Like many of you, I listen to a lot of bluegrass music. I listen to it live whenever I can because that’s how it should be enjoyed for its full effect. But I also listen to a wealth of recorded music by great musicians I may never get the opportunity to listen to live or who may have even passed away.
Like many of you also, I like to get together with my good friends and play bluegrass music with them. Often while driving to the next jam I put my music player on shuffle and listen to the greats playing some of the thousands of tunes I have on recording.
It’s so tempting, when you hear a special number come up say “Oh, we should do THAT one tonight!” Then another great tune comes up on the shuffle and you either forget about calling the last one or you wish you’d had a completely different set list from what you thought you were going to play.
Off the cuff calls from a listening on the way to a jam rarely work out anywhere near as well as you thought they would on your way there. Trust me. You might be able to play and sing the song pretty well like you did in the the car driving up but your backup musicians in real life are only average humans like you. On the other hand hearing a great tune done well and trying to reproduce it on your own as you wood shop for the next jam is always a good idea.
Hopefully you choose that eventual call appropriately, taking into consideration the abilities and preferences of your fellow jammers in mind. Sometimes you may want to challenge them a bit with something that makes them stretch. If you choose wisely you may find that some of your friends handle the challenge better than you did and that makes it even more fun.
I know I will never play Grey Eagle on mandolin anything like Herschel Sizemore does on his album which is pictured above. Sizemore passed away in September of this year and he is one of my personal favorite musicians. I have his instructional CD for mandolin and when one of my fiddle playing friends wanted me to teach her a tune I chose Herschel’s interpretation of Cotton Eyed Joe. It was an instant hit.
Neither of us will play Grey Eagle like Herschel though. Either on mandolin or fiddle. And my jam mates certainly won’t play up to the standard of Herschel’s backup band either. But at our next jam maybe we can do the first cut on the recording, Your Love is Like a Flower, and get some of the flavor.
Covid has put a serious damp on our ability to get together and play music together. Just this past week I had to cancel a get together because somebody got sick. We’ll get together in a couple of more weeks hopefully and maybe I’ll be able to spring some Herschel Sizemore on them.