I write to you tonight from beautiful Abingdon, VA, where I am staying with Buddy Woodward and Brandi Hart in preparation for leaving in the morning to do a four-gig stint with their band the Dixie Bee-Liners. Buddy, as it happens, is a wonderful cook, in addition to being a great musician, and he fixed his famous coffee-smoked chicken, grilled corn on the cob, grilled onions, and iced tea, which we enjoyed in their convivial back yard before gathering around the fire pit to watch the sun set.
My real subject for today is the group of women I've been jamming with for the last couple of months. A bunch of friends of mine, who are all married to professional musicians, are in various stages of learning to play their instruments. Earlier this year we all walked in a half marathon together, and we wanted to find a way to keep getting together after our marathon was accomplished. I don't know who it was who suggested that we get together to play music, but they nominated me to be their leader. I agreed on the condition that I could play the fiddle.
We assembled for the first time on a Sunday afternoon and had such a good time we decided to continue to meet every week. Musically, to the outsider at least, what we play wouldn't sound like much. Accordingly I decided to call our little group "At Least We're Hot," as in, we pretty much suck, but at least we're hot.
The women of At Least We're Hot, and some friends. I'm in the purple dress in the middle. Photo by Ned Luberecki.
But each week we've gotten better and better, and our repertoire continues to expand. It is such a refreshing thing to be able to play music purely for fun, and have some good bonding time with my friends. Since the men who they are married to are all stellar musicians, these women's musicianship gets stifled--unintentionally, but stiffled nonetheless. I don't have that particular problem, but for me it is good fiddle practice, and it is great to see them blossom and improve by playing once a week.
My point in telling you this is that before we started getting together, I basically didn't have anybody to pick with. Sure there are parties where people play music all the time around Nashville, but a lot of the time the music being played is not of a kind that I really enjoy. The number one complaint (excuse?) I hear from my students is that they don't have anyone to play with. (Actually I think that's number two. Number one is they don't have enough time to practice...and that they play better at home...) I didn't have anyone to play with either, until I made it happen. If you don't have a local jam session, host one at your house! You only need two, maybe three, people to pick, so make a committment to do whatever it takes to pick at least once a week. We say over and over that playing with other people is the best way to learn, and that is absolutely true! If you really want to learn to play your instrument, make the time to play with others. Make the time to practice! You'll still probably play better at home, but the more you play outside of your house (or with others inside your house) the better you'll get at that, too. At Least We're Hot gets better and better every week through the simple act of getting together to play. If it works for us, it will work for you, too.
Steve (in Japan)
Okay, the fiddle is and now one of your main instruments, right? And too, you’re determined to fiddle like you play the banjo, right?
Your message above is, “There are no excuses.” Did I get that right?
Yeah, not so much. We picked regularly for a while, and then semi-regularly for a while, but life got busy, and I got a job with a band, and we haven’t picked in ages. Therefore, I haven’t played my fiddle in ages!