Adam's Blog

Live From the Kitchen Table Podcast 003  Podcast

Check out my latest podcast of Live From the Kitchen Table. I have some new songs and have dusted off some old ones too. I dedicated this podcast to my good fried David Ian Robins who sadly passed away a few short weeks ago. He was a man who lived life on his own terms and if he was on your side he would be the best kind of friend you ever had. Enjoy this episode!

Adam Traum
  1. LFTKT 003

A Visit to Larry Cragg's Shop and Other Musings 

I was in Marin County doing my usual teaching rounds when my friend Linsday called me to tell me he was dropping his new Collings D2H off with legendary guitar tech and repair man Larry Cragg. For years I've held Cragg in very high esteem not just because of his clientele, but also from the stories I've heard about the quality of his work. 

My Collings CJ had a buzz at the seventh fret for some time and since Lindsay was going to be there I decided to drop by and check out his brand new axe. I also saw it as a sign that I should get Cragg's opinion on whether I'd need a full fret job or if a set up would suffice. We immediately hit it off as we all are Collings fans. 

I walked into his workshop and my jaw nearly hit the floor looking at photos of rock gods and progenitors of modern music hanging everywhere Classic amps, soldering irons, cables and parts were everywhere! There was a rack full of guitars and cases strewn on one wall. Needless to say, I felt immediately at home. In the corner by the door was a painting of a Carlos Santa record cover that Santana had given to Cragg as a gift. He explained that Santana has been his client for over 40 years, even longer than Neil Young! The man is a veteran guitar tech and had some great stories to tell. In spite of being friends with many of the worlds rock icons, he was so unassuming and warm that looking at him you wouldn't know he was a legend among guitar aficionados.

I got a call back from him yesterday saying my CJ was done and we made an appointment for me to pick it up. I have to say, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. He straightened the neck, got my frets milled and "woke up" the top, a specialty of his. I have no doubt my trusted friend, the guitar, will sound better than ever and I will report soon with a sound file to share her newly opened up sound.

In other news, I've been working on some new songs including the attached rough mix of a tune I wrote with my friend Denis Loiseau. Jack Hines was nice enough to play bass on the track and I was playing mandolin, guitar and vocals. Let me know what you think of this new tune. 

I've also been gigging like crazy and I'm proud to see the seeds I planted in 2006 when making the transition from being a professional photographer and photojournalist to a working musician are taking hold. I'm inspired by the musicians I'm getting to work with and they make me better with each gig I do. One of the things I love about music is that there is always something to learn, someplace new to go and new territory to cover. 

Keep your eyes open for a second podcast coming soon. My first podcast got great feedback and I look forward to getting out my second "Live From the Kitchen Table" podcast. Enjoy your upcoming July 4th weekend and look for more blogs, videos, podcasts and songs!

Post Script:

I picked up my guitar yesterday and the neck is beautifully straight and it plays better than it ever has! Thank you Larry Cragg.


Live From the Kitchen Table Podcast 001  Podcast

Welcome to Live From the Kitchen Table, a blog and podcast with a series of lo-fi recordings that are stripped down and frequently done on my iPhone or other hand-held devices. I wanted to bring an intimate vibe to these recordings that put the listener right in middle of the music as it's being created. I hope you enjoy these podcasts!

Adam Traum

MerleFest 2014 

I was invited to attend MerleFest 2014 with my father, Happy Traum to play a few sets with him and help out at the Homespun Learning Stage in the Mayes Pit. 

Before I left I borrowed a Calton Case (a super protective fiberglass guitar case) from my friend Teja Gerken. He told me that the case used to belong to our mutual friend Scott Nygaard, a world class guitarist in his own rite, and that the case had already travelled to MerleFest at least once. I was glad to see it return with my guitar inside it. Although the Calton Case was a beast to carry I felt good knowing my instrument was well protected after seeing the video "United Breaks Guitars" a few years ago!

I flew into Charlotte, North Carolina, from San Francisco, and had a few hours of down time while waiting for my father's flight from Albany, N.Y. Once my dad arrived we rented a swanky SUV and rolled out to the Blueridge Mountains foothills where the festival takes place, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Coming from the drought-stricken state of California I was reminded of how green everything gets and the immediacy of the dense humidity in the south.

I spent about 12 years living south of the Mason Dixon Line first in Northern Virginia and later Savannah, Georgia, and knew what to expect. But being there again reminded me of how my understanding of Americana roots music was deepened profoundly by hearing the sounds of the south including the breezes through the trees and the sounds of bass-filled streams everywhere! The sight and smells of lush fauna and flora came rushing back to me. 

After stopping for "dinner" at a Starbucks, which was really about the coffee, my dad crashed out since we had an early start and I went over to see Alan Jackson play on the main stage. I was expecting a country show with "Chattahoochee" and other Jackson hits, but was pleasantly surprised to see a star-studded bluegrass band with an amazing talented young woman sitting in on mandolin named Sierra Hull. Don Rigsby was on backing vocals and Rob Ickes was on dobro. Jackson was so relaxed and humble and said he was grateful to be playing with a great bluegrass band, and to be able to pay a tribute to the music he loved listening to growing up.

Friday morning Happy and I got down to the Mayes Pit and played our set. It went by incredibly quickly but it's always a pleasure to play with him. There were some amazing performances that day including Rory Block, Roy Bookbinder and many others. 

Rory Block put on a great show as always and amazingly continues to improve every time I see her. Roy Bookbinder has the most interesting sense of time. He studied with Pink Anderson and others but has a style all his own.

Friday evening I saw Tim O'Brien and Daryl Scott, two of my favorites. Man alive, those guys put on one of my favorite sets. A perfect combination of loose and tight! After the show I got a chance to say hi to Tim and met Daryl for the first time and was doing my best to play it cool. I had become a fan of his music when I saw him play with Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, with Patti Griffin and Buddy Miller. I was glad that he was so nice and didn't spoil the image in my head of songwriter and performer who was as cool as his music.

After that I saw another great band the Old Crow Medicine Show. I hadn't had a chance to see them live before and they didn't disappoint! It was a great set and they burned it up. 

Saturday I got a chance to play with Happy again, this time at Roy Bookbinder's blues stage. With my jet lag somewhat worn away and a set already under our belts my dad and I played a great set. Poking around online I found a video of us playing Dylan's "Buckets of Rain" which can be seen here:

Saturday brought more great music including one of my favorites, the Sam Bush Band, that to no surprise threw down! They tore it up with traditional bluegrass and got way out on some jams that elevated the night to a new high.


Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder were great as always with Cody Kilby and Bryan Sutton scorching the strings on their dreadnaught guitars. 

The sleeper of the night for me was hearing the Steep Canyon Rangers. They are a band that has a great approach to traditional music and write really good songs. Although they may be known for their work with Steve Martin, this is a band that stands on their own merits and I would recommend checking out one of their shows if they come around.

On Saturday night I corralled Joe Kyle, Jr. and Warren Hood of the Waybacks and Dr. Banjo himself, Pete Wernick to play a tune for the Midnight Jam. It was a madhouse backstage and onstage, but what a treat to play with these guys and for a responsive audience.

Sunday came around and I had heard a lot of bass players picking their "root to fives" and more Lester Flatt guitar runs than in the past year, but with a day off to hang and watch music my dad and I rolled over to see the Kruger Brothers, Jens and Uli, on the Hillside Stage. With the mercury rising with the humidity and precious few shady spots we got our daily exercise climbing up the hill to hear these Swiss-born and raised musicians brought Southern American roots music to a new level of elegance. Their sense of timing and space floated up through the trees like they were born in the Blueridge Mountains. As a side note, they moved just outside Wilkesboro to Deep Gap, just up the road from the festival.

Closing the festival was my son's namesake, Merle Haggard. I have seen Hag before, but it is always a treat to see him sing "Silver Wings," "Big City" and "Okie From Muscogee." His old-school country approach of playing the songs as they were written in a no-frills way always reminds me that a great song doesn't need a lot of window dressing if it's a great song.

My final thoughts on MerleFest are about not seeing Doc Watson there. I don't want to diminish the impact of the music and the success of the festival, but somehow it was like looking at the New York City skyline without the World Trade Center towers standing there. Something big was missing. Doc was a force of nature and even though his presence was waning bit by bit over the years he was always a beacon. Something that told me I was on the right path and that I had chosen my guitar heroes wisely. Time passes and legends pass, but honoring their memory by carrying the torch further is what has kept the roots music I love around for generations. 

On the flight home to California where the bugs aren't as big and neither is the hair, I was able to make some notes on the festival and what inspired me. To me, the wonder and joy of music is that there is always someplace new to go whether you are a player or listener. 

My MerleFest set with Pete Seeger 

When I was about 19 or 20 years old, I was  at MerleFest in Wilksboro, North Carolina, helping my parents man the Homespun Tapes booth. At the time it was a relatively small festival with mostly folk, bluegrass and old-time music in honor of the great Merle Watson.

Pete Seeger was playing and asked me to join him for a set on one of the stages. He also invited me to lead a song. I was so nervous and couldn't think of what to play. I was a rocker and electric blues player at the time and didn't have a traditional or folk repertoire. My dad said that I should just play what I feel comfortable with and so I worked up the nerve to play "Little Wing" by Hendrix on my little Takamine 3/4 sized acoustic guitar.

Pete was so gracious and after my song said it was "unfair that someone so young could be so good." I was honored and humbled to play a set with Pete and will remember that day clearly.

When I heard of Pete Seeger's passing I was saddened that our world lost one of the best people to ever walk the earth. RIP Pete Seeger! We'll miss you.

Traum Family Band Gig in Woodstock, N.Y. 

In May I got a call from my dad  inviting me to play with him at the Byrdcliffe Festival which happened to fall on Father's Day this year. My sister, April Traum, a great drummer and percussionist in her own right was also on the gig. I flew across the continent from California to my hometown of Woodstock, N.Y., with my wife and son to play a little music and have some much needed vacation time. It didn't take a whole lot of convincing to get my bassist, Jack Hines to come along as well. We got in late the night before the gig and only had a little time to rehearse and sound check but were pretty much flying by the seat of our pants. The concert was held in a beautiful old Catskill Mountain barn that mercifully was not too hot! 

With no expectations other than knowing it would be a good time, we reconveined at the barn after sound check to a steady stream of people making their way in. It looked like a full house! I saw people I hadn't seen in a long time and it was a wonderful musical homecoming. Most at the gig hadn't seen me play a public show like this before and I was a little nervous. Happy started the show and as I took the stage my nerves quickly calmed. We took turns leading songs and and my sister would come up on stage and lay down a groove on her old Ludwigs when it felt right. John Sebastian, an old family friend joined in on some tunes playing a beautiful harmonica and Jack sat in the pocket like he does so well. The hour and a half set flew by and the first Traum Family Band show was by all accounts a great success. It was the first, but I hopefully it wasn't the last!

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