In January of 2002, I was 29 years old, the father of a wonderful two year old son, and – suddenly – facing a divorce.

I didn’t set sail on the S.S. Matrimony just six years before looking to sink it, but I found my ship floundering on the rocks and myself a crew of one. I found that I could handle being single, but I loathed time without my son. The transition from full time to part time dad was not an easy one, and those hours that used to be filled with playtime with my son were, early on, long and empty.

I sought solace in a number of places; I rediscovered my love of the outdoors, I grew a wildly unkempt beard – by God, I didn’t have anyone around to tell me to shave!! – and I bought a mandolin.

My history with musical instruments was spotty at best. I was a fairly good drummer, but those fourth grade sax lessons turned out poorly, and my one attempt at a stringed instrument – the guitar in eighth grade – didn’t stick. But I had purpose and I had time. Soon after receiving my Breedlove Quartz OF mandolin, I found that the occasional good notes, typically lost amidst a myriad of bad ones, allowed me to wile away hours when my son wasn’t around.

Never before had music been so important in my life.

Recently, I heard a fantastic interview with singer/songwriter Josh Ritter on a local NPR radio station.  Ritter was chatting about his recently released record,The Beast In Its Tracks, a collection of tunes he wrote during the time his own marriage to fellow musician Dawn Landes was falling apart. As I listened to Ritter discuss his emotions during his own divorce and the inspiration for these songs, I felt a kindred spirit with him.

Sure, I was a fledgling mandolin picker and no critically acclaimed songwriter. I plunked through “Old Joe Clark” and “Turkey In The Straw” and jammed with my good buddy Jason Collier near the A.T. south of Waynesboro instead of writing brilliant songs and performing them in front of adoring crowds. But the spirit in our two endeavors was the same. We both found peace and catharsis in music.

Josh Ritter will be passing through Asheville next week, where he will be sure to play some tunes off of The Beast In Its Tracks. I’d like give you a chance to be at The Orange Peel on Monday, May 13th, to take in the show. Take a shot at the trivia question down below and email your answer to dave@blueridgeoutdoors. I will pick a winner from all of the correct answers received by 5 P.M. tomorrow – Thursday, May 9th.

As you are working up your answer, make sure to take a listen to “Joy To You Baby” on this month’s edition of Trail Mix.

Question – What spectacularly famous, rabid St. Bernard chasing, haunted car driving, fire-starting, Maine residing horror writer called Josh Ritter a “gifted novelist” following the release of Ritter’s first novel, Bright’s Passage