Devoted mandolin fans and pickers (such as myself) were treated to a rare spectacle last Saturday night at the Garret Park Town Hall in Maryland, where superlative picker-and-showman Frank Wakefield presented an outstanding show along with the Patuxent Partners. Chris and I drove over for the concert. Neither of us had seen Frank since he'd come by the house back when Casey was 9 and Chris was 6, so we had a good time talking, reminiscing, and picking with Frank before the show.
Now, you need to understand about Frank. He doesn't always talk straight. He "talks backwards." This means that he'll call himself "him" and he'll call people names he makes up (he called Casey "Liza," and Chris was "Leroy."). He'll say "That's BAD!" when he means, "That's GOOD!" -- and vice-versa. So you need to stay on your toes when talking (or listening) to him.
When it was time for his set, Frank sprang into action with the fiery chestnut 'Bluegrass Breakdown' and went on for an hour without a pause, incessantly picking amazingly, talking backwards, balking tackwards, and tacking balkwards for the entire evening in his inimitable style. There is no one who plays mandolin quite like Frank, and his originality and brilliance shone at every opportunity. Notable contributions came from his cast of extremely capable sideman, including Monroe-veteran Tom Ewing's vocals on "When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall" and Jack Leiderman's high-speed fiddle break on 'Rawhide', which was note for note straight off Bill Monroe's classic 1951 recording, as far as my ears could hear.
The climax of the evening came as Frankfield hosted and bravely participated in, a five-piece mandolin ensemble. We played (all at the same time) Frank's well-known mandolin original 'New Camptown Races'. Mandopickers Frank, Tom, Todd, "Leroy," and "White" all acquitted themselves well, and a good time was had by all.
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Other news: Our bass-playing friend Marshall Wilburn spent this last week helping Frank record a new CD. Look for it on the Patuxent label. It's gonna be BAD!