LaMay and Reese: the growing songbook

You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley
You’ve got to walk it by yourself
Nobody else can walk it for you
You’ve got to walk it by yourself

As a fifteen-year-old growing up in Western New York, hearing that chorus in the Kingston Trio’s “Reverend Mr. Black,” awakened me to a new music—actually an old music—something like I’d never heard before. Just by coincidence, five years later Sherri Reese heard Johnny Cash sing the same song on his TV show and experienced the same epiphany.

When we met several years later in 1998, Sherri and I discovered that we had both been drawn to the old songs—songs that came out of the mountains—what we now think of as traditional American folk and country music.

Sherri grew up with old-timey and bluegrass music and had been performing with her father and daughter in a family band. I had been performing as a folk musician and singer/songwriter. Our teaming as a duo brought together our two styles, and we gravitated toward that old mountain sound. Our original songs retain the old feel.

It wasn’t long before some other bluegrass bands and folk musicians were singing and recording a number of our original songs. To illustrate our traditional direction: one of our favorite experiences as songwriters was at a traditional folk music gathering where we sang our original song, “Marbletown,” and several attendees were frantically leafing through their old song books trying to find the song.

We moved to Kentucky in 2004 at the urging of some fellow musicians, and we haven’t looked back. It’s been the opportunity of our lives to learn and share the music we love in the state where so many great songs were born.

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We continue traveling around to perform, and last year we played in seven states from Kansas to New York. The best part for us is meeting other musicians and making new friends.  We were singing in Coffeyville, Kan., for example and we sang “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight.'” After the concert we met an elderly woman whose sister had been one of Amelia’s best friends growing up in Topeka. These connections are what it’s all about for us.

Sherri and I appreciate the musicians who have passed their songs down to us. We have found that there’s still an audience out there for the old songs, and we’re doing our best to keep the music alive.

Joe LaMay

See LaMay and Reese perform Aug. 23, 2012,  during this year’s Kentucky On Stage, a showcase of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Performing Arts Directory. 

Categories: Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

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