A Chance To Listen

Red HenryHere in northern Virginia (northern with a small "n", not Northern-- none of Virginia is Northern), the Bluemont Concert Series presents a variety of excellent entertainment at outdoor shows each summer. In Winchester, the concerts are presented on the steps of the old Frederick County Courthouse, which was built long ago and has a nice green lawn in front where the audience can set up with their folding chairs or just blankets on the ground. A few days ago, the Friday-night performers were Robin & Linda Williams and Their Fine Group.

Robin (on guitar) and Linda (on banjo) are quite well-known nationally, and they had their more-or-less steady "Fine Group" together for this show, namely long-time, high-grade bluegrass performer Jimmy Gaudreau on mandolin, and fine musician and showman from way back Jim Watson, on bass. (Remember the Red Clay Ramblers?, yup, that Jim Watson.) Our old friend Gamble Rogers introduced us to Robin and Linda long ago, and we feel honored to know them.

I wasn't playing music that evening, so I decided to go down and see Robin and Linda. (Murphy needed to travel to Georgia that weekend to look after her folks, so much to her regret, she couldn't attend.) I planned to get to the show early, but between one thing and another---the "other" being that parking was hard to find in the middle of Winchester, because several hundred people had come downtown for the concert---I only got to the courthouse about eight minutes before the music was supposed to start. The band was on stage at the top of the courthouse steps, getting ready to play. But I wanted to say hello to them. I thought it would have been impolite not to.

The band was on the stage. What to do? That depends on how shy you are. So, not feeling especially shy at that moment, I just walked up one end of  the big courthouse steps, trying not to be more conspicuous than necessary (being 6'4" with red hair doesn't help me be inconspicuous) to shake and howdy with everybody. Robin and Linda were feeling good and in fine form, as always. Then as I said hello to Jimmy, his mandolin caught my eye. He said he'd only had it for a few days---it was a Kentucky mandolin with a bright blue sunburst finish! He said it had been completely reworked inside and out, regraduated, new bracing installed, and refinished. The only thing still "stock" on it was the peghead overlay. He called it his Blue Kentucky Girl---pretty appropriate, I think.

So I went back down the steps and got out of the way, and they kicked off the show. Naturally, the music was great. The sound system was barely adequate, not projecting well to the back of the crowd, but the 'mix' was good and the sound of the band was fine.

As they played the first set, I wanted to request what I call the "Tractor Song", which Robin and Linda wrote after what they call their "Farm-Implement Anniversary", but they played it without being asked. Thanks! Then they continued to shine with "Down the Old Plank Road" and other favorite numbers. It was just a great show, by some of the top performers in the country.

So I got back to the house with a bit more inspiration. There ARE people who can play and sing like that. They're good people, too.

Keep picking.

Posted in By Red, shows and tagged , , on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.