Kenn in 2020

My wife and I moved from Broomfield, Colorado to Eugene, Oregon in 2016. Since then, I’ve played a few open stages, volunteered as background music for “warming centers” for the homeless, twice a month hootenannies at a nursing home, and a couple of actual gigs.

In August, 2020 I recorded Got to Be a Time. I wrote the song in about 1973, lost all of it but the chorus, rewrote the verses in 2020

Kenn Amdahl sings his song Got to be a Time

I wrote Lost in Arkansas in the early 1970s after driving a U-Haul truck from Denver to Fayetteville AR, something like 700 miles. The darn headlights went out in the middle of a desolate stretch of Kansas Interstate, then flickered on and off until I got to a motel. The next day I drove on but was slowed by a steady rain and got to AR as it was getting dark again, and also raining, and the road becoming curvy, the trees on each side darkening in a sinister way. But the kind folks in Arkansas made me forget the stressful drive, especially the folks who helped unload the truck Dahlgren, Patrick, and Mr. And Mrs. Whisenhunt, Their kindness and the loveliness of the area is what I remember about the trip, and makes me remember Arkansas fondly. This song always reminds me.

Kenn Amdahl performs his song Lost in Arkansas

I wrote September Colorado years ago at the Saw Hill Ponds just east of Boulder, Colorado.

In 2008 I learned over a dozen Irish songs from a book published in 1808. I’m the only person who sings most of these songs. After all the time I invested in figuring out how they might have sounded and invading the brains of the folks who wrote them, I developed a sense of kinship with them. So I wrote a song in the same spirit as many of the songs, and featuring people and events from the songs I’d learned. I wrote a series of essays about each of the songs, including what I learned about each songwriter. I hope to locate that, edit it, and then post it here as well, along with the words and chords for each of the old songs. My own song includes references to Stutterin’ Jack Curran, Pleasant Ned Lysaght, the song Smalilou (about young lovers separated by the convent wall where she lived). Some of the language of my song contains the somewhat convoluted syntax that seemed prevalent back there. My hope is that it would feel at home next to the old songs. Elsewhere on this site I’ve uploaded links to each of these songs that I posted on Youtube, and also included MP3 files you can download.

Kenn Amdahl sings his song The Ghost of Pleasant Ned

Years ago I heard this Tony Joe White song on the radio about twice and then it disappeared. Back then, I could “learn” songs very quickly, so I went home and played the chorus, which was all I remembered. Years later, fooling around with that I came up with a neat little guitar part for the bit I knew and realized hey, those lyrics are probably on the Internet by now. Sure enough, they were. So I learned the rest of the song. It was shaped so much by my own slightly faulty memory of the song, and my own guitar arrangement, it’s not too similar to the original, but I still like it and still play it.

Kenn Amdahl performs I Got a Thing About You

Every other year for over 20 years, my wife Cheryl and I attended the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield Kansas. I don’t play bluegrass and don’t know many of the songs everyone else knows, but I certainly admire the skill of those players. I enjoyed camping with 14,000 other music lovers, and visiting the campfires with a dozen musicians around each one, sometimes playing a song or two with strangers. I estimated there were a thousand musical campfires every night. One year my group Cottonwood played on one of the lesser stages, which was fun.

It was an all-day drive to get there. I wrote the first verse and chorus of Big Red Barns while driving down I-70 on the way to the festival, while noticing the pattern of many, many big red barns dwarfing the modest white homes. I wrote the second verse sitting on the outskirts of the festival itself, with insects buzzing around my face.

Here’s my version of Johnny Cash’s song Folsom Prison Blues: