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Saturday, October 26, 2013


scott freeman, spencer strickland, gerald anderson, butch barker
scott freeman, spencer strickland, gerald anderson, butch barker
Friday night at Willard Gayheart's Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn VA, five miles past Galax Walmart, behind Harmon's, is the Fiddle and Plow Show. After several years of listening to the music played at the Front Porch, I forget my initial attraction to the music, how much I loved Scott Freeman's music upon first hearing an Alternate Roots project. I have never grown weary of his music, rather appreciate it more every year. It's about the only music I hear anymore, except when I want to rock and put on something like the Clash or Garbage, or want to hear Schubert quartets or Thelonious Monk with Charlie Rouse, Straight No Chaser. If that were the only jazz album in my house, I'd be satisfied. It seems like I appreciate the Rolling Stones more as I get older, for their musicianship as much as for their music. Musicianship has always been important to my musical ear, but since discovering mountain music, in particular the music of Scott Freeman, Willard Gayheart, and the acoustic musicians of their world, SW Virginia and NW North Carolina, a high grade of musicianship has become my norm. Every week, bands or particular musicians are invited by Scott and Willard to play to an audience of most often less than twenty, though this show had an audience of about 45, full house. I'd missed at least the last six weeks of shows. Hearing the band brought me back like I'd been underwater too long, breaking the surface, inhaling the music of four mountain musicians whose musicianship is out there past what words can tell. Everybody who came through the door knew we were going to be hearing some music when these fellers set to jamming.  
scott freeman, spencer strickland, gerald anderson

scott freeman, spencer strickland
spencer strickland, gerald anderson

Gerald Anderson, Spencer Strickland and Butch Barker evidently play together as a band. Anderson and Strickland have been making music together quite a number of years. I heard Spencer Strickland at the Wayne Henderson Fest eight or nine years ago when he was in his late teens. I'd not seen him since, though had heard him on a few cds. He can tear up a mandolin. He and Scott played mandolins together on one song. They had a good time, something like kids playing catch. Scott played the fiddle mostly, and Strickland played the fiddle some, and Scott played mandolin some. Strickland could make the fiddle do its thing, too. He had a good touch with it. Good mandolin touch too. His picking and his fiddle have a lyrical lightness about them. I mean lightness like a chickadee, no weight, can cavort in the air like a swallow. He and Scott were enjoying making music together. Both are masters of the mandolin and both excellent fiddlers. It was visible they were tapped into each other musically, were flowing. They've known each other several years and flow very well together. It seemed like there was understanding between them throughout the show. No one-upmanship was going on. They made music together, flowed together with Anderson and Barker like a jazz quartet jazzing some traditional songs in their own style. Like in the be-bop period, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, jazzing Broadway standards, these guys jazz traditional tunes from another songbook.
gerald anderson
scott freeman
scott freeman

scott freeman, spencer strickland
Anderson is a noted luthier of the region. His mandolins are prized instruments to the musicians who play them. He makes a good guitar too. He is one of the mandolin players of the region in the same league as Scott and Spencer, also a guitar picker who can knock your sox off listening to what he can do with his guitar. So far I've stressed musicianship, which is an aside in relation to the music. The music is what they play. Their musicianship gives them a broad range of sound possibilities. Gerald Anderson played guitar at the Front Porch once before, accompanied by Scott and Willard. These are all musicians who play music first. The depth and breadth of their musicianship is what they play the music with. They are not musicians to show you all the tricks they can do, not at all. They show their musicianship by playing the songs about the best you ever heard them. They draw attention to the music, not themselves, in the mountain tradition. Butch Barker's bass was one of the instruments in the band. He kept the rhythm, but he also picked the bass in a way that made it all the more interesting to the ear. He played guitar in the Ashe County bluegrass band, Rock Bottom Bluegrass. They were good listening. The band is no more, and Butch is now playing bass with Anderson and Strickland. They make a musical team with their own sound. The show was a good welcome back for me after such a long string of circumstances that prevented going. The welcome back from the others who go almost every week was like family. Appreciation for this music is our bond.
butch barker, scott freeman
gerald anderson, butch barker
spencer strickland

butch barker


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