King of the Mountain
Jake Blount ’17 just disproved the notion that practice makes perfect. Blount, a banjo player, put together an impromptu old-time string band, the Moose Whisperers, for a performance at the Appalachian String Band Festival (Clifftop) in West Virginia and took home first place.
Blount said that the modern Appalachian Old-Time scene revolves around festivals. “Our festivals are participatory in nature; everyone shows up with a tent, camps out and jams. Some of these festivals feature contests,” he said, “and the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.V., is one of them.” Blount said the Clifftop is the most important competition in today's Appalachian Old-Time scene. “To win, we prevailed over some of the most well-known and widely respected musicians in old time,” he explained.
Blount’s band, the Moose Whisperers, was a pickup band whose members are from New York, Maryland, North Carolina and Norway. “We rehearsed for half an hour before prelims and an hour and a half before finals, where our competition was a mix of other spontaneous groupings and established bands,” said Blount. They played Brushy Forks of John's Creek (prelims), Sally in the Turnip Patch and Durang's Hornpipe. As a result of this year’s win the band will be playing one of the two concert performances at the festival next year (the winners of the neo-traditional competition play the other one).
The rising senior noted that Professor Lydia Hamessley gave him his first banjo lessons three years ago. “An on-campus performance by Bruce Molsky that she organized inspired me to take up old-time in the first place, and she's been a guide every step of the way,” Blount remarked. “I wouldn't have found this at all if not for her. My victory should serve as proof positive of her exceptional teaching skills.”