We’re driving back from Alabama, and stopped at Nashville on the way. Of course we had to go down to Broadway and 2nd Ave. to walk past the honky-tonk places to check out the music. It all seemed so commercial after the National Sacred Harp Convention — it sounded very polished (mostly), pretty slick, and so rehearsed it was just a bit boring. We stopped outside a few places to listen, but always walked on before going in. In the honky tonk places, you’re mostly meant to sit and consume the music passively while drink your beer.
Then we passed two fellows playing fiddle and guitar on the sidewalk. They were playing an old-timey fiddle tune, with no amplification. It was the kind of music that you’re meant to dance to, or sit there and talk with the musicians in between tunes.
We stood there and talked to the musicians between the tunes. On the right with the fiddle is Jason a.k.a. Blind Watermelon McCoy, and on the left with the guitar is Truett Rayborn. Much more fun than sitting and passively listening. (Good dance music, too — I tried to get Carol to dance with me, but she wouldn’t.)
This may sound pretty far from Sacred Harp singing, but I don’t think it is. Sacred Harp singing is participatory, it hasn’t been prettied up to sell records, it simply exists to provide pleasure and meaning to life. Just like old-timey fiddle tunes played on a street corner by musicians who like to talk with you while you listen.