Author: Campbell, Bruce

Hidden Layers That Shine

There was ancient form of Korean porcelain (I am told) that had a shine, a depth of color unlike any other. Blues weren’t just blue - they were otherworldly blue, deep and rich. The same with the other colors - they seemed more than painted on, they seemed to spring from a depth even deeper than the thickness of the pottery walls of the vessel.

The secret of these ancient pottery artisan was layers upon layers of glaze. BY the time the topmost layer went, it would seem that the first layers of glaze were completely obliterated; hidden from view by the many layers applied above them. Nonetheless, those inner layers contributed to the effect. The combination of the layers - the ones you could see, and ones you could not seem to - produced a depth of color that was dazzling to the eyes.

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Last weekend, I went to a rockabilly show at our local music establishment (Armando’s - a bluegrass friendly venue!), and lo and behold - it was Matt Dudman (of Carolina Special, the Macrae Brothers, etc.) and Jenny Lynn Williams (Rosebud Blue) asJenny Lynn and the Real Gone Daddies! What was the world coming to?

What was happening was, fine musicians were enjoying plying their talents in a musical genre with which they aren’t normally associated. And they did a damn good job. They applied the rockabilly touch to some bluegrass standards to great effect, and trotted out some Rose Maddox Rockabilly stuff too.

Now, we all know of Jenny’s grandfather’s musical history with Rose Maddox, and therein the natural bridge between bluegrass and rockabilly is obvious. Rose made records in both genres, and is the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

So, were Matt and Jenny slumming for a lark, playing rockabilly? Absolutely not! They have had this side act going for a couple of years, according to Matt, and their set list showed careful consideration and affection for the genre - and they were having a lot of fun, to boot! Jenny was at her rockabilly queen best, smiling and winking as she tore through the songs.

So has bluegrass lost a couple of highly respected performers to the bright lights, big skirts and red lipstick of the rockabilly scene? I don’t think so. Matt and Jenny have too much invested over the years in bluegrass. I don’t think they’re done with bluegrass and I know bluegrass isn’t done with them, either.

No, what they were doing is applying some coats of glaze to the pottery of their musical legacy. I doubt playing rockabilly will make their subsequent bluegrass markedly different to their listeners. But playing a variety of musical styles adds depth and color to their overall musical chops. It’s refreshing, and forces your musical “muscles” to react outside the bluegrass idiom.

The result is a more complete musician, and that will benefit both the artist and the audience in the long run. If you get a chance to see Jenny Lynn and the Real Gone Daddies - do it! They’re a lot of fun!

Posted:  2/5/2014

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