Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Meeting Summer

Lord but I love summer.

Even with the tender pink sunburn I'm still carrying around, and the fact that I already broke down and turned on my air conditioning, I love it like crazy.

Summer always brings a sensation of opening up, letting go, being a little light and breezy. It's also my favorite time of year because I hate the deep cold and dark days of winter. Summer lightens my introspective side and helps me just drink in the beauty and wonder of everything I'm fortunate to be surrounded by.

I had a childhood full of great summers. They never seemed as short or as cool as they do now. Each day seemed to stretch almost endlessly in front of me. At my disposal were nearly 20 acres of Ohio farm stead, on which stood a brick home built by Quakers in 1825. (Jefferson County, where I spent my first 12 years, was home to one of the North’s first Quaker settlements, as many Quakers, who originally coming from England had planned to settle in the South, headed north because of the practice of slavery.) The home had in one of its cellars a portal to the Underground Railroad. We also had an old barn which was host to old wagon wheels, horse stalls, and other hidden treasures of the property’s past. Next to our property was the Friends’ graveyard in which the home’s builders and original occupants, the Robinsons, were laid to rest. My brothers took over the lower half of the barn and turned it into a practice area for their band, and a garage in which they worked on motorcycles, cars, and early adulthood.

There is almost no way to convey adequately the boundless sense of earth and sky that governed my life as a young girl. What I have finally come to terms with is that it still governs me, and likely always will. I’ve described to people recently that I have what I’d call a sentimental fondness for Cleveland, but I’ll never, ever fit in here. I love the people I work with, the people I used to work with, the civic and public leaders I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, the organizations I’ve served, the friends I’ve made, the precious assets in the Orchestra, the Botanical Garden, the museums, the universities. It is a marvelous, gritty, unrelenting city. But it will never truly be home.

I’m fine with that.

I’m also fine with the fact that underneath my typically well-coiffed, tidy, professional, exurbanite exterior, I will always be a young girl in home-made clothes running barefoot through grass after a zillion lightning bugs or riding my bike down a hill into the field or picking perfect black raspberries that my mother will bake into The Pie from Heaven. I will always prefer sitting on the porch doing little else but enjoying a glass of tea (or, as is the tradition among the women in our family, a glass of ice with a little tea poured over it) and talking with family or friends. The smell of flowers that open in late evening, a scoop of Isaly’s peach ice cream in a sugar cone, the combined sound of frogs and crickets and other night creatures will always edge out the din of air conditioning or the sound of traffic that surrounds us near and far.

I’m glad that in my advanced age I finally came ‘round to bluegrass and old-timey music. It’s a good soundtrack for all the things I love so much about summer, and about being from a different kind of place.

I’m sure I’ve raved on here before about the Lonesome (not Little) River Band. Despite the fact that they can at will sing higher than I do, I love them. Their high energy playing, crystal clear singing, and polished but warm and casual showmanship are a true delight. You'd have to be in a coma not to enjoy these guys. My son and I plopped ourselves right in front of the stage during their IBMA performance last year, and he enjoyed meeting mandolin man Jerry Parker after the set.

One of my favorite LRB summertime songs wasn’t available, so I’ll direct you instead to this ripping version of a very old tune, Raleigh and Spencer. It’s a bit over the top for some who may be used to the sparer mountain version, but it definitely puts the Band’s roaring style front and center. The Band’s founder and banjo player Sammy Shelor is a vision, ok, a VISION onstage (although we enjoyed watching him try out a few Gibson mandos, too). When you click on the link, just take a second to register and go in to hear Raleigh and Spencer and four other full length samples. Y'all enjoy, now.

PS: OOOH, make sure you hit "Pretty Little Girl" which I think is an old fiddle tune. Jawbone, you out there? Probably another of those tunes that has a different name.


At May 31, 2006 9:02 PM, Blogger White Buffalo Woman Goes Singing said...

I too, love music. I too, have known people so poor, the only pot they had to cook in was an opened can. I have been so poor I was unable to make a phone call or visit someone. I play music too.

I too am young (six years old) inside, however, I'm certainly not six on the outside!!! You know about the Quakers, and the things they know will be important for our children's future. Please come visit my blog, for you are the type of person I seek to be near our children in the future.

At May 31, 2006 10:23 PM, Anonymous Old Jaw Bone said...

Yeh, it's a pretty little girl. I'll play you a real nice version on the fiddle some time. " John Brown's Dream" is a four part version that is a VERY common fiddle tune. Frequently played at festivals the world over![at least old time music festivals] It comes from around the round peak region of Virginia/ North Carolina.the very influential Tommy Jarrell of Toast, N.C. [near Mt. Airy] was one to play and sing a great version. I don't think the fiddle tune comes from the old song "John Brown swingin/hangin From a sour apple tree" but maybe some of the words do.There is also another version called "brown's Dream" from tennessee. Similar to the "John brown's dream". I also recall a five part version from Fred Cockerham [who frequently played with Tommy Jarrell] in which He sings "I'm gonna marry, I'm gonna marry, I'm gonna marry a pretty little girl". That's all the words to it! There are other fiddle tunes with the title "pretty little girl" as well.
There are also a tune family of "pretty little widows"
Then there is the common old song "there's more pretty girls than one"! Enjoy!

At May 31, 2006 10:34 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hello, White Buffalo Woman,
Thank you for stopping by and sharing that we stand on some common ground. I grew up near Mount Pleasant OH but sadly I could not get any of the great photos to post this time around. You have a terrific blog and I will visit again.

I knew you'd come to the rescue. There's a nice version of that last one you mention on the old Ricky Skaggs/Tony Rice duets recording (before cancer got Tony's voice). Good to know I'm not crazy; I thought maybe I heard John Brown in this one. The tune takes me back to Harper's Ferry where ol' JB started a mess of trouble. It's a good one and should be on the list!


At June 01, 2006 5:27 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Oh, and I meant to say but I was falling off my stool have asleep, that, for those of you just joining us and maybe not so familiar with the bluegrass "formula," this version of "Pretty Little Girl" is a good example of bluegrass treatment where everybody takes a turn, or as it's known, a "break". Except for the bass player. Poor bass players.


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