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Saturday, January 15, 2011


l to r: scott freeman, ethan edwards, mark freeman

l to r: scott freeman, mark freeman, willard gayheart

Back at the Front Porch Gallery on Friday night for more music after a few weeks over Christmas and New Years of no music. Last week Scott and Willard played, but it was snowing and I was apprehensive of driving home 3 hours later in however much snow. I heard last night 4 people showed up and the show went on. I wanted to be there, because to my ear Scott and Willard make the best music made there, no matter who plays. They make an excellent duo. They've made music together at least 30 years, Scott is married to Willard's daughter. They are as close as brothers and even play songs from the past by several brother duos, like the Wilburn Brothers and Blue Sky Boys. Both are good singers and excellent musicians. I'd have to say I like Skeeter & the Skidmarks as much as Willard and Scott, and they are half of Skeeter.

Last night's entertainment was Scott, Mark and Willard opening with a couple of songs. The rest of the show was by Scott's student musicians from a boy 8 to a boy 14. There was a girl who looked to be 14, thereabouts. Each was in his/her own place along the way toward becoming a musician. The boy of 14 was mighty good. He and Scott played a mandolin duo, Scott leading him, challenging him playing some hot licks. When it was the boy's turn to cut loose, he matched Scott and had a ball doing it. You could see it felt good to both of them to be making music together. It does Scott good to see one of his students progressing so well. The girl of approx 14 played a very respectable fiddle. The 8 year old boy even made some music. Scott teaches them not just to play the notes, but to make music too.

Willard, Scott and Edwin Lacy ended the show with Willard singing a song of his own composition, The Workin. It's a good song about farmers helping each other out, a song of days gone by. Willard has a way of singing songs from other times and making them current. I especially like his rendering of Sweet Virginia, not the Rolling Stones version. I think he said it was a Gene Autrey song. Willard gives it a western swing rhythm and he sings it just right. Willard sings with what I have to call soul, similar to what I call soul in Ralph Stanley's singing. It's that soul that comes from the heart, that comes from growing up singing old hymns in old-time religion church. I'm looking forward to the time the new Skeeter & the Skidmarks cd is released. It may take months, maybe a year. Those 4 people have a sound together none of them has alone. Together, it's a single sound they all make. They'll be playing at the Front Porch in 2 weeks, the 28th of Jan. That will be a dynamite show. Next week is the Reed Island Rounders, another good old-time band from nearby.
Ralph Stanley was scheduled to play at Fairview tonight, but according to what I was told, he had a pacemaker put in and was too soon out of the hospital to make the show. It was rescheduled to Feb 5, and it turned out Stanley had another show scheduled for that night. It's looking like Ralph Stanley won't be playing at Fairview this year. I wouldn't mind if they scheduled the band for during the week. It wouldn't hurt ticket sales much, if at all. When somebody wants to see Ralph Stanley, they want to see Ralph Stanley. It's not just looking for something to do on Saturday night. It's the voice from the soul of these mountains. Like when Prince puts on an unannounced show at 2AM in New York, the place is full. With Ralph Stanley, it's a matter of see him when and where you can.
The music of Willard and Scott is every bit as satisfying to my ear as Ralph Stanley's. That special something Ralph Stanley has that makes the songs he sings extra special, Willard and Scott have in their own renderings of the songs they play. I don't think either one of them is aware of that aspect of their duo. I'd like to see them make a live album of the two of them, recorded at the Front Porch over the course of 2 or 3 shows to select from. Almost every Friday since May I've heard music of the region by various truly fine musicians, all of them I call masters without hesitation, Scott and Willard opening with 2 songs every week. Now that I've heard them so much, and every week in relation to equally fine musicians, I'd like a cd of them together as a duet, a project of tunes they pick. It would be a good record of music now in SW Virginia.

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