While thousands were jamming with Warren Haynes and his musical companions in the Asheville Civic Center last night (Dec. 12), a few blocks away, “all was calm.” It was the annual (for some 14 years now) appearance at Jubilee! of two very fine acoustic musicians: Ed Gerhard, down from New England, and Bill Mize, crossing the border from Tennessee.
It had been several years — seven, perhaps—since I’d attended this seasonal gift to the community. So I brought fresh ears along, and they were mightily impressed. And since Gerhard commented himself on his white hair, I hope neither will take offense when I say that they have both been aging beautifully. And that’s a compliment, analogous to wine, bourbon and a well-played guitar. Gerhard’s long hair is indeed whiter and his presence more mellow. Mize’s face has taken on a strong and kindly maturity much in league with his quiet demeanor. It may be hyperbole, but I’m going to call these changes the effect of long relationships with beautiful music. Always singularly talented fingerstyle guitarists, they just seem even more relaxed into their own potential. And as a guitar player next to me observed, to get one such superb instrumentalist is remarkable; to get two, playing together in such concert, is fairly incredible.
So the listeners who filled most of Jubilee’s main room sat in rapt silence to catch every nuance of the strings as these two produced both time-honored seasonal tunes together, and some of their own original music separately. The warm applause after each piece was as appreciative as was deserved. And in the end, there was no grand finale. Just a superb instrumental round of “Silent Night,” with the respectful audience invited to finish the piece by singing one verse. They … we … were mesmerized. Everyone sang in hushed tones, to match the quiet beauty that the duo had inspired: the alt-spirit of the Asheville season.
—Nelda Holder, associate editor