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Sunday, September 1, 2013


skeeter and the skidmarks

Saturday night Skeeter & the Skidmarks played on the indoor stage at the Blue Ridge Music Center nearby on the Parkway. Expecting it to be an outdoor event, I took folding chair and a bottle of gatorade. At the door I had to turn around and carry folding chair back to the car. I kept the bottle of gatorade in the lower right pocket of cargo pants. Inside, it's announced no food or drinks. I thought: shit. I wasn't going to carry the bottle back to the car, so I didn't drink from it. Didn't see any police, so it felt like I might not spend the night in the Galax jail for disobedience. Outlaw on Government property! And, of course, I'm sitting there thinking the republicans will shut the place down first chance they get, and they're working toward it, same as they're working toward shutting down the post office and Social Security, a step at a time. Since our government has turned against we-the-99-percent, it felt like I was behind enemy lines on federal government property. I told myself to stop that kind of thinking and enjoy the music. It was easy once the music started. Republicans will shut the place down soon enough; enjoy it while we have it, I told myself.

skeeter and the skidmarks with dancers

The place was packed, full to capacity. I questioned the thinking of whoever put Skeeter to open for the Wolfe Brothers. Even the Wolfe Brothers questioned it. Skeeter gave them a booger of a musical act to follow. When the Wolfe Brothers came onto the stage, they looked a little bit in shock, like how do we follow that? Casey Hash, guitar, said right off he doesn't know why his band was scheduled to play after Skeeter. I'd say it was rough for the Wolfe Brothers, an old-time band, to step onto the stage after the audience had just been Skeeterized. By the time I walked in the door, not many seats were left. I found a seat that was good for getting pictures, but less than ideal for sound. The sound in the place was good for the audience as a whole and I was in lower right corner, kind of under one of the speakers. The only difference between where I sat and the ideal was volume. Of course, I wanted it rock concert volume stereo. I wanted Scott's mandolin and Edwin's banjo to rock my world. I'm not complaining about the sound system. Considering I had less than the best seat in the place for sound, it was still good, very clear sound. I chose the spot for pictures over sound. I'm well acquainted with Skeeter's sound. I like to hear the next new way they'll play their songbook. If I were riding in a pickup with a friend and a Skeeter cd was playing, the volume was such that I'd ask, "Could we have just a little more volume?" But it was an auditorium full to the last seat of white middle class grownups making it obvious, even to a child, I was not the only one there. At home I can hear it any way I like it, don't even need headphones.

skeeter & the skidmarks
light from somebody else's flash

I've heard Skeeter play as Skeeter more than half a dozen times. Every time I've heard them, they play in a new way they've not played before. Once, they came on strong, blew the roof off the place. Another time they sat down and made the music leaning toward folk style. At one they were playing loose and free, at another paying close articulate attention to the notes. No matter how they approach their music, it has music for its foundation and purpose. Everybody in the band is a musician who plays music first. Their approach to the music this time was very clear, very articulate, no bombast, just masterful picking and good understand-the-words kind of singing. They had on their good-behavior minds. They didn't cut up between songs like at Fiddle & Plow shows where they're at home. They played Skeeter's greatest hits. I don't know that I'd ever head Skeeter with a big audience of people from everywhere. In a way, they were giving people from Away a sampling of what is going on in mountain music of this region. Edwin's banjo wowed the audience. He didn't overdo it with a loud country banjo gettin er done. He played quietly sometimes, esp opening his Theme from Dr Zhivago and Gentle On My Mind, both of which he plays clawhammer banjo, Edwin style. At the beginning, when they played Groundhog Shuffle, most often at the Front Porch they use that tune to open with a bang. This time they slowly crept into it, Scott doing some almighty picking, others joined in and off they went.

sandy mason

willard gayheart

edwin lacy

scott freeman

Introducing a song he'd written, Willard told of the time in the mountains of East Kentucky where he grew up, the women would go out on a certain day in springtime looking for greens to make salad, then called salet. In such moments, I attempted to pretend I was passing through the mountains, staying in a motel nearby, this my first mountain music experience. I'd never be the same after hearing this and being unable to hear it again. I'd be compelled to buy a cd. When I'd get home, I'd start looking for websites to find cds of more of their music and devour YouTube for it. I felt the audience connect with every individual in the band, with their personalities, with their musicianship, their singing, their songwriting, and the whole band. Sandy sang her wonderful Carter Family song, When The Roses Bloom In Dixie. To say I'd never heard Skeeter play like they played last night, is like saying one winter is different from the others. Every winter is unique unto itself. Same with the other seasons, every year unique. I was most interested hearing the band's manner of playing, like usual. Every time I've heard them play, the way they present the songs is unique, more in feeling or attitude. I've told them they are my new Rolling Stones, meaning they satisfy my ear as totally in this time of my life as the Rolling Stones did in another time. I can still listen to the Stones in full appreciation, but I'd rather listen to Skeeter & the Skidmarks. Both bands are loaded with stellar musicianship and music. Every tune Skeeter played had a polished, professional edge to it that was neither too much nor too little. It was just right. Their sound was clean and clear, relaxed at home, masterful picking that served the music without drawing attention to the musician. They made no more of themselves than would musicians in a classical quartet. 

casey hash and donna correll

jerry correll and dale morris

I was feeling a little bit sheepish for the Wolfe Brothers when they came on, but they did it. They busted loose and I didn't feel a bit of a let down. They jumped in and did it their way. Old-time is a square dance music, after all. These musicians have played many a square dance. They know how to make dancers kick their feet. I believe it was in 2008 I saw a show at Glendale Springs of four bluegrass bands, one of them the Wildwood Valley Boys with Michael Cleveland playing fiddle, totally awesome, and Whitetop Mountain was the last band to play. I felt sorry for Whitetop. What a thing to drop in their lap, to follow four driving bluegrass bands. When Whitetop Mountain Band hit their first notes, all that went before vanished like a mist at sunrise. It was on. Wolfe Brothers did not fade behind Skeeter, either. They hit the ground running and kept it up. It has been a few years since I had heard them make music. I missed them when they played at Fiddle & Plow, for what reason I don't remember. Dale Morris said they'd be playing at the Fiddle & Plow in the next few weeks. I will not miss this one, unless it's the night I go to Roanoke for a Willie Nelson concert. Dale's banjo is awfully sound. By sound, I mean he's right there with the rhythm, keeping it steady and clear with dancing melody. He plays a very respectable banjo. For many years Dale played bass in Whit Sizemore's band with Tom Norman playing banjo.

the wolfe brothers

Casey Hash has written another Caty Sage song besides the one Eddie Bond sang. It's a good song. I have an issue of my own that has nothing to do with anybody else, that I don't believe it was a tragic story for Caty Sage. By way of an Indian trail, she was taken to Ohio to be adopted the daughter of a chief of the Wyandotte tribe in Ohio. I expect she was handled very carefully and nicely by her captor all the way. Maybe. Maybe not. Evidently, this chief had word out he was looking for a princess. At age 6, first grade, Caty became the daughter of a chief, privileged, blond hair, the coolest kid in the tribe all of a sudden. The warrior she married became the next chief when the old man died. When the second husband died, her next husband became chief. Why would she leave that world where she had a good life with people that cared about her? She wasn't anything at all like a slave. She went native. What kind of tragedy is that? The tragedy came later when the white tsunami destroyed the tribe's way of life and forced the surviving Wyandottes to the northeastern corner of Kansas in a township of Kansas City, Kansas, called Turner, where Caty spent her old age. She's buried in a cemetery beside the Kaw River, the section that was then the Indian cemetery, unmarked. An interstate runs between the cemetery and the river. Caty's brother found her while their mother was in her later years, but Caty refused to return. It was a tragedy for the folks back in Elk Creek. She had a life. She undoubtedly had her own kids and their families, her grandkids. I just have an automatic reaction when I hear about poor Caty Sage, lost her mama and her daddy, oh poor baby. She undoubtedly was scared for an unknown, though short term, period of time. When she found out she was the chief's princess daughter at age 6, I doubt she entertained many thoughts of going back. Caty's is a Cinderella story.

casey hash and donna correll
That was my own personal aside, a play within a play, my Shakespearean device to keep the drama moving. LOL. Believe it if you want to. It's more correctly called a rambling mind that's in the delta of this lifetime that forgets from one moment to the next. I like the delta. The water flows smoothly in the delta, shorebirds, fish, gators, skeeters. Yep, lots and lotsa skeeters. Virtual skeeters of the mind. They leave skidmarks when they come in for a landing on the runway in our minds. In stage humor, Skeeter as well as in Alternate Roots, Willard happened to be the one the jokes were pointed at. Scott made some remarks about Willard's old age and the audience didn't take to it. Most often it cracks an audience up. Willard bends over laughing. This audience felt to me like it got its back up in defense of Willard. They liked Willard. And a lot of them were old, too. Things like that work with some audiences and not with others. The only way you find out is do it and see. It was no more than a joke that didn't work. Kinda like if I'd told a joke. Plop, face down on the floor, dead joke. That didn't hurt anything. Willard had already proven himself singing a couple songs, picking his strong rhythm guitar with his new Henderson guitar. The director of the show's series, fiddler Erynn Marshall, pointed out that the walls displayed large reproductions of some of Willard's drawings, like in a gallery. The Blue Ridge Music Center is a spot that can be held up as a place and time our government did something right. 

sandy mason and willard gayheart

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