Friday, August 10, 2007

Honky-Tonk Heaven

I'm sitting in a concrete-block dorm room at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, WV listening to Tim O'Brien, Mary Flower, Robin Kessinger and Johnny Bellar tear it UP on the porch outside. I must lead some sort of charmed life-- how am I surrounded by such beautiful music all the time?

Three sixths of the Sweetback Sisters have been here in Elkins this whole week working at the Augusta Heritage Center. Jesse's teaching an intermediate/advanced fiddle class (and playing for dances, leading jam sessions, wowing people with his finger-picking guitar); Joe's teaching people bass moves in the morning and then backing everyone else up for the rest of the day; my mom and I are teaching a class in country duet singing, one in honky-tonk singing and then various workshops (including an hour on yodeling Wednesday) in the afternoons. And that's only a tiny fraction of all the things that are going on here this week. Whoo! It's a slice of heaven...

I put together an afternoon honky-tonk open mic for my students on Thursday afternoon, which ended up being the highlight of the whole week for me. I wanted the students to have a chance to sing their hearts out with the support of a kickin' backup band. Jesse and Joebass agreed to be the foundation of that kickin' band (they're such good sports!) and I got our good friend Joe Newberry to sit in on guitar. Then, through some act of fate, I heard this great dobro player sitting on the porch playing tunes. I asked him to come and play a few with us. This great player turned out to be National Dobro Champion Johnny Bellar. Needless to say, he blew us all away. The whole afternoon was a little piece of honky-tonk heaven. Success!


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