Friday, January 18, 2008
When my older daughter was a little girl, the sight of homeless people on New York City streets reduced her to tears. She couldn’t understand why her parents wouldn’t drop money into all their outstretched hands, why we weren’t moved to rescue each and every one of them!
Street musicians, on the other hand, represented a form of begging she simply couldn’t tolerate, a target for her innocent outrage. “They can work. They should get jobs!” she would exclaim, not realizing that this form of street hustling was actually a kind-of job for them.
I love live music, but even the street variety has to measure up to a certain standard before I’ll take notice. Still, begging or no, I rarely ever found myself moved to drop money into a busker’s open case.
Well, this morning I did something I never did before. I bought a music CD from musicians in the subway! This group, The Ebony Hillbillies, performed regularly during the holiday season near the Times Square Shuttle entrance in Grand Central. Music has dropped off a bit since the height of the holiday-tourist season, and my commuting schedule is very erratic, so I wondered if and when I’d ever see them again. To my delight, they were there in their spot this morning.
This group is terrific! They’re a quartet of older black dudes who look like they’ve dropped into a foreign realm from a very faraway time and place. They’re not club performers and you won’t find them on Amazon.com, although amazingly, they do have a blog site! They sit there and play their hearts out into fiddle and banjo, washboard and bass. Their primitive vocals restore a level of innocence I thought was lost. This time around, I’m buying.