Ramblers man: Jamie Dyer goes way back

Talking to Jamie Dyer is an experience rather akin to being inside a Jose Luis Borges story: You recognize some of the names and places as real, but some of the conversation belongs almost in the realm of make-believe.

For example, did you know the inscription on the Liberty Bell, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," was taken from Leviticus 25:10?

And this section relates to the fact that every seven years was a Sabbath year in Israel, where all the inhabitants were released from their debts? Dyer believes that the U.S. was founded with this cyclical release from debt in mind, and he is more than willing to back up that claim. Mind blown yet?

In addition to being a fascinating conversationalist, Dyer is the lead singer and songwriter for one of the local musical linchpins in Charlottesville, the never-say-die Hogwaller Ramblers– definitely my pick for the most utterly off-kilter bluegrass band in this town's acres of bluegrass.

Born in North Carolina to "a Yankee dad and a first-generation Irish Southern mom during the tail end of a hurricane in 1961," Dyer ended up in Charlottesville in the late '70s after stints in Florida, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. But his presence here was not always so constant. "Like all hardcore Cvilleoid transplants," he explains, "I was prone to the Charlottesville yo-yo effect. The best thing about leaving is coming back."

Formed in the early '90s, the Ramblers had their roots in another act, a band called Grub: "pure indie, DIY spirit, and some damn good music," Dyer recalls.

After Grub's demise, Dyer and former Grub bassist Rick Jones, accordion player David Goldstein, and drummer David Wellbeloved began playing together.

The name [Hogwaller Ramblers] did not come until later. "Since then," Dyer muses, "the band has gone through massive changes in lineup. I'd swear half the town can claim membership in this band at some point or another."

Though the group's biggest gig was either Farm Aid '99 or Michael Feldman's "Whaddaya Know" NPR radio program, the Ramblers also had a weekly spot at the infamous Fellini's back in the early '90s– which, amusingly enough, started two years after Dyer quit drinking.

Off the record, Dyer's tales of the Hogwallers' Sunday night performances sound Romanesque in their debauchery, and make one yearn for a five-minute glimpse into the past (ideally with a camera).

Week in and week out, you can now find Dyer and half of the Ramblers at Blue Moon Diner Tuesdays after 8, and the whole rambling pack at Escafé Sundays after 10. Approach Dyer, if you're up for a interesting history lesson.

Whether you agree with him or not, he'll impress you with his mind.

Jamie Dyer<