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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

AN EVENING AT HOME WITH SCOTT FREEMAN'S BLUERIDGE FAR AWAY

scott freeman and willard gayheart


Another day of rest during which I refused to hear radio news or pay attention to internet news. Let it rest. I'm listening to Scott Freeman, mandolin, and Scott Manring, guitar, pick Sweet Georgia Brown. Manring's guitar is his own, a sound he created with his ear, something like a jazz guitar, strumming slow, high-pitched chords with Freeman's fast-paced mandolin picking. Then there is Willard Gayheart singing Don't You Dare Love Anyone But Me, Dori Freeman singing harmony with grandpa. Next, Willard solos a recent composition of his own, Turn Toward The Light. The song has depth and visual presence like all Willard's songs. He tends to write a short story in a song, like Ern and Zorie's Sneakin Bitin Dog, The Shootin, Robin D. In Turn Toward the Light, Willard records this song the first time. He has sung it getting to know it at the Friday night shows at Woodlawn  several times. It is a good worded song and has a nice flow in his singing of it. It has a beautiful feeling. It rings the wind chime of the heart.

dori freeman and her henderson guitar


Dori singing Twilight Time flows nicely with Scott's music. This song is associated with a music quite different from bluegrass or mountain music, generally. The music on the cd collection has the effect on the listener it has on stage. Dori in her early twenties onstage with a bluegrass band behind her starts singing a 40s style ballroom orchestra song. It works. It's right. A few songs later she covers Hank Williams' Cold Cold Heart. She makes it her own. At the Wayne Henderson fest one of the bands played it while Willard and I were talking. Our eyes met and he said it wasn't even close to what Dori does with the song. Not to inform me, but to speak out loud what we mutually agreed in our eye contact was so obvious there was no question. Hearing Willard and Dori singing Don't You Dare Love Anyone But Me, I recall seeing the joy it gives Willard to be singing and recording with his grandbaby. And Dori loves singing with Willard as much as he enjoys singing with her.

scott freeman fiddler
 
 
This collection of songs, Blueridge Far Away, is a sample of a Friday night in Woodlawn at The Fiddle & Plow show that Scott and Willard put on with special guest musicians every week from among some of the more interesting musicians of the Central Blue Ridge. Butch Robins plays the bluegrass banjo with his rolls from note to note making a flow line; Steve Lewis picks his guitar and banjo like an inspired wild man; Scott Manring makes electric jazz guitar sounds with his acoustic. David Johnson glides over ice on his Dobro, and Scott Freeman picks the mandolin free as a swallow flying in circles over a mountain lake, Willard and Dori pick rhythm guitar, and Scott plays fiddle. An instrumental amounts to a dynamo by musicians who complement each other racing side by side at 140mph. After four years of hearing these people make music almost every week, I know their sounds well enough that I know who is picking what on every song. I like that. Especially with these musicians. It is the sound, the vibration, the whatever, that is in Scott's and Willard's music that draws me to it. I've listened to a lot of music closely, and by this time in the life after hearing music of a wide variety, the sound of Scott and Willard's music is just right for what I like music to be.

willard and his new henderson guitar


For one thing, I regard both Scott and Willard artists. Dori is an artist. All these musicians are artists. Scott, Willard and Dori write songs and perform them with musical authority. All these musicians have what it takes to play in bands that travel in buses all the time, but prefer to live at home and have a life. Scott's musicianship, his picking articulation is clear and he gives his notes a ring. He finds the life in every note. He never strikes a dead note. Scott's singing is remarkable too. So is Willard's. They sing their own sound in the mountain tradition. Both have a musical affection for Western Swing. Both grew up listening to it at home. Willard's bluegrass band, the Highlanders, played Take Me Back To Tulsa and some others equally well. They have the spirit of the music in them. Scott is a good singer with a voice that he uses to deliver the words as articulately as he picks the mandolin strings. Dori's singing is clear and articulate. David Johnson's Dobro projects curls of cigarette smoke in the air. Willard's singing has the same quality of clarity and articulation. All three of them have the quality of singing from the heart. I can tell, because the heart is where I feel them.

scott freeman, willard gayheart, mike gayheart


Scott started this album, Blueridge Far Away, the same way I would start a radio show when featuring a musician or a band for the day's show. I'd start with an instrumental that gave examples of how everybody in the band could pick. From there, it's whatever comes next. Sweet Georgia Brown starts the album and lets the listener know these are musicians that deserve attention. The picking itself pulls my ear into the album from the start. Then, once he has the listener's attention, he turns it over to Willard to sing a couple songs. I felt like it was Scott's way of featuring Willard's incredible singing. Willard sings in the mountain tradition of drawing attention to the song, not the singer. His voice, like Scott's, pulls no attention to itself, no see-how-good-I-can-sing flourishes. The point for both of them is to deliver the song from the heart with their voices, all attention on the song. Scott's mandolin playing is an objet d'art itself. Banjo throughout that is a good part of the music but not dominant like top 40 bluegrass. Scott is a master musician with mandolin and fiddle, that includes vocals. You can hear music by him and everyone mentioned here by writing any one of their names in the search box at YouTube.

dori freeman and willard gayheart


The album is self-produced and recorded by GROUNDHOG SHUFFLE RECORDS, 2906 Cranberry Road, Woodlawn VA 24381. I've listened to this album like watching a movie; sit back and let it run from start to finish. It holds my attention as well as a movie. It's so much better than the news, I wonder why I'm slow to shift my attention away from the news. Steve Lewis picking guitar strings and banjo strings, Scott Freeman playing fiddle and mandolin. I missed Woodlawn last Friday night. Playing this cd brings Friday night at Woodlawn into my living room. This is the very music we hear on Fridays. I don't even tell anybody about it anymore. Too many times I've heard how do you get there? where is it? when is it? how much is it? and that's the end of it. Turns out when the subject comes up it amounts to an oral exam I'm given to no purpose, but filling up the silence with noise. I don't want too many people there anyway. It holds up to 50, though it's usually around 20 in the audience. When Wayne Henderson is there, it jumps up to 50, and I stay home. It's all people we never see otherwise, Easter Christians, who come out for THE BEST, the celebrity. And that's a good thing. It keeps them paying attention to mountain music, believing somebody is best. Everybody has their own reasons. In mountain music I stay away from calling any musician or band the best. It's like Billy the Kid, there's always a faster gun in the West. Or like 2-Pac in da Hood.  

willard gayheart laughing
 
 
 
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