Emmylou and Buddy, Belize City, and more from day two aboard Cayamo
Cayamo is half-over – difficult to believe from both ends of that statement. So much great music has already happened on this boat, with so much more yet to come. Today was our first port day, however, and it was all (so far) about exploring Belize City. Tonight, we’ll hop back into festival mode for more…
I write this from the balcony outside my room, overlooking the aqua blue waters off the coast of Belize. The ship had to anchor a ways from shore, since Belize has the second largest coral reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Having seen photos of brilliant Belizean beaches and paradise coves, my photographer friend who’s on this journey with me, and I, opted to explore Belize City free of the cruise-sponsored shore excursions. We teamed up with a nice couple from Italy, who work on an Italian magazine dedicated entirely to Americana music. They filled me in on the popularity of Italian-language Americana music. They write for the magazine – as do most of its contributors – for fun. Americana music sung in Italian will impress me, they promise. They’ll give me a CD next time our paths cross. I’ll report back.
For today, though, we wandered downtown Belize City together, the four of us, through its poor neighborhoods and across an open-air farmer’s market perched on the edge of a canal. Later, a taxi driver would tell us Belize City is 4-5 feet below sea level, so that canal drains the streets when it rains.
After wandering for a spell, we hopped a cab and asked to be taken to the nearest “nice beach.” We were dropped off at “Old Belize,” where the beach is man-made, costs $10 to sit on, and you can’t swim in the ocean. We and our Italian friends were underwhelmed, so we hopped in the back of a very nice man’s truck and let him drive us down the block to the private beach he owns, where he’s having a vacation home built for himself. It wasn’t that paradise cove of my imagination, but there was water we could wade in, and a line of sand on the beach. We entertained ourselves for a few minutes before resigning to Old Belize. Walked through what became a very squishy, muddy beachfront to join the gathering groups of other Cayamites by the bar (which did not have a cover charge). There, we met up with Rob and Andrew from Hoots & Hellmouth, and exchanged stories until it was time to head back to the boat.
Yesterday, Hoots & Hellmouth played a rousing set on the pool deck, where several people turned the area around the pool into a dance floor. I had to miss much of that, though, for a special group interview with Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller (I’ll be posting more on that once I’m back in Seattle and have a chance to transcribe, as well as interviews coming up Thursday with more of the artists, including Rachel Yamagata, Samantha Crain, Stephen Kellogg, Brandi Carlile, WPA, and others).
It was not the first or last time Emmy and Buddy would share a venue – she joined him onstage later that same night in the Spinnaker lounge (as did Shawn Colvin, much to everyone’s surprise, since she wasn’t on the bill). Together, they played a heartbreaking “Wide River to Cross,” among several other tunes. Miller reciprocated by playing with her during her headlining set in the theater at 10:30 p.m. The latter show was easily one of the finest of the trip so far, with Emmylou pulling from her entire catalog and delivering memorably beautiful versions of “Love Hurts,” “Kern River,” and “Pancho & Lefty.”
I’d kicked off yesterday in an audience Q&A with Emmylou, Brandi Carlile, and Steve Earle. I had to skip a special song-swap performance from John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett to attend the Q&A, but was curious how those three personalities would interact onstage. This is one of those difficult decisions which dictates a day aboard the Cayamo cruise: Hoots & Hellmouth throwdown on the pool deck, those three in a special Q&A, or John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett in a song swap. It’s easy here to forget what an actual dilemma looks like.
Carlile talked about how she’s still “collecting milestones” in her career, like being invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry, various gigs around Europe, and getting to share a stage with Steve Earle and Emmylou. Emmylou told great stories about the dog rescue she works on while home in Nashville, and memories of Kate McGarrigle. Earle told the story of his song “Hard Core Troubadour,” among other things. The session gave some added insight into each artist’s work, with a great casual dynamic between all three artists – if only they’d closed with a few three-way collaborations…
As the day and night carried on, we heard great music from Rachel Yamagata, WPA, and the Lovell Sisters, before hitting the sack to prepare for this day ashore in Belize. Tonight, our headlining show is Steve Earle, but there’s plenty more than just that on the schedule. I’m looking eagerly forward to sets from Gregory Alan Isakov (whom I’ve seen in the halls more than any other artist, but have yet to see play), Lissie, Samantha Crain, and a special Tom Petty throwdown with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers at midnight.
In fact, as I wrap this blog post, I can hear WPA kicking things back into gear on the pool deck, with the last round of folks returning from their snorkeling and beach break excursions down on Deck 4. Time for me to return to the music. Stay tuned for reports from Mexico tomorrow.