Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Howard Rains

Marc Airhart's latest episode of his Four Potatoes Podcast features Texas fiddler, Howard Rains.  Howard is a long time member and supporter of the Austin Friends of Traditional Music.  Here is the podcast about his progress in collecting old Texas Fiddle tunes.

2014 MidWinter Festival

Volunteers at the door.
The 21st Midwinter Festival was billed as a fundraiser and it did that alright, and a whole lot more.  Re-affirming Austin as a town where music-making is a way of life,  both lovers and practioners of the art came together once again Saturday, February 8th for a full day of learning, listening, playing and dancing at the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs Rd. to benefit the Austin Friends of Traditional Music.  Many thanks to those who gave of their time and skill to make it a success much worth the while.

All the performances were memorable.  Special thanks to Mark Gilston and friends who started off the stage entertainment with a delightful variety of tunes featuring the lap dulcimer.  Bothering almost no one, the Annoying Instrument Orchestra broadened horizons and introduced many to aspects of music they might not until lately have
Peter Keane
otherwise considered – and making the experience all the more enjoyable for it.  Austin is blessed with truly accomplished musicians.  David Hamburger is certainly one. A gifted guitarist he was joined by Mark Epstein and Kyle Thompson and serious blues ensued right there on the stage. Guitar fanciers really lucked out this year, Peter Keane kindly brought Old Time Country Blues Guitar alive once again up close and personal.  I love old records, but real music only gets played once and the chance to hear it like that is just what memories are made for. The soul-stirring gospel sounds of The Rudiments paired with the impeccable piano joyfulness of T. Jarrod Bonta made a believer out of me.  And if you needed a miracle, all you had to do was wait around for Ayan Hall step-dancing to the Irish flute mastery of Jonathan Milton.  Old-time favorites the Double Eagle Stringband teamed up, set the beat and got more than a few folks dancing where they sat and otherwise.  An etxra-special treat was Silas Lowe, Ben Hodges and friends playing their very special brand of Bluegrass and old-time music as Los Jankies.  I think I'd be safe in saying that they were among the favorites of this year's festival.

David Hamburger
It was hard to believe the variety of items that we had for sale at the silent auction! We had so many wonderful donations from people all over the Austin community. DJ and Pat Stamp even had some “wild card” instruments where we weren’t sure just what they were nor how to play them, which led to some fun speculations and experiments. The big challenge of the day was a mandolin donated by Elizabeth Pittman, wearing a tag that said “wall hanging only – not playable.” This instrument quickly became our sword in the stone as musician after musician attempted to get a working tune out of the strings, with Will Webster setting the pace and winning the mandolin to take home as well! But really, would you expect any less at a music festival in Austin?
Much of the business of the AFTM is about encouraging folks to reclaim and play their own music.  Music is a gift across generations, born from tradition, grown in the heart, and given as an act of humanity from one person to another.  Whether in the teeth of competition at a fiddler's contest, trading blues licks in the shade while the Bar-B-Cue smokes, or the passing of a cherished technique from a master to the eager student of any one of the countless instruments and styles the world over, the experience is valuable and to be encouraged for no other reason than that it ought to continue.  We are very grateful for those masters who gave their time and energies this year to the wonderful world of workshops.  Jon Polacheck and
Erica Braverman, Will Webster & The Cloggers
a cast of thousands (well maybe not that many) presented a Survey of Old Time Guitar Back-up Styles.  The dancers in the clogging class with Erica Braverman (a special thanks to Will Webster for providing the music!) were surprised when a cameraman from YNN showed up to the workshop, but did not miss a beat! The stalwart Jerry Hagins imbued lovers of the drop-thumb with new delightful tricks and turns for the claw-hammer banjo.  Texas-style and swing fiddle master Mark Seale held forth with knowledge and skill opening the past to those present, demonstrating fiddle tune origins and what became of them here in the Lone Star State.  If you were lucky enough to squeeze into one of the rooms where The Rudiments taught gospel harmonizing or Jeff Robertson brought the Flat-pick Guitar into focus, you know what a great community there is surrounding the Austin Friends of Traditional Music and, like me, I bet you're mighty glad to be part of it.  There is just not sufficient space to recount nor repay all those
Melissa Mollberg's Workshop
who contributed to the entertainment, instruction, and good companionship we all enjoyed at this year's Midwinter Festival. Thanks to everyone who contributed and continues to help to keep the AFTM part of what makes Austin the wonderful place that it is.  Here's to the next 40 years!