New singles are coming in fast and furious during this period of social distancing and self isolation. Artists and labels are both using the time of no live music to bridge that gap with new recordings. Hey… we’ll take it!
Dark Shadow Recording has released a new single and music video for Becky Buller, The Barber’s Fiddle. In it she tells a story inspired by a conversation she had with a fan at Dollywood, which she cowrote with Lynda Dawson about a barber who plays bluegrass. Merging fact and fiction, Becky and Lynda merge two real life fiddling barbers, Gene Boyd and Billy Womack, into the character portrayed in the video.
Becky shares lead vocals with Jason Carter, Sam Bush, Laurie Lewis, Katie Penn, and Shawn Camp, and the song concludes with a massive chorus featuring Laura Orshaw, Michael Cleveland, Stuart Duncan, Deanie Richardson, Johnny Warren, and the guest singers, all on fiddle. It makes for a powerful statement on an uplifting song.
Jeremy Darrow wrote up this play-by-play of the song and the video, which gives the back story and reveals why this is such a deeply personal project for Buller.
Bluegrass music tends to keep players out on the road, and few of those roads are more well-known to bluegrass fans and artists than the one that straddles the TN/VA line in one of the most music-rich and musically historic parts of the country. Of course I’m referring to State Street in Bristol, TN/VA, where the story told in Becky Buller’s new song and video, The Barber’s Fiddle, opens. The GRAMMY-winning songwriter and IBMA award-winner brought together an all-star collection of 18 fiddlers and five guest vocalists for the new song and video, that paint a true-life picture of musicians, mentors, community, and a life on the road.
The Barber’s Fiddle was inspired by a conversation between Becky and a fan at Dollywood, and was co-written with Lynda Dawson. The song pays tribute to the lore of fiddling barbers, and blends aspects of Gene Boyd and Mr. Billy Womack—two real-life musical and tonsorial artists—into one character. The video was shot in Becky’s adopted hometown of Manchester, TN, and features well-known locals and a location that’s a familiar sight to residents. Cutshaw’s Classic Barber Shop plays the role of Bristol’s legendary (and now closed) Star Barbershop, where proprietor Boyd played host to a Thursday morning jam for years, providing a place for Bristol’s young pickers to cut their teeth, experienced players to pass on their knowledge, and where the community could gather to play.
Three generations of musicians joined Becky and her band to tell this tale with their fiddles and voices. The track opens and closes with the home team of Buller, Professor Dan Boner, and Nate Lee, playing triple fiddles. In-between is an impressive collection of masters playing together to create a sound that is crystal clear (chapeau tip to mix engineer Stephen Mougin), and massive. Six different singers share duties as characters and narrator, once again bookended by Becky who is there to open and close the curtain on our story. The video is packed with historic items, bluegrass connections and personal significance for Becky. There’s a lot to know, so let’s get to it!
Cutshaw’s Classic Barber Shop may take the place of the Star Barbershop, but it’s much more than just a stand-in. Cutshaw’s serves Manchester, TN, Becky’s adopted hometown of 11 years, and the first two people we see walking in the door are shop owner Adam Cutshaw, and his son Kalel “Buzz” Cutshaw. Not shown is Adam’s daughter Karaline, a former fiddle student of Becky’s. Moments later, we see Becky herself with “Mr. Gene” in the background, played here by none other than Ray Seckler, son of the great Curly Seckler. The handsome fiddle our young narrator points to while in the barber’s chair was made by Paul Silakowski, and belongs to Paul Smithson, who used to play with Mr Billy Womack.
44 seconds in, we’re transported to Dark Shadow Recording Studio for verses sung by Jason Carter and Kati Penn. Then in a flash we’re back with Becky and Gene in the barbershop. If you’ve got quick eyes, starting at 1:23 you’ll see a series of old photographs panning by, kindly provided by Ray Seckler, the first photo is of his dad, Curly, and Gene Boyd together. If you have even quicker eyes, you’ll spy a photo of our host, barber Adam Cutshaw, in a clipping taken from the Manchester Times, hanging on the wall of the shop. Before we have time to sweep up, we’re back at Dark Shadow to hear from two more singing fiddlers. This time bluegrass legends Sam Bush and Laurie Lewis deliver chapters, before handing things over to the BBB for sterling breaks from Ned Luberecki on banjo, Professor Dan Boner on guitar, and Nate Lee on mandolin.
The fiddles bring us back to the barber shop for a momentary glimpse of another photograph, this one of Curly Seckler with Flatt & Scruggs, then we’re back to DSR for the final verse, and the big reveal of the story, rendered to us by Shawn Camp and Becky. Our narrator returns home, fiddle case in hand, to thank the man that inspired him when he was a boy. The returning hero is played by Jake Dorak, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church in Manchester, and the case in his hand is Becky’s personal case.
The final chorus returns and has us back in the studio, getting a look at the band, hard at work. We finally get a peek at B^3 bassist, Daniel “The Hulk” Hardin, taking care of business, and wearing his own merch, then it’s time for ALL the fiddles. The track features 18 fiddlers, with Laura Orshaw, Michael Cleveland, Stuart Duncan, Jason Carter, Deanie Richardson, Johnny Warren (playing his father Paul’s fiddle), and Sam Bush all getting their proverbial licks in. Just a breath later Becky is back to take us home. Once the ensemble returns to play the song out, we’re treated to a few more photos, these taken from the heyday of the Star Barbershop itself.
Then we’re done, just like our protagonist’s haircut. As the fiddles play their final notes, we see the narrator, as a boy, and his dad walk out into downtown Manchester. Maybe heading over to Jiffy Burger for a bite?
The Barber’s Fiddle is available now wherever you stream and download music online, or directly from Dark Shadow Recording.