By Josette Keelor
Mary Flower isn't just a guitarist who plays the blues. She plays Piedmont blues -- a type unique in its aura of difficulty.
"Piedmont blues and ragtime are synonymous," the songwriter said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore., Tuesday.
"It's heavily syncopated and challenging to play."
Planning to begin her East Coast tour Tuesday, Flower will continue to Berryville, with a hands-on guitar workshop on Thursday and a concert at the Barns of Rose Hill Friday.
The twice-nominated Blues Music Award recipient has never played at the Barns before, but she knows Berryville, having traveled to Millwood for the last four summers to teach guitar. This summer will be no different, said the Indiana native, who invites world-class teachers from all over the country to descend on Clarke County each July.
Each summer, she said, "[The] epicenter of the Virginia musical experience is in Millwood."
But next Friday, her focus will be on Berryville, where she plans to play songs from her latest album "Misery Loves Company," as well as some of her older tunes.
The album is a mix of fun and serious themes, and Flower said she enjoyed being able to work with some of her musical heroes, like Dave Fishburg, who played piano on Flower's song, "I'm Dreaming Of Your Demise." The song stands out on the album with lyrics like "Fool me once, there won't be a twice. I might need some legal advice. I'm dreaming of your demise," and "Take your baggage back to Las Vegas, and I'll take the kids and most of your wages."
"It almost sounds like a Dave Fishburg song," she said.
"That was a real honor getting to play with him. He's a genius, a pure genius."
One of her favorites on the album, "Deathletter Blues," is a remake of the song by musician Son House. Flower was inspired to include it on her album in part because of long sunless days she's experienced in Portland.
A song that relates longing for a lost love as well as regret for a life not lived to expectations, she said, "There's something about those raw lyrics that really sing to me. The poetry of that song is just primitive and it just kind of cries out."
"There is regret and there's just deep sadness, and yeah there's no messing around on that song," she said.
Flower has been performing music for more than 40 years, having gravitated toward Piedmont style in the 1980s "because it was challenging and satisfying and it mimicked the sound of the piano."
"I've kind of played this music ever since I was in my early 20s, but back then I just played a wider variety of music," she said, naming swing, bluegrass and folk as her other interests.
"The older I got the more my approach narrowed and the more I focused in on this Piedmont style," she said. It dates to the 1920s, she said, but "The music is rare in that it never mainstreamed back then, and it will never be mainstream. It's such an underdog style of music."
Piedmont might seem difficult, but Flower said personal preference has more influence on the number of musicians who specialize in its rhythms and movements.
"Some people might be songwriters and they might just strum their guitar and their guitar is secondary to their lyrics," she said. "I just put more focus into the playing more than anything because that's what excites me. That's what makes the song my own."
Mary Flower will perform at the Barns of Rose Hill, at 95 Chalmers Court, Berryville at 8 p.m. March 8. Tickets start at $10. She also will offer the Fingerpicking Blues and Ragtime Workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. March 7. Tickets start at $35. For more information, call 540-955-2004 or visit barnsofrosehill.org.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org