One of my favorite places in Washington, D.C., is the Navy Memorial. One of the things I like best about it is that it was designed, to borrow one of my mom's favorite phrases, useful as well as ornamental. The Memorial Plaza frequently plays host to special events, including, on Tuesday evenings during the summer, performances by the Navy Band. Having attended Wheaton Municipal Band concerts every Thursday night during the summer for most of my life, I of course attended as many of those Navy Band concerts as I could when I worked in the U.S. Senate.
When I first heard about these weekly Navy Band concerts, I assumed they were, you know, band concerts. What I failed to realize was that the Navy Band encompasses several different ensembles, only one of which is a traditional concert band. There's also the Sea Chanters, a chorus; The Commodores, a jazz band; the Cruisers, a "contemporary entertainment ensemble;" and Country Current, a country band. And while the concert band performed most of the Tuesday night concerts, the other ensembles were featured from time to time as well.
One night, I showed up at the Memorial and found that Country Current would be performing that evening. I didn't think I would enjoy it; I'd never been particularly fond of country music. Not that I had ever heard much of it; my mom wasn't a fan, so there were no country music albums lying around, and my own tastes ran to pop and rock. But for whatever reason, I decided to stick around. Maybe it was a particularly nice night, or maybe it was during that period when I hated my roommate and spent as much time as possible away from the house.
Anyway, I stayed, and found the music to be a not-unpleasant sonic backdrop to whatever book I happened to be reading at the time. I can't say I was paying particularly close attention to it, but I did look up when the band said their next number would be a bluegrass cover of one of my favorite songs, "City of New Orleans." And it sounded a little like this:
What a revelation! I instantly wanted to hear more music in that style. In retrospect, I was primed to like that kind of music, because my mom had introduced me at an early age to The Kingston Trio and other folk musicians, and a lot of their music is very much in that tradition. Indeed, my favorite Kingston Trio song, "Georgia Stockade," is undeniably a bluegrass song. I just didn't know it at the time.