Last week, I visited a friend in Jacksonville. I knew that the Purple Hulls were playing at @BanjoBen’s Church near Nashville on the 29th and I had been thinking about going but I’ve been under the weather a lot lately and was wiped out from my visit. Hmmmm, go home or go to Nashville?
Well, after sleeping in very late in the morning, much to my surprise, I felt great and full of energy, so I headed north, but I hit bumper to bumper barely moving traffic 30 miles south of Atlanta, in 98-degree heat, nertz. Stuck right at an exit and not moving for 20 minutes, I kept noticing a Comfort Suites calling out to me. “stoppppp heeeerrre, sleeeep heeeerrrre…” I answered the call and called it a day. After another good night sleep I headed out and breezed right through Atlanta, then Chattanooga, then Nashville and grabbed a room.
Sunday morning, I went to Tulip Grove Baptist Church for worship service and saw Ben down front practicing guitar and mandolin with someone else, all part of the music program there I reckon. He stepped up into the pews to visit with someone so I moseyed on over to say hey and after smiles and hugs, he introduced me to Jeff and Beth, the folks he was speaking with, and told me that Jeff is a student and is on the forum, so I asked Jeff who he is on the forum and he said @5-StringPilgrim . “WHAT?” said I… “I know you”. Wow, I felt like I was meeting celebrity, that’s so neat. I had noticed earlier in the church bulletin that they are celebrating Pastor appreciation weeks for each of the six pastors and that day just happened to be Ben Clark’s day. I told Ben, we’re so used to congratulating each other on Gold Picker Of The Week, so I was thrilled to say to him, “Congratulations on being Pastor of the Week”. During the service, they brought Ben and Hannah and their two adorable girls up for recognition. It was sweet.
After the service, I went over to chat with Jeff and Beth some more and I introduced myself to Katy and Penny who were sitting in front of them. “Oh, you’re the one who got sick before the camp”. Yep, that’s me. I guess that’s how I am to be known forever more – the one who got sick and missed the cabin camp. Ben, with his guitar strapped on his back, nodded at Jeff and Beth and me and said follow me. We obliged and wound up downstairs for refreshments and fellowship. I got to meet Ben’s wife Hannah who was an absolute sweetie and she seemed to already know me. Ben lead a bible study and then he and Penny and Katy and Abby, their new bass player, got up and did some tunes. It was really a wonderful treat.
Jeff and Beth, who I later found out are junior high school sweethearts, invited me to lunch and so we met at the El OK Corral Mexican restaurant. I have to say, that was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, so if you’re in the area… We talked about all sorts of things and shared a nice meal and good company. It’s always neat to make new friends. They’re good folk from North Carolina.
So, it’s a long way to get to the concert, but y’all know me by now, I’m about the experience, so I write long. After a short nap back at my hotel, I arrived back at the church early to get a seat down front. I was sitting alone and a lady sitting across the aisle came over to sit with me. We had recognized each other from the service that morning when we had exchanged smiles. She seemed nice I was enjoying our conversation, I eventually introduced myself and she said, “I’m Ben’s mom”. Wow, I’m just getting one treat after another. Apparently, she drove up with the girls from Texas for this, and to see her granddaughters I’m sure. Beth and Jeff joined us as well; we just had our own little cool clique.
A little later the pastor came over and shook my hand and said “Maggie from Florida, right?”, he remembered me from that morning as well. He got to talking with another fella right in front of me, and that guy’s voice sounded so familiar. I got his attention and asked his name and he said “Kyle Cantrell”. I snickered and said “from SiriusXM Bluegrass”. Sure enough. He’s a member there at the church and said he loves it there. He then went up and got the show going. He spoke very highly of Katy, Penny and Ben and then Ben went up and introduced the girls and they kicked it off with Be Thou My Vision, one of my favs they do.
Their voices, their picking, everything was awesome. Abby, their new bass player also plays guitar and mandolin, according to the girls, better than they do, and she did a couple of her songs playing guitar and she has a gorgeous voice as well. Ben introduced a young man who he apparently wrote a couple songs with, named Kyle Thomas and he did a song of his which was fantastic. We should all keep an eye on him. A little later, Ben gave a very sweet and heartfelt introduction of Dennis Parker from Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, who most of us are familiar with. Dennis did some tunes from his new album and gave an emotional testimony. Many of y’all know how talented he is, I can’t really do him any justice by describing it here. If you don’t already have his album, do yourself a favor and pickup Songs Under The Air Condition-ing Unit.
I hung out after the show for a while, just mingling for a spell. It was nice meeting new people and hearing their stories. Apparently, Russ Carson and his wife were there but I missed them. I said a quick goodbye to Ben and the girls and Dennis and Jeff and Beth and whoever else I could find, and I headed back to the hotel. I got up early and headed out of town at 6:00am. Somehow, I made it all the way home to Clearwater that day. I did have stop for a snooze at a rest area for about an hour though. I’m just so glad I made the trip, it feels like such a blessing.