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Monday, January 10, 2011

ALLEGHANY BLUEGRASS AND THE NEWS



seen in pine swamp
On the news I just now heard that enemy missiles can reach US aircraft carriers. I figured that was settled back in the 50s. Maybe news is like fashions, retro-news. Poke the off button. Get that noise outta my house. Click. Done. Mmm, quiet. Refrigerator running, fan on the heater going, crickets inside my head. I prefer this trio of the sounds of home to somebody talking about missiles and ships over pretend news. There comes a time it's just a noise. It's come to the place I don't believe any of it I hear and I talk back to it. Like hearing them talk about the tea party a "grass roots movement" makes me gag. It's a Karl Rove creation, the Master Propagandist. I listen less because I believe less every week. Yet I continue to catch a five minute top of the hour news every day to see if the end of the world took place yet, if N Korea has nuked S Korea, or if Pakistan nuked India while I slept.
To get that nonsense out of my head, I put on a cd Lucas Pasley gave me some months ago of Howard Joines playing fiddle and Jr Maxwell on bluegrass banjo. Probably Richard Joines playing bass. Sounds good. Made perhaps in Howard's living room. Now they're playing Sally Goodin. They're making music. It's mountain music from down the road a couple miles. Among the greatest gifts these mountains have given me is the music. I've been trained all my life to believe that only the big recording stars are any good as musicians and anybody that don't play on the radio can't cut the mustard. Au contraire. Now, when I hear the great Eric Clapton pick acoustic guitar, I think there are at least a dozen men and probably women inside a 50 mile radius of my house who can pick circles around Clapton. More than a dozen more than likely.
I've grown into a time of the life when I prefer to hear music of field recordings, recorded at home during practice sessions, jams. That's where mountain music lives, besides at dances. At home practicing is for the dances and fiddlers conventions. Now they're playing the Bill Monroe tune, Just Because, that Elvis recorded around 1955 and made Bill Monroe a pile of royalties. It's refreshing to hear Jr's banjo again and Howard Joines's fiddle, especially them together. I hear a guitar that may be Howard's son Richard. A guess I assess pretty close.
These I'm hearing are ones Lucas Pasley has put into his computer to download them onto cds for a preservation effort. It would have been a serious shame to have no recordings of these people, especially in a time when recording is easy. They were too good as musicians to never be heard again after they've died. While Jr was living, I was only able to find a cassette of his band the Green Mountain Boys and a video tape of the band playing in his basement. When he died, 3 more collections of his picking fell into my lap. One with 2 tunes of Jr with fiddler Cleve Andrews, 15 tunes of Jr with fiddler Art Wooten, and a dozen tracks of Jr with his uncle Howard Joines. This is one of the wonderful treasures of Alleghany County music I want with all my might to be able to put them on several cds to give out to the people who need them. I can name off a list of a hundred easily.
I like being able to preserve what little bit I'm able. My contribution to the whole is small, but an integral part of the whole, a part that belongs, small though it may be. One is plenty. I like having a small part in the world of the traditional music of NW NC and SW VA. I've helped preserve a little bit, and gathered together some of Jr's lost recordings for the archives. Seven years of radio show was satisfying and 4 years of the store Backwoods Beat Music distributing the music to people wanting to hear it. Unfortunately, it's too small a market for any place with any overhead to make a go of it, all the more going into a Depression called an Economic Downturn. It might be an economic downturn on the stock market, but it's a depression in the working class. Big O's allusion to self as FDR replacement didn't work out. He was no FDR. He's not showing much Abe Lincoln, either. There is still plenty of time for the Lincoln likeness to come to the surface if it's in there. Sorry for mixing up the inner world with the outer world, but they do weave together in everyday life.
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