Banjos and fiddlers and 19th century murder ballads.
For roughly six months, I’ve been tooling up to the Santa Clara River Valley every few weeks, to catch a very special series of shows in the middle of a citrus grove. The Deep End Sessions concert series has brought together old-time musicians from all over the country for intimate performances held inside a century-old farmhouse belonging to artist and citrus rancher David Bunn.
The audience generally doesn’t number more than 75 people. Musicians and audiences all share the same living room floor. And afterward, there is a big communal chili supper. All of it is followed by an hourslong old-time jam session, in which musicians both expert and novice whip out their instruments and have at it.
In this way, I’ve seen Ben Townsend, a banjo player from West Virginia, tell stories about the musicians who taught him some of his repertoire. I’ve watched Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller’s soulful duets (see the embedded video). And I saw banjo maestro Riley Baugus, violin and guitar virtuosos the Stuart Brothers, and bassist Sabra Guzmán launch into the lyrics of “Poor Ellen Smith," a ballad about a poor woman’s untimely death.
This Sunday, Deep End Sessions will host the last concert of this series with musicians Beverly Smith and John Grimm, a fiddler and guitarist from north Georgia, who, among other things, have a deep affection for songs by the Carter Family.
If you happen to be looking for something to do — something that reminds you of why we live in Southern California — this is it: a friendly house concert in the middle of an idyllic citrus grove with some pretty wondrous views of the Santa Clara River Valley.
I’m going to have a bigger story about this wonderful project in The Times next week — so stay tuned.
Deep End Sessions concert series, with Beverly Smith and John Grimm, will take place on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Deep End Ranch in Santa Paula. The suggested donation is $20, and an RSVP is required (email@example.com) for a seat and driving directions to the ranch, which is off Google Maps). Admittance is first-come, first-served. To learn more about the project, visit deependsessions.com.
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