Archive for the ‘Bluegrass Music’ Tag
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
For the last three or four days, I’ve been giving (limited) thought to my next post here at Fervor Coulee as it would be my 600th. I wanted to come up with something of significance, if not depth.
Tonight, while doing some random Googlearch during a hockey game, I somehow had the Special C pop into my head and I found a version of “Hey Y’all,” recorded back in 2000 featuring one of my all-time country favourites, Dallas Wayne. I listen to DW every chance I get on the satellite radio and have been listening to his albums since 2001 or thereabouts. I love what he can do with a song, and I’ve enjoyed listening to him sing with the Special C on disc.
While “Hey Y’all” is stellar, this is even better- and as I spent about a half hour listening to various Special C clips, the finale from their 35th Anniversary show appeared in the side bar; it is certainly worth a listen- points if you can name all the participants in order: I have to be honest, the fiddle players stumped me, but I think I got the rest. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Chris Walz play.
Thanks for continuing to visit Fervor Coulee. Donald
I hope the man who wrote the following post (James Gabehart) doesn’t mind me simply pasting it below- just trying to spread the word about an event this coming weekend. Uncle Phil is one of the good guys, and it is wonderful to see the bluegrass community coming together to support him and his family even as they mourn the passing of a founding father, Earl Scruggs:
It is often said that you don’t really know how many friends you have until you need them. If that is true, Phil Leadbetter is a man who has learned he has many, many friends through his ongoing battle with cancer. On Sunday, April 1, at the Paramount Theatre in Bristol, TN, a star-studded lineup will gather to benefit their friend.
Affectionately known as “Uncle Phil,” Leadbetter has enjoyed a long career as one of the premier resophonic guitar players in bluegrass music, having performed as part of J. D. Crowe’s New South, as a founding member of both Wildfire and Grasstowne, and more recently with the Whites. However, like most professional musicians, the Leadbetters are not equipped to weather an extended time without income, not to mention astronomical medical bills.
A reflection of the esteem in which Phil is held, an amazing array of artists are traveling from far and wide to donate their time to help him in his time of need. Presently confirmed to appear are Blue Highway, Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Larry Cordle, Jim Hurst, Donna Ulisse & Rick Stanley, Mike Bubb, Missy Raines, Don Rigsby, Michael Cleveland, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Justin Moses, Kim Fox, Gena Britt, Jim & Valerie Gabehart, Julie & John Pennell, James Alan Shelton, and Jerry Butler, with additional artists being added daily.
Two shows will be presented, at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m., with tickets available for only $20.00. Tickets can be purchased online at www.etix.com or by calling 423-274-8920. For anyone unable to make the show who would like to help, donations can be made online.
My review of a new compilation album from Lonesome Day Records has been posted to http://lonesomeroadreview.wordpress.com/. I was plenty surprised to thoroughly enjoy this album. Saccharine, sweet ‘I love my daddy songs’ make me want to hurl, but I didn’t get that feeling from this collection. It is heartfelt, sincere music that is strong in faith- all definitions of the word. The album gets released March 23.
My review of the new bluegrass album from Bill Emerson- formerly of The Country Gentlemen and other groups- & Sweet Dixie has been posted to http://lonesomeroadreview.wordpress.com/.
I’ve just submitted two new reviews to Aaron at the Lonesome Road Review, a nice little site with some very good writing. Susanville, the new one from the Dixie Bee-Liners and Deep in the Shade from the Steep Canyon Rangers are the two albums I consider. This link will get you there: http://lonesomeroadreview.wordpress.com/
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Some Day: The Fifteenth Anniversary Collection
Several years ago, shortly after I initially and seriously delved into contemporary bluegrass, one of the first bands that caught my ear was Blue Highway. Their first three albums for Rebel were very much enjoyed, as was their sole Ceili release, Blue Highway. But the album that really sparked my imagination was their first album for Rounder Records, Still Climbing Mountains. Since that 2001 disc, the band has continued to release bluegrass music of an outstanding quality every couple years.
Unlike many modern and equally smooth bluegrass groups, Blue Highway possesses many features that distinguish them from contemporaries.
Blue Highway sports the same lineup today that they did fifteen years ago when It’s A Long, Long Road hit the shelves. Such stability is rare and speaks to the cohesion within the group. (And, yes- I’m aware Jason Burleson left the band for a brief period of time in the late 90s.) They have three notable lead singers in Wayne Taylor (bass), Tim Stafford (guitar), and Shawn Lane (mandolin) while the supporting vocal cast of Rob Ickes (resonator) and Burleson (banjo) are very capable, with the bass vocals of Burleson especially appreciated. Their vocal diversity is one of the most appealing aspects of the group.
The most significant component of Blue Highway, for me, has been the quality of their song selection and writing, and this is admirably demonstrated within the thirteen cuts that comprise the new compilation that summarizes their decade with Rounder Records. Everyone in the band writes, with Lane and Stafford being most prolific in this area. They collaborate with only the finest, with compositions written with Steve Gulley, Larry Shell, and Darrell Scott being represented in this package. And they select outstanding, under-heard songs to cover; their tremendous rendition of Mark Knophler’s “Marbletown” represents this aspect of the group’s talent on Some Day.
Ten or eleven songs will be familiar to listeners, depending on the depth of one’s Blue Highway collection. The award-winning “Through the Window of a Train” (2008 International Bluegrass Music Association Song of the Year) and “Still Climbing Mountains” may be most familiar to casual listeners. “Seven Sundays in a Row” and the title track from their IBMA 2004 Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year album Wondrous Love are also included, as is a track featuring the band from Rob Ickes’ Big Time album, “Elzic’s Farewell.”
While one appreciates a finely crafted compilation, and there is no doubt the song selection here is balanced and thoughtful- although I would quibble with the exclusion of “Únion Man” and “North Cove”- what is equally important is the new recordings that will attract the consumer who already owns most of the songs previously released. And in this area Blue Highway has again done well.
The title track “Some Day” originally appeared on the final Rebel album Midnight Storm in 1998. This new version does not deviate significantly from that a capella rendition, although the final stanza contains more elaborately harmonized vocals to my ears; it is a pleasant interlude to the tasteful picking that comprises the bulk of the collection.
Two additional new recordings are provided and it is these that will draw the fan who already owns the band’s four Rounder albums. The disc kicks off with Lane singing his own “Cold and Lowdown Lonesome Blues,” a tune that features yet another clueless fellow lamenting the lover that has left him for another. While numbers such as this makes one offer suggestions for the betrayal- Could it be that she wanted more than a shadowy, cold cabin?- the band’s exuberant presentation, and Lane’s lonesome vocals, carry the song past cliché.
The standout track is a new song from Stafford and Darrell Scott, perhaps the finest songwriter currently working in Americana. “Bleeding for a Little Peace of Mind” features a lead vocal from Scott- a rare allowance in the bluegrass world- that ranks among his finest performance, and he has had more than a few! Scott once told me that he was amazed to be welcomed into the bluegrass world as his background isn’t bluegrass but hardcore country. It is a testament not only to his versatility but to Blue Highway’s vision that this number stands comfortably alongside the previously released songs on this ‘best of’ package.
Scott, who wrote “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks), “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” (Travis Tritt), and “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” (Patty Loveless, Del McCoury), not to mention his own recordings of those songs and others including “Hank Williams’ Ghost,” Americana Music Association 2007 Song of the Year, is an accomplished, soulful country singer. On this cut he demonstrates that his seemingly effortless singing sounds just as wonderful when accompanied by a top-flight bluegrass band. Hopefully many of the thousands of Blue Highway fans listening to this album will discover Scott and be encouraged to explore his outstanding recordings.
Replete with nice packaging and extensive, informative, and enthusiastic (if slightly fawning) liner notes from Kathy Mattea, Some Day: The Fifteenth Anniversary Collection has much to offer the bluegrass fan who hasn’t previously explored Blue Highway’s music. For the fan that already has the majority of the tunes, the acuity of the song selection and the three new recordings- especially “Bleeding for a Little Peace of Mind”- more than justifies the purchase of the album.
This past weekend, my review of Sam Bush’s recent album Circles Around Me ran in my twice-monthly Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate newspaper. Unfortunately, due to the holiday weekend, the column never got uploaded to the online edition of the paper. Therefore, I’m adding the review here in the hopes that additional folks get a chance to read it as the album is certainly deserving of your attention and purchase. Support the artists and labels. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald
Circles Around Me
Is it really possible that Circles Around Me represents only the sixth solo album of fresh material from New Grass Revival founder and all-around mando wizard Sam Bush?
Playing bluegrass mandolin, Bush is without equal. He is loose and laid back, a proverbial Jimmy Buffett for the Telluride set, and yet he remains astonishingly precise and rhythmic in his playing. Coupled with a distinctive voice and a coterie of musical friends built over forty years as a leading figure within newgrass, bluegrass, and acoustic circles, Bush’s recording projects are always welcomed.
On his latest release, Bush concentrates on what he does best: enlivening acoustiblue music with brightness and hominess. Even on the most urbane material- Junior Heywood a chamber-like trio performance with Edgar Meyer and Jerry Douglas- Bush and his cohorts approach things as they might a living room jam.
A few traditional songs are renewed- Diamond Joe and Midnight on the Stormy Deep along with a 1976 take of Apple Blossom- and provide the album’s foundation. Upon this are set several new songs from not only Bush, but collaborators including Guy Clark, Jeff Black, and Meyer.
Live, Sam Bush always appears to be the happiest fellow on stage and on this 14-cut album he seems positively euphoric. A charging bluegrass spin through Roll On Buddy, Roll On (sparked by a lead vocal turn from Del McCoury) leads into a banjo-punctuated account of the failed robbery and murder of Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw regular David Akeman. The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle is a masterfully constructed and engaging tale, and Jeff Black’s aching Gold Heart Locket receives the performance it has long deserved.
Circles Around Me bridges the chasm between traditional bluegrass and more progressive sounds in a manner that debunks the argument that the gulf is significant.
To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, the good folks at Pinecastle Records are giving away a 20-track sampler of bluegrass featuring some terrific music. Not sure how long it has been up on their site, but I just discovered it yesterday, so Happy New Year, y’all. Pinecastle has released some darn good music over the years; I hope you enjoy the sampler. http://www.pinecastle.com/retrospective/Retrospective.zip
Also, if you need one more Christmas cover, think about this one- again, free- Blondie with “We Three Kings;” http://newmedia.10thst.com/blondie/splash.html Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee- Donald
My top 21 albums of the year- in no particular order beyond #1 & #2 which are either Dale Ann Bradley’s Don’ t Turn Your Back or John Wort Hannam’s Queen’s Hotel, depending on the day and my mood. This list was submitted to the Postcard 2 survey with one exception; I only just heard the latest from Nanci Griffith and fell for it immediately.
I thought it was another outstanding year for roots music; I likely listened to more music than ever and know I enjoyed so many different sounds. I was glad that I didn’t have to listen to quite as much acoustic twee-folk as in the past. You’ll notice my list includes several Fervor Coulee favourites who either continued to produce outstanding music or made fine comebacks after a few years away. Not too much ‘off the radar’ music, but I’m not in a competition to discover the most unheard music. Thanks for visiting throughout the year- Donald
Dale Ann Bradley’s Don’ t Turn Your Back
The Duke & the King- Nothing Gold Can Stay
Guy Clark- Some Days the Song Writes You
Bill Callahan- Sometimes I Wish We Were Eagles
Loudon Wainwright III- High Wide and Handsome- The Charlie Poole Project
Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women- Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women
Danny Barnes- Pizza Box
Dave Rawlings Machine- A Friend of a Friend
Great Lake Swimmers- Lost Channels
Steve Forbert- The Place and the Time
Sam Bush- Circles Around Me
The Deep Dark Woods- Winter Hours
The Undesirables- Travelling Show
Leeroy Stagger- Everything Is Real
John Wort Hannam- Queen’s Hotel
Dry Branch Fire Squad- Echoes of the Mountain
The Wooden Sky- If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone
Various Artists- Things About Comin’ My Way- A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks
Mike Plume Band- 8:30 Newfoundland
David Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Two Dimes & A Nickel
Nanci Griffith- The Loving Kind