Saturday, March 19, 2011

New things out of old things

What I am doing in my pursuit of things Old Time in Music is similar to other interests I have had in my life. Being a history buff/fanatic, I found something of great value in looking back on different periods of time in history that were worthy of preservation.

Our current pop culture is pretty hollow and meaningless and you hope and pray much of it dies a fast death.

For whatever reason, I am one of those person's who has always had great disdain for the mass movement popular things. I could never stand Barry Manilow or some other such performers.

I am the niche person personified. If your reading this blog, you probably have a similar bent. Let's face it. Old Time Music is not going on American Idol anytime soon. I hope it never does.

As a young adult, I read every Foxfire book I could find. I devoured anything I could get about traditional Ozark crafts and practices. I learned a lot from my Father in law on the farm in Ponder. I soaked up a lot of the ways things were done from one who grew up farming with mules as a boy in west Tennessee on a sharecropper farm. I owe a lot to Franklin for my basic skill sets on such matters.

We are in a time when we can really use those skill sets again. The politicians in Washington have abandoned us and it's up to us now. It really always was up to us.
They were never really helping us anyway. They just lied to us about it. All the while the jobs left us and our debt's increased.

We had embraced a world of processed foods, plastic wrapped everything made in China by slave labor wage serfs under the control of a Communist dictatorship. Yes, they still call themselves Communist. Of course it's not Communist anymore. They are calling it Corporatist these days.

In any case, it's time to remember that all these things that used to be common among the little people of our land are still there to be recovered and used yet again. We can grow our food and raise our own stock and weave our own wool and cut our own wood and make our own way again. It's a hardscrabble way to live but you can live.

In the past city people reading Foxfire books were being caught up in romantic notions about traditional living. Well, if you don't know, it's hard work. Nothing romantic about it. I can tell you that it beats working in a factory as far as I'm concerned but people I knew who grew up poor in the Ozarks got to St. Louis and went to work in those factories when they could.

Now many of those factories are gone. To China. To Vietnam. To India. To Indonesia.

A number of us have been left behind by all this. We are on our own. It's up to us to reform our lives in ways that change how we do things.

Traditional things take getting used to after all this urbanized processed way of getting and using. Milk is not homogenized. It even tastes a bit different. Meat is not full of chemicals and hormones. The vegetables are superior beyond belief and you realize what crap you have settled for in the past.

Homegrown wool items are vastly superior to that cheap cotton Indonesian stuff you bought at Wallymart. They last longer and keep you warmer than polyester.

If there is an ice storm you have heat because you use wood stoves now. No utility can turn your heat off.

I also think it's time to unplug....and plug in.

It's time to wean yourself from endless devices that waste your time.

It's also time to take advantage of the connections that online communities can offer. Now you can discover new networks or build networks of like minded people who can help you as you can help them.

It's time to form networks that can revolutionize your area. Networks that can nurture economic communities and interests. Networks that are not driven by huge corporatist interests but are driven by real needs. Not driven by advertising but by what you really enjoy or want and not by psychological manipulation.

I am not talking hobby farming. I am talking about getting what you need by your own efforts and with the assistance of like minded folks.

I am not talking about some kind of communal subsistence thing either. I am talking about individuals helping themselves along life's way. No ideology but freedom to help yourself and others and to stop being a serf for some Corporation that wants to own you.

If your like me, stuck in the city, there are other things you can do to wean yourself from the economic cycles you were in before but are no longer available to the unemployed.

Don't worry. I will keep the blog focused on Music primarily. But I will be posting about some things being done by others to do just what I have been talking about.

Photo of Susie Smithers of Rollicking Hills Fiber Design of Ohio.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jim Curley (of Mountain Music Shoppe fame)

Just a brief note that I just discovered that Jim Curley is rebuilding his life in Ohio. He has remarried. If your like me, you must have wondered what happened to him. Now we know. Seems like there are many others locally that know as well but word had not gotten to me.

Jim, if you read this, we miss you and the old Store but things are what they are. I am glad to hear your doing well now.

As you may know, Jim was the owner of the Mountain Music Shoppe in Shawnee that was forced out of business by the State of Kansas about two years ago.

That hole has never been filled and only gets bigger.


I was not a close personal friend of Jim's. When the State took the store some folks viewed him a tad harshly over this. Most felt very badly and knew that this was a tragedy for the community.

I can tell you that Jim had his hands full and given the challenges on his plate, he probably did as well as could be done. Probably not perfect but who does that?!

What he accomplished was pretty good for the years he was able to have the store. I have never run across a better music store in all my travels. I know there are some out there but certainly not in Kansas City. It's sad to see what is in the old space now. I visited once. I won't go back. If you want to see the "good" guitars there, you have to have an employee escort you into the locked room. No Martins or anything close to good there. I call it a joke myself.

I bought five guitars from Jim. Two cheapies not worth mentioning and three Martins. Without Jim's good deals I would have had a much harder time getting them.
I had in this order, a DM, D-16GT, D-18VS.

I bought my John Hartford CD's there. I also found the "Traditional Ozark Fiddle" Series CD's there. These were important milestones on my musical journey. Mountain Music Shoppe significantly changed my life, to be honest about it. Or helped me change it.

Life is change after all. Sadly, this chapter is over for Jim and our community. New things will come. Right now the void is not filled.

For some years something wonderful was at work among us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prairie Village Mandolin Maker

A new FaceBook friend pointed me towards this Mandolin maker who lives in Prairie Village Kansas, just a tad south of me. From what I see on his website, he is a master craftsman. His instruments appear to be fantasic creations of wooden beauty. I have never heard one so I cannot speak to the tone. Even then I am no Mandolin expert.

Mark Franzke is the builder and here is his website.

Oh, yes, he also builds beautiful banjo's.

He has a clip of his playing one of his Mando's and he can play that thing well and it sounds good on the clip.

I will add more to this post later as I am awaiting info from Mr. Franzke

His work looks to be exquisite and from the clip it sounds good. Live is always best. I hope to learn more about this builder.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


When I began this blog it was my intention to focus on Old Time and really not talk about Bluegrass all that much because I felt there were others doing a great job of that.
I am going to break down and do a few posts about Bluegrass groups local to the KC area that interest me or if I know the players. Many Bluegrassers play Old Time and really have no notion of any difference between the two genres (of course there is)

I am going wild on Facebook doing a major Bluegrass friend request campaign. Out of that I hope to bring what I learn about local players I have not heard of and some bands I was not following previously.

There is still a crying need for a Bluegrass OT jam in Johnson County Ks. While it proved true that my playing skills were not up to leading one, maybe I can inspire a Bluegrasser out there to start one?

Also, I have different ideas about how jams ought to be done. Less formally I think. They should be natural and organic. Simply posting on Folkjam and trying to get a group of strangers to start a jam may not be the best way. Better to start a jam with friends and grow from there. IMHO