Listen again to the great Ralph McLean chatting to Hub founder Rob Ellen on BBC Radio Ulster about his quest to encourage concerts in peoples own homes, when the Medicine Show toured Ireland this year with Chuck Hawthorne and Libby Koch (featuring interview and session with them too) 35 minutes into the show.(click picture)
It's a dark winter's night on Tybee Island. Up and down Tybrisa Street, near the pier, the souvenir shops have all closed and a brisk breeze is whipping from the beach, only a few yards away. The neon glow of Doc's Bar spills out onto the sidewalk and as you step inside you hear the ringing of old guitars and the throaty strains of harmonicas and singing.
Huddled in the back room, in a circle facing inward, sit the strumming, humming, picking, grinning members of Doc's Acoustic Jam. Every Tuesday evening, at around seven o'clock, the musicians start wandering in, tuning up and getting ready to sit back to pick their favorite tunes. On any given night one might hear rough hewn versions of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Merle Haggard, Jim Croce or Bill Monroe. Only one rule is observed: no amplifiers or microphones.
Beginners are as welcomed as old pros and some drive in as far as an hour or so away to shake off the day job and be a player if just for a couple of hours. For that brief evening spell, no one attending is a college professor or mechanic or truck driver or retiree. He is a crooner. She is a guitarist.
Some try out their new songs, just written. Most revisit hits from their youth...or protest songs....songs cherished from old record collections...spun on old turntables in childhood bedrooms.
Occasionally, someone will bring a crock pot of chili or left-over Thanksgiving turkey for sandwiches. Some drink beer. Some don't drink anymore. Some sit out their turn. Some join in on every number.
In my mind, this is what music should be about...the moment. The moment where everyone is in harmony, if not quite exactly in tune. In union, if not identical. In rhythm. Pulling together for one goal...the song. True democracy. True fellowship.
One could do worse on a wintry Tuesday night than to stumble in to a smoky, old joint where geezers and young 'uns come together to strum away the hours.
And, next time, bring your tamborine.
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