The oldtime scene, which has been on the wane a bit with the loss of a great jamming venue, has been picking up a bit lately. This weekend it got a great shot in the arm with a visit from the Jerry & Greg, the Canote Brothers. There was a concert, workshops, a dance and a very fun after-dance jam.
If you are familiar with these guys you'd know they are very entertaining, professional but folksy and just a couple of all-round fun guys. I got to be part of the dance band. Since my main strategy is to try and add to the rhythm in oldtime situations, I sat close to Jerry, the guitarist. This was my second time doing this, the first being this past summer at Sorrento. That situation featured a lot more players and was in a noisier environment. I was mostly just trying to get by and straining to hear the fiddles. This weekend was a quieter scene, smaller band and I'm eight or nine months more experienced at oldtime.
I noticed something that pertains to some of the thread that have come up on this forum. That was that chop chords do work in oldtime and are sometimes quite helpful. I have tended to avoid them in favour of open chords but I started using them on some of the swingier things they do and then found other uses. Over all, I probably used everything I had in my toolbox over the course of the evening. Chop and open chords, double stops, harmony and counterpoint lead lines and the good ol' melody if I happened to know it.
I felt really loose and relaxed and the band, which was thrown together with no rehersal, seemed to get tighter and tighter as the dance went along. At the end, when the caller asked the dancers to give the band a round of thanks, the applause seemed genuinely enthusiastic.
The payoff came a couple of days later when I was chatting with the guy who hosted the jam and was the billet for the Canotes. He said Jerry had asked who I was and commented that he thought I had great rhythm. How nice was that to hear? Now I feel like a bona fide oldtimer. Anyway, on these "what to play" discussions I'd say listen hard, feel the music and trust your instincts. Who needs rules?