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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Johnny Cash’s Ghost

On Sunday night we went out for a concert in the park—at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater for a “Rock and Stroll” sponsored by WFPK to hear Brandi Carlile.

The grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and you could add two or three more greats, of those in attendance, built the Amphitheater in the spring of 1938 under the federal Works Progress Administration instituted by Franklin D Roosevelt. That was in the era of big government during the Great Depression where arts, education and infrastructure projects were built by men who otherwise would have been unemployed.

Lone Bellows opened for Carlile. LB gave a high energy performance with three guitars, one electric mandolin and percussion. They did several original songs as well as a cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery ".

If Johnny Cash were reincarnated as a slip of a woman he might be Brandi Carlile. She describes her music as country and western, but of the Johnny Cash variety. Critics call it Americana. It’s a little bit country, a dash of bluegrass and a whole lot of rock. But whatever you call it she can sure belt out the tunes.

Carlile's performance at Iroquois Park's Amphitheater was before a wildly enthusiastic, multi-generational crowd. I didn’t know all of the words to her music, and despite Carlile’s strong vocals, could not hear them because of the shouting and applause. But the crowd spirit was a good, contagious sort of energy with people dancing in the aisles and at the front of the stage. Until, that is, security made them return to their seats.

About the same time as the Amphitheater was being built, Johnny Cash’s father moved his family to Arkansas so he could use Roosevelt’s New Deal farming program.

Five generations later folks are still enjoying concerts at the Iroquois amphitheater, with renovations in 2000 that modernized the facility but kept the original historical aspects and some of the materials.

Brandi Carlile appropriately ended the concert with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”


  1. Again, we relate! Grandma strikes again! I am a big fan of WPA projects. Not only the creativity that put artists and builders together, but the creativity (and guts!) of the entire project by the government.
    In Los Angeles we have quite a few bridges, tunnels, roads, buildings created during the WPA. You can always tell - the beauty, combined with usefulness. These projects became history and need to be revered.

  2. Funny thing—what was old is new again. I believe our Grandpa worked for the CCC but I don’t know what projects he worked on.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Michele, sorry, I hit wrong button and accidentally removed your comment. If you want to repost it that would be great. Dorothy