From The Desk Of Spirit Family Reunion: Van Part 1

When the folks in Spirit Family Reunion raise their voices in song, they deliver an inspiring message. Their mostly acoustic approach combines elements of rock with hints of bluegrass and country music. They have a feel that approaches the fervent emotions of gospel music, but their messages stay grounded in the secular world. Banjo player Maggie Carson will be guest editing all week. Read our new feature on the band


Carson: Driving is the part of life for a touring musician that is equivalent to the shitty part of your job. Our van is your cubicle. We’ve gone through our fair share of them.

First, there was the pine-green ‘88 Chevy retired from a Navy fleet. Our first of many epic breakdowns occurred in Staunton, Va., when a kindhearted tow-truck driver of few words pulled over and offered a hand. After four days of puking in his bathroom, sleeping in his driveway, our unsightly presence attracting the scorn of his landlord and neighbors, and melting our very first seven-inch records in the sun, Buck finished the job on our head gaskets and ensured his spot as our number-one guardian angel of all time.

After we finally brought her in to the tuna-fish can factory, we found a gorgeous ‘86 tan turtle-top Ford conversion van listed on Craigslist by Dennis in Greenback, Tenn. He played in a band, too, called Country Band. This beautiful machine was clean and plush red inside with custom curtains, a removable table and captain’s chairs that turned around 360 degrees. We were riding in style, but we wound up hobbling back to that scrap yard sooner than we hoped. We had a taste of the conversion van, though, and we wanted more. So we got a dark green ‘97 Ford off a fisherman in Staten Island with a TV/VCR, retractable back bench, a built-in cooler and a stereo that worked. Sure it broke down some, but overall our best work horse. We went through a growth spurt though and sold it off to buy a 2007 Ford E-450 wheelchair-access airport-shuttle type short-bus thing. We built a loft in the back and had lots of room to stretch out and even stand up. It was our own little fucked-up version of a tour bus. Some nights it wouldn’t start up and we’d all wind up sleeping in it. We had a bed, a cooler, some mattresses and plans for solar panels and a little kitchen someday. Apparently, though, it was not meant to be ruthlessly heaved across this continent, and we ultimately wound up paying for that thing two or three times over. It was time to move on and figure something else out …