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The Wampler Brothers at Froggies

February 19, 20201143Views

Visions of old gods from the Appalachia. Lurching gargantuan from out of the misty fens. Milk-eyed and ravenous. Acid streaked swamp water hissing off their scales. The awful and secret spine of the ancient mountain breaking surface.

Sipping from kiln fired clay. Lightning fused moonshine that leaves you momentarily blind while bluegrass rises like smoke out of the muddy, blood soaked earth. Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs: "The lights in the harbor don't shine for me. I'm like a lost ship, adrift on the sea." The Osbourne Brothers: "I'm sittin' in the shade with a shovel and a spade. I'm diggin' in the ground's cold mine." That mean old bully, Colonel Bill Monroe: "You ain't bluegrass unless I say you're bluegrass son. Sit down." And of course, it's entirely probable that the greatest players of the genre never made it out of their own back yards. Cloistered away in the cypress snarled backpaths, deep in hill country. Murdered by a cousin or a brother or the law before we could ever know them.

It was with this in my head when I ventured forty minutes away to sit and listen to the Wampler Brothers at Froggies.

. . .

This, is of course, completely unfair.

A romanticized, Americana-Gothic idea of music that probably never existed in the first place. And ever if it did, not likely that this is where you're going to find it. In a tourist town spawned of a navy settlement, in a barbecue joint where folks are just looking for a good time and some dancing. The Wampler Brothers are more "newgrass" in flavor, and they're mighty fine at doin' what they do. There's a war in the culture of bluegrass between traditionalists and folks lookin' to appeal to a younger crowd. More jam inspired. Folkier.

The band is top notch, musicianship-wise. Bill Wampler leads on some kind of new-fangled acoustic-electric mandolin. Ron Charlton holds it down in a no-nonsense fashion on bass. John Westbrook brings some seasoned sizzle on guitar. Jay Shenk on the fiddle. Ben Lassiter is either part of the band now or was just sitting in -- either way he shined with some cool resonator picking. Everybody sings, and sings well. The sound meanders around nicely between folk and bluegrass and old country, and it's worth noting that while this isn't my particular flavor of music, I found myself enjoying it. People were up and dancing, which is more than I can say for most shows around here.

If you're a fan of old-timey, good-natured country music that you can sing along with, this is a band you'll enjoy. If you're looking for classic bluegrass, some of that is here as well. All and all, this is a solid group deserving of your evening, even if it isn't the supernatural swamp music I crave. Great band to knock back a pint or two with, and Froggies is a fine venue with solid acoustics. If you're down with the Foggy Mountain Boys, or outlaw country? Go check 'em out!

--end transmission--

Words and pics by Jeff Hewitt. Shot with a Mamiya 645AFD using a P21+ back.