Where else but in the country can you find the perfect mix of urban culture and art without the crowded shopping, driving and even living conditions of large cities.
While country living excludes major league baseball parks, football stadiums and even huge music halls and art galleries, they are often found within an hour or two by car. In the meantime, small East Texas communities often provide a level of artistic enlightenment the equal of any large city, if only in a scaled down version.
They range from the many community theaters to a smaller number of “Opry Houses” and even more humble locations.
But don’t mistake the lack of billboards or low ticket prices as representing a lessoning of quality.
Take for example a gathering of the Texas Fingerstyle Guitar Association in Mineola. It was a two day event that opened with a “jam session” Friday night and slid effortlessly into a full day of entertainment Saturday.
There were “pickers” from Montana, the Dallas area, and of course from across East Texas and even Nashville, though it is hard to describe hall of fame guitar player Richard Smith as simply a “picker.”
Friday 80-year-old Pat Bogan picked and sang and talked about his father’s band, the East Texas Serenaders, that played Texas and Louisiana in the 1920s and 1930s while recording their music on three different labels.
Saturday morning and in the hour before the star of the event appeared, there were moments among the crowd you could find one visitor crocheting while another showed off some jewelry that may have been for sale. Even the guitar pickers could be found eying a prized guitar or bass owned by another. It had all the ingredients of a musical craft show and swap meet.
During one number a bass player appeared to pause while he checked a text message. Relaxed? You bet. Expensive? Only if you wanted it to be. There was no charge. They accepted donations that were purely voluntary.
At noon hall of fame guitarist Richard Smith made his appearance front and center, drifting effortlessly from jazz and country to classical, all the while chatting with the audience and fellow guitarists like Glenn Burgin.
When Burgin and Smith performed together for 10 minutes of Avalon and Copper Kettle it was pure magic.
And when Smith’s wife, Julie “Jewels” Adams introduced her cello to the mix it only added to what was already a world class event.
There were coats and ties and tee shirts. Work shoes and sneakers outnumbered cowboy boots and dress shoes four-to-one and attendees were treated to and outstanding hair-raising, toe tappin’ bit of musical magic.
It was country livin’ at its best.