Getting Out and Getting Down!

October 4, 2009 at 7:30 pm (By Amba)

We were invited to an outdoor bluegrass concert on a school playground this beautiful afternoon.  The musicians were the Stillhouse Bottom Band.  (A statistical analysis was once done of this kind of old music, the fiddler said, and they found that the largest number of songs were not about love, loss, or heartbreak.  They were about chickens.)  I could not sit or stand still while listening to them, and understood the stories of people being driven to dance to exhaustion by a fiddling Devil.  This is wild music, that made me feel planted in the soil of North Carolina in a new way.  You can hear its Scotch-Irish roots; I thought of it as “Celtic Klezmer.”  J called it “rockin’ mountain music.”  It’s the kind of music that, when people had nothing else for entertainment, was enough.

I missed the person I would have wanted to tell “Celtic Klezmer” to.  Laurence Halsey Reeve.  He and his girlfriend Bonnie used to go to bluegrass festivals and clog dancing.  Maybe the last time I saw him, over a cat — he was, besides our longtime friend, our vet — I joked with him about it being “WASP Soul.”  He loved that.  I discovered I’m still very angry at him.  Angry for the casual machismo of not fastening his seatbelt that icy New Year’s Eve eve in the early ’90s when he went out to run an errand and ended up killing himself instead of a deer.



  1. Icepick said,

    I prefer to think of bluegrass music as accoustical thrash metal.

    About chickens.

  2. amba12 said,

    That’s even better!!

  3. realpc said,

    I just had a horrible time with my last post, which I had joyfully posted the other day, never expecting it all to turn horrific. Anyway, I had not noticed this one about bluegrass. I was jamming at the bluegrass club yesterday, which I do once a month. I am so much in love with bluegrass music and so glad I get a chance to actually play it. I think it’s more fun than just listening. It’s really nerve-racking sometimes because you have to play without necessarily even knowing the song. But the more I play at these jam sessions, the more of the songs I know.

    I didn’t notice a lot of songs about chickens (the only one I know is Cluck Old Hen), but I have noticed an awful lot of them are about death. My favorite ones are anyway. Either it’s about a guy murdering his true love, or about waiting hopefully to die and go to heaven (I’ll Fly Away, for example).

    It doesn’t seem to me that people write a lot of songs on those subjects anymore. It was a different world.

  4. Icepick said,

    Wow, I didn’t realize you were a musician. That gets you a lot of cool points, Real! Having the guts to jam when you don’t know all the music gets you even more.

  5. realpc said,

    “Having the guts to jam when you don’t know all the music gets you even more.”

    It’s very common in bluegrass. Most of the songs follow certain patterns so after you know some of them you sort of know them all. I guess it would be the same with blues or jazz — you get to know certain patterns. For a long time I was usually lost, but after two and a half years I am sometimes not lost. I still get a panic attack sometimes though. Yesterday a guy said “they won’t shoot you if you make a mistake, you know.” I guess he noticed I get nervous.

    I don’t know if I have guts, or just a passionate desire to jam. It’s worth getting past the fear if you really want to do something. On the occasions when I actually do something right, I feel ecstatic.

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