>I've often found that my reaction to his playing is "Wow! How does he do
>that?" But am ultimately left cold by it. He usually seems pretty
>detached from his playing--at times even gazing around the room, looking
>as if he was bored with what he was doing--and never (in my experience
>and opinion) really digs in. Maybe it's just too easy for him now or
>something. I'd be curious to hear what others think; I've not polled a
>lot of other players, but I know a few other fiddlers who have had the
>same reaction I did.
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I'd have to say I disagree, but I feel the same way about other musicians,
f'rinstance Mark O'Connor whose proficiency amazes me, but whose solo
work in general doesn't have the charm or something that I need to be
really excited about it. I wonder how much of it has to do (in live
performances) with it being a bad night when you see them, or just some
kind of chemistry between you and that musician, that maybe you (or I) just
don't get it. (A long-winded way of saying There's no accounting for taste!)
Seems to me Johnny Cunningham is not only an amazing musician, but is also
rapidly approaching mythic status as a personality. I've heard many stories
about his various exploits/excesses/general wackiness (and witnessed
a bit of it myself in his performances). Perhaps a bit off-putting to some.
A common thread that runs through many of them is his ability to play
sublimely under the influence of various chemical agents, as if they
had no effect whatever on that part of him. Could this account to
any extent for the impressions you've had?
I remember well the first time I saw him play at the Iron Horse
in Northampton, Mass, close to 15 years ago (Kerry, you were only 3 or 4 -
Sheesh!) and he played the entire gig solo. Not easy to hold the interest
of a roomful of people by yourself on the fiddle. The tunes just flowed
out of him with hardly a break for that twisty Scots humor, and I felt
not only his mastery of the instrument and the force of his personality,
but his love for the music as well. Perhaps some of that's been eroded
by time, but I've heard him connect to it plenty in recent years.