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Friday, June 18, 2010

GREG CORNETTE OF KINGSPORT TN

greg cornette @ the front porch


The music tonight at the Front Porch in Woodlawn (behind Harmon's on Coulson Church Road) was exceptionally satisfying musically. One thing that is never missing from a concert at the Front Porch is the music. For these fellers, music is the reason for making it. I recall a time I played on the radio hour some old hippie old-time bands from the eastern part of the state that did a pretty fair job of playing mountain music mountain style. After the show, Jr said, "I didn't hear no music in it." I had to laugh because I knew what he was saying. I said, "No. There really wasn't." I thought it a subtle call back then, at least 5 years ago. What he meant was there was no music in it. It didn't make you want to dance or tap your foot. You could dance to it, but it didn't make you have to dance. Good musicians, but the music wasn't there.



Tonight, the music was front and center. These guys play the music so well, Greg Cornette and Scott Freeman, the super quality of the playing doesn't matter, they could play sloppy and it would be just as good, because they had the music. The music lived when they played. Again, Greg is another master musician. He played clawhammer banjo such that, like Jr's bluegrass banjo pickin was plain, Greg's clawhammer pickin was plain. That doesn't mean dull. It means articulate, playing the notes so they can be understood, without frills that call attention to self instead of the music. At first, watching and hearing him pick, I was thinking he's a good banjo picker. The more he played the more I thought that, until by second half I sat listening in awe to what he was doing.



Greg and Scott played fiddle tunes together, East Tennessee Blues, Florida Blues, Mississippi Sawyer, and they laid it to it. On first seeing Greg, like first seeing Scott, you'd not guess this guy was well experienced with the stage. But by the time the music was over tonight, another master musician. I'm generally not one for listening to musicians talk much between songs. That was my number one issue with Del Reeves. When he played a concert here, he talked more than he made music. My issue with the bluegrass band Lost & Found in concert is the bass player believes we came to hear him talk. Not me. But Greg was good. He talked for great long stretches sometimes and it was always entertaining and fun. He talked just like people sitting around the living room pickin, telling about his family genealogy in fun ways and every subject he went to he made it funny. No academic stuff about any of it, just playing the music for the fun in it, the mountain way.



I bought a copy of Greg's cd and wanted to play it while writing this, but don't dare, because I end up listening to the music. I can't listen to music when I write to you. Anything. I have tried things like Japanese flute, no words, no familiar melodies, and when it starts, that's it, I can only listen. I can't use music for white noise, because whatever it is, I hear the art in it and listen. Dvorjak comes pretty close to something I can listen to while writing you, but not often. I prefer silence. Katydids are chirping outside, and katydids are in my head so I don't know which is coming from where. I like that music. Interactive and subconscious. A good playing field of sound.



The music tonight was music you can sit and listen to for hours. It's casual. Scott and Greg, friends for a long time, don't get to see each other a lot and make music together, making tonight an extra enjoyment for both of them. Greg talked at length about their musical friendship over several years, noting that though they're entertaining us, they're having a ball among themselves. He talked of how much he loves that he was gifted with making music. It's a gift, he knows it, he respects it as such with full gratitude. Of the pictures I got tonight, I picked this one to show here because it shows him reaching inside for the emotion he was putting into the strings. He cuts loose when they get going on a fiddle tune and Scott cuts loose too. Banjo and fiddle going at it between two musicians who think alike musically.




Willard opened the show tonight with Scott, singing I'm Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains, the song they open with every week. I never get tired of hearing them play it. Willard's singing voice is one you can listen to indefinitely. Scott does a good tenor with Willard. And Willard does a good tenor with Scott. They've made music together for so long it's as natural as talking with them. Scott's daughter, Dori, is Willard's granddaughter by Scott's wife, Jill, who works the framing shop, The Front Porch, where the music is played. Willard's drawings are in frames on all the walls, with prints by other artists among them. Willard's drawing studio is on the ground floor under the frame shop. Scott gives his music lessons in a corner of the frame shop. These are such good people in the real way that I catch myself reminding myself that they are a gift to me from Above, and I am grateful for them as such, because I like all of them a lot.

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