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Saturday, May 1, 2010


elizabeth laprelle--picture borrowed from old 97 wrecords
website. Thanks Steve.

This morning's radio show was a jam from start to finish. I even took it over into gospel hour after shutting out the news for good music. First half hour was Elizabeth LaPrelle from Rural Retreat, a girl still in her teens, 2 albums later, and sings old time mountain songs in a way that's real from the heart. Fiddle and banjo from the Durham old-time band, The Hush Puppies, accompany her on her albums. John Newlin plays the fiddle, an accomplished fiddler with a place of his own in North Carolina music. Amy Davis plays the banjo, and I tell you what, the woman can pick. She has a beautiful sound that is all her own. The Hush Puppies are a North Carolina band of excellent musicians who play very well together. Jim Lloyd plays guitar with LaPrelle. He's from over that way around Rural Retreat and I believe played with Brian Grim (fiddle) and Debbie Grim (banjo), made 2 albums as the Konnarock Critters, 2 excellent old-time albums. Lloyd has a new album of his own, which I'll be getting from County Sales soon. He's a terrific picker and sings a good song too. For more about LaPrelle on her label's website:

The music was jammin old-time all the way along. After the weather report on the half hour, I played Skeeter & the Skidmarks. That's Scott Freeman, mandolin, fiddle and vocals, Willard Gayheart, guitar and vocals, Edwin Lacy, banjo and vocals, Sandy Grover, bass and vocals. They made 2 albums that are out of print, Hubbin It and Alternate Roots. I played selections from Hubbin It today, not by design, it just happened that way. They made some jammin music too. Since their albums have been out of print for so long, Scott and Willard continue to hear of interest in the band. They've made a new Skeeter & the Skidmarks album that's due available any day. If I can remember, I'll give you a website where it's available. Probably CDBaby for sure. I don't yet know if they made their own label or if they're with the label in Bristol, Mountain Roads Recordings, that is doing Scott's fiddle album, also due any day. Whitetop Mountain Band and Big Country Bluegrass made their latest recordings with this label. Since Hay Holler label in Roanoke shut down, this one has come up in its place.

I only talk on the show to identify the songs and musicians, naming everyone in the bands, give the weather and a commercial. Since I've been writing the blog, my own voice opening up, I find I talk a time or two during the show, a little bit of information in story form. Like this morning I felt compelled after about the 4th song by LaPrelle, by which time it was perfectly obvious this girl could sing an old-time song, to tell an experience of talking with an old-time musician, one not from the mountains, old-hippie musician, a good one too. I mentioned Elizabeth LaPrelle and it pushed a button that got this old gal a-goin. She can't sing. She's no good. I can't stand her nasal voice. I sat listening to this woman, remembering the very first rule #1 every mountain musician learns at the start, you don't talk down about other musicians, ever. All the time she was on her harangue on LaPrelle, I was wondering if we were talking about the same person. We were. I imagined it had more behind it than she was letting on. My imagining is she had issues with the Hush Puppies, another old-time old hippie flatland band that maybe got more attention than her band. Probably not. I don't care.

Anyway, I felt like telling that story briefly, giving no clue to who it was, though I've never played any of her band--flatland, not mountain. Concluded saying I saw then how ugly it is for a musician to berate another. I find I like to talk a little bit now, a brief experience or something, whatever I feel compelled to say. Unless I feel compelled, I say nothing. I can't tolerate jabbering djs, We're Number One!!! They're the reason I never listen to commercial radio, unless it's WBRF in the evenings for bluegrass or WPAQ during the day when the weather is right and I'm in certain places. Can't get it at the house. Cell phones don't work here either. I'm really glad about that. A cell phone dead zone. It doesn't get any better than that.

The sun has set, we're in the gloaming, the light after sunset. Peepers have begun peeping. One is just outside the screen door. Several are nearby. Brings to mind a vocal piece I heard by Meredith Monk on YouTube. Forget its title. But I've never heard anything like it. It was using the human voice, 6 voices if I remember correctly, like crickets in a field, like peepers outside the door, several going from different distances and directions, none peeping in sync with any of the others, yet the whole chorus makes a music like composers John Cage and Toru Takemitsu could hear. I don't have to put on a cd, turn on the radio, use electricity in any way. Analog. If my blog were to have a theme song, it would be peepers as I'm hearing them now. Then there's katydids. When they get going I can't tell if they're outside or inside my head. It sounds like they're all in my head, like ringing ears. I can't tell the difference between ringing in the ears and katydids or whatever it is that makes the long extended notes. It's so much better to hear than sirens and honking horns, the sizzles of thousands of tires, jets arriving at and leaving the airport, mechanical noises by machines we've made for convenience that have made things so complex for us that the way we were before when we wanted conveniences turns out to be way we look to with nostalgia. Wasn't it better walking and riding horses? Evidently not. Everybody that had a choice went for the tv and recliner. Can't leave out the 4wheel drive SUV.

My Blue Ridge Mountain Home. That's the only song by Dolly Parton I really love. Now that the weather is good I want to go be with my mountain more. I'm wanting to put up a tent and stay the night among the trees. I don't want to leave Tapo and Caterpillar. I'd like to take them along, but the 2 of them in a small tent wouldn't do. They could tolerate it, because I would expect it of them, but they wouldn't like it. They can make it through the night. They did it for a few years while I was with Jr. That was hard on the cats for me to be gone so much of the time and for so long a time. It got the best of TarBaby. Caterpillar and Tapo are happy to have me with them round the clock and when I go out the door it will only be a few hours before I'm back. They like having me around. I like having them around. We know each other well, we're good company, and there is very real love between us. I'm not exaggerating or jesting when I say my house is full of love. Inside the walls of my home is love supreme. The safe place. Coyotes can't get the cats. The Alleghany News had a good cartoon this week of coyotes surrounding a house calling for the cat to come out, the cat's face in the window, eyes big and round. It's not an exaggeration. It's an illustration. An awful lot of people have lost cats and small dogs to coyotes.

Today is the one year point in the ongoing blog. Only missed 3 times, if I remember correctly; once because I forgot to, and twice on account of flu, feeling so miserable I couldn't even think. It started as a project to make myself write something every day. I've stuck with it a whole year, which is part of the project, to do it when I don't feel like doing it, to sit down and write when I have nothing to say and find in retrospect those were the times the best was said. The year has consisted of Jr's decline, death, and my grief. I committed and carried through all the way. It tells me about myself that I have what it takes to hold to a commitment to the unknown, whatever happens, to help someone I could not allow to live the end of his life a piece of lumber in the lumberyard for old people. It was a beautiful time, the very best of my life when it comes to doing something I feel in my heart is important. It was not easy to witness his decline unto death and find that my sorrow goes as deep as it does. There is no wanting him back into a skin-draped skeleton. It was time to go home. What I miss is Jr's company, the spirit that was Jr, the soul I have confidence still is.

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