One of the 'Boys': Mystery deepens on the Corner
The Slate Hill Boys
The Slate Hill Boys, mysterious beyond all other Charlottesville groups I've heard, were a chance discovery as I walked down the Corner Friday night. In search of music to soothe the savage Hook Prowl beast, a free show, at a pretty empty establishment, was enough to get me through the doors and ordering from the bar (yeah, I'm easy).
As I sat at one of the many vacant tables, the Jaberwoke's principal layout fault became blatantly apparent– the high sides of booths to the left of the stage mean you have to strain to see the band. If the club would simply turn the booths, suddenly the seating options for patrons of the arts would increase immensely (four booths or so).
Tuning up (behind the wooden side panel), were two Slate Hill Boys, although "Boys," had led me to expect at least three of them. Soon enough, after the customary "Dueling Banjos" Deliverance theme, the two went into their first number, an instrumental "old time country blues song" whose name I didn't catch.
To the left of the singer was an acoustic guitarist, playing what might be described as "rhythm bluegrass guitar. Though picking was featured prominently in his playing, the flashier performance was consistently given by the gentleman to his right. Sporting a beat-up cap, and consistently talking and singing in a deep Southern accent, the group's singer/guitarist played his instrument with skill and ease.
"Black Cat Blues" was next, a song the singer attributed to John Jackson. Based on a standard blues progression, the song, with its "I've got one black cat hanging around my door. If that black cat don't leave here, don't want it hanging around no more" lyrics sung by the still-hatted Southern gentleman, was technically impressive, and even more impressive emotionally. After a number of slower blues numbers, including one called "Key of the Highway," a stand-up bass player appeared on stage, leading the capped one to proclaim, "Now we have a bass player we should all stand up," though he himself remained sitting (for apparently technical reasons).
"For years and years I rambled, I drank my wine and gambled," began the singer, in a story song about one man's struggles with his rowdy past. The song went something like this "I was rowdy" / "I met a girl" / "I cannot change my rowdy ways" / "I met an old friend"/ "Yodalayhehoo!"
The Slate Hill Boys played good, rough and tumble country-folk, but the show was, as previously mentioned, very mysterious. The accent– affected or real? Who exactly is in the band? I believe the bass player was, as far as could be determined, just a walk-on for the evening.
In some dilapidated shack deep down South, are there more members waiting for their chance to become one of the "Boys"?
The Slate Hill Boys
PHOTO BY MARK GRABOWSKI