Day 1: February 19, 2010
This ain't Blues
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Without the press of time, I meandered way toward Rising Sun, Indiana. As the clock moved in on 11:00, I realized I'd need to find breakfast pretty soon or switch my stomach's expectations to lunch. That's precisely when I spotted the Round Table's "breakfast anytime" sign. The restaurant has been operating in Cleves, Ohio, since 1961 and is certainly a diner in spirit if not in structure. There is a counter with a few stools and a "liar's table" with its group of locals. The Tiger Woods "I am so sorry" press conference came on while I was there and they had a field day with that. All my neighbors know what goetta is but folks outside of the Cincinnati area might not. It is a meat and oatmeal mixture usually eaten at breakfast. I've eaten plenty of goetta but had never had a goetta & cheese omelet before today. Good eating.

I was on the way to Rising Sun to see Josh Hisle and to sleep in an old hotel. Josh isn't exactly a blues musician but there has been some recent chatter about him in the Cincinnati blues Yahoo group. I knew this was someone I wanted to see and some of the chatter involved an upcoming performance in Rising Sun. I remembered my stop there last summer and the historic hotel I'd been introduced to. I definitely intended to stay there some day but was really thinking more about June or July than February. Oh well. The roads were reportedly clear and above freezing temperature were even predicted. Why not?

I eventually reached Aurora, Indiana, and grabbed a shot of Hillforest in the snow. The home turned museum is supposedly closed January through March but those long tall steps have obviously been cleared recently. I guess it took a field of white to make me see the tunnels on Aurora's west edge. I've driven by here too many times to count but had never noticed them. Today I could,'t miss them. I know absolutely nothing about them and didn't uncover anything in a brief web search. Another item for the research list. I photographed the tunnels from the park across the street then turned around for the shot of the Ohio River.

It was easy to understand why the fountain wasn't spouting today. I wonder if they ever got it working. Just like Aurora, Rising Sun has an ample supply of snow covered riverside picnic tables.

I'd made reservations just up the street at the Empire House Hotel. The building started out around 1816 as a home and general store. The second floor soon became a Masonic Lodge meeting place and gatherings of the Tippecanoe Club occurred there in 1840. Sometime before the nineteenth century ended, it became a hotel and, after many ups and downs, remodelings, and name changes, that's what it is today. Marsha Louden owns and operates the hotel while her friend, Beth, operates the River Star restaurant in the building's south end.

Marsha had just arrived from her other life as a school teacher when I pulled up. I had reserved one of the lower-priced no-river-view rear rooms but, for reasons that involved unexpected arrivals but which I didn't quite understand, was upgraded to the front room on the first floor. Understanding things like free upgrades is not required. The second picture is the view from my room and the third is the view from my dinner table with lasagna, the day's special, awaiting.

Josh Hisle's current "job" is as half of the duo Lost in Holland and that's the name used on posters and signs for tonight's event at Rockies Bar & Grill. But it was a whole lot more than that. Lost in Holland is about to head out on the road and tonight was partly a shake-down for them but it was also part reunion and part showcase for a variety of musicians with a Josh Hisle connection.

Josh and Dixon Creasy call themselves Salt Fork Revival when they perform together as they did to open things tonight. After a half-dozen or so songs, drummer Dan Jarvis joined them and things got a little louder. For the last song of the set, a fiery version of Hendrix's Voodoo Child, Michael Ronstadt, the other half of Lost in Holland, made the trio a quartet. No one was quite sure what to call either the three piece or the four piece other than damned good.

The music never stopped for any length of time and Josh got his only real break of the evening when a friend from a bit north in Lake Santee, Indiana, took the stage. Tom Riggs may have calmed things down ever so slightly from the preceding blast but he didn't bring the quality down at all. The talented singer-songwriter will be back at Rockie's next Thursday, the 25th.

This is Lost in Holland, the "headliners". Josh Hisle is a former Marine with two tours in Iraq. His guitar kept him sane during that second tour and caught some attention from CNN, the BBC, and Neil Young. Michael Ronstadt has a masters from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He currently lives in Philadelphia and arrived in Cincinnati just today to begin the next Lost in Holland tour. He's also the nephew of Linda Ronstadt but I managed to overlook that. There's an incredible amount of talent, emotion, insight, and energy in this pair.

After the Lost in Holland set and a very short break, the four piece returned. I finally got a shot of Dan and a little better one of Dixon. I didn't catch the name of the harmonica player who came on for the last song of the night. A couple spots in this set deserve mention. One, which Josh said was for the "buckeyes" in the crowd, started off as Hang on Sloopy and moved into Twist and Shout before returning to Sloopy. For those of you who don't know, Hang on Sloopy is Ohio's official rock song. Trust me. Until you hear Hang on Sloopy with a cello break, your life is not complete.

The other song that really caught my ear was opened with a rendition of the Marines' Hymn in the style of Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. I assume this was the intent but I don't really know. In any case, it was classy. Josh preceded the first bit of feedback with "I always pay tribute to my brothers in the ground. Semper fi". It was a statement, not a fist-pumping shout. The result was something that paid tribute to all Marines, Jimi Hendrix, rock & roll, and the USA. That last song with the harmonica added? Keep on Rockin' in the Free World. Good advise.

ADDENDUM: Feb 21, 2010 - Thanks to Dixon, I now know that the fellow blowing the harp on the finale was Joe Horn. Nice job Joe.

ADDENDUM: Feb 22, 2010 - Thanks to Josh, I now know that the song with the Marines' Hymn intro was Sound of My Regret from the Hearts and Minds CD. The CD itself is currently out of print but all the music is available through iTunes. A live version of Sound of My Regret can be seen and heard here.

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