Seats were hard to come by Saturday night as music fans flocked to the Pocahontas County Opera House for a night at the opry.
“It’s so wonderful to see all of you here this evening,” Opera House manager Brynn Kusic said in her welcome. “It’s been a bit of a long winter, and I’m thrilled you were able to make it out tonight – especially for a night like Opry Night. We have not one, but two, of your favorite local bluegrass bands here tonight – the Viney Mountain Bluegrass Boys and the Elk River Ramblers.”
The Viney Mountain Bluegrass Boys – composed of Doug Scott on guitar, Richard Hefner, II, on banjo, David Kershner on bass, and Joe “Jody” Harrison, III, on mandolin – began the night with a lively tune led by Hefner on the banjo.
Drawing inspiration from the Stanley Brothers, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, their families and the mountain overlooking Little Levels, the Viney Mountain Bluegrass Boys is a band that has remained true to its roots – preferring traditional bluegrass styles over the modernized styles seen today.
Following a brief intermission, the Elk River Ramblers – consisting of Terry Richardson on guitar, Galen Watts on bass and vocals, and Paul Marganian on fiddle, guitar and vocals – took the stage.
“I was so nervous when we first started playing,” Marganian laughed.
He told the folks to feel free to talk and walk around during their performance, but the crowd was mesmerized by the group’s signature Appalachian old-time, bluegrass, Celtic, classic rock and klezmer tunes.
“We try to mix up the genres as much as possible,” Marganian said of their musical stylings, “and give enough diversity to make things interesting. I think what keeps it together is just the instrumentations. We’re a string trio, and we make these arrangements for a string trio – whether it’s a rock song, a klezmer tune or straight up bluegrass.”
For those who are not familiar with klezmer tunes, the genre came about as a result of musical cross-pollination over the centuries and embodies a number of traditions – including Eastern European, Gypsy and Hebrew/Jewish traditions.
“People tend to think it’s primarily Hebrew/Jewish music,” Watts explained, “but there are a lot of additional influences, too.”
The Ramblers entertained the crowd with fan favorites, such as Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and the Grateful Dead’s “Bird Song,” as well as original songs from the band’s two albums, Up the Creek and A Murder of Crows.
Recently released, A Murder of Crows debuted in November 2015.
“We were looking back on our first album, Up the Creek,” Marganian said, “and for us, it was like we were looking at a different band. We thought that it was time for a new CD.”
Former Rambler Alan Dutchess passed away in 2013, but he has remained with the band in spirit and inspiration – particularly for the band’s newest album. According to Richardson, a number of Dutchess’ songs – unrecorded on the band’s first album – were featured on A Murder of Crows, including the song from which the album received its name.
“It was actually Terry’s idea,” Marganian explained, “but we found the title in a line from the second song on the album. The song, itself, has a lot of weird vocals, but the line reads “Have you seen / A hundred murder of crows,” and we really liked that.”
The Elk River Ramblers is the house band of the Elk River Inn and Restaurant in Slaty Fork, where they perform nearly every Thursday night.
Refreshments for Opry Night were provided by the Minnehaha Braves 4-H Club.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton.
The 2015-16 Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals.