March 5, 2011 - Roland White and "Y'all Come"

Mandolinist Roland White asked my string bass and I on board for a local, Northern California tour that he set up for this past week. He had Laurie Lewis on fiddle, Keith Little on guitar, and Patrick Sauber on 5‑string. On Tuesday March 1, we played the Occidental Arts Center, and on Wednesday, Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Then, with Mike Wilhoyte replacing Keith, we played Friday at Bernie's Guitar in Redding, and Saturday in Sacramento for a house concert at Candy and Paul's.

“God bless house concerts,” someone in the band said, and yes, they can be the glue that holds a tour together.

After the gig Friday night, Roland, Mike and I went to stay at Linda and Bruce’s home. They live on a 100-acre ranch above Redding, in a small community set on a ridge. We arrived well after midnight and got to bed fairly quickly.

We awoke next morning to find ourselves in a lovely home on a beautiful ranch with cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, and fruits and vegetables of all stripes. We looked across the living room and dining room to see Bruce and Linda moving around in the kitchen, Linda preparing the table for breakfast, and Bruce cooking chilaquiles, a Mexican egg dish.

[Chilaquiles: Cut fresh tortillas into triangles and fry in oil with garlic salt until they are crisp. Sauté onions, peppers and sausage, stir in a dozen beaten eggs and finally, when almost done, some homemade salsa. Lay down a layer of the crisp tortilla chips on each plate and dish spoon the egg mixture over. Top each dish with grated cheddar and pepper jack cheese. Watch as cheese melts into the eggs, slides down their crevices, and pools in white bubbles of milk fat.]

We had started in on this high cholesterol and yet somehow deeply flavorful meal, when in walked Linda and Bruce’s daughter, son-in-law, and their three kids. They lived down the lane, on 60 acres. Our numbers had doubled, and a breakfast party had begun. Delicious coffee and O.J. started going around. Neighbor down the road who owned the local coffee shop, dropped by for a cuppa joe, wouldn’t ya know, and we all shook and howdy-ed. Then the son-in-law’s sister, who lived across the street on 5 acres, walked in and joined us. Then Laurie Lewis and Patrick Sauber arrived with their hosts, Barry and his wife. So we had easily 15 people eating a taste bud-altering breakfast, slogging coffee, tea and O.J., while over here some perfectly behaved kids were running around, and in this corner, dad was reading a children’s book to his youngest. The Sirius bluegrass channel was on the tube, so as each cut was played we could see the name of the tune and the artist singing it.

Some of these artists became the subject of a story told by someone in the group. Roland’s tales go back to his days playing with his brother Clarence White, to say nothing of playing with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, Lester Flat and the Nashville Grass, Country Gazette, the Dreadful Snakes, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

When a Flatt & Scruggs tune came on the air, Roland told this story about playing with Lester Flatt:

 

We were playing a schoolhouse that probably sat 100. But when we walked on stage, there were only 11 people sitting in the audience.

I turned to Lester, “I guess you don’t draw much here,” I said.

“This is your crowd,” Flatt shot back.

 

Then Roland, Laurie and Patrick sang an a cappella chorus that hushed the room.

I asked Linda, “How often does this beautiful scene take place here?”

She said, “Just about every day.”

 

 

Roland pairs the song “Y’all Come” with “New River Train” in a medley that ends his second set. The lyrics sing of living in the country where everyone was a neighbor, where kinfolk and friends drop by all the time to chat, eat and drink together, to just hang out around Grandma’s kitchen.

I had thought that the lyrics of “Y’all Come,” were like a Norman Rockwell painting: a story that is true to a time that was, but not from it; a story too good to be real.

But there it was, a real, living “Y’all Come!” Grand-ma and grand–pa, kids and grandkids, neighbors, in-laws and outlaws (well, a traveling bluegrass band), all dropping in, eating and drinking at an overflowing kitchen table, standing around the oak-fired fireplace chewing the fat, sitting in the living room with bluegrass playing in the background or being sung live in the foreground, in a country ranch surrounded by cows mooing, a rooster crowing, and chickens scratching.

The last line of the refrain of “Y’all Come” is, “You all come to see us when you can.”

And the last thing Bruce and Linda said to us as we left, swear to gosh, was, “Please come back again, any time!”


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