Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday Sounds: The Infamous Stringdusters

I love bluegrass music. That hasn't always been true. As a child I hated the "twangy" sounds and thought it was hopelessly old-fashioned and uncool. Ah, but I grew up. :) There is something so rich and honest about the harmony, something so communal and shared about the traditional way bluegrass musicians lean in and share a microphone, keying off each other for their pitches, a cooperative, shared experience.

And then there are the stories. Like its Celtic grandparents, bluegrass often tells sad tales of war, lost love, disaster, and broken hearts. One way the human spirit heals itself is through poetry and song, turning something too painful to express in everyday language into something beautiful and haunting, something that goes straight to the heart and is instantly recognized there, a familiar pain.

Sharing my bluegrass love this morning with The Infamous Stringdusters. This song is "Three Days in July," a civil war tale. If you like what you hear, you can find the album here.

And if you're new to bluegrass listening, do yourself a favor - go to a festival and listen to live music for a few hours. Watch the musicians, open yourself to the experience of community music-making, and enjoy.

Three Days in July
(John Weisberger)

I was born in Pennsylvania
In 1851
I grew up on my father's farm
The youngest of three sons
The Civil War was raging
The year that I turned twelve
My father joined the ranks of blue
Left us by ourselves
Boys I tell'n ya true
I learned things I never knew

In summer heat we prayed for rain
The first day of July
Far off thunder rumbleing
No storm clouds in the sky
My brothers grabbed their riffles
"Stay" my mother urged
"Mama that's the sound of canon
Up by Gettysburg"
Boys I tell'n ya true
I learned things I never knew

Two fearful days and sleepless nights
We waited with no word
Till the guns fell silent
On the morning of the third
My mother watched the road all day
And kept me there close by
Till dusk was hard upon us
And the water jug was dry

With bucket and a lantern
I crossed the field alone
Heard the sound of snapping twigs
And then a quiet moan
Captured in my lantern light
His face in ashen gray
Huddled in a bloody coat
A rebel soldier lay
Boys I tell'n ya true
I learned things I never knew

"I see you have a kind face
Please don't raise a cry
If I am taken prisoner
I know I'll surely die
"I'm wounded and I mean no harm
I just need to rest a spell
I have fled the battlefield
I've seen the face of hell

"We came by tens of thousands
The battle faught to lose
And we only marched on Gettysburg
Bcause we needed shoes"
I look down at his swollen feet
And tried to understand
And wondered if my brothers
Had died at this man's hand
Boys I tell'n ya true
I learned things I never knew

I walked back in the cabin
Sat the bucket down
I spoke no word to mother
Of why I'd been so long
All night we sat beside the fire
Praying for good news
Then mother she looked down and asked
"Son where are your shoes?"
Boys I tell'n ya true
I learned things I never knew

Photo Credits:

1 comment:

  1. I didn't like bluegrass as a child when my grandfather would listen to it, but this past summer at a local county fair, I was drawn to a pavillion where I was just going to walk by. I ended up sitting there for nearly an hour listening to a very talented group of bluegrass musicians. I was reminiscing about my grandfather and his banjo picking as well as enjoying the sound of the instruments and the ballad-type lyrics.


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