Sunday, December 13, 2009

'09 ends with a Georgia/Florida tour

We recently returned from a musical excursion to the Deep South following a long break from our late July trip to Morehead Old-time Festival near Morehead, Kentucky. Mac managed to get to a bunch of the late summer festivals and fiddler's conventions like Clifftop in West Virginia, the Galax Fiddler's Convention and the Fries Fiddler's Convention. We met up with our daughter Hanna and had a fun jam with her at the Rockbridge Festival near Buena Vista in September. Mac also was a beginning Clawhammer banjo instructor at the annual Augusta October Old-Time Week in Elkins, West Virginia.

So with some advanced planning we left for the South on Dec 2 and arrived at our old bass player friend Dick Daniels' place outside of Athens Georgia. We had not see him or his wife Mary in almost 30 years. He had played with Mac a couple of local bluegrass and old-time bands based in Blacksburg, Va in the late 1970's. We had fell out of touch, however, in recent times Dick had found out about Mac's banjos on-line and was interested in purchasing one. The wonderful ability to send photos help with his decision having seen some photos Mac sent of a recent one made of beautiful Canadian birdseye Maple. Being a wonderful bass player and overall music supporter he and Mary decided to fufill a dream to create a music venue where they could feature acoustic music for the general public. In recent months they had purchased an old country store building with a house attached in their rural community east of Athens. They named the place the 'Doghouse' for a variety of reasons. Checkout their website . Our professional trip to the Suwannee Old-time music weekend as well as the banjo delivery to Dick prompted us to set up a house concert at the "Doghouse' on our way to Florida. This was also a great way to break up our trip and to share our music with old friends and new folks in Georgia.

We arrived at our destination in White Springs,Florida late afternoon on Dec 3 only to find it overcast and cool in the mid 40's. We met up with our fiddling buddy Shay Garriock and his wife Leslie who had traveled from central North Carolina with featured former Florida musicians Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie. Our contact person, Tampa area DJ , Jim Strickland, met us and got us settled in to a cabin on the grounds of the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center operated by the Florida State Parks. The Florida Folk Festival has been held there annually in the Spring for over 50 years. There is a Southern Mansion set up as a museum to honor the famous northern songwriter Stephen Foster.

The camp didn't officially start until 2 PM on Friday so we got to explore around the famous Suwannee River itself before having to be 'on the job'. We were to teach advanced classes in detail focusing on our local Blue Ridge Style of old-time fiddling, banjo and guitar playing and singing. The camp was small in attendence yet we were busy with public performances on Friday nite by some of Florida's best Old-time musicians.
Our trio with Shay was featured on Saturday night along with some other Florida masters. We had a great time and got a lot of pleasure playing for an enthusiastic audience. Both evenings following the performances there was jamming at the local Telford Hotel. The Telford is a classic Southern Hotel with a wonderful buffet type dining room where some participants stayed. It was built in the 1800's with an elegant decor for wealthy folks to stay at while visiting the actual natural mineral spring nearby.

Following our last classes on Sunday we left heading South to experience some of the 'real' Florida in the way of a canoe trip at a place called Ichatucknee Springs. We highly recommend folks experience this place for themselves. It was an amazing confluence of natural spring waters into a flowing stream through a natural area brimming with wildlife and Spanish Moss with no effort made other than to take photos and guide the canoe around natural obstructions. It was still a cool time with temperatures still in the low 50's at best. We headed back that evening and arrived home on Dec8 following an overnight visit with Jenny's cousin Dan Walden in Covington Georgia. We drove all day in the rain arriving home to an ice storm which took out a couple of our best trees near our house by morning. Somehow we failed to find the Sweet Sunny South on our trip and yearn to go back in late Winter but probably won't this winter.

Thanks for visiting this blog

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fall 09

Late Summer 09 found Mac playing independently at several of the local fiddler's convention. We live in great location for his old-time music addiction. Over the past couple of months several custom banjo orders were filled and other new banjos were produced and sold as well. Not bad for a secret banjo maker/player who keeps trying to top the sound of the last one. Jenny put lots of effort into her gardens and flower bed.

In late August, we hosted a gathering of local long-time women musicians, most of whom are in their 70's 80's and 90's. These women are still active players of old-time and country music and included Sue Edmonds, Irene Harris, Chloe Bishop,
Rhoda Kemp, Iva Sue Stillwell and Janet Turner. It was time full of great memories as well as great songs by these lifelong dedicated folks most of whom began when they were children.

Following a late September trip to Ontario where we played for a family member's wedding reception,
October finds us gearing up for some upcoming events both local and on the road. Roanoke Mountain Campground near the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a nice venue for an intimate 5 PM concert with local music lovers. We hope the Indian summer temperatures hold and the rain comes another afternoon.

After an October 17th dance at the Floyd Country Store with Mac's all-star group The Mountain Boomers, he will head to Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West VA to teach banjo at October Old-Time week beginning October 25th.

We also are supporting the effort of a group of Floyd concerned citizens known as SustainFloyd by participating in a October 24th concert at the Floyd Country Store to help raise awareness of the environment and the dangerous levels of CO2 in the atmosphere presently. is a website for more info on that serious issue that we are pushing to get addressed by world leaders.

'Fiddlin' Shay Garriock has been performing with us as of late following the release of the acclaimed CD 'Turkey in the Mountain' . For more info visit . We have a couple of road trips involving the 3 of us first to the Northern Virginia area where we will conduct a day long workshop for those interested in old-time fiddle and clawhammer banjo followed by an evening house concert. Thanks to our good friend and DJ Hubie King for hosting us. Hubie will conduct an interview with us to be aired later on his radio show at WAMU in Washington DC. I may post more about this after it gets recorded.

Our second road trip is Dec 2 -6 to Northern Florida to be the guest artist at the 5th annual Suwanee Old-time Music weekend held at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture State Park in White Springs. We will be conducting advanced workshops and perfomances for the attendees as well as the public. On the way down we hope to do a small house concert in Athens Georgia as well, hosted by our old friend Dick Daniels.

Thanks for your interest in our happenings. Keeping updated is a challenge. For more information please Check out myspacemusic/macandjennytraynham

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer 09 Rolls on.

Upon my return from the Appalachia Stringband Festival at the George Washington Carver facility near Clifftop West Virginia
I am getting ready to deliver 3 new banjos to 3 patient local players who ordered them from me since last Fall. The Galax Fiddler's convention time was to be my deadline for completion. So far so good, although I still have hours of set up time and tweaking to do before delivery.

I find that banjo making is enjoyable as long as I can make them to suit me as I have my particular basic style set after 25 years. I sold one at the Clifftop festival to a banjo junkie last summer and another one to the same guy in January. The one I had with me this year was admired by many people but I had someone committing to buying it before I left Floyd last Friday. The folks who made these custom orders I am now finishing were respectful my style choices generally. The banjos are alike in their construction and set up yet they vary slightly in their appearance. However, one is left-handed and another has the request of a pearl inlay of the state symbol of the South Carolina ie, quarter moon over the palmetto tree. I found that inlay job to be a challenge over the simple stars , dots, and diamonds which don't involve much labor to cut and inlay. Cutting out and inlaying the palmetto tree allowed me to practice some engraving technique for which I am a beginner. It is for Amy Boucher, banjo player for the Buck Mountain Band and wife of our 9th district Congressman.

Since Spring 09, I have been deemed a master banjo builder and have been working with an apprentice through the Virgina Foundation for the Humanities apprenticeship program. My apprentice, Bob Browder, and I are each building a banjo out of some amazing birdseye maple heartwood. Upon completion by the Spring 2010, I hope to have a beautiful natural birdseye maple 12" open back banjo decorated with some engraved classic pearl inlays and a 'Whyte Laydie' tone system. It has my name on it for me to keep (assuming it has a better tone than the 'Little Wonder' one I play now). Whyte Laydie and Little Wonder are names for the metallic part of the banjo just under the head on top of the wooden hoop. Each has a design difference and a specific patent as well as a track record for a great tone since their invention in the early 20th century. They are forever associated with the famous Vega banjo company. I have other types of 'tone rings' that I find work very well and cost less to make and install which helps to keep the overall cost lower.

Music wise, since last the post Jenny and I performed in July recently at a small revival at the Indian Valley Presbyterian Church. We were honored to have Janet Turner sing some trios with us. We love her honest and youthful sound so much.
Fiddler Shay Garriock joined us a few nights later for our perfomance at the Oak Grove Pavillion
behind Zion Lutheran Church in the town of Floyd. We got great responses and saw many people who we had not seen in years. The next weekend found us on the road out to Morehead Kentucky for a nice old-time fiddler's convention that hired us to be a performing band for a set on Saturday night just before the band finals. We met many nice people and heard a lot of great music by the young Kentucky musicians who are proud of their area's musical heritage. We were not at Floydfest as the Floyd Press mistakenly said so I hope they get it right next time. We don't have anything else until Fall and I'll post again by then. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 13th Mars Hill Concert will be hard to top

On June 13th 2009,  Jenny and I along with Shay Garriock met and had our 2nd music adventure as a trio.  We were scheduled months ago  to perform for a concert for the students who annually attend the music camp know as Blue Ridge Old-time Music week held on the campus of Mars Hill College just north of Asheville, NC.  Having the opportunity to debut  our new sound with Shay at the Workshop Porch stage at the 2008 Floydfest,  we  started  our 2nd gig  adventure of 2009 once again in North Carolina. 

  Adventure  means you spend sometime on the road getting to a new place and look forward to meeting up and performing for a good audience with a sponsor that takes good care of all your needs.   This was indeed the case on June 13th when we met Shay in Statesville, NC the morning of the 13th.  We had previously contacted Harry West of Fine Vintage Instruments, a music store located in Statesville  known for its proprietors  (Harry and Jeanie West)  who had once been an active husband and wife duo in their younger years and recognized as contributors to the genre of old-time country music by historians and fans of early country and Bluegrass.

Harry was interested in our new CD's and bought some to re-sell in the store after we played  and sang the old Wade Mainer song  Take Me in Your Lifeboat.   We left after a NC Barbeque lunch and headed west for Mars Hill getting there in time for a sound check in the campus chapel around 4 with the concert to be at 8.  We got our room and board situated, saw and visited several of our friends, many of  whom were staff/ instructors in various instruments such as old-time fiddle, guitar, clawhammer banjo, and vocal harmony. 

Hillary Dirlam,  long-time director of the  camp  gave us a nice welcome and introduced us as if we were something special.   We were flattered and knew we had our work cut out for us to not let her down.  Jenny and I began our first set with several of our favorite duets like heard on our early recordings that some were already familiar with.   Shay came on with his fiddle and launched our sound in a new direction.  The acoustics of that sacred space as well as the skill of a competent sound man with a decent system helped get us fired up to play well and enjoy ourselves like all musicians would hope for.  Kind of like a house concert but with a big crowd.
There were probably 150 people who really got into what we were doing and responded 
positively to our music which include many numbers from  'Turkey in the Mountain'.  As students of banjo and fiddle,  Shay and I felt that we could demonstrate some of our tunes that
show techniques and stylistic elements that many had come to appreciate on a different level than the general public.  

With Jenny on guitar for the last number, we were surprised by the enthusiasm of the crowd and were asked to do an encore for which we not prepared.   Shay broke into the old standard dance tune called  'Hen Cackle' which got some dancers in the crowd to  come up and cut loose near the stage.   We do love dancers like that.   With a great number of CD's sold, decent pay for our performance, and a fine wind down party afterwards, we couldn't have asked for more. 

 On Friday coming home, we felt inspired to do something like that again and again.  Keep checking back as we hopefully will  have some other similar trips that I'll report on after they occur if notable as Mars Hill was.   


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

'Turkey in the Mountain' now in season

I am proud to let folks know about the availabilty (for sale) of a new  CD collection of banjo/fiddle duets featuring the tasteful  and very oldtime fiddling of Shay Garriock formerly of the NRV (New River Valley). I contributed banjo (clawhammer and OT picking), fiddle (one number) and vocals.  Jenny Traynham added her tasteful back-up guitar to a few numbers for contrast, comparison and variety.   We were  honored recently by playing some tunes from this CD on the traditional stage at the 22nd Merlefest celebration.  The CD is entitled "Turkey in the Mountain' on my Southern Mountain Melodies label. ( # SMM - 2009)

   As many of you know,  Shay and I have been into collecting and playing tunes primarily from Southwest Virginia sources since the mid 80's.  We were fortunate enough to meet and visit many older folks  who still played in their community as well as in their homes.  Several had already been recognized by the many folklorist who had previously scoured the region for 'authentic' players while others were not.   This collection is a tribute to those from whom we  'caught'  some really 'cool'  tunes and certain  techniques for playing them.  I suppose being around a lot of great old-time flatfooters  at the Sunday PM  Mabry Mill jams on the BR Parkway in our beginning stages (1970's and 80's)  had an influence on our sound as well.  My buddy Paul Brown (of NPR and banjo fame)  was kind enough to write some liner notes for us.    For each tune or song, we provided a tid-bit of info on the tune sources and the tunings we used (in case you are a player/listener).  We hope we will have done our part to send these tunes into the future with regard to the way they were played in the past.  Bottom line is we think you'll enjoy what you hear! 

We did not just do a cheap recording on a mini-disc recording device.  All these tracks were  professionally recorded & mastered at Mountain Fever studios near my home in Floyd County.  The graphics on the digi-pak are first class  and very attractive. No more cheap jewel cases.  For those who do only downloads  we'll be working to get the entire collection available through CD Baby or through our website in coming weeks.  

For more information on how to get a copy sent to you  check out our website    We will also be sending out our postcard announcement to those whose mailing addresses we have.  (We really need to break even on this.)

Shay and I  plan to have a CD release party at the MT Airy fiddlers convention on Sat. June 6th at 4 PM just outside the driveway/entrance in the area to the left as you are walking out.  Come sample some of our ice cold freestone spring water from our source in Floyd County.  It will help beat the heat if its like last year.  There's be other  free goodies as well.  

Thanks for your attention,


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back from Merlefest 09

Thanks for checking us out.  A special thanks to Alice Gerrard  for making it possible for us to be able to perform at the prestigious Merlefest which has been a major east coast annual event for 22 years.  It is our biggest east coast gig to date.  As fans of Doc Watson and his old-time Appalachian mountain region connections,  we felt honored to be there.  Our friend Shay Garriock joined us with his fiddle for several numbers and for a dance workshop.

In the 1970's, we were college students and fans of the landmark album 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' which featured Doc  Watson among others.   We first heard of the Delmore Brothers from hearing Doc mention them and recognized how they influenced his own flatpicking style of guitar playing.  Upon hearing them we  found ourselves drawn to their energy and creative harmony singing.  Our mission then became to listen to any early country music artist and learn to play certain songs that we liked without the modern influences that are prevalent in today's acoustic music scene. 

 What does it matter, you may ask?  As advocates for the old-time attitude of quality over quantity,  handmade versus machine made, big business versus small business etc.  we feel like the simplistic, honest, approach to making music for the good of the community is what we really  want to be known for.   In other words, even though we were proud to be considered 'artists',  we felt at home playing for the folks at Merlefest  knowing that so many community groups in the Wilkeboro NC area benefit from the success of the festival.   It was a time for us to be with our daughter Hanna who likes to play clawhammer banjo and was impressing folks in the old-time jams she was in.  She only took it up last August 08.  We may evolve into a family band yet.   More as that develops. 

 Thanks to all the volunteers and fans who support the mission of such an event.  What a great memorial to Doc's son Merle who lived a short life but spawned a great public interest in a sub genre of  'acoustic' music that respects the traditions of family and community while expanding to open the minds of all to the great music making spirit that Merlefest fosters.   Google Merlefest for much more info.  Also check back for info about the upcoming release of a new banjo/fiddle CD featuring Southwest Virginia rooted versions of tunes learned from certain 'old-timer' sources.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Herald Angels a success

Thanks to all who have supported our efforts to bring the music of some of our performing 
friends to Floyd.  We enjoy helping to present a quality program rooted in the traditional music that we find ourselves carrying on in this day and age.  We were able  through generous donations to  support the Zion Lutheran Church. The church has several members  whose enthusiasm for our cause is well appreciated. 

 We consider such events (formerly held in our home) a win - win  situation.  The community of supporters get a great intimate performance,  the performers have a great audience to perfom for,  the musicians benefit from the  donations are all  for the musicians who have worked to develop their styles and repetoire to a such high level, and we get a chance to visit more closely with our friends who we don't see except during the summer if then.  As everyone knows life is short so we should live every day fully as possible.  Some days get lived better than others and life goes on.  

A new recording  of me (Mac) with fiddler Shay Garriock is on the horizon.  It will be mainly banjo and fiddle duets and songs.  The CD to be entitled 'Turkey in the Mountain'  has a few numbers with Jenny on  guitar  to give a contrast to the drone and rhythm oriented music that was the norm for this region 100 years ago.  The tunes selected are in tribute to  'our unsung heroes',  the old- -timers who were visited and recorded by us and others from the Floyd to Bristol region of Southwest Virginia during the 1970's, 80's and 90's. 

  Over the years,  the fiddle and banjo traditions of other areas of the country have been focused on by the folklore establishment and others and have elevated to a highlighted status.  For example, West Virginia and the 'Round Peak'  area of North Carolina have received a lot of national attention.  We hope our recording may help elevate the banjo/fiddle tradition of Southwest Virginia to a  higher level. 

  Our friend and noted banjo player/ NPR announcer Paul Brown has agreed to write a set of liner notes.  The finished product will  likely have a 2nd grader drawn   image of a Turkey with mountains in the background  for the  front.  Great job and a literal view of what 'mountain style linguistics can conjour up if you don't know the dialect.    All this will be available  for sale through all the local outlets as well as through the website of our local recording studio label  hopefully by the end of April. 

  There is also our website for this   
 Here  we have several clips of  sample tracks. We hope to have more info and photos as we gather them about the old guys who we were inspired by originally.  

Check it out!! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009 is upon us

As 2009 comes on   we are not playing much as a duo.  Our daughter Hanna has taken up the clawhammer banjo since August.  She has been impressing everybody with the tunes I have taught her so far.  Of course there are high expectations for her and she seems to be very interested in playing and jamming.  I am thrilled to have someone who I can teach the versions of the  mountain standards  that I like to play on the fiddle.  I hope we can play together often as possible and maybe eventually play for a dance or at a fiddler's convention together. 

Jenny and I are planning to again sponsor a house concert this  year.  We have set  Saturday night February 14th as the night to feature our friends  the Herald Angels .  Members are Alice Gerrard, Kay Justice and Gail Gillespie.  These three are highly respected in the field of old-time country and traditional playing and singing.   We have  been accumulating email addresses to let  folks know the details.   Let me know if you want more info.

  Instead, of our house this time we are going to use a 'sacred space' ie, the old-timey feeling Burk's Fork Church of the Bretheren .  This 100+ year old structure  has all wood interior with padded benches and twin woodstoves for heat.   It has great acoustics and should be a fine venue for listening to the music.

As for ourselves  our Gig of the Year will be as a part of the traditional stage at Merlefest in April.  We plan to include our buddy Shay Garriock on fiddle.  Shay has been someone we have worked with on many occasions for serious programs as well as for flatfooters  at the Floyd Country Store on Friday nights occasionally.  He is featured on a couple of numbers on our CD 'Never Grow Old'  on the Mountain Fever label.

  Shay and I have been working on a recording  of banjo & fiddle  duets and songs to be released by April.  We have been into the same sources for years so our playing tend to be very tight.  We intend for it to showcase some versions from Virginia old-timers that we have learned from.  Check out  for some samples.

There will be more to say later but check our calendar and come see us.