Larry Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Rize

 

 

 

Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Bassists: Larry Carlin, Celia Wykcoff, John Werntz in State College, PA, July 12, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Morrison, Larry Carlin, Alex Morrison in State College, PA, July 11, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molly Tuttle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In camp at the CBA Father's Day Festival in Grass Valley, June 13, 2014

 

 

Trying to decide whether to have a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or an ice cream bar (or both!) while sitting on the deck at Vern's Stage at the CBA Festival

 

 

Nashville friend Chris Lewis and me at Grass Valley

 

 

Dave Earl & Friends on Vern's Stage

 

 

Larry with singing partner Claudia Hampe at Grass Valley, 2013. Okay, so the photo is from last year. We were both there this year. It's my column, I can put whatever pictures I want in here.

 

 

Randy Pitts, "The Man in the know from Music Row," who contributes to this column every weel, at Grass Valley. Here he can't believe the red pajama pants that Peter Rowan was wearing on the main stage...

THE MORE OR LESS DAILY NEWS

Larry Carlin wrote the MOLD News column every Friday for the California Bluegrass Association web site every Friday from May, 2014, until January 1, 2016. when he packed away his Olivetti typewriter for good.

 

 

Friday, August 7, 2015

 

There's a big old goofy man
Dancing with a big old goofy girl
Ooh baby
It's a big old goofy world

 

From the John Prine classic "It’s a Big Old Goofy World".



Indeed, as John Prine so aptly sings in his song above, it is a goofy world. But even more so this weekend, when just about every bluegrass picker in the SF/Bay Area can be found at the 22nd Annual Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister from the 6th-9th. This is the big annual fest put by the Northern California Bluegrass Society, and longtime fans of the event refer to it affectionately as the “Goofy.” It is also a great time. It is much smaller than the CBA Father’s Day Festival, but there is a lot of jamming and fun to be had by all. And the Goofy features all-California bands. Some of the acts you can see there are Barwick & Siegfried, Dim Lights, Dave Earl & Friends, Sidesaddle & Co. , Central Valley Boys, 35 Years of Trouble, Dark Hollow, and the GrassKickers. Tickets are available at the gate. Get yer Goofy on!

Hello, Dolly, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong. Dolly Parton had not played the Ryman Auditorium in 12 years before she returned to the stage in late July for a fundraising performance. But the 69-year-old bewigged dynamo still puts on a hot show. And, she looks better than her contemporaries the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead! Read about her here.

Gathering moss. Speaking of the Stones, witty lead guitarist Keith Richards (who somehow has managed to stay out of the Life’s railway to heaven section that appears almost every week in this column) made some headlines this week when, in an interview with Esquire, said that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album was a “mishmash of rubbish.” To his credit, he finished that sentence with the words “kind of like Satanic Majesties,” referring to his own band’s recording Their Satanic Majesties Request.

A half century of Merle. Country music icon Merle Haggard is celebrating 50 years since he signed his first recording contract with Capitol Records, which was the beginning of his ascent to stardom. And he shows no signs of slowing down, as he has a new album out with Willie Nelson titled Django and Jimmie, which debuted in the number one slot on the country charts. Merle also has some opinions on things, and you can read what he has to say here in Billboard and in Men’s Journal.

Life’s railway to heaven. Trista VanderWal McNeill, the lovely wife of Bay Area banjo player Jon McNeill, tragically died on the 3rd from metastatic melanoma. She was 46. While I met her a few times at pickin’ parties, I can’t say that I really knew her. But the CBA sends out heartfelt condolences to Jon during this most difficult and sad time. If you are on Facebook, you can read about Krista here. Country singer Lynn Anderson, who made a decent career on the strength of her hit with the Joe South song “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” died of a heart attack in Nashville on July 30th. She was 67. Legendary Nashville producer, songwriter and Country Music Hall of Famer Billy Sherrill died Nashville on the 4th after a brief illness. He was 78. He co-wrote “Almost Persuaded,” and he not only signed Vivian Wynette Pugh to her first contract, he is the one that suggested she change her name to Tammy. With her he co-wrote “Stand By Your Man.”

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The Marin County quartet Blithedale Canyon has one heck of a busy weekend with being at the Goofy Fest. On Saturday the 8th they will be performing at the Cantina on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay form 2-4:30 p.m., and this will be an acoustic set with banjo, standup bass and two acoustic guitars. On Sunday the 9th, from 4:30-8:30 p.m., they will do their normal electric thing at the Jupiter Pub in Berkeley. BC is a melodious country band whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel and banjo, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are two reviews from the archives that have never run in this version on the MOLD column.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/13/2013
Susanne Thomas Dear Friends & Gentle Hearts
Rounder CD 0423

I've only seen Susanne live during her time playing with Dry Branch Fire Squad, and fun as that was, the time between Susanne's featured numbers seemed interminable at times. She is one of the best singers I've ever heard, as I said elsewhere on Facebook recently, and that post got me to thinking: Hmmm…Except for “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” (a dumb song no matter who sings it, in my mind)(even this duet with two of the best – Susanne and Ronnie Bowman), this album represents example after example of a great singer at the top of her game. From “Leaving This Land” and “Faded Coat of Blue” to “Silver Tongue and Gold Plated Lies” to “I Have No Mother Now” to two wonderful Susanne originals (“From the Point of View of Ruby Jayne” and “You're Doin' Me Wrong Jim Beam”) to two Southern chestnuts (“Sweet Sunny South” and “Miss the Mississippi and You”), Susanne grabs hold of the lyric and wrings the truth out of it, as only she can do. A truer, deeper resolve to deliver the song's meaning I've never heard. Her voice is absolutely thrilling at times – deeply and compellingly emotional and just right THERE. Backed variously by IIIrd Tyme Out, Seldom Scene, and The Lonesome River Band, among others, and produced with Dry Branch band mate Bill Evans, this album should belong to every fan of topnotch traditional vocals.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/12/13
Charlie Moore & Bill Napier Bluegrass Gospel and Sacred Music
Gusto CD GT7-0636-2

When this CD first turned up – it is copyrighted 2008 – The County Newsletter expressed surprise that there existed an album's worth of gospel material other than their classic Grand Ole Opry Hymnal (King LP 917) but this is, in fact, a version of yet another King LP (King 1017). My Gusto LP reissue has a 1976 copyright date, but who knows when this stuff was originally recorded or if it was meant to be an album or is a compilation of singles. This CD version has a different cover, but the same great lead singing by Charlie Moore, who had one of the great lead voices in bluegrass. Bill Napier played both guitar and mandolin exceptionally well, but is generally represented on the duo's album covers as a banjo player, and he was as fine as they come on that instrument as well. Napier is an outstanding harmony singer here as well. The paucity of notes causes confusion about the identity of other instrumentalists and vocalists here, but the music is fine indeed. Moore's vocal timbre, deep and expressive, reminds me of the great but obscure Onie Wheeler. Charlie deserves more recognition than he has thus far received in the history of the music, and the same holds true of Bill Napier. In fact, it would be nice if someone would track down and make available personnel information on all their albums, as has been done with The Stanley Brothers and Reno & Smiley King stuff, but I'm not holding my breath. Until that time, this album contains 12 songs and tunes from bluegrass gospel, including “Don’t Wait Too Long,” “The Stranger in the Tavern,” “Wayfaring Pilgrim,” “I Believe in the Old Time Way,” “Take a Message to Mother,” ”Shout and Sing,” ”No One Leads Me On,” “Oh Lord I'm Glad,” “Won't You Come In,” and “That Beautiful Home.”

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on August 8th for a show titled Radio Boogie, with guest co-host Allegra Thompson pickin’ ‘em and playin’ ‘em.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood will be appearing, along with Ira Marlowe, at The Monkey House in Berkeley on August 14th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The 19th Annual Celtic Festival will get your toes a tappin’ at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on October 2nd-4th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

 

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Friday, July 31, 2015

 

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah, someone's in the kitchen I know.
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah strumming on the old banjo.
Fee fie fiddle eeii o, fee fie fiddle eeii o, fee fie fiddle eeii o,
Strumming on the old banjo

 

From the nursery rhyme “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”



Ah, the beleaguered banjo. The instrument has been the subject of countless jokes over the years, and about the last thing it needed was this story from Vancouver, WA, earlier this week. A slightly deranged man held off a SWAT team for a couple of hours after first – while in his birthday suit – chasing his father around the neighborhood with a knife. But then he went back into his house, put on a pair of shorts, and then stepped outside with his banjo, played it (rather badly) for a while, and kept the authorities at bay until they could figure out what to do with him. He was finally subdued by non-lethal methods. In court the next day he said that he'd "lost his temper" and was “mentally ill,” and was pretty sure he was going to lose his job. Wow…do you think? But serious questions have gone unanswered as of press time here. Such as: What songs was he playing? What make of banjo was it? Will he be charged with assault with a deadly weapon for brandishing a banjo without a license? And when will his first solo album be coming out?

Rowdy festivals. There were two incidents recently at nearby festivals that have some veteran concertgoers thinking twice about going to big music concerts again. The first was a performance by the rockin’ country band The Mavericks at the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley over Memorial Day Weekend. The Mavs closed out the fest on Sunday night. The way things have always worked at Strawberry is that dancing was permitted off to the sides of the stage so that attendees in the chairs could watch the acts without distraction. But Mavs lead singer Raul Malo took it upon himself – at 7:10 minutes into the show – to invite all of the dancers to the front of the stage, something that is a huge no-no at the fest, and of course dozens of excited folks gladly rushed forward and began doing the hippie hop en masse, thereby blocking the view of all the people that had gotten up earlier in the day in order to put their chairs out. In this video you can see what transpired, and notice how many people storm out of the show once the alcohol-laden dancers start hopping up and down. And then two weeks back, at the Dawg Day Afternoon show in Rohnert Park, some more over-exhuberant dancers caused a ruckus. According to this story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Drinking and dancing are expected at outdoor, summertime music festivals. Or are they? Some Green Music Center patrons are sounding a blue note over a recent show they say got out of hand when drunken concertgoers crowded onto the front lawn, blocking views and creating a noisy distraction that ruined the event." Fortunately this has never happened at the CBA Festival in Grass Valley, and the betting here is that is has also never taken place at the San Francisco Symphony. But at many nightclubs – especially the Sweetwater in Mill Valley – this type of behavior is the norm, so you stand forewarned…

Megafests. Another problem with some music festivals these days is the corporatization of them. There has been a growing trend among some events whereby big moneyed interests come in and take over existing fests, turning them into huge gatherings where maximum profits and advertising rule. Check out the story in the Huffington Post (and thanks to Maria Nadauld for this item). Thankfully the CBA fests and the upcoming GOF one listed below have not been swallowed up by anyone…

Going goofy. Everyone is getting ready for the 22nd Annual Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister on August 6th-9th. This is the big fest by the Northern California Bluegrass Society, and it is great fun. Some of the acts you can see there are Barwick & Siegfried, Dim Lights, Dave Earl & Friends, Sidesaddle & Co. , Central Valley Boys, 35 Years of Trouble, Dark Hollow, and the GrassKickers. The betting here is that there will be no wild and crazy dancing in front of the stage

Maybe they should change their name to the “Don’t-Be Brothers.” There is a duo in the SF/Bay Area that has been playing out some and calling themselves The Doobie Decimal System. It turns out the pop/rock band of yore, The Doobie Brothers (there are no real brothers in the band, nor is it someone’s last name), is not only not amused, they are suing the Decimal guys in order to make them stop using the “Doobie” name, as they claim they have a copyright on it. Really? Did the band members make up this word themselves, back when they first started playing together? Methinks not. While the Doobies have big management and lawyers on their side, Roger McNamee, of the Decimal System, made millions in Silicon Valley before venturing into the music biz, so he has some cash of his own should a serious battle ensue. Read more here.

Git along little doggies! By now, after all of the Grateful Dead 50-year-anniversary shows have come and gone, Deadheads all over the globe are probably wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. But help is on the way! It was announced this week that Bob Weir, the lead singer of the band, is going to record – and are you ready for this? – an album of cowboy songs! While bluegrass fans were disappointed to learn that Weir opted to bypass bluegrass music in order to connect with the cowboy crowd, they have not given up hope. Thanks to Randog for this hot tip.

More Mavs. Even though they created a bit of a ruckus at Strawberry, these guys are a favorite here at Carltone World Headquarters. Lead singer Raul Malo is one of the finer singers around, and they do have a great sound. But they have often been considered – as they are described in The Village Voice – as “too country for Miami and too Cuban for Nashville.”

Driving solo. There was an interesting segment on NPR’s All Things Considered radio show on the 30th about Jason Isbell, formerly of the band Drive-By Truckers. His new album, Something More Than Free, is number one on Billboard's country, rock and folk chart. You can listen to the interview and pieces of his songs here.

Serious toe tappin’. If you thought the Irish stage show Riverdance was inspiring some years back, you have to check out these three young Irish guys in a piece titled “Freedom.”

How can I miss you if you won’t go away. The fact that country stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert’s marriage is now history is not groundbreaking news, as the story has been making the rounds in the country music gossip columns. What isn’t well known – except to followers of the questionable website TMZ – is that Shelton supposedly had some workers at his ranch pack up Lambert’s belongings that she left behind, put them on the porch, and then had them hauled away in a U-Haul. This is a nice buildup to the reunion tour that will take place in a few years…after both of their careers go into the tank…

Just for the heck of it. The late Harley Allen singing the Hank Williams song “Cold, Cold Heart.” Man, what a voice! Thanks to Randog for this link.

Life’s railway to heaven. Steel guitar pioneer and legend Buddy Emmons died on July 29th at age 78. He joined the Little Jimmy Dickens band at age 18, and then went on to record with Ernest Tubb, The Everly Brothers, Ray Price, Linda Ronstadt, The Carpenters, and countless others. Vince Combs, a Monroe-style mandolinist from Kentucky, died on July 25th after a four year struggle with bone marrow cancer. He was 81. He worked at General Motors in Dayton, OH, for almost four decades, and also toured with his group, Vince Combs & Shade Tree Bluegrass. Van Alexander, a composer who arranged the nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” into a song that was a breakout hit for Ella Fitzgerald in 1938, died in Los Angeles on July 19th at age 100. He began his career arranging for big bands in the 1930s and later composed for film and television. Renowned drummer and drumstick manufacturer Vic Firth, who also was a timpanist in the Boston Symphony for 40 years, died in Boston from cancer on July 26th. He was 85. Bobbi Kristina Brown, the only child of the pop stars Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died, tragically -- and eerily -- like her mother, on July 26th at age 22, six months after being found unconscious in a bathtub on January 31st. Don Joyce, the lead singer of the SF/ Bay Area experimental music band Negativland, died on July 22nd from heart failure. He was 71.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are two new commentaries along with a CD review from the 2013 archives that never appeared in this Friday column.

Randog on documentary filmmaker Les Blank 7/27/15
Les Blank Comes to Turner Classic Movies

This was very exciting. I posted something about this when it was first announced, and I want my friends to know what happened this past week. Turner Classic Movies aired some of the finest films ever made about music and culture in America...and other places, too, probably. It began on the 28th with les valentine de New Orleans music, Always For Pleasure (with great footage of Irma Thomas and Professor Longhair in full flight), and continued through the night with Les’s classic films about the Cajuns of Louisiana (Spend It All), his wonderful film about old-time music great Tommy Jarrell (Sprout Wings and Fly), his work on “black French” musicians Boisec Ardoin (Dry Wood) and Clifton Chenier (Hot Pepper), as well as Texas bluesmen Mance Lipscomb (A Well Spent Life) and Lightnin' Hopkins (The Blues According To Lightnin'). I daresay that, after you've witnessed a little of American vernacular music through the eyes of Les Blank, you will hear it differently than you did before. I know I have, and my life is way richer for it. I watched a lot of them. And then on the 31st, I get to see his newly released movie about Leon Russell, A Poem Is A Naked Person.

Randog on songwriting 7/24/15
How Many People Does It Take to Write a Song?

Oh, all right, a folk song. While listening to the vintage Country Gentlemen album Play It Like It Is I noticed that the great tenor singer-mandolinist John Duffey had written "He Was a Friend of Mine," a song on which he also sang lead on this wonderful album. Strange, thought I, since – coincidentally – I had recently pondered the authorship of this particular number, a favorite of mine since the ‘60s when I was a little folkadoke and first heard Dave Van Ronk and many Van Ronk imitators sing it. Well, there was, it so happens, an article about the origins of the song in last December's Oxford American Annual Music Issue, an article which traced the song back to a John Lomax recording of a Texas convict named Smith Casey (or Cason, as Lomax originally erroneously identified him). On his field recording, Lomax entitled the song “Shorty George,” which was the name of a short spur train that carried prisoners from the main line to their new homes in prison. Well, sir, evidently Eric Von Schmidt and Rolf Kahn – two names familiar to anyone who ever conducted a Folkways inventory (me) – heard the Library of Congress recording, and recorded it themselves. And, as Dave Van Ronk explicates from the Oxford article: "I learned this song from Eric Von Schmidt, who learned it from Dylan, who learned it from me." Dylan claimed sole composer credit when he recorded it for his self-titled album for Columbia, though he later claimed he wrote it with Chicago street singer Blind Arvella Grey. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall at THAT session. Then Roger McGuinn heard it and liked it so much that HE “wrote” it. Ditto Bobby Bare. And now today's discovery: that John Duffey “wrote” it as well...Will wonders never cease! Folk music truly IS the sound of America singing! AND, I also learned this morning, Duffey, along with Charlie Waller and Eddie Adcock, also wrote "The Banana Boat Song!"

Randog's Daily Pick 12/3/13
Harley Allen Live at the Bluebird Café
American Originals CD AMO-4008-2

One of the great joys of living in Nashville for the last 15 years or so has been the opportunity to attend shows at the famed Bluebird Café and seeing and hearing the real heroes of Music Row – the songwriters – show off their wares. That joy has been tempered somewhat recently by the popularity of the television show Nashville. The club is prominently featured there, and it only holds 165 people, so it has become virtually impossible to get into the place if one decides to drop in on a whim. But when we first moved here, we went to the Bluebird a lot, often as not to see the late, great Harley Allen, one of the most successful Nashville writers of the ‘90s and the early years of the New Millennium. Harley was also a great bluegrass tenor singer and mandolin player, and a wickedly funny man. Red Allen was his father, and he inherited his dad's bluegrass chops and attitude, but in his songs and in his life, he seemed to be pulled equally and oppositely by his mom's influence; she was a strict Southern Baptist who, Harley often said, "believed that if you had any fun at all, you were going to hell." From that tension came some of his most memorable songs, some of which Chris and I heard for the first time at the Bluebird, perhaps most memorably, “Stray Dogs and Alley Cats,” which is included here. His shows were always memorable, often hilarious, (unless, for some reason, you aroused his ire and he focused his in-between song patter on you or someone at your table). Also included on this CD, accompanied only by Harley's own guitar, are: "The Little Girl" (two days later John Michael Montgomery cut it; it was a sensation already, as Harley documents here), “Another Good Reason Not to Drink,” “Between the Devil and Me,” “Free and Easy,” “Everything I Love is Killing Me,” and “Learning to Live With Me.” There are twelve in all. Wonderful stuff, and a strong reminder of what a gaping hole Harley left in this town…

How do you write a good country song? Well, it only takes one person to do such, and longtime and successful country singer/songwriter tells you how in this story from the New York Times.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on August 1st for a show titled What Hath Ralph Wrought? On the anniversary (8/1/27) of Ralph Peer’s first recording sessions in Bristol of the Carter Family, a celebration of the “Big Bang of Country Music” and its legacy.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood will be appearing, along with Ira Marlowe, at The Monkey House in Berkeley on August 14th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The 19th Annual Celtic Festival will get your toes a tappin’ at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on October 2nd-4th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company


From the song “I’d Like to Teach the Word to Sing” by The New Seekers

Standup people. With all of the stories about murder, mayhem and turmoil on the front pages of newspapers (remember them?) and on CNN and other news outlets, it can sometimes be daunting just to leave your house. The media continues to live by the credo “If it bleeds it leads, if it thinks, it stinks.” So it is quite heartwarming when not only a positive news story appears, but even more so when the source is not some big media monolith but right here on this website, on the CBA Message Board. On July 18th Richard Brooks started this post on the MB stating that a 1/4 standup bass was for sale for $399. The next morning CBA webmeister Rick Cornish answered the post by saying “I'll kick in fifty bucks towards buying this bass for the CBA Kids Lending Library. Anybody with me?” and within 24 hours, due to the generous donations of fellow CBA members, enough money was raised to purchase the bass for the Lending Library. However…then the seller changed her mind, and decided not to sell the instrument. But, when offered their money back, all of the doners decided to let the library keep their donations so that other basses could maybe be found and purchased for the kids to use! People coming together for the common good of others...is this a great organization or what? If only we could get the politicos in Washington to act this way! In the meantime, let's keep on trying to get the rest of the world to sing in perfect harmony…

Friends of Bill. A gaggle of banjo pickers that included Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny, Mike Kropp, Eric Weissberg, Marc Horowitz and Mike Munford got together and honored 75-year-old banjo player Bill Keith on Friday the 17th at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in the Catskill Mountains in New York. Keith, who is having some health issues, was helped on stage with the aid of a walking cane. He was too frail to bring a banjo on stage and play. Read about it here in Bluegrass Today

The Godmother of Rock and Roll. A special shout out to Randog, whose contributions fill about half of this column each week. He brought Sister Rosetta Tharpe to our attention, and man, check her out playing electric guitar here in this video from the early 1960s. And make sure that you read Randog’s comments about her below.

One heckuva Bulova repairman! Legendary blue/newgrass guitar player Tony Rice – who, in his spare time (of which he has way too much of these days) restores Bulova Accutron watches – has been lying low since his last big public appearance on the stage at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in October of 2013. He has been resting his voice and his arm, both of which he has been having well-documented problems with. Yet he does have the urge to get out and perform again. He did play briefly in Eden, NC, at the Charlie Poole Music Festival recently. Read this real nice story about him on the Greensboro web site. And, Randog has a CD review below about Tony.

30 best country albums of 2015. Really? Already? Aren’t there, oh, I don’t know, five more months left in the year still? Didn’t these “best of” lists used to wait until the end of the year? Is the media so desperate for news that they have to start these kind of lists halfway through the year? All of this being said, this is a cool list. First of all, it comes from a British publication, and it is a bit mistitled, in that a lot of what is on this list is not “country.” At the same time, there are a lot of artists that the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters has never heard of, so it is time to do some research. It is cool to see Della Mae, Willie and Merle, Asleep at the Wheel, Jimmy LaFave, The Punch Brothers, and Tom Paxton on the list.

Country music in a crisis? According to this story in The Tennessean, there is not enough good country music out there anymore. Hey, maybe some of the artists in the section above stand a chance after all!

Road mangler. Phil Kaufman, the longtime music roadie and erstwhile band manager of some renown – in 1973 he stole the corpse of country-rock singer Gram Parsons from the LA airport and took it out to the desert to burn it – was critically injured in a bike accident in Nashville last weekend. Riding a motorcycle at age 80? He also penned an autobiography titled Road Mangler some years back. Show of hands here: Who even knew he was still alive? Thanks to Linda Rust for this item.

K-Bar in BU. Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried got a nice review in Bluegrass Unlimited for their new CD titled The Trestle.

Life’s railway to heaven. Man, after two weeks of columns with no mention of any artist passings, the Grim Reaper has made up for lost time! Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Wayne Carson, who had a hand in writing classics such as "Always on My Mind" and "The Letter," died on the 20th at age 72 after suffering from several health problems, including congestive heart failure. Also, Eddy Arnold had a hit with Wayne's song "Somebody Like Me" in 1966. Troubadour, character actor and social activist Theodore Bikel, known for the role of Baron von Trapp in the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music” and as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died in Los Angeles on the 21st. He was 91. Writer E.L. Doctorow, author of the critically and award-winning novels “Ragtime,” “Billy Bathgate” and “The March,” died on the 21st of lung cancer in Manhattan. He was 84. Songwriter and record producer Buddy Buie, who helped propel the Classics IV to pop prominence with the soft-rock hits “Spooky,” “Traces” and “Stormy,” died of a heart attack on the 18th in Dothan, AL. He was 74. Ettore Stratta, who produced records by Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett and also conducted symphonic arrangements of everything from bossa nova to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, died on the 9th in Manhattan. He was 82. Tom Moore, longtime cartoonist of the Archie comic series, died in El Paso, TX, on the 20th. He was 86. He was diagnosed with throat cancer within the past week and chose not to undergo treatment. Country singer Daron Norwood was found unresponsive in his Hereford, TX, apartment on the 23rd. He was 49. He had a hit with "Cowboys Don't Cry" in 1994 and later his song "If It Wasn't For Her I Wouldn’t Have You" reached No. 26. And finally, what happens after the burial? Looks like a search for a new lead guitarist, as Justin Lowe, the 32-year-old guitar player for the metal band After the Burial, was found dead in Somerset, WI, on the 21st, having either fallen or jumped from a bridge. Recently “he offered a conspiracy-filled rant on his reasons for leaving (the band) that included a series of events involving the alleged sabotage of his computer, a set up that included the staging of a friend’s death and allegations of drugs, abuse and sexual impropriety.”

Just for the heck of it. Glen Campbell and a very young Carl Jackson on banjo, from 1973, playing “Dueling Banjos” like you’ve never seen or heard it before.

Fair game The Marin County quintet Blithedale Canyon Festival will be playing the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa on Sunday the 26th at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. BC is a melodious country band whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, Gary Bauman on electric guitar, and Tom Peplinski on drums. Rides, animals, cotton candy, live music…it is all there at the fair!

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a few commentaries, a review of a weekly radio show, and two CD reviews from the archives that never appeared in this version of the MOLD column:

Randog's Rant 7/18/2015
Stephen Betts just posted something that made me aware of Sister Rosetta Tharpe's absence in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I guess I'd always just assumed that she had been inducted in the “Pioneer” category, though I've long since stopped paying much attention to anything that august body does. In this case, though, Rosetta's absence just points out the lack of diligence and ignorance of the learned folk charged with making the institution relevant. There is evidently a Facebook page devoted to righting this egregious lapse. In the meantime, check out this video of her singing “That’s All.”

Randog’s Observation 7/20/15
We went to see the great Sonny Throckmorton at a rare public appearance tonight at Douglas Corner. Sonny is one of Nashville's great songwriters – “Friday Night Blues,” “Middle Age Crazy,” and many more – though he doesn't live here anymore, and he was accompanied by another great, Don Henry, as well as possibly Sonny’s daughter. Bobby Braddock also showed up and did a guest spot – perhaps the roughest live performance all-time of his co-write with Curly Putman of the song some call “the greatest country song of all” –“He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Bobby's daughter did the Milly Kirkham bit. It was a not atypical Music City night – sometimes it approached Nashville's version of watching the sausage being made – but interesting for all that. There was one undeniable fact about what transpired at Douglas Corner tonight: it couldn't happen anywhere else in quite the same way.

Randog's That's Entertainment? 7/21/2015
Is this a great country or what? I killed an hour this morning watching a show about an Elvis imitator/hoarder who softly sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight” under his breath to keep from breaking down while his “friends” bullyragged him into ridding his apartment of his stuff. A program note afterwards hyped the network's new show promoting the dating efforts of a couple of blonde female “giants,” a move beyond the “little people “ shows that proliferate on their channel at present...

Randog's Daily Pick 7/23/2015
America's Back 40 radio show with Mary Tilson
KPFA, 94.1 FM, in Berkeley, CA

I've been sitting here listening (on the computer) to Mary's show from this past Sunday for the last couple of hours, and figured that this would be as good a time as any to mention the show in considerably more depth than has been my habit of late. I'm not sure how long Mary has been broadcasting America's Back 40, but I've been listening since 1980, when I happened across her show one Thursday night, I think – it was an evening show for the first twenty years or so, I believe. She was playing something called "The Immigrants," from The National Lampoon crew, allegedly describing the trek of Europe's hillbillies to America. It was narrated by a fake Gregory Peck, and it featured such lines as "I don't like it here in It'ly; you cain't git no D-I-V-O-R-C-E," delivered by Gilda Radner in her best Loretta-ish voice. Well, that got my attention, and Mary held it by playing a solid two hours of some of the most eclectic, imaginative programming one could imagine, the best stuff I'd heard since the fabled KFAT went soft. And, she's held it ever since. I discovered later that Mary had labored in the vineyards (or perhaps more accurately, the "garlic fields") of KFAT for a time before hooking on at KPFA with her own self-produced show, whose name was taken from Jonathan Edwards' song "My Home Ain't in the Hall of Fame." I'm still listening, 35 years later, and Mary and I have long since become fast friends -- well, I'm not as fast as I used to be -- as well as musical fellow travelers. We don't agree on everything musical; far from it. But one can always count on Mary for thoughtful, provocative, and laugh inducing musical programming. I just now heard a line, something like "Whiskey, shots and tater tots ain't much of a menu," for instance, and so far on this show she has played Bessie Smith, Merle Travis, Dolly Parton, Uncle Earl, and Jimmy Dale Gilmore, as well as a song called "Common Law Wife" that I immediately decided was one of my new faves, by someone I'd never heard of but will be on the lookout for from now on, and other songs and tunes that lean toward, well, what people in the back forties of America – both for real and spiritually – tend to like. She's on Sunday afternoons now from 1-3 p.m. PST, still on KPFA, which is the country's oldest, and still the best, listener sponsored radio. And due to the magic of the Internet, you can listen online, live or archived. The latest show is always archived for two weeks, and there are other select shows in the archives as well. Now if I could just get her to play JD Crowe's version of "My Home Ain't in the Hall of Fame," just once...

Randog's Daily Pick 12/18/2013
Carroll Best Say Old Man, Can You Play the Banjo?
Copper Creek CD CCCD-0175

In 1994, I helped produce a show for The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley of the touring Masters of the Banjo tour, of which Carroll Best, a picker from North Carolina who had been playing three-finger style (with finger picks) banjo, he said, since he was 12-years-old, which would have been 1943. This was surely a revelation to those in bluegrass who have believed for many years that Bill Keith brought the style to the fore, perhaps with some foreshadowing by the great Bobby Thompson and some bolstering from citybillies Eric Weissberg and Marshall Brickman. Best never referred to his style as “chromatic” or “melodic,” preferring “fiddle style”; he didn't regard it as bluegrass, either, calling it “three-finger, old-time, fiddle style” after the most important characteristic to him, of his style, that of playing fiddle tunes note for note. And what a wonderful player he was, as the 36 tracks here will attest. He never received much commercial exposure and was never a full time musician. A period in the ‘50s with The Morris Brothers on their local TV show probably afforded him more attention than anything he did musically until the 1994 Masters of the Banjo tour, but he was certainly a wonderful musician. Five cuts here are from that tour, (accompanied by Laurie Lewis, Dudley Connell, Kurt Sutphin, and Jimmy Trivette) and there are two cuts with accompaniment by Kenny Baker and Josh Graves from the ‘70s, along with home recordings and live recordings from folklore oriented events. I was lucky to get to see and hear Carroll up close and personal in an informal jam session at Eric and Suzy Thompson's house after the Freight's concert, and enjoyed it immensely, as I have this album.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/16/2013
Tony Rice Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot
Rounder CD-0370

A recent Gordon Lightfoot feature on CBS Sunday Morning reminded me of this album, and I'm glad it did. Lightfoot has been Tony's favorite songwriter for a long time, and here are seventeen of Lightfoot's finest (including the previously unissued “Whispers of the North”), receiving the most sympathetic interpretations possible, in my humble opinion. From the time Rounder 0044 – JD Crowe & The New South -- hit the bluegrass world like an atom bomb, Tony has been widely considered the best and most influential guitarist in the genre. What is less often mentioned is that his burnished baritone lead vocals had an equally wide appeal at the time to many folks who had not given much thought to bluegrass prior to that landmark release. His versions of “You Are What I Am,” “Ten Degrees (Getting Colder)” and “Cold on the Shoulder” quickly became staples in the repertoires of 'grassers and ambitious folkadokes as well. All three are here, of course, as are 14 other classics, like “Early Morning Rain,” ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” and (especially) “Bitter Green,” “Let It Ride, and “Go My Way.” Rounder claims that this is the "complete" Rice/Lightfoot collection, and alas, it probably is, given Tony's vocal problems of the last 15 years or so. If that proves to be the case, the collection is a wonderful reminder that he has been not only a major (perhaps THE major) instrumental influence on the genre of bluegrass, but also a major force as a vocalist. He is accompanied by many of his musical revolutionaries and band mates, including Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, Todd Phillips, Mark Schatz, and his brothers Wyatt, Larry, and Ron, among many others.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on July 25th and August 1st for shows titled What Hath Ralph Wrought? On the anniversaries of (7/25/27) Ralph Peer’s first recording sessions in Bristol (with Ernest Stoneman & the Dixie Mountaineers) and (8/1/27) the first recordings of the Carter Family, a celebration of the “Big Bang of Country Music” and its legacy.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood will be appearing, along with Ira Marlowe, at The Monkey House in Berkeley on August 14th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The 19th Annual Celtic Festival will get your toes a tappin’ at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on October 2nd-4th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

 

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

 

From the song “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful


Summer in the city. Unlike the lines in the song above, it seldom gets “hotter than a match head” here around Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Which is one of the things that is most appealing about being here, as the cool temps year round make life much more pleasurable than the hot, sticky stuff I experienced last week in the Philly area. However, the notion of “people looking half dead” is endemic in any big city, as folks trudge to and from their jobs daily, trying to make ends meet. And these days, more often than not, they do such while mindlessly staring at their mobile phones while jaywalking and crossing intersections on the red. Fortunately for the idealistic and eager staff here at MOLD there is unlimited Peet’s coffee on tap and the fridge is stocked with Red Bull, so everyone is (artificially) happy to be working for free with the hope that someday a real job with pay might appear. Not unlike anyone that writes for the Huffington Post web site…

Epic music festivals. Amazingly so, the recent 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival did not make it onto this list of so-called “14 epic music festivals,” but anyone that was there knows that it was indeed a great time. But hey, if the fest was on this list, then it would become so popular that it would be overwhelming, so maybe it is just as well. And just who or what is “mashable.com” anyway, the source of this story? The only event here that is close to the CBA Fest is the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in SF’s Golden Gate Park in early October, and it ranks number two on this list. I have been to every one of them, and indeed, it is epic...

Extra! Extra! Read All About Her! In case you haven’t seen it yet, Palo Alto’s young up-and-coming bluegrass superstar Molly Tuttle is featured on the cover of the July/August edition of Flatpicking Guitar magazine. What a coup for such a talented picker!

The bass player blues. Bass players in bands seldom get respect, and even though this story titled 21 Struggles Only Bass Players Understand is all about electric players, most of the comments apply to the standup too. Except for the part about using a pick…

Duelin’ banjers. By now, everyone has at least seen the 1972 movie Deliverance or they have heard about the famous pickin’ scene where one of the city slickers (actor Ronny Cox) jams on guitar with a local banjo player (Billy Redden) on the song “Dueling Banjos,” which put bluegrass music on the map in the decade of the 1970s. But it has probably been a long time since you’ve seen it. Well, as with many other things these days, due to the wonder of the Internet you can now watch just the music scene here. It is very well done, the pickin’ is hot, and those are some bonafide hillbillies in the background. Here is a bit of little known trivia for you, compliments of writer Bruce Jenkins (sportswriter for the SF Chronicle), who wrote about his composer/arranger father in his excellent biography titled Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins. Gordon was working on the soundtrack of the soon to be released film, and he needed a banjo player to play on the soundtrack. Someone told him about Bill Keith, but when he contacted Keith, the latter told Jenkins that he didn’t want to play on the soundtrack because he didn’t want give up some gig he had playing in a local country band (for maybe $50-100 bucks). The rest, as they say around the Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel households (the two musicians that really played the song on the recording), is bluegrass history…

Creekside country. The Marin County quintet Blithedale Canyon Festival will be playing the Creekside Fridays series in Mill Valley on Friday the 17th from 6:30-8 p.m. BC is a melodious country band whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, Gary Bauman on electric guitar, and Bob Skye on drums. This is a fun, free event for the entire family. Burgers and dogs will be available to purchase. Bring a jacket as it can sometimes be a little cool in the evenings on Tennessee Valley Road.

Just for the heck of it. Johnny Cash and Linda Ronstadt signing a duet of “I Never Will Marry”. As it turns out, Linda never has…

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here is one commentary and two recording reviews.

Randog's Regrets (Wish I'd Hung Onto A Copy of THIS one) 7/17/2015
I once saw this Christian Comic Book that was all about how Mother Maybelle and June Carter saved Johnny Cash's immortal soul. Ben Elwood, (SF Chronicle music writer) Phil's son, who worked with me at Bayside Distributors in SF/Bay Area when he was a teenager, brought it to work with him, and we would do occasional dramatic readings from it...

Randog's Daily Pick 7/10/2015
Louis Jordan Somebody Up There Digs Me
Mercury LP MG 20242

I had this album once, and foolishly let it go, since the album consisted of updated versions of Louis' ‘40s groundbreaking hits, when he was rightfully considered perhaps THE Godfather of Rock and Roll, with his unique fusion of jazz and R&B elements into a wailing, rocking sound that also featured his hip lyrics, his alto saxophone blowing, humorous stage presence – Louis also made several movies and soundies that highlighted his brand of showmanship – and his legendary small band The Tympani Five, featuring among others, the legendary guitarist Carl Hogan, who was an acknowledged huge influence on Chuck Berry himself. I've always preferred the hit “original” versions of classic stuff, and most of Louis' classic Decca catalog has been readily available for ages, so my mistake for not appreciating his Mercury debut album from 1957, which was produced by a very young Quincy Jones and a band that includes – get these names –Ernie Royal on trumpet, Jimmy Cleveland on trombone, Budd Johnson on baritone and tenor saxophone, Sam "The Man" Taylor on tenor sax, Ernie Hayes on piano, Wendell Marshall on bass, Charlie Persip on drums, AND most importantly, the great Mickey Baker on guitar. Great and influential as Carl Hogan was – and he was all of that – he couldn't play the guitar any better or more distinctively than Mickey Baker in his prime. And Mickey's playing is crucial on this uniquely ‘50s style amalgam of blues, R&B, and jazz. Probably best known by some as the Mickey of Mickey & Sylvia ("Love Is Strange"), Baker was so much more, as he amply demonstrates here. And Louis is blowing his ass off on alto saxophone and singing as well as ever on a program of his hits, which include "Caldonia," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't Ma Baby," "Run Joe," Early in the Morning," "Choo Choo Ch Boogie," "Let the Good Times Roll," Salt Pork, West Virginia," "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin',"and others, 12 in all. If you find this in good shape, you've discovered a classic. Hang on to it.

Randog's Daily Pick 7/16/2015
Tim Shelton Jackson Browne Revisited
Dry Lightning Records

If you've ever been fortunate enough to hear Tim Shelton sing anything – anywhere –you're a fan. He's that good. Steeped in traditional bluegrass and for years the leader of the popular bluegrass band Newfound Road, Tim is also blessed with discerning and wide open ears; he has always been willing to lend his powerful voice to good songs from anywhere on the radio dial. Newfound Road was a band noted for grassing' up such fare as Kenny Loggins' "Please Come to Boston," and in live performance especially, Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." On this disc he favors the songs of the great southern California singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, and the pairing of his great voice and Browne's nuanced lyrics is so natural that one wonders why such concepts aren't tackled more often. This isn't a bluegrass record by any stretch of the imagination; it is pop, pure and simple, in production, approach, mix, and instrumentation, but Tim is helped out by some of his more versatile and forward looking friends from the bluegrass world, including Shawn Lane and Sonya Isaacs on vocals, Jimmy Van Cleve on fiddle, Clay Hess on acoustic guitar and Mountain Heart's keyboardist Josh Shilling on piano, B-3 organ(!) and vocals, as well as equally talented but less familiar players – to me anyway –as Lyle Brewer (great electric guitar on “Take It Easy”), Dave LaBruyere on bass, Josh Seurkemp on drums and vocals, Rick Hardinski on guitars, and Paul Kolderie, who produced and played some acoustic guitar. There is no denying Browne's skillful and catchy melodies and memory inducing, evocative lyrics, and Tim sings them with the nuance and emotion they demand, from "Doctor My Eyes" and "Fountain of Sorrow," "The Pretender" and "My Opening Farewell," to perhaps the most radio-friendly single of the 70s, "Take It Easy," and seven more sparkling examples of Jackson's songwriting skills. They're all given new life through Tim's soulful renditions. He is a singer's singer for sure, reminiscent of the best in bluegrass and country music – he's drawn influence from vocalists as diverse as The Stanley Brothers and Larry Sparks (a personal favorite of his), Ronnie Bowman, Vern Gosdin, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and Tony Rice, and you can hear them all in his voice... but mostly, you'll hear Tim Shelton, singing the best songs of the great Jackson Browne, and it is quite a treat to anyone's ears who appreciate great songs and great singing...even if you, like me, can't call hogs, let alone sing.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on July 18th from 6:30-8 p.m. for guest host Leah Wollenberg’s Radio Ramblin' show.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood will be appearing, along with Ira Marlowe, at The Monkey House in Berkeley on August 14th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The 19th Annual Celtic Festival will get your toes a tappin’ at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on October 2nd-4th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

 

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Friday, July 10, 2015

What have they done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the field
And look for a job in the town

 

The chorus from The Old Home Place , performed here by The Dillards and written by their bass player Mitch Jayne


The old home place ain’t what it used to be. This week your Friday MOLD columnist is traveling back east, visiting the old home town as well as family members and friends. While the old homestead hasn’t been torn down, and I never touched a plow, there are a lot of memories back this way in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It was here that I was first exposed to bluegrass music, and my first album – which I still have – was a classic by The Dillards, titled Back Porch Bluegrass. I’ve been singing "The Old Home Place" since the early ‘70s, and this week it has been going through my head more often than any other tune. Unlike in the song, leaving here 36 years ago was one of the smartest moves I ever made. But sometimes I can only wonder what life would have been like if I had never left that (metaphorical) plow in the field to look for a (music) job in the town (of San Francisco)…

Molded news. Since the entire staff is away on holiday this week, most everything below – except for Randog’s recording review – already appeared in last week’s column.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here is a new CD review:

Randog's Daily Pick 7/9/2015
The Kentucky Gentlemen Who Will Open The Church Door?
Old Homestead LP 70046

There was some mention of Marvin Davis in a recent Bluegrass Unlimited in their Notes and Queries feature, regarding his authorship of a song that has become something of a classic in bluegrass since Ralph Stanley recorded it, a song called "Bootleg John." It's also something of a parking lot picker's favorite, and many bands have recorded it as well, most recently – to my knowledge anyway – Band Of Ruhks. Well, Marvin DID write that song, but he has done substantially more than that in a long career in bluegrass, including being a longtime member of the regionally quite popular Kentucky Gentlemen. He wrote three of the songs on this all-gospel recording from 1982, late in the history of the band: "Who Will Open the Church Door?" "Someone's Knocking at Your Door," and "While I Live." He plays mostly guitar on this album, but I've seen him play every instrument except bass, and “he always does a fine job,” as Dr. Ralph would say. He's also a wonderful lead and harmony singer, and on this particular album his fellow Gentlemen are some of the finest traditional musicians in the Ohio Valley region, including Roger Smith on banjo – Roger deserves a whole book himself; he made recordings with Larry Richardson many years ago, was a wonderful fiddle, mandolin, AND banjo player, and also played in The Brown County Music Park at Bean Blossom with Neil Rosenberg, among others. He was a wonderful guy, we lost him a few years ago, but he is fondly remembered by bluegrassers all over Indiana and Kentucky in particular. The great Harold Russell of The Russell Brothers, who passed within a week of Roger Smith a couple of years ago, after a long career playing music, is also here, and he plays mandolin and adds his fabulous tenor voice to the trios and quartets. And the bassist, Avery Gabbard, also sings baritone and contributes his original song "God of Our Salvation." Guest Glen Duncan, who was a student of Roger Smith early on, plays fiddle. He's gone on to do right well by himself since then, I believe. Besides Marvin and Avery's originals, songs include traditional fare like "It is Springtime in Glory," “Jesus Will Save You Today," “Matthew Twenty Four," the Louvins' "Born Again," "Let the Light Shine Down," "Jesus is Waiting," "Gloryland Way," and "He Took Your Place," and the trios and quartets are predictably sublime. Chris and I have been lucky, through a friend of my sister who lives in Indiana, to have met – and Chris to play with, fairly often – these guys, all wonderful guys and stalwart bluegrass musicians. The Kentucky Gentlemen were regionally prominent for many years in the Midwest, and a lot of great musicians passed through the band, but I think this is my favorite line-up. ALL of their albums are worthwhile, though.

Simply bluegrass. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 11th, at 8 p.m., Blue & Lonesome will be playing the finest in traditional bluegrass music. The group features Ed Neff on mandolin, Larry Cohea on banjo, Paul Shelasky on fiddle, Mike Wilhoyte on guitar, and Markie Sanders on bass. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

String fever at the Freight. There will be unlimited strings being strummed and bowed at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 11th during the Shasta String Celebration show that will feature Kala Ramnath, Jody Stecher, The Bee Eaters, Billy Contreras, Paul Brown, John Herrmann & Chicken Train, Adam Agee, Ben Krakauer and Dave Cory.

Bluegrass at the lake. The Lake Tahoe Bluegrass Festival on July 11th will feature The David Grisman Sextet, Greensky Bluegrass, The Earls of Leicester, The Del McCoury Band, and more.

Still Ramblin' after all these years. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally will be sharing the stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on July 11th.

Who let the Dawgs out? On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester.

Creekside country. The Marin County quintet Blithedale Canyon Festival will be playing the Creekside Fridays series in Mill Valley on Friday the 17th from 6:30-8 p.m. BC is a melodious country band whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, Gary Bauman on electric guitar, and Bob Skye on drums. This is a fun, free event for the entire family. Burgers and dogs will be available to purchase. Bring a jacket as it can sometimes be a little cool in the evenings on Tennessee Valley Road.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on July 11th from 6:30-8 p.m. for guest host Sully Roddy playing All Kinds of Country.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th

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Friday, July 3rd, 2015

In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather's fine
You got women, you got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find

From the song “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry

It is the summertime, and the weather is indeed hot. But hey, this sure beats digging out of a couple of feet of snow, like the folks out east had to do way too many times this past winter. It is a festive weekend ahead, with the Independence Day celebration on tap for the 4th. There will be parades, barbecues, fireworks, and with any luck, some good old fashioned red, white and bluegrass music happening somewhere nearby you. Hope you have a grand holiday weekend!

More Megan. Last week in this column we mentioned that the June issue of Bluegrass Unlimited had a feature in it about native Bay Area fiddler Megan Lynch Chowning in a story titled “The Far Reaching Impact of One Woman and One Fiddle.” In the meantime she became the new Adult Division Champ in Weiser, Idaho. That makes seven times National Champ now. Her first ever was for Small Fry Champ in 1983. Then she was Junior Junior Champ three times in a row in ‘85, ‘86, and ‘87. Then Young Adult twice in a row, in ‘93 and ’94. While she still has many decades to go until she reaches that age, you can rest assured that she will win Senior Senior division many times, too.

Word to the Weiser. If you have never heard of or been to the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival in Weiser, just read Tara Lindhart’s story in Bluegrass Today.

Kathy Kallick plays Acoustic Guitar. Of course she does, and always has, leading her own band as well as fronting the Good Ol’ Persons back in the day for many years. But she and her dobro/banjo playing band mate Greg Booth also recently did an interview and picking session video for Acoustic Guitar Sessions, and you can watch it here.

Bluegrass Song of the Decade. Here at Carltone World Headquarters the staff has already heard and selected the best bluegrass song of the decade. It is by Donna Hughes and it is called “Walmart Checkout Line,” and you should watch the video here.

Fresh Jerry. And we’re not talking about Mungo Jerry, the band singing the “Summertime” song at the top of this column. (MOLD trivia question: Who knew that there was a banjo on that original recording? Don't believe me? Watch the video again!) In case you missed it, dobro wizard Jerry Douglas was interviewed on the National Public Radio show Fresh Air earlier this week, and you can listen to him here.

The news from Lake Wobegon. There have been stories going around the Interweb that Garrison Keillor, longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion radio show, is soon going to retire and will passing on the baton to young mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile. However, the sources for this rumor have been web sites of dubious distinction, such as pastemagazine.com and oregonlive.com. Until we see or hear this news directly from Keillor, Thile, or on National Public Radio, or read about it in the NY Times or Washington Post, we ain’t buying it. Would Thile, who is still on his way up in his amazingly creative music career, really retire from performing and touring in order to spend all of his time producing a weekly radio show that caters to the gray-haired, chamomile tea-drinking, and Birkenstock-wearing listening audience? The betting here says no…

Worst act ever. Everyone has their opinion on this matter, but NPR did a piece last weekend about the Cherry Sisters, and you can decide for yourself if they were indeed the worst act ever.

Life’s railway to heaven. Longtime Oregon bluegrass musician Steve Waller, who founded and played with the Sawtooth Mountain Boys for a few decades, died of a heart attach on June 26th. He was 69. Country songwriter, session player and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Red Lane, who, among other things, co-wrote the Tammy Wynette hit song “Til I Get It Right,” died on the 1st of cancer. He was 76. (read Randog’s tribute to him below). Chris Squire, the amazing bass player and a founding member of the British rock band Yes, went on to the big jam in the sky on June 27th. He was 67. Irish singer and TV host Val Doonican, who once topped the Beatles on the charts, died in England on the 1st. He was 88.

Simply bluegrass. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 11th, at 8 p.m., Blue & Lonesome will be playing the finest in traditional bluegrass music. The group features Ed Neff on mandolin, Larry Cohea on banjo, Paul Shelasky on fiddle, Mike Wilhoyte on guitar, and Markie Sanders on bass. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

String fever at the Freight. There will be unlimited strings being strummed and bowed at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 11th during the Shasta String Celebration show that will feature Kala Ramnath, Jody Stecher, The Bee Eaters, Billy Contreras, Paul Brown, John Herrmann & Chicken Train, Adam Agee, Ben Krakauer and Dave Cory.

Just for the heck of it. The Good Ol’ Persons playing "Broken Hearted Lover" at the recent Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, CA.

Bluegrass at the lake. The Lake Tahoe Bluegrass Festival on July 11th will feature The David Grisman Sextet, Greensky Bluegrass, The Earls of Leicester, The Del McCoury Band, and more.

Still Ramblin' after all these years. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally will be sharing the stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on July 11th.

Who let the Dawgs out? On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on July 4th from 6:30-8 p.m. for shows titled Ramblin’ On My Mind.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are two musings and two recording reviews:

Randog on the passing of Red Lane 7/1/2015

Red Lane died today. You may not know about him, but he wrote some great songs. There is a great interview with him – which I witnessed – as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame Poets and Prophets Songwriter series, and you can watch it here. This one saddens me. I actually met the guy at a Blue Highway show at the Station Inn. He'd come because he'd gotten to know Rob Ickes when they both played on the Merle Haggard “bluegrass” album.

Randog's Positive Remark Re: Bob Dylan 7/3/2015

While watching the recent documentary about Glen Campbell's last tour – highly recommended, by the way – I found myself musing about the depth of Glen's talent and recalled his great version of one of my favorite Dylan songs, "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)," which was featured on a Capitol album entitled Hey Little One. Listen to it here. It was heavily weighted with singer-songwriter fare of the day, and unique for country music at the time. So there.

Randog's Daily Pick 7/1/2015
Sally Van Meter with Ledward Kaapana, Gerry O'Beirne, Johnny Dickinson & Bruce Molsky Tre Mistiche
Live Oak CD 600

My friend Sally Van Meter, who I playfully dubbed "The Tonemeistress" (can that possibly be a word?) long ago, is in fact the master-mistress of the big fat note, coaxing them effortlessly, it seems, from her Weissenborn guitar – we call 'em dobros – whenever, wherever, and with whomever she plays. Hers is a singular and special talent, and here she is joined here by some of the finest slidey-type musicians in the world. I particularly love her musical hookup with the great Hawaiian slack key guitarist Led Kaapana on Stephen Foster's “Hard Times,” but she also duets with Ireland's tremendous Gerry O'Beirne, England's Johnny Dickinson, and on the only selection featuring a vocal, great old time fiddler Bruce Molsky, who here plays some fine finger-picked guitar and sings the achingly beautiful "Little Satchel," one of the prettiest old-time songs you're ever likely to hear. There are only six tunes and one song here, but they all are choice. How can our friends get one, Sally?

Randog's Daily Pick 7/2/2015
Suzy Thompson Retro
No Label Discernable CD

I've been listening to Suzy Thompson make music, live and on recordings, since 1976, when I moved to Berkeley from Illinois and immediately fell into the thrall of the Any Old Time String Band, of which Suzy was a founding member. I was particularly fond –still am – of her approach to string-band blues, both her fiddling and her declamatory vocal style, a sample of which can be heard on this recording on The Memphis Jug Band classic "Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues," with her fellow members of the eclectic Blue Flame String Band of the ‘80s. That band is also represented here by "Blues Stay Away," their version of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's take on The Delmore's "Blues Stay Away From Me." Through that group, I heard of Ladysmith well before Paul Simon's collaborations made them world famous. Those two examples only hint at the eclectic taste and musical curiosity of Suzy and her musical friends, as diverse and various as husband Eric Thompson, a similarly multi-talented player of many styles, and such stalwarts of the traditional music scene(s) in the Bay Area and beyond as Alan Senauke, Kate Brislin, Beth Weil, Maxine Gerber (a member of Suzy's Floozies and excellent Bay Area old-time musician)(their "Half Past Four/Black Jack Grove" medley is here), Andrew Carriere, Laurie Lewis, Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur, Markie Sanders, and others. Suzy also sings a Kate Wolf song, plays Cajun fiddle and accordion, and who knows what else on this generously programmed CD derived from previously unreleased recordings, live shots from The Noe Valley Ministry and The Freight & Salvage, out of print recordings, and elsewhere. This album by no means represents EVERY kind of music Suzy plays – there is no klezmer for instance, and Suzy was an early member of the pioneering band Klezmorim. Nor is – a favorite of mine – her version of Freddy King's "Christmas Tears," from a long ago Freight Christmas party. But there is enough to remind me of what a wonderful musician she is, and to remind me of some great times I've had listening to her and her fellow musicians. There are 14 songs and tunes in all. Oh, and I need to mention a wonderful, choogling "Yellow Dog Blues," featuring Suzy's great fiddling, Cindy Cashdollar's dobro, and Geoff Muldaur on six-string banjo, among others, which might be my favorite cut on the album.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th

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Friday, June 26th, 2015

 

All the good times are past and gone
All the good times are o'er
All the good times are past and gone
Little darling don't weep no more

 

From the song “All the Good Times Are Past and Gone,” sung here by Lester Flatt.

 

All the good times are indeed past and gone. At least, they are until next June. The 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival on the 18th-21st in Grass Valley was one great event, as anyone that was there can attest to. The Carltone staff was only there from Thursday to Sunday, and almost one week later we’re all still groggy and sleep deprived, which is proof positive that too much fun was had. Wonderful weather, great bands, good friends, endless jamming…it was a win/win/win/etc., any way you look at it. One of the highlights for me was the after-hours jaw-wagging session in Camp Carltone listening to longtime bluegrass sages Artie Rose and Randy (Randog) Pitts swapping bluegrass war stories. Man, I should have had the iPhone recorder running for this! For a more detailed description of the festival, make sure you scroll down below to Randog’s well written review. And beaucoup kudos to the entire CBA staff and all of the volunteers that made the fest a grand success!

Mando madness. One of the highlights of the fest was the “Mandolin Madness” workshop on Saturday afternoon that was hosted by Paul Knight. It included Butch Waller, Ed Neff, David Grisman, Roland White, Mike Compton, and Casey Henry. If you were there, you saw something really special, perhaps the best workshop ever at Grass Valley. If you weren’t there, then here is what you missed.

Kids On Bluegrass. The CBA has a wonderful program, run by Frank Solivan, Sr., called Kids On Bluegrass. Seemingly every year I end up camping within earshot of where the youngsters meet and practice while at the festival, and it is a joy to behold to see and hear the kids playing “Old Joe Clark” and “Red Haired Boy.” At the same time, I am a little partial to one young picker in particular, and he is a 12-year-old lad named Andrew Osborn, son of Marin County fiddler Joe Osborn. While he was unable to attend the KOB camp last week, he did take a session with Sam Grisman at recent Walker Music. While Andrew initially studied trombone in school, his first attempt at playing a standup bass was at the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister last August. Then, at a music party over the holiday season, I was playing my bass in a jam when dad Joe asked me if Andrew could try playing for a bit. I was happy to let him have a shot, and he did a commendable job even though he did not know most of the songs (it probably helped that I stood by and whispered the chord changes in his ear). Now, less than a year later, Andrew is playing the bass like a grizzled old veteran. While jamming in Camp Carltone last Friday night he was on top of every song, picking up chord changes by ear, and thumping away on the doghouse with quiet confidence. If he keeps at it, he is really going to be quite the player. Like now-grown-up kids Frank Solivan, Jr., Annie Staninec, and Molly Tuttle, the betting here is that in a few years people will be talking about Andrew Osborn and how they remember seeing him play way back when…

Cooking with JD. Another special treat at the fest was the official release of JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen: Comfort Food the California Bluegrass Way by longstanding bluegrass ambassador JD Rhynes. JD has been contributing his recipes to the CBA Breakdown for many years, and San Francisco CBA VP Ted Kuster got the idea a year or so back to put together a collection of the recipes in a book, with the proceeds benefiting the CBA. He set up a Kickstarter campaign, and in short order raised the $10,000 that was needed to put the book together. It also includes a CD with all of the songs being about food, with such notable artists as Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Megan Lynch Chowning, David Thom, Russell Moore, LeRoy Mack McNees, 35 Years of Trouble, and Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare contributing tunes. If you did not join the Kickstarter project, you can now purchase your own copy of the book. While soon there will be an Amazon link established, in the meantime just send an email to Rick Cornish at rickcornish7777@hotmail.com and he will tell you how to get the book.

The voice of the Opry. Eddie Stubbs, the erstwhile fiddle player in The Johnson Mountain Boys and, for the past 20 years, the announcer on the Grand Ol’ Opry, celebrated two decades of introducing bands last weekend. He has also had an evening radio show on WSM for almost as long, as he will mark 19 years of doing the show on July 8th. Read about him here.

Unlimited Megan. If you are a subscriber of Bluegrass Unlimited, then you already know that native Bay Area fiddler Megan Lynch Chowning is featured in the June issue in a story titled “The Far Reaching Impact of One Woman and One Fiddle.” While the piece is not available in the on-line edition, you can read the cover story about The Gibson Brothers here on the Interweb.

The Three Pickers. Most bluegrass fans either have – or at least know about – The Three Pickers recording from 2003 that features Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs. But did you also know that there is a video available on line that you can watch for free right here?

Nashville songbird. Okay, a show of hands here: how many of you have ever heard of Andrea Zonn? Well, it is about time you did. She was national fiddling champ in her teens, the same time she won a prestige violin fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival. She has toured with Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Trisha Yearwood, and is currently with James Taylor. In 1990 she was with the short-lived supergroup The Big Dogs (with Tony Triska, David Grier, Harley Allen, and Debbie Nims), and they put out one of the finest live bluegrass albums ever titled Live at the Birchmere. And Andrea has one of the prettiest voices around. She has a brand new CD coming out titled Rise, and you can read all about it here.

Musicians, watch your back! And, apparently, what you wear. Three Sacramento rock musicians were viciously attacked on the street by a man with a knife on the 21st, supposedly for wearing tight-fitting jeans. While no one was killed, two of the players were cut pretty bad.

Now and then. Newspaper and gossip websites love to run old and new photos of actors, singers, musicians, etc., because, according to their way of thinking, most of us lead boring and dreary lives, and it gives us perverse joy to see how the rich and famous have aged over the years. (Do not, however, look into a mirror anytime soon, to see if you have changed any in the past two decades!) All of this being said, here at the MOLD we don’t want you to feel left out, so here is a batch of photos showing how some of your favorite country music stars have aged in the past 20 years. There are a lot of hats and tons of makeup, but you’ll get the picture…

Breathing easier. Over the past year or so we’ve been updating you on Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich’s ordeal of waiting for and eventually getting a lung transplant. He finally got new lungs a few months back, but this is hardly the end of the story. There have been occasional complications as well as return trips to the hospital. His Giveforward fundraising campaign has raised a good bit of money to help defray out of pocket costs, but there is still a way to go to reach the ultimate goal. Read his wife Marci’s most recent update about the situation here.

Texas good Guy. Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last weekend, but he wasn't there to receive the award. Earlier in the day he had flown in from Nashville, but he collapsed before the show began and was taken to the hospital for tests. Latest reports have him felling much better. If you are a fan or want to know more about him, read this in-depth story about him from 2014 in the Texas Monthly. Thanks to reader Linda Rust to the TM link.

Bluegrass in Lassen. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds from June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival features Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more.

Life’s railway to heaven. Academy Award winning film composer James Horner, who did the scores to Titanic, Braveheart and Field of Dreams, died in a small plane crash on the 22nd. He was 61. Gunther Schuller, a composer, conductor and author who synthesized jazz and classical music, died on the 21st in Boston at age 89.

Festive time in Mendocino County. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, is happening through the 28th with Judy Collins, Steve Earle, Smokey Robinson, and many more.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday June 27th and July 4th from 6:30-8 p.m. for shows titled Ramblin’ On My Mind.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here is his take on the recent CBA Fest.

Reflections on the California Bluegrass Association's 2015 Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, CA, over Father’s Day Weekend

Many of my favorite happenings at Grass Valley this year inevitably involved old friends, naturally enough. I've been attending the festival since 1977, and have made more of 'em than I've missed through the years, so I've made a lot of friends on the site of the festival. But I was particularly struck by the number of exceptional music moments that involved the CHILDREN of old friends, as well as other musicians from the younger generation, which bodes well indeed for the future of the music the CBA has nurtured for the past 40 years. Allegra Thompson, for instance, the daughter of old friends and longtime Northern California favorites Eric and Suzy Thompson, who appeared with her band The Bearcat String Band on the Vern’s Stage. She performed with poise and grace – and she sang three Jimmy Martin songs! Warmed the cockles of my heart. Eric and Suzy also appeared with their own Blue Diamond Strings, which included four other old friends, Kate Brislin, Jody Stecher, the inestimable and unflappable Paul Knight, and the great Paul Shelasky. Their sets evoked the spirits of musicians as various as Memphis Minnie, Jean Ritchie, Utah Philips, and Bill Monroe, among many others. AND, Jody named a tune after a joke I once told him involving a diesel fitter in a pantyhose factory, a proud musical moment for me indeed, diminished not in the least by Shelasky's insistence that he'd kicked the slats out of his cradle the first time he heard it. Paul, of course, took part in the wonderful Good Ol' Persons reunion, which also featured Bethany Sorkey, Kathy Kallick, John Reischman, Sally Van Meter, a guest appearance by Beth Weil, and frequent twin fiddling forays between Paul and Annie Staninec (my favorite fiddle player these days). The unabashed joy between them when they join forces might most aptly be described as "Idiot Glee," which is, incidentally, an instrumental written by Darol Anger, I believe. Paul's demonstration – I think – of “The Curly Shuffle” was also memorable. I'm also told that the band reprised Paul's early hit "The Rutabaga Boogie" in an epic, even epochal version. But yes, sadly, I missed it, having gotten caught up in a conversation with another old friend somewhere about something. Nonetheless, the two complete sets I DID see were both smokin' and evocative; the GOPs were a landmark band in the history of Northern California bluegrass, and they can certainly still bring it any time they get together. Molly Tuttle and her young cohorts, including Samson Grisman – yes, David's son – and Jon Mailander played two remarkable sets which included Molly's originals and interpretations of songs by Hazel Dickens, Keith Whitley, and Townes Van Zandt, as well as her instrumental wizardry on banjo (bluegrass and clawhammer) and guitar (clawhammer, cross-picked, and bluegrass). I'm perpetually amazed at that young lady, whose parents, Maureen and Jack, are old friends. My young multi-talented friend Patrick Sauber, to whom I am wont to refer as "the young man with old ideas," acquitted himself admirably as the guitarist entrusted with the Clarence parts in The Kentucky Colonels Reunion band, expressing the decidedly progressive approach that the late Clarence White brought to bluegrass many years ago and which remain unsurpassed. The other Kentucky Colonels were California greats Leroy Mack McNees, Herb Pedersen, Roland White, and Roger Bush. Patrick's dad Tom Sauber, incidentally, is one of the finest old-time players in the state, and I've seen him play a lot, at Grass Valley and elsewhere, through the years. Chris Henry, son of Murphy and Red Henry (and brother of Casey and great nephew of John Hedgecoth, who played with Vern and Ray a long time ago), played mandolin with his own young group Hardcore Bluegrass and also did an outstanding job with The Vern Williams Reunion Band, which joyously evoked the memory of the great Vern himself. The band included Vern alumni Sue Averill (outstanding!) on bass, Vern's son Delbert, Keith Little, and the legendary Ed Neff on fiddle. Loved every minute of this band's sets. I haven't even touched on The Jump Steady Boys, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, The Spinney Brothers, or several others bands that were there, but the old ukranium is beginning to throb from all this thinkeration, and I must be headed back to the porch (not really). More later, perhaps...

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Lake Tahoe Bluegrass Festival on July 11th will feature The David Grisman Sextet, Greensky Bluegrass, The Earls of Leicester, The Del McCoury Band, and more. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally will be sharing the stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on July 11th. On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th.

 

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Friday, June 12th, 2015

 

And we had Bill Monroe for breakfast every day
Then we'd head out to the fields, a hoein' corn and mowin' hay
Aw mama loved his singin', daddy loved to hear him play
And we had Bill Monroe for breakfast every day

 

Tom. T. Hall from his song “Bill Monroe for Breakfast”


Breakfast of champions. Who doesn’t listen to Bill Monroe while eating their breakfast every day? At the least, for four days next week in Grass Valley a couple of thousand people will be doing such, as the sound of Big Mon will be everywhere at the Nevada Country Fairgrounds at the upcoming 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival on the 18th-21st. It is going to be a great one, so get out your tent, cooler and camping gear and get ready to attend the best fest in the West!

Now they tell us. Have you spent countless hours trying to decipher song lyrics in pop songs, such as what exactly is a “pompatus of love,” or the meaning of “traveling in a fried-out Kombi,” and “warm smell of colitas rising up through the air”? Well, now you can relax, as here is a link that explains 21 Obscure References in Classic Songs. Funny how bluegrass music does not need any explanation at all…

Makes sense to me...Here is an important message to any potential female groupie wannabees out there: If you are trying to decide which musician would be the coolest to hang out with, look no further than the bass player. This story is on the Interweb, so it must be true!

The healing power of music. There have been many stories on the web about the therapeutic power of music and how it can help out people in need. The documentary Alive Inside from last summer was astounding, as was the film Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me from last fall. (You can read my reviews of both of these films on my website here.) Now there is the story of young Kelley Gibson, who has been dealing with autism his entire life. But something happens to him when he plays guitar and mandolin. There is a Kickstarter campaign underway to tell his amazing tale, and you should watch a trailer for the film here.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If you think you have played some pretty crappy instruments somewhere along the way, you haven’t tried anything like what the kids play in the new documentary titled Landfill Harmonic. The poor musicians in Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra play violins, cellos, horns and drums made out of trash from the gigantic garbage dump that is located in Cautera, just outside the city of Asuncion. It is an amazing story about the triumph of the human spirit that will stay with you for a long time. You can read my review of the film here.

Smokin’ guitars. While not exactly made from garbage, there is a guitar maker in Georgia that earns his living making guitars out of wooden cigar boxes. Check out Mike Snowden’s story here. Thanks to reader Linda Rust for this item.

Bakersfield sound. There is a hot bluegrass band based in Bakersfield called The Roustabouts, and they have an excellent new CD out titled Patchwork. The band members are Craig Wilson on guitar, Kelvin Gregory on mandolin, Paul Lee on fiddle, Shawn Criswell on banjo, and Brian Hacker on bass. While all of the members contribute vocally, Wilson, Gregory and Lee provide for a nice mix of lead voices. And the harmonies are first-rate. The band pays tribute to Bakersfield country music icons Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Tommy Collins with bluegrass versions of some of their hits, along with songs by Larry Sparks, Harlan Howard, Waylon Jennings and Bob Paisley. You can download the CD from their site for only $11. Or, go see them playing live along with The Turkey Buzzards at the Beer, Beans and Bluegrass Festival in Nipomo on July 11th.

Men of Steel. This is the title of a great looking upcoming documentary about the pedal steel guitar. Check out the trailer for it here.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 13th, at 8 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Just for the heck of it. Jimmy Martin, with a young Audie Blaylock on mandolin, singing “Stormy Waters”. Thanks to Randog for this clip.

Life’s railway to heaven. Ronnie Gilbert, a founding member of The Weavers, the trailblazing folk band with Pete Seeger from the early 1950s, died in Mill Valley, CA, on June 6th. She was 88. Her autobiography, Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song, is due to be published this fall. Legendary innovator, composer and jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman expired in New York City on the 11th from cardiac arrest. He was 85. County Music Hall of Fame singer Jim Ed Brown, whose career spanned many decades either singing solo, with his sisters, or with Helen Cornelius, passed on in Franklin, TN, on the 11th from lung cancer. He was 81. The Browns had a hit called “Three Bells,” his big solo number was “Pop a Top Again,” and with Cornelius he sang “I Don’t Want to Have to Marry You.” Literal "outlaw" country singer Randy Howard (according to some Interweb postings) apparently died in a shootout with a bounty hunter in Lynchburg, TN, on the 9th. His first brush with fame was in 1983 with "All American Redneck." A lot of his songs dealt with alcohol and women, two subjects he battled his entire career. But, to paraphrase the sage Hank Williams Jr. in his autobiographical hit "Family Tradition," "Randy, why did you have to live out the songs that you wrote?"

 

Just for the Huck of it. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on the 12th-14th, featuring Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Hot Rize, Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, IIIrd Tyme Out, Blue Highway, and much more.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 13th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Gearing Up For Grass Valley, which will be a last-minute preview of the CBA’s 40th Anniversary Father's Day Festival.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Lake Tahoe Bluegrass Festival on July 11th will feature The David Grisman Sextet, Greensky Bluegrass, The Earls of Leicester, The Del McCoury Band, and more. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally will be sharing the stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on July 11th. On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are a fabulous find, a bluegrass memory, and a CD review.

Randog's Fabulous Find 6/9/2015
Lonesome Sundown (Cornelius Green) I Betcha b/w Louisiana Lover Man
Joliet 45 – 6002

A practitioner of the genre that became known as "Swamp Blues," Lonesome Sundown recorded this comeback effort as part of an album, first released on the Joiet label, then Alligator, in the late '70s, and I bought it for a quarter. And it's in sparkling condition. Lonesome Sundown toured early in his career with Clifton Chenier and Philip Walker, as well as being a member of JD Miller's swamp boogie brigade whose records came out mostly on Excello, along with Slim Harpo, Silas Hogan, Lazy Lester, Lightnin' Slim, and Katie Webster, among others. If you ever find any of these in your attic, basement, etc., I'll be only too happy to take them off your hands.

Randog's Bluegrass Memories 6/10/2015

It was the spring of 1991, and Chris and I looked to our annual trek "up the hill" to the Strawberry Music Festival with more anticipation than usual, because we were going to get to see the great Red Allen in person in a festival setting. And not just any festival, either. Strawberry, which used to be held twice a year at Camp Mather, just outside Yosemite, was by then well established as one of the finest (mostly) acoustic music festivals in the country. The great Red did not travel much anymore, and never to the West Coast, but David Grisman had coaxed him out to the Bay Area to record an album with himself, Jerry Garcia (on banjo), and others – and it was a straight ahead bluegrass album, likely still available on Grisman's Acoustic Disc label. Red and the band had played at The Great American Music Hall – without Jerry, but with Herb Pedersen on banjo – along with Grisman, Jimmy Buchanan on fiddle, and David's bassist at the time in his Quintet, Jim Kerwin. Chris and I had attended the show, and it was tremendous – and, incidentally, viewable on Youtube, will wonders never cease? – but their Strawberry set promised more, and it was, as one might imagine, tremendous as well. There was lots of back and forth among the band members, and Red, infamous for his, uh, occasional politically incorrect onstage patter for years, behaved himself for the most part. At one point, Grisman introduced a song by saying, "We didn't plan to do this, but we were sitting around rehearsing, and this one came up, and was so enjoyable, we thought we'd try it. Hope we can remember it." Or words to that effect. He then launched into the venerable and much beloved "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone," and the trio singing, which included Red singing lead, Herb on tenor, and Grisman singing baritone, was gorgeous. But then, Red – predictably enough – forgot a verse, another of his famous shortcomings, but after a short hesitation and a nervous glance, Red launched into it: “Two old maids were layin' in bed, one turned over to the other and said.” And Herb and David then intoned, “Will you miss me when I'm gone,” and the crowd roared.

Randog's Daily Pick 6/11/2015
Chris Brashear Heart of the Country
Dog Boy CD

The most enjoyable new music – new to me, anyway, though there is a date of 2012 on the album – I've heard in a long time. From the first time I heard Chris Brashear, I've enjoyed his music immensely. Pretty much every note I've ever heard him strike, in person or on recordings, has had a unique resonance, and the ones on this album are no different. An affecting vocalist, excellent guitarist, and sparkling fiddler in the bluegrass, old-time, and country realms, Chris also has a knack for writing original songs that are melodic and evocative of a style of traditional music that has all but disappeared. His music makes one reminisce about Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, Ola Belle Reed, and the best of early country and bluegrass artists. This album includes eight Brashear originals, plus his version of Iris Dement's "Mama's Opry" (Iris' first producer, Jim Rooney, produced the album), "Green Summertime" by Robin & Linda Williams (with whom Chris has been working frequently live of late), The Carter Family's "Silvery Colorado," and "How Could I Explain," an original by onetime Del McCoury mandolinist Dick Staber. Del's version of the song is wonderful, and so is Chris'. Among the great musicians represented here on one cut or another are Tim O'Brien, Mike Compton, Al Perkins, Todd Phillips, Richard Baile, Peter McLaughlin, Jim Watson, Mike Craver, and Hollis Brashear, who I am guessing is Chris' daughter. I first saw Chris at Grass Valley, when he appeared as part of the Oregon based band Kentucky Rose (the first time I heard his masterpiece, "The Mason's Lament"), and he was also a member of the outstanding group Perfect Strangers, among many other groups. He even served a stint with my favorite vocalist Kevin Costner's band...that's a joke, folks. Kevin is a musician, and Chris did play in his band, but Kevin isn't slated for a Randog's Pick in the near future.

 

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Friday, June 5th, 2015

 

Oh, it feels so good, gimme the ball
I'll go one on one against the world, left-handed
I could stuff it from center court with my toes
I could jump on top of the backboard
Take off a quarter, leave fifteen cents change
I could, I could dribble behind my back
I got more moves than Ex-Lax, I'm bad

 

From the song and animated video from 1975 titled “Basketball Jones” by the comedy duo Cheech and Chong


Strength in Numbers. This is the theme of the Golden State Warriors, the Bay Area hoops team that is currently in the National Basketball Association Finals for the first time in 40 years. They are playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the matchup is like a Hollywood screenplay: two rookie head coaches, two longtime doormat teams, and each team led by either the current or former Most Valuable Player. The W’s are up 1-0 after Thursday night’s thrilling overtime victory in the best-of-seven series. Needless to say, it is an exciting time for sports fans here in the Bay Area, as the finals are basketball’s equivalent to baseball’s World Series. While just a coincidence, Strength In Numbers was also the name of a powerhouse all-instrumental bluegrass/newgrass band from the late ‘80s that featured Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer, all of whom have gone on to carve out incredible solo careers. (The NBA equivalent would be a starting five of Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson.) Their only recording is titled The Telluride Sessions, and it is a must-have for any musical collection. Watch a Lonesome Pine Special video performance of the band here. Trivia note: the band – minus Bela Fleck – played under the name Telluride on Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road album from 1988.

Less than two weeks and counting. Everyone is getting excited about the upcoming 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on the 18th-21st. It is going to be a great one, so if you haven’t done so already, go to the link and buy your tickets now.

Breaking ground. Rolling Stone magazine recently came out with their list of the 40 Most Groundbreaking Albums of All Time, and to the surprise of no one reading this column, there is not one bluegrass recording on the list. For my money, Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume I should be on here. The only non-pop/rock/rap albums are Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads, Loretta Lynn’s Don’t Come Home Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), and Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds.

Stating the obvious. My hourly gig rate for playing bass just skyrocketed due to the publication of this story titled “Science Suggests Bassists Are Far More Important Than Most People Realize.” I will now be able to earn tens of dollars more playing bluegrass and country music! And maybe I will be able to retire as the Friday MOLD columnist!

The banjo is not just for dummies. Bay Area banjo enthusiast Bill Evans’ book Bluegrass Banjo for Dummies has been out for a few years now, and if you somehow missed it, there is a nice current review of the book by Murphy Henry in the Banjo Hangout. Thanks to Maria Nadauld for this item.

The King on a US Postal Stamp. No, bluegrass fans, we’re not talking about Jimmy Martin, the self-proclaimed King of Bluegrass. We’re talking about Elvis Presley. But some of you may be muttering, “Wait a minute, Carltone, wasn’t he already on a 29 cent stamp in 1993?” Indeed he was. That was the biggest selling stamp in postal history, and it looks like the service is looking to strike gold once again. The stamps will go on sale on August 12th.

Life’s railway to heaven. Richard Watson, the guitar-playing grandson of legendary guitarist Doc Watson and the son of the late Merle Watson, died of a heart attack on June 1st at age 49 in Deep Gap, NC. Renowned folksinger from Kentucky, Jean Ritchie, went on to that big jam in the sky also on the 1st. She was 92. One of her more popular songs was “Dear Companion,” sung here by the late Sue Draheim in the Any Old Time String Band. Will Holt, a songwriter who wrote the Latin-tinged folk song “Lemon Tree” for the 1970 musical “The Me Nobody Knows,” died on May 31st in Los Angeles. He was 86. Louis Johnson, a bassist who played with the Brothers Johnson and worked as a session musician for producer Quincy Jones on the Michael Jackson albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” died on May 21st at his home in Las Vegas. He was 60.

Changing of the guard. The Lonesome River Band has a new mandolin player, and it is Jesse Smathers, who formerly worked with James King, Nothin’ Fancy, and High Voltage. Kudos to Maria for this one too.

Dawg Day Afternoon. Talk about a hot show! On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester. Make sure that you scroll down below to read Randog’s commentary on David “Dawg” Grisman.

Just for the heck of it. A turtle-neck-wearing Merle Haggard and a beard-less, suit-and-tie-outfitted Willie Nelson on The Porter Wagoner Show from the 1960s.

Brian and Sandy. On Saturday the 6th at 7 p.m. at the High Street Station in Alameda, Brian Godchaux & Sandy Rothman will be playing some fiddle and banjo duets to celebrate the release of their new CD The Red Fiddle and the Silver Banjo in a shared evening with vocalist/guitarist Pat Nevins and members of Echo Trail.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 6th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Live On Arrival, which is part of the station’s bi-annual On-Air Folk Festival. There will be live music on KALW between 3 and 8 p.m., and during the BG Signal portion you can hear the bands The Dim Lights and Old Belle.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a commentary plus two recording reviews.

Just sittin' here thinkin'...

I've been thinking a lot this week about the upcoming 40th Father's Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley. I've been attending whenever I could for thirty-nine years, including virtually every year from 1980 to 1997, when I lived in Northern California. This year promises to be special for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of the featured bands are composed of old friends, from the Bluegrass Patriots to The Good Ol' Persons, and I fully expect to see longtime friends among the smiling faces in front of the stage as well. But one of the reasons I'm particularly excited this year is that – and I sort of already knew this – this is the first time that David Grisman will have graced the stage of the festival. Really. (The Mid-Summer Fest doesn't count. I did see him at that festival once, with Del McCoury.) Though David has been playing tons of bluegrass music all these years, he's also been playing other stuff that is not exactly bluegrass, including some things that ain't no part of bluegrass, as well. In 1976, the first year that the California Bluegrass Association festival happened, David was busily blowing minds with his groundbreaking David Grisman Quintet. He blew mine on December 6th of that year, shortly after my arrival in Berkeley, with his band at The Berkeley Community Theatre, in support of Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur. And that band stole the show. It was the first time I'd seen Grisman live – in fact, it was probably the first time I'd ever heard of him – and it was also the first time I'd ever seen Tony Rice, Todd Phillips, Darol Anger, and Bill Amatneek. I've talked about that evening enough over the years that I know many of my friends are tired of hearing about it, and I can see members of the younger generation get that “there goes the old geezer again” glaze, so I'll quickly move to my larger point. In thinking about seeing David this year in a bluegrass context at the CBA Festival for the first time, I was struck by the number of great musicians I have been privileged to see and hear live for the first time in bands put together by David. They include not only the aforementioned members of that first Quintet, but also Mark O'Connor, Mike Marshall, Red Allen (the only times I saw Red live) Stephane Grappelli, Svend Asmussen (I brag about that one a lot), Jimmy Buchanan, (in the band Here Today), and so many more. In addition, through recordings issued on his Acoustic Disc label, David has spread the gospel of string-band music by recording or reissuing recordings by mandolin greats Jethro Burns, Tiny Moore, Jacob Do Bandolim, Dave Apollon, and other stringed giants like Oscar Aleman, Vassar Clements, and George Barnes, as well as live recordings from the archives of such legends as Bill Monroe himself. Over the years, I've been involved in several benefits in which David has given generously as well; he's always been a mensch in that regard, particularly if a friend is involved. And I've been around to see him sit in or jam with musical luminaries from Mac Wiseman and Del McCoury to Ralph Stanley and Chris Thile. He's been an important part of the world I inhabit for a long time, and I'm glad he's making it to Grass Valley this year. You should make it if you can.

Randog's Daily Pick 6/4/2015
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys Live At McClure
Rebel CD-1118

This is a good old good one. The title is a bit misleading, since Ralph and band are featured on only six of the twenty five numbers. The others are from eight other acts presented at Ralph's festival on Memorial Day Weekend in 1975, including Leslie Keith (the Stanley Brothers' first fiddle player) playing a spirited version of "Cotton Eyed Joe," Reno & Harrell, a youthful Larry Sparks singing "Blue Ridge Cabin Home" and "Green Pastures In The Sky," The Outdoor Plumbing Company, The Goins Brothers, the storied Mississippi gospel group The Sullivans – who perform rousing versions of "Satisfied" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" – Raymond Fairchild doing "Whoa Mule," The Country Gentlemen offering up "Matterhorn" and "Legend of the Rebel Soldier," the popular gospel clan The Marshall Family, and a big gang twang at the end on Big Mon's "Can't You Hear Me Calling." Mr. Monroe also duets with Ralph on his "I'm On My Way Back to the Old Home," and Ralph duets with Jimmy Martin on "White Dove," with Jimmy playing mandolin! Keith Whitley, Ralph's lead singer at the time, sings "Stone Walls and Steel Bars," and there are other scattered treats scattered throughout this outstanding live festival recording. As for availability, this CD seems to be available from County Sales for $7 – quite a bargain.

Randog's Daily Pick 6/2/2015
Grisman, Pedersen, Gill, Buchanan, Gordy Here Today
Rounder CD 0169

A modern classic, this album can easily stand as a cornerstone to any modern bluegrass collection. When it came out on vinyl in 1982, the notion of a bluegrass super-group was not a common one, and in truth, except for David Grisman, none of these guys were household names, even in bluegrass, though even then, they all possessed impressive resumes in bluegrass, country, string-band jazz, and in the case of Herb Pedersen in particular, popular music. Except for Emory Gordy Jr., whose illustrious career has included playing bass on many popular recordings and highly successful production credits, Vince Gill may have been – at the time the album came out – the least recognizable name among the group assembled here, at least at bluegrass festivals. Jim Buchanan had, of course, been a member of one of Jim & Jesse's classic bands, and had played with everyone from The Greenbriar Boys to George Jones. Herb Pedersen had been a member of the Dillards – after learning his trade with Vern and Ray and before being a founding member of The Desert Rose Band – and David Grisman, after serving his apprenticeship with Red Allen, among others, had become the pre-eminent progressive mandolinist in the business with his David Grisman Quintet. By the time the album came out on CD, though, everyone knew who these guys were, and where they'd been. This was, even in 1982, a return to the roots for all of them, and it is quite an album: five great musicians scratching their traditional itch. Vince and Herb are among the best lead and tenor singers in American music, and their trios with Grisman are gorgeous on this album. And the playing, needless to say, is impeccable, and sometimes breathtaking. The repertoire is classic bluegrass, and there is no fooling around. "I'll Love Nobody But You," "Once More," "Foggy Mountain Chimes," "The Children are Crying," "Hot Corn, Cold Corn," "Lonesome River" (outstanding lead vocal by Vince Gill), "My Walking Shoes," "Love and Wealth," "Billy in the Lowground" (go Jim Buchanan!). "Making Plans" (chilling trio singing), "Sweet Little Blue Eyes" (Herb kills it), and a magnificent "Going Up Home to Live in Green Pastures."

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Friday, May 29th, 2015

 

Will the circle, be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better, home a waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

 

The song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” from the album of the same name, Volume III.

 

Hooked on bluegrass. One of my favorite parts on the CBA website is the Hooked On Bluegrass section, where people tell how they first come to love the music. On weekends, the site features a few postings in the News section above. Of course, you can simply go the official Hooked On link and read the stories any time you want to. And hey, if you haven't submitted your story, it is easy to do. As for my version, here is what I wrote ten years ago:

“I started playing rock and roll as a kid at age 14 while growing up in a little log cabin in a hollow in the outskirts of Philadelphia. Then one day a few years later a friend from the neighborhood came by to play some music, and instead of bringing his Fender Stratocaster as usual, he brought his Guild D-35 acoustic. He said, ‘I want to show you some cool stuff I learned at the music store where I teach guitar,’ and he proceeded to play ‘Black Mountain Rag.’ Soon after I heard this I got out my acoustic guitar to accompany him, and I’ve been playing mostly unplugged ever since.

“It was around this time that I also started listening to the Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume I triple album. Man, talk about a bluegrass gold mine! I was soon hooked on bluegrass.

“A couple of years later, while attending Penn State University in rural central Pennsylvania in 1974, I saw an ad one day in a music store for a band that was looking for bass player to fill in on gigs when their regular bassist had another commitment. The name of the band at that time was Mason-Dixon, and I soon became their alternate bass player. I played with them for a year or so before they changed names and went on the road. I stayed behind to finish school, and have been playing bluegrass bass since that time.

“Oh, Mason-Dixon went on to become known as Whetstone Run, and some of the members that went through the band after I played with them were Chris Jones, Lynn Morris, and Marshall Wilborn. Man, if I’d only known what was to come...”

Unbroken circle. Speaking of the Circle album, discovering that in 1972 was truly a game-changer for me. The two sequels are great as well. Whenever someone unfamiliar with the music asks me, “What recordings would you recommend to someone that wants to listen to bluegrass?” I simply tell them to get any one of the Circle gems. If you have never seen the video of the recording of the actual song on Circle II it is well worth watching right here, right now, if only to see the singers that are no longer with us, such as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements, Chet Atkins, Levon Helm, Roy Huskey Jr., and Jimmy Martin. (Make sure that you also scroll down to the bottom of this column to read Randog’s take on why Bill Monroe was not on the original album.) While you are at it, there is also this wonderful live concert video of the songs from Circle III that you can watch. My only lament about the actual “Circle” song is that these days I have been singing and hearing it all too frequently, as friends and relatives keep passing on over to Gloryland at a frightening rate…

Earl Crabb Tribute. Speaking of friends moving on, there will be a memorial tribute this Sunday the 31st at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley for my late friend Earl Crabb, and it will be open to all comers. Some of the featured performers will be Maria Muldaur, Bobby Neuwirth, Geoff Muldaur, Phil Marsh, and Eric & Suzy Thompson. As you tell by the names here, Earl had some might fine friends!

Still dancing after all these years. If you still remember actor/comedian Dick Van Dyke, you are showing your age. Who even knew that he was still alive? At age 89, the man can still cut some rug, and he looks pretty healthy. Check him out dancing in this video by the band Dustbowl Revival.

Bridge over troubled water. Everyone loved the sounds of the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel from back in the day, but few knew that the two were not exactly the best of friends. Hey, Art, tell us how you really feel about your singing partner!

Brian and Sandy. On Saturday night June 6th, at 7 p.m. at the High Street Station in Alameda, Brian Godchaux & Sandy Rothman will be playing some fiddle and banjo duets to celebrate the release of their new CD The Red Fiddle and the Silver Banjo in a shared evening with vocalist/guitarist Pat Nevins and members of Echo Trail.

Life’s railway to heaven. Art Thieme, a revival singer of traditional songs and tall tales, and a pillar of the Chicago folk song community, died on the 26th due to complications from MS. He was 74. Marcus Belgrave, a trumpet and fluegelhorn player who worked with Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, Max Roach and others before settling in Detroit in the early 1960s and becoming a coach and conscience for that city’s jazz scene, went on to the big jam in the sky on the 25th. He was 78.

Just for the heck of it. Janis Joplin singing the song "Old Gospel Ship" with Berkeley folksinger Larry Hanks and others in 1963.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 23rd from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Across the Tracks, which will feature new releases and reissues, with music from, among others, Sally Van Meter, Big Country Bluegrass, Band of Ruhks, The Grass Cats, Sideline, Pharis & Jason Romero, Brian Godchaux & Sandy Rothman, Sue Massek, The Steeldrivers, and Jimmy Martin (recorded live in 1969).

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are three commentaries and one recording review.

Randog on Will the Circle Be Unbroken I:

Why did Bill Monroe not appear on The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's landmark album Will the Circle Be Unbroken I? Naturally enough, the band sought out The Father of Bluegrass' participation in what would turn out to be a pioneering and important album in the history of "his" music. And many of his contemporaries – some might even consider three or four of them Big Mon's peers – eagerly accepted the opportunity to participate. Mr. Monroe, however, was more circumspect. "Nitty Gritty?" he reportedly said. "What's that? Nits is like lice, ain't they? Why would I want to make a record with a bunch of boys with head lice?" This might not be a true story, but it was related to me by a once and future Blue Grass Boy as being the factual reason why Bill is not on that particular recording...

Randog on Robbie Fulks:

I recently watched two videos in quick succession of Robbie Fulks, one in which he is accompanied by Red Meat, in which Smelly Kelly introduces the song, and another in which Missy Raines plays bass. If asked, I would have said that the odds of more than one person in the world knowing both Smelly and Missy were pretty long; therein lies the greatness of Robbie Fulks – he not only knows 'em both, he can make credible music with both of 'em.

Randog on the song “He Was a Friend of Mine”:

There was a great story in The Oxford American’s “Music Issue” in December of 2013 (alas, it is not available on the web) about the origins of one of my favorite songs from the folkadoke era, usually called "He Was a Friend of Mine." I know it as performed by Dave Van Ronk, and evidently ol' Bob Dylan liked it too ( so much so that he “wrote” it), but he also said that he learned it from Blind Arvella Grey, a habitue of Chicago's famed Maxwell Street, which seems highly unlikely, but what're you gonna do? And anyway, how can you both compose and learn a song from Blind Arvella Grey? It is another of those prison songs collected for The Library of Congress by the estimable John A. Lomax. It was called “Shorty George” on The Library of Congress recording, and was performed by Inmate # 82157, at Clemens State Farm in Brazoria, TX. The guy was doing time for murder and eventually gained a pardon through his singing, but died shortly thereafter. Incorrectly identified on the Library of Congress recording as Smith Cason, his actual name was Smith Casey. I've never heard the original recording, but sure would like to. There's lots of other good stuff in Oxford music issue as well, and a recording of a whole bunch of diverse Texas music. Oh, and Dylan probably learned the song from Eric Von Schmidt and Rolf Cahn, which is probably where Van Ronk learned it, too. He sang it at Phil Ochs' funeral. Don't know why Dylan felt the need to drag poor Arvella Grey into it, especially if he wasn't gonna split the royalties with him or something...

Randog's Daily Pick May 28, 2105
The Cooke Duet Early Cooke Duet
Freeland CD FRC-CD-647

KPFA radio host Tom Diamant was playing one of the songs from this recording on his radio show one day, and about a verse in, I had to call him – "What is THIS?" I'm sure I gasped. As I recall, he said he'd been turned onto this stuff by an article in The Old Time Herald by Alice Gerrard – at the time, these recordings were only available on cassette, and were only regionally distributed. Hubert Cooke and his wife Jeanette, both from Wise County, VA, were married in 1951 and began recording gospel music in 1962. Their earliest recordings, from which this CD was taken, are some of the rawest, emotion packed music of any kind I've ever heard. Jeanette's voice in particular is extremely powerful and expressive. They accompany themselves on their Gibson Hummingbird guitars in a percussive strum – to say their technique is rudimentary would be kind, but it works perfectly with the material. The Cookes later incorporated other family members into the act, and their shows have been a force in southern gospel for over half a century, but this CD, and perhaps the next two reissued by Dick Freeland, are the ones to have for lovers of the old style. Hubert Cooke was the late bluegrass great Jack Cooke’s brother, with whom he and a third brother had a bluegrass band for a while. I wonder if any recordings of any kind exist of that group? Outstanding cuts here are “It's Me Again Lord,” “Banks of Jordan,” “I Can Call Jesus,” “Ain't No Grave” (The Brother Claude Ely classic), “Is My Lord Satisfied With Me,” and “I'm So Happy.” The most intriguing cut is “There Must Be a Power,” a Hubert Cooke composition, which is melodically identical to Wynn Stewart's hit “Waltz of the Angels.” I wonder which one came first? There is more to be done here; stay tuned.

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Friday, May 22nd, 2015

 

Turn out the lights, the party's over
They say that all good things must end
Call it tonight, the party's over
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again

 

From the Willie Nelson song “The Party’s Over”


Indeed, the party is over for David Letterman on CBS and for me with the Breakfast Club show at the Strawberry Music Festival. And contrary to the last line in the chorus of the Willie Nelson song above, tomorrow will not start the same old thing again. Dave spent 33 years entertaining fans of late-night television before signing off on the 20th, while I spent 15 years co-hosting the BC show for early morning risers at the music fest. While the fest is going on this weekend in Grass Valley, due to changes in the Breakfast Club format – I am told that there will no longer be a regular stage for the event to take place on – I decided to hang up my seersucker bathrobe, red Hush Puppy slippers, and strawberry pajamas. I am not attending the fest for only the second time in a quarter century, as I started going in 1990. While there for many years I also hosted some fun late-night live-remote shows from my home in Camp Carltone. It feels a bit strange to be sitting here in Carltone World Headquarters on this Memorial Day Weekend, but I had a great run, and the countless friendships, photos and memories from Strawberry will always be with me. As for Letterman, well, he made a little bit more money over than years than I did, so he can continue to party on in any way he feels like from now to eternity…

Remembering those who gave their lives. As the unofficial start of the summer season begins this weekend, while you are enjoying three days off while picnicking or picking with friends, going to baseball games, watching the Golden State Warriors, etc., also bear in mind that Monday the 25th is Memorial Day, the one day each year when we remember and honor all of those brave and gallant service men and women who have fought and died for this country.

MOLD archives. If you missed last week’s column (or any other Carltone Friday MOLD columns over the past year), or maybe wanted to go back and read some of Randog’s informative CD reviews, you can now do so quite easily by simply clicking here on the CBA Carltone MOLD Archive. Thanks to CBA webmaster Rick Cornish for setting this up!

On the road again. Speaking of Willie Nelson above, I just finished reading his new autobiography that is titled It’s A Long Story: My Life, and man, what a life he has led. Still touring and playing at age 82, having recorded over 100 albums with many different singers and different styles, having had four wives and seven children, surviving an epic battle with IRS, and outliving most of his contemporaries, Willie’s story is one fabulous journey that will make you feel like your along for the ride on his tour bus.

Gearing up for Grass Valley. Everyone is getting excited about the upcoming 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. If you need something to get you in the mood, then watch this cool promo video by Joe Weed that was made a few years ago.

Delusions of grandeur. Most of us feel much younger than we actually are – despite what we see in the mirror – while everyone else around us seems to be ageing at a faster pace. For you readers that are of an “advanced age,” I hate to burst your collective bubbles, but if you go to this site here you will see many of your musical heroes from daze gone by, all of whom are turning 70 this year. Pete Townsend, Stephen Stills, Mickey Dolenz, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon, John Fogerty, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bette Midler, and many more were all born in 1945…

Now singing, Michael Corleone. You loved him in The Godfather flicks, Scarface and Serpico, and he won an Oscar for Scent of a Woman. But did you know he could sing, too? Or, at least, try to? Now at the ripe young age of 75, Al Pacino gets to play an ageing rock star in a new film called Danny Collins. Rare is the time when a performer will apologize in advance for playing a role in which he may have been ill-suited, but this is what Pacino did in England recently when he jokingly quipped, "I am sorry about the singing but I have to do it in the part." He also suffered from nerves when the script demanded that he perform in front of a crowd. "I will tell you the one thing you learn about singing in front of an audience…it's really hard to hang onto the words," he said. Check out the details here.

A long, strange trip indeed. In case you have been living in a cave in Afghanistan for the past few months, you are well aware that the surviving members of the Grateful Dead are reuniting for a series of concerts this summer. The lead singer and most prominent alive Dead member is Bob Weir, and in an amazing stroke of coincidence, a Netflix documentary about him titled The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir becomes available for streaming on the 22nd. You can read about the flick in the SF Chronicle. Even stranger, Weir was also interviewed recently in that renowned music publication The Wall Street Journal.

How to become a miserable musician in 12 steps. Want to learn how to feel like most musicians? Not everybody can be as successful as Willie Nelson or Bob Weir, who are two of the one-percenters that got to make a lifelong living from playing their guitars. Look at this whimsical yet all too true description here.

End of the road for Leon. Long time eclectic performer Leon Redbone has decided to give up traveling and recording music due to undisclosed health issues. Here are the details.

Life’s railway to heaven. Boy, it was a tough week for musicians from the NY/NJ area with first names starting with the letter B. Bruce Lundvall, a well-known jazz figure and former CEO of Blue Note Records, died on the 19th in New Jersey. He was 79. He is credited with signing Grammy Award winning musicians Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Natalie Cole and Norah Jones, along with many others. Bob Belden, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, bandleader, label executive, historian and writer of jazz music, died on the 20th in New York City after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 58. Ben Freed, a popular long-time New York City banjo player, died on the 20th at the age of 59.

Laurie and Bromberg. David Bromberg and his band played a show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on the 9th, and you can watch them performing the song “Stealin’” here with special guest Laurie Lewis.

Just for the heck of it. Linda Ronstadt and friends singing and playing the Jimmy Martin song “Living Like a Fool” on the Playboy After Dark TV show from 1969. Check out the outfits and the groovy crowd! Thanks to Randog for this video tip.

Blasts from the past. About 20 years back, before turning to the lucrative business of column writing, I used to write CD reviews for the CBA and NCBS, so from time to time (when filler is needed in this space) there will be old reviews posted here that people have never seen before or don’t remember reading. Here is my take on one of my all-time favorite recordings from 1996.

Carltone’s Classics
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen
Bakersfield Bound
Sugar Hill Records CD-3850

Okay, bluegrass fans, listen up! This is not a bluegrass album but it does have mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitars – along with a few other non-bluegrass instruments – and unfortunately Herb Pedersen does not play the banjo on it. But it does have Herb Pedersen singing, and Chris Hillman cut his mandolin teeth back in the ‘60s playing bluegrass in a band coincidentally called The Hillmen. Bakersfield is not quite bluegrass, but these guys are card-carrying members of the Bluegrass Musicians Union, so that’s close enough to country for me.

For the uninitiated, these two guys had a country band for many years called The Desert Rose Band, in which they scored numerous top ten hits and two Grammy nominations. But the rose wilted about two years ago, and Pedersen has gone back to his bluegrass roots playing banjo in the Laurel Canyon Ramblers. Hillman was a founding member of The Byrds and the influential country-rock band The Flying Burrito Brothers. Pedersen also played with Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt along with the short-lived bluegrass band from the early ‘80s called Here Today, with David Grisman and Vince Gill. On Bakersfield Bound they’ve gone back and recaptured the authentic Bakersfield sound of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, a sound made renowned by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

There are 14 tunes here, with every one except the title cut – which was written by Hillman – being about heartbreak, the reason for which country music exists. All but the final two songs are old time classics, and in the tradition of that era, only two of the songs are longer than three minutes in length. Hillman and Pedersen’s harmonies are tight as a glove, being very reminiscent of the Everly Brothers, The Burritos, and Desert Rose. Hillman does all the lead singing, and Pedersen adds the harmonies, with tears being jerked at a non-stop pace. If the lyrics and harmonies don’t have you blubbering like a fool by record’s end, the steel guitar playing by Desert Rose alumnus Jay Dee Maness will.

Included on this CD are gems such as “He Doesn’t Deserve You Anymore” and “There Goes My Love,” written by Buck Owens; the Jim and Jesse classic “Congratulations Anyway,” about a guy who goes to his lost love’s marriage to someone else; Hillman pays homage to the late Gram Parsons, his singing partner in the Burritos, in the songs “Close Up the Honky Tonks” and “Brand New Heartache,” songs that Parsons recorded. You’ll be reaching for your hanky when you hear “My Baby’s Gone” and perhaps its sequel, “Time Goes So Slow.” And you’ll lose it completely by the time they do one of the saddest songs of all-time about lost love, “The Lost Highway.”

Chris and Herb are anything but lost on that highway to Bakersfield. They don’t sound like they are Bakersfield bound, they sound like they’ve lived there forever. And if you’re a fan of either of these two talented singers/players/writers, or of that great authentic old-time country sound, then take a virtual reality trip out to the Central Valley without even leaving home by being Bakersfield Bound, too.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 23rd from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Part of the Story, which will be an overview of the music of the Good Ol' Persons – in advance of their reunion at Grass Valley – with GOPer Kathy Kallick.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Randog is traveling this weekend, so here are two CD reviews from 2103 that never appeared in this Friday column.

Randog's Daily Pick 11/13/2013
Grant Street String Band Grant Street String Band
Flat Rock Records CD FR103

Was it really thirty years ago? Greg Townsend's recent passing has caused me to pull this out and listen to it for the first time in a long time, first as a way to recall just what a clean, swift, and tasteful guitarist he was in this band, and inevitably then, to remember this band's place in the history of bluegrass in Northern California. In 1983, they seemed poised to spring into national prominence; they and The Good Ol’ Persons were going to make the larger world sit up and take notice of what was going on in California bluegrass circles. To some extent, that happened, but The Grant Street String Band only recorded this one album; for whatever reason or reasons, after this, the band members went their separate ways, but they left us this. I'm amazed anew at the intricacies of the ensemble playing here. I remain convinced that Steve Krouse would be playing in famous bands today had he pursued his banjo dreams in that direction, and Tom Bekeny remains one of my favorite mandolin players, innovative and tasteful, and I'm happy that we're still able to hear him with some frequency. Beth Weil remains a dear friend and I remember her bass playing and singing with so many Bay Area bands fondly, from Oakum to Rhythm Futur to The GOP's. When this album was re-released on CD, the previously unreleased version of Beth's take on “Once A Day” (Connie Smith) was included, and I'm glad it was; I used to request it at Oakum shows even before she became part of Grant Street. This album introduced several Laurie Lewis songs to the bluegrass world, along with her prodigious fiddle chops. And oh, check out the duet and trio singing. The band played A Prairie Home Companion radio show on my birthday, that booking due largely on the basis of this album. Garrison Keillor wished me “Happy Birthday.” This was, and still is, an important album to me and to a lot of other people, and a big part of it was because of Greg's tasteful musical chops and instincts. It deserves a close re-listening, and if you haven't heard it you should...

Randog's Daily Pick 11/14/2013
Ginny Hawker After It's Gone
Rounder CD-11601

Between the time this album was recorded in 2007 and released in 2008, what little independent distribution there was left in the recording industry collapsed, and this album was lost in the mix. I'm not sure how many people have had a chance to hear it, so I'm mentioning it here. At the time, I wrote – yes, I wrote the liner notes – "Ginny Hawker's voice is one of the true wonders of traditional music. Her pitch is true, the passion controlled, not contrived, and it doesn't lapse into folky histrionics. She has the uncanny knack of locating the emotional core of whatever song she approaches, and once she sings it, it stays sung." Maybe I could write it better, but I wouldn't change the sentiments. Ginny is one of the greats, and this is a wonderful album to hear the strength and diversity of her talent. It was produced by Dirk Powell, with appearances by the great Tracy Schwartz (her husband), Kevin Wimmer, Courtney Granger, and many more, with a wonderfully eclectic mix of songs and tunes, from Hank Williams, Ray Price, Porter & Dolly to black and white traditional gospel classics to bluegrass from the repertoire of Larry Sparks. Amazon has it, and there are probably other mail order sources, or you can order it from Ginny directly. Her other Rounder album is just as good, but got better initial distribution, and is thus likely better known. Her version of Merle Haggard's “A Place to Fall Apart” on THAT one has to be heard to be believed...

 

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Friday, May 15th, 2015

 

When I was young my slippers were red
I could kick up my heels right over my head
When I was older my slippers were blue
But still I could dance the whole night through
Now I am older my slippers are black
I huff to the store and I puff my way back
But never you laugh, I don't mind at all
I'd rather be huffing than not puff at all

 

From the song “Get Up and Go” as performed by The Weavers


Hanging up my bathrobe and slippers. After the disastrous Rim Fire in August of 2013, last year the Strawberry Music Festival moved from its longtime site at Camp Mather by Yosemite to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. It is the same place where the CBA holds its annual Father’s Day Festival. Strawberry Fest will be happening there next week over the Memorial Day Weekend, but for only the second time in the past 25 years, I will not be in attendance (a fest was missed four years ago due to a conflicting high-paying gig). As you might imagine, when a festival moves from one location to another there are always unplanned changes that occur, and this time, I am told, the long-running and popular Breakfast Club will be radically transformed. For the first time in decades there will be no stage for festgoers to sign up and perform on while singing for their breakfast in front of other festival diners. There may be some performances in the Hog Radio tent, as well as a roaming crew going around and recording people playing live in their camps (however, few seem to do such first thing in the morning). While I was offered the chance to be part of the roaming crew, I respectively declined the offer. I have been involved with the Breakfast Club as an on-air host since 1999, and I had a wonderful time sharing the mike with my partner Richard Beveridge, who resigned his post after last year. So for the first time in 15 years I will not be packing up my BC uniform of my seersucker bathrobe, red suede Hush Puppy slippers, and strawberry pajamas. I had a good run, even though it has been a long time since I could kick up my heels right over my head…

Strawberry on the move Two weeks back it was reported here that there were unconfirmed rumors that Strawberry will move to another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend. There was this story on the MyMotherLode web site, saying that the fest may go to the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians Westside property on the edge of Tuolumne City. Well, it turns out that the rumors were true. Here is what it says on the Strawberry web site.

One month and counting. Everyone is getting excited about the upcoming 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. It is going to be a great one, so if you haven’t done so already, go to the link and buy your tickets now.

Who needs megafests? Like many other aspects of pop culture, huge corporate entities have also taken over the production of giant rock concerts. Read the sorry details here.

A capella Beatles. While everyone knows and loves the sound that the Beatles created, few have ever heard them singing without instruments. But now you can listen to some studio outtakes here in which you hear mostly just voices. Pretty amazing stuff!

What does Emmylou listen to these days? Apparently not modern or “bro” country music. Who can blame her? Read her take on things here.

Ascending star. The betting at Carltone World Headquarters is that Emmylou listens to Chris Stapleton, late of the band The Steeldrivers, and a prolific singer/songwriter in his own right. He was featured in the Tennessean last week, and make sure that you scroll to the bottom of this column to check out Randog’s take on the guy.

Everybody do the Hippie Hop! Check out Tim O’Brien’s new song and video called “Dance You Hippy Dance.” Warning – your toes will start tapping in about five seconds!

She can’t sing anymore, but she does have a lot to say. As most music fans are aware, Linda Ronstadt, one of the greatest singers ever, cannot sing anymore due to her battle with Parkinson’s disease. But she still can talk, and she tours around the country giving speeches while also talking about her book Simple Dreams and her career. You can read a newspaper interview with her here, and also check out this interview where musician David Bromberg asked the questions.

Dead men sometimes do tell tales. Bill Kreutzman, one of two drummers from the band the Grateful Dead, has a new autobiography out (just in time for the band’s 50-year-anniversary tour!) titled Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead.

Life’s railway to heaven. The King is dead – long live The King! Blues great BB King went on to that big jam in the sky on May 14th. He was 89. Read an in-depth obit on him in the New York Times. Legendary Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble, who played Bob Wills, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and others, died from a stroke on May 9th in Marble Falls, TX. He was 88. Jazz percussionist Jerome Cooper, noted for his role in the post-1960s avant-garde movement, and as a member of the trio the Revolutionary Ensemble, died on May 6th from multiple myeloma in Brooklyn. He was 68. Errol Brown, the lead singer for the British band Hot Chocolate as well as the writer of the band’s big disco hit “You Sexy Thing,” died from liver cancer on May 6th in the Bahamas. He was 71.

More on BB. Here is as a taste of BB King at his finest. He reportedly considered this show at Sing Sing Prison one of his best performances ever. His audience certainly knew a thing or two about living the blues…

Mr. Swing. Watch this 26-minute video on Johnny Gimble called Gimble’s Swing here.

Too close to the edge. The Edge, who is the lead guitarist for the Irish rock back U2, might need to get his eyes checked. Or, at the least, watch where he is going. In a show on the 14th he literally and unwittingly walked off the edge of the stage during the final song of the band’s concert…

Taking the pledge. Each week in this space we tell you what Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal weekly radio show will be featuring on Saturday evening from 6:30-8 p.m. on KALW (91.7 FM) in San Francisco. This Saturday the 16th will be a very special event. Here are the details:

The KALW Spring Membership Campaign Special presents samples from classic broadcasts in the ‘50s and '60s, featuring the Stanley Brothers, the Lilly Brothers with Don Stover, and a new release that’s also a thank-you gift for KALW supporters: Jim & Jesse & the Virginia Boys. Their collection of 26 tracks from 1962 broadcasts contains many never-recorded songs and tunes, and the CD also provides a free download interview with Jesse McReynolds reminiscing about these radio shows and bluegrass in that era. Turn your radio on! And thanks in advance for your support at 1-800-525-9917 or DONATE NOW at www.kalw.org.

Just for the heck of it. The Wilborn Brothers singing “Trouble’s Back in Town”. This is pretty dang cool for 50+ years ago…

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a recording review along with some tips and musings:

Randog's Daily Pick 5/11/2015
Chris Warner Pickin' and Singin'
Webco LP WLPS 0118

Chris Warner is one of those guys I've come to feel I know, not because I actually do know him, but because so many people I know are friends with Chris and have played with him or bought one of the instruments he builds, or have learned banjo licks from one of his excellent recordings. He's one of those fellows who is underrated by all but those who have burrowed deeply into the history of the music. It is Chris, for instance, who is playing banjo – and in some cases singing harmony – on some of the finest bluegrass records Jimmy Martin ever made, including "Freeborn Man," "Losing You," "Milwaukee (Here I Come)," and several more. In addition to periodic stints with Jimmy, Chris has also played with Doyle Lawson, Audie Blaylock, Del McCoury, Red Allen, and recently with Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa. “Tall cotton right there,” you're probably saying, and to that I would say, "Durn tootin." Anyway, if you are a banjo player, enthusiast, aficionado, or just a fan of driving, on top of the beat banjo picking in the style we all came to love back in the '60s, and if you're lucky enough to find this album, grab it. Chris is joined by Del McCoury on guitar and a few tasty vocals, Dick Laird is on mandolin and vocals, the great Joe Meadows plays fiddle, and Earl Yager is on bass. Songs and tunes include "Fire on the Banjo," Little Liza Jane," "Sandy" (a Chris Warner original), "Hard Times," "Banjo Blues" (another CW original,) "Sugar Coated Love," "Free and Easy" (again, C.W.), "Train 45," "Bonaparte's Retreat," and "Dixie Breakdown." From 1986.

Randog’s Commentary
Breaking News Department

“Music Row 'nervous' about releasing an actual good album!” (I made this part up.) There was a story on May 8th (see the "Ascending star" section above) in the Tennessean (which we still receive on weekends – not sure why) about the release of Chris Stapleton's first album as a leader, and the flag is Stapleton album is test case for label. Universal stresses Authenticity over Mainstream Radio which could just as easily read "We've tried everything else, why not put out something good?" I don't know Chris, except for his music, about which I became aware of when he and songwriting partner Mike Henderson, who I do know, and some others, including Tammy Rogers, formed a bluegrass band called The Steeldrivers a few years ago. Chris, as it turns out, has a long list of credits as a mainstream country hit songwriter and a voice which I described to friends at the time as a combination of Pigpen (look it up, kids) and Dave Evans (maybe the most soulful male traditional bluegrass vocalist still with us). The band was great – Adele recorded one of their Stapleton and Henderson-penned songs – but something happened. Who knows what? I speculated that Chris must be losing money by going on the road with a bluegrass band instead of writing hit songs for Kenny Chesney, et. al., but I have no inside knowledge. And both Henderson and Stapleton left the band, though they reportedly continue to write for them. Turns out Chris had performing aspirations of his own, and recently appeared on the David Letterman Show with his wife and performing partner, and folks, now he's the NEXT BIG THING in Music City, USA! Gonna be innaresting. Though I don't own a copy of the album, I'm confident that it will be on my own Randog-centric Top Ten List for 2015.

Randog’s Tip of the Day

If you like The Cooke Duet, listen to The Little Gospel Trio sing this song called “Almost Home”. They make Jeannette and Hubert sound restrained.

Randog on BB King

In the '80s, BB King would occasionally come down from Reno, NV, when he was playing there to shop at Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA, where I worked. He had just donated his record collection to The University of Mississippi, so he was buying some more...a lot more. I was lucky enough to be there on a couple of occasions. He seemed like a very nice man, and of course the staff in the store was awestruck, in part from the roll of $20s he pulled out to pay for the stack of albums (it was still the LP era) he bought, which was about three feet high. Rest in peace, sir; your music sure brightened a lot of lives.

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Friday, May 8th, 2015

 

Just about a year ago, I set out on the road
Seeking my fame and fortune, looking for a pot of gold
Things got bad, and things got worse
I guess you know the tune
Oh Lord, I’m stuck in MOLD-i again

 

From the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Lodi”


Okay, so the last word in the John Fogerty song above is incorrect. Yes, it should be “Lodi,” not “MOLD-i.” But the latter refers to where I am right now, a year later. One year ago on the 9th marks my first-year anniversary of writing this MOLD column at the end of each week. Here is what I wrote in that first column: “I am back in this space on Fridays for the time being in order to give the MOLD Man some much needed rest. He is not as young as he used to be, and right now he is far from being back up to speed. He is also very persuasive, because when he asked me take over the Friday/weekend edition of the newly renamed More Or Less Daily news, it was hard to say no to vague promises of potential groupies and a Pulitzer recommendation.” Well, not only have there been no groupies or awards, MOLD Man himself has disappeared from the CBA bluegrass music scene. His last report in this column said that he was headed to the Great 48 jam in Bakersfield this past January, but he never returned. And since no one knows what he looks like, it is impossible to describe him. In the meantime, my Friday column, in a daily edited version, stays up here all week, where supposedly tens of people read it. There are also rumors of a totally revamped CBA web site headed this way, so we’ll see what happens if and when that ever occurs. In the meantime, “I’m stuck in MOLD-i again…”

Late Night bluegrass. The Interweb has been agog the past week with various postings of an all-star bluegrass band singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” on the TV show Late Night with David Letterman on May 1st. In case you missed it, you can watch the video here. It features Steve Martin, Mark O’Connor, Amos Lee, Emmylou Harris, and Rodney Crowell. The latter two have a new CD coming out next week titled The Traveling Kind. They were recently interviewed on National Public Radio, and you can listen to the piece here.

Farewell countdown. Speaking of Letterman, he is retiring at the end of this month after being a late night TV host for 33 years. There was a big tribute to him on CBS on the 4th, and Rolling Stone has come out with a compilation of “David Letterman’s Top Ten Musical Moments” that you can read and look at here. The story must have been written before Monday the 4th, otherwise the video up above would have been at the top of the list…

Old but hardly in the way. Country legend Willie Nelson has a new aptly named autobiography out titled It’s A Long Story: My Life, and you can watch him being interviewed with Jon Stewart here and/or listen to this wonderful interview with him on National Public Radio. He also has a new album of duets out with Merle Haggard titled Django and Jimmie and you can read about it here. Make sure that you scroll to the bottom of this column to read Randog's musings on His Willieness.

Does he get to go to the senior prom too? In Willie’s NPR interview above, when asked about outliving Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and one of his sons, he says, “Me and Merle were talking, ain't many of us left.” Merle recently turned 78-years-young, and there was no time like the present for him to finally get a high school diploma. How he did such after attending only nine days of school as a freshman before dropping out and getting into a heap of trouble for many years, is a bit puzzling. Ah yes, it is an honorary diploma. Which goes along with his honorable PhD from Cal State Bakersfield from 2013…

MerleFest in the Smithsonian. There is a real good story in Smithsonian Magazine that talks about the current state of bluegrass as seen at the recent MerleFest in Wilkesboro, NC, in late April. Read it here or, at the least, watch the videos.

Good news for struggling musicians! The headline reads “Beer and ‘Exposure’ Now Legal Tender for Bands and Musicians.” Too bad this story is from a satirical web site. Still, it is a great idea. Here are more details: “A recent change in the law will allow musicians to exchange free beer, buffet food and ‘exposure’ for petrol, rent and guitar strings. Under the new legislation, it will be possible to pay for studio time or even a mortgage, by mentioning the ‘really big gig’ you performed at last week for no money, especially if there were celebs at it.”

Studio time. For any musician contemplating going into a recording studio to lay down some tracks, here is a list of six helpful hints that you should pay heed to before paying big bucks to record your songs.

Let’s hope they don’t do this to the banjo and fiddle. With the attention span of radio listeners becoming shorter and shorter, country music radio has begun editing out guitar solos in songs under the theory that they can play more songs per hour by doing such. The staff here at Carltone World Head Quarters surmises that this is being done in order to squeeze in more obnoxious advertising. We can only hope that corporate bluegrass radio (now how it that for an oxymoron!) never gets around to deleting solos. If so, the average song will be about a minute and a half long…

Meet the Beatles. Acclaimed filmmaker (who also played Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show) Ron Howard is working on a new documentary about The Beatles, and it will premiere at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival in France. “Howard's film is aimed at exploring The Beatles' inner world -- how they made decisions, how they related to each other -- along with their musical ability and complementary personalities. Footage will include performances at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, engagements in Hamburg and their final public concert in Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.” Amazingly so, there is no official title for the documentary yet.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. Deadheads know the song where this line comes from, and they also are aware that there is a new documentary coming out about Bob Weir, the lead singer from the Grateful Dead. If you have Netflix, look for it soon. Check out the short trailer for it here.

Rock and roll in Cambodia. The betting here is that few people ever knew about the burgeoning rock and roll scene that was brewing in Cambodia in the late 1960s before the Khmer Rouge took over and destroyed everything in its sight. There is an illuminating and haunting new documentary opening of the 8th titled Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll, and the staff here at Carltone has already reviewed it. Check out our take on it here.

When Bela talks… Speaking of music documentaries, there is one coming out soon about a noted banjoist titled Bela Fleck: How to Write a Banjo Concerto, and you can watch the trailer for it here. Bela also happens to have his own list of favorite music flicks, and you can read his list here.

Just for the heck of it. Ralph Stanley, Keith Whitley and The Clinch Mountain Boys singing "I'll Just Catch a Train and Ride". And courtesy of Randog, here is Peter Rowan with an all-star band singing “I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home”.

Catch a rising star. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 9th, from 8-10 p.m., see Kingswood Records artist Michaela Anne, who is one of the hottest young rising stars on the alternative country music scene today. She has a great new album out titled Ease My Mind” which the Village Voice named "one of the top five country albums of 2014," and she and her band The Wild Hearts are touring the West Coast this month. This will be an exciting night at Murphy's! The pub (offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Life’s railway to heaven. Folksinger and political activist Guy Carawan, who introduced the song “We Shall Overcome” to the US civil rights movement in the early 1960s, died on May 2nd. He was 87. Soul singer Ben E. King, most well-known for singing the hit songs “Stand By Me” and “Spanish Harlem,” but who was also lead singer for The Drifters for a while – that is him singing lead on “There Goes My Baby" (which he co-wrote), "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "This Magic Moment" – died on April 30th of natural causes in New Jersey. He was 76.

Bluegrass in Parkfield. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival is the place to be this weekend. See Bluegrass Etc, Steep Ravine, Joe Craven & The Sometimers, Bean Creek, Sidesaddle, Snap Jackson and the Knock On Wood Players, and more.

Benefit show for Richard Wodrich. There have been a few mentions in this column over the past few months about Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich, who, for quite a long time, was waiting for a lung transplant. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but Richard and his wife Marci are still a bit behind in trying to raise $40,000 to help pay for the costs surrounding the procedure. There is a Kickstarter campaign underway, and now some musicians are stepping up to help out. Here are the details in Marci’s own words: “Richard and I are so pleased to tell you about a benefit concert happening on Friday the 8th, with all the proceeds going to his lung transplant fund. Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are graciously fitting this concert into their busy performing schedules. If you have never seen Laurie perform, you are missing out! She is a talented Grammy award-winning musician, singer, song writer, band leader, and producer. Our good friends Josie & Rick Grant, with their band Rock Ridge, will be opening the show. This is such a great lineup, and we know it will be a memorable evening. We expect this concert to sell out, so be sure to get your tickets soon. We wish we could be there for all the great music, to see our friends and share in the fun! We expect all attending to send us photos sharing the night. Thank you for all the love and support, Marci & Richard.”

K-Bar’s new CD. Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried’s first duo album, The Trestle, is out and the duo will be playing a CD release show at 7:30 p.m. at The Monkey House in Berkeley on the 8th. Reservations are available by email at reservations@themonkeyhouse.org, and tickets will be available at the door. If you can’t make it to the show, go here and they'll send you one in the mail.

Vote early and vote often. For those of you that are IBMA members, notices for the first ballot for the IBMA Awards should have arrived by now. Please consider voting for Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray for Album of the Year. They can also be nominated for Recorded Event of the Year and Song of the year (select one from the CD). Bay Area musicians and band leaders Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick are second generation California bluegrass pickers who, with this fabulous recording, are honoring first generation California bluegrass players. Read more about the CD and the duo here.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 10th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Hit Parade of Love. This song was recorded by Jimmy Martin on this date in 1956, so it seems like a good time to explore the lighter side of bluegrass songs. No wrist-slashers allowed today!

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are a timely commentary and a fabulous find:

Randog's The Rest of the Story 5/7/2015

There has been a lot of interest in Willie Nelson's new biography in the media of late; he was on NPR, and even Jon Stewart on The Daily Show kissed the Nelsonian ring night a few nights ago. And that is as it should be. I am second to no man in my admiration for Willie – the man, the musician, the crusader for causes. I began listening to Willie's music in the ‘60s – yes, those ‘60s – when I lived in the Chicago area and WJJD was the country station in the market that spun his RCA singles occasionally. I immediately was drawn to the different sound that Willie was making even then. His phrasing reminded me of Mose Allison mixed with Floyd Tillman, or I like to think I was hip enough to think that, anyway – I'm probably making it up. Anyway, I liked him a lot, though he was not well-known at the time. His songs "One in a Row," “Darkness on the Face of the Earth," "Mr. Record Man," and the like, were different. I didn't even know that he'd written such hits as "Crazy," "Hello Walls," and "Night Life" for other people at the time. It took years for him to find his voice, not becoming the phenomenon he is today for quite a while. He is by now more than that – he is, in fact, an institution...singer, songwriter, guitarist, friend to the great and downtrodden alike – there are songs about the perils of smoking dope with Willie, books alleging to represent his philosophy (The Tao of Willie), duets with everyone from Leon Russell to Julio Iglesias, and even a radio network of sorts, Willie's Roadhouse on Sirius/XM. He is lauded in song and story, and his thoughts are sought by liberals and conservatives alike. He is, in short, what cosmic cowboys and sagebrush hippies have instead of God, “The Redheaded Stranger,” growing old gracefully on a bio-fueled bus, perpetually "On the Road Again," making music with his friends, who are legion. Joke: "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Answer: "To record with Willie Nelson." He has done battle with the IRS and the DEA, and he always comes out on top, battered perhaps, but wiser. I mention all of this to get to my main thesis, which is simply this: you should read Willie Nelson, An Epic Life, Joe Nick Patoski's excellent 2008 biography published by Little, Brown, either before or after you tackle It's A Long Story: My Life, Willie's new autobiography. Joe Nick's book is exhaustively researched, and is chock full of fascinating information about not only Willie Nelson, but about Texas geography, Texas music, Nashville – there's a detailed account of a gun battle between Willie's clan and his neighbors in Tennessee when he was trying to leave the music business to raise hogs – the "Outlaw movement," Jerry Wexler's abortive attempt to make Willie a star, his subsequent releasing him from his contract, the fabled – in Nashville anyway – Billy Sherill's response to Columbia label head Bruce Lundvall when Ludvall told him they were signing Willie to Columbia, "We don't need him, he's old" (this in 1974), and the subsequent success of his initial album for Columbia,The Red Headed Stranger" which Columbia executives took either, at best, as a demo, at worst as a joke...and so forth. There's lots more, and it's all riveting. Go get it and read it if you are a fan of Texas, Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, or even Django Reinhardt. You'll be glad you did. And there's stuff in the book about Paul English, Willie's drummer/enforcer, running hookers before he was persuaded to become Willie's main fee collector, and so much more. And how Willie's longest-lived manager achieved that position by taking the fall in a drug bust and being rewarded for doing hard time as a result. It's one of the best music books I've read in years, it's informative, and it's fun.

Randog's Fabulous Finds 5/8/2015

Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson After the Fire Is Gone backed with Whiskey River
Atlantic 45 Stereo CY-4028

All the hoopla surrounding the drop of Willie Nelson's new bio/memoir has sent me scurrying into my record collection searching for Willie favorite tracks, and last night, I stumbled onto this one. It's on a Tracy Nelson (neither Willie's sister nor one of his ex-wives) album from Atlantic -- one of her best -- so I can only assume that the label figured giving Willie top billing on the 45 would garner more airplay...remember airplay? I'm guessing it didn't work that well, since neither Tracy nor Willie were long for the label, but damn, this is a good record. The A side -- remember A sides? -- is Tracy and Willie's version of a Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn duet from 1971 that was a No. 1 country hit, and it is a wonderful record. But I prefer this one, released in 1974, when it went to #17 on the country charts. Tracy's powerful siren call voice melds nicely with Willie's more relaxed delivery, the instrumental backing is a mix of thumping R&B bass and drums and hot country guitar, and the record has a great false ending, one which has fooled many a jock into ending the play on-air prematurely. The flip side is also wonderful; Tracy and Willie rework one of the touchstone songs of his band at the time (and now), "Whiskey River," written by onetime Nelson drummer Johnny Bush. I buy this 45 every time I see it to give to friends. Don't know whose idea this pairing was, but it was inspired. Bob Johnston, famous for his work in Nashville with Bob Dylan, produced.

 

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Friday, May 1st, 2015

 

Let me take you down, cos I'm going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

 

From the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever”


Everyone knows by now that the Strawberry Music Festival lost its longtime site at Camp Mather by Yosemite two years ago as the result of the disastrous Rim Fire. Mather itself did not burn, but the fire got really close. So last year in September Strawberry moved to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, where the CBA holds its annual Father’s Day Festival. There will be a Strawberry Fest there over the coming Memorial Day Weekend later this month. But now there are unconfirmed rumors that the fest will also try out yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend. According to a story on the MyMotherLode site, the fest may go to the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians Westside property on the edge of Tuolumne City. So far, the Strawberry web site says nothing about this, but the guessing here is that they want people to attend the Memorial Day Fest first before officially announcing another fest later this summer. On the other hand, the press these days is notorious for reporting rumors first and then maybe fact-checking later on, if at all. So don’t quote me here on any of this…

Pickin' in the park. The annual CBA Pickin’ Picnic, hosted by Jeanie and Chuck Poling, will be happening on the 2nd in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and the Bluegrass Police will be out in force, taking note of those that don’t show up. This is a fun, free event.

Live recordings. Rolling Stone recently came out with their “50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time”, and to the surprise of no one reading this column, there are no bluegrass albums on the list, with the only country album being Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. This got the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters to grumbling, so we all took a vote and came up with our own “Top Ten Best Live Bluegrass Albums Ever, Period!” Here they are below, in no particular order. I have no doubt that there are others that you think should be on this list, but hey, I am writing this column and you’re not, so let the kvetching and sniveling begin. Or, at the least, start a thread on the Message Board:

Old & In the Way: Old & In the Way (and all the follow-up releases)
JD Crowe & The New South: Live in Japan
The Big Dogs: Live at the Birchmere
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers: At the Ryman
Hot Rize: So Long of a Journey: Live at the Boulder Theatre
Flatt & Scruggs: At Carnegie Hall
Seldom Scene: Live at the Cellar Door
Good Ol' Persons: Good N’ Live
Peter Rowan: Crucial Country
Down from the Mountain: Live Concert Performances by the Artists & Musicians of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Sam the Man. A few weeks back we told you about the new documentary titled Revival: The Sam Bush Story. Last weekend it won the Audience Choice Award for best music documentary at the Nashville Film Festival. Watch the hot trailer for the flick here.

Turn off, tune in and listen up!
Are you annoyed by idiots at concerts taking photos and video with their dumb Smart phones? You aren't the only one. Artists are starting to fight back, even though the barn door on this has long been open and there is little chance of the animals coming back on their own. But Don Henley (of the Eagles) and Mumford & Sons are doing what they can. Good luck, guys!

New man at the top. And no, we are talking president of the US here, even though CNN and Faux News are trying their best to get you excited/agitated about the next presidential election already even though it won’t take place until November of 2016. What we’re talking about here is the new IBMA Director, a banjer-picker by the name of Paul Schiminger. Read about him here.

Vote early and vote often. For those of you that are IBMA members, the first ballot for the IBMA Awards should arrive in your mailbox soon. Please consider voting for Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray. Bay Area musicians and band leaders Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick are second generation California bluegrass pickers who, with this fabulous recording, are honoring first generation California bluegrass players.

What a guy! Speaking of documentaries about musicians, someone is making one about Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark, and the Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project has already exceeded its goal in a very short time. But you can still help out if you like.

A whale of a tale. There is this nice video of classical musicians making the rounds on the Interweb. They went out to sea on a giant raft and played some original whale-sounding music that allegedly got some whales to dancing. It is very touching to watch, but bear in mind that this video is an ad for an Australian communications monolith, so are lot a creative editing went into the making of this.

Life’s railway to heaven. Renowned fiddle legend Tex Logan, who played with The Lilly Brothers, Charles River Valley Boys, and countless other bands, and also authored the song “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’,” died on April 24th in Morristown, NJ. He was 87. Read a wonderful tribute in Bluegrass Today. Sid Tepper, who with his friend Roy Bennett wrote over 50 songs recorded by Elvis Presley, died on April 24th. He was 96. Jack Ely, a member of The Kingsmen and the singer of the hit song "Louie Louie," went on to that big jam in the sky on April 28th at age 71. And Laurie Schaeffer, a longtime producer of singer/songwriter shows in the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol areas, died recently from unknown causes. She was in her early 60s. According to her Facebook page, “The Kinky Friedman show on May 8th at the Sebastopol Grange Hall, honoring Laurie Schaeffer, is definitely happening, per Laurie's request, cake and all! A celebration of life event for Laurie is also in the planning stages for a date in the very near future. Visit Northbaylive for concert and other updates."

Still ailing. With all of the rumors and innuendo going on in the press, it is hard to know if singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell is at death’s door or if she will be making a comeback album soon. On the one hand there was this report from a gossip web site about her being in a coma and nearing her end, but on the other, her web site here contradicts most of what was said in the press report. One way or the other, the news does not seem good. Smoking for 60 years certainly hasn’t helped her situation at all...

Talkin’ guitar. There is a wonderful new children’s book about legendary guitarist Doc Watson that is called Talkin' Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson. It was written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley, and it is centered on Doc's early years growing up in the North Carolina Mountains. Read about it here.

K-Bar’s new CD. Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried’s first duo album, The Trestle, is out and the duo will be playing a CD release show at 7:30 p.m. at The Monkey House in Berkeley on the 8th. Reservations are available by email at reservations@themonkeyhouse.org, and tickets will be available at the door. If you can’t make it to the show, go here and they'll send you one in the mail.

Changing of the guard. Jamie Johnson, longtime singer, guitarist and founding member of The Grascals has left the band, and John Bryan has taken his place.

Just for the heck of it. Speaking of The Grascals, Randog sent this video of the band and Jamie Johnson singing the Paul Craft classic “Keep Me From Blowin’ Away.” After this song, stay tuned for their hot rendition of “Sally Goodin.”

Mr. Bassman. Scottish musician and well known bass player/singer Jack Bruce died in October of 2014. In the ‘60s he was in the storied rock trio Cream along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. He co-wrote and sang most of their hits, including “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.” There is a wonderful documentary out about him titled Jack Bruce: The Man Behind the Bass, and you can now watch it right here on your computer.

The end of the long and dusty road. Longtime popular folksinger Tom Paxton is on a farewell tour. He will turn 78 this year, and while he is not giving up music completely, he has had enough of touring. Read this story here

RBA and Della Mae. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on the 2nd at the Mountain View Presbyterian Church. RBA will have a new home for their 2015-16 concert season and beyond.

Bluegrass in Parkfield. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival is the place to be on the 8th-11th. See Bluegrass Etc, Steep Ravine, Joe Craven & The Sometimers, Bean Creek, Sidesaddle, Snap Jackson and the Knock On Wood Players, and more.

Benefit show for Richard Wodrich. There have been a few mentions in this column over the past few months about Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich, who, for quite a long time, was waiting for a lung transplant. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but Richard and his wife Marci are still a bit behind in trying to raise $40,000 to help pay for the costs surrounding the procedure. There is a Kickstarter campaign underway, and now some musicians are stepping up to help out. Here are the details in Marci’s own words: “Richard and I are so pleased to tell you about a benefit concert happening on Friday, May 8th, with all the proceeds going to his lung transplant fund. Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are graciously fitting this concert into their busy performing schedules. If you have never seen Laurie perform, you are missing out! She is a talented Grammy award-winning musician, singer, song writer, band leader, and producer. Our good friends Josie & Rick Grant, with their band Rock Ridge, will be opening the show. This is such a great lineup, and we know it will be a memorable evening. We expect this concert to sell out, so be sure to get your tickets soon. We wish we could be there for all the great music, to see our friends and share in the fun! We expect all attending to send us photos sharing the night. Thank you for all the love and support, Marci & Richard.”

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 2nd from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Happy Anniversary, Flatt and Scruggs, on the date of their concert at Vanderbilt in 1963. "At one time, I suppose the whole University would have blown up if someone mentioned folk music. But times do change. We call it progress." (from the intro of the band.)

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here is a CD review.

Randog's Daily Pick 4/30/2015
Ralph Stanley Classic Stanley
Freeland Recording Company CD FRC 9002

This two-CD set, issued by the late Dick Freeland in 1995, is not for the faint of heart. I hadn't listened to it for a while until very recently, when the subject of favorite live recordings came up, and I remembered this one. This collection features Dr. Ralph and various editions of HIS Clinch Mountain Boys, recently enough after his brother Carter's death that the older man's imprint is on the repertoire and every note struck, but with Ralph becoming audibly increasingly more confident in his abilities as a band leader and player that his identity is beginning to shine through. This isn't just one of my favorite live recordings, it is among my favorite Ralph Stanley albums – and I bow to no man in my admiration for Ralph's music. It is all quite familiar to longtime fans of Ralph Stanley...in truth, his sets came to have a certain sameness to them after many years of watching and listening, even with the great musicians he has employed over the year. But these recordings have three distinct advantages that make every cut sparkle and make this a landmark collection. They are live, with remarkable sound, recorded in most cases by ace sound man Bob Goodman for his own personal collection. The material is new to the band, and that feeling is palpable – and they are joined on many cuts by the youthful exuberance of two of the best young singers and players in bluegrass in Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, each destined to make his own mark on the music in the future. The core group on the earliest recordings here – Ralph, Roy Lee Centers, Jack Cooke and Curly Ray Cline, one of the best bands there ever was – is augmented by the addition of the youthful duo, who toured with Ralph and the band during the festival seasons of 1971 and 1972. For those who know, it's as good as it sounds. Roy Lee Centers' vocals are virtually indistinguishable from Carter's at times; he began a long tradition of Carter-like lead vocalists in the band, and to this day, he remains the best – and Jack Cooke plays an impeccable bass and sings whatever part needs singing (check out his great bawling tenor on "Children Go Where I Send Thee" and "Bright Morning Star," his baritone on "Going Up Home to Live in Green Pastures," and finally his lead on his showpiece, "Let Me Rest at the End of My Journey." Curly Ray Cline is his inimitable self throughout, even performing an early version of his "hit" "Why Me, Ralph," along with his signature fiddle tunes like "Pretty Little Indian" and "Black Mountain Rag." After the death of Roy Lee Centers, Keith Whitley returned to the band for a time, and he is the lead singer on most of the later cuts here, at a time when Ricky Skaggs had departed the band to make his fortune elsewhere. On these later cuts, a number of other sometimes Clinch Mountain Boys show up – Ron Thomason, Ricky Lee, and Renfro Profitt among them. Steadfast among them all is Ralph himself, with his bright, powerful banjo sound and his mournful lead and harmony vocals, and many of the signature songs and tunes besides those mentioned already are here, in memorable versions, from "Stone Walls and Steel Bars" to “Oh, Death'" (with instruments and a lead vocal by Keith Whitley on this occasion), "Going Up Home to Meet in Green Pastures," “Little Glass of Wine," "Cry From the Cross," (incredible!) and of course, "Rank Stranger," with Keith singing lead. Oh, to have been there just once on one of those summer evenings...

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Friday, April 24th, 2015

 

I had a dream de udder night, when ebry ting was still;
I thought I saw Susanna dear, a coming down de hill.
De buckweat cake was in her mouf, de tear was in her eye,
I says, I'se coming from de souf—Susanna, don't you cry.
Oh! Susanna, do not cry for me
I come from Alabama, with my banjo on my knee

 

From the 1848 Stephen Foster song “Oh! Susanna,” sung here by James Taylor and Johnny Cash


In the overall scheme of things, the most maligned musical instruments – in no particular order – seem to be the accordion, tuba, ukulele, bagpipes, and, of course the banjo. Ah, the beleaguered banjer! There are websites devoted to making fun of the old five-string, such as this one here. And, just last weekend there was this story out of Brooklyn, NY, about a banjo-tossing contest. Which is all well and good, but when you think about it, where would bluegrass music be without the banjo? Short of the erstwhile popular band Chesapeake, rare is the time when you can name a bluegrass band that did not feature the not-so-easy-to-play instrument. And as for bluegrass songs in pop culture? Think of three of the biggest hit songs ever – “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” (the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies), and “Dueling Banjos” – and what comes to mind and ear is the banjo. It has been around for about 200 years folks, and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Long live (but please tune) the five-string!

The endless summer. Besides going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st, are you planning a big summer trip of hitting as many bluegrass festivals as possible? If so, then you’d better consult the Bluegrass Festival Guide.

Ringo in the Hall. True, the Beatles as a band are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (heck, if not for them, would there have ever been a Hall?). And so are Paul McCartney and John Lennon as solo artists. But as hard as it is to believe, it wasn’t until last weekend that Ringo Starr was inducted on his own merits. Read about it here.

The Fifth Beatle. Speaking of the mop-topped lads from Liverpool, weren’t’ there only four of them? Officially, yes, but to many, their manager Brian Epstein was the driving force behind the band, and you can read about him here in the New York Times.

Dead to the world. Hey, if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to score tickets to any of the Grateful Dead 50-year-anniversary shows this summer, you can either watch the concerts in some movie theatres or in the confines of your own commune or inside your 1968 VW mini-bus on Pay-Per-View!

Life’s railway to Heaven. Bahamian R&B singer Johnny Kemp, who had a hit song in 1988 with “Just Got Paid,” was found dead on April 16th in Jamaica. He was 55. His body was found floating at a beach and was believed to have drowned. He had been scheduled to be on a Caribbean cruise, but he had not yet boarded. Kemp was nominated for a Grammy for his song, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 10 on the pop chart. Bernard Stollman, who founded the free jazz independent record label ESP-Disk in the 1960s, died on the 20th in Great Barrington, MA. He was 85.

Pay to play. A coalition of recording artists, labels, managers and other industry players lined up recently in support of a bill introduced in Congress designed to require forms of terrestrial and digital radio to pay royalties to musicians for use of their recordings. The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 would terminate broadcast radio’s long history of using sound recordings without paying performance royalties. The bill would also change the way satellite, Internet and streaming services pay for the music that is integral to their businesses. Read the full story here. Thanks to Maria Nadauld for this item.

Pickin' in the park. The annual CBA Pickin’ Picnic, hosted by Jeanie and Chuck Poling, will be happening on May 2nd in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This is a fun, free event.

Just for the heck of it. Del McCoury and Jack Cooke singing “True Life Blues”. Thanks to Randog for this clip!

Benefit show for Richard Wodrich. There have been a few mentions in this column over the past few months about Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich, who, for quite a long time, was waiting for a lung transplant. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but Richard and his wife Marci are still a bit behind in trying to raise $40,000 to help pay for the costs surrounding the procedure. There is a Kickstarter campaign underway, and now some musicians are stepping up to help out. Here are the details in Marci’s own words: “Richard and I are so pleased to tell you about a benefit concert happening on Friday, May 8th, with all the proceeds going to his lung transplant fund. Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are graciously fitting this concert into their busy performing schedules. If you have never seen Laurie perform, you are missing out! She is a talented Grammy award-winning musician, singer, song writer, band leader, and producer. Our good friends Josie & Rick Grant, with their band Rock Ridge, will be opening the show. This is such a great lineup, and we know it will be a memorable evening. We expect this concert to sell out, so be sure to get your tickets soon. We wish we could be there for all the great music, to see our friends and share in the fun! We expect all attending to send us photos sharing the night. Thank you for all the love and support, Marci & Richard.”

Mando mania. The annual San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for the 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. At Rancho Nicasio in West Marin County on Sunday the 26th, from 5-7 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and usually Gary Bauman on electric guitar, but for this show it will be Gary Potterton. (It helps to have the name Gary in order to play with this band.) Rancho offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

More for the heck of it. Hot Rize playing “Sally Ann” with their late guitarist Charles Sawtelle on guitar.

The Hag on tour. Merle Haggard is on tour this month, and you can see him play in Indio on the 24th, in Bakersfield on the 25th, Santa Margarita on the 26th, San Rafael on the 28th, Monterey on the 29th, and Redwood City on the 30th. Check out his The Bluegrass Sessions recording from a few years back. And, there is this recent interview with him from the Marin Independent Journal.

Cajun country in Sacto. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau will take place on the 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 25th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled What's Goin' On?, featuring songs by Della Mae, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Blue & Lonesome, Scott Nygaard & Joe Walsh, from the festivals Parkfield and Strawberry, and the BOTMC Spring Situation, and more.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival is the place to be on May 8th-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a commentary, a fabulous find and a recording review.

“My wife Chris happened to glance over at the bookcase this morning and noticed a book of mine, Stagolee Shot Billy, by Cecil Brown. She said that a group she's been playing music with has been working up a song about Stagolee for a gig, but that prior to that, she'd never heard of Stagolee. Naturally enough, I sang a few bars – badly – of the ‘50s Lloyd Price hit, then played her a version on CD by Dr. Ralph Stanley, an out-take from his T-Bone Burnett produced album on Sony. IMHO it is better than anything on the completed album. Anyway, it got me to thinking about a version of the song I haven't heard and would dearly love to – a Library of Congress recording made in 1937 of Vera Ward Hall by John Lomax that is, according to Cecil Brown, ‘the most beautiful, soulful version of the Stagolee ballad ever recorded.’ Anybody out there heard it?”

Randog's Daily Pick 4/24/2015
The McCoury Brothers
Rounder CD 0230

This is the FIRST set of singing McCoury Brothers, not Del's sons Rob and Ronnie. I was moved to dig this out and give it a listen yesterday when Sky Powers posted a late ‘80s live festival performance of Del's band in reunion with his old cohort Jack Cooke, and I was so impressed by Del's younger brother Jerry's singing and slap bass technique--along with the youthful Rob and Ronnie's playing – and needless to say, Jack Cooke's guitar and singing – that I felt compelled to spread the word. In his exemplary liner notes, Neil Rosenberg says it best. "When it is no longer new and easy to find, this album will be considered a collector's item – a restatement of the essence of bluegrass." (No wonder he beat me in Best Liner Notes category at the IBMA last year...just a kiddin', no hard feelings). When this album was made in 1995, Del McCoury had been making records for Rounder for 23 years already, beginning with his classic High On A Mountain, and this is one of the best he ever did make, due in no small part to the ethos of the brother duet, exemplified by Del and Jerry here, albeit on a a higher and more lonesome plain than usual. The repertoire is a mix of new and old, and is quite imaginative as well; three members of the Johnson Mountain Boys at the time – David McLaughlin, Richard Underwood, and the estimable Eddie Stubbs (who not only played fiddle, but ransacked his record collection for material) – are all present as well. From Hank Williams' "My Sweet Love Ain't Around," (with additional lyrics by Del), to Jim Eanes' "I'll Pretend It's Raining," to Curly Ray Cline's "I'll Never Make You Blue," to Reno and Smiley's "Another Day," to Mr. Monroe's "Cheap Love Affair," and "I Was Left On the Street," to Buzz Busby's "Lonesome Wind," to The Delmores' "Some of These Days You're Gonna Be Sad," the traditional bases are all touched. And Del also brought a couple of his – new at the time – compositions to the mix. Throughout, Jerry slaps that bass, Del plays that git-tar, and they do the brother duets tradition proud. Even though this one is no longer new and easy to find, you need to find it, IMHO...

Randog's Fabulous Finds 4/23/2015
David Bromberg My Own House
Fantasy LP-F-9572

This album, which I turned up recently at a thrift shop, was recorded in Berkeley, Sausalito, and The Inn of The Beginning in Cotati, CA, in 1978, and it reminds me once again of what a fabulous string band instrumentalist (and singer) David Bromberg was, has been, and still is. On this particular album, he is accompanied only by his long-time band members George Kindler on fiddle and mandolin and Dick Fegy on mandolin, fiddle, and banjo, while David limits himself – on this album – to vocals, guitar, and fiddle. One would think that the sparse instrumentation might limit the scope of the repertoire, and perhaps it does, but David still manages to explore an amazingly diverse number of genres – hey, maybe HE invented Americana!! – including pop ("Georgia On My Mind'), Celtic fiddle tunes, old-time country string-band music (a medley consisting of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "Roanoke," "Possum Up a Gum Stump," and "Mississippi Sawyer”), and singer-songwriter fare (Paul Siebel's "Spanish Johnny"), and both flat-picked and (especially) finger-picked blues from the repertoires of the likes of Blind Blake and Blind Boy Fuller (David was an early student of the great Reverend Gary Davis, after all) and early teen angst – Phil Spector's "To Know [Her] is to Love [Her]." Call it eclectic, call it unfocused – and I'm sure it was called both by folkadoke pundits back in the day – this album is an impressive display of a powerfully diverse talent.

 

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Friday, April 17th, 2015

 

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all

Cos I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

 

From the Beatles’ song The Taxman


Here’s hoping that everyone got past the tax filing deadline on the 15th without too much agony. April is always a tough time of year, but the good news is that the Tax Man has come and gone, and so has winter, which means Festival Season is about to begin! If you are one of the lucky ones to receive a tax refund, make your plans now to attend the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st and countless other fests. Even if you won’t be getting any money back, the CBA Fest is a great investment of your time and money!

All roads lead to Turlock. Just about everyone who is anyone is either already there or headed to Turlock to partake in the CBA Spring Campout that runs through the 19th. Hey, if anyone sees MOLD Man there -- he has been missing in action since the Great 48 Jam in Bakersfield in January -- send him home!

Vern’s Stage Lineup. Speaking of Father’s Day, the bands that will be playing on Vern’s Stage were announced earlier this week, and you can look at the list here. Congratulations to those that made it, and thanks to TJ Carskadon for once again heading up the cumbersome task of managing Vern’s!

Keith Little in Bluegrass Today. One of the headline acts at Grass Valley will be The Keith Little Band, and you can read an interview with him in Bluegrass Today.

Life’s railway to heaven. Percy Sledge, who had a huge hit in 1966 with the song “When a Man Loves a Woman,” died in Baton Rouge, LA, earlier this week, of liver cancer. He was 74. Bill Arhos, whose long-running television show Austin City Limits introduced America to the sound of bluegrass and progressive country, died from heart disease in Austin, TX, on April 11th. He was 80. Milton Delugg, who accompanied Al Jolson on the accordion, co-wrote the Nat King Cole hit “Orange Colored Sky,” conducted the band for Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show as well as musical director of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for three decades, died on April 6th at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96.

Just for the heck of it. From Randog comes Smilin’ Jerry Jericho singing “Moanin’ in the Morning” from 1954.

Benefit show for Richard Wodrich. There have been a few mentions in this column over the past few months about Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich, who, for quite a long time, was waiting for a lung transplant. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but Richard and his wife Marci are still a bit behind in trying to raise $40,000 to help pay for the costs surrounding the procedure. There is a Kickstarter campaign underway, and now some musicians are stepping up to help out. Here are the details in Marci’s own words: “Richard and I are so pleased to tell you about a benefit concert happening on Friday, May 8th, with all the proceeds going to his lung transplant fund. Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum are graciously fitting this concert into their busy performing schedules. If you have never seen Laurie perform, you are missing out! She is a talented Grammy award-winning musician, singer, song writer, band leader, and producer. Our good friends Josie & Rick Grant, with their band Rock Ridge, will be opening the show. This is such a great lineup, and we know it will be a memorable evening. We expect this concert to sell out, so be sure to get your tickets soon. We wish we could be there for all the great music, to see our friends and share in the fun! We expect all attending to send us photos sharing the night. Thank you for all the love and support, Marci & Richard.”

Way Past Midnight. While indeed it is the wee hours of the morning somewhere in the world right now, what we’re really talking about here is the title of the fabulous show by Mill Valley’s Maria Muldaur. The staff here at Carltone World Headquarters has seen this show, and it is Maria at her best. Here is what she has to say: “I'm excited to announce we're bringing my multimedia retrospective Way Past Midnight to one of my favorite venues, the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA. on April 19th! We did a very well received seven-week tour of this show all over the U.S. and Canada in 2014, and I'm so glad to be finally sharing it with my ‘hometown peeps’ in the SF Bay Area! 2014 marked 40 years since my big hit ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ was riding at the top of the charts, and I’ve released 40 albums in that time. To celebrate this milestone, I created Way Past Midnight, which chronicles my 50-year journey to the ‘Oasis’ and beyond. This special presentation features all my hits, and all of your most-requested-over-the-years ‘fan faves,’ as well as the best of my most recent work, stories of my personal encounters, friendships, and collaborations with many of the greatest names in music, along with photos and videos from my early days in the ‘60s folk revival with The Jim Kweskin Jug Band, through my years of ‘pop stardom,’ and onto my continuing

New tunes. Bay Area natives and bluegrass legends Sandy Rothman and Brian Godchaux recently finished a new CD titled The Red Fiddle and the Silver Banjo. It’s an all-instrumental, all fiddle & banjo recording with 13 tracks of traditional fiddle tunes, including breakdowns, old-time melodies, a waltz, and a spontaneous blues for good measure. You can now get your copy of the CD here

Hot picker alert. International Bluegrass Music Association Best Guitarist winner (2001, 2002) Jim Hurst returns to the Bay Area. You must check out his stunning bluegrass flat-picking and Chet Atkins-style guitar skills. He's also a master at being both hilarious and heartfelt. He’ll play the Fifth String in Sacramento on the 17th, the Sebastopol Community Center Annex on the 18th, and on the 21st he’ll be doing a house concert in Santa Cruz.

 

The Hag on tour. Merle Haggard is on tour this month, and you can see him play in Indio on the 24th, in Bakersfield on the 25th, Santa Margarita on the 26th, San Rafael on the 28th, Monterey on the 29th, and Redwood City on the 30th. Check out his The Bluegrass Sessions recording from a few years back.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 18th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled All Kinds of Country, with guest host Sully Roddy pickin''em and playin''em.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau will take place on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The annual CBA Pickin’ Picnic, hosted by Jeanie and Chuck Poling, will be happening on May 2d in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival is the place to be on May 8-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are two commentaries and two recording reviews.

“A tip for dyed-in-the-wool bluegrassers. I've written about this more extensively for publication, but I think my 'grass friends should know about The Bluegrass Hall Of Fame-Inductee Biographies 1991-2014. This was produced as a fundraiser for the IBMM (Museum, to the uninitiated), the 57 bios of inductees since 1991 (all of 'em) were written largely by Fred Bartenstein and Gary Reid, with others from Neil Rosenberg and Steve Spence. The book is full of info both well-known and arcane, AND there are over 60 photos, forty-four in color, most of which I'd never seen; the book will likely start as many bar fights as it will settle. It's available from the museum, and I noticed that it is on Amazon as well.”

“On Sirius satellite radio earlier this week Kyle Cantrell played a number from the Gibson Brothers' new duets album that they learned from a vintage Four Brothers Quartet record, the brothers in question being The Brewster Brothers and The Webster Brothers. The Gibsons enlisted The McCoury brothers for their version. The Brewsters and Websters were both from around the Knoxville area back in the day and made some classic records, the Brewsters primarily with Carl Story, the Websters with Carl Butler. Just thought you'd like to know.”

Randog's Daily Pick 4/16/2015
Craver, Hicks, Watson & Newberry You've Been A Friend To Me
Barker Records CD2012

Because I was a fan of the great original Red Clay Ramblers music of the '70s and '80s –who wasn't, and isn't? – I was intrigued by a notice of a public appearance of this band, which includes three members of that great band plus Joe Newberry, and said so. Result? I now am proud owner of this fine CD, though I wasn't able to see the live show – a CD which encompasses examples of the music of greats from the past – "Sally Ann," from the repertoire of Tommy Jarrell, "Kiss Me Quick" by The Georgia Yellowhammers, "I'm Gettin' Ready to Go," with a cool lead vocal by Joe Newberry, three songs from the repertoire of The Carter Family – "My Old Cottage Home," "In the Shadow of the Pines," and "You've Been a Friend To Me," (reminiscent of probably my favorite album of Carter Family songs, by Craver, Watson and the late Tommy Thompson, from the '80s), Haywire Mac McClintock's "Tying Ten Knots in the Devil's Tail," with an exquisite vocal rendering by Bill Hicks and Jim Watson, and more, including a, well, interesting original by pianist Mike Craver entitled "How Does a Glass Eye Work?" and another, "Uncle Charlie's Revenge," by Bill Hicks. Lots of fun, lots of great music. If the kids ever ask, “What was old time music like?” give 'em this.

Randog's Fabulous Finds 4/16/2015
The Bluegrass Alliance Newgrass
American Heritage Music Corporation LP-AHMC Stereo AH 10-30S

Tough one to find, and this one is autographed by everyone in the band except Dan Crary, who plays a lot of his patented, mind-boggling guitar and adds his sonorous vocals, and Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Curtis Burch, and Ebo Walker all pre-Newgrass Revival, all signed the album, along with founder and fiddler Lonnie Peerce, who was, as I recall, older then these other young pups. He also signed the album, and added his Lexington, KY, residence at the time; obviously, he was the businessman and merch conscious member of the group. The repertoire brings a faint smile to one's face – I was young then, too – but the picking is superfine, clean, and innovative. Session info is scanty; instrumentally, it's relatively easy to figure out who's playing what, but except for Crary, the vocals I do not know. "Where Were You," "West Montana Hannah," by Herb Pedersen and Mitch Jayne, "Gentle On My Mind," "Freeborn Man" – a nice version, featuring Dan Crary's vocal and nice picking by everybody, "One Tin Soldier," (OK, faint smile), "But You Know I Love You," "Stagolee," "Early Morning Rain," the great god Bob's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Randy Buck," an Ebo original, and "Likes Of Me." Go ahead and cheat your neighbor...see what it gets you...

 

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Friday, April 10th, 2015

 

Sing me back home with a song I used to hear
Make my old memories come alive
Take me away and turn back the years
Sing me back home before I die

 

From Merle Haggard’s song “Sing Me Back Home”



The man, the myth, the legend…The Hag. It goes without saying that Merle Ronald Haggard is not only a country music icon, but he is also a native Californian, born outside of Bakersfield in Oildale, CA, 78 years ago on April 6th. He has put out dozens of albums, had countless number one hits, won a couple of Grammys, is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he is a Kennedy Center honoree, among other things. He also knows a thing or two about prison life, as he spent a few years of his rebellious youth in and out of jails and also did some time in San Quentin. On his birthday this past Monday Rolling Stone put out a list of the 12 Most Badass Merle Haggard Prison Songs, and at the link you can watch and hear him sing each tune. “Sing Me Back Home” is certainly one of the best ever. The Hag is not only still alive and kicking, he is also still out there on tour. This month you can see him play in Indio on the 24th, in Bakersfield on the 25th, Santa Margarita on the 26th, San Rafael on the 28th, Monterey on the 29th, and Redwood City on the 30th. Heck, he even put out an album a few years ago called The Bluegrass Sessions. You just don’t want to get on his fightin’ side…

Four decades of bluegrass. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 11th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled It Was 40 Years Ago Today, which will celebrate four decades since Peter began broadcasting. This will be an anniversary show with some fave raves – all live recordings. Will there be cake and ice cream too?

Livin’ on Turlock time. Speaking of the Central Valley, just about everyone who is anyone is headed to Turlock next week to partake in the CBA Spring Campout from the 13th-19th.

Sam the Man. Bluegrass and mandolin pickers everywhere are anxiously awaiting the release of the new documentary titled Revival: The Sam Bush Story. Watch the hot trailer for the film here. As for more info about the doc, click on this link.

Hollywood hillbillies. There is a new documentary in the works by two Appalachian female filmmakers that seeks to dispel the stereotype of the rural country folk that Hollywood loves to lampoon in shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, Duck Dynasty, and Buck Wild. The documentary is titled The Hollywood Hillbilly, and there is a Kickstarter campaign underway to help raise money to complete the film. Go here to look at a trailer and to find out about the campaign. Here is a brief description of the purpose of the film: “The Hollywood Hillbilly is a documentary film that examines the iconic hillbilly stereotype in film and television. The film explores more than a hundred years of media representation of mountain and rural people, reveals how the hillbilly icon reflects America’s aspirational self-image over the decades, and offers an urgent exploration of how we see and think about white poverty and rural America.”

Faded love. Nashville singer Dawn Sears, who sang in The Time Jumpers and died at age 53 in December of 2014 from cancer, can and should be watched here singing the Bob Wills classic “Faded Love” with bandmate Vince Gill being joined in the studio by Asleep at the Wheel. Man, what a voice she had! Thanks to Randog for sending this along.

What, they couldn’t find just one more to make it an even 100? If you have ever tried to make a living playing music, you have probably come across a whole truckload full of these 99 Problems With the Music Business.

Maybe the biz could use a few more innovators. Besides maybe using a few more Merle Haggards, Rolling Stone also checks in with a list of 17 Innovators That Are Shaking Up the Music Business.

Never too old to rock and roll. The band (not the magazine) The Rolling Stones recently announced another big tour (they will not, however, be coming to San Francisco)(their only CA date is in San Diego), and lead singer Mick Jagger, in an interview in Rolling Stone, says that he has no plans to retire any time soon.

Fiddle fever. The 40th Annual Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be happening on the 11th, which will include performances by Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood, The Central Valley Boys, Sourdough Slim & The Saddle Pals, and more.

Life’s railway to heaven. Bluegrass Dobro legend Tut Taylor died at age 91 on Thursday the 9th. Read about his amazing career in Bluegrass Today, and watch this short video of him here. Renowned humorist and satirist Stan Freberg. Bob Burns, the original drummer for the rock band Lynard Skynard, died in a car accident in Georgia on April 3rd. He was 64. Jazz pianist Ralph Sharon, who played with Tony Bennett for 45 years, and persuaded him to record "I Left My Heart in San Francisco,"

Country rocker. Back before there was “bro country,” and decades before the country music scene morphed into more rock than country, the was the country-rock scene that got started in Los Angeles, and one of the guys at the forefront of it all was a singer and guitarist named Richie Furay. He was a co-founder of the seminal bands Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and Souther-Hillman-Furay, and he is still out on the scene today touring and recording. You can read an interview with him in Rockcellar Magazine, but grammarians beware – the mag can use a good editor.

Nice photos. “Charmaine Lanham is a Nashville-based photojournalist who sharpened both pen and eye during the '80s and '90s as an insider in newly emerging Bluegrass and Country Music circles. Some of her finest work is now available in digital and print format.” Check out some of her pics here.

Born to ramble. Tom Paley was a founding member and banjo picker in the legendary band the New Lost City Ramblers in the late 1950s, and, at age 87, is still alive and singing in London, where he has lived for the past 40 years. Check out this story and video of him in The Guardian.

Just for the heck of it. Ray Price (with Ray Sanders on harmony) singing “Under Your Spell Again” and “Heartaches by the Number” from 1960.

An inspiration to hoarders everywhere! The original note papers where singer Don McLean scribbled down the words to his classic song “American Pie” sold at auction the other day for a cool $1.2 million the other day, to someone obviously with no talent and way too much money on their hands. What can one possibly do with notes like this? Show them to friends at dinner parties at the mansion in the Hamptons? And if so, so what? Even author McLean is not sure what the song means. In true Bob Dylan and Neil Young fashion, he just wrote down some words and strung them together with a melody, and fans with way too much time on their hands go crazy trying to decipher the hidden meanings. Hey, maybe someone someday will be interested in buying my files of notes that I have collected for writing this MOLD column!

Not a law firm. But man, what a set of pickers! Redwood Bluegrass Associates in Palo Alto will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on the 11th.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 11th, at 8 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau will take place on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The annual CBA Pickin’ Picnic, hosted by Jeanie and Chuck Poling, will be happening on May 2d in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, with Peter Rowan, Front Country, The Cache Valley Drifters and more, is the place to be on May 8-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a fabulous find and two recording reviews.

Randog's Fabulous Find 4/6/2015
Various Artists (Count Basie w. Joe Williams, Bob Brookmeyer, Ray Brown, Roy Eldridge, Terry Gibbs, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O'Day, et. al.) Smooth & Swinging Jazz
Verve LP PM-12-Whyte & Mackays Blended Scotch Whiskey Presents

I found this last weekend, then I watched the first episode of the final year of Madmen on Sunday night. The cover photo depicts a Don Draper lookalike, scotch in hand, chatting up a quite willing, it would seem, blonde – perhaps his first wife – and the music on the album, needless to say, is great. The least I can do is try their whiskey...sure would like to find some that has been aging all these years. These custom pressings for clients was surely a strategy tried by Don Draper and company, and they've created an interesting subset category for vinyl collectors, but it got me to thinking that I've never seen any evidence that Don or any of his cohorts had any taste whatsoever in music or much of anything else; the production's hewing to the historical accuracy of the times notwithstanding. The cast seems to follow trends rather than setting them or enhancing them, from taking clients to The Playboy Club to mixed hootenanny jam fests in Southern California, f'rinstance... banjo, clarinet, and flute? C'mon. And for so-called creative types, that just ain't right...

Randog's Daily Pick 4/9/2015
Jim & Jesse The Jim & Jesse Story
CMH LP-CMH-902 Stereo-Special Two-Record Set!

This is the CMH version of the Jim & Jesse Story up to 1980, when the album was released, and the story had over 20 years to go, not really ending until Jim McReynolds passed away on the last day of 2002. Here CMH reprises many of the landmark recordings of the brother duo's recordings via remakes, as has been the label's wont throughout its history. This is not a bad thing in this instance, for a couple of reasons: there hasn't really been a readily available sustained overview of all the duo's best work, including all their big numbers; and they recorded classic stuff for a variety of labels over the years, beginning with Capitol, then Columbia and its subsidiary Epic, Starday, and others, and these are excellent remakes of the classic stuff, from "Drifting and Dreaming," "Border Ride," "Paradise," "Diesel On My Tail," (their big country hit when they went in that direction for a number of years), and many others. The bands here include visits by alumni from their illustrious roster of their band, the Virginia Boys, which include Alan Shelton, Bobby Thompson, and Carl Jackson on banjo, Vassar Clements, Blaine Sprouse and Jim Buchanan on fiddle, and Don McHan or Bobby Thompson on guitar, as well as the late Keith McReynolds, Jesse's son and the band's regular bassist for many years on bass, and guest appearances by Lloyd Green (on Dobro!) and Jimmy Capps. There are also several numbers here unrecorded up to that time by the duo, including "Remember Me," "I Want to Be Loved," “The Midnight Train,” and "The Great Speckled Bird," all traditional numbers from the early days of country done up nicely in Jim & Jesse style, which emphasized their close brother duets, Jim's excellent rhythm guitar and lead and tenor vocals, and Jesse's revolutionary and influential cross picking and split string mandolin style. Another good reason for owning this album is that it contains within the notes by Scott Hambly – ex-Redwood Canyon Rambler and Jesse McReynolds aficionado as well as an excellent mandolin player and tenor singer in his own right – the best and most historically detailed analysis of what makes Jim & Jesse McReynolds the towering figures in the genre of bluegrass that they inarguably are.

Randog's Daily Pick 4/10/2015
Mike Compton and Joe Newberry Live At Brandywine Friends-Friday, February 10, 2012
CD-No Label

Mike Compton knows as much about bluegrass and old time mandolin – and plays it as well – as just about anybody in the world of string band music, and his playing is imbued with a bone deep blues feeling you might expect in a musician from Jimmie Rodgers' home town of Meridian, Mississippi. His version of "Sitting On Top of the World" here owes as much to the Mississippi Sheiks as it does to Bill Monroe, and "How Long Blues," (NOT the Leroy Carr lament), and "Evening Prayer Blues," are more blues than 'grass, insofar as such things can be measured, but in truth, more old-time sounding than either. But "Rocky Road Blues" and "Kentucky Waltz" are pure Big Mon, and nobody in the world interprets Monroe's mandolin work better than Mr. Compton. He sings it pretty well, too. Joe Newberry is an expert at evoking old-time sounds from his guitar and banjo and is a perfect duet partner and/or lead singer on this varied program of bluegrass and old-timey derived songs and tunes that also includes "Righteous Pathway," "Lazy John," "Rocky Island," "I Know Whose Tears," a fabulous version of "Raleigh and Spencer," and "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss."

 

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Friday, April 3rd, 2015

 

We're talkin' baseball
Kluszewski, Campanella
Talkin' baseball
The Man and Bobby Feller
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newc
They knew 'em all from Boston to Dubuque
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke

 

From the song “Talkin’ Baseball” by Terry Cashman



Let the games begin! After what seems like an eternity, the great American pastime is back, and the official start to the 2015 baseball season is upon us. It is a great time of year, as we made it through another winter, spring has sprung, and hope springs eternal for all 30 teams. Everyone starts with the same record, and we will now have six months of baseball to help us forget about the daily drudgery of everyday life as well as all of the turmoil and strife that is going on overseas. Can the Giants repeat their glorious World Series run from last year? Can the seemingly totally revamped Oakland A’s put it all together and make it to the playoffs again? These and other important questions will not be answered until October.

Pick bluegrass, live longer! According this recent study in the Washington Post, the type of music genre that you play may affect how long you will live and what you are more likely to die from. To the surprise of no one, punk, rap and heavy metal musicians don’t live as long as those from the country, bluegrass, gospel and folk worlds.

Norman Blake on NPR. Two weeks back renowned picker Norman Blake was interviewed on the National Public Radio show Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and you can listen to the interview here. Norman has a new album of original songs out titled Wood, Wire and Words.

Tony in the Times. Okay, we missed this when it first ran over a year ago, but here is a real nice story about Tony Rice from the NY Times from February of 2014.

Missing MOLD Man. Contrary to earlier reports, MOLD Man -- the founder of this column who disappeared shortly after the Great 48 jam in Bakersfield in January -- was not that guy that was recently found drifting at sea for 66 days. Everyone at the CBA is still hoping for MOLD Man's safe return soon. Well, most everyone. Okay, some bill collectors are anxiously looking forward to his reappearance...

On the road again. Country singer Willie Nelson, who had a big hit with his song “On the Road Again” in 1980, has also recorded songs that mention 33 cities. Check out the list here. And also check to see if he is headed your way, as at age 81, he is just about to start another lengthy tour. He will be in Saratoga on June 22nd and at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on July 23rd.

On the mend. Rick Cornish, CBA web master, ex officio Board Member, and amateur sleuth who has been doggedly searching for the missing MOLD Man for the past few months, was in the hospital last weekend with some heart issues. If you missed it, you should read his very informative Welcome Column from the March 31st. North Bay musician Norman Greenbaum, author and singer of the rock anthem “Spirit in the Sky” in 1969, almost met his own spirit in the sky last weekend while he was a passenger in a car accident that killed one person. Folk/pop singer Joni Mitchell was rushed -- presumably not in a "Big Yellow Taxi" -- to the hospital on March 31st for a medical emergency.

Life’s railway to heaven. Cynthia Lennon, the first wife of Beatle John Lennon, died from cancer in Spain on April 1st. She was 75. Samuel Charters, author of books and field research that helped start the blues and folk music revival of the ‘60s and ’70s, died on March 18th at his home in Arsta, Sweden. He was 85. Miriam Bienstock, co-founder of Atlantic Records, died on March 21st in Manhattan. She was 92.

Breathing easier. Last fall in the column we told you about the fundraising campaign for bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich of Chico, who was on a waiting list to receive new lungs. The good news is that a donor was finally found, and Richard had a successful lung transplant on March 23rd. The better news is that he is doing well more than one week later. For complete info on the fundraising effort – which is still short of its goal – as well as recent updates by his wife Marci, go to this link.

All wrecked up. No, the erstwhile Bay Area bluegrass and old-time band All Wrecked Up is not, as far as we know, getting back together for a world tour. What we’re talking about here is the fabulous new documentary called The Wrecking Crew, which is about the studio musicians from the ‘60s that anonymously played on most of the hit songs of that era. It is a must-see film for music fans of any age. At the least, check out the trailer on the film’s link above, or read the Carltone review of the flick here.

Trey on guitar. Singer/guitarist Trey Hensley has been mentioned in this column quite a bit over the past few months, most notably at the behest of our Nashville correspondent Randy "Randog" Pitts, who knows great talent when he sees it. If you want more proof about the up and coming Hensley’s ability, read the interview in Acoustic Guitar magazine.

New Monday in Nashville. Randog also sent along a link to the “New Monday” night classic country music series that has been taking place at the Station Inn for the past few years, ever since the Time Jumpers moved their Monday show to another club in town. The band usually consists of Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, Mike Bub, Aubrey Haynie, Catherine Marx, Larry Atamanuik and others, with special guests sitting in. Watch videos of Val Storey and Col Isaac singing with the band.

Old Blue Eyes at 100. Frank Sinatra, if he were still alive, would be turning 100 this coming December. So CBS decided to beat everyone to the punch by doing a tribute to him titled Sinatra at 100 that you can watch here.

Just for the heck of it. This pictorial version of Vern & Ray, with a young Herb Pedersen, singing “A Touch of God’s Hand” from 1968.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 4th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Banjo Pickin' Guy, with guest co-host Bill Evans pickin’ 'em and playin’ 'em.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau on April 3rd will be at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Church in Ashland, OR, and on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The annual CBA Pickin’ Picnic, hosted by Jeanie and Chuck Poling, will be happening on May 2d in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, with Peter Rowan, Front Country, The Cache Valley Drifters and more, is the place to be on May 8-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a commentary plus two recording reviews.

“Best reason to eat at Cracker Barrel? So you can buy Ralph Stanley & Friends’ new Cracker Barrel release Man of Constant Sorrow and listen to Del McCoury sing Jesse Winchester's ‘Brand New Tennessee Waltz’ with Ralph in the car while you get where you're goin'.”

Randog's Daily Pick 4/2/2015
Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg & Edgar Meyer Skip, Hop & Wobble
Sugar Hill CD-SH 3817

Difficult to believe that it's been over twenty years since this groundbreaking string band trio album was released – 1993 to be exact – and it remains as fresh, as invigorating, and as original sounding as ever. It belongs in some sort of string band recordings Hall of Fame. I was working in a record store a lot on weekends back in 1993, and from the moment of its release, this album was guaranteed to generate a sale within a few minutes of putting it on the box...probably still is, where people continue to do such things. This is as perfect a coming together of an instrumental string band trio as I've ever heard. Jerry Douglas was well known back then – if not the superstar he is today – and had been from a time when he played with Buck White and the Down Home Folks and the Country Gentlemen as a teenager, to the time of his dobro contributions to countless bluegrass, jazz, country, and pop recordings to his current role as a featured member of Alison Krauss and Union Station and The Earls of Leicester, all of which continue to the present day – but I've never heard his genius showcased in a more sympathetic setting than this. And Edgar Meyer is certainly the most lyrical bassist I've ever heard, whether it be bowed, banged, or plucked. There are reasons he won a MacArthur Genius Grant a few years back. Russ Barenberg is perhaps the least well known of the trio, but talent-wise, he is right where he belongs. His guitar style draws on Celtic, bluegrass, jazz, classical, and God only knows what other influences – and his liner notes capture the essence of what it is like playing with such sympatico partners better than a non-player like myself ever could; they're truly remarkable. The program is all instrumental, mostly original – Sam Bush does join in on the group's version of the great fiddle tune "Big Sciota" – and all jaw-droppingly amazing.

Randog's Daily Pick 4/3/2015
David Ball Steppin' Out
RCA LP 9777-1-R

This LP, from 1989, seems to have sunk without a trace when it was first issued (I don't think it was ever officially released, though I've owned both LP and CD copies), and I first bought it as much out of curiosity as anything else. Ball, the bass player in the Spartanburg, SC, nouveau swing cult act Uncle Walt's Band from the early ‘70s until the late ‘80s in Spartanburg, Nashville, and Austin, later became a jittery rockabilly tinged country Gary Stewart sound-alike and had a huge hit in the early ‘90s with "Drinkin' Problem.” But this album catches him in an earlier, mellower phase. Here, he seems to be made of roughly equal parts Uncle Walt survivor, Raoul Malo sound-alike, cowboy yodeler and Bob Wills-Ernest Tubb Texas two-step aficionado. I like it a lot, but it is way too different to have had a chance in the world of country radio – then or now. The cover art illustrates the man's dilemma as well as anything can; Ball is seen dressed in vintage clothing (including a VERY nice tie), leaning on a ‘50s model car in front of a painted desert type backdrop. Not yet a "hat act," David sports a haircut that is too long to be a ducktail, but isn't quite a mullet, and he stands behind a vintage arch top guitar of the kind often seen in swing revival bands of the day. The songs are excellent, musical, eminently listenable, and diverse both stylistically and in terms of subject matter – eclectic or unfocused? – you be the judge, if you're lucky enough to happen upon this one somewhere. The players are uniformly great, among the best and most tasteful in Nashville – Glenn Worf on bass, Paul Franklin on dobro and steel, Matt Rollings on keyboards, among others, but it was to be another five years and a radical image change before David, wearing a big black Stetson, broke through with a huge hit for Warner Brothers, the aforementioned "Drinkin' Problem." He didn't have much chart success after that until 2001's "Riding With Private Malone," on Dualtone.

 

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Friday, March 27th, 2015

 

Old friends, they shine like diamonds
Old friends, you can always call
Old friends Lord, you can't buy 'em
You know it's old friends after all

 

From the song “Old Friends" that was written by Guy Clark, Susanna Wallis, and Richard J. Dobson


It’s been a bit of a rough and rocky week here at Carltone Mobile Headquarters. Last week this column began with the chorus of “Life’s Railway to Heaven,” as six rock and rollers of some renown all died within seven days of each other. It was easy to write about those guys from a dispassionate distance, since I did not know any of them personally. Yet little did I realize that a few days later that the train would be arriving a little too close to home. Earlier this week I was in Richmond, VA, on an unplanned journey to say goodbye to a longtime close friend of 38 years. Sitting and being with someone just hours before they catch that railway into the next world is a very trying and emotional situation that we’ll all experience many times in our lives, if we haven’t done so already. Guy Clark sings in his song above, “Old friends, they shine like diamonds, old friends, you can always call.” But you can’t do the latter once they are gone. Reach out to an old friend soon. Maybe just to say hello. You’ll feel better, and so will your friend. In the meantime, as the saying goes, “You only live once, so live life to the fullest.”

The face of Virginia. One of the first things I noticed after entering the airline terminal in Richmond the other day was the face of bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds everywhere. This is because he is on the cover of Virginia Living magazine this month, and you can read a wonderful interview with him here

Hardly worth voting for. USA Today is running a poll for the 10 best music festivals in the US, with 20 events on their list. Ranked number 8 right now, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park can use your help. Of course, we all know that the CBA’s Father’s Day Festival is the best fest, but somehow the newspaper overlooked it some how. You can cast your vote daily here until April 13th, so vote early and vote often!

Big twang theory. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville has a new exhibit titled Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City that will open this weekend for a nearly two-year run. Here you can read “how Nashville cats set off the big bang when country met rock” during the recording of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album in 1966.

This day in bluegrass history. A big shout out today from the CBA and the California bluegrass community to Kathy Barwick on her birthday! Kathy, from Grass Valley, is an accomplished Dobro and guitar player, singer, teacher, and she won the NCBS Dobro Player of the Year award in 2014. She and her duo partner, Pete Siegfried, have a new CD out titled The Trestle, and you can get your copy of it here.

Something’s cookin’. Everyone is looking forward to the publication of J.D.'s Bluegrass Kitchen: Cookbook and CD. Following is a taste of things to come, sent along by project manager Ted Kuster. This song "Molasses", sung by Megan Lynch Chowning, is one of many that will be included with a collection of tall tales and recipes by legendary bluegrass picker, chef and raconteur J.D. Rhynes, due out in June 2015 from the California Bluegrass Association.

Life’s railway to heaven. The British singer-songwriter Jackie Trent, who topped the British charts and wrote most of Petula Clark's biggest hits, died on the 21st after a long illness. She was 74. British guitarist and songwriter John Renbourn, who was a founding member of the band Pentangle back in the day, was found dead on March 26th after failing to appear for a gig. He was 70.

Handsome gals. Their slogan is “Taking over the bluegrass world, one gal at a time,” and, according to their site, the San Francisco-based The Handsome Ladies “are a collective of lady pickers supporting, encouraging, and engaging in the world of bluegrass music together.” Thanks to Maria Nadauld for sending this tip.

All-star cast. Check out Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man's Land w/Ramblin' Jack Elliott, John Doe & Maxine Hong Kingston on March 28th when they will all be at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 29th.

Just for the heck of it. Jerry Douglas working out on the Dobro in this video titled Little Medley.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 28th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Across the Tracks , and it will feature new releases from Springfield Exit, Foghorn Stringband, Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, Norman Blake, Barwick & Siegfried, The Grass Cats, Adkins & Loudermilk, Pharis & Jason Romero, Tony Holt & the Wildwood Valley Boys, Johnny Campbell & the Bluegrass Drifters, Michael Barnett, Paul Kovac, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellies, Billy Hurt, Jr., Mr. Sun, and more.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau on April 3rd will be at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Church in Ashland, OR, and on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, with Peter Rowan, Front Country, The Cache Valley Drifters and more, is the place to be on May 8-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are a recipe, a commentary, and a recording review.

Look To Your Laurels, JD Rhynes Department:

Hold Whatcha Got Groundhog

Groundhog, dressed
2 Onions, quartered
4-5 carrots, cut in 3-inch sections
3-4 medium potatoes quartered

Take your groundhog and boil it for about 10 minutes. Pour the water off, put the groundhog in clean water, and boil it for 10 more minutes. Pour that water off and put him in a big skillet like you fix a roast. Put onions, carrots, and potatoes around it and bake like a roast until it is done. Then you have got the best eatin' you ever popped your teeth in. Makes 6 servings.
-- Jimmy Martin, from The Bluegrass Music Cookbook- Penny Parsons, Ken Beck, and Jim Clark

3/26/2015 – “The day after The Country Music Hall of Fame's 2015 induction ceremonies were held, and as I scan the list of past nominees, it is comforting to know that the genius of that country titan Rod Brasfield has been recognized in years past. Maybe next year, the Stanley Brothers...and hang in there Don Maddox, the last remaining member of The Maddox Brothers & Rose.”

Randog's Daily Pick 3/26/2015
Earl Scruggs & Tom T. Hall The Storyteller and the Banjo Man
Columbia LP FC37953

Olive Hill, Kentucky's, gift to country music, Tom T.Hall, grew up playing, among other things, banjo in a bluegrass band, and has been a friend and lover of bluegrass and fervent admirer of Earl Scruggs all his life. This album, recorded in 1982, is worth seeking out if, for no other reason, it affords the listener a chance to hear Tom T., Earl, and the band's take on Bob McDill's "Song Of The South," later a raucous, flag-waving cheerleading Dixie monster hit for the band Alabama. This version of the song – and yes, it's the same song, I tell ya – is a bittersweet look back at a way of life that nobody much would care to celebrate except with a shake of the head and a rueful smile that one had survived it all. Tom does the lead singing, and Earl and friends, including his son Randy, who also produced, is on guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Byron Berline on fiddle, and various Nashville players on non-bluegrass instruments throughout the album. It is nobody's idea of a hot bluegrass album; in fact, the band only really cuts loose on one cut, "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms." Most of the material here is taken at a comfortable lope and is delivered in Tom T.'s comforting baritone...but he manages to get to the essence of some fine songs, including his own "The Engineers Don't Wave From the Trains Anymore," "There Ain't No Country Music on This Jukebox," and a song attributed to both Tom T. and Earl called "Lover's Farewell." A nice interpretation of the venerable "Shackles and Chains," Lester and Earl's own "Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky," the Carters' "Lonesome Valley," the great Jimmie Skinner standard "Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler," – Tom T. is a big fan of Jimmy Martin, too – the Joe and Rose Lee Maphis penned honky-tonker that Lester and Earl turned into one of their signature pieces, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)," and last but not least, Tom T. and Earl's take on The Rolling Stones' "No Expectations," which – no lie – is quite nice.

Randog's Daily Pick 3/27/2015
Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns
HDS LP 701-Distributed by Flying Fish (in 1974)

Don't know who was behind this in terms of providing the original idea, inspiration, or anything else about how it came about, but it is one amazing album, bringing together string-band music titans from near and far and encompassing many genres. The album coalesces around the amazing English acoustic bass player Dave Holland and Vassar Clements, one of the more amazing fiddlers ever to walk among us, but also includes major contributions from such giants as Norman Blake (I assume that is his incredible guitar playing on his original "The Old Brown Case"), Jethro Burns and his mandolin are much in evidence and easily identifiable on such swing standards as "Sweet Georgia Brown," and "The 'A' Train, (which is more or less taken over by Vassar on fiddle) but young Sam Bush is also much present in the mix, and even Tut Taylor, in addition to adding his unique, flat-picked Dobro sound, also adds some mandolin, though where or when, I am not prepared to say. The ever adventurous Butch Robins plays banjo on some tunes. "Going Home," attributed to Anton Dvorak! but arranged by Jethro and Vassar, and Vassar plays it to a fare-thee-well, accompanied on rhythm guitar, I'm assuming by the multi-talented Jethro, while on the traditional "McKinley's Blues," it is Norman Blake rendering this funky version on guitar with Robins and Tut Taylor on banjo and Dobro respectively, and SOMEBODY sneaking in some mandolin (sounds like Sam Bush first, then Jethro) and Norman sings. It is NOT taken at the familiar bluegrass breakneck tempo. Tut Taylor is featured on his own "Oconee" – maybe this is where he plays mandolin, and Holland plays some amazing bass and Vassar and Dave Holland commune for almost six minutes on the aptly titled – and gorgeous "Vassar & Dave." I haven't mentioned the seven-minute slab of mass improvisation entitled "Sauerkraut 'N Solar Energy,” but it must be heard to be believed. It ain't bluegrass, folks, but there are plenty of licks here for anybody to incorporate into their playing...

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Friday, March 20th, 2015

 

Life is like a mountain railway, with an engineer that's brave
We must make this run successful, from the cradle to the grave
Heed the curves and watch the tunnels, never falter, never fail
Keep your hands upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail

 

From “Life’s Railway to Heaven”, written by Charles Tillman and M. E. Abbey, sung here by Johnny Cash


There is an oft-used saying “Never too old to rock and roll,” which probably came about in answer to rocker Jethro Tull’s 1976 song titled “Too Old to Rock’n’Roll/Too Young to Die.” And while the Rolling Stones have lived up to the “never too old” adage, many others have not. This has been one heck of a tough week for rockers of some renown who have climbed aboard “Life’s Railway to Heaven.” First up is Mike Pocaro, the bassist from the Grammy-winning pop/rock band Toto. He died on the 15th from ALS, and was 59. Bruce Crump, drummer for the rock band Molly Hatchet, checked out recently from “unknown causes” at age 57. Andy Fraser, bass player for the band Free back in the day, died on the 16th from causes unannounced, but he had been dealing with AIDS and cancer in recent years. He was 62. He co-wrote the band’s big hit “All Right Now,” that also included a cool bass solo in the extended-play version of the song. Daevid Allen, the guitarist and founder of the psychedelic rock band Soft Machine, died on the 13th from skin cancer that had spread to his lungs. He was 77. A.J. Pero, the drummer for Twisted Sister, was found unresponsive on the band's tour bus on the 20th. He was 55. If you add in last week's obit of Jimmy Greenspoon, who was the keyboardist for the late '60s rock band Three Dog Night -- who died from cancer on the 11th at age 67 -- you'd have one amazing jam going on up there right now! And on Sunday the 22nd at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, there will be a memorial tribute to the late Sam Andrew, a guitarist in Big Brother & The Holding Company, who died a few weeks back at age 73 after suffering a heart attack.

Speaking of never being too old to rock. There are rumors that the Stones may be gearing up for yet another world tour. No word yet if there will be any AARP discounts on the tickets. Amazingly so, Stones guitarist Keith Richards has defied the odds and outlived every musician in the opening segment above. If you are a fan of the Stones, or just rock and roll history, then read Keith’s fascinating autobiography titled Life. Finally, here is a cartoon that pretty much sums up where we are…

Tales of the living Dead. As every tie-die wearing Deadhead knows by now, the still-alive members of the Grateful Dead will be reuniting this summer in Chicago for an epic three-days of shows at Soldier’s Field. Tickets were gobbled up in a short amount of time – many probably by scalpers – and there are already rumors of tix being offered on the web for much more than face value. Welcome to the reality of capitalism, Dead fans! And good luck finding a place to park your 1976 VW microbus, if you were lucky enough to score some ducats for the shows. On the front page of the SF Examiner on the 18th the lead story was about long-dead Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. He died of a heart attack back in 1995, but in 1985 he was busted for free-basing in a car in SF’s Golden Gate Park. At the time he supposedly had a briefcase with him that included several unfinished songs, and now there is a push to try and get that briefcase back. That is, if it can be found in SFPD’s evidence collection. And finally, there was a rumor going around that famed movie director Martin Scorcese was going to be filming the shows this summer in order to make a documentary, but alas, the latest word is this was just a rumor…

World of bluegrass. The International Bluegrass Music Association’s big World of Bluegrass gathering in Raleigh, NC, will not start until September 29th, but open registration, as well as ticket and hotel reservations for IBMA members, will begin on March 31st, and then on April 14th for the general public. Go to the site for more details.

”You like me, right now, you like me!” So exclaimed former “Gidget” and “Flying Nun” actress Sally Field some years back when she won a second Best Actress Oscar for her role in the 1984 drama Places in the Heart. Well, now the CBA wants you to like it, like, right now. That is, if you are on Facebook. The CBA page needs as many “likes” as possible to help raise its presence, so simply go on FB, click on this link, and you will feel much better about yourself! Tell your friends, too!

On the road again. If you have ever harbored delusions of grandeur about how thrilling and romantic it would be to be spending your life as a roadie for a rock band, think again, and read the story in that noted musical publication the Wall Street Journal. Or, if reading isn’t your thing, there is a low-budget film from 2011 called Roadie that is probably closer to the real truth of life on the road than many other films…

Festive time in the mountains. Even though spring has officially sprung on the 20th, it makes you wonder why they are calling the festival WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley that is taking place on the 20th-22nd. You can see The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more.

Stung by Sting. 30-some years later, former members of the pop-rock band The Police are still smarting from their bass player/lead singer’s ego. Gordon Sumner, a.k.a. “Sting,” has had a successful solo career that far outshines his former bandmates Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. But it may be payback time now for lead guitarist Summers, as a new documentary opens this weekend titled Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police, which is based on his 2006 memoir One Train Later. Summers was quoted as saying, “Look, he was a very good-looking guy with a great voice, and he’d strip off onstage. We were dripping with #?1 records...It’s a classic story – the lead singer starts to get more attention because he’s the guy actually singing, and of course there’s that ego that goes with it, and control issues.” Ouch! Now that stings...

All-star cast. Check out Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man's Land w/Ramblin' Jack Elliott, John Doe & Maxine Hong Kingston on March 28th when they will all be at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 29th.

Banjos in the movies. The much-maligned banjo, a staple of any bluegrass band yet the butt of countless jokes and cartoons, has been featured in many TV shows and films over the years. The Deering Banjo Company recently came out with their Top Five Most Memorable Banjo Movie Moments (where you can watch the actual clips with the banjos in them). Or you can also look at an even more extensive list on the Internet Movie Database site, which lists their 20 Best Banjo Movies. The debate rages on…

Just for the heck of it. “Life’s Railway to Heaven” from the Grammy-winning recording from 1989 Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume II, with Johnny Cash singing lead, the Carter Family on harmony, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Mark O’Connor, Ferlin Huskey, Jr., and Jerry Douglas.

Top ten songwriters of all time! It is amazing what you can find on the Interweb these days. At first glance, a headline like the one in the sentence above might be eye-catching and thought provoking. But, as it turns out, all you need are a website and a computer to add an air of legitimacy to your opinions. A site called FDRMXE (First Dedicated Real Music Exchange) has come out with a list of their top ten songwriters of all time, and since Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Peter Rowan, Kathy Kallick, Jimmy Webb, Harley Allen, and Larry Cordle aren’t on the list, how can we take it seriously?

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 21st from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled All the Good Times Aren’t Past & Gone. Guest co-host Todd Gracyk is excited about a newly-discovered radio show featuring Red Allen (1930-1993), and uses it as a springboard to explore the career of one of the most powerful bluegrass singers.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau on April 3rd will be at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Church in Ashland, OR, and on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, with Peter Rowan, Front Country, The Cache Valley Drifters and more, is the place to be on May 8-11th. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a recording and a DVD review:

Randog's Daily Pick 3/19/2015
Billy Mize & Guests Melody Ranch Vol. 1
Immortal DVDIMM 940045

When my friend Mark, anticipating a move, divested himself of some of his music collection, I was the lucky recipient of, among other thing – about which more anon, I'm sure – several volumes of this popular longtime Bakersfield, CA, country entertainer's locally produced television show. A talented and versatile singer, comfortable stylistically when singing the hits of the day, he also had the looks and friendly, easygoing persona ideal for hosting show such as this. He also was a talented writer and steel player – perhaps his best and best known composition is "Who'll Buy the Wine" – he was a family man who preferred staying close to home to the kind of touring that would have very likely led to stardom on a larger scale than he ever achieved. A recent documentary, "Billy Mize and The Bakersfield Sound," covers his life and career arc admirably. These videos from the late '60s and early '70s serve to illustrate his talents as a host and entertainer while spotlighting both Southern California country artists on the cusp of greater stardom and traveling luminaries, as well as the show's own band, singers, and so forth. Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens, in their first blush of stardom – both solo and performing duets, are featured in this first volume, with "My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers" by Merle, "Excuse Me For Living" by Bonnie, and "Slowly But Surely" and "Just Between the Two of Us" by the duet. Roy Clark also appears, mugging on the guitar knucklebusters – "Waiting For the Robert E. Lee" and "Racing the Mule" – and looking painfully sincere on the ballads ""Everybody Watches Me" and one called "Rose Colored Glasses" that isn't the familiar John Conlee hit. SoCal star Cathie Taylor does a number, Johnny Bond sidekicks around musically, as he was wont to do on the Southern California scene back then; the Halloran Singers Quartet do a mighty sincere version of the pop hit "It Happened in Monterey," and so forth. Especially fascinating is the last cut, featuring a pre-stardom Barbara Mandrell playing steel guitar – she's quite good – and singing "Release Me," illustrating, at the same time, the difficulties of accompaning one's self on steel guitar while rendering a tender ballad; it doesn't quite make it visually. Lots of nostalgia for fans of an incredibly fertile time and place in country music history.

Randog's Daily Pick 3/20/2015
Various Artists (Jimmy Driftwood, Stoney Mountain Boys, Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters) Alan Lomax Presents Folk Song Festival at Carnegie Hall
United Artists LP UAS 6050.

This artifact from the misty, hardly remembered days of traditional music, long before Americana had been discovered and then invented, presents music from a concert pulled together by Alan Lomax in the late fifities. The album itself is dated 1959. Side One presents Jimmy Driftwood, the assumed name of a fellow named, uh...well anyway, rest assured that it isn't the fellow's real name, a Cro-Magnon example of inauthenticity if ever I have seen one. (James Corbett Morris, by the way) Jimmy is perhaps best remembered today for putting words to the fiddle tune "The Eighth Of January," calling it "The Battle of New Orleans." Here, Jimmy sings and accompanies himself on something called in the liner notes "a picking bow," a bow and arrow looking contraption that he –sometimes, anyway – plays with one end in his mouth, creating a sound similar to that of a Jew's harp. I've only seen one other like it, on the cover of an early Buffy Saint-Marie album; hers had a feather on one end. Best I can recall, Jimmy's featured no such decoration, though there is no photo to prove my assertion. Anyway, Jimmy is in fine fettle as he sings "Sal's Got a Sugar Lip," "Down in the Rackensack," (an early alternative name for Arkansas, he explains), and "The Unfortunate Man," all delivered in his folksy style that must have brought many a smile to urban faces that night. Next up on Side One, or the "country " side of the album, is The Stoney Mountain Boys, Earl Taylor's excellent bluegrass band, although neither Earl's or his band members’ names are mentioned anywhere on the album. Earl Taylor was an excellent Monroe-style mandolinist especially steeped in what was already being considered the "traditional" bluegrass repertoire. His banjo player, Walt Hensley, was one of the most highly regarded Scruggs style practitioners of that style in early bluegrass, and fiddler Curtis Cody acquits himself admirably on "Fire on the Mountain," "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms," (a nod to Earl, who Lomax had REALLY wanted, but was unable to get), and "Mule Skinner Blues," here attributed to Woody Guthrie, which just goes to show that you didn't have to know much to be an expert back then if you got in on the ground floor. I've heard that Mike Seeger advised Lomax that The Stoney Mountain Boys would be an excellent second choice to represent bluegrass at the concert, which indeed they were. A short time later, Lomax produced a Stoney Mountain Boys album, also for United Artists, and it is a classic, well worth looking for. Side Two is dedicated to some really fine blues by two fantastic artists; the first is one Peter Chatmon, a member of the famous blues playing Chatmon clan of Mississippi, and he is better known and billed as “Memphis Slim,” who turns his hand to "Boogie Woogie Memphis," his own "The Saddest Blues," and Leroy Carr's immortal "How Long," one of the most recorded blues compositions ever, and with good reason. Again, the producers saw no point in identifying Slim's accompanists. Neither did they think to identify Muddy Waters' accompanists on "Hootchie Cootch Man," or "Goin' Down," (NOT "Goin' Down Slow,") but the pianist is undoubtedly the incomparable Otis Spann. Nobody ever played blues piano like Otis – and the incredible harmonica playing is very likely by Little Walter, but who knows for sure? Drummer and bassist are also unidentified, though audibly present, and Muddy is in magnificent form vocally and on guitar. The liner notes to the original album, written by the learned Ed Sherman, are hilarious, but I don't think that was on purpose.

 

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Friday, March 13th, 2015

 

Living on your western shore
Saw a summer sunset, asked for more
I stood by your Atlantic Sea
And sang a song for Ireland

 

Song for Ireland, recorded by Mary Black, and written by Phil and June Colclough


Luck of the draw. Or is it the luck of the Irish? For the second time in as many months the 13th has fallen on a Friday. The staff of elves and leprechauns here at Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco – while gearing up for the big day on Tuesday the 17th – is also getting ready for the 164th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade that will be taking place here on Saturday the 14th. So grab your shillelagh, put on your favorite green shirt or jacket, and get ready to have a good time. The festival after the parade provides a great opportunity for attendees to learn more about Irish history and culture while having a great time experiencing the day. A full day of activity is planned at the Civic Center Plaza. With Daylight Saving Time having kicked in last Sunday, it also feels like spring is in the air, so join the fun!

Bluegrass brings people together. It was a dark and stormy night, 20 years ago on March 9th...But that did not deter neither my partner Claudia Hampe or me from going to the erstwhile Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, CA, to watch legendary bluegrass great Peter Rowan play on a cool, wet Thursday night. The two of us had been introduced briefly at the club about a year before, but it wasn't until we re-connected at the Rowan show that this 20-year relationship began to blossom. Since we have never gotten around to making a trip to city hall to make it official, we count the 9th as our anniversary. With the average marriage lasting 13.6 years (according to the Economist magazine), we've had a pretty good run so far. It has been a wonderful and amazing two decades, with many more yet to come. Along the way, it has been great fun performing in our musical acts Keystone Crossing, Keystone Station, and the current band, Blithedale Canyon. If you are on Facebook, you can look at a brief photo history here.

All roads lead to Sebastopol. Yours truly, along with Kevin Russell, will be emceeing The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol on the 14th. See Crary, Evans & Spurgin, Pete & Anne Sibley, Si Kahn, The Kathy Kallick Band, Steep Ravine, and Bean Creek. Fun for the whole family, and the weather is supposed to be beautiful.

Bluegrass leaders. The three-day IBMA Leadership Bluegrass class graduated 25 participants in Nashville, TN, last week, and congrats to Californians Maria Nadauld, Jacob Groopman, and Bree Tucker-Meyers, who were among the graduates. Here is the official IBMA description of the event:

The International Bluegrass Music Association is proud to announce the graduating class of Leadership Bluegrass 2015. Leadership Bluegrass is an intensive, three-day program focused on interactive learning and networking experiences that invite participants to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the bluegrass music industry, along with leadership development. This was the 16th year of Leadership Bluegrass, which now boasts over 350 alumni. Leadership Bluegrass 2015 was hosted at BMI in Nashville, TN, March 4th-6th. An unusual and untimely snow storm hit Nashville on Wednesday evening the 4th, and forced the LBG Planning Committee to scramble and make other arrangements for the next day. Luckily, WebEx provided a great alternative, and regularly-scheduled presenters were still able to participate, making this year’s class an even more memorable one. Trisha Tubbs served as the facilitator, and Chris Keenan was her assistant, flying all the way from Ireland to help out. Each year participants are selected through a competitive application process, and are a cross section of current and future leaders from various aspects of the industry, and who come from various regions of the U.S. and the world. According to graduate Joe Mullins, a radio broadcaster, band leader, and IBMA Board Treasurer, he said that Leadership Bluegrass is “a priority for any sincere professional in the bluegrass community.”

Hooray for Emmy! Emmylou Harris was recently announced as one of the two 2015 Laureates to receive Sweden's prestigious Polar Music Prize. “A 13-time Grammy winner and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Harris and her fellow Laureate, acclaimed Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, will attend the gala event and receive their prizes from Sweden's King Carl XVI on June 9th at Stockholm's Concert Hall.” Watch a nice video about her here.

K-Bar’s new CD. Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried’s first duo album, The Trestle, is done, and the duo will be having a CD release show at The Palms in Winters on the 14th. Special guest Marin bassist Bruce Lacey will be joining the two. If you can’t make it to the show, go here and they'll send you one in the mail.

Why the F? Ever wonder why there are F holes in violins? Well, wonder no more. It took a team of pointed-headed researchers at MIT to figure out why. Check out this story here.

Going Barefoot in San Francisco. There will be a hot show on the 15th at the Plough & Stars in SF with Jeanie and Chuck Poling sharing a bill with The Barefoot Movement. Why try to be creative here when Chuck did the work for me: “Jeanie and Chuck kick off the show at at 5 p.m. That’s right – 5 o’clock in the afternoon. So you’ll still have a good chunk of the evening to at least pretend that you’re going to finish up that chore that you’ve been putting off since Super Bowl weekend. No problem. You’ll have plenty of time. Barefoot Movement is a superb young band from Johnson City, TN, that blends elements of bluegrass, folk, and acoustic rock to make a distinctive sound that’s all their own. Folks, Barefoot Movement is one of the hottest acts on the Americana scene, and it’s a big deal that they’re playing at our local pub, so start making plans. Don’t you hate hearing about how good a show was that you knew you should’ve attended? That stinks, doesn’t it? Don’t let it happen to you this time.”

How can we miss you if you won’t go away? Popular country singer Shania Twain announced, prior to turning 50 this year, that she is hanging up her cowgirl boots and calling it a career. She’ll be doing a 48-city tour this summer, and if you are a fan, this is your last chance to see her performing live. Or, at least until the comeback tour. The betting here is that in 3-4 years she will come out of retirement because “my fans have demanded that I do so.” Very few entertainers in the entertainment business walk away when they are at, or near, the top of the heap. “Retirement” to them is a four-letter word…

"Never the twain shall meet" The meaning of this phrase is "Two things which are so different as to have no opportunity to unite." From the web: "Twain derives from the Old English twegen, meaning two. The phrase 'never the twain shall meet' was used by Rudyard Kipling, in his Barrack-room ballads, 1892: 'Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.' There, Kipling is lamenting the gulf of understanding between the British and the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent." Now, I said that to say this: Shania Twain wishes she'd never met the woman that broke up here marriage. Read the sordid details here. (Twain's former friend and assistant ran off with her now ex-husband, and then Twain went and married the now-former friend's ex). Talk about grist for a new country song! Heck, this is TV mini-series fodder, or heck, how about a reality show?

As the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band once sang about one of their member's marriages going bad:

Now if that ain't something to sing about, you tell me what is
Then we'll give it a beat and put it on the street
And we just might have another hit



Swinging in Sonoma. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 14th, at 8 p.m., see Ain't Misbehavin'. North Bay musicians Barry & Annie Ernst and Phil Richardson entertain audiences of all ages with a wide variety of eclectic acoustic styles, paying homage to Fats Waller, the Sons of the Pioneers, the Boswell Sisters, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, as well as originals and bluegrass. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

What’s that sound? Somewhere along the way you have maybe heard something in a recording that just didn’t seem to fit, like maybe a dissonant chord or the sound of something dropped in the background. Well, turns out you have been hearing right after all. Here is a list of 15 famous pop songs that have flubs and accidents in them that did not keep them from becoming big hits.

The least popular music genre in the US? First guess here would be polka, or maybe classical, followed closely by old-time, with maybe bluegrass not too far down the list. But, according to this story in on the Jazzline website, it is now jazz! This is pretty hard to believe, considering all of the jazz postings seen in the SF Chronicle every week, or hearing what is being played in seemingly every cocktail lounge in the city.

Life’s railway to heaven. Show promoter Billy Block, known in some circles as “Mr. Nashville,” died on the 11th from melanoma. He was only 59. Jazz trumpeter Lew Soloff, who back in the day played with the band Blood, Sweat & Tears (including a memorable solo on the original version of the 1969 hit “Spinning Wheel”) died of a heart attack on 8th in Brooklyn. He was 71. Surf-rocker Brian Carman, who in the early 1960s helped write the instrumental hit “Pipeline” for his band, the Chantays, died on the 8th at his home in Santa Ana, CA, from complications of Crohn’s disease. He was 69. Jimmy Greenspoon, who was the keyboardist for the late '60s rock band Three Dog Night, died from cancer in Maryland on the 11th. He was 67.

Stolen guitar alert. Peter McLaughlin, a one-time Flatpicker of the Year as well as a band mate of Laurie Lewis, had his 1937 Martin D-18 stolen from his car in Tucson last week. Keep your eyes and ears open for this. In the meantime: all musicians, please take note – never, ever, and I mean EVER – leave your instrument in your car where thieves can see it. Even if it is daylight and downtown on a busy street. Or even in the trunk of your car. Sure, it can be a pain to be carrying it around, but it beats not having it at all…

The future of country music. His name is Mo Pitney. No, not Mo Bandy. Not Gene Pitney. Mo Pitney. Remember this, because at age 21, he is about to be taking the country world by storm. One of the best things about him? He doesn’t wear a cowboy hat or a sleeveless shirt. Watch him sing “Borrowed Angel” here, and if you have the time, there is a half-our solo performance of him here on some show called Studio C. Thanks to Randog for this tip.

Just for the heck of it. Stephane Grappelli and the David Grisman Quartet playing a couple of tunes here on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1979. Sheesh!

A Claire and present danger. Three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Claire Lynch has been spending a bit of time in the state since last week week, and the danger is that time is running out to see her play. See her in Berkeley on the 13th or in Palo Alto on the 14th.

Festive time in the mountains. Even though it feels like spring has sprung already here in Northern California, spring does not officially arrive until Friday the 20th. Which makes you wonder why they are calling the festival WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley that will take place on March 20th-22nd. You can see The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 14th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Happy Birthday, Bob Paisley (1931-2004), which will feature an overview of his powerful Galax-style bluegrass with Ted Lundy, his sons Danny and Michael, and Ted’s sons T.J. and Bobby.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man's Land w/Ramblin' Jack Elliott, John Doe & Maxine Hong Kingston on March 28th will all be at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 29th; Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau on April 3rd at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Church in Ashland, OR, and on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a CD and a film review. (Editor’s note: You can watch the film Bluegrass Country Soul via YouTube on your computer)

Randog's Daily Pick 3/12/2015
Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys In The Pines
Rebel LP 853

This is a reissue compilation of 1950-56 Bill Monroe from Decca recordings – the period after Flatt & Scruggs had left Big Mon to go on their own – a time when many talented musicians passed through The Blue Grass Boys, some who were to become legends in their own right, and others who deserve more notice than they've ever received. They all served their apprenticeships with The Master, however, which certainly enhanced their chances of making a living in the still young music that was bluegrass, and most of them did. Present on one cut or another are Jimmy Martin, Rudy Lyle, Vassar Clements, Carter Stanley, Edd Mayfield, Charlie Cline, Gordon Terry, Bobby Hicks, and a 14-year-old Sonny Osborne. The songs and tunes are classic examples of the impassioned Monroe style and a study in how Big Mon's style evolved as it changed to take advantage of the singular talents of the various players and singers who passed through the band during these still formative years of bluegrass. There is, for instance, a second Blue Grass Boys version of the classic Jimmie Rodgers number "Muleskinner Blues," first recorded by Monroe in 1940, and here called "New Muleskinner Blues." There is a second recording of "Blue Moon of Kentucky," recorded in response to Elvis' hit and including the mid-song change in tempo so familiar to later fans. The classics "Uncle Pen," "My Little Georgia Rose," and "The First Whippoorwill" are here, as well as a spine tingling version of "In the Pines," featuring the voice and guitar of Jimmy Martin. Five other selections are included as well. This is classic stuff, and most fanatics will already have it in one form or another, but for those who don't, this is the place to go after you've absorbed all the classic Flatt & Scruggs stuff.

Randog's Daily Pick 3/13/2015
Various Artists – Bluegrass Country Soul
Time-Life DVD-M19264

This film, produced and directed by Albert Ihde, was first released commercially in the early '70s (when it received very little attention) is a fascinating document of what a bluegrass festival looked, sounded, and felt like during the early years of that singular phenomenon we've all come to love. It documents the goings on at Camp Springs, North Carolina, on Labor Day Weekend in 1971 at a wonderful Carlton Haney-produced bluegrass festival, and features at least, by my hurried unofficial count, 15 Bluegrass Hall of Fame members (there are probably more), plus producer Haney, also a Hall member, in all his carny barker glory and early ‘70s finery. As a bonus, there is also a special – and quite informative – commentary track narrated by Fred Bartenstein, whose summer job that year as a college student was to function as Carlton's right hand man. Featured musically in the film are The Lilly Brothers with Tex Logan and Don Stover, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain boys – with Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley (the band performs "Man Of Constant Sorrow" – in 1971!), JD Crowe & The Kentucky Mountain Boys (featuring an early appearance in the band of Tony Rice), Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys, The Bull Mountain Boys, Del McCoury & The Dixie Pals, The Country Gentlemen – this is the Waller-Lawson, Emerson-Yates edition of that long lived and incredibly influential group, resplendent in pink shirts, white bell bottoms, plastic belts and neckerchiefs of the day – The New Deal String band, a long-haired "progressive" band for the traditionalists to tut-tut, The Osborne Brothers, the Japanese band Bluegrass 45, who both because of their picking talents and their on-stage antics, are a big hit, Mac Wiseman, Roy Acuff & His Smoky Mountain Boys in a rare bluegrass festival appearance (my hero, Onie Wheeler, is in the band), The Bluegrass Alliance, featuring both Sam Bush and Tony Rice resembling Elizabethan page boys in their ruffled finery, Chubby Wise with Mac Wiseman, The Earl Scruggs Revue, and a gang twang featuring Earl Scruggs and any number of his followers and fellow purveyors of the five-string. This is killer stuff, and will take longtime bluegrass fans down a rich memory lane – sharp eyes will likely spot a very young Missy Raines in the audience, and I was surprised to see old friend Bruce Kaplan, the late owner of Flying Fish Records, in the audience as well, enjoying himself immensely. The movie is filled with such small delights and unexpected surprises, not the least of which is – hey folks, guess what – a lot of these bands had drums in them. This movie was released in time to commemorate the 35-year-anniversary of the event itself, and is a must-have for anybody who cares about the music.

Editor’s note: a young and probably unrecognizable version of Bay Area bluegrass picker John Kornhauser can also be spotted twice in the crowd

 

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Friday, March 6th, 2015

 

“Odor in the court,” said the judge, “let’s take a short recess
Open up the windows and turn on the fan, yes!
Somebody’s guilty, and it wasn’t me, and my temper’s running short
I’m am goin’ where I can get some air, there’s odor in the court”

 

From “Odor in the Court,” a song by Ron DeLacy and Dave Cavanagh, otherwise known as Doo Doo Wah


If you think the justice system in this country stinks, then you've probably heard Doo Doo Wah’s malodorous ditty “Odor in the Court.” This wacky duo was from the Sonora area, and sadly, former newspaper reporter Ron DeLacy died two years ago from cancer. But their legacy lives on, in other songs such as “Hanky Panky in the White House,” “Dr. Kevorkian,” “The Men’s Crisis Clinic," and “Long-a-Sing.” But it was “Odor” that first brought them to my attention way back in the early ‘90s. The song is based on a true story when DeLacy was covering a trial in Modesto where one of the lawyers was using a near-lethal technique to distract the jurors from the case at hand. The reason I bring all of this up is that today I have to do jury duty, and every time I get a summons in the mail, the first thing I think of is this song…

Bluegrass at the Beach. While the rest of the country is going through a horrific winter, folks in sunny CA and AZ are headed to Bluegrass on the Beach in Lake Havasu, AZ, on the 6th-8th, to see great bands such as Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, and Adkins & Loudermilk play.

Sebastopol is the place to be next weekend. Yours truly, along with Kevin Russell, will be emceeing The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol on the 14th. See Crary, Evans & Spurgin, Pete & Anne Sibley, Si Kahn, The Kathy Kallick Band, Steep Ravine, and Bean Creek.

Old and in the gray. At least, he would be gray if he didn’t die his hair. The Birkenstock-wearing, Earl-Grey-tea-drinking senior set may not want to accept it, but Bob Dylan will turn 74 this May. And since he has a new recording out of, all things, American Standards a la Frank Sinatra, he is doing the media blitz, and what better way to reach his fan base than to do an interview with AARP The Magazine? That’s right. Not Rolling Stone or MTV. You can read the entire thing at the above link. Kudos to Linda Rust for sending this along.

Use an accordion, go to jail! These words have been spotted on the occasional bumper sticker, but for a guy in Santa Rosa, CA, he is literally going to jail. Not for playing one, but for also dealing cocaine on the side. Scott Paul Goree, the longtime producer of the Cotati Accordion Festival, was sentenced on the 3rd to one year in jail for dealing cocaine. He was accused of “leading a double life, working at the Cotati Accordion Festival while at the same time he was a major distributor of controlled substances in Sonoma County.” He won’t be making many friends in the slammer if he brings his squeeze box with him…

Old-time is not a crime! At least, it isn’t in Tennessee, as far as we know. Keep your eyes and ears open for an exciting trio from Nashville called ChessBoxer. You can check a montage of their performances here. Thanks to Maria Nadauld for this one.

Just for the heck of it. The Dillards playing three songs on the Playboy After Dark show from 1970 (hosted by Hugh Hefner and Barbi Benton), with Herb Pedersen on banjer, and folks dancing. Pretty far out! Thanks to Randog for this tip.

Life’s railway to heaven. Four-time Grammy winner Orrin Keepnews, renowned jazz producer of artists such as Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and Sonny Rollins, died on the 1st in El Cerrito, CA. He was 91. Ariel Camacho, the lead singer of the popular norteño group Los Plebes del Rancho, died in a car accident on February 25th in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He was 22.

Lead Belly at 125. No, Huddie William Ledbetter – better known as Lead Belly – is not still alive. But he will be celebrated on the anniversary of his 125th birthday on April 25th at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, in an event called Lead Belly at 125: A Tribute to an American Songster. Headlining the show will be Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, with other performances by Buddy Miller with Viktor Krauss, as well as Lucinda Williams, Dan Zanes, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Billy Hector, Valerie June, Shannon McNally and Josh White Jr. Another shout out to Randog for this item.

On the mend. Bluegrass pickers Eddie and Martha Adcock were in a horrific car accident on February 26th in their hometown of Lebanon, TN, and they are lucky to be alive. They are pretty banged up, but they will recover in time. Read Martha's account of the wreck in Bluegrass Today. Bill Bryson, bass player in Loafers' Glory, Desert Rose Band, The Laurel Canyon Ramblers, The Bluegrass Cardinals, and countless other LA area bands, is on the mend after suffering from some heart problems. Here is what band mate Herb Pedersen posted on his Facebook page on the 5th: "Well, Loafers' Glory had a rehearsal at Bill's house this morning, and he played and sang like he's always sounded. Big exhale for me and the boys. BIG 'Steady as she goes Captain, aye.'"

New tunes. Bay Area natives and bluegrass legends Sandy Rothman and Brian Godchaux recently finished a new CD titled The Red Fiddle and the Silver Banjo. It’s an all-instrumental, all fiddle & banjo recording with 13 tracks of traditional fiddle tunes, including breakdowns, old-time melodies, a waltz, and a spontaneous blues for good measure. Keep your eyes peeled here for info about a CD release show or two down the road.

Some hot pickin’. Check out fiddler Stuart Duncan and banjoist Noam Pikelny here effortlessly playing “Wheel Hoss.” This will get your heart pumping!

Bay Area treasure. That is what some are calling Oakland singer/songwriter/bandleader Kathy Kallick who, with her Kathy Kallick Band – recently returned from the Joe Val Festival in Boston – will be on tour in the Bay Area next week. On the 12th they will be playing aboard the USS Potomac at Jack London Square in Oakland, on the 13th it will be the Woodshed Concert Series at St. James Church in San Jose, and on the 14th they’ll play at 6:30 p.m. at the aforementioned Sonoma County Bluegrass & Folk Festival in Sebastopol.

The Jaybirds have landed. Having come down from Vancouver, Canada, John Reischman and The Jaybirds are here this week, playing a few dates in Northern California. You can see them at The Dance Palace in Pt. Reyes Station on the 6th, at the Arcata Playhouse on the 7th, and at the Little River Inn in Mendocino on the 8th.

Clair in CA. Three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Clair Lynch is spending a bit of time in the state this week, as she has eight dates on her calendar. She will be in Del Mar on the 6th, Northridge on the 7th, Santa Cruz on the 8th, Chico on the 9th, Winters on the 12th, Berkeley on the 13th, and in Palo Alto on the 14th.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 7th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Radio Roundup, featuring new releases and musical previews of upcoming events.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates in Palo Alto. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are two album reviews.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/27/2015
Various Artists Tragic Songs of Death and Sorrow
Starday LP SLP 168

This is one of those seemingly omnipresent Starday compilations of my generation's youth, combining the overly familiar, the obscure, the remake, the novelty and the occasionally mind blowing. "Pinball Machine," by Lonnie Irving, for instance, is here and fits the latter category. These songs are always bound loosely together thematically; in this case the title tells all. Subtitled A Notable Collection of 16 Authentic Recordings – a sop to the burgeoning folkadoke nation of the time – this one also contains some fine music, including "Mary Dear" and "Springhill Disaster" by Bill Clifton, "Come All You Tenderhearted" by The Stanley Brothers, “A Rose From Mother's Wreath" and “The Little Paper Boy" by Jimmy Williams and Red Ellis, as well as Archie Campbell's version of the recitation "Trouble In the Amen Corner," the bathetic "Mommy, Will My Doggie Understand" by Darnell Miller, and "Oh, Death," by the unheralded "Joh" Reedy...really John Reedy (the proofreader had a hangover that day, I guess) and "Just Before the Battle, Mother," by Carter Family sound-alikes The Phipps Family, including someone aping AP's querulous baritone. Also present is Cowboy Copas' version of “Tragic Romance," and Moon Mullican's "Sweeter Than the Flowers." And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Red Sovine's "Little Rosa," which would have drawn the ire of the Italian Anti-Defamation League even then, had any of its members ever heard it. Don Pierce, the majordomo of Starday, was a fascinating fellow, and compilations such as these were a major part of his marketing plan. To learn more about the man and the label, I strongly recommend "The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built" by Nate Gibson, published by The University of Mississippi Press in 2012.

Randog's Daily Pick 3/4/2015
John Duffey A Collection

Rebel CD-0022

In the liner notes to this compilation of John Duffey's (whose birthday was on the 4th) Greatest Hits (sort of), while mostly with The Country Gentlemen, Dave Freeman notes that that "in an illustrious recording career that spanned almost 40 years, [Duffey] never cut a solo album," going on to say that he rather regarded himself as a member of a team and took his satisfaction from that, finding good material, and arranging those songs and tunes, taking special care with the vocals. "It's the harmonies that fascinate me," Freeman says he told him more than once. Nonetheless, John's unique talents deserve showcases such as this one and a similar compilation that showcases his lead (AND harmony) vocals with The Seldom Scene on the Sugar Hill label (Sugar Hill CD 3926) – as well as his mandolin and occasional guitar playing. John also played Dobro on some early Gentlemen recordings, but pretty much gave that up, in the studio, at least, when Mike Auldridge showed up. Both these albums are essential for any Duffey fan, or fan of The Country Gentlemen or Seldom Scene, the two Hall of Fame bluegrass groups with whom John spent the bulk of his career. John possessed a tenor that soared to heights rarely heard on bluegrass stages, and prided himself on his range, remarking at least once that he had never found it necessary to resort to falsetto to hit a note. His tenor voice was rich and powerful, but it was also capable of a delicacy rare in bluegrass, as well as a quivery vibrato that made his vocals distinctive. It's a matter of personal preference, I suppose, whether one likes the earlier Rebel album or the later Sugar Hill. I guess I like the Country Gentlemen material most because I was a teenager when The Country Gentlemen were a major force in bringing bluegrass to new audiences, both through their inventive arrangements and giving the bluegrass treatment to songs outside the general run of band repertoires back then. It is their music that is mostly featured here, although there are five Seldom Scene numbers as well, fourteen in all. Check out the great Bob Dylan song, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," for instance, or Jimmie Rodgers’ "Blue Yodel #3,” replete with Duffey's yodeling technique. Needless to say, there's plenty of classic material from The Country Gentlemen catalog here as well, from "This Morning at Nine," "The Young Fisherwoman," "My Little Georgia Rose," "Bringing Mary Home," "500 Miles," "I Haven't Got the Right to Love You," and more. Possibly my favorite cut is the oft performed – and recorded – "Falling Leaves," a signature Grandpa Jones composition that Duffey does proud, to close out the album. He sings both a lot of lead and tenor on the album, sometimes switching from one to the other from verse to chorus (just like Big Mon), and Charlie Waller and John Starling are also featured lead vocalists. Naturally, other members of each band – Waller, Adcock, Tom Gray, Mike Auldridge – and others, are featured both vocally and instrumentally throughout.

 

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Friday, February 27th, 2015

 

Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be
Centerfield

 

John Fogerty, from his song
“Centerfield”

 

Even though the first day of spring does not officially arrive until March 20th, and most of the country (outside of CA) is still freezing or digging out from mountains of snow, it is sunny in the south of Florida and Arizona, where Major League Baseball teams are now, as of the 25th, back at work earning their paltry millions while going through their spring training rituals, playing a kid's game. Hope springs eternal at this time of year, as every team has the same 0-0 record right now, there is excitement about new players and managers, and it won’t be long until we can hear the crack of the bat while enjoying the roar of the crowd. Can the SF Giants win another World Series, even though they lost a big part of their team? Can the Oakland A’s make it to the playoffs even though they traded away practically their entire starting team from last year? These and other questions will be answered in due time. Meanwhile, there is also a lot of great bluegrass and other kinds of music headed this way, so there is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. So start making plans now!

More music and baseball. As anyone that has attended a pro baseball game over the past few years knows, every time hitters come up to bat for the home team a few snippets of music is blasted over the sound system from songs that the batters themselves choose beforehand. And it is usually some screeching heavy metal song that most of the fans have never heard before. It is a very annoying aspect of the modern game, and Scott Ostler, a columnist for the SF Chronicle, offered a great suggestion in his column "Turn back the clock on these sporting trends" on the 26th: "You baseball batters, if you want walk-up music, it’s BYO — bring your own instrument. Banjo, tuba, accordion, whatever. We’ll give you a mike in the on-deck circle and eight seconds."

Jaybirds flying south for winter. With the first day of spring being less than a month away it is a little late for birds from Canada to be flying south for a winter break. But not for John Reischman and The Jaybirds. They are headed here next week, as they will be playing four dates in Northern California. You can see them at The Palms in Winters on the 5th, The Dance Palace in Pt. Reyes Station on the 6th, at the Arcata Playhouse on the 7th, and at the Little River Inn in Mendocino on the 8th. Be the only one on your block to say that you attended all four shows! And make sure that you scroll down to the bottom of this column to read Randog’s review of one of their CDs.

Let it rain! While we have not had enough winter weather activity in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is supposed to rain some on Friday and Saturday. And yes, you can thank your man Carltone for this. Last Sunday I decided to get my van washed, as it had not been cleaned since January 3rd. The car has been sitting in my garage all week, and it will be taken out today, just in time for the rain. Maybe I should get it washed more often…

Attention early birds! CBA members that are planning to buy early bird tickets to attend the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 14th-17th have until Saturday the 28th to save some cash. Four-day early bird tickets are $110 ($100 for seniors) vs. $125 after that. Some of the bands this year include The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Good Ol’ Persons Reunion, Kentucky Colonels Reunion, The Spinney Brothers, Atkins & Loudermilk, Bluegrass Patriots Reunion, Keith Little & the Little Band, Blue Diamond Strings, Molly Tuttle & Friends, Chris Henry & the Hardcore Grass, and Steep Ravine. Go to the link now!

While his guitar still gently weeps. Attention Brooks Judd, if you are in within earshot: this passage is for you! Wednesday the 25th would have been George Harrison’s 72nd birthday had he not succumbed to cancer in 2001 at age 58. In honor of his birthday, Guitar Player magazine did a nice piece that tells the stories behind ten of his songs that he wrote and performed with the Beatles.

Spared over another year. Speaking of notable birthdays on the 25th, Ralph Stanley – who won a Grammy in 2002 for his rendition of the song “O Death” from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack – turned 88 on the date, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Read an interview with him and watch him perform in this link from the Bluegrass Situation site.

Going down to the river. There have multiple mentions in this column over the past few months about Nashville singer Doug Seegers and his amazing tale of barrooms to homelessness to becoming a country star in, of all places, Sweden. If you want to see what some of the buzz is all about, watch him and his band playing his song “Going Down to the River” here.

Tough to top. Want a real feel-good moment to brighten up your day? Then watch these two very young sisters, Abby and Sarah – who can barely get their arms around two full-sized guitars – singing their rendition of the Jason Mraz song “I’m Yours.” Simply stunning…

Justice served. A few weeks back we wrote about erstwhile British glam-rock star Gary Glitter, age 70, who had been convicted for the third time for sex crimes with children. Gee, do you think this guy is a menace? It looks Paul Gadd (his real name) may now spend the rest of his life in jail. He was sentenced on the 27th to 16 years in the pokey, and with any luck he won’t get to see, or be near, any children ever again. We’ve been railing against this guy for years, along with the fact that sporting arenas around the U.S. have been playing his song "Rock and Roll (Part 2)" (more commonly referred to as “The Hey Song”) for years – even after his first two convictions! – thereby providing Gadd/Glitter with hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties annually, which enabled him to travel the world in search of young prey. Let’s hope this obnoxious song goes away too…

Just for the heck of it. This video of Kristin Andreassen, Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz performing the song “Simmon.”

Learn how to jam. Do you play an acoustic instrument but feel a bit timid about joining a bluegrass jam session? Then consider taking the Bluegrass Jam Class: Beyond the Basics that is now being offered by Bill Evans at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley in two six-week sessions for beginners and more advanced students. It runs from March 10th until April 21st. Bill teaches two sections of this popular jam class: one for newbies at 6:30 p.m., and another for slightly more experienced players and class alumni at 8 p.m. It is open to all bluegrass instrumentalists and singers, and is ideal for high beginner to intermediate players and those wanting to become more comfortable playing with others. $120 is the early bird tuition. Call (510) 644-2020 or email Bill at bill@billevansbanjo.com for more info. On Wednesday the 4th at 8:30 p.m., Bill will also be pickin’ some mighty fine banjer with David Thom's Bluegrass All Stars at Zodiac's in Petaluma.

A trip down memory lane. The late country singer Keith Whitley was a huge fan of even later Lefty Frizzell’s back in the day, and you can watch an interesting video here with Stan Hitchcock doing a reading about their relationship from his book At the Corner of Music Row and Memory Lane.

Like a rhinestone cowboy. The Grammy Awards were given out a few weekends back, and former country star Glen Campbell justifiably won his 6th and final award for Best County Song for his emotionally moving song "I’m Not Gonna Miss You," which he co-wrote and recorded a couple of years ago before Alzheimer’s Disease made him incapacitated. If you have never seen the video, you must watch it right here. At the Oscars last weekend Campbell was nominated in the Best Original Song category, but he did not win. Apparently Tim McGraw sang the song at the show. If you have never seen the documentary titled Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, the good news is that CNN recently purchased the rights to it and the network will be airing the film later this year. However, don’t wait. The CNN version will be filled with commercials from some pharmaceutical monolith. Order the film now from Netflix. And have a carton of tissues nearby when you get ready to watch it. How this was not nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary is way beyond our comprehension…

And the awards just keep on coming. Ben Eldridge, founding member and banjo player in the Seldom Scene, will accept the 2015 Washington Monument Award from the DC Bluegrass Union. Last fall, he and other original members of the band were inducted into IBMA’s Hall of Fame. On Friday the 28th, he’ll receive the award at the organization’s winter festival in Tysons Corner, VA.

Life’s railway to heaven. Bobby Emmons, a legendary Memphis session player and co-writer of hits such as “Luckenbach, Texas” for Waylon Jennings, died in Nashville on the 23rd following an undisclosed illness. He was 72. Jazz trumpet player Clark Terry, who as a musician and bandleader collaborated with artists ranging from Quincy Jones and Duke Ellington to Charles Mingus and Count Basie, died on the 21st following complications from diabetes. He was 94. Leonard Nimoy, the actor known as Mr. Spock from the Star Trek TV series of yore, died on the 27th from "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier." He was 83. Besides acting, he died try to sing some. Listen here to him crooning "I Walk the Line" and here for "Proud Mary." Methinks he should have stuck to acting...

Real good vibes. An orchestra of 7-12-year-olds performing Led Zeppelin songs on xylophones and marimbas? How can you not watch? Take a look here at the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.

John Cowan update. A few weeks back, bassist and vocalist John Cowan, a driving force in the band Newgrass Revival back in day, had a heart attack. Apparently he is on the mend, as this unconfirmed but hopeful post from Facebook (hey, if it is on Facebook, it must be true, right?) attests: “Great news! After rest and a very positive doctor’s visit John, has been given the ‘thumbs up’ for normal activity following a heart procedure more than two weeks ago. John wishes to express his love and appreciation for the incredible outpouring of well wishes received over the weeks since he was forced to cancel two shows while he rested. Both shows will be rescheduled as soon as possible. He looks forward to seeing you on the road with The Doobie Brothers or as the John Cowan Band real soon!”

A night to remember. Adkins and Loudermilk will be performing at A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th.

Del in Marin. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Prepare to stand all night if you go, as they take out tables and chairs for most weekend shows.

Clair in CA. Three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Clair Lynch will be spending a bit of time in the state starting next week, as she has eight dates on her calendar. She will be in Del Mar on the 5th and 6th, Northridge on the 7th, Santa Cruz on the 8th, Chico on the 9th, Winters on the 12th, Berkeley on the 13th, and in Palo Alto on the 14th.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 28th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Turn Your Radio On, with guest co-host Jacob Groopman pickin’ ‘em and playin’ ‘em.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Bluegrass on the Beach in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates in Palo Alto. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are two recording reviews.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/21/2015
Reno and Smiley Country Songs
King LP 701

This album is subtitled “Their vocal and instrumental favorites,” but the truth, as far as we can know it, is quite different. Evidently, Don and Red, along with their band The Tennessee Cut-Ups, had showed up at King's recording facility for a scheduled recording session without any new material, and label owner Syd Nathan had suggested that they go through the King catalog and pick out some songs – the ones they picked, not coincidentally, were made up mostly of material that had been successful in the past when recorded by King artists, from Grandpa Jones to The Delmore Brothers, Wayne Raney and others. Nathan was never really enamored of the full bore bluegrass sound – he didn't care for fiddles OR banjos – and he had been quite successful in the past with the twin guitar sound of the great Delmore Brothers. However much weight we might give the three elements conspiring to make this a guitars-only session – lack of new material, Syd's dislike of the traditional bluegrass instrumentation, or a repertoire of songs of which Syd no doubt owned the lion's share of the publishing – a guitars-only session is what transpired. Actually, The Tennessee Cut-Ups’ regular bassist, John Palmer, is also listed as being on the session, along with an "unknown" drummer, but it is Don Reno's amazing lead guitar playing, Red Smiley's rhythm accompaniment, and their vocals that dominate this fascinating and unique recording. There is no evidence whatsoever that the band's great fiddler, Mac Magaha, is even in the studio, nor is there any of Reno's justifiably lauded banjo work. The multi-talented Reno is known to have remarked more than once that he was really a guitar player playing banjo in a band rather than a full-time banjo player, and he goes a long way toward proving it here on this selection of chestnuts. "Freight Train Boogie," "Money, Marbles, and Chalk," "Dark As a Dungeon," "Lonesome Wind Blues," "She Has Forgotten," "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die," "East Bound Freight Train," "Eight More Miles to Louisville," "Charlie Brooks and Nellie Adair," "Mountain Rosa Lee," "Gathering Flowers From the Hillside," and "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome." According to Gary Reid's session notes in the Reno and Smiley King Box Set, Don and Red also recorded an entire album of gospel songs utilizing the twin-guitar format during the same two-day period (October 26 and 27, 1959) that this album was cut, entitled Hymns and Sacred Songs. Oh, and Feb. 21st was Don Reno's birthday. Thanks for Chris Jones on his Truegrass satellite radio show for alerting me to that fact. He features Don's music extensively on the show last weekend.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/26/2015
John Reischman & The Jaybirds Field Guide
Corvus Records CD CR010

Back when my heart was light and my hair was dark – what little I had – and I was freshly arrived in the Bay Area, one of the remarkable features – among many – of the remarkable traditional music scene back then was the amazing number of great mandolinists. On a given night, you might easily be able to see Frank Wakefield, David Grisman, Tom Bekeny, Butch Waller, Mike Marshall and Tiny Moore was just a couple of hours away in Sacramento...and there were lots more...but the guy who in many ways impressed me the most was John Reischman, probably best known outside Northern California for his work with Tony Rice, but known by us back then as the dazzling mandolin player in The Good Ol' Persons. I still fondly remember going to see that band at The Freight one night and being blown away by the fiddle and mandolin virtuosity of Paul Shelasky and John on traditional fiddle tunes after they had been honing them on a road trip for a couple of weeks. John has possessed, since I first heard him, the deep woody tone and ferocity of attack of Bill Monroe and the real bluegrass mando masters and the same ability to execute his ideas that is the trademark of the best jazz improvisers. But, the Persons gradually broke up, and John moved away, all the way to Canada where, luckily for us, he formed The Jaybirds, who produced this amazing album and several others since then. Joined by his buddy from the Bay Area, the rhythmically fierce Jim Nunally on guitar, the compelling and original Nick Hornbuckle on banjo, the fiddling novelist Greg Spatz (he actually has written a novel ABOUT a fiddler, too), and bassist and sterling vocalist Trish Gagnon on bass, John applied his magic to a bunch of traditional songs and tunes, and a few originals, and made one smokin', very special, and unique album. "Lonesome Dove," "She Could Have Loved Him," (a gorgeous Carol Elizabeth Jones original sung gorgeously by Trish), "Holy Jumped Up," a sprightly Reischman original, "Darlin' Nellie," "Say Darlin' Say," "In the Darkest Hour," (a haunting co-write by Trish and John), "Arrowhead" (a Hornbuckle original), Jim Nunally singing his own "Shackled and Chained," "Crooked Man," another Nick Hornbuckle original rendered on mandola by John, along with traditional numbers like "I'm Troubled," "Hop High Ladies," "Little Willy," and "The Train That Carried My Girl From Town," and more. Tim Stafford wrote the liner notes, too, and our old friend Debby (Cotter) Kaspari rendered the avian themed artwork, under the direction of Mr. Reischman. If you get a chance to see this group, by all means do so. But if you can't, then get this CD.

 

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Friday, February 20th, 2015

 

Now the early bird always gets the worm
I wonder when the tide’s a gonna turn
I’m either late or way behind, I never get nowhere on time
The early bird always gets the worm

 

From “The Early Bird Always Gets the Worm” by EC Ball


The phrase “The early bird catcheth the worm” was first recorded in John Ray's A Collection of English Proverbs in 1670. Two definitions are “Success comes to those who prepare well and put in effort” and “One who arrives first has the best chance for success.” These words certainly apply until the end of this month to CBA members that are planning to buy early bird tickets to attend the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 14th-17th. Four-day early bird tickets are $110 ($100 for seniors) vs. $125 after that. Some of the bands this year include The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Good Ol’ Persons Reunion, Kentucky Colonels Reunion, The Spinney Brothers, Atkins & Loudermilk, Bluegrass Patriots Reunion, Keith Little & the Little Band, Blue Diamond Strings, Molly Tuttle & Friends, Chris Henry & the Hardcore Grass, and Steep Ravine. Go to the link for more details, and save some cash now!

More early bird news. Kathy Barwick and Pete Siegfried’s first duo album, The Trestle, is done, and the duo will be having a CD release show at The Palms in Winters on March 14th. This is a great opportunity for them and you, so tell all of your friends and buy tickets now. Special guest Marin bassist Bruce Lacey will be joining the two. To help promote the show, they will be appearing on KXJZ's Insight with Beth Ruyak on Wednesday, March 11th. The show airs at 9 a.m., and again later that same day at 7 p.m. And if you can't wait to get your copy of the new disc, go here and they'll send you one in the mail.

Don’t get above your raisin’. The staff here at Carltone World Headquarters has never been a big fan of those phony and scripted MTV-like music videos. Yet we love some of those old and new videos of live musical performances. However, with this being said, you will get a kick out of this scripted video of a younger Ricky Skaggs singing “Country Boy” from about 30 years ago. Bill Monroe plays Uncle Pen, and he even dances with some break dancers on a subway train. Bobby Hicks can be seen playing the fiddle, and even late NY City Mayor Ed Koch puts in a cameo. Great stuff!

Blue Grass Boy in Marin. Speaking of Bill Monroe, erstwhile Blue Grass Boy Peter Rowan and his band will be playing bluegrass at the Kanbar Center in San Rafael on the 21st, starting at 8 p.m.

Life’s railway to heaven. Lesley Gore, who had smash hits with “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and “You Don’t Own Me,” died from lung cancer on the 15th in New York City. She was 68. As mentioned briefly here last week – our source told us about his passing before the news became official – Sam Andrew, guitarist and founding member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, died in San Francisco from complications from a heart attack at age 73. Here is his official obituary.

Fiddle fever. What, you’re not a subscriber to Fiddler Magazine? Well, then sign up now to get the May issue, which includes stories about three California fiddlers – Jody Stecher, Megan Lynch Chowning, and Annie Staninec. Email or call Mary Larsen and sign up at info@fiddle.com or 408-234-6605.

Dead writers to the hall. The Songwriters Hall of Fame announced their inductees for 2015 the other day, and two stalwarts from the Grateful Dead – guitarist/writer Jerry Garcia (dead) and songwriter Robert Hunter (alive) are two grateful honorees. Others include Cyndi Lauper (what, on the strength of two songs?), Toby Keith, Linda Perry, Willie Dixon, and Bobby Braddock.

Webgrass. Peter Thompson sent along a link to the Concert Window web site. You can watch dozens of shows on your computer, and here is the start of the site’s description: “Bluegrass may feel old as the hills, but it’s a relatively recent art form, created after World War II when the legendary Bill Monroe gave a high-voltage jolt to country and traditional music, speeding up the melodies and adding that plaintive lonesome voice over the top. The roots of the music, the songs and tunes that echoed from porches, in kitchens, at dances, were experienced up close and personal, with audience and musicians interacting. It’s no surprise, then, that the cream of bluegrass will be taking part in the inaugural Concert Window Bluegrass Roundup, running from February 20th-28th, with concerts aired online from all over the United States.” Check out the lineup here.

Old rock and roll producers never die…They just move to Nashville and produce big-hat country acts. No wonder there is more rock than country coming out of Music City these days! Read about it here.

Just for the heck of it. The John Jorgensen Bluegrass Trio, playing live on WAMU in Washington, DC. Great pickers, and good guys too!

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 21st from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Radio Boogie, with guest co-host Allegra Thompson (no relation) picking ‘em and playing ‘em.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Adkins and Loudermilk will be performing at A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are one Fabulous Find and two CD reviews.

Randog's Fabulous Find 2/17/2015
Mary Lou Williams My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me
Pablo LP 2310 819

This was recorded in 1978, when teaching a class in jazz history at Duke set her to ruminating on the blues as a basis for all that followed in jazz, at least as she saw it. There is only Mary Lou on piano, Butch Williams on bass, and occasional vocals by a woman named Cynthia Tyson, a friend of Ms. Williams' from Durham. Involved in jazz from an early age, as a solo and band pianist (Andy Kirk's Clouds Of Joy and others), recording artist, composer ("Little Joe From Chicago," "Roll 'Em" and "What's Your Story, Morning Glory," are of some her enduring classic compositions) and arranger, Mary Lou also was an early friend and mentor of early beboppers like Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and others, including even the avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor, with whom she once shared a recital. But this album is her take on the blues, the piano blues, and it is wonderful listening "My Mama Pinned a Rose on Me" is a song about "a sportin' man" fondly remembered by Mary Lou as one played by her stepfather, and she plays it deftly here (and Cynthia Tyson provides the vocals), along with 15 other improvised, mostly instrumental, blues. Blues lovers and jazz piano enthusiasts alike should get a kick out of this album.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/17/2015
Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys Berry Pickin' in the Country-The Great Chuck Berry Songbook
Epic LP LN 24176

Maybe some of you who are into such things have heard that Chuck Berry's first big hit, "Maybelline," was based on the fiddle tune "Ida Red," which indeed it was, as even a cursory listen will reveal. So perhaps it isn't surprising that Jim & Jesse, the most innovative of the early bluegrass stars in some ways, decided to claim some of Chuck's magic for THEIR music in 1966. Abetted by producer Billy Sherrill (who himself had a background as an R&B saxophonist) as well as their fantastic group of Virginia Boys – I recognize Alan Shelton and Jim Buchanan, virtuosos on banjo and fiddle respectively in the band photo on the cover. It is quite interesting to hear these bluegrass giants cut down on ten Chuck Berry-written classics. In addition to the aforementioned "Maybelline," Jim and Jesse tackle "Memphis," "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Reelin' and Rockin'," "Bye Bye Johnny," "Too Much Monkey Business," "Back in the USA," and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man." This album is as fun and instructive an illustration of the common pulse early rock and roll and bluegrass shared as any I can think of…aside from listening to Big Mon attacking a bluesy number himself. But if Monroe was a Godfather of Rockabilly, so was Chuck Berry, as this groundbreaking album by Jim & Jesse amply shows. 'Course, he couldn't REALLY be rockabilly; he was missing one key ingredient. But R&B couldn't hold him, so he became one of the inventors of Rock & Roll...

Randog's Daily Pick 2/19/2015
The Country Gentlemen Sound Off
Rebel LP 1501

I've had occasion recently to listen to a lot of records on which the late, great recently-deceased Bill Yates played, and revisiting this one, from early in his tenure with The Gentlemen, was a lot of fun. This album features three of the members of what came to be known as the SECOND Classic Country Gentleman – Charlie Waller, guitar and most lead vocals, Bill Emerson, banjo (a founder of the band who returned for a short period), and Bill Yates, who had already logged many miles with the bands of Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and Red Allen, among others, on bass. And Jimmy Gaudreau, the mandolinist and occasional guitarist at the time, was – and is – a wonderful musician as well, though he was later replaced by Doyle Lawson, to complete what came to be regarded as the band's second “classic” line-up. For most of its existence, the band did not regularly feature a fiddle player, another departure from the norm, though Ricky Skaggs did join the band as a fiddler for a short period in 1973, along with future dobro great Jerry Douglas. But neither had yet arrived when this album was made. Yates' vocal showpiece, Whitey Shafer's "I'll Break Out Tonight," which has become something of a standard in bluegrass, is here, along with a quite diverse selection from sources sometime traditional but more often not, including pop, rock, and folk material, such as "If I Were Free," by Travis Edmonson of the popular-at-the-time folkie duo of Bud and Travis, "Sea of Heartbreak," by country songwriting and performing great Don Gibson, "Orange Blossom Mandolin," really the old “OBS” featuring Gaudreau's sparkling fretwork, the gospel "These Men of God," Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Teach Your Children," the Gentlemen's hardy perennial from British rock band Manfred Mann, "Fox on the Run," a nice medley from the repertoire of the traditional country act Johnny and Jack, the Dixieland fave "Bill Bailey," and Mac Wiseman's "By the Side of the Road." This band was very popular and influential in its time – this album was first released in 1970 – and was known for its eclectic choice of repertoire as well as its inventive vocal harmonies and instrumental prowess. Because of their liberal view of what bluegrass could be, The Country Gentlemen were the bluegrass band of choice for many fans brought to traditional music by the folk boom, and they rode that wave for many years. While Charlie Waller fronted a version of The Country Gentlemen well into the 21st century, this was one of the best.

 

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Friday, February 13th, 2015

 

Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York


Opening lines from "Theme from New York, New York," the theme song from the Martin Scorsese film New York, New York from 1977, composed by John Kander, with lyrics by Fred Ebb. It was written for and performed in the film by Liza Minnelli. It was later made popular by a singer named Francis Albert Sinatra…

 

It has been one tough week for newsfolks in the The Big Apple. While all four of the following notables ended up being “a part of it” in more ways than they could have ever imagined, life (in two cases literally) will not be the same for any of them henceforth. First up is now-suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who, as of three days ago, is on a company-suggested six-month hiatus after word came out that he “misremembered” the fact that, contrary to what he has been saying since 2003, he was not in a helicopter that was fired upon while he was covering the war in Iraq. Turns out that there was a first helicopter that did take a hit, but this happened an hour before the one that Williams was on. His reputation is now in tatters, and the odds are that he will never return to the Big Chair on the news set. Second, satirist and fake-newscaster Jon Stewart, longtime host of the Comedy Central hit program The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, announced on the 10th that he will be stepping down before the end of the year to pursue other interests. Kudos to Stewart – he has had an amazingly successful run skewering other newscasters – who is stepping down at the top of his game in order to try other things. We should all be so lucky to be able to make this move in our own lives. (Hey, maybe Williams can take over for Stewart, since he is experienced at reporting fake news?) David Carr, a noted critic and media champion at The New York Times, as well as the star of a documentary about the newspaper, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 58. And finally – as well as most sadly – longtime 60 Minutes correspondent and CBS news foreign reporter Bob Simon was tragically killed in a car accident in New York City on the 11th. His final report for 60 Minutes will air this Sunday, and you can bet that it will be one of the most-watched editions of the show ever. If you tune in, have hankies at the ready…

Mea culpa. In order not to be tarred and feathered with pitchforks in the same manner as Brian Williams, the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters would like to apologize for incorrectly conflating (yeah, like who ever heard of this word until last week?) news about Nashville correspondent Randy Pitts. Last week in this space we wrote this: “The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) convention is taking place in Nashville this weekend, and our roving Music City correspondent Randy Pitts is there observing and taking notes. With any luck he will have some great stories to tell here next week.” It turns out that yes, Randog does live in the town, but, according to his own words: “I didn't go to the SPBGMA gathering last weekend, though my wife Chris did, and she had a fine time, on both Friday and Saturday. I'm glad I didn't go, since evidently there was a stomach flu going around the hotel. Last Friday Larry Carlin promised some people my report on the event, so here it is.”

“This song sure sounds familiar.” Did you ever wonder why pop songs that you hear on the radio might seem like you heard them before? Well, this clever video montage about songs from 2013 kind of plays it out for you. It’s a good thing that bluegrass songs never sound alike…

Want to own a piece of musical history? Then get out your check book and join the bidding for the late guitar master Les Paul’s “Black Beauty” guitar that bears his own name. Initial reports say that it could be yours for around a cool $2 million…

Les II. Speaking of legendary artists name Les, the good news for fans of the late iconic East Bay independent filmmaker Les Blank is that one of Les’s lesser known films, A Poem Is a Naked Person, which was his first feature-length documentary that captured the music and other events at Leon Russell's Oklahoma recording studio during a three-year period (1972-1974), will be showing at the South By Southwest Film Festival in mid-March in Austin, TX. Hopefully the film – which was never officially released – will make the rounds of art theatres soon afterwards. Thanks to Randog for this tip.

Just for the heck of it. 1950s country singer Goldie Hill singing duets with Red Sovine and Justin Tubb.

Life’s railway to heaven. Sam Andrew, Marin County rock guitarist and founding member of Big Brother & the Holding Company (Janis Joplin’s band back in the day), suffered a heart attack back in December, and lost his recovery battle on the 12th. Jean Cornett, who along with her husband founded the Festival of Bluegrass in Lexington, KY, in 1974 (and which is still running today), died on the 6th at age 86. Scott Street, a longtime banjo player in Richmond, VA, died of cancer on the 1st at age 70. Steve Strange, lead singer from the "New Romantic" (now there's a craze I must have slept through!) band Visage, who had a hit in 1980 with a song called "Fade to Grey" (which has nothing to do with "Fifty Shades of Grey," one of the most over-hyped books and movies ever), died of heart failure in Egypt on Thursday. He was 55.

On the mend. Former New Grass Revival bassist and vocalist John Cowan suffered a heart attack recently and apparently is recuperating.

Like a rhinestone cowboy. The Grammy Awards were given out last weekend, and former country star Glen Campbell justifiably won his 6th and final award for Best County Song for his emotionally moving song "I’m Not Gonna Miss You," which he cowrote and recorded a couple of years ago before Alzheimer’s Disease made him incapacitated. If you have never seen the video, you must watch it right here, right now. As advised above, have hankies at hand. And then, go to Netflix and order the documentary titled Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. And have a carton of tissues nearby. How this was not nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary is way beyond our comprehension…

More Grammy news. It was nice to see that the Louvin Brothers got a Lifetime Achievement Award. And if you missed any of the results that really matter, here they are:

Best Bluegrass Album - The Earls Of Leicester The Earls Of Leicester

Best American Roots Performance – Rosanne Cash for "A Feather's Not a Bird"

Best American Roots Song – Rosanne Cash for "A Feather's Not A Bird"

Best Americana Album – Rosanne Cash The River & The Thread

Best Folk Album – Old Crow Medicine Show Remedy

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album – Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer Bass & Mandolin

Calling all fledgling songwriters! Have you ever wondered how to write songs that others will want to record? If so, then read this interview with Jimmy Webb, who wrote classics such as “MacArthur Park,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Up, Up and Away.”

Valentine’s Day. The big day is coming up this Saturday, and nothing says “I love you!” like bluegrass. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on the 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. And Blue & Lonesome will be playing the finest in traditional bluegrass at the Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma from 8-10 p.m.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 14th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Matters of the Heart. Gee, what kind of songs will Peter be playing?

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Adkins and Loudermilk will be performing at A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are a fabulous find and two album reviews.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/9/2015
Carl Smith Columbia Historic Edition
Columbia LP FC 38906

This exemplary classic country reissue, one of a really nice set from the vaults of Columbia in the ‘80s, is a great showcase for the great Carl Smith if you're a fan, and a perfect introduction if you've never heard of him. A standout vocalist during a time when his contemporaries included Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Ernest Tubb, Faron Young and others, his records stood apart from these others because of his powerful, full throated vocals, excellent choices of material, and the distinctive sound of the players around him, especially his steel guitarist, Johnny Sibert. There are previously unreleased performances of a couple of his hits here, such as "I Just Dropped in to Say Goodbye," and "Baby I'm Ready," a previously unissued take of another,"Mr. Moon," and a previously unissued song, "No Second Chance." There's also a couple of gospel numbers, "Softly and Tenderly" and "Amazing Grace," featuring Carl with Mother Maybelle Carter and The Carter Sisters, one of whom, June, he married (and had Carlene). The remainder of the album is taken up with more familiar, classic country hits from early in Carl's career – "Don't Just Stand There," "There She Goes," "Are You Teasing Me," "Let's Live a Little," and "I Overlooked an Orchid." Great stuff...and here's something for you bluegrassers to keep in mind. Jimmy Martin fingered Carl Smith songs as being ideally suited as bluegrass material once upon a time, and it is still true.

Randog's Fabulous Finds 2/12/2015
The Stanley Brothers The Stanley Brothers Goes to Europe
Rimrock LP 200--also featuring Jackie & Larry Dickson

According to Charlie Pennell's Bluegrass Discography, there are at least three versions of this album, which was released in 1966 on famed harmonica player Wayne Raney's Rimrock label. There is no info on when or where the actual sessions took place, or the personnel involved, though George Shuffler's voice – and in a couple of places his guitar playing – are in evidence on Side One, which contains eight Stanley Brothers traditional songs, on which the brothers and George are all in fine voice. This particular version, for which I paid a quarter, has a nice Impressionistic painting featuring a –probably – European harbor and a bunch of sailboats. The other versions don't say "Goes to Europe," explaining, perhaps the choice of cover art. Side Two features a more old time country type duo consisting either of a woman and a man with a high voice, a little boy whose voice hasn't changed, or two women. A Dobro is also featured prominently. I am not familiar with the work of Jackie and Larry Dickson, so anything more I'd have to say would be even more speculative than what I already have said here. This is pleasant enough, though I doubt I'll ever listen to Side Two again after I finish these remarks. I guess if I am ever lucky enough to secure a copy of Gary Reid's new book on The Recordings of The Stanley Brothers, I'll know more. 'Til that time, I'll just say that the eight Stanley Brothers tracks here reveal them to be in fine fettle vocally and instrumentally. Songs include :"If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," "Jesus Savior Pilot Me," "Over in The Glory Land," "Beautiful Life," "We Shall Meet Some Day," "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be," "Farther Along," and "Just a Little Talk With Jesus." For Jackie & Larry song titles, see the discography. I do know that this is among the rarest Stanley Brothers' recordings. One sold not too long ago for $200. But they'll have to pry this one from my…uh, well, that IS quite a markup over what I spent on it...

Randog's Daily Pick 2/12/2015
The Osborne Brothers From Rocky Top to Muddy Bottom – The Songs Of Boudleaux & Felice Bryant
CMH LP-9008

This recording of 20 songs from the pens of the husband/wife team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant was made in 1977, and contains a remake of their classic "Rocky Top," one of the two or three most recognizable songs in bluegrass, and certainly one of the genre's most enduring. It made The Osbornes stars, not only in bluegrass, but country music, what with their picking prowess (Sonny on banjo, Bobby on mandolin), unique harmonies, and Bobby's incredible tenor voice. The Bryants, more mainstream country writers than bluegrass, adapted quickly to the form after the success of “Rocky Top,” and while they never did write another one that big for Sonny and Bob, they did manage to write some very nice songs for the brothers, distinguished by inventive lyrics, songs such as "Georgia Mules and Country Boys," "Packing Up Your Heart (To Say Goodbye)," "Tell It To Your Old Grandma," "Banjo's Goin' Home," "Tennessee Hound Dog," and "Muddy Bottom," all included here. By the time "Rocky Top" hit, in 1967, and substantially made The Osbornes' career – one song could do that back then – Felice and Boudleaux Bryant had been writing country and popular hit songs for nearly twenty years, including "We Could" and "Country Boy" for Little Jimmy Dickens, both included here recast as Osborne Brothers bluegrass, "Hey Joe" for Carl Smith, also included, and MANY hits for The Everly Brothers, of which "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Love Hurts" are included in this collection. The Bryants wrote many country and pop songs that have become standards, songs oft recorded, like "Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)" and "Love Hurts," and the boys give these two their unique interpretations as well. There are 20 songs in all in this two-LP set, and the core band in 1977 consisted of Bobby and Sonny, Dale Sledd on guitar, and Robby, Bob's son – Osborne on bass (and drums!). In the studio, they were augmented by some of Nashville's finest at the time, including Buddy Emmons on steel, Bob Moore on bass, Ray Edenton on guitar, Pig Robbins on piano, and Willie Ackerman on drums. Heckuva record.

 

 

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Friday, February 6th, 2015

 

Bring on the rain; bring on the rain
Bring on the rain
Bring on, bring on, the rain

 

From the song "Bring on the Rain" by Jo Dee Messina & Tim McGraw
Written by Billy Montana and Helen Darling


Indeed, bring it on! Last week in this column we began by saying “We could sure use a rainmaker or three around here now more than ever, as San Francisco has just experienced the driest January on record, which dates back to 1850.” Well, it is obvious that our plea has had an effect, as the wet stuff is falling today, and more of it is expected over the weekend. The state can use a few weeks of rain as well as tons of snow in the mountains. But we’ll gladly take whatever comes our way these next few days. In the meantime, next week we may request world peace and that our lotto numbers finally come up…

Music worth preserving. The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) convention is taking place in Nashville this weekend, and our roving Music City correspondent Randy Pitts is there observing and taking notes. With any luck he will have some great stories to tell here next week.

The times, they are a changin’. So sang folksinger Bob Dylan back in the day. Never known for having the smoothest of singing voices, if you have heard him at all in the last few years, you might have been shocked at how raunchy and raspy his voice has become. True acolytes don’t/won’t care, but to the casual listener, he might be a bit tough to take. Now an otolaryngologist – a Dr. Milan Amin – explains what has happened and why Bob sounds the way he does. Here is what he the doc has to say.

Marty Stuart and scarves. In case you were one of the multitudes that often wondered why it was the country/bluegrass singer Marty Stuart seems to always wear scarves on stage and in photos, most of your questions are answered in this story from the Saving Country Music web site. (Thanks to Randog for sending this along.) However, we also found this explanation while doing a web search. Hey, if it is on the Interweb, it must be true, right?

This time, throw away the key! Erstwhile British glam-rock star Gary Glitter has been convicted for the third time for sex crimes with children. Gee, do you think this guy is a menace? It looks the third time may be the charm, however, as Paul Gadd (his real name) may now spend the rest of his life in jail. He will be sentenced on February 27th, and with any luck he won’t get to see or be near any children ever again. We’ve been railing against this guy for years, along with the fact that sporting arenas around the US have been playing his song "Rock and Roll (Part 2)" (more commonly referred to as “The Hey Song”) for years – even after his first two convictions! – thereby providing Gadd/Glitter with hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties annually, which enabled him to travel the world in search of young prey. Let’s hope this obnoxious song goes away too…

The end of Guitar Center? The betting here is that most bluegrass pickers seldom set foot inside one of the big box music store’s called Guitar Center. Now it looks like their “too big to fail” status may be coming to an end. Read this story here. Instead of going to monoliths like these, support your local non-chain music venues such as The 5th String in Sacramento, Gryphon Guitars in Palo Alto, Mighty Fine Guitars in Lafayette, Tall Toad in Petaluma, Amazing Grace in San Anselmo, and Bananas in San Rafael.

Mando mania. Check out this short 12-minute documentary of the Ger Mandolin Orchestra playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in November of 2013. The ensemble features such Bay Area players as Mike Marshall, Dana Rath, Adam Rozkiewicz and Radim Zenkl, among others.

Birthday weekend. Everyone here at the CBA and MOLD World Headquarters sends out hearty huzzahs to notables with birthdays this weekend. On the 6th is it the big day for mandolin picker Chris Lewis of Nashville (formerly of the Bay Area and also the better half of Randy Pitts), on the 7th it will be cake for Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival organizer Penny Godlis of Santa Cruz, and on Sunday the 8th the CBA's own Bill Schneiderman will celebrate another year around the sun.

Alice and the Grammys. While the staff here at Carltone Central is not a big fan of mass market award shows, it sure would be nice to see 80-year-old Alice Gerrard finally get recognized for her 60+ year music career. Read about Alice here.

Just for the heck of it. Watch a young, 14-year-old, pre-scarf-era Marty Stuart playing on The Porter Waggoner Show with Lester Flatt & The Nashville Grass in 1973. While you are there, be sure to check out Porter's hairdo and jacket. While I can no longer do the former, I'd love to have the latter...

Stepping out on his own. The Keith Little Band, led by banjo/guitar player and singer extraordinaire Keith Little – who currently plays with both Peter Rowan and The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience – can be seen playing The Palms in Winters on the 6th and the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on the 7th. The band will also be at the CBA Father’s Day Festival in June, so be the first one on your block to say that you saw the band first!

Valentine’s Day. The big day is coming up next Saturday, and nothing says “I love you!” like bluegrass. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on the 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. And Blue & Lonesome will be playing the finest in traditional bluegrass at the Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma from 8-10 p.m.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 7th from 6:30-8 p.m. for All Kinds of Country, with special guest host Sully Roddy back in the saddle for one evening of great music.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. Adkins and Loudermilk will be performing at A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a fabulous find and a recording review.

Randog's Fabulous Find 2/3/2015
Onie Wheeler Would You Like to Wear a Crown/I Saw Mother With God Last Night
Okeh 45-4-18058

An interesting aspect of the golden years – and being a collector on the verge of becoming a hoarder as well, I suppose – is making fabulous finds in your own stuff. Such was the case with this gem, which I'd forgotten I had. I must admit that I became aware of this wonderful record rather late, as such things go. I walked into Mark Edmond's Baytown Records at the bottom of Solano Avenue in Berkeley/Albany CA sometime in the ‘80s, and this was on the turntable. It was one of those records that give you “chicken skin,” as Ry Cooder has so aptly described it, and I immediately said, "Whoa! What the hell is this?" or words to that effect. Mark smirked, "Oh, I figured being a big bluegrass guy and all, you'd know. You mean you haven't heard this?" Well sir, turns out that I had seen Onie Wheeler with Roy Acuff, with whom he played bass (and harmonica – fabulous harmonica player), off and on, for years – in Vietnam, in 1967. But I didn't know about his bluegrass career. He was a truly amazing, multi-faceted fellow, and a Missouri native, who is known to this day among collectors of rockabilly obscurities as one of the greats, though I would characterize most of what he did as country boogie or hard core honky-tonk rather than rockabilly. He also wrote some of the most amazing songs in country, bluegrass, and rockabilly music, including "Run 'Em Off" for Lefty Frizzell, the amazing "Let's Invite Them Over" for George and Melba, (and he played bass for George on the road), "Jump Right Out of This Jukebox," which he recorded for Sun Records – he also toured with every member of the Million Dollar Quartet, which was Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash – several songs for Flatt & Scruggs, with whom he toured and recorded as bass player for a time, and Side A of this 45, "Would You Like To Wear A Crown," and a wonderful gospel number called "Go Home." He performs it with Acuff et. al. on YouTube – check it out. The next time I heard a song from this record was one year when The Bluegrass Patriots performed it onstage at Grass Valley. Turns out that Ken Seeman, banjo/majordomo of the Patriots and, like Onie, a Missouri native, not only knew about Onie, but he actually knew him –having had produced a bluegrass festival in Missouri at which, he told me, Onie and Hylo Brown were the headliners. Anyway, I always request "I Saw Mother With God Last Night," the B side of this 45, whenever I see our friends The Bluegrass Patriots. Who else is gonna sing it? Since they're scheduled to be at Grass Valley this year, I expect I'll request it again. Hope Glen Zankey can still hit that high note at the end. He told me once he had to quit smoking to do it. For a more in depth look at Onie's musical history, check out the wonderful Bear Family CD devoted to his career, which was a “Randog's Daily Pick” some time ago. There's a lot of good stuff there. Onie died onstage at Opryland, playing a gospel set with Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Hank's preacher son, in 1984.

Randog's Daily Pick 2/4/2015
The Hotmud Family Buckeyes in the Briarpatch
Vetco LP 507

One of my best thrift store finds ever; this album from 1975 presents the Hotmud Family, fondly remembered by those fortunate enough to see them, in an eclectic mix of songs from traditional fare to Neal Allen's "The Singer," (he was Red's oldest son, and died tragically young) and Utah Phillips' "Rock Salt & Nails." The band's instinct for picking good songs to which they could do justice is impeccable, from Johnny & Jack’s "Ashes of Love," to The Stanley Brothers’ "No School Bus in Heaven," and "Ramshackle Shack," to The Carter Family’s "The Girl on the Greenbriar Shore," and the Molly O'Day standard "Teardrops Falling in the Snow," Moore & Napier's "Bluegrass Truck Driver," and even a bluegrass version of "Drivin' Nails in My Coffin." The Hotmud Family here consists of Susanne Edmonson (now Thomas), her then-husband Dave Edmundson, Rick Good, Tom McCreesh, and Tom Harley Campbell, who many years later, co-wrote "If I Can't Live Without You (How Come I Ain't Dead?) with Shawn Camp and Tim O'Brien. Susanne was, and still is, one of my favorite singers, any genre – my primary gripe when she was in Dry Branch Fire Squad was that her incredible voice was not featured enough – either live or in concert. Well, it is featured more here, but IMHO, still not enough. The woman can sing, folks. I know there is a three-CD set of The Hotmud Family's Vetco material out there. My friend Jon Fox wrote the extensive notes (he's something of an expert on this southern Ohio based band), and my birthday is August 4th. In the meantime, this album from 1975 will have to do, and it's a beaut.

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Friday, January 30th, 2015

 

Rainmaker, rainmaker, the land is parched and dry
Rainmaker, rainmaker, make the rain fall from the sky
Rainmaker, rainmaker, the crops are gonna die
Rainmaker, rainmaker, make the Heaven's cry


-- From Peter Rowan’s song “Rainmaker,” off of his album Dust Bowl Children

We could sure use a rainmaker or three around here now more than ever. San Francisco has just experienced the driest January on record, which dates back to 1850. And this is no typo. That is 165 years. Not a drop of rain has fallen this month, and none is on the horizon, according to the professional weather-guessers. Last January was the third-driest on record, and everyone knows how little rain fell in 2014. Snow levels in the Sierras are among their lowest ever right now. From the looks of things, we are in for some tough, dry times ahead. Maybe it's time that renditions of songs like “I Wish It Would Rain” by Nanci Griffith and The Temptations are played daily on the radio and on TV weathercasts…

Bluegrass according to Butch. Are you a little rusty on your bluegrass history? Well, catch up on all that you need to know by watching Butch Robins Presents - Blue Grass Music, its Origin and Development as a Unique and Creative Art Form. “In this 5 part video series, Butch Robins explains the fascinating history of Blue Grass music. He uses both recorded and live music to set and illustrate the timeline, relates real life anecdotes of the musicians involved and tells personal stories of his life and relationship with Bill Monroe. Having had a working and friendly relationship with Monroe and many of the other musicians in this story, his insight and knowledge come together to form a unique perspective of this part of history.”

Signal ahead. Some great news arrived over the transom here yesterday. The SF/Bay Area Peter Thompson’s fabulous weekly radio show – which is always featured further down in this column – will soon be going big time. According to PT, “Beginning on March 2nd, lil’ ol’ Bluegrass Signal will become a daily radio show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country! Pacific Time broadcasts: M-F, 8-9 a.m. The full story of Bluegrass Country programming changes can be found here. BG Signal with yer morning java? All praise to Darrell Johnston for forging the WAMU-CBA alliance!”

Want to become famous? If so, just get so-called satellite radio “shock jock” Howard Stern to call you names and make fun of you on the air. This is what he did the other day when he said some unkindly things (some of which cannot be reprinted here) about a heretofore unknown (at least to anyone here at Carltone World Headquarters) British soul singer named Sam Smith. The story was all over the Interweb for 15 minutes earlier this week, and Mr. Smith has now rightfully earned his Andy Warhol allotment of fame…

Still wanted: Photos of JD. Last week we told you that Ted Kuster, the indefatigable CBA San Francisco VP and driving force behind the JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen cookbook project, needs some photos of CBA Bluegrass Ambassador JD Rhynes to go along with the recipes and songs in the book. If you have any that you can contribute, please contact Ted at ted@tedtedted.com.

Life’s railway to heaven. Poet, songwriter and Grammy winner Rod McKuen died on the 29th in Los Angeles at age 81. He had been treated for pneumonia and had been ill for several weeks. Bill Yates, the longtime bass player with the Country Gentlemen who also played some with Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin, went on to that big bluegrass jam in the sky on the 26th. He was 78. Edgar Froese, the electronic music pioneer who formed the rock band Tangerine Dream in 1967, died on the 20th in Vienna, Austria, due to a pulmonary embolism. He was 70.

The meaning of life. Do you find yourself traveling through this world constantly searching for the answers to life’s must pressing questions? Well, search no more. All of the answers you need to know to just about anything can be found on this site. Thanks to reader Linda Rust for this tip.

Dance to the music! This is what Sylvester Stone, of the Bay Area ‘60s/’70s band Sly & The Family Stone has been doing this week, after a jury awarded him $5 million in lost royalties after being cheated by his former manager and lawyer. Stone, who just a few years ago was broke and living out of a white van on the streets of LA, should be able to upgrade to at least a fifth wheel with his winnings…

Just for the heck of it. A seven-year-old Ricky Skaggs sitting in with Flatt & Scruggs in 1961. Classic stuff!

Got an old mandolin up in the attic? If so, you may want to contact the PBS show Antique Road Show. Randy Pitts passed this segment along, and even though it is three-years-old, it is quite the amazing story.

Guitars in Sebastopol. The Third Annual Sebastopol Guitar Festival will be taking place on Saturday the 31st, so grab your credit cards and head on up there.

Saying goodbye. While searching the web the other day for something entirely unrelated, an intern here at Carltone came across Alan Jackson singing the classic country song "Farewell Party" – originally made famous by Gene Watson – that rivals the George Jones hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” “Farewell” was written by the late Lawton Williams, who also penned other hits such as “Fraulein,” “Geisha Girl,” and “Shame On Me.” What an ending!

Nights of the living Dead. As any Deadhead knows by now, the still-breathing and upright members of the Grateful Dead will be reuniting in Chicago this summer for a three-night tour to celebrate their 50-year anniversary. Fans from all over the country will be headed there in caravans of 1970’s era Volkswagen vans. Once they get there, they want to be able to camp out in the parking lot of Soldier’s Field. Yet the odds on this happening are slim. Read about it here

Norman Blake in the WSJ. Picker Norman Blake was featured in that renowned bluegrass publication the Wall Street Journal the other day. Read the story here.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 31st from 6:30-8 p.m. for Gearing Up For Grass Valley, which will feature songs by the Good Ol' Persons, Kentucky Colonels, Bluegrass Patriots, Nashville Bluegrass Band, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Molly Tuttle & Friends, The Spinney Brothers, Adkins & Loudermilk, Chris Henry & Hardcore Grass, Steep Ravine, and others.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Coming attractions. The Keith Little Band will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on February 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. He has been busy this week. Here is a commentary along with four album reviews.

KFAT Flashback for 1/29/2015
“I just heard the late Jim Ringer's version of ‘Rank Stranger’; it is the only recording of the song, save the original Stanley Brothers' original, that comes close to the existential ache at the core of the Albert Brumley song. I never knew Jim, but his voice was a constant presence in the Bay Area traditional music scene when I lived there, and I regard him as one of the great underappreciated artists of that time, circa 1970-85.”

Randog's Daily Pick 1/26/2015
The Farr Brothers South In My Soul
Cattle Records-Mono LP1

For those of you out there for whom the best part of The Sons of the Pioneers albums, video clips, movie or TV appearances has always been the all too rare instrumentals featuring these brothers, this is a must-have. Hugh and Karl Marx Farr (gotta be a story there, but I don't know it) were a couple of southwestern instrumental virtuosos – Hugh on fiddle, Karl on guitar – who supplied the musical backbone for the legendary, sweet singing Sons Of The Pioneers, the springboard to stardom for Roy Rogers, a co-founding member, among many others, including Gunsmoke's Festus, Ken Curtis, who had been a big band singer. Lest you be confused, I should mention that these cuts feature only original members, thus no Ken/Festus is included. The Farr Boys were evidently quite conversant with the records of The Hot Club of France, as well as the fiddle tunes of their native Texas, and folks, they were hot! The 21 cuts on this album concentrate on instrumentals (there are only three vocals) and the bill of fare included "Cow Across the Road," "South In My Soul," "Jack Of Diamonds," "Tom and Jerry," "Darkness on the Delta," and the sublime "Limehouse Blues." Mostly taken from Standard or Orthacoustic radio transcriptions 1934/35 and 1940. From the empire of (at that time) Reimar Binge...now Dagmar Binge...another story about which I can only speculate. Worth whatever you need to pay to get if you like this stuff.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/27/2015
Country Gentlemen Return Engagement
Rebel LP 1663

In 1988, when this album came out, I was living in Albany, California, and was really excited to see it, since I had never known anybody up until then who had gone "back east" to make it in big time bluegrass – and succeeded. But Keith Little did that very thing, and this album is the first evidence of that of which I am aware. Back then, he was known locally as the consummate pro, and Kate Brislin described him to me once as "a singer's singer," and she would know. He apprenticed with Vern and Ray, of course, was in High Country for a time, and toured and recorded with both Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick, plus instrumentally, playing "all of 'em," as they say in Tennessee. Keith is the banjo player on this album, which also features three original songs he wrote or co-wrote – "A Miner's Life," "Lonesome Highway," and "I'd Like to Come Back As a Song." Other songs and tunes include three by the band's mandolin player at the time and two by the late Randall Hylton. Bandleader Charlie Waller handles most of the lead vocals, and the legendary Bill Yates, who we lost very recently, plays bass and sings baritone. Fiddle is supplied on some cuts by Glen Duncan, and Steve Wilson provides occasional dobro. And here's the weird part – Keith doesn't sing, even on the three songs from his own pen! Still, a landmark album for many of us in Northern California in 1988. Keith of course went on to work with Ricky Skaggs, Larry Cordle, The Chieftains, Dolly Parton, Peter Rowan, and many more...and they nearly all let him sing. In recent years, he's returned to Northern California, and has played in the bluegrass bands of both Peter Rowan and David Grisman...and they let him sing, too.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/28/2015
Eck Robertson Famous Cowboy Fiddler, Talking Machine and Radio Artist
County LP 202

When Kathy Kallick's band visited Music City USA not too long ago, a bunch of them and me visited The Country Music Hall of Fame, and Annie Staninec asked why she couldn't find any reference to Eck Robertson. I promised to take the question up with The Taylor Swift Education Center, but never did. But today I was reminded of that day when I stumbled on this album in my collection. "Eck Robertson was the first person to record and issue country music on vinyl disc. He also may be the last." So says a blurb on the album sleeve. While that claim – or claims – may or not be true, certainly Eck was a pioneering fiddler; some consider him the Father of the Texas Fiddle Style that evolved into the contest style fiddling which has spawned so many greats. These nineteen unaccompanied fiddle tunes were recorded by New Lost City Ramblers – John Cohen, Mike Seeger, and Tracy Schwarz – in 1963, when Eck was 76 years old...and he was still bringing it. This is a fascinating document of an artist from the dawn of recorded vernacular music, and a worthy addition to the library of anybody interested in early fiddle styles or the history of the music. And it is also a fine album of vintage fiddling. Also included is a fascinating 18-page booklet with notes by Blanton Owen, and musical notes by Tom Sauber, an exhaustive discography, and a lot of cool photos, too. Tunes include: "Texas Wagoner," "Stumptown Stomp," "Lost Indian," "Grigsby's Hornpipe," "Rye Whiskey," "Lost Goose," "Sally Johnson," "Billy in the Lowground," "Beaumont Rag," "Grey Eagle," "Dusty Miller," "Hell Among the Yearlings," and seven more. Snatches of interviews by Mike Seeger are also included. This was released in 1991.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/30/2015
Keith Little Distant Land to Roam
Copper Creek CD- CCCD-0189
(Editor’s note: this review first ran here on 5/14/2014, but it is worth looking at again since Keith will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th)

In preparing to write this, I thought, hmmm – Keith is probably the only person I know who has worked with Vern AND Ray, and Dolly Parton; then I remembered Herb Pedersen. He's probably done all that, too. Well, I bet he never toured with The Chieftains, and Keith has done that, too. So there, Herb...something to shoot for. Luckily for me, I've known Keith for a long time; he was playing with Vern Williams when I first saw him, and he also did stints with High Country, Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, and is now, as far as I know, playing in the bluegrass bands of Peter Rowan AND David Grisman. In between, he left California to play with The Country Gentlemen, Ricky Skaggs, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, Dolly Parton, and God only knows who else. One of my fondest memories of Nashville will always be a jam (that my wife) Chris organized when Del Williams was in town to visit and play at The Station Inn with Keith and his musical partner at the time, Robert Gately, another of those geniuses one finds in the nooks and crannies of Music City, if one is lucky. It was some of the best trio singing I've ever heard that went on that night at our house...was Doc Hamilton there, too? I forget...I've seen Keith play guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin well enough to get paid for it, he writes great songs – "Weary Old Home," "Where Dear Friends Will Never Part," and "Before the Prairie Met the Plow," which he co-wrote with the late, great Billy Joe Foster and which was recorded by The Whites, are all here, as are "Down Among The Budded Roses" and "Come Back Little Pal," songs I used to hear him sing with Vern – here, he sings a lot higher than he did with Vern – what would have been the point? Also there is Gately's "Nightingale" – without the atrocious bird whistle which mars Doyle Lawson’s otherwise perfect rendition – "Carolina Mountain Home," "Been All Around This World," Claire Lynch’s "Home On the Highway" – oh, yeah, he was in a band with HER, too – "Chief Sitting Bull," a fiddle tune performed by its composer, Jim Wood (the younger). Oh, and the band – Robert Bowlin, Mike Compton, Dennis Crouch, and Ronnie Stewart, in addition to Keith, who limits himself to guitar, lead and harmony vocals. Robert Gately, Claire Lynch, et. al., chime in on harmony vocals from time to time.

 

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Friday, January 23rd, 2015


“Cheaters never prosper.” This is an old English saying that comes from the phrase “Dishonest efforts will not bring real success” from the early 19th century. But as everyone knows, here in the early 21st century, someone has to win the upcoming Super Bowl football match on February 1st, and whichever team does, the coach will certainly prosper in ways that most of us can only dream about. With there being no real football news to satisfy Joe and Josephine Sportsfan until the big game, the media folks are apoplectic about possible cheating with the so-called "Deflategate" scandal that is making headlines. In reality, just about everyone cheats in some form or another, whether it is on their inflated resumes, on their income taxes, with their spouses, by speeding while driving on the highway, etc. This “Deflategate” is just another weapon of mass distraction to get your mind off issues that really matter, and to also gin up interest in the game itself. It is just another football game where corporations spend millions of dollars to put on commercials with the hope that you will be talking about them days after the event itself. My advice? Turn off the idiot box (permanently!) and get together with some friends to either watch or play some music. Your lives will be much richer by doing this instead of watching some game that will have zero effect on your life. Unless, of course, you are a wager-placing fan…

Making money with bluegrass? Gosh, what a novel concept! Apparently the IBMA World of Bluegrass gathering this past October in Raleigh, NC, was a very profitable experience not only for the city of Raleigh, but for the IBMA itself. Read the details here.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway… Not that anyone sent information here to MOLD World Headquarters in downtown SF about it, but the word on the street this weekend – at least, in the streets of Redwood City – is that the 8th Annual Bluegrass On Broadway Festival, which is put on by the Northern California Bluegrass Society, is happening on the 23rd-25th. There will be live music, films, awards, and lots more. For complete info, just click on the link. Or, better yet, drive on down!

Rock of ages. At age 87, Dr. Ralph (no last name needed here) is still putting out new recordings. This is from Rolling Stone: “Ralph Stanley, whose latest album, Ralph Stanley and Friends: Man of Constant Sorrow, was released this week through Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. The 13-track disc, co-produced by Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller, features guest appearances from an impressive array of Stanley's many musical disciples, including Dierks Bentley, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Ann Womack and Josh Turner.”

Wanted: Photos of JD. Ted Kuster, the indefatigable CBA San Francisco VP and driving force behind the JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen cookbook project, needs some photos of CBA Bluegrass Ambassador JD Rhynes to go along with the recipes and songs in the book. If you have any that you can contribute, please contact Ted at ted@tedtedted.com.

Gambling on bluegrass in Reno. Cindy Gray and the Mountain Music Parlor have established quite the thriving bluegrass scene in Reno, NV. Read all about it in Bluegrass Today.

Life’s railway to heaven. Dixie Hall, the beloved and prolific bluegrass songwriter (as well as wife of 46-years to Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall), died on the 15th at age 80 after a lengthy illness. She wrote over 500 songs in a songwriting career that did not begin until her later years. Julia Mainer, wife and musical partner of renowned old-time country music artist Wade Mainer, went to that big jam in the sky on the 21st at age 95 after sustaining injuries in a fall. Dallas Taylor, the drummer that played on the first Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young albums, died at age 66 of unknown causes.

Tough old gals. Check out this nice story from the Huffington Post titled 15 Badass Art World Heroines Over 70 Years Old that haven’t let age slow them down one bit.

Jimi does Dylan. Back in the halcyon daze of yesteryear, if you ever wondered how incredible rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix ever came up with his unique version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” wonder no more. Read this story behind the recording.

The times they are a changing… Speaking of old Bob, he has a new album out of American standards, and did he give his first interview about it to Rolling Stone? How about the New York Times? Billboard Magazine? No, no and no. He knows the age of his fans, and where the money is, so he gave the interview to – are you ready for this? – AARP The Magazine! That’s right. He is 73-years-old now, and so are most of his fans…

Just for the heck of it. The All Girl Boys – perhaps the greatest name ever for an all-female bluegrass band (that was also from the Bay Area) – singing “Climbing Up the Mountain” and two other songs that you should listen to here.

Plucking the strings. Want to see something fascinating? Check out what happened here when an enterprising picker decided to place his iPhone camera inside of his acoustic guitar. Pretty dang cool!

Music for free. Performers, songwriters and studio musicians are having a heck of time making money anymore in the ever-evolving music business due to new rules and technological improvements. And Gillian Welch has something to say/sing about it in her song “Everything is Free” which you can watch her sing, uh, for free, here.
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Music at the Monkey House. There is The Monkey House Theatre in Berkeley, which, according to their site, “is an intimate art space offering high-quality concerts with an old Vaudeville vibe and unusually fine acoustics,” and it is located at 1638 University Avenue. So head on over to see Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood and Richard Brandenburg play on the 23rd. This promises to be a great show by two very talented Bay Area songwriters and performers.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 24th from 6:30-8 p.m. for Across the Tracks, a show featuring new releases and re-issues.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event

Coming attractions. The Keith Little Band will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on February 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a recommendation on an up and coming artist as well as a CD review.

“I’ve been telling you for some time now about Trey Hensley, and now you can read all about him in The Nashville Scene.”

Randog's Daily Pick 1/22/2015
Janet Miller A Younger Place
T-Kat CD

Janet's father, James Miller, and her uncles, were The Miller Brothers, and her brother Wes is a longtime stalwart of the Indiana bluegrass and country scenes; her late brother Joel was also a talented bluegrasser. I was lucky to hear Janet and Joel sing together a couple of times, and they had that special sibling harmony thing that turns up in bluegrass families. So it's no surprise that Janet is a talented musician in her own right – it courses through her veins. But for whatever reason, she's never seriously pursued a full-time musical career, or even recorded much – she was busy raising a family and making a living (she has a grown son in the Army, difficult as that is to believe) until now. This debut album shows her to be quite an extraordinary talent, both as a vocalist and especially as an inventive and imaginative songwriter. There are fourteen Janet Miller originals here, all delivered in her winsome, affecting voice, ably backed by longtime Ohio Valley bluegrass favorites The Whitaker Brothers, accompanied on some cuts by onetime Blue Grass Boy and Osborne Brothers band member Dana Cupp. I first heard of Janet via a song her brother Wes recorded, entitled – I think – "It Hurts More to Stay," one of the really good songs she's written. It isn't here, but there are plenty more where that one came from, including "Lost In You," "Now I Know What I Needed," "He Left Her Wanting More," "Dark, Lonely Nights," "I'm Saving My Dances," and lest you think she can't get down when she wants, there's "Bluegrass Pickin' Man." There's also a moving gospel original entitled "He's Shown Me a Better Way." She has also written one of the best songs about a dog that I haven’t heard in a long time, which isn't here, and I can't remember the name...but the woman can write and sing. For my bluegrass musician friends who are looking for material, I strongly suggest you look here...other people already are.

 

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Friday, January 16th, 2015


Ch-ch-ch-ch changes. San Francisco/Bay Area football fans are angry and agog because both teams (the 49ers and Raiders) fired their coaches two weeks back, and then both hired new guys on Wednesday, neither of which is causing people to dash to the ticket outlets to buy a season pass for next year. Changes like this are always unsettling, but in time, everyone will get used to it and life will go on as before. A change is headed this way as well. In a little more than two weeks the CBA website is going to look much different, as a major redesign and upgrade are in the works. The betting here is that, just like when Facebook makes any modifications and the great unwashed masses wail and moan for a few days, many CBA members will also lament the old site. Yet by March, few will remember – or care – what it was like. Stay tuned…

Musicians flying the not-so-friendly skies. Have you ever had a hassle trying to get your $200K Gilchrist mandolin or centuries-old Stradivarius onto an airplane? If so, the rule is about to change that will make flying a bit easier for carry-on musical instruments. “The new rule states that if a musical instrument otherwise complies with federal and airline policies for carry-on bags, it must receive the same ‘first-come first-served’ treatment as any other passenger bag. So if you stow your guitar in the bin, flight attendants cannot remove it and require you to check it, ‘even if the space taken by the musical instrument could accommodate one or more other carry-on bags,’ the rule says.” Read the NY Times story here.

Ever wonder why all pop music sounds alike? Well, wonder no more. Some egg-headed people did some research, and the results can be found in this study . To sum it up in two sentences, “Record companies are only comfortable promoting things they already know will sell. And they know that now better than ever.”

Dead again. With their 50th anniversary coming up, the surviving members of the Grateful Dead - guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann - will reunite with special guests (since Jerry Garcia, Pigpen, Keith Godchaux and Brent Mydland are dead Dead) for three farewell concerts at Chicago’s Soldier Field from July 3rd-5th. Read about it here.

Hey, maybe this guy will be there! Diligent and duteous MOLD fan Linda Rust (according to a recent CNN poll, she may be the only person that reads this column every Friday) sent along this item from the Canadian publication called The Sun News: "Mom reports son missing since 1995, says he left home to follow the Grateful Dead band." The guessing here is that the Sun is a satirical Onion-like wannabee, but heck, the story is not that far-fetched, considering the band...

Life’s railway to heaven. Bill Thompson, longtime manager of the Jefferson Airplane back in the band’s heyday, died of a heart attack in Mill Valley earlier this week. He was 70. This is just two weeks after Rock Scully, the erstwhile manager of the Grateful Dead, died. Walter Kühr, performer and accordion evangelist, and owner of The Main Squeeze in New York City, died at age 59 for lymphoma. Kim Fowley, an influential behind-the-scenes figure throughout multiple generations of rock history who co-founded and managed the late-'70s all-female punk group The Runaways, died on the 15th after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Country music quiz. Do you think you know a lot about country music songs, especially the good old stuff? Then take this quiz here. I did okay. But there are some bands and songs listed here that are too new for me to know anything about. My C&W expertise stops around 1975…

Just for the heck of it. Duane Eddy playing “Crazy Arms” in his inimitable electric guitar playing style.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. On Saturday, January 17th, at 3 p.m., Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music, will be playing outside in the tented/heated garden at the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Lagunitas offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Good golly, Miss Molly! She just celebrated her 20-something birthday two days ago, so on the 17th go party with Molly Tuttle when The Tuttles with AJ Lee play the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View.

Banjo extravaganza. Alan Munde & Bill Evans will be performing their only SF/Bay Area show at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito on the 21st at 7:30 p.m.

Welcome to the Monkey House! 60-something readers may remember this book title from 1968, which was a collection of short stories by the celebrated writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Well, now there is The Monkey House Theatre in Berkeley, which, according to their site, “is an intimate art space offering high-quality concerts with an old Vaudeville vibe and unusually fine acoustics. Because we’re a private residence, you must reserve a seat to learn our address.” This is what it says on their website. So, all of this being said, if you want to see Wendy Burch Steel & Redwood and Richard Brandenburg play on the 23rd, go to the site now to make your reservations. This promises to be a great show by two very talented Bay Area songwriters and performers.

Coming attractions. The Keith Little Band will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on February 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 17th from 6:30-8 p.m. This Hicks With Sticks show with guest host Jose Segue presents his bi-annual survey of all things twang in the Bay Area.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are a recommendation, two fabulous finds, and two recording reviews.

“Thought this was worth sharing with my CBA friends I listened to much of the original ( Little Jimmy Dickens satellite radio tribute) broadcast, and it is, as always with Eddie Stubbs, chock full of good country music and little known information. Nobody does it better...and as for Jimmy, well, his passing truly does end an era...”

Randog's Fabulous Finds 1/15/2015
Bob Wills and Carolina Cotton I'm All Alone b/w Three Miles South of Cash in Arkansas
MGM 45 K11288

Not long ago, I stumbled onto a stash of Western swing 45s, mostly Bob Wills, but also including a bunch of rare ones from Tommy Duncan's solo career, some Leon Rausch, and a fair number of rare Billy Jack Wills. Anyway, among those 45s I found was this one. Carolina Cotton was in fact from Arkansas, and is best remembered – if she's remembered – for her athletic yodeling chops, as exemplified on her self-penned "Three Miles South" here. There's also some smoking fiddle by Joe Holley and slambang steel guitar by I know not whom. This was actually the B-side of the record, "I'm All Alone" being a ballad duet between Carolina and Bob himself, written by somebody whose last name was Walker. I'm assuming the great Texas songwriter Cindy Walker until I'm told otherwise…

Randog's Fabulous Find 1/12/2015
Simon Crum as Portrayed by Ferlin Husky Country Music Is Here To Stay (same title, both sides)
Capitol Promotional 45-F4073

This song, performed by Ferlin Husky's adenoidal comic alter ego, laments the demise of REAL country music and includes a Lum 'N Abner style skit by "Rum and Lavender" (voiced by Husky, natch) decrying that sorry state of affairs...and it climbed all the way to # 2 on the country charts in 1958. After"' Rum and Lavender" are able to tune in a country station on the radio, we are treated to a lament featuring Simon joined by the "voices" of Ernest Tubb and Kitty Wells (quite well done by Husky) in a passionate ode to the glories of "real" country music. Beyond Homer and Jethro, I've never cared for much of what passes for comedic country music, but I've always liked this one...could be because I was 12-years-old, an impressionable age, when it came out.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/14/2015
Link Davis Cajun Crawdaddy
Mercury LP SR61243

I've been looking for this album for probably 30 years, since I first saw it in a collectible record shop and didn't buy it because I couldn't afford it – and have regretted it ever since (you record mooks know the feeling). Well, I saw it again yesterday, and though I still can't afford it, I bought it anyway...and I'm sure glad I did. Fittingly enough, the memorable cover art features a cartoonish image of Papa Link, visage shaped like a crawfish, playing his fiddle with crawdad claws. There are fourteen songs here, encompassing, if not all, most of the genres that Link played, although there is none of his saxophone playing featured here – he did that, too. Originally from the Gulf Coast region of East Texas, Link played fiddle early on in a number of Western swing bands, and there is a Bob Wills number here, "My Confession," a couple of barroom weepers, and some more Western swing, as well as Cajunesque rockabilly – most notably "Sugar Bee" – some pure R&B, and lots of Cajun music, both traditional and more commercial. Not surprisingly, some, if not all these tracks, were produced by the notorious Crazy Cajun majordomo Huey Meaux, I discovered upon doing some hasty online research, and he then licensed them to Mercury for this release. Interestingly, all – or many, at least, of the musicians are listed on the album, but not the accordion player! And there is some amazing accordion on the album, folks. Fortuitously enough, a bit of studio repartee is included on the album from one of the cuts involving the accordion, and it sounded undeniably like Marc Savoy, whose voice, if you have heard him once, you will remember. Sure enough, upon looking around a little, I discovered a mention of tracks produced by Meaux involving Link and Marc that were later licensed to Mercury, a bonus I did not expect when I bought the album. Far as I can tell, Link himself did not possess any Cajun bloodlines, but upon "marrying a Cajun girl from Port Arthur" became quite proficient as a fiddler in the style; don't know if he spoke French, don't know if he sang phonetically, but he sure made some good records in the idiom, though he is best known among collectors for his Starday 45s, which have been dubbed rockabilly. He sang in a hoarse, declamatory style in both English and French, a style that fit honky-tonk, Cajun, blues, R&B, and rockabilly equally well. Evidently, he was a "second father" to swamp rock notable Joey Long, who, along with two of Link's sons, played in his bands in later years. One of his sons, Link Davis, Jr., played fiddle and saxophone in an early version of Asleep at the Wheel. I'm wondering if my Facebook – and real –friends Ann Savoy, Suzy Thompson, Michael Doucet, Chris Strachwitz, or anyone else, for that matter, might have some thoughts, insights, info or observations about this record or Link Davis himself. From 1969.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/9/2015
Chet Atkins Chet Atkins and His Guitar
RCA Camden LP CAL 659

This is one of several versions of this album, all of them, as far as I can tell, on RCA Victor's Camden budget subsidiary, from the early '60s, of Chet's early work. This one is mono. I'd advise against picking up an electronically reprocessed stereo version if possible, but even one of those would be good. Although there is no information on the album – just photos of other Camden budget reissues – one can ascertain the presence of Homer & Jethro (Chet's brother-in-law and longtime musical collaborator) and other sterling Nashville pickers on one cut or another, and the picking is dazzling. This is far and away my favorite Chet Atkins album, and it is widely available in thrift stores, Goodwills, and flea markets. Tunes include "The Bells of Saint Mary's," "Centipede Boogie," (hot hot hot), "Walkin' on Strings," "Rubber Doll Rag," "Peek A Boo Moon," "Barber Shop Rag," "Kentucky Derby," "Darling Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," "High Rockin' Swing," "Dill Pickle Rag," "Stephen Foster Medley," and "Mountain Melody." A heapin' helpin' of clean, fast fingerpicking!

 

 

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Friday, January 9th, 2015


Jammin' for days. There is a lot pickin’ going on this weekend in a hotel in the Central Valley. Just about everyone in the CBA is in Bakersfield for The Great 48 Jam, which is a wonderful way to kick off the New Year. Someone had to stay behind and mind the store, and that someone is me. Of course, having two days of studio recording as well as a gig to play might have something to do with me not being in the home town of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard these next few days. As a little tribute to the boys, I will be singing some of their songs on my gig.

 

“Down every road, there’s always one more city
I’m on the run, the highway is my home…”


Remembering Jim Carr. Most everyone has heard by now about the passing of Bay Area banjo player Jim Carr. If you hadn’t heard, read the Message Board thread here. Jim’s wife Linda also posted news about the memorial service. Here is what she wrote: “Jim Carr's Memorial service will be held on January 14th, at 2 p.m., at Christ Community Church, 5025 Manzanita Avenue, in Carmichael, CA. There will be a simple service, and then the plan is to open it up for a jam until 5 p.m. You know if Jim went to something like this, his favorite part of it would be the jamming. So please bring instruments and let's sing and play some really good songs in honor of him. Thanks.”

Little big man. Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens also went on to Gloryland last week, and here you can watch him sing his silly classic hit “Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait.” What a jacket he has on! Uh, and just what are “puny ways” anyway? You can also watch him sing another hit, “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” here. Do you think he could have found a bigger guitar to play? And hey, make sure you read Randog's CD review and tribute to Jimmy below.

Susanville Bluegrass to return! Contrary to earlier reports, Gene Bach has announced that the Susanville Bluegrass Festival will return in late June, on the 26th-28th. Read the Message Board announcement here.

Can banjos create world peace? Maybe. Check out this story from No Depression that talks about the all-female bluegrass band Della Mae’s trip to Pakistan. Man, if only Henry Kissinger had played the five-string back in the day…

Tribute to Utah Phillips. There will be a great show on the 14th at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley titled Utah Phillips Tribute: The Long Memory stories and music performed by (Utah’s son) Duncan Phillips and Erin Inglish, with special guests Misner & Smith, Joe Stevens, Ben Pearl, Larry Hanks & Deborah Robins, and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally.

Sir Paul who? There was a bit of a dustup recently on the Interwebs about the fact that some young music fans supposedly had to ask “Who’s the old geezer singing with Kanye West?” on New Year’s Eve. Turns out that it was a guy named Paul McCartney, who almost 50 years ago once sang with a band called The Beatles. Rolling Stone has since come up with a list titled 14 Reasons Every Teenager Should Know Who Paul McCartney Is. Hey, this is nothing new. In 1977 glam-rocker David Bowie appeared on the Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV special and sang a duet titled “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy.” At the time, Bowie said he did it only because “I just knew my mother liked him.” As for the old Bingster (who died five weeks later at age 74), one of the writers of “Peace On Earth” said that he “was not sure that Crosby knew who Bowie was,” and another followed with "I'm pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did." Watch the two guys singing here.

Honoring Emmylou. The silver-haired songstress Emmylou Harris is going to be honored during a tribute concert in Washington, DC, on the 10th. Here is a brief description from Rolling Stone: “Although she's been releasing her own records for nearly half a century, Emmylou Harris is perhaps best known as roots music's ultimate duet partner. The Red Dirt Girl has teamed up with everyone from Bob Dylan to Beck, making friends with multiple generations of folkies and country-rockers along the way. Now, with a follow-up to Old Yellow Moon, her Grammy-winning record with Rodney Crowell, reportedly in the works, Harris is being honored by many of her former collaborators.

Just for the heck of it. Who remembers this TV ad for Red Rose Tea from way back when? Man, this is a classic. Great players, too!

The King at 80. Thursday the 8th was the Man Who Would Still Be King’s (if he hadn’t expired on the porcelain throne in August of 1977 at age 42) 80th birthday, and NBC did this tribute to him. Widow Priscilla, who is a few months shy of 70, looks like she has had a bit of erstwhile son-in-law Michael Jackson-like work done on her face, as she is looking more and more like Morticia Addams these days. Did you ever wonder what Elvis and some other too-early-dead rock stars would look like today had they not overindulged in drugs and alcohol, died of cancer, been murdered by a crazed (is this adjective ever really necessary in this kind of situation?) gunman, or committed suicide? Well, just look here.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 10th, at 8 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Wanna pick some oudgrass? The betting here is that not many of you have ever heard of the oud, which is akin to a Middle Eastern lute. No doubt that Tunisia has its own form of indigenous music that might be related to bluegrass. Listen to a recent National Public Radio story here about the making of the oud, and while you are at it, check out Naseer Shamma, the David Grisman of the oud, here.

Best bluegrass hits of 2014? As stated in previous columns, we’re not a fan of end-of-year eye-catching Best Of anything lists. But this story in Bluegrass Today is worth reading, as the writer, Daniel Mullins, takes on Billboard’s method of choosing its best bluegrass songs, while Mullins then goes on to offer his own – and, in the opinion of the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters – more accurate list.

Tough way to make a living. Thinking about moving to Nashville to try and make it as a songwriter? After reading this article from the Tennessean about the collapse of the musical middle class there, you may want to opt for Plan B…

Leadership Class of ‘15. Speaking of Nashville, three Californians were selected to join the 2015 IBMA Leadership Bluegrass Class in Music City this winter. They are CBA Board Member Maria Nadauld, Bay Area picker Jacob Groopman, and Riverside’s Bree Tucker-Meyers. Read more about it on the NCBS website here. Yours truly was a Class of ’01 graduate.

Blue Grass Boy goes to Lake Wobegon. Tune in this Saturday the 10th to the NPR show A Prairie Home Companion to hear two fabulous Bay Area bands performing while the show is broadcast from the Nourse Theatre in San Francisco. You can hear The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band as well as the fabulous, up and coming T Sisters. Check your local listings for the time. In the Bay Area the show airs at 6 p.m. on KQED-FM (88.5) and then is replayed on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Born a ramblin’ man. Marin County bus driver/blues guitarist John Maxwell is featured in a profile by Paul Liberatore in today’s Marin Independent Journal.

Coming attractions. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will be appearing at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View, followed by The Keith Little Band on February 7th. Alan Munde & Bill Evans will be performing their only SF/Bay Area show at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito on the 21st at 7:30 p.m. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 10th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Happy Birthday, Curly Ray, and it will be a birthday celebration for Curly Ray Cline, with samples of his music with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers and Ralph Stanley as well as a few of his solo albums.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are two album reviews.

Randog's Daily Pick 1/5/2015
Paul Warren (with Lester Flatt & The Nashville Grass) America's Greatest Breakdown Fiddle Player
CMH LP 6237

From 1979, this album was compiled from tapes of concerts and broadcasts made for radio during Paul's tenure with Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass by Lance Leroy, legendary booking agent for the band and longtime aficionado of traditional fiddling. Although Paul recorded extensively with Johnny & Jack, for whom he worked – and also appears on Johnny Wright's wife Kitty Wells' early classic recordings as a consequence; with Flatt & Scruggs from 1954, when he traded jobs with Benny Martin, who went with
Johnny and Jack; and with Flatt's aggregation after the breakup of Flatt & Scruggs, he never made a studio recording of his fiddling, due to "employer restrictions." Luckily, Lance Leroy traveled with Flatt's band and recorded tunes featuring Paul Warren extensively at live performances and for radio shows for years, including the tunes included here: "Durham's Reel," "Indian Creek," "Katy Hill," "8th of January," "Twinkle Little Star," "Pretty Polly Ann," "Denver Belle," "Listen To The Mockingbird," "Stony Fork," "Liberty," "Leather Britches," "Sally Johnson," "Dusty Miller," "Hop Light Ladies," "New Five Cent," "Grey Eagle," "Sally Goodin'," "Tennessee Wagoner," "Hoedown In Hickman County," and a remarkable version of "Black Eyed Suzy" recorded at The Grand Ol' Opry that blew the roof off the Opry House. A disciple of the great Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, Paul has never received the acclaim his talent warranted, laboring largely in the shadows of his famous employers and more colorful members of their bands, but he was, as this album and the many Flatt & Scruggs, Lester Flatt, and Johnny & Jack recordings in which he participated attest, one of the best at what he did. And the videos of Flatt & Scruggs' Martha White TV shows feature him prominently as well. His son Johnny Warren, by the way, who plays in his dad's style, is featured in The Earls of Leicester. Paul's influence on Johnson Mountain Boys fiddler Eddie Stubbs has been profound as well, as anyone who listens to Eddie's broadcasts regularly can attest. The loving liner notes by Lance Leroy are impassioned and informative, too. Happy to have found this one...

Randog's Daily Pick 1/8/2015
Little Jimmy Dickens Straight...From the Heart 1949-55
Rounder LP Special Series 26/P20587 (1989)

Music City said goodbye to Jimmy Dickens on Thursday – he first appeared on the Grand Ol' Opry – and quickly became a cast member in 1948, when I was two years old, and after several years away, returned for good in the middle of the last century, and stayed until his recent death at the age of 94. He was elected to The Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, so he can fairly have the word “legend” affixed to his name. I'm 68, have listened to country music all my life, and Little Jimmy was always there; this will be quite an adjustment for a lot of people like myself. As one might expect from one so small – in his excellent notes, longtime WSM and Opry announcer Kyle Cantrell (a Sirius Satellite bluegrass host) refers to Jimmy as being four feet and one inch tall, and that is the measurement I heard for years, but the more commonly used number these days is four feet, eleven inches. Maybe he grew along with his legend...but as I was saying, Jimmy, as perhaps befits his diminutive stature, was known early in his career for his novelty hits. As the youngest of thirteen children born to a poor family of miners in West Virginia, he no doubt grabbed more than one old cold tater and waited and did his share of sleeping at the foot of the bed, even when there was no company. But Jimmy was much more than a declamatory singer of hot novelty items. He had quite a way with a ballad from the beginning, and it is these that the compilers of this collection have drawn from his Columbia output, though – probably because it was a substantial hit – my favorite of all his ballads, Felice Bryant's "We Could," is absent. To this day, if you go to a wedding in these parts, you're likely to hear that one. Jimmy was also well regarded as an innovative bandleader in the early days, was one of the first to feature twin lead guitars in his outfits, and this feature of his showmanship is much in evidence here, featuring guitarists such as Grady Martin, Jabbo Arrington, and Thumbs Carllile, as well as steel player Bud Isaacs. "Raisin' the Dickens," not included here, was the brainchild of yet another of Dickens' steelers, a youthful Buddy Emmons, and has become a country instrumental classic. Fiddlers include Dale Potter and Tommy Jackson, and Bob Moore is frequently on bass. This collection concentrates on Jimmy's ballad style, and the ballads are delivered here in a rich, powerful, emotive vocal style that might go far in explaining why he is so highly regarded by the old folks. Folks, come to think of it, like me. Occasionally, to be sure, the lyrics lean to the lachrymose. How could they not, with titles such as "Be Careful of the Stones That You Throw," "Bring Your Heart to Me," and "A Ribbon and a Rose," but, hey, this is COUNTRY music, not hip hop or disco or even "BroCountry." And Jimmy at his best could rock the joint as well. There is an excellent Bear Family collection of just such material that I heartily recommend, from their Gonna Shake This Shack series. Anyway, this Rounder album is well worth revisiting, in order to understand a facet of Jimmy’s self-deprecating description of himself being "Willie Nelson after taxes" that may be challenging to hipsters of The New Millennium and other Americanans of every stripe. "Sea of Broken Dreams," "I've Just Got to See You Once More," "A Rose From a Bride's Bouquet," "That Little Old Country Church House," "Teardrops (Fell Like Raindrops)," and more. And NOT, thankfully, including the weepy "Death in the Family." (Relax, it's not a REAL death, just Little Jimmy getting his walking papers in the form of a divorce). Eddie Stubbs, who reputedly did five hours on Jimmy's career on Thursday night on WSM, loves it. Rest in peace, Jimmy…you've earned it.

 

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Friday, January 2nd, 2015


A year of good luck ahead! There are many New Year’s superstitions and traditions, and with this Internet thing you can find out more than you ever need to know about them. Being an erstwhile journalist, some research was in order. Now, I am not a superstitious guy, but if I were, 2015 promises to be a banner year for me. Some of the top ten things to do when the New Year arrives are eating black-eyed peas, wearing a new shirt, having a full pantry, having money in your pocket, not spending any of that money, kissing your loved one at midnight, and going to a happy place. Amazingly so, all of these things apply to me over these past two days. I did, however, take out the trash – which is considered bad luck on NY Day – so I hope this does not negate any of the others...

Out with the old, in with the old. One other tradition that should be on this list is picking bluegrass with like-minded souls. New Year’s Eve was spent jamming with some auld acquaintances not soon forgot in Marin County until the wee hours. Then New Year’s Day was spent doing the same with many veterans of the Bay Area bluegrass scene at a house in Oakland. At one time there were five jams going on in a space of about 1,500 square feet, and in some ways I felt like I was at the IBMA convention in Raleigh. Now, if there is a better way to end one year and start another, I don’t what that is!

I hereby resolve… Here at Carltone World Headquarters our one steadfast resolution at the end of each year is to not make any resolutions. However, we’re about to break that rule. Prompted by the big welcoming banner at the top of the CBA main page yesterday – “Welcome to Two-Thousand and Fifteen” – we’d like to implore people to knock off this way of saying and writing the year, once and for all. The correct way to say it is “Twenty-Fifteen.” What, in the early 1900s, did people write and say “One-thousand, nine-hundred and fifteen” for the year 1915? Methinks not…

Life's railway to heaven. Longtime Bay Area banjo picker, bluegrass encyclopedia, teacher, CBA Board Member, and all around good guy Jim Carr died on the 30th. Go to the link above to read tributes while also adding your own. Donna Douglas, otherwise known to the world as Elly May Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies, died on New Year's Day in Louisiana at age 81. Country singer Little Jimmy Dickens -- okay, show of hands here, who knew he was still alive? -- died today at age 94. Some of his hits were "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" and Take An Old Cold Tater and Wait."

Two of the best. The Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray show will be happing at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on 2nd, and then on the 4th at the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. No Saturday night show, you may ask? Yes, there is one, but it is a sold-out house concert, so there is no use in telling you about it.

The church of bluegrass. There will be quite a show on Saturday the 3rd at the Chapel in SF’s Mission District starting at 8 p.m. with four bands: Windy Hill, The Grateful Bluegrass Boys, Rusty Stringfield and The Neckbeard Boys. “Start 2015 on the right foot with four of the finest local bluegrass bands the Bay Area has to offer. Get ready to dance until you drop at the Chapel, your new favorite venue in the city. With all these fine bluegrass musicians, you never know what you may encounter and who may end up on stage at what time. Come burn off some of those holiday calories while having a great time and catching some bands you know and some you are going to want to know more. Each band gets a full set and more details to come. This is a required show for all bluegrass fans!”

Bakersfield Bound. This is the title of one of the most listened to recordings here at Carltone. Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen put out this CD about 20 years ago, and it is one of the finest real country albums around. Another favorite is the more recent Bakersfield by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin. Both of which are big reminders that just about everyone in the CBA is headed to Bakersfield on the 8th for The Great 48 Jam, which is a wonderful way to kick off the New Year. The Bluegrass Police will be taking attendance and keeping track of the names of those that don't show up...

Family affair. The Tuttles with AJ Lee can and should be seen playing at the Freight on the 8th.

Just for the heck of it. Here is an ensemble called The Raleigh Ringers that would be an interesting booking at IBMA or at Grass Valley. Check out this video. Thanks to Linda Rust for this item.

Coming attractions. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will also be appearing at the Redwood Bluegrass Associatesshow in Mountain View. It will be Adkins and Loudermilkplaying A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 3rd from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled What’s Goin’ On, and it will feature musical previews of upcoming area shows, with music by, among others, Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick, The Tuttles with AJ Lee, Alan Munde & Bill Evans, Molly Tuttle & John Mailander, Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman, Keith Little Band, Adkins & Loudermilk, and the Claire Lynch Band.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a year-end top ten list, a look back at some that went on to Gloryland, some hope for the New Year, and two CD reviews to get you through the weekend.

OK, no fooling around. Here are ten (if I can think of that many) reasons to look forward to music in 2015, Country & Western division:

1. Trey Hensley with Rob Ickes
2. Flatt Lonesome
3. Brandy Clark
4. Val Storey & New Monday
5. Church Sisters
6. Shawn Camp – can never wait to see what he's going to do next
7. Helen Highwater
8. Doug Seegers
9. Chris Scruggs
10. Janet Miller

Hey, I got there!...and I didn't even mention #11, John Mailander & Molly Tuttle!

"We'll never see their likes again" department:

1. Lester Armistead
2. George Shuffler
3. James Alan Shelton
4. Jesse Winchester
5. Dawn Sears
6. And with a special nod to Regina Bartlett, who I hardly knew, but who was always nice to me and loved bluegrass music so much and got to jam all night before dying in her sleep at the IBMA in Raleigh.

Naturally, I am friends with, and a fan of, many other musicians who never fail to inspire and astound me when I see them, and I'm sure that will continue, but these are new or special performers for whom my enthusiasm continues in particular. And I'm really glad that Paul Williams and JD Crowe and Larry Sparks continue to make, uh, records, and that Claire Lynch seems to be hitting her stride, and that Alice Gerrard is going to the Grammys. For everybody I left out, I'll get to you eventually; this is completely off the top of my head, love you all, and Happy New Year!

Randog's Daily Pick 12/30/2014
National Champion Fiddling Dick Barrett The National Champ Fiddle 1971-72
Dart Recording Co. LP-Album #3

Found this in San Antonio recently, and it is quite a find! Dick Barrett is a legend in the rather small but intense world of contest fiddling, which since the 1950s has been best exemplified perhaps by the National Old-Time Fiddler's Contest in Weiser, Idaho, which when this album was made, Dick Barrett had won twice (1971 and 72), and went on to win twice more (1975-76). Although there are Weiser winners who have gone on to greater commercial success (Mark O'Connor, Byron Berline, Luke Bulla, and most recently, Kimber Ludiker, daughter of five-time champion Tony Ludiker), many winners are legends only in the tight knit world of contest fiddling, which, as it is practiced at Weiser, and not coincidentally, on this recording, is a highly structured, formal, and somewhat rigid form of traditional fiddle playing, though it possesses an undeniable, irresistible beauty all its own. Dick Barrett is one of those names, along with those of Tony Ludiker, Benny Thomasson, and yes, Byron Berline and Mark O'Connor, that are whispered around campfires wherever aficionados of the form gather. I've never been to Weiser – although my wife Chris tells me about her times there quite often (it's on my bucket list) – so I was very pleased to find this album; without it, I may never have heard Mr. Barrett, and it is topnotch. It is easy to see how Mr. Barrett achieved his legendary status. He applies his full, rich tone to such standards in the rather small repertoire of contest fiddling as "Apple Blossoms," "Fifty Year Ago Waltz," "Cumberland Gap," "Boil 'Em Cabbage Down," "Brilliancy," "Cotton Patch Rag," and six more here, backed by –I'm assuming— his children Christie on guitar, Brett, who looks to be about 10-years-old, on bass, and Chris Hazlewood, also on guitar. Wondering if anyone out there has any memories of Dick Barrett, Weiser, or contest fiddling in general they'd care to share?

Randog's Daily Pick 12/31/2014
JD Crowe and The New South Flashback
Rounder CD0322

At the recent James King benefit in Nashville, I got to talk to JD Crowe and Don Rigsby a little bit after their set – a rousing set of classic bluegrass trios with Ricky Wasson, along with Curt Chapman, who is also on this set, on bass. I said that I hadn't heard Don sing with JD since the band on this album played at the IBMA in Owensboro in the early '90s, when this album was new. "That was like a ghost band, wasn't it," I said, "0044 Revisited." "That was on purpose," JD said. "That's why we called it Flashback." Guitarist Richard Bennett does sound uncannily like Tony Rice here, both vocally and instrumentally, and Don Rigsby certainly comes from the same Sandy Hook, Kentucky, school of tenor singers as Ricky Skaggs, and Phil Leadbetter demonstrates his mastery of the dobro much as Jerry Douglas did on the classic Rounder 0044 recording. The late Randy Howard lends his inimitable sparkling fiddle to the mix as well. And Crowe, well, he's the master of what he does at all times, instrumentally and when he adds his baritone vocals to the mix. The songs and tunes include "Waiting For You," "I'll Just Pretend," "Ever Changing Woman," "Bouquet In Heaven," "Long Journey Home," "If I Could Go Back Again," "'Til My Dying Day," "Still Loves This Man," "Mr. Engineer," "Sledd Ride," and "When The Angels Carry Me Home." A good look – and listen –to what has become a classic sound in bluegrass.

 

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Friday, December 26, 2014


“And here's a hand, my trusty friend, and gie's a hand o' thine; we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Blue Christmas. Wow, that’s it already? It seems like Thanksgiving was just a few days ago. The Big Day seemed to come and go so fast this year here at Carltone World Headquarters. Maybe the daily doses of egg nog from the wet bar had something to do with this. Things are rather quiet around here now, as the staff is on furlough between the holidays, and as a result, this column is a bit lighter than usual on content. But it was quite the bluegrass Christmas in these parts, and the season ain’t over yet. On Christmas Eve there was a party to attend in the East Bay where – to the surprise of no one – guitars, fiddles, mandolins and more were broken out of their cases and merry music of the bluegrass and country variety ensued in various parts of the house. It was a fine gathering of great bluegrass pickers that even included a prominent two-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year winner. A jolly good time was had by all. Then yesterday my partner Claudia and I hosted our 18th annual Christmas dinner for a small group of good friends, and dang if the music thing didn’t happen again after the meal was over. To me, getting together with friends and playing music is what makes the holidays such a special time of year. And, the fun is hardly over with yet. Besides this coming weekend, there will be festive musical times on New Year’s Eve and Day. It has been – and will continue to be – a great blue(grass) Christmas season for me…

Out one year and in the other. Here at Carltone Inc. we’re counting down the months, weeks, days, hours and words until 2014 comes to an end this Wednesday evening, and everywhere else in the media you can find predictions for 2015, top ten lists of the best, worst, blah blah blah. You won't find any of that blarney spoken here. There is, however, some good music happening this between-the-holidays weekend, so stash the gifts, trash the wrapping, and beat the rush by getting out and having some pre-New Year’s fun!

Bluegrass friends in time of need. In the spirit of giving over the holidays, if you still have something to give, there are two members of the bluegrass community that can use your help in the form of financial contributions. The first one is James King, who Randy Pitts wrote about on the 17th -- if memory serves me well -- in a recent CBA Welcome Column. His work warrants republishing, and here it is:

Thoughts, sounds, and memories of the benefit for James King held at The Nashville Palace on Monday the 15th continue to swirl around in my mind this morning, two days later. James' musical peers in the music community came together in support of a comrade in need – as they always do in these instances – and that was a heartening thing to see, particularly at this time of year, when the spirit of giving is supposed to prevail. The lineup at the benefit would easily rival that of some of the better summer festivals I've attended over the years, featuring acts of the stature of JD Crowe with Don Rigsby and Ricky Wasson, Doyle Lawson's crack band, The Grascals, and Marty Raybon, along with several other wonderful acts. It was a good crowd, given that the benefit took place on a rainy Monday night as the holidays loom, a time when many people are consumed with shopping for friends and family and preparing for the busy season ahead. I saw lots of old friends and acquaintances from the bluegrass community in the audience, plus a lot of familiar faces of people I don't know personally but that I know as members of this ever growing but still small and remarkably tight knit community. No doubt as many people from that community as could make it did so. The truth of the matter is, sadly, that it is probably too small for the sort of challenge facing James, who in the best of times has never been a top tier musical star, even in our relatively small world, though his talent warrants that kind of stature and recognition. James has never been more than a road musician, struggling at times to hold a band together. This time last year, I dared to think that James might be poised on the brink of a major breakthrough; he'd recorded a wonderful, unique, Grammy-nominated album, his first album of new music in eight or so years, and there was a significant amount of chatter about it, inside and even outside the world of bluegrass. I had hopes that a lot of people – not just me, my friends and family and discerning musicians, industry insiders and fans of the old-school, Stanley Carter and Jimmy Martin influenced vocals of which James is the master – were going to hear him, and that things were going to get a lot better for James. The album, conceived by perhaps James' biggest booster, Rounder Records founder Ken Irwin, was, aptly enough, called Three Chords and The Truth. I'm on record about my feelings regarding James' talent in general and this album in particular, capturing as it does James' ability to take a well-fashioned lyric and sing it in a way that just takes a listener's heart and flings it over yonder, embodying, for me at least, the reasons that I've learned to love the old stuff so much. What a difference a year makes. The wheels fell off for James last summer in a big way, and now he is in dire straits financially, is in desperate shape health-wise, and is facing a bleak future. He needs our help, financially, for sure, and lots of people are doing lots of things to help James financially...but at a time when the spirit of giving is upon us, I find myself pondering how it must feel to be in James' shoes this year as the holidays approach. I can't, of course...no one who hasn't been there can, but it has to be a lonely feeling for a man who has stood on stages all around the US and given everything he has time after time until he is emotionally spent – if you've seen James in performance you know what I mean, and if you don't, go buy his recordings, you'll understand. There aren't many left like James, and I feel inadequate to the task of saying what his music has meant to me, and I doubt that I'm alone in that. But I bet he'd like to hear us try…

Donations can be sent to:

James King Medical Fund
c/o Deonia Jones
Wells Fargo
201 Jefferson St.
Roanoke, VA 24011

And do yourself AND James a favor...go buy all the James King albums you can, and give them to yourself, your family, and friends. You'll be glad you did.

The second person in need is from CA. Back in August we told you about Chico area bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich. He was diagnosed with a life-threatening chronic lung disease after chest CT scans and lung function tests came back showing severe breathing problems. His lung disease is far advanced, and he now requires being connected to a portable cylinder or large home oxygen concentrator 24/7. The good news is that he is on waiting list for a lung transplant, and a special fund has been set up to help pay for the operation. Go to this link here to watch a video of Dick and his wife Marci talk about his situation. So far they are about halfway to their goal, so if you want to help out during this holiday season, you still can! Because of his lung disease it’s been harder and harder for Richard to go to festivals, and it is impossible to camp out. So he has disappeared from Grass Valley and any Bay Area pickin' sessions. As for his bluegrass background, after moving from Indiana to Arizona, he had a bluegrass band in Phoenix called The Normal Brothers from 1973-77. They played full-time, 6-7 nights a week, and that's how he made his living. In the early ‘80s he played some gigs with Lonesome Road in Phoenix with Randy Graham, Richard Brown, and Roger Bush. Beginning in 1999-2000 the band was called Long Lonesome Road to differentiate them from several other Lonesome Roads. In 2002 LLR played dates in Northern CA with Richard, David Parmley, Randy Graham, Roger Bush, and Richard Brown, while adding Ron Stewart on fiddle. The last tour in 2005 was the ultimate Long Lonesome Road pickup band: Bobby Hicks on fiddle, Ron Stewart on banjo, Laurie Lewis on bass, Randy Graham on mandolin, and David Parmley and Richard Wodrich on guitars. They did seven one-nighters, beginning in SF and ending in Seattle. You can watch a video of them playing “Fiddle Patch” here.

Life’s railway to heaven. The world of rock and roll said goodbye to the legendary Joe Cocker earlier this week, when he died of lung cancer in Colorado. Love or hate his voice, he was one amazing singer and performer who, like the rest of us, got by with a little help from his friends. He was 70. Renowned Nashville finger-picking studio guitarist and producer Chip Young, who played on countless recordings (including Dolly Parton’s hit “Jolene”), died at age 76. Two weeks back we saw the passing of longtime Nashville singer Dawn Sears. Check out the memorial tribute to her here.

All-star jam. Got some time on your hands? Then kick back and watch this Peter Rowan-led all-star jam from the 1998 Winterhawk Festival featuring Tim O'Brien, Sam Bush, Darol Anger, Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum, David Grier, Mark Schatz, Bill Keith, Mike Munford, John Cowan, Tony Trischka, Ira Gitlin, and others.

Just for the heck of it. Reno & Smiley singing “Talk of the Town" from 1957.

Are you experienced? The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at the CBA Father’s Day Fest in 2015, will be doing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on the 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st.

Tidings of joy. The San Francisco bluegrass band Dark Hollow will be ripping it up at the Riptide Lounge, located at 40th and Taraval near Ocean Beach in SF, on the 27th from 9-midnight.

More for the heck of it. Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen singing the Pete Seeger classic “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Coming attractions. The Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray show will be at the Freight on January 2nd, and you can also see The Tuttles with AJ Lee there on January 8th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will appear at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 27th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Turn Up Your Radio (Your Neighbors Might Enjoy It Too, which will be a memorial tribute to Ray Davis with a survey of his Wango Records releases: informal and powerful music from the Stanley Brothers, Paisley/Lundy clan, Don Reno, Warrior River Boys, Gillis Brothers, James King, many others.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. He is on an all-expenses-paid, well-earned vacation this week, and he suggests that you take a few minutes and watch this video of the 1956 Tom and Jerry cartoon with the song “Crambone”, amazingly arranged and performed by Sons of the Pioneers singer Shug Fisher

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Friday, December 19, 2014


“Ring-a-ling, hear them ring, soon it will be Christmas Day.” It is indeed Christmas time in the city. At least, here around Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. It is a festive time of year, as people scurry about with lists that they are checking twice, bags full of wrapped gifts, and umbrellas. It has been a wet week, but few are complaining about such. After today it is supposed to be sunny through the Big Day, so here’s hoping your days are merry and dry for the next week or so. Happy holidaze, and a cool yule to all!

Hack job. The blogosphere is agog (and justifiably so) over the cancellation of the release of the new comic film The Interview due to an alleged North Korean cyber-attack. Apparently the hackers got into Sony’s network and have since created havoc. At the same time, MOLD Man has not been able to post his column here for most of the past two weeks due to technical problems. Coincidence? Possibly. However, there are rumors that MM has also been hitting the egg nog a bit too frequently since Thanksgiving. With any luck, he will be back in this space by Monday…

Love/hate Christmas songs. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but not everyone likes the same kind of music over the holidays. The SF Chronicle is running a contest for the worst Christmas song ever, and you can take a look here. Earlier this week a thread was started on the CBA Message Board, asking for favorites. This is an easy one for your Friday MOLD columnist. For 31 years I played alongside Dr. Elmo, the man that sings “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and you can watch the video here. Look closely at the young redheaded dude. And, you can’t go wrong with Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers singing "That White Christmas Song".

Reindeer games. As famous as the "Reindeer" song is, most people also assume that Elmo wrote it. Turns out that a singer/songwriter named Randy Brooks -- who lives in Dallas but is originally from Louisville, KY --is the author, and he is, as you might imagine from the lyrics of "Grandma," a pretty funny guy. You can read his story about how he came to write the tune here. While you are at it, read this recent piece by humorist Roy Blount, Jr., about one of Randy/Elmo's lesser known songs, "Percy the Puny Poinsettia."

Beautiful star. The Bay Area’s Nell Robinson has one of the prettiest voices around (and she is also one of the sweetest people you will ever meet), and you can listen to her rendition of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” right here.

Man of the streets. We’ve mentioned him before, and we’re about to do it again. Our Nashville correspondent Randy Pitts has been touting singer/songwriter and erstwhile homeless guitarist Doug Seegers for the past few months, and his story is quite incredible. Heck, he has lived the life of a country hit song! Read this latest piece about him from the Bitter Southerner web site.

Out with the old… The New Year is less than two weeks away, and if you haven’t gotten your 2015 calendar yet, check out the
Accordion Babes and Classic Blues Artwork editions on the Down Home Music web site. Or, better yet, you can’t but love the Banjo Babes.

Never too old to rock and roll. Former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant was in the news some weeks back because a rumor was going around on the Interwebs saying that he had turned down $800 million to reform the band. Old Bob simply doesn’t want to be stuck in the ‘70s or the ‘80s. Read an interview with him in Salon.

Just for the heck of it. The other day Randy Pitts posted this YouTube of Red Allen, Don Stover, Frank Wakefield, Kenny Kosek, and Kevin Smyth performing the Hank Williams song “When My Sweet Love Ain’t Around.” Great stuff!

Life’s railway to heaven. Joe Carr, a Texas bluegrass picker and teacher as well as a one-time member of the Country Gazette, died on the 14th after suffering a stroke. He was only 63. Read about him in Bluegrass Today. Rock Scully, a longtime manager for the Grateful Dead back in the early years, died this week from lung cancer. He was 73. He managed the Dead from 1965-85, and wrote a book about his experiences called Living With the Dead. Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame member Larry Henley died at age 77 after a long illness. He was the lead singer of The Newbeats back in the day, who's pop hit was “Bread and Butter.” He also co-wrote “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Til I Get It Right” and many other songs.

Coming attractions. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at the CBA Father’s Day Fest in 2015, will be doing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st. The Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray show will be there on January 2nd, and you can also see The Tuttles with AJ Lee there on January 8th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will appear at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 20th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Christmas Is Near, featuring songs and tunes of the season.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here is a DVD and CD review.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/15/2014
The Time Jumpers Jumpin' Time
Crosswinds DVD TTJ-1

From 2006, this DVD by The Time Jumpers, also available as a CD, was recorded at The Station Inn in Nashville at a not atypical gig there for the band, where they held sway every Monday night for 13 years, eventually becoming the hottest ticket in Music City. In retrospect, it is amazing that it took that long for the band to outgrow the venue, eventually forcing them to move to the larger 3rd & Lindsley. Begun more or less as a pick-up gig for some of the most talented musicians in Nashville, more for fun than profit, offering an opportunity for the band to play the music they enjoyed most, the emphasis in the band's repertoire has always been Western swing, and no band in the world currently played – or plays – it better. The band on the night this was recorded included Dennis Crouch on bass, Ranger Doug Green on rhythm guitar and vocals, Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, the late (and magnificent) John Hughey on steel guitar, the since-departed (to run her own Western swing band) Carolyn Martin on lead and harmony vocals, Andy Reiss on electric lead guitar, Kenny Sears on fiddle and vocals, Joe Spivey on fiddle and harmony vocals, Jeff Taylor on accordion, Rick Vanaugh on drums, and the reason I'm writing this today, the great Dawn Sears on lead and harmony vocals. Dawn passed away last week, after a tough and very public fight with lung cancer. She appeared as often with the band as she could, and her reputation grew as her life drew to a close. It seems so unfair that so many people never got to see or hear her at her peak, in full cry, wringing every bit of emotion out of every song she turned her hand – and voice – to. But this live DVD is left behind...and she is featured on six of her favorites here, comfortably seated on a stool, functioning as a part of a larger ensemble, obviously enjoying herself immensely. "Write Myself a Letter," "Leavin' and Sayin' Goodbye," (the song's author, Jeannie Seely, can be seen applauding dawn's rendition wildly from the audience) "Smile," “Bonaparte's Retreat," "All Of Me," and the show stopping "Sweet Memories," a Mickey Newbury song from the ‘70s that emitted gasps of awe and disbelief from the audience every time I ever saw her perform it. John Hughey's steel break on this helps make it a classic. There are 26 songs and tunes here, including perennial swing classics like "Honeysuckle Rose," and "It's All Your Fault," "My Window Faces the South," and "Blues for Dixie," sung by the quite wonderful Carolyn Martin, "Sugar Moon," with a vocal by Dawn's husband, ace fiddler Kenny Sears, and Ranger Doug's rendition of "Along The Navajo Trail." And especially John Hughey's instrumental "My Weakness is Too Strong," which sort of defines what made his artistry on the instrument so special. A moment in time, caught for posterity, and aren't we lucky it was...

Randog's Daily Pick 12/18/2014
The Kentucky Colonels (with Roland and Clarence White) 12 Great Instrumentals
Appalachian Swing!-Rounder Records SS31

There's a Facebook discussion going on even as I type this regarding Clarence White's greatness and influence and the relative lack of recognition he receives these days by one of his biggest fans and apostles, Scott Nygaard. I was going to mention this album anyway, today, but now I'm really fired up. This album came out originally in 1964 on World Pacific Records, and as Roland says in the Rounder liner notes from 1993, “Every time I go and play music, somebody asks me about this album.” And with good reason; the album represents the first full flowering of bluegrass developed on the West Coast, it presents a band that has become legend in the history of the music – though they are, inexplicably still not a member band of The IBMA Hall of Fame – and it is perhaps the best place to hear undoubtedly the man who almost singlehandedly turned the acoustic guitar into a lead instrument in bluegrass, the legendary Clarence White, although the ensemble work and playing of all the individuals here is first rate and unusually sympathetic. As Roland says in the 1993 liner notes, "We weren't trying to break any records or any new frontiers, we just played music, just good music, music we liked...what we heard and what we learned from other people, we just interpreted in our own way. We were just doing what we liked to do, the best way we knew how." And Roland and Clarence White did that, and so much more, along with Billy Ray Lathum, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone, and Leroy Mack. Tunes (this is an all instrumental album) are "Clinch Mountain Backstep," " Nine Pound Hammer," “Listen To The Mockingbird," "Wild Bill Jones," "Billy in the Lowground," "Lee Highway Blues," "I Am a Pilgrim," "The Prisoner's Song," "Sally Goodin," "Faded Love," "John Henry, and "Flat Fork." Fans of Roland, Clarence, The Kentucky Colonels, guitar flatpicking or bluegrass should check out Roland White's web site

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Friday, December 12, 2014


Joy to the world. It has been a veritable (at least, West Coast version) winter wonderland in Northern CA these past two days. Rain has been raining for over 24 hours outside the cabin window here at Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco, and if we were located back east, there would be over a foot of snow on the ground. Yesterday’s massive storm lived up to most of its hype by the weather guessers, and for the most part, everyone (well, save for maybe those still without power, those who tried to drive through huge puddles of water and never got out, or others with trees sitting across their roofs)(how come it is not “rooves,” like in hoof and hooves?) is happy to let it continue to fall. Especially kids that had the day off from school. Two years of draught have taken its toll, and with any luck the reservoirs are being replenished while the snowpack is being added to up in the Sierras. As Dean Martin once sang, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…”

Strawberry to return to Grass Valley. The word is officially out. The Strawberry Music Festival will return to the Nevada County Fairgrounds over Memorial Day Weekend in 2015. As you may recall, a fire near Camp Mather in 2013 forced the cancellation of the Labor Day Weekend festival up there, and this year the fest was moved to Grass Valley in early-September. They will be returning to the fairgrounds May 21st-24th, with no word yet on whether or not there will be another fall fest. You can read the official announcement from November 26th here. Yesterday Strawberry posted a follow-up, talking about their unlikely return to Camp Mather, and you can read that post here.

Life's railway to heaven. Dawn Sears, the incredible Nashville singer who was part of the Time Jumpers and also sang in Vince Gill's band, died on the 11th from lung cancer at age 53. You can read her obit here, and you should watch her singing her signature song " Sweet Memories" and her rendition of " If You're Gonna Do Me Wrong, Do It Right."

The gift that keeps on giving. Still making out your list and checking it twice? Here at Carltone World Headquarters we always recommend giving the gift of music, such as CDs, books, concert tickets, or even a membership to the CBA.

Hot time in Mill Valley. Hot Rize is back together and on tour with their first new album in 24 years, with Bryan Sutton – who just last week received a Grammy nomination for his Into My Own solo recording – taking the place of the late Charles Sawtelle on guitar. Original members Tim O’Brien, Nick Forster and Pete Wernick are still in the band, and they will be playing a show on the 12th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. This will be a wonderful chance to see them up close and personal. I saw them at the Strawberry back in September, and they sounded better than ever. Go here for ticket information. They will also be at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico on the 13th and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 14th.

Two for the road. Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley are out here too. See them in Culver City on the 12th, in Del Mar on the 13th, and in Sonora on the 14th. Watch them here playing “Friend of the Devil.” Their new CD is called Before the Sun Goes Down.

“Silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city.” Here is a great music buy for lovers of the Dobro: Three Bells, by the aforementioned Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas and the late Mike Auldridge. Read or listen to an NPR interview with Rob and Jerry here. And speaking of Auldridge, have a look at this tribute to him, with a very young Jerry to the right…

Dueling banjos. No, not that version. We’re talking the contemporary edition, written and performed by the cutest (and possibly only) banjo couple on the planet, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Check it out here.

Stop smoking now! If you think smoking cigarettes is cool, and that you will quit a few years down the road, just listen to this interview with Joni Mitchell (or any Dave Alvin interview) to see what the cancer sticks can and will do your voice. Remember that beautiful high range she had back in the ‘70s? Well, now that she is in her 70s, that range is long gone, mostly due to 50+ years of smoking. Truly sad…

Here’s to the fiddle that plays the tune. In case you missed it, there was a real nice segment about the making of violins in Cremona, Italy, on the CBS show 60 Minutes last weekend that you can watch here.

Just for the heck of it. Here are Doc and Merle Watson, along with T. Michael Coleman on bass, playing “Rangement Blues.” Thanks to Megan Lynch for sending this along via her mother Maria Nadauld.

“It’s 1-2-3, what are we fighting for?” Ever wonder what the Top Ten Protest Songs were? Well, wonder no more. Here is a list from Rolling Stone.

 

Christmas at the Oasis. Mill Valley’s Maria Muldaur is reuniting with her favorite Bay Area jazz musicians for two evenings of what they like to call Xmas Tunes for Hipsters. There will be no sappy, overdone, pedestrian Christmas tunes here, folks! Only her special collection of hip, swingin' rare gems in the blues and jazz idioms. Get your holiday groove on with some upbeat music that will lift your spirits and chase that Grinch away! On Sunday the 14th, see her at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley starting at 8 p.m. And on Saturday the 20th she will be at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, also at 8 p.m.

Dead men do tell tales. Fans of the Grateful Dead, take note. Two longtime Deadheads have new books out. Richard Loren, who once managed the band, chronicles the epic tour to Egypt in 1978 in High Notes. And Dead historian and publicist Dennis McNally’s new book – which is not about the Dead – is titled On Highway 61: Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom.

More good reads. It is getting close to that time of year for “best lists,” and the NY Times is already out with their recommendations for notable books of the year. Take a look here.

Bluegrass Buddha. Last week there was mention in this space about The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan documentary that made its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last year. This is a wonderful film that documents the musical and spiritual life of Peter Rowan, the former Blue Grass Boy who also played at the CBA Father's Day Festival in Grass Valley in 2014. There was supposed to be a special showing of the film on the 11th at Down Home Music in El Cerrito, but that was postponed due to yesterday’s massive storm. You can, however, see him play tonight at The Freight. If you cannot make the show, there is a great deal being offered by South 40 Films for the holidays whereby you can purchase your own copy of The Tao and get Peter’s latest CD Dharma Blues for just $35. Talk about great stocking stuffers! For more info on this deal, click here.

With friends like these… The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On the 13th at 8 p.m. see Kevin Russell & His So-Called Friends, a group that plays an eclectic blend of acoustic music that includes elements of blues, swing jazz, folk, country, bluegrass and even a little acoustic rock. Their music is rooted in these genres but with a modern sensibility. Using the typical bluegrass instrumentation of mandolin, Dobro, guitar, string bass and 5-string banjo they are as likely to do an Irving Berlin swing song from the 40's, or an old Ray Charles R&B tune, as a hard driving Bill Monroe bluegrass number, or a classic Jimmie Rogers country song. In addition to creating lively new versions of old songs, the band also features engaging original compositions. The band is Kevin Russell on guitar, resonator guitar, banjo, Markie Sanders on bass, Cori Wood on vocals, Ray Bierl on fiddle and guitar, and sometimes Layne Bowen on mandolin. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Festing near Santa Cruz. The Costanoa Winterfest is happening in Pescadero (north of Santa Cruz) on Saturday the 13th, with bands such as the Naked Bootleggers, Bluegrass Roundup, the Brookdale Bluegrass Band, and the Rainy Day Ramblers.

 

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas. Buffy Ford Stewart will be performing her Christmas show on Sunday the 14th at the West End Theatre in San Rafael starting at 7 p.m. She has an all-star band consisting of Craig Caffall on lead guitar, Dana Rath on mandolin, Paul Olguin on bass, Rebecca Roudman on cello, Gary Kaye on banjo, Mark Stanley on guitar, and Claudia Hampe on background vocals. Special guest Rusty Evans will also appear.


Coming attractions. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at the CBA Father’s Day Fest in 2015, will be doing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st. The Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray show will be there on January 2nd, and you can also see The Tuttles with AJ Lee there on January 8th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will appear at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 13th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Color of the Blues, featuring bluegrass versions of George Jones songs.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are two commentaries along with a review of a 45 RPM and a CD and to get you through the weekend.

12/6/14 I witnessed the most amazing feat last Saturday night at the – I think – 18th Annual Bill Monroe Appreciation Night at The Station Inn. During his band's set, host Roland White left the stage during the twin fiddling on “Tallahassee,” went into the foyer to get a calendar so he could announce the date of Nashville Bluegrass Band's annual holiday country ham giveaway show, as it turned out – and arrived back on stage at exactly the right moment, to the split second, to launch into his mandolin break. A good time was had by all, from the Vicky Vaughn Band (Casey Campbell is more of a hoss on mandolin every time we see him) to Scott Shipley & The Model Prisoners (favorite band name of 2014), which included some real legends – Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, Dale Reno, Robert Bowlin and John Pennell (Union Station was his band; the band that launched Alison Krauss), and Pat Enright and Larry Stephenson, among others, made guest appearances. We had to leave after Donna Ulisse's band played a few numbers, and we didn't get to hear my buddy Wil (The Cobden Songbird). But we did get to chat a little. See ya next year, and thank again Roland, for keeping the flame a burnin'.

12/8/2014 Earlier this week I listened to the Panhandle Country radio show for December 7, 2014, on KPFA, 94.1, in Berkeley, CA. For those of you that don't already do it, the most recent show would be a good place to begin making host Tom Diamant's excellent show a listening habit. It's only archived for two weeks (you can listen here), so get on the stick. Tom always plays a great mix of the music I like best. I've been listening to him since the late '70s, I guess, or whenever he started. He alternates every two weeks with Ray Edlund's excellent Pig in a Pen program. While Ray plays mostly bluegrass and/or old-time string band music, Tom plays a variety that includes country music from all eras (including the current stuff, if you can believe that – but sparingly – it better be good), including lots of bluegrass, but also the best of Western swing, Cajun music, country blues, Norteno and other traditional Mexican music, and the best of the new releases. Tom is quite knowledgeable about the music he presents, and as one-half of Kaleidoscope Records, he brought The David Grisman Quintet to the attention of the listening public – the original one – and also produced albums by Kate Wolf, Jethro Burns, Tiny Moore, the (groundbreaking) Good Ol’ Persons, and The Bob Wills Tiffany Transcriptions, among many other artists. So he knows his stuff. The show on the 7th (I sometimes listen live, but I watched a basketball game late Sunday afternoon) – just struck me as a particularly good and representative show. He presented David Thom and Avram Frankel live (as the duo Maverick), as well as a taped interview with members of Hot Rize pursuant to their recent album release, “Huckleberry Hornpipe” by Byron Berline from an old Country Gazette album of yore – which also features some jaw dropping vintage Clarence White – Michael Cleveland tearing up the old “OBS,” and, of course, my friends Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes, highlighting their current West Coast tour. And Mary Tilson's America's Back 40 show makes for an excellent lead-in to both Tom and Ray's shows. I'll be saying nice things about Ray and Mary in the days, weeks, months and years ahead...

Randog's Fabulous Finds 12/9/2014
Ellis and Bill – The Green Mountain Boys 45 RPM of My Little Home in West Virginia backed with Sleepy Eyed Joe
RCA Victor 457-4905

I have no idea where I bought this or even why, but I'm sure glad I did. According to Dick Spottswood's notes for Raw Fiddle, a wonderful anthology on Rounder, "My Little Home in West Virginia" was the much loved theme song for a legendary ‘50s country deejay, Lee Moore, "The Coffee Drinking Nighthawk" – he evidently played it through every night at the beginning of his overnight show, which might account for its appearance on 45 rpm – a rare old-time country fiddle tune to be found in this format. It is a sprightly, infectious fiddle tune of the kind that had long since lost favor with major labels in Nashville by the 1950s, but it and its flipside are really nice. Again, according to Spottswood, the fiddler, Ellis Hall, was a glassblower from Morganton, WV, who recorded only four sides, and Spottswood says he had a real gift for original melodies, which is evident in these two tunes. About Bill Addis on guitar, Mr. Spottswood has nothing to impart. Charles Grean, listed on bass, is a name familiar to those who collect country music from the ‘50s. He recorded with Chet Atkins, Homer & Jethro, et al, on their classic Stringdusters album, for instance. I'm pretty sure this is a rare item, if for no other reason than that I can't find it listed anywhere. And it's really good. The two CD Raw Fiddle album on Rounder is quite amazing as well.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/10/2014
Joe Maphis Country Guitar Goes to The Jimmy Dean Show
Starday LP 373

From 1966, this album sort of marks the occasion of a six-week run on the then very important nationally televised Jimmy Dean TV Show, a very big deal in some circles, evidently including the Starday promotion department. Despite the cover photo, which shows Joe playing his signature custom built two-neck Mosrite electric guitar, and despite the assertion in the liner notes that Joe "always" performs on said guitar, unless my ears deceive me, he is mostly playing an acoustic guitar on this collection of mostly country instrumental standards, and he plays them fare-thee-well, though there is electric rhythm guitar and drums. There is also some fiddle accompaniment. Joe, who was born in Virginia but gained maximum fame and exposure in Southern California, was an early flatpicking fiend, and in fact was one of the first to transpose fiddle tunes to guitar, something he found handy in playing for dances back home. Best known now for his flash, speed, and mentoring of young Larry Collins of the Collins Kids on his patented Mosrite double-necked rig, and for playing on early records of Rick Nelson and Wanda Jackson and other rockabilly stars, Joe was also steeped in the early string-band music of his youth, as he proves here. He also backed his wife Rose Lee on her solo recordings, sometimes playing banjo, mandolin, and fiddle in addition to guitar. Rose, by the way, in her 90s, lives in Nashville, volunteers at The Country Music Hall Of Fame, and, as she proved at a concert during the opening of The Bakersfield Exhibit there, still possesses the strong right arm one develops when playing rhythm guitar with a guitarist like her husband. Tunes here include "Dixie Guitar," "Bonaparte's Guitar," – really “Retreat” – "Wildwood Flower," "Window Up Above," "Columbus Stockade," "Y'all Come," "Cannonball Guitar" – really “Rag” – "Bury Me Beneath the Willow," "Tennessee Guitar Polka," "Seasons of My Heart," "Maybelle," and "Under the Double Eagle." The 34-page instructional booklet mentioned on the jacket wasn't with my thrift shop copy.

 

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Friday, December 5, 2014


A year and a day. That is how long it has been since I returned to this space after a three year hiatus. From November of 2007 until December of 2010 I was writer of the Almost Daily News column, punching out the latest bluegrass news three times a week. Since retiring from the task I had been keeping a pretty low profile in Marin County while occasionally sending news items to the mysterious MOLD Man. As a result of those mailings, MM invited me to submit one item each week that he would incorporate into the MOLD column, which I first did on December 4th, 2013. I continued doing such for a couple of months, and all was going well. Until MOLD Man got caught up in some murky international intrigue after spending some weeks at his time share in Lithuania. He said some things that the powers-that-be over there didn’t like, and he then spent three months in a holding cell, before being so annoying that he was just booted out of the country. While he was gone I filled in for him three days a week here – ably abetted by contributions from Randy Pitts in Nashville – and by mid-May I was more than happy to hand back his trusty old Olivetti to him once he returned. But his time being interrogated apparently took its toll on him. He was worn out, and he pleaded with me to not just submit an item once a week, but to contribute an entire column. Which is what I have been doing now on Fridays ever since May. I guess the moral here is to steer clear of MOLD Man any time he asks for a favor. He is pretty dang convincing. Oh, and maybe those compromising photos he has of me have something to do with it...

Grammy noms. The Grammy nominations for 2015 were announced today, and here are the recordings and bands in the Best Bluegrass Album category:

The Earls of Leicester The Earls of Leicester
Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe Noam Pikelny
Cold Spell Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Into My Own Bryan Sutton
Only Me Rhonda Vincent

End of the road. News has arrived from fine fest promoters Larry and Sondra Baker that they are retiring their Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills and Bluegrassin’ in the Park festivals after 12 years. This is sad news for bluegrass fans everywhere, as this tireless couple sure put on some great festivals. You can read the official announcement as well as some discussion about the fests right here on the CBA Message Board.

Hot time in Mill Valley. Hot Rize is back together and on tour with their first new album in 24 years, with Bryan Sutton -- who just today received a Grammy nomination for his Into My Own solo recording -- taking the place of the late Charles Sawtelle on guitar. Original members Tim O’Brien, Nick Forster and Pete Wernick are still there, and they will be playing a show on Friday the 12th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. This will be a wonderful chance to see them up close and personal. I saw them at the Strawberry Music Festival back in September, and they sound better than ever. Go here for ticket information.

New epidemic making the rounds! Forget about Ebola and ISIS. Here is something that you will have to be on the lookout for in your own living room. Fortunately, a cure has been found by the CDC...

Just for the heck of it. Check out this video of Pikelny, Sutton, Bulla, Bales, and Cobb singing "Born to Be With You." Thanks to Maria Nadauld for sending this along.

"People make art to deal with the gnarliest, most painful events." So says singer/songwriter Gillian Welch in this recent story on Salon.com.

Life’s railway to heaven. Man, this sure wasn’t any week to be jolly, as way too many music folks went on to that big jam up in the sky. Five-time national fiddle champion Tony Ludiker, from Spokane, WA, died on Tuesday following a lengthy battle with kidney cancer. He was 52. His death was announced by his daughter, Kimber, a founding member of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band Della Mae. Rocker Ian McLagan, who played playing keyboards with Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Faces, died at age 69 from complications from a stroke suffered earlier this week. In 2012 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Texas saxophone player Bobby Keys, who played for 45 years with The Rolling Stones, died at age 70. Longtime Washington, DC, area bluegrass deejay Ray Davis died on the 3rd after a bout with cancer. He was 81. And Nashville’s Bob Montgomery, who made major contributions as a songwriter, record producer, music publisher and label executive, died at age 77.

The Beatles on vacation. Some new photos have surfaced showing the young, pre-world-famous Beatles while they were on vacation. Take a look here.

A Webb of influence. Jimmy Webb, writer of classic hits such as “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” has been writing songs for over 50 years. You can read a recent interview with him here.

Going solo. Warning to all bluegrass pickers and other musicians! While performing on stage, you might want to stay out of the way of any onstage cannons, or else you might experience what this unfortunate Dutch rocker did recently…

Two for the road. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley are out this way, and you can see them play a house concert in Folsom on the 5th, the Redwood Bluegrass show in Los Altos on the 6th, at Trinity Methodist Church in Chico on the 7th, and at Don Quixote’s in Felton on the 8th.

Smokin’ new duo. Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley are headed this way too. See them in Little River on the 7th, on the 8th in Cloverdale, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. Watch them here playing “Friend of the Devil.” Also, read Randog’s review below of their new CD.

Bluegrass Buddha. The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan is a documentary that made its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last year. This is a wonderful film that documents the musical and spiritual life of Peter Rowan, the former Blue Grass Boy who also played at the CBA Father's Day Festival in Grass Valley in 2014. There will be a special showing of the film on the 11th at 7:30 p.m. at Down Home Music in El Cerrito that will also have Rowan on hand to talk about the documentary. Admission is only $5. If you cannot make the screening, there is a great deal being offered by South 40 Films for the holidays whereby you can purchase your own copy of The Tao and get Peter’s latest CD Dharma Blues for just $35. Talk about great stocking stuffers! For more info on this deal, and about the film screening, click here.

Coming attractions. The Costanoa Winterfest will be happening in Pescadero (north of Santa Cruz) on December 13th, with bands such as the Naked Bootleggers, Bluegrass Roundup, the Brookdale Bluegrass Band, and the Rainy Day Ramblers. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at Father’s Day in 2015, will be playing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 6th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Across the Tracks, and it will feature new releases and reissues.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are two of his latest offerings.

Randog's Daily Pick 12/2/2014
Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley Before The Sun Goes Down
Compass CD-7 4639 2

It is my fervent hope that Nashville's gatekeepers will hear this album, go "Hmm..." and begin producing, once again, albums that contain instrumental virtuosity, great vocals, and inspired material, all backed with Nashville's finest players. Until that happens, though, you can all do yourselves a favor and get this album for yourself and for all the country music lovers on your Christmas list. Everyone in country music by now is well aware of 15-time IBMA Dobro Player of the Year winner Rob Ickes, though it seems to me only yesterday that he was in every new bluegrass band in Northern California; that was before either of us moved to Music City, USA. This album finds him paired with an incredible young guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter named Trey Hensley from Jonesborough, TN, who in his early twenties, and has moved to Nashville to make his name and fortune. This is an early step, and a big one. My shorthand description for the past year or so has been, "Well, he sings like Merle Haggard, and he plays guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughan," which is true, but it goes further than that. He also writes songs, selects great material – he loves Bob Wills, and his workout with Rob (on lap steel guitar) on Buddy Emmons' classic instrumental "Raisin' the Dickens" is hellacious. There are thirteen tunes and songs here, from bluegrass ("Little Cabin Home on the Hill") to blues (Stevie Ray's "Pride and Joy") to Western swing (Bob Wills' "Misery"), filtered through the vocal influence of one of Trey's favorites, Merle Haggard, to Billy Joe Shaver's rollicking "Georgia On A Fast Train" and Trey's own "My Way is the Highway." Rob asked me to write notes for the album, so for more of my enthusiasm, if not eloquence, buy the album. But don't take my word for it – Merle Haggard and Marty Stuart both wrote testimonials for the album, and Roland White calls Trey "My new favorite guitar player." And Roland played alongside one of the greatest, bluegrass, country, AND rock and roll guitarists of them all – many say THE greatest – his late brother Clarence, so he knows a thing or two about the subject. In addition to Rob's always tasteful, sometimes stinging, always swinging, dobro and lap steel, the album also shows off the skills of bassist Mike Bub, fiddlers Aubrey Haynie and Andy Leftwich, drummer John Gardner, and sundry other greats, including on one cut or another, Ron Block, Pete Wasner, Shawn Lane, John Randall, Susanne Cox, and Dan Tyminski. And you lucky folks in Washington and Northern California can check out Rob and Trey, live in concert, beginning this weekend!

Randog's Daily Pick 12/4/2014
Hank Snow's Country Guitar
RCA Victor LPM 1435

From 1957, a 10" inch version from 1955 contains eight tunes, as opposed to the twelve here and is even more rare. This album doesn't turn up much, but is very special. I've never personally seen a copy that didn't feature a blurred cover, which leads me to wonder if there was never a second pressing. Anyway, if you find one, grab hold of it, because it is very special, showcasing as it does Hank's distinctive flatpicking acoustic guitar style on a real variety of tunes. Evidently self-taught, the Nova-Scotian-turned-country-music-immortal always featured his fine flatpicking in his live shows, along with his always topnotch band, The Rainbow Ranch Boys. Generally speaking, Opry stars during Snow's heyday featured virtuosic sidemen and the stars wore their fancy guitars much as they wore their Turk and Nudie suits and as movie starlets wear their jewelry as fashion statements. Not so Hank, though he took a back seat to no one in terms of onstage gaudiness. But his clean, stinging, and sometimes fierce flatpicking set him apart, as did his rhythmic dexterity. He recorded at least three all-instrumental albums under his own name after this one, and RCA A&R man and guitarist Chet Atkins recorded two instrumental albums with Hank as well – the first one is pretty good – although Chet was characteristically, uh, cautious in his praise for another picker, averring only that Hank was "all right" and that "he stuck pretty close to the melody" when the subject of Hank's guitar playing came up. Sometime Rainbow Ranch Boy Tommy Vaden's sometimes jazzy, sometimes swingy, and even at times a little bit country violin is featured here as well, to quite nice effect. Otherwise the notes, as they were wont to be back in the day, are mute regarding other accompanists. Songs and tunes include "Twelfth Street Rag," "Rainbow Boogie," "El Rancho Grande," "Vaya Con Dios," "Grandfather's Clock," "Madison Madness," "Wabash Blues," “In An Old Dutch Garden," "La Paloma," "Sweet Marie," "The Lover's Farewell," and "Hilo March." The 10" version (RCA LPM3267) contains eight of these numbers and completely different, and for the most part sensible, if largely uninformative notes. This version's notes are laughably inane and inappropriate, but buy it anyway, if you find it in good shape.

 

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Friday, November 28, 2014


Jingle all the way. Today is so-called “Black Friday,” the day when normal mild-mannered people become crazed fools battling over Christmas gifts at their local big box stores. Some poor souls were forced to work on the Thanksgiving Holiday yesterday to satisfy the greedy needs of the corporate billionaires, and fools that Americans sometimes tend to be, many got started shopping a day early in order to what, be able to save a few dollars on items made in China by people working for slave wages? Ah yes, ‘tis the season to be jolly, indeed! Or so we are constantly being told. Here at Carltone World Headquarters, we always recommend giving the gift of music, such as CDs, books, concert tickets, or hey, how about a membership to the CBA? Talk about gifts that keep on giving year round!

Worth repeating. This item was featured in last week’s column. If you haven’t purchased your holiday greeting cards yet, you can find no finer than Karen Cannon’s collection of bluegrass Christmas cards. Check them out here. Santa playing the doghouse bass and banjo? Simply the best.

Reindeer man. For 31 years I had the pleasure of playing music with Dr. Elmo, the guy responsible for everyone’s favorite Christmas hit, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” If you have never seen the video, check it out here, and look closely at the guy in the red robe and later, in the tuxedo. (The photo at the top of this column is a still of the author from the video in 1983.) While Elmo does not play out much anymore, this is his time of year to shine, and you can read an interview with him in the Marin Magazine.

Hanging up his spikes for good. But fortunately, not his guitar picks. SF Giants third base coach Tim Flannery has decided to retire from the game, which is sad news for baseball fans, but good news for music fans. Because this means that he will be able to play more music. He has at least four CDs out that are a mix of country and bluegrass, and he is one prolific songwriter. Hey, since he won’t be on the road with the team anymore, maybe he can play Father’s Day?

Christmas came early for one ex-giant Giant. SF Giants fans are morose about the fact that their third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, opted to leave the team for fame and fortune in Boston. The fans can’t understand how their beloved “Panda” could leave them behind. Get real, folks. Major League Baseball is a business, a weapon of mass distraction that gets your mind off the drudgery of daily life. If some factory across town were to offer you a lot more money to do the same job you are doing now, would you turn it down so as not to upset your co-workers? I didn’t think so. The upside of Sandoval leaving is that you can now purchase panda hats for a mere $8 each!

All in the family. Some weeks back we mentioned the upcoming new CD by the Thompson Family – parents Richard and Linda, son Teddy, daughter Kami, and other in-laws – and the CD is now out, and it is a winner for fans of any members of this musical family. Check out this cool video on the making of the recording.

Considering a career in the music biz? If so, you may want to check out a couple of links first. Watch this hilarious but sadvideo of Flo and Eddie (who were once part of The Turtles pop band from the ‘60s) as they describe the legal and financial nightmares that they had to deal with. And after you are done with that, read about The 13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Modern Music Industry. Then start thinking of a new line of work…

Bluegrass Buddha. The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan is a documentary that made its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last year, This is a wonderful film that documents the musical and spiritual life of Peter Rowan, the former Blue Grass Boy who also played at the CBA Father's Day Festival in Grass Valley in 2014. There will be a special showing of the film on December 11th at 7:30 p.m. at Down Home Music in El Cerrito that will also have Rowan and the director, Christine Funk, on hand to talk about the documentary. Admission is only $5. If you cannot make the screening, there is a great deal being offered by South 40 Films for the holidays whereby you can purchase your own copy of The Tao and get Peter’s latest CD Dharma Blues for just $35. Talk about great stocking stuffers! For more info on this deal, and about the film screening, click here.

Speaking of Rowan… If you want to see what a much younger Peter Rowan looked and sounded like 40+ years ago, then set some time aside to watch this half hour show of the band Muleskinner from 1973. Also in the band were David Grisman, Clarence White, Bill Keith, Richard Greene, and Stuart Schulman.

For the love of the banjo. Renowned banjoists Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn not only make for a cute couple, their relationship was highlighted recently on the news show PBS NewHour, and you can watch the segment here. They are also performing twice today at the SF Jazz Center.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The new Marin country band Blithedale Canyon has two gigs of note this weekend. On the 28th they will be playing outside in the beer garden at the Lagunitas Tap Room in Petaluma from 3-6 p.m. They have a great store filled with Lagunitas paraphenalia where you can do all of your holiday shopping. It’s a win/win for everyone! On Sunday the 30th the band will be playing at Rancho Nicasio in West Marin from 4-6 p.m. No cover at either place, great food, and kids are welcome. Blithedale Canyon is a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Sweetwater offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere, and children are welcome.

All hands on deck! Laurie Lewis and The Right Hands have been playing a Thanksgiving Weekend show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley for numerous years now, and you can see them there on the 29th. You can also read this nice story about them in yesterday’s SF Chronicle.

Coming attractions. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play a house concert in Folsom on December 5th, theRedwood Bluegrass show in Los Altos on the 6th, at Trinity Methodist Church in Chico on the 7th, and at Don Quixote’s in Felton on the 8th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, on the 8th in Cloverdale, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The Costanoa Winterfest will be happening in Pescadero (north of Santa Cruz) on December 13th, with bands such as the Naked Bootleggers, Bluegrass Roundup, the Brookdale Bluegrass Band, and the Rainy Day Ramblers. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at Father’s Day in 2015, will be playing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st.The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th.WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go toKALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 29th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Dale Ann and Steve, and it will feature an overview of the music of Ms. Bradley and Mr. Gulley to get you ready for next week’s duet shows.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or theNorthern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here is a commentary and a musical discovery.

11/22/14 “I just got back from The Station Inn, best show I've seen in ages. Featured artist was Robbie Fulks, the Jethro Burns of The New Millenium and more, with a backup band picked from the best in bluegrass in Music City (Shad Cobb, Noam Pikelny--he actually lives in Skokie, I think-- Chris Scruggs, and Aaron Till), with guest appearances by Ron Spears – I forgot what a great tenor singer he is until he joined the band for three numbers, AND he did a little Senor Wences style ventriloquism with only his fist as a prop as an unexpected bonus – and Chris Scruggs' mom, the fabulous if sometimes wacky Gail Davies. The band played for two hours straight, and I feel for folks who stumbled into The Station Inn for the first time tonight thinking they'd see something called bluegrass. Well, in a sense they did – but they will never see a show resembling this one at a bluegrass venue or festival ever...unless Robbie Fulks is booked there, and even then, it will be different than what transpired tonight. Endlessly inventive musically, he played old favorites like 'The Buck Starts Here' and 'Let's Kill Saturday Night,' showcased members of the band – Scruggs did a marvelous version of Red Foley's 'Tennessee Saturday Night' and his mom dueted with Robbie on 'Tupelo County Jail' and The Everly Brothers 'Problems' – but also broke out new songs such as the old-timey styled song about his 78-year-old banjo playing aunt and her new fiddle playing husband, who made fun of his Scruggs style playing at age ten when on a family visit. Doesn't sound promising, does it? Well, I'm here to tell you...it worked. Perhaps best of all was his stream of consciousness encore about recent changes at The Station Inn neighborhood and audiences, from simple folk who play music of the soil to trendchasers who actualy eat in the tony restaurants surrounding the venerable old venue these days. You had to be there, but you weren't...I was. Oh, and I should mention that Doug Seegers, my odds on favorite for the Best New Artist Grammy, was in attendance as well, and digging it."

Randog's Fabulous Finds Dept.11/24/2014
Don Adams On His Way
Atlantic LP 7280

I found myself on lower Broadway in fabulous Music City, USA, last Saturday, and during my meanderings decided to duck into the venerable Lawrence Brothers record emporium. I'd recently had occasion to revisit an obsession of mine of nearly 40 years, involving a country singer named Don Adams, and decided to scrounge around in the store's stock of 45s. Eureka! There it was! In mint condition, a single, by the aforementioned Don Adams! I asked the head Lawrence brother if he knew anything about the fellow on the 45, and he said, "Not unless it's that Get Smart guy from TV," and I told him my tale, of seeing Johnny Paycheck and his band in Oakland, CA, in the '70s, when he was accompanied, among others, by steel guitar great Doug Jernigan and a tall bass playing harmony singer, named – Mr. Jernigan informed me quite recently – Don Adams. "Oh, the Adams Brothers, Don and his brother. Gary ‘Showhog’Adams were on that tour. They're from around Columbus, Ohio." This jogged Mr. Lawrence's memory, and he said, "Let's see...I used to have several of these," and proceeded to pull out a sealed album by Don Adams, with memorable liner notes by none other than Mr. Johnny Paycheck himself that begin, "I rarely comment on things, because I know very little about most things," but Johnny was hot in 1973, and nothing sells (sold) albums like liner notes by the stars...anyway, this album, on the short lived Atlantic Country label, is a gem, with Don playing and singing a mix of his own originals, country songs both familiar and unfamiliar, and one song by one B. Gordy and two other Gordys that is also on the single I acquired, pulled from the album, entitled "I'll Be Satisfied," b/w Johnny Horton's "All For The Love Of A Girl." The backup musicians are a mix of Muscle Shoals and Music City, including Jernigan, "Roadhog" Adams, and Weldon Myrick on steel on some cuts. And yeah, Don Adams sings everything to a fare thee well...turns out that he and various combinations of his brothers were also Jones Boys, along with Paycheck, George Jones' first road band...and Don is heavily featured on George Jones' incredible Live At Dancetown USA album put out by the English Ace label. Don was so good that he sang the Melba Montgomery parts live with George and also on Dancetown, and the CD version includes several lead vocals by him as well. So Saturday was a good day.

 

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Friday, November 21, 2014


Giving thanks. A much needed four-day weekend is on its way – that is, for those of us lucky to have jobs – and the staff here are Carltone World Headquarters will soon be scattering hither and yon to spend the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with friends and family near and far. As usual at this time of year, my partner Claudia and I will be getting together with some friends on the Big Day for a sumptuous feast, where everyone contributes to the meal, and then afterwards instruments magically appear. The sounds of guitars, fiddles, mandolins and a bass will be heard playing bluegrass and country songs after the meal, and we feel very fortunate and thankful to have friends such as these. Thanksgiving Day is always too long in coming, and then it passes by in an instant. But I can think of no better way than this to kick off the holiday season. Here’s hoping your holiday will be spent in similar fashion, and that it will be as enjoyable as mine will be…

Other things that I am thankful for… That I don’t live in Buffalo; that I don’t have Alzheimer’s like Glen Campbell; that I am not Bill Cosby; that I don’t have to write this column three times a week; that, even though I turned 60 this year, I still have all of my original parts; that I started playing music when I was 14-years-old; that my last name is not Kardashian; that I have Nashville MOLD correspondent Randog sending me CD reviews and commentaries that help make this column more entertaining; that I didn't bet on the Oakland Raiders to make it to the Super Bowl; that I have a longtime partner that not only puts up with me, but that also has a singing voice like Emmylou Harris, thereby making me sound better; that I live in the Bay Area, where there is nothing to shovel in the winter months; and that it has rained a couple of days this week!

Will pick for food. Here is a heartwarming story from Leah Garchik’s gossip column in yesterday’s SF Chronicle: “And a yee-haw to Dinah and Noah Stroe, who, every other Tuesday night since January, have hosted an old-time music jam in the coffee shop near the exit of Andronico’s Market on Irving Street. They collect money from shoppers, usually as they pass the cafe on their way back to the parking lot, to be donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. On Tuesday, the Food Bank came by to collect this year’s take, $665.42. It’s a generous idea, a lovely contribution, and, writes Dinah, ‘Shoppers seem to really like our fiddles, banjos, mandolins and guitars as the sound wafts through the aisles!’ But let’s think about the money: I’m a terrible arithmetician, but since the first of the year, I think, the take boils down to something like $30 an evening, for six to 12 musicians. Dinah estimates the grand totals as ‘$30 to $50 an evening,’ with ‘lots of $1 bills, but a few fives, and two or three 20s.’ One of those 20s, she says, came ‘from a guy there to clean the floors. We played Jesusita en Chihuahua, a great Mexican tune, and he was delighted.’ Next time you see a food bank basket, toss in some of that green.”

’Tis the season. The holidays are just around the corner, and if haven’t purchased your holiday greeting cards yet, you can find no finer than Karen Cannon’s collection of bluegrass Christmas cards. Check them out here. Santa playing the doghouse bass and banjo? Simply the best.

Del and Woody. Del McCoury has a very unique project coming out next year that sounds like a winner before even one note has been heard. It will be an entire CD of songs where the lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie and the melodies were written by Del. And he does all of the singing. There is a long, albeit great, story about this in No Depression magazine.

He did find it a bit odd that she never went on tour. " Peggy Sue Evers, who admitted she impersonated singer Alison Krauss to swindle money from a 75-year-old Fayetteville man, has been returned to Arkansas after being arrested in New Mexico. Evers pleaded not guilty to a failure to appear charge. Prosecutors say an arrest warrant was issued for Evers after she missed a court date. She was later arrested in Albuquerque, N.M. Evers pleaded guilty earlier this year to impersonating the singer and marrying the man after convincing him she was Krauss. Evers was sentenced to eight years of probation, ordered to pay restitution, return four cars to the man and sign his home back to him.” At the least, you’d think the guy would have asked her to sing a song to hear what she sounded like…

Gift idea. As 2014 comes to a close, it is time to be thinking about next year’s calendar already, and you can’t go wrong by getting a copy of your very own Banjo Babes Calendar and CD. For complete info, go here.

This ain’t no MUNI bus. Who knew that riding a transit bus could ever be so much fun? Check out this Austrian band Cobario as they give passengers a ride that they will never forget.

Life’s railway to heaven. Soul singer Jimmy Ruffin, who had a big hit in 1966 with the song “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” died from unknown causes in Las Vegas on the 17th. He was 78. Renowned movie and stage director Mike Nichols, whose films include The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, Silkwood, and Working Girl, died in New York City at age 83 on the 20th. He was one of a handful of artists that won an Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy.

At the movies. From time to time, your Friday MOLD columnist writes movie reviews for a show called Movie Magazine International, something I have been doing for 23 years. My most recent review is now up, and it is of the new film called Foxcatcher. Last week I wrote about Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me. Also on the site is my recent review of This Ain’t No Mouse Music, which Randog mentions in one of his CD reviews below. You can read these and more here.

The Beatles singing Bill Monroe? You bet. Though the betting here is that not many people have ever seen this video of Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr singing “Blue Moon of Kentucky” before…

McCartney tribute. Speaking of Paul McCartney, a tribute album was released this week titled The Art of McCartney, which is a compilation featuring all-star musicians covering songs Paul McCartney wrote with the Beatles and Wings. The recording features Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Billy Joel, and many more. Read about it in Rolling Stone.

Joni in the Journal. Were you ever a Joni Mitchell fan back in the day? If so, did you ever wonder who her song “Carey” was about? Well, wonder no more, and read a story about it in that noted music publication The Wall Street Journal.

Hot Rize also in the Journal. They have a new CD out, their first in 24 years, and they are headed this way. They will be in Los Angeles on December 9th, at Sweetwater in Mill Valley on the 12th, at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico on the 13th, and at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on the 14th. Read about them in the WSJ.

Just for the heck of it. Bob Paisley and the Southern Grass singing “Darling Nelly Across the Sea.” What a sound!

Kids are a singing wonder. Check out this video of the Capitol Children’s Choir singing the Stevie Wonder song “For Once in My Life.” There is a wealth of young talent here.

Out and about. The big news in the country music world yesterday was that singer Ty Herndon has become the first established country singer to come out of the closet. At this point, you – like the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters – may be asking “Who is Ty Herndon?” No one around here had ever heard of him before. Nor had we heard of Billy Gilman, who came out today. But this is not surprising, as we never listen to any country music beyond 1975 here on the office hi-fi…

Scene and heard. Watch the Seldom Scene singing the late Paul Craft classic “Through the Bottom of the Glass” here. It is a laid back, living room version, with John Starling singing the first verse.

T Sisters in Folsom. John Hettinger holds house concerts from time to time, and he has a great one on the 21st. “Bluegrassers, there are still seats available for the T Sisters' house concert at the Folsom Opry House (a.k.a. home of John & Loretta Hettinger) on Friday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m. They feature absolutely beautiful sister vocal harmony that you won't forget. Check them out in this video. $15 advance for CBA members, $20 for all others. Don't forget Loretta's pies for dessert. Call (916) 990-0719 or email bluegrass@shaunv.com for reservations.

Americana Music Fest on PBS on November 22nd. Taped on September 17th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the show includes performances from Loretta Lynn, Robert Plant, Jackson Browne, Roseanne Cash, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin and Taj Mahal. The show will be broadcast on some public television stations. Alas, KQED in San Francisco does not have the show on their schedule.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The weekend brunch at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley is accompanied by live music with no cover. On Sunday the 23rd, from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Sweetwater offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere, and children are welcome.

Coming attractions. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play a house concert in Folsom on December 5th, the Redwood Bluegrass show in Los Altos on the 6th, at Trinity Methodist Church in Chico on the 7th, and at Don Quixote’s in Felton on the 8th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, on the 8th in Cloverdale, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The Costanoa Winterfest will be happening in Pescadero (north of Santa Cruz) on December 13th, with bands such as the Naked Bootleggers, Bluegrass Roundup, the Brookdale Bluegrass Band, and the Rainy Day Ramblers. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 22nd from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Eat at the Welcome Table, and it will feature bluegrass food songs to get us ready for Thanksgiving.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are three commentaries and three CD reviews to get you through the weekend.

11/14 /14: “My wife Chris and I just returned from a wonderful concert by The Kathy Kallick Band at The Station Inn; it's always great to see old friends from the West Coast playing cool new music. Kathy has always played with great musicians, but none better than this current bunch. Tom Bekeny has been among my favorite mandolin players since the early ‘80s, when I first met him, and he remains endlessly inventive and innovative. Cary Black is an expressive and sensitive bassist, Greg Booth is a cool dobro player, banjoist, and vocalist, and Annie Staninec is my favorite young fiddler, bar none. And Kathy herself continues to write great songs, sing them in her unique style, and choose the best songs from past traditions to interpret as only she and this hot band can. They are REALLY good.”

11/15/14: “Just returned home from attending – at The Country Music Hall Of Fame – the presentation of my friend Barry Mazor's new biography (the first ever) of the monumentally important pioneering publisher of vernacular music of all kinds, Mr. Ralph Peer , entitled Ralph Peer and The Making of Popular Roots Music. Barry's explication of the facts were characteristically thorough, lucid, and informative, and the whole thing was helped along by musical illustration via the singing and playing of Shawn Camp, accompanied by Laura Weber Cash, Mike Bub, and Larry Atamanuik. Shawn was an inspired choice for the assignment, and acquitted himself brilliantly in styles ranging from The Carter Family ('The Storms Are On The Ocean'), to Floyd Tillman, to Bob Wills, to George Jones ('White Lightnin''), to Buddy Holly ('Not Fade Away'). No better man for the job, as an Irish buyer of mine was fond of saying. Now I'm gonna read the book.”

11/17/14 “In suddenly frigid Music City USA, I'm warming myself this morning in the rosy afterglow of Mike Bub's 50th birthday party yesterday at The Station Inn. Mentioning everybody who was there could only lead to charges of name dropping and people accusing me of forgetting them to get even with them for not recording my songs...that's a joke, folks. Suffice it to say that people who Mike Bub doesn't know here in Nashville ain't worth knowin'...and I HAVE to mention the epic jam that took place pretty much throughout the party. A few people dropped out from time to time, but Mike Armistead was a constant presence on guitar, and a sixteen-year-old banjo player who I don't know but is a friend of Chris'...didn't catch his name, but he was wearin' it out...and my longtime friend Tom Bekeny, in town with Kathy Kallick's band, played mandolin from the time we got there 'til we left. Jeff White played both guitar and bass. But my favorite image of the event, and the one that will stay with me, was watching Buck White watch Michael Cleveland, Annie Staninec (also of Kathy Kallick's band and a phenomenal fiddler), and Mr. Bekeny while they were tearing into some classic Monroe numbers. Then Buck played some boogie-woogie and honky-tonk piano, abetted first by Jeff White, then Shawn Camp on guitar and vocals. Buck did 'Pipeliner Blues,' several others, and Shawn Camp sang some classic country and 'White Lightnin'' while Buck tickled the ivories. He was singing with his daughters Cheryl and Sharon when regrettably, we had to leave. do it again when you're 75, Mike, to give me something to look forward to...”

Randog's Daily Pick 11/19/2014
Sylvia Herold and the Rhythm Bugs The Spider and the Fly
TUX CD 929

I extorted this from bassist Cary Black when he was in Nashville recently. When people ask me to name my favorite singers, Sylvia Herold has always been high on my list. She has a gorgeous voice and exquisite taste in music, vocal role models, and vintage clothing –especially hats. Cats & Jammers, the trio she was in with Tony Marcus and Piper Heisig, remains one of my all time favorites, and I have missed hearing her – live and on recordings – these past years, since I moved to Music City USA. This album, released in 2012, helps a little. If you like tight three-part harmonies, movie music from the ‘30s and ‘40s, The Boswell Sisters, Manhattan Transfer, or the Mills Brothers, or just exciting, evocative music from the past, done in refreshing new ways, this album is THE ONE. I'm not familiar enough with the originals of most of these songs to even venture a guess as to where they came from. I'm on pretty firm ground with Charlie Rich’s "Mohair Sam," and I know I've heard "The Continental" in a Fred Astaire movie, but otherwise, I'm pretty much adrift. Which adds to the enjoyment of listening. Harmony vocals by Ed Johnson and Jennifer Scott, bass by the aforementioned Cary Black, some killer vibes by Christian Tamburr, and a bunch of other people contribute from time to time, including a brief cameo of Tony Marcus' sonorous bass/baritone voice and Orville Johnson's dobro. I mention you because I know you, guys. The package becomes an instant collectible because of the cover art by sometime Cheap Suit Serenader Bob Armstrong. Songs include "All the Cats Join In," "Barrelhouse Bessie From Bourbon Street," "The Fella Who Couldn't Be Kissed," "The Spider and the Fly," "San Fernando Valley," and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes." Fourteen in all.

Randog’s Daily Pick 11/20/14
Johnny Jenkins & The Pinetoppers Ton-Ton Macoute!
Atco Stereo SD-33-331

Listening to an old favorite album this morning; forgot how good it is. Primarily remembered as the left-handed guitar playing bandleader who brought Otis Redding to Stax Records, which made it possible for Otis, employed as Johnny Jenkins & The Pinetoppers vocalist and Jenkins' personal driver, to begin his legendary career. Jenkins had 40 minutes of unused studio time coming when his session ended, and it was used to record Otis singing "These Arms of Mine," and the rest is history, as they say. Johnny's next shot at the big time came after Otis's death, in the form of this album, which is very good indeed – in part because of the participation of such as Duane Allman, and other member of The Allman Brothers Band, and Eddie Hinton on congas (!) and other top notch musicians. It didn't sell well, but has become a sort of underground classic. If you see a copy in good shape, grab hold tight!

Randog's Daily Pick 11/21/2014
This Ain't No Mouse Music: The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records
Arhoolie CD 545 A & B

For those who haven't seen the film from which all this music was taken, this is the next best thing. In fact, in a couple of ways, it is an improvement on the music in the film; in many cases, snippets of the music heard in the film is heard in order to push the narrative along; here, every track is available in its entirety. AND...there are extensive notes on every single song included in the booklet which accompanies the CD, reminiscences by the man himself, featuring his own unforgettably unique syntax...and it is fascinating stuff, tales of how he came to discover such artists as Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Rose Maddox, Big Joe Williams, and many more. Chris also goes into how he ended up with valuable copyrights from such as Country Joe & The Fish – the original version of "Fixin' To Die Rag", recorded by Chris in his living room –is here, as are KC Douglas’s "Mercury Blues," which as "Mercury Boogie," has been a hit for Steve Miller, Alan Jackson, and sold a lot of Ford trucks. There's lots more – black storefront gospel by the Rev. Overstreet, blues by Mance Lipscomb, Big Mama Thornton, Fred McDowell, Mercy Dee, and more; there is a live duet between Ry Cooder and Flaco Jimenez, new bluegrass by The Whitetop Mountain Band and the youthful No Speed Limit, lots of Cajun from Marc and Ann Savoy and their sons Wilson and Joel, Zydeco by the Godfather of the genre, the incomparable Clifton Chenier, and New Orleans street jazz by the Treme Brass Band. Since the DVD of the movie won't be available for Christmas, this two-CD set is the perfect stocking stuffer and primer on the Arhoolie label and the life's work of the man many of us have come to know as Mr. Chris, (after the notorious Mr. Tom Moore), which, if memory serves, comes from the fertile mind of my old friend Paul Hallaman, when we were both 'hoolie coolies in the ‘80s. 38 musical selections from This Ain't No Mouse Music, each in its entirety...

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Friday, November 14, 2014


Old and leading the way. The CBA’s 40th Annual Father’s Day Festival for June of ’15 is already shaping up to be a great one. Booked so far are The Kentucky Colonels Reunion, The Good Ol’ Person’s Reunion, Chris Henry and Hardcore Grass, Steep Ravine, Adkins and Loudermilk, and now, as of just a few days ago, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience (DGBX). While the David Grisman Quintet has been his main band for the past 40 years, playing jazz and swing music, he has quite the bluegrass pedigree for a guy from New York City. David “Dawg” Grisman began his career playing with the Even Dozen Jug Band, toured some with Red Allen and The Kentuckians in the mid-sixties, formed Old and in the Way (with Peter Rowan, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn) in 1973, was in the band Muleskinner with Rowan, Clarence White, Richard Greene and Bill Keith in 1974, and in 1983 he was in Here Today, another amazing band, with Herb Pedersen, Vince Gill, Jim Buchanan and Emory Gordy Jr. He has put out and played on dozens of recordings on his own Acoustic Disc record label, and lately he has been playing duo shows with Del McCoury (they are in Chicago this weekend and Nashville next weekend). He put together the DGBX about ten years ago, and the band features his son Sam Grisman on bass, Jim Nunally on guitar, Keith Little on banjo, and Chad Manning on fiddle. They are a fabulous traditional bluegrass band, and you can check out a spirited discussion about them on the Message Board. The Dawg will turn 70 next spring, and while he may now be a bit older, and in the gray, he is still leading the way with his innovative mandolin picking, and the DGBX will be a big hit at Father’s Day. Muchos kudos to the band selection committee of Dave Gooding, Paul Knight and Whit Washburn for making this and the other bookings happen! If you cannot wait until June to see the DGBX, buy tickets now for their annual holiday show on December 27th at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. And make sure that you scroll down to the bottom of this column to read Randog’s CD review of Early Dawg.

Like a Rhinestone Cowboy. The documentary "Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me" opens tomorrow in San Francisco, and I got to see an advanced screening of it in my role as part-time film reviewer for Movie Magazine International. If you haven't heard by now, Campbell's performing career came to end last year due to his battle with Alzheimer's disease, and on his farewell tour that began two years ago a film crew went along to document the tour and the effects of the deadly disease. This is a stunning documentary that will probably win an Oscar next year. Whether you were are fan of Campbell's or not, this does not matter. The powerful effect that music had on him at this most trying of times is simply astounding. Check it out, and bring tissues with you. In the meantime, you can read my full review here, and you can watch the trailer for the film here.

Talking cars. Speaking of Alzheimer’s, last week, Tom Magliottzi, one-half of the brother team of “Click and Clack” (along with his brother Ray) on the longtime National Public Radio show Car Talk, died at age 77 from complications from the disease. This past weekend his Ray paid tribute to his departed brother/partner, and if you missed the show you can listen to it here. The theme song for the show is a hot bluegrass number called Dawggy Mountain Breakdown that was written and performed by the aforementioned David Grisman and friends.

What’s that sound? “The sound coming from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands on social media.” You can listen to the so-called “singing comet” here. Thanks to reader Linda Rust for this item.

Robert Plant turns down $800 million for Led Zeppelin reunion tour! So claimed the screaming headlines just about everywhere earlier this week because, well, it makes for a great story. At the least, it caught your attention here, and that is what matters. Who cares if it is true or not. In all of the preliminary stories, it seems that no one bothered to ask Plant why he would do such. Someone finally got around to, it you can read his response here. Isn’t it great who the media works these days? The thinking seems to be “Hell, it may or not be true, but let’s run it anyway and maybe check the facts later.”

Maybe they should stun the guy a few times before locking him up… A loser named Salah Jones was sentenced to seven years in prison this week for stealing a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin from a concert musician after a performance last winter. He used a stun gun to take the $5 million instrument away from violinist Frank Almond after a performance in Milwaukee. Almond got the violin back, and he won’t be playing any benefit fundraisers to help get Jones out of jail…

Ring of Fire. See and hear the Johnny Cash classic done like you’ve never seen it before in this video by an a capella group called Home Free.

Just for the heck of it. Molly Tuttle and friends singing “You Didn’t Call My Name.” It seems like only yesterday that these kids were playing the Strawberry Breakfast Club. Okay, so it was last year…

Not running on empty. 66-year-old singer/songwriter Jackson Browne is still out there singing and touring, and I remember 40+ years ago when he looked as young and fresh-faced as Molly Tuttle does now. Check out this interview with him.

10 Things You’ll Never Understand About Musicians. Hey, this is on the Interwebs, so it must be true! As a matter of fact, I can identify with just about everything that is on this list

The power of music. Legendary Nashville bassist Dave Pomeroy posted this message about playing music on his Facebook page last weekend, and it really hits home. “Last night at our Don Williams show in Hinton, OK, there was a guy with a replica of Don's hat sitting in the front row. I had seen him earlier entering the casino. He had a deadpan stare the entire show and I never saw him smile. As we left the stage after the encore, I pointed to my hat and then at him and gave him a thumbs up. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. Cracked me up. Sitting a couple chairs down from him was an older couple who held hands the entire show and quietly sang along with EVERY word of EVERY song. I have been playing with Don off and on for 34 years, and his amazing repertoire of songs is second to none. Afterwards, I spoke with a very sweet lady who told me her husband of 45 years had passed away six months before, and their special song was ‘You're My Best Friend.’ She said she was nervous about hearing it again for the first time without him, but that it made her feel really good, especially with the whole crowd singing along. I told her it will always be their song, and she gave me a big hug and asked me to tell Don hello and say thanks. This is exactly what country music is all about, folks. Seemingly endless variations on tailgate parties in the woods and the pleasures of getting loaded, accompanied by stacks of electric guitars (and folks, I grew up on rock and roll and have no problem with guitars or high volume, just context) and little or no fiddle, mandolin, steel and/or dobro may be the flavor of the month, but the history of this genre, and hopefully its future, will always be about great songs, sung with conviction and played with taste, that have deep meaning to a wide variety of listeners. You have to dig a bit to find them, but there are still artists out there of all ages making real music for real people, and they deserve the support of true fans, and the industry as well. Sermon over.” Amen, Dave!

Got banjos? The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, started on the 13th and runs through Sunday. See the show in Sacramento on the 14th, at the Freight in Berkeley on the 15th, and in Felton on the 16th. Go to the link for complete info.

Banjo in Mill Valley. West Marin County banjo and guitar player Tim Weed and his band will play the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on the 15th. “Tim Weed was a 16-year-old Southern California surfer when he broke out as a banjo-playing prodigy and catapulted into his lifelong courtship with the banjo. His music has developed into an eclectic blend of bluegrass, classical, jazz and world music with stunning harmony vocals, drawing influences from India, Tibet, Africa and Latin America, and he's on Banjo Newsletter Magazine's list of the ‘world's greatest banjo players.’ He has performed thousands of concerts internationally, including one for the Dalai Lama. His music draws from a deep well of Americana, classical, jazz, and World Music, bringing extraordinary innovation and heart to each performance. He captivates audiences with his stunning musicianship, engaging personality, wit, and spontaneous nature, making one feel more like a participant than an observer.” Here is a feature article that ran in last year's Marin IJ.

Front Country in SF. Also on the 15th, Front Country and Steep Ravine will be playing a show at Slim’s in SF, with this being a CD release party for the former.

T Sisters in Folsom. John Hettinger holds house concerts from time to time, and he has a great one coming up next weekend. “Bluegrassers, there are still seats available for the T Sisters' house concert at the Folsom Opry House (a.k.a. home of John & Loretta Hettinger) on Friday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m. They feature absolutely beautiful sister vocal harmony that you won't forget. Check them out in this video. $15 advance for CBA members, $20 for all others. Don't forget Loretta's pies for dessert. Call (916) 990-0719 or email bluegrass@shaunv.com for reservations.

Coming attractions. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play the Redwood Bluegrass show in Mountain View on December 6th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, on the 8th in Cloverdale, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 15th from 6:30-8 p.m. Because of the plethora of new releases and the need to provide a few musical previews, this week’s show will to present new releases. There will be music from, among others, the Goodbye Girls (with Molly Tuttle), Front Country, the Crowe Brothers, Roni Stoneman, James Leva, Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg, Larry Cordle’s All-Star Duets, Flatt Lonesome, and Joe Mullins, as well as musical previews (Ship in the Clouds, California Banjo Extravaganza), a song from the soundtrack of “This Ain't No Mouse Music: The Story Of Chris Strachwitz & Arhoolie Records,” and one more bit of DeadGrass, from the Infamous Stringdusters’ show in NYC last week.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are two of his latest offerings.

Randog's Fabulous Finds 11/9/2014
Rolf Harris Two Little Boys (flip side is I Love My Love)
Columbia 45 rpm from 1969

Rolf Harris, the "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" guy, for those of you old enough to remember, had a UK hit of this song, which is a sort of underground classic in bluegrass circles, but his arrangement, far from being 'grassy, is quite stilted, and well, corny. Chris and I had just heard the familiar bluegrass version by the early Country Gentlemen on Sirius Bluegrass Radio, and a few hours later, eureka! –I stumbled onto this. There is a 78 version by The Dixon Brothers that I later became familiarized with by the late Archie Green, and always assumed that The Gents had adapted their version from The Dixons...until I made that assertion to Pete Kuykendall, who ought to know. He said The Country Gentlemen heard it from a performing brother duo in the Washington, DC, area who had some involvement in a folk club or coffee house – their name escapes me, but someone out there probably knows of whom I speak (addendum: "The club was The Shamrock,” according to Mike Cogan, proprietor of Bay Records, and although he doesn't remember the names of the brothers, he says "They liked the song so much that they wrote it, but I always doubted that.."). Anyway, I first heard the song in a rendition by The Dusty Road Boys, THE bluegrass group in Carbondale, Illinois, on the SIU campus in 1964-5; the group included my old friend Bernie Sullivan, who I later re-encountered in Northern CA in the '70s, and again in the '90s, here in good Old Music City...and I always loved the song, for all its sentimentality, and figured it was a parlor song of The Civil War era. But it turns out that the song, according to some accidental research I've done, was published post Spanish-American War, and was recorded by several vaudevillian types, including the great Billy Murray; I imagine that one of those songs was the source of the hokey Rolf Harris version I just found…

Randog's Daily Pick 11/13/2014
David Grisman (w. Del McCoury, Jerry McCoury, Artie Rose, Winnie Winston, Bill Keith, et al., and on one cut, Frank Wakefield) Early Dawg
Sugar Hill CD 3713

Sometime around 1990, don't remember exactly, I was fortunate enough to be part of bringing about a Del McCoury Band engagement at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage, not the first one, but the first with his young sons. I was a huge Del fan, and a fan of his sons, and was really enjoying the notion of hearing them right where I worked. I became aware of the house music the sound man had selected at some point, and said, "What is this? That mandolin player is wearing out ‘Blue Grass Twist!’" Well, it was this album, the mandolin player was David Grisman, and I decided right then that this was an aspect of David's career that demanded more of my attention. These sixteen songs and tunes were recorded mostly on two different occasions in 1966, with the exception being a twin mandolin version of "Black Mountain Rag" with Frank Wakefield, an early mentor and influence of David's. David also plays the fire out of Monroe standards "Shenandoah Breakdown" and "Rawhide," as well as such beloved bluegrass standards as "Little Maggie," "The Prisoner's Song," "John Henry," "Little Sadie," (he gets somewhat Dawgy on this one), “Dark Hollow," "Dear Old Dixie," "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight," and the aforementioned "Black Mountain Rag." A 1966 era Del McCoury sings lead throughout, and boy, is he good! David's own compositions include "Fanny Hill," "Sugar Hill Ramble," "Opus 57," and "Opus 38," all familiar to Dawg fans by now, but in their early stages here. David's far ranging musical taste buds also lead him to 'grass up Duke Ellington's "Caravan," and all but the grumpiest bluegrass moldy figs could find this number anything but delightful. From his earliest days as a neighbor growing up near Hall Of Famer Ralph Rinzler, David has eagerly learned from and later honored his mentors, including Red Allen, Frank Wakefield, and Del McCoury, while expanding his own musical horizons at the same time. This album is an intriguing look at a young Grisman, who was even then an impressive and innovative mandolinist. Happy to hear that his current bluegrass band David Grisman's Bluegrass Experience will be appearing at The CBA Father's Day Festival in 2015; to my mind still the best bluegrass festival in the land and the ideal place to see Mr. Grisman in this context.

 

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Friday, November 7, 2014

 

Suddenly it’s Christmas, right after Halloween.
Forget about Thanksgiving, it’s just a buffet in between


These are the first two lines from Loudon Wainwright III’s classic song “Suddenly It’s Christmas,” and no truer words have ever been said for this time of year. (Watch this clever video and hear LW sing it). Yesterday my bagel from Noah’s Bagels came in a cute little holiday bag. The nearby greeting card store had all of their gear in place by last Saturday the 1st. Satellite Radio will start 24-hour streaming this evening at midnight. Heck, why wait? Beat the rush now by simply going to this web site, where you can find holiday music 365 days a year! Which leads us to these two apt lines from LW’s song:

 

Christmas carols in December, and November too
It’s no wonder we’re depressed, when the whole thing is through


'Tis the season to be jolly, indeed...

Remembering Reggieberry. Everyone knows by now that beloved South Bay singer and musician Regina Bartlett died last month while she was attending the IBMA World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, NC. On Saturday the 8th, starting at 10 a.m., there be a memorial sing-out for her at 1080 Fairview Drive in Hollister. There is room for camping and RVs, and there is plenty of cot space inside. It will be a potluck BBQ and an open mic to sing Regina home. Sound will be provided by Harry Kaufman. If you need more details and you are on Facebook, simply click here.

Honoring Emmylou. The silver-haired songstress Emmylou Harris is going to be honored during a tribute concert in Washington, DC, on January 10th. Here is a brief description from Rolling Stone: “Although she's been releasing her own records for nearly half a century, Emmylou Harris is perhaps best known as roots music's ultimate duet partner. The Red Dirt Girl has teamed up with everyone from Bob Dylan to Beck, making friends with multiple generations of folkies and country-rockers along the way. Now, with a follow-up to Old Yellow Moon, her Grammy-winning record with Rodney Crowell, reportedly in the works, Harris is being honored by many of her former collaborators.

A pearl of singer. Yesterday I finished reading On the Road with Janis Joplin by my friend John Byrne Cooke. ("Any kind of bluegrass connection here?" you may be wondering. Well, John was a longtime member of the 1960s Cambridge, MA, bluegrass band The Charles River Valley Boys before leaving to go on the road as Big Brother's road manager)(and no, he is not on CRVB's groundbreaking recording Beatle Country). And I was hoping that the story was going to end differently than I remembered, but alas, 'twas not so. I was a bit too young in 1970 to have experienced Janis in real time, and now I need to go back and listen to the Pearl and Cheap Thrills recordings. The book is a very well-written insider's view of the late '60s San Francisco rock and roll history, and John makes you feel like you are along for the ride as a passive member of the road crew. Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Festival Express, Winterland, The Fillmore...John and Janis were both there. I haven't been so engrossed in a story in a long time. (One day, after reading a chapter while riding home from work on the bus, I entered the house only to find the visiting-from-Jackson-WY author and two characters from the book -- Big Brother and the Holding Company's guitarist Sam Andrew and bassist Peter Albin -- jamming in the living room. How often do your book characters come to life before your very eyes?) Have tissues at the ready when you get to the final chapter. And hey, Christmas time's a coming, and this would make an excellent gift!

Thar’s bluegrass in them thar hills! This past weekend the NY Times travel section featured a detailed story titled Where the Hills and Hollows Are Alive With Music, and you can read the whole piece here. Thanks to Maria Nadauld for sending this along.

Want to stimulate your brain? Check out this cartoon video that explains how playing music gets your brain going faster than for non-players. Maybe this explains why there are so many hot hillbilly bluegrass pickers? And, not for nothing, check make sure you see what instrument the main character is playing…

Speaking of bass players. This guy Grant Stinnett takes electric bass playing to places I ain’t never been to on my Fender Precision…

Just for the heck of it. This video is from 35 years ago, on the Johnny Carson Show no less. Stephane Grappelli, David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Bill Wasserman, and Mark O’Connor. Enjoy!

Sounds like a bad country song. Paul Rudd, longtime drummer for the metal band AC/DC, has been arrested in New Zealand in a murder-for-hire plot. A spokesman said that the arrest “won’t affect (the band’s) upcoming tour or album release.” No, of course not. But it will certainly help ticket and CD sales, because this is the way the world turns these days. (For proof, remind me why Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, or any Kardashian are famous.) Call me cynical – I have been in the music biz for over 40 years – but I wouldn’t be surprised if some “crisis management team” is behind getting this news out to the great unwashed masses…

Speaking of murder ballads Here is a list from Rolling Stone that notes the ten creepiest murder ballads on record. It also includes recording and some real cool videos.

Rob and Trey are on their way. In the “Coming Attractions” segment below, there is information about the upcoming Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley California tour. If you want a taste of what to expect, just watch this video and this one that were sent along by Randy Pitts. What more incentive do you need?

More than just a fiddler. Hot Bay Area fiddler Annie Staninec, who plays in The Kathy Kallick Band, also can pick the old-time banjer! Check out this video of her playing for her twin half-brother and sister.

Playing both kinds of music – country and western. The Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 8th, at 8 p.m., see Blithedale Canyon, a melodious new country band from Marin County whose members are longtime friends with decades of experience playing various kinds of music. Imagine old-school country songs, bluegrass, and Western swing with a bit of old-time rock and roll, with three lead singers and mellifluous three-part harmonies, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this exciting new quartet. The members are Carl Tone on bass, Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, and Gary Bauman on electric guitar. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Bluegrass in his blood. His father was a banjo player with Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys back in the day, so three-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year David Grier knows a little bit more about bluegrass than most of us. And you have three chances to see him play this weekend. On the 7th he will be at Schoenberg Guitars in Tiburon, on the 8th at Pacifica Performances in Pacifica, and on the 9th at a house concert in Santa Cruz.

Got banjos? The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. Go to the link for complete info.

Birds taking flight. A wonderful trio from Pennsylvania called The Stray Birds were recently featured on the Bluegrass Situation site. Check out the band playing “This World Can’t Stand Long” in this video.
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Coming attractions. West Marin banjo and guitar player Tim Weed and his band will play the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on November 15th. Also on the 15th, Front Country and Steep Ravine will be playing a show at Slim’s in SF, with this being a CD release party for the former. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play the Redwood Bluegrass show in Mountain View on December 6th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, on the 8th in Cloverdale, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 8th from 6:30-8 p.m. Because of the plethora of new releases and the need to provide a few musical previews, this week’s show will to present new releases. There will be music from, among others, the Goodbye Girls (with Molly Tuttle), Front Country, the Crowe Brothers, Roni Stoneman, James Leva, Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg, Larry Cordle’s All-Star Duets, Flatt Lonesome, and Joe Mullins, as well as musical previews (Ship in the Clouds, California Banjo Extravaganza), a song from the soundtrack of “This Ain't No Mouse Music: The Story Of Chris Strachwitz & Arhoolie Records,” and one more bit of DeadGrass, from the Infamous Stringdusters’ show in NYC last week.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here are two CD reviews for your Friday fix:

Randog's Daily Pick 10/31/2014
The Camp Creek Boys Old Time String Band
County LP 709

One of a nice little stash of old-time albums I found in San Antonio a couple of years ago, mostly on the original County black label, mostly near-mint and all 99 cents apiece. The albums were mostly early County reissues of 78s, but this album was of a band current at the time it was recorded, and what a band it was! Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, Ernest East, Paul Sutphin, Verlin Clifton, and Ronald Collins were among the very few old-time bands still active in North Carolina in 1967, when this album was recorded, but they had grown up with the music when it was in its heyday, on radio, live and on 78s, and from the evidence on this album they were intimately familiar with the repertoire. This is some of the best recorded old-time country string band music I've had the pleasure to hear on record; expertly played and highly spirited. Nothing surprising about the repertoire; songs and tunes include "Fortune," "Let Me Fall," "Old Joe Clark," "Fall On My Knees," "Honeysuckle," "Susannah Gal," "June Apple," "Cider Mill," "Fire in the Mountain," "Soldier's Joy," "Lonesome Road Blues," and "Cotton Eyed Joe." Notes by Dave Freeman; the address on the cover is the NYC address, before County moved to Virginia. I'm sure that several of my Facebook (and actual) friends can tell us more about this wonderful album if they are of a mind to do so...I'm thinking of Suzy Thompson, Alice Gerrard, Kate Brislin and Sharon Sandomirsky in particular. Did Any Old Time String Band learn "Let Me Fall" from this version, f'rinstance?

Randog's Daily Pick 11/05/2014
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin Bakersfield-Deluxe Edition
MCA/Cracker Barrel CD-80019890-02

This album has already lost a CMA Award this week to Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert in the “Best Musical Event” category on the morning of the eve of what is being touted as "Country Music's Big Night,” and the sky is appropriately enough, crying – if you watched ABC's Good Morning America coverage, you know what I'm talking about – so this one, presumably already fading in the collective memory of CMA enthusiasts. Hey, they lost, and at 8 a.m. no less, will be heard by fewer people than Keith and Miranda's opus. But it's real good, folks, trust me, and if you live near a Cracker Barrel, it would behoove you drop by there and pick up the Cracker Barrel only Deluxe Edition, with four bonus tracks: "Your Tender Loving Care," "Buckin' Merle," "I Threw Away The Rose," and "High On A Hilltop." Eating there is optional. The theme, naturally enough, is the music of Bakersfield, as sung and played by Vince Gill and played by Paul Franklin, who is at the top of the heap in Music City as far as steel guitarists are concerned; he has played on over 500 albums, and he replaced the late John Hughey in The Time Jumpers when Hughey passed. Vince gets to stretch out and show off his electric and acoustic guitar chops here, and the band is accompanied by many of Nashville's best on various cuts, including fellow Time Jumpers – the glorious Dawn Sears for instance, singing lots of sumptuous harmony. Songs include some of Buck and Merle's finest, and more:"Foolin' Around," "Branded Man," "Together Again," "The Bottle Let Me Down," "He Don't Deserve You Anymore," "I Can't Be Myself," "Nobody's Fool But Yours," "Holding Things Together," "But I Do," and "The Fightin' Side Of Me," plus the four bonus cuts I mentioned earlier.

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Friday, October 31, 2014


Today is orange and black day. These two colors are associated with Halloween, which, here in San Francisco – where Carltone World Headquarters is located – is a national holiday of sorts. On any given day there are countless people walking around this city in strange outfits. But on Halloween, if you are not dressed up, you stand out as the odd ball. Which is just fine by me. But there is another reason for the orange and black colors in this city today. There was a little baseball series that came to an end two days ago, and from what I hear, the local team came out on top. So there will be a parade just two blocks from where I am writing now. Which is also why there is a dearth of the usual action-packed music news that the Carltone staff is known for presenting. All of the interns are out on Market Street (it is hard to get good, non-paying help these days!), ready to scream and cheer for their local baseball heroes, and that leaves just me to edit, print, cut and paste this column today. Thankfully I 've gotten a lot of help this week from our roving Nashville correspondent, Randy Pitts, who has sent along a cornucopia of reviews and news from Music City which can be read below.

The bombs bursting red glare… The media and blogosphere were both agog earlier this week because some heretofore unknown-to-the-baseball-world singer from a band called Staind mangled the words of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Sunday's World Series game in San Francisco. Hey folks, get over this non-story already! Do you think anyone would be talking about this guy this week if he had sung it correctly? Do you even remember or care who sang the song at the previous four games or the last two games? I didn't think so. But now everyone knows who Aaron Lewis and his band are. Did he really forget the words, or was this a carefully planned move to garner free media coverage? Only he knows for sure, but I would be on the latter. But I doubt he forgets the words to his or his band's songs. And now he and the band are famous, and he/they will soon be on talk shows while his concert and album sales will skyrocket. Is this a great country or what?

Johnny is rolling over in his grave. John Carter Cash – the son of legendary country singers Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash – was arrested in Canada the other day after returning from a hunting trip and stripping down to his undershorts at an airport. Gosh, do you think alcohol might be involved? At the least, it is fodder for a new country song…

Christmas time’s a comin’. Are you looking for something for that special cat-loving-banjo-player in your life? Well, look no more. Here is the purrfect t-shirt for him/her.

Just for the heck of it. A video of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys doing a version of “Stay a Little Longer.” Man, the one guy gets quite an electric sound out of an acoustic guitar…

Life’s railway to heaven. It was too busy of week for great players going on to the never-ending music jam up in the sky. Jack Bruce, legendary bassist from the ‘60s rock band Cream, died in Suffolk, England. He was 71. Stan Jay, who owned the Mandolin Brothers musical instrument store on Staten Island, NY, which has been a pilgrimage destination for recording stars, collectors and other connoisseurs of the guitar, mandolin, banjo and ukulele for more than 40 years, died from Mantle cell lymphoma on the 29th in Staten Island. He, too, was 71.

A voice like no other. This was a real nice story about my friend John Byrne Cooke and his new book about Janis Joplin in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday. "On the Road With Janis Joplin" was officially published this week, and John will be making two appearances. On the 1st at 8 p.m. he will be at the Sebastopol Community Center, and on the 2nd you can also see him in Corte Madera at Book Passage at 7 p.m.

Kathy Kallick around the bay. The Kathy Kallick Band has two big shows this weekend. On the 1st you can see them play the Redwood Bluegrass Associates series in Mountain View starting at 8 p.m., and on Sunday the 2nd they will be at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.

Postponed sessions. The Band Sessions series that was scheduled for November 7th-9th at the Yosemite Bug featuring Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands has been postponed until next spring.

Coming attractions. The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. West Marin banjo and guitar player Tim Weed and his band will play the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on November 15th. Also on the 15th, Front Country and Steep Ravine will be playing a show at Slim’s in SF, with this being a CD release party for the former. Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley will play the Redwood Bluegrass show in Mountain View on December 6th. See Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 1st from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Day of the Dead (Grass), featuring bluegrass versions of Grateful Dead songs plus Dead versions of bluegrass songs.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer, and he has been really busy this week. Here he offers up a commentary on an album, two CD reviews, and a book review.

I read Andy Hall's entry in the “Hooked On Bluegrass” series on The California Bluegrass Association's website. He mentions that hearing Barenburg, Douglas, and Meyers' Skip, Hop, and Wobble recording is what turned him from blues slide playing to bluegrass, which reminded me just what a potent recording that was...and still is. When I worked at Down Home Music, putting that album on for in-store play almost always led to a sale, something you can only say about a few recordings. That store had, and I'm sure continues to have, a VERY discerning clientele.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/28/2014
Jerry Lee Lewis Live At the International, Las Vegas
Mercury LP SR61278

I need to hear this one from time to time just to remind myself what a great country artist Jerry Lee was in his prime. This was recorded in 1970; according to the liner notes, it was his first appearance in Las Vegas, and it came at a time when he had made a calculated move into "the country and western field of music, which is the number one field of music as far as I'm concerned right now" as Jerry Lee says in the course of proceedings in his best unctuous voice, fake humility oozing from every syllable. Calculated though it was, Jerry had made this full-bore move into "the country and western field of music" necessary by making some unwise choices, career and otherwise in the ‘60s. This is some of the best of the two-fisted, full-throated Jerry Lee brand of country ever committed to vinyl, and remains a favorite of mine. Two of his biggest and best are here in live versions: "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye" (Mickey Newbury) and the Kris Kristofferson-Shel Silverstein penned "Once More With Feeling." Also included is Bill Mack's "Drinkin' Champagne," its inclusion another shrewd move due to the fact that Mack was one of the biggest country DJs around in those days, and Jerry DID want his records played on country radio. But The Killer's version IS probably my favorite of the many recorded versions I've heard – and it's a cool song. On Jerry's bathos-drenched country hit "She Still Comes Around (To Love What's Left of Me)" he really pours it on, and Tom T. Hall's "Ballad Of Forty Dollars," is here – Jerry turns into an up-tempo, piano churning romp, replete with a dollop of country yodeling, and Big Joe Turner's R&B hit "Flip, Flop, and Fly" is a reminder that Jerry could rock with the best of them on material from the R&B field of music. Sister Linda Gail sings occasional harmony throughout and gets her own featured number, her version of "Take These Chains From My Heart" – I would have preferred a duet with Jerry or Jerry solo myself, but family, you know. They DO duet on "a brand new number written for them” –"When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose"( heh heh), and Jerry Lee also nods to Hank Williams ("Jambalaya") and Bob Wills ("San Antonio Rose"). This is a small classic, not perfect, but always worth revisiting. Jerry Lee also recorded an amazing gospel album for Mercury in 1970, touching all the bases and checking all the boxes in his brand new country recording career, called In Loving Memories, which is another neglected masterpiece.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/29/2014
The New Lost City Ramblers & Friends
Vanguard CD 77011-2

Part of a Vanguard series called Newport Folk Festival Classics, and put together and annotated by Mary Katherine Aldin, this is a wonderful opportunity to hear a youthful NLCR of the time: Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tracy Schwarz in live performance, frequently with the participation of their heroes and influences (Cousin Emmy, Maybelle Carter, Eck Robertson, Roscoe Holcomb, Sam & Kirk McGhee, and Dock Boggs) at the Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 to 1965. I was a kid when these recordings were made – actually saw the NLCR live in 1965 – and it is difficult to overstate the importance of this band of young revivalists on the re-emergence of what came to be known as old-time or old-timey music to my generation. And here they are actually playing alongside some of the biggest stars of recorded pre-bluegrass country music. There are nine selections featuring the wonderful – and largely unsung – Cousin Emmy, five with "Mother" Maybelle Carter, an outstanding "Little Birdie" with the phenomenal Roscoe Holcomb, and a spellbinding "Oh Death" by Dock Boggs himself. Eck Robertson, who made some of the earliest recordings featuring Texas fiddling, is here, playing his "Sally Johnson," and the list goes on. There are 31 cuts in all, including several featuring NLCR at the time in tandem or singly – Mike Seeger on dulcimer singing "Waterbound,", for instance – and their dedication to breathing new life to classic music, much of which might have been lost without their attentions, is palpable, as is their respect for the legends they accompany here. Highly recommended.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/30/2014
Pretty Good For a Girl: Women In Bluegrass by Murphy Hicks Henry
University of Illinois Press

I should have highlighted this book a while ago – it came out in 2013 – but I am finally getting around to it. Murphy Henry has spent most of her life as a working musician, playing and teaching bluegrass music (The Murphy Method of instruction was devised by her), and is uniquely qualified to write this much needed and important book. She does a wonderful job of tracing the history of women's involvement in the music –through dogged research, lots of one-on-one interviews, and even personal reminiscences. The text is over 380 pages, and there are an additional 85 pages of source notes, bibliography, and index. But this isn't a dry academic study. Far from it. Murphy manages, in interviews, to have various women bluegrass artists address frankly and forthrightly the problems unique to women in carving out and sustaining a career playing bluegrass. From the pioneering artists (Sally Ann Forrester, Wilma Lee Cooper, Rose Maddox, and Ola Belle Reed) to the present – the last chapter in the book features Kristen Scott Benson, Rhonda Vincent, The Dixie Chicks, and the women of The Cherryholmes Family – Murphy has it covered, with many stops along the way. I've been lucky in the last thirty-five years as a fan, record store clerk, talent buyer, promoter, and booking agent, to have worked with and/or for many of the women profiled in this book. and have been friends or an admiring fan of most of the rest, but I learned a great deal in reading this book, and expect to return to it many times, both for information and pleasure, in the coming years. Murphy does a great job highlighting the development of the music in California, a subject about which, needless to say, I am biased. In fact, my first involvement professionally began in Northern CA, and I was witness to much of the history Murphy discusses in the chapter entitled “The Women in California,” and even personally involved in a few cases. Beth Weil, Kathy Barwick, Markie Sanders, Sue Ericsson and others are quoted in this chapter here, and Murphy treats the more or less household names of today like Alison Brown, Kathy Kallick, Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter and others too numerous to mention – you know who you are – with the attention appropriate to their place in the music's history. And I was particularly taken by the in-depth treatment given to Ingrid (Herman) Fowler, who was a seminal figure not only in the establishment of bluegrass in the Bay Area, but in Nashville as well. Ingrid left the Bay Area to come to Nashville about the time I moved to Berkeley, so I never knew her (she passed away shortly after we arrived in Music City), so I read the chapter of the book devoted to her with fascination. As I've already said, I've been lucky to know and work with and/or for many of the women mentioned here, and I don't want to make this into an exercise in name dropping ("You mean more than you already have?" I can hear some of you saying), so I'll just say, read this book, you'll be glad you did. It deserves a spot next to Neil Rosenberg's Bluegrass on any serious fan's bookshelf. And, oh yeah, there are TWO pictures of my wife Chris Lewis in this book!

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Friday, October 24, 2014


Losing a step. There used to be time when I could stay out late for a show during the week and still get up (way too) early for work the next morning and think nothing of it. But not anymore. Last night I emceed a great show called The Britgrass Invasion at Slim’s in SF that featured hot sets by Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, American Nomad, Emily Yates, The Sedgwick Brothers, and the Love Pump Stringband, all playing bluegrass versions of songs by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Spinal Tap, Queen, The Clash and The Stones. It was an action-packed, amazing night of music that, for the third time in the past year, Matt Lauer and Ted Kuster put together. It was an honor to part of the event, and a huge crowd enjoyed it all. But man, I am paying for it now. My head didn’t hit the pillow until 12:30 a.m., and then the alarm went off at 6 this morning. For 19 years at the old Sweetwater in Mill Valley, CA, I hosted at least one night of music a month at the club (songwriter open mic from 1989-98, a songwriter show from 1993-98, and a bluegrass show from 1999-2008), and then bounced back the next day with ease of, apparently, a much younger man. Year number 60 arrived some months back, and staying out late on a week night, we have only now found out, is something we have to reconsider from here on out…

Orange and black. Halloween is just one week away, and everywhere you look in and around the MOLD Annex at Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco there is a plethora of orange and black being worn, thanks to the fact that the World Series is here for the third time in the past five years. With the Giants and Royals getting ready for a three-game set starting tonight, the entire Bay Area will be glued to their TV sets this weekend. CBA good luck charms Brooks Judd and his newly-elected-CBA-Board-Member-sister Maria Nadauld will be at the game tonight. See if you can spot them in the crowd.

Bluegrass wins big at the IMEA Awards. CBA member and performer Kathy Boyd sent along this news. “It was a big night for bluegrass at the International Music & Entertainment Awards in Ashland, KY, on October 4th, as Ned Crisp and Bottomline walked away with the first ever Bluegrass Group of the Year award. In a multi-genre category, Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising took home the award for Holiday Song of the Year. As Ned Crisp so enthusiastically stated, ‘A win in a multi-genre category is a win for the entire bluegrass family!’ Based out of Ashland, Kentucky, Ned Crisp & Bottomline have been winning fans over all over the United States and Canada with their traditional sound and gospel sensibilities. Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising are based out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Their last three CDs have done extremely well on radio airplay charts worldwide and they continue to expand their performance area as they draw the attention of event promoters with their original music, high energy entertainment style and audience interactions. The International Music and Entertainment Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and serving as an advocate to individuals and organizations within the performing arts and entertainment industries. While supporting the arts, IMEA is one of the fastest growing organizations in the industry.” Congrats to both bands!

Stairway to millions. It only took 41 years, but the heirs to the late musician Randy Craig Wolfe (he of the 1960s band Spirit) are suing the rock band Led Zeppelin for ripping off Wolfe’s song “Taurus” with their monster hit “Stairway to Heaven.” You can read about the lawsuit here, and then listen to “Taurus” here and make your own conclusion.

She would have been one heck of a bluegrass singer. With an official publishing date of Tuesday, October 27th, I am in the process of reading an advance copy of On The Road With Janis Joplin, by my good friend John Byrne Cooke, which is his account of his days of road managing the rock icon, and it is fabulous. You can read an interview with the author by Paul Liberatore in today's Marin Independent Journal.

Real musicians have day jobs. This is pretty much a given for most of us. Turns out that a good many of them work in libraries! Read this cover story from the Pink Section in a recent San Francisco Chronicle. Speaking of libraries, there is a Kickstarter campaign underway to make a film titled Free for All: Inside the Public Library, which is “is the first major documentary project about our nation’s most beloved and most threatened public institution. It captures dramatic personal stories from library users across America, highlighting the diverse communities that depend on public libraries and the surprising ways libraries are reinventing themselves to serve more people than ever.” Please consider contributing to this worthwhile cause.

Waylon and Willie and the boys. Last week in this column there was a segment about about singer Glen Campbell’s sad battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He cannot play or tour anymore, and he has made what is being billed as his final recording, which is this song to his wife titled I’m Not Gonna Miss You. In November there will be a documentary coming out titled Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which chronicles his farewell tour from two years ago. And just the other day the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters stumbled across this little gem of a video that features the late Waylon Jennings giving a tribute to Glen while on some show that was hosted by Ralph Emory. It is pretty moving, considering how many of the people on the stage are no longer with us and the fact the state of mind that Glen is in these days…

Life’s railway to heaven. Legendary Nashville Hall of Fame songwriter Paul Craft, who wrote such gems as "Through the Bottom of the Glass," "Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life," "Dropkick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)," "Brother Jukebox," "Blue Heartache,” "Midnight Flyer,” and "Keep Me From Blowing Away,” died in Nashville last week at age 76.

Marty is still here. For two more shows, anyway. Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives have already played a gaggle of dates in California these past two weeks, and you can still see them in Modesto on the 24th and Bakersfield on the 25th.

Song takes on a new meaning 50 years later. In 1964 singer Leslie Gore had a hit with a song titled “You Don’t Own Me,” which at the time was one woman’s plaint against a possessive boyfriend. Five decades later, in this version, the song takes on an entirely different meaning when it comes to the rights of women.

K-Bar in West Marin. Based in Grass Valley, Kathy Barwick & Pete Siegfried will be playing at Paul Knight's music series at the Station House Cafe in Point Reyes in West Marin on the 26th from 5-9 p.m. They play folk/bluegrass/country duet stuff (guitar and mandolin) and will be joined by Paul on bass and whoever else Paul's got lined up.

Starting the party early. Halloween is not for another week, but the party will be getting started early this weekend at the Hangtown Halloween Ball in Placerville on the 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds, with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others.

 

Boograss in SF. Promoter Shelby Ash has his annual Hillbilly Halloween show at Slim's in San Francisco coming up on the 31st. Doors open at 8, all ages are welcome. See the bands Supermule, Henhouse Prowlers, and Immigrant Union. In his own words: "Boograss party like no other- featuring hillbilly zombies and haunting sounds of yesteryear, well old-time bluegrass anyway. We'd love to say it's killer bluegrass, but's that's way too easy. This year' s Boograss is our biggest and scariest yet! Featuring three killer bands (ok, I had to do it) -- Supermule, Henhouse Prowlers, Immigrant Union, and a costume contest, photo booth, and plenty of tricks & treats!"

Coming attractions. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. West Marin banjo and guitar player Tim Weed and his band will play the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on November 15th. Also on the 15th, Front Country and Steep Ravine will be playing a show at Slim’s in SF, with this being a CD release party for the former. Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley in Little River, CA, on December 7th, in Upper Lake on the 9th, in Felton on the 11th, Culver City on the 12th, Del Mar on the 13th, and Sonora on the 14th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th in 2015. Go to all of the links for complete info.

On-Air Folk Festival. Radio station KALW (91.7 FM) in San Francisco is having a five-hour on-air folk festival on the 25th that you can listen to on your old-fashioned radio or on your new-fashioned computer. Hosted by JoAnn Mar, Kevin Vance, and Peter Thompson, they'll be showcasing some of the Bay Area's finest local talent from 3-8 p.m. Some of the featured acts will be Linsey Aitken & Ken Campbell, Jeffrie Givens & Marty Nemko, True Life Trio & Gari Hegedus, Quiles & Cloud, Legends of the Celtic Harp with Lisa Lynne and Aryeh Frankfurter. For more info about Peter’s segment scroll down to the next section.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 25th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Live On Arrival. As part of KALW’s bi-annual On-Air Folk Festival, there will be live recordings from the recent Strawberry Festival, with selections from the Kathy Kallick Band, Steep Ravine, the (Keith) Little Band, and American Nomad.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. He is making up for lost time (he was traveling last week so there was very little Randog news last Friday) this week, offer a band recommendation, his take on some Dylan song recordings, and two CD reviews.

To all my California friends: you haven't lived until you've rocked out to "Friend Of The Devil" played Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley, Aubrey Haynie, Mike Bub, and John Alvey, as we did last night, at The Station Inn. Only lumbago prevented a full hippie twirl dance breaking out at our table. And they're coming your way in December! Rob and Trey are, anyway, and you'd better get in on the ground floor and go see 'em. From Bob Wills to Billie Jack Wills to Ray Charles to Bill Monroe to Stevie Ray Vaughan, they've got it covered, and covered good!! They must be Americana!!!

Randog's Daily Pick 10/23/2014
"Where Have You Gone, My Blue Eyed Young Son?"

In spite of an almost complete lack of clamor (well, there IS this one guy) for this, I've decided to list my ten favorite recordings of Bob Dylan songs; some are by Bob, some by other artists, and needless to say, I like each of them for different reasons. Here goes:

1. "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" by Elvis Presley. Bob told Jann Wenner that it was his favorite recording of a song he'd written. Elvis reportedly learned it from Odetta's version; he probably got her album of Dylan's songs free, since they were both on RCA at the time. Odetta's album is really good as well.
2. "Don't Think Twice, That's All Right" by The Wonder Who (really Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons). Sucks really bad, everybody knew who it was at the time...still, probably better than "Eve Of Destruction," the only more naked attempt at exploitation of the folk song movement.
3. "The Walls of Redwing" by Joan Baez. A song about a Minnesota reformatory for wayward boys from Joan's all-Dylan album, this is a very moving song. Jack Elliott recorded it as well, within the last ten years.
4. "Walkin' Down The Line" by The Dillards.
5. "Walk Out in the Rain" by The Del McCoury Band.
6. "One Two Many Mornings" by Jerry Jeff Walker.
7. "Girl From The North Country" by The Hutchison Brothers. From a very entertaining Takoma LP from the famous Winfield, Kansas festival. This is a unique interpretation, to say the least.
8. "This Wheel's On Fire," a co-write with Rick Danko of The Band, and one of their best recordings.
9. "I Don't Believe You (You Act Like We Never Have Met)" by Glen Campbell. A quite powerful reading of this underrated classic.
10 "John Brown" by The Staples Singers. The most powerful anti-war statement I've ever heard, and this is the most powerful version. I was made aware of this song by Maria Muldaur, who played it on one of those "These Are My Favorite Records" radio shows back when I lived in the Bay Area, twenty or more years ago.

Thank you very much for your kind attention. Hmmm...turns out none of these are by Bob after all...sorry, Bob.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/24/2014
Carl Story & The Rambling Mountaineers
Collector's Classics LP 15

I'm pretty sure I haven't featured this album before, and if I have, I'm pretty sure I'll say different stuff this time. This is one of a series of very well done bootlegs of early classic bluegrass originally recorded in one form or the other by major labels of the '40s and '50s and which had gone out of print. Notes were always minimal to non-existent and what information there was quite often was wrong or misleading. This was, however, the only way to hear a lot of classic stuff in the '70s and beyond, and if I see one of these in good shape I always grab it. The bulk of these recordings seem to come from Carl Story's Columbia material, which came before his Mercury and Starday stuff, but it is equally classic. There is a note on the back indicating that the band consists of Fred Smith, Red Rector, Carl Story, Claude Boone, and Cotton Gaylon, and I have a Bear Family CD of Carl's Columbia stuff on which this is the band on the bulk of the stuff. But there is a further note here mentioning that the great banjo player Bobby Thompson is featured on “Fire On The Banjo,” “Banjo On The Mountain,” “Banjolina,” and “Mocking Banjo” (now better known as “Dueling Banjos”). Bobby was featured on a lot of Carl's Mercury/Starday material, and he is unquestionably the player on the pieces attributed to him. The bulk of the album is made up of the hard core, old time religion gospel bluegrass on which Carl Story's reputation is based, sixteen cuts in all. "Light at the River," "Gone Home," "Love Me Like You Used To Do," (woops! a ringer),"If You Don't Love your Neighbor," "Waiting For Me," "Follow Him," "Saviour's Love," "AreYou Afraid to Die," "On The Other Shore," “Four Books In The Bible," "Family Reunion," and "Land Of Eternal Peace." Most tunes feature the great bawling trios that made Story's early bluegrass so powerful, and Carl's famous soaring falsetto is much in evidence as well...killer stuff. I do not know the original source or personalities behind the country classics bootleg enterprise. That was before my time in the record business. But I'd love to hear from anyone who does. I'm almost certain that Story never had a legitimately issued album of his Columbia stuff.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/24/2014
Shawn Camp & Billy Burnette The Bluegrass Elvises, Vol. 1
American Roots CD1236536

Shawn Camp was recently described vocally as "the love child of Hank Williams and Lester Flatt" vocally by no less than Jerry Douglas – but is equally capable of attacking the vocal style of another country boy with a curled upper lip, The King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley – and Billy Burnette, whose father Dorsey and uncle Johnny were in the front rank of the music from Memphis that came to be known as rockabilly right along with Elvis, is a more than capable cohort on this unusual but uniquely satisfying recording. Billy has worked with everyone from Fleetwood Mac to John Fogerty, and he and Shawn are frequent co-writers – they wrote "My Love Will Not Change" together for Del McCoury. At least partially the brainchild of the notorious engineer Dave Ferguson, who produced the album and was also Jack Clement's engineer for many years (and Jack was Sun Records majordomo Sam Phillips' right hand man for years during the early years of rockabilly), this album brings these disparate elements together to spawn a wonderful hybrid of rockin' country bluegrass unlike anything most of us have ever heard. 13 of The King's best are here, mostly from his early, rockin' days. Shawn's heartfelt – and sincere, you bet – rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" is a notable exception, on which Shawn and Billy swap vocal leads and rock out to the strains of some of bluegrass' best. Billy plays guitar as well, and Shawn plays either guitar or mandolin, while either Mike Bub or Terry Eldridge plays bass, Chris Henry adds mandolin, Scott Vestal or Dave Talbot play banjo, and the great Aubrey Haynie lays down some of the most hellacious fiddle you've ever heard. "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up," "Little Sister," "Jailhouse Rock," "Good Rockin' Tonight," "Burnin' Love," "A Big Hunk Of Love," "Mystery Train," “That's All Right Mama," "Hound Dog," and "Blue Suede Shoes." Inexplicably, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" is missing. Oh well, Vol. 2 awaits.

 

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Friday, October 17, 2014

 

A night to remember. 25 years ago on this day, I was at my first and, as bad luck would have it, only, World Series game. It was in San Francisco, at Candlestick Park, where the Oakland A’s and the SF Giants were about to face off in game three of the series. It was a beautiful, clear autumn evening, and there was excitement in the air. And inside of me, too. As a lifelong baseball fan, I couldn’t believe that I was not only going to a World Series game, I was getting in for free while being paid to be there! Some background. I used to drive tour buses, and on October 17, 1989, I, along with three other drivers, drove buses from San Rafael to the Oakland Coliseum, where we transported Oakland A’s management and family to Candlestick Park, driving over the Cypress Freeway and the SF/Oakland Bay Bridge about half an hour before the former was to collapse and a section of the latter fell down. At the Stick we dropped off the people, and then I had just entered the stadium through the centerfield gate at 5:04 p.m. when the quake began. The fence started rattling as if someone were violently pulling on it, and when I looked up, I saw that the light towers at the park were swaying hither and yon. For the next ten seconds or so, I was paralyzed with fear. But when the shaking stopped, the crowd let out a loud roar, and even though the power was out, people kept filling into the stadium and lining up to buy concessions. As Bay Areans, they were used to the occasional quake, and they figured that all would return to normal within minutes. Except that it didn’t. (For some, it never did, as we were to eventually learn that the magnitude 6.9 earthquake – which was broadcast live on national TV – ended up being for responsible for 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries.) At the ballpark it took quite a while for the seriousness of the quake to sink in, as word began to travel via transistor radio (remember those?) that this was a serious deal. The game was soon canceled, and people slowly began exiting the stadium while hearing about fires, highway and bridge collapses, and endless other news reports. It took over an hour for everyone to return to the buses, and with the Bay Bridge being closed, the person in charge said, “Get us back to Oakland, but do not cross any bridges doing so.” It took about 1.5 hours just to get from the Candlestick parking lot to Highway 101 – something that normally took five minutes – and the traffic on 101 South was crawling at about 2 mph. Since the other bus drivers were from up north, I led the way because I was familiar with routes down the Peninsula. We slowly made our way down 101 to San Carlos, where I made a decision to exit the freeway and then head south on Middlefield Road. This was a smart move, because there was no traffic on Middlefield, and we saved about two hours of being stuck in stop and go traffic. We drove all the way down to Sunnyvale, where we then cut across the south end of the bay on Highway 237 to Highway 880 North, and eventually we ended up in Oakland around 11 p.m. Bear in mind that this was the era before cell phones (known as the “Dark Ages” to most millennials), so no one was able to call family or friends. We dropped off the passengers at the Coliseum, and then we headed up 580 across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge – where us four drivers collectively held our breath while doing such – and we arrived safely back in San Rafael around midnight. I parked the bus in the lot and then got to my house in Sausalito by 1 a.m., where my then-girlfriend was frantic with despair, having not heard from me since earlier in the afternoon. Eerily, everything was fine and calm in Sausalito, as if no earthquake had even taken place. It wasn’t until the next morning that we were to learn the significance of what has become known as the Loma Prieta Earthquake. The World Series was then postponed for ten days, and when they did resume play, I was out of town, so I missed out on my one chance to be paid to attend a World Series game. In the meantime, as you can tell by what I have written here, October 17, 1989, was indeed a night to remember…

Oh lord, stuck in Lodi again. Boy, I’ll bet the citizens of Lodi, CA, hate the song by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I kind of like it thought, and I sang “Lodi” on my recent gigs. The audience loves to sing along to it. But you can bet that there are no bluegrass folks complaining about being stuck in Lodi this week. The CBA Fall Campout started there a few days ago, and it runs through the 19th, so if you aren’t there already, hurry up so you don’t miss out on the fun. You can even get to vote for CBA Board Members while you are there, as long as you are a member. 

”Rocky Top” never sounded so good. Over the years there have been rumblings on the CBA site about baseball postings that have nothing to do with bluegrass. Well, after last night’s Giants/Cardinals game, this song here by the Bay Area jamgrass band Hot Buttered Rum is very appropriate…

Bluegrass birthdays. The staff here at Carltone World Headquarters would like send out birthday greetings today to SF bluegrass pickers Larry Chung and Dave Earl, and tomorrow to East Bay multi-instrumentalist Steve Pottier and North Bay fiddler Katy Bridges! Just think how amazing a band would be with all four of these players in it...

Good reads. In MOLD Man’s column from the other day, a woman named Sandy from Pittsburg lamented MM’s dearth of book recommendations. I’ve got a few of my own to make that are all music related, but not necessarily bluegrass music. Right now I am reading On The Road With Janis Joplin, by John Byrne Cooke, which is his account of his days of road managing the rock icon and it is a fabulous read. (Disclaimer here – John is a good friend of mine, so I may be a bit biased; also, the book will not be officially available until its release date of October 28). In It For the Long Run: A Musical Odysseyby Jim Rooney has a bit of bluegrass in it, as Rooney has been a player, songwriter, producer, publisher and more. Wild Talesby Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills & Nash) lives up to its title, as does Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation by Joel Selvin. And I thoroughly enjoyed The Mayor of MacDougal Street, a chronicle of the 1960s New York City folk scene by the late folk and blues singer Dave Van Ronk. As for books that are new but I haven’t seen yet, these three look interesting. This Music Has No Borders: Scots-Irish Music In Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr; The Haight: Love, Rock and Revolution which features the photography of Jim Marshall; and for you Grateful Dead fans there is Live Dead by Bob Minkin.

Man on the street. Our MOLD correspondent in Nashville,Randy Pitts, told me about a local street singer named Doug Seegers some weeks back. At the time I had not heard of him, and there was little web info about him. Two weeks ago Seegers played at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in SF’s Golden Gate Park as part of Buddy Miller's "Cavalcade of Stars" songwriter segment on the Rooster Stage. I got to meet Seegers later on, and he was very gracious that anyone out here knew about him. And then I heard him sing a couple of songs. As Randy likes to say, “He is the real thing.” Check outthis story about Seegers on National Public Radio as well asthis profile in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. And make sure you read Randog’s comments below. 

Dueling banjos. Yes, in the famous version of the song it was a duel between a guitar and a banjo. But if you want to see a real banjo duel, check out this one between Roy Clark and Buck Trent from the TV show Hee Haw.

Like a rhinestone cowboy. By now most of you have read or heard about singer Glen Campbell’s sad battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He cannot play or tour anymore, and he has made what is being billed as his final recording. Have Kleenex at the ready when you watch and hear him sing this song to his wife titled I’m Not Gonna Miss You. In November there will be a documentary coming out titled Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which chronicles his farewell tour from two years ago.

Killer on the loose. Speaking of Hee Haw, John Brown, one of the two convicted murderers that killed Opry and Hee Hawbanjo player David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife Estelle in 1973, will, according to this story in the Tennessean, soon be granted parole after spending 40 years in prison. Brown and his cousin Doug Brown ambushed and killed Stringbean and his wife when they returned from the Opry. Grandpa Jones and his wife were the ones that found the bodies. Doug Brown fortunately died in prison. Too bad his cousin John will soon be set free.

Start them while they are young. If you want to check out some future talent, then watch this two-year-old sing a Beatles song with his father, this five-year-old sing and play “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, and this eight-year-old Filipino boy – whose native language is not English! – sing a pop song by Luther Vandross song. You will be amazed…

Blue Diamond StringsRedwood Bluegrass Associates in Mountain View kicks off its 23rd concert season this weekend, and the first show on the 18th will feature Blue Diamond Strings, a new Bay Area all-star band featuring Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Eric and Suzy Thompson, Paul Knight, and Paul Shelasky. Go the RBA site for their complete schedule.

Great idea. The city of Cobourg, Ontario, has pianos on some streets that are painted as part of an art project. Have a look atthis elderly man named Michael McNamara singing and playing a version of “Say Something.” Pretty dang good…

The British are coming! Well, not really. But their songs are.The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on the 23rd – emceed by yours truly – will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more, playing bluegrass versions of songs by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd and others.

Bat out of hell. Maybe it had something to do with the drum box or the plastic Ovation guitar, but a crazy bat definitely did not like the music that these campers were playing…

Bugs would be proud. That most famous and conniving rabbit of yore, Bugs Bunny, sure would have a heck of time playingthis clarinet made from a carrot.

Just for the heck of it. Two versions of the Brewery and Shipley hit from a few decades back, titled “One Toke Over the Line.” This one is current, and by a Bay Area singer named Nicki Bluhm. This one here, however, is from The Lawrence Welk Show, and is rather hilarious in that it is pretty obvious that no one on the show knew the meaning of the song…

Nell in No Man’s Land. Bay Area country and bluegrass singerNell Robinson will be presenting her Rose of No-Man’s Landshows at McCabe’s in LA on the 24th, at the Freight in Berkeley on the 25th, and at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on November 1st.

Boxcar Merle. Country star Merle Haggard, as the story goes, during the Great Depression grew up in a boxcar that this father converted into a small house just outside of Bakersfield, CA. Now there is a move underway to preserve the Haggard hovel of a home, and you can read about it here in the New York Times.

The last angry man. Everyone that has ever tried to play a musical instrument has gone through bouts of frustration. But hopefully you have never gotten as frustrated as this guy.

Big Carl. Do you know anyone that has ever tried to learn how to play the tuba? If so, the betting here is that they have never played one like Big Carl, a 100-pound, eight-feet-tall monster that resides at Carl Fischer Music in New York City.

Marty is hereMarty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlativeshave already played three dates in California this week, and if you haven’t seen the show yet, head on out to Fresno on the 17th, Trinidad on the 18th, Red Bluff on the 19th, Folsom on the 22nd, Berkeley on the 23rd, Modesto on the 24th, and Bakersfield on the 25th. 

Pickin’ in the Vines. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, is happening from the 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus.

Coming attractions. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. TheCalifornia Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go toKALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 18th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titledAcross the Tracks, and it will feature new releases and reissues.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or theNorthern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Nashville catRandy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews. He is on the road this week with his wife Chris, and here are two Nashville cats that he wants the world to know about.

“Compass Records recently announced the signing of bluegrass and traditional country-infused duo Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley to the label. They have a new recording out titledBefore the Sun Goes Down, and you can read about the signing 
here. If you play guitar, or sing country music, looky here...watch this...then get back to me…”

“When Chris and I met Doug Seegers – at an impromptu house concert at Babs Lamb's house (sometimes in Music City, it's who ya know) that she put together at least in part so Doug could work on his between-songs patter before his upcoming Swedish tour (you don't really need that so much as a street singer), the first song he performed was Hank Williams' ‘Settin' The Woods On Fire.’ I told him that my sister and cousins had sung that very number at my cousin Margie's cat Powderbox's funeral, since we knew it pretty much all the way through. He may have just been being polite, but he seemed impressed, if a mite confused. Anyway, he was on NPR a couple of days ago, and pretty soon the whole world will know about him and embrace him; he is the real thing, folks.”

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Friday, October 10, 2014


Stand up and be counted. It is election season once again, and we’re not just talking about Washington, DC. If you haven’t done so already, it is time to vote for the CBA Board Members. If you are a CBA member (and if not, you should be!), you should have received a ballot in the mail. Please send it in now, or, if you are going to the CBA Fall Campout from the 13th-19th in Lodi, you can also vote there. As for the governmental mid-term elections that will be held on November 4th, if you are not registered to vote you must do so 15 days before election day, which means by October 20th. If you need information on registering, simply click here. There are some nefarious politicos out there that are pushing to make it harder and harder for people to vote. Don’t let them take away your right to do so. And hey, if you have ever wondered how some of those boneheads got elected in the first place, just watch this clip with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel that asks people who Joe Biden is. The results are funny and scary at the same time…

Hardly viewing. The 14th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival that took place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park last weekend was, as predicted, one incredible event. The late philanthropist and fest founder Warren Hellman, who died three years ago, set up an endowment fund to keep the music alive. It was free, and there is no other festival like it anywhere. Some of the acts I got to see were The Time Jumpers, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Robbie Fulks, The David Rawlings Machine, and The Earls of Leicester, with the biggest surprise of all being young Sarah Jarosz, who I had read about but never seen before. You will be hearing more about her before too long. She is one amazing talent at age 23. If you could not attend the fest, most of the shows were videotaped, and you can watch them on your computer here.

Hardly Warren. Worth repeating from last week’s column, there is a wonderful tribute exhibit to Warren Hellman in San Francisco that you should check out. “The Contemporary Jewish Museum celebrates the legacy of one of San Francisco’s greatest and most beloved benefactors in a new exhibition Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman. Warren Hellman (1934-2011) was an investment banker, philanthropist, musician, and music enthusiast who believed in the importance of community arts. Among a host of business and philanthropic accomplishments, Hellman may now be best recognized for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (HSB), which he founded in 2001. Held annually in Golden Gate Park, the free festival draws more than 700,000 people. The exhibit centers on video projection and audio listening stations featuring musical performances from HSB’s archive of artists – available to the general public for the first time. Special, resonant personal objects will also be included, such as Hellman’s Star-of-David rhinestone studded jacket and signed banjo, along with other HSB ephemera.”

Mostly Simply Bluegrass. Taking a cue from the Hardly Strictly name, and produced by Carltone Music, the Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On Saturday the 11th, from 8-10 p.m., the show will feature The Quake City Jug Band. The QCJB started out as an authentic jug band many years ago, but their sound and act has grown over the years to include snare drum, tap dancing, accordion, vocal harmonies, and feather boas. Now their repertoire includes early American blues, jazz and swing, a couple of songs in mediocre French, some very funny originals, and several covers. Monica McKey, chanteuse extraordinaire, will join be joining the band for this show. This will be their premier engagement at the pub. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome.

Life’s railway to heaven. Keyboard player Paul Revere, of the ‘60s band Paul Revere and the Raiders, died earlier this week at his home in Idaho. He was 76. Some of the band’s hits were "Hungry," Good Thing," "Him or Me, What's It Gonna Be," "Kicks," and "Indian Reservation.”

A bluegrass law firm? This is what the name Redwood Bluegrass Associates sounds like, but it has nothing to do with lawyers. It is a volunteer organization that comes together to produce some of the finest monthly bluegrass shows in Mountain View. RBA is celebrating its 23rd concert season, and its first show of the 2014-15 season will be on October 18th with Blue Diamond Strings, a new Bay Area all-star band featuring Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Eric and Suzy Thompson, Paul Knight, and Paul Shelasky. Go the RBA site for their complete schedule.

Paging John Green! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a music store? These short video clips here, here and here will give you a good idea. I wonder if Sacramento’s Fifth String owner John Green has ever had days like this…

And he picks the mandolin! Former SF Giants pitcher Mike Krukow has been a longtime radio voice for the team too, and he and his partner Duane Kuiper are one of the best ballgame announcers around. Krukow, however, was recently diagnosed with a debilitating muscle disease in his legs, and he has difficult getting around. ESPN did a fantastic story on him that you can read here, and it also includes some video that is well watching. Biggest and best surprise of all? Kruk plays multiple instruments, and while the story talks about him playing the mandolin quite a bit, the included video shows him playing a ukulele.

Birthday weekend. It is a big birthday weekend for bluegrass folks. The MOLD staff would like to give shout-outs to South Bay guitar picker Yvonne Walbroehl on the 10th, and on the 11th the same to West Marin fiddler Blaine Sprouse, South Bay banjo player Chip Curry, Sacto area mando and bass player Matt Dudman, and IBMA stalwart Archie Warnock.

Titan of the Telecaster. If you were a fan of Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen back in the day, then you will love their lead guitarist Bill Kirchen, who is playing some gigs in the Bay Area this weekend. You can see him at the Freight in Berkeley on the 10th, at the Palms in Winters on the 11th, and at 19 Broadway in Fairfax on the 12th. Check out this story about him.

The end of Pink. Even though they have their first new album out in decades, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd says "This is the end." Until, of course, the next reunion tour. Read about it here.

Experienced duo. Del & Dawg -- Del McCoury and David Grisman – will be playing a hot duo show at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on the 10th and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 11th.

Mighty fine music. There is a great little venue in the town of Lafayette called Mighty Fine Guitars that is owned and operated by Stevie Coyle, one of the founding members of The Waybacks. Stevie left the band a few years back to open up his guitar shop, and he and the owners of Lamorinda Music also built a small listening room in the back that seats about 75 people. There are shows there almost every weekend, and on Saturday the 11th at 8 p.m. see the proprietor himself, Stevie Coyle, perform.

Coming attractions. Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives in El Cajon on the 14th, in West Hollywood on the 15th, Ridgecrest on the 16th, Fresno on the 17th, Trinidad on the 18th, in Red Bluff on the 19th, Folsom on the 22nd, Berkeley on the 23rd, Modesto on the 24th, or in Bakersfield on the 25th. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held October 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on 10/23 will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more. Nell Robinson will be presenting her Rose of No Man’s Land shows at McCabe’s in LA on the 24th, at the Freight in Berkeley on the 25th, and at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on November 1st. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 11th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Blue Diamond Strings, which is the name of a new band with Eric Thompson, Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Paul Knight, Paul Shelasky, and Suzy Thompson. From the Asphalt Jungle Mountain Boys to the Blue Flame String Band, Any Old Time to Kleptograss, the Kate & Jody and Eric & Suzy (and Jody & Eric) duos, and many other collaborations, these musicians have made LOTS of music together – and are featured on this show.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer, and he is making up for lost time after having the week off last Friday. Here he offers his take on the recent IBMA hoedown in Raleigh, NC, he offers up a story about his friend Chris Strachwitz, and he also contributes a CD review.

First report on the World of Bluegrass:

The lure of hearing my name read out loud at The IBMA Awards Luncheon – and tickets to the Awards Show – proved too strong to resist, so Chris and I went to Raleigh last week with some trepidation, and I'm happy to say, had a wonderful time. Many highlights, beginning with having a drink in the hotel bar with Jim Rooney – musician, promoter, producer author, wit, bon vivant, and raconteur; a man who has been in the room when it happened more than most, and a man who has forgotten more about traditional music than most of us will ever know. He was in Raleigh to honor his longtime partner Bill Keith, a man who, despite accepting a Distinguished Achievement citation for a lifetime of great and innovative music, belongs in the IBMA's Hall Of Fame. In the same bar, later that night, I caught up with my main competition in the liner notes category – he won – Neil Rosenberg, who not only wrote notes for the very successful and groundbreaking album of Noam Pikelny's interpretations of Kenny Baker's versions of Monroe tunes, but also was inducted into The IBMA Hall Of Fame Thursday night. Although Neil is a Berkeley boy and was a founding member of Berkeley's first bona fide bluegrass band (The Redwood Canyon Ramblers), his love of bluegrass and banjo playing has led to a life filled with academic and literary success – he wrote the definitive history of the music – and he, too, has been in the room when it happened many times. I told him I figured I had scant chance of winning for my liner notes against the likes of him, and he pretty much agreed, but in a nice way...just a kiddin'. Neil was a gracious winner as always, and on Thursday humbly accepted his induction into the Hall Of Fame. I was particularly moved to hear him mention the importance of some who had been kind to him along the way, including Big Mon himself, but also people whose names wouldn't mean much to a lot of people. He mentioned Roger Smith as being particularly kind to him in his formative years. Chris and I got to know Roger in the ‘90s, and he was a fabulous, though largely unheralded, musician during the early years of bluegrass. He was a fixture at The Brown County Music Park when Neil worked there, and he ran the place for Bill Monroe for a time – and was in the house band with Roger and Vernon McQueen, among others. The original Seldom Scene was also inducted into the HOF. Original members Tom Gray, John Starling, and Ben Eldridge (the sole surviving member of the original group still active in the band) also joined the other current members of the band in an affecting version of Herb Pedersen's "Wait a Minute." THAT was a highlight, for sure, especially hearing John Starling sing the song once again. Choreographer Eileen Carson Schatz, an old friend, told me when we ran into her in a restaurant that we'd better be in our seats early for the awards show the next night, because her latest version of Footworks was going to open the show. We were, they did, and they blew the roof off the joint; great to see that her energy and innovations remain undiminished.

Second report on the World of Bluegrass:

Back from Raleigh, first time for Chris and me at IBMA there, and we had a wonderful time. Gotta say that it seems like the right place for the event. For too long now, especially in Music City, bluegrass has come to mean just another career move – speaking of which, welcome to the WWOB, Lee Ann Womack – and in a town where scratching your ass can be conceived as a career move, IBMA in Nashville had lost the character that made it special to us in the first place. The feeling of family, that these are OUR heroes, and we celebrate them for that uniqueness, was back – for me at least. A memorable time. Chris and I ran into Nancy Cardwell late Friday night – by the way, happy belated birthday, Nancy, should have known something was up from the white rose you were carrying – and boy did she look tired (but happy), and she should be...exceptional job, Ms. Cardwell. I have to just say that it felt good being around the folks again.

Third report – More Random Observations about IBMA in Raleigh, NC, 2014

It was nice to see and talk, however briefly, with Russell Johnson, mandolinist, lead and tenor singer with The Grass Cats and proud Raleigh booster; I've been a fan since his New Vintage days, dating back to IBMA in Owensboro. He says, "It takes a big man to sing as much like a girl as I do." He IS big, and he does sing high...Later on I caught his band on one of the many free stages downtown. I was also amused to note the number of times his instantly recognizable voice emanated from the host hotel's sound system...which was a good thing.

Good to see a third (?) generation of Paisleys coming along. Danny's son, whose name I never learned (or have already forgotten), was playing some fine mandolin with his old man, and Danny was in fine voice, particularly considering his recent health problems.

Enjoyed chatting with Tony Furtado in person for the first time in over 15 years...used to see Tony at the various East Bay pizza parlors when he was a very young kid; even then he was an exceptional banjo player, but he tells me he sings now; I found it amusing to notice that Jason Burleson referred to Tony on Facebook as one of his banjo heroes...don't know why...guess a part of me will always think of Tony as that kid in Laurie Lewis' band...And it was truly inspiring to see Frank Solivan the Younger and his band take the crowd on the plaza outside the host hotel by storm; he has arrived as a major new star in the bluegrass firmament ...

Spent most of Friday night in the CBA Hospitality Suite, watching one cool band after another, beginning with a sharp bunch from Mississippi called Breaking Grass, but...

The night was made especially special to me by the appearance of Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley touting their new Compass release together; everybody knows about Rob, the IBMA Dobro Player of The Year umpty twillion times by now, but wait until you hear what he and young Trey (23 years-old) have come up with! My shorthand way of describing Trey's talents is to say he sings like Merle Haggard and plays guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughan, and that's true as far as it goes, but he does so much more...he writes, he sings and plays bluegrass, classic country, and Western swing, and he's an exceptional acoustic and electric guitarist. He may single handedly make the three-note range boys of Bro Country extinct, and I ain't kidding. I won't name names, don't think I have to…Rob and Trey are helped out on the album by Mike Bub, Aubrey Haynie and Andy Leftwich, and several other, yes, BLUEGRASS luminaries, from around Nashville.

Later saw Helen Highwater, an immensely and diversely talented band that included the disparate talents of Missy Raines, David Grier, Mike Compton, and Shad Cobb; and the fabulous old time group The Foghorn String Band.

The evening ended, in the CBA Suite, at least, with the incredible Emerging Artist of The Year (update: Darby Brandli has kindly pointed out that they ‘emerged’ three years ago) – Flatt Lonesome. Folks, they've done emerged, and they want to come to California. You all would be wise to let them.

Have yet to confirm that Lee Ann Womack's initial Sugar Hill offering will include a number called ‘I Hope You Square Dance,’ (book deal to follow) and I wish her well in her exciting new plans to record with integrity; she sure sounded good with those bluegrass musicians at the awards show. I doubt that she reads my Facebook musings, so if you do, and you know her, keep my remarks on the down low, wouldja? She threatened to kick Peter Cooper in the crotch in 2005 over a review, and he just called her current album at the time humdrum, or some such...

Finally, I should mention my discussion of Melungeons with Peter Thompson and Rick Cornish, a highlight of the weekend, for sure. There's a fine entry on them on Wikipedia, if you aren't familiar; they are not to be confused with Jukes and Kallikaks, oft mentioned in the Major Hoople comic strip of my youth; they are another story altogether...

My Favorite Chris Strachwitz Stories

I may have mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears repeating. Chris played an interview on one of his KPFA radio shows back in the day, which is where I heard this one. He was interviewing Eddie Shuler, majordomo of Goldband Records, a pioneering independent Louisiana label that produced a lot of Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and even country music from the late ‘40s on. Eddie was extremely proud of the fact that he issued Dolly Parton's first single when she was only 13, and the huge Phil Phillips hit “Sea Of Love,” later licensed by Mercury, but the catalog was chock full of all kinds of cool stuff, from Katie Webster, Cookie & The Cupcakes, Jo-el Sonnier ("The Cajun Valentino"), and perhaps most importantly, the great Iry Lejeune. Anyway, Eddie, who ran his label and studio out of his house in Lake Charles and also repaired radios and TVs – maybe toasters, too – told Chris in the interview that at one point, most of his competition in the area had gone from 8 to 16-track recording set ups, and he was finding it difficult to compete, because the local groups just weren't booking his studio. He just wasn't up to date anymore. He decided, he told Chris, to modernize himself, obtaining a 16-track mixing board for his own studio, and most of his steady customers returned. Eddie would sit behind the glass, earnestly moving the faders to his new board to and fro as the bands played into his mic set ups. And Eddie never told them that the board didn't have any guts; he'd bought the board, but didn't bother to hook it up electronically, and evidently no one was the wiser, at least for a while.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/9/2014
Donna Hughes From the Heart
Running Dogs Records CD RDR 03

Got this from Donna in Raleigh at IBMA, and Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it in the car on the way back to Nashville. I met Donna around the time of her first Rounder release, which was produced by Tony Rice. She subsequently had another Rounder release, produced by JD Crowe, and now she has two new releases on her own label out there simultaneously, one bluegrass oriented, the other featuring her own excellent keyboard playing. She is, needless to say, a prolific writer, with a knack for writing strikingly original melodies, and a well-developed sense of the absurd. And she's a trip, as well as disarmingly funny. Check out "Wallmart Checkout Line," "Where The Good Daddies Go," and "Facebook" for her take on topical issues, and "Nothing Left To Say," "I Wanna Grow Old With You," "Easy To Love," and "The Way I Am" for her strikingly original lyrics. She's an engaging vocalist, as well, and the production is top notch, featuring some of the best 'grassers around, including Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Tim Stafford, and a fiddle player and harmony singer who is new to me, Jenee Fleenor – she's great – among others. There are 21(!) songs here, mostly Donna's originals, and they're uniformly excellent. Alison Krauss is a fan – she recorded Donna's "My Poor Old Heart" around the time I met Donna – and I suspect a lot of other people will record her songs as well; they will, if they're smart. Look her up at www.donnahughes.com.

 

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Friday, October 3, 2014


Hot time in the city! The beginning of this October is one great time to be here high atop Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. There weather at this time of year is always at its best, and this weekend will be a grand one, with temps in the mid-80s predicted. Which will really make attending the little hoedown in Golden Gate Park much more pleasant. The hometown Giants are in the playoffs again, and while their first game against the Nationals will be in DC today, they will be back here next week for games three and four. (The hope here is that they will then go on to face a couple of blue teams – the Dodgers for the league championship title, and then the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.) And Fleet Week returns to the city next week, with an appearance by the Blue Angels (not a baseball team from LA!). They were not here last year because the powers-that-be in the boneheaded House of Representatives threw a hissy fit and opted to shut down the government for some time. All in all, there is a lot of great stuff going on around here, and as the Commander Cody band sang many years back, "A whole lotta things that I never done, but I ain't never had too much fun."

Hardly worth the effort. The 14th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will be taking place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on the 3rd-5th, and it is one incredible event. Some of the bands that will be there are Peter Rowan, Dry Branch Fire Squad, The Time Jumpers, John Prine, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. The late philanthropist Warren Hellman set up an endowment fund to keep the music alive, and it promises to be another great time. It is free, and there is no other festival like it anywhere. However, it can be a challenge getting to it, as parking is tough and the crowds are huge. If you need a guide to use for the fests, check out this one from the SF Chronicle. Heck, you can even watch from the comfort of your home, as some of the stages are being streamed live on the web. Having attended the previous 13 events, I can say with conviction that once you get there, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is well worth the effort.

Hardly Warren. Speaking of Warren Hellman, there is a wonderful tribute exhibit to the man in San Francisco that you should check out. “The Contemporary Jewish Museum celebrates the legacy of one of San Francisco’s greatest and most beloved benefactors in a new exhibition Hardly Strictly Warren Hellman. Warren Hellman (1934-2011) was an investment banker, philanthropist, musician, and music enthusiast who believed in the importance of community arts. Among a host of business and philanthropic accomplishments, Hellman may now be best recognized for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (HSB), which he founded in 2001. Held annually in Golden Gate Park, the free festival draws more than 700,000 people. The exhibit centers on video projection and audio listening stations featuring musical performances from HSB’s archive of artists – available to the general public for the first time. Special, resonant personal objects will also be included, such as Hellman’s Star-of-David rhinestone studded jacket and signed banjo, along with other HSB ephemera.”

The After Party. For the 9th year in a row, SF promoter Shelby Ash has put together a hot lineup of shows for his Hardly Strictly After Party this weekend. On the 3rd at the Plough and Stars you can see The Harmed Brothers, The Mountain Men, and Tom Vandenavond. On the 4th it will be The Blackberry Bushes Stringband, Kemo Sabe, and One Grass Two Grass Red Grass Bluegrass. Both nights the shows start at 9 p.m.

IBMA awards. The International Bluegrass Music Association held their annual awards show at the big shindig in Raleigh, NC, last night, and you can read the names of the winners here. While our friends Molly Tuttle and Randy Pitts did not win in their respective categories, it was an honor that both were even mentioned. It is cool, however, that Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen won for Instrumental Group of the Year. The band has two Bay Area connections. Frank grew up attending the CBA Father’s Day Festivals at Grass Valley, and he was a graduate of his father Frank Sr.’s Kids on Bluegrass program. Bass player Danny Booth, while originally from Alaska, lived in the area for many years and played with numerous local bands before going out on the road with the Kitchen. His father Greg plays banjo and Dobro in the Kathy Kallick Band.

Much ado about nothing. That noted bluegrass publication (not!) Rolling Stone magazine is trying to show that there is a serious battle going on in the bluegrass world between old-timers and the younger jam bands. Where there is smoke there is usually fire, but I personally don’t see much of either anywhere…

Life’s railway to heaven. The CBA, and the entire CA bluegrass community, is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Regina Bartlett this week while she was attending the IBMA bash in Raleigh. You can read a brief story about her on the Cybergrass site, and also look at the tributes on the CBA Message Board. Just three weeks ago I was helping her set up a camping cot at the Strawberry Music Festival. Hard to believe that she has left for Gloryland way too soon. She is no doubt jamming already with all of the great pickers that have gone on before...

Marty's headed west. A couple of months back we wrote about Marty Stuart's collection of photographs that are on display from now until November 2nd in a show called American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives will be playing in CA this month. Plan ahead now to see them either in El Cajon on the 14th, in West Hollywood on the 15th, Ridgecrest on the 16th, Fresno on the 17th, Trinidad on the 18th, in Red Bluff on the 19th, Folsom on the 22nd, Berkeley on the 23rd, Modesto on the 24th, or in Bakersfield on the 25th. He was also on the National Public Radio show Fresh Air the other day, and you can listen to the interview here.

This land was his land. There is a nice video and story on the New York Times site about two of Woody Guthrie’s grandkids going back to look at homes where, back in his day, Grandpa Woody lived in the New York City area.

Just for the heck of it. Check out this video of Tony Rice and friends Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Bela Fleck, and Jerry Douglas are playing “John Hardy” at MerleFest in 1988. My, how young, thin and hirsute everyone was!

Ain’t singing the blues. Loudon Wainright III has been one of the wittiest and most entertaining songwriters on the music scene since his epic “Dead Skunk” put him on the charts back in the ‘70s. He has a new album out called I Ain’t Got the Blues (Yet), and you can read an interview with him here from the LA Times. He will be playing in LA on the 15th, in Grass Valley on the 17th, in Napa on the 18th, and at the Freight in Berkeley on the 19th.

Coming attractions. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwriting retreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick. Dawg & Del will be playing a hot duo show at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz on the 10th and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 11th. Mark your calendars for the CBA Fall Campout from the 13th-19th in Lodi. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on 10/23 will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more. Nell Robinson will be presenting her Rose of No Man’s Land shows at McCabe’s in LA on the 24th, at the Freight in Berkeley on the 25th, and at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on November 1st. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. The California Banjo Extravaganza, hosted by Bill Evans, will be happening from November 13th-16th at four NorCal venues. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 4th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Blue Grass Style, with a few songs about music from the true vine, as a reminder of the inspiration for this weekend's fester. Contributions from Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick ("Blue Grass Style"), Al Wood & The Smokey Ridge Boys ("Sing A Bluegrass Song"), Dave Evans ("My Bluegrass Memories"), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver ("The Grass That I'm Playing Is Really Blue"), Rhonda Vincent (“All American Bluegrass Girl”), Gibson Brothers (“That Bluegrass Music”), Tommy Webb ("If It Weren't For Bluegrass Music I'd Go Crazy"), and many others.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Randy Pitts, who was one of five 2014 IBMA nominees for Best Liner Notes, is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he usually contributes bon mots and CD reviews to this column, but he has the week off after spending the last few days in Raleigh at the World of Bluegrass gathering. With any luck he’ll send a review of the fest next week.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

 

World of bluegrass. That is what this coming week will amount to in two separate parts of the country. Late September and early October is quite an exciting time for bluegrass fans everywhere. Starting on the 30th and running through the 5th, the annual IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fanfest will be happening in Raleigh, NC. Just about everybody that is anybody will be in attendance, including many from the CBA. Their suite at the convention is the hot place to be, so check it out if you will going back there. MOLD Man himself will be embedded at the fest, and with any luck we will be receiving riveting reports from my column mate. Then, next weekend, theHardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will once again be taking place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, featuring Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. The late philanthropist Warren Hellman set up an endowment fund to keep the music alive, and it promises to be another great time. It is free, and there is no other festival like it anywhere.

IBMA awards. Speaking of the IBMA, the staff here at Carltone World Headquarters is pulling for local guitarist Molly Tuttle and weekly column contributor Randy Pitts to both win in their respective categories. Molly and her trio have been nominated in the Momentum Performance Award category, and Randy is in the running for Best Liner Notes for what he wrote for the James King recording Three Chords and The Truth. Here is what the modest Randog had to say on Facebook a few weeks back: “I just found out that my liner notes for James King's album Three Chords and The Truth was nominated for an award by the IBMA. Got to admit, it feels pretty good. But the album is a lot better than the liner notes; I did sweat over them, because I wanted to do the album justice...I hope I came close, and that isn't false modesty; it is a landmark album, and deserves a lot more attention from the gatekeepers than it has received. If you haven't heard it, do yourself, me, and James a favor and give it a GOOD listen. It is James at his best, and that is something...”

Good golly, Miss Molly. Molly recently tried out a Martin D-18 guitar at Gryphon Guitars in Palo Alto, and you can watch her pick and sing here.

Cutting some rug. Are you a vidiot that simply can’t get enough of the show Dancing With the Network Has-Beens? Or do you fancy yourself a modern day Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers? Well, dream on. If you want to see some real dancing, check out this video of the peacock spider. He has to do some real fancy moves if he wants to make any hay with the ladies…

One cool lunch box. Do you want little Biff or Muffy to be the hit of their grade school class? Then get them one of these lunch boxes now! Heck, get one for yourself, too, while you are at it! Your workmates will be jealous. And here is something for your man cave.Thanks to reader Linda Rust for the lunchbox tip.

All in the family. The Thompson family got together to make a record! No, we’re not talking Berkeley’s Eric, Suzy and Allegra Thompson. We’re talking Richard, Linda, Teddy and more. The album is titled Family, and it will be released in November. You can listen to a sneak preview of it here.

Gotta get to the gig on time! While I have had the occasional difficulty getting to a gig at times over the past 40 years of playing, I never had to do anything close to what these guyshad to do. As the saying goes, where there is a will…

Fit to a T. The T Sisters were a big hit at the recent Strawberry Music Festival, they have a new CD out that was produced by Laurie Lewis, and there is this cool video of them. They will be singing the National Anthem at the Giants/Padres game tonight.

Jim Hurst on guitar. Amazing Nashville guitarist Jim Hurst – two-time IBMA Guitarist of the Year – just played a gig yesterday with David Grisman in Napa, but if you are not going to IBMA in Raleigh next week you can still see him play solo on the 26th at a house concert in Berkeley and on the 28th at the Strum Shop in Roseville.

Tribute to Chet. Last name not needed here, as you know who I am talking about already. It has been 60 years since Mr. C and Gretsch Guitars hooked up, and there is this really nice video tribute, hosted by Steve Wariner with many guitarists being interviewed, that you should check out.

Richard Smith on guitar. “The most amazing guy I know on the guitar. He can play anything I know, only better,” supposedly said the aforementioned late guitarist Chet Atkins about Richard Smith, who is headed to CA next week. He will be playing all over the state, but a few shows in particular are the one at Schoenberg Guitars in Tiburon on the 2nd, at theSebastopol Community Center on the 3rd, at the Coolwater Ranch on the 4th, and the Strumshop in Roseville on the 5th. Go to this link for complete tour info.

Wall Street Americana. The recent Americana Music Festival Conference, which was dissected so superbly in this column last week by Randy Pitts, was also covered by that great music publication The Wall Street Journal. You can read their take on it here.

Music is the best medicine. Just for the heck of it, here is a nice video of the song “Best Medicine” by the band The Stray Birds.

With friends like these…. Sound engineer and bass player Paul Knight is one of the hardest working guys on the Bay Area music scene. Last weekend he did the sound for Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills, in August he did the same for the Good Old Fashioned Festival, and he is Peter Rowan’s doghouse bass player. He also has a side project called Paul Knight & Friends, featuring Blaine Sprouse on fiddle, Sharon Gilchrist on mandolin, Avram Siegel on banjo, and other special guests. On Sunday the 28th they will be playing at Windrush Farm in Petaluma, and more info can be found here.

Here’s to the fiddle that plays the tune. The KVMR Celtic Music Festival is on tap for the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on the 26th-28th. Some of the acts that you can see there are Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy Macisaac, Screaming
Orphans, Nuala Kennedy, Runa, Hanz Araki Band, 1000 Years At Sea, Tempest, and Nineteen Sixteen.

Coming attractions. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwritingretreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick. Mark your calendars for theCBA Fall Campout from the 13th-19th in Lodi. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on 10/23 will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go toKALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 27th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titledReso Rootin'. On the anniversary of Uncle Josh's birth, two new ones featuring the dobro – Three Bells with the late Mike Auldridge, Rob Ickes, and Jerry Douglas, plus Jerry's tribute to Josh and Flatt & Scruggs, The Earls of Leicester.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or theNorthern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Nashville cat. Randy Pitts is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here are two commentaries and one CD review.

“'I've Always Had Integrity’ threatens to supplant ‘I've Always Been Country’ and ‘My Heart Tells Me To Return To My Roots’ as the rallying cry for aging Nashville artists dropped by major labels who go Americana. See this Tennessean column by Peter Cooper, who turns a 2005 assault threat from a then major label star into a story about American individuality, and well, creativity. Lee Ann Womack's signing to Sugar Hill is likely good news for fans of actual country music. I've always thought she had some of the best pipes in Nashville, but as for her music, well, her biggest song DID inspire one of my best titles, ‘I Hope You Lap Dance,’ but I wasn't able to follow through with an actual song in timely fashion...”

“Robbie Fulks' version of ‘Trying To Love Two Women’ – and his explanation of how Sonny Throckmorton came to write the song on this YouTube video – made my day yesterday.’

Randog's Daily Pick 9/25/2014
J D Crowe, Doyle Lawson, and Paul Williams Old Friends Get Together
Mountain Home CD MH 12922

From 2010, this wonderful album features three of the greatest in bluegrass, including two members of the genre's Hall oF Fame, Crowe and Lawson, and one who surely will be soon, the great tenor and lead singer and mandolin player (and songwriter) Paul Williams, whose name is less familiar than those of his compatriots here only because for the last 40 ye.ars or so, he has labored largely in the field of bluegrass gospel. The two unifying factors here are the experience shared by all three of these titans of working for Jimmy Martin – and Paul Williams was Jimmy's brother in law as well – and the gospel repertoire featured here, consisting solely of songs these guys sang on stage with The King of Bluegrass himself over the years. These are the classics, folks – done in classical style. Crowe, of course, plays banjo in his inimitable, groundbreaking style, as well as lending his baritone vocals, Lawson plays guitar (and replicates Jimmy's licks admirably – the man was after all, one of the alltime greats on that instrument), while Paul Williams brings his soaring tenor voice to the mix – and he's a hoss on the mandolin, too. Talk about tone, time, and tempo...well, looky here, listen to this! Ben Isaacs plays bass and produced this album, Cia Cherryholmes added high harmony vocals, as did Sonya Isaacs, Ron Stewart played fiddle, and Harry Stinson added snare drums – Harry is one of the best in Nashville, a member of Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives – and yes folks, the original Jimmy Martin recordings had drums on them. "Goodbye," "The Little White Church," "Stormy Waters," (epic!) "Pray The Clouds Away," "When The Savior Reached Down for Me," "This World Is Not My Home," "Voice Of My Savior," "Lord I'm Coming Home,” "Give Me Your Hand," "Shake Hands With Mother Again," and last but assuredly not least, the chilling "Who'll Sing For Me."

 

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Friday, September 19, 2014


A festive occasion. The Strawberry Music Festival took place last weekend at its new location at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley instead of at its longtime home at Camp Mather near Yosemite. I was there from start to almost-finish, and many have been asking me how it went. The GV locale was not new to me, as I have been going to the CBA Father’s Day Festival for about 25 years. Experiencing Strawberry at the same site was okay, but it had a different feel to it. The fest had the same tie-dyed hippie crowd, albeit much smaller than for Mather, but perhaps similar to CBA numbers. Since it was a whole new situation for most Strawberrians, getting a good camping spot and being able to hang with friends was, to say the least, a bit challenging. There was no real Camp Carltone as there had been in days of yore, as I just set up on the edge of a camp of some other friends. It was a veritable Carltone diaspora, as my usual campmates were everywhere. There was a lot of grumbling about such, but this abated after the first day. The Breakfast Club – of which I am one of the on-air hosts – took place on an outdoor stage, as opposed to being inside the dining hall at Mather. The stage was quite a distance from the food booths, and it was more of a BYOBreakfast affair, with a very sparse audience turnout. The main stage was set up similarly to CBA Fest, but moved forward about 15 yards, so there were no trees in the way of the audience. And the music selection on the main and satellite stages was very good with the usual mixed Strawberry styles. The Kathy Kallick Band, Hot Rize, the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Keith Little & The Little Band, Steep Ravine, The T Sisters, and Hot Buttered Rum were highpoints for me. And it was great to get a new bridge put on my standup bass by Matt Bohn, The Bass Doctor. Coolest part about both fests taking place in Grass Valley? The Lazy Dog ice cream concession! All in all, the fest seemed to go pretty smoothly, and as far as I am concerned, it was better to have Strawberry take place in Grass Valley than not at all. As to what the future holds for the fest? While there continues to be rampant speculation among festgoers, time will tell…

Take two. As mentioned above, Kathy Kallick and her hot band played the main stage at Strawberry, and she posted her take on the fest too. If you are on Facebook, you can read what she wrote here. Otherwise, click on this link. Today also happens to be her birthday, so if indeed you are on Facebook, drop her b-day wishes. KK is headed to the IBMA blowout in Raleigh in ten days to perform the Vern & Ray Tribute with Laurie Lewis.

Upstaged by a bug. The Interweb has been abuzz this week with reports of the praying mantis that jammed with Hot Rize at the fest. It was a pretty funny situation, and frontman Nick Forster really handled the situation well. You can watch the video here. It is too bad that, after the bug was dispatched, the band didn’t go into a version of Bay Area fiddler Paul Shelasky’s song “Praying Mantis Love Affair,” which you can watch here being performed by LeRoy McNees. And hey, here is a movie to check out on Netflix.

All roads lead to Plymouth. This weekend, on the 19th-21st, most everyone is either already there or they are headed out to Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills outside of Plymouth. You can see The GrassKickers, The Bladerunners, Ron Spears & Within Tradition, Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers, Reno & Harrell, Blue Moon Rising, and Adkins & Loudermilk. MOLD readers are anxiously looking forward to Mold Man’s report on the fest here next week, as he has been embedded there since two days ago.

Old-time is not a crime! At least, not in Berkeley. The Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention started on the 16th, and it runs through the 21st, with concerts, dances, jams, workshops, and more. And speaking of being an “old timer,” organizer Suzy Thompson will be celebrating her 60th birthday tomorrow on the 20th. Congrats to another Year of the Horse honoree!

Mouse music. Last week in this space I referenced this story in the San Francisco Chronicle about Chris Strachwitz, the owner of Arhoolie Records and Down Home Music in El Cerrito. There is an excellent new documentary about him called This Ain’t No Mouse Music that opens today in Bay Area theatres, and if you want to read my review of it for Movie Magazine International, simply click here. While the Chron promo piece from last week is quite good, the official review in today’s paper should be ignored, as the reviewer seems to know, or care very little, about music.

Millpond Music. One more fest of note taking place this weekend is the Millpond Music Festival near the town of Bishop in Inyo County. Some of the acts that will be performing there are The Trespassers, David Bromberg, Vance Gilbert, The Bills, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen, and David Jacobs-Strain.

Future star. This video has been around for about a year, but the staff here at Carltone Headquarters only saw it for the first time the other day. It is a huge “awwww” moment when country singer Luke Bryan invites a cute six-year-old girl from the audience to join him on stage while he is singing. He then gets upstaged by the tyke when she begins singing with him on his own song.

How can we miss him if he won’t stay away? Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam is back in the music biz, and he recently announced a six-city concert tour, his first since 1976. Apparently there are enough nostalgic herbal-tea-drinking 60-somethings wearing Birkenstocks who still want to hear such insipid songs as “Moonshadow,” “Wild World,” “Morning Has Broken,” and “Peace Train.” These same fans have conveniently forgotten that Stevens/Islam also called for the death of writer Salman Rushdie in 1989, after the latter wrote a book of fiction called The Satanic Verses. Oh, you forgot about this too? Then read this here.

Gathering momentum. Bay Area guitarist/singer Molly Tuttle and her trio have been nominated in the Performance Award category at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Awards. The winners will be presented with their awards at a luncheon during the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass on Wednesday, October 1st, in Raleigh, NC. “The Momentum Awards were instituted in 2012 to recognize both musicians and bluegrass industry professionals who, while in the early stages of their careers, have contributed to, or had an influence on, bluegrass music. These contributions can be to bluegrass music in general, or done in a specific part of the industry."

Life’s railway to heaven. Bob Crewe, a prolific singer and songwriter from the ‘60s who co-wrote big hits for Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” died in Maine last week after suffering complications from a fall. He was 83.

Just back from Strawberry. The Bay Area band Steep Ravine – who played on Vern’s Stage at the CBA Father’s Day Festival in June and last week played on the main stage at Strawberry – is definitely going places. If you haven’t seen them yet, they will be playing at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on the 21st. Here is the description: “These local rising-stars picked their name from an amazing spot on Mt. Tamalpais, the Steep Ravine trail. The band has quickly become known for riveting live performances that catch audiences by surprise with the sheer acoustic power of their soulful tunes and fiery instrumentals. Steep Ravine's unique sound, equal parts poetic lyricism and string-playing ingenuity, energetically bends bluegrass and folk music.”

Coming attractions. The KVMR Celtic Music Festival is on tap for the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on the 26th-28th. The annual IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fanfest will be happening in Raleigh, NC, from 9/30-10/5. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will once again be taking place in SF’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, featuring Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwriting retreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick. Mark your calendars for the CBA Fall Campout from the 13th-19th in Lodi. The Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. The Britgrass Invasion show at Slim’s in SF on 10/23 will have Belle Monroe & Her Brewglass Boys, The T Sisters, The Beauty Operators, Rusty Stringfield, and more. The Hangtown Halloween Ball will be going on in Placerville on October 24th-26th at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds with Front Country, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Brothers Comatose, New Monsoon, and others. On November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series at the Yosemite Bug will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 20th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Blue is Fallin'. It is the anniversary of the late guitarist Charles Sawtelle's birth, so the show will feature the first new release from Hot Rize since his passing, along with a few favorite recorded moments from Charles.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer. This week he offers his take on the recent Americana Awards show as well as a Judy Henske CD review, followed by some additional commentary.

Randog's Daily Pick 9/18/2014
The Americana Awards Show at The Ryman Auditorium Favorite Moments:

1. 62-year-old Doug Seegers opening the show, proving the adage that if you sing on the streets of Nashville long enough, someone from Sweden will discover you...and Rounder will sign you, proving another Nashville adage that, if one happens upon something good, everybody will line up to get a piece. I sincerely hope Doug survives his "discovery," because he is special.

2. Loretta Lynn, receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, singing “Coal Miner's Daughter” and leaving to get on the bus because she's playing "somewhere 800 miles away tomorrow night."

3. Ry Cooder's obvious enjoyment at joining another Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Taj Mahal, in a number. Ry played in the house band all night, and was, for the most part, amazing, albeit way too up front in the mix. It's just the house band, Ry.

4. Cooder's heartfelt presentation of yet another Lifetime Achievement Award winner, the much deserved Flaco Jimenez, and Flaco's equally heartfelt acceptance speech.

5. The Milk Carton Kids winning an award in some category in which they were in competition with The Avett Brothers. The Avetts were seemingly not in attendance to display their disappointment at losing. But keep nominating them, Americana, even though they mostly eschew rinky-dink venues like the Ryman these days.

6. The news that the hideous Mumford & Sons have evidently disbanded. I have been mercifully out of the loop on this one.

7. Helping our house guest, Mary Tilson, remember where she parked her car; there is no truth to the rumor that she is willing to add the letters N and A to her 30-odd-year-old radio show title, America's Back 40, for a price.

8. Seeing my dear friends Emilee and Donica on the world's shortest red carpet. Without Emilee, there would be no Randog...and Donica, I forgive you for the fart machine.

9. The fabulous McCrary Sisters, backing up everybody. C'mon, decision makers and other Americanans...give 'em a song of their own!

10. The gasp of shock when Buddy Miller won Instrumentalist of the Year. Not really.

Randog's Daily Pick 9/15/2014
Judy Henske Big Judy-How Far This Music Goes 1962-2004
Rhino Handmade CD RH M2-7726

"I don't want people to call me a 'folk pioneer.' It's as if I were Ward Bond or Willa Cather crossing the burning desert with my yoke of oxen and a cast iron kettle." This quote from Ms. Henske's website – and you can order this two-CD disc there – indicates something of the woman's irreverent view of life, music, and her place in it and why I consider, to this day, meeting her and listening to her talk and sing when I booked her a couple of times at The Freight and Salvage in the '90s a high point of my days around the folkadoke trade. Known as “The Queen of the Beatniks” during her heyday in the folk clubs and cabarets of the early sixties, and as a pal of Woody Allen – a lot of clubs paired a comic with a folk singer in those days of yore – Judy was, and is, as much of a performer as she is a singer, and although she has always drawn on the traditional repertoire, she has often been as likely to play those songs for laughs as not, and could and would belt a blues, gospel or jazz number with the fervor those kinds of songs call for. She has a voice that, at its best, rivals Janis Joplin's, and she has cited Odetta as an influence. The songs for which she was best known back when I was just a little folkadoke are all here, including "I Know You Rider," "Hooka Tooka (also known as “Green Green Rocky Road”),” "Wade In The Water," Billy Edd Wheeler's "High Flying Bird," which was perhaps her biggest hit – the first time at the Freight she said she was only singing it because "Randy Pitts said I would" in the calendar – and two Fred Neil classics, "The Other Side of This Life" and "Dolphins in the Sea," are all on disc one. Disc two represents the latter part of her career, and is equally worthwhile, but different. Maybe someone someday will make a movie about those bygone days of Greenwich Village folkdom and include a character along the lines of Judy Henske. Until then, there is always Hootenanny Hoot, a "folksploitation" movie of the '60s, a serious grindhouse programmer wherein she performs two numbers. The movie sucks, but it is unintentionally hilarious, and Judy is great in it.

While we're still on the subject of Judy Henske – at least, I am – I just discovered this YouTube clip of her singing the Billie Holiday classic “God Bless the Child” on The Judy Garland Show from 1963. While it is far from perfect – a corny arrangement replete with an embarrassing growling trumpet sucks real bad – it is certainly one of the best things I've ever heard Ms. Henske do, and it takes guts to sing a song Billie owns so completely. Judy should have done more things in this vein, IMHO.

 

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Friday, September 12, 2014


The man in the seersucker robe. That’s what I am wearing this weekend at the Strawberry Music Festival that is taking place from the 11th-14th – for the first time in Grass Valley – at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Due to the devastating Rim Fire last year near Yosemite, Strawberry had to find a new home, and for now, at least this year, it is at the same fairgrounds where the CBA’s Annual Father’s Day Festival takes place. I have been attending Strawberry since 1991, and 15 years ago, in 1999, I served my first stint as co-host on the morning Breakfast Club radio show with my coworkes Richard Beveridge, Sher Ennis and Margie Kay. The show was designed for festgoers who got to sing a couple of songs in the mess hall for the people eating breakfast. It will be a bit different this weekend, as the Breakfast Club has been moved outdoors to one of the smaller stages. And, it will only take place on Friday and Saturday, not Friday through Monday. However, the show must go on, and since it is show biz, I will be dressed in my usual seersucker robe, strawberry pajamas, and red velvet slippers. With any luck I will see some of you there. At the fest are the Kathy Kallick Band, Hot Rize, Hot Buttered Rum, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Keith Little and the Little Band, Jerry Douglas, Marcia Ball, and much, much more. Day tickets are available at the gate. Stop on by the Breakfast Club stage to say hello.

 

Bohemian Highway in Sonoma. For those of you that can’t make it to Strawberry, you can go to the Mostly Simply Bluegrass series at Murphy's Irish Pub in the town of Sonoma. The show is produced by Carltone Music, and it usually takes place on the second Saturday of every month, featuring the finest in bluegrass, country, swing, old-time and Americana music. On September 13th the show will be from 7-9 p.m. – an earlier time than usual, and it will feature Doug Blumer and The Bohemian Highway, an Americana quartet from Sebastopol that plays a lot of original music and whose members features two couples. Doug Blumer and his wife Nancy Irish play guitars and sing, and Kent Fossgreen plays bass while his wife Jane Fossgreen sings and plays percussion. They have a new self-titled CD that was just released this summer. This will be their premier engagement at the pub. Murphy's offers fine food and drink at reasonable prices in a family-friendly atmosphere. There is no cover, and children are welcome. 

What would Bill say? It ain’t trad grass by any stretch, but it is pretty dang good pickin’. Check out amazing West Marin banjoist player Tim Weed with his ensemble here.

More amazing playing. One can only wonder what was going through the mind of classical pianist Glenn Gould as he was playing this Bach piece on his piano…

Robert Plant sings the Stanleys. I kid you not. The former lead singer of the rock band Led Zeppelin has covered one of their songs on his new recording titled Lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar. It is not your usual rendition of “Little Maggie,” but it does have a banjer in it. You can read or listen to his interview on National Public Radio here.

Down home dude. There is a real nice story in the San Francisco Chronicle about Chris Strachwitz, the owner of Arhoolie Records and Down Home Music in El Cerrito. There is a new documentary about him called This Ain’t No Mouse Music that will open in Bay Area theatres on the 19th. In my column next Friday you can read my review of the film. It is really good, and you really should go see this story about a true life Bay Area musical gold mine.

Kentucky treasures. This is what Sonny and Bobby Osborne are called, in the new documentary called A Kentucky Treasure: The Osborne Brothers. Here is the description on Bluegrass Nation: “Bobby and Sonny Osborne – better known as The Osborne Brothers – have forged a musical legacy that has made them superstars across both the bluegrass and country genres. Their well-loved 1967 anthem ‘Rocky Top’ brought the pair worldwide fame and cemented their place in musical history. A new documentary by independent filmmaker Russ Farmer documents the storied careers of the Osbornes, who grew up in Hyden, KY, and went on to become the first bluegrass band to perform in the White House.”

Front and center. The Bay Area bluegrass/country band Front Country is also featured in an interview on the Bluegrass Nation site, and you can read it here.

The Godfather of Soul. James Brown doesn’t need much of an introduction. All you have to do is mention his name. The new documentary Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown, will premiere on HBO in late October.

Soul men. Speaking of soul singers, Marin County filmmaker Martin Shore’s new documentary is called Take Me to the River, and it is an inside look at the soulful sound of Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. You can read all about it in Paul Liberatore’s column in the Marin IJ.

Want to learn how to play like Mother Maybelle? If so, Peter Feldmann can show you how. In 1975 he released “what is still considered the seminal instruction package for Maybelle Carter's style of guitar playing. Originally issued as an LP with instruction booklet, this long out of print material is now being made available on a CD in what is called ‘CD Extra’ format. A complete instruction booklet is included on the CD.”

Guitar dinosaur? A new/old dinosaur species has been discovered in Argentina, and it has been named Dreadnoughtus. Check out the story here.

A festive season. Don’t put away those tents and tarps yet, there are still of lot of great fests yet to come. The American River Festival in Coloma is also going on this weekend, featuring The Parson Red Heads, Laura Love and Big Bad Gina, Tommy Malone, Whitewater Ramble, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, Greg Brown, The Bills, and the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. The Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention will be happening from the 16th-21st, with six days of activities. The following weekend, the 19th-21st, you will get nothing but bluegrass at Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills outside of Plymouth. You can see The GrassKickers, The Bladerunners, Ron Spears & Within Tradition, Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers, Reno & Harrell, Blue Moon Rising, and Adkins & Loudermilk. Of course, there is the IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fanfest that will be happening in Raleigh, NC, from 9/30-10/5. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrasswill once again be taking place in SF’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, and they just posted their lineup the other day. See Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwriting retreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick; and on November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. The CBA Fall Campout will take place from the 13th-19th in Lodi. And the Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Mighty fine music. There is a great little venue in the town of Lafayette called Mighty Fine Guitars that is owned and operated by Stevie Coyle, one of the founding members of The Waybacks. Stevie left the band a few years back to open up his guitar shop, and he and the owners of Lamorinda Music also built a small listening room in the back that seats about 75 people. There are shows there almost every weekend, and on Friday the 12th at 8 p.m. see Portland singer/songwriter Mary Flower perform.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go toKALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 13th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled I Ain't Broke, But .... On the (103rd) anniversary of Bill Monroe's birth, the KALW Fall Membership Drive special brings you lots of great music, including some of Big Mon's songs. Turn on, tune it, donate.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or theNorthern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Randy Pitts, one of five 2014 IBMA nominees for Best Liner Notes, is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he contributes bon mots and CD reviews. Here is one of each:

“Watching this Backstage Pass video featuring Del McCoury and Tim O'Brien chatting informally (in the balcony at The Ryman it appears) in order to promote some joint appearances in upcoming months – they're playing the War Memorial Auditorium here in October, I think – reminds me of a time that doesn't seem all that long ago when they each would bring their bands to the Freight and Salvage on Addison Street in Berkeley, CA, a venue that held, the fire marshal said, 238 people. They probably don't miss those days, but I sure do.”

Randog's Daily Pick 9/9/2014
Rose Maddox Rose Maddox Sings Bluegrass
Capitol LPT 1799

Those of us lucky enough to have seen Rose Maddox sing with bluegrass bands in clubs and at festivals in the ‘70s,’80s, and ‘90s are certain that she could do it, but in 1962, when this album was recorded, it was a rare occurance indeed to see a woman fronting a bluegrass band live...or even in the studio, as she does on this landmark album. I scored my first copy ever of the original album quite recently, and upon listening to it again, was reminded once more just how good it was. Don't know why I was surprised – Rose's band in the studio was essentially Reno & Smiley (including the great Mac Magaha on fiddle), plus either Donna Stoneman (of the famous Stoneman Family, then newly arrived in Nashville) or Bill Monroe himself on mandolin. Rose said the idea of cutting a bluegrass album came from Monroe himself, while promoter Carlton Haney claimed that it was his idea, according to an account of the event in Murphy Henry's excellent history of women in bluegrass entitled Pretty Good For a Girl. From wherever the idea came, it was a good one, and resulted in 12 excellent examples of the genre, sung by one of the finest and most historically important figures in the history of country music. Perhaps not surprisingly, the repertoire is Monroe-centric, featuring classics from his repertoire: “My Rose Of Old Kentucky,” “Uncle Pen,” “I'll Meet You In Church Sunday Morning,” “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” “Footprints In The Snow,” “Molly and Tenbrooks,” and “The Old Crossroads,” along with the Tommy Collins-penned “Down, Down, Down,” (a perennial favorite of Rose's), “Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms,” “Cotton Fields,” “Old Slew Foot,” and “Each Season Changes You,” all of which became staples of Rose's stage shows in years to come. In Pretty Good For a Girl, Rose is quoted as saying that Monroe played mandolin only on the first day because Rose included steel guitarist Wayne Gaily on the sessions; that assertion is contested by others, but doesn't seem atypical of Monroe; neither does Rose's insistence that a steel player be included. Whatever the truth of the matter is, it is difficult to determine where Monroe's playing ends and that of Donna Stoneman begins; she was that good and that much of a student of Monroe's style. Murphy Henry says that her kick-off to the Monroe composition “The Old Crossroads” is patterned after Big Mon's own intro to “Precious Memories,” and who am I to argue? All in all, this is a surprisingly satisfying bluegrass album, regardless of its historical significance.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Going to hell in a hand basket. That is where the world, as we know it, is headed. At least, this is what you’d think if you ever watch cable news, whose motto is “If it bleeds, it leads. If it thinks, it stinks,” so it is nothing but murder, mayhem and misfortune 24/7. Forget about Ukraine, Iraq and Syria…there have been nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence posted on the Interweb, the former first lady of France has released a kiss-and-tell-all book, Joan Rivers is dead, the A’s and Giants are struggling to make the playoffs with one month left to play, and Cheech and Chong have been added to the cast of “Dancing with the Has-Beens.” It’s no wonder then that, according to the National Institute of Health, 11% of Americans are on some kind of antidepressants. Fortunately for us, we have bluegrass and other forms of music to help us get through our daily drudgery. And Carltone is here to tell you all about it.

Reading this column will make you smarter! If, according to these stories here and here from that noted bluegrass website The Huffington Post, listening and playing music makes you smarter, then it only stands to reason that reading about music in this column will sharpen the brain cells too! At least, that is the goal here…

The endless summer. Just because we’ve turned the page into September, this doesn’t mean that the fun is over already. There are still some great fests on the calendar. The Strawberry Music Festival has changed dates and locations, and for the past 25+ years or so it took place on the holiday weekend at Camp Mather by Yosemite. But now it is moving to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley next week on the 11th-14th, and dang, they have some great acts on the bill, such as The Kathy Kallick Band, Hot Rize, Hot Buttered Rum, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, Keith Little and the Little Band, Jerry Douglas, Marcia Ball, and much more. The Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention will be happening from the 16th-21st, with six days of activities. The following weekend, the 19th-21st, you will get nothing but bluegrass at Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills outside of Plymouth. You can see The GrassKickers, The Bladerunners, Ron Spears & Within Tradition, Larry Efaw & The Bluegrass Mountaineers, Reno & Harrell, Blue Moon Rising, and Adkins & Loudermilk. Of course, there is the IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fanfest that will be happening in Raleigh, NC, from 9/30-10/5. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass will once again be taking place in SF’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, and they just posted their lineup the other day. See Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands, Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Hot Rize, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and dozens more acts. At the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort you will want to check out The Yosemite Songwriting retreat on October 10th-13th, with an opening night concert featuring Peter Rowan, Terre Roche, Keith Greeninger, Jayme Kelly Curtis, and Ukulele Dick; and on November 7th-9th the Band Sessions series will feature Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands. The CBA Fall Campout will take place from the 13th-19th in Lodi. And the Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S Productions, will be held Oct 17th-19th in Kingman, AZ, at the beautiful Stetson Winery, with Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers, The Central Valley Boys, Snap Jackson & The Knock on Wood Players, The Get Down Boys, The Burnett Family, Chris Stuart & Janet Beazley, James Reams & The Barnstormers, and a reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. Go to all of the links for complete info.

Wayfarin’ Strangers. There is a new book coming out later this month titled Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr. Here is the description: “Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a steady stream of Scots migrated to Ulster and eventually onward across the Atlantic to resettle in the United States. Many of these Scots-Irish immigrants made their way into the mountains of the southern Appalachian region. They brought with them a wealth of traditional ballads and tunes from the British Isles and Ireland, a carrying stream that merged with sounds and songs of English, German, Welsh, African American, French, and Cherokee origin. Their enduring legacy of music flows today from Appalachia back to Ireland and Scotland and around the globe. In Wayfaring Strangers, Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr guide readers on a musical voyage across oceans, linking people and songs through centuries of adaptation and change.”

Renaissance man. Another great music book read is Jim Rooney’s autobiography In It For the Long Run: A Musical Odyssey. Rooney has done it all and then some in the music world. Paraphrasing from his web site, “he is a guitar player and songwriter who has played with banjo player Bill Keith for over fifty years; in the ‘60s he was manager the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge, MA; he was the talent coordinator for the Newport Folk Festival, he worked as a tour manager and stage manager for the Newport Jazz Festival, and produced the first New Orleans Jazz Festival in 1968; in 1970, in Woodstock, NY, he managed the Bearsville Sound Studios for Albert Grossman and was a member of The Woodstock Mountains Revue; since 1976 Jim has worked in Nashville, TN, as a musician, songwriter, recording engineer, Grammy-winning record producer and partner in a successful music publishing company, Forerunner Music. Rooney is best known for his record production with Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Iris DeMent, Hal Ketchum, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, and Peter Rowan. In 2009 he received a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the Americana Music Association for his work as an engineer/producer.” And here I thought I was a busy guy…

Backstage Pass. Tim O’Brien interviewing and singing with Del McCoury? Drop everything else that you are doing right now and watch this edition of Backstage Pass. Hot Rize and The Del McCoury Band will be playing some shows together in the coming weeks and months.

Blu grass in Marin. Mill Valley's own Savannah Blu bluegrass band has two local gigs of note this weekend. On Saturday the 6th they will be at the Sand Dollar in Stinson Beach from noon-3, and on Sunday the 7th you can see them playing outside on the patio at Sweetwater in Mill Valley from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. No cover at either gig, and the latter one will feature a special guest (and fledgling Friday MOLD columist) standing in on bass.

Hot show in Tiburon. Bummed that you can't make it to Strawberry next weekend to see the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band play? Well, then go see them up close and personal at Schoenberg Guitars in Tiburon on the evening of the 10th. This show was just added two days ago, and it is a great place to see a concert. The store only holds about 30 people, and there is not a bad seat in the house.

A Visit to a Lost Bluegrass Music Temple. This is the title of bluegrass writer and cultural activist Art Menius’ blog from last weekend, when he and his wife made a pilgrimage to the late Carlton Haney’s Blue Grass Park outside of Reidsville, NC, in search of the site of the prototype for bluegrass festival venues for many years to come.

Bluegrass Country Soul. Menius mentions the documentary Bluegrass Country Soul in his blog, and this is an item that I have had in the hopper for a couple of weeks now, so now is the time to tell you about it. It is a wonderful film that documents Carlton Haney´s 1971 Labor Day Weekend Bluegrass Music Festival at Camp Springs, NC. Now, through the wonders of the Interweb, you can watch it in its entirety, right here, right now.

Kathy and Laurie in the HuffPo. Check out this great story on the Huffington Post web site titled Farewell, Fair Ladies: American Roots by Women by Stephen D. Winick. He starts out talking about Kathy Kallick and Laurie Lewis’s new recording Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray (for which out esteemed co-contributor Randy Pitts wrote the liner notes for)(he was nominated for an IBMA award this year for doing the same on the latest James King CD), moves on to the Quebe Sisters and fiddler Betse Ellis, and finishes up talking about Martha Burns. Pretty dang cool!

Cool cat pickin’ the five. Literally. Check it out here.

Perfect pitch. Many fans of the SF Giants already know about third base coach Tim Flannery, who, in the off season, is quite the talented singer/songwriter/musician with at least four CDs to his credit. But not many know about starting pitcher Jake Peavy and his singing talent. Check him out here singing the Townes Van Zandt song “Pancho & Lefty.”

Jerry and the Giants. Speaking of the Giants and music, on August 12th it was Jerry Garcia Tribute Night at the ballpark, and there is this cool video that the team made for the late guitarist and founding member of the Grateful Dead.

Ever hear of Cliff Eberhardt? If not, you have heard his voice. Read this story here about the singer/songwriter.

Mighty fine music. There is a great little venue in the town of Lafayette called Mighty Fine Guitars that is owned and operated by Stevie Coyle, one of the founding members of The Waybacks. Stevie left the band a few years back to open up his guitar shop, and he and the owners of Lamorinda Music also built a small listening room in the back that seats about 75 people. There are shows there almost every weekend, and on Friday the 5th at 8 p.m. see Mark Goldenberg perform. He was Jackson Browne's lead guitarist for 20+ years, and he just finished up a huge Hugh Laurie world tour, playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards and accordion.

Working without a net. The Flying Salvias -- Henry Salvia (from Houston Jones) on keys, his wife Kathleen Enright Salvia on vocals, Peter Tucker (also from H-J) on drums, and bass player Alex Baum -- will be playing at Rancho Nicasio on Friday, September 5th, at 8 p.m., and there is no cover. There is something for all of your musical tastes, including originals, country, blues, hippie rock, and faux jazz. They call it alt-Americana, which means they can do whatever they want to.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 6th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled What's Goin' On, Part 2, which will be a musical preview of the Berkeley Old Time Music Convention with guest co-host (and BOTMC grand fromage) Suzy Thompson.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is a commentary (with tongue planted firmly in his cheek) and two CD reviews to get you through the weekend.

“There are those who regard Barbara Mandrell's comeback album I Was Americana When Americana Wasn't Cool as a desperate attempt to return to Music Row relevance, while others insist that she is a ‘core artist’ of the genre. ‘After all, she DID know how to play pedal steel, and not only that, but saxophone, too; not all that well, but she DID play 'em, not like that un-Americana Dolly Parton...’ exclaimed an unspecified spokesman.”

Randog's Daily Pick 9/2/2014
Phil Lee So Long, It's Been Good To Know You
Steady Boy Records-CD SB-0028

A CD in my collection I've ignored for over a year...until yesterday, when I picked it up, put it on the player, and found myself once again immersed in the world of “The Mighty King Of Love,” the one and only (not literally true, there IS another “country” artist named Phil Lee, but go with this one) Phil Lee. Looking like David Spade's deranged twin – the one in the basement – and singing like a cross between Wildman Fischer and a rusty gate, Phil is one of the most original, consistently entertaining, and thought provoking artists I've come across in my tenure in Music City. This album, released in 2009, contains 13 pieces of imaginative, if jaundiced slices, of that good ol' Americana, from "Mexicans" to "Where A Rat's Lips Have Touched" to "The Taterbug Rag" and "Neon Tombstone." Not for the politically timorous or faint of heart in any other way, my poor powers of description pretty much fail me when I attempt to describe Phil. I'd advise anyone with a musically adventurous bone in their body to rush to YouTube, a used record store, or your nearest live Phil Lee performance (make sure it's the little scraggly one) to check this guy out immediately. Two extra special cuts on this one are "Miller's Mill Pond," Phil's excellent take on that old ballad "O, The Wind and Rain" that was no doubt sung by Alan A. Dale in Sherwood Forest's thriving coffee house scene back in the day, and the great Woody Guthrie anthem "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You," delivered in a spirit and with the gusto in which Woody very likely wrote it. And then go get his Shanachie albums, too, for his masterpieces, "A Night In the Box" and "Just Some Girl."

Randog's Daily Pick 9/4/2014
David Bromberg, Doug Jernigan, Vassar Clements, D. J. Fontana, and others
Hillbilly Jazz
Flying Fish LP 101

This double-LP album, from 1974 and produced by Michael Melford, who also adds occasional mandolin and other instruments to the mix, helped resurrect the notion that the best Western swing and country boogie musicians were also capable jazz players. It was a big part of the Western swing revival taking place during that time. The quartet of David Bromberg on guitar, Doug Jernigan on pedal steel guitar and dobro, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and D.J. Fontana, Elvis' Sun era drummer, form the core group here, and they are augmented from time to time by Benny Kennerson (piano), producer Melford, Ellis Padgett (bass), Sam Pruett (guitar), Kenneth Smith (electric bass), and Gordon Terry, former Blue Grass Boy and Merle Haggard fiddler but also a hard country and rockabilly vocalist of some renown among collectors (vocals).The repertoire here includes material from Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, Leon McAulliffe (the monumental "Panhandle Rag," here played to a fare-thee-well by Jernigan and Clements especially)(Tom Diamant fans will recognize it as his radio theme song for over 35 years now), Benny Goodman, The Delmore Brothers ("Brown's Ferry Blues"), Steve Allen ("Gravy Waltz"), Duke Ellington ("C-Jam Blues"), and The Mississippi Sheiks AND Bob Wills AND Bill Monroe ("Sittin' On Top Of The World"). "Little Rock Getaway," which has become a jazz, swing, and (sort of) bluegrass standard (Don Reno), is credited here to Herb Remington, but is in fact a piano number originated by Joe Sullivan. If you like The Time Jumpers, Hot Club of Cowtown, Asleep at the Wheel, or hell, Bob Wills, you need to track this one down. The original album came with a lengthy booklet by a guy named John Ullman, who used to have a jug band made up of other members of the art department at SIU in the late '60s...he looked like Raymond Massey playing John Brown in a ‘30s movie. I used to see him at parties back then. He was a 78 collector, knowledgeable guy.

 

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Friday, August 29, 2014


The road not taken. Most of us – at least, those with some mileage logged on our personal odometers – have, at times, wondered how things would have turned out had we chosen a different door in this game show of life. Over the past four decades I have literally taken two roads, having tried to make a living as a musician for 20 years while supplementing my meager musical income by driving tour buses part-time. Twenty years ago, when I turned 40, I got tired of being poor, so I found another driving job that takes up most of my time now but it also pays the bills. I still play music, but hardly as much as I used to, and I am more particular as to when, where and with whom. I have had a good life so far, but all along I have often wondered what would have happened if I tried to make it as a writer of some sort. Along the way I have written columns for publications (including, for three years, the thrice-a-week Almost Daily News that appeared in this space from 2007-2010), done CD reviews, produced my Carltone’s Corner music newsletter for ten years, penned a monthly column for the NCBS newsletter for 12 years, and I still write film reviews a few times a year. But a career in writing? All of the things that I cite above were done for free. While I have enjoyed all of it, I harbor no delusions of grandeur about sneaking off to some remote cabin to write the great American novel. It was a bit comforting, though, to see what the answer was when I decided to take this little career test that has been making its way around the Interweb. It asks the question, “What career were you actually meant for?” Instead of my results saying “bluegrass bass player” or “bus driver,” I got “writer.” Here is what it said: “You have an unmatched skill for creating vast worlds both through facts and pure imagination. Your mind is full of creativity, artistry, and expression. You heart gracefully guides your hands as you work to bring what is truly your spirit to life. You were truly meant to guide the world with your words.” A bit humbling, to say the least. And hey, if it is on the Interweb, it must be true, right? The real lesson that I have learned along the way is, sure, it is great to dream and consider all kinds of opportunities…but unless you are the scion of a one-percenter, always have a Plan B and don’t give up your day job…

Farewell to summer. Have we really reached the end of the summer already? Say it ain’t so! While you are out there soaking up the sun at the beach for maybe one last time this weekend, or going to barbecues, maybe taking in or playing some music, watching a ball game, or whatever, take time to think about what this Monday really means and how it came to be.
“Labor Day
in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.”

Labor of love. Speaking of writing and work, this is the longest Friday Carltone MOLD column ever. (Though I often have to wonder if anyone ever reads what is written here.) And, I didn't include all of the items on my list. Good thing that this is a long holiday weekend. I need a rest...

Mill Valley murder mystery. Last Friday in this space I wrote about a shocking and tragic murder/suicide that had taken place in Mill Valley two days before. Ted Rodden, the beloved sound man at the Rancho Nicasio nightclub, guitarist, husband, and father of two was inexplicably murdered by the guy next door to where he lived, and the murderer then killed himself. There have been two follow-up stories about Ted that you can read here in the Marin Independent Journal and SF Chronicle. This took place in the middle of the afternoon, in a populated area of Mill Valley, but there were no witnesses and there is no history of note between the two. And it may be that we never know why this happened. It is just another way-too-ordinary story of some deranged guy with access to guns ruining the lives of others...

Festive time of year. Even though summer is unofficially coming to an end this weekend, there are still some great fests on the calendar. In case you’ve been living in a cave in Kandahar for the past year and hadn’t heard, due to the disastrous Rim Fire last summer the Strawberry Music Festival has changed dates and locations. For the past 25+ years or so it took place on this holiday weekend at Camp Mather by Yosemite. But now it is moving to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on the 11th-14th, and dang if they don’t have healthy dose of bluegrass on the bill this time! The following weekend, the 19th-21st, you will get nothing but bluegrass at Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills outside of Plymouth. And everybody’s favorite non-bluegrass festival – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – will once again be taking place in SF’s Golden Gate Park on October 3rd-5th, and they just posted their lineup the other day. Go to all of the links for complete info. Better yet, listen to Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal radio show on the 30th (see info below).

Labor of love. Speaking of writing and work, this is the longest Friday Carltone Mold column ever. And I did not include all of the items that I have on my list. Good thing that this is a long holiday weekend. I need a rest!

Best TV show ever? There is no question in this column. It was
The Andy Griffith Show. For more reasons than one. Besides the casting, the characters, the writing, and the humor, I can think of six more reasons, and you can look at them here, here, here, here, here, and here. Many years back I was in a songwriting class where I wrote and sang a song that mentioned Barney Fife in it, and the teacher – who was some years older than me – said, “Lots of humor, good structure, but the song doesn’t really work for me because I don’t know who this Barney Fife guy is…” Wow…does anyone else not (Knotts?) know who old Barney was?

Sultans of Swing. In MOLD MAN’s column on Wednesday he wrote about having recently discovered amazing guitarist John Jorgenson, who was the lead picker in the Desert Rose Band, had a band called The Hellecasters, plays Gypsy swing, and – this is news to me – also plays mandolin. The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band will be performing at Strawberry in two weeks, and JJ will be on mandolin. Check out this video of JJ sharing guitar duties with Tommy Emmanuelle and Pedro Javier González on the Dire Straits song “Sultans of Swing.” Whew!

Dance to the music. The oft-misquoted saying goes that “Music soothes the savage beast.” (The original, from The Mourning Bride from 1697: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.") It certainly rings true in this short clip. We can only wonder what these creatures would do to the sound of a banjer…

On the cover of Rolling Stone. Really, who reads RS anymore? I guess someone must, because it is still out there. And if you haven’t looked at it in a while, check out this week’s edition, as it has Willie Nelson on the cover for the first time since 1978. (Just think of all of the countless and forgotten poseurs whose mugs have been there since then!) Willie also thanks actor George Clooney for helping him get back on the road again. Willie was suffering from a torn rotator cuff, and George told him about Regenokine. Right. I never heard of it either…

Like a rolling stone. Also from Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan’s complete Basement Tapes will be released in a few months. “The songs trickled out over the years – on the 1975 double album ‘The Basement Tapes’ and on bootlegs that fans have obsessed about endlessly. But on November 4th, Dylan will finally release the legendary sessions in their entirety: 138 tracks on six CDs, including 30 tracks that even fanatical Dylan fans never knew existed.” Best part about this collection? Dylan was much easier to listen to then than he is now. But don’t take my word for it. Go see him yourself on his big tour when he comes to Oakland at the end of October.

Mystery of the rolling stones. No, we're not talking about the amazing fact that Keith Richards has outlived many of his contemporaries, nor how Mick Jagger keeps his youthful figure. We're talking about the moving rocks in California's Death Valley that weigh hundreds of pounds. Scientists have been studying the unusual phenomenon since the 1940s. Two enterprising researchers from San Diego have finally come up with an answer by attaching GPS devices to the huge boulders. Read about it here.

Way Past Midnight. This is the title of a great show this Friday the 29th at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, with hometown favorite Maria Muldaur. Hard to believe that it has been 40 years since "Midnight at the Oasis" was at the top of the charts. Maria and her band will perform her hits of the past 40 years, and she will treat the audience to previously unseen photographs and videos, as well as share fascinating, often humorous and personal stories from every stage of her 50-year career. Added bonus? East Bay fiddler Suzy Thompson will be part of the show!

Still a miner for a heart of gold. Couples everywhere (well, okay, maybe the female part of the couple) are heartbroken over the sad news that rocker Neil Young and his wife of 36 years, Pegi, are calling it splitsville. Hey, if nothing else, think of all of the new song material that both will be have to work with now! Just a hunch, but if I were a gambling man, I’d wager that somewhere in the mix is a younger woman…

Gone but not forgotten. He was quite the storyteller, songwriter and rabble rouser back in his day. Anyone that ever saw Utah Phillips perform knows what I am talking about. PM Press has re-released Starlight on the Rails: A Songbook, “the most complete collection of Utah Phillips’s songs ever released. Spanning 30 years of studio, live, and unreleased recordings from ‘The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest,’ this definitive set includes Utah’s personal reflections about each song. It also includes renditions of Utah’s songs by Kate Wolf, Rosalie Sorrels, and many others. Almost five hours on four CDs, with a full-color 12-page booklet included. A must-have for any music collection.”

Throw away the key. John Lennon’s executioner, Mark David Chapman, now says “I’m sorry for being such an idiot.” Gee, thanks, Mark! We all feel much better now. And no, you still cannot be released on parole. Things would have been a whole lot better in this world if you had turned your gun on yourself instead of murdering one of the greatest musical artists of all time…

Never too old to rock and roll. Or, at least, garner attention for an album that you made 36 years ago. East Bay avant-garde musician Owen Maercks recorded an album in 1978 that he thought was going to be his meal ticket to stardom. But when he could not get a record deal or sell even one copy of the disc, he began to consider another line of work. Three-plus decades later, through the wonder of the Interweb, he is finally garnering attention and selling some recordings. The lessons here? As mentioned above, never give up hope and have a backup plan just in case. Oh, and hope that a writer for the SF Chronicle takes notice of you someday…

We are the world. Instead of bombing the hell out of civilians every day, maybe the powers-that-be in Israel and Gaza can get together for a few rounds of “Kumbaya.” At least, that is what the Jerusalem Youth Chorus has been metaphorically doing. “They speak Arabic, Hebrew, and often a bit of English. They are five tenors, eight sopranos, six altos, and seven basses. They are 13 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, all high school students. Some are friends of friends with Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, the Israeli teens whose kidnapping and killing sparked the latest round of clashes; others grew up around the corner from Muhammad Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy who was murdered in the wake of those kidnappings. For the past two years, the chorus – the only mixed Israeli-Palestinian choral group in the Holy City – has met weekly in Jerusalem to sing at the international YMCA, one of the few places Arabs and Jews can meet comfortably. This summer, they've rehearsed several times a week – despite the rocket launches and airstrikes – in a flurry of preparations for their first international singing tour. It took them last week to Kyoto and Tokyo, where they could enjoy a break from the troubles at home.”

Short attention spans. Ever wonder why most pop, country and bluegrass songs are only about three minutes long? Well, wonder no more. You can read the details here.

Say hello to the Goodbye Girls. Palo Alto’s super-talented guitarist Molly Tuttle is starting to make quite a name for herself while she is still in her early 20s. She recorded her first album at age 13, has been featured in Bluegrass Now, Flatpicking Guitar and Acoustic Guitar, came in second (with her father Jack) in the Prairie Home Companion duo contest, and now she is in a band with three other young and very capable women that call themselves The Goodbye Girls. They have a new EP out titled Going to Boston, and you can listen and buy the songs here. These kids can pick!

Gentle on her mind. Speaking of Molly Tuttle, her partner, the amazing fiddler John Mailander, has a new version out of the John Hartford classic “Gentle on My Mind” which features Molly on vocals. John has a new CD coming out next week titled Walking Distance.

Getting out of Dodge. The Carltone MOLD Compound, as many of you know, is located in the picturesque coastal town of Sausalito. In the summertime, downtown can be pretty congested with tourists that come from all over the world just to buy an expensive ice cream cone while dreaming of someday retiring to the outrageously expensive little burg. Yet if there is one weekend each year that you don’t want to come anywhere near the place, it is Labor Day Weekend. Not only is the place crammed with tourists on their last hurrah before heading home to Dubuque and Sheboygan, it is also the time for the annual Sausalito Art Festival, which features expensive paintings, sculptures, knickknacks and tchotchkes, as well as rock and jazz acts. (I was told years ago by the booking agent that “There will never be bluegrass here as long as I am in charge!”)

Look, up in the sky...it's a bird, it's a plane... It’s the Flying Salvias! The band is Henry Salvia (from Houston Jones), his wife Kathleen Enright Salvia, Peter Tucker (also from H-J) on drums, and bass player Alex Baum. They will be playing at Rancho Nicasio on Friday, September 5th, at 8 p.m., and there is no cover. There is something for all of your musical tastes, including originals, country, blues, hippie rock, and faux jazz. They call it alt-Americana, which means they can do whatever they want to. Sounds good to me!

Great line. I can’t vouch for its veracity, but it is so good that I will run it here anyway. Renowned jazz drummer Buddy Rich died after an illness in 1987. Before his demise, as he was being prepped for surgery, a nurse supposedly asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” Rich replied, “Yeah, country music.”

Just for the heck of it. Here are videos of the The Del McCoury Band singing the songs “40 Acres and a Fool” and “She Can’t Burn Me Now”, which were written by former longtime Marin County singer/songwriter and good friend Joe New.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 30th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled What's Goin' On, Part 1, and it will include musical previews of the Strawberry Fall Music Festival, Bluegrassin' In the Foothills, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and other events in the busy months of September and October.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer. Speaking of Molly Tuttle once again, here is short rumination from the past week as well as two CD reviews.

“I saw Molly Tuttle sing – and play – ‘White Freightliner Blues’ and Hazel Dickens' ‘A Few Old Memories’ with Claire Lynch’s great band a few days ago, and it made all the noise about Taylor Swift seem foolish in the extreme. Reminded me of why I got so wrapped up in traditional music in the first place.”

Randog's Daily Pick 8/28/2014
Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys featuring Charlie Sizemore Can't You Hear the Mountains Calling
Rounder CD 11661-0614-2

I first became aware of this recording in 2004, when Rounder reissued it. The sun was beginning to set even then on the era of the independent label bluegrass CD, if it ever existed, and exactly why Rounder did this isn't completely clear, except that it is thrilling music, but I'm glad they did. Originally recorded "circa 1981," according to the liner notes, the album first saw the light of day as a cassette only, limited circulation recording on River Track Records in 1986, the recording was called 16 Years, as it was when Stanley sound excavator and expert Gary Reid reissued it on CD on his Copper Creek label in 1995. For whatever reason or combination of reasons, this particular album, everyone agrees, turned out to be a wonderful example of what Ralph Stanley's band sounded like through much of the ‘80s. Charlie Sizemore was not the most powerful lead singer Ralph ever had. That was probably Ernie Thacker. Nor did he sound the most like older brother Carter, the enduring template for the job; that distinction probably belonged to the great Roy Lee Centers. He was not the most emotive; Keith Whitley probably had him beat there. He wasn't the best or most original guitarist, as Larry Sparks certainly could claim that he owned that distinction. But Charlie Sizemore was certainly comfortable with Ralph's music; he'd grown up with it, and he'd grown into it; he was a subtler singer than most of his predecessors, and after his nine years as Ralph's lead singer, he was as successful as any Ralph had ever had. The rest of the band included Ralph in full flower, singing and playing his unique, sparkling brand of banjo wonderfully well, backed on fiddle by the great old-time breakdown fiddling of Curly Ray Cline, the virtuosic lead guitar playing of Junior Blankenship, and the great, thumping bass, bawling tenor and lead vocals of the inimitable Jack Cooke. Songs and tunes include "Don't Wake Me Up," "Can't You Hear The Mountains Calling," "Won't You Be Mine," "That Happy Night," "Little Willie," "When You Go Walking After Midnight," (great-and unexpected), "This Weary Heart You Stole Away," "Cotton Eyed Joe," "Sixteen Years," "With Whiskey and Wine," "Dickenson County Breakdown," and "In Despair." All in all, a delightful surprise. Highly recommended.

Randog's Daily Pick 8/29/2014
Barry& Holly Tashian Straw Into Gold
Rounder CD 0332

When this album came out in 1994, Barry and Holly came to The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA, and that's when I met them. Later, when I moved to Music City USA, they became good friends as well as picking buddies with my wife Chris, and it was then that I learned of Barry's illustrious career as Barry of Barry and The Remains, and later a band mate and friend of Gram Parsons. Of his lengthy tenure in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band I was well acquainted, having seen him with Emmy several times, live or on TV. This is Barry and Holly's first album for Rounder, and showcases their finely honed harmony singing, Barry's excellent acoustic guitar playing, and their joint and individual songwriting talents. They also indicate their instincts for picking great songs that fit them well; those include Cowboy Jack Clement's "I Know One," Whitey Shafer and Doodle Owens' "I'll Break Out Tonight," and the much sung bluegrass standard (performed by Jim & Jesse) "I Dreamed of An Old Love Affair." Produced by their Boston area friend Jim Rooney and with liner notes by Peter Rowan, they are accompanied by some of the best here on one song or another, including Stuart Duncan, Roy Huskey, Jr., Larry Atamanuik, Tammy Rogers, Al Perkins, Kieran Kane, and even my friend and fellow collector, Will Smith on autoharp.

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Friday, August 22, 2014



More music power. As everyone knows, certain songs can trigger mighty responses in us. Three examples for me are Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Ashokan Farewell, and just about any version of Amazing Grace. Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about the fact that I occasionally write movie reviews, something that I have been doing for 23 years for a show called Movie Magazine International, and then I went on to tell you about the documentary called Alive Inside, an amazing story about how people with dementia that reside in retirement and nursing homes react when they hear music from their past. You can read my review of Alive Inside here along with some of my previous efforts. If you have not had a chance to see the film, you can watch this short clip from the movie that has been making the rounds on the Interweb. Something new from Thailand, that I just came across yesterday, is this four minute video that also is very powerful, despite the fact that it is an ad for life insurance. Forgot about this part and just enjoy up until you see the logo at the end.

Let’s be frank. Another film that I got to review is one titled Frank, and it opens today in an octoplex near you. While it is also about music – a dysfunctional avant-garde band that is led by a “genius” named Frank who always wears a papier-mache head – it is loosely based on a British singer from a couple decades back, and it is, as the official description says, a bit “quirky.” If you read my take on it here, you can then put your $10 (or whatever it costs these days to go to the movies) and go see Alive Inside instead.

A very sound man. Tragedy has struck in bucolic Mill Valley, CA, the next town over from where I live. Sure, people get killed every day by guns, and unless there is a mass murder, these sorts of things become blips on the radar screen in the media anymore. But when it happens to someone you know, it really hits home in a big way. News arrived yesterday that there were two bodies found in adjacent yards in Mill Valley in an apparent murder/suicide. The person that was murdered was a man named Ted Rodden, who was the longtime soundman at the Rancho Nicasio nightclub and restaurant in West Marin County. I can’t say that I knew Ted real well, but I had worked with him a bit over the years while performing out at Rancho, and I have to tell you, he was one of the nicest and best soundmen that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The amazing thing about him was that – even though he worked with rock bands for many years – he wasn’t half-deaf or burdened with a bad attitude, like so many other rock club sound guys seem to be. The Marin County music community is shocked and saddened by this incredibly senseless loss – he leaves behind a wife and son – and shows out at Rancho will never, ever, be the same…

The return of Banjo Man. Stacy Samuels, the banjo-playing-beanie-propeller-hat-wearing fixture known as "Banjo Man", is a longtime fixture at Fisherman’s Wharf, 49er football and Oakland A’s baseball games – as well as a perennial all-night jammer the Strawberry Music Festival. He played at Niner home games at Candlestick for 32 years, and he has been invited to do his thing at the 49ers new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. He lives in Fairfax, and he makes his living playing the banjo and selling the beanie hats…

A view from the old country. There is an interesting story in the Irish Times, with the headline “10 Country Artists That Everyone Should Hear Before They Die.” Half of the artists on the list would never be considered “country” here in the US, and the other half couldn’t get airplay if they were still performing today. Best things about this list? I agree 100% with the writer, and there are no big-hatted, rock & roll current country artists on this list at all!

The man who would be king. There are some obscure shots of Elvis on this website here that were taken in 1956, before he was become known as “The King.” The anniversary of his death in 1977 was just last weekend on the 16th.

Pay to play? Who knew that the bands that play the halftime show at the Super Bowl did so for only for the exposure, but for no pay? Sure, they had their expenses paid, and heck, who wouldn’t want to play a gig like that, where millions are watching? But would you pay for the honor of playing? The NFL wants to charge bands next year, and you can read why here. Heck, they will get the money. If bands are willing to play $20 “application fees” for the right to apply for a gig where they make $300 in downtown Mill Valley – one of the wealthiest counties in the country – of course some rock bands will pay to play at the Super Bowl…

Old-time is still not a crime! This weekend everyone that is into old-time music is either headed up or is already there at the CBA sponsored Golden Old-Time Campout at Sonoma Lake. It started on the 21st runs through the 24th. Click on the link for complete information.

Music concert jerks. You’ve seen them. Heck, you may even be one. We’re talking about people that take photos and videos with cell phones, jerks that sing along off key, pests that won’t shut up during performances, etc. Fortunately there are few wankers like these at bluegrass festivals. And, to help the cause, music writer Aidin Vizari of the SF Chronicle has written a story titled "How not to be a total jerk at a concert - an etiquette guide."

It’s all in the genes. Or is it? We’re talking about musical talent here. Have you been confounded for years by your inability to master the didgeridoo? Does practicing the banjo drive your family insane because you never seem to get any better? Well, according to this study that was published in Scientific American, it may be that the saying “practice makes perfect” doesn’t mean a thing – that real talent lies in your genetic makeup. This could explain why the Pulitzer committee has never called me…

Fiddle fever. Anyone that has ever tried and failed to play the violin knows just difficult an instrument it is to play. But have you ever tried playing it while you were having brain surgery? Roger Frisch of the Minnesota Orchestra did. He was having issues with tremors, so he not only stayed alert while an electrode was inserted deep in his thalamus, but played the violin throughout the process. Check out the story and video here.

The music of Motown. There is a show now running for six weeks at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco called Motown the Musical, and you can read the backstory about it here in the SF Chronicle.

Is the CD about to become the new 8-track? According to this story that originally ran in the SF Chronicle, the compact disc is on the verge of becoming extinct due to streaming. According to the author, David Einstein, “Streaming music subscription services like Google All Access, Spotify and Beats Music are doing to CDs what CDs did to vinyl LPs a generation ago (and what LPs did to brittle plastic records a generation before that).”

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 23rd from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Across the Tracks, featuring new releases and reissues, including additional tracks from albums featured last week by Larry Sparks, Crowe/Lawson/Williams, Roland White Band, and Seattle's Downtown Mountain Boys. There are also new sounds from Nick Hornbuckle (banjo player in John Reischman & the Jaybirds), Shawn Lane, Locust Honey String Band, The Littlest Birds, and Bradford Lee Folk, plus Dale Ann Bradley paired with both Steve Gulley and Alison Brown.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

Randy Pitts, one of five 2014 IBMA nominees for Best Liner Notes, is the man with his ear and nose to the ground on the streets of Nashville. Each week he contributes CD reviews and bon mots as well as stuff that, for all we know, he just makes up. But he is always a good read. Check out his latest album – that’s right, a real record – review below.

Randog's Daily Pick 8/21/2014
High Country Home To Me
Swallow LP-2004

In the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, when I lived in the SF/Bay Area, I was fortunate to see a lot of excellent bluegrass music live, and a constant presence on the scene then – as it is today –was the Butch Waller-led band High Country. This album, from 1984, features one of High Country's finest line-ups, and perhaps my favorite. In addition to Butch on mandolin and longtime cohort Larry Cohea on banjo, this album also features the singing and picking – and songwriting – of Keith Little, who left the plow in the field, metaphorically speaking, for a few years, but has since returned to Northern CA after a lengthy sojourn in Music City, USA, working with and for the likes of The Country Gentlemen, Ricky Skaggs, Larry Cordle, and uh, Dolly Parton. This album features four Keith Little compositions and one co-write with Butch. Jack Leiderman is the fiddle player on this album, and also exhibits his fine vocal chops, particularly on an inventive arrangement of "Nearer My God to Thee." Bassist Steve Pottier also shows off some of his fancy lead guitar work on "Battle Mountain." Side One (this IS an album, after all) ends with an outstanding vocal trio of Butch, Larry, and Keith on Big Mon's "Can't You Hear Me Callin'." Side two proceeds with that same trio working out on Keith's original entitled "Say You Only Will Be Mine." Butch and Keith then proceed to tear up Pat Enright's "Who's That Knocking at My Door." Also worthy of note is Keith's outstanding vocal on "I Traced Her Little Footprints in the Snow," accompanied only by Steve Pottier's fine lead guitar and Larry on bass. Keith's original "Heaven Here on Earth" receives a gorgeous old-time gospel quartet treatment from the full band, and Butch shows how to sing Monroe on "Stay Away From Me." There are fourteen slabs of sturdy, hard core bluegrass on this album, pretty much all of it showcasing Butch Waller's great traditional mandolin playing and singing and though it might be hard to find, it is well worth seeking out. I remember seeing this band at Grass Valley on Father's Day around the time this album came out and being mightily impressed. Great color tinted photo on the front cover, too...

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Friday, August 15, 2014

One funny man. In this space on Wednesday the MOLD Man had quite the well written, touching tribute to the recently departed actor/comedian Robin Williams (yes, he was an actor before he tried his hand at standup comedy). Having lived myself in southern Marin County for the past 29 years, it was not unusual to see Robin in downtown Mill Valley from time to time. While I never met him, I, like countless other people in the Bay Area, feel like I knew him from his acting roles and his comedy routines. He was an amazingly talented man and, apparently, a very tortured one too, considering the way his life ended the other day. While seemingly everyone has their own Robin story, here is mine: From 1999 until 2007 – when the old Sweetwater closed in Mill Valley – I produced a monthly bluegrass show on Tuesday nights that was called, appropriately – at least for the first few years – “Bluegrass Tuesday.” Tuesdays were an otherwise quiet night for music at the club, and I had a great run. There was nothing else going on in town for the first few years, so the show drew crowds of 80+ on average. But then, in the early aughts, a long-closed theatre across the street from Sweetwater was purchased and remodeled by a local entrepreneur, and before long the venue started putting on theatre and music shows on the weekends. Until, however, someone got the idea to try a comedy night on Tuesdays. And dang if this didn’t become an instant hit. Pretty soon just trying to find a parking spot downtown became an issue for Sweetwater attendees. And then the crowds for the bluegrass shows began to grow smaller. Why was the comedy night such a hit? Not only because there was no other such venue in Marin County, but mostly because a local guy – who once played a space alien named Mork on a TV show – started dropping by about once a month, unannounced, and when he did, he drove the place wild. Soon the buzz all over the county was “I heard that Robin showed up the other night and brought down the house.” Having never seen him perform live, I figured that the fad would soon pass, and that the comedy night would soon go the way of the stereotyped Marin hot tubs, water pipes and peacock feathers. But I was wrong. On an off Tuesday, at the invitation of the theatre owner, I stopped by the comedy show, knowing that a “surprise guest” was going to appear. Man, was this comedy curmudgeon ever blown away by the guest’s talent and energy! Williams was truly a sight to behold on that stage, and it is no wonder that he had the success that he did. (The cable news shows and Interweb have been filled with clips and tributes to Robin this week, and if there is just on video you should watch, it is this one, where he sums up his career to Gene Shalit in two minutes. Simply astounding, and all off the cuff.) If there was one thing that I learned that night, it was that it was time for me to make some changes at the Sweetwater show. In short order I changed the name of the series from “Bluegrass Tuesday” to “Bluegrass Gold,” and I moved my shows to Wednesdays and Thursdays. There was no way that I could compete with the rumored and much-hoped-for appearance of Robin Williams across the street. And now, in 2014, the old Sweetwater has been gone for seven years, and the Tuesday night comedy show is still going strong. It remains to be seen, however, how long the show will last now that the world’s funniest person ever has exited the stage. He was one amazing man who made us all laugh for so many years, but in the end has us fighting back tears…

IBMA 2014 nominees. The nominees for the 2014 International Bluegrass Asssociation Awards have been announced, and while many of the Best Musician slots are filled with the usual suspects, certain category nominees have to change every year. One in particular is Best Liner Notes, and the staff here at MOLD World Headquarters is ecstatic to hear that our own Randy Pitts, who adds depth and fills out the bottom of this column every Friday, has been nominated for the liner notes he wrote for the James King recording Three Chords and The Truth. Here is what the modest Randog had to say on Facebook yesterday: “I just found out that my liner notes for James King's album Three Chords and The Truth was nominated for an award by the IBMA. Got to admit, it feels pretty good. But the album is a lot better than the liner notes; I did sweat over them, because I wanted to do the album justice...I hope I came close, and that isn't false modesty; it is a landmark album, and deserves a lot more attention from the gatekeepers than it has received. If you haven't heard it, do yourself, me, and James a favor and give it a GOOD listen. It is James at his best, and that is something...” If you are a member of the IBMA, vote early and often for Randy!

Happy birthday, Rose Maddox! Today is Rose Maddox’s birthday. She was born on this date in 1925. You can read her bio here, and, if you hurry, you can also listen to a great interview here with Rose by Ray Edlund, which was recorded on his Pig in a Pen radio show in 1983. KPFA radio only keeps their archived shows on the web for a limited number of days (until August 24th for this show), so tune in now. The interview starts about seven minutes into the show, and runs for an hour and twenty minutes. Added bonus? The late singer/songwriter Kate Wolf is also in the studio, asking questions of Rose. Even more Rose – at the bottom of this column is Randy Pitts’ review of Rose’s last recording.

Music was better when we were young. This seems to be a common response by most people. Ever wonder why we think this? Turns out that, according to this story, it has to do with neuronic commands in our brain. “Between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains undergo rapid neurological development—and the music we love during that decade seems to get wired into our lobes for good.” Gee, no wonder I can’t get excited about Ludacris and Justin Bieber…

Men of records. How many of you used to collect records back in the day? And by this I mean vinyl albums, not CDs or cassettes. Do you think that you have a healthy collection of the plastic discs? Well, you haven’t seen anything until you read about a Brazilian guy named Zero Freitas who owns millions of albums and he is still buying. Read this story about him in the New York Times. And then there is this guy who collects only The White Album by the Beatles. He has close to 700 by now.

More recordings. While on the topic of records, Rolling Stone magazine recently had this story talking about the top 26 CDs that you should be listening to this year. While there are no bluegrass artists on the list, there are some cool singers and acts such as Suzy Bogguss, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Rodney Crowell, Dale Watson, Martina McBride, The Old 97s, and quite a few young acts that I am too old to know about yet…

Elvis lives! Even though The King has been dead since 1977, he is still putting out product. There is a new eight-CD (plus two-DVD) set out titled That’s the Way It Is chronicling his 1970 shows in Las Vegas. Contents include the original album of the same name, a disc of rehearsals, and, on the DVD side, the original theatrical release of the film chronicling the shows. Read about it here.

Digging Dolly. No last name needed here, because you know who we are talking about already. And if you are a fan, then you will want to go to the Dolly Parton Tribute Shindig on the 16th from 3-7 p.m. at the El Rio in San Francisco. You can see Moonshine Maybelline, The Muddy Roses and a lot more. Go dressed up, ready to sing along and bow down to the queen bee herself.

Looking for a 1937 Martin D-28? If so, Gryphon Guitars in Palo Alto has a hot one for sale. Don’t take my word for it. Watch Larry C. The Other demonstrate in this nice little video.

Searching for another Larry C. Speaking of Larry Chung (known in some circles – well, okay, in one circle – as “Larry C. The Other”), there has been talk for years of him, me and Larry Cohea getting together to form a bluegrass band called the “LC’s.” But we need one or two other LC’s before we can make this happen. Efforts to get Larry Cordle to move to the Bay Area have so far been unsuccessful. Larry Kuhn and Larry Keel don’t qualify unless they change the spelling of their last names. And Larry Carlton is too busy playing jazz guitar. So if you know any other Larry C’s that play bluegrass, have them send resumes, videos, and a $100 processing fee here to MOLD World Headquarters…

Laurie in the news. Two weeks back in the column we told you about and showed you Laurie Lewis on the cover of this month’s Bluegrass Unlimited. She can also be found in these videos on the sites of Bluegrass Today and Acoustic Guitar Magazine.

Off the road again. Former Grateful Dead lead singer Bob Weir abruptly canceled all of his gigs for the rest of the year the other day without an explanation. Which can only lead us to wonder – maybe he is too tired of people talking during his shows? As you may recall, in March of 2013 he made national news when he stormed off the stage at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley when his fans wouldn’t shut up during one of his solo performances there. The real irony here is that he owns the damn club, and he could make a rule that talking will not be permitted during performances. Oh, but the club manager said that "this is not an option, since people buy tickets and they want to talk and drink." Not an option? Do audiences gab and take cell phone videos at the opera or symphony? How about at a play? In church? Methinks not…

The banjo is cool again! Who knew? But don’t take my word for it. Read this story here from a website called The Hub. Hey, if it is on the Interweb, it must be true, right?

Banjo the dinosaur. No, we’re not talking about Barney, the purple dude from the PBS series. The bones of a giant teeth-gnasher that once roamed the plains of Australia have been discovered, and he has been affectionly named “Banjo.” "Weighing in at half a ton and measuring 16 feet, Australovenator Wintonesis, with its slashing claws, would have been a terrifying sight to behold. Researchers have revealed the discovery of its bones as well as two other new species of dinosaurs that roamed the huge continent, when it was joined to the rest of Asia, millions of years ago. However, he might have been less impressed by the name 'Banjo' conferred on him by scientists who found his bones in the Outback. He dates back 98 million years to the mid-Cretaceous period.”

More names in the news. In the San Gabriel Valley Tribune you can read about Peter Feldman and the Very Lonesome Boys, and in the Marin Independent Journal check out the CD review of West Marin multi-talented musician Doug Adamz.

Say amen, somebody! Back in 2005, Oprah Winfrey held her Legends Ball, and only recently did this video from the event come across the transom here at MOLD World Headquarters. On a Sunday afternoon gathering someone started singing a gospel song, and suddenly the mic was passed around to singers such as Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, and Shirley Caesar. The result is astounding, and it will have you jumping out your computer chair shouting “hallelujah!”

Ugly faces. Did you ever wonder why lead guitarists sometimes make such ugly faces when they are taking solos? Well, some clever artist has taken some photos of famous pickers and swapped out their instruments for giant slugs. Check it out here.

One cool cat. Everybody thinks that their cat or dog is simply the smartest animal in the world. But they are wrong. Check out Nora the cat playing classical piano here and here and see what you have been missing.

Berkeley hotspot. There are some great shows coming to the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley the rest of this month. On the 15th it will be amazing Western swing with Lost Weekend, a fiddle summit on the 21st, Aireene & the Rarities and Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan on the 24th, and much more.

Just for the heck of it. If you have never seen the Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform together, then you must check out this video of them doing the song “I’ll Fly Away” on the David Letterman Show.

Hoedown in Sonoma. On Saturday the 16th everyone is headed up to the town of Sonoma for the Rockin’ Heart Hoedown, featuring some of best roots and acoustic music that the Bay Area has to offer. You can see The David Thom Band, Kevin Russell and Friends, Doug Blumer and The Bohemian Highway, Johnny Harper & Carnival, Megan McLaughlin, Dale Henry Geist, and more! The event will benefit KWTF, the people's radio station for Sonoma County.

Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 16th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Across the Tracks, featuring new releases and reissues.

Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews and commentaries by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here is one musing and two CD reviews to get you through the weekend.

“I met my wife Chris downtown on Tuesday at lunch time to take in The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band free concert. In addition to John, who plays mandolin in this foursome, are Herb Pedersen, John Randle, and Mark Fain. Herb and John are, among many other things, two of the best singers in traditional music, bluegrass and country in particular, and Mark Fain, the bassist, is an alumnus of Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder. John R. sang “Whiskey Lullabye,” his smash co-write with Bill Anderson, Herb sang his classics “Old Train” and “Wait A Minute,” and John J. played the fire out of the mandolin and guitar...and it was all free. John J. and Herb were cohorts in the Desert Rose Band, and perhaps inevitably, some of the material has a similar feel, but their set ranged far and wide stylistically. After Chris went back to her office, I chatted – gossiped with fellow attendees Barbara Lamb and Mike Bub about, among other things, Doug Seegers, Vernon Oxford, Onie Wheeler, Vern and Ray, and the band Bub is in with John R, 18 South...and I made a nomination for the king and queen of the Nashville Bottom Feeder's Ball, an event I made up on the spot.”

Randog's Daily Pick 8/15/ 2014
Rose Maddox $35 and a Dream
Arhoolie CD 428

Because Rose's birthday is August 15th, as her longtime friend JD Rhynes pointed out on the California Bluegrass Association Message Board, and because I saw Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson play this week, and because I never tire of bragging that I knew Rose, and because this was the last new recording my old boss Mr. Chris put out of Rose's material...but who needs a reason to talk about Rose Maddox, one of the most amazing people in the history of country music? She recorded with everyone from Bill Monroe to Buck Owens to (as I recently discovered) Sleepy LaBeef – "My band did a whole album with Rose," he boomed, when he was in town for the Nashville film festival. This album came out in 1994, was nominated for the bluegrass Grammy, and features Rose in strong voice and fine fettle, backed by, among others, Byron Berline (who produced most of the tracks), the aforementioned Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson, and their cohorts in The Desert Rose Band JD Maness on steel guitar and Bill Bryson on bass, among others. She is even accompanied by her brother Fred and longtime admirer Merle Haggard on harmony vocals on one cut...and Johnny Cash offers his thoughts on Rose, who worked many shows as part of his touring act in the ‘60s. Never one to be constrained by stylistic categories, Rose tackles everything from "Fried Potatoes," from Maddox Brothers & Rose days to "Sin City" to Pedersen's "Old Train" to old chestnuts like "I Wonder Where You are Tonight," "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," "Where No One Stands Alone," to "Falling for You" by Buck Owens, with whom Rose made duet hits in the ‘60s, to Haggard's own "Dusty Memories" (the one he sings on), and "I Wonder Where I'll Find You At Tonight," which, coincidentally, Merle's ex Leona Williams also sings to a fare the well. I could go on...but I think I'll just listen to some of my old Maddox Brothers and Rose records instead. Happy birthday, Rose...you were a pistol.

Randog's Daily Pick 8/14/2014
Vern & Ray Sounds From the Ozarks
Old Homestead Album-West 10001 VR

Despite the fact that that – according to Laurie Lewis – Vern Williams once told a woman seeking an autograph on her copy of this album, "Lady, I wouldn't piss on it," this is a prized album by the West Coast bluegrass legends Vern & Ray. Both Arkansawyers, they met in Northern California in the late '50s and became cornerstones of what has become a vibrant and influential bluegrass scene in the Golden State. Recorded in 1974, this offers a glimpse of what that duo sounded like in full cry, and, Vern's assessment notwithstanding, contains many wonderful musical moments. Accompanied on bass by either Markie Shubb (Sanders) or Howard Courtney, and on banjo by either Rick Shubb or a youthful Herb Pedersen, the album contains versions of several of their most loved numbers, including "Old Dick Potter," "How Many Times," "Prisoner's Song," "Happy I'll Be," "Flying Cloud," "Little Birdie," "Touch of God's Hand," "Panhandle Rag," "Last Old Shovel," "To Hell With The Land," and Herb Pedersen's "Twenty Second Rag." Vern's air-shattering lead and tenor voice and solid traditional mandolin, Ray's great, country-inflected hard lead voice, inventive fiddling, songwriting, and rhythm guitar are all over this album, and it is a big chunk of the recorded legacy this duo left us. If you see it, grab it...we need to make sure they are remembered as the important artists they were…

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Friday, August 8, 2014


The power of music. I wear many figurative and literal hats – and these days, with less and less hair on top, I am wearing the literal ones more often. I am a musician, I produce shows, I write this column once a week, and, I occasionally write movie reviews, something that I have been doing for 23 years for a show called Movie Magazine International. So I have to tell you about a film I saw recently that is all about the power of music. Everyone has experienced the wonders and joy of music, whether it be as a member of an audience, watching a performance on TV or video, listening to songs on the radio, in your car, on your iPod, etc. Your favorite kind of music is something that makes you feel good, or else you would not be listening to it. As a performing musician for 40+ years, I have seen first-hand countless times the effect that music has on people, and it is one of the reasons why I keep playing. However, I never realized just how much power music can have on a person’s life until I saw the new documentary called Alive Inside . It opens today across the country, and you will be amazed how people with dementia that reside in retirement and nursing homes react when they hear music from their past. You can read my review of Alive Inside here along with some of my previous efforts. But if you cannot get out to see the film this weekend, do yourself a favor and watch this short clip from the movie. You will be amazed…

Last few days. It has been mentioned here and elsewhere on this site, and it is worth mentioning again because time is running out (only 3 days left to go). There is a Kickstarter fundraising project to help raise money to publish J.D.’s Bluegrass Kitchen: Comfort Food the California Bluegrass Way, by longtime CBA board member and bluegrass ambassador J.D. Rhynes. Click on the link to find out all about it, and please consider contributing to the campaign. As it says on the site, “After production costs are recouped, sales of J.D.'s Bluegrass Kitchen will be a perennial source of fundraising power for the California Bluegrass Association.” If you don’t want to contribute via the online campaign, send an email to Darby Brandli at darbyandbruno@comcast.net to see about sending a check.

One way to deal with annoying cell phones. Though probably not the best method. Rocker Peter Frampton, who at the beginning of his concert asked the audience not to record him on their phones while he was performing, got so incensed by a dude in the front row that he took they guy’s phone from him, and depending on what news report you read, either tossed it backstage or heaved it into the rafters (just a slight difference, no?). I say, good for him. Just because you own a flippin’ so-called “smart” phone doesn’t give you the right to record anything and everything, wherever you go. How would you like it if someone were to walk up to you at your job cleaning toilets – or whatever it is that you do – and then began taping you while you worked for a couple of hours? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

Throw the book at him! Charges have now been officially filed against the guy that started the Rim Fire last year up by Yosemite, which caused thousands of acres of devastation and death to wildlife, burned out many homes and campgrounds, and canceled two Strawberry Music Festivals. Keith Matthew Emerald has been charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports the felony charges are “timber set afire” and “false statement to a government agency.”

What’s bugging you? Are you not getting enough protein in your diet? Well, there are sources other than eating farm animals. And these sources have been around for literally eons. What are they? Bugs! I’ll bet you didn’t know that crickets, locusts and mealworms are supposedly really good for you. According to someone quoted in this story on National Public Radio, “Crickets have as much calcium as milk. And then, environmentally, they're a lot more sustainable than chickens and particularly cows and pigs.” Remember this the next time you eat some questionable food item from a street vendor…

Having Faith. The country music sites were all agog recently when singer Faith Hill walked out on stage as a "surprise guest" to sing the duet “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” with Tim McGraw at the CMA Fest in June. Highlights from the event were broadcast on a TV special a couple of days ago. You can watch their performance here. Last time we checked, these two singers were married. But, just like a well written country song, it seems that there have been rumors that the romance was on the rocks. No doubt someone’s publicist got the idea to get these two together for a few minutes on stage, if only to help quell the rumors, which hurt sales of recordings and concert tickets, and also cut into the income of publicists…

New main stage headliner for Grass Valley next year? There is a video making the rounds on the Interweb of a band called Steve’ n’ Seagulls playing an acoustic version of the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck” that you must watch here. Most amazing is that, while these guys look like hillbillies from off the farm, they are actually from Finland. Hey, they have a banjo, mando and standup bass! It would be tough to be hauling an anvil around though…

Party ‘til the cows come home. Speaking of Interweb videos (and where/what would this column be without them?), here is another cool one. After a long hard day working on the farm, you need to round up the herd. Is there a better way than this?

Classic pickin’. Tommy Emmanuel is not a bluegrass picker, and as far as I know, he has never claimed to be one. But man, can he ever play the guitar. Check him out here while playing the song “Classical Gas.”

Goofy weekend. Affectionately referred to by some as the “Goofy Fest,” the Good Old Fashioned Festival outside of Hollister started yesterday and runs through the 10th. Some of the fine CA bands that you can see there are 27strings, Abbott Brothers, Bean Creek, Brookdale Bluegrass Band, Courthouse Ramblers, Faux Renwah, Grassfire, Highway One, Houston Jones, Pearly Blue, Rainy Day Ramblers, Red Dog Ash, Rogue River, Rhythm Roundup, Sidesaddle & Co, Steep Ravine, and Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band. Git on down there now!

One busy guy. Last week here in the column we told you about Chris Thile’s video of his song “ Too Many Notes.” Besides playing reunion shows the Nickel Creek, the mandolinist and Edgar Meyer have also teamed up for their second duo album, titled, appropriately, Bass & Mandolin, and it is due out on September 9th. You can pre-order the album here and get an instant download of “Tarnation” which you can stream here. Thile and Edgar will be on the road this September and October for a tour which spans much of the US.

Singing the blues. It is one thing to see a guy in his 40s or 50s singing the blues about being down and out. You figure, okay, he has maybe had a tough life. But when you see a 10-year-old kid singing like this just off the cuff in a music store, you have to wonder, why is he not famous yet?

First class Janis. As mentioned here many weeks back, amazing rock singer Janis Joplin, who died in 1970, has been immortalized by the US Postal Service. You can see what the stamp looks like here, and they became available for purchase on the 7th. Word to the wise – if you like them, stock up on them, as the popular Johnny Cash stamps sold out soon after they became available.

On the road. Speaking of Janis, my good friend John Byrne Cooke was Janis’s road manager at the time of her death, and he has a book coming out in October titled On the Road with Janis Joplin, about his experiences with the singer. He also has some amazing photographs from the ‘60s and ‘70s that you can look at on his web site here.

Bluegrass pickers don’t have this problem. Say that you have been playing in bluegrass bands for 20-30 years, and while you are still having fun with it, you are just playing around in local clubs. What do you wear on the gig? Simple. The same clothes that you have been wearing for the past three dec