Archive for the ‘Bluegrass’ Tag
I’ve added a second story to my ongoing series The Story Behind…over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, part of the Country Standard Time site. On this final day of March, I share James Reams’ recollections on how he came to use the Barnstormers name. James has posted a trailer for his Pioneers of Bluegrass film which will soon be released on DVD. Those of you who purchased his Troubled Time CD have seen some of the footage already, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the completed project.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I’ve posted the first in what I am hoping will be an ongoing series about the origins of bluegrass band names. First up, thanks to the skills of Greg Cahill, is the story behind The Special Consensus, one of bluegrass music’s longest running outfits. The link should get you there.
I’ve been so pleased to watch the accession of The Special C. While they have long been a personal favourite, until the last year they have been less well-known, from my perspective, than they should have been within the wider bluegrass world. Within the piece, I touch on what I believe has made the difference, but one has to admire Greg Cahill’s tenacity and ongoing focus in producing a body of work that should be the envy of later generations of bluegrass bandleaders. That you can hear the group daily on the bluegrass satellite channel is a rather recent and overdue development, especially when one considers the track record of the group.
I hope you enjoy reading about The Special Consensus. Pass the word- I’m looking for other bluegrass bands to feature.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
The Tragically Hick, which- as a band name- is way more hilarious to Canadians than it is to most Americans.
Since the beginning, the names of bluegrass bands have been of interest to me. I recall being intrigued the first time I saw, at the Edmonton Public Library, an album from the New Lost City Ramblers. What a moniker: I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I was intrigued. The Country Gentlemen. Jerusalem Ridge. The Dixie Flyers.
When I was first really listening to bluegrass in the early 90s, I caught on a CBC country radio show, Country Style, with the wonderful Laurie Mills- probably the first time I encountered him on the radio- back-announcing a pair of bluegrass songs. To my ears, it sounded like he was saying that the songs had been by the seldom seen Nashville Bluegrass Band…I think he might have been talking about The Seldom Scene and The Nashville Bluegrass Band. But, the names alone sparked my interest. Come to think of it, the Nashville Bluegrass Band is seldom seen these days.
In bluegrass, the names always seem to Just Fit. The SteelDrivers. Rock County. Polecat Creek. The Reedy Buzzards. The Tragically Hick. Dan Tyminski. Great stuff.
Compare that to rock- The Doors, The Move, and The Herd- and, even worse, ‘alternative’ band names of the 90s and such- names that appear to me little more than a collection of random words plucked from newspapers scattered about a condemned flat: Toad the Wet Sprocket? Stone Temple Pilots? Smashing Pumpkins? God awful. By opening the Encarta Concise English Dictionary this morning, and selecting the bottom right word on each of three pages, I came up with Clatter Headbang Select as my next band’s name.
Which still isn’t as bad as Goo Goo Dolls.
Heck, country and Americana bands even got into the stupidity- Gloriana, Rascal Flatts, and Drive By Truckers. Ryan Adams.
What I’m interested in are the stories behind the bluegrass band names. Lonesome River Band? Did Tim Austin and Ronnie Bowman think they would get more gigs if confused promoters were expecting them to sing “Reminiscing” and “Lonesome Loser”?
Some band names are easy to understand- Flatt & Scruggs, for example. The Osborne Brothers. The Del McCoury Band. Monroe Crossing, named after a North Carolina mall.
The inspiration behind others is less well know. Chris Jones & the Nightdrivers got their name only after David Hasselhoff’s lawyers got involved. Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa were christened such as tribute to band members’ dual admiration for Blue Highway’s bass player and speckled horses. Greensky Bluegrass, the first hybrid Irish-Ukrainian bluegrass band.
What I’m asking is this, Share with me the origin of bluegrass band names- preferably from the band members themselves, but I’m open to second hand news (a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, by the way)- and I’ll share them here and at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass.
Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Over at Bluegrass Today, a posting providing additional new information and an overview of James Reams & the Barnstormers’ career has been published. Read it here. No secret is my admiration of the music of James Reams.
As always, thanks for searching out Fervor Coulee. Donald
Received in the Fervor Coulee inbox today:
“Nashville, TN — Bluegrass power-pickers, The Grascals are headed to NBC’s Burbank Studios for their Tonight Show debut on Friday, January 25th. The band will perform “Mystery Train” from their Grammy-nominated album Life Finds a Way.
It’s a coast-to-coast week for The Grascals who performed in Washington D.C. on Monday as part of the Inaugural events. The band played at the Native Nations Inaugural Ball at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Founding member, Jamie Johnson, is a member of the Chippewa tribe.
Join host Jay Leno with The Grascals as musical guest this Friday, 1/25/13. The Tonight Show airs on NBC at 11:35 p.m. Eastern / 10:35 p.m. Central.”
I remember the thrill of hearing The Grascals for the first time. “Me and John and Paul;” what a song! I am so jaded now, it is hard to remember that I was gobsmacked the first time I heard them live. While I haven’t always agreed with their choice of material, I’ve continued to enjoy the band’s recordings. I might set the PVR to catch this one.
and one acoustiblue album, too.
Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass today, I have posted a lengthy piece in which I reflect on six albums released in the past year that I wish I had found time to write about. The link should get you there, as will this one.
The albums are Scott Holstein’s Cold Coal Town, a 2011 album that I didn’t hear until early in 2012, the Kathy Kallick Band’s Time, Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass’ Road Into Town, Bo Isaac’s Dollar, recorded with The Rounders, Old Man Luedecke’s Tender is the Night, and Niall Toner’s Onwards & Upwards. Excellent stuff.
Just a couple of days to Christmas, and my series of Roots Songs of Christmas is coming to a close. There are so many songs and performances I wish I could have included, and- rather than having a non-roots song of Christmas today- I will provide links to some of these down below.
I had considered going all Bah, Humbug today, but I couldn’t find a link to Tim O’Brien’s song of the same name. “Santa Bloody Claus” was an option, but while I love both of these songs, I don’t want to go down that path this year. I’d rather keep things focused on more traditional meanings of Christmas.
And things don’t get much more traditional than the birth of Jesus Christ. Today, my Roots Song of Christmas is an entire album, bluegrass songwriter and artist Donna Ulisse’s All the Way to Bethlehem. Much like Kimmie Rhodes’ Miracle on Christmas Day, Ulisse has chosen to go all the way and write an entire album focused around Christmas; this set is focused on her interpretation of the events leading up to and following the birth of Christ.
The album obviously has a Christian rather than secular approach to Christmas. From the immaculate conception (“You Will Be Delivered”,) to Joseph’s confusion (“He’s Not Mine,”) to an interpretation of the events at the inn (“You Cannot Stay Here,”) to the star leading the three kings (“I’m Gonna Shine“) Ulisse’s (along with her collaborators) interpretation of Scripture and the Christmas story is both interesting and listenable. I believe “Let the World Wait for a Little While” will become a seasonal favourite.
Considering the number of songs that already exist about the first Christmas, all the traditional songs that we grew up on, it is pretty remarkable that Ulisse has been able to create new and inspirational music that forges new ground: a listen to “He Is Here“ provides ample evidence of this.
The music is varied, some touches of bluegrass, a bit of contemporary Christian-pop sounds, and some country, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. But, one admires the energy and focus- not to mention talent and vision- that went into All the Way to Bethlehem.
Honourable mention today goes to The Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass
A Christmas bluegrass set I’ve almost plum wore out
Boys with “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’;” this clip is from the old Nashville Network Ralph Emery show.
As for the other songs that I couldn’t fit in before tomorrow’s all-time best Roots Song of Christmas, and really it will be the only song on the list that I consider to be in any sort of order, there are links to more; happy exploring.
Jack Johnson “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” in which Johnson has rewritten the popular song into the tale of self-determination it should have been all along.
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s excellent ”Bells are Ringing” from her Come Darkness, Come Light album of a few years back.
Eric Bogle “Santa Bloody Claus“
Chuck Brodsky “Toast to the Woman in the Holler“
The Be Good Tanyas “Rudy“
Mary Gauthier “Christmas in Paradise“
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper “Silent Night“
The Indigo Girls “I Feel the christmas Spirit“
Chris Rea “Driving Home for Christmas“
Chris deBurgh “A Spaceman Came Traveling“
As well as a couple I couldn’t find links to, Jane Hawley “Christmas in Montreal” which is on her Letters to Myself album and Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum’s entire Winter’s Grace album.
Thanks for checking in at Fervor Coulee. Tomorrow, what I consider the all-time best Roots Christmas Song.
Last night I downloaded Robert Hale’s Pure and Simple album. Hale, a mainstay with Wildfire through all of their years, albums, and lineup shufflings, released Pure & Simple this past September and the album has sat in my ‘saved for later’ file since then. I didn’t notice the track listing beyond the Lightfoot cover “Did She Mention My Name” (climbing the Bluegrass Today chart, sitting at #10 this week) prior to downloading and didn’t think to listen to the album until I posted my Roots Christmas Song of the Day a bit ago.
So, while cleaning house I go into iTunes, and see the tracks sitting at the bottom of the library. Just before pressing play on the first track, I notice “Sir Duke” part way down the list. Could it be?
O, yeah. Bluegrass may never be the same. Stevie Wonder’s mid-70s classic reimagined, just a little, as a bluegrass song. Can’t find a full version online anywhere, but the sound clips at iTunes and eMusic should be enough to blow your socks off- had me up and moving from the first note.
I have the song on repeat and am listening to it for the fourth time- it is incredible! Go buy the album, or at least sample the track. This is a record that has a groove- Magic!
No excuses for not posting since November. Sigh.
While driving home from work today, I realized we’re twelve days away from Christmas. And that brought to mind a way to get some posts written this month, since it isn’t happening any other way.
I haven’t thought this out- I know where I’m starting and I’m pretty sure where I will end up(and with which song)- but I haven’t created a master list. I’m just going to post 12 songs in 12 days, songs I consider to be masterful and favourite roots music songs. Not the best, necessarily.
Dick Staber, left; songwriter “Call Collect on Christmas”
I begin this evening with “Call Collect on Christmas,” a seasonal bluegrass classic. A Dick Staber song, first recorded (I think- I can’t actually find too much definitive information about the song) by Del McCoury in 1974. If I’m reading the liner notes to 35 Years of the Best of Rebel Bluegrass correctly, the song was unissued until that four-disc set appeared in 1997. Staber had been a member of The Dixie Pals, and I imagine that is how the song came Del’s way. His version is mighty tough to beat, and not many have tried.
Staber recorded the song on a 1984 album (according to iTunes), and that may be one I have to download one day. I didn’t think I could find a more enjoyable version of the song than McCoury’s, but then came James King within the O Christmas Tree compilation that Rounder released a decade ago.
This version- released as The James King Band- was even better, in my opinion. The fiddle carries the song; Adam Haynes should be proud of this one. “Carries” is likely the wrong word, because it is King’s voice that has the lasting impact- as is his wont, King sounds like he is about to burst into tears with each passing rhyme. I do believe he is the most expressive bluegrass singer around, giving George Jones a run for his money on each of their finest days. I don’t know what led to the falling out between King and mandolinist Adam Prater, but one of those men must be regretting it- Prater sounds mighty stout on this one.
A couple years later, The Bluegrass Brothers- another favourite outfit- put out a third version that found its way into my collection, again via a record label compilation. Christmas With Hay Holler had a real ‘down home’ spirit, and “Call Collect on Christmas,” sung by Jack Leonard and featuring some nice banjo picking on the break (courtesy Robert Dowdy) was a highlight.
Any of those three versions of “Call Collect on Christmas” is well worth a listen- and the Staber clip I heard on iTunes sounds interesting, too- the song has everything I look for in a Christmas song- a pitiful excuse of a son, well-placed guilt, a mother’s death…ah, Christmas with the family.
I searched without success for a video of the song online. The closest I came was The Bluegrass Brothers’ version on their MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/bluegrassbrothers/music/songs/call-collect-on-christmas-78198227. All versions mentioned are available on iTunes and the McCoury and Staber versions are on eMusic.
[I also plan on posting a link to a favoured non-roots Christmas song daily- today, The Kinks' "Father Christmas": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-oVPVsCqs4 Quite possibly, the second best 'rock/pop' Christmas song I've ever heard.]
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, and thanks for your patience with me. Life tends to take precedence over writing these days; just the way it is. Donald
Tonight, I write a little about the upcoming digital 45 from Chris Jones & the Nightdrivers over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass: http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=920 Jones is an honourary Albertan, an IBMA award winning writer and broadcaster, and one heck of a bluegrass vocalist. The photo is of Jones and guests Sierra Hull and Claire Lynch working up one of the new tunes, “Wolf Creek Pass.”