Monday, June 10, 2013

The Back Creek Valley Boys - The "Go-To" Guys

     Brandon Michael, Ike Jordan, Randy Kenney, and Andrew Jordan. Frank Maietta is obscured, 
off to the  left of the picture.
10 June 2013

     An interesting bunch of good men. I first met them at a small event near Martinsburg, West Virginia two years ago. Unfortunately, it was an almost cold and very rainy mid-summer day and not many people showed. But the event was fantastic and the music was far above average for such a localized event. It was obscure and way out in the middle of nowhere and I'm not surprised that it didn't draw a lot of people. But in an odd way, that was the beauty of it. A whole afternoon of up-close-and-personal good bluegrass music. After experiencing The Back Creek Valley Boys at several more West Virginia Pan Handle performances, I began to understand that they were not only a good band, but had a mission of sorts to promote those things that make West Virginia a unique place to visit, a good place to do business, and maybe even a good state to retire to. They do a lot of performing for the Berkeley County Visitors and Convention Bureau. They are involved in promoting many of the local festivals that bring in needed 'outsider' dollars for the local economy. They like their brand of music. It's hard-core bluegrass. Mountain-flavored and unadulterated. The band specializes in one-microphone-only harmonizing. It's done the old-fashioned way, and they're good. Ike Jordan serves as the unelected leader and spokesman. Ike plays mandolin and his son Andrew plays guitar and provides lead vocals. Randy Kenney plays stand-up bass and loves his role as the guy who drives the rhythm. Brandon Michael is widely known for his fine fiddling and has played with some of the best bluegrass groups in West Virginia and Maryland. Frank Maietta rounds out the group with some amazing banjo-picking. For you Marines out there who read my stuff, Frank served with distinction in the 3rd Marine Division. The band members live around the Martinsburg area and are proud West Virginians, except for Frank and Brandon who hail from Maryland. With the start of the festival and touring season getting into full-swing, I checked with Randy Kenney a few days ago and asked him where I could catch an upcoming performance. "Oh," he said, "We're playing next Saturday at a Rt. 81 Rest Stop on the West Virginia/Maryland border."  Sounding like a weird place to play bluegrass, I had to inquire further. They were hired by the highway authority, or somebody, to play for a couple hours and entertain visitors coming into West Virginia. What a great marketing ploy. Show them the best that West Virginia has to offer. Make them want to come into West Virginia more often. Maybe for a vacation or go to any of the numerous mountain music festivals. The Back Creek Valley Boys have become the "Go To" guys when you want to promote the State of West Virginia. They're doing what they like to do and at the same time serving a unique civic role for the State.  Nice good work if you can get it.

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