Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Visit to Linda's Mercantile & Springfield Exit

Headed south on U.S. 522 just outside Winchester, VA in August, I remembered the posts David Lay had been making showing vivid pictures of the wonderful harvest he and his wife Linda had had for their farm store this summer. I looked up the store on my phone, discovering we would be driving right past it. I kept my nose on the phones GPS, insisting it was on our side of the road, while Irene drove and we never saw it. Retracing our steps headed north on Monday, it was the same picture, minus our trailer, but this time Irene caught the store as we passed it, on the wrong side of the road, according to the GPS. A quick U-turn and again brought us to the door of Linda's Mercantile, just as the door was being unlocked by Sarah, an employee. A moment or two later, David Lay drove up on his bright green John Deere tractor.

David Lay

David, a native of east Tennessee, comes from a long history of family music, with an emphasis on southern gospel and bluegrass. Tim Stafford, Adam Steffey, and other familiar bluegrass names were contemporaries of his in high school. He met Linda, commuted between Winchester and his home in Tennessee for some time, and they eventually married. When his job in Tennessee disappeared in the mid-sixties, he was casting about for an alternative when the current farm land became available, and they moved to it and began to farm together, while each took jobs in a nearby construction company to actually pay the bills. Since then, farming and bluegrass music have been their life. Their band, Springfield Exit, is currently performing with members Tom Adams on banjo, David McLaughlin on mandolin, Marshall Wilborn on bass, David on guitar, and Linda Lay as lead singer. They will open for Merle Haggard at a sold out concert on November 6 at Handley High School's Patsy Cline Theater in Winchester, VA. David joked that some people have suggested that Haggard will be closing for Springfield Exit. 

In the weeks that had past since we missed finding Linda's Mercantile, summer has passed into autumn and the ripe harvest is now left to pumpkins and apples, including a new variety to us, the wonderful Crimson Crisp.

Harvested Fields & Green Houses

Harvest Display

Cakes & Fudge in the Display Case

David chatted with us for about an hour as he played music from his and Linda's bluegrass history through the store computer and a small speaker. A highlight was David's Dad singing with a southern gospel quartet in East Tennessee during the sixties. And alway, there were examples of Linda Lays clear, resonant, lovely voice from various albums they have appeared on during the years. One that really surprised us was that Linda Lay is featured on one of the first CD's created by Cracker Barrel for its store, a classic country album. Now out of print, we're eager to get ahold of a copy for ourselves. 

Springfield Exit

We had last seen Springfield Exit at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival last May, where they opened the day with a well-received program of traditional, classic bluegrass. The performance was particularly notable, as it was one of Tom Adams first shows back on the banjo, after having been sidelined for several years by focal distonia, an injury that has disabled many musicians. Adams spent several years touring with and acting as emcee for Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, but his heart was always with the banjo. While he says he's still not back to full bore, it will be the rare banjo aficionado who recognizes anything short of the first rate excellence this three time IBMA banjo player of the year demands of himself. David McLaughlin was a founding member of the Johnson Moutain Boys. Marshall Wilborn performed for years with his wife Lynn Morris in her band as well as playing for the Johnson Mountain Boys and Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. He is a four time IBMA bass player of the Year. Linda Lay is a nationally known vocalist and vocal teacher. She is a featured vocalist for the Crooked Road album and has recorded with Sammy Shelor on a dual album.

Linda Lay

Tom Adams

Marshall Wilborn

David McLaughlin

David Lay

Springfield Exit - Dark Hollow - Video

As we said our farewells and got back on the road, we were both glad we had had a chance to spend some time and get to know David Lay better. You never know quite what you're going to experience once you get on the bluegrass trail.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder where our paths have crossed! I went to school in Bluff City, then ETSU (1966) and lived in Winchester from 1996-2009 - still have a house there Bob Hughes