I'd missed the music at Woodlawn for about a month. One thing after another. One night weather too bad to go out in. Later I learned the intensity of the weather quit about half way between here and Woodlawn. Another time another issue, someplace else to be. One time I just didn't feel like going out the door. I give myself permission not to go wherever it is I'm headed when I put my hand on the door and hand is not willing to push the door to open it. That's when I know for sure, I really don't want to. I give myself permission not to. Not wanting to is adequate reason for me. I'll go back and forth, justifying both ways, to go or not to go, whatever it is, until I get myself into a place I don't know what I want to do. Sometimes I toss a coin, only to go by how it comes up to see how I feel about what comes up. If it comes up GO and I don't want to, I know then I don't want to. If it comes up DON'T GO and I want to, then I know that I want to. Friday night Dori Freeman was the guest for the evening at the Front Porch. I wanted to see Dori. I always like to see Dori, half because she's awfully good and half because I want to support her in her beginning.
Dori has come into a new place in her vocal delivery every time I hear her sing. It brings to mind baby Vada I've seen around once a week since she was born. Every time I see her, she's new, something is new about her in awareness and/or dexterity. Awareness is where I see it most. Dori's singing voice is more and more subtle each time I hear her. I hear her playing with her voice, using beautiful ways to end a phrase or a word. It brings Carter Stanley's voice to mind. Not that they are alike, because they're not, but he likes those little country curly-Qs at the end of a phrase or word. In my earlier years I didn't like those country touches, didn't like dobro or banjo either. To quote Lou Reed, Just goes to show how wrong you can be. I'm laughing at myself from the time Flatt & Scruggs had a top 40 hit with Beverly Hillbillies. That was in the Sixties when I was listening to Clapton, the Stones, Joplin, the Who, et al. I hated it, turned the radio off or changed stations to avoid that hillbilly banjo. It's as popular a hillbilly song as Orange Blossom Special and Rocky Top in the world I live in today. Now I hear that tune and laugh at myself every time, because I love it. I appreciate Lester Flatt and appreciate Earl Scruggs. From the city perspective it was hillbilly, which meant not worth paying attention to. Like I say, just goes to show how wrong you can be.
david long and dori freeman
By now, after living the last half of my life in the mountains, I have come to hold hillbilly up the highest. The more hillbilly a banjo or a fiddle or a vocal style, the more I love it. I really love it when it gets down into Gaither Carlton's fiddle and banjo, Jont Blevins's banjo, Tommy Jarrell's fiddle and banjo, Kyle Creed's fiddle and banjo, Fred Cockerham's fiddle and banjo, their singing too. That old hillbilly twang in voice and string is what makes it beautiful for me. Pop Birchfield and Creed Birchfield played the old-time way I love. The more it screeches and squawks, the more I love it. Among the living, that old squawking fiddle isn't necessarily attractive. The living people of these hills making music have the mountains in them, have the tradition behind them, as well as influences from everywhere, television, rock, and entirely different ways of thinking and approaching life than the people had in the old days. The old hillbillies are the great-grandparents of the present generation coming out of high school. Nobody in the family has worn bib-overhauls since great grandpa. Dori's grandpa, Willard, wears khaki pants, a button-up shirt, shoe store shoes, and he has a good selection of ball caps to pick from. Dori's dad, Scott, wears old baggy jeans and a button-up shirt and store bought shoes. Willard came to Galax out of the hills of east Kentucky a little over 40 years ago, Lotts Creek, ten miles or so outside Hazard. I looked it up on google maps and it's rugged country, mountains and narrow valleys. Hazard has a name all up and down the mountains for rough people.
Dori's mother is Willard's daughter, Jill, of his life in Galax. Scott and Willard were playing as Skeeter and the Skidmarks when Scott met Jill. She did not tell him she was Willard's daughter until the moment came together when he saw. Scott is from a Mt Airy family of musicians. When he was born, he was assigned the mandolin; his older brothers and their dad had the other instruments for a band taken. Scott and Jill joined in holy matrimony and Dori's soul embodied. Dori's grandpa Willard, the pencil artist, made drawings of Dori all the way through her childhood. For Willard it is beyond a thrill to make music with his grand-baby and sing with her, even record with her. He loves to listen to her too. Singing on a stage was not something Dori wanted to do until it happened. It's like it crept up on her. As would be the case with Dori, Dori being who she is, she sings in her own style, which is the way of the mountains, sings like nobody in the tradition. She took Hank Williams' song Cold, Cold Heart and made it her own. I don't say that lightly. She put it in her pocket and said, Mine. She has a little bit of 40s big band singer in her delivery of what are called dreamy sorts of songs. I don't think that word gives the sound justice. It doesn't completely do it for me. But I don't know a more descriptive word or phrase. She doesn't imitate the period. It's like an accent for her. And she sounds a little bit country, as in country music, the old country where they sang with rural accents.
Her dad has the experience in the music world with bands and recording to be able to encourage her to go with her own sound, bring a new sound into the tradition. It's always looking for something new. The times I've been in an audience hearing Dori the first time, I hear and feel throughout a quiet awe. In audiences that have heard her before, it's a quiet satisfaction. I don't know what Dori's goals are, and would rather she keep them close to herself. There's no reason for me to know. And things like that change from year to year, decade to decade. To say it would be a way of sealing it and I don't want to do that to her. She seems to me like when she was a child, she was grown up inside, impatient to have an adult body. Dori writes a good song. She has found the man of her heart and they make music together as a duo beautifully. David plays mandolin and guitar. Dori plays guitar and autoharp. They sing together, they harmonize. David has become the new member of the Gayheart-Freeman Family Band. I'm remembering the first time David played on a Friday night once it was established Dori and David were an item. Scott and David cut loose playing a mandolin duet that carried a big wave of energy. Dori was sitting out the instrumental, her face a beam of light,
her daddy and her man making dynamic music together, and her man was keeping up with Scott. Seeing her face told me she found a man she can open her heart to. Wade and Julia Mainer, the next, next, next generation.
scott freeman, david long, dori freeman, willard gayheart