One of the absolute best things about blues folk is that they are generous and will go out of
This is a group that has a special place in my heart and that I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to do too much for, and it was my pleasure to volunteer to help out with the show. By “helping out,” I mean showing up, talking a little bit, and listening to three great bands, making friends in a beautiful town in the western part of the commonwealth, and scarfing down some very good barbecue.
It’s a rough life, I know, but somebody has to be willing…
|Andre The Giant left this here one day...|
First, a little bit about Staunton, Virginia. It’s the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, the former president of the United States, and Country Music legends The Statler Brothers. It welcomes you with a giant watering can. It’s a lovely town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and inhabited by some wonderful people with sweet old houses, lots of locally run shops and restaurants, and a deep appreciation for the arts. A world-class Shakespearian theatre gives you the opportunity to experience productions the way theatre was performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime.
For live performance aficionados, the American Shakespeare Center is a must see venue, and the city is rightfully proud of the work the group has done in their Blackfriar’s Theatre.
The drive from Richmond to Staunton is dotted with beautiful foliage and you start seeing beautiful mountains when you are about halfway to your destination. My lineage is mostly mountain people, and visiting the western part of Virginia always seems like coming home for me. As novelist Lee Smith describes in her book Fair And Tender Ladies, “Every once in a while, I need a mountain to rest my eyes on.”
It’s fair to say we were taken by the journey AND the destination.
Second, a little bit about CASA. The name stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and they work with children who need help navigating the tricky waters of the court system. The children are often neglected or abused and have been removed from their homes for their protection. It’s a troubling and confusing time for all concerned, and CASA is there as guardians for our most vulnerable and valuable resource, our children.
There are CASA Organizations in every state throughout the United States. There are organizations in all of the major cities staffed by specially trained volunteers performing a number of duties protecting children who need help and may not know how to find it.
The Blue Ridge CASA serves Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro, Lexington, Buena Vista, Rockbridge, Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Covington and Alleghany. If you’re not familiar with Virginia geography, that’s a lot of ground to cover.
Third, the Central Virginia Blues Society, arranged for three bands who volunteered their time to perform for the fundraiser, and the community stepped forward to offer raffle prizes and silent auction items, as well as several local businesses stepping forward to sponsor the event so that every penny raised would go to CASA.
It’s humbling to be a part of all of that and I encourage every blues society to reach out and find ways like this to connect with their community. Everybody wins in this situation as you expose great music to a group that might not realize they are blues fans waiting to happen, and your people are exposed to groups that do good work taking care of people or animals.
Okay, enough sermonizing, let’s get to the music, shall we?
First up was a band that not only was new to me, but also to just about everyone else as they had only been working together for a short time. The Low B Blues Band is a good, solid group that played a number of covers well. I heard some Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed but couldn’t take too many notes as I was busy gathering information for the next break.
The Low B’s are Dave Brown, Kimball Swanson, John Bittner, and Matt Humphrey. I’m interested to see how they progress and look forward to crossing paths with them somewhere down the road.
The next band was Ken Farmer and the Authenticators. Having worked in the Public Broadcasting sector for the last 25 years, I knew the name Ken Farmer from Antiques Roadshow and wondered if he was related. Turned out it was actually the man himself. Farmer is a damn good guitarist and singer and his band, which consists of Rob Martin, Frank Cain, Dave Connolly, and Preston Wallach backed him up well. I loved the fact that they mixed in some Johnny Cash to show that the blues and country are so close musically and the audience reacted enthusiastically.
Along the way, they also played songs like Crosscut Saw, Walkin’ The Dog, T-Bone Shuffle, and Shake Your Money Maker.
While talking with Farmer afterwards, I mentioned several clubs in the Richmond area that I thought they could play. I can’t wait to see them do a full 90-minute show sometime. And when these guys record, I’m waiting to grab the first album off the assembly line.
The headlining band was Charlottesville blues stalwarts, The Jon Spear Band. Regular readers of this blog already know that I’m a Jon Spear fan, and once again they showed why I’m not alone in that assessment. The band is comprised of Jon Spear, Dara James, John Stubblefield, and Andy Burdetsky. Burdetsky, aside from his bass playing duties was one of the people responsible for putting on this very cool shindig, and I for one, hope it becomes an annual event. If so, sign me up – and if I don’t emcee, then sell me a ticket, because I’m coming back!
It was a great time for one and all at Staunton’s Frontier Culture Museum. I only got a little chance to see a few things, but it’s worth the trip to see the rest. I would like to thank them, Burdetsky, for having me, and my new friends CJ, Amanda, and the legendary Juan Pablo (“Call me JP”) Berrizbeitia, for all of their kindness and extremely challenging work.
Bless you for reading this far. Be sure to check out CASA at their website. While you’re at it, be sure to check out the Central Virginia Blues Society and The Frontier Culture Museum to see what activities they offer.
These are the kinds of shows that remind us to open u our ears for the music and our hearts and wallets for the mission.