Sunday, May 10, 2009

Masters of Guitar Series -- Al Petteway and Amy White

This award-winning husband and wife duo reside in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina just outside of Asheville, NC. They've been playing together since 1995 and their sound is an acoustic, celtic, traditional, appalacian-inspried, old-timey blend of goodness. I'm not typically drawn to instrumental music and so many of my favorite songs were the ones with lyrics. Amy's voice is lovely. I loved how they would often play looking at each other. There is something tender and endearing in the gesture.

Their music was very warm and many of their songs were done with Amy on Mandolin and Al on guitar, though throughout the evening they played African drums, the piano and a variety of different guitars (some were dedicated guitars to specific tunings that would be difficult to achieve quickly on stage). Because traveling with that many instruments would be difficult, many of the ones they played with were loans from local musicians which I thought was a nice touch.

They played 20 songs plus an encore and one of my favorites was a song they described as a "christmas song" called "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle" and that one featured Amy on piano. I just loved the melody and the energy of the song. Another favorite from the show was a version of the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed."

Here's the full poem:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Their music is featured in The National Parks: America's Best Idea,a six-part series from Ken Burns and Florentine Films which is scheduled to air on PBS this September.

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