Friday, September 9, 2011

I Never Claimed to be the Smartest Man


So, me and the gang was driving from Roanoke to Blacksburg early on Saturday morning.  We had not had any caffeine, and not really much sleep either. Rolling out of the western end of the Roanoke Valley, Fort Lewis Mountain hung over us to the north, with Poor Mountain laying to our south.

I-81 is strung through that end of the valley, eventually forced upslope past the headwaters of Knob Creek.  At least I think it's Knob Creek.  Where the hell is my Excedrin, anyway?

So as the truck gears down to chug up Poor Mountain into Montgomery County, we see the rear end of this atrocious blue bus ahead of us, going slower than time:


We immediately start cracking jokes, like, "Oh snap, Tammy Wynette is headed to College GameDay!" (okay, that would actually be awesome).  Followed by 4,000 unfortunate jokes about Joe Diffie, Garth Brooks, and Billy Ray Cyrus.

As we keep rolling up on the Turquoise Bus of Doom, we see a giant "R.S." painted quite cheesily on the back of the bus.  OH, NOW IT'S ON.  Because technically the Roanoke Valley is just an extension of the Shenandoah Valley, and e'rybody knows that the Statler Brothers are from the Shenandoah Valley (right? Y'all knew that, right?), we got super fired up and started yelling, "HEY! Is there a Statler brother in there? Which one? I didn't think y'all had a RONNIE Statler! C'mon now!"   I mean honestly, is it that difficult to believe that a lone Statler brother might own a blue custom tour bus? I mean, three of them wear turquoise and/or bright blue in real life:  Exhibit A:
Any of y'all named Ronnie Statler? Rob? Rahim Statler? Reed? Richard? Rudy?

So let me back up for just one second.  My friends and I would like to see Nashville burn down to tar stubble are not the biggest Nashville Pop Country fans.  But we all do love bluegrass, blues, western music, and rockabilly. Roots music.   Like Tim Eriksen's I Wish My Baby Was Born . And Scott Miller's The Rain.  And Cephas & Wiggins' Richmond Blues.  And of course, sad, young Justin Townes Earles' Harlem River Blues.  Poor boy.   So if you like roots music, who do you always end up seeing at roots music festivals?


Bowzer from Sha Na Na     Dr. Ralph Stanley. Freakin R. S. We are such idiots!  Naturally, our attitudes changed on a dime, and the truck was filled with statements like, "Hey, is Bristol Rhythm & Roots this weekend?" and "Naw, he's headed down to that Apple Festival thing in Johnson City Tennessee."  And of course, "MAN. Ralph Stanley. Still gettin' it."

Go get 'em, ol' boy! Long Live the turquoise rambler!

4 comments:

Map Monkey said...

Thanks, Swampy, for posting those evocative songs. Just truly beautiful. It’s amazing how in the “old days” people wrote songs with real meaning. If you like this stuff, you would really love visiting one of the original homes of this music – the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Now, I know that bluegrass and American folk music are a distinctly American amalgam of influences (and even more so for the blues and rockabilly), and they have additional roots other than Celtic folk music, but so much of Irish music is exactly like “The Rain,” that it is clear in the listening from where the music is derived. Both styles of music can have poignant lyrics about history gone wrong (which it usually did for the Irish, who were on the losing side of many skirmishes and injustices with the English), and “I wish my Baby was Born” has the morbid quality of MANY Irish ballads that celebrate love, loss, and the realities of mortality. But also, and most importantly, the similarities with the music itself, in terms of rhythms, meter, instrumentation, etc.
Anyway, the great thing about the Dingle Peninsula (and many other places in Ireland and Scotland) is that you can just go into any little one-horse town, and there’ll be a pub there (or four or five!) and there’s almost always live music at night. Sometimes it’s an official band of sorts, but often it is just random fellows and gals from the town, of all ages, gathered companionably together there, just jamming for their own enjoyment. And if you think you will get away with just sitting there and listening (especially in the very smallest places) you are mistaken! If you are there, you are a participant. And if you don’t play, well, then, you must sing, and if you don’t sing, well then surely you can recite your favorite poem. And if you don’t have a poem readily to hand, you can tell a joke or a spooky story. Now, THAT’S entertainment! And of course it all stems from an oral tradition of people who are incredibly good with the spoken word, but have deep respect for their non-literate cultural roots.
PS: Cold Mountain was one of my favorite books of all time (The movie was – meh – but the BOOK! THAT was something!)

biobabbler said...

If I figured out we were driving behind THAT R.S. I think I would have swooned and crashed the car.

WOW! Legennnnnnnnd. =) Nice.

River Mud said...

Thanks bio:) Yeah, we felt pretty dumb. Pretentious yuppies for sure.

Jules - yeah, I would definitely find that interesting. If you watch any other of the Tim Eriksen stuff on youtube, you can see that a lot of it is very strongly drawn from weird Irish keys (and in fact, the Irish love him).

I'm actually working on a series of posts over the next few months where I interview actual known roots musicians about the importance of evoking place in music. Well down the rabbit hole of geography geek-dom. I think you'll be proud!

Map Monkey said...

Excellent! Can't wait to read them! Geo-Ethno-Musicology! YAY!