Haddox making music -- one song, one gig at a time

Aug. 9—Chris Haddox, the WVU professor, community activist and singer-songwriter, found out a few weeks back that he was the cause of an international incident.

Oh, it was OK. This particular incident, for the record (no pun intended), was of the sonically good kind.

Somebody in England heard one of his songs online.

The guy liked what he heard.

So much, in fact, that he rang up a station in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the hunch that the on-air staff might like it, too.

They did—and the station's program director reached out to Haddox.

It wasn't long after, when a copy of his self-titled album, which has been charting well on the folk and Americana charts since its national release last spring, was jetting across the Atlantic in a padded shipping envelope.

Nothing to it.

"That was pretty cool, " said Haddox who is playing songs from that album and others from his repertoire of bluegrass, country and Appalachian tunes Aug. 9 at Krepps Park.

With his bandmates Jim Truman, Mary Linscheid, John Posey, Alex Heflin, and Mark Poole, Haddox will perform from 6-8 p.m., in the event that's part of BOPARC's "Concerts in the Park " series.

The band Hillbilly Gypsies, Morgantown's purveyors of bluegrass and mountain music, is also on the bill.

When Haddox says, "It's pretty interesting how it's working out, " he's not just talking about the call from the station in Belfast or his turn in a recording studio for a national release of an album—music videos included—at the age of 62.

He's talking about the craft of songwriting and the musical journey that has finally landed him on a different level.

Haddox works in a lot of different camps in Morgantown.

At WVU, he's John Christopher Haddox, Ph.D., an authority in sustainable building practices in the School of Design and Community Development.

Before that, he was an intrepid executive in cargo shorts, serving as director of Monongalia County Habitat for Humanity, the organization that helps achieve the dream of home ownership for those who may not have the opportunity otherwise.

And way before that, he was an earnest WVU dropout: A sojourner and troubadour-in-training who in 1983 ventured south to Nashville, Tenn., intent on becoming at least a songwriter in Music City, USA.

There, the then-21-year-old waited tables and once famously commiserated with Garth Brooks—the pre-Garth, not-famous-just-yet, version.

Haddox got one shot, really.

It was a hurried meeting with a recording executive on Music Row, who listened to a cassette of four original tunes—allotting five seconds apiece for each.

"Yeah, I didn't make a dent, " he deadpanned. "I bounced off."

The once-and-future professor and all-the-time picker came back to Morgantown to pursue other things, but he never put his music in the rearview.

Haddox grew up in Logan County, playing acoustic guitar, old-time fiddle and claw-hammer banjo in Logan County.

He wrote his first song in second grade, and hasn't stopped yet—with "writing " being the operative.

"I just like looking at situations, and turning them around a little, " he said.

That's evident among the 13 tunes on the album.

There's "Says You, Say Who, Says Me, " a shaggy-dog take on relationships. And the country radio-friendly, "O' This River."

And, "Sunday Morning Stoplight, " a meditation on faith and free well—in the time it takes for a traffic light to change.

There's the modern gospel of "Take Me Down to the Water " and "A Soul Can't Rest in Peace Beside the Four Lane, " which explores what modern-day encroachments have done to timeless places such as West Virginia.

Just in time for the Monongalia County Fair, there's "He Reeled Me In, " the comedic, toe-tapping tale of a dad trying to save face in front of his kids on the carnival midway.

Ron Sowell, the musical director of West Virginia Public Radio's landmark "Mountain Stage " program, produced the album.

"Chris brings a real perspective with his writing, " said Sowell, who has worked with performers as diverse as Odetta, Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Hornsby, and Taj Mahal in his dual role as a guitarist in the radio show's house band.

"Each song is like a novel."

One song at a time, one gig at a time, is how Haddox is working it these days.

"I'm getting some shows lined up in northern Virginia, " he said.

Northern Ireland, too ?

"We'll see what happens."

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