Music Rooted Deep in the Oral Traditions of Virginia
After Music Maker met and began working with the great blues guitarist Boo Hanks in Virginia, we began doing more fieldwork in that state and soon met a blues player from Pittsylvania County named Pete Witcher. We returned several times to record Pete, and every time we visited, Pete made a point of taking us to see his niece Gail Ceasar. He was so proud of her guitar playing. Gail is a unique musician, flowing seamlessly between bluegrass and blues with incredible precision and feeling. Also unlike most musicians, Gail has little desire to go out on tour. She’s happy to stay at home in Virginia where her family’s roots run very deep.
On one visit, Gail and Pete took us to see the old plantation where their enslaved ancestors worked. They showed us an immense stone wall carved into the mountains that had once been a part of the plantation house. They told us how their forefathers, talented stonemasons, had built that wall. Gail and her extended family live within a longstanding oral tradition that’s reflected in the stories they tell and in the music they play.
Gail plays her tunes with an exquisite tone—always deep and rich, no matter the song she’s playing.
Gail Ceasar was born on February 15, 1984.
Top photo by Tim Duffy.