Art of Sound Part One
I’ve never been afraid to hop in the car and go to a festival. Someone recommended one called the Art of Sound, so I took a break from doctoring and the novel, and went to check it out.
We got there on a Friday night. It seemed a quiet Southern Town. A silent Confederate solider on the Square stood watch over the local bank. A lady sat under a tent that served as shelter from the drizzle.
“Where are they playing music?” I asked.
“1st National Bank.” She pointed to a light in the window. “Take the back steps.”
When we got to the second floor, we went back in time. A big band was swinging through the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. They rendered expert interpretations of Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington. All of them were decked out in dark suits, except the band leader, a Mr. Frank Love, who wore a white jacket. They had the little band stands like I used to see on the Lawrence Welk Show. Man, this was a class act. My foot was just a tapping. There was ‘Mood Indigo,’ some light rock ‘n roll like ’Locomotion,’ and then they did ‘Ain’t Misbehaving.” I loved the cha-cha version of ‘Love Letters in the Sand.” It was one of Marfar’s favorites when we were courting. A Broadway kinda girl singer belted several strong vocals. Where did this little town find these folks?
I reached over to a table and picked up a schedule. There was something for everyone in this gig. Big band, Cajun, jam bands, old time, plenty of bluegrass. Wow.
After the Orchestra I went back down the stairs, and a fellow stopped me in the lobby.
“Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”
He handed me a phone number. “John said to call if you got here. Mike Marshall is gonna jam at his house tonight.”
I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to play with Marshall. If David Grisman chooses a man to play mandolin along side him in his Quintet, and Chris Thile does duets with you, there can be no doubt about a man’s qualifications. I had heard Marshall play and knew he was great, but I’d never had the opportunity to sit in with him.
When we got there I was greeted by John and a young man named Josh Pinkham. I had seen Josh around at festivals and knew he was a player, but I was unprepared for the level of expertise. He handed me his mandolin, a very nice Red Diamond varnish model. I played a few notes. Sweet. I got out mine. We swapped mandos for a moment and traded licks.
This kid could REALLY play. Thile ain’t got nothing on this boy. Josh might be young, but he is an old soul on the mandolin. After supper, Mike and Josh went through some duet numbers for their show the next day. Effortless work. They communicated with their mandolins, and had to speak but a few words to convey their emotions.
Mike pulled out a mandocello, and we all sat down and jammed in the living room. It was one of those magical opportunities- a chance jam session you don’t wander into every day. When he did ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ on that thing, I thought I’d died and gone to mandolin heaven. I played along, but preferred to listen. Mike Marshall is a mandolin genius. If you get the opportunity to hear him, GO! He is playing the festival today, Saturday, Oct 18th. You can be sure I’m gonna stick around.
After the Marshall session, we went back by the bank and down the street to the Farmer’s Market. The Fire Marshall checked his clicker, and said we were the last ones he could let in.
Inside a band called Acoustic Syndicate was a house a fire. (To the Fire Marshall- not literally) It was rock ‘n roll bluegrass at it’s best. The lead singer Steve McMurray was soaked in sweat and all the kids danced in the aisle. They played two encores.
It was midnight. We found a room, and I tapped into the wireless. I couldn’t sleep and had to report to you. I am going back first thing Saturday morning, and will let you know. But, don’t wait on me. If you live in Western N.C., get in the car and go to Shelby, N.C. I believe I’d go see for myself. This one is extra good.
The schedule for the festival is on the Net at:
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