tim white, fat albert blackburn, dave vaught
fat albert blackburn
tim white, fat albert blackburn, mack puckett
Bluegrass at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, Virginia, Friday night. It's predictable that the VW Boys make good music and good humor. I took my friend Justin along to hear some good live bluegrass. Justin I've known since before he started school, so I've known him almost all his life. Now he has 3 kids and is almost 30. His wife, Crystal, Christmas shopped all night last night and was sleeping. It was a bit of a mind adventure for me on the way there, worried about running out of gas, somewhat confident it would not happen, but not sure, because it was the closest the needle had been to the E line since the new fuel pump, and I didn't know where E really was. Before the new fuel pump, it ran out of gas when the needle touched the quarter tank line. I had an idea it would have to go all the way to the E line to be empty, because when it was full the needle didn't quite touch the F line. I was wanting to fill the tank in Galax where I found gas for $3.13 when it's $3.45 in Sparta. Put in 15 gallons for $4.80 less than in Sparta, just by crossing the state line. By the time we made it to Woodlawn the worry about running out of gas was in the past and my head was clear, ready to focus on some bluegrass music.
It was good to be back among the people who go to the Friday night Fiddle & Plow shows at Willard Gayheart's frame shop and gallery. Walk in and shake hands around, greet, how-ya-doin, talk about looking forward to the music about to happen, remembering how good their show was last time they played at the Front Porch. Seeing the guys in the band brought memory back of their music and their musicianship. Willard and Scott played the opening song, Willard singing Lay Down My Old Guitar. I've heard him sing it several times, but felt like tonight his voice flowed seamlessly through the song, Scott's mandolin sounding as good as Willard's lyrics. It's a good worded song, the story of a man at the end of his life laying down his old guitar, "wish I could strap it to my side and take it along with me." Very satisfying song just to listen to as well as to hear the words. The old-time songs are all good-worded, but this one has a satisfaction about it when it ends that makes me say to myself, good song. Willard sings it like it's his own, too. Scott's daughter, Dori Freeman, took Willard's place on the next song and sang beautifully, accompanying herself with guitar, and Scott played along on mandolin.
VW Boys came forward telling light hearted jokes and comical sayings, connecting with the audience. All three of them are singers. Dave Vaught on guitar plays rhythm and lead. Tim White plays bluegrass banjo and guitar. Fat Albert plays bass and sings melodiously a variety of song styles. He played bass and sang with the bluegrass band Fescue, I think he said 17 years. Fescue was a very respectable SW Virginia bluegrass band. Albert took the place of Larry McPeak whose cancer has reached the place where he can't get out anymore. Larry was a good part of the band, played electric bass, sang and wrote a good song. Larry also played with the bluegrass band, the McPeak Brothers. Larry had a personality for taking the background. Albert's personality is foreground. His bass, his extroverted voice and his size standing between Tim and Dave makes a pyramid. Dave said of Albert that he grew up through his hair. He said his present wife is an angel. She's up in the air harping all the time. He told about an old boy that said he wasn't going to get married anymore, said he was going to buy a house every 5 years and give it to a woman he hates.
They had the audience going, grooving to the music and laughing over their jokes. They kept me laughing nearly the whole time. Justin was laughing at least as much as I was. The band started off with the Rooster song that tears Justin up every time he hears it. I think the VWBoys do that song as good as I've heard it. Everybody that does it, does it well. Justin fell out when they played If My Nose Was Running Money, honey, I'd blow it all on you. If my nose was running money, but it'snot. It's a booger of a problem I've got. I'd buy you a Cadillac and a PT Cruiser too, if my nose was running money, honey, I'd blow it all on you. That's a song they borrowed from the Moron Brothers of Kentucky. The Moron Brothers are worth looking up on YouTube. Good comedy bluegrass in the vein of comic bluegrass the VWBoys are in. Telling their jokes, they flow freely as making music. When they make music, you know it's music you're hearing. It's the real deal. Actual music.
They played a song I remembered from the early 50s, RAGGMOPP, Ragmop, just before rock & roll rose to the surface. Dave Vaught told me during intermission they found the song went back to about 1932. That made my ear listen a little more closely. Sounds like it has a Charleston rhythm. I hear Cab Calloway in the fast beat in the dance music of that time. Another they played from later in the 50s, a comedy song, Hot Rod Lincoln. "My dad said, Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin if you don't stop drivin that Hot--Rod--Lincoln." They played Bob Dylan's Wagon Wheel with the zeal the song deserves. Fat Albert sings it and does it right. It seemed to me they made that song their own. They played the Everly Brothers' Dreamin. I didn't know back in the 50s that the Everly Brothers were so close to bluegrass. Back then I didn't know about bluegrass. Heard it listening to Grand Ole Opry with my grandmother, but didn't know what it was. It was my grandmother's music.
I was laughing throughout the show from start to finish. Justin was too. There was an old boy in the next row of seats, about 10 years older than me, wearing a jacket with a waving US flag on the back and stars down the sleeves. I said to Justin, "I need a jacket like that to start dressing my age." He was laughing bent over much of the time. I thought all their jokes were funny and the funny songs cracked me up too. It would be too much to hear the VWBoys and the Moron Brothers on the same show, one following the other. Laughter therapy. Whatever I had going into it, I'd come out of it cured. Tonight was a good night of light hearted feeling in a room of about 20 people, every one feeling light hearted and happy. It was over too soon, even though they played three hours.