Jammin' and taking it easy

January 30, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Full Circle Cafe on the main street of Keedysville is not too far from Little Antietam Creek, but there is no river in sight.

Yet on Saturday, Jan. 31, some Saturdays before and several more to come, Full Circle will host a River House concert.

On the bill are Allegheny Uprising, South Mountain String Band and the Rock Candy Cloggers.

Doors will open at 7 p.m., and dinner, a wide variety of teas and an array of cafe owner Yvonne Hope's homemade cakes will be available.


The River House of the concert series' name, now in its fourth year, has been a movable feast of music. Cheryl Mansley-Ford began the house concerts several years ago after returning to the local area by way of Delaware and Oregon.

She had lived in Shepherdstown, W.Va., for eight years, and it's the place that seems most like home, she says.

Mansley-Ford, 51, says she's always organized things - play groups for children and moms, a single-mothers group. Musicians gathered in the first home she lived in when she came back. It was indeed on the river, and its "awesome great room" became a place where music and potluck dinners happened.

River House concerts continued when Mansley-Ford moved to a 60-acre farm near Shepherdstown two years ago. The covered dish format also continued, the $10 admission donation went to the players, and Mansley-Ford made hot-fudge sundaes for all.

River House concerts took up residence at Hope's Full Circle Cafe last fall.

Music from a small stage fills the old building that formerly was home to an antique shop and, long ago, the Woman's Christian Temperance Hall.

The atmosphere is informal and easygoing. There are people who come a lot, and people Mansley-Ford says she's never seen before.

Mary Dailey is one who attends often.

On Saturday, she'll be singing and playing guitar and mountain dulcimer with the South Mountain String Band's Rob Caruthers on fiddle and Paul Mackrell Jr. on clawhammer banjo. But Dailey often helps Mansley-Ford at her River House concerts - even if she's not performing.

"She's really so good at bringing people together and giving it a community feel," Dailey says of Mansley-Ford and the music.

Allegheny Uprising will play old-time and mountain music as well as some contemporary folk - some of which is original. There's fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and vocals - from band members Scott and Betty Jo Rockwell and Jay Votel.

The three met and played together in the early 1980s while they were students at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown.

Votel's musical career has included working as a solo folksinger, a member of a bluegrass band and half of an acoustic variety duo.

Scott Rockwell plays bass guitar, upright bass, guitar, fiddle and mandolin. He describes his clawhammer-style of banjo playing as "frailing" - not the three-finger-picking of bluegrass - but kind of banging with a claw-shaped hand.

Betty Jo Rockwell, married to Scott for 21 years, studied flute and has taught music in public and private schools in Berkeley County, W.Va.

Allegheny Uprising plays several times a year at the Mecklenberg Inn in Shepherdstown, and the group performed recently in Elkton, Md., and at the nearby Country Roads festival. "Pretty Little Dog," the group's new CD, will be available at Full Circle.

Dailey, who "formally" - as formal as mountain music gets - joined Caruthers and Mackrell last fall, describes the music of South Mountain String Band as "high-energy, fun, foot-stompin' kind of music."

Mackrell, whom Dailey calls "the Pavarotti of old-time singing," concurs. He's been playing clawhammer banjo since he heard country-folk stalwart Ralph Stanley play it at a local festival in 1975.

He calls his string band's energy the same energy as that of old-time bands. "It's back-porch music," he adds.

"You either love it or you don't," says Caruthers of the "old-time" music. He loves it and has been playing since the 1970s after he was inspired by it when he was in college in Virginia. He heard the rhythmic fiddle of the genre and fell in love.

Caruthers enjoys having the Rock Candy Cloggers dance to the string band's music. Rock Howland and Candy Ranlet are so agreeable, he says, and their clogging adds another dimension to the music.

Caruthers and Mackrell have been making "good, ol' mountain music" together for about 25 years.

Titles include "June Apple," "Cluck, Old Hen," "Grumbling Old Man, Growling Old Woman," "Tater Patch" and "Kitchen Girl."

The songs have no copyrights, no names attached, Dailey says. They may get changed a little, but their heart remains the same.

You can sit down to play in a roomful of people you don't know and the music starts and you immediately connect, she says.

"It's everybody's music," Dailey says. "That's what folk music is."

If you go

River House Concert

Allegheny Uprising, South Mountain String Band and the Rock Candy Cloggers

8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31; 7 p.m. doors open.

Full Circle Cafe
38 North Main Street

Tickets cost $10.

For information or reservations, call 1-304-876-2690 or send e-mail to

Future River House Concerts at Full Circle Cafe:

Bluegrass: Ed and Eldred of Patent Pending

Saturday, Feb. 7

Singin' the Bones: Laura First, Don Oehser, Susan Spangler; Kipyn Martin opens

Saturday, Feb. 14

Wolf Creek Session - Celtic roots music: Keith Pitzer, Joan Pitzer, Mike Broderick, Alice Fleischman

Saturday, Feb. 28

Danny Doyle, Irish balladeer

Saturday, March 6

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