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Thursday, May 27, 2010


lucas pasley talks at library - 27may10

Tonight was the 2nd part of Lucas Pasley's 2-part talk on old-time mountain music specific to this county, this region. He held my attention every word. He held the whole audience's attention as closely as he held mine. His years of teaching experience gave him the right voice for a room that size with that many people, about the size of a class. I appreciated that he disclaimed for himself as not a folklorist. He's written no books, has no degrees in anything to do with mountain music. I felt like that ran his credibility up a notch or 2. He's talking as a mountain fiddler who has learned from other mountain fiddlers, not as a scholar who read books about it.

He told about the sudden interest around 1750 in fiddle music. Before, violins were made by serious artisans. Violins were expensive. The factory-made violin made them available to the working people where they became fiddles. Lucas addressed the likelihood that young men took up the fiddle to attract babes. It motivates rock musicians. He talked about the excitement of the times, finding Cumberland Gap, the passage through the mountains, otherwise difficult to cross. He talked about how old time music varies from region to region throughout the Southern mountains. He talked of the blues influence on old-time, pointing out the sudden run of fiddle tunes called blues; Lee Highway Blues, White House Blues, Lonesome Road Blues. Then he played on the fiddle Florida Blues.

The audience was an interesting mix of people, like what you see at the Blue Ridge Music Center concerts on the Parkway. There, you see about half mountain people and half people from other places. I've found a lot of audiences at music shows are about half and half, like the local population now. Tonight I saw several people from the mountains. And several who had lived here a long time, many who were new, curious about mountain music. I'd say about everyone there went away from it believing they understood something about the music. I found it predictable that no one was there from the newspaper. It didn't bleed, so it sure as fire doesn't lead. It didn't have anything to do with the hospital or the schools. It was a significant moment in the history of the county, as was Part 1 that Lucas presented last month. The county is beginning to take an interest in itself, now that the old ways are gone. The music continues into our time. It didn't bleed, so it's not news. You can bet the demolition derby was noticed by the local paper. If someone was actually there from the paper, I apologize in advance for my rant. If not, I don't apologize.

It was a very comfortable crowd in that everyone there was wanting to hear what Lucas had to say. The first talk, no word was around much, nobody much knew what it would be. That time had been the first one to advertise it to everyone who had been there. The library had put a visible ad in the paper this week telling about the talk. I take it for a marvelous event that we have in the county a fiddler in the tradition who has studied the styles of different fiddlers from our county and played old-time fiddle tunes in their different styles. Lucas's talks are significant in the county's history because they are flashing arrows pointing to this county's musical heritage that is significant and quite remarkable. It seemed like the varieties of people gathered to hear Lucas talk were some with historical interest, some with musical interest, some with cultural interest, to hear about the new music that was the exciting new music of the first couple centuries of our country, meaning old-time was the pop music before electricity. Now it's roots music.

Lucas explained how the Southern style of fiddling had strong influence from black ways of playing, even Indian ways of playing, and noting as an aside that slavery and racism were not all that was going on in the South. Northern old-time music did not have the black influence. It's the mix of anlgo music with black music that sets Southern music apart. Right on up to and through the Allman Brothers, Skynnard, Marshall Tucker Band, REM. I don't keep up with what's going on in rock any more, so I can't say anything about what Southern rock is about now except Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle. It's changing too fast and there's too much going on. It's like rock is in a melting pot now, everything that's ever been done in rock heretofore thrown in a blender and coming out in new, different ways, some the same as before, some new. Too many too fast. Kids who want to be rock stars really bad. I like about now in pop music that everything goes. Same as in international art. Everything goes. Boiling, boiling. All the parts that were in place in the traditions of the world swirling around in the boiling mass of parts. The heat turns down and the boiling ceases, the parts settle, this time in a whole new arrangement.

It was a happy crowd to be in this evening. We were however many different individuals, entirely different world views from one to the next, different experiences altogether, varying degrees of familiarity with mountain culture, an interesting spectrum of people. Lucas's grandmother, his dad, his wife, his 3 kids, his aunts, family support was there to hear him like everybody else. I do believe everybody got something out of it they regard important. Different points for different people, but I felt like everyone was enjoying it as much as I was, each for their own reasons. Lucas gave us a lot to digest. I certainly came away with some insights of my own. When the talk was over, it seemed like the audience swarmed around Lucas, people talking with people next to them, the whole place in instantaneous conversation about what they'd just heard. It was like everyone was inspired and light hearted. Lucas brought old-time music to life tonight, opening up new ways to see it besides just "roots" music. He brought it home and he really did bring it to life for the people present. Like his first talk of the 2, I felt like this one, too, is a moment in the county's history worthy of notice.

1 comment:

  1. Lucas, Ellen sent me a DVD that I have very much enjoyed. You have inspired me to teach Bullhead Mountain Rag to my Band here in Austin, TX. Incidentally, you can call your local radio station there in Sparta and ask them to play a cut from The Piney Grove Ramblers Band. That's my band, and although we are not as traditional as the music you play, we have recently introduced the sound of the Clawhammer to the band. We are one of the few bands here in Austin to show off the Clawhammer and play some of the softer songs from Ireland and Scotland, our music roots from the Old Country.

    Keep it up! You are a treasure that needs to be shared and the music needs to be kept alive. Bless you and your excellent work.

    Wayne Brooks
    The Piney Grove Ramblers Band
    Austin TX