Author: Ramos, Jean

My Bluegrass Cup Runneth Over

Last night I had to take an emery board to my callused finger tips; a sure sign that my new year has started out great. While most people get callused hands from hard work, I get calluses from hard play, but either way, there are wonderful rewards.

Of course we began the year with the Great 48 Hour Jam in Bakersfield; a perfect cure for the post holiday doldrums. I like the word “doldrums” but I thought if I’m going to use it, I better Google it to see if I’m using it correctly. Much to my surprise, it’s a maritime term having to do with a low pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. Calm is good but not if you are in a sailing vessel and want to get somewhere. The doldrums could trap a sail-powered boat for days or weeks. Days or weeks without jamming with friends would definitely be the doldrums! The word is derived from the archaic “dold” (meaning stupid) plus “rums.” Yo Ho Ho! Aren’t words fun?
The Great 48 has become very popular and increases in attendance each year. There were some of my friends who attended that I actually didn’t see or get to jam with. Though I missed connecting with them, it afforded me the opportunity to make some new acquaintances and jam with people I met in years past. One of those people is my friend, Tom Lister, a bass player from Covina. I met him several years ago at the Lakeshore Bluegrass Festival at Havasu Landing when I got my first exposure to Bluegrass. It has been a few years since we’ve jammed together, so it was a special treat to renew our friendship. I remember how patient and indulgent he and another friend, Will LePage, were toward me when I was a “newbie” who didn’t know a thing about bluegrass jamming. I was made to feel welcome which made my initial foray into this world a pleasant experience; one I wanted to continue to enjoy. Tom invited me to join the Southwest Bluegrass Association, which I did without hesitation. I try to remember that experience so that I can do the same with other “newbies.” I’m convinced that personal encounters such as this are key to increasing our membership. May I suggest a “newcomers” jam at CBA events?

A few days after returning from Bakersfield and the Great 48, we loaded the old Bigfoot camper and headed to another jam in Santa Rosa. I love “house jams.” They are more relaxed and give us an opportunity to get acquainted with people on a more personal level. I jammed with our host, Jesse House and Ernie Hunt, Bob Mann, Frank Brewer and one of my favorite bass players, Lou McClenahan. This jam was heavy on the “old country” side, which suits me fine, I don’t care what Blake Shelton says. I now have a new list of songs to learn in time for the Spring Camp-Out in Turlock, April 15-21.

My husband likes it when I set up a “date night.” It works better if I say, “How about a date?” than to say, “Can we go to see Audie Blaylock and Redline at the Firehouse in Pleasanton?” Any way you look at it, we both had a great time last Friday night. I was proud to watch Snap and the Knock on Wood Players open the show for Audie and the boys. I think it’s great that Snap never fails to thank the CBA for supporting them these past few years. I remember when Chef Mike “showcased” these guys at his camp in Turlock a few years ago. I knew right then, there was something special about them, and they have since made a wise choice by adding Eric to the group. His vocals and guitar picking have further enhanced their music. Little Milo was there with his mama sporting a little snap brim cap like his daddy’s.

Audie and Redline put on a phenomenal show. I’m sure it’s the same show they’ve been doing all over Northern California that many of my friends have been remarking about. It’s obvious that really love what they do in order to make it seem fresh and exciting and fun night after night with many miles in between venues. Jesse Brock (IBMA Mandolin Player of the year) left us with mouths agape, Patrick McAvinue blew us away with his fiddling! All I can say is that it’s a good thing they held this show in a place called the Firehouse because this band was SMOKING! Thanks to Maria Nadauld for bringing this group out here to spread a little joy to our world and thanks to my handsome date for taking me to see this show!

While at the Firehouse, I ran into a few people I knew. Pat Rumiano was there with her friend Norma. I had the pleasure of teaching “Feast Here Tonight” to Norma’s two little girls in preparation for Open Mike Night at Smiley Camp (Rumiano’s Jam). These girls had very little experience in singing and performing. Their mom, Norma was excited to tell me that she has signed them up for music lessons at Sid Lewis’ Music Center in the Chico area. I think we have some future bluegrassers in the making!

On Wednesday night, I had the privilege and pleasure of picking for and singing with a very special group of people. My sweet friend Loretta who is terminally ill asked for our Weekly Bible Study Group to come to her home to visit, share some scriptures and do some singing. Earlier in the day I had gone through some old songbooks and hymnals to select some songs that I thought would bring her joy and peace. When one is told they have two months to live and one of those months has quickly gone by, the things that are truly important become very apparent. Suddenly, the things we normally talk about seem very insignificant. The big sale at Coldwater Creek is nothing, the Forty-Niners going to the Super Bowl is no big deal, the state of the economy is foolishness; that brings us down to celebrating the things we hold dear; faith, family, and friendships. On occasions like these, words cannot adequately express our thoughts and feelings; that is when we use music to minister. It’s a time when we must set ego aside and allow ourselves to be used as a conduit of grace. As the notes of the guitar and the song from our lips go through the ears of the listener, it is God who touches the heart and soul and brings peace. May the riches of faith, family and friendships be yours in 2013.

Posted:  1/27/2013

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