Nathan Baker

A beginner's -- and teacher's -- mind

Toshio Hirano spreads the C&W gospel
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Ask Toshio Hirano how he discovered honky-tonk music and he replies with the question: "How much time do you have"? It's not a simple answer and he explains his transformation from fanatic to performing artist the same way a musicologist might discuss the development of recording techniques from the Edison cylinder to digital audiotape. Hirano is part teacher, anyway — and part student — still discovering his roots at age 57.

His audiences can be divided into two camps: faithful veterans and incredulous newbies. Read more »

Free birds

The uncaged reflections of Columbus, Ohio's Black Swans
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George Sheehan, in his best-selling 1975 book of jogging-inspired philosophy, Running and Being: The Total Experience (Second Wind II), describes the endurance runner as being "twice born." The second life is the runner's internal struggle — a gauntlet of pain, failure, and disappointment that ultimately becomes the necessary condition for hope. Read more »

Family values

A first from Last of the Blacksmiths
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Forty years ago Rufus Wanta sent lyrics to one of the song-poem studios that were popular at the time. The record he eventually received from the company was, with its tacky torch-song treatment, a big disappointment. Call it poetic justice, then, that keyboardist Nathan Wanta uses words penned by his grandfather in a song written by his band, Last of the Blacksmiths. Read more »