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Saturday, March 10, 2012


scott freeman, harrol blevins, willard gayheart

scott freeman

harrol blevins

scott freeman, edwin lacy, harrol blevins, marvin cockerham, willard gayheart

scott freeman, edwin lacy

willard gayheart

Friday night's guest at the Front Porch was Harrol Blevins. Harrol is quite a good guitar picker and an equally good singer. I knew he was a picker, but didn't know he sang so well. Willie Nelson's Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Blevins carried beautifully. He did most of the singing with Willard and Scott harmonizing on old, old songs, like Gene Autry's Silver Haired Daddy of Mine, Elvis's When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold, the Carter Family's While The Band Played Dixie. They played a good square dance rendering of Whiskey Before Breakfast. Think of these songs sung with two Henderson guitars and one Henderson mandolin. Harrol played lead and Willard played rhythm guitar. They had recently made some music together and found they like playing the same kinds of songs, both sang, they picked their guitars well together and sang well together. They practiced a couple times toward the show tonight, not enough to get a free-flowing command of the songs, but enough to get a feel for what they wanted to do.

Harrol is a bit like Willard in that just about only other musicians know they make music. Neither one makes a fuss over drawing attention to himself. They make music not as star wannabes, but as people who love the act of making music, doesn't matter if it's on a stage or off a stage. Scott has told me about some musicians we both know who are excellent musicians, but he doesn't like to jam with them because they're always on stage. The part that makes this funny is that Scott is never on stage even when he is on stage. Whatever clothes you see him wearing on a given day, if he's playing a show that night he'll be wearing the clothes he wore all day. Scott doesn't doll himself up in any way when he's on stage. He tells a good joke on stage. We had three musical purists playing music at the Front Porch. All play the music for the sake of making music only. It's the music they love, not their name in lights. When I learned Blevins was playing, I looked forward to the show. The fit of him and Willard musically I saw right away. They picked and grinned so well together after so little practice, they could make a good duo like Willard and Scott, Willard and Bobby Patterson. Willard and Harrol have a good resonance together musically as well as by temperament. Harrol plays a very respectable lead guitar and Willard's rhythm guitar is always right.

At one point, Willard was singing his composition, Ern And Zorie's Sneakin Bitin Dog. I love the song and know all the words. I was muttering a sing along, unconscious of it, and the guy sitting in front of me, a fiddler, turned to see who was making the racket. I realized then I was audible. I had to laugh inside at myself knowing the words to Willard's songs. The other songs I know are from the 50s, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and early Elvis songs. I could write out the words to all Little Richard's songs now if I felt like it. Long tall Sally, she's built for speed, she got everthing that Uncle John need. I quit paying attention to lyrics, except for Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith, but learned none of them except Mr Tamborine Man. I played it so much I couldn't help but learn it. What I'm getting at is I'm paying attention to lyrics again, really liking the songs Willard and Scott sing. As a result, I do my mental sing along muttering out loud. At home, I'm totally unaware that I mutter sing alongs to Skeeter songs and Alternate Roots songs. This tells not only how my musical aesthetic has changed, by which I mean grown, it also mirrors how my life has changed. I feel like my musical interests have advanced as I've grown older and have a backlog of songs heard in my lifetime way up in the hundreds of thousands. The music Willard and Scott make satisfies what I like in music right up there with the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. Doc Watson, too.  

I've not turned my back on any of the music I've listened to along the way. I can still put on the Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East and love it even better now than then. Patti Smith, the Clash, the Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Velvet Underground I appreciate tremendously more now than then, and then it was quite a lot. All the years of listening to mountain music, which is the apex of my music listening life, have trained my ears to exquisite musicianship played from the heart. Mountain music has enhanced the music I listened to before, given me a better understanding of musicianship, so when I hear Mick Jones of the the Clash wringing his guitar strings, I'm in awe. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. No more needs saying after Morello. It amuses me, too, that I can enjoy Willard Gayheart's music as much as Bob Dylan's. Doesn't mean I appreciate Dylan less. It means I appreciate Willard quite a lot. I won't say one more than the other, because they're in that high place where all are equal.

Again, I have to say I feel privileged sitting in the audience at a Fiddle and Plow show at the Front Porch. The musicianship every week is what we go to listen to. For we who go every week we can, Scott and Willard have become the reasons we go. Whoever else is making music with them is good too, but a show of Scott and Willard can't be beat. Harrol Blevins fit with Scott and Willard like Edwin Lacy fits with them. Edwin happened to be in the audience. Marvin Cockerham, bass player of the Highlanders, was in the audience with his wife. Willard asked them to join in for a few tunes. For a time, we had a full band going. A couple of fiddlers were in the audience, Erica Godfrey and Jerry Correll. The place filled up with Harrol's friends from the Independence courthouse jam group, and the JAM group in Sparta. It's not often we get that big an audience. Probably several other musicians there I didn't recognize. And Minnie the white cat was there. She picked her seat at the beginning of the show and stayed in it throughout. It always feels good to sit among a bunch of people listening to good music at the Front Porch. There again, the word privileged comes to mind, privileged every week. I feel privileged to sit among the people who go to hear the music, privileged to be one of them.


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