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Monday, May 11, 2009

MUSICIANS OF ALLEGHANY COUNTY


The first quarter of this year, Ernest Joines collected everything he could find recorded by a musician of Alleghany County from back as far as the Red Fox Chasers, the first band of the county to record, 1927, to present. That included cassette recordings made at home or wherever. He wanted everybody included.
Gospel is well represented in the collection. We have some good gospel music in our county, and plenty of it. I'd been through my first winter in the mountains. About this time of year in the spring I dropped in at Liberty Baptist in Whitehead. It turned out there was no preaching that day. A gospel quartet was there to sing, the Walker Family. They'd just made their first and only record. I'd never heard anything like that in my life. It was one of those times when the soul wanted to jump out of the body feeling bound and confined, needing more space.

Ernest collected over a hundred songs by different musicians, enough to fill 4 cds. No one besides Ernest could have done so thorough a job of it. In a couple of cases he used all there was, like fiddler Cleve Andrews. He was not able to find anything, but kept asking around and found something. The recording quality wasn't too hot and Cleve's fiddle was off in the background, but none of that matters. All that matters is it's Cleve Andrews's fiddle, because that's all there is.

This is Ernest in the picture on the left playing the mandolin. He runs the Jubilee on Main Street with his wife Agnes. The band is THE RISE AND SHINE BAND, the house band at the Jubilee. They play bluegrass to dance to, which fairly well distinguishes mountain bluegrass from city bluegrass. Mountain bluegrass is made for dancing, like original bluegrass.

Back in the time before banjos and guitars, the fiddler carried the rhythm to make people dance all by himself. Probably the dancers kept time for him. But he had to get them going and keep them going with just a fiddle. I hear in the older old-time fiddlers that rhythm kept by the fiddle. I believe old man Joe Birchfield of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers could keep a dance going with just his fiddle. Fred McBride played fiddle like that too. It's something you don't hear much any more, like Bill Monroe's use of Texas swing in bluegrass.

Next to Ernest with the banjo is Billy Dancy of Laurel Springs. Charlie Edwards plays the rhythm guitar and does the singing. Wade Petty is playing the fiddle. Wade and Charlie are two of the Crouse House Monday night regulars in the bluegrass room. Kermit Pruitt is playing the bass. He's been a bluegrass bass player for many a year. He's also the town barber with his shop across from the courthouse. Gary Jones keeps the rhythm going with guitar too. THE RISE AND SHINE BAND. They were playing at the Mountain Heritage Festival, October 06. Every one of them good people. Good musicians too.
Copies of the cds are for sale at Kermit's Barber Shop and next door at Image Specialists. They're at the Jubilee too when it's open, Tuesday and Saturday nights. It's a fund-raising project by the committee about the Sesquicentennial, 150 years as a county.

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