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Friday, February 19, 2010


lucas pasley and fred mcbride
lynn worth's hand

Lucas Pasley made a couple of cds for me from his computer, music of him and Fred McBride playing together. Fred was what you might call a mentor to Lucas as a fiddler. He was Lucas's relation. I believe it runs that Lucas's grandmother, Ellen, is daughter of Frank and Della Brooks, and was Fred's cousin, Fred's mother Maggie being sister to Frank. If that's not it, it might be close. Both are kin to Guy Brooks, fiddler of Red Fox Chasers, who was Frank Brooks's brother. He was Fred's uncle and Lucas's great great uncle. Something like that. And maybe it makes Lucas and Fred third cousings. Lucas's respect for Fred's fiddling is way up there. Fred also played clawhammer banjo.

Fred was of the old-time mountain tradition indifferent to recording. Tammy and David Sawyer of Stone Mountain Country Store, both good old-time musicians, David, guitar, Tammy, bass and dulcimer, brought in Linda Cabe of Wilkes to play banjo. They made a very respectable old-time album with Fred the fiddler. It was essentially their effort to get Fred recorded. Stone Mountain Old-Time String Band. A good old-time album. It's a gem, the only available example of Fred's playing. Fred only played in jams, didn't care for a stage. He told me when they recorded the Stone Mountain cd he had to play by himself in a glass booth with headphones on. It didn't seem natural. He didn't like it. Didn't aim to ever do it again. He was satisfied the album was made after it was done, but once was enough.

In the time of the Backwoods Beat music store in Sparta, Fred came to Thursday night jams regular, George Eller, banjo, with him from Hays/NWilkesboro. They lived across the street from each other. George's address is Hays, Fred's NWilkesboro. They brought their women, Fred's wife Frances, George's girlfriend Dallas. They were the audience with me. Fred was an almighty fiddler, relaxed, fluid in his bowing arm, used his little finger with the ease of his forefinger, showed no emotion anywhere but in the sound of his fiddle. Sometimes he tapped a foot to keep rhythm. Fred is one of the old-time fiddlers who played rhythm at the same time he played melody.

The first of the 2 cds from Lucas has been playing. It is Fred playing fiddle and Lucas playing banjo. It's some good musicianship on every tune. I may mention something to Lucas about getting copies of these to the NC folklife center in Chapel Hill, and to the library here. They're wanting music from this county. This is some very respectable old-time. After the 2 weeks of Heart Auction, I could make a whole show of it. It is satisfying music to listen to. Brings to mind Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham, Paul Brown and Mike Seeger. As for feeling, it relates to me like Fred Cockerham's cd with field recorders collective. It has the kind of feeling in the air that I get from the Fred Cockerham. It's something I can listen to with full satisfaction.

I'm continually struck by how good Lucas Pasley is with the banjo. He is good at every instrument in an old-time band. I don't mean just kinda good, but the real thing. He can pick. I don't know how he does it with 3 kids, a wife and house, 2 vehicles and a job that takes a lot more time than workday time. But that's the mountain tradition. Work like a dog and practice when you get a minute. And what do you get out of it? Being able to play a fiddle well or any of the instruments well. That's the goal and the reward. It's a driven thing. It gets done by people who have to do it against all odds. As long as there are poor people in the mountains, the music will live. It's looking like poverty has been on the increase for some time. It was on the decrease for awhile, but it's back. Old-time music will go on.

This recording of Lucas and Fred together is a treasure to Lucas now that Fred is gone. This is what he has left. The recording of it wasn't a torment to Fred, because it was playing the way he likes to play, sitting down having a jam, one song to the next. It's a chance to play. Fred was one of those old-time mountain people who didn't talk much. People who didn't know him though him morose. "He never says anything." From Fred's perspective, everybody else was talking and he didn't need to. When you didn't know him, he didn't see you. When you get to know him, you find out he saw you all along. Fred was able to talk and did talk. He talked freely when he talked, but minimal words. He trimmed a sentence down to its essential elements. He came from before the time we believed we have to be smiling all the time. He never thought it imortant to be pleasing to people he didn't know. He was never of the mind to wonder what people thought. He knew what people thought: whatever they wanted to think. It's also a way of saying he minds his own business. When he's playing the fiddle he doesn't have to talk.

Just as I put that down, Fred started talking. After playing awhile, the musicians give their fingers and arms a break and do some talking. Lucas being family, Fred was freely talking about fiddlers he learned from when he was younger. It was nice to hear Fred talk again. He was another of those people you never thought about dying and then one day, zip, they're gone. That's how it was with Fred. He was a man with a great stillness inside.

This will be fun to play on the radio show. Lucas is so good on the banjo, I want my listeners to hear what Mr Pasley, English teacher at the high school, can do with a banjo. Lucas is collecting music by musicians of this county from reel-to-reel tapes, cataloging them in his computer and putting them on cd for preservation. Reel-to-reel tapes don't last very well and you can't even get the machines to play them anymore. My listeners are the people who love mountain music, and this is mountain music. It is a joy for me every time I can play for them something new to me, rare unto this is the only place you'll ever hear this music. This recording is one of the multiple many gems we have in this world that satisfies the human spirit. The music is the art form of these mountains. They do it well, too. Mountain music is the only music of my acquaintance that has ever inspired me to shed tears of joy for the beauty of it. Thank you, Lucas P.

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