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Thursday, April 1, 2010


alternate roots at blue ridge music center

On my mind all day today has been the ongoing presence of Jr I feel, especially driving the car. It's the car I used to drive him to doctor appointments in, liberated him from nursing homes in twice. It was Jr's car. I have been asking myself today to define what I mean when I say Jr was a wise man, man of wisdom. He would scold me and tell me not to be talking shit like that. It's something difficult to put a finger on, to point to and say this is it. It's like putting your hand in a bucket of water and pulling it out. The water is the same as before. The presence I feel is clear of sorrows, even clear of thinking, but plenty of knowing, no judgment, but Jr had no judgment in him anyway. The Jr riding with me in the car sits quietly, doesn't talk, doesn't interfere with whatever I'm about. He's glad I have the car and he's glad I'm taking care of it. He's in no hurry about anything and I'm not either.

A phone call from the librarian, Debbie Brewer, this morning telling me the library had some money to spend on cds of regional music. She wanted some help finding some. I'd been wanting to drive to Woodlawn to see Bobby Patterson at Heritage Record Shop on Coulson Church road off of 58 there at Harmon's. I suggested the Heritage Record Shop, told Debbit a bit about it. She asked if I could help pick out the library's selections, asked when I could go. I said I could go now. She said after lunch, and we were on the road to Woodlawn for a shopping spree of mountain music. She got one of those plastic grocery store bags full, plumb full. That bag had some good music in it.

I was glad to be able to help the library now that they're getting funding to have music of the region. My purpose with the cd store and the radio show was to open awareness in the county to the wealth of beautiful music that is in this county, surrounding counties, and all up and down these mountains. Our interest stops at the Mason Dixon line, but the music continues all the way up the mountains to Maine and on to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and Britain. It's everywhere, really. Wherever there are people on earth, there is traditional music specific to the culture. Each culture has its master musicians and a host of others. As long as there is one person living who knows music of a given culture, the music continues. I am drawing attention to our particular region, the central blue ridge. Not because it's the best, because it is ours, it's home sweet home.

I was actually grateful for the chance to contribute to the library, the people of the county, access to the music from around here when people who want to hear it don't know where to find it. I was able to go through Bobby's collection with Debbie picking music from our region. A Jeanette Williams, an album Jeff Michael, J0hnny Williams and Lynwood Lunsford made some years ago called Grass Tank, Otis Burris, New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters, Pilot Mountain Bobcats, and a mess of others. I was glad to be able to give Bobby all that business. I have a great respect for Bobby. His life has been the music of SW Virginia. He's recorded a great many SW Virginia musicians and bands over the years. The magazine of old time music, the Old Time Herald was started in the basement of his shop when it was in Galax. He's an excellent musician. Played mandolin with his band the Highlanders. He plays banjo and guitar. His daddy was a fiddler. He played guitar with Tommy Jarrell and Kyle Creed on the old-time classic, June Apple. One of the cds we picked up today was Bobby and Willard Gayheart picking and singing together. Willard played guitar and sang in the band, the Highlanders. Bobby has a website:

Willard Gayheart has a frame shop next to Bobby's shop. Debbie wanted to meet Willard and ask if he'd put on a music program at the library and a music show. Debbie acted like she'd stepped into a corner of heaven seeing so many of Willard's drawings and Willard Gayheart live in person. She'd bought of drawing of Willard's of Dave Sturgill some years ago and has a special affection for Willard's drawings. I felt good to be able to make it possible for Debbie to get Willard into the library, which I think is a great thing too. I'll be there to see Willard's presentation of his style of mountain music. Willard makes music at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and talks with people about mountain music, and they sell cds.

It's funny when Willard and I get together he says his drawings are no comparison to my paintings, I say the other way around, my paintings are no comparison to Willard's drawings. I told him today he's from Hazard, Kentucky, and Hazard trumps all. Willard's the best. It's not something either one of us take seriously. It's kind of comedy talk between us. Though he means what he says and I mean what I say. Willard is not only a visual artist, he's a good singer, guitar player and song writer. He's written some mighty fine songs. His singing of the original lyrics to Yellow Rose of Texas was when I heard the song for the first time, thought I'd heard it until it was Happy Trails To You. Then I heard Willard sing it and it was a brand new song, something more than a flower, I had never heard before.

Willard's band Alternate Roots made 4 bluegrass albums, every one a step beyond the one before, right on through to the 4th one that was their apex. The band ended. I grieved when they disbanded as though a friend had died. Before Alternate Roots, Willard made a couple albums on Hay Holler label with his band Skeeter & The Skidmarks. They made 2 classic new time old time albums. Willard said the band came back together and recorded a new album, which will be available soon. They are Willard on guitar, Scott Freeman playing fiddle and mandolin, both Scott and Willard vocals, Edwin Lacy playing banjo and Sandy Mason on bass. It will be a dynamite album. To check out Willard:

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