john and dusty
lyle, josh, ashley
dusty, lyle, josh
These guys are Buffalo Death Rattle. They play old-time and their own compositions in the old-time style. They've been a band less than a year. They're here in the mountains to see what jams they can find and fiddlers conventions. They'll be going to Clifftop in West Virginia. They're from all over the place, and came together in New Orleans. Josh on the bass is from Winston-Salem, grandson of Ben and Agnes Willis who had a vacation farm in Air Bellows, the old Jim Scott Place. Ben and Agnes have been gone quite awhile, and the farmhouse is now a vacation place for the grandkids, Josh the one that uses it the most. Josh has been in New Orleans for some years, went back and forth from Philadelphia a few times, and found this band he's with now is the one he wants to stay with. They are staying at the farmhouse for a few days on their road trip looking for Appalachian music.
They travel in 2 vans and play music all the time. They are together about music and music is what they do. They are at the place now in their development as a band of how to flow with each other's styles of playing, and getting the feel of the whole. I think all they need now is stage experience. They play mountain music like mountain people, and they didn't even know it. They like old-time and they like to play. Josh in the past telling me about the band apologized for them every time saying, "We play fast," as if to say it might be too much. What he calls "too fast" is what's called drive in the mountains. They have drive in abundance. The fiddler can lay it to it, too. They tore up Breaking Up Christmas, Lost Indian, Ed Haley's Indian Ate A Woodchuck, and other such fiddle tunes. I mean tore them up! I told them when they get before an audience and want to get everybody's attention, play those tunes and have everybody on their feet the whole time. The drive they have is on the order of New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters and Whitetop Mountain Band.
The band doesn't sound like old-time played by people not of these mountains. My perhaps erroneous thinking is the people from other places learn mountain music by the mind. The mountain musicianer learns it by heart and plays it from the heart. The very first rule musicians learn in the mountains is play from the heart. Lyle is such a fiddler. He plays straight from the heart. He plays with his ears and his heart as one. Dusty, the banjo picker, used to play guitar, picked up a banjo a year and a half ago, started plucking around on it, got focused and now he's playing very respectable clawhammer he's taught himself. John, the guitar picker, is one dynamic picker. He plays details and he plays hard, both at once. He can get a rhythm going and he uses his guitar to push the band through the waves of the music. He keeps the rhythm solid and plays melody with the banjo as well.
Before they started making music, I heard them apologize that they're not very good, that they don't have it together yet as a band. I suppose it was all their apologizing before they played that gave me the surprise at hearing them make music, respectable mountain music, the real deal. I want to tell all my musician friends about these people, maybe get a few videos on YouTube where they can be heard. They are just now starting to think about things like that. At this place in their development as a band, this trip is intensive practice, picking every day, finding their flow together. I told them I believe they'd be very well received at the Rex Theater on a Friday night. I believe they'd be well received at any place in these mountains they might play. It was a joy for me to hear them playing Appalachian music in Appalachia the first day, and already having the sound. I believe they have the sound because they each learned their instrument the old-time way, figure it out and how you figure it out becomes your style. Each one has his/her own style of playing that's not like anybody else. Josh the musician continues to blow my mind.
Ashley is playing fiddle tunes on the accordion with the fiddle. They sound good together. It's even along the line of an autoharp with a fiddle in its sound. Instead of being a separate sound, it enhances the fiddle's sound as if it were coming from the fiddle. She is playing viola too. Sometimes banjo plays note for note with the fiddle and they sound good together. Josh I've known him since he was a youngun playing soccer in jr hi. I knew his grandparents, his parents, uncles, aunts, brother, sister, cousins, over the years of being next door neighbor with the Willis farm. When Josh was at Chapel Hill, he had different bands doing post-punk noise kind of Mercury Rev thing. Band mates he'd bring to the mountains sometimes to retreat and make music. I'd go over and have a concert of some dynamic sounds. Josh is a good musician all the way around. Good songwriter, good singer and a bass player who plays individual notes on the bass, fingers of both hands going. He's played bass for a long time. He plays banjo too, figured it out on his own and has his own style.
It's always been a treat of a concert when Josh brought his present band to the farm. Because all the musicians he's had here in the past have been real artist musicians, I figured these guys would be too. When they started playing this evening just before sunset, I was surprised and not surprised at once by what I was hearing. It was no surprise that they were as good as they were at making mountain music, but it was a big surprise that they are a very respectable old-time band. Their drive is just right. From here on, they learn tunes together, talk about arrangements, live totally in their music, develop their sound with hundreds, then thousands of hours of stage experience, make recordings to sell at gigs. They have a facebook page now with links to a few videos. Write buffalo death rattle in the search box on facebook and you'll be there. I think they have a few things on youTube too. We talked about making some video tomorrow for YouTube. That will be awesome. I like their spirit.