Dave Lull sent me a link to “Pickin’ and Trimmin’,” a video by Matt Morris about a barbershop in Drexel, N.C., where musicians gather in the back room to play blue grass and old fiddle tunes. The barber, Lawrence Anthony, has been cutting hair for sixty years. Of the musicians he says “These fellas are independent,” and one of the players says: “I love the music fine. It’s my friend.”
The confluence of haircutting and music making is not without precedent. In 1866, Thomas Hicks (1824-1890) painted The Musicale, Barber Shop, Trenton Falls, New York, now in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. The painting appeared on the cover of a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, accompanied by a brief article about Hicks by Dr. Thomas B. Cole.
Hicks was the younger cousin of Edward Hicks, the Quaker painter best known for The Peaceable Kingdom (1826). This portrait of harmony in creation is almost a visual transcription of Isaiah 11:6-8:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.”
All three works, with allowances made for historical and artistic change – Morris’ video and the paintings by the Hickses – might be titled The Peaceable Kingdom. Fred Chappell was born in Canton, N.C., not far from Drexel, and served for five years as the Poet Laureate of North Carolina. In Midquest (1981), his masterwork of homecoming and harmony, Chappell includes “The Peaceable Kingdom of Emerald Windows,” in which he imagines spending eternity with Gilbert White, William Bartram, Colette and “rare Ben Franklin.” In the poem, a boy cutting hay says:
“Barn is home. Home is heaven.”
[Drexel is about fifty miles south of Deep Gap, the home of flatpicking guitarist Doc Watson.]