Celtic jamming at Frog Level

By Jessi Stone Guide Editor | Mar 13, 2013
Photo by: Jessi Stone Tom Withrow, from left, Randy Jones and Rodney Rogers jam out with some traditional Celtic tunes March 7 at Frog Level Brewing Company.

A group of varied musicians gather every Thursday for a jam session at Frog Level Brewing Company, and on the first and third Thursday they can be heard playing Celtic classics.

On March 7, about 10 musicians filtered into Frog Level to play some Celtic favorites. Randy Jones of Cullowhee and Christine Mercier of Sylva were the first ones there warming up their fiddles. They've been playing with the group for about a year.

Mercier only started playing the violin five years ago when she moved to the area.

"There's so much music around here," she said. "When I moved here I knew I needed to get in on it and the violin is a real challenge of an instrument."

Robert Lindy of Cullowhee brings the unique sound of the bodhrán, Irish for drum, to the group. He's been playing the instrument for 20 years and said he has played with the group "off and on" for a year.

Jim Webb of Waynesville said Asheville was a popular spot for all kinds of jam sessions, but he felt like Haywood County needed its own because of all the great local musicians.

Webb plays classical flute and used to play with the local band Celtic Knots.

"But with the jam session it's less stressful," he said. "If you don't want to come you don't have to come. It's very informal."

The jam session group rotates between old time mountain music and Celtic music each Thursday, but Webb said there was just something special about Celtic music that everyone enjoyed.

"We like the music because it kind of goes back to the old European roots," he said. "It's a source for a lot of music and has a folksy spirit to it."

The group includes many different ability levels and welcomes beginners to join. The do jigs and reels, with a ballad thrown in now and again — but usually don't play at full tempo because of the range of experience.

Many of the musicians play multiple instruments, including the youngest in the group Keegan Lucky-Smith, 17, of Crabtree, who plays tenor banjo and mandolin.

Bess Crider of Waynesville leads the group through the numbers as she plays the hammered dulcimer, stringed instrument perfect for any folk type music. She's been playing the instrument for 15 years and started jamming with the group more than a year ago.

"We busted wanted to have a place to play," she said.

Susan and Tom Withrow of Candler also joined the group on March 7. Susan plays violin and flute while Tom plays violin and banjo.

Rodney Rogers and David Russell, both of Waynesville, brought their years of guitar experience to the group. Russell also plays the Irish bouzouki.

The group can be seen from 6:30-8 p.m. each Thursday at Frog Level Brewing Company and newcomers are welcome. For more information, contact Jim Webb at jamesawebb@charter.net.