Barnes carries on family tradition

Published 10:41 pm Monday, August 3, 2009

Anyone who travels County Road 201 with the car windows down is in for a special surprise.

The beauty of the rolling countryside and the cheerful chatter of songbirds would be enough to make the ride worthwhile. But add to that pickin’ and singin’ from the front porch, and that’s reason to pull over, stop and stay a while.

Most summer afternoons, Jimmy and Remonia Smith and their grandson, Rustin Barnes, are on the Smiths’ front porch pickin’ and singin’ “off the porch strong.”

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To say that the music of The Smiths can be heard a country mile would be an understatement. In reality, their music is being heard just around the bend and as far away as Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

Jimmy Smith has been playing bluegrass gospel music more years than he has fingers and toes. Remonia Smith plays piano, but she only started singing at her husband’s encouragement.

With all of that music floating around grandpa and grandma’s house, it was sure to find its way into the heart and soul of young Rustin.

“For about as long as I can remember, I’ve loved music and wanted to play it,” Rustin said. “First, I played the drums but, then two years ago, my granddaddy gave me a chance to play an instrument. He told me to pick – the banjo, the fiddler or the guitar. I picked the banjo.”

Not only did Rustin inherit a double-dose of love of bluegrass gospel music from his grandparents, he also inherited their “ear” for music.

“We all play by ear,” Remonia said. “That’s a gift from God, and we are blessed to have it.”

The Smiths use that special God-given talent for God’s glory. They sing in churches and at music festivals wherever and whenever they are invited. And, their “main music” is played by their 14-year-old grandson. Although his granddaddy plays the guitar, it’s Rustin’s banjo that the group can’t do without.

“I love going with my grandparents and playing at these events,” Rustin said. “And, I love it in the afternoons when we just sit out here on the porch and play or go outback to our music room and play. We have a lot of fun together making music. And, when we go to different places to play, we get to meet a lot of people. I just like playing for people.”

Rustin has a “feel” for the music he plays and has recently picked up the dobro, which he said came easy for him.”

Rustin also plays saxophone in the band at Enterprise so he reads music. He has also learned the rather complicated Nashville Number System.

“Using their number system, you can go into a studio in Nashville and play any song that’s being recorded just by the numbers,” he said. “It’s just something good to know.”

Rustin has written several songs “just the words, though.”

“I’d like to put the music to the songs,” he said. “I’ll work on that because that’s something I’d really like to do because something that started as a hobby is now what I would like to do with my life.”

Rustin has set goals what he would like to accomplish in music. One that seemed like a high hurdle, he cleared with relative ease.

Rustin will be a ninth grader at Enterprise High School this fall and his early ambition was to play with the FFA String Band.

“But they don’t let ninth graders try out, at least they didn’t,” he said.

But last week, Rustin was given the chance to try out and now the Enterprise High School FFA String Band has a freshman banjo player.

And, those who have heard Rustin play the “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” aren’t one bit surprised. He’s quite a banjo picker, and he doesn’t play at all like a freshman. He plays more like a picker with a bright future.