Postcards from the road

The pickers paradise

Staff WriterFebruary 22, 2009 

POSTCARD.AL.020709.TSS

John Fogleman warms up on his bass in the tight confines of the 'ready room' backstage at Bluegrass Ridge, west of Liberty.

STAFF PHOTO BY SCOTT SHARPE

By Scott Sharpe, Staff Writer

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LIBERTY -- The road that carries you most of the way to the pickers paradise is a strip of pavement too narrow to have its own yellow line. It twists and turns with rolling ridges of farmland, crossing a few one-lane bridges. Sitting up on top of the hill is a simple cinder-block building full of even simpler fun.

Pickups jockey for a place to park beside freshly plowed furrows in a field -- what has to be the closest thing to a traffic jam in these parts. A shaft of light leaks out the front door, carrying the sound of a high voice and even higher fiddle. Welcome to Bluegrass Ridge.

On this cold night, generations of friends and neighbors fill the seats near the old heater. An old farmer sits ramrod straight against the wall, felt hat perched atop his head, eyes and ears directed at the stage. Nary a smile crosses his face, but his toes tap. Buck dancers twirl out of their seats, scuffing dress shoes and work boots on the plywood floor.

Sarge Fuller runs the place, singing and playing on stage, reminding people that homemade cake and chili dogs are in the back, and doing the hardest job: organizing the bands backstage.

There are probably more pickers backstage in the small building than anywhere else in the bluegrass universe. Five members of a group squeeze into the ready room, followed by John Fogleman dragging his bass. When the door closes, the air quickly grows hot and thick as the men give instruments and voices a workout.

Fuller has to keep the bands moving, so he peaks through the stage door and tells the band they've got one more song.

Just then, the door opens, music spills into the dark, and not one but two bass players struggle through the door. Everyone inhales and makes room. Some nights in a pickers paradise, the best show is in the back.

Check it out: Bluegrass Ridge is on Williams Dairy Road, west of Liberty, and things get going about 7:30 every Saturday night.

scott.sharpe@newsobserver.com

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