Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rhythm & Repertoire #2

Having now held a couple of "rhythm and repertoire" weekend workshops,  Jenny and I find ourselves having more discussions on the whole concept of rhythm, its importance in playing, it's subtleties, and the difficulty in breaking it down to demonstrate to others.  Well worth  the efforts, but challenging!

Our last workshop weekend for 2013 began on Thursday Oct 31 with the arrival of our guests who were to be staying with us in the house, too.  After a fine meal we had a small jam in the workshop/classroom space and began the process of getting to know each other.  The rhythm & repertoire weekends we offer are for all the basic string band instruments plus harmonica.  Originally we had planned to do more singing as we had a couple of guitar players signed up.  Unfortunately
they both had to cancel  so we decided to make the emphasis more about rhythmic dance tunes for fiddles and banjos and less about cool old songs since we didn't have the guitar as an instrument in the mix of the students.  So this weekend would  be for the two banjos and one fiddle that were still on board.

Friday  began with Jenny and me breaking up the group into banjo and fiddle sessions.   Jenny worked on the basics of rhythm (in conjunction with beat) with the banjo players, while the fiddle student and I worked on employing the basic shuffle.

Late Friday afternoon allowed some free time for our guests to go to Floyd and explore.  Some of their stops included the world famous County Sales, which is tucked away down an alley, the Floyd Friday Night Farmer's Market, and local art galleries.  

We met up at the Floyd Country Store, and as it was a beautiful, mild evening, we jammed outside before playing inside on stage for the dancers.  The Jug Busters, a local favorite band scheduled to play that evening, was very kind to have us play with them during a part of their time slot.  As we are keen on having our students understand the dynamics between band and flat-foot dancers, we were especially grateful for the opportunity and for the great dancers present that evening.

Saturday morning we had classes focusing on learning tunes from our local repertoire.  Just before lunch our friend Rhoda Kemp arrived with her special friend Gene, to give a talk and demonstration of her rhythmic style of banjo playing.  Rhoda, just short of her 84th birthday, was engaging, supportive of the students efforts, and full of rhythm -  patting both feet while playing!!  After lunch, we all played tunes with Rhoda, who backed up the students on guitar.

Late Saturday afternoon involved a short hike up on the Buffalo Mountain, supper, and then another trip to the Floyd Country Store for an evening of entertainment.  Anna Roberts and Elizabeth LaPrelle have been putting together very creative, old-time radio shows, live on streaming radio through the Floyd Country Store  website.  The shows, held the first Saturday evening of the month, are a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed the show.

Sunday morning, another round of class time, more tunes taught and techniques discussed until brunch time.  After one more meal together, our students headed out on their ways home.  One fellow actually
planned to stop by the Floyd Country Store once again for the old-time jam held there every other Sunday afternoon.

It was a very full weekend with lots of music being played and listened to, lots of eating, lots of entertainment, and lots of good times with our student guests.

We continue to be impressed by and appreciative of the individuals who travel here to participate in these workshops.  They each bring  talent, perspective, and life experiences which enriches Jenny and me as we get to know each one.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October weekend workshop #1

Our Fall 2013 weekend workshops on clawhammer banjo and  old-time fiddle couldn't have been on
 a better  weather weekend in October.  It was balmy which helped make it possible  for participants to  enjoy some of the evening activities in downtown Floyd even better.  Friday was a beautiful day with temperatures outside in the 70's.  It didn't quite seem like Fall weather on this the first weekend of the month.   A  morning of intensive instruction began with both fiddlers and banjo players learning the nuances of the tune June Apple in our style  which stresses timing and rhythm as much or more than melody.  We turned a beautiful birdseye maple violin into a beautiful birdseye maple  fiddle when we cross tuned it to the Key of A.

 Angela Dillard, my high school classmate who has taken up playing in the past few years had never been exposed to such a departure  from the rigid classical rules of standard violin tuning.
Galax Virginia fiddler Emmet Lundy  who was recorded in 1939 claimed that  cross tuning a fiddle AEAE was  'a cheat'  but, I suppose that  he was likely outnumbered when it came to fiddlers who would tune up to AEAE to make a fuller sound from  their instrument.   High bass was another name for such a tuning that has  made certain tunes much easier to play and variate by playing comfortably on the lower strings for contrast.  Of course, we discussed that many A tunes are much better played in standard GDAE tuning.  You just need to have a list of the tunes  for each tuning in your head and/or  in your case.

As for class, we primarily worked on a bowing pattern for the local Virginia version of "June Apple' involving the basic shuffle.  Other cross tuned A tunes for dancing include Buffalo Gals, Sailaway Ladies and John Brown's Dream.  Bowing is what makes fiddle fun but its quite a challenge.  Pulling and pushing with feeling and emphasis is easier said than done though.  We listened to samples of fiddling  from old-timers like Hick Edmonds and William Marshall to identify shuffles  in their
rendition of tunes that could be used in our own rendition of that tunes.  In reality one must practice and memorize  where a bow shuffle is played in the course of the melody line versus being played just for the sake of rhythm in the tune or for pick-up notes before the beat begins. Saturday and Sunday found fiddlers working on more tunes,  jamming with the banjo class, and practicing using the basic 'country' shuffle pattern  to match up with the rhythmic style of claw hammer as found locally in listening to samples of Southwest Virginia native players from the 20th century.

Banjo players this weekend  found themselves working on their right hand rhythm skills with Jenny for the most part.   Our goal is to get students knowing what it takes to get a sound that balances melody sounds with rhythm sounds.  We have digital copies of many field recordings showing such an approach to playing banjo was  a common element in the playing style of  the majority of the old-timers who grew up in the region. We also understand that rather than perform for listening audiences, banjo players from the early 20th were traditionally rhythmic facilitators to a local gatherings of a community in which dancing was the primary activity.  Strong rhythmic
right hand action combined with left hand dexterity made for a style that gets dancers up to dance.
Not so easy if one is not naturally rhythmic but we believe it can be learned with enough exposure to a
solid source of rhythm.

 The flatfoot dancers that frequented Mabry Mill on Sunday afternoons on the Blue Ridge parkway during the 1970's and 80's  had a big influence on our sensitivity to the dance beat.  On large dance platforms, groups of dancers would listen and get a sense of a beat and its timing from the musicians's playing and  tap out an audible beat while executing patterns of rhythm with their feet.

Everyday, Mac gave the banjo players some tips on playing with more rhythm and feeling.  Technical ideas for some cool variations on the melody line of certain tunes were presented as well.

Friday's workshops were balanced by a large spread for lunch. Thanks to Heather Krantz for a great quiche with  a cornmeal crust baked in her large deep dish frying pan.  Thanks to Jenny for all the other great food and drink choices.  Our freestone spring water was a hit as usual.

Friday late afternoon involved a trip to town to take in the activities around the Friday Night Jamboree
at the Floyd Country Store.  I  got to be the guitar player and harmony singer in a band to back-up local singer Janet Turner  on stage for the Gospel set that opens each Friday night's stage and dance floor activities.  It was enjoyable to be in that role for a change and help out a fine 'country' singer.

Afterwards,  our fiddlers and banjo players gathered with a few members of the Jugbusters band and we had an OT  jam  outside in the alley drawing a huge crowd of onlookers.  The temperatures were still in the 60's.  We were joined by floyd resident Phil Woodail's rhythmic Old-time harmonica and Pennsylvania native Judy Pagter of "Country Ham"  Stringband fame on autoharp.  No guitar player showed up to play but we managed without.  We switched  bass players midway through the evening as we played until after 10 PM.

Saturday class time was similar to Friday's.  Of course we had a great spread of soup and sandwich for lunch.   Afterwards some of us went on a ride to visit a couple of the historic 'rock' churches that were built in the area during the time of Presbyterian minister Bob Childress.   The ominous Buffalo Mountain was viewed from several locations during the brief trip.
Perhaps, we'll take the next  workshop weekend class to the top weather permitting.

Saturday supper featured more of Jenny's fine cooking followed by a trip back to the Floyd Store to take in the monthly 'live' radio show that is very entertaining with local 'live' talent.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it.   Visit  for more info on the radio show and other happenings at the Store.

Sunday AM found us torturing the students once more with shuffle bowing for fiddlers and right-hand  rhythm exercises for banjo players.   They didn't seem to mind.  After more class we punctuated the weekend with a huge brunch around noon featuring a wonderful egg casserole,  fruit and grilled country ham.

As we parted  I presented  samples of some great music in my collection onto a burned CD-R for each participant  to take home and have as sample of our influences that we still listen love to listen to  for inspiration.

Next music weekend   Oct 31 - Nov 3  Rhythm & Repetoire.  Visit

Monday, September 2, 2013

UK publication features article on our June Workshop.

Check out this review by Mike Bostock from UK who attended our Elk Creek Warm-up workshop on Clawhammer banjo.  His description is Spot on.  Pass this on to anyone you like.  Mike is a member of FOATMAD, a UK organization (Friends Of American Old-Time  Music And Dance)  who hold various public events throughout the country and have a wonderful  publication Old-Time News.
 There's a growing degree of enthusiasm for our style of old-time and Mike is soon to be the editor.  We hope you'll check the group out.  Click on the image below  to view Mike's article.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Elk Creek Warm-up '13

As I am recovering from the late night jamming and fellowship that I had at the annual  Grayson County Fiddler's Convention (better known as' Elk Creek')   I feel pretty good about our
latest effort to offer basic instruction in the playing styles we dubbed "Elk Creek Warm-up".
One week ago, began the course which focused on clawhammer banjo.  Four individuals
signed up and came here on Monday evening to began a 3 day experience aimed at improving
their skill at playing their banjos in a jam or performance setting.
As with our weekend camps, participants are able to get a good start with great meal while getting to
know us and their fellow participants.  The great weather allowed us to gather out on our deck
instead of in the house as our previous workshop weekends have been during chilly times of year.

After supper Students were treated to the music and comments of 83 year old Rhoda Kemp,  a woman whose been known locally for her great musicianship in the region but has been perhaps overlooked and underrated for her traditional style of banjo playing.  She's basically a secret 'treasure' who we hope to help gain more recognition for.
Rhoda, while best known for her banjo playing with the prize-winning Original Orchard Grass band,
is a wonderful autoharp player, bass player, and singer to mention a few of her talents.  On Monday
we wanted to offer a "Rhoda' experience since we couldn't offer the Floyd Country Store experience
of playing dance music on stage with Mac and his band for the dance party held every Friday night.
Rhoda was her wonderful self  playing her own style of 'knockdown' claw hammer banjo that
she developed as a child living in Roanoke Virginia.  As with so many mountain people, her parents
moved from a rural area to a place with steady jobs to raise their family.  Rhoda was very
informative about how she searched for a type of 'sound' that she wanted in her music and made
conscious changes and adjustments to her technique until she was happy with her own playing style.
Seeing and hearing her play on her Vega #9 tuba phone was interesting too.  Mac accompanied
her on his fiddle.   She also played Mac's special comemorative
75th banjo, a birdseye maple 12" Whyte Laydie with an elaborate original inlay pattern that
challenged Mac's engraving skills.  Photos can be seen on

Monday evening was even more special when immediately following Rhoda's playing on it
 Mac made a special presentation of #75 to  participant Terry Cartensen on behalf of
her husband Hans who was also present having secretly arranged to purchase this banjo and
have it be a surprise 43rd anniversary gift.  It was indeed surprising to Terry who couldn't believe
it at first but graciously accepted and vowed to love it and never neglect it. The looks on her face were priceless.

Tuesday began with an intense session of reviewing the fundamentals of basic claw hammer
and the rhythm that the local style is built upon.  The simple one part tune 'Skip to my Lou' was quickly shown to help reinforce the point that a banjo in the local style for dancing to should sound full and be played with regular  brush thumb intervals.  The point was to super-impose the melody over a basic
rhythm template, subtracting certain brushes for melody notes while bringing back the strumming
and lower drone notes especially often to get a full 'stand' alone sound.  Such a style was developed
before guitars came to the region in the early 20th century primarily for dance parties. According to local master, Dent Wimmer,  dances in Floyd County in the early 20th century were often held with only one banjo or several banjos being played.   Guitars have since become standard in dance band music and have taken on the role of rhythm and time keeping that claw hammer  banjoist used to only provide.  The evolution of  string band music along with flatfoot dancing in this region is a fascinating study.

 Clawhammer styles of today often have dropped the backbeat emphasis and low drones from the sound as most jamming involves other instruments which also strum, therefore, minimizing the banjo player's role to provide a full sound.   A discussion and demo of what 'drive' is was presented with talk of foot tapping with precision and right arm coordination to comparison to driving nails with a 'hammer' on the backbeat.

 Another one part  local tune 'Hawks & Eagles' was presented with mention of a possible
short hike that all could take later to Buffalo Mountain where buzzards soar like 'Hawks and Eagles'.
Tuesday after lunch  time was spent mainly with all  practicing  in remote locations in and around Mac's banjo/furniture shop where Mac gave individual attention to everyone to reinforce the class presentation.  Later Mac took the class on short  hike to the top of 'The Buffalo', a local mountain nearly 4,000 ft  tall where the  breath taking  360 view included the soaring buzzards and distant lightning as the weather quickly deteriorated.

Tuesday supper and fellowship was followed by more playing of the tunes of the day.  Mac played fiddle and Jenny joined in on guitar.  

Wednesday was similar with a morning banjo intensive learning the technical details  of  how to
play the tunes Lost Indian and Merry Mountain Hoedown in A/G  tuning.  Simple foot patting
was encouraged to help keep time and rhythm flowing through the body as one played.
A trip to Floyd for a late lunch and a visit to County Sales for CD's were the highlights of Wednesday
afternoon.  Mac even got a long over due haircut.

Wednesday after one of Jenny's fabulous suppers
everyone headed to the shop for more playing and practicing and another simple one-part dance tune in D from the Blue Ridge called 'Going across the Mountain' (with a Banjo on my Knee) or simply 'Saro'.

Thursday AM all met and we began a review of the tunes and their details.   The session ended just before noon and all gathered for a fabulous brunch before departing for Elk Creek where the
annual fiddler's convention was about to happen on the weekend.   We'll more than likely do it again next year!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rhythm & Repetiore Floyd County style

We held another in our Spring 2013 series of weekend workshops helping others learn to play
 basic fundamental old-time music better as we have come to understand it from our
experience.  Rhythm & Repetoire can mean different things to different people based on
their experience and who has led it at summer week long music camps like Mars Hill.   In our local area a vibrant freestyle flatfoot dancing tradition
has evolved and existed for several generations along with lively dance music played on
banjos, and fiddles primarily.  We have come to realize that old-time music played with a sense
 of rhythm and a strong beat is what gets the most dancers excited when they hear a group or individual play.

A major part of the weekend musical experience that we are offering to participants
the opportunity to be on-stage at the famous Floyd Country Store and actually play their instrument before
 a crowd of enthusiastic flatfoot dancers and listeners.   

Our hope is that participants who choose to play along behind the band on the stage will actually realize the importance of matching up to the  beat that is coming both from the old-time band that Mac leads  as well as that coming from the feet of the best dancers.   A good dancer can easily sense a good beat and deliver it  back for the band to respond to in their steps.  Therefore, it is important for 
 the music played by the band  to have a good pace and a solid rhythm to set up a  steady beat. 

 As a musician its so much fun to play music that just cruises along powered by
 the rhythm of experienced  dancers who can latch on to  this  beat and give it
back to the band in the sound  of their  feet hitting the floor.  We don't take this for granted
as we are so fortunate to have such a venue in our part of the world that promotes 
such a deep rooted American tradition.  Good flat footers develop their skill and steps by 
 being around  lively dance music.

The Friday workshops in our latest weekend  (May 2-5 on Rhythm & Repetorie)  were about getting ready
 to play for dancers at the Floyd Country Store's Friday night Jamboree. More important than 
what tunes to play, instead,  we worked on just how to 'feel'
the beat with a foot pat that hits the floor on the downbeat and remains pressed against the
floor until the back beat or up-beat has passed.  Pressure builds up this way so that the
next downbeat is rushed to and felt with more of an emphatic snap.  Coordinating one's strum
and to this is a secret to success in becoming more mechanical and energized while keeping
time.    Fast  and slow  tunes were discussed, chords shown both on guitar and banjo, and melodies played
that would be part of the program during the 7:30 - 9 PM set.  We next set out for town as the we had the
early set starting at 7:30.  Not much time to warm up the rest of the band. 

The program we presented  included  some young JAM (Junior Appalachian Musician) students in addition to the
R & R students that had come for the weekend.   Luckily, there was an abundance of good dancers  keeping   good time so everyone got a good sense of what fun can be had when everyone, musicians  and dancers  really get on the beat and cruise.   What a party!!  This very  unique band  was creatively coined  Mac & Cheese for one night anyway.   

Back at our class in the cabinet/ banjo shop on Saturday  we worked on some regional
favorites of ours like Old Molly Hare, Carroll County Breakdown,Shoo Fly, Hawks and Eagles and others  stressing
 good timing, danceable pace  and  interesting chord patterns.  Good basic guitar runs
while keeping a strong sense of rhythm was reinforced in tunes like Barlow Knife, Sandy River Belle
and Last Chance.  The alternate G tuning of gDGDE was used for the banjo on those tunes to give a more low
drones in the sound while driving the beat.

We took a break to watch a video of Hick and Sue Edmonds playing fiddle and guitar at their home in Smyth County.  The participants were directed to note Sue's impeccable timing in her guitar strums and minimal but very effective use of runs in the key of G.  Country guitar at its best from a true country musician.

Looking, as well as,  listening
is so important to one's progress in understanding  and appreciating the music of other 
musicians.  Patterning after older sources is a great way to get musical ideas to incorporate
in  one's own playing to sound better overall. 

Thanks for your interest in reading all this. Please this pass  this blog or any of our contact info on to anyone you think might be interested.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Banjo for the Adventurous

Our weekend workshops  venture has been slowly getting off the ground but had a major
lift in our workshop on the weekend of April 18th - 21st.    Entitled 'Banjo for the Adventurous',
we sought to offer a unique experience for intermediate to advanced players that were willing
to take a chance on what we had to offer in the way of claw hammer banjo instruction.  We had
six players (our class size limit) participate for  the weekend  beginning with a jam on Thursday PM following a wonderful pizza and salad supper.  Both pizza and mixed greens/ raw veggies salad were made from scratch by Jenny.

Being a banjo player who also plays OT fiddle,   I  fiddled many tunes familiar to the
participants in the Thursday jam while Jenny played her usual strong back-up guitar.
 It was hard to quit for the evening but we knew we'd better
save our energy for the Friday activities starting with breakfast for those who stayed here on the farm
that night.  One even camped in his old Volvo Station wagon.  Mac's cabinet/banjo shop became the center of musical activity for jams, classes, and private sessions for the weekend.

The first class on that rainy and windy Friday morning began with everyone tuning to double C for a couple of local tunes that could have just as easily been played in double D.  With my personal banjo I prefer to not use a capo and in general prefer short scale banjos that can be easily tuned up to double D even with medium guage strings.  Being that the class was going to get the opportunity to play for the flatfoot dancers by sitting in with Mac's OT group at the Floyd Country Store that evening we concentrated on learning some local favorites.   Old time versions of Tommy Love, Saro, and Sally Ann were presented and sailed through and even remembered after the coffee break.  Banjo student extraordinaire, Skip Slocum, stepped in to lead the class in nailing down the one part tune 'Saro' while Mac unexpectedly had to rescue Jenny who had a flat tire on her way to Floyd for some last minute lunch items.  Thanks Skip !!!  Rain, Rain, and more rain.

Following a gourmet lunch  students were free to relax, practice, go to town or just hang out while Mac
gave a series of individual instruction to each participant.  What better to do on a rainy Friday, huh.
All were encouraged to leave after their session to check out Floyd, shop, hike etc. and meet at the Floyd Country Store at 7:30 PM  for a warm-up with Mac and his group who would be playing for the dancers starting at 9 PM.  Mac's group TBA (Twin Banjo Attack) consisted of Mac- fiddle, Andy Buckman - Banjo, Skip Slocum - Banjo,  Sam Linkous - bass  and George Slusher -  guitar.
So after a warm-up session upstairs we all headed down and ended up on the stage before the crowd
of dancers who happened to be pretty good at throwing some rhythm back at us as we played our local favorites at a pace above 120 BPM.   All the banjo players hung on through the waltzes and country two steps that are good to play for contrast at a real country dance in the Blue Ridge.  The adventure continued when we played a tune called Carroll County Breakdown for a mountain style square dance lead by local caller Shirley Ferris. 10:30 arrived and we weren't asked for an encore which was no
huge surprise as we had earlier filled the place with banjo sounds and the owners Woody and Jackie Crenshaw were ready to clean-up and go home.

Saturday morning class started with a warm-up with the classic one part tune in G  'Groundhog' for the hard core banjo songsters.  The adventure continued into the uncharted territory of alternate G tunings for some beginning with a ballad classic "Willie Moore' tuned in gDGAD  followed by the  common
tune 'Shortning Bread'  in eDGBD after a coffee break and before lunch.  

After a good midday break, we took a walk around to check on Mac's cows and calves,  ate a ramp walked more then returned to Mac's shop.  Those interested  witnessed  a "Banjo Birthing' as Mac finished putting the strings, set the bridge, and played the first tune on his  elaborately decorated 75th banjo.  See photos of this and other banjos made in Mac's shop at   gallery.   Mac lead the afternoon session  playing #75  after showing all how to tune from standard G tuning into
the 'cool' tuning eEABD.  All were shown how to play the Hammons family classic  banjo version of "Sugar Babe'.   Since  we had tuned up our banjos above standard to play 'Sugar Babe' we adjusted more strings and spent the rest of the afternoon session  learning a couple of A Tunes with no capo.  All banjos were able to make  it up to A with the option of going to G first then capoing.  No strings were broken luckily by the truly adventurous.    Tunes  in A
presented were Merry Mountain Hoedown and Sal's Got a Meatskin  aka  Russell Higgin's Sally Ann.

Saturday supper was a treat with great cooking by Jenny again.  As scheduled  after supper we relaxed to  enjoy listening carefully to some samples from a unique banjo music collection CD that Mac presented to everyone  for their listening enjoyment and inspiration.  We  also watched some short video clips of
80+ yr old Rhoda Kemp who is a native  of the region and has a rhythmic and flamboyant claw hammer style.  The adventure continued with a lively jam again in Mac's shop/ classroom until everyone faded out.

Sunday 9:15 AM  class resumed  (with coffee nearby)  knowing that a huge brunch would be ready at noon.  Starting in the now familiar double C tuning , the classic banjo tune Old Jake Gille was presented and was caught  on by all fairly easily.  Lastly, we explored the key of F which can be used for some G tunes  when capoed up two frets.

 Finally,  the adventurous participants all learned the Hobart Smith classic 'Last Chance" and the standard G tune "Sandy River Belle".  Following a fantastic French Toast and real Maple syrup feast with fruit galore for the Brunch,
we adjourned and headed to Floyd for the optional Old-time Jam at the Floyd Country Store.  By 4 PM
the adventure was concluded and those still left were finally ready to get home.  We hope to do this again so please check out for our schedule.   Contact us anytime for more information.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Training 2013

Some of you may been contacted directly by us about our Spring Training  weekend workshops
that we are offering in April, May, and even a mid week one in late June.   If this is your first visit
to this blog then a GREAT BIG HOWDY to you.  Welcome back anyone else.!!

 We hope we'll get some interest after taking out an ad in the OT Herald and spreading the word in other ways.  We don't want to be annoying.  These workshops are intended to help those
who want to play more rhythmically and with more strength.

On a different level Spring Training has begun for our local heritage music program for youth called Floyd JAMS.
In the after school program on Mondays 3-6 PM  I have 7 kids  ages 8-12 in my class; five of which have been in previous banjo classes under me.  The other two are as raw as any beginner can be.

As is to be expected after school  in a class of  youngsters,  When  someone  has little enthusiasm and desire to play but is in a class knowing absolutely nothing, then,  I, as a teacher, have a huge challenge.  Thank goodness I have an able assistant in Terry Cartesen who  is helping me to motivate  the rawest of beginners while I try simultaneously to carry my advanced beginners learn to play carefully and in time.  Teaching  the basic Clawhammer 'lick'  is  truly challenging as the actual technical motion is  based some much on 'Feeling' the beat.  How does one successfully  teach that??   Lots of rhythm exercises
and demos of playing exactly with the beat is  all I can do hoping that they'll just 'catch' on to it. Indeed some have.

After two semesters
of emphasizing rhythm, timing and tuning by ear  I now feel like I can actually make some  progress with most of these kids as I show them a basic version Old Joe Clark.   I actually made a playlist
of 7 different renditions of the tune by individuals, OT bands, and BG bands in my collection so they could hear  some variations on the same tune.  I burned and gave everyone in class a copy for homework.

 I am also trying to get the kids to become collectors
of recordings the  local mountain dance music that I love.   I hope that they will  learn to love it because they are becoming able to understand how to really play it.  With so many distractions in life its a long shot but at least I feel  good about sowing some seeds in that regard.  Its been sort of a 'mission' for me to pass on my love for the 'local' music especially and how to make others feel something with it.
All my banjo kids have my 2005  CD 'I'm Going That Way', as well as  2009 'Turkey in the Mountain'
which features my banjo playing and Shat Garriock's fiddling.  Maybe the music will mean more
to them because it was played by me, the teacher.?  

  I speculate that most people new to listening in general tend to ignore the 'rustic' homemade sounds preferring the smoother 'clean' sounds that society would deem 'best'.  I would hope that those who claim to love any kind of music could define what it is that draws them in and makes it  outstanding .  For me its all about   the feeling of the beat,  precision timing, and  interesting chord choices with counterpoint transition runs  in regards to a ensemble.   A great melody moves me as well  but a great melody  played with subtle rhythm patterns catches my ear every time.

Let us hear from you!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 update

           Since my last post I have entered the cattle business with a barter of a large bookcase system and one mantel piece for 6 cow-calf pairs.  I worked this out with a cattle man from Pulaski County, Alan Graybeal, who was building a house on Claytor Lake and needing my services last summer. It happened that Alan  knows a grazier friend Terry Slusher whose  parents were some of Floyd's original OT musicians.  Terry is well-respected grazier who loves his cattle and doesn't mind the exercise of rotational grazing and saving lots of work by leaving certain field ungrazed  therefore, not needing so much hay to be made and handled.   Terry's brother George is a wonderful back-up guitar player and singer of OT country songs who helps me often at the Floyd Country Store.

        So the 17 acres that was never eaten down this past summer are now about 2/3 gone.
 By using a method called management intensive grazing (MIG) I have been rationing out the unmowed grass using temporary electric fencing minimizing the need for lots of hay.  The place is looking better and will continue to improve in sod and grass quality as I learn more in coming month's.  It doesn't take that much work  really.  10" deep snow recently has made some hay necessary but
I am ready with a few rolls on hand and a good tractor.

In November, we started out first of our  music weekend workshops here at our place near Willis in Floyd County.  Although small it was lots of fun and deemed a success.  Good people and good progress made in their playing.  If interested then  visit   for more info about upcoming weekends  and what we plan to offer.
We basically are trying to promote 'real' mountain' music that we've been fortunate to have learned
by living in an area so rich in the pre-bluegrass music tradition.

Our daughter, Hanna came in for a few days around Christmas.  We did several music things including
playing at the Americana Lunch at the Floyd Country Store and jamming at Wayne Henderson's annual
Christmas party.  We managed to get into Windfall studios again and record another couple of numbers
to be included in an upcoming CD project featuring Hanna's clawhammer banjo playing.  Its so special
to both Jenny and me to have such a talented daughter who loves to play and sing.  We wish she was closer by.  We expect to see her this summer a couple of different times and continue developing our
trio sound.  Check back here as I'll be announcing the release of a collection of our music at some future date.

Cabinet work has dried up for the moment in my shop so that leaves me plenty of time for banjos,
and more.  I have finished up a couple of banjos and have them for sale at
I am currently working on an order for a banjo uke made out of apple-wood.  Its a bit of a challenge
but I am enjoying it and plan to make a couple extra ones to sell.  Do whack a whack a whack a

Enjoy the Winter and let us know you are visiting.