I've been traveling for work and was able to stop by my old stomping grounds of southwest VA on the way back to America's high five. Lots of banjo to be had in these parts - I thought I'd use this week's post to give a bit of a blow-by-blow:
Thursday night I arrived in town just in time to play a duo gig with the fiddler from my old band in Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center. The (quite fancy!) event was a reception for an exhibition focusing on local woodworkers called "From these woods." (info here). If you click the link you'll be hit with some eye-candy at the top of the page in the form of a GORGEOUS Buckeye banjo (www.buckeyebanjos.com), which was featured at the show! I, of course, got to play most of the tunes on my Buckeye (here), though I kept El Hefe (here) handy and tuned to Old G as well since shifting down to that tuning does take a bit of "settling in" time for any banjo. Greg wasn't the only banjo maker on exhibition: Mac Traynham actually had a banjo there too (mactraynham.com)! The gig went great...even though I always get just a bit nervous about playing through a PA : )
Friday was the first night of the Henry Reed Memorial Fiddlers convention (more info on that here) and I spent some time down there last night at a really great jam session! Amazingly, it can sometimes be hard to find musicians to play with at these things (...I never feel like one of the cool kids...) but yesterday I just decided to force myself to be sociable and I'm glad I did! I started by finding a guitar buddy: I sat down at his campsite and we started playing some tunes. As people walked by I just flagged them down and asked if they played anything. Eventually we expanded to 3 fiddles, 2 banjos, a guitar, and a guy who traded off between mandolin and banjo-uke. Really fun group! The best tunes of the night were definitely "Sandy Boys" and "Benton's Dream"...the latter of which the group definitely took to some interesting territory : )
Today (Saturday) I'm going back to the Henry Reed festival to compete in Banjo (and maybe Banjo-Fiddle duet..super cool that they even have this category!). I'm planning on trying out my "Yew Piney Mountain" for the banjo competition (here). Then, a trio version of the Happy Hollow Stringband (me on banjo + fiddle & guitar) are going to play a local fish fry, and we'll go back to Henry Reed afterwards to compete in the band competition. We're planning on picking a couple of tunes for the contest based on how they went at the fish fry. I've never done the band competition at Henry Reed but I've gotten 3rd and 5th in banjo in past years - I'm always surprised at how nervous I get up there! (I actually kind of train-wrecked at the end of "Newcastle" last year due to jitters). Just something about playing into a microphone I guess...hopefully I can give myself a powerful pep-talk this year!
In other news, the banjo that starred in last week's post (here) has shown up back in MI and my buddy says its pretty cool - can't wait to try it out! Next week, I plan on getting back to recording - until then!