The other day I sat in the middle of my living room floor and started sorting through some 33 rpm records that have survived the last 40 or 50 years in fair, if not surprisingly, good condition. Several years ago, I sold most of my vinyl anachronisms to a record dealer in Tacoma, but I kept a few of my favorites, like “Sergeant Pepper” and Billy Joel. I also have CDs of these classics, but still keep the 33s because I’m part of a school that feels vinyl has a sound and intimacy that’s superior to polycarbonate plastic.
Anyway, while sifting through this collection, it occurred to me that this generation of American youth – alas, if a generation is defined as 20 years, it might well be the last two generations of American youth – has only been exposed to a couple of types of music: namely, the up-front, naked emotions of straight-ahead country music or the rebellious, sexual savagery of pile-driving, high-octane rock. (Of late, in certain cases it’s difficult to distinguish one from the other.) In general, I don’t think rap is music because it frequently doesn’t have any melody; rather, it’s poetry set to an infectious beat.
Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with the screaming rampage of hard rock or the bit more mellow and simple sensitivity of country tunes but – and this is the main point these rambling intro remarks are striving to attain – there are other types of music. For instance, folk music. Back in the 1960s, folk music was quite popular. There were groups like The Weavers and their renditions of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and “On Top of Old Smoky” and The Kingston Trio with hits like “Tom Dooley” and “Scotch and Soda.” There were also individual folk singers like Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. Early Dylan stuff was called “folk rock” and some of his biggest hits, like “Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Blowin’ In the Wind,” are now firmly established as authentic folk songs.
Jazz is another type of music this generation of Americans has rarely, if ever, been exposed to. Ever since my days hanging around Preservation Hall in New Orleans, I’ve simply adored Dixieland Jazz which, along with country music, is one of the few original, innovative art forms that’s entirely American. (Abstract Expressionism is another.) Musicians like Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck and singers like Nina Simone and June Christy have recorded some of the finest popular music this high-powered columnist has ever heard.
And now, believe it or not, folk music and jazz have come to Enumclaw. Check it out any Friday and Saturday night in the Mercantile Café.
As you might expect, this isn’t the wild club atmosphere you find in other live music venues within the greater Seattle sprawl. The Mercantile is a comparatively quiet, sober scene, where families – age 5 to 90 – gather to enjoy gluten-free meals, snacks, desserts, sodas and, happily, beer and wine. I’d hasten to point out, there are also single fellows and gals here. Plenty of them.
I can’t vow for the proficiency of all the musicians: I mean, each night has a new group or duo. Some are quite polished and professional while others need a little more rehearsal time. I can only promise you one thing with certainty: The meals, music, and crowd are unlike any other scene you’re apt to run across within a 20-mile radius. It might be just the place you’re looking for.