Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's Over, I'm Tired, and What Fun!

Our bluegrass festival is over. Boy am I tired. I did not wake up until 9 a.m. this morning after two late night returns to my home with no supper. Most of the day Friday was spent on last minute chores, including about an hour unloading a small trailer of logs, cross ties and other debris. I had to work the sound in the courthouse on Friday night and for about six and one half hours on Saturday. I also served as an emcee at one stage for a one-hour segment. It was exhausting but very fulfilling.

And the music...great. Not a loser on the list. Bluegrass today is an eclectic mix of traditional and just about anything the musicians want to try. I don't believe we had more than two or three traditional bands out of the twenty-five or so bands present. I heard Bob Seager, CCR, Bach, Benny Goodman, and, would you believe, Sam the Sham and Pharohs. Yes, Wooly Booly rang out from the courtroom in the old courthouse on the square, shaking the ghosts of the Blue Sky Boys, Bill Monroe, and the many other traditional groups who have played there.

Today's bluegrass musicians experiment to find the best mix of music that they can find and they interpret it in their own style. Believe me, they don't sound "hillbilly" when they do them. I suppose the influences and experiences of the younger musicians and the younger of us baby boomers makes these musicians stretch the limits of their musical abilities and their instruments. Many of them are urban dwellers, who have moved into bluegrass, because it gives them an option to experiment with so many types of music. Some are trained classical musicians who play bluegrass as a hobby. A new musician friend of mine's late wife played with the Atlanta symphony and taught music in the public schools, but played bluegrass on the weekends. A former band member of our historical society president's band, is an amazing classical guitarist, but also plays fantastic bluegrass guitar and banjo.

The kids who choose this style of music are simply amazing. Their instrumental talents are awesome. There is a sixteen year old, Raven Welch, who is quite a singer and an excellent mandolin player. Her sixteen year old guitar player was equally talented and quite a showman. Alex Tomlinson, a Union County kid, is a three state Jr. champion. Alex, who is around 12 or 13 years old, is as comfortable with a classical piece as he is with an old time Scottish fiddle tune, or a western swing rag.

I look forward to next year to see what bold, new directions these musicians have taken. I hope by then I will have mastered the mandolin well enough to take a small part in a jam or two around the square, if time permits. Many folks say that some of the best music at a bluegrass festival is the impromptu jams that take place in small groups away from the stage. If you haven't been to a festival, but you like music and are willing to stretch your tastes a bit, try one or two just to see and hear these folks perform. Their talents are amazing.

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