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Thursday, February 3, 2011


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People I see at Selma's coffee shop make a moment of good spirit in the day, mentally connecting with other humans, real communication going on, person to person, not just idea to idea. Even a lesser kind of communion, but a communion nonetheless, sipping an enjoyable drink during conversation with other people at the bar and Selma, friendly talk that's not binding in one way or another. It's a free-floating atmosphere where spirit hovers in the air like cigarette smoke in a bar late in the night. It's a nurturing, welcoming, friendly spirit I step into when I walk through the door. Like a bar has a certain feeling when you step inside from outside, Selma's has it's own certain feeling, a friendly neighborhood bar where people go just to talk with whoever's in there. But it's a coffee bar where everybody is sober and fights don't erupt. There's no jukebox. Selma gets XM radio, a station that plays music just right for the feeling in her place. They play Tracy Chapman, James Taylor, their kinds of sounds, not too loud, and not so quiet that if one connects with your mind you can hear it listening closely.

When I've done whatever I went to Sparta to do, an hour or 2 or more at Selma's is time spent in what I think of as a good energy zone. There's nothing in this world quite like making a mental, psychic, emotional connection with another human being. We humans have a strong need to interact through our minds back and forth. Periodic good conversation with friends or even people we don't know, is a relaxing event for me. It feels like our inner spirits connect and interact, get to know each other. Like dogs do, sniff, bump, let's play chase and they're off running after each other in circles, taking turns being the chased and the chaser. We kind of verbally play chase, running in circles to release the energy to run and play in a spirit of fun. Kids play, adults talk. That's what we do. In Selma's coffee shop, it's a great place to enjoy word play with other humans, to interact mentally through language.

Anything goes conversationally, though we keep it decent because we're all the kind of people that do anyway. It's not like there is a world of self-censoring going on. This is what I mean by free-flowing. It's whatever comes up. People with agendas keep them to themselves. No emotional bondage going on. It's what you want a place like that to be. It's Latin in that way. Selma's energy field would be at least partially Latin as she grew up in Cuban culture, first in Cuba, then Miami. The place has a Latin flavor in the way people talk with one another, sometimes 5 talking on a given subject, like when Ken is there. He introduces subjects to see what different people will say and get conversation going. One day he presented a question, is a ghost, a spectre, cold or warm? We talked a good bit on that one. No opinions were expressed, because no one had ever thought about it or even knew it was something to be thought about.

Bertie Dickens is picking Chicken Reel, I think with her brother Joe Caudill playing fiddle. It's a "field recording" of some people recording Bertie Dickens. She was an old-time banjo picker, clawhammer, from Alleghany County, Ennice township, northeastern part of the county. Bertie was a plain woman of the hills who did her hair up like women her age, the beauty shop look, and wear polyester pants suits like mountain women of her generation. Not many recordings of her, though she's on the 2cd set of NC banjo pickers called THE NORTH CAROLINA BANJO COLLECTION. Bertie is on there with Ola Belle Reed, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, Doc Watson, Gaither Carlton, Tommy Jarrell and 2cds full of others.

Bertie had a banjo pickin brother Clell Caudill, and a fiddle playing brother Joe Caudill, and another fiddler brother Huston Caudill. I'd say she grew up making music in the family band at home. Her picking is not like anybody else's picking, not even like her brother Clell's. It's old-timey as it can be. She learned it the mountain way, figured it out. And whatever you figure out and how you figure it out becomes your style. Doesn't matter that it doesn't sound like anyone else. You don't want it to sound like anybody but you. Bertie don't sound like nobody but Bertie. She and her brothers are all treasures of this county's music, like Art Wooten and Tim Smith.

Kilby Spencer made these 2 cds for me of Bertie Dickens from some tapes he'd found somewhere. He knew I'd want to hear them and sent them along. Thank You Kilby. I did want to hear her music. I have a little bit that Kilby put on cd for me from his computer a few years back. Now these are from a tape someone made evidently at her house with somebody on fiddle. Beautiful music to have in the air inside the house. She's playing Going Down The Road Feeling Bad. The bluegrass title for the same song is Lonesome Road Blues. Good fiddle playing with her banjo.

Bertie sat straight up and never moved while she played, face straight and plain, the music coming out of the banjo the only part that mattered. This tradition was pre MTV. It makes me want to play it on the radio with a great unsatisfied longing in the heart region. Every time I find music from this county or nearby I suffer this longing to play it on the air to my listeners who listened every week for mountain music they loved. Everything changes, it is what it is, I tell myself. It helps. Her music a treasure I have the extraordinary privilege to be able to listen to.

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