Author: Martin, George

Ruminations about this and that

Tomorrow is the Ides of March, famous as the day Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by Brutus, Cassius and a bunch of others. That was in 44 BCE, which would be about 2057 years ago. The Roman historian Plutarch writes that Caesar had been warned that harm would come to him no later than the Ides. The legend goes that on the way to the Theater of Pompey, where the deed would be done, Caesar passed the seer and joked, “The Ides of March has come,” whereupon the seer replied, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.”

There ought to be a bluegrass song in there somewhere.

We went to the Sonoma County Bluegrass and Folk Festival last weekend. Mark Hogan and Colleen Arroyo and their cohorts in the Sonoma County Folk Society (sorry I don’t know their names) put on another great show.

We got there a little late and only caught the last bit of Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally, but what we heard was tasty indeed. Nice solo singing and harmonies and Jim’s always pleasing guitar playing.

I was wondering if the Central Valley Boys would be wearing their bright red suits or their bright blue suits. Then they came out in ensembles of pale orange! Guitar man Yoseff Tucker joked that every time the band saves up some money to make a recording they blow it on new suits. I guess our ears’ loss is our eyes’ gain. The CVB’s repertoire is a reminder to me of how deep is the reservoir of great, but not overdone, bluegrass classics. The band’s sets are always great examples of this.

Chris Webster and Nina Gerber carried the flag for the folk part of the show. Webster is a fine singer and she played ukulele a bit (even Gerber, known as a guitar goddess, picked up a uke). I’m not that into folk singer/songwriter material but Webster found some nice tunes to do and watching Gerber on guitar is always a pleasure; she flat knows her way around that fretboard. Gerber joked about being the “downer portion of the show” but the crowd responded with enthusiasm and it looked like a bunch of people came specifically to see her and Webster, as a bunch of seats went vacant when they finished.

Somehow I have reached geezerhood without being at all aware of James Reams and the Barnstormers. They feature fiddler Blaine Sprouse, who was a mainstay of the Nashville scene for a long time, and who played with Jimmy Martin, James Monroe, Jim and Jesse and the Osborne Brothers among others. On the country side it’s Sprouse you hear on Alabama’s big hit of 30 or so years ago, “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).”

The Reams band members are all virtuoso pickers and the ensemble sound is great. I had decided to buy a CD from them but I was too late. Reams announced that they had sold everything they had on their current tour already.
Their final tune was Sprouse’s ripping version of “Orange Blossom Special,” which got the crowd on its feet and cheering.

What a treasure is Laurie Lewis. Her current version of The Right Hands is Chad Manning on fiddle, Laurie mostly on guitar, Tom Rozum on mandolin, Patrick Sauber on banjo and a new bassist, Sharon Gilchrist. They did a first-rate show with some nice twin fiddle work, excellent trio singing and a few bass solos to show off new member Gilchrist.

There was a culinary shift at Sebastopol this year. Usually the main food offering outside is barbecue, but this year there was a food operation that featured “farm to table” Sonoma County food. They did have pulled pork sandwiches, presumably from local pigs, but my wife and doctor have been pulling me in a veggie direction lately so I opted for a delicious polenta with sauteed kale on top. If I could cook like that I think I might become a happy, rather than disgruntled (mostly) vegetarian.

Posted:  3/14/2013

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