Happy Valley is part of the Upper Yadkin River watershed in Caldwell and Wilkes counties in North Carolina. Margaret and I have spent many joyful days taking in the beauty of the landscapes there and getting to know the residents, many of whom have deep cultural ties to the land and have retained as strong sense of self-sufficiency. Back home in Raleigh, we often think about Happy Valley and it has become a metaphor for a lifestyle that is focused on attention to life’s necessities and more connected to the natural world.
Margaret and I are pleased to share the Happy Valley “state of mind” with Dwight Rogers and Gail Gillespie–wonderful musicians who for decades have encouraged and connected those of us who love old-time music. When we get together, the Pals mainly play tunes and songs that come from North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, states where we have lived or have family roots. The pieces presented here are “Shear ‘Em” and “Ramshackle Shack.” Fiddlers Herman Padgett and Jess Albertson from eastern North Carolina inspired me to learn “Shear ‘Em.” In their home communities this piece was the quintessential square dance tune. Margaret’s timing on her J-45, Gail’s great finger-picking and Dwight’s bowed bass constitute a fiddler’s dream rhythm section!
“Ramshackle Shack” is from Wade Mainer, who first recorded it in 1937. Our version is inspired by the music Wade made later in his life when his accompanists were often musicians whose playing styles were hard to differentiate as either old-time or early days of bluegrass. In fact, they were neither and both! I love Gail’s and Margaret’s singing on this performance.