Posts Tagged ‘Bluegrass’

Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott: Memories and Moments

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

TimOBrienDarrellScott_MemoriesAndMomentsEffortless country, folk and bluegrass duets

It’s one thing to be a world class musician, but applying that talent to spontaneous performance in a studio setting is something else entirely. For their second formal collaboration, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott perform rather than produce – the recordings catch them in the act of making music, rather than making a record. Sitting face-to-face for most of these tracks, they pick and sing for one another rather than for the microphones, and the results contain the essence of duet music. There’s an interplay between their instruments and voices, provocations made and instantly answered, that are often still-born or sterilized by the process of recording. But such is the nature of their collaboration, which began with 2000’s Real Time and which grew in countless career intersections.

Last year’s We’re Usually a Lot Better Than This, showed how quickly and easily the duo could come together in live performance, and how the element of surprise could spur great stage performances. Their latest, built from new solo material, a co-write and a few covers, shows how empathetic each is to the other’s instrumental and vocal traits. There are few others who  could pull together such performances this nuanced and riveting in just three days. O’Brien and Scott sound as if they’re singing well-worn folk songs they’d been touring for years, when in fact the original material is new. They conjure George Jones’ spirit with their harmony runs on the possum’s sad-sack “Just One More Time” and are joined by John Prine for his own “Paradise.” Waiting thirteen years is one way to avoid the sophomore jinx; hopefully these two will get to junior year a bit more quickly. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Tim O’Brien’s Home Page
Darrell Scott’s Home Page

The Deadly Gentlemen: Roll Me, Tumble Me

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

DeadlyGentlemen_RollMeTumbleMeAcoustic string band that goes beyond Bluegrass convention

This Boston-based quintet sports a traditional string band lineup of guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and bass, and though that adds up to the acoustics of a bluegrass band, their original material is something distinct from that of the typical festival players. The differences likely stem from the varied background of the band members: fiddler Mike Barnett, bassist Sam Grisman (son of mandolinist David) and mandolinist Dominick Leslie had traditional childhood immersions in acoustic music, while banjoist Greg Liszt had a dual life as a picker (with the Crooked Still) and a scientist (including a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT), and guitarist Stash Wyslouch followed a route through rock and heavy metal before settling into country and bluegrass.

The band’s moved closer to traditional song structures over their five years and three records, but the remnants of earlier experiments are still to be heard. Their harmonies, for example, range from traditional high-low bluegrass singing to unison passages they’ve characterized as “gang vocals.” There’s also a helping of country that suggests harmony acts like Alabama and the Statler Brothers. There’s a hopefulness to their tone, even when singing lyrics of failed love, buoyed by rolling banjo, sawed fiddle and fluttering lines of mandolin. The tempos leave little time for dwelling on failure; “Bored of the Raging” emerges from a crawl to a run, and “A Faded Star” waves off inevitability in favor of the changeable present moment.

In contrast, the passing years of “Now is Not the Time” and stagnant living of “Working” seem to spark genuine worries (though the latter does manage a rare use of the word “wankfest” in a song lyric). The band’s hopefulness is also interrupted by the dichotomies of “Beautiful’s the Body” and “It’ll End Too Soon,” each serving up conflicting impulses and no clear answers. Greg Liszt’s songwriting straddles portrait and poetry, drawing characters and situations that layer abstraction on concrete foundations. His optimistic joys and thoughtful concerns give the album a believable outline whose emotional details are inked in by the band’s talented and soulful musicianship. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Deadly Gentlemen’s Home Page

Various Artists: Music is Love – A Singer-Songwriter’s Tribute to the Music of CSN&Y

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Various_MusicIsLoveWide-ranging set of CSN&Y covers

This double-album tribute to the music of CSN&Y was released in 2012 as a fundraiser for the Equestrian Therapy Co-Op in Simi Valley, CA. The twenty-seven artists range from high-profile names (Judy Collins, Elliott Murphy) to cult favorites (Steve Wynn, The Coal Porters, Willie Nile, Cindy Lee Berryhill) and a number of newer and less globally-famous acts, including Stephen Stills’ daughter, Jennifer. Each takes a personal approach to a song from the various catalogs associated with CSN&Y, together, solo, and in earlier group incarnations, such as Sugarcane Jane’s banjo-centered revamp of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird.” The interpretations range widely, including blues, country, alt-rock, folk, bluegrass, soul and more. A few, such as Sonny Mone’s cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River” actually incarnate the vocal mix of CSN&Y, and Venice’s lush harmonies on “After the Gold Rush” are quite fetching. As well-known as are CSN&Y’s recordings, their songs have held up to reinterpretation over the years, and provide a deep well from which these artists draw. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Music is Love Home Page

The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band: Roots of My Raising

Monday, May 20th, 2013

ClintonGregory_RootsOfMyRaisingCountry artist’s fine return to his bluegrass roots

Clinton Gregory had a run of Top-100 country hits in the early ’90s, but both his releases and commercial success became scarce by mid-decade. He returned last year with Too Much Ain’t Enough, his first album in more than a decade, and doubles down with this return to his bluegrass roots. Gregory started out as a fiddler, playing festivals as a child and breaking into Nashville as a session musician. His return from country crooning to tightly harmonized bluegrass is a superb spin, fueled by an obvious love of these songs and sounds. The band’s five-piece line-up reanimates a repertoire that leans almost entirely on the traditional canon. Rather than trying to stretch the genre, Gregory plugs into the formula’s original energies, making room for instrumentals, multipart harmonies and his moving lead vocals. This is no small task in a genre whose tight constrictions can leave its music sounding moribund. Gregory’s journey home plugs into a musical place that was engrained rather than learned, and the result is terrifically compelling. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band on Reverb Nation

The Howlin’ Brothers: Howl

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

HowlinBrothers_HowlUnabashed bluegrass, blues, Dixieland and more

This three piece (Ben Plasse – upright bass and banjo; Ian Craft – fiddle and banjo; Jared Green – guitar and harmonica; all three on vocals) performs its mountain bluegrass, Dixieland and late-night blues with a busker’s verve. Plasse’s bass holds down the rhythmic core on many numbers, but gives way to light drumming (courtesy of Gregg Stacki) for a few, such as the second-line shuffle, “Gone.” Brass and clarinet add a flashy touch to “Delta Queen,” but it’s the group’s unabashed, live-wire energy that draws your ear. The trio’s fifth album mixes a wide variety of originals, including fiddle tunes, family-styled harmonies and driving banjo folk,  with covers of John Hartford’s “Julia Belle Swain” and Otis “Big Smokey” Smothers’ raucous “My Dog Can’t Bark.” The strings are augmented by touches of whistling, kazoo, wordless vocalizations, and a few guests – including Warren Haynes on slide guitar. These live-in-the-studio sessions capture the spontaneity of group performance and the pull of a street corner show. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

The Howlin’ Brothers Home Page

The Coal Porters: Find the One

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Bluegrass-tinged progressive folk from former Long Ryder

The Coal Porters are often billed as an alt.bluegrass band, and while there’s bluegrass to be heard in their harmonies and acoustic picking, their loose-jointed joy rings more of the 1960s folk revival than of modern-day bluegrass festivals. Band leader Sid Griffin has been widely quoted as wanting to make acoustic bluegrass-styled music lyrically relevant to current audiences, but the album’s themes – simple joys, forsaken relationships, biblically-inspired stories and historically rooted dramas – are more timeless than contemporary. The album’s two covers – a fiddle and harmonica take on David Bowie’s “Heroes” and a harmony-laden version of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” – may be modern in sentiment, but they’re nostalgic in form. The Porters’ music is influenced both by the progressive folk of Griffin’s adopted England and the bluegrass of his native Kentucky; which makes sense, since both bluegrass and blue grass (that is, poa pratensis) have roots in Scotland, Ireland and England. The enhanced CD edition of this release includes a short video documentary about the band, providing a glimpse of Griffin as a bandleader, and the band as an ever-evolving outlet for his musical interests. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

The Coal Porters’ Home Page

Marley’s Ghost: Jubliee

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Twenty-five years on, Marley’s Ghost is still digging up roots

After twenty-five years together, there’s nothing tremendously surprising about this quintet’s tenth album, but the ease with which they craft country, soul, swing and bluegrass remains terrifically engaging. Recorded in Nashville with Cowboy Jack Clement in the producer’s chair, there’s plenty of tight harmonizing, some rapid finger work and guest appearances by Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris and John Prine. The song list combines five originals with eight covers, including finely selected songs from Kris Kristofferson, Katy Moffatt & Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Levon Helm and Bobby & Shirley Womack. The latter’s “It’s All Over Now,” originally recorded by its author as funky, New Orleans-tinged R&B, and famously covered by the Rolling Stones, is winningly arranged here with the twang and harmony of Old Crow Medicine Show. Butch Hancock’s “If You Were a Bluebird” and John Prine’s scornful “Unwed Fathers” (the latter with Harris adding her vocal to Dan Wheetman’s) are especially moving, and the original “South for a Change” offers western swing piano, guitar, steel and fiddle. Like the Band and NRBQ, Marley’s Ghost is an eclectic outfit with deep country roots; the tether gives their catalog continuity and the variety keeps their albums fresh. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Marley’s Ghost’s Home Page

Steep Canyon Rangers: Nobody Knows You

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Bluegrass emboldened with newgrass, country and gospel

Having hooked up with Steve Martin in 2009, this quintet gained mainstream attention that mirrored the renown they’d built in bluegrass circles over the previous decade. After backing Martin for a tour of his 2009 album, The Crow, and collaborating for last year’s Rare Bird Alert, they now return to their own work and original material. The only cover in this lot is Tim Hardin’s “Reputation,” sung at a tempo that inches towards the Association’s 1967 blues-rock cover and with harmonies that expand upon the Byrds’ 1968 version. The original tunes are all rooted in bluegrass instrumentation, but interweave elements of newgrass, country and gospel. The songs include stories of earnest courting, lost souls, tenuous relationships and natural pleasures. The band’s harmonies are strong, perhaps even a tad in your face in spots, and contrast with playing that’s tight and enthusiastic, but relaxed and delicate enough to have soul. The latter is the sort of thing that can escape players with bluegrass-quality chops, and though you get to hear the instrumentalists solo, they do so without having the band drop into the background. The album’s one instrumental, “Knob Creek,” is fittingly, an ensemble piece. The Rangers are a talented band with taste, chops and enough invention to keep their music growing. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Steep Canyon Rangers’ Home Page


Tony Rice: The Bill Monroe Collection

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

An anthology of Tony Rice’s recordings of Bill Monroe’s songs

The centennial anniversary of Bill Monroe’s birth has produced an outpouring of tributes (e.g., 1 2 3 4 5) from many of the musicians who’ve descended from the master’s vision. Each of the disciples has played Monroe’s tunes on stage and recorded them sporadically, but with these tributes they’ve made album length statements about their relationship to the music and the man. Tony Rice has also played and recorded Monroe’s music, but instead of recording a purpose-built tribute, his label has cherry-picked fourteen tracks from nine albums released between 1981 and 2000. This includes solo titles and sessions with David Grisman, the Tony Rice Unit, the Rice Bothers and the Bluegrass Album Band.

Fans may already have many of these tracks on original albums or previous collections (Lonesome Moonlight: Bluegrass Songs of Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Guitar Collection), but for those not steeped in the Tony Rice catalog, this is a fine anthology. Not only is Rice a preeminent bluegrass guitarist and singer, but twenty years of recordings say as much about Rice’s evolving relationship to Monroe as they do about Monroe himself. The set mixes vocal and instrumental tracks, and ranges from traditional playing to styles influenced by jazz and swing. Marian Levy’s liners fill out Rice’s view of Monroe, though the ink she spends on ponderous philosophizing would have been better spent discussing the songs, performances and settings. Chuck the liner notes and you’ll find all you need to know in the grooves. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Tony Rice’s Home Page

13th Annual San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

PRESS RELEASE

San Francisco, CA-January 19, 2012-The eclectic blend of events booked for the 13th annual San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival (SFBOT) will raise up a bluegrass ruckus, create some old-time fun and guarantee some ass kickin’ music through performances, dances and workshops. The 10-day festival runs from Feb. 10-19 and comprises more than 30 shows at numerous small clubs around the Bay Area featuring some of the most talented musicians on the Americana and Roots music scene today.

Highlights of this year’s festival includes Bay Area favorites such as The Brothers Comatose, The Crooked Jades, Earl White String Band and the Kathy Kallick Quartet. Also featured are out-of-town bands; Foghorn Stringband, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, and making their SFBOT debut, The Deadly Gentlemen (epic folk and grasscore out of Boston!). The Deadly Gentlemen consists of band members: Greg Liszt on banjo (from Crooked Still), Mike Barnett (from David Grisman Quintet/toured w/Jesse McReynolds) on fiddle, Dominick Leslie on mandolin, Stash Wyslouch on guitar and Sam Grisman on upright bass (son of mandolinist David Grisman).

For the first time the festival will feature a band contest which will bring out some of the up-and-coming new Northern California Bluegrass and Old-Time bands. There is a lot of excitement about this contest and it is expected to be a regular addition to the festival.

In addition to shows, the festival aims to provide rich experiences for Bay Area residents through workshops, jam sessions, kids shows, Bluegrass and Old-Time in the Schools and the Saturday night old-time square dance (always a sell-out with over 220 attendees)! Each year the Festival showcases the best in rising acts from the West Coast and beyond, with a special spotlight on the immense amount of local talent located right here in the Bay Area.

Thanks to a generous investment from the Chris and Warren Hellman Foundation, the festival committee continues its commitment to the Bluegrass and Old-time in the Schools program. The program aims to expose elementary and high school students to the worlds of bluegrass and old-time music and continue the legacy of this important music. Schools interested in bringing performers to their Bay Area location should contact the Volunteer Coordinator.

Unlike any other festival in the country, the San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival is a grass-roots, non-profit, volunteer-run festival dedicated to keeping the tradition of bluegrass and old-time music alive. For more information on the festival, visit http://www.sfbluegrass.org.

Confirmed 2012 Acts
Foghorn Stringband, Jeff Kazor & Lisa Berman, Anne and Pete Sibley, Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, The Brothers Comatose, Emily Bonn and The Vivants, Water Tower Bucket Boys, BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand, The Bee Eaters, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Stairwell Sisters, Water Tower Bucket Boys, Erik Clampitt, The New Five Cents, Squirrelly Stringband, Evie Ladin, The Juncos, Houston Jones, Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band, Family Lines, Kathy Kallick Band Quartet, Taco Jam, Anne & Pete Sibley, The Trespassers, Windy Hill, Snap Jackson & the Knock On Wood Players, Kleptograss, Knuckle Knockers, The Alhambra Valley Band , Redwing, The ONs, Misisipi Mike & the Midnight Gamblers, Mad Cow String Band, Misisipi Rider, Sweetback Sisters, James Nash and the Nomads, SUPERMULE, Belle Monroe and Her Brewglass Boys, Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally, Misner & Smith, Jeanie and Chuck Poling, The Earl Brothers, Henhouse Prowlers, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Gayle Schmitt and the Toodala Ramblers, Rita Hosking and Cousin Jack, Evie Ladin, The Blushin’ Roulettes, Earl White Stringband, Black Crown Stringband, Jordan Ruyle, Pine Box Boys, The Jugtown Pirates, Hang Jones, Dark Hollow, The Crooked Jades, The Deadly Gentlemen

2012 Schedule
(*) Indicates Marin County Show

Friday, February 10
SF Live Arts at Cyprian’s SFBOT Kickoff — Foghorn Stringband, Jeff Kazor & Lisa Berman, Anne and Pete Sibley 7:30 pm at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk Street, San Francisco — $16 adv/$18 doors
Big Ass Hillbilly Show — Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, The Brothers Comatose, Emily Bonn and The Vivants 8:00 pm at Slim’s, 333 11th Street, San Francisco — $15
*Down From the Mountain to Marin — Water Tower Bucket Boys, BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand 8:00 pm at Studio 55 Marin, 1455-A East Francisco Blvd, San Rafael — $12*
The Bee Eaters, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West 8:00 pm at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley– $20.50 adv / $22.50 doors

Saturday, February 11
Stairwell Sisters 8:00 pm at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley — $20.50 adv / $22.50 doors
Portland Invasion — Water Tower Bucket Boys, Erik Clampitt, The New Five Cents 9:00 pm at Cafe du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco — $13 adv / $15 doors

Sunday, February 12
Family Square Dance with Squirrelly Stringband & Evie Ladin — Squirrelly Stringband, Evie Ladin 12:00 pm at North Oakland Community Charter School, 1000 42nd St., Oakland — $5 kid / $10 adult / $25 family
The Juncos 4:30 pm at Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco — $10 suggested donation
*Folk Grass Fusion Marin — Houston Jones, Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band, Family Lines 8:00 pm at Studio 55 Marin, 1455-A East Francisco Blvd, San Rafael — $12*

Monday, February 13
Kathy Kallick Band Quartet, Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band 8:00 pm at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley — $20.50 adv / $22.50 doors
Taco Jam 8:00 pm at Baja Taqueria, 4070 Piedmont Ave, Oakland — Free

Tuesday, February 14
*Valentine’s Day Show in Marin — Foghorn Stringband, Anne & Pete Sibley 8:00 pm at Studio 55 Marin, 1455-A East Francisco Blvd, San Rafael — $12*

Wednesday, February 15
Hump Day Bluegrass — The Trespassers, Windy Hill, Snap Jackson & the Knock On Wood Players, BrownChicken BrownCow StringBand 8:00 pm at Cafe du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco — $13 adv / $15 doors
Kleptograss 8:00 pm at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley — $20.50 adv / $22.50 doors
Knuckle Knockers 8:00 pm at Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, 765 Center Blvd, Fairfax — Free

Thursday, February 16
The Alhambra Valley Band , Redwing, The ONs 7:00 pm at Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez — $15
Honky-Tonk Showdown: The Country-Bluegrass Show — Misisipi Mike & the Midnight Gamblers, Mad Cow String Band, Misisipi Rider, Sweetback Sisters 8:00 pm at Cafe du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco — $13 adv / $15 doors
Blue Ribbon Showcase — James Nash and the Nomads, SUPERMULE 9:00 pm at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission Street San Francisco — $7 adv / $10 doors

Friday, February 17
Belle Monroe and Her Brewglass Boys 12:00 am at The Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley — $10-$15 sliding scale
Duo Night — Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally, Misner & Smith, Jeanie and Chuck Poling 7:30 pm at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk Street, San Francisco — $16 adv/$18 doors
Bluegrass Bonanza! — The Earl Brothers, Henhouse Prowlers, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West 8:00 pm at Plough & Stars, 116 Clement Street, San Francisco — $10-$15 sliding scale

Saturday, February 18
Kid’s Show — Gayle Schmitt and the Toodala Ramblers 2:00 pm at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk Street, San Francisco — $9/adults; $6/kids under 12
Americana Angels — Rita Hosking and Cousin Jack, Evie Ladin, The Blushin’ Roulettes 7:30 pm at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, 2097 Turk Street, San Francisco — $16 adv/$18 doors
Old-Time Square Dance — Earl White Stringband, Black Crown Stringband, Jordan Ruyle 8:00 pm at Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco
Alt-Bluegrass Show — Pine Box Boys, The Jugtown Pirates, Hang Jones 9:00 pm at Cafe du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco — $13 adv / $15 doors

Sunday, February 19
Dark Hollow 4:30 pm at Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco — $10 suggested donation
Festival Closing Night — The Crooked Jades, The Deadly Gentlemen 8:00 pm at Cafe du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco — $15

Festival Home Page