Dear Diary ... The Podcast Archives: 2020

2020 was a year of hellos and goodbyes.

We had to say farewell to Flood founder David Peyton, who died at his beloved Mount Union Road home on Sept. 2 at age 76. The fact is our band simply would not exist were it not for Brother Dave. Everything about The Flood — its Appalachian roots, its sassy attitude, its willingness to wander pretty far afield in pursuit of the novel or the noble or, yeah, well, sometimes just the naughty — came to us over the decades through Dave's creative instincts. We were never not in awe of his special brand of alchemy that could take him from the fierce to the fun-loving and back again at the speed of a laugh and wink.

VanessaOn a happier note, 20-year-old saxophonist Vanessa Coffman became the newest Floodster. The Marshall University music major we call "Veezy" started sitting in with the band last winter. It was former Floodster Stew Schneider who first called our attention to this wonderful young jazz artist. During the 2019 holiday season, Stew called to say, “Man, you’ve got to drop everything and come hear this young woman play tenor sax!” After that, it was in January that she took in her first Flood session. Everyone in the room was immediately wowed, and she’s been coming back ever since. Here's a sample of Vanessa's playing at a rehearsal on the October night when she accepted our invitation to join us.

Of course, for most of 2020 the horrid COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic put a halt to much of the live music here and across the country. We shut down our the weekly rehearsals in March; when we resumed them six months later, they were masked and socially distanced affairs. Also COVID caused the cancelation of all the pjscheduled Route 60 Saturday Night shows, at which The Flood was the house band for the previous two years. During months of quarantine, we weree so impressed with efforts by musicians around the world who offered online concerts and performances — all free for the streaming — to try to ease the stress and tedium of our having to hunker down in our homes and wait that thing out. Wanting to do our own small part in this effort, we launched a new series of videos we called The Pajama Jams, because — get it? — you can attend in your pj’s… or, well, heck, buck naked, if that’s what tunes your fiddle! The series consisted mostly of never-before-released audio and video recorded at assorted Flood jams and rehearsals and on-stage performances over the decades, especially those at which friends came to sit in with us.

Still, the pandemic did not stop our plans to release a new album. “Speechless: The Instrumentals,” produced and engineered by bandmate Paul Martin in his beautiful mountaintop studio high above Ironton, Ohio, has the venerable Doug Chaffin front and center on fiddle and guitar on a wonderfully diverse collections of tunes.


The supporting cast includes the usual suspects: Paul, Sam St. Clair, Randy Hamilton and Charlie Bowen. In addition, we are thrilled to have a special guest artist on this project. Stewart Schneider, one of the original Floodsters who played with the band back the 1970s, joins us here on Autoharp on a quarter of the tracks.

For a slew of random auto-selected numbers that we played that year, click here to tune into Radio Floodango's 2020 channel.

         January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December


Jan. 1, 2020: The Water is Wide. We start the new year with one of the oldest tunes we know. “The Water is Wide” is Scottish is origin and traces its roots all the back to the 1600s. It seems to be related to several of the English and Scottish ballad collected by Francis James Child in the second half the 19th century, but the modern version was popularized in the 1950 and ‘60s by Pete Seeger. In our rendition, from a recent rehearsal, Michelle sings the lead with sweet solos by Paul, Sam and Doug.

Jan. 8, 2020: Meet Vanessa Coffman. Here’s the beautiful sound of jazz saxophonist Vanessa Coffman who sat in with us at last night’s rehearsal. Pamela and Charlie met the 19-year-old Marshall University music major just two weeks ago when Floodster Emeritus Stew Schneider suggested they catch her solo gig at a hotel in downtown Ashland. They are so glad they did. What a talent! And not only does Vanessa have exciting musical ideas, she also have a seasoned instinct for crafting her solo to complement the other players around her. Here’s an example from last night. In this section of “Georgia on My Mind,” listen to how Vanessa’s solo builds beautifully on what Paul Martin lays down just before she comes in, then leaves a warm space for Doug Chaffin to follow her, like a sweet, musical conversation. We’re looking forward to more sessions with Vanessa Coffman in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned, friends.

Vanessa Coffman

Jan. 15, 2020: Misty. There are all kinds of ways to define the word “magic.” Among musicians there’s magic in the way an old tune can seal the bonds of new friendships. These days we are delighted to have jazz saxophonist Vanessa Coffman sitting in with us at the weekly rehearsals. Last night there were smiles all around the table when she brought some new magic to “Misty.”

Jan. 22, 2020: Birth of the Blues. One of the fun things about being such an eclectic bunch of people is that we are quite comfortable with reaching way back for great tunes that many bands have never even heard of. A case in point is this song that’s now nearly a hundred years ago. It came out when the 1920s were really beginning to roar. It was a favorite of Charlie’s mom and dad, not because they knew it from 1926 when it was released, but because it was also the title tune of a classic Bing Crosby musical from 1941. And this musical centenarian still has mojo. Listen to our take on the tune from a recent rehearsal, as Paul Callicoat lays down a solid bass line for tasty solos by Doug Chaffin, Paul Martin, Sam St. Clair and Vanessa Coffman.

Jan. 29, 2020: Fly Me to the Moon. Sixty-five years ago, songwriter Bart Howard wanted to write a sassy little tune about how people seldom say what they mean, and that’s why he called it “In Other Words.” But then Bart learned his own lesson about other words. When Kaye Ballard brought the song to the radio that year, fans didn’t call in by its name. Instead, when they phoned up their favorite disc jockey and ask to hear this cool little melody, they used the song’s evocative, highly poetic opening line. When the same thing kept happening all across the country, the record company had to re-release the song under the title that the public had chosen for it. The Flood’s been doing the song for more than a decade now. Here, from last night’s rehearsal, Michelle takes us on a favorite journey. In other words, here’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”


Feb. 5, 2020: Our 500th Episode: St. Louis Blues. This episode of the podcast is about the podcast itself. It was 12 years ago when our harmonicat Sam St. Clair first suggested we try our hand at what at the time was still a relatively new idea: to have a weekly podcast, featuring a tune from a recent Flood rehearsal with maybe a little bit of commentary as an introduction. We thought it would just be a little hoot, perhaps a fun diversion to while away a couple of cold winter months. Honestly, we never imagined we’d still be doing this thing all this time later, but, well, the podcast caught on. These days we have listeners throughout the country and even around the world, from England to Brazil to Japan and elsewhere. And today marks the 500th episode. Now, 499 episodes ago, when we started this long, strange trip, the first song we ever featured was our funky rendition of a tune we had only then started playing around with, W.C. Handy’s 1914 jazz classic, “St. Louis Blues.” So, to celebrate today’s episode number 500, let’s revisit that song. Here’s the year 2020 edition, with Michelle’s lead vocal and solos by Doug, Paul and Vanessa. It’s “St. Louis Blues.”Doug and the Pauls

Feb. 12, 2020: Backwater Blues. Often when Huntington’s hits a rainy patch, as it has it has lately, we’re reminded of the opening line of a classic Bessie Smith blues from the 1920s, “It rained five days and the sky turned dark as night.” Well, since the soak and the sog were much on our minds last night, we just set it all down in a blues, so everybody could testify, starting with Michelle Lewis’s original (patent pending) call and response to Charlie's vocals, then a double round of solos from the whole congregation, Doug Chaffin and Sam St. Clair, Vanessa Coffman and the two Pauls, Paul Martin and Paul Callicoat. Here’s The Flood talking about a flood, just riffing on “Backwater Blues.”

Feb. 19, 2020: Over the Rainbow. Last night was a busy rehearsal with a lot of new tunes on the table to try out. But the highlight of the night came when we revisited a song that’s been in The Flood’s swirl for a long time now. It was a couple of decades ago when the late Joe Dobbs got us playing “Over the Rainbow” as an instrumental. In fact, it was a favorite track on the “Fiddle and The Flood” CD that Joe brought out in 2001. Then it kind of went dormant for a while, until a few years ago when Michelle Lewis brought it back to us as a vocal. Well, last night the tune took another good turn when Vanessa Coffman gave us a couple of rich, lush choruses that showed us her tenor sax could open up even more dimensions to the song. Here are Michelle and Vanessa and “Over the Rainbow.”

Feb. 26, 2020: Beale Street Blues. This song has been in our musical blood stream for a very long time. In fact, by the time we finally got this wonderful jazz number onto a Flood CD — it’s on our 2003 “I’d Rather Be Flooded” album — we’d been doing the song in shows for quite some time. That was in part because we were hooked on the version that one of our string band heroes, the great Charlie Poole, worked up. Poole called his 1928 version “Ramblin’ Blues.” But even then the tune was an old-timer. Composer W.C. Handy had published it 11 years earlier — in 1917 — and immediately all the hot new jazz bands started playing it. And, boy, has the song had a long life, recorded in the past 70 years by everybody from Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey to Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole. In 1974, writer James Baldwin used the song’s key line — “If Beale Street could talk” — as the title for one of his classic novels, which a couple of years ago director Barry Jenkins brought to the screen in an Academy Award winning movie. Here then, from a recent rehearsal, is our revisiting of the song, with with great solos by Doug Chaffin, Paul Martin, Sam St. Clair and Vanessa Coffman.


March 4, 2020: Just a Closer Walk with Thee.Last week’s images of Mardi Gras were obviously still in our minds as we settled down for last night’s rehearsal. We’ve always loved how New Orleans has taught the world an important lesson, that music — sort of like gumbo — can be a rich stew of many different cultures and ideas. You can jazz up just about any kind of music, from the low-down to the lofty. A case in point is this classic tune that we first heard drifting through open church doors. Here are Michelle and the guys putting some good juju “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”Mr. C and Michelle

March 11, 2020: Ain't Misbehavin'. It always seemed kind of magical how at the weekly rehearsals it's often the oldest and the youngest players at the table who develop a special kind of simpatico. Now, chronologically, there’s sixty years difference in the ages of Doug Chaffin and Vanessa Coffman, but when the music starts, these two are obviously quite soulful siblings. Listen to the musical conversations they’re having throughout the great old Fats Waller standard that we started last night’s session with.

March 18, 2020: Bring It On Home to Me. As the Coronavirus has us all hunkering down in our homes, we figured it’s high time we rolled out the latest tune that we’ve been working on, one that’s all about the love of a good home. Here from a recent rehearsal are Paul Callicoat and Michelle Lewis leading us on a sail through a great old 1960s Sam Cooke composition. And flowing in and out all along the way are sweet solos from everyone, from Paul Martin and Doug Chaffin, from Veezy Coffman and Sam St. Clair. So, sit back and let our gang — Mister C and Michelle and the rest of the Flood family — bring it on home to you and yours. Be safe our there, friends, and stay happy in your hunkering down. Wash your hands and, please, take care of each other!

March 25, 2020: Basin Street Blues. More than 90 years ago, composer and pianist Spencer Williams wrote the great jazz standard “Basin Street Blues,” but here’s something we didn’t know until recently. Its wonderful opening lyric — “Won’t ya come along with me… Come along with me…. Down to the Mississippi…” was added later by Glenn Miller and Jack Teagarden. Ahhh, you live, you learn. The Flood started doing the tune about a decade ago at the suggestion of our late fiddler, Joe Dobbs, and when Joe died five years ago, the tune seemed to go with him. However, earlier this year, when jazz saxophonist Veezy Coffman started coming around, darned if Basin Street come back out! Here from a recent rehearsal is our 2020 version of the song, which Spencer William wrote as a kind of jazz-infused churchy call and response. Listen as Veezy opens the musical testimony, answered by the chorus of Doug, Sam and the two Pauls. Then the whole thing is turned over to Michelle who, always, nails the vocals.


April 1, 2020: If You Lose Your Money. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee are two of our all-time favorite blues artists. Back in the late 1950s, the pair recorded an incredible album for Smithsonian Folkways called "Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry Sing.” It was from that album that we took our inspiration for this blues with which we often open or close a rehearsal session, just because it's so much fun to play. Now, we don’t do the tune the way Sonny and Brownie did it — the whole “folk process” idea calls on us all to bring our own style and attitude to the music we play — and that was something that Sonny and Brownie certainly knew, because they too were building on the blues they had heard from their heroes. The evidence is that the song’s provocative key line — “If you lose your money, please don’t lose your mind” — didn’t originate with them. Back in 1936, Blind Boy Fuller used exactly the same line in his recording of “Keep Away From My Woman.” But it didn’t start with him either; seven years earlier, in 1929, Blind Joe Reynolds used the same line to open his tune, “Outside Woman Blues,” a song, incidentally, that would be covered 40 years later by the rock group Cream. So, hey, the bottom line is we’re in very good company in offering our take on the tune. Here it is, then, from a recent Flood rehearsal, with a double helping of solos from everyone, Doug, the two Pauls, Vanessa and Sam. It’s “If You Lose Your Money.”

April 8, 2020: Rest in Peace, John Prine: One Red Rose. For many of us, this pandemic thing got real about week ago when we learned that singer/composer John Prine had been hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus. And then last night we were absolutely heartbroken to learn that John — called by many the Mark Twain of American songwriting — had lost that fight, dead at 73. So, we are in mourning today. But we’re also thinking about something we read that John said one time. He said, “I guess I just process death differently than some folks. Realizing you're not going to see that person again is always the most difficult part about it. But that feeling settles, and then you are glad you had that person in your life, and then the happiness and the sadness all get swirled up inside you." John will certainly be living inside of us in The Flood. We started doing his tunes more than 40 years ago, 2020just ripping ‘em right that first album in the early 1970s. And now, decades later, we’re still adding John Prine tunes to our songbag. Just recently, for instance, we started doing a song from John’s “Storm Windows” album that he released in 1980, a song that our old partner the late Roger Samples was partial to. Here from a rehearsal a few months ago is “One Red Rose.”

April 15, 2020: Wonderful World. "Social distancing" doesn’t come naturally to most musicians. We’re a hugging, humming, harmonizing kind of people who generally don’t suffer solitude gladly. But during this awful Coronavirus pandemic, we are behaving ourselves — staying at home, washing our hands, not touching our faces. It’s now been a month since the Family Flood has been together in the same room, and we miss each other terribly. But our family, like yours, will get through this thing. Meanwhile, for these weekly podcasts, we continue to rely on recordings from months ago, and some of them suddenly seem especially poignant. For instance, back in mid-winter, when Michelle and guys did this tune at a rehearsal, we had no idea how in just a few weeks it would have us longing for the simple pleasure of just being back together.

April 22, 2020: I Almost Lost My Mind. Musicians have always understood Brother Aristotle’s comment that the whole is greater than the sum of its part. After all, that’s what musicians always try to do when they sit down in a circle to play: to make something bigger than all of them put together. And the secret to the magic in music is a simple one: Just listen to each other. Here’s an example from a recent Flood rehearsal. Listen to how right from the start, Paul Callicoat’s bass is putting down a heartbeat-like rhythm that beautifully reflects the mood of the lyrics. Then midway through, listen to how Veezy compositeCoffman’s sax solo builds on the simple, solemn mood that Sam St. Clair outlines with his harmonica two choruses earlier. Oh, and then toward the end of the tune, hear how for his mandolin solo, Paul Martin beautifully continues the lines that Doug Chaffin has been laying down in the fills he’s playing on his guitar between the lines of the vocals. Yes, listen closely and you’ll hear there’s much more to this story than just the lyrics Charlie and Michelle are singing.

April 29, 2020: Honeysuckle Rose. We’ve been playing around with Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” for more than a decade now and, it’s funny, but just when we think we got it nailed down, the band’s membership changes and we have to start all over. Here’s a fun moment from a Flood rehearsal back in February. You’ll hear the track start out with Charlie talking to our new bass player, Paul Callicoat, about how we approach the song. Then as we launch into it, you’ll hear Doug say he can’t remember his part, and Charlie assuring him he’ll think of something. And of course, he does. Things start really rocking when Michelle comes in with her high, cool vocal lead. Meanwhile, Vanessa Coffman has been taking all this in, so when we call for a little saxophone about midway through the tune, Veezy’s ready with a couple tasty choruses. Oh, be sure to hang around for Doug’s comment at the end. Hey, it’s all in an evening’s work/fun in The Flood house.


Video Extra!

Flood Lite

May 6, 2020: Moonglow. “Moonglow” is a very forgiving song. In the many years we’ve been doing this great old 1930s jazz standard that Benny Goodman and Joe Venuti made famous, we’ve not always handled it gently — we’ve played it too fast, we’ve played it too slow, like a heavy-handed blues — and yet, class act that it is, the song has always given us something back. But it was only when Michelle Lewis took over the vocals that we truly began to appreciate the beautiful of this classic Eddie DeLange-Will Hudson composition. It’s in Michelle’s able hands that the tune unfolds like a favorite scene from a good novel. And because the song is so richly shaded, every time a new player comes into our room, “Moonglow” reveals something else about itself. For instance, on this particular take, listen to how the tune takes a light, almost spring-like turn as soon as Veezy Coffman and her tenor sax drop in with a couple of sweet choruses in last couple of minutes of recording. Here then, from a rehearsal back in February, is our 2020 rendition.

May 13, 2020: Georgia on My Mind. Hearing her first dozen notes, you know that Vanessa Coffman is playing her favorite song. Listen to the next couple dozen notes and you know she has all the other players in the room falling in love with it too. The time is a deep, dark February night — a few days before Valentine’s Day, actually. The place: The Flood’s rehearsal room at the Bowen house. The tune: “Georgia on My Mind.” Now, sit back, give us five minutes and listen to this little musical love story unfold.


May 20, 2020: Star of the County Down. It seems odd that a tune we’ve been playing for nearly a half century now had never made it onto one of The Flood’s commercial CDs. But we’ll finally rectify that situation when our latest album — called “Speechless: The Instrumentals” — is released in the next few weeks. The song in question is “Star of the County Down,” a lovely Irish melody that the late Joe Dobbs introduced us to at those weekend-long music parties in the 1970s, the wild, wonderful hippy bashes at which The Flood was busy being born. Back then, Joe taught the tune to Roger Samples, and Rog taught it to Dave Peyton and Charlie. Joe’s song has been learned and re-learned by new generations of Floodsters over the decades since then. In this track from a rehearsal back in late January, you can hear that tradition continuing. As we start the song, our newest bandmate, Paul Callicoat, is listening; then as we come toward the end, Paul’s got it and in comes his beautiful bass to join us for the final chorus.

May 27, 2020: Smile. You don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone. Think about how much we communicate with each other with just a wink and a smile. That’s certainly true in the band; when we’re bopping along on a tune, the facial expressions we exchange often say more than the words themselves. But of course, in these times of COVID-19, we’re suddenly handicapped. Oh, we’re still grinning. It’s just that the masks we’re now wearing for each other’s protection are hiding our smiles. But leave to Michelle Lewis to come up with a solution. If you can’t show a smile, you can at least sing about one, as she does in this tune. Oh, and here’s an interesting thing about this song. The great comic genius Charlie Chaplin wrote the music for this piece to be part of the soundtrack for his 1936 film classic, “Modern Times.” The lyrics and title were added nearly 20 years later by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, based on lines and themes from the movie. And, finally, a word about this particular performance. In an abundance of caution, we’re still not getting the entire band together for rehearsals right now, but earlier this week, Michelle dropped by so she and Charlie could sit on the porch try this song out, just the two of them. We’re still deciding whether to keep it in The Flood repertoire when the whole band finally gets back together. Let us know what you think! Your thoughts will make us … well, smile.

Video Extra!

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!


June 3, 2020: Over the Rainbow. In these days of rage, as we’re overwhelmed with a constant stream of angry and sad images from all across the country, peaceful moments are especially valuable. Lately the Bowens’ neighbors have been thanking us for moving our rehearsals outdoors, because they can hear the music through their opened windows. The reason for our relocation is, of course, another sadness: our ongoing concerns about spreading the Coronavirus have us reluctant to call the whole band back together for now, so lately Flood rehearsals, such as they are, are minimalist affairs, two or three of us at a time and socially distanced and outside. This week started with a particular peacefulness when Michelle Lewis and Vanessa Coffman came to share a few songs out back on the Bowen breezeway. This was the final song of the morning.

June 10, 2020: Yas Yas Duck. When The Flood first started doing this song some 40 years ago and Charlie’s sweet mother asked where such an odd little tune came from, we didn’t want to tell her the truth, so he said, “Mom, it was a popular party song in the late 1920s.” Well, it wasn’t a complete lie; it’s just the “parties” where this song was born started very late at night and were in a part of town where nice girls generally didn’t go. The song we’ve always called “Yas Yas Duck” is an old hokum jazz tune that’s been recorded under a lot different names over the years. As near as we can figure, the first recording was by the great St. Louis piano pounder James “Stump” Johnson who released it in January 1929 as “The Duck Yas-Yas-maskedYas.” Later that some year, new versions started cropping up, one recorded by Oliver Cobb and his Rhythm Kings and another by all-time Flood heroes Tampa Red and Georgia Tom. For us, the tune has become a kind of connective tissue between today and our old jug band roots of the 1970s and ’80s. That’s why we put it on our first commercial CD back in 2001, and why it still gets trotted out regularly at rehearsals, just so newer members of the band can learn it. This track, from a rehearsal back in early March, was bassist Paul Callicoat’s introduction to The Duck. At the beginning of the track, you’ll hear us telling him where to find the chords in his new Flood Fakebook.

June 17, 2020: Bye Bye Blues. These days the audience for our little minimalist, socially distanced jam sessions out on the Bowen breezeway is mostly the robins and squirrels, the mockingbirds and butterflies, but occasionally a jogger or a baby stroller will pass by on the street and wave and grin, and we do grin back, though it’s a little hard to tell from behind our darned face masks. We do hope the tunes can make up for the absence of facial expressions. Here’s a moment from earlier this week that we offered to some particularly perky young dog walkers passing by.

June 24, 2020: Margaret's Waltz. When Paul Martin joined the band five years ago, we knew we had received riches far beyond anything we deserved. Paul has brought not only imaginative and tasteful playing and singing, but also loyal friendship and heart-warming good humor. It was only later that we discovered he also has mad skills in the recording studio! Man, our latest album — “Speechless: The Instrumentals” — wouldn’t even exist were it not for Paul the producer making magic engineering and mixing it in his mountaintop studio high above Ironton, Ohio. And last night when Paul came back down the hill to pick a bit with Doug and Charlie at the Chaffin house in Ashland, he brought his usual magic with him. Now, as we’ve said, during these hunker-down COVID-19 days, we’re not gathering the whole band together in one room right now, but we are having mini-rehearsals, two and three members at a time like that. Another treat last night is that a dear old friend, Danny Gillum, dropped by and hopped onto Doug’s upright bass to accompany us on some of the songs. Here’s the closer for that midsummer’s night, “Margaret’s Waltz.” By the way, another rendition of that tune and 15 other cool pieces are on the new album, “Speechless: The Instrumentals.” Click here for details, including samples of all the songs.


July 1, 2020: Needed Times. Ah, memories. It was an autumn weekend night nearly 50 years ago now and Pamela and Charlie went to a theater in downtown Huntington — probably the Keith-Albee — is see a new Cicely Tyson/Paul Winfield work called “Sounder.” Wow, what a wonderful movie, and Charlie especially loved the bluesy musical score performed almost exclusively by Taj Mahal, who also played the character “Ike” in the film. Charlie loved it so much, in fact, that he started haunting Davidson Records Store down the street, just waiting to buy the soundtrack LP and learn some of the tunes. And, you know, while Taj Mahal’s music was memorable, for Charlie the real star of the soundtrack was the legendary blues master Lightnin’ Hopkins doing a gospel tune called “Needed Time.” Now in the winter of 1972-73, The Flood was just getting started, and as soon as Charlie shared “Needed Time” with the band’s fellow founders Dave Peyton and Roger Samples, the song quickly got played regularly at our fledgling jam sessions. Well, of course, these days Dave and Rog are both long gone from The Flood, but the tune remains. Oh, now — like back then — we do a much livelier, more raucous version of the song than Hopkins’ solemn, soulful original, but even in its transformation, the tune is still a tribute for a special time in our lives. Here from a rehearsal back in March — before the COVID-19 shutdown started keeping us apart — is a rocking rendition of “Needed Time.”

July 8, 2020: Pretty Polly. As we were finishing up the picking session at the Chaffin house last night, Doug’s wife, Donna, popped in from the next room to say she felt like she ought to call our families to warn them that we were all coming home in a murderous mood, judging from some of the tunes we’d been playing. Well, truth to tell, there is something about heavy summer night air that can sometimes darken the storytelling. It was several decades ago that The Flood put its own stamp on this harrowing little Appalachian murder mystery. We don’t do the song that much anymore — only on those sultry nights when with the blood is up and the moon is down.

July 15, 2020: Suffer to Sing the Blues. It was nearly 50 years ago now that the great David Bromberg brought out his first album — just about the same time that The Flood was thinking about being born — and the second cut on that LP was a little original composition of David’s called “Suffer to the Sing the Blues.” The lyrics and attitude of the tune just tickled all of us, and we regularly did it at the music parties and the few coffeehouse gigs we played in those days. Then the song just sort of drifted away from us for a while, but lately we’ve been bringing back. Here’s a take on the tune for one of the minimalist rehearsals tripwe’ve been having lately in this weird time of COVID. Somehow the tune seems to have taken on a new relevance.

July 22, 2020: My Blue Heaven. The heat wave has really hampered our attempts to have outdoor / socially distanced breezeway jam sessions lately. Good golly, Miss Molly — it’s been hitting 90 before noon around this here this week! But here’s a tune from a few weeks ago when Veezy Coffman brought her tenor sax around to run through some tunes with Michelle and Charlie. You know, we continue to be amazed at what good ears young Miss Coffman has. She listens intently and when it’s her turn to take it, she usually brings something fresh to the mix. Check out this track. It’s starts with Michelle and Charlie strolling down a fairly familiar path, then Veezy joins in and finds brand new sights for us along the way.

July 29, 2020: The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore. When we were growing up, the undisputed queen of Kentucky folk music was the extraordinary singer/songwriter Jean Ritchie. Memories of her cool-as-crystal-water voice singing a cappella on some mountain ballad still send shivers down our spines. Now Jean typically eschewed controversial topics, but in the mid-1960s, the plight of impoverished coal miners in his native Perry County moved her to write perhaps her best known song, one we’ve been playing for decades now. Here’s a recent rendition from one of our minimalist rehearsals of late, here with Doug Chaffin on lead guitar and Danny Gillum standing in on upright bass. The highlight of the track is Paul Martin’s haunting solos and fills, first on mandolin, then, at the end, on acoustic guitar.


Aug. 5, 2020: Let It Be Me. For 15 years now, Michelle and Charlie have looked for tunes we can harmonize on. Well, in these frustrating COVID-19 days, when we’ve not seen more than a couple of our bandmates together at one time — always outside, always socially distanced — this old Everly Brothers song that we came upon earlier this week seems like an especially poignant hymn to how much we all mean to each other. Here then, direct from the Bowen breezeway, complete with the hum of the neighbors’ air conditioners in the background, is our summer morning rendition of “Let It Be Me.”

Video Extra!

Flood Ultra Lite

Aug. 12, 2020: Number 12 Train. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a half century since Roger Samples and Charlie Bowen started playing music together. This track starts with a snippet of a tune recorded at a party in late 1974. It was right when Rog and Charlie had just started messing around with Josh White’s great tune, “Number 12 Train.” Oh, it’s even harder believe that Roger has been gone almost five years now. But he’s still very much with us. Evident of that is the rest of this track, recorded back in the March, the last time we were all together in one room before this COVID-19 madness started. Interesting, isn’t it, how the first tune of the evening was a shoutout to that same old blues? This time it features great solos by Doug and Sam and the two Paul’s? The blues run through so much of what The Flood plays, and so does the spirit of Roger Samples.

Aug. 19, 2020: Doug Celebrates Another Birthday (with "East Tennessee Blues" and "Black Mountain Rag") The tribal elder of the Flood clan these days, Doug Chaffin, has been playing music for about 70 years, almost a third of them with us. Since the year 2000, Doug has played a slew of instruments with the band, from upright bass and mandolin to fiddle, but he’s probably most at home with the guitar, the instrument he started playing back in the 1950s with the pickers in his own family. Nowadays, whether on stage with the whole Flood in front of an audience or just kicking back on his front porch at his homestead in the hills overlooking Ashland, Ky., Doug always rocks us. For instance, this track opens with Doug tearing it up on “East Tennessee Blues.” Well, Doug celebrated another birthday recently — he turned 79 last week — but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down much. Witness the way the track ends, with Doug roaring through a little bit of “Black Mountain Rag,” with Danny Gillum and Charlie Bowen huffing and puffing beside him just trying to keep up!

Aug. 26, 2020: Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens. Any musician will tell you that the “meaning” of a song is much more than merely the words. While the lyrics can tell a story, maybe explain the title and conjure up a few images in your head, the real mood, the richness of the tune is in the melody and the harmonies. It’s the notes with which the players fill the spaces around and between all those words. Now, we in The Flood are frankly in awe of the infinity that Doug Chaffin and Paul Martin have and how each plays in ways that often beautifully complement the other, echoing and building on each other’s musical ideas throughout a tune. You can hear that on this track from a mini-rehearsal last month. If you listen closely to Doug’s fiddle and then Paul — first on mandolin, then on guitar — you’ll hear conversations that have absolutely nothing to do with nouns, verbs and adjectives.



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Mostly masked and socially distanced....

Sept. 2, 2020: Don't Get Around Much Anymore. Eighty years ago, the great Duke Ellington had no idea he was writing the perfect anthem of frustration for our 21st century pandemic world of COVID-19 and loneliness of quarantine. “Don’t Get Around Much Any More”? Hey, brothers and sisters, we can all feel that! For instance, until this week, we in The Flood hadn’t been all together in one room at one time for nearly six months. But we just couldn’t take the separation any more, and last night our new bass player, the good Paul Callicoat, invited us to come to the big room at his store, Route 60 Music Co. in Barboursville, for a little safe socially distance jam session. So, with washed hands and masked faces, we came together for a sweet 90 minutes of music. And of course, once there, we had to start with that Duke Ellington classic that has taken on such a new meaning in this strange days.

Sept. 9, 2020: If You Lose Your Money. Doug Chaffin is the guy you want by your side if you’re setting out to the have a good time. He’s the perfect example of a good musician. For instance, if there’s a whole bunch of pickers in the room, Doug knows how to play well with others. He’ll step up to play a memorable solo when it’s his turn, then step back again to share the moment, playing sweet riffs and fills to support and amplify other players’ ideas. On the other hand, whenjust a few come together to play — like last night with Danny Gillum and Charlie — Doug will be your solo-playing machine! Now, The Flood has been doing this old Sonny Terry-Brownie McGhee song for, well, a hundred years or so, but Doug always takes it on like it’s brand new. In fact, on this track, we come to Doug five times for solos and each time he’s got something different say. Shoot, Doug had more ideas, but we just ran out of song!

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More from the COVID-19 rehearsal

Sept. 16, 2020: Georgia on My Mind. In this sad, dark year, The Flood has been graced with a bright light in the person of Vanessa Coffman. The 19-year-old saxophonist we call Veezy started sitting in with us back in January, hardly missing a weekly jam session right up until mid-March, when, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. It’s only now that we’re starting to get back to something like our regular rehearsals, and Veezy’s right there in the mix making it happen. You know, The Flood has always an affinity for songs that are older than we are — which in our case is saying something! — but to make that work, you really got to pay attention, to listen closely to each other so you can find new ideas in all those great old classic lines. Well, Vanessa is teaching us that sometimes the wisest ears in the room are the youngest. Here from last night is last tune of the session — “Georgia on My Mind” — and just listen to everybody listening.

Sept. 23, 2020: Sittin' on Top of the World. Here’s a tune that we started doing back in the foggy ruins of time, inspired by the original that was recorded 90 years ago this year by some of our heroes, in this case, the great country blues band, The Mississippi Sheiks. Of course, we did have to fool with it to make it our own. We don’t know how Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon would feel about that A-flat that we added to the fifth bar of their lovely E blues, but, hey, that’s just how songs get Floodified. Here from last night’s rehearsal is the latest rendition, with double servings of solos by Doug, Sam, Vanessa and the two Pauls.

Sept. 30, 2020: Autumn Leaves. Of all the tunes we do, none is more evocative than “Autumn Leaves,” Joseph Kosma’s post World War II composition that quickly became a jazz standard in America from the 1950s right up to today. Memorable renditions have been recorded by everyone from Miles Davis and Chet Baker to Erroll Garner and Mel Tormé. And while certainly the lyrics are beautiful and touching, as this instrumental track from a recent Flood rehearsal demonstrates, it’s the melody itself that so stunningly captures the magic and the melancholy of autumn. Listen as Doug Chaffin, Paul Martin and Veezy Coffman find new things to say with this gorgeous classic tune.


Oct. 7, 2020: Vanessa Coffman, the Newest Floodster! Our dear friend Vanessa Coffman turns 20 years old today and we’re happy to announced that going into this new decade, she is also the newest Floodster.veezy At the end of The Flood’s rehearsal last night, we were thrilled that Vanessa accepted our invitation to join the band. Now, regular listeners know that Vanessa — we call her Veezy around here, incidentally — started sitting in with the band last winter. It was former Floodster Stew Schneider who first called our attention to this wonderful young player. During the holiday season last year, Stew called to say, “Man, you’ve got to drop everything and come hear this young woman play tenor sax!” It was in January — exactly nine months ago today, in fact — that she took in her first Flood session. Everyone in the room was immediately wowed, and she’s been coming back ever since. Of course, the horrid COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the weekly rehearsal in March, but we stayed in touch with her during the six-month shutdown and when rehearsals resumed last month, she was right there in the mix. In fact, during the awful year of loneliness and loss, Veezy Coffman has been a bright light, enhancing everything we play with her beautiful tone and her imaginative musical ideas. Take a listen to this. From a last night’s rehearsal, it’s a bit of Veezy’s work on “Summertime.” Happy birthday, Veezy Coffman — welcome to the Family Flood!

Oct. 14, 2020: Ain't Misbehavin'. There are lots of stories about the great jazz songwriter Fats Waller. Our favorite is about the time he was kidnapped off the streets of Chicago. Now, it was 1926 and Fats was just leaving a gig in the early morning when four men grabbed him, bundled him into a car and sped off to a hotel. Ordered inside and, with a gun to his back, he was pushed toward a piano and told to play. It was only then that Fats realized that HE was the “surprise gift” at Al Capone’s birthday party! Now THAT is a command performance. It was three years later that Fats — who copyrighted more than 400 songs in his oh-so-brief lifetime (he died at just 39!) — wrote our favorite Waller composition. Here’s our 2020 rendition of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” from a recent Flood rehearsal.

Oct. 21, 2020: Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You. When Bob Dylan wrote this song 50 years ago, it was a matter of necessity. In the winter of ’69, he had arrived at the Columbia Records studio to record the great “Nashville Skyline” album having written only four of the songs he’d need to fill that record. So, over two days at the Ramada Inn where he was staying for the recording session, Bob wrote “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You,” a piece that worked so well it ended up being the beautiful final cut of the album. In many ways, it was the signature tune for that whole project. The Flood started playing around with the song back in the ‘70s when Rog Samples and Charlie worked out this particular arrangement, and it seems to come back into our collective consciousness ever few decades or so.

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Michelle returns!

Oct. 28, 2020: Misty. There’s been a wide range of ages among the members of our band over the years, from 14 to 80, and we have a tradition of musical affinity between the oldest and youngest bandmates. For instance, a decade ago, we loved watching the bonds build between teenaged guitarist Jacob Scarr and septuagenarian fiddler Joe Dobbs. And now the tradition continues. When our newest Floodster Vanessa Coffman first started sitting in with us back in January, tribal elder Doug Chaffin immediately found a strong musical kinship. And now, 10 months later, those bonds are even stronger. For instance, listen to this moment from a recent rehearsal when the two of them gently complement each other’s intricate steps in an improvisational glide through a jazz standard.


Nov. 4, 2020: Alberta, Let Your Hair Hang Low. We love it when fresh ears bring something so new to an old tune. Now, our newest Floodster Vanessa Coffman had never heard this old folk song until she started playing with us, but she quickly found the chords and the melody gave her plenty of stretching out room for some imaginative solos and some tasteful fills behind the vocals. Here, from a mini-jam session last week, Veezy finds all kinds of musical opportunities in this great old roustabout song said to be from the Ohio River Valley steamboat era.daisy

Nov. 11, 2020: Hey, Daisy. In these times of COVID, when we can get together for a rare rehearsal, we can’t meet in our traditional practice space at the Bowen house. Instead, masked, hand-washed and socially distanced, we gather after hours in the big room at Route 60 Music Co., which our bass player, the store’s co-owner Paul Callicoat, has so graciously opened to us. Now, one of the perks of practicing at Route 60 — besides seeing all those gorgeous guitars hanging on the walls for sale … oo oo, hey, think about this: Christmas is coming, and you can show the pickers in your family some serious love with a guitar or two from Route 60! … anyway, one of the OTHER perks of being at Route 60 is being greeted by Daisy, the West Virginia brown dog who rules that domain with a gentle paw. Daisy always seems happy to see us, but last night was even better than usual. When Sam, Paul, Michelle and Charlie launched in to the first tune, our take of Bruce Channel’s “Hey, Baby,” Daisy came running to us with her tail a-wagging. At first we figured she just misheard us and thought we were calling her name. Now, though, upon reflection we realize that she was telling us it’s high time we repurposed that tune. From now on we’ll be doing it as, “Hey, Hey, Daisy”!

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The Swing Thing

Nov. 18, 2020: Jugband Song. Our newest Floodster, Veezy Coffman, was still busy being born about the time we were putting a version of this song on a Flood album a couple of decades ago. And, shoot, we’re not sure her folks were even born yet when we first started playing around with it. So I guess you can say this tune has some serious roots with us. Our hero, the phenomenal David Bromberg, composed it for his “Demon in Disguise” album back in 1972 as a tribute to his heroes. For instance, the key line -- "when I ask for a water, she brings me gasoline" -- is a shout-out to the blues legend Howlin' Wolf. So here, from last night’s Flood rehearsal, is a 2020 rendering of a David Bromberg special.

Nov. 25, 2020: Dink's Song / Loch Lomond. The first time we played this old folk song for Vanessa Coffman, she heard what seemed to be the ghost of another tune in it. While we were singing a lament from the dark foothills of America, Veezy’s sax was exploring some rich Highland roots from the other side of the sea. Listen here as two songs meet and merge, not only fulfilling the lyrics’ opening wish — “if I had wings…” — and also then taking flight for enchanted destinations. Yon bonnie banks, indeed.


Dec. 2, 2020: Jelly Roll Baker. Between the holidays and then snowy weather, we’ve not had a full band rehearsal lately, but last Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — was a warm, sunny day, and we had even further reason to be thankful that day, because that’s when we finally drew Doug Chaffin back into Flood affairs. Now, Doug’s been away for more than month. During these COVID-19 days, he needed to self-isolate for a few weeks in preparation for a little outpatient surgery. Well, now the surgery is done — everything went just fine — he’s back and rarin’ to play. To the mini-jam session with Vanessa and Charlie, Doug even brought a guest of honor: the 1958 Gibson Les Paul that his daddy bought him brand new more than 50 years ago when Doug was still a teenager. That valuable classic guitar doesn’t leave the Chaffin house much, but Friday was a special occasion. Here’s a tune we started the session off with, a cover a 1942 composition by the great New Orleans bluesman Lonnie Johnson.

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A Blues for The COVID Winter

Dec. 9, 2020: Stray Dogs and Alley Cats. A few weeks before COVID came along and started slapping us all around, Paul Martin looked up at one of The Flood’s weekly rehearsals and said, “Hey, fellows, have we ever thought about doing this song?” And then he sang a verse or two of a gorgeous old tune from Virginia’s Lonesome River Band. Well, shoot, we fell in love with it right then and there and wanted to start working on it, but of course, the Coronavirus had other ideas. With months of quarantine and cancellations, our masks and social distancing, the song got kind of lost in the shuffle for a while, until a few weeks ago when our newest bandmate, Vanessa Coffman, asked for it. And we’re so glad she did, because that put the tune back front and center. Now, as usual with Flood matters, the arrangement is still evolving — truth to tell, it probably always will be, knowing us — but here’s a kind of status report from last night’s rehearsal. That’s Paul Martin singing lead, with his fellow Paul, Paul Callicoat, providing all that cool harmony on the chorus. Doug Chaffin’s Paul Reed Smith guitar is finding just right feeling for the fills and mid-song, Veezy Coffman steps up with a spot-on sax solo. Here’s the tune Paul had on his mind all those months ago.

Dec. 16, 2020: Trouble in Mind. Here’s a song that grew up in the after-dark world of New Orleans at the turn of the last century. “Trouble in Mind” was written by a pioneer jazzman named Richard M. Jones, who grew in the Crescent City and, while still a teenager, was pounding piano in the houses of New Orleans’ red-light district known as Storyville. He also sometimes led a small band that included other jazz forefathers like cornet player Joe Oliver, who later would be crowned “King Oliver.” But back to the song. chasIn the the spring of 1924 “Trouble in Mind” was among the first blues recordings ever made. But it was two years later, in 1926 in Chicago, that singer Betha “Chippie” Hill popularized it with a rendition she recorded for Okeh Records with Richard Jones on piano and another young horn man, a 25-year-old Louis Armstrong, on cornet. Since those days, this song of New Orleans has been revisited by everyone from Big Bill Broonzy to Dinah Washington and Nina Simone. Here’s the latest Flood take on the tune from a recent rehearsal.

Dec. 23, 2020: Up a Lazy River. America has always had amazing songwriters whose works simply change the way we all talk to each other, none more so than the great Hoagy Carmichael. In his 80 years, Hoagy wrote hundreds of songs, including 50 that achieved hit record status for numerous artists, and they still do. For example, a few years, Norah Jones charted with Hoagy’s “The Nearness of You,” a song that was written and first recorded 40 years before Norah was even born. But, then, shoot, any of Hoagy’s wonderful songs would be enough to build a legend on. “Georgia on My Mind.” “Skylark.” “Heart and Soul.” ‘Stardust.” The Flood’s been doing Hoagy Carmichael songs for decades, and we’re sure to be adding some more to our repertoire in the new year. But we always come back to this one, our favorite, the first of Hoagy’s tunes we ever tackled!

Dec. 30, 2020: Black Eye Blues. One of the wonderful films that rolled out this month is “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” the latest in Denzel Washington’s exciting ongoing project to bring the best of the late August Wilson’s plays to the screen. That movie — an excellent vehicle for the Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman — has introduced a lot of people to the recordings of jazz legend Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, often called “the mother of the blues.” But we in The Flood are proud to say that we started doing Ma Rainey tunes, gosh, more than 40 years ago. Early on we recognized a kindred spirit in Ma through her randy lyrics and raucous wit. Shoot, even now, nearly a century after it was recorded, most of Ma Rainey’s music is meant for the midnight hour and afterward. And, hey, we’re still doing Ma’s songs. For instance, here, from a rehearsal we had a month or so before the the movie’s release, we roll out “Black Eye Blues,” in which Miss Rainey offered up this heartfelt warning to an errant lover: “You low-down alligator, you watch ’n’ sooner or later I’ll catch ya with your breeches down!” Ah, Ma, you could paint a picture!