I have never written about music, but I’ve never found anything so unexpectedly interesting. A couple of days ago I went to a Merchant Soiree where I picked up a free CD. The singer was new to me. (I’m not so up on local music anymore since my son married and moved away and he doesn’t play here now.) I figured I’d listen to it and probably pass it on. I’m keeping it! I’m also watching for the next show. The name of the CD is “The Peacock and the Owl.” The vocalist is Ashlynn Ivy, and you will not hear a more mellow voice anywhere. On guitar is Dave Macha, and together they are quite a duo.
Their style is so unique it was hard to figure out what it is – very rhythmic in a bluesy jazzy sort of way, but not exactly blues and not exactly jazz. Ashlynn Ivy’s MySpace page gives a few clues. It’s a mixture of influences including Jazz, Gospel, Rock and Blues. I found this on her page: “Like a stout drink with a blend of gin and a splash of holy water, there is something both sinful and revelatory in the music produced by these two talented musicians, born and raised in the mid-county area.” I think I was listening to “It’s a Shame” when I realized this is probably the most interesting music lyrically that I’ve heard in a very long time. The Peacock and the Owl gets a person’s brain involved and also makes it feel like our emotions must be located in our bones. It touches me that deeply. Great stuff!
Until recently, the only banjo players I could have named were Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and my Dad. Shows what I knew. Now I know about Bela Fleck and his documentary, “Throw Down Your Heart.”
Bela Fleck is a Grammy Award winning banjo player and has been nominated for Grammy Awards in more categories than any other musician ever. And he made this great documentary because a lot of folks think of the Southern United States and white guys when they think of banjos. The banjo is derived from an African instrument that was brought over here by slaves. Bela Fleck wanted people like me who didn’t know any of this to learn about it, so he went to Africa with his banjo, a fellow who is great at recording live music, and a few camera operators, in search of people to play music with him. They went to Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Senegal.
And boy, did they find musicians who were eager to play! It was very interesting to see how the banjo could be played along with things like the finger piano (I didn’t know what that was before seeing this film) and other instruments. There were times I heard some jazz and some blues.
Bela Fleck has even been touring this year with some of the people he met in Africa. I learned that on his website.
Besides enjoying learning about and listening to the music in the documentary, I also learned a bit of African history and tidbits about the culture of some of his hosts. I love seeing how people live in other countries-what they wear, what they eat and how it’s prepared, burial customs-all of it. If you like music, history or anthropology, I think you would probably like “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart.”