Second Day on the Road: David Bryant
inUncategorizedon January 21, 2014
Music Maker had worked with his mother Cora Mae Bryant for years. His grandfather, Curley Weaver, recorded in the 1930’s and was a Piedmont blues pioneer alongside the likes of Blind Willie McTell.
I had become quite close to David during his mom’s declining health; he stayed home and took care of her, and Music Maker sent monthly funds for her care. In the years since she passed, David would call a couple times a year and we would talk about old times.
Once in 1997, I stopped by with Mr. Frank Edwards to visit Cora; I fell asleep on the couch and David walked in. He picked up my guitar and played some of the most primitive pure guitar strums I have ever heard. He began to sing deep blues and his mom joined in. Their music sent me off into a deep restful sleep; I never forgot his music.
On this Music Maker road trip I decided it was time to check in with David. Since we last saw each other he had become disabled, but he was still living at the old home place where he had taken care of his mother. He was so excited to see us.
His front room was beautifully decorated as a shrine to his ancestors, with photos of his mom, his grandfather Curley Weaver, and Curley’s mother Savannah Weaver, alongside many aunts and uncles. It felt ancient and miraculous. We were in the sacred art space of a great American, the only one amongst his mother’s twelve children that has chosen to keep up the old ways of music.
When he played guitar, his music was firmly planted in his West African heritage. He played the guitar like a lyre. When I mentioned tuning, he told me a friend came by a few weeks ago and tuned his guitar with a computer. He said, “everything is done by computer now.”
When he sang I started to fall into a trance. His voice seemed to be centered directly from the earth, sometimes in tune with his guitar, other times not; yet it held my acute attention. How was this possible? He was not playing by the rules!
When I asked him about it, he knew what I was inquiring. “Tim, I play the old music. The spirit takes hold of the words, and the tunes just come. Just like momma taught.”
The next morning we came back, took photos, and recorded.
His yard was immaculate, all sand that had been raked early that morning. The lines left in the sand reminded me of a Japanese rock garden. Everything about David was visually exquisite. We want to make sure we go back to visit David, we know there is so much to discover about him and his musical talent.
Spike Barkin who books Lincoln Center and is a past Music Maker board member, called and asked me about who I was visited. I told him about David – who has never been out of Georgia. Perhaps it is time for him to play Lincoln Center!
We gave David a donation to help him with day to day expenses and asked him if he wanted to work together with Music Maker as a Partner Artist. He agreed and we shook hands – we are looking forward to working much more with David in the coming year.
I cannot wait to get back.
– Tim Duffy