Voices of Home

Voices of Home

Voices of Home

As much or more than any part of this country, the South where I live has a rich, historic tradition of storytelling. Sitting on the front porch or pushing back from the dinner table, yarns are spun, tall-tales are told, family history re-lived, and the events of our days recounted. The stories themselves say something about where we come from, what’s important to us, and where we think we’re heading. And the best of storytellers can hold their listeners spellbound, at the edge of their seats listening for what will come next.

Music tells a story in its own language. It reflects where it came from and who the people are that make it, and words may or may not be necessary. But we know, when we hear them, those musicians who speak through their instruments with a sound which is immediately recognizable and completely authentic. Each style tells its own story– with its own voice. You can hear it, too– the youthful exuberance of Pop, the lament of Delta Blues, the streets in Urban Rap, the industrial raw cut of hard-driving Metal, the collaborative jam session of Jazz, the high lonesome in Appalachian Bluegrass, and that old-old story that infuses every form of Gospel music…

Here in Nashville, Tennessee, where I live and earn my keep as a musician, one of our most respected producers, (Grammy, Dove, and Americana Award-winning Artist/Songwriter/Musician) Buddy Miller records tracks for full bands in his 100 year old house. He’s commented that the sound you hear on those recordings is the sound of his home, of musicians making music sitting together in his living room. There’s something in the walls and floorboards of a home that resonate with the stories they hear.

Perhaps this explains, when I began looking for the instrument to become the cornerstone of my own drum set, I wanted a snare drum which could be ‘home’ to my own expression. So I drove to South Georgia to meet master-craftsman and instrument builder, Michael Outlaw of Outlaw Drums, and I asked him to create a one-of-a-kind voice for me, a drum with its own character, a tobacco-glazed, weathered, heart pine snare. We walked together past the stacks of wood which Michael rescued from a weathered homestead built in the 1880s, the lumber now curing in the sunny side of his yard. The home in this photo, in fact, where generations of a family shared their lives, where smells of cooking and sounds of animation filled the house. Perhaps a young bride and groom established their first home here, or parents aged, and children played on wooden floors while family members swapped stories of their own, warming at its fireplace.

Buck Outlaw (Michaels father)

But the wood of this home is more ancient: the slow-growing longleaf pine takes 100–150 years to mature, an inch of heart pine requiring 30 years growth. And it may live up to 500 years of age, so the wood which was harvested and built into this house may easily have been growing before Columbus sailed to the New World, centuries before Antonio Stradivari used another slow-growth wood from the Pine family as the resonant top for his violins, and almost an additional century before the American colonists declared their independence.

I’d brought examples of the set I was matching, described what I was looking for, and I asked Michael to build me the best drum he knew how to make, promising him in return that I’d try my best to play music that is worthwhile with it. On my way out of town, I drove to a site where Michael had recently rescued wood for his drums and I stood in the yard of that home imagining the lives and stories of the people who had lived there. The drum I received, which I’ve played for about a year and a half now, is articulate and eloquent, the most expressive and beautiful instrument I’ve ever owned. It sings and shouts and speaks and whispers– like it’s already familiar with the songs I’m playing and it knows just what to say. After all, the wood has stories of its own to tell: of laughter in its walls, tears that have soaked its floorboards, and praises which rise through the ceiling.

— Ric Simenson

July, 2015

5½” x 14” weathered tobacco-glazed heart pine reborn snare, 2 nails embedded in the shell, air vent created by carpenter bees, customized with a multistage Trick throwoff, die-cast hoops, Evans drumheads and Puresound CustomPro brass snare wires.

Check out the video click HERE

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