MP3 Bob Blackshear - Hill Country Gospel
Country/Bluegrass Gospel--This is a sound that warms the heart and edifies the soul. Grannny and Pappy would love it, but so will you. These are all new songs. Make no mistake, these songs promise to be the standards of tomorrow. Check them out.
12 MP3 Songs
GOSPEL: Country Gospel, COUNTRY: Bluegrass
My Kind of Music
By Bob Blackshear
Of all my endeavors—politics, gardening, woodworking, fishing, hunting, athletics, writing stories, or writing and playing music—writing and playing music is my favorite. I like different kinds of music from Bach to Bo Diddley, from Mendelson to Montovani, from Boss Skaggs to Ricky Skaggs, from Previn to Presley. There is good music in most genres, with the exceptions of hard rock and rapp music, if you can call them music. My favorite music is Bluegrass, straight from the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee—the stomping grounds of Bill Monroe, Don Reno and Red Smiley, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and countless other fine mountain musicians and singers. My love for this style of music is rooted in the peculiar sounds that resonate with the emotions in the music style called Bluegrass.
Bluegrass music is variously described by those who know it, by those who think they know it, and by those who haven’t a clue. I like how a thirteen year old Bluegrass disc jockey nailed it down tight when he said, “Bluegrass music is music from the heart through the nose.” There is a special nasal quality from mountain people that cuts to the very soul of the listener, a sound that Westerners and Texans find difficult to duplicate. It is a sound that begs description by those who know language well, but it can be felt by the common man from Wall Street in New York City to Main Street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There is a peculiarly visceral sensation when you hear that finger roll of the five string banjo or that eerie whine that emanates from the strings of the resonator guitar.
Pure Bluegrass music is played only on acoustic instruments—that is, no electrification, with the exception of microphones and amplifiers so that the audience can hear better. The usual Bluegrass band consists of guitar, banjo, upright bass, resonator guitar, fiddle, and mandolin.
I first gained an interest in Bluegrass music during my high school years in Dallas, Texas. One of my school buddies, Bob Haydon, and I started listening to this music from record albums he had purchased—Reno and Smiley, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Bill Harrell and the Virginians, Walter Forbes, Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, and the Osborn Brothers. On the weekends we sometimes stayed up until three o’clock in the morning listening to vocal and instrumental artists whose sounds just mesmerized our souls. When a player would break out on a particularly well-played riff, or solo, we’d look at each other and say, “Man, did you hear that,” and immediately we stopped the record and tried to pick out that part on our instruments. Haydon played a beautiful Gibson five string banjo with tuners, and I played a Gibson J200N flat top guitar.
I started experimenting with lyrics to my own Bluegrass songs. The mainstay of each song was the “hook” word or phrase that was needed to help the listener remember the song, want to sing along with it, and then buy the recording. I wrote such songs as “Blue Velvet Were Her Eyes,” “Just Start a Flame in Your Heart,” and “Beacon Light,” none of which have ever been published or recorded. Sometimes the titles themselves were the hook, but more often the hook came from the chorus, or refrain, of the song.
Haydon and I got fairly proficient with our respective instruments and began playing and singing our new musical expression wherever we could get an audience—usually in the homes of our girl friends. On two occasions we auditioned for a chance to play on the Big D Jamboree TV show, but, on one of those occasions, we got beat out by a guy who was trying to sound like the popular George Jones. The time was 1962-63, and Bluegrass music was a novelty in Dallas. We played Bluegrass when Bluegrass wasn’t cool. Lately, it has occurred to me that everybody plays it or knows someone who does. Before we were aware of it, we even auditioned our brand of Bluegrass at a place of ill repute. They said that our music was too Bluegrassy for them, and that was good enough for Haydon and me. So we high tailed it out of there after a couple of songs.
After two years of playing our music together, I moved away from Dallas. I was married by then, and my life had taken a different direction. I became a Christian bent toward special service, and with that my music took a different direction too. I started writing and playing Gospel music with a Country/Bluegrass flair. Since that time I have written over fifty Gospel songs in that style and played them in city jails, churches, Christian night spots, nursing homes, a county fair, and on the streets of downtown Johannesburg, South Africa.
In February, 2002, I recorded my first CD, making one hundred copies to sell and give away. I entitled the CD “Hill Country Gospel.” One of the songs, “Shine Like the Son,” was recorded in 2003 by Country Gospel artist, Sally Cowan. More recently, I recorded a “demo” CD of love songs dedicated to my wife Jackie, an excellent published writer herself. It was from one of her marvelous novels, The Sound of Windmills, that I’ve been inspired to write such songs as “Mama’s Hands,” “That’s Rugene,” “Our Graduation Dance,” and “The Sound of Windmills.” Jackie and I have discussed that when she publishes this book, I might be able to sing my songs as she hawks her books at the various sidewalk book fairs around the Texas Hill Country and other places.
A short time ago, I sang my Country/Bluegrass songs at The Court, an assisted living center in Round Rock, Texas. One resident asked me what inspired me to write the words of my songs. I told her that I wasn’t sure just how, but it seemed to me that God gave the talent for shaping words into song poems and the feel for rhythm and music. However, it has taken years for me to develop within the scope of this talent. What started out being very elementary poems has turned into more profound ones. What began as simple tunes has evolved into a more sophisticated use of simple chords and more elaborate chord progressions, and all this within the simplicity that is Bluegrass music. Though this type of music has been geared to the soul of the common man, it has been the most difficult of all popular styles to play instrumentally. For me, it has taken a great deal of time to master even the simplest runs on the guitar fret board. Though I haven’t given time to figuring out the more complex runs, I have given quality time to being lyrical with simple accompaniments. That has been where this particular hobby has taken me thus far.
What about the future? I’m semi-retired now, but if I’m permitted to live beyond retirement age, I’ll endeavor to publish and market some of the songs I’ve written and the new ones that will come to me later. If I live very much past retirement, I envision myself sitting around a cracker barrel in front of a potbellied stove with a handful of old pickers who are spinning yarns. While I soulfully and softly play in the background, I’ll listen to the rest of them as they snap at one another and wheeze out their life stories. This will give me plenty of new ideas for songs until I’m called home. But until that blessed event, I’ll just keep writing, singing, and picking Country/Bluegrass Gospel music.