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Sunday, May 13, 2012



jeanette and johnny

scott and jeanette

scott, jeanette, johnny

Two nights of extraordinary examples of mountain music. Friday night, Scott Freeman, Jeanette Williams and Johnny Williams, who record as Freeman and Williams. Every one of them is what I call a master musician. That's not a western concept. I've picked it up from eastern reading. Scott can smoke a mandolin, he writes a good song, has written several, both instrumental and vocal, sings well, plays fiddle and guitar well, very well. He teaches 60 students a week. He makes his living teaching in his corner space at Willard's frame shop. He has a good rapport with the kids. They love him. They look up to him and he inspires them. I hear him play a mandolin or sing, he inspires me. Scott is a true artist. His music satisfies by inspiration. Scott speaks of me as an artist he respects. I speak of Scott an artist I respect, too. When I think about it, I'm in awe of Scott as an artist. Jeanette is too. Last night she spoke of Scott as one of the great musicians. She said the same of Willard another time. I was glad to hear that she recognized Willard's artistry. Not many people do. Mention it to somebody and they think about it awhile, then agree. Jeanette and Johnny have great musical respect for Willard.

They rocked the place. The seats had maybe five vacancies. The audience was 100% appreciative. The audience at the Fiddle and Plow shows has gradually grown of people who come back every week. We who return every week have become friends after a couple years. We are the people who fully appreciate Willard's musicianship and Scott's. For myself, it's 40 miles one way. I think nothing of the drive. If it were anything else, I'd get bored by the drive. I approach Woodlawn in anticipation of the music that will be played, Willard and Scott opening with a couple songs, then whatever band or individual has been invited and accepted. Last night, Freeman and Williams. The three of them play so well together it's like a new entity has emerged, Freeman and Williams. They flow together like water in a stream. They appreciate each other with genuine respect. The music that occurs when they set it in motion is the real deal, music. All three are songwriters. All three are singers. And all three are musicians among the ones who carry the tradition. Jeanette got bluegrass music award for traditional singer of the year in 12 and 09. I only say that as an objective measure of the quality of her singing to support my subjective feeling around what I hear.

Every one of them is an excellent singer independently of each other, and together they sing as one voice. It just now occurred to me I'd like to hear an album of them produced by TBone Burnett. It would cost too much to justify it, and them doing it their own way is what they're about. I still think TBone could draw a dynamite album out of them that would make them need a tour bus. But that's not what they want. I want for them what they want for themselves. The TBone Burnett thought was just a momentary spark. Here I go down that wrong road again, going back where I've already been. Jeanette does indeed know how to deliver a song. Beautiful bird voice. She has a feminine spirit behind her voice that shapes every note with the facility of Scott's mandolin pick. Johnny sings John Henry and June Apple in new ways that give both songs a freshness. These three getting together for a "project" is made in heaven. It won't be a big seller, but it will pay its expenses and enough for a second printing when needed.

For Scott, this trio seems to me the next step beyond Alternate Roots. Every album I have with Scott on it is a supreme example of music of the contemporary Central Blue Ridge. I won't go at best and best of, none of that. Like Scott told me the day I mentioned Alternate Roots is a goo-ood band. He said, "There's a lot of good bands." Yeah. There's an awful lot of good bands. I look at YouTube a lot. and see anything, everything there. One of my favorites is the Hillbilly Gypsies doing the Hazel Dickens song, West Virginia My Home. When I hear the Hillbilly Gypsies I think of what Scott said. There are the Moron Brothers, the list could fill a library. Alternate Roots had a special sound that was their own. Each album was a stair step ahead of the one before. It was that way from the first to the fourth. The fourth was, to my ear, their apex album. I actually grieved for six months after the band's demise, as for a friend of many years.

Scott's music runs through his different bands, Skeeter and the Skidmarks, Alternate Roots, The Hungry Hash House Ramblers, Freeman and Williams. The music he makes with Willard I like/love as much as all the others. Scott and Willard have a musical rapport like Scott and Steve Lewis, though in its own way. With Steve Lewis, they have Josh Scott's bass keeping rhythm. With Willard, Willard's guitar keeps the rhythm for Scott to skate on with his mandolin, fiddle or guitar. They sing well together. Uploading the videos of Scott and Willard to YouTube I've listened to every one of them at least once, many of them multiple times, I'm always struck by how good they are together. I never tire of hearing them open the show every week. Everyone who goes there feels the same. We look forward to it.  


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