EAST LIVERPOOL - The plaintive strains of traditional country music drifted out over the Ohio River from the Broadway Wharf on Sunday, and a crowd of about 60 people gathered, proving that you can still dance to songs about love, loss and loneliness.
"Where else can you go on a beautiful day, right here on the river, and listen to music like this?" said Jim Campbell, 67, of Burgettstown, Pa.
Campbell admitted he "just came to listen," but there were plenty of others at Sunday's "Country Jammin' on the River" who came to play or to sing - or to dance.
Roland Sutton plays the electric bass at Sunday’s “Country Jammin’ on the River” at the Broadway Wharf while organizer Ruthie Horner sings and Bob Whitacre accompanies on the acoustic guitar. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
The East Liverpool event, organized by Joseph and Ruthie Horner, of Hanoverton, is one of numerous such "jams" that are held in small towns in Columbiana County and beyond every month.
"You can go somewhere all the time and find one," Ruthie Horner said. "It's good people, good music, good fun."
Devotees travel from one jam to another to hear the original country songs of local performers, as well as their favorites from George Jones, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
"These guys," Ruthie Horner said, pointing to Sunday's crowd, "follow us wherever we go. They're faithful followers. ... I think it's more camaraderie than anything."
Horner said she and her husband decided to organize "Country Jammin' on the River" after being contacted by longtime Broadway Wharf volunteer Jack Clutter. More jams will be held at the wharf from 1-4 p.m. Aug. 12 and 26, Sept. 9 and 30, and Oct. 14 and 28.
Although organized, jams have an informal, spontaneous air to them.
"You don't rehearse at all," Ruthie Horner said.
"Nobody gets paid," Joseph Horner said, although donations are accepted to help cover expenses.
Those who want to sing must sign up, but any musician can sit and play, Ruthie Horner said. On Sunday, there was Bob Whitacre on acoustic guitar, Janice Weigart on snare drum, Betty Long on keyboard and Roland Sutton on electric bass.
Horner, a vocalist who performs solo and with her group, Country Traditions, sang several numbers, including "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)" and "Could I Have This Dance."
Whitacre sang "Drinking Champagne," among others, while Ernie Kelley, of Gnadenhutten, Ohio, sang George Jones' "Choices" and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
"Either sing now, or I'm going to," Karen Adams said before launching into "There He Goes" and "Burning Bridges."
"If you want to sing, you got to speak up," Horner said later. Singers usually call out the key they prefer to sing in.
All dressed in black, Rex Cowey, of Chester, pulled out his harmonica, in the key of C, and played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
A woman in the audience tapped him on the arm afterward and said, "That was a good job. You're all right."
Other local country jams are as follows:
* Rogers Flea Market, 6-9 p.m. the first and third Sunday of the month;
* Salineville Kiwanis Club, 6-9 p.m. the last Monday of the month;
* Highlandtown, Inverness Hall, 6-9 p.m. the last Friday of the month; and
* Carrollton, Friendship Center, 6-9 p.m. every Tuesday.
Horner said the Rogers jam usually has 15 musicians playing and as many as 30 people singing. "Hopefully, this (East Liverpool) one will get as big as the one in Rogers," she said.