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Tuesday, August 24, 2010


willard gayheart, guitar / scott freeman, mandolin
Today was a day I left the house to get some things done I've been letting slip by, like run out to the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway (exactly 4 miles into Virginia) to see/hear Scott and Willard playing for passers by, people stopping by who are traveling the Parkway at leisure. It's a beautiful place in a beautiful landscape, the United States Government giving we the people a wonderful return for our tax dollars. I don't have a problem with paying taxes, I just have a problem with 2/3 of it going to military. That is so incredibly out of proportion to need that I have a problem with it. I saw along the Parkway repairs made, new wooden sides to places in the road where it goes over a creek with a culvert under the road. They look good. Stimulus money. Several people working. Men out of work with a temporary job that benefits everyone. This is the first improvements I've seen on the Parkway since the Reagan Junta stripped Dept of Interior's budget to bare necessity 30 years ago. When I go to the Blue Ridge Music Center I'm reminded every time how beautiful the place is. The buildings are very well built, and they're beautiful inside and out. I appreciate the architects, whoever they are, every time I see it. Also, every time I'm there I feel patriotic in a way military doesn't satisfy at all. My patriotism is not about the glory of war. It's about things like this, the American people's heritage, who we are as people, what works to the good for us, unites us in friendliness.
I parked the car in this political arena, let all that fall aside and went to the space where Scott and Willard were playing. Willard is usually there with Bobby Patterson, who couldn't be there today, and Scott filled his place. A dozen or so people sat in chairs where people listened. Everyone was happy with the music. Enthusiastic applause after each song. Everyone recognized they were in the presence of some really good music played by master musicians. No matter what the music is, when it's really good, everyone hearing it notices. They listened in silence. I like to watch Scott's fingers dance all up and down the mandolin neck like a spider on a hot plate. I like watching Willard's command of the guitar strings, the ease with which his fingers move into a complex chord for the fingers like it's easy as A. Willard sits relaxed like he's not doing anything at all, yet his right hand is burning up the strings and his left hand moves from chord to chord with no effort like it's as easy as breathing. He has a subtlety about his pickin that is all about the music. Scott has the same kind of subtlety, able to do so much more than he is doing that what's he's doing is like coasting downhill on a bicycle. I've heard him lay it to it twice, going out there on an extended break like a surfer on a good ride with the water breaking over the top of him.
I left a little bit after they'd done that set. Wanted to stay as some of the people from Friday night showed up, but in the mind the day's schedule was calling. Grocery store, dump, stop by to see Agnes, stop by to see Tina, and made it home around 4. Much to do here. Put up groceries, feed Caterpillar and Tapo, change their litter box, which I haven't yet done. Phone ringing all the time I was home today. Phone almost never rings. Today call after call, one of them a wrong number, though a voice I recognized and couldn't place, like a tune I recognize and the title is lost. Took Jr's cd to Drew and Carol I'd been holding for a long time waiting to see them. They weren't home, so I left it. Considering whether to go or stay, I realized I wouldn't enjoy the music for thinking about what I could be doing on my schedule in that hour. When I leave the house, it's never for just one reason. I have to have several reasons. When using the laundromat, I'd put clothes in washer, go to the bank, gas station, drug store, come back, put clothes in dryer, go to grocery store, come back, put clothes in basket and come home. That's been my pattern for so many years that I tend to only go to town when I have several things to attend to.
Bobby Patterson will be there with Willard the rest of the week. Having lunch with Winfield Thursday. I may suggest he ride out there with me after lunch. He may not. He's clearing out some old and dead trees and selling them toward funding his trip to India November through February. He can live a month there traveling from place to place for quite a lot less than it costs to live for a month at home. He's a savvy traveler. Never uses tourist hotels. After a career with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, he has an affection for people of what we call now the Developing World, used to be the Third World. If he has to get back to the timber in the afternoon, I'll go on. I want to get some video of Willard and Bobby. These two are among the best of the Grayson County musicians. They've made music together 40 years, both in the Grayson bluegrass band, the Highlanders. Bobby's music shop and Willard's frame shop are almost adjoining buildings.
Willard has a website, for his pencil drawings. He is known as the pencil artist of Appalachia. He does beautiful work. His pictures are of the old mountain people, the old ways, the musicians, farmers, women, kids. The feel of the old time way is in Willard's pictures. They have a quiet stillness about them that is especially visible in the gallery where they hang all around the walls. A book has been made of his drawings. Willard is diligent. He keeps at it. His life is guitar pickin, singing and making his pictures. He markets them well. People who know him as the artist seldom know he's a musician as well, and people who know him as a musician don't know much about his drawings. He's not somebody to be out advertising himself. He's in a time in his life where it's getting along to his satisfaction. He has a good rhythm going with his two equal talents. He does commissions and gets a fair price for an original. His life is dedicated to these mountains, keeping memory of the old ways alive as long as possible, keeping the music of the mountains played, giving it voice. I have a lot of respect for Willard, his talents, his persistence, the man he is. Both Willard and Scott are truly of these mountains in the same kind of way Ralph Stanley is.Their musical style is different from his because they are different people. The mountains are in them.

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