Exploring the South – Travellogue USA #5

by | 27 Jun, 2010

Submitted by John Werner – Victoria.

John Werner and Garry Roberts, our boys in the USA, have sent through their fifth post from as they discover the musical delights of Galax Virginia.

After a lazy Wednsday morning hanging around our camp in Fries, we meandered over the State line to Sparta NC for lunch and look around, before settling into the New River RV park near the evening’s jam in Independence VA.

Held in the historic 1908 courthouse on Main St, this weekly get together can be a bit hit & miss (we were later told), however, we were fortunate be in attendance on this particular evening and it was a cracker.

We arrived at the 7:00pm start time to find the Courthouse gardens awash with pickers and on-lookers, with two large circles in the rear, and a wedding (which we nearly mistook for 3rd jam) in the front. It soon became obvious that attendees of the nearby Peachbottom Farm Music Camp, who we’d run into the previous evening in Galax, were having another field trip, and some of them were just about setting their instruments on fire.

I decided on the jam happening in the rotunda , which had an inner circle of around 15 pickers and an outer group of 10 or so people working their way in. There was already a bassist driving things along so I jumped on guitar, moving inwards as people departed the circle, and got an opportunity to cover for the bassist while she had a quick cigarette.

A day earlier than planned, we soon ran into Martha & Jackson from The Whitetop Mountaineers there and, along with their picking friends, formed another circle nearby and witnessed a spectacular sunset over the nearby Iron Mountains. This is a truly beautiful region, and their high lonesome mountain-style harmonies never sounded so haunting.

As has become the norm, local pickers of amazing standard floated in and out for tunes, some familiar and some unheard, and we finished the jam in the rotunda by a nearby street light after the Courthouse garden lights went off at 10.30pm. A fantastic night of high standard Bluegrass & Old Time music in perfect outdoor conditions.