Picnic Hill Jams –Not for the Faint of Heart!

[Thanks again to Kathy for blogging about our Sunday jam!]

Neither snow, nor ice, nor lack of heat can keep us from our appointed jams!  Okay, so I took some liberties with the U.S Postal service credo, but it certainly is apropos for our most recent Picnic Hill Jam this past Sunday. Despite the arctic temperatures, icy driveway, and sketchy heat situation in our home due to a broken furnace, we had a great turnout once again.

Even though this jam is hosted in Maryland, Virginia was well-represented. In fact, Kristina and I (Kathy) were the only two people from Maryland in the group, and that is only because we live here!  Maybe we need to move. After a lengthy Earl discussion about why he wore his banjo strap over only one shoulder (it was all about being able to put his strap on and off over his hat easily), we got around to some music.  

This weekend we were pleased as punch to have Janet and Kenny bringing bass and rhythm guitar to the jam, as well as Janet’s excellent vocals. Janet recently had minor surgery on both her hands, and whatever she got done, I want!  Her breaks to Lonesome Road Blues and John Hardy were especially sweet because they seemed to have a uniqueness to them that I will call the “Janet stamp.” I love to hear a song being played that identifies the musician just by the distinct stylings. In Murphy’s case, I can always recognize it is her playing when I hear particular songs on Bluegrass Junction (Sirius/XM satellite radio station) before I ever hear or see the artist credits. That is because not only does she put her own twist on songs with regard to note selection, and licks, but she also has her own banjo sound, strong and sure!

But back to the jam….

Gen brought out her “big girl guitar,” which is a full-size model that allows us to hear her better. I am still amazed that she can hang in there with us for hours, because I know that wound guitar strings are harder on a person’s fingertips than banjo strings, for the most part.

It was so nice to see Barbara back at the jam, and she surprised me with her grit – she managed to bring her van further up the icy driveway that other people who tried it without all-wheel drive.  I won’t mention any names of those who didn’t make it (but her initials are M.H.). Barbara played guitar, and sang lead on the old favorite, Glendale Train.

This week we had a couple of surprises in the jam and not all were pleasant---like when   I suddenly regressed a couple of months on Lonesome Road Blues, right in front of everyone!  But I blame that on Pam and Kristina, because I was sitting between them and they each played amazing breaks on that song, and there was just no way I could look good after following Pam, and being followed by Kristina. In fact, I got scolded by Murphy for praising Pam’s break when I should have been paying attention to my own! You have to be a little selfish when it comes to bluegrass – every time I get caught up admiring someone else’s playing it bites me in the butt because I am not focused on what I am supposed to be doing.

A great big thank you to Kenny, for providing “cheats” to us on John Hardy. By walking back down to G out of those never-ending D chords Kenny enabled Julie, Kristina and me to finally know exactly when to come in and out of our breaks!  And it should be noted that Tim has picked up one of the key techniques that it seems all bluegrass players master eventually. He was able to steal a lick that he heard being played, and actually incorporate it into his own break by the time it got back around to him. I think he was showing off for his own private fan club – his lovely wife Erica was in the audience – well, she was the audience!

We are jammin’ this Sunday afternoon, February 2nd, from 3:00 – 5:00. Super Bowl, Schmuper Bowl.  Seriously, we adjusted it so folks would have ample time to get back home in time to watch.  Hope to see you Sunday!  Email Kathy for directions or information at: KathyHans@aol.com