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Friday, March 5, 2010


martha & jolene

I went to town when I didn't need to just to get out. Spent more at the grocery store than intended by a lot. And was just getting started. Gave myself a treat, a take-out meal from the Chinese restaurant. I like the place. In that little cubicle of Chinese diaspora in Sparta I see every kind of people there is. One time I saw a guy with a foot long mohawk with no telling how much hairspray to keep it sticking straight up. He wanted so much to be looked at in shock, but I have to confess, a mohawk doesn't shock me. It only shocks his parents. He had a chip on his shoulder look about him, like if you don't like it, get over it. Thinks he's punishing the world for looking at him. It was right much of a punishment to the eyes to behold such a countenance, to be sure, tough white guy wannabe with down and dirty girlfriend done up with piercings and tattoos. Movie stars incognito. I'm thinking, this aint the Sparta I used to know. I don't care if he wanted to get up in a complete Marilyn Manson costume and go around hollering something clever like, Chaos rules. Have a ball, man.

About 10 years or more ago I said something to Donna Shumate to the effect that I like about Sparta you never have to take the keys out of your car. She told me that's changed. She's familiar with every week's court docket. She's so right. In the time since then it's become obvious that you never leave keys in a car in Sparta. About that many years ago I saw in downtown Sparta one teenage boy buy a small amount of pot from another teenage boy right out in the daylight downtown Sparta. And that's the least of it. I don't even want to know about the crack set and the crystal meth set and the coke set and everything else. It's all here. Junkies are all over the place now. Mexican gangs rule the low life.

I came to the mountains in the time when country boys were growing long hair and listening to REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent. This not many years after country boys were making fun of city boys with long hair, are you a boy or are you a girl? A lot of country boys still have long hair. Pop culture has created for us a wildly uncertain future. We have people doing things for the news, like the guy who went into the Pentagon something or other and shot 2 generals. Somebody with a serious problem. Of course, it was his suicidal magnum opus, take some with him. He did that for the news. So did the guy that flew the plane into the IRS building in Austin. The news itself has become the biggest problem of all, the creator of international mayhem for the guarantee of a spot on the news for a few seconds, the fool that did such and such. The fool of the day.

It's here, just like it's in Paducah, Kentucky, or Columbine, Colorado. It's all television. The cultural influence of pop culture through television and radio and iPod, etc, is shredding traditional cultures everywhere on earth. Over and over I see in Chinese films the old people in traditional cone hats and what looks like pajamas to us, and the middle age people dressing western, the young with various colors of hair, piercings, hopping around to techno. They're going through the same thing there we're going through here. The older people think very differently from the younger people. Not much of a bridge between them. If I had grandkids playing video games on a blackberry with kids anywhere in the world, I wouldn't know what to make of them. They wouldn't know what to make of grandpa who reads books. Ancient old fart. He goes all the way back to the age of literacy. Old fashioned isn't even the name for it.

I'm listening to Fred McBride play fiddle and Lucas Pasley banjo on a recording Lucas made of Fred with Lucas accompanying him. It's turned out to be a 2cd album of Fred McBride playing fiddle and Lucas banjo. Both are excellent musicians, good friends, about 3rd cousins, and both kin to Guy Brooks, fiddler with the Red Fox Chasers. Guy was Fred's uncle and Lucas's great great uncle. Lucas and Fred play together seamlessly like people who have played together a lot more than they have. Lucas has studied Fred's playing so closely he's especially attuned to making music with Fred.

I find both cds equally beautiful as examples of old-time music. It is some fine fiddle and banjo music. Talked with Lucas earlier on the phone and he asked how I felt it stood in what I've heard of Alleghany music. I say it stands right up there with the best of them. Every bit as good as Stone Mountain String Band, Fred's only recording. The recording quality of Lucas's cds is such that it needs no changes to take out unwanted noises. Every song on both cds is incredibly well played and moves along with mountain zip. It's jam music, the kind Fred likes to play. It's music about the music.

The music they make together has the relaxing quality of Paul Brown and Mike Seeger on their album Going Down To North Carolina, and the Field Recorders Collective album of Fred Cockerham. I think most of Morgan Sexton, banjo picker of E Kentucky, the feeling of listening to him pick for an hour is similar to the feeling of listening to Fred and Lucas pick for an hour. They also bring to mind Norman Edmunds and Rufus Quisenberry, Howard Joines and Ed Atwood. Fiddle and banjo that play in perfect sync. It's old-time music full of rhythm, but doesn't demand that you jump up and start flat-footin like a lot of old-time music does. But if you want to flat-foot, there it is.

This Saturday morning's show will be Fred and Lucas without interruption. I'll start with track 1 and play until the hour is out. I'll pop in maybe after 15 minutes or so to tell people who missed the opening intro. Weather on the half hour. It will be a beautiful hour. I like to be alone and have the little booth to myself to jam in there with my listeners, to really hear the music I'm playing for them and feel their experience hearing it. I love that hour of the week. I want to give my listeners an hour of joy in the music of home. And this is it. To answer Lucas's question of how it stands with Alleghany music, it's right there with Bertie Dickens, Joe Caudill, Hus Caudill, Kilby Reeves, Paul Miles, Guy Brooks, Fay Wagoner and all the many other musicians of the county. It's a great old-time album any way you look at it. Email Lucas at and tell
him if you want one. At the website is his contact email. I think it's an important album. Very important for Alleghany. He sells some good coffee too.

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