Saturday night in the Turkey Knob region of Alleghany County, these guys pictured, the Twilite Broadcasters from Asheville area, played in Rob Mangum's outdoor makeshift arena. We came with folding chairs to sit on the lawn before a log cabin Rob has reconstructed on his land as a guest house. The band played on the porch with modest sound system that was just right. The audience saw them in relation to the log cabin, while they saw us in relation to a landscape to horizon. Their playing was crisp and kept the music rhythms in motion. They had a bass, too, which isn't in the picture above, a promo photo I found on internet. The computer will not upload the pictures I got last night. Found some good ones I wanted to show you, too, but it's not working. My hypothesis is that the computer has its quota of pictures. However, I thought of it, meaning it can't possibly have anything to do with the problem. I've learned that my "intuitive" understanding of computers does not exist at all. Therefore, whenever I have an idea of what is going on, that is the one thing I can eliminate, because it can't possibly be the case. Never is. It's time to download pictures to disk anyway.
Rob is one of the people I've known the entire time I've lived here. He and his deceased wife, Bet, came to the county a couple years before I did, they from southern Alabama, below Birmingham. Two people with an attitude toward life that carried them well. Bet played banjo and sang, Rob plays guitar and sings. All the time I've know them, I've felt like they were some of my closest friends, though I see them every few years or so, seldom crossing paths. It's like I knew they were where they are and never just drove over there to drop in. Felt like it many times, but never got it done. Strangely, I see them so seldom, yet whenever I look in my mind at the people I call my friends, their faces are always at the top of the list. Now that Rob is without Bet, I see him at the coffee shop occasionally, and we've talked more than ever before. We've probably visited more since the coffee shop opened than in all the 35 years before. But that's all right. It's the heart that matters and in our hearts we are friends, mutually. Everybody who knew Bet, feels like I do that it's not right with her not among us anymore. Bet was someone I could say without hesitation or fear of contradiction is a beautiful soul. Nice to look at, too, but who Bet was is where her real beauty was to be found. She was someone who the better you knew her, the more beautiful she became.
It felt something like home in the audience. I knew everyone, but maybe 5 people. It looked like maybe 40 people were there. Many were coffee shop regulars, plus people I've come to know over the years, mostly people from Away. I got so many hugs I felt buoyed up. I don't see people I know a great deal, because I stay home as much as possible. I didn't come to the mountains to be social, and I adhere to original purpose, which was to embrace my spiritual path, dedicate my attention inside instead of outside. Then, I was changing worlds, from city mind to country mind. Very different minds. By now, I have found my place, one foot in each mind. I've altered my city mind by way of what I call the good sense of country mind. But both have their shortcomings and aspects to recommend them. My city mind is adjusted to relationship with country mind, which I have learned by association. I think I've taken the best of both worlds and incorporated them into myself. That's not really so. The "best" is my own interpretation and really has no objective foundation. Subjective is my point of view. Objective is for the lab of figuring things out.
Rob has a woman now named Donna, who came here from Asheville. If I remember correctly, yesterday was maybe Donna's birthday present from Rob. She evidently knew at least one of the people in the band, and this concert was apparently in her honor, the band chosen by her request, evidently people she knows in Asheville. I got a couple of beautiful pictures of her, and now I can't get to them. Grrr. It's refreshing to see a "couple" who are truly happy with each other's presence. Occasionally, I see a couple who are like they were meant to be together. Most of the time I see marriages that confirm my determination to stay to myself. Like everything else, though, it's a whole spectrum of the relative. I went with my friends Lucas and Judy Carpenter, who are visiting from southern Georgia near Atlanta. They've been together 40 years and have a bond that seems to me similar to Rob and Bet's. It's like they're people who belong together. We're going to see Justin and Crystal later in the day, whose relationship seems to me to be inevitable.
The band played with the musicianship of bands that play with Scott and Willard at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. Superb musicianship. On the way back, Lucas asked me, "What makes them sound so good?" I knew the answer. Musicianship. They were excellent musicians. This is what happens when excellent musicians make music together. They make Xcellent music. They would be welcome by the Front Porch audience. They had good mountain drive, too. That helps. Lucas bought both their cds at the end of the show. I'm glad to see both him and Judy developing an ear for mountain music. That's the first step, being able to hear it. Once you start hearing it, then you start hearing what the musicians are doing, and before very long you're hearing remarkable musicianship. That's where mountain music pulls the listener in. Mountain people that listen to old-time and bluegrass are listening to musicianship. Musicianship is what it's about in mountain music. Complimented or praised, the mountain musician throws off on himself, says something like, "I try to pick." That's because they all know there is somebody better around here close to home or somebody far away he'd never heard of.
Like quick-draw artists, the mountain musicians know they are not the "best," even after winning at Galax fiddler's convention. Dewey Brown of Ralph Stanley's band won Galax bluegrass fiddle. He's really good, but he knows there is at least one better. Wayne Henderson, who has the name in the middle-class of "the best," won Galax 16 times in guitar, but he doesn't win every year. Scott Fore of West Virginia outpicks him every other year. Also, among mountain musicians, best doesn't have any real meaning. Several times I've heard Scott Freeman and Steve Lewis talk about their reasons for not taking fiddler's conventions seriously. The fiddler's convention is there for fun, to give musicians a chance to get together. A lot of times the people who win are dead serious about their picking, equals dead. Some get really good on one tune and play it over and over to win. Somebody like Scott Freeman could play any song he knows well enough to at least place in the top 10. Winning and losing is so incredibly relative it can't be taken too seriously. Trophies and ribbons are nice, but secondary to making music. Bluegrass banjo picker Jr Maxwell had all his trophies and ribbons stolen and didn't even care to find out who took them. Of course, he knew, but didn't care enough to confirm it.
As almost everyone in the audience knew each other or some of the people there, the intermission amounted to a talk fest, everybody jabbering as fast as they could go, self included. Small clusters of conversation standing mid the cluster of chairs, people moving from cluster to cluster, going to a cooler for a beer. Everybody got so wound up it was like a cocktail party on the lawn in the gloaming. The band started and we kept on running our mouths like high school kids between classes. Rob made an announcement for everyone to return to their seats. We kept on talking. Finally, he resorted to going through the crowd telling everyone individually that it's time for the music. The band was a singing band, only 2, maybe 3, fiddle tunes the mandolin picker played on fiddle. He was equally good on both. The guitar picker brought to mind the bass player with Thrice, though only in appearance. The women were talking about how good looking he was. The band had a solid sound of people who have made so much music together it's like fluency in a language. They played together like a band, a unit. Knowing Lucas's ear for music, I know why he bought both their cds. They're good listening.