One of the great perks of living in Philadelphia is the walkability of the city. On many a sunny day and romantic whim, I’ve walked far west to river’s edge east, marveling as I did on my first trip here many years ago at ordinary things, now suddenly imbued with magical brightness, renewed freshness, and a sense of fate. Parks draw passersby into their gravity, runners and cyclists on the coastal path mirror the kinetic energy of the Schuylkill, buildings jut up and hold within them endless narratives. It’s a lot to imagine and a lot to even behold. As I’ve walked around, car horns, construction sites, the wind-tunnel whipping on the bridges have all been my natural soundtrack. When I’ve been lucky, I also get to hear a banjo plucked, a washboard struck, and an old-time tune belted, sometimes in the Rittenhouse Square area, or a train station, or where you least expect it too. This is how I met the supreme bluegrass buskers, The White Cheddar Boys, led by Huey McBanjo.
Last year, we asked the band to leave the street behind for a day and join us in the studio at Drexel University to record a handful of their favorite tunes. Not only did the band share go-to classics like “High on a Mountain,” but a few inspired originals as well. Now that the weather is warming up, you might be seeing and hearing The White Cheddar Boys around. If you do, I hope you stop and pay attention, throw some cash down their way, and sing along with the song.