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Coast Characters: Brothers with old souls play their Paw Paw's music

GULFPORT -- A friend told Matthew Sones his two sons, 10-year-old Cade and 12-year-old Dylan, were fighting over who was the best musician of all time.

But they weren't fighting over Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift or Drake.

The Bayou View fifth- and seventh-graders were standing their ground for Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.

The boys have grown up listening to the oldies on their Paw Paw's farm in the Necaise community. Sones said his father's love for bluegrass, old country and soul made an impact on his children's taste for those genres.

"My boys love old music," he said. Three years ago, Sones said, Dylan and Cade told him, "We want to play Paw Paw's music."

Sones plays the guitar and fancied the music of artists such as Jack Johnson and Eric Clapton. His wife, Tiffany Sones, is a master at the piano.

But their children were keen to learn instruments whose tunes are rooted in the past. Dylan chose the banjo and Cade picked up the fiddle.

"Three years ago, they decided they wanted to play traditional folk and bluegrass music," Matthew Sones said. "Here in South Mississippi, it's really rare."

Dylan and Cade practice nearly every day. They participate in jam sessions with other young musicians on Monday nights and have the opportunity to play with veterans on Thursdays. They take lessons from Jerry Johnston, and their father often plays the guitar and supplies vocals.

"I play with them and I push them," he said. "I kind of motivate them to keep playing and play hard."

Cade said he didn't find the fiddle very entertaining at first.

"I didn't like it that much," he said. "It just wasn't that fun." The brothers can't read music, but he said things started getting exciting when they realized they didn't have to read notes to be able to play.

"I started learning some songs and I started liking it a little bit more," he said. "Then I figured out I could play by ear."

Cade's favorite song to play is "Jersulaem's Ride," a traditional bluegrass piece. One his favorite things about playing his stringed instrument is he feels like his talent makes him unique.

"Athletes are really strong and fast, and smart kids make all A's, so this makes me feel like it's my special thing."

The pick on Dylan's thumb helps him strum his banjo.

"It was hard for me to understand what finger picks and what strings (to play) and how to keep my fingers down on the banjo," he said.

But once he got the hang of it, Dylan's fingers helped him produce the magical sound that transports listeners back to the '50s.

His favorite songs to play are "Wildwood Flower" and "Shucking the Corn."

He said there's a strings group at school where kids play the violin, but he doesn't know anyone else his age who plays the banjo.

"The sound, it can go with most music. You can always find a way (to play)," he said.

Dylan and Cade have both won music competitions and will perform at this year's Hancock County Fair, set for Sept 23-26 at the county fairgrounds.

Matthew said they often play at Bay St. Louis' Second Saturday Art Walk and at nursing homes across the Coast. All of the tips they make are put into a savings account.

"We can just see the joy it brings whenever we play the old gospel tunes," Dylan said about playing the Biloxi VA. "They know a lot more of the words than my dad does, I'll tell you that much."

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