We were walking along Main Street when we heard some fast-paced bluegrass music rising up from one of the performance stages that dot the festival map. This one was the "local" stage on First Avenue.
We were curious. We made our way through the crowd and there, on the stage, was this girl who looked to be about 10 years old furiously putting the fiddle through its paces. The instrument had no choice but to submit. Her stage presence and confidence were in total command.
There was another kid on stage, a young teenage boy, who was playing the guitar as if it were his best friend.
Behind them, on the upright bass, was a guy who looked like he could be their daddy. (He is.)
So we stayed a while and listened, and were duly impressed. The little girl, of course, was the attraction. Kids who perform as good, if not better, than adults are always something to see.
Best of all, these folks actually were local, coming from the west Davidson part of the county. Whoa. They can eat barbecue whenever they want.
Skip forward to this year. Come to learn that the fiddle player, Samantha, is 17 years old now. She's more confident than ever, writing a lot of her own stuff about relationships, whaling ships and performing as a minstrel on the road. She's got a strong, mature singing voice with subtle range that just carries you into the lyrics. She first picked up the fiddle when she was three years old and hasn't let go. That's attention span for you.
Zeb, her brother, is 21 now and studying mathematics, or science, or some abstract big bang theory that's way beyond me at High Point University (he serves as his sister's calculus tutor). Zeb first learned the guitar classically, then drifted to the Americana genre. He sings with a country baritone voice but he can soar when in harmony with his sister. His musicianship is spectacular as you watch his fingers seemingly fly across the strings and frets of his guitars and mandolins.
Oh, yes. Both kids are mutli-instrumentalists. Samantha can put down her fiddle and pick up a guitar without missing a beat. Zeb apparently can play anything with strings, so hide your yo-yos.
A little brother, Owen, is 11 years old and he brings a banjo to the party. During the set we saw, he played just one tune, but he was captivating in that way that Samantha was when she was younger. It's all out there for him, too. C'mon, give him two tunes to play.
Where does family DNA like this come from?
It seems like we don't hear much from this family, even though they record in Asheville and have a couple of CDs out there. But local appearances seem to be limited. Part of that may have to do with the fact that the kids are still in school, which really cuts down on touring time. And part of it may just be me, waiting once every five years to catch them again.
I promise to do better.