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Monday, January 31, 2011


paul williams and the victory trio

Bluegrass gospel singer and mandolin picker Paul Williams played at Fairview Ruritan alternating with Big Country Bluegrass Saturday night. I went into the concert a clean slate, knowing his name, though never heard him but a few times on WBRF. I have so many religion issues, I tend not to be drawn to gospel music except when hearing it. During the first two songs tears ran down my face, uplifted in the spirit, happy for everyone in the place. It felt like country church. Every once in awhile someone would raise a hand in the air after an especially meaningful line that struck that individual in the homeplace within. I might have raised my hand a few times, but it would not have been unselfconscious, the only way that can honestly be done. If my hand just went up in the air and I didn't know it until it was already there, then it would have been real. I was thinking of it as a gesture praising God, and I felt like doing that throughout the Williams concert.

The joyful part about the kinds of gospel songs he sang, some of them hymns, was while he and the others were singing the words, the meaning in the words went straight to the heart, lightened the heart, lifted the spirit that spread its wings in the light. The songs were never pedantic, the kind that preach you should. They were songs about finding the light and some about living in the light. I wasn't the only one in the place feeling the spirit. The band played some real bluegrass and the vocals were just right. Paul sings so you can hear the words and they're songs you want to hear the words to.

I'd guess there would be a great deal of pressure on musicians in gospel bands to be sweetie pies like preachers, walk that narrow line in a world of church gossip and judgment that makes it look like you never had a carnal thought or wouldn't get drunk for the world, wouldn't be seen with car parked in a roadside biker bar parking lot. Watching the band making their music, I wondered about the intensity of the pressure on them to do the church thing, dress like a corporate exec wannabe from the 50s, expectations at every turn. I commend the ones able to do it. I'd have to keep a fruitjar out by the woodshed the way they did in the old days. Word would start going around I'm not goody 2-shoes enough and replacement would be next. It tells me what I already know, model Christians and I have different beliefs about what God expects of us.

I feel like God wants me to live a life relaxed in the flow of the spirit, in no hurry, not slacking either, following my own light, sharpening my awareness of my own light with experience, lean toward making my decisions in flow with the Way, which I can only know by intuition that needs developing, not inhibiting. I'm glad for the people who can model themselves after other people's expectations. It's not in me to lock myself down to a long checklist of what it takes to be acceptable. We have long enough checklists we adhere to anyway. Much of it was ingrained from childhood to conform above all, look like and act like a Christian soldier. I never wanted to be a soldier, never wanted to march in step with the many. I never took to identification with sheep, except as herd animals, which we are. Couldn't even learn to conform when I wanted to. Couldn't afford it for one thing.

Wasn't really intent on being an outsider either, just wanted to live by my American freedoms as an individual while it's still legal in a world that grows increasingly conformist. We don't even hear about it any more, not since the 50s when conformity was brought into question by the beatniks in NY, but only for a few and temporarily. Of course, the beatniks were conforming to very strict beatnik rules. I'm following my own interpretation of strait is the gate and narrow the way. A strait being the narrow passage a ship takes from the turbulent ocean of one's own ego to the smooth harbor of inner peace. Narrow the way says only one ship can pass through at a time, just like one's surrender to the Most High is done alone, inside oneself, the spiritual path a footpath not a highway. Everybody has their own path, even when we're unaware of our lives as walking a path guided by the Master or not guided.

I'm not questioning Paul Williams' theology. Just yammering about my own. I liked sitting next to Cynthia and feeling her responses to the songs as I'm sure she felt mine. This also being her first mountain music exprience, the gospel side of it, she connected with the band and their songs as much as I did, at least. It felt good throughout the concert to hear Cynthia's exclamations of delight from time to time during both bands' performances. Both shows were enhanced for me by seeing and hearing it through Cynthia's eyes and ears for the first time, like I heard it my first time. I remember feeling as she felt when I was at the Independence fiddler's convention in 1978, my first mountain music experience. I heard the New River Ramblers, Kyle Creed, Ernest East, Melvin Slayden and Albert Hash that I remember.


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