Local acoustic picker Jim Earp went to the annual Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield, Kansas, this year and came home with honors. Earp says he tied for fourth place in the International Finger Style Guitar Championship out of a field of 40 competitors from around the globe. Did he win a prize? No, he says. “First-, second-, and third-place winners take home guitars and trophies. I got a nice little plaque that doubles as a microwave hot plate. In fourth place you’re an also-ran,” he says, “but it’s nice.”
Earp says that he finds the atmosphere at Winfield (that’s what the locals call the festival, now in its 38th year) more collegial than the scene here on his home turf.
“When I made the finals this year, the second-place winner from last year greeted me and introduced himself and gave me his business card and was all smiles and very friendly. In contrast, when I do an acoustic showcase in San Diego and there are singer-songwriters onboard, I can usually muster up friendly conversation before the show. But, I am hard-pressed to see those same formerly talkative folks saying so much as a word to me after the show. I chalk it up to the general strong competitiveness that’s intrinsic to singer-songwriters and the fact that there isn’t always a lot of friendliness from singer-songwriters toward acoustic artists who approach things differently than they do.”
What song did Earp play that caught the judges’ ears at Winfield? “I performed a hymn, an arrangement of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ from my third collection of hymns. I turned it into a Celtic dance piece. I’ve made the finals twice with that song.”
And as for the local attitude? “Suffice it to say, I prefer setting up my own local acoustic-music showcases these days,” Earp says. “I just make sure the local songwriters I bring in — most of which are below the local-scene radar — are pretty secure in what they do and don’t carry around a lot of the aforementioned baggage.” Earp will host Rebecca’s Presents: Acoustic Friends Showcase with Chris Del Priore, Brian Akers, Christiane Lucas, and Jared Lawrence on October 24 at Rebecca’s Coffee House in South Park.