It was good old-time fiddle and bluegrass fiddle tonight at the Front Porch in Woodlawn on Coulson Church Road, just off of 58 at Harmon's. I'd seen a few photographs of Pendleton, an older mountain man with beard, longish hair and the hat that puts me in mind of the band of country singers, the outlaws, Hank Jr, Waylon, Willie, Johnny. I don't mean he has it as a professional pose; it's just his natural appearance. Nothing about this man is a pose. The man has played an awful lot of fiddle, and he is of these mountains from the soul outward to the tips of his fingers. He's won Union Grove 6 times. Not to be one-upping him, but to give an idea of his league, I think Art Wooten won Galax 7 times. That's no small deal. Pendleton has played with Bill Monroe for a time. Played with the New York folk group called the Greenbriar Boys for a time. He was a slight man, like Millard Pruitt, Ralph Stanley and Jr. All 3 of them small in size, but not one of them seems so small. They all 4 seemed larger than life in a way. What all they could do said to me they were not small at all. They were big men in stature and presence. And Buddy Pendleton worked at the Stuart VA post office 40+ years.
Willard and Scott accompanied, Willard keeping such good rhythm for him, he commented at one point how good Willard's rhythm was, how it made the fiddling easier for him. He can make his fiddle sing. He uses short bow strokes, mostly 2, 3 and 4 inches, sometimes 6 or 7 inches. That's not my measurement, but guestimations, a system of measurement. The noting fingers on his left hand are dancing all the time. His sound is like no other fiddler I've heard. Very first thing I noticed when he started with the fiddle was his sound that was all his own. He has his own interpretations of the tunes that are true to the tunes and uniquely his own. He made no effort to disguise his delight to be making music with 2 really exceptional musicians. He was lit up the whole time once the music started. During the first song he lit up to the music they were making. This is what I like about Scott and Willard's music, it's music. It's really music. Buddy told me at the end of the show he'd seen my foot tapping. He said that's inspiring to a musician to see people tapping their feet.
Song after song was as good as the one that went before. It was hearing Scott and Willard with a fiddler who was in their league. Willard took hold of the rhythm from the start. He was acting as the bass, keeping the rhythm loud enough for Buddy to hear it well. Willard knew what he was doing. He was keeping it going so the fiddler didn't have to think about it. Scott kept rhythm going with his mandolin too, both him and Willard holding Buddy up like water holds a boat up, giving him the musical freedom to do whatever he wanted to do. Several times he commented what good musicians Scott and Willard are. Nobody in the place disagreed. I think 17 people were there tonight. I started counting them. About everyone there has been there before several times. The people from around here come back after they've had the experience. Everyone recognizes the music we hear on Friday nights is exceptional. The guest musicians are as good as musicians of mountain music get. We who go regularly are getting to know each other and love the music we hear together. During intermission we exclaim to each other how good the music is.
This music is every bit as good as the Clinch Mountain Boys, and I'm not throwing off on the Clinch Mountain Boys. I pick them because they're a band of really good musicians that play mountain music well. Each one of these guys is good enough to play in Ralph Stanley's band. And, like I said, that doesn't diminish Stanley at all. They are musicians who don't want to live on the road. They want to live at home, have their family lives, the necessary work to make a living, and making music on weekends and jams during the week. Making music as much as possible. Buddy said a few times tonight that something or other was inspiring. Like Willard's good rhythm keeping inspired Buddy. That's how he used the word. I found in brief conversations with him that he h has his own way of talking and thinking like he has his own way with the fiddle. By the end of the concert, I was aware that I was in the presence of a master fiddler. Check him out on YouTube. I'm uploading several songs. They'll be at the top of the list under hobblealong1.