Dori Freeman isn't the only person in her family with chops; apparently grandpa has them too
By Robert Dean
In the random goodness section of Farce The Music, I was given the link to check out Willard Gayheart's new record, At Home in the Blue Ridge. While it's straight ahead, down-home bluegrass, that's entirely capable of captivating even the most stringent of fans, what's endearing about the project is that this is Gayheart's first record, and he's 87 years old.
Gayheart is a famed visual artist in the small town of Galax, Virginia and has been in the bluegrass scene throughout the Blue Ridge Mountain area, but At Home in the Blue Ridge is a substantial collection of songs that is nothing but a sweet surprise. Gayheart should have released a solo record decades ago considering how well the songs are put together.
The songs on the record are clearly rooted in the Appalachian traditions as well as respect for the local culture. Despite playing in bluegrass bands throughout the years, Gayheart hadn't flexed his songwriting muscles, till it became a family affair as At Home in The Blue Ridge features his granddaughter, the Americana songstress Dori Freeman, her husband Nick Falk, plus Dori's dad Scott Freeman. The record was produced by Teddy Thompson, who's long been a collaborator with Dori.
What gives At Home in The Blue Ridge it's unique and inviting tone is that it was recorded live in Willard's frame shop where he proudly displays and sells his pencil drawings. How homespun is that? One of the most endearing things about Gayheart's songs are the stripped down, honest themes of the bygone days of Appalachia, good times and bad when people still scraped livings from the mountains themselves, growing what they had to eat and sharing what they grew.
At Home in the Blue Ridge is available on Amazon and other music sites.