Tonight's entertainment at the Front Porch in Woodlawn, Virginia, was Mark Freeman on banjo and guitar. Mark is Scott Freeman's brother, accompanying him above. Scott credits Mark with getting him started on mandolin. Scott came along after 4 brothers, all of them played an instrument except the mandolin, so Mark assigned Scott to the mandolin to round out the band. In the present day, they have a bluegrass band that leans to gospel called PATHWAY. They make respectable music.
Mark's theme tonight was Jimmy Arnold, a musician who was from around here, Ashe County originally, then Galax and at the end I think he was located at Fairview, outside Galax on the hwy to MtAiry. Good singer, good song writer, good musician. Made a couple of country albums, never went far in the country music world, but might have but for downward spiraling habits. He made an album of songs of the Civil War that is a classic album of just plain good music. His style of country fusioned with bluegrass and old-time. He was an excellent banjo picker too. Learned his licks from Tommy Jarrell. Mark didn't sing much, and the tunes he and Scott played were tunes associated with Jimmy Arnold. Mark talked a little bit about him too. Arnold is a legend in this area, held way up high. Mostly Mark picked banjo and Scott mandolin. Sometimes Mark played a guitar and sometimes Scott played a fiddle. Mark is all over the banjo's neck. I found most interesting listening to the way they played together, musicians who know each other's musical minds, have known each other all their lives, brothers.
Mark and Scott picked with casual familiarity all the music they made the same as he makes music with Willard. These are the people Scott has made music with throughout his life. This whole family of MtAiry Freemans I'm finding is an extraordinary bunch of people all in one family. I find them sensible, balanced people who make music and have their jobs and families. This can be said of about all mountain musicians. I don't mean all like 100%. More like it's a rule of thumb. Applies to enough to make it seem like all. What I say about mountain musicians doesn't always apply to musicians in general. Off the mountain musicians have very different attitudes toward themselves. The tradition in the mountains is a humility about it. Making music is not something to hold yourself up high over. In the tradition, mountain musicians play in such a way it calls no attention to the musician. The music is what it's about. The younger ones who grew up on television are breaking the mold.
The people coming to hear the music are becoming different every week. For some time it was the same ones. Now it's different ones every week and a small core of the same ones. I go every week and see everybody. Interesting variety of people. The cat that lives there walks through the seating area and music making area once each night. She's recently been shorn and she hates it. She really hates it. Her whiskers were snipped off too, and the tip of her tail cut, which has never healed. She walks around with a sour look on her face, which is mainly in the way her eyes are set. The place is her home. All these people in a place where people come and go all day long, sitting down and making loud noise. She lets anybody pet her that wants to, but not too much. It's like the cat lets them pet her because it does them so much good.
Next door at the Heritage Shoppe I picked up the cds from Bobby Patterson of Jr and his musician friends. Bobby showed me his music studio where he does the recording and cd making and all that he does with all the old equipment, table top size, replaced by a computer with a big monitor and a mouse with a ball on top. With it he can take out a sour note and replace it with a good one. It's an extremely complex machine and he figured it out all by trial and error, letting the 10 hour video rest. He did a beautiful job with them. On the label is a b&w picture of Jr playing banjo and Cleve Andrews playing fiddle. He got the names of all songs and musicians on the label. After we had them ready to go, he brought up the bass player with Jr and Cleve. He said it was a woman named Ann Jaffner, the very woman Jr never forgot as the best bass player he'd ever made music with. Too late to get her name credited on the cd, which is a shame, but I can add it to the paper playlist.
So it's ready to go. I'll take several to the radio station tomorrow and give them out. This is a joyous moment for me. Like I said to Bobby this evening, I could not sit on this music having the only copy of it. So curious that it came to me at once after Jr went away. It made perfect sense to me to have a hundred copies made to give out to Jr's friends and relatives and archives in Chapel Hill, Boone, some other places. This is important music. It's all there is of Jr and Cleve Andrews. It's all there is of a bunch of people on it. It's rare music. It's a thing that it's a shame in one way Jr isn't here to hear it. In another way, it is what it is. Evidently it wasn't meant for him to hear it. It was meant for me. These musicians on the cd are people Jr has told me about, but I was never able to hear Cleve Andrews, who, like Jr, never recorded. I never dreamed I'd ever hear Ann Jaffner, the woman bass player Jr swore by unto the day he died as the best bass player he'd ever made music with. Bobby Patterson recognized her bass. I'd been suspecting it might be her, and Bobby nailed it. He'd heard her play. He remembered her style of playing. It's her own. She continued in Jr's memory until his mind was gone. When Jr came to the place he couldn't remember names especially, he asked me what that bass player's name was he likes so much. Ann Jaffner. Now I know why he remembered her to the day he died. In this cd I hear what Jr told me about over some years. It's like seeing the movie after reading the book.