“Ninety percent of everything sucks.” At least that’s the conclusion that Taylor Grover and I arrived at after several hours of emptying cans on my front porch last summer. Both of us were in pretty good Old-Time bands then, and were secretly admitting that neither one of us really cared for most of the Old-Time music that we heard being performed at that time. A lot of it was (is) just flat bad. However, we loved the other 10 percent so much that it nearly drove us nuts, and would’ve, had we not been nuts already. See? Having both grown up listening almost exclusively to Metal (Taylor) and Punk Rock (Me), it’s a bit mysterious how we both ended up playing Old-Time music anyway. But that afternoon on the porch, it started to make a little more sense. You see, the ten percent of Old-Time music that got us going was of the super intense, high-speed, fiddle driven type. Simple lyrics based on the players’ immediate surroundings or current events, and tangible melodies and chord progressions made this music accessible to the masses whether they were dancing or picking up an instrument. Old-Time and Punk Rock…..the People’s music.
Proving once again that every can of cheap beer consumed in the sun makes you smarter, Taylor and I dug deeper. We shared details of our respective musical journeys backward through time. From 13 year old hard-rocking hooligans, to pushin’-40 Old-Time geeks is a long way; a journey fraught with perilous twists and turns, booby-traps and cliff drops, hair bands and parachute pants. Like old vets with a couple more battles left in us, we regaled the old salad days, bemoaned the present, and wondered about the future. Moving on from Punk and Metal (but never leaving) we cruised through the 70’s via Jimi Hendrix, Zep, Cream, Janis, Ozzy, the Stones. Hurting for gas money, we couldn’t help but pick up the Blues hitch-hiking on the side of the road. None of these 70’s bands would have happened without Muddy & the Wolf, Little Walter and so on. And of course when we stopped to pick up the Blues, Jazz was hiding in the bushes and jumped in too. Cruising along to find Hank Williams and Robert Johnson by way of the Balfa Brothers, the overloaded car broke an axle on an old dirt road, so we all piled out and started walking, only to trip in the dark over some Old-Time musicians asleep in the ditch clutching jugs of moonshine. And here we sit. With a carload of folks like we have, and the instruments and whiskey sitting right here, why go anywhere else? Because the whiskey’s gonna dry up someday, that’s why. And we’re gonna have to keep moving to go get some more, and maybe some breakfast. Who knows who we’ll run into on the way there? Some of them aren’t even born yet! Needless to say, American music will careen down the Franklin Street of time like a runaway garbage can in a Taku wind. Its erratic path will keep us on our toes with anticipation and ears open for the 10 percent of everything that doesn’t suck.
~Sean Tracey is a freelance human on permanent assignment with the Seven Day Recreationalists.