scott freeman, edwin lacy, sandy mason, willard gayheart
Friday night Skeeter and the Skidmarks lit up the sky over Woodlawn, Virginia, playing the music that is particularly their own. Scott Freeman, Edwin Lacy, Sandy Mason, Willard Gayheart played another show at the Fiddle and Plow show at Willard's gallery, The Front Porch. I've heard them play live maybe seven times now. I never tire of them. Though I hear Scott and Willard make music almost every week, I love the music more per hearing rather than less. The band started off with Hang Me, Hang me, oh hang me, I'll be dead and gone. It's not the hangin that I mind, but waitin in the jail so long. Lord I've been all around this world. During their first several songs, I realized that their music has become one with my soul. Listening to them play, I danced inside, sang along, sometimes closed my eyes and listened to every note. I keep cassettes of their music in the car and every time I put one in I feel refreshed the moment it starts. Skeeter's sound is specific to these four individuals. Any change of personnel would change the nature of their sound so much it would not be Skeeter any more.
Stephen Foster I have learned from listening to old-time music was a great composer of old-time fiddle tunes. I recall in school about Stephen Foster like he was some boring old dead man who wrote songs I couldn't stand. Then I learned from Scott Freeman that Stephen Foster wrote the great fiddle tune, Angelina Baker. They played it maybe the second song of the first set, and, like usual, I sat and listened in awe that it was Stephen Foster who wrote it. It brought Shortnin Bread to mind. A little kid in school, we had to learn, "Mammy's little baby loved sho'tnin, sho'tnin, Mammy's little baby loved sho'tnin bread." I thought it was the dumbest song I'd ever heard OF, down there with O Sole Mio. It had something of an Aunt Jemima visual about it and the Al Jolsen association with mammy. I come to the mountains in the last half of my life and learn Shortnin Bread is a great fiddle tune. If I'd heard the fiddle tune in 3rd grade, I'd have loved it. All we got were the meaningless words and the basic tune. My surprise first time I heard it a fiddle tune made me laugh. That corny old song! It's another great fiddle tune like John Brown's Dream and Train 45. And then there was "She'll be comin round the mountain when she comes. She'll be driving six white horses when she comes." The Wreck Of Old 97. Back in 3rd grade I thought it another dumb old song that made old-fashioned truly objectionable.
I learn from hearing Willard pick and sing so often that Bob Wills was quite a lot more interesting a musician, singer and songwriter than I had given him credit for. Another one I thought a dumb old-fashioned song I never wanted to hear a second time, Won't You Ride In My Little Red Wagon, turns out to be a Bob Wills song, and Willard makes it his own. He apologizes for it when he plays it because of a general attitude in the audience that it's a silly children's song. Willard singing it brings out the very real feeling in the song, "All of the guys will be jealous when they see my playmate so sweet." Of course, it's about riding a babe around in a boy's first car, cruising as it's called now, showing his date off to the other guys. To my ear, it is no less cool a song than Hotrod Lincoln, one audiences love. Willard has taught me such appreciation for Little Red Wagon that I go to youTube to hear Bob Wills play it. I like his rendering of it as much as I like Willard's, to the point I have developed an appreciation for the song itself. The last time I requested Willard sing it one night at Woodlawn, a couple of men in the audience made smart-mouth jabs at me for liking a stupid children's song. I appreciate the song so genuinely for itself they didn't intimidate me one little bit. It only told me they don't hear it. I don't care. Next time Willard is giving a show I'll request it again. Anybody that doesn't get it is welcome not to.
The Skeeter energy is front and center in every show they put on. Every time they play together as Skeeter, they play an entirely different show from any of the others. They are true to the songs the same, but the energy they approach the show with is different per show. Sometimes they approach the whole show as a kind of sound assault like from a big stage to a big audience. Sometimes it is like a relaxed jamming session. Last night's they played the notes articulately, each one, and there was a relaxed flow among them. They were not particularly animated. They just stood there and let the music flow. Scott's fingers were dancing on the mandolin strings like a spider on a hot-plate. Watching his fingers and hearing the music flow from the mandolin was the same for me as watching somebody perform magic tricks that are mind-boggling. It's the same with Edwin on his banjo. I see his hands working the strings and hear the music his hands are making and it's the sacred and profane. The sacred being the spirit that the music becomes, made by mortal hands. There are moments when the music has a certain almost aura about it. I listen and notice Sandy is using a bow on the bass. On Willard's song, The Salet Song, she uses the bow beautifully. The bow takes the song to a new level.
Edwin has taken Glen Campbell's hit song of years ago, Gentle On My Mind, and made it his own. I could not tolerate the Glen Campbell song in its time. He made me barf, and everything he sang made me barf. I'd never thought of the song with any but Glen Campbell's voice, so it had dreary associations with me. Edwin has learned that John Hartford wrote the song for himself as a clawhammer tune. Glen heard him picking it while Hartford was in his band and wanted to record it. Glen Campbell making a hit of it sort of took the song away from Hartford. Edwin has found it and he has worked it out on clawhammer. He plays it a clawhammer tune. He sings the words in his own way that has erased the Glen Campbell version of the song in my mind. Now I hear it as Edwin's song and my GlenCampbell associations are long gone. He took another song I couldn't tolerate, Theme From Dr Zhivago. I loathed that song and especially loathed the movie. The book was another story. Edwin has recreated the tune as a clawhammer tune. He plays it so beautifully I forget it is a song I don't like. I like it when he plays it. In fact, by now I hear it as Edwin's tune without any associations, just Edwin's rendering of it.