The International Language Of Music
Great gig this weekend in the N.C mountains. The mandolin player for the “Mac” McLeonard Band had to miss, and I went as a sub. Mac plays both secular and gospel bluegrass, but my favorites with him are always the ones like the this weekend- little country churches with genuine people and great food. This one was way up in the N.C. mountains, near the Tennessee line, and far off the beaten path. I’m not sure I could find it again.
After the service, a family invited us over for lunch. There was fine country BBQ, okre and ‘maters, all sorts of desserts, and some extra good homemade molasses. Their home was two hundred years old, a log cabin with walls made of the widest poplar boards I’d ever seen. The fireplace was hand laid river rock, a craft the Dad specialized in, earning his living with that skill, farming, and molasses making. I’m confident their pace had never been hectic, but the hardwood floors were nonetheless pitted from the steady foot traffic over the years.
After lunch, the father got out an old Gibson open back banjo, and commenced to claw-hammering, then handed to his boy, who proved equally good. I picked up Mac’s Martin, and started to back up the boy on the guitar. The tunes, like “Cluck Old Hen,” were familiar- I’d heard some of ’em from famous performers like Alison Krauss, but the young man rendered them with a different old time lilt that reflected his unique regional influence. We had no trouble playing together. I found it an interesting juxtaposition. Here was a middle aged Doc from Eastern N.C. jamming along with a twelve year old mountain kid. We had never met, yet communicated without difficulty.
Once Alan Munde played a suburban back yard barbecue fund raiser for a medium sized city Philharmonic somewhere in Oklahoma. He ran into a guitar toting Doc from Western N.C and they broke into some tunes. One patron, clearly a well-to-do woman, peered over her little half glasses, and commented that she didn’t see how two gentlemen from opposite ends of the country who had never met each other could play together so well, and with no music at that. Alan only considered it a moment, then drawled, “Well, ma’am, I reckon its just the international language of music,” and resumed picking his banjo.
I reckon Alan is about right. For me and this kid it was just the international language of music. My life was much richer for the music, and I always felt sorry for those folks that don’t speak it.
Shortly, everyone broke out the instruments. The bass player took a smoke break on the porch and my son, who had come over for the day from Asheville, played the bass and sang the tenor. A large time was had by all.
Afterwards, we headed back down the mountain for home, and I made a mental note to look them up again. Every year, we had a local music festival. They’d make a good addition someday. I wasn’t sure how to find them again, but Mac said he played a gig at that church every few years, so I filed them under his contact numbers and kept them in mind. I looked forward to picking with them again.