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Friday, January 21, 2011


billy cornette

kirk sutphin

betty vornbrock
Another excellent concert at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn. The Reed Island Rounders, a Hillsville old-time band, entertained a capacity crowd tonight. The place was full as it could get. The band's banjo picker, Diane Jones, couldn't make it due to some fairly serious surgery she came through all right, but needs rest. Kirk Sutphin filled her place with the banjo, and sometimes he played twin fiddles with Betty Vornbrock, the band's fiddler. Both are among the region's better fiddlers of their generation. Vornbrock tends toward Kentucky and West Virginia fiddle music, especially attached to JP Frahley of Eastern Kentucky, who they said is pretty far gone in old age dementia, but continues to live and respond to fiddle music.
I like the sound of eastern Kentucky and Betty Vornbrock makes good use of both the Kentucky and West Virginia styles of playing old-time music. Plus, she's actively involved in SW Virginia music too. She played several Frahley fiddle tunes through the evening. She has a flowing, subtle style with her fiddle. She's more inclined to play a tune of easy flowing rhythms than the all-out fiddlers convention stomp. Kirk Sutphin played clawhammer banjo most of the time. His hands didn't look like they were doing much, but the notes that came out of the banjo sounded like his hands were all over it.
I was thinking while watching Kirk Sutphin playing banjo and fiddle equally well, that he's the new Kyle Creed. Sutphin is very much a NW North Carolina musician, like Creed. He doesn't play like Creed, as he plays his own style, yet he has Creed's dimension, whatever that means. It sounds right. I think somebody who knows Sutphin's music and Creed's would understand the meaning. Kirk Sutphin has made quite a lot of recordings over the last several years, some of his own and some with other bands. One I especially like was one he recorded with Kevin Fore of Round Peak style pickin. Awfully good album. He's played on some of the tunes on Hungry Hash House Ramblers albums. It's too long a list, this is just the flavor of his music. I've played a lot of his music on the radio show and paid close attention to it along the way. For me, Kirk Sutphin showing up with the Reed Island Rounders was a special treat. He's one of the musicians of our region I have a great deal of respect for. Eddie Bond comes to mind as another musician I pay close attention to, who is also a great old-time and bluegrass fiddler and a really good singer.
I'd heard the Reed Island Rounders at the Rex Theater on WBRF, have heard Lynn Worth sing the praises of Betty Vornbrock's fiddle, and I've heard a few tunes on WBRF. I'd heard enough to know they're a very respectable old-time band. I was delighted when Willard said they'd be playing. Billy Cornette, who plays guitar, kept a good rhythm going throughout. His rhythm playing is pick a bass string and strum the lower strings. He keeps it moving so Betty can float all around on her fiddle and not have to concern herself with the rhythm, which he has under control. He's a good singer too. He sang maybe 3 songs, every one of them very well delivered. He's not a fancy singer, nor does he just talk sing. It's singing mountain style, plain.
Tomorrow I'll go through the videos and pick the better ones to put on YouTube. I look forward to that part. I hear every tune an average of 3 times and they will bring the concert back to enjoy again every time I hear them. Listening to the music tonight I was thinking about how much fun it will be tomorrow hearing these tunes 2, 3 and 4 times. Then they'll be available for others to enjoy their music at home, live, in person. I like the opportunity to make this awesome music from right here available around the world to anyone who might discover the videos by chance. And for the ones that know their music too. For anyone. I'll be uploading tomorrow and Sunday so you can hear them if you want. They are definitely worth a listen.

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