A couple of weeks have gone by, but I wanted to tell you about the dancers.
I saw them at a concert at the RiverCenter. Maybe you heard about it. The Del McCoury Band, which plays bluegrass, performed with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which plays, well, you can probably guess what they play.
My wife and I have seen both acts perform individually, and we enjoyed them.
But we hadn’t planned to see the two groups perform together in Columbus. A couple of years ago, we went to the RiverCenter for a “Skaggs Family Christmas” and watched the great Ricky Skaggs sitting on a stool shaking a tambourine and grinning while his kinfolk did all the picking.
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We hollered for Ricky to play a couple of old standards. That’s what you’re supposed to do at a bluegrass show, holler for the songs you want to hear. But he said this show was about his whole family playing “Silent Night” and “Noel.” Humble guy, that Ricky Skaggs. It’s just that we didn’t pay $50 apiece to witness humility.
So we were wary of another experimental show involving a bluegrass act. But I kept thinking that if I could hear Del McCoury sing one of my favorite songs in the RiverCenter, say “City of Stone,” then I’d be good to go.
We took our children with us, and we climbed up to the top deck. When you have four children and you take them places, you don’t sit in the best seats -- partly because they make noise but mostly because you can’t afford it.
So we were way up high when both groups strode on stage and played some sort of jazz number riddled with fiddle and mandolin solos.
And then suddenly the jazz guys left and it was just Del and his band.
And Del said they planned to play a couple of songs before the jazz guys joined them again. But they would only play stuff off their new experimental album.
Only one person clapped. Del laughed. He was joking.
And before I could yell “City of Stone,” somebody on the front row shouted, “Vincent!”
Ah yes. “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” Even better.
And they were off, with Del singing: “Said Red Molleeeeee to James, that’s a fine motorbike/A girl could feel special on any such like.
“Said Jaaaaaames to Red Molly, well my hat’s off to you/It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.”
I’ve listened to a lot of Del McCoury in my life, his voice always meeting me where I am and then soaring up to the beyond.
On that Sunday night, it soared all the way up to the top seats of the RiverCenter. And out of the corner of my eye, far down below and off to the right, I saw them.
They were in one of the little boxes to the side of the stage. He was wearing jeans and a checked shirt, and she was wearing a loose black dress.
They had come to dance. While James and Molly were riding to Knoxville, they danced. While James was warning Molly he probably wouldn’t see his 22nd birthday, they danced. While Molly was rushing to the hospital after James was shot in the chest during an armed robbery, they danced.
While James was sharing his last moment with Molly, they danced.
“Says Jaaaaaames, in my opinion, there’s nothing in this world/Beats a ’52 Vincent and a red-headed girl.”
James gave Molly the keys to his motorbike and then he died. The couple danced and danced. And I had shown up with my whole family, against my better judgment.
Some risks are worth taking.