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Sunday, September 30, 2012

6:41AM - Generation Connections

Originally posted by koppenhaver at Generation Connections

The turn off Harpers Ferry Road onto Bittersweet Lane is hard to spot at 50 mph.  I make it, but with a perturbed driver sneering in my rearview as I brake hard.  Fifty yards down Bittersweet I spot a warning nailed to a tree which, in essence, tells anyone on this narrow private mountain road to turn around and get the hell out.  But just below that portentous sign is a much smaller one for Fairbuilt Guitars.  Since that’s my destination, I ignore the stern retreat warning and continue on. 

Bittersweet narrows and steepens the further back I go.  My instructions are to follow it to its end and not be intimidated by the road’s poor quality. 

It’s actually quality that has brought me up this mountain road to Fairbuilt Guitars.  By way of two separate referrals, I’ve been told that Marty Fair is the man for me – the expert in repairing old, neglected mandolins.  And that’s exactly what I have with me – a 1918 Gibson Style A mandolin.  It belonged to my grandfather and I’m charged with keeping this tangible bit of ancestral history in the family.  And with giving it the TLC needed after many years of neglect and disregard. 

As I step out of my car, two handsome black retrievers approach.  A few barks at first, then some timid tail wags and a sniff of my crotch.  Marty too welcomes me, but in a succinct way.  He’s a man of few words and fewer smiles.

After leading me upstairs, he scrutinizes the mandolin quite attentively, seeing things I’d have never spotted.  I then authorize all of Marty’s suggestions: re-fretting, new bone nut, a set of strings, and a new case.  I’ve never met the man before today but find him easy to trust.  His deliberate demeanor, cramped but organized shop, and weathered hands all lend credence to his recommendations. 

The repairs should be finished in four weeks, which means another trip down Bittersweet Lane and another crotch sniff.  It’ll give me a chance then to see how my marginally adequate guitar skills transfer to the mandolin.  (I’m not expecting miracles.)  More importantly though, the repairs mean a tangible link to my grandfather will be revived and ready to be passed on to the next generation. 

As I get older, the value of generation connections means more and more to me. Making music with the same mandolin as my grandfather (and assuring that my descendants will as well) is quite a meaningful way to connect our generations, and a charge I’m honored to take on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

4:11PM - Orkney Springs

Just before the end the road, three orange cones divert me toward a mown field serving as the parking lot for the crowd that's come to see Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. It's been more than twenty years since I last saw Ricky, and ever since, I've declared his show in the '80's to be the most entertaining concert I'd ever seen. I should be excited, but my enthusiasm has been quashed. Perhaps the end of a trying work-week has not yet been expunged from my core. It's Friday, and instead of being in tune with an evening of great music, I'm uncomfortable, being too much of a task master, and feeling out of sync with the evening. But time is a great healer. Thirty minutes after parking, I'm sinking into a folding chair with a can of suds in hand and finally starting to become one with the cool atmosphere around me.

Since the early 1800s, people have been coming to Orkney Springs to relax and partake in the town's curative waters. In the 1960's, this remote pastoral setting became the backdrop for the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival which, to this day, continues to bring high quality acts like Ricky Skaggs to its humble and intimate stage. It's a unique venue tucked in a serene mountain valley, and Orkney's healing powers have begun working on me.

Complete contentment is a rare feeling. It seems often to be hovering nearby, yet rarely captured. But I caught it tonight during the second chorus of Cajun Moon. All was right. The music was flawless. The heat of this mid-summer day had abated. The company I was with were all smiling. The mountains surrounding us framed the venue in a beautiful and peaceful way. I could not think of anything else that would have improved the moment. What more completely defines contentment than that?

For the rest of the weekend I kept thinking about that moment. And the night full of great music from such a historic venue in the peaceful and healing Orkney Springs valley.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

3:54PM - Solo Yonder Mountain String Band music

Yonder Mountain String Band recently put up "The Show - Solo Acoustic Recordings" on iTunes. It features solo acoustic versions of the songs the four members wrote for the album. It's a beautiful collection of songs.

Listen to it here!

Also, Check them out on Myspace!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1:25PM - Watermelon Park Festival

A few months ago, when I bought tickets to the Watermelon Park Festival, I had envisioned spending a full day along the banks of the Shenandoah accompanied by a serenade of blue grass music and the entertainment that comes with gathered crowds of happy and inebriated people. But visions have a propensity for being full of too much optimism. The reality was that this fall Saturday at Watermelon Park served only as a preview, whetting my appetite for a return again next year.

Why it was only a preview can be summed up in two words: responsibility & rain. An unanticipated family commitment and a deluge of rain limited my visit to two hours. But thankfully they were a well timed two hours. In that short time we watched the final few competitors in the mandolin picking contest as well as a wave of bands competing for a spot on the main stage in next year’s festival. It was a compelling two hours containing a wide variety of blue grass performances that included a bit of yodeling; lyrics about lost love, whiskey, and Kentucky; and even a rendition of a Bob Dylan classic.

Sitting on my campstool under a huge elm tree a few rows back from the stage, I took note of a particular guy walking through the crowd carrying his guitar case. At this festival, nearly everyone was carrying an instrument, but this guy stood out. He exuded blue grass: the hat, the hairy chin, the denim, the dangling cigarette, the content smile, and even a pair of spurs on his boots. He looked the part - and later played the part - taking the stage just before I had to leave. A member of one of the last and better bands to compete. He’ll be the vision I take away from this brief visit to Watermelon Park.

On the way home, I noticed a hint of campfire smoke had permeated my jeans. How appropriate (and welcomed). It was just another added spice to my whetted appetite for next year’s festival, of which I no doubt will be attending.

Friday, September 25, 2009

5:40PM - Yonder Mountain String Band

Anybody else into the Yonder Mountain String Band?!

I have been obsesssed with them since i saw them opening up on the Dave Matthews Band tour. They're a really good bluegrass-y band. A lot of my friends are into them, I wish I heard of them before now!

Check out this live video of theirs, they're so good live omg.

also check em out on myspace and twitter.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

7:58PM - Newb-grass!

Hey there!

I'm Sammie...from Seattle..but moving to TN in May.
I just wanted to say hey...I don't pick or anything, but I'm trying to learn.
Into Bluegrass in a big way. I'm the newsletter editor and a staff writer for www.worldwidebluegrass.com
It's the #1 Bluegrass internet radio station! Woohoo!

Anyway, just looking for more 'grasser friends.


Current mood: chipper

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Enjoy the beginning of Christmas with Boxcar Willie.


Eh, the album cover is in the zipped file.

1. Jingle Bells
2. White Christmas
3. Timothy The Tow Truck
4. Silver Bells
5. Don’t It Make You Wanna Be A Kid Again
6. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
7. Hee Haw Honey
8. Silent Night
9. Santa Fe Sam And Hobo Bill
10. Blue Christmas

Everyone should get into some good Christmas music by a good ole country hobo.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

9:31AM - Free banjo workshop November 19th

Banjo Q&A With John Boulding

John Boulding of the Yahoo Group The Banjo Workshop and The Shady Grove Band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina will be presenting a Question and Answer Workshop Sunday, November 19th at 3:00p.m. EST. The workshop is geared for intermediate 3-finger players but everyone is welcome. John will handle the discussion and we'll open the mic too.

You won't want to miss this!

Admission is free!

See you there.


Friday, November 3, 2006


Hey all - Yea bluegrass community, how sweet!
Have a question and would love some advice - am starting to play banjo in a rock/old country/bluegrass/folk/etc band. other instruments so far = drum kit and acoustic guitar through an amp.
Any tips for amplifying banjo?? So far have seen just a mike on the banjo, which I don't think would work so well with a kit in the background, and an elaborate modification of a guitar pickup. My banjo is pretty low end and I wouldn't care too much about any slight messing up a pickup might cause.

Would love your help! Thanks so much!

X-posted to alt country.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

11:12PM - New Banjo Shopping

My wife and I just went to "The Guitar Center" today to just look around and kill some time. This place specializes in electric guitars, but they also have a fine line of accustic guitars, along with some dobro's and three banjos. I played the Deering Sierra..
Of course I fell in love with it. It has a nice crisp sound to it and it's really heavy!! I currently own a Epiphone Mastertone. I think it was made in the early 90's but I'm not sure. I haven't got a clue what I could sell it for. If anyone has any suggestions please feel free to let me know. I will be saving my pennies and hopefully getting this Deering in a few weeks!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I just recently saw Earl Scruggs in concert for free. And it was the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. Mr. S is totally a living Ledgend and will be a ledgend still when he dies. I didn't think that I would ever see him before he died, but luckily, I was proved wrong. If you ever have the slightest chance to see Earl in concert take it. He is the master. He may be 82 but that doesn't mean he is any less of a musician.

Current mood: drained

Saturday, July 15, 2006


hi, i am thinking about buying my boyfriend a banjo for his birthday and i had some questions about it. and i figured this might be an appropriate place to ask. if not, let me know and i'll delete this entry.

anyways. a friend of mine suggested the rogue b-30 banjo because of it's quality for the cost. anyways. so i read in all the reviews (from all banjos, not just this one) that you should definitely get new strings. well i'm not sure what guage strings to get? so any insight on that would be appreciated. andddddd should i get him a banjo tuner? or will a guitar tuner work? i realize that setting up & playing & learning how to play a banjo is completely different from guitar so i'm okay with buying a book to help. any suggestions? ummm thanks alot everyone. :)

Sunday, April 2, 2006

6:21PM - Iconage!

I made icons! :D These are for all you Mountain Heart fans out there. I made an icon of each member of the band. I hope you like them!

Rules for taking any:
- Comment
- Credit
- No Hotlinking

Flipped a quarter in the air, heads or tails, I don't careCollapse )

Current mood: creative

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

1:31PM - I don't care what momma don't allow, I'm gonna pick my gee-tar any old how....

Sooooo......I'm new here!

I'm actually new to playing the guitar (2 years in, I call it new) and the friend that got me into it also got me into bluegrass and folk music, as well. My favorite 'night out' activity is finding picking parties; you know the kind: everyone brings whatever they play (banjo, mandolin, guitar, harmonica, spoons, washboards, whatever) and gathers to jam and sing, no matter what skill level they're at.

It was how I rung in my 25th birthday this year (last Friday).

So, hi and I'm glad to be here. :)

Current mood: happy

Monday, March 13, 2006


I'm tired of hearing a certain family member say, "You all think bluegrass is a vacation. I grew up 'there' Can I tell you one more time, no one actually likes it."

Anyone else get bluegrass 'discrimination'?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

6:02PM - KT Tunstall

Hey, guys,

Whattay'all think of KT Tunstall?

videolink (live on Later):

Not sure how to categorize her, but she's pretty bluesy-folksy-rocky-grassy, don't you think?

Monday, January 30, 2006


iSOUND.COM is looking for some local bands for our featured daily download (bluegrass, country, folk or related). If you are in a band and want to submit a song to the daily download just email labels@isound.com

Saturday, December 3, 2005

1:35PM - Benefit concert...

Okay so last night, me and my sister and my mom went to our Bluegrass communities once monthy concert at a uniterian church to see a group of kids...they were pretty good I have to say. THey needed so vocal help, and the bass was a half a step ahead. Musician wise, though, they were incredible. The kid playing the mandolin was 16, bass 13, fiddle 13. I can't say that they were bad, but they could have been better. I live in Utah and we have multipul concerts like this. Some are open mic, and others are planned events all by volenteers and all the money is donated to those places that need it. Do your bluegrass communities in your city or state do this?? Just wondering...


Current mood: curious

12:42PM - The High Hearts

apologies for cross posting

These guys are my friends and they are incredible. They do some Gillian Welch covers. If you live near Lambertville, NJ, check out them live. If not, just listen to their recordings. Their cover of Gillian Welch's Dream a Highway (obviously my favorite song in the world) is truly beautiful. A bit shorter than gillian's, and the guys opened the windows on a rainy day when they recorded it, the rain in the background adds something. The guys have nothing to sell so this isn't anything but sharing this truly wonderful music. I do believe this guitar/mando duet will go far, so check out now while they are fresh.

http://www.myspace.com/thehighhearts and http://www.lambertvillepeace.org/high_hearts/

I recommend listening to Crickets (an original) and Dream a Highway. ANd hopefully soon, they'll record another original called "Dance with me", that one is the most likely to climb the charts.

I'm Heather and this is my first post here. Let me know if you like these guys or just friend 'em on myspace, they could use the encouragement.

Current mood: amused

Monday, November 14, 2005


It's kinda late to be asking this but did anyone go to the Bluegrass Fan Fest in Nashville, TN?

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