Musicians hate genres, but there may be no other festival more aptly named than Suwannee Roots Revival. The event is by all means an unrivaled collection of roots and Americana music, but it also harkens to roots of other sorts, through the twisting moss of the hallowed Spirit of Suwannee Music Park grounds where Native Americans once frolicked to the way generations of families skipped arms entangled from stage to stage.
What better way to cement that heritage than a series of musical workshops with artists themselves. These ranged from songwriting workshops with Willie Sugarcapps to mandolin playing with Mickey Abraham, but my personal highlight was a an hour of banjo and philosophy with Rev. Jeff Mosier speaking and taking questions from about 30 novice players and listeners. Longtime sidekick of cosmic prankster Col. Bruce Hampton, Mosier played three sets of music throughout the weekend, but the most heartfelt and direct mentions of Hampton came in tidbits throughout this workshop. This would be too tidy for Hampton, but let’s boil it down to the four noble truths of Col. Bruce.
“Listening is everything.”
Being present when you’re not playing is just as if not more important than when you aren’t. The quality players are in constant conversation when on stage, both audibly and visibly. If you;re not paying attention, you’re being left behind. Mosier went on to clue the crowd into some of those secrets, like the raising of the foot when a song’s about to end,
“Drop the ego”.
There should be no boundary between the stage and the audience. As a player, to think you’re more important than the listener because you run your hands over wood well is asinine. Music is above all a human experience and to cut off that connection is to cheapen it.
If there’s one thing that was most clear about Col. Bruce in his time here, it’s his belief that “the worst thing in the world is a serious musician”. The constant prankster both on and off stage, Hampton made clear what Mosier demanded of the small gathered: “Have fun!”.
“The movie ends the same for all of us. Make it a good one.”
Mosier promised he wasn’t being downer when he mentioned this simple fact: we’re all going to die. Instead, he asked to us to recognize it for what it was and to embrace life how we intended it, to get off the fence, stand firmly, and play a tune or two.
As the crowd’s questions came to an end, something happened I’ve never seen in my time at Suwannee. A fuse was blown and power suddenly went out. Unphased, Mosier gathered his two fiddle players and acoustic guitarist for a final tune, Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”. Originally a lament for long lost lover, this take, with emphasis on the “day you said goodbye line”, was an obvious nod to the man who shaped Mosier so much.