Mike Compton and Joe Newberry’s house concerts have had a steady presence on YouTube. I live too far north to have experienced one in person, but my love for their music keeps bringing me back to what has been posted. The closest I’ve come to the verve of Mike’s right hand on the mandolin strings is pressing the PULSE button on our Cuisinart when the sharp blade whirls amidst raw carrots. The fierce energy jolts me at the same time that it draws me closer. I’ve loved his high baritone from the earliest Nashville Bluegrass Band recordings forward. The subtext of his voice has always been biblical: a whomping Old and New Testament cry of “Why hast though forsaken me?”
Joe’s clawhammer pops and knocks even as he plays double stops up the banjo neck. On fast tunes it’s always compact, tight and driving. I only know him through Facebook and YouTube, but in my mind he embodies the modern southern gentleman. The heartfelt kindness of his voice and delivery evoke joy, tears and reflection. When I am sick, I will want him to sing for me.
How might it feel to be in the presence of Mike and Joe with instruments slung over their shoulders, at the helm of a New York City house concert? I think I’d feel welcomed home.