Friday, October 17, 2014

Some Music in Shelby

After the rigors of IBMA week in Raleigh, we needed some rest, some quiet time to be with friends, write, and recuperate with long naps and good visits. Our Lake Cottage on the shores of John H. Moss Lake between King's Mountain and Shelby, NC has filled the bill for us ever since we first went there to visit Dr. Tom Bibey (Dr. Bobby Jones). While Bobby is no longer alive, we've met and come to deeply care for a group of people who live, work, and make music there. It's an important restorative place for us to be.

Lake Cottage in Shelby

Beyond burnishing friendships and quiet time to recover, two events of the week stand out. Bluegrass music is alive and well because it takes place in quiet, out-of-the-way places where pickers can congregate and enjoy being together. Over the years we've covered quite a few of these performance and jamming locations, some easy to find, others hidden away where only a few know about them or can find them. Here's one of each:

Tuesday with Darin Aldridge & Friends

Angel's Restaurant (101 E. Virginia Ave., Bessemer City, NC) serves a number of purposes in downtown Bessemer City, a once thriving, mostly industrial suburb of Charlotte with a history dating back to an eighteenth century iron smelting operation. At present it is home to several large industrial corporations. The main street is neat and tidy with plenty of room for evenings at Angel's, where Darin Aldridge & Friends play bluegrass to an appreciative audience on Tuesday evenings. The  menu includes a variety of tasty sanwiches, hot coffee, sweet tea, and local wines, prominently on display. A corner of Angel's is devoted to a small shop selling guitars and such, while the back contains a consignment shop with a variety of wares. Angel's has a warm, somewhat quirky environment, perfect for bluegrass, a tasty lunch, or quick sandwich. Around 7:00 PM on Tuesday you can find Darin Aldridge along with a group of friends he has been playing bluegrass with since he was a teenager. They play familiar old bluegrass tunes, some newer ones, and invite members of the audience to join them on stage to pick or sing a song. We went twice during our stay, enjoying each evening with the music and our local friends. 

Angel's Front

Nice Place to Visit, Eat, Listen

(LtoR) Roger Holland, Carli Arrowood, Darin Aldridge,
Mike Lynch, Jeremy Arrowood (no relation)

Darin Aldridge

Mike Lynch

Carli Arrowood

Harold & Sharon Bess, Debbie James

Jack Bingham's Wednesday Jams

In the past I've written about the Bomb Shelter, built in 1959 and 1960, a time of great nuclear fear and the Cuban missile crisis, by Judy Bingham's father, which has become a local jammers hangout and a place where several young bands got their start under the tutelage of Darin Aldridge and earlier Dr, Tom Bibey (If you're not familiar with Tom Bibey, a local doc Dr, Bobby Jones writing almost fiction under a pen name, you can still find and explore his blog here. It's especially interesting to read in the years before a malignant brain tumor short circuited a fine literary career he had scheduled to supplant his medical practice in the near future. His warm hearted and interesting writing explores the life of a small town doctor who loves to play both bluegrass music and golf.) You can see a few pictures of the Bomb Shelter here, but very few, as its location is pretty well guarded by those who enjoy it so much.

Jack's Cabin

Jack's Cabin, which he has built over the past four decades and continues to improve, stands as a shrine to both his love of bluegrass music and traditional arts. The cabin, built a short walk from the Bomb Shelter, sits on a piece of property where Judy Bingham was raised. Judy forms a small triangle with her fingers to explain that she's lived in only three places for her whole life: her parents' home, an apartment on their property, and the house she and Jack now inhabit. It seems a small space, until you discover the rich musical heritage that visited there and made music. 

Vintage Instruments

 Brook & Darin Aldridge with Judy Bingham

Jack Bingham with a Turtle Shell Turkey Caller He Made

...and One Made from a Turkey Wing

Various Turkey Callers

Collection of Vintage Picks and Pictures

Bricks from Local Kilns

The collection covers a large range of Jack Bingham's interests and enthusiasms. He's carefully collected local musical artifacts and lovingly built and preserved elements of local culture. His commitment to a combination of preservation and celebration is really quite remarkable, as is the man who has devoted so much time and energy to creating this fine collection. Although Jack has passed the age of 70, he's still building and refining his piece of Americana.

The Cabin Exterior

Around the Blazing Campfire

Judy Bingham, Brooke Aldridge & Irene

The Jam

On a small outdoor stage, local jammers get together every Wednesday at the Cabin during warm weather and inside the Bomb Shelter during the chillier months.

Dereck Wolford

Brooke Joins the Jam for a Song

As is usual when we attend jams, we got home a little past our bedtime, but filled with the warmth and fellowship that spending time with Darin & Brooke as well as the Binghams always creates. We'll be back. Maybe next time I'll have courage enough to get my guitar out.