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Saturday, April 27, 2013


the elkville string band
trevor mackenzie, bill williams, herb key, jim lloyd
Another Friday night of good picking at the Fiddle and Plow Show at Woodlawn, Virginia. The Elkville String Band came from Wilkes County, NC, where they started around ten years ago to play the music in a local play about Tom Dooley. The show was such a hit and the band such a hit the band played more and more gigs and by now have available cds. Herb Key announced they have just finished recording the most recent project that yet needs mixing. Drake Walsh (son of Dock Walsh, banjo, Carolina Tarheels) was the band's original fiddler. Herb Key said Drake died in 2010. The band's present fiddler is Trevor MacKenzie. He stepped into some big shoes and they fit. Herb Key is an excellent guitar picker and singer. He is the MC at the Wayne Henderson Festival that is coming up in a few weeks. Jim Lloyd is a barber in Rural Retreat, Virginia, on the Robert E Lee Highway. Lloyd is best known for his guitar work, though he can keep up with a banjo pretty good. I believe he played guitar with the Konnarock Critters, Brian Grim fiddle, Debbie Grim banjo, an old-time band that made 2 cds several years ago that are now out of print. I was supposing Jeff Michael would be playing the banjo, but he was not. This is the third time in a row I've been to see a band with Jeff in it and he didn't show. He's not playing fiddle with Big Country Bluegrass any more. I'm wondering what has happened to him.
scott freeman and willard gayheart

Scott and Willard opened the show with a song Willard sings, Don't You Dare Love Anyone But Me. It is on Scott's new cd just released today. I brought home a copy, but haven't played it yet. It's fun that I know intimately nearly every song on it, how Scott does it and whoever else, like Dori and Willard. It blows my circuits that I know such super fine musicians, people who are artists at making music. That's not to say other musicians fall short of art, just to say it stands out in Scott and Willard. The pencil drawings on the wall are Willard's. The space for the show, The Front Porch Gallery, is Willard's gallery where he sells his prints, frames them, and has his studio downstairs where he applies the graphite to paper. I've found very few visual artists in the mountains and a lot of music artists. I suppose it goes back to the old days when making music was the only art form in the mountains. Souls born with the need for some sort of artistic expression took to music. Scott and Willard both are not just good musicians, they are artists at it. Sometimes on the stage with Scott will be Willard, Scott's father-in-law; Dori, Scott's daughter and Willard's granddaughter; Mike Gayheart, Willard's son; also Dori's man of her destiny, David Long. Sometimes I forget they're all kin. When the music is going, none of it matters but the pickin.

trevor mackenzie and herb key
Herb Key is a guitar picker and singer who knows a great number of traditional songs. He's also a bass player. I've known him before Elkville String Band as Wayne Henderson's bass player. He has many a year of stage experience, and as an MC he can think on his feet a whole lot faster than I can. I've heard him make music several times and heard him MC several times. I know a lot of people who know him, but I've never met him. It's just a matter of how chance works out. Herb is a good singer of the good old hillbilly songs. He likes a good story song. He sang about Tom Dooley and Otto Wood. He sang train songs and he introduced songs with a brief story about each one. Like before the song Lorena, he told of how both sides of the Civil War knew the song and were known to have sung it together across a river or whatever divide during the night when they weren't shooting at each other. While he was singing Wreck of Old 97, a woman sitting in front of me cringed slightly to the words, "was scalded to death by the steam." Herb Key has a strong stage presence singing as well as with his Henderson guitar. He doesn't mind picking it so it can be heard. He's a serious picker who deserves a Henderson.
trevor mackenzie, bill williams, herb key, jim lloyd

That's Bill Williams playing the bass guitar. It was an electric bass, which he played keeping good time for everybody in the band. He has been with the band since its beginning. The fiddler looked to be in his early twenties. He knew a lot of songs well. He played  his fiddle with the confidence of somebody who has a lot of hours experience twisting four strings into some mighty fine hillbilly music. He played a fiddle tune like he was having fun, didn't want the tune to end, couldn't wait to start the next one. Jim Lloyd, banjo picker, played some good music with his bluegrass banjo he played clawhammer. During one of the songs, an Uncle Dave Macon song, he flipped his banjo around a couple times like Macon for a good laugh. Lloyd has an interesting ear. I found in his banjo picking attention he was giving every note, the same way he plays a guitar, like his ear is guiding what he does with each note. He plays something like a blind man in that way, Doc Watson for example. My feeling was that he was an alternate to fill in for the missing banjo player. He didn't know some of the songs they played and didn't feel so familiar with the band, though he knew them all. I looked at the website and saw Jim Lloyd and Eric Ellis are the band's alternate banjo pickers. Lloyd's own band is the Skyliners. They also record with Mountain Roads Recordings Elkville String Band's website is Bill Williams is the band's contact person:
herb key and jim lloyd

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your very kind review of the band, we really appreciate it. Jim Lloyd is the bands present banjo picker. Jeff Michael no longer picks with Elkville String Band but he does do a few shows with us if Jim can't make it. Just wanted to mention that the bass I was playing is a Wayne C. Henderson bass. At present it is the only bass he has made. Thanks again and glad you enjoyed the show.

    Bill Williams