Saturday, July 23, 2011

Making Monday Magical Was a Drop In the Bucket for Mitch Barrett

It's a drop in the bucket
And a bucket in the pond
And the pond fills the river
And the river rushes on
And every river swells a river
Until the power can't be stopped
And what becomes a mighty ocean
Started with a drop
--Mitch Barrett
"Drop In the Bucket"

Life is more than fair.  Polyanna, yes.  But oh so true once again.

It all started last Friday evening when I made an appearance at the Snowbird Mountain Music Festival with a couple of friends.  I spotted Ricochet House Concerts' Ruth Naccarato standing next to a charming long-haired gentleman and I practically sprinted over to say hi.  Before I knew it, I was shaking hands with decorated and much heralded singer/songwriter/storyteller Mitch Barrett.  When Ruthie learned I couldn't attend last Saturday evening's headliner event featuring Mitch and his band, she asked "What are you doing Monday night?  We should have a house concert."  And instantly a magical Monday evening of Appalachianfunkyrastafolksyblues music was born.

Mitch Barrett wove hand-pieced songs and stories into a brightly colorful mosaic quilt of Appalachian life.  Creatures like cosmic possums live in his world.  And Barrett, from Berea, Kentucky, brought the folklore, myths, and stories of his mountain people to life with songs like "Paper Bags and Cardboard Boxes" and "Paper, Scissors, Stone."  Barrett's song, "Sacred Yard" painted images of plastic roosters, bird baths and concrete Buddha's.  He is champion for a simple life, devoid of the trappings of careers and possessions in favor of cultivating the light within:

Everything is sacred every breath of air
Be careful what you're thinking sacred every thought's a prayer

It's the ordinary day people you talk to every day
Incantations and prophecies from the mouths of babes
You can talk about the weather or the foods you crave
It's the feeling you project not the words you say

The audience of 30 or so invited guests were undaunted by rain early in the first set.  Barrett's playful spirit was evident throughout the evening as he danced to the beat.  He sang about southern women in "Viola," "Christiania," and "Pearl."  I was captivated by the rhythmic southern love melody "Shady Grove."  Barrett included in his repertoire a couple of traditional mountain music tunes: "no need to pay royalties on those," he noted.

In between songs and sometimes during, Barrett's southern drawl put color on life in his Appalachian home with stories about neighbors, home and family.  If there's anything I miss about my years in the south, it's the lure of the accent, the words spoken smooth and slow. 

Barrett asked in the kindest, most caring way if the nation's economic downturn had affected those in the audience and our friends and neighbors.  It's humbling to appreciate that the inquiry came from a simple man who several described that night as one who travelled with barely a bedroll when attending the Rocky Mountain Music Festival some years ago.  Barrett described how his now ex-wife, or as he prefers to refer to her "the mother of my children," concurrently informed him she was leaving him and that she'd entered him in a songwriting contest.  Nothing like softening the blow.  Barrett is to be credited for acknowledging her hard work, along with his own, on their music and their CDs. 

The second set began with "Jack Gone Huntin'," a story for the children.  Barrett is the consummate storyteller: "I'm not lyin', I'm telling a story," he said, garnering a chuckle from the audience as he hinted of his CD named for that very punch line.  The legendary Appalachian music box appeared and Barrett played it as if it were a harp as he told more stories.  Storytelling gave way to a starry sky, and twinkling stage lights.  Mitch brought Ruth and Reba onstage to sing with him.  Several sing alongs later, the evening culminated with "Drop In the Bucket," a tune that evokes the feeling of being aboard a boat on the rolling Mississippi.

It's been said that a song remembers when.  With five of Mitch's CDs already loaded to my computer, I'll remember the magic of Mitch's Monday night music for a long time.

Mitch Barrett CDs
Soft Lies
Birds Fly South
Drop In the Bucket
Heart & Soul 
I Ain't Lyin' I'm Telling You a Story

Mitch Barrett
Mitch Barrett (MySpace)
Mitch Barrett (Facebook)
Ricochet House Concerts (Facebook)

Mitch Barrett - Vocals, guitar, Appalachian music box, storytelling
Owen Reynolds - Bass
Eddie Green - Guitar
Melody Youngblood - Vocals