Monday, August 30, 2010

The Serendipity of Playing Old Time

I don't know if you can practice enough. I know I need to step it up. I don't practice enough. Do you ever?
It's a relief to be pulling out of this slump!
I used to play at least an hour a day. Now I have been too hit and miss with more miss than hit. Sound familiar?

Progress is so slow your efforts are not always self reinforcing enough to reward your efforts. Still, on occasion you can find yourself making real progress and that gratifies.

The Jam has really helped me but I need to step it up apart from jamming. I will repeat a truth that has been confirmed to me out of this experience. Jamming is vital to your progress in learning to play. You will not progress in as good a way until you play with others.

I have said this before, I know but some time ago.

This blog is about Old Time Music as appreciated by an enthusiast who is learning to play. I am not a skilled musician or have played for thirty years nor have I been a part of any special group of enlightened aficionado's. I just love the music and I love the guitar. I am much like many of you. I am the guy that attends concerts and dances and buys the CD's and MP-3's. I write a blog about what has become a great blessing to me.

It's just that simple. The so called experts around KC have not risen to this task so I thought I would try. It's about my journey and what I can find on the web and other places. It's about the really fine people I meet and who helps me along the path to deeper enjoyment. When I find something I like to share it. On occasion I find the so called "experts" might just have it wrong and my own experience is validated in another direction. Just get me started on getting an instrument that fits your hands and body ergonomically.....

Maybe in the fullness in time I will aquire some "expertise". About the time I die perhaps seeing that I am soon to turn 60. Jeez!

If your reading this and you have always wanted to learn to play an instrument...I say, DO IT! Go ahead and no matter your age, get that instrument and find a teacher and go at it! In some ways it's easier, some ways harder. It's worth it.

It was during another period of unemployment that found me driving past Mountain Music Shoppe in Shawnee Ks and having the light go on. I walked into the shop and saw the guitar and I answered the call right there. My life was changed that day.
Your can change too. If your getting called to play...answer.

More Ozarks Watch tv

Here is another excellent program from the Ozarks Watch TV program. This is a don't miss.

Watch the full episode. See more OzarksWatch Video Magazine.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Jam sessions and such in Missouri

Here is a very nice program as seen on Ozarks Watch Video Magazine on Ozark Public TV.


Watch the full episode. See more OzarksWatch Video Magazine.

Gordon McCann is interviewed at the beginning. That alone is not to be missed. Gordon is my hero and I am not embarrassed to say so. God bless him for what he has done to preserve our beloved Ozarks music. Between him and Charlie Walden, we know a great deal about Missouri and Arkansas Fiddlers and music. Not to exclude any others. Howard Marshall, John Hartford and others not yet named have all had a part in the task of keeping the fire burning.

Flatpicking guitar tab and song resource

Here is a great resource for you guitar players out there. Especially if your like me and very much a learner. Kim Davis and Mike Stangeland have a site with loads of excellent guitar tab with chords in tabledit format. This allows you to practice along with the music at a tempo you choose. I really like this feature for practicing guitar back up/rhythm.

Interestingly, these two folks travel full time in a large Winnebago type camper. They post some interesting blog entries and photos of their journeys.

Oh yes! Free! This is not a commercial site.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Branson Fiddle Festival coming this weekend

August 27 – 29, 2010, Branson, Missouri. The 22nd Annual Downtown Branson Fiddle Festival & Mid-American Fiddlers Championship. Contest preliminaries begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 28th. The Finals begin at 12:00 noon and end at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 29th. Location: On the Banks of Lake Taneycomo at the Branson Landing. Six divisions: Pee Wee (9 and younger); Junior (10 thru 16); Senior (60 and older); Cross Tuning (Unique to our area); Seconding (Guitar/Bass accompaniment); Open (any age). There is no charge to enter the contest. All winners (except the Cross Tuning and Seconding) will compete on Sunday. for the Grand Prize Title. Total prize money is over $5000. There will be several fiddle events in the Historic Downtown area . The contest is free to the public. Contact the DBMA at 417-334-1548 or Bill Lennon, 417-337-7468

More Jeremy Myers

Doc Brown's Dream

More McClurg

Ashley Hull and Jeremy Myers playing at McClurg. Old Bob Holt is gone but his music lives on.

It's in good hands too

CBS and Harry Smith on the McClurg Jam

That's old Bob Holt on the fiddle. I thought I saw Ashley Hull too. Jeremy Myers plays there these days and helps keep the fire burning. One of these days I will sit in that circle and play too. Where is this you ask? McClurg Missouri, a small bump in the road in Southern Missouri west of Ava and really in the sticks. God's country. I used to Coon hunt not so far away back in the day. Got some too. Went out with the Parmenter brothers.
One time we were in a small hollow and the coyotes were mad that we were there and put up a fuss like you won't believe, all around us. Kind of spooky. Put us all on edge.
I sure wish it was not so far away. I lived in Norwood those days and had no idea what I was missing in Bob Holt just a bit south of me. I kick myself for being unaware of the music around me then.
Elmer Shudy did take me to shape note singing in a small church several miles south of Norwood. I wish I had done more of it. All my days there were in the late 70's. After that it was off to Kansas City.

Leonard Smith, Missouri One Armed Fiddler

Born in Arkansas and moved to Missouri. Passed in 2000. Missing an arm due to a gun handling accident.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Just like when I lived in the Ozarks and attended the annual Revival at the Baptist Church,so also did the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championship revive my musical spirits. It's fun to play again and my interest is generally revived in learning new stuff.

I bought a new learning book at the event to help me a bit on theory and playing without all those tab books. I will do a review of this later after I work with it a bit. I bought this from a fellow I met at Stringband Rendezvous's saturday morning jam. He came up with an idea he calls, "Fretboard Toolbox".

It looks interesting so I went for it.
I still want to get Martha Haehl's "Play well with others". This is another jam aid.
Update: I bought the "Chord Wheel" today. Circle of fifths thing. It will be my new jam crutch along with the Fretboard Toolbox.
I will try to get "Play well with others" soon.

I believe I am ready now. That is always the "key" isn't it. Pun? yes!

Wish me well.

I have no financial interest in anyone or anything.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New blog found

I am adding this blog to my links list. It looks like a nice blog. Check it out.

Not very many entries. What I do see is good. Hopefully he will write more.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kansas Fiddling and Picking continued

I also want to point out that some real fine bands played at the event today. The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band, The Midday Ramblers, Josh Hungate, High Falutin' String Band played amidst all this contest activity.

I only caught High Falutin' String Band. I heard part of Josh Hungate. I enjoyed both bands. High Falutin' is a bit eclectic. They played two gypsy tunes as well as OT and Bluegrass. My first impression is that they are kind of typical for an accoustic BG OT kind of band in this area. They use humor and an eclectic playlists to keep the crowd entertained. I enjoyed them.

I would have liked to see The Middday Ramblers as they are one of my favorites but could not leave the Youth Fiddling contest.

I enjoy the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band but was too pooped out and had an hour drive ahead so I passed and left.

Again, it had lots of great music for all who came. Just very well done. Great atmosphere and I always enjoy people watching when I am in Lawrence and this event did not disappoint.

30th Annual Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships


Today's contests at the annual Fiddling and Picking Championships were great. I attended the Banjo, Guitar flatpicking, Mandolin (part of), Fiddle and missed the fingerstyle.

The weather was not that hot and sitting in the shade with the breeze lightly blowing was not all that bad. While there was a snow cone vendor, there was no ice cream vendor which was a shame. The food was pretty good from the vendors and there was a decent selection. I had the Reuben sandwich and it was pretty good.

I will take a small cooler next time with cold drinks. I will also take my big golf umbrella for shade when the shade moves away from me.

Let me make the following comments about the contests as far as general impressions.
1. Banjo: Pretty good players of differing styles. A real good mix and I enjoyed them all. My favorite player was Noah Musser who plays with The Prairie Acre. A particularly fine performance of clawhammer style playing. Just wonderful.
As with all the contests, you never hear the contestants names (which stinks) so I can not report many names here now.
I also don't know the winners names yet but will post later when I find out. There was a contestant that played with killer timing and execution and was a fantastic bluegrasser style player with the three finger roll style. I have to think he won.

2. Flatpicking Guitar: While all five were fine players only one was of Winfield level and this was the banjo player I mentioned earlier. He was unusually good. However, he exemplified the style now current in the flatpicking world as seen at Winfield that is really pretty sophisticated and well beyond anything like Doc Watson played in the sixties and early seventies, which happens to be what I personally like the most. This is not to knock these especially talented musicians who can take the instrument to the next level. The trouble is, when they do they leave some of us behind. There is no answer to this really.
At any rate, this contest had the "weakest" (poor choice but I can't think of better right now) field and it brings me to say what I had to be a growing impression that Flatpicking guitar playing is in decline in our area and the other traditional instruments are more popular than in the past. I could be wrong and as I said, this is only an impression based on inadequate data.

3. Mandolin: The playing was pretty good overall. I only caught the first half because the Fiddle contests were beginning and I left to see that.

4. Youth Fiddle: Some really fine young players. Mostly good young girls/teens. A couple of young boys played well enough to make their parents proud and a very young and tiny little girl who stole our hearts with her basic learners playing with that big smile and sweet little spirit. I loved it all.

5. Open Fiddle: Here is where the depth of talent really shined. Lots of really good fiddling by several really excellent players. One guy played Missouri Valley style really well and I like that a lot. Again, I wish I could tell you their names but they did not tell you who they were. This has to change!
My favorite performance was the fiddler and guitar player for The Prairie Acre band, Tricia Spencer and Greg Yother who really were excellent. Greg does an excellent job of playing backup. I really like how he does it!. Tricia was spot on the mark and I understand she only made third place but she could easily have won it. The bar was really high here by the quality of the playing.
This is a really fine fiddling contest. Don't miss it next year!

6. Fingerstyle Guitar: I actually missed most of this but caught snatches of it and from what I heard there were some really talented players there. next year I will try to catch more of that. If your a fingerstylist, this is a good contest to see.

I was overall very favorably impressed with the quality of this event. It clearly is the premier OT event in our area and the fruit of the deep field of talent in Lawrence Kansas and surrounding area. This is a labor of love now lasting for thirty years and the organizers are to be commended for keeping faith with this huge effort. Good job!

If you have never gone you must find time to do so next year. This is a very well done event. We are so lucky to have this so close.


2010 Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Winners

Banjo: First Place, Matthew Oliphant; Second Place, Jai Stecker

Miscellaneous Acoustic Instruments: First Place, Larry Carter; Second Place, Don Spain; Third Place, Dave Hooge

Open Fiddle: First Place, Jake Duncan; Second Place, Cara Oliphant; Third Place, Tricia Spencer

Mandolin: First Place, Bruce Graybill; Second Place, David Barnhill

Ensemble Folksinging: First Place, The Nightengals and Guy; Second Place, Park Sisters

FlatPicking Guitar: First Place, Ken Plummer; Second Place, Steve Luper

Finger Style Guitar: First Place, Steve Gouge; Second Place, Jeff Jackson

Youth Fiddle: First Place, Paige Park; Second Place, Cecelia Cook; Third Place, Lidia Strecker

Overall Youth: Matthew Oliphant

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Early Doc Watson

My Favorite Doc is early.

This is the time period of Doc that I listen to. I don't often listen to his more recent stuff. The early period was just wonderful. Treasures for the ear.

Flatpicked Angelina the Baker by Chris Moreton

I just discovered this player. I like him. I have decided to post more about guitar than in the past. I need the inspiration too.

Apparently a Brit. I appreciate his style.

Blast from the past McEuen at Mountain Music

It's been nearly two years now since Mountain Music went dark. Sad.

Kansas Fiddling Contest tomorrow and other ramblings

I was tied up in Lodge all day today and had to take a nap when I got home. Long day.
Tomorrow I will attend the Kansas Fiddling Contest and watch the fiddling and flatpicking contests.


Original content to arrive sunday night! Yes, this blog will provide original content. A real milestone huh?

We have some real good flatpickers in our area and I will cover that as much as I can. I will try to split my time 50/50 at each contest.

Don't worry. I won't be playing in the contest. Not in this lifetime.

I see that there is a Music Store in Ottawa Ks that carries a number of Folk/Traditional instruments and looks to cater to the former customers of the old Mountain Music Shoppe in Shawnee that closed in 08. Google Ottawa Music Store.
Sorry, but that is too far to drive to buy strings and such. Instruments? Maybe.

Things seem to be getting worse for the economy and I don't mean theoretically. Even Kansas saw it's unemployment rate rise this week. I would expect this will increase even more this coming year. It's a good time to recall the things that bring meaning to your life. Whether, family, faith, friends, or music, I hope you are finding your way through this OK.
I well remember quite clearly, hearing my Grandfather relate the extremes they endured and how tough it was to survive. It's our turn now. They made it and we can too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Charlie "Possum" Walden's website remodeled

I would encourage you to visit Charlie Walden's web page to see the changes there. He has improved the look and I think you will find it interesting.

He has posted some neat videos of his playing at Clifftop this summer on Facebook. From looking at his schedule, he never seems to play near us here any more. I still want to see/hear him play live someday.

I know I have posted about him here in the past but if you do not know who he is, please visit his web page to find out more about him. He is a native Missourian who now lives in Chicago and has done great work in helping to preserve Missouri fiddling and tradition and the history. He has posted a lot of excellent information on the web about all this that I am very indebted to.

He is a really fine fiddler too. He knows his stuff, as they say. I like his playing.
Please go check him out and have a listen on youtube.

Electronic press kits


Take a listen!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Link Of Note

Check out this new link I found. Interesting site. Free music downloads.

Looks pretty good. It's going on my list

Mountain Boomers

Enjoy some of these folks music. I really really like them.

Thats Mike Parks on the Mandolin. He does a great job of spicing it up without leaving the reservation. Great job! I love this band!

They are from Arkansas. I think I already did a post about them earlier. I will do another soon.

Lunchtime musing on the Internet

At first the Internet and computers only seemed to further isolate us from each other. However, in recent years, since MySpace and Facebook the reverse is now true. These social networking services are opening the Old Time Music "Community" up to new faces and people around our world. We are becoming aware of bands and players and other folks that just like to listen that we had just about no chance to find otherwise.

This is good. If you take advantage of this, your life can be richer and more fulfilling through interactions with others who share this music.

I personally celebrate this "new media" and think it's clearly superior to the older forms that favored commerce. You would only hear about something or someone if there was money in it for someone, generally. This was the prime mover. Money. Even in so called publications devoted to our music, money was still involved. Not that money is bad. It just flavors the stew.

We now get the option of a different flavor.

Take advantage of these new networks and reach out and find others like yourself that enjoy our music.


I just visited Jas Obrechts great blog on music and was just so impressed with his writing ability. His latest entry is on Hendrix (Jimi) and this caused me to think that hopefully some day, such journeyman writers who actually know what they are writing about, can have a place to make a living doing this. When you encounter a blog like this that has the hand out, I hope you can oblige if possible.

This economy is destructive to a lot of people right now. We need each other. Bad.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships

I was nodding off as to my duties on the blog. The summer doldrums had me fogged out and I nearly forgot about this.

The Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships are coming up this Sunday. Actually there are concerts starting friday but the key contests are Sunday. I WILL BE THERE. You be there too!

There are Flatpicking guitar, Fiddle, Mandolin, banjo, Fingerstyle guitar, Misc Instruments and Ensemble Folk contests. All on Sunday on various stages.

Some good bands will be performing Sunday too. Midday Ramblers are a Lawrence Bluegrass band and I really like them. They are good musicians and employ some humor as all good Bluegrass bands should do on occasion.

The Alferd Packerd Memorial String Band is also going to play and I have spoken about them previously. Not to be missed. Seeing them is more fun than I can tell you.

The HighFalutin String Band will be playing as well. I have not heard of them and can't tell you much about them.

Events start at noon. It's at the park just south of downtown Lawrence Kansas. Runs to five pm.

Be sure to visit their website for more information. There are some workshops as well and you should check those out. Tricia Spencer who plays with The Prairie Acre band will conduct the one on Fiddling.

Steve Goeke the Banjo player for Alferd Packerd will lead the Banjo Workshop.

Jim Faris of the Faris Family Bluegrass band will lead a workshop on the Bass.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fiddles and Frets in Merriam Ks

There is a new instrument store in Merriam kansas and it's called Fiddles and Frets.
It will emphasize Fiddles. They are affiliated with the next door KC Strings folks who you may know about, there in Merriam on Merriam Drive just south of Johnson Drive. KC Strings emphasis is on VIOLINS and not Fiddles so they have Fiddles and Frets to work that part of the music market. The owners of Fiddles and Frets, Michael and Jamie are both great musicians and fiddlers and are highly knowledgeable in what they are doing.

They also sell a small number of guitars, focusing on quailty learners of mid range cost and are not selling the cheapo junk nor the high end stuff. They have a few banjos and Mandolins as well.

I have had their website that they use for online sales for some time on my links list.

This should be good news for Johnson and Wyandotte County Ks folks. Now you can get dedicated Fiddle experts and service in this area.

This means that Lawrence Ks has Steve Mason's shop, Independence has Wyatts shop and we in JO Co Ks has Fiddles and Frets. Three stores to cover the three regions I talked about earlier.

It's steps like this that help rebuild what was lost nearly two years ago.

Please stop by and meet Michael Richwine and Jamie Logan and support them when you can. I stopped by and had a great visit with Michael and am very enthusiastic about what they are doing. Great guys and a good start. They are still building and doing this on a shoe string.

When I first set up this blog I checked out the violin and fiddle resources for the area and there are quite a number of Violin and fiddle makers and luthiers in our area and as I said, this is the hub of a very vibrant musical community and we are blesssed to be part of it. We just don't get together enough.

Fiddles and Frets is located next door to KC Strings in Merriam Ks at 5842 Merriam Drive. 913-677-0400

News Update

Garry Bury just confirmed that String band Rendezvous is alive and well! Hooray!

Next June 2011 will see the next one. Thanks Garry! Lets all try to support String Band Rendezvous. Come out and at least see the bands play or better yet break out the tent and campers and join in the fun. Hopefully we will not have rain again.

My next posting is on Fiddles and Frets Store

I am too tired to write it now but tomorrow I will tell you about Fiddles and Frets in Merriam Ks. Stand by. It is the new instrument store in Jo Co. Ks. See you sunday

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Further Along by the Peasall Sisters

I think Martin will like this. I sure do.

Further Along by Johnny Cash

I am adding this song to our list seeing that we all like to play some gospel and this song is a jewel IMHO. Johnny Cash does a particularly fine job of it here. Sounds like it was "later Cash", which is good. Enjoy.

More Billy Ward "Billy in the Lowground"

Billy Ward of Dirt Road Delight "St Anne's Reel"

"Winter's Bone" the movie

I finally saw Winter's Bone, the movie. I had read the book a few years ago and really liked it. They used some music in the score that we like. Some that stand out are "The Missouri Waltz", "Further Along", "High on a Mountain Top" "Angel Band" and more.

I was excited to see Kim and Jim Lansford in a small appearance at a Jam scene. Kim was affecting a grim affect and Jim Lansford was kind of just sitting there. He was wearing his beret which is kind of out of the norm for the area but seeing that you could say he was playing himself, I guess it works.

The level of playing was a bit basic.The band "Dirt Road Delight" played much of the music, Marideth Sisco sang the Missouri Waltz at the beginning. In some ways, the way they played fit the movie real well. Dirt Road Delight has a Myspace page and Ms Sisco has a webpage. Google them and visit their sites. I am happy to see they did that and did not put in a bunch of Celtic music which is by no means germane to the story. It drives me crazy to see any movie about the Ozarks and to have Irish music playing for the score. Jeez! Don't they know there is an indigenous musical culture in the Ozarks?

The author of the book is Daniel Woodrell and based his story on an area a tad south of West Plains Mo. where the author lives. West Plains also has a fine Old Timey and Bluegrass based festival every year which the Lansfords have played at in the past.

One final note. I lived in the Southeast corner of the Ozarks for several years and parts of south central and southwest Missouri and found the portrayals spot on as to the way people, at least some people are down there. Of course there are good normal people there but there are certainly plenty of the courser kind shown in the book and movie. I used to be related to people like that. In fact, I still am!

It's a hardscrabble life for many people down there. You can look down your noses at these people but you would be missing out on something if you did. I learned a lot from those folks down there. Things to help you survive. Ree Dolly, the main character is emblematic of the toughness people have to acquire to survive in a context of mental illness, drug abuse, stupidity, ignorance, cruelty, and grinding multi generational poverty.

anyway, it's a very good movie and if you liked the book you will like the movie. It shows the grungy side of the Ozarks but having lived there and still having family there, it's shows it truly. You will maybe be slightly disappointed by the music but then again, maybe not. My wife and I sang along with the ending as it played "Further Along" as the theatre was emptying. I am very moved by that song. See the movie! Read the book!

Oh dang! I almost forgot to say, Jennifer Lawrence played Ree Dolly, the 17 year old "hero" of the story and the main character. She is awesome.

UPDATED THOUGHT: Have you noticed that two books that have been made into movies have featured gritty young females from the Ozarks who set out to set things right for the family and their now dead Fathers. True Grit and Winter's Bone. Interesting parallels. Both are small books too. True Grit is very worth reading. So is Winter's Bone. Was Daniel Woodrell influenced by True Grit. Just about had to be. Ree Dolly is a modern day Matty. Uncle Teardrop? John Wayne? hmmmmmm? I think I'm onto something here....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jam time already this saturday

I guess it must be the heat. This saturday snuck up on me again. It's jam time.
I might have to start singing at some point at the jam and that should terrify you all that come as much as it does me. I really want us to play "You are my sunshine". I have to try it.

Please come out and help us beat the heat at the well air conditioned Lodge blg. We are still in the summer slump time and attendance is down. I am guessing at least part of it is the summer. I am hoping it will pick up this fall.

Please go to for the info on the jam in Shawnee Ks this saturday. Some have reported difficulty finding it. It is on the jam list and should now be towards the top of the list given the date.

We need help. As I often say, I am not the best person to run a jam but someone has to do it! At least I still think so.
This summer has been slow but I will renew the efforts for this jam this fall. I still think this is a good thing. I also know, my pitiful playing is part of the reason it's not doing as well as it could. Folks are coming hoping for a killer player to hear and lead and unfortunately, I am not that. I am progressing though and perhaps I can get a bit better and that will help. I had big plans for practice this fall and working outside in the heat just killed that. Sigh!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In memory of Mother

As I said in my last post, Mom sang this to me as a young boy and it filled my heart with deep happiness.

John Hurt is one of my favorites and I love his playing. I love his spririt and this version he does.

Go sing this to your children while you still can.

Little Liza Jane

I found this clip and wanted to share it with you.
It was mostly poor people that kept this music alive for us to enjoy today. They did not have much but they had each other and they had Grandpaw's old fiddle and banjer and could play music and dance and it did not cost a thing.

This clip is an example of that. This still happens here. Here and all over Arkansas and Missouri and Kansas and Nebraska and Iowa and Illinois. It might not be on MTV or get the attention of New Jersey Shore but it's there.

Sometimes, maybe most of the time it's one person sitting with a laptop watching YouTube clips of this. Too broke to go any where and no jams to attend that they know of.

We are lucky to have jams here in Kansas City that we can play at with some really nice people to play with.

The current economic status is very depressing for a lot of folks and it's hard to keep your spirits up with hope ebbing away for relief any time soon.

I am not being a Pollyanna to suggest that you find a place to play music with others or find places to hear music and share the fellowship of others as a way to find some moments of distraction from this Depression/Recession.

We all have to come up for air from time to time. Just like the old folks did back in the hills and hollers who never had anything to amount to anything but that old fiddle.

Gather your family around you and start playing and singing. They will never forget those moments and the songs you shared. I still remember Mom singing, "You are my sunshine" to me when I was a boy. No billionaire had more wealth than I had when Mom sang that song to me so long ago. You can do the same for yours too. Don't be stingy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer slump

I have been a bit slow on the blogging and can only attribute this to the heat of summer and my fatigue of working in it. My last blog was kind of a mess I admit. Some days I just can't make sense enough to make myself clear.

I will say again that the pleasure is returning to my playing after being down in the dumps from my long term unemployment. My arm injury is lingering and concerns me.

So, no upbeat post tonight. Just what it really is. As I noted, Winfield is coming in a little more than a month and it sure would perk me up to go. Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival near Lebanon Mo is at the same time and I love that place alot. If you want to check out a very fine festival of quite manageable size, that one is a good one.

I have not confirmed the death of the Stringband Rendezvous but will let you know what I find out. It's hard times out there my friends. I don't see any good signs of things getting better soon.

There is a new Musical instrument store in town and will do a blog on that later this week. Mostly, it's fiddles with a few guitars and I expect, Mandolins. More on this later.

For fiddlers in Johnson Co. this will be good news.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

I try really hard to restrain myself when it comes to current affairs and politics and economics on this blog. This is not the place for that even though I find myself scared to death over what is happening.

It has been an interesting phenomena for many years now that Old Time and Bluegrass and Folk music has attracted people from different spectrums of thought and philosophy. When Bluegrass became hot in the seventies it was common to see long hairs and "hippie" types at festivals alongside the so called "rednecks" and working class people which this music traditionally arose out of.

For the most part this blending of left and right worked out OK. It was about the music and the other cultural, religious and political stuff was left for other places and times. Many were the young long haired fiddle players who sat at the feet of old farmers and truck drivers who were puzzled by these oddly dressed and coiffed people but delighted to find them interested in the old time fiddle tunes they're folks taught them back in the thirites.

It's still going on but the lines have blurred a little since the sixties and seventies. In Missouri the old working class fiddlers are still there. Most have passed away but a few remain. In the city's nearby, the more urbanized players are keeping the music alive but with a different background and experience. Many of these urban players come from a more "liberal" perspective while the rural players remain more conservative.

Our society has been divided along these lines for some time now. Urban versus Rural. And it matters. The Urban is increasingly driving the cultural directions. Look at so called "Country music". Even in Old Time, John Hartford played around the edges as only he could do and produced some fun recordings that were somewhat popular and influenced alot of upcoming players.

Still, Old Time is still Old Time and the allure of the original is strong and pulls us back to that simple joy of the simple tune. In the end, Hartford devoted his closing years to recording traditional fiddle tunes. When deaths angel is at the door it's time to get serious and he did.

I have perceived that there are at least three cultural orbits that relate to our music here in the greater KC region. Lawrence Kansas, Kansas City/Independence and Little Dixie in Missouri.
Lawrence is the heart of the left wing "hippie" culture old folkie crowd and it's Old Time music scene is now mature and well developed with many instructors and players and bands with a few venues to boot.
Kansas City/Independence is the meeting ground between Little Dixie and Lawrence and you can find folks of every cast among any music gathering and jam. This area is probably best described as urban but other than that you might have a hard time assuming anything else from someone there.
Little Dixie is the area immediately east of Independence Mo. and it has been legendary for it's fiddlers and tradition. This is the homeland, the heartland of the old traditional fiddle tunes for this part of our world. You should not underestimate this cultural phenomena and it's depth. I have heard these folks described as "red necks" and conservative and sometimes crabby.

Maybe these are a bit simplistic descriptions but I think they are valid enough. So this gets to the fragmented nature of our cultural experience of Old Time Music here in NE Ks and NW Mo. Only rarely do these orbits cross pollinate. Only rarely do you see these regions share. It's like there are invisible fences that block them from interacting with each other much.

If I have a dream for our area is that this change someday. I think it has to start here in Kansas City. We need a venue for these folks to come together to experience what we love in music and in turn find each other. I think what is really missing here is vital interaction between folks in these orbits.
If this ever happens I believe we will see the real depth of what is out there in Old Time Music, in our area.

Efforts like the Stringband Rendezvous were good but sadly it may have folded. As I keep harping, we need venues here in Kansas City. We should be seeing players from Little Dixie and Lawrence playing here. We really need to find a way to bring us all together. So far, it's not happening in spite of years of efforts. Lets just keep looking to find ways to bring us together to play our music and to grow our music.

Why is that Gary? Because it's worth it to build something beautiful and satisfying. Because the cultural heritage is alive and well. Because we all need friends with similar interests which in turn lifts us up with encouragement and companionship. Or simply this. I like the old fiddle tunes and want to play them and hear others play them (and much better than I can too)

To conclude:
I don't care if you read Marx or F.A. Hayek or Milton Friedmann or Obama. Lets break out the instruments and PLAY!

The great divisive questions of our time

The world has become a tinderbox with economic depression, political dissension and environmental disasters I thought it was time to bring this blog into the heat of discussion and ask you these vital questions....

1. Rosewood or Mahogany? (Or Koa?)
2. Adirondack(red)Spruce or Sitka?
3. Real Tortise shell or "Tortis"? Or Clayton Golds? Or Red Bear? Or Wegen or Blue Chip?
4. Chinese or American fiddle?
5. Phosphor Bronze or Bronze? Or more radically...Nickel! gasp!
6. Pick up or naked?
7. Sunburst or plain?
8. High gloss or satin?
9. Brazilian or East Indian?
10.Ebony fretboard or Rosewood?
11. Sta-tites or Waverly's?

Yes, these are the questions you must answer! You must take a stand! Or find yourself playing a plywood Mongolian git-jo.