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Saturday, July 24, 2010


chris johnson and justin willey


At noon the old-time band Borderline played at Crouse Park for an hour. It was Blue Ridge Mountain Fair, I think. With the outdoor bandstand, it seems the town has found a place to gather people for these outdoor events. On a weekend parking is every place and in easy walking distance. I wanted to see Borderline do a whole show. I'd seen them play at the Jubilee several months ago. I learned that night they were quite a band, good drive. I wanted to be sure to make it to the park by 12. Found a good place in shade under a big tree. Brought the fold-up chair that slips into a carrying bag with a shoulder strap. Ideal lawn furniture. I took the camera with video feature to get videos of whole songs. Got 7 or 8. Also several stills.

The band is Chip Moyer playing rhythm guitar, Jerod Willey, bass, Lucas Pasley, fiddle, Chris Johnson, banjo, Justin Willey, mandolin. Chris, Justin and Chip learned their instruments and the music in the Junior Appalachian Musicians after school program in the schools. It doesn't seem right to call it a program. Helen White set JAM in motion bringing in regional musicians to teach the kids that wanted to learn after school. JAM has been teaching the young of Alleghany to play old-time music very well for several years. Chris Johnson took up banjo about 7 years ago, when Justin Willey was taking up mandolin. Their band Borderline has been holding together with different fiddlers and different guitars, Chris and Justin the constants in the band. The band was out of a fiddler. Lucas, teaching with JAM took note of how good these fellers had become. His band, The Old Town Revellers, never got a real groove going and faded away. Lucas has been looking for a band to play fiddle with.

As Mr Pasley, he is their English teacher at school, their music teacher with JAM, and friend. Lucas regards the kids with respect, doesn't talk down to them, listens to them, is fair with them and above board. I can see how popular a teacher he is when I am talking with someone in high school and mention his name. In every case their eyes light up hearing his name. Lucas cares about being a teacher, believes in education as the glue that holds civilization together, wants to be a good teacher, give his students some understanding they didn't have when they came into his class. He is a good musician on all 4 old-time instruments, plays all of them with ease and mastery. His great uncle was fiddler Fred McBride of Stone Mountain Old Time String Band. His great great uncle was fiddler Guy Brooks of the Red Fox Chasers, the first to record from this county. Fred was Lucas's mentor on the fiddle, banjo too.

It came to Lucas that the JAM band Borderline needed a fiddler who could stay with them at least as long as they're in school. He's also their teacher in music. He can help them with playing in public, playing in a band. And they can help him with their energy. They get a good drive going and make it work. Lucas's fiddle floats right along with the rhythm they're putting down for him. The bass player, Jerod Willey, is Justin's dad. Chip Moyer has been playing guitar about as long as Chris and Justin have been pickin. As soon as the band started, I could hear that Lucas had found his band. They have no problem delivering the drive. It's like that's the only way they want to play, get it going and keep it going. The band backed Lucas allowing him to open up and let the music out of the fiddle. They made some music that kept the audience listening from tune to tune, and liking what they were hearing. I was happy to hear how good they had become as a band. Glad to see Lucas has a band that can support his fiddle like a good wave a surfboard.

After the band had played out their time, Lucas came by to talk a bit, just home from at two-week drive to Canada in a van. He told me of some music he'd found by Howard Joines from Clifton Evans' reel-to-reel tape which Lucas transferred to computer, then to cd. He's in process of going through the tapes that were almost too old to do anything but dissolve, cataloging them, treasures in Alleghany County music of the time, the mid 60s. Lucas found a lot of Howard Joines and we talked of doing the same with Joines as the cd with Jr, make a hundred copies and give them out to individuals concerned, relatives, friends and musicians who know him and made music with him. Get them out in the county.

Later, after getting a few videos of the next band, Mountain Park Old Time String Band, Johnny Gentry's band, went to the stage to play. Gentry plays a guitar to get the music out of it. He plays so audience can hear it and makes music first. I've heard some guitar players who play with artistry but lose the music in the forest of the artistry. Willard Gayheart plays his guitar with the music the number one priority. It's immensely enjoyable to watch a musician who is a master with his guitar or whatever it is, playing music that makes a body want to dance. Getting up to fold my chair and pack it for the walk to the car, I saw Lucas had left his camera and a photograph someone gave him of the band. I drove it by the house and he wanted to give me some cds he'd made from the Evans collection; 2 of Howard Joines, 2 of Lucas's great great uncle, fiddler Lon Brooks, brother to fiddler Guy Brooks. And one cd of Mack Brooks.

I carried home these treasures of the county. I don't need them for the radio show any more, but, since my regional collection will all end up at the library upon my demise, I'll certainly get these to the library before closing time. Finding music of our county by people no one knew ever recorded anything, even a cassette at home for practice, has become something we're attuned to like metal detectors combing the beach. I believe and Lucas believes it is important to have everything that can be found by musicians of the county. A lot of them are in boxes in attics, basements, garages, forgotten. Since the 4cd set of Alleghany music Ernest Joines collected last year, it seems like the county is taking an interest in its own music. This was the unfortunate part about the radio show being over, that more and more people were taking an interest in the music that's all around us close to home and doesn't cost a lot for admission. The music today was free. Quite a lot of people came out to hear the music. I believe everyone was well satisfied.

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