Harrietville 2007

Attended the 19th Harrietville Bluegrass and Traditional Country Music Convention.

The U.S.A. performers were:

Dan Paisley and The Southern Grass represented Bluegrass music. Hard hitting, tight, high vocals and a complete command of their instruments. A real professional outfit. I found them rather tiring because of their pace and range, they just left you exhausted.
Two guitars, banjo, double bass,and, mandolin. Apparently they also have a fiddle player but he couldn't make the trip. The standout instrument was the mandolin played by Donny Eldrith Jr. Extremely clean picking and a technique that meant you could hear anything he played on any string. He was roped into running a mandolin workshop that I attended in the hope of learning something about the instrument. He kept appologising because he'd never held a workshop before, but it all went well.

Tim Bing and Jim McCown represented the traditional, old timey music. I really enjoyed their relaxed pace, jokes, reminisences of the past and their mastery over their instruments. They took turns to play fiddle, bano and guitar as well as sing. I particularly enjoyed their sense of rhythm. In everything they played you could always hear/feel that pulse. For me they were the highlight of the festival. They also ran workshops.

There seemed to be a plethora of Australian bands as well, so you were never short of someone performing.

There were Open Mic Concerts held on both the Saturday and the Sunday. I managed to play both days as a solo act. Next year I hope to rope in a few other players to swell the ranks.

I managed to make a few more friends by the most unusual means. One I met on the way to Harrietville. He was operating the "Lolly Pop" sign at roadworks between Bruthen and Ensay. As he stopped me he noticed the guitar on my back and said "I'll bet I know where you're going!" and he did. Another I met in the dining room sitting by himself and we got to talking. We talked for awhile and were discussing the enormous sound generated by the cicada's. He was staying at the caravan park and said the noise there was deafening. I offered him a pair of my ear plugs which he gladly accepted. I saw him the next day and he said he was able to get a good nights sleep. Whenever we met I always seemed to have a glass of Bourbon and Coke in my hand to which he would shake his head.

I didn't attend the Dobro workshop held on he Saturday as I opted for the Mandolin workshop. However, I did attend the Dobro Jam. Things started out a little slow, but soon our ranks swelled to about ten players and a group of listeners. Garry Brown managed to round up ? and Doug from Coolgrass to provide double bass and guitar for the jam.
As it came my turn to pick a tune, the other players became a little nervous as I tend to pick non Bluegrass songs. I picked the 'B' part of Layla, as the whole piece revolves around the key of 'C'.
After the jam, a man who showed up late and playing guitar came up to me and we had a chat about the Layla piece. Seems in past lives he's been a classical piano player and other things, but he knew the part well and congratulated me on picking it, as he said he wouldn't have the nerve to pick it given the rigid style of allowed music.

Managed to get some recognition from Ray Negro who was flat out trying to impress another guitar player. Better then nothing I guess.

Caught up with Lindsay Clapperton where we discussed the weather. Lindsay was of the opinion that the Saturday night rain was going to last until at least Friday. he had Low pressures coming in from every point of the compass to justify his position. Thankfully Monday was clear although quite warm.

Caught up with Laurie Grundy at the Harrietville Hotel Motel on Saturday night. We played a few songs outside under a tree until the rain forced us to seek shelter.

Had a chat with Brian De Gruchy who informed me that Dobro production had virtually ceased as he was making guitars. I was talking with Ray Marshall who was plaing the only Dobro that Brian had brought along with him. Ray said "Look! Look at all of the dust on this guitar." Sure enough every part of the guitar had dust on it. Hasn't Brian heard of guitar cases?

I was talking with Lachlan Davidson of the Davidson Brothers and we got to talking about their new CD and how Rob Ickes was one of the supporting musicians. Lachlan said that they had wanted Jerry Douglas but they couldn't afford his rate. Seems Jerry asked Lachlan "Do you know this guy he keeps hassling me to travel to Australia?" Lachlan replied "Yes." It was me! Sure hope Jerry makes it one day.

Sunday night I managed to get into a jam that had Jim Golding in it and we had a great time. I started off on Mandolin and then got the Dobro out. In a jam you need to be quick enough to pick the next song after the current song has finished our you will be left behind.
One of the guitar players in the jam and I had a chat and he asked me if I came from Castlemaine. When I said I didn't he said there was someone up that way who looked a lot like me. After a lot of talking we finally came to the conclusion that it was me, he had seen me perform at Maldon. I related the story of being 'kicked out' of Maldon and he said, don't worry about it. That seems to happen from time to time at Folk festivals. Still can't shake the feeling that I felt when the festival official 'Busted me' for upsetting the other musicians!
I finally left at 3:30 am.

The ride home was difficult. I really hadn't had enough sleep and it was hot. It's only 350 km, but by the time I arrived home I just climbed into bed to get some sleep. I had stopped at Swifts Creek for an Orange and apple juice (breakfast), and then again at McDonalds for a late lunch.
I spotted the 'Lolly Pop' man occupying the same position he had on Friday, but wasn't able to communicate as he was too busy watching the traffic. I still waved as I went past.

My best Harrietville ever.

P.S. If I had a gripe, it would be about the core group of musicians who get asked to back them. These guys get an awful lot of work, but, they keep other musicians out of 'The Loop'. Looks like I may have to utilise their talents as well.