New Orleans bluesman Spencer Bohren, who was on campus last week as an artist-in-residence, did a show Friday night at local coffeehouse Grounds & Sounds (which has been a godsend to Morehead's sparse restaurant and even sparser music scene). This was an exciting event for several reasons. It was the first live music I've managed to see in about a year. I didn't know much about Bohren except that I really liked the free MP3 of "Ghost Train" I downloaded from Playlist magazine a while back, so I was eager to hear more from him. And the show provided the impetus for my wife and I to get a babysitter and go on a much-overdue date.
It was a very nice show, rather intimate and informal, with Bohren seeming sincerely appreciative of the reception he'd gotten here. In 90 minutes, Bohren was able to sketch a broad survey of American music: from Delta blues to "Maple Leaf Rag," from country to zydeco. When he went into a slowed-down, lap-steel version of Hank Williams's "I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry" (which can be found on his album Southern Cross), I had my doubts, but the pacing served to bring the lyrics — the actual words rather than the vocals — into the forefront and showed that the "hillbilly Shakespeare" moniker really is earned.
The amount of ground Bohren covered also reminded me that there was a time when country, blues, bluegrass, folk, spiritual, and rock all spoke to and informed each other. Genres seem to have become quite segregated (with the full racial connotation of that term intended), especially in the mainstream. I'm not sure when or how this happened, but it is certainly a loss for all music.
Anyway, it was a fine evening, and I hope we can continue to bring artists of this quality to Morehead.