Bluegrass Court Jester: Ron Thomason—An Unusual History of Bluegrass Music
“Bluegrass Court Jester”…I had to think about this description of Ron Thomason used in the title of a new DVD released by Ol’ Black Bear Productions featuring footage from a few Dry Branch Fire Squad performances. One of the ways Wikipedia describes a court jester is to state, “A jester entertained with a wide variety of skills: principles among them were song, music, and storytelling.” So far, so good. I would say that Ron plays each of those roles expertly. However, court jesters are also described as “fools,” but I don’t think Ron Thomason is anybody’s fool. Although Ron likes to allude to his “ignorance” and claims to own a “thought repellant hat,” I think that he is one of the deepest thinkers in bluegrass music, and he is certainly one of the most highly skilled entertainers to ever walk on stage at a bluegrass festival.
In this DVD you are given the opportunity to see and hear Ron do what he does best—sing, play the guitar and mandolin, tell stories, and hambone. If you have ever seen a Dry Branch Fire Squad show, you know that it is pure entertainment from beginning to end. The music pulls at your heart and the stories tickle your funny bone.
The performances on the DVD do not disappoint. With each song and story I found myself fondly remembering all of the Dry Branch shows I’ve seen over the years and chuckling each time I heard one of Ron’s characteristic phrases—“where the plot sickens,” “females of the opposite sex,” “onliest,” and others, along with jokes and stories old and new.
In addition to the music and stories recorded from the stage, there are brief talking interludes from Chris Teskey, Kaia Kater, and Ron talking about bluegrass, old-time, and gospel music. You also get to see Kaia perform and you are treated to Ron and fiddler Heidi Clare at home fiddling in front of the fire place as video footage of their horses running at the ranch are intertwined with footage of Ron and Heidi picking. Special tribute is also paid to Hazel Dickens and Little Roy Lewis during segments where Ron is telling stories about them. These tributes include short segments of Ron singing with Hazel and Roy picking his banjo.
For any fan of the Dry Branch Fire Squad and/or Ron Thomason, this is a video you are going to want to see. For details, search online using the video’s title.