Kings Prairie concert captures rural spirit
Annual benefit gathers bands, gospel singers
More than 100 people gathered around the historic Kings Prairie school southeast of Monett on Saturday to listen to live gospel, bluegrass and music on a country lawn under a casually setting fireball sunset, accompanied by serenading cicadas.
Held each year to support the ongoing effort to add exterior restrooms to the 1948 school building to make it a more effective community center, the concert featured food concessions, fellowship, a drawing featuring donated services, show tickets and products provided by supporting area businesses. Seven Monett Rural firefighters also helped with parking.
This year's concert featured performers from last year. There were hopes that Al Brumley Jr., who helped organize the event for most of its run, could return to the stage, but health issues prevented this Kings Prairie resident from sharing his talents.
The show, nonetheless, offered musical tributes to Brumley's father, Albert E. Brumley, with several renditions of his biggest hit, “I'll Fly Away.” The music show embraced familiar territory, offering music from Brumley's era, the kind of songs commonly heard in revival meetings of the 1940s and 1950s, and bluegrass music that somehow never grows old.
Wayne Clevenger from the Flyin' Buzzards band served as master of ceremonies. He sprinkled some wry humor between announcements and three batteries of drawings.
Betty Laney and Bill Bollinger offered gospel songs with recorded accompaniment to open the show. Laney, with the stronger voice, echoed gospel music from live radio days with selections like “Where Angels Fear to Tread,” “Why Me Lord?” and “Moment of Grace.” Bollinger, in reserved voice for this show, sang “By the Light that's Always On” and “Jesus Hold My Hand.”
Laney and Bollinger together made convincing duets out of “I Want to Stroll Over Heaven,” “Far Side Banks of Jordan” and “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.”
Opening the second hour was Ozark Mountain Revival, featuring Shirley Fletcher on vocals, Andy Harris on guitar, Rick Harris on bass and Levi Roden on fiddle and mandolin. Live accompaniment has been the hallmark of the Kings Prairie concerts. The ensemble's tightly balanced sound eventually overcame the troublesome sound system.
Fletcher shined on standards such as “On the Battlefield for my Lord,” “Ole Slew Foot” and “Coal Miner's Daughter.” Roden provided vocals on “Steal Away Somewhere and Pray,” while Andy Harris also pitched in singing on “For You” and a medley with Fletcher that ran through “I'll Fly Away,” “May the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Uncloudy Day” that included an audience clap-along. Roden particularly stood out on instrumentals, especially holding the crowd in the finale of “Orange Blossom Special” on the fiddle.
That left the evening to closing set to the Flyin' Buzzards, who were back in strong form with Ron Fearn of Crane on guitar, Wayne Clevenger of Purdy on mandolin and vocals, Duwane Blevins of Reeds Spring on bass and Tony Hinkle of Monett on fiddle.
The Buzzards were in especially fine form, blending well vocally and fun to watch with Hinkle's added clowning thrown in. Vocals chores also split up between the group. Clevenger took the lead on the Darling Family's “Dooley,” while Fearn carried the load on “Too Old To Die Young” and “I Got A Pig.” Blevins sang the verses on “Rollin' in my Sweet Baby's Arms” and “Dance to the Boogie Grass Band.” On “Rock Me Mama,” Hinkle localized a verse with the line, “If I die in Kings Prairie, at least I'll die free.” On many numbers the members all sang the refrains.
Focusing on songs of nostalgia, the Buzzards conjured the idyllic rural life through the Everly Brothers' “Dream” and “Good Morning Country Rain,” along with love of disappearing landscapes in a song like John Prine's “Paradise,” all regulars in the Buzzards' repertory.
The band also injected some new material. Most notable were their comedy songs “I Met My Baby in the Porta-John Line,” “Gonna Have a Yard Sale, “Half Dozen Possums in the Middle of the Road” and “Where's the Dog?” complete with animal sounds.
Stretching their set a bit further, Clevenger invited Texas teen Rylie Ausmus to the stage to provide vocals on “Lord Prepare Me” and “I Saw the Light.”
The music wrapped up with four encores at 8:30 p.m., after sunset. The cicadas had enthusiastically sung along with the musicians in the final hour, a reassuring chorus certifying the fitting and welcome music in a setting as timeless as the music itself.