Today’s inscrutable title comes from Kasey and Ben Smelser–mostly from Ben but Kasey started it. Well, I actually started it by telling the jammers that there would be no jam next week because I would be in Raleigh at the big bluegrass trade show, the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. And the first words out of Kasey’s mouth were, “They have a lot of Bojangles down there!” And why would Bojangles restaurants be the first thing that popped into her 13-year-old mind? Because they have pictures of Scotty McCreery plastered all over the place. And who is Scotty McCreery? According to Google,
“Scott “Scotty” McCreery is an American country music singer. He won American Idol – season ten on May 25, 2011. He is the first American Idol winner who was born in the 1990s.”
He is also 19 and he is gorgeous–as are most 19-year-old boys.
Anyhow, this launched a conversation about eating fast food, how good it was, and how bad it was for you. Ben’s succinct answer to his daughter’s culinary woes: “Keep eating out of the jar.” I had to ask: “What does that mean?” Ben said it meant you should eat homegrown stuff that had been canned (or “put up”) in Mason jars. He mentioned in particular pickled beets and pickled eggs. At the mention of pickled beets Kasey said, “That makes me wanna hurl.” (Me, too, Kasey!) That pronouncement was followed by a long conversation about how to make pickled eggs.
Ben to Bobby: “Do you make your own brine?”
Bobby: “I make my own brine.” [Tedious discussion about how to make brine.]
Betty: “Do you ever throw in a cinnamon stick?”
Bobby: “Did you ever put in any ramps? That will blow the top off the jar!” [Ramps are something like super-potent garlic, "ramped up" garlic, if you will. No, I've never eaten one, never plan to eat one!]
I, busily copying down this scintillating chit-chat, felt liked a food show had broken out in the middle of my jam session!
Finally I got us back on track. (I should have borrowed some of Charlie Waller’s Country Gentlemen stage patter, used to quiet a noisy crowd: “I hear too much chit-chat out there. You folks cut that chit out!”)
We had an awesomely excellent jam last night with Bobby, Janet, Kenney, Kasey, Ben, Scott, and Betty (our newest picker). These folks have been playing together for almost a year now and their picking is really getting good–and fast. Of course, we always slow down so Betty can play her songs. She vamps through the rest. This is only her third jam and her playing has already greatly improved. She asked the question, “How do you know when it’s time to upgrade your banjo?” (She’s playing on an El Cheapo right now.) My answer: “If you’re asking the question, then it’s time to get a better banjo. Because that means you’re starting to notice the difference.” Ben, ever gracious, offered to lend her Kasey’s old Goodtime banjo for a while.
One of the songs Betty played was Boil Them Cabbage Down which prompted yet another fascinating foray into food facts! (Was everyone hungry last night?) Kasey, full of insatiable curiosity, wanted to know what “boil them cabbage down” meant. Did it mean that you actually boiled cabbages? Ben said he usually fried his cabbage with bacon, but Betty said she boiled hers, usually with potatoes. I added that one of the more interesting questions I’d been asked, at our first beginner banjo camp, had been about the second line of that song, “Bake them hoe cake brown.” One man wanted to know, “What’s a “hoe cake”? And from the way he phrased the question I could tell that he thought I was saying, ” ‘ho cake.” Yikes! I told him that there was nothing disrespectful about the term, that it was an old word for cornbread. Still, I could tell he was uncomfy with it, so I tried to substitute “cornbread” when I sang, but old habits die hard so I almost always sang “hoe cake,” only now my mind was so discombobulated that I could only think of it as ” ‘ho cake.” Sigh…
But last night, Betty said she thought a “hoe cake” was like cornbread batter fried in an iron skillet. I said I’d recently read that it was cornbread cooked on a hoe over an open fire. Kenney said it was cornbread cooked on a hearth and turned over with a hoe. I will leave it to you to see what Google has to say!
Amidst all the food talk, there was actually much music played last night. While we were up in C (for some womyn singing), Kasey sang Wagon Wheel–kicking it off and taking a break! (Don’t worry, Kathy, it’s still your song on Wednesday!) Scott wanted to do Little Maggie and asked if I sang it. Yes, I did, even if G was a bit low. Since Maggie has an “off” chord, F, we went over the chord progression, so Kasey and Ben and Bobby could improvise breaks. I suggested the banjo players use the “Salt Creek” F lick, which worked remarkably well, especially on the fly. I was proud of Kasey and Ben for being able to pull that lick out of their heads and put it in an entirely new song.
Our last two songs were in A. We started off with Salt Creek, which is one of Kasey’s favorite songs. I wanted to do it because Bobby hates it. But he was in a mellow mood last night (!!??) and I couldn’t get much of a rise out of him: “You’re the one that’s gonna have to listen to it!” He did request to kick it off, so he could set the tempo. I said, “Okay, we’ll do it once at sort of a slow speed and then we’ll do it at ‘Kasey’ speed. We used to have ‘Zac’ speed, but now we have ‘Kasey’ speed.” After our slow round, I said to Kasey, “Burn it.” And burn it she did! You would have been proud of her, Zac! (And you might have had to hustle to keep up!) I was playing guitar and was going to let Kasey play the whole thing herself but my Competitive Imp spoke up and said, “Do it! Do it! Do it!” (I must have mistaken Kasey for one of my sisters!) So, I caught Kasey’s eye and said, “I’ve got it” and she passed the break to me. You see, the students are not the only ones whose picking has improved over the last year. They are pushing me, and I gotta stay a step ahead! (I can feel a new lead guitar picking DVD coming on…)
We closed out with Ben’s new song, Dream Of A Miner’s Child. Everyone’s improvised break had timing issues we took a few extra minutes to work on those. In a jam, the “rule” is that the timing of the breaks must fit the timing of the lead singer–that’s what you go by. And in this song, Ben was holding out the ends of the first and third lines for four beats. (Enough time for a guitar G run or a banjo tag lick and pinches.) The pickers were cutting that to two beats. (You had to be there….I wouldn’t understand this either if I were reading it!) Suffice it to say, Ben was singing long, they were playing short. We worked on this with me counting out the time, “One, two, three, four” which was probably totally annoying and unhelpful but I couldn’t think of anything else to do. We’ll keep working on it.
Thus ended the Tuesday night jam. I’ve been writing this blog almost as long as we jammed. But writing about it is like reliving it! As Virginia Woolf said, “Nothing has really happened unless it has been recorded.” So, here’s me, making the jam “really happen.”
Remember: Next week no jams and no blogs. I wish I could say I’ll be blogging from the IBMA World of Bluegrass, but my guess is I won’t be. But if you are going to be there, please stop by my booth and say howdy! Buy a book, buy a t-shirt, buy a DVD!
NOTE: On Friday and Saturday at IBMA, you can come into the Exhibit Hall for FREE! There is NO CHARGE to get in! Stay as long as you like. It’s FREE, FREE, FREE! This is a new policy, and I think it’s a good one. See you there!
Tags: tip-jar jam