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Saturday, March 24, 2012


scott and edwin



sandy and willard

skeeter and the skidmarks

Another Skeeter and the Skidmarks show at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. A full house tonight. Extra chairs had to be brought out. Minnie the cat was perplexed not having a seat of her own. All the regular people were there and about a dozen that have not been there before. Before the show I was talking with the man with the bald pate on the left in the picture above. He and his wife have been coming to the Fiddle and Plow shows from the beginning. He said, "There's not been a bad one." They work the concessions at Fairview Ruritan sometimes. The entire audience was enthusiastic throughout the show. The music was predictably terrific, had feet tapping throughout the audience. We who have been going there a couple years now, that's around a hundred times, are so tuned to Skeeter music that we all listen enthusiastically. New people are taken by the music just as much as the rest of us. A boy who looked to be about 15 I took to be one of Scott's mandolin students. His feet were about to jump off his legs they were going so fast. Young guys playing bluegrass want to play fast. I imagined him in his private practice place making his mandolin ring as fast as he can make it go. He was loving the music. It seems odd to see a teenager there loving acoustic music so much. He was a country boy wearing a tshirt with a picture of a buck and a big rack.

I always sit in the back so I can stand up when I need to for photographs. I can see people swaying and moving their feet, moving their hands, bobbing their heads. Almost everybody was in motion in their seats. I'd say everybody was in motion within at the place where music moves us. Faces were lit up all over the place. The music flowed with the band and flowed with the audience. It was one of those times when the music clicks with the band and clicks with the audience, such that the band and the audience become one with the music. Their approach to the songs tonight was relaxed, at home, this perhaps the sixth time they've played at the Fiddle and Plow series. Tonight, Edwin's banjo was featured. He tore the banjo up. He has an instrumental banjo tune of his composition called, Monkey Fingers. Like when he plays Groundhog Shuffle, the fingers on his right hand look like a big spider running in place. It looks like his fingers are doing one thing, and the sound that comes out of the banjo is a lot more complex than what it looks like his fingers are doing. There were times he'd be plucking the fire out of it and a melody occurred inside the wild picking his fingers were doing. I looked and looked at his hand trying to find it working the melody. I think he was doing it with the noting fingers of his left hand. Those fingers danced all up and down the strings.

Possibly Edwin's artistry is in the way both his hands dance while they're making the music. The fingers of his left hand dance on the strings, quite literally. He does some really fast finger work on the strings that looks spontaneous and free, though it's very carefully controlled, and sounds spontaneous. The fingers of his right hand, his "monkey fingers," go completely wild on the strings. It looks like his hand is out of control, like a kid frailing a banjo to make noise, pretending he knows how to play. But the sound that Edwin's monkey fingers makes is banjo pickin to behold. I close my eyes when he's playing and I hear Edwin's banjo pickin as articulately noted as Murray Perahia on a piano, I open my eyes and he's frailing the strings, hand hopping to the music with lightning control. I understood why banjo picker Lynn Worth loves Edwin's pickin so much that she said to me, "I don't want to just play like Edwin, I want to be Edwin!" Of course, she didn't mean she wanted to take over his life. She meant she wanted to be able to pick with his apparent abandon that is controlled by the music, so free and so apparently effortless. I know there is more to it from her point of view. This is just my projection of her point of view. When Edwin plays, it is like he is controlled by the music, is able to get himself, mind, out of the way and let the music tell the fingers what to do. He stands in place and gives his fingers the freedom to dance to the music.

Receiving that insight into what Lynn said, what it is about his picking that makes her want so much to find the place inside herself where she can let go of her hands and let them dance. I don't know that, just imagining it. Lynn is a good one with a banjo too. I've wondered why she feels so much less than Edwin's playing, but I'm not a picker, I don't know how a picker hears, so I don't want to presume. She hears subtleties I don't even know are there. Like sometimes listening to bluegrass on the radio with bluegrass banjo picker Jr Maxwell, he would mention something about how good the banjo was, and I couldn't even find the banjo. He heard details in banjo pickin so subtle I didn't even know they were there. What I hear when Edwin picks and what Lynn hears when he picks are as different as two different pickers. At the core of what I can feel comfortable projecting, she holds Edwin's banjo pickin way up high unto artistry. I hear him as an ear in the audience. She hears him as someone who can hear what he is doing. Her appreciation of his banjo gives me inspiration to pay closer attention to what he's doing. I can't hear what she hears, but paying closer attention I hear a lot more. Edwin Lacy's playing rewards the ear at every level of understanding, from the thrill of hearing a banjo ring to hearing details only another musician can hear.


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