Tag Archives: Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY

Old-Time Jam + Pete Seeger + Shufflin’ and Jammin’

BanjoViolinOpen Old-Time Jam
First Wednesday of every month,
7 pm – Free

Nightlight
405 1/2 W Rosemary St
Chapel Hill
919-960-6101
http://www.nightlightclub.com

Let’s start with asking an age-old music question. No, not “when will <insert-name-here-of-your-favorite-band-who-broke-up> get back together?”  You were really going to ask the “what exactly is old-time music and why should I listen?” question, right?  In the encyclopedia that is my imagination, old-time music is what folks listened to before there was radio. It was the nightly after-supper, before-bedtime entertainment.  Typically played on stringed instruments, a fiddle and/or a banjo, it’s a folk genre steeped in tradition, to be sure, but whose tradition?  There are too many to count. Regional styles, from Appalachia to Texas, are as varied as the songs and players themselves.  Whatever you do, don’t confuse it with bluegrass. It’s not the same thing AT ALL!

Just ask the banjo. In old-time, the instrument is open-backed. In bluegrass, there’s a resonator on the back.  And let’s get picky. Old-time picking is clawhammer style. Bluegrass is finger-picking in a three-fingered style. Old-time music was going on before bluegrass and is often fiddle dominant. In bluegrass, vocals more often take the lead. And that’s a way over-simplified answer if I ever gave one.

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.  Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Old-Time Jam at Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC.
Photo credit: Emily Hilliard

Emily Hilliard had a fiddle when she came to Chapel Hill from Vermont.  She didn’t have to look much further than her own folklore graduate program at UNC to connect with the cream of the traditional musical crop, Steve Kruger and Joseph Decosimo, two banjo/fiddle players also in search of a venue. Hilliard approached Nightlight to gauge interest in hosting, they said “yes,” and there began the old-time monthly jam.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

I asked Emily to go back to the very first jam back in Feb. 2010 …  what was that night like?  How many people showed up?

“The first jam in 2010 had a great turn-out,” said Emily, “with a fairly diverse crowd, from older musicians to Nightlight regulars who maybe had never really heard or played old-time before. There was also a pretty good range of skill levels–some seasoned musicians who knew a lot of tunes and could keep things going to folks who maybe played guitar or banjo or fiddle, but weren’t as familiar with the old-time canon of tunes to beginners. There were also a significant group of people who just came to listen and drink a beer and socialize, which I was hoping for–at its core, old-time is a social and community-based musical form, and you can participate by playing, dancing, or just being present, enjoying the tunes.”

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam, Nightlight, 2.5.14

“Overall I was excited and encouraged by the response and am glad it’s still happening, particularly in the Triangle, an area that played an important role in the history of American traditional (and independent) music,” she added. “I still maintain many of the musical connections I made there–I always love running into some of the regular jam attendees like Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie, Mike Sollins, etc. at fiddler’s conventions in the summertime.”

Hilliard passed the jam on to Zeke Graves and Steve Kruger when she moved to DC in June of 2011, and Steve then handed down his role to James Finnegan. Zeke and James keep the circle unbroken, even as it keeps changing.

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Old Time Jam @ Nightlight, 2.5.14

Read the rest of my conversation with Emily Hilliard, James Finnegan and Zeke Graves for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY online here.
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Since we’re talking music, it just wouldn’t do to bypass a chance to Pete Seeger.  I’ve ready many columns and tributes over the last couple of days, but none more moving than the one by Arlo Guthrie.   When he was a teenage, Seeger first heard Bascom Lamar Lunsford play banjo at the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival held in 1936 near Asheville, NC.  Lunsford taught him the basics and the rest is folk music history.

 Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.  Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis


Folk music icon Pete Seeger plays the banjo and sings with Arlo Guthrie (back left) at the Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, September 1996.
Credit: Neal Preston/Corbis

Music on ShuffleShufflin’ and jammin’ the old time way:

Polly Put the Kettle On
Cripple CreekWildwood Flower
Sourwood Mountain
Will the Circle be Unbroken

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Gratefully Yours + anticipation + shuffling into 2014

One rainy October afternoon:
ExileMainStFeeling lucky to even be alive, which is another story altogether and for another day. Plugged in to my IPod, “Sweet Virginia” from The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street cycled up.  The opening guitar riffs, soon joined by harmonica, are unmistakable and instantly recognizable and suddenly there I was … back there … the day in Spring ’72  it came out … in Richmond’s  Fan district with friends sitting on their front porch which just happened to face Main Street … speakers balanced precariously in the windows blasting into the city street through a haze of smoke.  And us, balanced just as precariously on porch railings or steps or leaned back on two-chair legs in our Landlubber-with-the-3″-zipper- bellbotttoms.  Oh, we were exiled, alright. I will forever associate that song, that album with that time, that place, and that handful of people.

As I reflected on music shared with me through the years, I spent the next few weeks listening to my collection differently … with the idea that I’d actually stop and make the time to offer thanks for 1) either introducing me to something new – or – 2) encouraging me to go back and listen more carefully to an artist I hadn’t given much time to – or – 3) simply creating a new and indelible memory through the power of music. Much to my surprise, it became an over-arcing and joyful project as I began to write notes of “Thanks Givings” for gifting a particular piece of music, art, book, recipe or favorite restaurant. If part of this reads familiar, you’ve already heard from me … if you haven’t received yours yet, stay tuned, this is a long-range project!

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2014 Hi-Ho’s
All that I got to experience this past year just to make a new column for Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY happen was an extra-large goodie bag overflowing with the stuff that make life shiny and bright – music, art, wine, food, and books.

In all, an embarrassment of riches that included interviews and small intimate concerts with long-time heroes Roger McGuinn, Bill Payne and Chris Hillman. An afternoon hearing Peter Ostroushko and our very own Danny Gotham. Talking Lovesick Blues with Chris Stamey via email. Musical evenings spent with my Cat’s Cradle co-conspirator, Liz Holm, both of us blissfully unaware that we didn’t have that much time left together. Watching Tess Mangum Ocaña rise up and conquer with Sonic Pie Productions. Another honey-we-got-the-band-back-together high school reunion. And, maybe best of all, meeting you all who came up to me at various events and places introducing yourselves (Mike and Ron, you know who you are), then making my day by telling me you came out to this or that because I told you to (Leah, Henry, Carol, Peter, et al).

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Liz
I liked Liz immediately the first time we met, which, of course, was at a Cradle show – Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. I introduced her to drummer Jody Stephens, and we were off and running. We quickly discovered all the things and people we had in common (I grew up in CH and went to CHHS with her sister, music groups & artists we shared a love for, small bars like the OC Social Club and the Dead Mule, etc. the list went on and on.) She was instrumental in my first real “big get” interview with the Zombies, followed by Little Feat.  And she humored me by coming to see groups she at first really had no big interest in hearing just so we could hang out … thanking me afterward for dragging her to Mickey Hart and Trampled by Turtles 🙂 And with colorful scarves and wraps, she always saved us the best seats in the house – stage right 2-3 stools back.

Her love and her pride for her incredibly talented virtuoso concert violinist daughter, Jennifer, was so bright and intense that she was the light in the room when talking about her.  Every show we attended, or every time we were together, we’d sit side by side and she’d update me on her successes, showing me picture after picture on her phone.  It was easy to feel I knew Jennifer already, even though we had never met.  My sadness at her loss was/is acute, made worse by having to miss her beautiful memory day out at the Haw River Ballroom. I miss you everyday, babe!

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Anticipation-junkie that you know that I am means I can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2014. Already penciled in are King Mackerel & the Blues are Running (Feb. 27 & 28/Playmakers Theatre), a South Wing show (Feb./TBA), Crosby, Stills & Nash (Mar. 24/DPAC), and Desert Rose Band (Aug./The ArtsCenter).

A while back as I was walking in my usual hurry-up with an old friend, he (being about 10 steps behind me) whoa’d me down and seriously wounded my strong sense of Southern-inity by saying that I had clearly lost my mosey.  Glory be, he was right. All too aware that life is full of every day gifts that fly right past unopened, my plan for 2014 is to take back my mosey. And, oh yeah, I’m counting on your help with that. For all of you who just saw me through one of the scariest bits of my life, I love and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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ShuffleShufflin’ in to 2014
Home on the River (King Mackerel & the Blues are Running)
Story of Love (Desert Rose Band)
Marrakesh Express (CSN)
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Simon & Garfunkel)
One Short Night (Grace Potter & the Nocturnals)
Everything by Mandolin Orange