“Everytime I stop drinking, can’t stop
Thinking ‘bout what I took for granted
And I thought I’d never lose
So I put down the booze and I pick up the blues”
(Steep Canyon Rangers – “Pick Up The Blues”)
“ When you let the instruments tell the story you would otherwise tell with your words, and it all makes sense, that’s when you know you have good music and a good band” – my dad’s words.
With that prerogative in mind, I very much felt like I was listening to a great band, tonight, at the Steep Canyon Rangers gig at the Church of the Covenant.
As luck would have it, the number one vocalist of the band, Woody, “had the laryngitis” – which reminded me of June Carter in Walk the Line:” Bieell, I can’t sang tonight! I got the laryngitis”. Poor thing. Can you imagine being robbed of your instrument and being pushed on the stage in front of the crowd: PERFORM!!! ?!
Of course, we missed his voice, but he and every single member of this band is such a virtuoso of their instrument that … well, they let the other instruments (voice missing at most times) play and boy did they come through!
You needed the sound of a trickling stream in the mountains? A swishing wind in the trees? A crying baby, or a mother in pain?! Even a speeding car on the race car track?! You got it! The fiddle, and banjo, and mandolin, and bass and guitar were there to give them to you and deliver the story…
I was amazed at how well they all conversed with each other. Dad and I used to listen to rock’n’roll bands, like Cream, and Gary Moore’s, and he always made me close my eyes and listen to the “dialogue” the instruments carry on. And “if you feel like the instruments carry on a successful dialogue, with no additional questions, unanswered, at the end, you’ve got great music”…
There is so much to great music: great playing is half of it, and then there is the dialogue with each other, but also the unique sound, that no other bluegrass band will come with, and also showing your roots, the forefathers of what you create today! We all have genes, and so does the music. Also, to me great art is when you make it look like pleasure, and not pain!
And I can tell you, The Rangers have all that, and then some, down pat! They play their instruments mistake-lessly, and they let them "talk" to each other like people who have been married for 50+ years. They don’t miss each other’s beat! And also, what’s my favorite: you can trace them WAY back through the Deep South, all the way back to Irish music. The sound is clear as a crystal bell, and the stories, like all the good bluegrass stories, are every day and common, and special to every mortal soul because of that!
And they all make it look sooo…easy! You know what you look like and sound like and act like when you talk with your best pal?! Well, that’s what they look like and sound like when they play their music! So relaxed, and matter-of-fact! You feel like what they have through their blood veins is bluegrass and that's what their eyes are spitting out too...
Another line from dad’s arsenal of music education came to mind also: “how can 5 people make SO MUCH NOISE???” – that was, he said, his first reaction to hearing The Beatles (well … 4 people there…). It’s amazing what kind of emotional, artistic, and spiritual “damage” 5 people can make, when they know their stuff… They can make a statement and leave you quiet and in awe. You're in a "presence" and you're not sure how to qualify it, but you know it's not commonplace.
It was the perfect way to end a quiet, unwinding, very colorful, and mostly sick weekend!
Very enlightening, and of course, it’s always a blessing to add another page to my musical memory album!
I’ll be shopping for Rangers music now. Started tonight…
And in moments like these, of great musical pleasure, when I always thank him for opening up my musical pores, I wish dad were close, to share them with me!
Love you, dad! Always, and more each day!!