willard listening to musicians he respects the highest
Another Friday night at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn hearing some of the finest music in southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina. Steve Lewis is from Todd, NC, on a road crooked as a running snake between W Jefferson and Boone. Josh Scott, playing the bass, is Steve's step-son by marriage and closest friend in life. Scott Freeman is the mandolin player in the band. There are a couple of videos on YouTube of them at the Cook Shack around Union Grove, NC. And when I get selections from tonight's show uploaded there will be some from the Front Porch. It was a show of excellent music, as always there. As always wherever Steve plays.
You might say he's an intricately detailed picker of guitar and banjo. He hits all the notes and then some. And then some more. Articulate notes. Every one is clearly itself. Very clear picking. To compare a sound to something visual, to my ear Steve's noting is clear as polished glass. If it were a singing voice instead of a guitar, every word would be heard clearly, like when Sara Carter sings. Scott Freeman's mandolin is picked with the same articulation as Steve's guitar and similar clarity. They sound good together. During a time Scott is on a break with the mandolin, when he's wrapping it up, the sound very smoothly flows over to the guitar, seamlessly, such that you can't hear where one picks up and the other leaves off. They flow in and out of each other's sounds, musicians who are with their favorite musicians to make music with. Nat Adderly playing trumpet with his alto saxophone-playing brother Cannonball Adderly in the Be-bop jazz period of late 50s, early 60s, bring Steve and Scott to mind when I hear them. Nat and Cannonball weave in and out of each other's sounds much like Steve and Scott.
Now that I've been listening to Scott weekly for a year, plus all his cds several times apiece, I have a fair ear for his pickin and his music. He's always good. Always extra good. When he's picking with Steve, he smokes his mandolin all the way through the concert. It's like Steve is his inspiration to reach out there as far as he can stretch looking for sounds he's after. I'd guess his mandolin strings are black where his pick hit them tonight, from burning. He kept them hot. Sometimes it was just unreal hearing him. It recalled for me the night at the Blue Ridge Music Center with Alternate Roots an hour after he'd won a new Henderson mandolin at the Henderson festival on Mt Rogers. He smoked the new mandolin on the music center stage like I'd never heard him do before.
Tonight was the 2nd time I heard him smoke his mandolin. He tore that thing up tonight. Sometimes rock bands tear up their instruments at the end of a show by bashing them onto the floor over and over, breaking them on amplifiers. Scott tears his mandolin up playing it. Tonight, Steve looked at him with the same look he gave him the night at the music center, eyes saying, What got into you? The concert was up there with a Skidmarks show or Jeanette Williams, who is returning next week with her husband Johnny. It will be some straight aheadbluegrass. Scott and Willard will accompany them making a band of 4. They can get-er-done too.
Tonight's show was master musicians, bass included, every one of them playing with their favorite musicians to make music with. Scott and Steve have a kind of musical chemistry between them. They like about Josh's bass that he keeps such good time they don't have to think about it. They can flow however they will on his rhythm. The people who are coming to the shows regularly, more and more of them are, get carried away with the standard of music played there. They're learning who an awful lot of the musicians in our region are. The audience is about half mountain people and half people from Away living here in retirement.
Tonight after the last song the audience applauded like crazy and several people stood up for the band. Then the people who didn't think to stand up took the standing up to mean they were getting up to leave, so everyone got up and headed for the door. It seemed like the audience's inclination was to clap for a long time and loud to express their appreciation. Several jumped to their feet to lead a standing ovation, but created an exodus. I don't recall ever seeing that happen before, anywhere. I was at the back of the place, and saw everyone had big smiles on their faces when they turned around to leave, satisfaction after hearing a couple hours of some stellar music.