…and when concepts are concerned there’s nothing like a good one. Good and Evil are hard enough to handle, and let’s not even approach the idea of Bad. Classic spaghetti westerns covered these areas about 50 years ago with a lot better style than I can cough up right now, so we’ll let it be.

The concept of the banjo can be summed up by luthier Rob Bishline who mowed sufficient lawns in the 1970s to buy his first 5-string demon, sit on the front porch learning to play it, and “…when the neighbor kids had heard enough they began to throw rocks and even once turned a garden hose on him.” It’s no wonder he builds such fine instruments. There is no American success without American banjo failure—something generations of hipster-ed Americans can’t understand. No, it ain’t how fast or fancy you play them notes; it’s what them notes is made of and who makes them.

I hadn’t seen Danny Barnes play since before I left Austin. Thursday night, Sept 1 he was at Luna Cafe in DePere, WI with Jacob Navarro pickin’ the kinda storm that stops wizards in their tracks. Doesn’t hurt ’em or blow nothin’ up, but if you ever need that power they’re the ones to deliver it. Forget Lords, forget Rings, forget jitterbug marching Valkyries and Harry Potterly Teahupo’o death drops. When Orville and Wilbur made that first flight at Kitty Hawk it wasn’t an extroverted success, it was internal. And it wasn’t a wizard or god or “star” who brought that jet down on the river, it was a normal guy who knew what he could do and did it without thinkin’ about it or how to scramble the passengers out onto the wings. A good pilot knows his rivers and a good flight attendant knows how to get folks to move. Then the ferryboat captains can do the rest.

I hadn’t picked up a 5-string in a long time, but after the show, I played Danny’s Bishline and didn’t want to put the damn thing down. Seriously, it’s one of the finest musical instruments I’ve ever had in my hands. That’s all I need to say on the matter cuz if I don’t stop now I’ll launch into writin’ a whole damn book about it. And why do that when Danny, his Bishline, Jacob and his Santa Cruz guitar said it all?

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