Patuxent CD-148 The Scott Family Band - The Great Divide
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The Scott Family Band comprises Joseph, Barbara and Donnie Scott (son, step-mother and father) plus “Smiling” Fred Mock. All North Carolinians to the core. In 1994, Barbara met Donnie at the Fiddlers Grove Annual Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove. He promptly offered her a cold potato, and later, a proposal of marriage. They were wed on the porch of a log cabin at Fiddlers Grove during the 1996 Fiddlers Convention, with friends offering music or cheering from the sidelines.
This duo had it all, except a musical common ground. Donnie was immersed in what he likes to call “mossy bluegrass,” the kind of music he grew up hearing on the radio around Taylorsville and as a long-distance trucker crossing and re-crossing the lower 48 (Alaska is the only state he has not spent any time in). He was also influenced by the singing in the Pentecostal Holiness church he was raised in. Donnie started his music life as a guitarist but came to believe that his fingers were too short and thick to play the way that great guitarists should (debatable), so he graduated to the resophonic guitar, winning many prizes and earning the nickname “Donnie Dobro.” Barbara, on the other hand, was a Presbyterian, which offered little musical color despite her determination to sing alto too loudly in the choir. At 14 she heard a Library of Congress recording of “Lord Bateman” and quickly became entranced with English/American ballads and especially, unaccompanied singing. Happily, the musically mismatched couple discovered that they could collaborate on song-writing, Barbara hearing stories in Donnie’s extemporaneously created tunes.
Barbara soon met Joseph, whose major musical influence was Donnie. His father took him to fiddler’s conventions and performances by the greats of bluegrass so that by age 4, Joseph could accurately sing harmonies (a tape exists to prove this). Joseph, being of a different generation, naturally had interests that ranged beyond bluegrass, but the high lonesome sound was his first loyalty and still is. When the three first started hanging around together, Joseph didn’t play an instrument. Donnie lent him a fiddle, then a guitar; both were returned. But when Donnie handed over an old mandolin, things changed almost overnight. Joseph had found his second instrument, the first being his incredibly flexible singing voice.
Donnie recorded Generations (Patuxent, 2003), as a showcase for his dobro virtuosity, some of Barbara’s song-writing skills, and Joseph on mandolin and harmonies. Not long afterwards, the Scotts met Fred.
Fred is an eclectic intellectual musician who plays stand-up bass with heart and has affection for the same mossy sounds that attract Donnie and Joseph to bluegrass. As our resident observer, Fred notes that, “The sub-countermelodic lope featured on The Great Divide emerged from seven years of fiddlers conventions plus gatherings hosted by the Scott Family.” Fred was first encountered at a particularly trying Galax Old Fiddlers Convention year, when all were forced to camp in mud and sewage, Joseph’s car broke down, Barbara’s was first towed illegally and then rammed into by a drunken judge, Fred lost his car keys in the muck, and the signature couch which always accompanied the family was left in the swamp to molder, offering mute testimony to the general sense of disgruntlement the event had engendered.
Barbara and Fred re-met, serendipitously working in the same building, both involved in social service jobs. The Scott Family Band’s first gig was the wedding of Fred’s sister. Since then Fred has been the booking agent for the crew, filling an otherwise Grand-Canyon-sized vacuum.
Over Thanksgiving in 2005, Joseph suddenly announced that he and Barbara would make a CD of singing duets, drawing from their common repertoire of songs both sad and ancient, and that Donnie should be docile and play guitar. It was assumed Fred would participate if he wanted to. He did, and The Great Divide was born. Donnie and Barbara had unknowingly written the eponymous opening song a few years before, and somewhere during the production Barbara composed lyrics to a second song, “Crossing the Great Divide,” to end the project. Joseph provided the tune with its modal, open harmony. Everything in between is pure tradition.
It hasn’t been long since our dear friend Will Keys passed away, likewise Joseph’s loving grandmother Clyde. To them the project is dedicated, with respect for the kind of people they were, people who would have appreciated the CD for the integrity of the material, the memories it evokes, and the simple true sound it delivers