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by Frank Shortt
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Whenever musicians get together in the mountains of Virginia, it does not take much coaxing , only a gentle nudge or two, to cause them to share their talents. Ole Raleigh will come out toting his Gibson guitar, as he tunes up you know that his music will have the Carter Family sound.
Here comes Uncle MacArthur carrying his Martin. When in tune, he will come forth with shades of Hank Williams, as well as, a host of gospel learned through the years as he attended church. Charlie shows that the mountains are getting really up to date as he sports his Wayne Henderson. He is accompanied by Matthew on the vintage upright bass, Em strumming her mandolin, and Dave, of course, plays the fiddle. Such sounds you have hardly ever heard when this mountain band assembles! There will be spirituals, sad songs, and medleys written straight from the heart. They will be worth listening to as they play with all their might!
Local flea markets, held on cattle auction day, is the gathering place for many of these bands placed together as they converged on the backwoods vending place. Young and old alike come together once a week to entertain all who care to stop and enjoy the plaintive sounds that even superseded Bluegrass founded by Bill and Charlie Monroe later on. The closest sound that typifies mountain music was produced by Bill and Earl Bolick, the Blue Sky Boys. Their perfect harmonies will haunt the listener for many days as they sing "Down On the Banks of the Ohio", "Oh Katie Dear Go ask Your Mama" or, "The Knoxville Girl"! The local bands at the flea market will not have the expertise of the studio musicians, but they make this up in originality and enthusiasm!
If you happen to be traveling in Southwest Virginia, make arrangements to attend at least a couple of local flea markets, that is, if you enjoy original sounds by local gentry. Just sit and enjoy them for a spell, you might even relax as you listen. The best way to forget the cares of the past is to get caught up in the pure, plaintive sounds of Mountain Music. It won't crack your face to smile just once or twice.
When the last of the flea Marketeers load their remainders in beat-up pickups, or maybe a newer one, then and only then will the musicians begin to break down their equipment. They'll wipe the instruments down thoroughly with dry, soft cloths, placing them carefully away in their cases to await the next go around. As they all head home the tires keep time to the true, haunting, mountain sound.
The last song that Charlie and his family sing is one written by Charlie himself. It is entitled, "Up That Red Dog Road" and tells the story of Charlie's Grandpa who taught him the true meaning of life while leaning back against the wall in the old ladder back chairs so familiar in the Southwest. This is how many mountain music songs are born and will continue as long as the mountains exist.