Guest Author - Chris Curtis
We spent the day at the Creekside on Saturday afternoon because the line up was exciting. It didn't hurt that we had front row center seats under the stage awning keeping us out of the hot sun of the day either. Not only did we hear some amazing music, we also got to listen to the perspectives of many performers in the intimate setting of a workshop.
The day kicked off with the ever popular Mando Mania featuring the inimitable Sam Bush, Mike Compton, Danny Roberts, and Joe Craven. Someone asked Sam what was his favorite rhythm to which he quipped, "whenever he was in time." Both Sam and Mike Compton spoke of using the Bill Monroe technique. Mike, however, revealed that due to an accident, he had to search for his sound and his playing style changed all the time over the length of his career. Joe Craven offered his own unique perspective explaining his interest in percussion particularly how the drum translates to the right hand engine room on a stringed instrument; driving it like a drummer. Joe also cited Django Reinhardt and Sam Bush both having been major influences on his playing style. A rather lengthy discussion ensued regarding the use of rattle snake rattlers inside the instruments. Folk lore wisdom says putting it in the body of the instrument makes anything sound better. They all agreed that Bill Monroe had used one.
The next set was vocal workshop featuring Anna Laura Emerson, Mary Lucy, Sharon Wentworth, Carrie Rodriguez, Chip Taylor, Caitlin Cary, and Thad Cockrell. Anna Laura disclosed she'd been singing since she was about 9 or 10 but began singing traditional Cajun 5 years ago because of its emotional folk roots. Mary Lucy explained she'd been "singing her whole life" and only recently had started taking voice lessons. She said she "can tell how well her voice has relaxed". Sharon Wentworth has also been singing her whole life and was only in the 2nd grade the first time she sang in front of an audience. Sharon got over the fear of facing an audience by realizing it "really isn't about you but about the notes and the music." Mary Lucy chimed in saying, "fear can paralyze the vocal cords." Caitlin Cary commented that violin teaches because it is the closest thing to the human voice. Thad Cockrell began singing because of his father being a preacher while Carrie Rodriguez played fiddle without vocals until roughly 5 years ago when Chip Taylor asked her to sing harmony with him. Chip Taylor has had an interesting career as a singer songwriter in the country music genre and is best known for Angel of the Morning and Wild Thing
It is through these kinds of workshops that we have a chance to learn about the music. The performers become more real as they discuss their feelings and thoughts on being a performer and what them music means to them.
For more information on the festival check out the Merlefest website.
For more pictures of Merlefest 2006 - Checkout
Photo's by Big Al by permission
Photos by Chris Curtis
If you want to get a flavor of the festival, you might consider one or more of these recordings.