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OLD TIMEY MUSIC
March 7, 2017
 
 
I noted in one of my jottings a long time ago that Cedar Key is famous for its prolific birdlife, its restaurants and all the other things that make it such a jewel. I forgot, however, to mention the slew of entertainments that make the town hum during the season – the list of coffees, talks, art shows and fashion shows, roadside and trail clean-ups listed in the Cedar Key News, let alone the meetings of the City Commission, must add up to make more activities per head of population than one can shake a stick at. But after another busy day the aficionados know that Andy and Stanley will have left a light on for us at the Island Hotel and that Angie and Kelly will be ready to dispense refreshments in the Neptune Lounge.
 
So far, so wonderful, but on Sunday 26 February the hotel provided your correspondent with an unexpected journey to another place and another time in the company of Dick Staber and Judith Chasnoff. The vocal duet, with Dick playing the mandolin and Judith the guitar, specialise in playing those traditional style vocals and instrumentals that, according to Dick, “make your heart bleed” and can “get you right in the kishke.” 

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  DICK AND JUDITH                                                      INTERVIEW WITH COLIN DALE
 
The couple have been playing together since they met in 1993, and are now based in Montreal. Dick has been a professional musician for many years, apart from three years spent in the Army, traveling with blue grass bands on the road. Judith, on the other hand, was employed in Canada as a social worker and, although she had studied music for most of her life, didn't play professionally until she met Dick. The duo have toured Europe several times; they have also been spending their winter seasons down in Florida since Dick retired in 2004, performing at various area parks, as well as at the Neptune Lounge. (And so here's the obvious question: How on earth have I managed to miss such a pleasurable experience in all of my years in Cedar Key?) 
 
As to the music itself, my Wikipedia source tells me that the term folk music  including traditional music can be defined as music transmitted orally or music performed by custom over long periods of time, certainly back to Elizabethan times – think of “old world” ballads passed on to local people all the way down the Eastern Seaboard by their Celtic grandparents as well as a means of commemorating current personal or historical events such as the ache of unrequited love or the devastation caused by the Civil War. (Titles such as “Long Time Gone”, “Shady Grove”, “You're Going to Miss Me Honey” and “The House Where Nobody Lives” tell it all!). Getting closer to the present day, new themes and phrases have been appearing ever since the post-world war 2 folk revival - even the folk icon Woody Guthrie was writing angry songs in the 1970s about Fred Trump's  housing management practices!
 
But to end on a happier note, I would like you to join me on an evocative journey to Possum Hollow “somewhere in the Appalachians” and sometime about the mid-1950s. It is a delightful October evening, enlivened by the changing fall colors and with the smell of wood smoke in the air. Work has finished for the poor hard-working farmers and miners living back in the hollow, they have eaten their supper, and can now sit out on their front porches to entertain themselves in the manner handed down by their ancestors from the British Isles. There is a natural self-taught talent here, and the counterpoint of the guitar, the mandolin, the fiddle and the banjo, and the poignant words and melodies will tear at your heart strings.
 
For a more visual account of traditional folk music I would recommend that the reader watch the movie “Song Catcher,” which is loosely based on the story of Cecil Sharp, the first major scholar covering American folk music, who recorded the traditional songs of the Appalachian  Mountains during 1916-1918. More important, however, is to mark your calendar:
      - Sunday March 19
      - 6pm at the Neptune Lounge
      - final appearance of Staber and Chasnoff Duo for the 2017 season
Colin Dale
*****