The musical force of gravity has been strong around Jim's shop -- Wooden Music -- for years now. Most everyone in the surrounding counties of Indiana and Michigan know about Jim as a repair guy and builder. And if you happen to take in the sets of a few local bands, it's not unusual to see entire trios playing nothing but Jim Shenk's instruments (the locally famous "Goldmine Pickers" regularly have three of Jim's instruments on stage).
I got an email from my friend, Lukas, saying that the "Hard Time Traveling Band" was playing Rachel's Bread on Friday night (last night). "Hard Time Traveling Band" is whoever happens to be in town and playing with Lukas. Loosely, it's Lukas and Adam. Or Lukas and Adam and Jim. Or Lukas and Adam and Jim and Joe. Or Lukas and Joe. Or Lukas and Joe and Adam. Sometimes it includes me.
Since I knew Dar was headed north, I hitched a ride. I didn't pack a guitar. I didn't want to presume. Besides, there's always a guitar up there.
I sat at a table enjoying some of Rachel's new sausage soup and one of Jim's brick oven baked pizzas (The "Roma" -- Italian sausage and red peppers cut in a pinwheel garnish) and a couple of local beers as I enjoyed Lukas and Adam. Lukas is a metronome. The kid is SO much fun to play with. He knows his part and he NEVER leaves you cold -- never lets you down. You can play around with rhythm because you know Lukas will be there when you get back. And he's become as good on mandolin as he is on guitar.
Adam is one of the most gifted musicians I've ever played with. He just has music in his hands. And he listens. Really listens. I didn't recognize him last night. He started playing and I knew immediately who he was. But I didn't recognize him. He's the one on the right. But here's a picture of him and me playing in Jim's shop in October...
They were playing for tips. So, though I was invited up early, I didn't take them up on it. They had a full house, and I figured they'd do well. They sounded great. They're big fans of Welch/Rawlings and others of that generation of new old-timey. And they've learned the coolest fiddle tunes. And even some of the old standards (like Billy In The Lowground) they've put their distinctive stamp on. Lukas' rhythm allows Adam's sense for tasteful syncopation to really work well. They did a couple of a capella songs as well.
But Jim's gotten downright wicked good on that dobro. When he was younger he played a little lap steel in a country band. When he started building, he built himself the resonator and has been messing around on it for several years now. With his good ear for music and an overflowing pocketful of nice-sounding figures, he does a great job of filling behind a song.
We closed down the restaurant and then some -- still getting a few bits of applause from the kitchen workers who remained to enjoy the music.