart. It was while I was there that my father questioned my choice of career; its validity.

    The farther you get from Washington, D. Then I was out of journalism for awhile, then back in at the Corning Leader , then out, and then in again with The Odessa File.

    Total time in the trenches: Writing remains fascinating to me. It enables me, day in and day out -- now that the File has become de rigueur -- to provide the residents of Schuyler County with some news.

    And what I do benefits what to me is the most important segment of our society: That was a cornerstone of this venture:

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