The new year was heralded with some old-time bluegrass music as a group of friends gathered in the Hernando home of Thomas Dunavent to have a jam session.
The sound of a ringing banjo, plunking guitar and booming bass rhythm coupled with a joyous fiddle and plaintive mandolin welcomed 2018 with great fanfare in Dunavent's living room.
In a rapidly-changing, turbulent world the sweet sound of bluegrass is comforting to many who view the modern world with more than a jaundiced eye.
"The American, down-to-earth scene is special but it's disappearing," said banjo picker Mike Quick of Lake Cormorant. Quick has been playing with the group for between 15 to 20 years. "Down-home, sweet people aren't just everywhere anymore."
Other members of the group include fiddle player Allen Beech and David Robinson.
Thomas Dunavent said he fell in love with the truly American form of music — a unique form of music that speaks to faith and family.
"I met my friend Mike Quick and was really taken with his banjo playing," Dunavent said. "I found an old bass down in Charleston and began playing it. I was playing an old electric bass then — I didn't have a handle on an upright bass."
Dunavent said he, Quick and others began playing bluegrass on the historic DeSoto County Courthouse Square before moving to the Ferguson-Crumpler log cabin on the grounds of the DeSoto County Museum in about 2006.
"That was the perfect place," Dunavent said. "We started playing every Thursday night and it just took off from there."
Dunavent said he began his musical career playing Rock N' Roll and country before his eyes were opened to the purity of bluegrass.
"I grew up in the Mississippi Delta and there wasn't much bluegrass down there," Dunavent added. "When I moved to Hernando in 1993, they had the A' Fair. That's when I discovered bluegrass that all these guys were playing. I also love playing the gospel songs. You can't play bluegrass without incorporating a little gospel into it."
Mandolin player Doug Anderson, 59, said he began playing bluegrass at age 13 or 13, in about 1970.
"I never played country, honky-tonk, or Rock N' Roll," said Anderson, a Meridian native who lives in the Lafayette County community of Denmark. "I've always played bluegrass. "I've been experiencing North Mississippi bluegrass since 2006."
Anderson said playing bluegrass is an art form of sorts that has been interwoven into the fabric of American life, with a few outside influences.
"It (banjo) has Arabic and African roots," Anderson said. "President Thomas Jefferson called it the 'banjar.' Somehow it got into the backroads or rural Appalachia and bluegrass just adopted it. It's a special form of music."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.