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Saturday, March 27, 2010


phoenix mountain band

I just now gave myself a little bit of a laugh. I'd put on the cd of Paul Brown and Mike Seeger, Way Down In North Carolina. I like the energy of it. Good rhythm, but doesn't pull me to want to dance or play air banjo. Last night I listened to the field recorder collective cd of Fred Cockerham, which has some mighty fine banjo picking, fiddlin and singing on it. It has a similar energy to this one. Nearly all old-time music demands that I regard it only in the front of my mind. It won't take back seat. I suppose what I mean by the "energy" of this album and Fred's is the music can play in the back of the mind as well as in the front of the mind. I don't like to play anything that draws my attention to it when I'm writing you. But about every music draws me to it. Music that doesn't draw me to it I don't play. I may have to turn this off. It's pulling my attention as I was afraid it might. They're playing twin fiddles. Then Paul's banjo and Mike playing jaw harp. Both excellent musicians. On every tune they play different instrument combinations. Both love old-time and both play it as well as natives.

The radio show this morning was the Carter Family, the whole hour. Played the songs that are not the familiar standards most associated with the Carter Family; No More The Moon Shines On Lorena, Can't Feel At Home, Evening Bells Are Ringing, He Took A White Rose From Her Hair, Gathering Flowers From The Hillside. Another time I might play all the familiar Carter Family Songs. I tossed in a few today, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, East Virginia Blues, Keep On The Sunny Side, River of Jordan. Whenever there is an East Virginia Blues to be played, I'll play it. I love that song and don't know what it is about the song that takes hold of me like it does. One, I like the title. I like the beginning, I was born in East Virginia, to North Carolina I did roam. It's a narrative song. Good story, good melody, and everybody sings it well. I like the way Spencer Pennington sings it with Whitetop Mountain Band. It's more like he's telling his own story than singing a song.

I don't play the Carter Family enough. I have certain listeners who ask me to play more by them. I always intend to, it's just that over the last few years I'm tending more toward themes and individual bands or individuals, plus the months of playing the Alleghany musicians. They took up several months. I think I played through the set of 4 cds 3 times from start to finish. There are some gems among them. I've been asked to play more gospel songs, so I make it a point to get some or several in each show. Gospel hour follows my show. Sometimes I've thought I would like to dj the gospel hour too. That would be fun. It would be mountain gospel by bluegrass bands, old-time singing, Stanley Brothers, Ralph Stanley, old-time church singing. There is so much good mountain gospel I think I'd like to jump into that. I believe my listeners would like me doing with the gospel similar to what I'm doing with old-time and bluegrass. About every bluegrass album has several gospel songs on it.

I'd never dreamed I might dj a Saturday morning radio show of mountain music for mountain people. Never dreamed I'd dj anything. This came about because it wasn't happening. Alleghany was the only of surrounding counties that didn't have a Saturday morning show of regional music. It used to, before the 2 djs there for the last 18 years ran off the listeners, ran off the advertisers, and ran off with a great portion of the station's library. I was thinking the station needed such a show. When it started, I stepped into an environment at the station that had alienated the station from the county. In the time before, when Arnold Clodfelter and Judy Halsey worked the station, Jeff Michael hosted a show with live bands every week. Jeff could do that, because he knows all the musicians around.

I'm doing it because nobody was doing it and I believed it needed doing. I'm one who believes if I think something needs to be the case, then I'm then one who needs to see it through. I can't expect somebody else to carry out my own visions. I believed I could do it. In the beginning I didn't know history and lore of the music, but that was ok. The listeners didn't either and didn't want to know it. They only wanted the music. So I give them the music. Played 16 songs in the 50 minute hour today. I don't waste time talking. I despise jabbering djs. I'm no good at it, but I play good music and identify everything played. I believe it's important for dj to identify everything played.

I like to name all the musicians and tell where they live, when I know, like West Virginia, SW Virginia, E Kentucky, E Tennessee, NW NC. That egg-shaped region in the mountains called the Central Blue Ridge is the region I play. Sometimes I reach outside a little, like down into the Georgia mountains for the Skillet Lickers, who used to tour up and down these mountains and more than likely played at the Spartan theater. Uncle Dave Macon came from central Tennessee, like Lester Flatt and the Louvin Brothers. Uncle Dave played in Sparta for several years when he was touring the mountains.

I believed it was important that the people of the county have access to their music. It was ridiculous for a county in a region of the mountains that is a fountain of a music not to have access to it on the local AM station. WPAQ in MtAiry does a beautiful job of serving the community that loves mountain music. That's a lot of people. The mountain people have been good to me, allowed me to live among them, taught me the best of what I know. I say thank you with the radio show. My "give back."

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