Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I’m going to focus on a musician named Joe Overton. The first time I saw him perform I was stuck in Indianapolis the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2014. He was playing as part of The Party Line – the band that is integral to the Nora Jane Struthers traveling carnival. I think he plays just about anything with strings, but his focus on stage is the fiddle, banjo (resonator and open-back), and lap steel. Having now seen him four times – twice with the band (including last Thursday night in DC), and twice at house concerts as a duo with Nora Jane (including Sunday night on Kent Island) – I can say that he might be my favorite musician. He has his own album of original songs that was the first to spin on my new turntable configuration last night, plus he and Nora Jane also have an album of old Irish, English, Appalachian standards that they released this year and played through the entire first set on Sunday night. What I first noticed about him playing that night in Indianapolis was that the total ease he exhibits when playing music. There seems to be a deft style about his playing that implies just letting the instrument throw out the sounds that you’re guiding it through. It’s pretty hard to describe, but I remember getting home after that ‘trip’ and trying to vaguely emulate the relaxed grip he had on his instruments while creating a more relaxed practice method on the mandolin. It works. I guess it’s akin to taking a deep breath when you’re tense and then feeling your shoulders and body immediately relax immediately: a light grip on the instrument and an easier manner in trying to coax the notes. Take all that for what it’s worth, which ain’t much.

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