Jam session

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

From time to time, people show up my house for a jam session.

Watch on Vimeo

My cousin Tony Bonta, a member of the up-and-coming Bald Mountain Band, and his fellow Baltimore-area musician Terry McBride stopped by Tyrone to pick up my brother Steve on their way to a Hillbilly Gypsies concert in northern Pennsylvania. They had just enough time for a quick jam session in Plummer’s Hollow.

This is a true jam in the sense that we hadn’t practiced anything together, and a couple of us were less than expert. Terry (who also plays a very credible banjo) is still learning the fiddle, and said he felt somewhat abashed about playing it in front of others but forces himself to anyway. Steve is an great frailer but hadn’t played some of these tunes in that style before, so was picking it up on the fly. I wasn’t going to join in on the harmonica but couldn’t help myself. (Note that I wasn’t intentionally hiding from the camera; there just wasn’t any way to fit us all into the frame without being a camera nazi and ordering everyone about.)

Regular readers will remember a podcast feature I did about these same three guys and their thoughts on banjo playing the last time they stopped by.

Because of my slow internet speed, it’s excruciating to try and upload too large a file, so I was very selective here — perhaps too selective. I wish now I’d included more of the two-banjo conversation between Tony and Steve. Because three-finger style players and frailers are in two separate, usually warring moieties (bluegrass vs. old-time), and because most bands only have one banjo player, one doesn’t hear this combination nearly often enough. I could’ve listened to it all afternoon.

Becoming Appalachian

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

first published (in slightly edited form and without illustrations)
Appalachian Journal Vol. 38: 2-3 (Winter/Spring 2011)

© by Chris Bolgiano

The Fall, 2010 issue of Appalachian Journal, which focused on regional identity, hit me where it hurts: in my self-proclaimed, hardly-won, and wholly un-censused identity as Appalachian. Because nowhere in seventy pages of scholarly surveys, speculations, and definitions could I find myself.

Chris Bolgiano's view from the deck
Looking at Little North Mountain from the author’s deck in autumn.

Researchers reach out to fourth generation descendants born in industrial cities far from the mountains and deem them Appalachian, and I totally get that. I’ve come to understand, and not just from Loyal Jones, that you can get an Appalachian into Heaven but she’ll still insist on going home to the mountains every other weekend.

I understand, because even though I wasn’t born here, I couldn’t live anywhere else but here on Cross Mountain, with Little North Mountain in front of me. And the trailer court down the road. Continue reading “Becoming Appalachian”