As Alabama once put it, “If you're gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.”
Nowhere will that be more true than at the Llano Fiddle Contest in the high Hill Country on April 5-7.
The all-day Saturday main event finds traditional grassroots fiddlers from across the state descending on Llano's Last Picture Show-esque LanTex Theater downtown, where they will rosin up their bows and see who can play their fiddles hot enough to beat the devil, and all the other contestants. (Entry for fiddlers and to attend all events is free; donations to local charities will be gratefully received.)
Here is 2011 Llano and 2012 National Old-Time Fiddle champion, Baylor undergrad Mia Orosco, delivering a masterpiece of the form.
Sunday morning commences with a chuckwagon breakfast and group rendition (open to all) of "Amazing Grace" down on the banks of the springfed Llano River, and the day continues with scholar-performer Howard Rains lecturing on and playing the greats of this Texan tradition.
Speaking of Rains, Austin KOOP radio host had this to say:
"Texas fiddle music is as diverse in its styles as is the nationalities of its people. From cowboy fiddlers to the Mexican conjunto influenced styles south along the Rio Grande to the Cajun and Louisiana influences in the East Texas Piney Woods, Mr. Rains is preserving this rich musical heritage for all to enjoy now and in generations to come."
Following Rains's program, the weekend closes with "Can't We All Just Get Along," a twin-fiddle competition.
Love fiddle tunes but can't play a lick? Get to Llano on Friday night and head over to the Badu Wine Pub for their delightfully dorky air fiddle competition and wail away on your phantom fiddle renditions of "Billy in the Low Ground," "Black Mountain Rag," and "Faded Love."
The Llano area abounds in some of the most stirring scenery this side of the Davis Mountains. Buchanan Lake, Inks Lake, and the spellbinding one-time subterranean Sam Bass hideout of Longhorn Cavern are all within 30 miles.
Food? The original Cooper's BBQ, with its storied brisket and immense pork chops. 'Nuff said already, even if some say Inman's down the street is even better. (Two Inman's drawing cards: they bake their own bread and offer an unusual turkey sausage, both of the jalapeno and plain variety.) Carb junkies can get their fix at Chrissy's Homestyle Bakery which offeers kolaches, pretzels, biscuits, cookies, doughnuts and piping-hot bread.
If you are looking for something a little less rustic, head over to the Badu House , which is not affiliated with the eccentric and talented Dallas chanteuse. There you will find fairly extensive wine and beer lists and fairly sophisticated pub grub -- interesting salads, Sriracha-laced hand-formed grilled-to-order burgers, halibut gyros dressed with a salsa made of tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, lime juice & fresh herbs; and Guinness-battered chicken-fried steak, to name a few items off the menu.
"The fiddle IS Texas," says the Llano Fiddle Contest's organizers. "We pay tribute to those who carry on the tradition, for they are our roots. They play because they love to play and their spirit enriches our souls with the sweet melodies of a time slowly fading away."