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A Troubadour's Songbag
By Bill Schustik

Bill on stage Bill Schustik
Bill has spent most of his years as a Troubadour, traveling the back roads of America. In well over two thousand villages, towns, and cities his concerts have brought him face to face with the people he sings about. Through observation, recollection, and conversation inspired by his songs and stories, they, in turn, have added their vision to the spirit of his performance.

This is what A TROUBADOUR'S SONGBAG is all about. It's a quixotic and wonderfully dramatic musical venture into the soul of America, and sometimes beyond. The song, Casey Jones, can lead town fathers to boast of rusted wreckage stored in the basement of the town hall. Or it can spark a distant memory of a little girl and her friendship with an old widow who lived up the end of the street, the wife of Casey Jones.

These memories are national treasures. Who would think that such decent gatherings as community concert associations would include so many "little old ladies" with a direct connection to the notorious outlaw Jesse James? The results are scandalous and a lot of fun. The same goes for a little Texas town. But in this case, the Troubadour's reverie might carry us to the high plains. A dark, lonely, rainy, wind-swept evening, riding herd on the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail. (The Goodnight Loving Trail, Trail Sonata, Streets of Laredo)

Perhaps Bill may choose to focus on a great old romantic ballad, (Barbara Allen) This direction could carry him into some of the beautiful contemporary folk ballads of love and fidelity. (The Dutchman, Lock Keeper, Willy and Milly, and the well known First Time Ever I Saw Your face)

The Star Spangled Banner is "sorta" known by everyone. When Bill sings it, after relating how it grew from a dirty drinking ditty into an introspective song of national consciousness, you feel you're hearing it for the first time. Bill sings the gut stompers, (Old Joe Clark) the tear jerkers, (When You and I Were Young, Maggie) and the truly tragic tales (The Man On The Flying Trapeze).

When drawing from his songbag, Bill is often guided by his audience. Many times he has been led on a journey into the more recent past, where reflective tears and deep laughter mingle in a well of memory (Lili Marlene). He may gather some of his songs from his other shows. Very few audiences let Bill "get away" without singing his (and their) favorite, Shenandoah. There are three of four different ways to perform this song, and almost all include a brief but bracing dip into the lusty realm of the sea shanty.

There are art songs and yodels and jew's harps. American classics like Down In The Valley, and Simple Gifts resonate to the mountain dulcimer and a sweet lonely harmonica is laced with reflections of the American Civil War. the possibilities for the performance are endless. The time spent has always been magical.

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