Breaking Up Winter

Cedars of Lebanon

How beautiful is the Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Tennessee!  Especially in the endless snowfall of a weekend when the park’s soundtrack is supplied by dozens of old-time musicians from all over the country.

Breaking Up Winter is an annual event sponsored by the Nashville Old Time String Band Association.   After years of fending off escalating appeals to join the fun, I finally gave in and got there this year.  And I’m oh so glad I did.

Aside from the non-stop jamming supplied at any gathering of traditional musicians, NOTSBA brings in artists for workshops, concerts, lectures and a dance.  Amoung others, Kerry Blech was there to share his wealth of fiddle tunes and context, George Gibson blew us away with his northeastern Kentucky banjo style and very different take on the usual banjo history, and Tom Sauber & Tom Carter from the Fuzzy Mountain String Band passed on the traditions they learned from the Collins family.  John Hatton brought all the riches of Cleff’d Ear Productions and Martin Fisher shared the wonders of real live wax cylinder recordings.

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Much as I appreciated the learning and listening opportunities, for me, as always, the draw for these festivals is tunes and visiting with my music friends.  I got to share bunches of tunes and inspiration –and even a few dances — with two of my favourite old-time friends, John Harrod and Tona Barkley.  John’s got an exciting new project out on CD:  a recording of Kentucky fiddler extraordinaire, Carlton RawlingsChris Wig was there to illuminate with fiddle and wit.  Gene Bowlen took time away from his studio to banjo away and take me out for a very special lunch in the dining hall.  I had a few quick visits with Christie Burns on her side of the world, for a change.  No matter how many tunes and how much visiting time I get with the exceptional group from Ohio — Andrea, Lucy, Barb, Mark & Stephen — I never get enough of the musicianship and camaraderie.  Where else can I solve all the world’s problems with Lucy or share ballet to banjo stories (really!!) with Stephen?

All that music magic in the extended winter wonderland . . . . hard to beat for a last gasp of winter festival!

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