Random acts

Front-row reviews

Who: County Farm
Where: Hannah Flanagan’s (Asheville)
When: Thursday, July 29

Dear Bar Patrons:

County Farm is too good for you.

I’m sorry to be so blunt … but there it is. As you bemoan the mundane horrors of your day job over a pint, every sweet pluck of Jay Mullenax‘s mandolin, and every low-down thump of Paul Leech‘s bass, are apparently lost on you.

When the frantically tuneful notes from Neal Crowley‘s fiddle and Tom Dudley‘s guitar come bombarding out in a bluegrass reaction that borders on nuclear, you’re too busy watching the latest sports highlights on the bar TV to even notice — much less to bask in the pair’s grin-lit faces.

Before you get all defensive, please understand that I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad. Hey, I know that sometimes you just want to go to a bar to wind down a little after a long day of work — life can be a real bear sometimes. But that doesn’t mean I want to see players as talented as County Farm dragged down into the muck with everyone else’s misfortunes.

You want to soak your aching soul in suds and booze; I get that. But I think you’re missing out on a much better relaxant than anything that’s yet been concocted from hops and barley.

Let me give you an example: When County Farm bashed out an excellent rendition of the Henry Jankiewicz song “Einstein the Genius” — it should have wowed you in your tracks.

Your eyes should have been stuck on stage as if they were stapled there.

Your ears should have told your brain to throw the cut-off switch to the power supply to your mouth.

This great moment could have soothed you in a way no microbrew ever would. But no, you wanted to complain about how much your HMO program costs.

Through “Georgia Line,” “Salty Dog” and any number of other musical nuggets that should have held you fast by the roots of your teeth, you loudly complained about how it’s getting harder and harder to find a pair of pumps to go with your favorite business dress. Now is that really fair to County Farm?

Sure, you could argue that the band isn’t breaking any ground that wasn’t already deeply tilled by Bill Monroe and his ilk back in the days when we still did ignorant things like trust our politicians (I’ll give you that much). But these guys aren’t all about reinventing the music.

County Farm — as I’ve always seen them, at least — is instead about taking out some broken antique of a tune and covering it with enough spirit gum, shoe polish and spit to make it presentable one more time. Theirs is a mixture of backwoods jerry-rigging and true craftsmanship, and it’s an art all its own.

So, try not to take this personally, but I’m going to have to ask all of you to collectively shut yer beerholes about yer own lives the next time County Farm takes the stage. It’s the only way we can make this thing work.

They’re too good for you, sure. Yet maybe — with a little careful practice — you can be made to be just good enough for them.

Critically yours,

Steve Shanafelt

(You can appreciate County Farm next on Aug. 14 at Jack of the Wood.)

Local Mix Tape Challenge

• Only compilations created completely from local music are eligible. (This goes for sampled material, as well — all sound clips must be from locally produced sources.)

• Entries must be clearly marked with relevant album information, such as song titles, band or solo artist’s name and (if possible) the album title itself.

• Mix compilations must run no longer than 60 minutes each.

• All compilations must be received at Xpress by Saturday, Aug. 14, to be eligible to win.

Entries will be judged on song selection, mood transition, eclecticism and packaging. DJ mixes of local music are also encouraged, but again: All source materials must be locally originated, and samples (also local) must be credited.

The winning entrant will receive a Mountain Xpress T-shirt, as well as an in-depth description of his or her mix in the Aug. 25 edition of Random Acts. (Runners-up will also receive mentions.)

Send entries to:

Random Acts Comp Mix Contest
c/o Mountain Xpress (Attn: Steve Shanafelt)
P.O. Box 144
Asheville, NC 28802

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