Feb 13, 2010

Bass Players, Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, Auden's "The Unknown Citizen," Stevens' "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock," Bass Players, Catching Tigers

The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

How about we reprise Goodnight, Moon, but instead of a mouse, we say to the little one, "Where's the bass player?"

Here is my latest encounter with an unsung hero, the pretty upright bass player in a bluegrass group. Is she their unknown citizen, the unseen anchor who holds the beat behind the scenes for the flashy, shifty others shifting and bopping all over the stage?

I don't think she looks one bit like an old sailor, drunk and asleep in [her] boots, yet here I am, dropping the comparison. She might be catching tigers in red weather. Is she one of Hopper's Nighthawks? Was she free? Was she happy? The question is absurd . . .

By the way, this group is Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, and their show was first-rate. Ms. Smith is fine, with that old-fashioned smoky voice, and I wondered about a kinship with Sammi Smith, whose drinkin'-alone songs made Kris Kristofferson's tunes even better than they were on paper. But in Liberty Pike, it's the back-ups who are fantastic, and Ms. Smith wisely gives them plenty of room to wiggle and shine.

This talented group played to an audience of about 70 people at Cafe Eleven in St. Augustine Beach, Florida. That was a scheduling fluke, I learned, but for aspiring musicians, it's still a daunting note about the wealth of talent (that is, competition) out there. If this much skill was available for $5.00, how could a dad encourage his daughter to follow her bliss and hit the road with her bass, or fiddle, or tuba?

I suppose it's always been this tough in the arts. And who knows how much fun any group is having on stage? Remember the movie, Nashville? Or what happens after the great banjo and guitar scene in Deliverance? And now the first-rate film, Crazy Heart, descended from Tender Mercies, shows us once again the down and dirty side of making it big in county music, or entertainment in general.

So should a parent tell a kid, "Put that fiddle down, Sue. Go to Wall Street . . ." where's there's money, security, and integrity? Of course, the kid won't listen anyway. That's why there are banjos and fetching, steady bass players.

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