edwin lacy, mike gayheart, dori freeman, scott freeman, steve lewis
Up early this morning and on the road to Mt Rogers, the Grayson Highlands State Park where the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition happened all day long. I went as a volunteer in the tshirt selling tent 12:30 to 3:30. I wanted to be there to see Dori Freeman's performance by special invitation from Wayne himself, who has known her all her life. I was able to get my lunch first thing, a good chunk of chicken and get situated by the time Dori would be on. She had an orchestra with her. Scott Freeman, her dad, played mandolin, fiddle and guitar. Edwin Lacy played old-time banjo. Mike Gayheart, Dori's mother's brother, played bass. Steve Lewis played guitar. Dori played her Henderson guitar and sang several songs of her own composition, and several others from people like Peggy Lee and Gordon Lightfoot, and several others. Dori's singing brings Sade to my mind. She doesn't sing like Sade, but has a hauntingly experienced winsome quality that makes the association in my mind. I loved her singing the Peggy Lee song with banjo, guitars and mandolin. The audience was attentive to every moment of her performance. She had them with her from the first note. It was like she was the star of the day. Several people walked from back in the crowd to the front in a cluster under the speakers to have a closer look and listen to what was happening on the stage.
It was an all-star band of her dad's and grandpa's musician accomplices. All of them have known Dori all her life or close to it. They are the musicians who recognize in her a peer. They love making music with Dori. Like my way of supporting her was to go hear her perform, the musicians in the band were supporting her musically. She ordered a guitar from Wayne Henderson last year and was playing it in two weeks. Unprecedented to the max. He always takes ten years, thereabouts, to get to your place on the list. The guitar and the invitation to perform at this year's festival were Wayne's support. She was buoyed up all day. It was a performance worth getting up and driving an hour for. I was happy for Dori all the time she was on the stage, happy to see she had found her voice, happy to hear the music the whole bunch of them made, all of them my favorite musicians I've listened to almost every week for the last two years. These are musicians I respect to the sky, for their musicianship and for their integrity as human beings. Best for me was seeing that Dori gave a stunning performance, and next best was seeing the audience paying such close attention to her. For one thing, we were hearing music, the real deal. Dori's singing seemed to surprise the audience at first, it not being bluegrass or old-time, and they seemed to me to be right there with her, took to her refreshing new sound.
Dori introduced several new songs she'd written. I've heard everything Dori sings, I think, or almost. Consistently I feel like her own songs are better worded songs than the ones she covers. Dori not only writes a good song, she writes a good story too. I've seen three of her short stories, and I'm here to tell it that Dori Freeman is a gifted story teller. Her writing is that of somebody who has spent years honing a style, this when she was 19. The last time we talked, she said she wanted to be a writer first. Singer she likes, but writer first. It's looking like her music, her singing, is taking hold with quite a lot of gigs going, good ones. She can make music on weekends and write during the week if things balance for her that way. It's silly to project somebody else's way, especially Dori's, someone whose intelligence I admire, someone who can make her own decisions. It's looking like that balance may work out for her. Her stories that I've seen impressed me by the maturity of the writing, the skill, the insights, her sophistication with language. This is a young woman who thinks about things. She thinks deeply. She has intelligent and experienced counsel in her dad, Scott Freeman and her grandpa, Willard Gayheart, two of southwest Virginia's finest musicians and songwriters. She is buoyed up by support all around her, especially in her family. I get the impression the music community of southwest Virginia is delighted to have Dori's refreshing new voice in their midst.
They said the attendance broke a record this year. It was a happy crowd in perfect weather. No winds, no rain, no cold. A clear, comfortable day. I worked the tshirt tent for three hours after Dori's performance, and then I came home. Missed the Gibson Brothers and the Kruger Brothers, the big lights of the show. Gibson Brothers are awfully good. Kruger Brothers too. But I didn't want to stick around any longer. It was only Dori I wanted to hear. I'm also partial to music of this region of the mountains, the central Blue Ridge. Big name chart bluegrass bands I can take or leave. I like the bluegrass of this region. Kruger Brothers live in Wilkes County now, but they're stars in their own firmaments. There was an hour that fiddler Rita Scott was in the tshirt tent, Rita of Appalachian Mountain Girls. I'd rather listen to Rita on a fiddle than the Kruger Brothers. That's only about me, not about them. They are excellent musicians. Also in the tshirt tent I met another volunteer named Layla. First Layla I've met. Great name. One of the great rock anthems. Even beyond Angie. I had a good time talking with the people that came by. Layla had a fresh spirit and a silver ring in her right nostril.
The most interesting inter-personal moment was a time talking with a woman here from Washington DC and Oregon. We talked at length and she started looking familiar to me. I asked her if she went by Wayne Henderson's shop one day about 2 years ago. She indeed had. I said, "You had a camera and took pictures." "Yes." I told her why I was there, delivering Jr's cd to Wayne, and we had a good laugh over meeting again when we didn't even meet then. I probably recognized her because I liked her. She had a charming energy about her. I've no idea why that moment of her walking in the door at Wayne's shop stuck with me so I'd recognize her a couple years later. While we talked, I could see that image in my mind's eye like it was the present moment. I was glad to find myself grown up enough to allow myself to leave before the big expensive acts, the stars. I just wanted to go home. Had a good time the whole time there. 8 hours since leaving home, I was ready to make the hour drive home. I didn't need to go to the party at Wayne's house afterward. I needed to be on the road.