I’ve been hanging out in Driggs, Idaho for the last few weeks, and I decided to look up Ben Winship, a nationally known bluegrass mandolinist, guitarist, and banjoist, who I last played with in a jam at the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival in August 2001 (the same festival where I closed the show in an onstage jam with Tony Furtado’s band and harmonica player Jeff Newsom; it was a fun day).

I found out that Ben was playing with Margo Valiante, a singer/guitarist, at the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee, and I went there Monday night.  I checked out the duo during the first set–good stuff, including a cool bluegrass version of the Police’s “Canary in a Coal Mine”.  I introduced myself on the first break, and Ben asked me to join them for the second set.

This wasn’t hard-core bluegrass; if it was, you can bet no $%^&* harp players would have been allowed.  Also, the tempos weren’t in the stratospheric range that you’d hear from Ricky Skaggs’s band.  But that was fine with me; I have a hard enough time breathing at 7000 feet above sea level anyway.  The music was a lot of fun to play, and I had a really fine time with one tune in particular, a ballad in G minor where I played the CX12 chromatic harp.  I tell you, friends, if you want to blow people’s minds there’s nothing like a diatonic harp, preferably amped and way out front; but if you want to break their hearts, play a chromatic on a slow song with a big, minor melody, and watch their faces go rapt as they realize for the first time how sad and awesomely beautiful life really is. Or so it seems.

It was a fun jam, and on my way out I ran into Jeff Newsom, who was checking out the sound system for a seminar he’s teaching soon.  The Teton Valley has more than its share of good music for such a remote and underpopulated place, and all that is fine with me.