July 16, 2024


Life is art

Music of Our Mountains: Floyd Country Store launches digital music project | Z-no-digital

Hunter Holmes sat on the stage of the Floyd Region Retailer, guitar in hand, and sang a sad old music that sounded like it was ripped from today’s headlines.

I try to remember when dry products were low-cost as dust,

We could choose two bits and purchase a dandy shirt.

Now we shell out three bucks or a lot more,

Perhaps get a shirt that one more gentleman wore.

Even even though the lyrics could have been about the quest for thrift-retailer deals in these inflationary instances, they were actually penned almost a century back by Alfred Reed, a blind fiddle participant from Floyd County who summed up the doing the job-class existential dilemma in his tune, “How Can a Inadequate Man Stand Such Instances and Dwell?”

That a Depression-era track — Reed recorded the variety for the Victor label in New York in December, 1929, just two months just after the stock sector crash that precipitated fiscal damage for much of America — seems so appropriate right now is one of the factors why Holmes sang it at the Floyd Region Retail outlet all through an April 23 functionality. New music from Southwest Virginia delivers an everlasting soundtrack with a taproot that stretches throughout a long time, oceans and continents and nevertheless sprouts new branches in the 21st century.

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The story of the songs, the persons and the region make up an bold undertaking centered on the Floyd Region Retail outlet and headed by shop homeowners Dylan Locke and Heather Krantz, along with the help of other folks. The retail store, long an epicenter of bluegrass and previous-time mountain audio performances, alongside with its in-house Handmade Songs School, obtained a Virginia Humanities grant to start an on the web project referred to as Music of Our Mountains, a world-wide-web-based source that will doc the legacy of Southwest Virginia new music predominantly from five counties: Floyd, Franklin, Grayson, Patrick and Carroll.

The web site, officially unveiled all through the state store’s evening of tunes and tales executed by an array of musicians, is however a get the job done in development and aims to be “a dwelling document,” Locke stated, that will consistently be up to date to go over musicians from generations ago up to up to date artists.

The internet site (which can be observed at musicofourmountains.com) will include things like stories, profiles, maps and tracks from the area, with Floyd at the heart. At some point, video clips and documentaries created by Beehive Productions in upstate New York will be extra.

“It’s like Wikipedia for old-time new music,” Locke said.

Eventually, the internet site will be residence to a “record club,” as Locke explained it, exactly where fans can purchase new music, together with new vinyl documents of aged recordings put together with updated versions by modern day performers. People will also be invited to submit stories or other tips to the undertaking.

Mac Traynham, a Floyd County musician whose movies for the region store’s web site (floydcountrystore.com) served as a precursor to the on the net challenge, mentioned that the goal of discovering the legacy of Southwest Virginia songs is “to resolve some of the mysteries and uncover other ones.”

Other electronic archives by now doc considerably of Southwest Virginia’s musical heritage. Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute, Berea (Kentucky) College, the University of Virginia, the Birthplace of State Music and other institutions hold troves of tunes, interviews and other recordings. Locke reported that New music of Our Mountains can attract on those people methods and make them obtainable to a typical viewers that may not know that significantly about mountain audio.

“Our intention is to chronicle and exchange the musical and cultural thoughts throughout Appalachia,” Locke claimed. “Why do people play a tune a certain way? What were being their influences? What ended up the geographic things that created all that transpire right here on the Blue Ridge plateau?”

Historian and musician Kinney Rorrer phone calls Southwest Virginia “the fertile crescent” of outdated-time songs, a audio ideal explained as audio centered on fiddle, banjo, guitar and other acoustic devices that ended up generally uncovered by people today who lived in the mountains much more than a century ago.

These sounds are genuinely an aural stew that combined European, African and native-born influences into a definitely American tunes.

The site aims to doc persons whose tales are properly recognized amongst standard new music aficionados — the lives and recordings of performers these types of as Ernest Stoneman from Carroll County and Charlie Poole from North Carolina are nicely-documented by tunes historians — with frequent people who played music but by no means were being as nicely-recognised.

Folks such as Preston Youthful, a singer from Franklin County whose recording of “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” in 1931 with fiddler Posey Rorrer (who was Kinney’s kin) impressed many protect versions from the likes of bluegrass legends Flatt and Scruggs to Jerry Garcia, is an illustration of someone who manufactured influential tunes but is minimal-remembered nowadays.

“These are musicians who have been disregarded,” Rorrer stated, noting that Appalachian tunes historical past can be summed up by invoking the oft-quoted phrase about African-American history — “Lost, stolen or strayed.”

In fact, mountain tunes could not exist without having the influence of Black performers. The banjo, a centerpiece of mountain and bluegrass appears, traces its roots to West Africa. Blues tunes offered a template for innumerable bluegrass and place hoedown tunes. Presently, the Songs of Our Mountains site is crammed mostly of stories of white performers from the early times of recording, largely in the 1920s and ‘30s. But Locke mentioned the web-site will grow with stories of Black, women of all ages and other neglected performers.

The April 23 launch party for the undertaking drew about 100 songs-lovers to the Floyd Nation store, the place they heard two hours of tracks and stories. Rorrer, who was the lengthy-time voice of “Back to the Blue Ridge” on public radio station WVTF-FM (89.1) and who hosted The County Profits Radio Hour podcast (sponsored by the history keep that Locke and Krantz also very own), picked banjo and informed humorous tales of rambling Charlie Poole and other performers who designed records in the early days of state audio.

Holmes, a South Carolina musician, executed with Corbin Hayslett, a musician and the manager of the County Product sales document retailer, and talked about Reed, the fiddler from Indian Valley in Floyd County who recorded underneath the name Blind Alfred Reed.

The showcase demonstrated the ties that even now bind the musical earlier with the existing. Martha Spencer, a Grayson County musician who grew up singing and dancing in her family’s Whitetop Mountain Band, sang previous music with Jackson Cunningham and Trevor McKenzie and talked about her family’s connection to the new music.

Her uncle, the great fiddler and instrument-maker Albert Hash, after performed songs with Henry Whitter, a cotton-mill employee from the small town of Fries who designed some of the 1st information to be considered nation new music.

“I see almost everything as a residing point,” Spencer mentioned about mountain tunes. She stated that executing allows preserve the memory of her late father Thornton Spencer, a properly-recognized fiddler, alive.

“When I engage in songs, I feel of my dad and a very little piece of him lives on,” she stated. “I feel of how a little piece of Albert lived on in him, and how a minimal piece of Henry Whitter lived on in Albert, and how a little piece of [fiddler] G.B. Grayson lived on in Henry. Simply because of that, they all are living on eternally.”

As the night wrapped up, with Traynham and musician Andy Buckman taking part in a number of old dance quantities, 12-calendar year-outdated Margo MacSweeney from Floyd got up to dance the flat-foot model that has been the calling card of the Floyd Nation Store’s Friday Night Jamboree for just about 4 a long time. Before long, Margo was joined by her mother, Robyn Reitz, then a pair extra dancers and then a handful of more until eventually a dozen people clogged to display-closing fiddle number, “Ragtime Annie.”

For a moment, it all came jointly, the old and the new. A minor woman danced to an historic fiddle tune even though silhouetted by the glow of a significant-definition tv that showed the New music of Our Mountains world-wide-web task on the display. The past and the potential coupled like dancers.