I’m just back from a big weekend of kicking up my heels at the West Virginia Square Dance Convention in Buckhannon. “And this is relevant to bluegrass how?” you might be asking. Well, since I spent this past year learning to dance the man’s part, not only did I dance some with my friend and student Janet Moore, but when we got back “home” after the dance we entertained our friends by playing music (banjo and guitar) in the lobby of our hotel.
Here are some of the songs we played:
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Lonesome Road Blues
Old Joe Clark
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
I’ll Fly Away
When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder
Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Battle Hymn of the Republic (in C)
In The Pines
Mansion Over the Hilltop
You Are My Sunshine
This Land Is Your Land
Save Me A Square on the Floor (my square dance song)
I Saw The Light
Chinese Breakdown (in C)
Janet and I had rehearsed most of these songs many times, but "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which was a request) we’d only gone over once, just messing around, and "In the Pines" (another request) we’d never played together. And I’m telling you, Janet is so gutsy! When I take one of these requests all she says is, “Where do I put my capo?” Of course, if it’s the Key of C, she might make a small face because she still hates making that F chord, but she goes ahead and does it anyhow. And she has a very good ear for hearing chord changes, so that helps enormously. In fact, that’s what makes it possible for us to try unrehearsed material. Which is part of the fun of playing for me.
New to our “show” this time was Janet’s singing. She sings very well and knows the words to most of the standards. I’d only planned for us to sing in unison but she was singing so strong that on "Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms" I switched to the tenor and we had a real bluegrass duet! That worked so well that I also tried it on "You Are My Sunshine" which sounded so good that Janet’s husband Kenney jumped up and applauded!
Word of our Friday night picking spread through the crowd at the dance and we had folks coming up on Saturday and asking, “Will you be playing tonight?” Which is always flattering. One woman said to me, “My friend told me that you and your daughter were playing banjo and guitar at the hotel.” Oh, my! Did Janet (who is about my age) ever love that!
So many thanks to our square dancing friends for listening, for requesting tunes, and especially to Ron for bringing the Wild Turkey!