Adrian Kosky is an Australian musician who plays American music rooted in blues with stretches into country and various styles of playing. Four years or so ago he traveled around America getting acquainted with acoustic musicians along the way. The picture above was made in 2006 at Cullowhee NC at a dulcimer workshop. He doesn't play a dulcimer like anybody you see at a fiddlers convention playing dulcimer. He plays it his own way. He goes at it like you would a guitar or banjo, though holding it on his lap. He finds new sounds, new ways of playing it.
A year or less ago he found my blog online in Australia. He wrote and introduced himself. He is a busy man. He has created something of an artist colony for musical and visual arts. It's in south central Australia. We wrote back and forth a bit. I recently found one of his cds called Dirty White Blues and like it. It's playing now. Finally, today it occurred to me to look him up at YouTube and there he was, playing dulcimer, taking it seriously as an instrument, making it sing. I could see him at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn on a Friday night. Scott could work with him musically very well. Australia is a bit of a journey to make for gas money. Hearing so much live music in these mountains I've come to appreciate musicianship more and more as years go by.
This evening I searched "galax banjo" at YouTube and listened to all of the top 10 bluegrass banjo pickers this year. All I could think was I'm glad I'm not in a position to judge them. They all sound equally good to my untrained ear. It seemed like #8 was a perfect match with #1. The one I enjoyed the most was #4. Stevie Barr was #1 and he was awfully good. His performance was flawless. The music flowed with him. All I could figure on why none of the others got first was probably a missed note or loss of the rhythm for a split second. I tried to listen to why Linwood Lunsford got #8 and didn't feel like #2 was really better than him. But I don't know what judges listen for, and I hope all judges are musicians. I listen to music uncritically now.
I listen to musicianship, which is good in everyone in these mountains who dares record. When I say a band is among the best, that's what I mean. In every region there are the better musicians who tend to play with their equals. In these mountains there are so many good musicians it's hard to say good, better, best about them unless it's somebody like Benton Flippen playing a fiddle. It's easy to say the best about him. But every region has its equal to one of the best in our area. We have Richard Bowman, Jacob Bowen, Eddie Bond, Lynn Worth, Thornton Spencer, Kilby Spencer, Wade Petty, Jeff Michael, Henry Mabe among the fiddlers of our region. I can't say one is better than another. Maybe they could, but I can't.
I hear different styles of playing, and that's what I listen to now. Mountain music has improved my ear for all other musics I listen to. I appreciate musicianship more than ever. I live among so many people who are such good musicians it's humbling. I'm of the notion that mountain music is of the spirit of these mountains, of the old ways people lived before electricity. Though the culture may fade away, the music will be carried on for probably a long time to come. As long as the music is alive, the spirit of the mountain way of life continues, and much of it is recorded.
I love it when I discover new (to me) music. Josh Willis, whose parents live in Winston-Salem and own the next farm, the Willis Farm in Air Bellows, was passing through here last week on his way from a couple years in Philadelphia where he played open-back banjo and bass with a band called TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb. You can find them on YouTube. He also made a cd of his own band he calls Jubel Jenkins. It's on YouTube too. fHe left a cd with me of each band. What I hear of what he's doing is interestingly understated. He doesn't put his banjo out front, uses it for melodic rhythm. Josh is a good musician.
He's on his way to New Orleans via Chatanooga to see his brother, Hank, then to below sea level to the city where he spent a couple years before Philadelphia, after Katrina. I think he wants to be a part of the new music scene that starts up in New Orleans after the city was swept away, people shipped to other states, the music world there history. It can never be the same, because the elements that made New Orleans a music capital are not there anymore. Some of the musicians are coming back and new musicians are coming in. I think Josh feels some interesting musical energy generating there. I wish you the best, Josh.