By M.K. Luther - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL - Most days, the sweet sounds of old-time music can be heard coming down from the mountains outside Front Royal from the porch of Barbara "Annie" Stevens and Patrick "Mac" McCauley.
The live performances of Stevens and McCauley, or Annie and Mac, as the duo are known, are available to anyone, however, with just the click of a mouse on YouTube.
"Anybody can do it and that is the beauty of it," Stevens said of the YouTube postings.
Encouraged by Front Royal harpist John Kovac, Stevens and McCauley started posting self-filmed and self-edited videos to YouTube in December 2007.
Specializing in what they described as the "back porch" music of the Appalachian mountains, Stevens and McCauley harmonize the folksy, gospel-inspired tunes in 21⁄2- to 3-minute video segments on YouTube, catering to a particular audience -- old-time music lovers and artists, as well as the increasing amount of new fans of the genre.
"Old-time music lovers -- I guess it is kind of a niche and we are one the few on You Tube who are doing old-time," Stevens said.
Using a run-of-the-mill digital camera, with video filming capabilities, propped on a tripod, the pair film performances at their log home, and use simple editing software on a personal computer to add some finishing touches before posting.
"It doesn't cost anything and it is a chance to get your music out there in the world," McCauley said.
So far, they have 610,000 views of 85 postings and 1,000 subscribers, and have garnered an newfound international audience.
"It has just been the most remarkable thing," McCauley said. "We have people from all over the world who share our love for this kind of music."
Stevens and McCauley also are featured in the new book "You Tube Strummit Portraits," by Montreal-based John "Lew Dite" Parsons, an old-time music lover and YouTube user as well.
Parsons highlights 24 YouTube musicians with photographs in the independently published book, which will be showcased in an upcoming art show in Canada. The book is available at www.LuLu.com.
The Annie and Mac YouTube channel has brought the musicians fans, peers and even collaborators from as far as Romania, Japan and Australia. Already accomplished traveling live performers, Stevens and McCauley also have found a whole new host of bookings and gigs through YouTube visitors and subscribers.
"It has turned out to be a real boon," McCauley said. "We have had invitations all over the world."
The YouTube channel also has served as a networking tool. For example, they encountered a man from Scotland online who was making plans to travel to the area -- when he arrived, the three met for a full jam session replete with bagpipes.
The online video sharing site can be instructive, Stevens said, and viewers can watch postings to learn new songs or techniques.
"Anybody asks us a question about our music and we try to get back to them as quickly as we can," McCauley said.
The old-time style also is experiencing a revival as a younger generation discovers the time-honored melodies and tunes, Stevens said.
"In some ways, old-time music is the songs that you learned as a kid," Stevens said.
The Front Royal-based musicians already have two CDs, "Fresh from the Cave" and "Like a Winding Stream," recorded at Phoenix Productions studio in nearby Browntown with local producer George Hodgkiss. Songs are also featured on "God's Country," a compilation CD honoring the rural community.
Unlike many old-time music performers, the pair do not center their scores around a fiddle. McCauley leads the melodies with his harmonica -- his "poor man's fiddle," Stevens said.
"In old-time music, everybody plays together," McCauley said. "Some people call it music before radio."
Stevens and McCauley have been playing old-time and gospel-inspired shows together since 2000.
"The music kind of brought us together," Stevens said.
McCauley, originally from Falls Church, was first exposed to the old-time tunes through cousins in Luray. By the time he was in his late 20s, he had picked up playing. McCauley plays banjo and harmonica, dabbling in squeeze box.
Stevens, who grew up in Greenbelt, Md., gives the duet-style performances harmonies and plays the rhythm guitar.
Annie and Mac's music also is available for purchase and download through www.CDBaby.com.