Three fiddlers, a pennywhistler, and a guitarist jammed through Swedish, Scottish, Irish, and American tunes all day yesterday.
Our fiddler friend Marcy and Her husband Gavin invited Robin and me over to a jam at their house. They have been hosting musicians John and sofie for a week or so. John is a guitarist from Scotland, and Sofie a fiddler from Sweden. They are visiting America for some five or six weeks to pick up American old-time and blugrass styles. They’ll leave Marcy’s soon to head south through Virginia, then North Carolina, and then over to Tennessee. Marcy also invited Liz, an excellent and enthusiastic Irish pennywhistle player to join in the jam.
Sofie and John are top-notch musicians. Sofie plays Swedish, Scottish, and Irish styles with grace and rich tone, but she also plays American old-time sweetly. She played the American hornpipe “Rights Of Man” cranked up as a reel–the most driving and dirty-sounding version I’ve ever heard. John is simply the best rhythm guitarist I’ve ever played with. He just jams and jams every chordal and rhythmic variation you could imagine, and the whole room is lifted and driven by his guitar.
So the fiddles and whistle cranked out “Duck River,” “Temperance Reel,” and the like. Someone mentioned “Soldier’s Joy,” which every tradition has. I played my very simple version on a couple of the turns, with a single shuffle wah chucka wah chucka. I also played my fancier and notier versions on other turns, but Sofie made me play the simple version again for her just to hear that Appalachian backbeat from the shuffle. Funny, that’s happened before–the simplest version is the favorite one just because it has danceable drive.
Marcy also encouraged everyone to take turns singing or playing stuff from their performance stock. This helped us all get to know each other better. Robin pitched in with a folk song from her Canadian youth. Liz taught us “Fred Flynn.” And the beer and wine kept coming, and pretty soon a bluegrass version of Brian May’s “Fat Bottom Girls” started up with my worst double-stop imitation of Richard Greene on all the breaks John kept throwing my way.
Hats off to all these musicians for the best of times. Simplest joys are the most memorable. Man, if more people in this world would play some music together like this for a day, we’d have all the problems of the worlds solved without even trying. I can’t wait to get another chance to play with all of these sweet folks again.