Travel Updates

Once again I find myself at Panera’s drinking their fine coffee and doing some online work. For once, there’s no shortage of university work. In fact, there’s an overabundance! Maybe the reeling economy is driving folks back to school. My father was supposed to have his pacemaker battery replaced this week, but his white cell count was up due to a respiratory infection and the physician thought it needful to postpone it because the risk of infection from surgery had doubled. So after two days of dealing with the logistics of getting him to the VA in Dallas, I must plan on doing it again soon.
After our baptism in fire in dealing with the big government hospital system–worse than regular hospitals, but not as bad as one might think–I’ve got the process streamlined and figured out. I think too that my mother—a nervous wreck over it all—will do better next time as well. I spent yesterday by working two hours on college classes (again at Paneras) and then helping my mother with chores. One chore was planting two rows of 3 kinds of onions in her garden. I think she’s already planted potatoes. (Valentine’s day is potato planting day here). I think the garden is good for her. It’s exercise, and it gets her outside and close to nature. Plus, what one grows in a garden is just better for you than store-bought food.

After I do a little online work with my classes, I’m on the road to Houston. I’ll spend the night with friends and tomorrow present my programs at Lake Jackson, then back to Monroe by Sunday.

From Starbucks in Garland, TX


Today has been busy, as tomorrow will be. I rose at 4:00 a.m., worked my online classes till 6:15 and was on the way to Oklahoma by 7. I picked up my mom and dad and brought them to my Aunt Winnie’s house in Garland. After my aunt treated us to a supper at Cheddars, I left them in her care and headed for the nearest Starbucks so I could make a post and check on my classes. Tomorrow I take my dad in for his surgery, and hopefully (if his pacemaker doesn’t need to be replaced) be on the way back to Oklahoma by tomorrow night. Thursday I’ll spend with them and help with chores, then drive to Houston on Friday. I’ll spend the night with friends there, and on Saturday I’ll make my presentations at the Lake Jackson Historical Museum. Their motto is “Dedicated to the Preservation of Our Heritage.” Here is the article the local paper is running about the event:

Rickey E. Pittman is a 1998 grand prizewinner of the prestigious Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition. Originally from Dallas, Texas, he earned a bachelor


Author Event: I’ve always loved the big sky of West Texas, as well as the people, climate, and terrain. Last year, Linda Bagwell interviewed me on her radio program that is devoted to authors and artists of all sorts. She also heads up this:


“Because of You” by Jeff Talmadge: Song Lyrics

Tonight I’m packing for my signing tomorrow at the Barnes & Noble in Southlake at 2:00 p.m. It will be a long day, especially when I have to combine it with online college work, but that is what I’ve signed on for. I’ve been in Monroe too long this last spell (at least a couple of weeks) and need to get back on the road. Wish me luck.

I guess it could be said that the songs we carry in our heart are the story of our lives. Having been raised in a home where music and songs had such a prominent place, I saw early, and felt early, how we can connect to certain songs and how we can come to admire certain artists. I’ve been listening night and day to a CD I just purchased by Jeff Talmadge entitled, At that much was TRUE. As a songwriter, I feel there are few who can equal Talmadge. I do hope I can see a performance of his some day, as I do so appreciate his music.

Book Signing and Program News:

As with last spring, this spring is chock full of book and program activity. Here’s a condensed version of what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be the next few weeks:

Legacy Books, Pajamarama 7:30 p.m. Plano, TX Legacy Books of Plano, Texas is the largest independent bookstore to open in the United States in more than 2 decades. (I’m waiting on the final word on the date of this one). It was scheduled for tomorrow, but now I think it may be in March. I’ll post a correction as soon as I know.

Saturday, Feb. 21 Barnes & Noble, Southlake, Texas (Fort Worth Area) 2:00-until . . .)

Monday Feb. 23, A Program at the Ouachita Public Library Scottish storytelling, music and my book, The Scottish Alphabet.

After my program Monday night, I’ll drive to my parents house in Oklahoma, drive to the Dallas area Tuesday so my dad can have his pacemaker worked on Wednesday. I’ll spend Wednesday and Thursday with him, and then Friday I’ll drive to Houston.

Saturday Feb. 28, I’ll be at hte Lake Jackson Historical Museum. (Houston Area) You can read about that museum here: I’ll have two presentations that day. Here’s what they say of my event:

10am: Children’s Program and Book signing This program will center on Pittman’s children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, which tells the true story of how Jim Limber, a free black orphan, was adopted by the Jefferson Davis family during the Civil War.

2pm: Book reading and signing
Mr. Pittman will conduct a reading of his third book, Stories of the Confederate South, an anthology of short fiction presenting a variety of Southern characters, events and issues that capture the spirit and passion of the South.

Thursday, March, 5, I’ll be at the McComb Public Library in Mississippi.

March 6-8, that weekend, I’ll be at the North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, Texas.

As you can see, I’ll be very busy, but it should be interesting!

Lyrics: “Sadie

The CD of Adrienne Young, Plow to the End of the Row, complete with packet of wildflower seeds, lyric booklet and Adrienne Young sticker, arrived in the mail yesterday. What a great collection of music! I had already published the lyrics of “Plow to the End of the Row” on this blog, and after listening to the CD, I decided I’d post the lyrics

Song Lyrics: “Let Her Go” by Jeff Talmadge

I’ve solidly become a devoted fan of Jeff Talmadge. You can find out more about this talented musician and songwriter here. Be sure and read the reviews page. The writers quoted there are far more eloquent than I can be, but I know there’s something about his music that touches the heart the way few others can. If I can, I’m going to obtain all his music. Here is a touching song I just heard on the Americana cable station. I purchased the song from iTunes. I transcribed it from that, so if I’ve made an error in the lyrics, please let me know.

Song Lyrics: “I Still Miss Someone” by Johnny Cash

I was listening to a CD of Johnny Cash, and I was reminded of this song, one I intend to add to my Americana show. Cash’s voice was one of the voices frequently heard in my house. Come to think of it, growing up I probably knew the names of more country singers than I did Presidents. Anyway, this song has always meant something to me, so I decided to post it. Several others have done good versions of it as well (Emmylou Harris for one).

“I Still Miss Someone” by Johnny Cash and Roy Cash, Jr.

At my door the leaves are falling
A cold wild wind has come
Sweethearts walk by together
And I still miss someone

I go out on a party
And look for a little fun
But I find a darkened corner
because I still miss someone

Oh, no I never got over those blues eyes
I see them everywhere
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

I wonder if she’s sorry
For leavin’ what we’d begun
There’s someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone

SATURDAY, FEB. 14, VALENTINE’S NIGHT AT THE DIXIE THEATRE! We had a grand time. Our band, Angus-Duhbghall, opened for Legacy, the award winning Irish band.

An Interview with Jed Marum: Celtic & Civil War Songwriter

Those who know me, know that I’ve been a fan of Jed Marum’s music for years. Fortunately, Jed agreed to an interview. I am so impressed with this talented, charismatic, passionate artist, as I hope you will be too after you read this interview. I know that songwriters can learn much from Marum. This interview may be freely printed and distributed in its entirety with acknowledgment and listing of this blog’s address, and of Jed Marum’s website

Ten Questions for Jed Marum: Celtic and Civil War Songwriter

1. How many songs have you written?

I have published 43 original songs. I don’t know how many I have written, certainly twice that number.

2. Is songwriting a part of your daily schedule?

I always have songs in the works. I always have ideas for songs or for collections of songs that I am working in my head. The writing part is usually quick for me – a few hours one day, a few hours the next. Most of the work is in the “fermentation” process, which is the time I work the ideas in my head.

3. I know you’re an avid reader. How does your reading affect your songwriting? What are you reading these days?

I often read now-a-days, with an eye for background on a song. I’ve been asked to write a couple of songs for a new film about the life of the Bushwackers – so I researched the subject and read two books: THE DAY DIXIE DIED by Tom and Deb Goodrich, BLACK FLAG also by Tom Goodrich – and I researched some particular detail in other histories.

I also watched a couple of the songs featured in the films, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL and BLOODY DAWN (documentary).

I liked to be “steeped” in the subject when I write. Even when I’m reading for non-writing purposes, I often find inspiring stories that make me consider writing.

As for what I’m reading; I just read LANDSCAPE TURNED RED by Stephen W. Sears and ROBERT E. LEE by Emory M. Thomas. I also read another great bio on Lee by James J Robertson Jr. call ROBERT E. LEE: Virginian Soldier, American Citizen. And I just read NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS: An American Slave. I have just started CO. AYTCH by Sam R. Watkins and will read ElishaHunt Rhodes’s ALL FOR THE UNION after that.

I have a collection of favorites that I hang on to, which I keep on the bookshelf for reference and occasional rereading.

4. What songs of yours have gone over well in Ireland?

On my first album, STREETS OF FALL RIVER I recorded an Irish favorite called GRACE about the execution of one of the Easter Rebellion’s leaders. That song was the #25 most played single on Ireland’s Country music charts in 2001. My FIGHTING TIGERS OF IRELAND album and its title track have played enough in Ireland to make the charts as well, but I am unsure of just how to quantify that airplay. I do sell albums and MP3s in Ireland regularly – and most of those sales are from my two Civil War albums.

5. You’ve written some songs that have made it into the movies. Tell my readers about those songs.

My first album was licensed by Blackhawk Productions for use in a TV Series they sold to HBO and the Playboy Channel. I know the series ran on the Playboy Channel in Europe, UK, Ireland and Canada. I don’t know if it played elsewhere or if it will rerun. The series was called TRUE LIVES (you can find them on the Web, certainly at Myspace).

I licensed songs and recordings to an independent film, a documentary called BLOODY DAWN by Lone Chimney Films that ran at a series of film festivals and independent theaters and that has just been licensed by PBS to run in several of its markets later this year. That same film company has asked me to write and perform music for its next film, BLACK FLAG that is expected to begin filming late in 2009. I will produce the whole soundtrack for the film.

I also have an offer to produce the sound track for a feature called LOST WARRIOR, TIES THAT BIND (working title). This is a project by Film Services of Louisiana and Joshua International. They’ve asked me to base the sound track on my SOUL OF A WANDERER album. If this project actually gets funded and in production it will probably be a full year of my time. I have my fingers crossed!

6. When you write a song, which comes first: The words or the melody?

The rhythm. Songs for me usually develop in a bit of a fog. I’ve developed the ideas of the song, those few points I want to make – and then I have a feel for how the story wants to be told; is it bluesy? is it melancholy? is it marching? waltzing? driving? Or is it pretty? Is it told through a beautiful air? I make all those decisions before I am serious about developing a melody or setting lyrics. Now when I have all those kernels set, I sit down with my guitar and have the basic “feeling” of the song in my head – my first thought is the rhythm – then I decide on the key and the instrument (I write on banjo and guitar mostly). A melody begins to develop out that process. Sometime I purposely write to sound like something you’ve heard before … to tie the new song tightly to a known genre – and sometimes I want the melody to be entirely original sounding.

Every time I pick up an instrument I am toying with new melodic ideas. Sometimes I do develop one of those melodic phrases into a true melody and think about what kind of song it might become. So in these cases, the melodies come first. This is the way I used to write when I first started. But now when this happens, if I actually fully develop the new ideas into a full melody (with multiple parts and dynamic ideas) I often hang onto those melodies for a very long time, waiting for the appropriate story or motivation to complete the song. I have a few of these in my “quiver” right now.

7. Who are some song writers that you admire?

Robert Burns, Brian McNeill, Stan Rogers, Andy M. Stewart, all come to mind right away. There are a handful of songs that just stand out in mind as true works of genius, as well – for various reasons: SEVEN SPANISH ANGELS is a song that gives every listener a whole two-hour movie image with a simple two-verse song. What genius to tell such big rich story so simply and so beautifully. Percy French was a popular songwriter in early 19th Century Ireland who wrote such very very clever lyrics – beautiful, rich language full of Irish culture and humor. Then I look at songs like SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT or even YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE – these are two songs that everybody respond to instantly and immediately. I can sing SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT in a bar full of hard partiers at midnight, and they will always stop what their doing and sing along! What makes songs like that so universally loved?

8. How did you become a song writer?

I’ve always loved music. I’ve always loved singing. I never intended to be a songwriter, and in my early days as a musician, didn’t write or didn’t wrote much. Eventually I started writing songs that I wanted to hear and wanted to sing. Just a few at first – and then that increased over the years.

9. What advice would you give song writers today?

Jump in the deep end. When I decided to go back to performing music (I had stopped performing for 15 years) I decided to go back to it full-time. I gave up the day job and was forced to take my music seriously. Advice? Listen a lot to the songs and the performers that turn you on. Read, analyze your music and that of others. Just do it!

10. What was the first song you wrote?

The first song I wrote after I returned to music, (and this is the point at which I consider my music career begins) was LOOK AHEAD TOMMY – the story my great grandfather told my father about his emigration to America.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Music is the heart of my songwriting interest. I never set out to be a songwriter. I love music. I love to sing and I love to play guitar and banjo. The songwriting thing just sort of followed naturally in the wake of my overall music experience.

Lyrics: “Alone and Forsaken” written by Hank Williams and performed by Neko Case

I was raised with Hank Williams music playing in the background constantly. If it wasn’t his records, it was my father playing his guitar and singing the same songs. I’m sure I know by heart almost every song Hank Williams ever performed. One song I learned early in my musical life was “Alone and Forsaken.” I’ve always been a fan of Neko Case and after I read her interview by Greil Marcus in the Oxford American, I purchased her version of Hank’s song from iTunes. Marcus says of Case, “[S]he walks walks out of the rain that falls over the music as if she’s anyone’s bad conscience personified. With her own acoustic and electric guitars counting off the cadence, she seems to stand a few steps back from the curling melody, making it slow itself to accomodate her; deep in the background, you can hear thunder. Williams has given up, the life beaten out of him when he sings “Alone and Forsaken by fate and by man,” your soul can curdle, knowing that on one can reach this person, that no one can help him, that nothing will ever be better. Case sings the line with shock, indignation, full-throated, she moves through the song with a building defiance.”

Here are the lyrics to Hank’s famous song.

Alone And Forsaken