click to enlarge Mark Stoffel, accompanied by Nate Graham, - performs online for the Hickory Ridge Virtual - Concerts this Saturday at 7 p.m.
Mark Stoffel, accompanied by Nate Graham, performs online for the Hickory Ridge Virtual Concerts this Saturday at 7 p.m.

Hello, and welcome to the wonderful, and sometimes woeful, world of live music during a global pandemic. While there are a few live shows still happening – all listed in what's left of our listings for you to peruse, pursue and possibly patronize – please check out the online Facebook Live performances available for your listening and viewing pleasure. Nothing will replace the power and energy of music made by musicians and absorbed by an audience, but as we await the return of such, allow yourself to be entertained by streaming music makers.

One of the best online viewing bets going for continuing our local traditions would have to be the Hickory Ridge Concerts hosted on Facebook and YouTube by singer, songwriter, folklorist and multi-instrumentalist Chris Vallillo. This month's installment features Mark Stoffel, a native of Munich, Germany with a self-professed "bluegrass addiction" who relocated to southern Illinois a few decades ago. He is a major player in the bluegrass scene, both in live performances and recording studio appearances, mostly on his magic mandolin, but also carving out a mighty sound on his fiddle when needed. Mark's latest offering and second solo album in the pre-recorded world, Coffee & Cake, is entirely instrumental, showcasing his "graceful, sophisticated playing and his equally distinctive compositional flair" as someone else put it so well. Joining Mr. Stoffel on guitar and bass for the Hickory Ridge gig, is his "good buddy," Nate Graham, who also did the cover art work for the recent CD. Mark has graced many recordings, including several as a full-fledged member of the internationally acclaimed bluegrass group, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, as well as my Carry Me Home album and Chris V's Abraham Lincoln in Song. So, tune in on Saturday night at 7 p.m. or look it up later to enjoy at your leisure.

Another area performing songwriter, Matt Mifflin, offers up his latest single, "Out of the Clouds," this Friday (Nov. 20) on Spotify and iTunes, along with other digital platforms in four weeks, as the first release from his recently completed album, No Context. Matt played all the instruments and sang the vocals on his original home recording of the tune before starting a six-month long production process with Lincoln Land Community College music professor Jason Waddell. Owner of Phrygian Frog music company, as well as being a musician and songwriter in his own right, Waddell, as producer of the Mifflin project, added bass, keyboards and vocal harmonies, then brought in Jeff Milner to play drums. The song, described by Matt as being "about moving through the fog that occurs in one's life," knowingly adds "it will be interpreted differently by each listener" and that all involved in the creation of this song "really hope people will enjoy it as much as we do." We have no reason to believe otherwise. Congratulations on the release and best wishes for some much-deserved success.

Here's a quick heads up on a new local production in town called CAMP (Creators of Art, Music & Poetry) debuting this Saturday at 6 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube. The show is set to feature local folks with a central Illinois connection and cover various artistic genres with new episodes scheduled to stream every few weeks. I'll have more details on the creation and continuation of this project in the days and weeks ahead, but for now, please tune in on the CAMP Facebook page for the first show, Themes of Americana, featuring area musicians, artists and poets performing and talking about their work in art.

Be careful out there and get ready for a Thanksgiving like no other.

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