I’m sorry to have to put off talking about improvising again, but it can’t be helped. I’m just back from spending a delightful afternoon watching daughter Casey play banjo with the Dixie Bee-Liners. (She was filling in for their regular banjo player, Sam Morrow, who will be back in the saddle again directly.) Casey played with Tone, Taste, and Timing— the Big Three of banjo playing—and did her parents proud. She’s a keeper, fer sure.
The band was holding forth at Brill’s Barber Shop in downtown Winchester, Virginia, (home of Patsy Cline, Lynn Morris, and the Murphy Method). A barber shop may seem like a strange place for a gig, but this particular tonsorial parlor is also a music store where I’ve been teaching banjo for the past 22 years. In addition, it houses a coffeehouse-type listening area in its nether regions, that is to say, below street level. We occasionally host a musical event in the basement of the shop, but have yet to come up with a catchy name for the venue. This is primarily due to the fact that everybody in town knows where Brill’s Barber Shop is, but nobody would know where a place with a funky new name was.
The Dixie Bee-Liners were playing what is informally called a “gas gig.” That is to say, the band had a free day in its touring schedule and was willing to play for whatever the venue could provide. Luckily, we were able to muster a small crowd on a Sunday afternoon, and the band picked up a few bucks, sold some CDs, and made some new fans.
The Bee-Liners are anchored by genial emcee Buddy Woodward on mandolin and the gorgeous voice of Brandi Hart on guitar. A few years ago Buddy was tapped for the role of guitarist George Shuffler in a play about the Stanley Brothers, which toured for several seasons. As it happened, Red and I saw the performance at Wolf Trap, Virginia, and enjoyed it immensely. It was a pleasure to meet Buddy in person.
The rest of the talented Bee-Liners, who hail from Bristol, Virginia, include Jonathan Manness on guitar, Jeremy Darrow on bass, and Rachel Johnson on fiddle. Naturally, I was thrilled to see three women in one band, two of them playing lead instruments. I spent some time musing happily on how mixed-gender bands seem to becoming more popular.
I would write more but half of the band is spending the night at our house, and I think I’ve stayed at the computer just long enough so that I didn’t have to help put clean sheets on any of the beds! And I want to spend a little time visiting with Casey, although she was the one who reminded me it was my night to blog! If the Dixie Bee-Liners make it to your neck of the woods, be sure to go out and see them. Tell them Casey's mom sent you.