Monday, November 26, 2007

New Edgar Meyer Record Announced

Our favorite genius, Edgar Meyer, has a new disc planned for the spring.

Edgar Meyer releases new self-titled record on April 25th

. . . Aptly titled Edgar Meyer, the recording presents the double bass virtuoso and composer performing 14 all-new instrumental pieces he has created for himself to perform, on an array of instruments, through the magic of multi-track recording. Recorded in the music room he built in his Nashville home, Edgar Meyer will be released on Tuesday, April 25, 2006.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Del McCoury Band and Crooked Still close successful festival debut

By Ted Lehmann

The Upper Valley Bluegrass Festival at the Opera House in Lebanon, NH held this past weekend differentiated itself from being merely a pair of very good concerts by offering an afternoon of workshops at the nearby AVA Gallery and Art Center just around the corner from the Lebanon Opera House where the concerts were performed. By offering workshops in this delightful, light and airy space, Opera House Executive Director C. Partridge (Buzz) Boswell, has created an event that should prove to be an ongoing success. In the evening Crooked Still opened with a fine set and the Del McCoury Band concluded the festival with nearly two hours of some of their best work.

The three announced workshops featured local bluegrass folk making presentations about the nature of bluegrass music. Ford Daley, a bluegrass veteran dating back to the days when bluegrass penetrated Harvard Square, discussed the genesis of classic bluegrass music, playing recordings of classic first and second generation greats and then placing them in a context of developments in the music to the present. Steve Hennig chatted with banjo partisans about his approach to the banjo. Both workshops were satisfying and interesting. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the jamming workshop led by Rich Heepe, because I was otherwise engaged.

Apparently, earlier in the week Buzz Boswell had called Ronnie McCoury to ask whether a member of the band, perhaps bassist Alan Bartram, could present a brief workshop. Ronnie assured him it would happen. Shortly after 2:00 PM, as Ford Daley was winding up his workshop, the entire Del McCoury Band came into the room, tuned up, and offered to take any questions the thirty or so people assembled there might have.

[See Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms for the complete report.]

New Uncle Earl Video

Combining two of my favorite genres - bluegrass and kung fu cinema - the John Paul Jones-produced vid is for Streak o' Fat, Streak o' Lean. See it here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sam Bush and Greencards open Upper Valley Fest

By Ted Lehmann

So you think a bluegrass band doesn’t have a drum kit raised above the band at the back of the stage. Or maybe it doesn’t use electrified instruments other than a bass. Or that an electric banjo synthesizer isn’t really a bluegrass instrument. Well, think again. From the moment The Sam Bush Band hit the first notes of Bill Monroe’s classic Uncle Pen, a tribute to Momroe’s uncle Pen Vandiver, a legendary fiddler, until he invited The Greencards on stage for their encore song “Sitting on Top of the World,” Bush proved that bluegrass music is more a state of mind than a specific sound.

[Visit Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms for the full report.]

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dawg sits in with the Infamous Stringdusters at Freight & Salvage

By Dan Ruby

Bay Area mandolin legend David Grisman made a surprise guest appearance last night with The Infamous Stringdusters at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley Thursday night, as the progressive bluegrass sextet barnstorms California this week on the heels of its triple win at the recent IBMA awards.

Grisman joined the six bluegrass gunslingers during two sets, playfully exchanging riffs with mandolinist Jesse Cobb and the other Stringdusters on Bill Monroe's "Blue Night" and "Deep Elem Blues," among several others. Grisman, also known as Dawg, was introduced as "a long-time hero and a new friend," and he returned the favor by calling the band "some of the hottest young pickers around."

Afterward, Cobb told me that the Grisman appearance had been unexpected and unrehearsed. Cobb had invited Sam Grisman, David's 17-year-old bass-playing son, to come to the show. As an aside, Cobb said to feel free to bring his dad along.

Then, during sound check, the two Grismans walked in. "David told me, 'I can play slow, I can play fast, and I also just like to listen,'" Cobb said.

The rest of the Stringdusters were in fine form and fine voice. The ensemble vocals of Jeremy Garrett, Travis Book and Andy Hall are fantastic singly and in harmony. The instrumental genius is front and center with Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Cobb on mandolin, Hall on dobro, Garrett on fiddle, Book on bass, and newcomer Andy Falco on guitar erasing any regrets about Chris Eldridge's departure from the band. (See related post for more on Falco.)

The band is as good as it gets on traditional bluegrass, but really earns its soaring reputation on the progressive improvisational side. Their set is punctuated with three or four jazzy instrumentals, and several of the verse and chorus songs also feature explosive improvisatonal breaks.

The band performed the hits from its debut CD—"Fork in the Road,""No More to Leave You Behind," "Starry Night," "Poor Boy's Delight" and "Tragic Life"—and mixed in some newer and traditional material.

This appearance was a return engagement for the Stringdusters at The Freight. Last May, they appeared here together with Tim O'Brien, and then followed that up with a standout debut at Strawberry Music Festival in Spring 2007. At that time, the band was known mainly to bluegrass cogniscenti in northern California. Now, judging by the full Thursday night crowd, the band has a sizable local following.

Last month, the Infamous Stringdusters walked away with three honors at the IBMA Awards—Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year. On the strength of that performance, the band was invited to perform at the Grand Old Opry, where they will debut next week on Nov. 23.

The Infamous Stringdusters have an extensive 2008 festival schedule on tap, including Wintergrass, Old Settlers', MerleFest, Winnipeg Folk, Grey Fox and Rockygrass, among others. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, including Sam Grisman on bass, also has some festival dates booked, including Grey Fox.

Maybe we will see another Dawg-Duster combo on the hill at Grey Fox in July.

Newly Infamous Andy Falco recalls his start

By Dan Ruby

The Infamous Stringdusters' new guitarist Andy Falco has stepped up ably into the vacancy left by the departure of original member Chris Eldridge, who has joined Chris Thile's new band Punch Brothers. (See the concert review of the Stringdusters' appearance last night in Berkeley CA.)

Falco has all the blistering flat-picking chops that Eldridge brought to the band, plus he displays an easy-going stage personality that fits in well with the loosey goosey chemistry of the band, maybe more so than Eldridge's somewhat standoffish style.

Falco joined the band in September after finishing his commitments with The Greencards, with whom he had played for much of the previous year. When I chatted with him during intermission, he told me that the decision for him to join the band had been made in July. He said that he had known Andy Hall and some of the other Stringdusters for years and that it was a natural fit for him to join the band.

I asked him how a young guy from Long Island NY became a top bluegrass picker. He said he started as a musician playing electric guitar in New York bands. One weekend in 1997, while playing a gig in New Paltz NY, he decided to go hang out with friends the next day at the nearby Winterhawk Bluegrass Festival, now Grey Fox.

"I went to a workshop and for the first time saw Doc Watson play. I was right up close to him and my jaw dropped. I knew I'd have to get an acoustic guitar and learn how to do that," he told me.

Now, 10 years later, Falco is one of the top young flat-pickers on the contemporary acoustic music scene.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Festival and band in dispute over cancelled gig

The highly regarded progressive bluegrass band Cadillac Sky was dismissed from appearing at the Mountain View Bluegrass Festival after playing only one of five scheduled sets at the Arkansas festival last weekend.

According to festival director Andy Rutledge, the band didn't live up to the terms of its contract by playing amplified instruments and by straying from traditional bluegrass material. Rutledge told Festival Preview that numerous paying customers walked out of Cadillac Sky's performance during the festival's opening night gospel program.

He said that when he spoke to members of the band after the performance, they were unwilling to make adjustments in their presentation. As a result, Rutledge paid the band dismissed it from the remainder of the contract.

In a notice posted by Cadillac Sky on its MySpace page, the band labeled Rutledge a "bluegrass nazi," and questioned his judgment that the band's music is not bluegrass.

"We were supposed to play five sets of music there in Mtn. View, but a 45-minute gospel set laced with such new-wave progressive titles like "Cryin' Holy?," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Rock in a Weary Land," and finally, "Never Been so Blue" (a tribute song to THE Father of Bluegrass Music: Bill Monroe with twin-fiddles?) sealed our fate, and led to our undoing."

The posting also pointed out that the group's vocal harmonies and banjo-fiddle-acoustic guitar- mandolin-and upright-bass-instrumentation are standard for bluegrass music.

Rutledge said that the biggest problem was the volume level. "Usually we set up for the performers to play through mics. They had acoustic instruments, but with direct boxes.

"The first song was just fiddle and banjo for about 10 minutes and was very loud. When I asked their sound man to turn it down, he would not," Rutledge added.

Cadillac Sky was replaced for its remaining sets by another band on the festival lineup, The Mountain Gypsies.

Posters at a number of sites such as Bluegrass Rules, Banjo Hangout and Mandolin Cafe have criticized the festival for taking punitive action against a contracted performer.

Rutledge said that he regretted that the incident has become a public matter, but said that he stands by his decision. He reiterated that the festival fulfilled the terms of the contract by paying the band in full.

The Mountain View festival runs twice each year--in April and November--at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View AR.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lebanon (NH) Opera House hosts new festival with big-time bluegrass talent

By Ted Lehmann

On November 16th and 17th the Lebanon Opera House will be hosting the First Annual Upper Valley Bluegrass Festival in the Lebanon Opera House, Lebanon, NH. Looking more like two evenings of very high quality concerts rather than like a festival, this event still promises to offer plenty of musical satisfaction ranging from the traditional bluegrass style and presentation of the Del McCoury Band through Sam Bush, the originator of what became known as Newgrass based on his founding of The Newgrass Revival in the early seventies, through two cutting edge progressive bands who are fairly new to the scene but have created quite a stir in their short histories, The Greencards and Crooked Still. Acoustic music fans open to a variety of musical experiences all falling under the broad rubric of Bluegrass will find much to satisfy them over these two days.

The Lebanon Opera house is an 800 seat facility, which first opened in 1924 and through its history has presented vaudeville, theatricals, and community events. It is the largest proscenium theater in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. After becoming the town movie theater in 1951, the Opera House fell into disrepair. Its resurrection into its current state began in 1975 and has continued under new leadership as a major cultural center for the region. The Opera House presents a broad range of cultural events. Take a look at their schedule.

[Read the full article at Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books , and Brainstorms.]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

LEAF festival is an all-around arts experience

By Dancin' Dave

The last festival trip for "Dancin'Dave'sFestivalCamping" was a dandy! It took in two festivals: the Lake Eden Arts Festival near Asheville NC and the Magnoliafest near Live Oak FL. These are two of the coolest festivals out there, folks, and they proved themselves to be just as hot as always.....

The Leaf is one funky festival, with a wide range of musical genres, along with folk and healing arts, dance and poetry, all in a magical setting. The venue is Camp Rockmont, a boys' camp with excellent facilities, including a sweet little lake that can be used for swimming, canoeing, kayaking and zip-lining. There is also a big slide that comes down off of the mountain into the lake. The zipline and slide were mostly used by kids. The camp is also the site of a trapeze academy, and an exhibit of Art in Motion was also open to festival-goers.

The music at Leaf is mind-blowing. Genres ranged from old-time mountain music to New Orleans blues and jazz to bluegrass, cajun, gypsy jazz, honky-tonk, african, and all the way to Japenese talko drums.

My favorites included Tony Trischka's double banjo bluegrass spectacular, the Wilders, the Pine Leaf Boys (cajun), Liz Carroll & John Doyle, Les Nubians (afropean worldbeat), and Michael Franti.

The Warren Wilson Folk Choir blew me away....what a great bunch of college kids, led by a wonderful choir director (Mitch) who is amazing in his love for the folk music from around the world and the kids that he directs. Their sets were awe-inspiring.

And my big new "find" was the Boulder Acoustic Society! These young fellows simply tear it up...I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing them in the years to come.

Then of course there was the man himself, Doc Watson. This was my first time seeing Doc with David Holt, and the two of them, along with Doc's grandson Richard, put on one sweet set. You could never go wrong listening to Mr. Watson....may he live forever.

And this is the dancin'est festival I've ever been to! There's lots of contra that I'm not really into but there sure are alot of folks who love it; plus there was waltzing, cajun, swing, belly dancing, moroccan sufi dance, and latin and salsa dancin'. At the Main Stage there is a big wooden dance floor that is kept hoppin'....I love it!

I would deem the Leaf to be the most visual festival of any I've attended, as well. I would highly recommend this festival for anyone who enjoys a variety of music, culture, and art. It is a fine overall experience!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Awards night for Americana music

By Ann Blonston

The Americana Music Association conference started Wednesday night with a tribute to the late Porter Wagoner at the Tennessee State Museum. The country star was memorialized with the AMA's first Wagonmaster Award.

The annual Americana awards show was held at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 1. Because the AMA is based in Nashville, there has often been an emphasis on talent from this town. This year west Texas, notably Lubbock, was well represented by honorees and presenters.

Hosted by Jim Lauderdale, always resplendent, the show moved quickly, and included performances by Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs, Uncle Earl, Old Crow Medicine Show, Joe Ely, Patty Griffin, and the Hacienda Brothers.

The Avett Brothers took home honors as New and Emerging Artist of the Year, a category won last year by The Greencards, and in the category of Duo/Group of the Year.

Album of the Year honors went to Patty Griffin for Children Running Through, who performed "Heavenly Day." She also took home the Artist of the Year award.

Instrumentalist of the Year is Nashville mainstay Buddy Miller, who was part of the all-star house band.

The Song of the Year award was presented by JD Souther, whose (naturally) well-crafted remarks included a look back at the influences of his own career, and a reminder that the award is about doing good work. Darrell Scott earned the award for "Hank Williams' Ghost," which he performed with the help of Suzi Ragsdale and John Cowan.

The Americana Awards are unique in their emphasis on career achievement, with a handful of special awards. The President's Award, selected by Association President Tamara Saviano, went to Townes Van Zandt. Fellow Texans Joe Ely, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell offered up stories of the artist, whose award was picked up by his son and daughter.

The "Spirit of Americana" Free Speech Award went to Mavis Staples, for her long career promoting social change.

Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Joe Ely for Performing, Willie Nelson for Songwriting, and Ry Cooder for Instrumentalist.

The Americana Trailblazer Award, the evening's crowning award, was earned by Lyle Lovett, who favored us with a performance of "If I Had A Boat."

The concluding song, gamely sung by a stageful of artists, was Porter Wagoner's "A Satisfied Mind."

After the awards show, we went to 3rd and Lindsley, where we took in a set by The Hacienda Brothers with Proper Records' guitarist Bill Kirchen sat in. This band of vets has a new higher profile, and was my personal favorite discovery so far.