Friend of IT Gerard Matthews sends along a tip on the best place to find some bluegrass in the hills of Arkansas.
Tucked away in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, between clear mountain streams and canopy-covered hiking trails, lies a small town where people come together to sit a spell, eat down-home cooking and pick a little old-time music. A folk or country music festival isn’t such a rare thing in the South, but in Mountain View, Arkansas, you can hear sweet gospel music, or lightning-fast bluegrass licks almost any day of the week, so long as the weather’s nice.
To say that Mountain View (population 3,000) is small might be a bit of an understatement, but from April to November the town square quite literally hums with excitement. The breeze up in the mountains smells like honeysuckle and feels good after a long, humid day. And in the center of town, as afternoon lulls into evening, the crowds begin to gather around the old courthouse, and local musicians—farmers, teachers, accountants, civil servants, shopkeepers, housewives, and their families—make their way to the surrounding town square, instruments in tow.
“On a regular night, there’s at least 100 musicians out there on the square. It’s like a festival, but it’s a little different ‘cause it’s something that we’re all used to," says Dean Hinesley. "It’s really just a hunger and a craving that we have to take care of from time to time.”
Hinesley is a banjo picker who also plays the guitar, stand-up bass, mandolin, and fiddle (although never plays the fiddle in public, he says), is a fixture around the Stone County Courthouse on Friday and Saturday nights, and occasionally during the week, if he and his buddies get the itch. He’s 70 years old and has been playing music “for all but about ten of those.”
As musicians sit in small groups of five, six, or seven, taking turns yelling out the names of songs everybody knows, music lovers can walk from group to group, enjoying a glass of lemonade or basket of fried green tomatoes from the local vendors. Old couples sit in lawn chairs and young children chase each other in circles or play in the grass. The music scene here has become a favorite for out-of-towners over the past few years, but the people of Stone County have been pickin’ and grinnin’ for decades.