The 2017 Maryland Folk Retreat was an amazing experience.

My goal when I started teaching music was to fill up the empty spaces left by the old-timers who taught me.

I learned my craft from musicians who had learned their craft when old-time music was just music. This was something of a double-edge sword in that I got to taste the real stuff and then saw it fade away.

It is natural to see the old replaced by the new. What sucks is that there was no new generation of frailing banjo players.

A lot of people own banjos, but they can’t jam outside of a list of memorized songs. They know tunes, but it is all monkey-see and monkey-do. Follow the tab without even trying to understand how the fretboard works.

How did this happen? A lot of people tried to go professional in the 70’s and 80’s and for various reasons it did not work out. Rather than play music for fun they made teaching a business.

If your student is paying you weekly or monthly you don’t want them to grow out of lessons. They would stop paying you! That logic is a huge part of the melodic clawhammer movement. Students never progress. Students memorize songs note by note so they are always frustrated. Use several tunings and cut out chords so that the student never learns the fretboard. Discourage improvisation so that the student needs the teacher to play new songs.

Look at music workshops today. Twenty years ago a workshop was a group lesson. Today a workshop is a performance.

Performing is a big part of fake teaching. Videos that leak out of banjo camps rarely feature the students making music. It’s always the instructors and it isn’t always good.

The 2017 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat did have an open mic for the student. They were amazing! Our instructors got up for a song, but the focus of the open stage was the students. One guy had only been playing for six months, but got up and blew everybody away with The MTA Song!

The 2017 Retreat introduced new instructors to the lineup. This was crucial because we want the event to grow beyond our own work. There were a lot of banjo players, but we also had groups of fiddle, guitar and dulcimer players. In other words, the Retreat is growing. Best of all, folks were jamming. I heard everything from string band tunes to rock and roll and beyond. People shared with each other. There were no stylistic boundaries. Music was music and people were kind. The vibe that I experienced in the 1980’s was back.

No . . .  That vibe is not back. This was better than the 80’s. Now we can improvise and frail bottleneck blues and bluegrass! My slide banjo workshop wound up going from blues to frailing bluegrass, back to slide, to chord progressions, using a tuner to understand the fretboard, the Nashville Number System, rhythm exercises and back to blues. I needed to take a nap after that workshop.

For the 2018 Maryland Folk Retreat we are adding tent camping and dormitory rates. This will make the event more affordable, and increase the number of participants. More people will have a chance to learn, jam, discover, create and take part.

My father and I have a lot of work to do before we post official details.

I hope to make music with you in 2018! Until then, I hope you all make wonderful music.

God bless,

Ready To Go!

Well, everything is ready to load into the car in the morning. Then we’ll make the two-hour trip up to Centreville. As soon as we arrive we will start preparing for the Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat.

We have a great team of instructors this year. I am proud of the diversity of disciplines on display for the event. This is not a banjo camp. We will have workshops on harmonica, guitar, fiddle, ukulele, dulcimer, songwriting and more.

This year we are completely sold out. We already have exciting plans for the 2018 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat in the works. Keep an eye on for updates.

If you are coming to the Retreat I can’t wait to meet you!
If you cannot attend this year, then we will see you next year!

God bless,

Meet Sarah!

Sarah Baxter

Sarah grew up in a musical family and started playing violin and piano and composing at a young age. She attended the preparatory division of New England Conservatory, participating in chamber music, youth orchestra and composition. While in graduate school studying Arts Integration in Education, Sarah started attending Scottish Fiddle jams and became enchanted with this type of playing.

When she moved to Wichita, Kansas she joined Old Time and Irish fiddle jams. Sarah has taught fiddle workshops around the country and private fiddle, violin, viola and piano lessons to students ages three to ninety-three. She was also the strings instructor at Newman, University in Wichita Kansas, where her original works were performed at faculty concerts.

Sarah writes a wide variety of music ranging from classical to fiddle and she has been featured on several recordings. In addition, she self-published a collection a 103 fiddle tunes. She has been a member of several bands, one of which, Out of the Blue, she formed to perform at Contra Dances. She has also performed in musicals, orchestras, chamber music groups, and a country western band.

Currently Sarah teaches violin at Pritchard Music Academy and is a member of the Columbia Orchestra. In addition to musical pursuits, Sarah enjoys rock climbing, gourmet cooking and writing.

Meet Jared!

Jared will be one of the instructors at the Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

About Jared:
Jared Denhard teaches and performs on banjo, ukulele, Celtic harp, mountain dulcimer, trombone and highland bagpipes. He is the founder and director of the Baltimore Ukulele Symphonette, and a member of the Celtic rock band “O’Malley’s March,” and is one of the music faculty at Stevenson University, Howard Community College and St. Timothy’s School of Baltimore Jared is also an active composer whose works have been performed and recorded by the United States Air Force Band, The Kinetics Dance Theatre, the London Portable Harp Company, and the Annapolis Brass Quintet. Jared is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.

Meet Pete!

Pete will be one of the instructors at the Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat!

About Pete:
Pete is a longtime singer, guitar player and amateur songwriter. Pete started learning frailing banjo from Patrick through the videos on the Daily Frail and “The How and the Tao…” about three years ago, and since then new avenues of songwriting prolifically have opened up for him, for which he will always be grateful. Born and raised in NYC, he now lives in Atlantic City, New Jersey with his wife Kate, three sons, and a small menagerie of pets.

THE Folk Song of the Week – Slow Turning

The latest of my Folk Songs of the Week for the Daily Frailers group to work on. It’s a little more challenging, in that it has a few more chords. This week it’s the John Hiatt song “Slow Turning”:

When I was a boy,
I thought it just came to ya’
But I never could tell what’s mine
So it didn’t matter anyway

My only pride and joy
Was this record down here
Bangin’ on an old guitar
And singin’ what I had to say

I always thought our house was haunted
But nobody said boo to me
I never did get what I wanted
Now I get what I need

It’s been a slow turnin’
From the inside out
A slow turnin’
But you come about

Slow learnin’
But you learn to sway
A slow turnin’ baby
Not fade away

Now I’m in my car
I got the radio on
I’m yellin’ at the kids in the back seat
‘Cause they’re bangin’ like Charlie Watts

You think you’ve come so far
In this one horse town
Then she’s laughin’ that crazy laugh
‘Cause you haven’t left the parkin’ lot

Time is short and here’s the damn thing about it
You’re gonna die, gonna die for sure
And you can learn to life with love or without it
But there ain’t no cure

There’s just a…


The Folk Song of the Week – Have You Ever Seen The Rain

Here is the latest FSOTW, created for the Daily Frailers group. If I look a little spacey at times it’s because I’m coming down with a cold. In fact I’m so spacey I even named the song incorrectly in the Video — This is “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” NOT “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” 😜

Oh well, at least I got the right band and I didn’t say it was “The Rain Song.”

Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm,
I know; it’s been comin’ for some time.
When it’s over, so they say,
It’ll rain a sunny day,
I know; shinin’ down like water.

I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?

Yesterday, and days before,
Sun is cold and rain is hard,
I know; been that way for all my time.
‘Til forever, on it goes
Through the circle, fast and slow,
I know; it can’t stop, I wonder.

I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?


I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?

The Folk Song of the Week – “Give My Love To Rose”

Here is the Folk Song of the Week. This week it’s Give My Love To Rose, a very early Johnny Cash song, This is the one that I sang to my wife a couple of weeks ago and she hit me for singing her such a sad song. 🙂

It’s pretty low to sing in G, but you can always put on a capo on the second fret, tune your 5th string up to A and sing it that way instead. Another option is to play in C using C, F, D,G as the chords instead of G,C,A,D.


I found him by the railroad track this morning
I could see that he was nearly dead
I knelt down beside him and I listened
Just to hear the words the dying fellow said

He said they let me out of prison down in Frisco
For ten long years I’ve paid for what I’ve done
I was trying to get back to Louisiana
To see my Rose and get to know my son

Give my love to Rose please won’t you mister
Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes
Tell my boy his daddy’s so proud of him
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose

Tell them I said thanks for waiting for me
Tell my boy to help his mom at home
Tell my Rose to try to find another
For it ain’t right that she should live alone

Mister here’s a bag with all my money
It won’t last them long the way it goes
God bless you for finding me this morning
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose

Give my love to Rose please won’t you mister
Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes
Tell my boy his daddy’s so proud of him
And don’t forget to give my love to Rose.

The Folk Song of the Week – Poor Poor Pitiful Me

This week in my Folk Song of the Week, created specifically for the Daily Frailers group on Facebook, I chose Warren Zevon’s Poor Poor Pitiful Me. I chose Zevon’s version, 1) because it’s in a better key for most of the Daily Frailers to sing, but 2) because it’s slightly more eccentric (pronounced “demented“) than the more PC Linda Ronstadt version. Thus it appeals to my own peculiar (also pronounced “demented“) sense of humor better.

I will be an instructor at the 2017 Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat, teaching singing and songwriting, and generally jamming and playing wherever I can.

I lay my head on the railroad track
And wait for the double-E
The railroad don’t run here no more
Poor, poor pitiful me

Poor, poor pitiful me
Poor, poor pitiful me
These young girls won’t let me be
Lord have mercy on me
Woe is me

Well I met a girl in West Hollywood
And I ain’t namin’ names
Well, she really worked me over good
She was just like Jesse James

She really worked me over good
She was a credit to her gender
She put me through some changes, Lord
Sort of like a Waring blender

{Refrain twice}

I met a girl at the Rainbow Bar
She asks me if I’d beat her
She took me back to the Hyatt House
I don’t want to talk about it

Poor, poor pitiful me
Poor, poor pitiful me
Poor, poor pitiful me
Poor, poor pitiful me

Can’t You See – Supplemental to the Folk Song of the Week

After my most recent Folk Song of the Week I had a couple of comments about my chosen key being difficult for many folks to sing. In response I posted a supplemental version where I transposed the key down G to make it easier on people. I also give a little guidance (which I will expand upon later) on singing challenging keys by taking high notes down an octave or bringing the sung note down to another note in the chord). Sometimes this is called, “faking it.” 🙂

I will be teaching a workshop on singing in the next Maryland Folk Musicians Retreat

Responding to another request I’ve also created a little chord chart showing the D, C and G in the original version, and which strings/frets I hammered on to create a little complexity to the chords.

The word Arpeggio literally means “play the harp,” but as a musical term it refers to playing the individual notes of a chord rather than the full chord. It’s a technique I use on guitar all the time, but it’s easier because there are more strings and thus more notes. You hold a chord and play the strings one right after the other. On banjo an Arpeggio is more challenging — you need to double up and get multiple notes from each string in order to get a similar feel.