Tag Archives: bluegrass

last night at mockingbird

Mockingbird Restaurant and Music Hall in Staunton, VA closed its doors at the end of last weekend for reasons unknown to the public. They’ve been very hush hush about its closing and didn’t announce it until the beginning of the year. They made all of their events free last week so Daniel and I attended both an open mic night and their final concert featuring local folk bands, The Winter Line and Hound Dog Hill.

The Winter Line is relatively new to the music scene. Their music is reminiscent of Mumford & Sons in both lyrical themes and instrumentation. It’s encouraging to see such a young banjo player. We saw them perform at both events and think they have a lot of potential.

the winter lineHound Dog Hill is a seven member bluegrass, blues, and country band from the Shenandoah Valley. They played an enjoyable array of covers and originals from multiple genres. Their high energy and casual demeanor on stage made them immensely enjoyable to watch. Daniel even bought a t-shirt!

Hound Dog Hill Cutch Tuttle banjo fiddle(clearly, his arm was moving quite fast)

drummer

Since I don’t know the details of their closing, I don’t know whether to say goodbye or hope for a swift reopening. Rumor has it that there are a few buyers lined up to take over the place. We appreciate Mockingbird’s focus on local Roots music. We saw Ralph Stanley there back in August and we’d hate to never be able to visit again.

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here and heaven

A series of clicks on amazon brought me to an incredible, folksy album called The Goat Rodeo Sessions on which string greats Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile play 11 nuanced, melodically complex, introspective songs. Singer Aoife O’Donavan joins them on a couple of songs and Here and Heaven in particular hit me in that place where music becomes more than just organized frequencies – where life is explained, where beauty is at the forefront and, until the music stops, nothing else matters.

one month in C-Ville

Yesterday marked the one month-iversary of our new life in Charlottesville. It’s incredible how quickly time has flown already. In most ways, Charlottesville already feels like home. But there are still loose ends to tie: settling into a church, unpacking and organizing the final traces of our move, finding a consistent group of friends to hang out with, and switching over my license and registration.

Jennifer (my old neighbor) and I reunited

In one month, I (and sometimes Daniel):

  • traveled over 12, stressful hours on rural streets and highways
  • visited every grocery store chain in town (and still can’t find one as delightful as Publix)
  • perused at least 7 antique shops
  • bought an armchair and a vintage mirror
  • bought a dozen or so books from local stores
  • ate at Bodo’s Bagels 4 times
  • interviewed for four jobs
  • changed my mind about my immediate career goals
  • got a job I love (for once)
  • visited UVA
  • felt consistently nauseous (it’s finally subsiding)
  • stretched fabric across a canvas and made two photo canvases and three pillow cases
  • bought pet rats (Surprise! I haven’t told very many people yet)
  • watched the meteor shower on a farm while listening to acoustic improvisation
  • assembled book cases
  • celebrated a birthday (Daniel’s)
  • saw a Bluegrass legend in concert
  • ate lots of delicious food
  • visited three churches
  • freaked out, a lot
  • revamped my vintage store
  • made some friends
  • toured the neighborhood
  • saw Obama in person
  • visited with a friend I haven’t seen since high school

I know – and fear – that as time inches along, I’ll stop caring about the little accomplishments, struggles, and tasks I experience each month; they’ll be compacted into a small blurb on the timeline of my life. But, looking over this list, I feel quite proud of how far we’ve come in one month. Moving, especially hundreds of miles away from your previous life, brings uncertainty – about identity, financial security, relationships. But I’ve reflected lately that moving away from an identity that is created for you over days and months and years creates a space for renewed liberty, a wider sphere of choice. I have a chance here to present myself and identify myself based upon who I am and what I believe and what interests me now without fear of rattling someone’s preconceived notions of who I am. I can take pride in what I have achieved. I can say to myself, “You are good enough,” for the first time in a year. The challenge will be to push toward that level of freedom and self-understanding as we scatter presuppositions and misunderstandings along our path in Charlottesville. What I’ve learned here in the last month is that we do have the power to change our lives. In fact, the daily task of life is simply making choices and living with them.

Dr. Ralph Stanley: a bluegrass experience

Last night, Daniel and I went to see bluegrass legend, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and his Clinch Mountain Boys in an intimate venue in downtown Staunton, Virginia.

I didn’t know much about the history of bluegrass until I watched the documentary, High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music, with Daniel the other day. Bluegrass is an amalgamation of folk music traditions, drawing most heavily on Irish traditional music brought over by Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachian mountains in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Later on, these poor white southerners were influenced by the syncopated rhythms of African music and bluegrass began to develop into its own genre. Bill Monroe is considered the founder of bluegrass, but the Stanley Brothers took up the sound and feel of bluegrass shortly afterward.

Ralph Stanley has been composing and performing bluegrass music for 66 years. He’s now 85 years old. He has inspired decades of musicians and musical traditions.

We sat in a small dining room with no more than 100 people. Stanley was visibly under-the-weather, sitting on a chair surrounded by his band. After about two songs, he explained that he’d recently been hospitalized and wasn’t supposed to be performing. He didn’t want to let down his fans, he said, so he checked out early and came anyway. His body wasn’t strong enough to sing or play, so he transferred the lead to his grandson, Nathan Stanley.

Ralph Stanley made sure to sing one song all the way through: his Grammy award-winning rendition of “O, Death,” from the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. Hearing the words, “Oh death, won’t you spare me over til another year,” coming from an ill, 85 year old about did me in. He’s supposed to make a full recovery, but the pleading now seems real. I was only able to capture a small portion of the solo, but I think it’s worth a listen.

 

Bluegrass has a peculiar, holy quality. It is moaning and dancing. There is much talk about death and misfortune and industrialization. But there’s a grounded joy underneath it all. An understanding that suffering is not the end – that if we just sing loud enough and play with feeling and believe in God we can elevate ourselves to something better.

The music I listened to last night made me feel like I do on the high swings at the fair in November, my eyes closed, aware of my body, aware of myself, but also aware of more. Literally and figuratively elevated, apart from the trudging task of daily life, understanding in my gut that I am fundamentally a part of a living, torrential natural world.

surprise bluegrass

Yesterday we antique window-shopped then headed to The Corner by campus for a bite to eat at Bodo’s and some used bookstore perusing. In the evening, we decided to check out the local Target. We were quite pleasantly surprised to find, upon our arrival, that a bluegrass band was performing in the parking lot!

I literally shed tears of joy.

When I thought about what Charlottesville would be like, I hoped for mountain views and bluegrass music. From the Target parking lot alone, we could experience both at once. Man, this place is like Leah and Daniel Wise Heaven.