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Saturday, July 21, 2012

WHILE THE BAND IS PLAYING DIXIE

harrol blevins

willard gayheart



Harrol Blevins and Willard Gayheart played at the Front Porch Friday night. Donna Correll, bass player with the Wolfe Brothers old-time band, wife of the band's fiddler, Jerry Correll, played bass. I've come to think of the times Willard picks and sings with whoever he's with, most often Scott Freeman, tonight Harrol Blevins, as the best music that happens at the Front Porch. Harrol and Willard play very well together. Harrol plays lead guitar with Willard, who plays rhythm. Both sing very well and do good harmonies. Donna kept the bass going good, harmonized some on choruses. I watched with eyes open most of the time, though sometimes I watched with eyes closed, listening with the same intensity I watched with eyes open. It's good with eyes open, but closed, the sound comes through without the visual distraction. Their two guitars sound much better in the dark. It's actually mildly shocking how much the sound is different with eyes open or closed.


 I didn't make any video tonight because the computer is full and I haven't yet figured out what to do about it. What I've found thus far to do costs more than I have at the moment. I'll just have to be on hold in the video department until I figure this thing out. Different people give me different information. I've become indifferent. Maybe I will get it done someday, and maybe I won't. I know what I'll do! I'll talk to Tim (the Techman) Sizemore next time I see him at the coffee shop. He will give me the straight scoop. In the past, other people have told me to do this and that for a given computer problem. I talk to Tim, and he has the answer that is not anything like what I'd been told by the ones quick to know the answer. One time, listening to friends who "know," I spent 3-4 hundred dollars for nothing. Tim's answer: buy a laptop.


The pictures above were taken in May when Harrol and Willard put on a show together. I got some stills, but the computer won't accept them. Ten new people in the audience tonight. Recently, the show has been included into the Crooked Road tourism deal on Hwy 58 in largely SW Virginia. 58 goes all the way to Richmond (I think) and maybe has music venues along the eastern part too. Anyway, the western part is the only part of interest here. It includes the Carter Fold at Hilton's, Virginia, across the state line from Kingsport, Tenn, a ways beyond Bristol. It's close to where Jimmy Martin came from and Earl Taylor, too. Seeing the words Carter Fold bring up nostalgic memories of the time I went there with Jean when Alternate Roots was playing their last concert. That was the night I bought my Carter Family tshirt. It's my anti-cool tshirt. Next time I go to a rock concert, I think I'll wear it. Not that anyone but me would know what Carter Family means. Surely there would be half a dozen others in a crowd of a thousand. I'd never heard of the Carter Family at age 21.


Harrol Blevins sang While The Band Is Playing Dixie, a Carter Family song. At the Albert Hash fest last year at Whitetop, Dale Jett, grandson of AP and Sara Carter, sang the song. I'd heard it before, but heard it the first time when he sang it there. He sang it so right, too. Jett doesn't sing "like" the Carter Family. He sings with a reverence for the song, itself, like he believes it is such a good-worded song he wants to share it with us. While the band Is playing Dixie, I'm humming Home Sweet Home. Willard and Harrol sang it nicely. It's such a good song that just playing it is all it takes to show its beauty. It doesn't matter whether it's done well or not so well. The song is so beautiful, it takes care of itself. Like Leonard Bernstein's Maria. That song cannot be sung poorly. Everyone who sings it, sings it beautifully, because it's a beautiful song that can't be ruined. It's the same with the Band Playing Dixie; It has a feel similar to The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down. Deep, strong Southern feeling, down there in the heart where the South resides in Southerners, where Southerners are kin, where the live oaks are still draped with Spanish moss.  


I just now went to YouTube and found Maybelle Carter and Sara Carter singing While The Band Is Playing Dixie. I wanted a refreshing on the words. Evidently on the other side of the ocean, the songwriter heard a band playing Dixie and caught himself humming Home Sweet Home. It's like some of the old songs of missing the South, or one's home state in the South; Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia. The yellow Rose of Texas beat the belles of Tennessee. Missing home, sweet home. Whatever that home might be, My Old Kentucky Home. Sara sang, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." My home is this house on Air Bellows mountain, where the Part 2 half of my life played out. Taking liberties with the song East Virginia Blues, I was born in California, to North Carolina I did roam. There was never a time in the first half of my life that I ever imagined living in North Carolina. In college time, I had an unrealistic desire to go to Chapel Hill. Upon arrival in the mountains, I learned Chapel Hill is where the communists were located. Also learned there were 57 communists in High Point.


As usual at the Fiddle and Plow shows, Willard's picking and singing characterize the sound of the place. Willard's persona, his presence, who Willard is, is central to the atmosphere of the place, which by day is Willard's frame shop where he has his drawing shop in the basement, or the ground floor, since the frame shop is actually the second floor, though it seems like first. Like in the Carolina Lowcountry, the basement is above ground. It is a different band or individual guest every week, and Willard is the constant. He's there to introduce the guest and often accompany. He's so personable and at home that it doesn't even figure that he is, in my way of seeing, one of the more important men in the world of SW Virginia traditional music, there with Bobby Patterson, a singing partner. I'm floored every time I hear a long list of Willard's contributions to music in SW Virginia and Galax. It's my buddy Willard, not a bust on a pedestal.  Like I feel privileged going to the Fiddle and Plow shows, I feel privileged knowing Willard, somebody I look up to as a musician and a human being.



mark uzmann, winter oak



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