Monday, May 05, 2008

Autoharp Hero

The gentleman holding the autoharp in the last picture from the Sheep and Wool festival is Bryan Bowers. I was, as we used to say, "blown away" the first time I saw him play back in 1972. A friend and I had gone to a show at the Lisner Auditorium to catch The Seldom Scene, a bluegrass band we held in the same awe we would normally reserve for the Dead, Cream or Dylan. Bryan Bowers was also on the bill, following The Seldom Scene. Our guys put on a tremendous show, with their trademark mix of newgrass instrumental virtuosity, tight vocals and traditional stylings put into overdrive by the stage presence of the irrepressible John Duffy. Happy with what we had just heard, we were ready to leave but decided to see what one guy with an autoharp could do. We figured at least it would be good for a laugh. What followed was an hour of music still fresh in my mind over thirty-five years later. The energy pouring off that stage and the sounds he got from that string-covered board were nothing short of amazing. It was good to see him on Saturday. The energy level exhibited Saturday was more fitting for an elder statesman than a young turk, but he can still play. He doesn't look much like he used to:

But then, neither do I. It was good to hear him again.