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Music to My Ears


“No,” I said unequivocally. “Absolutely not.”

This to yet another Dirtman entertainment suggestion. In the past his idea of fun and mine have not often found common ground. The result is usually me sitting in some sporting arena or other with a tolerant smile on my face contemplating what sort of classical music/opera/literary lecture hell I could subject him to in retaliation.

Dirtman was hot to go to something on Ocracoke Island called The Ocrafolk Opry.

Just the name made me cringe. I had gritted my teeth through a performance of the Grand Old Opry, which is okay if you like country music. And bolo ties. And abysmally bad jokes.

Now he wanted me to go to an amateur version? I envisioned sequined bolo ties and pouffy dresses.

Even my brother who was joining us on this vacation and is usually game to try just about any activity, declined the invitation.

Dirtman was resigned to attending Ocrafolk by himself

The previous Thursday evening we’d gone to the same theatre to see Ocracoke’s local celebrity musicians, Molasses Creek. They’d been on Garrison Keilor’s A Prairie Home Companion, so they were a known entity. We had fun. So, eventually, I started to felt bad about forcing my husband to attend by himself and to sit alone with no one to talk to . . . (okay, those who know Dirtman, stop laughing. Dirtman never, ever sits alone with no one to talk to. He is the nightmare of the person who wants to sit alone and not talk to anyone).

Anyway, I ended up going to the Ocrafolk Opry. Then I ended up buying CDs. A whole lot of CDs. I own almost – almost – more CDs from Ocracoke than I do Sinatra CDs – and I’m from Jersey, where Sinatra CDs are mandatory for crossing the border or ordering cannoli.

What kismet, what serendipity, what miracle of planetary alignment placed all these incredible musicians in this one place at the same time?

We’re not talking your basic resort-area droners of “Margarittaville.” Neither are they burned-out 60-year-old ex-Rolling-Stone-wannabes who could never make it or give it up completely and get a real job. No pouffy dresses and big blonde hair. No “big-hat-no-cattle” headgear. Thoughout the evening, all ten musicians performed interchangeably with each other, mingling musical categories and enhancing each other’s strengths. I have to admit that I now have a romantic vision of what life is like here during the off-season, with this group forming a sort of Algonquin round table of musicians.

Molasses Creek is a given, guaranteed to deliver true folk music and maintain the roots of the genre. With all due respect, though, the group doesn’t begin to touch the talent of their fiddler David Tweedie who flits from act to act, delivering the exact ingredient needed to flesh out what is already a great tune.

The duo Coyote not only offers a unique sound, but offers lyrics guaranteed to touch you on some level. Marcy Brenner‘s Dead Girl Walking, about her battle with breast cancer, offers a poignant counterpoint to their CDs title track, Home to Me. Lou Castro’s guitar and slide guitar performances are as poetic as the lyrics.

This must be more than the area drawing the talent. Martin Garrish bears the name of one of Ocracoke’s first families and delivers a gutsy unapologetic country that was music to even my ears. College-bound Katy Mitchell’s sultry jazz vocals and professional demeanor both come as a surprise when you realize she’s been raised on this remote island and was one of only five in her graduating class.

And you almost have to laugh with incredulity when Aaron Caswell – introduced as a boy taking guitar lessons from Garrish – launches into some complicated jazz and blues riffs.

And I almost hesitated in mentioning them or providing links. That they are here together seems a fragile scenario that increased exposure will ruin.

I will admit, I even sang along at with I’ll Fly Away at the end of the evening.

And so I have to say, to the delight and smugness of my husband that (okay, here goes. . .): Dirtman was right and I . . . was . . . wrong. . .thereIsaidit.

(I will, however, take this moment for any musician – specifically, any folk musician – to hear my very specific complaint: All those songs about dogs. You all write them (you know you do). I love them only . . .stop killing the dogs. I love dogs but it’s gotten to the point that the moment I hear something along the lines of “he was the greatest pup in the world. . .,” I know he’s doomed. Let’s all take a vow now: No More Dead Dog Songs. Thank you.)

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