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Friday, September 17, 2010

FOXES AT THE FRONT PORCH


michael fox and donna fox




Michael Fox is somebody Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart have known for a long time, though haven't seen a great deal over the years due to distance. The Foxes drove to Woodlawn from Hickory, NC. They come to the mountains as much as they can to make music and be in the midst of mountain music. They keep a good highway car for the road. Mike, I think he goes by, started the program with a recitation of Stephen Vincent Benet's poem, The Mountain Whippoorwill (Or, How Hill-Billy Jim Won The Great Fiddler's Prize). It can be found online using Benet's name and/or the title, The Mountain Whippoorwill, ought do it googling. It's the story of a hillbilly kid who takes his fiddle to a fiddler's convention. Stephen Vincent Benet appreciated old-time fiddling. He cut loose telling a fiddle tune in poetry as it's happening, and he got er done. By the time he finished the story it had the power of the fiddle tune Hell Broke Loose in Georgia and Charlie Daniels fiddlin with the devil hisself.




I was thinking I've not given Stephen Vincent Benet any attention heretofore. Already, I've looked up some poems of his while looking for this one, and read a stanza or two, sometimes a complete one. One I particularly liked was The Innovator. I heard the director of the film Replacement Killers say of making his first film, if it doesn't make it, he'll be dragged through the mud and a career is over making feature length films at the start, but if it succeeds, he's on his way. Somebody applauded too soon for genius, in Benet's poem, like the guy who falsified scientific findings to do with cold fusion. He was made out ready for the next Nobel Prize, until the tests others ran of his findings didn't work out. Everything fell down on him. Credibility over. No second chance. Don't let the door hit you in the derriere, dearie.




It was a moment like when Buddy Pendleton started playing his fiddle I'd never heard before, it wasn't but a short ways into the first tune that I was thinking, I've never heard any fiddling like this, ever. Every fiddler has his own style, and Pendleton's is wonderfully unique. Michael Fox got my attention that quickly when he started telling the Benet poem. When it got into the different fiddlers at the fiddler's convention and how they played, then the hillbilly boy from "up in the mountains where it's lonesome all the time," laid the bow to the strings on his fiddle cutting loose with Hell Broke Loose In Georgia, I was blown away that Benet appreciated mountain fiddlers. I got video of it and will put it on YouTube tomorrow. Fox brought the poem to life simply letting the words do the telling. He just remembered all the words, quite a serious effort, especially to tell it with the music that is in the words and the lines. He told it as if it were his own. It was the same as singing an old ballad a capella.




The man can make some music too with 3 strings on his instrument he calls a dulcijo. It has the 3 strings of a dulcimer, a long neck like a banjo with a smaller banjo head. He is a master of the instrument. He was all over that thing and making some music while he was at it. It was beautiful music he made with it. Some videos of him playing will be on YouTube before end of weekend. Included is Donna, who plays bass to accompany him, but chose not to bring it so far on the road. She brought a guitar, an Irish drum and a washboard played with an old-timey hard bristle scrub brush. She made it sound good. She sang some good songs. I was well entertained musically every tune. He has a tremendous amount of music in his picking. With that 3-stringer he kept the music rolling.




Scott joined them with fiddle a time or two and Willard too. As always, the music from start to finish was a hundred percent satisfying. The whole hog. This music tonight was again such that I could want no other in its place. Hearing Keith Richard and Ron Woods jamming with acoustic guitars would be pretty dynamic, but no better musicianship than what we hear at the Front Porch, and that's not taking anything away from the 2 Stones. They are incredible musicians. And so are the people that play at the Front Porch. It's generous of Scott and Willard to give their time and energy to this project. It's certainly not about making money at 5 bucks a head. I'm aware of their generosity every week. For them, it's an opportunity to make music and give other musicians in the area a small, intimate stage on the same level with the audience, the kind of venue musicians like to play for so much they'll do it for gas money. It's mountain tradition. The musicians who play there love to make music with Scott and Willard. When they all get going it's mountain music Central Blue Ridge style.




I'm grateful I lost, albeit temporarily, my first digital camera and needed a replacement. The new one did things I didn't know anything about and all I wanted to do was take snapshots. Found it does video and have been making videos of these shows since discovering the feature. It does the sound well and the visuals well. These shows are so incredibly good musically, I feel privileged to be there in the first place, and all the more to be putting them on YouTube where they can be appreciated beyond the moment. In a minor way, I think of it as archiving. That the music is so good is, of course, the reason for uploading it, and the music itself makes them nice videos when all I have to do is hold the camera still as possible without jerking it too much, or coughing, or thinking about something else.






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