picture borrowed from sc broadcasters website
Friday night in Woodlawn, Virginia, the South Carolina Broadcasters played at the Fiddle and Plow Show in Willard Gayheart's Front Porch Gallery. They lit the place up good. An audience of about 30 was very well pleased with the music we heard. They're a high energy 3-piece old-time band out of MtAiry. They went to MtAiry from Charleston, South Carolina, where they'd been for ten years. David told me at intermission that in Charleston nobody knew about old-time music. They were out of place. They played so much in the mountains and liked Galax an awful lot, so they moved to the mountains and have been glad of it ever since. I told him the mountains are glad to have them. David plays guitar and sings. The two women, Ivy, David's wife, plays fiddle beautifully, guitar beautifully, banjo beautifully and sings the same. Sarah, the banjo picker sings beautifully too. The two women sing together as one. They are primarily a singing band. They sing solo, duo, trio, and do instrumentals. By intermission I knew I wanted one of their cds to hear at home. At the beginning, they asked Scott Freeman to remove the mics; they wanted to play straight to the audience. Amplification would have been overkill. They sing out and play so they don't need amplification. David said when the situation required amplification they used only one mic.
I'd heard Scott mention the name of the band a few times in the recent past, was somewhat curious about them, especially after they were paid such close attention to by Scott. He has a good ear for mountain music. A really good ear. The ear of somebody who has played the music and listened to it all his life. It would be like Lucinda Williams talking about a particular song writer; I'd be curious to hear something. Scott put a notice in facebook today that the SC Broadcasters would be playing. I thought: Oh, good. I looked them up on utube and picked a fiddle tune. I heard Ivy's fiddle and was ready for the concert. Before it started, I spoke with Ivy telling her I'd looked them up on utube and was taken by her fiddle. Looking forward to the concert. I was expecting a lot and got my expectation satisfied in abundance. I'm hesitant with expectation, because it so often turns into disappointment to where it's predictable. These people can make some music. They work together smoothly, flow with each other. Every one is an excellent musician and the equal vocally. Every one of them sings like they know how to sing. They have the mountain sound, the drive. They sing Carter Family songs so very well, they make them their own. Their style of singing is raw old-time country like their fiddle, banjo and guitar. They are right to sing out like they do. I sat in the back and heard them clearly and articulately. Their notes are clear vocally as well as instrumentally. The fiddle has a tone that plays well with their singing voices. Their vocals are their own. It's a workout for them. Keeps their hearts pumping.
I've been playing the new cd since walking in the door, heard it while putting down some fresh food for Caterpillar and fixing a cup of Kenyan coffee. I especially like the first song, When I'm Gone, such a beautiful song. The two women singing it, Sarah singing lead. She's quite a singer. Ivy is the equal as a singer. It's amazing to hear them sing. It really is. Like the Carter Family, they sing a song in a way that feels like true singing seemingly without a style, just raw singing. But they have a style that is their own. Sometimes they sound almost like the Andrews Sisters. The music is in their singing voices as well as in their instruments. Both women can play a banjo and sing at the same time without looking at the strings. I'm told by banjo pickers that picking a banjo and singing at the same time is a very difficult activity. I watched these women make it look like no more effort than tapping your foot. By that time I was already so impressed it just seemed like the right next thing. All three showed me some musicianship that quite simply blew my mind. Every song. I'd have to turn the volume up really loud to get the feel of how they sound without electronics involved. No kidding, their singing is as satisfying as the Carter Family, though in their own way, not attempting to sound like Sara, Maybelle and AP, but having no problem honoring them.
I've run the volume up and sure enough, it delivers the feel of them singing and playing. Sarah singing Fifty Miles of Elbow Room and picking the banjo without looking. What she is doing musically puts me in mind of seeing a woman on a horse's back in a circus ring, the horse running around the ring---she's standing on its back, her arms out like wings. That kind of skill and grace. The three of them singing East Virginia Blues gives that beautiful song their voices, the three together. It's all I can do not to wax effusive and use words like amazing, awesome, incredible. The two women's voices singing harmony to David's lead, it's amazing. I've gone past being articulate. They blew my circuits. Ivy's fiddle is tearing up I'll Have a New Life. It's old-time mountain singing of that old gospel song. These people are something to behold. In the morning (Saturday) they'll be on WPAQ-AM, the Merry Go Round show at noon. My radio at the house won't get WPAQ. But---I can get it online. Yes. Google will find it for me. When you go to a music show of a band you've heard OF, but never heard but for a utube video, expecting it to be good, then these three people cut loose making music and it's like, Oh, I didn't foresee this. Ivy is laying it to the fiddle strings on Brown's Dream with Sarah's banjo clucking the rhythm and David's guitar making the rhythm roll. They play music. This is why they stand out. They play music. Thank you to Scott Freeman for getting them to play for us.
They have a website www.scbroadcaster.com. I saw they'll be playing in Durham Saturday evening at 7 after playing in MtAiry 12-1. They have a busy schedule. You can check them out on utube too. They'll be at Merlefest this year. From the looks of their schedule, they spend a lot of hours on the road. And it looks like they have a fairly broad fan base that grew by a roomful of people Friday night in Woodlawn. Their music is art every bit as much as a painting on the wall of a Thomas Hart Benton square dance, a poem by Carl Sandburg, Jascha Heifitz playing Scottish Fantasy on a fiddle that could jerk tears out of a statue. I felt in the presence of artists while they were making music, advanced artists unhesitant to make music. I think it was on the Diane Rehm show I heard somebody talking about stage fright. She said that the problem we have is seeing all those people and thinking they're all judging me. The fact is, they are. What you do is step forward and show them what you can do. That's what the South Carolina Broadcasters did tonight at Willard's Front Porch Gallery. They showed us what they can do. And it was good like a cup of your favorite coffee.