Monday, November 4, 2013


Many times over the past months of writing this column, we have wanted
to include our observations about the venues where Americana music
artists play. In addition, there is often a story about the route
we've taken, the food we've sampled, and the people we've met along
the way. However, since we usually test the space limits of our great
newspaper publisher, we've consistently cut out these parts of our
reports because we couldn't decide what else within the column we
could cut.

This week, we want to begin sharing this information. We're hoping
that some of you may have decided you'd like to start attending some
of the shows we've been talking about, but aren't sure where to start.

For us, the venue is the second-most important consideration when we
decide to go to see someone perform live. The most important? Come on,
we'll give you three guesses, but the first two won't count. It's
who's performing! (Was that your guess?)

Of course, it's always about the band we want to see. But Texas is a
gigantic place, and we decided early on that we needed to set certain
limits about how far we are willing to travel and how much we are able
to spend. Gas prices being what they are these days, it just plain
makes sense to consider everything if you live on a fixed income, as
we do. If any of our readers' memory banks include the long-ago music
events that were held in gigantic stadiums and arenas, with equally
huge ticket prices, be prepared for a great surprise about the costs
involved these days. Ticket prices range from five to twenty-five
dollars, and sometimes there is no charge at all.  Furthermore, the
joyful feeling that comes with sharing a memorable music event with
like-minded strangers has not diminished one bit with the passage of
time.  Are you getting the idea that it's time for you to go check it
out? Great!

First, be advised that we begin our journeys from our home at Lake
Hawkins, in Wood County, Texas. You will need to “do the math” and
make your own adjustments with that in mind. We find that going
on-line and printing a map takes the guesswork away.

Part of the adventure for us is what's on the road, so we make every
effort to avoid interstate highways. If you don't mind truck traffic
and value every minute you might save by getting into the road race
where they travel, you might not want to use our suggestions in this
area. You can always get your satellite guide and find a path that
suits you. That said, let's begin.

The enchanting town of Ben Wheeler, is home to The Forge and Moore's
Store. There is so much to say about Ben Wheeler that it's impossible
to know where to start. Will a tease that tells you that not long ago
it was close to being a ghost town be enough to send you to the
internet to find out what happened? It's an amazing story. We'll tell
you this much: what's there now has been carefully chosen with an eye
to sparking the interest of all who arrive there. Every door opens to
a new and delightful discovery.

Ben Wheeler is situated about 15 minutes east of Canton, on FM 279,
which is the road to Edom (another wonderful little town that's geared
to the tourist). We get to Ben Wheeler via Lindale, taking SH 16 west
out of Lindale.  This is probably our favorite east Texas road; it's
beautiful in any season and at any time of day.  SH 16 goes through
Van – the only other town on the route – and goes under I-20, to
connect with FM 773 just a little past I-20. After turning left and
traveling on SH 773, you will find yourself at FM 279, where you will
need to turn; you are now at Ben Wheeler. A left turn takes you to
Moore's Store on your left, with The Forge about a block farther, on
your right.
 The best part of your first visit to Ben Wheeler is your own surprise
when you find that you have traveled through back roads for a good
distance and have arrived at a place that is teeming with lights,
music, and lots and lots of people everywhere. It really is a
thrilling sight.

Both The Forge and Moore's Store boast great food and atmosphere. The
Forge is marginally more laid -back, with a tasty menu of soups,
salads and sandwiches. The music is acoustic, leaning toward good
blues, folk, and Americana music. The Forge is built in the old
blacksmith shop, and evidences of it's earlier life are abundant.
Spill-over crowds are made comfortable at additional tables located on
the wrap-around porch. For even larger events,  space is available at
The Forge Annex, which is adjacent to The Forge..

Moore's Store serves food all day long. The menu is classic home
cooking, burgers, etc. Servings are large, prices are fair, and all is
served with just enough of a flair and always a good presentation.
Seating is as you wish, at large, long tables. Patrons order at a
counter and pick up their own food; the staff is there to take away
dishes and keep your drinks filled. Karaoke is held one night each
week, and when the music starts, there's a large dance floor.  You'll
find great newer Americana acts, along with acts that have been around
for a long time and bring their loyal following along. Among
musicians, Moore's is fast becoming a favored venue to play.

Folks, we've over-done it again this week. We'll stop here, with a
promise to include more venue information soon. We need to tell you
about Ben Wheeler's hilarious Hog Festival, which was held recently
and is held annually. The Festival's headliner was 1100 Springs, which
is a great country/Americana band, with a heavy dose of old-time
country songs that are guaranteed crowd- pleasers.

A long-awaited chance to hear one of our favorites – Midnight River
Choir – came this last weekend, too. We will give you some details
soon. They were everything we hoped they would be. Stay tuned

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