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 writes the MOLD News column every Friday for the California Bluegrass Association web site

 

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 decades! However, this does not work in the world of rock and roll. It is tough to be jumping up and down while wearing Spandex when you are in your 40s and 50s. Read about the sad situation in the venerable music publication called the Wall Street Journal.

Life’s railway to heaven. Manny Roth, the longtime owner and operator of the Café Wha? in New York City back in the folk scare days, died in Ojai, CA, on July 25th. He was 94. A fledgling songwriter named Bob Zimmerman from Minnesota got his start playing open mics at the Café Wha? back in the early ‘60s. Pioneering female country session guitarist Velma Smith died in Madison, TN, on July 31st. She was 87.

(S)Awesome weekend ahead. Resin up the bow and head on out to the 37th Annual Saw Festival this weekend in Felton near Santa Cruz. There will be jams, workshops, performances, tree cutting, contests, and more. Only kidding about the tree cutting…

Rockin’ in Marin. As a longtime resident of Marin County, I can tell you for a fact that the place is home to many artists from the rock and roll world. Bonnie Raitt, Hughie Lewis, Maria Muldaur, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Paul Kantner and many others can be seen occasionally sipping triple-decaf-low-cal-lattes at one of the numerous coffee shops in downtown Mill Valley. So it only stands to reason that there is a new rock and roll novel out that is set in Marin. It is titled True Love Scars, by former Rolling Stone writer Michael Gold, and you can read out it in Paul Liberatore’s Marin IJ column.

Kentucky Traveler. Speaking of new books, bluegrass picker Ricky Skaggs has a new autobiography out titled Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music.

Heavy Freight. There are some great shows coming to the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley the rest of this month. On the 8th it will be hot bluegrass with Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Billy Joe Shaver on the 10th, amazing Western swing on the 15th with Lost Weekend, a fiddle summit on the 21st, Aireene & the Rarities and Claudia Russell & Bruce Kaplan on the 24th, and much more.

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 9th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Two Anniversaries. August 9th was the date of the Stanley Brothers' first Mercury recording session (in 1953) and Jerry Garcia's passing (1995). Both are remembered.

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. Here are three of his ruminations from the past week, all of them gems that will hopefully someday be chapters in his oft-rumored tell-all book Bluegrass Babylon, and one CD review.

“In my Randog's Pick dated August 4th (Scott's birthday, and mine, coincidentally) that ran in the MOLD column on the 6th, in which I shared my thoughts regarding the late Scott Stoneman's live album with The Kentucky Colonels that was originally put out by Sierra Records, I mentioned the amazing accounts I've heard over the years about his live performances, which got me to thinking about the first time I ever heard of the man...it was on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. I was, as it turned out, almost exactly 10-years-old then (I looked it up), and I knew then that what I was seeing wasn't normal. Scott appeared on the show with The Bluegrass Champs – Scott, Jimmy, and Donna Stoneman, Porter Church, and Jimmy Case – on July 30, 1956. They played ‘Salty Dog Blues,’ won the contest, and as a result, won the right to appear for a week on Arthur's nationally syndicated, network radio show. Reports are that Arthur really liked Donna, an incredibly dynamic performer on mandolin, and that she spent a good part of the week being pursued by the avuncular media personality. The International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro has a blurry cinescope of that historic performance, or at least they did once. I'm wondering if any of my friends out there also saw that show when it originally aired, 58 years ago.” (editor’s note – you can watch the video here)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q2nVj1RCXo

“Department of Pointless Speculation: My friend John Jeter, who in addition to being an actual man of letters – he's published novels – was also the majordomo for years of a place called The Handlebar Café in Greenville, South Carolina, a favorite of traditional musicians of every stripe. He actually wrote a book – called ‘Rockin' A Hard Place’ –about the experiences he and his wife Kathy had keeping that enterprise alive, and everything in it has the ring of truth, with the possible exception of the portrait of yours truly contained therein. I'm way more witty and urbane than that guy in the book, but it is an excellent read anyway, especially if you are screwy enough to contemplate entering into such a venture. Anyway, he just suggested that I write MY book, something I've threatened to do with varying degrees of seriousness for years...I usually said that the best stories would have to wait until certain people are gone. But have you noticed? People seem to live a lot longer these days, with the possible exception of me – I'm not feeling any younger...or motivated. Sooo...I've come up with a money making scheme. What I'm proposing is this: a Kickstarter-style fund-raising campaign to keep me quiet! That is, if I reach a certain pre-announced financial goal – $100K seems about right – I promise NEVER to write my memoirs, the folkadoke community can heave a collective sigh of relief, and everyone (you know who you are) can go about their business. I'll sign an affidavit. The campaign is tentatively entitled ‘The Don't Start Me Talkin' (I Might Tell Everything I Know) Drive for Randy's Well Being.’ I 'liberated' the title from a Sonny Boy Williamson record. If at first you can't get through, keep trying...”

“Here's a gem gleaned from Producing Country-The Inside Story Of The Great Recordings, a more or less oral history overview of the art of record production of country music from the earliest days 'til now, put together by Michael Jarrett. Dave Dudley had a breakout hit of “Six Days on the Road” on his own Golden Wing label. Shelby Singleton, who ran Mercury's Nashville office at the time, called Dudley and told him that since Mercury had a subsidiary label called Wing, that he, Shelby, would sue him if he didn't sell the master to Mercury. Dudley did, Mercury signed him as an artist, and the rest is history…”

Randog's Daily Pick 8/7/2014
Barry & Holly Tashian Long Story Short
Rocks A Lot Records CD 008

Here's one that might be a little difficult to find but that is well worth looking for, highlighting, as it does, the songwriting, instrumental, and vocal skills, of two of my favorite people – and perennial candidates for Nashville's “First Couple” – Barry and Holly Tashian. I first saw Barry when he was singing harmony and playing various instruments in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band in the '70s, though his career began much earlier as Barry of Barry and The Remains (they were on the Beatles' last American tour). I met them when they played at the Freight & Salvage in the '80s, when they were touring in support of their fine duet albums on Rounder, and became re-acquainted with them when I moved to Music City in the late '90s. They have become steadfast friends in the years since, as well as picking buddies with my wife Chris. They are wonderful writers, their harmonies are sublime, and their taste is impeccable. This was a self-produced album put together in the wake of the demise of the recording industry as we had known it prior to 2008. It features eight of their originals in various styles, plus Doc Pomus' and Reginald Ashby's “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” (I knew the song by Big Joe Turner, but they do it proud), "Darkness on The Delta," a swing number from the '30s, and "The Grey Funnel Line," from the repertoire of English folksinger Cyril Tawney. The excellent band features the talents of Matt Combs on fiddle and mandolin, Mike Compton on mandolin, Mike Henderson on resophonic slide guitar (National, I believe), Ross Sermons on acoustic upright bass, who I met at the listening party for the album after its release – he's a monster – and the ubiquitous Kenny Malone on percussion. Barry plays mostly lead guitar, Holly plays rhythm, and they both sing their patooties off.

 

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Friday, August 1, 2014


It’s so easy to fall in love. So wrote and sang Buddy Holly back in the ‘50s. In the mid-seventies it was easy for me as a 20-something to fall in love with singer Linda Ronstadt with her recordings Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise and Simple Dreams. She was one pretty gal (check out this Time Magazine cover from back in that era), and her voice was just out of this world. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had a thing for Linda. President Obama admitted to her this week -- when Linda was given a National Medal of the Arts award in Washington -- that he had a crush on her too back then. Fast-forward 30 years to 2005, when my partner Claudia and I (through our friend Maria Muldaur) got to have a private dinner with Linda and Maria while at Winterfest in Tacoma. That was a wonderful night, and even better was their show the next day – with Laurie Lewis as part of the one-time-only trio – when The Bluebirds closed out the fest. You can read my story (which first appeared in The Breakdown) about the fest here. Sadly, Linda can no longer sing, as she is battling Parkinson’s disease. But her voice will live on forever in countless recordings…

Front page news! Bay Area fiddler/guitarist Laurie Lewis is on the cover of the August edition of Bluegrass Unlimited. You can read the story about her here.

Worth repeating. It has been mentioned here and a few places elsewhere on this site many times before. But it is worth mentioning again because time is running out (only 10 days left to go) and, short of a Warren or Jimmy Buffett stepping forward to help out, the goal will not be reached. 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.”

Bluegrass documentaries. Two weeks back it was reported here that at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in late September and early October in Raleigh, NC, that, for the first time, the organization will be hosting a film festival during the event. I have already seen The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan, and I know about At the Feed & Seed.

A bluegrass friend in need. Chico area bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich can use your help. He was diagnosed with 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. 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.

Good luck charms? The San Francisco Giants ended a six-game skid two days ago by beating the Pirates in SF. Baseball players are known to be superstitious, so maybe the Giants will want to issue free passes to two CBA notables and fans who were at the game on Wednesday. CBA Board candidate Maria Nadauld and her brother Brooks Judd can be seen in this video here. They are the folks in the dark shirts behind the guy that got the ball.

Born a ramblin’ man. Happy birthday greetings go out to fabled folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who turned 83 years young today. Grammy winner and National Medal of Arts recipient Jack lives in West Marin County, and he is still out there touring, singing, and telling his stories (they don’t call him “Ramblin’” for nothing). You can read an interview with him in last week’s Pacific Sun.

Pickin’ in the Vines. There is a new bluegrass festival that will be taking place in Kingman, AZ, in October, and while Larry and Sondra Baker (of L&S Promotions) do not own the fest, they have been hired to run it, and you can bet that it will be a good one. Here is what Larry has to say about it: “For those of you who just can’t get enough bluegrass music, and as the summer season winds down, here's a chance to head south to Kingman, AZ, for the Pickin' in the Vines Bluegrass Festival, produced by L&S. This festival will be held Oct 17th-19th. The venue will be the beautiful Stetson Winery. The winery owners, Don & Jo Stetson, are also the owners of the festival. They are very excited to join the bluegrass music family. This festival is shaping up to be very much run like the L&S events in Lake Havasu City, Plymouth and Yuma, with all the fun, laughter, great jamming, great music and much more. Headlining will be Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Spinney Brothers. Joining these headliners will be a some of our NorCal favorites: 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 also, a breakout reunion of Copperline, featuring Eric Uglum & Bud Bierhaus. In addition to the great music and jamming, we will have a variety of band workshops, arts and crafts vendors, great food and beverage vendor. After all, it is held at a winery, so needless to say wine and beer will be available. This will be another ‘don't miss’ L&S-style event in the Southwest. Oh yeah, the Stetson wine isn’t bad either. Hope to see LOTS of our bluegrass friends at Pickin’ in the Vines!”

Still rockin’ after all these years. Acclaimed electric guitarist Eric Clapton has been a vital part of rock and roll history, from his days in The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and The Dominos, and years as a solo artist. Some years back he and renowned blues guitarist JJ Cale put out a great album titled The Road to Escondido, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Cale died a year ago last Saturday, and on his way to the memorial service Clapton drew up a plan to make a tribute album to Cale that would include many other guitarists and singers, such as John Mayer, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, and Willie Nelson, and just this week The Breeze was released. Listen to this wonderful interview with Clapton on National Public Radio.

Retro video. Back before there was an MTV network with slick, highly commercial videos, there wasn’t much of an outlet for music videos of any sort. So it is great to come across a gem from time to time, and this one here is from Duane Eddy, with his band playing his song “40 Miles of Hard Road” while on tractors and front-end loaders. It is pretty well done for 1959, though my only beef is that the bass player could have faked it a bit better…

Grannies just wanna have fun. I don’t know about you, but for the most part, I am tired of seeing the so-called “spontaneous flash mobs” that appear on the web seemingly at least once a week. This being said, however, I do suggest that you watch this one here. It is sure to bring a smile to your face, despite the moronic song that is used as a soundtrack.

Brother from another planet. As anyone who has ever seen him play, mandolinist Chris Thile is one amazingly talented individual. But, the odds are that you have never seen him sing his song titled “Too Many Notes” before. One of the first rules of songwriting is “write what you know.” Well, Chris certainly did that here.

Hot chicks. Speaking of music videos, there is a new young duo on the country scene called Maddie & Tae that has a really good video out of a song they wrote called “Girl in a County Song,” which pokes fun at your standard videos made by studly- hat-guy country singers. Check it out here. The betting at MOLD World Headquarters is that you will be hearing more from Maddie & Tae real soon…

While his guitar gently wept. Legendary lead guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison, died in 2001 from a brain tumor. In his later years he lived in Los Angeles. In 2004 some folks planted a ten-foot pine tree in his memory, with a plaque that reads "In memory of a great humanitarian who touched the world as an artist, a musician and a gardener." The tree recently died from – you guessed it – an infestation of beetles...

Old school country 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. For the month of August the show will be on the first Saturday, and at an earlier time than usual. On the 2nd, at 7 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 Claudia Hampe on rhythm guitar, Gary Kaye on pedal steel, Gary Bauman on electric guitar, and yours truly 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.

New old venue in the North Bay. The Twin Oaks Tavern has been around since the 1940s in the town of Penngrove, and couple of miles east of Petaluma. For decades the place was just a local bar of little significance except to the locals. Recently it was purchased and remodeled by Sheila Groves-Tracey, her sister and her brother-in-law. Sheila was the longtime talent buyer for the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma and the Uptown Theatre in Napa. Now as an owner of a venue, she has a lot issues to deal with daily. Read a story about the Oaks here.

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 2nd, see the amazing Doug Adamz play.

Bluegrass the old-fashioned way. Bluegrass fans all of the Bay Area are atwitter at the prospect of the impending Good Old Fashioned Festival outside of Hollister which will run from the 7th-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.

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. This week’s show is titled Sully Picks 'em & Plays 'em!, with guest host Sully Roddy back in the saddle again.

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 taking a much needed break from the keyboard this week, so check back here next Friday. Hopefully he is busy ghostwriting the rumored-and-much-anticipated kiss-and-tell-all “Bluegrass Babylon.”

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Friday, July 25, 2014


Hello, weekend! It has been one heck of a busy week here at the MOLD World Headquarters Satellite Annex in San Francisco. With so much strife going on in the world -- airplanes crashing or being shot down, adversaries firing rockets at one another (and we're not talking about the spat between siblings Kim and Kloe Kardashian)(maybe Secretary of State John Kerry can step in to mediate once he achieves peace in the Middle East), the whereabouts of Casey Kasem's remains, the LA Dodgers coming into town for a three-game series -- it is hard sometimes to concentrate on music news. But that is what we are being paid the big money to do, so turn off the boob tube, tune into some bluegrass radio shows, get out and see some live music, or get together with friends to pick some. These are sure cures for the summertime blues...

Catch the Drifters. Last night in SF I had the pleasure of seeing the Cache Valley Drifters play, as they are gigging again after first getting together some 40 years ago. They are just a trio these days, with guitar, mandolin and electric bass, but man can these guys sing and pick. I first saw them perform at the Great American Music Hall in the city in 1979 or so, and I was inspired then, and even more so now. As an added bonus, at the show at the Chapel in SF former Drifter -- and current Marin County banjo player -- Gary Kaye sat in on most of the second set. They are not a bluegrass band, nor do they profess to be. But their vocals are some of the best that I have heard in many years. You can see them on the 25th at The Strum Shop in Roseville (Sacramento area), and on the 26th at Slade's House Concert Series in Pioneer in Gold Country.

J.D.'s cook book. It has been mentioned here and a few places elsewhere on this site a few times before. But it is worth mentioning again because time is running out and, short of a Warren or Jimmy Buffett stepping forward to help out, the goal will not be reached. 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.”

Names in the news. Rare is the time when a CBA Board candidate gets their name into Leah Garchik’s gossip column in the San Francisco Chronicle, and fortunately is has nothing to do with plagiarism or a sex scandal. Here is what was seen in Wednesday’s fishwrap: “A guitarist (editor’s note: it was David Grier) here from Nashville for a performance at Freight & Salvage earlier this month stopped for lunch in Berkeley. About 45 minutes later, he came back to find the trunk of his rental car open. ‘Horrified,’ said Maria Nadauld, ‘he rushed to the car to see about his suitcase, computer and vintage Martin guitar.’ Everything was still there. Unfamiliar with the car, he'd pushed the open trunk button when he intended to lock it.” The words “yikes!” and “whew!” were probably uttered somewhere along the way…

Fiddle star of the future. More news from Maria Nadauld, about her daughter/fiddling champ Megan Lynch’s Fiddlestar fiddle camp: “Tuesday the 22nd was the last day of Megan (and husband Adam) B. Lynch Chowning’s Fiddlestar Youth Fiddle/Guitar Camp in Nashville. One of the students (there are 18 total) – 16-year-old Justin Sherfey of Spokane, WA – won the Junior Division at Weiser last month and also won the first ever Swing Division Championship at Weiser. Megan arranged for Justin to guest with the world famous Time Jumpers at 3rd and Lindsley on Monday night. See the performance here. Note the Vince Gill guitar solo. Great times at Fiddlestar Camp.”

Playing to pay. You’ve heard the term “pay to play” before, but here is a real twist on the saying: renowned Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, now in his 70s, is now having to play in order to pay for his medical bills. Last year he had a spinal abscess, which required a long hospitalization. During the abscess surgery, doctors also found bladder cancer and were forced to do more surgery. Read more here.

A real jam buster. At late night jams at bluegrass festivals there are some instruments that are not usually welcomed warmly (if at all) by the pickers. Drums of any sort, spoons, shakers, didgeridoos, etc., are given the cold shoulder. Imagine the looks on the faces of jammers if one of these were to walk into camp...

Hot news. From that great bluegrass publication, Esquire, comes this news and a link to a new song by Hot Rize: “After 24 years away, legendary bluegrass quartet Hot Rize is back in the saddle, announcing a new album, When I'm Free, out September 30th. Hailed by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) as ‘the connective tissue that links the great founders of bluegrass with the modern tradition,’ Hot Rize started in 1978 and have picked up where they left off after disbanding at the peak of their fame in 1990. Featuring three of the original members, they've added Grammy winner Bryan Sutton on guitar to replace Charles Sawtelle, who passed away in 2002. Listen to ‘Blue Is Fallin',’ the first track off When I'm Free, right here (at the link above), and get ready to see Hot Rize live on what they promise will be a ‘massive tour.’" They will be one of the featured acts at the Strawberry Music Festival in September.

Going Goofy. Even though it doesn’t start for another two weeks, it is time to be thinking about the Good Old Fashioned Festival outside of Hollister which will run from August 7th-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.

Dead again. The annual Dead on the Creek festival will be happening near Willits on August 8th-11th. See The Tuttles with AJ Lee, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Front Country, The Carper Family, plus Melvin Seals & JGB, Stu Allen & Mars Hotel, Todd Snider w/Great American Taxi, and others.

Marty's headed west. Last week 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 in October. Plan ahead now to see them either in West Hollywood on the 15th, Ridgecrest on the 16th, Fresno on the 17th, Trinidad on the 18th, Folsom on the 22nd, Berkeley on the 23rd, Modesto on the 24th, or in Bakersfield on the 25th.

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 26th at 8 p.m. Walter Strauss will perform, followed by Doug Adamz on August 2nd.

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 26th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Time Changes Everything, the final in a three-part survey of bluegrass songs about time.

Music calendars. Sure, 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 commentator. Here are two new CD reviews:

Randog's Daily Pick 7/23/2014
Mac Wiseman The Lost Album 1964
Music Mill CD-MME 70038-2

This album, according to the liner notes, was slated to be the follow up to Mac's first Capitol album, the artistically and commercially successful Bluegrass Favorites By Master Folk Singer Mac Wiseman, but something happened on the way to the pressing plant – namely, The Beatles. The Capitol pressing plants' inability to keep up with the demands of the hit making moptops AND the release schedule of suddenly less vital artists on their roster led to the defection of, among others, Faron Young and Mac. Four of the cuts here first saw the light of day on this CD in 2003, when Mac was marking his 60th year in the music business. Since then, he has made new recordings with John Prine and Merle Haggard, and this year, his 71st in the biz, he was elected to membership in The Country Music Hall Of Fame. Although Capitol's idea of production of bluegrass might not mesh perfectly with those of some bluegrass purists – the banjo is a little too pluckapluck jaunty and less driving than some would like, there is, mostly unobtrusively, percussion here. Charlie McCoy's harmonica , tasteful though it is, might not be to everyone's taste, and some would question the need for Marion Worth's added vocals on three cuts – Mac is in great voice. His warm and fuzzy, slightly melancholy voice has never been recorded better, and Josh Graves' dobro is a welcome touch. "Mother Knows Best," a neglected classic from the pen of Marty Robbins, is my favorite cut, and there are eleven more, including "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose," "Sweet Summers Gone Away," "They're All Goin' Home But One," "Dark Hollow," "If I Could Live That Way," "Bluegrass Music's Really Gone To Town," "Old Pair Of Shoes," "The Mole," "Katie Waits For Me," "Brother Joe," and "Brush It Off."

Randog's Daily Pick 7/24/2014
Vassar Clements Livin' With The Blues
Acoustic Disc ACD-66

This all-blues album featuring the great Vassar Clements with various and sundry blues artists was recorded in 2004, and it displays his feeling for the blues as perhaps no other album has. His deep, woody tone was perfect for the blues, as was his flair for endlessly inventive improvisation; both qualities are much in evidence on this album. Vassar plays with artists as diverse as Roy Rogers, Maria Muldaur, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Bob Brozman, and my friend, the criminally under-recorded Marc Silber. (Check out Marc, along with Vassar and Maria Muldaur, on a number best known from Doc Watson, "Honey Babe Blues.") There's also a lot of the late Bob Brozman here; he and Vassar seemed to be particularly sympatico. Vassar, of course, was inimitable, and completely at home in any number of settings. He played for a long time with Bill Monroe's Blue grass Boys, and also made landmark recordings with Jim & Jesse, Old & In The Way, The Earl Scruggs Revue and the Aeroplane album with John Hartford. He was the glue that held together the great Hillbilly Jazz album from the ‘70s – that's him on fiddle on "Panhandle Rag," along with David Bromberg and Doug Jernigan; the cut has been Tom Diamant's radio show theme song for lo these many years. Vassar's adventurous approach to the art of improvisation was not favored by all in the bluegrass community, but he was always a favorite among forward looking musicians and fans, and the reasons for that are on full display on this album, made only a year before he died. Songs and tunes include Skip James' "Cypress Grove," “Dirty Drawers.” "Mambo Boogie,” Robert Johnson's "Phonograph Blues," with Roy Rogers, "Green Onions," "Rube's Blues," "Dead Cats On The Line," "That's My Thing," "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning," "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle," "Mama I'm All Out And Down," (with Marc Silber on 12-string guitar), “Fiddlin' & Faddlin," (a cool instrumental with Bob Brozman), "Cool Drink Of Water," (Brozman again), and "Don't Stand Behind A Mule." Matt Glaser evokes the names of great jazz, blues, and r&b fiddlers Stuff Smith, Sugarcane Harris, and Claude Williams in his liner notes, and Vassar's playing on this – and other albums – stands easily alongside their best work.

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Friday, July 18, 2014


"It’s good to be back San Francisco," legendary bluegrass singer Red Allen said from the stage of the Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite back in the early '90s -- 180 miles from the city. He then, however, added, "I don't know if I have ever been here before (to Strawberry, not SF), but if I have, it has been a long time." Well, I have been in/around SF for 35+ years now, and while it is always nice to travel, it is even greater to be back here. For more reasons than one, with first and foremost being the weather. 95 degree heat and oppressive humidity back east is not my favorite kind of weather. With any luck, some of you may have even noticed last week that there was no Carltone MOLD column here. While there are some valid excuses for such, that wasn’t the original plan. While I was traveling back to the old home place outside of Philly last week, in the home state of Pennsyltucky, I had every intention of posting, at the least, a Carltone “best of” column, which, under normal circumstances, would have been simple to do. That is, “simple” if I had taken my laptop computer with me. But not wanting to carry the extra weight on the plane, I just assumed that I could use the computer at my brother’s house. Which I tried to do, but since it was a set up that was from the dark ages (before the year 2000), it was excruciatingly slow. And, it kept freezing up on me. Plus, I was supposedly on vacation (that, in itself, is another story), so I had little time, or desire, to be sitting at a keyboard on a hot, summer day. So there was no column on Friday the 11th. Amazingly so, the CBA website did not crash, the music world barely noticed, and the world did not come to an end. The lesson learned? Always, forever, eternally, take your own computer along with you if you want/need to get something done!

The Three Bassists. You've probably heard of The Three Tenors - José Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti - who famously toured together back in the '90s. The photo above is of The Three Bassists -- yours truly, Celia Wykcoff, and John Werntz -- who never got to perform together because we were all bass players who played in the same band in succession in 1974-75, but obviously, as an musician knows (because there is never a need for more than one bassist), not at the same time. The band was called Mason Dixon, and we played in State College, PA. Years and many personnel changes later, the band changed its name to Whetsone Run, with notable members such as Lynn Morris, Marshall Wilborn, and Chris Jones. In 1974 John -- who now lives in Woodbridge, VA, outside of DC -- was the main bass player, but he was in two bands, and when he was double booked, I played bass. It was my first bluegrass band, and it was one of the best and smartest things I did while going to college at Penn State, as it opened me up to the world of bluegrass. After John left town, Mason Dixon hired full-time bassist Celia Wykcoff, who lived in the town and worked for the university for 30+ years. She now lives and plays in Asheville, NC. Last week we all reconnected while attending the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts back there in State College. We have over 120 years of bluegrass experience among us...

Comatose Brothers. While I was at the Arts Fest, I was surprised and excited to see that a Bay Area band was listed on the schedule. The Brothers Comatose is a young, rocking string band playing bluegrass instruments that is based in SF. I have known real brothers Ben and Alex Morrison for about ten years, and the band is living the dream right now, touring all over the country. You can see them playing a show in Bear Valley, CA on July 25th.

Pets and yoga. With a topic like this, you wouldn't expect some kind of musical connection. But check out this really sweet video of people trying to do yoga while their pets want to play. Added bonus? A cool banjo-driven soundtrack!

One cool school. Dang, I wish The Bluegrass University was in existence back when I was a kid. I could have transferred from Penn State! “The Bluegrass University strives to provide high-quality bluegrass education at affordable prices. In addition to offering lessons, classes, jams, etc. year-round in the greater Boston area, The Bluegrass University offers hands-on classes at some of the biggest and best bluegrass festivals in the northeast including Grey Fox, Thomas Point Beach (TPB), Jenny Brook, Pemi Valley, and Podunk.

Shutterbug Stuart. Besides having a music career that has spanned over four decades, country (and sometimes bluegrass) picker Marty Stuart has been carrying a camera with him. He has a collection of his photographs 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. Read a story about the exhibit and see some of the photos in the New York Times.

American Jukebox. Speaking of photos, Sausalito photographer Christopher Felver has a fabulous new collection of photos out from his years of taking pictures of musicians and artists, and the book is called American Jukebox. Read a story about the book in the SF Chronicle, and check out this description from Amazon.com: “American Jukebox profiles the spirit and heartbeat of our American musical heritage. Christopher Felver has collected over 240 photographs from tours and encounters with musicians over the past 25 years. From Doc Watson to John Cage and Mavis Staples to Sonny Rollins, this collection celebrates the tapestry and diversity of musical styles that make up the American sonic landscape. Caught in action on the stage or posed, Felver captures these musicians and composers in their musical element, revealing the face behind the rhythms, beats, and melodies that have punctuated American musical culture. Scattered throughout are playlists, autographed lyrics, record sleeves, and contributions by musicians sharing their memorable experiences of the era.”

This land is your land. If you have never seen the musical theatrical production of Woody Guthrie's American Song, then you must get on over to the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley this weekend during its four-night run. It started last night and plays through Sunday the 20th. Many fine Bay Area musicians are part of the cast.

Life’s railway to heaven. Influential jazz bassist Charlie Haden went on to that big jam session in the sky on the 11th in Los Angeles. He was 76. He was an amazing bass player, and he came from a musical family where, as a kid, he was known as the yodeling “Cowboy Charlie.” His musical offspring include singer/songwriter Josh Haden and his daughters, known as the Haden Triplets. In 2008 the family put out an excellent non-jazz, rootsy album titled Rambling Boy. Three-time Grammy-winning Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter died in Switzerland on the 16th. He was 70. He recorded and then co-produced guitarist Rick Derringer’s hit “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” in the early ‘70s. He won his Grammys for his production of albums by Muddy Waters. Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone, the last original surviving member of the influential punk band The Ramones, died on July 11th in New York, from cancer. He was 65. Which begs the questions: How come there are no punk oldie radio stations or nostalgic reunion tours? And what were they so dang angry about back in the "halcyon" '80s?

Testing, 1, 2…. Anyone that has ever been in a band will be able to identify with this satirical take on sound checks titled Things You Will NEVER Hear at a Band Sound Check…

Bad grammar. Are you ever irritated by the bad grammar that is on display daily on Facebook, Twitter, and in plain, old-fashioned email? Then you will enjoy this new video by Weird Al Yankovic, who really nails the pathetic state of American grammar in the parody and video titled Word Crimes.

Must-read. Peter Thompson sent along the news of a new book that will be hitting the shelves (or cyber ones at Amazon) in time for the holidays that is titled The Music of the Stanley Brothers by Gary B. Reid. Here is a description: “A leading authority on Carter and Ralph Stanley, Reid augments his own vast knowledge of their music with interviews, documents ranging from books to folios sold by the brothers at shows, and the words of Ralph Stanley, former band members, guest musicians, session producers, songwriters, and bluegrass experts. The result is a reference that illuminates the Stanleys' art and history. It is all here: dates and locations; the roster of players on well-known and obscure sessions alike; master/matrix and catalog/release numbers, with reissue information; a full discography sorting out the Stanleys' complex recording history; the stories behind the music; and exquisitely informed biographical notes that place events in the context of the brothers' careers and lives.”

The Tao of Bluegrass. As everyone who attended the CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley last month can attest, Peter Rowan is one amazingly talented performer who can’t be easily categorized. Yes, he was a Blue Grass Boy back in the 1960s, but he has also played in rock and reggae bands, has yodeled with cowboys, jammed with Czech bluegrass pickers, and has performed solo. In short, you never know what you are going to get at a Rowan show (and maybe this is why it took almost 40 years for him to finally play at Grass Valley?). He has a new CD out titled Dharma Blues. In his liner essay, he writes: "These songs...are a place on the spiritual journey where the commitment has been made, the intent established, and the journey begun. The doubts and resolutions of the spiritual journey are what drives Dharma Blues.”

Bluegrass documentaries. Not only is the big IBMA World of Bluegrass a huge musical gathering that will take place this year in late September and early October in Raleigh, NC, but this year, for the first time, the organization will be hosting a film festival during the event. While the roster of films to be shown has not been officially announced yet, we have it on good authority that The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan and At the Feed & Seed are two of the selections. You read this news here first!

Big twang theory. On Friday the 18th at the Sleeping Lady in the town of Fairfax there will be a veritable Pedal Steel Summit with six players featuring David Phillips, Jon Mitguard, Dave Zirbel, Bobby Lee, Tim Marcus and JP Murphy.

Faultliners in the Studio. A new configuration of Bay Area bluegrass all-stars called The Faultliners will be playing a show at Studio 55 in San Rafael on the 18th. What, you never heard of the band or the venue? The band is Paul Knight on bass, Jim Nunally on guitar, Blaine Sprouse on fiddle, Sharon Gilchrist on mandolin, and Avram Siegel on banjo. The venue is a really cool listening room (gee, what a concept!)(are you listening, Sweetwater?) that is off the beaten path but has plenty of free parking and has no bad seats in the house.

Bluegrass at the Abbey. It will be a rollicking time at the Freemark Abbey Bluegrass Festival and Barbecue in St. Helena on the 19th featuring the Peter Rowan, The Faultliners, Molly Tuttle and John Mailander, and Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players. Bluegrass and wine in the Napa Valley on a sunny Sunday July afternoon…What could be better?

Catch the Drifters. The Cache Valley Drifters are gigging again after first getting together to play 40 some years ago, and you have three chances to see them in Northern California next week. On the 24th see them at The Chapel in San Francisco, on the 25th at The Strum Shop in Roseville (Sacramento area), and on the 26th at Slade's House Concert Series in Pioneer in Gold Country. For the gig in SF, Marin County banjo and pedal steel player – and one-time Drifter – Gary Kaye will be sitting in.

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 to the show on Saturday the 19th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show, with guest host Todd Gracyk, is titled Back To Back, which will feature original as well as classic versions of bluegrass songs associated with Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, and others – as first recorded by The Shenandoah Valley Trio, Hobo Jack Adkins, The Wright Brothers, Estil Stewart & The Flat Mountain Boys, The Rocky Mountain Boys, and Leon Jackson & Johnny Bryant. Bonus: other releases from these lesser known musicians.

Show time. A reader writes: “Hey Carltone, how come you don’t list more shows in your column? And how come most of the ones that you do mention are in the SF/Bay Area?” Good question. The answer to the first question is simple – this is not a calendar column. 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. As to the second question? The first rule of songwriting is “write what you know.” While I am not much of a songwriter, I do occasionally mention shows that I happen to know about in my area. It is that simple.

The view from Nashvegas. It’s Friday, and this means that Randy Pitts of Nashville has a couple of CD reviews to offer that will help get us through the weekend. Here they are:

Randog's Daily Pick 7/11/2014
Various Artists In The Deep Rolling Hills Of San Francisco: A Collection of Bay Area Bluegrass & Old Time Music
(This album is produced solely for use in the fundraising efforts of public radio stations KALW and WAMU, and has no commercial applications.)

Put together by my longtime friend and sometime colleague Peter Thompson, this album contains twenty cuts showcasing Bay Area and Northern California bands, mostly of the present, but occasionally of the past as well – “One Slow Dance,” by The Good Ol' Persons, featuring Peter's wife Kathy Kallick's classic vocal, is a smoldering torcher recorded at The Freight and Salvage in 1995, for instance .There are five live cuts here, and four previously unissued, including a live version of “In The Pines” by Peter Rowan's Bluegrass Band, and “My Old Kentucky Home” by The David Thom Band, recorded at the Freight's more recent incarnation. Also included is Peter's T.’s radio show theme, “Bluegrass Signal,” written and recorded by the great John Reischman, along with efforts by The Kathy Kallick Band, High Country, Blue & Lonesome, The Tuttles with AJ Lee, David Grisman, Windy Hill, The Stairwell Sisters, Bill Evans, Suzy Thompson, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Eric Thompson, The Drifter Sisters, Richard Brandenburg, Oak Grove, Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands (a killer “Here Today”)(no, not that one –this is a LL original...also recorded live at The Freight), and Keith Little with Jim Nunally. I'm sure all you Rowan, Grisman, Reischman, KK and LL completists will want this...frankly, just listening to it makes me homesick. Somebody will chime in and tell you how to get one, I'm sure...it will definitely involve a donation to KALW or WAMU, though...

Randog's Daily Pick 7/8/2014
Robbie Fulks 13 Hillbilly Giants
Blood Shot CD BS 084

This 2001 release by the king of smartass country is larded with irony, from the title – of the thirteen artists whose work is interpreted here, only Porter and Dolly would be considered giants of “hillbilly” music by any sane measure – to the hardcore, upfront “backup” vocals provided from time to time by Donna Fulks, to the sometime overly ironic and often times obviously overly sentimental vocal delivery by Mr. Fulks himself. His vocals contain a built-in smirk on the most “sincere” numbers – and I love this album as I love few others. Far from being “hillbilly giants,” the majority of the artists Robbie covers here are well known only among obsessive types like me, collectors, rockabilly and hard country aficionados, No Depression subscribers, and Bear Family completists...I even had to look up one of the artists here before I wrote this. The multi-instrumentalist and human wreck Jimmy Arnold is represented by his instrumental “Southern Comfort”; it shows off fiddle player Al Murphy as well as Fulks' acoustic guitar virtuosity. “Cocktails” is an obscure album cut by Mr. Sincerity himself, “Whispering” Bill Anderson, and is about a favorite Fulks’ subject, oblivion drinking...more on this later. “I Want To Be Mama'd," by country cult figure Jimmy Logsdon, allows Fulks to explore infantilism's place in country romance, and is over the top hilarious. Benny Martin is best known in most circles as an endlessly inventive fiddle player, but he also had a career in the '50s as a mainstream country vocalist, and his (again) quite sentimental “By The Law of My Heart” receives the Fulks “let's see how sincere I can be on this one” treatment. “Family Man,” from '50s Texas country-boogie-verging-on-rockabilly artist Frankie Miller similarly receives the heartfelt treatment. “Burn On Love Fire” from Dave Rich (the guy I had to look up), is a Latin-tinged number “that should have been a hit” from a fellow who has cult status among rockabilly geeks – and yes, there is a Bear Family complete works CD. “Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark” is among Porter and Dolly's dopiest concoctions, and Robbie does it proud. “Donna's on My Mind” is one of West Coast favorite and Bakersfield Sound pioneer Wynn Stewart's more obscure numbers. “We Live a Long Time to Get Old,” written by acoustic guitar genius and cult figure Jimmy Murphy, affords Robbie an opportunity to display his guitaristic chops to good effect. “Lotta Lotta Woman” is from the pen and repertoire of Gordon Terry, also best known today as a great fiddle player, but a man who also has considerable status as a rockabilly and hard country vocalist, albeit one who never had much commercial success as such. “Knot Hole” is a goofy novelty number from the heyday of Bill Carlisle and all the little Carlisles. “Act Like A Married Man”is from the early days of Jean Shepard, who was one of the best smoldering, done-in-by-a-double-dealing-man female vocalists of the golden days of country. “Bury the Bottle With Me” by the both legendary and nearly forgotten – if that's possible – Hylo Brown; it is a soul crushing catalog of bad effects about strong drink, and delivered in his best sincere style here by Mr. Fulks. My life would be complete if Robbie Fulks made gospel album – when he was a member of Special Consensus, he suggested that the band name their first gospel album “Jesus Christ...It's Special Consensus.”

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Friday, July 4, 2014


Happy birthday, USA! Too bad about that little soccer game thing earlier this week. The media was hoping to make some big bucks from the event had “we” won against Belgium. How is it that Americans can go three years and 50 weeks without knowing or caring one whit about soccer, and then all of a sudden, for two weeks, go crazy when the World Cup games start, until our side loses? Oh well, we still have two first-place (or, at least, one of them is still in first as of this writing) baseball teams playing in the SF/Bay Area, so all is not lost. If promises to be a grand weekend, with barbecues, bluegrass and fireworks going on and off all over the place. Hope you get to celebrate the big day with friends and family. It nothing else, enjoy the three-day weekend. I plan on doing such on an extended basis. I am flying to Philly tomorrow to visit with friends and family for ten days, and to also see what it is like to experience a hurricane, as Arthur is all the rage (both figuratively and literally) right now. All we get out here on the West Coast are earthquakes. Similar to those moronic weather people that you always see on the TV, I want to take a selfie of myself while the ocean is roaring, the winds are blowing, and debris is soaring through the air! Yeah, right…

Happy birthday, Canada! July 1st was Canada Day, and our northern neighbor celebrated the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act (today called the Constitution Act), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. In honor of the day, renowned astronaut and singer/songwriter Chris Hadfield recorded this nice song about what it is like to be Canadian.

Born on the Fourth of July. Hearty MOLD birthday wishes to Mill Valley picker Dore Coller, who plays guitar and is the lead singer in the Savannah Blu bluegrass band. He also officially enters Geezerhood today. Born on the fifth of July? None other than CBA sweetheart Angelica Grim Doerfel, who hits the quarter century mark tomorrow.

Star Spangled Banners. Here are a couple of my favorite versions of the National Anthem for you to enjoy today or any day: Dailey & Vincent, The Punch Brothers, and Sam Bush.

Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick together again. If you didn’t make it to Grass Valley and you would like to get a copy of Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray, you can now do so by simply clicking on the link. Heck, if you have never owned a copy of their Together CD from 1991 (when Angelica Grim was just two-years-old!), you can get that as well as all of Laurie’s other recordings.

Music at the Bug. Last week in this column I mentioned that my partner Claudia and I were visiting Yosemite National Park while staying outside the park at the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort. It is a wonderful place to stay, and the place has some great weekend events coming up that you will want to check out. The Yosemite Songwriting retreat will be happening 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.

Songwriter’s stew. Speaking of songwriting, if you are a fledgling writer you may (or may not) want to read this piece about the state of the world of songwriting today. It is not a happy story…

Tough time for being a musician. As if the songwriting news wasn't bleak enough, the Business Insider web site reports that “There's Probably Never Been a Worse Time To Be a Musician in America.” And if you want to get a take on what it is like to live a life as a working jazz musician, check out this story here about drummer Makaya McCraven. Me? I’m just glad that I have my day job and that this MOLD column thing pays big bucks that support my bluegrass and country picking habits…

Another Texan for president? No, we’re not talking potential candidates Rick (“Oops”) Perry or born-in-Canada Ted Cruz here. While famed country singer Willie Nelson has founded his own Teapot Party, the odds on his throwing his cowboy hat into the political ring are pretty dang slim. Which is too bad, as he would certainly be more honest than most of the other pretenders to the throne have ever been. At age 81, he is still on the road touring, so he doesn’t have time for debates and such. He does, however, have a political message that he wants to send out to stoners everywhere, and you can read about it here.

On the road again. Somehow, this video is probably not what Willie had in mind when he penned and sang his big hit “On the Road Again” a few decades back. While vaguely inventive, these musicians are risking more than their instruments in this wacky drive down the highway…

Can a song change your life? Believe it or not, this was the original title of Begin Again, a new film that just opened that is about “a chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.” The director is John Carney, who gave us the wonderful Irish film Once some years back. Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as the singer/songwriter, and she does all of her own singing and guitar playing. Mark Ruffalo plays the music exec, and some of the other roles are played by real pop musicians. I have not seen this yet, but the SF Chron gave it a decent review this week.

Janis goes first class. Amazing rock singer Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 and was also mentioned in this column last week in reference to the Monterey Pop documentary, is about to be immortalized by the US Postal Service. You can see what the stamp will look like here, and you will be able to purchase them in August. 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 a personal note, my good friend John Cooke was Janis’s road manager at the time of her death, and he has a book coming out later this year 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.

Older ladies. There is a wonderful video making the rounds on the Interwebs by a songwriter named Donnalou Stevens. She wrote a song titled “Older Ladies,” and the video is not something that will soon be on MTV (does this network even still exist?) or any other pop music video show. Check it out here.

Banjo twang. Did you ever wonder just what makes a banjo ring? If not, a prize-winning physicist did, and he has done some research on it. Read about the David Politzer study here. Thanks to SF banjo picker Ted Kuster for this item

J.D.'s cook book. Speaking of Ted Kuster, you have hopefully heard about his new 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.” Hats off to Ted for all of the hard work that he has put into this project already.

Something old, something new. Native Californian and champion fiddler Megan Lynch Chowning is not only busy with tours and teaching music, she also continues to put out recordings. Her latest release, titled Something Old New Borrowed Blue features just Megan and her fiddle. On the recording Megan brings her unique sound and rich tone to classic fiddle tunes and a few new ones, as well as soon to be classics. The CD is available for purchase either in hard copy, which will be shipped to you within two or three days, or digitally as individual tracks.

Blue Grass Boys reunion. Speaking of amazing red-headed fiddlers, Becky Buller gathered some former Blue Grass Boys for a recording of a Bill Monroe song titled “Southern Flavor,” and the song features Buller on fiddle and vocal with the help of former Blue Grass Boys Michael Feagan (fiddle), Peter Rowan (guitar/vocal), Buddy Spicher (fiddle), Roland White (mandolin), and Blake Williams (banjo). There is also a video about the recording session, it is one excellent piece of bluegrass history, and you can watch it here. Many thanks for CBA Board candidate (and Megan Lynch’s mother)(and another fetching redhead!) Maria Nadauld for sending this along.

"That sounds like crap!" Come on, admit it. There have been many times in your life when you have heard some style of music being played that you didn’t care for, and you simply dismissed it with comments like “Those guys suck” or “What is that garbage?” Now, I don’t expect many people that read this column to know who the band Phish is, but someone has put together this clever video that gives you an example of what Phish sounds like to people that don’t like Phish. At the same time, this reasoning can be applied to any kind of music that you don’t like.

Run oh Molly run. Erstwhile South Bay CBA “kid on bluegrass” and now “young adult on bluegrass” Molly Tuttle is on the go with a lot of shows in the state in the coming week. On Saturday 5th The Molly Tuttle Trio will be sharing the bill with Bill Evans doing his Banjo in Americashow at St. Cyprian’s in SF. From there Molly is on the road to Santa Cruz, LA, Oceanside, San Diego and St. Helena. Check out her complete schedule here.

Kruger Brothers headed west. You can see some amazing picking at three different CA locations next when the Kruger Brothers come this way. Born and raised in Europe, Uwe and Jens Kruger have been living in North Carolina for many years now. Joining them on bass is Joel Landsberg. On Tuesday the 8th see them at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, on the 9th at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, and on the 10th at Worldfest in Grass Valley.

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 about every other weekend, and on Saturday the 12th at 8 p.m. guitarist Adam Miller will perform.

 

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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 5th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Any Old Time, and it is part one of a two-part survey of bluegrass songs about time.

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 commentator. Here is his take on the upcoming “Three Bells” dobro album along with three new CD reviews:

“I am excited to hear about the release in September of an album collaboration featuring three of the great dobro players ever – Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas, and the late Mike Auldridge – on the Rounder label. Completed in 2012, shortly before Mike's passing, the album is entitled ‘Three Bells.’ Should be fantastic...”

Randog's Daily Pick 6/29/2014
Don Rigsby Empty Old Mailbox
Sugar Hill CD 3915

I was reminded of this album when Chris and I recently attended a songwriters’ night at a local hotel lounge where we went to see Bo Jamison, a friend and former bandmate of Chris', and she performed her song “If I'd Had A Mother Like You.” which Don does wonderfully well on this album. Bo is a great writer and is back at it after a hiatus of some years. The song is about Bo's mother, and I've been lucky to know that lady from the years Heartstrings was active, she is very much as described in the lyric. But about the rest of the album...“Empty Old Mailbox,” by Tom T. and Dixie Hall, is a masterful song, as are “Son Of A Gun,” a tale of a man brought down by a roadhouse by that name, written by Marvin Davis, and “These Ole' Blues,” identified by Chris as a great jam number as I listened to it, is attributed to Larry Sparks, who also appears singing lead to Don's tenor harmony on “I Am A Little Scholar.” “Bad Day In Akron” is from the pen of the great Pete Goble-Leroy Drumm partnership, and is yet another of their tales of a man stranded in a town he doesn't care for with winter coming on by the actions of a double dealing woman; it contains the only reference to being stopped by a “county Mountie” I've ever heard in a bluegrass song. These are only some of the highlights; the entire album is a gem, focusing on Rigsby's incredible vocalizing and mandolin playing...I've loved every word I've heard him sing since he came to the Freight & Salvage with The Bluegrass Cardinals some time in the early '90s, playing fiddle and singing some of the finest lead and tenor vocals that place ever saw. Jerry Douglas plays dobro throughout (nuf sed), and Gabe Witcher plays dazzling fiddle on the whole album. The core group is augmented on one cut or another with a host of all-stars, and the entire album is quite lovely. I sure do wish Heartstrings had recorded Bo's song about her mother; maybe there's a practice tape somewhere around the house with them doing it.

Randog's Daily Pick 6/30/2014
The Wilburn Brothers Retrospective
MCA CD-MCAD25990

I spent Saturday morning last weekend watching a bunch of Wilburn Brothers stuff, including several of their complete syndicated TV shows from back in the day on Youtube (watch a real good one with Jimmy Martin here), which prompted me to dig out this CD and give it a listen. In 1990, when this CD came out, there was precious little Wilburn Brothers material readily available on the market. Reportedly, Patty Loveless, a huge star in her own right on MCA at the time, and an early protégé of the brothers, was instrumental in having this album produced; she is credited with compiling the collection, along with the – at the time – surviving brother, Doyle, and Roger Ramey. Given their reach and influence in Music City at their peak, this is frankly a skimpy representation of their work, and it excludes a lot of their superior work, IMHO, but nonetheless offers a good introduction to new listeners of their sound, and there is some classic material here, from their hit rendition of the classic folk ballad “Knoxville Girl” to softer, more contemporary duets like “Somebody's Back In Town,” “Which One Is To Blame,” “Trouble's Back In Town,” the classic “Making Plans,” “I'm Gonna Tie One On Tonight,” and “Arkansas.” Conspicuously absent is their first hit – with Webb Pierce – “Sparkling Brown Eyes” – probably still my favorite rendition of that old Billy Cox number. Members of a traditional country band from their earliest days, they first were brought to The Grand Old Opry by Roy Acuff in 1940, but were forced to leave after six months by existing child labor laws of the time...one can derive a sense of what that group sounded like from a King album called The Wonderful Wilburn Brothers, which features Teddy and Doyle and two older brothers. Teddy and Doyle became star performers during the fifties, remained so through the sixties, and also became known as astute businessmen – they and their brothers owned a booking agency, a publishing company, and a syndicated television show which ran from 1963 to 1974, producing over 350 half-hour shows which regularly featured stars of the day along with a great band, which included older brothers Lester and Leslie, Buddy Spicher, Curly Chalker, Jimmy Capps, bluegrass banjo player Harold Morrison AND Loretta Lynn, their touring “girl singer” for eight years and a regular on the show for eleven. The show runs regularly on RFD TV; I've yet to see one that didn't contain at least a little killer country and/or bluegrass performance. Those of you bluegrass fans unfamiliar with The Wilburns who recognize some of the song titles here might be interested to know that their management company helped The Osborne Brothers at a crucial time in that duo's attempt to become more mainstream; the Osbornes recorded many of the tunes first done by The Wilburns with ‘grassier arrangements after The Wilburns had made them country hits, including “Arkansas,” written for them by Damon Black. Arkansas was the home state of the Wilburn Family, incidentally. Doyle, the wethead and chunkier of the two, died in the early 2000s, and Teddy, who affected the blow-dry look and was the matinee idol of the two, had already passed in 1982.

Randog's Pick 7/2/2014
Instrumental Music of The Southern Appalachians Hobart Smith, Etta Baker, Boone Reid, Mrs. Edd Presnell, Richard Chase, Lacey Phillips
Tradition Records LP 1007

Generations of folkadokes have been influenced by this remarkable album, whether they know it or not. First collected and recorded in 1956 by Liam Clancy, Paul Clayton, and “Diane Hamilton” (pseudonym for Diane Guggenheim), this album was omnipresent in the lodgings of lots of my late beatnik and early hippie musician-type acquaintances, and probably is the source of the ubiquitous “Railroad Bill,” the strains of which filled a thousand coffee houses and Unitarian church basements back in the day, and may still do. Rendered here by the incredible and really “authentic” fingerpicking guitarist Etta Baker, who also plays (probably) her own “One Dime Blues,” she also kills “John Henry” and “Bully Of The Town” (pun on purpose). Hobart Smith, at least partly on the basis of this album, was discovered by the wider world, and reveals himself to be a wonderful old-time fiddle player on tunes like “Cripple Creek,” “John Brown's Dream,” “Pretty Polly,” and “Drunken Hiccups.” He also displays his considerable old-time banjo prowess on the “Pateroller Song.” Boone Reid, Ms. Baker's father, 79 at the time of this recording, plays banjo on ‘Sourwood Mountain” and “Johnson Boys”; his son-in-law, Lacey, also plays banjo on two cuts, “Marching Jaybird” and “Soldier's Joy.” Etta Baker was also a wonderful banjo player, but perhaps no one thought to mention that, for her banjo prowess isn't included here. She lived a long time, long enough to record a remarkable album for Rounder in (I think) the '80s; I saw her in 1998 at Merlefest, unfazed by the electric guitar she was handed while on the Cabin Stage, where she proceeded to rock out. Mrs. Edd Presnell, her own given name lost to posterity, displays her instrumental skill on mountain dulcimer on three numbers, and Richard Chase plays three “play party” staples on harmonica. Liam was a Clancy, Clayton was a song gatherer and performer who was credited as composer of Billy Grammer's giant hit “Gotta Travel On,” and was a sometime friend of Bob Dylan, who by most accounts, done him wrong...and Diane was an heir to the Guggenheim fortune. Too bad “The Songcatchers” moviemakers didn't make a movie about the recording of this album; it would have been a lot more interesting than the one they DID make...

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Friday, June 27, 2014



Those of us that live in Northern California pretty much know that we live in a special part of the universe. In the SF/Bay Area, we have the bay, the ocean, the bridges and the city of San Francisco. Fantastic views, cable cars, restaurants, two baseball and football teams, and dozens of great places to see and hear live music. A little further to the east there are the Sierra Mountains, with skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. And, there is, to me at least, the crown jewel – Yosemite National Park. Which is where I am for these next couple of days with my partner Claudia. In a previous lifetime I used to come out to the park a few times each year when I drove tour buses to supplement my meager bluegrass music-playing income. I have probably been out this way somewhere between 50-60 times, and I never get tired of the place. I had not been to the park in about seven years, and it feels great to be here again. We are staying at a place in Midpines (between Mariposa and the park entrance on 140) called the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, and it is a wonderful place to be. While we feel like Ma and Pa Kettle (look them up if you don't remember them) around the mostly young, European travelers, I’d much rather be here than in a Holiday Inn or some other cookie cutter chain motel. If you ever want to check out this place, make reservations now for the weekend of November 7th-9th, as Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands will be the artists in residence that weekend.

Now on to the important MOLD music news of the week that you certainly cannot live a full and complete life without…

Bluegrass at the Crossroads. There is a great relatively new music venue in San Rafael called Terrapin Crossroads that is owned by Phil Lesh, the longtime bass player in the Grateful Dead. There is live music there seemingly all of the time, and a lot of it is without a cover charge. On Saturday the 28th from 12:30-2 p.m. there will be an all-star band called The Scott Law Bluegrass Dimension featuring Michael Witcher on dobro, Sharon Gilchrist on mandolin, Joe Kyle on bass and Bill Evans on banjo. Scott is a very impressive guitar player and singer who has been touring all up and down the West Coast lately.

The Banjo in America. Speaking of East Bay banjo player Bill Evans, he has a solo show called The Banjo in America, and he will be performing it on the USS Potomac in Oakland on Friday the 27th, for the Pickin’ on the Potomac Bluegrass Series. The historic vessel was President Franklin Roosevelt’s yacht back in the 1930s, and it is worth going to Bill’s show if only to get a tour of the boat too. The following weekend Bill, along with the Bangers & Grass band, will be playing a free show on July 4th at Albany’s Memorial Park from noon to 12:50 p.m., and then on the 5th he will be playing on the same bill with The Molly Tuttle Trio at St. Cyprian’s in SF.

Bohemians at St. Cyp’s. Also at St. Cyprian’s this weekend on the 28th will be a hot twin bill featuring Americana and California rock with Doug Blumer & Bohemian Highway and The Sorentinos.

Kate Wolf Festival. A lot of VW microbuses are packed and heading to Mendocino County this weekend for the 19th Annual Kate Wolf Festival on the 27th-29th, where you can see Joan Baez, Los Lobos, Rodney Crowell, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, and much, much more. You can also read a story about the fest in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

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 28th at 8 p.m. the North Bay folk/country/Celtic group The Ring of Truth Trio will perform.

Just what did Billie Joe and the gal toss off the Tallahatchie Bridge? This is a good question, one that has never been officially answered by the artist and songwriter, Bobbie Gentry. “Ode to Billie Joe” was a monster hit for her back in 1967, as she won three Grammys for it, including Best New Artist. But after riding high for many years on the charts and playing shows, Gentry faded away 36 years ago, and is rumored to be living in Los Angeles. Read the story about her in Performing Songwriter.

Ode to Billie Jean. Ever wonder what Michael Jackson’s hit tune “Billie Jean” would sound like if it were only played on empty bottles by five young guys? Well, wonder no more! Check out this video.

Life’s railway to heaven. Noted Western swing fiddler Albert “Smokey" Stutzke passed away on June 10th in Bellevue, WA. He was 89. He played with lightning speed which sometimes made the rosin on his bow smoke, which is how he got his nick name. He played in many Seattle area stage shows with such legends including George Jones, Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings Slims Whitman, Marty Robbins and Gene Autry. He was inducted into the Western Swing Society's Hall of fame in 1998.

Oh, joy! How to top the MJ song performance above? How about watching this video of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy being played on 167 theremins placed inside Matryoshka dolls in Japan? Hey, where else are you going find such classic stuff than here in the MOLD news?

Music is good for your soul. We all knew this. But there is even more proof that music can do more than just make you feel good. There is a new book out titled This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel J. Levitin, and he explains in great detail what music can do for you. Read about it here.

15 years of jamming. In last Friday’s column I made mention of the 15-year anniversary of the Marin Bluegrass Jam, which came to pass on Tuesday the 24th. To commemorate the date, I wrote the Welcome Column that day for the CBA website, and if you missed it, you can read the column right here.

They’re playing my song! Have you ever heard a song somewhere and thought, “Wow, that one is about me!” Well, now you can play a little game on the web here where you answer questions about yourself, and at the end you find out what pop song was written about you. No lie here – my “song” is “Wild Thing.” Which was quite a relief. I feared that it would be “I’m A Loser” by the Beatles…

Like a Rolling Stone. As everyone knows, museums around the world and rich peoples’ houses are filled with ancient artifacts from centuries gone by, from painting and sculptures to furniture, jewelry and musical instruments. But just the other day someone with $2 million bucks to burn purchased the piece of paper that folk singer Bob Dylan wrote the lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone” on (and, as an added bonus, he also doodled all over the page!). Somehow, I just don’t get this. Does this make the new owner feel empowered? Is he/she now part of rock and roll history too? Just think of how many thousands of people could have been fed for $2 mil, or how many jobs could have been created for the unemployed, or how many music classes could have been saved in elementary schools that have had to cut back on the arts…

Sing out, Bob! Speaking of Mr. Dylan, there is a video going around on Facebook of the young folksinger performing his song “North Country Blues” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 which you can watch here. The description below the video says “fellow folk music icon Pete Seger (sic) watches from behind Dylan,” which is not the case. However, when the camera shifts to a couple of side angles, that is Judy Collins and Doc Watson sitting to Dylan’s left.

American idol. No, we’re not talking about the current TV game show. We’re talking about Ricky Nelson, who was a big star back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. He grew up on the film set of the TV show “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” who were his real-life parents, and he played himself in the show, along with his brother David. He began singing as a teenager, and he had huge hits with “Travelin’ Man,” “Hello, Mary Lou,” and “Poor Little Fool.” After the TV show came to an end in 1966, he continued to sing and perform, and in 1972 he had one more big hit with the song “Garden Party” that he wrote after playing a show at Madison Square Garden where, according to legend, he was booed off stage for trying to sing contemporary material. Check out the video here, and notice the bass player – it was Randy Meisner, who went on to be the founding bass player of the Eagles. You can hear pre-Eagle harmonies on the song. Just yesterday I finished reading a very detailed and well-written book titled Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation by former SF Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin. It turns out that during the concert, some security guards were trying to deal with some unruly fans in the balcony while Nelson was performing, and the crowd began to boo their actions, not Nelson’s singing. This story and countless others can be found in the book. No spoiler alert – you learn (or are reminded) in the very first chapter that Nelson died in a tragic death in an airplane crash in 1985.

Here Come the Beatles! The four mop-tops are indeed coming back to the silver screen this summer, and A Hard Day’s Night will be re-released to commemorate the 50-year-anniversary of its premier. The film has been digitally restored, and the soundtrack has been remixed and re-mastered by Giles Martin, son of Beatles’ producer George Martin. Find out what all of the fuss was about back in the day…

Monterey Pop. Last week marked the 47-year-anniversary of the Monterey Pop Festival which, if you weren’t there, you can easily re-live by renting D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary Monterey Pop. It is a very well done concert film, and besides some of the amazing performances of Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, there is a lot of extra stuff on the discs that accompany the three-DVD set. You can, however, skip over the song by The Association. That band was clearly overmatched and in over their collective heads on that stage. It is, however, a bit painful to watch Hendrix and Pete Townsend of The Who smash their perfectly fine, would-be-worth-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-today guitars on stage…

Maybe he should add a Y to his name. Very wealthy British pop musician Gordon Sumner, a.k.a. Sting, says that he will not leave any of his money to his six kids. He says that he will be willing to help them out if they were in trouble, but that he has never had to do that. He wants his offspring to learn the value of hard work and money…something that Forbes Magazine has a hard time grasping the concept of…

Rodney speaks and sings. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell recently stopped by the Fretboard Journal to chat and sing some songs. You can watch the 20-minute video
here.

Roseanne speaks and testifies. Speaking of Rodney Crowell, his ex-wife Roseanne Cash, who is also the daughter of legendary country singer Johnny Cash, went to Washington DC this week to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the matter of music licensing and illegal downloading. You can read what she had to say here.

Bluegrass vs. old-time. What is the difference between the two genres? Well, the debate has been going on for many decades, and in order to keep from stirring up the pot, I certainly am not going make any definitive declarations here. However, this is an interesting take on the topic that you can read on the
Raleigh News Observer web site.

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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 28th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Across the Tracks, which is a sample of new music.

The view from Nashvegas. It’s Friday, and this means that Randy Pitts of Nashville has a couple of CD reviews to offer that will help get us through the weekend. Here they are:

Randog's Daily Pick 6/21/2014
Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys A Voice From On High
Decca LP DL75135

I was listening to this while the house was still quiet, (Chris' sister and our nieces are visiting) and began to remember just what a great – and influential – album it was for my generation back in the day. From the cover portrait by Victor Kalin of Big Mon – a classic, with his baleful "get off my lawn if you don't go to this church" look – to 11 classic gospel numbers inside, to the informative, well-written notes by Ralph Rinzler and Alice Foster (Gerrard), this is a Grammy Hall Of Fame-worthy recording. Assembled from Decca singles issued over the years, and featuring various Blue Grass Boys line-ups, it nevertheless serves as perhaps the ideal album's worth of Monroe in this era. “Let The Light Shine Down On Me,” “Lord Protect My Soul,” “Wait A Little Longer, Please Jesus,” “A Voice From On High,” “I'm Working On A Building,” “Don't Put It Off 'Til Tomorrow,” “He Will Set Your Fields On Fire,” the classic “Get Down On Your Knees And Pray” (one of the few Monroe cuts on which Carter Stanley participated), “Boat Of Love” (with brother Birch Monroe's sonorous bass vocal), “Walking In Jerusalem Just Like John,” and “River Of Death.” Like many others, especially as box sets and The Complete Recordings Of Blahdadeblah type CDs came out, I gradually divested myself of my classic albums such as this one, only to begin re-acquiring them, including this one, as I realized what precious commodities they are, and what memories they hold, and they are either absurdly expensive or ridiculously cheap – that's the side of the street I travel these days. Either way, if you find this and can afford it, and you find it, squeeze it and get it. Lots of great listening, plus excellent notes, and a wonderful portrait of the man himself. Got this one, Duck Baker?

Randog's Daily Pick 6/22/2014
Charlie Moore and The Dixie Partners Featuring: Johnny Dacus Tennessee Mountain Fiddle
Old Homestead LP OHS 90067

This is really a Johnny Dacus album utilizing Charlie Moore's band at the time, cut in 1976. Charlie only appears on one cut, far as I can tell, a throwaway number called "Framed" which borrows heavily from The Coasters' number of the same name. It is the only vocal number here, and also the only number which features a vocal, by Dacus himself, who also plays guitar. Otherwise, the album features the fiddling of Dacus, who was much-traveled and widely recorded in the best of company. He played for The Osbornes & Jimmy Martin when they had their short-lived group, again for The Osbornes and Red Allen – even replacing Red on guitar and harmony vocals for a time – then with Jimmy Martin, Earl Taylor, Moore and Napier, James Monroe, and even a short west coast tenure with the great Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant duo. So he could play, obviously at a very high level. I wonder how many albums I have which feature his playing and how many even note it? Evidently, he only made this and one other album featuring his work, both for John Morris' Old Homestead label. The other, called John's Mule, is now on my wants list. There is a lot of stylistic variety in the tunes rendered here, and the accompaniment is excellent. It includes Nolan Faulkner on mandolin, Bill Napier or Billy Constable on guitar, Tony Stubbs on rhythm guitar, Ben Greene on banjo (some pretty stuff), and Charles Partin or Virgil Shouse on bass. Tunes include “Liberty,” “Roxanna Waltz.” “The Indian Killed a Woodcock,” “Johnny's Reel” (evidently a Dacus composition),”Softly and Tenderly,” “Moonlight Waltz.” “Devil's Dream,” “John's Fiddle Blues” (another Dacus original), “Ragtime Annie,” and “Gloryland March.” I've gleaned very little information about the man in searching the Internet, other than that he was from Tennessee...and two different people who attested that he liked to fight and that he was good at it. That talent probably stood him in good stead, judging from some of the people who employed him and the places he played. He was a marvelous fiddler, though, reminiscent of the best of the old masters; he evidently had a real affinity for the work of Kenny Baker. I found two sealed copies of this for next to nothing, and now I wish I'd bought the other one, too...
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Well, wasn’t that a time? Even though it has taken me a few days to fully recover (hey, year 60 came and went a few months back, so rebounding is not as easy as it used to be) from four days of seemingly non-stop bluegrass in a great setting with wonderful weather and many fine friends at the CBA’S 39th Annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley last weekend, it was all worth the effort. First and foremost, I got a stylish new cowboy hat from Smith’s Collectibles to wear to all the upcoming outdoor festivals and street fairs. Seeing Peter Rowan three times on the main stage (and what, he had never played the fest before? How can this be?) was certainly a highlight, as I have seen him play more than any other performer. Roland White, Junior Sisk, The Kathy Kallick Band, Laurie Lewis, and Kathy and Laurie’s tribute to Vern & Ray? This latter show was worth the price of admission alone. I spent a lot of time hanging at Vern’s Stage, and way too much time (and money!) in the Luthier’s Pavilion. I had the Bass Doctor (Matt Bohn, real good guy from down Santa Cruz way) put a new end piece and strings on my 1956 Kay bass, and from guitar maker Bruce Sexauer I bought some wheels to haul the doghouse around the campsite. I got out of there $400 lighter than I went in! But all were much needed. And my partner Claudia and I got to pick and hang quite a bit in Camp Carltone with good friends Bill and Tonee Norman, Yvonne Walbroehl, Dave Earl, and others.Yes indeed, it was a great fest, and it pains me to know that it will be 51 weeks until the 40th Annual. However, the Strawberry Music Festival will be there starting on September 11th, so I will be back in Grass Valley before I know it…

Muchos kudos. Hats off to the CBA board and all of the volunteers that worked long hours to make the festival a resounding success. But as the MOLD Man said in his column two days ago, “by saying ‘thank you’ AND paying your membership dues you could truly demonstrate your gratitude for the hard work volunteers do.” If you are not a member of the CBA, or if your membership has lapsed, you could really help the cause by joining or re-upping now. It is cheaper than what most of you pay for one month of your cable TV bill, or for what you pay for about a third of a tank of gas in your SUV.

SF Folk Fest. Just one year behind the CBA, the 38th Annual San Francisco Free Folk Festival will be taking place on Saturday the 21st and 22nd at Presidio Middle School in SF. And hey, you don’t have to scramble for a camping site or set up a tent! Parking your car, on the other hand, may take some doing. SF CBA favorites Jeanie and Chuck Poling will be playing there along with The Rowan Brothers, Pig’s Foot String Band, Windy Hill, Stevie Coyle, The Banjo Babes, and dozens of other acts. It is well worth the price of non-admission…

Laurie answers the tough questions. Laurie Lewis – who is mentioned a few times in the column today (more below), was recently interviewed by a writer from the Corvallis Gazette Times, and you can read the story here. After reading the piece, Laurie herself has a question for her friends and fans on Facebook. She writes: “Man, really difficult questions asked in an interview the other day. I just read my answers, and they leave a little something to be desired. So I ask you: what would YOU call my music? That question has always stumped me, when it comes to having a snappy, ready response.”

Life’s railway to heaven. Gerry Goffin, one-time husband and songwriting partner to pop singer/songwriter Carole King, died on the 19th in Los Angeles. He was 75. Goffin and King co-wrote many classic hits back in the ‘60s such as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” “Up on the Roof,” “One Fine Day,” “Go Away Little Girl,” and “The Loco-Motion.”

Jerry’s Kids. Well, they aren’t kids anymore, but back in the day, in the early ‘60s (don’t forget, if you can remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there!) Bay Area pickers and singers David Nelson (no, not THAT David Nelson – this one is from the New Riders of the Purple Sage), Eric Thompson and Jody Stecher all played with the late Deadhead Jerry Garcia. David and Eric’s band with Jerry was called The Black Mountain Boys, while Eric, Jody and Jerry had a group called The Asphalt Jungle Mountain Boys. Since Jerry is no longer around to do the reunion circuit, the other three have combined forces, added Paul Shelasky on fiddle, and now they call themselves the Black Mountain Asphalt Boys. You can see them perform on Friday the 20th at 8 p.m. the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station.

Kate Wolf Festival. After airing out your tent and getting your car washed, take a short break this weekend before loading up and heading to Mendocino County for the 19th Annual Kate Wolf Festival next weekend on the 27th-29th. Joan Baez, Los Lobos, Rodney Crowell, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, and much, much more.

Fiddle fever. Quite a few California folks are still festing this weekend at the weeklong National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest Festival in Weiser, Idaho. There is one young fiddler competing who was inspired and given lessons by renowned former Bay Area resident and six-time national fiddling champ Megan Lynch. Read Noah Uebelhoer’s story here.

Give me an F…. If you know where this line comes from, you are old enough to remember the Woodstock Festival, which took place 45 years ago this summer in upstate New York. The line was from a song that was sung at the fest by Country Joe and the Fish titled "The ‘Fish’ Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag." Country Joe McDonald was born in D.C. but raised in El Monte, CA, and his mother was a longtime councilwoman in Berkeley. Joe will be playing a uniquely titled show called "Country Joe Salutes Country Joe" on the 22nd at the Empress Theatre in Vallejo, and you can read a story about him and the show here. As a side note, two weeks back I was at a music party in Petaluma, and I got to jam some with Barry “The Fish” Melton, who is a really good guitarist and a fun guy to be around.

Songwriting tips. Have you ever wondered how to go about writing a hip-hop song? Well, it is something that even a five-year-old can do. Check out this funny video that features Jordan Bijan showing you how it is done in just 30 seconds!

Helpful hints. Are you having a hard time making a livelihood in music? If so, the answers to your problems may lie in this list that gives you 17 reasons why you may be kill your music career…

Jammin’ for 15 years. The twice-a-month bluegrass jam in Corte Madera in Marin County will be marking its 15-year anniversary this month. In 1999, after hearing the phrase “Someone should start a jam in Marin” way too many times, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get something started. I went and talked with the owner of a place in Larkspur that was called the Java Café, and he agreed to let me try something on a tentative basis. The jam began on June 24th, and after that it fell into a regular pattern of the first and third Thursdays every month. It lasted for a year at Java, but after the place closed the jam moved three times in the next couple of years until it found a permanent home at the Marin Lutheran Church in Corte Madera about 12 years ago. I took responsibility for running it until five years ago, when I passed the mantle on to someone else. Literally hundreds of people have attended over the years, and some great friends and picking pals have been made along the way. Occasionally I will meet someone somewhere who, when they find out that I play bluegrass, will say, “Have you heard about this great jam that takes place on some Thursday nights?” I always smile and respond by saying, “Yes, I think I have heard about that somewhere…”

That sounds familiar! In bluegrass and old-time music the uninitiated sometimes say that many songs sound similar to ones that they have heard elsewhere. But this is not a phenomenon that is limited to our music. For an interesting take on the world of pop music and copied/borrowed/stolen riffs, check out this very clever video.

All hat, no cattle. Do you miss the good old days of country music, when Merle, Tammy, George, Willie, Waylon, Hank and others ruled the roost, before today’s offering of rock and roll with an occasional fiddle? If so, then you will get a kick out of this story from the LA Weekly that lists the top ten jerks on the charts…

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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 21st from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Blue in the Blue Ridge: A memorial tribute to James Alan Shelton, who was the lead guitarist for Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys since 1994, creator of many wonderful solo recordings, and a truly wonderful human being.

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 commentator. Here is his take on the recent CBA Fest in Grass Valley along with a review of the new Vern & Ray Tribute CD by Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick:

“I went to Grass Valley on Wednesday the 11th, and Chris and I got back about 1:30 am. on Monday morning. We had a wonderful time. Saw a lot of old friends, made a few new ones, and heard a lot of wonderful music. We spent Wednesday night with our old friends Kathy and Jon, who graciously put us up, then went to a hotel for the remainder of the week. My old and dear friend Beth Weil was staying there as well, and I was able to have breakfast and talk with her a lot three days in a row. It was the most quality time I'd spent with Beth in years, and it was good reminiscing, gossiping, and just acting stupid with her. Saw Anne Hamersky for the first time in years, had a great time with her too; she did a photo shoot with Roland White's West Coast band. Got to talk with (Lonesome River Band banjo player) Sammy Shelor, for whose agency I once worked – I also hired LRB to play at The Freight in 1990 – he's one of the nicest guys and best banjo pickers in the business, and I hadn't talked with him in years. Met (fiddle player) Blaine Sprouse and got to talk with him about Kenny Baker – and hear him play some good ol' bluegrass with Peter Rowan –along with Keith Little, Chris Henry, and others. Blaine also played with Roland White and his wife Diane Bouska, as did a couple of other West Coast friends, Bill Bryson and Herb Pedersen...there I go, dropping names again...but hey, I really KNOW these people. The FIRST music I saw at Grass Valley, though, this year, was Molly Tuttle and her partner John Mailander, and I'm REALLY gonna be bragging about knowing them in years to come...Laurie Lewis' and Kathy Kallick's Vern & Ray Tribute set was wonderful, as were both their sets with their respective bands. The last band we saw Sunday before we left was High Country, with our old friends Butch and Bob Waller, Jim Mintun, Larry Cohea, Tom Bekeny, and Glen Dauphin. Rick Cornish and Darby Brandli were gracious hosts, as was everyone involved with the festival generally. We’ve come to think of the festival as a homecoming reunion whenever Chris and I are able to make it, and there is way too much to talk about than I'll probably get to. Anyway, this is a beginning...didn't get to talk to Janette, Robin Wise, Tom Diamant, Tom Enguidanos, Julay Brooks, many more...SO many old friends...and thank you Sara Winge, for one of the musical highlights of the week. She sang such a wonderful version of “We're Not Over Yet” for ME...and other hangers on, of course...such a great singer, we'll never be over....more to come...”

Randog's Daily Pick 6/19/2014
Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray
Spruce and Maple Music CD SMM 1012

Listening to Vern Williams and/or Ray Park live or recorded has always taken me back to a place in my heart and mind that only exists now in memory, when bluegrass was actually taking shape, when it related directly to the folks from whence it came, when it was palpably about the people, the times and the places in the songs, sung and played by people who were at one with the music...The music's elements were more obvious in the singing and playing of pioneers like those two fellows from Arkansas, and closer to the ground; you could hear it in the cowboy ballads like “Cowboy Jack” and “Montana Cowboy,” in their heartfelt renditions of traditional stuff like “Little Birdie,” “Down Among the Budded Roses,” and “Field of Flowers,” in Vern's unique interpretations of Stephen Foster compositions, their versions of Carter Family classics, and Vern and Ray's own “hits,” songs like “Cabin on a Mountain,” “Happy I'll Be,” and “How Many Times” (all of which are here). Laurie and Kathy listened closely and learned their lessons well from Vern and Ray, and the evidence is here in abundance. I expected a lot from this album, and I'm not in the least disappointed. Both Laurie and Kathy have gone on from their early days as founding members of the – I think we can safely say now –“progressive” Good Ol' Persons, to their own fully formed and highly distinctive vocal, instrumental, and compositional voices...but there is always more than a little of that hard charging, emotive, no frills approach of Vern and Ray in everything they do, individually or together. This new album is a fitting testament to Vern and Ray, but it's also evidence of how much those two, without even trying, influenced the full flowering of Northern California bluegrass, through Laurie, Kathy, and other early highly influential players and singers of Northern California – Herb Pedersen, Butch Waller, and Ed Neff come to mind – as well, of course, as Vern's son Delbert, and Ray's sons Cary and Larry. Abetted by Tom Rozum on mandolin (playing this traditional stuff to a fare thee well), Patrick Sauber on banjo, Laurie on fiddle and bass, Kathy on guitar, with additional help from another Northern California great on dobro, Sally Van Meter, Annie Staninec, and Vern and Ray compadre from days of yore Keith Little. Check out his, LL's and KK's version of the great Vern & Ray classic “The Touch of God's Hand,” which closes the album. Great album, destined to be a benchmark for years to come, if I'm any judge.

Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email here.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

This is the last column. That is, until at least Monday the 16th. MOLD Man is already en route to Grass Valley, and I will be headed up there on Thursday. It is almost time. The other 51 weeks of the year seem to pass ever so slowly. Now we are less than a week from the start of the CBA’S 39th Annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, and folks from far and wide are right now up in their attics and in their garages, pulling out sleeping bags, coolers, tents, E-Z Ups, tarps, folding chairs, sunscreen and other camping supplies, as the excitement builds for the start of the fest. Some are going up on Sunday to attend the music camp that runs up until the start on the 12th. Everyone is looking forward to listening and playing some of the finest bluegrass west of the Mississippi. And hey, all of you festless Strawberrians – here’s your chance to check out the fairgrounds where your festival will take place in September!

Huck Finn Jubilee. Many bluegrass fans in Southern California on Father’s Day Weekend will instead be going to the Huck Finn Jubilee in Ontario. Go to the web site for complete info.

Life’s railway to heaven. It has been a tough week for the passing of some well known players. First and foremost, James Alan Shelton, longtime guitar player with Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, went on to Gloryland on Tuesday at the much too young age of 53, succumbing to pancreatic cancer… Steel Guitar Hall of Famer Weldon Myrick, an instrumental force in country music for half a century, died Monday in Nashville after suffering a stroke. He was 76. He first came on the country music scene in 1964, when he played steel guitar on “Once a Day,” a song that became a No. 1 country hit for eight weeks for Connie Smith… And Jerry Sullivan, of the famous traditional bluegrass gospel group, the Sullivan Family, passed away at his home on May 31st after a long illness. He was 80.

More on James Alan Shelton. I first met him in 1998 at the old Sweetwater in Mill Valley, when my duo Keystone Crossing made its world premier while opening for Ralph and the boys for two nights. James was very complimentary of our (as you can imagine) nerve-wracking performance, as he sat on the side of the stage watching us play. At various festivals since then he was always quite cordial and friendly to my partner Claudia and me. At the Sweetwater gig he really liked my hard-shell guitar case, and he offered to buy it from me. But I wasn’t trying to sell it, and for many years since then, when I’d see it in the corner of my bedroom, I would often think of James. It goes without saying that from here on out, when I see my case, that I will be thinking of him now for a long time to come…A rock and roll musician friend of mine from the South Bay, Todd Novak, got to record an acoustic solo album a few years ago, and on the CD he was backed by the Clinch Mountain Boys. Here is Todd’s remembrance of James from Tuesday: “Rest in peace, James Alan Shelton. Today we lost a great friend, world class bluegrass picker, and a true southern gentleman. Losing James feels like the loss of a family member. This is incredibly sad news. Having spent weeks in the south with the Clinch Mountain Boys making an album, I became very close to all of these wonderful people (see the photo above). James was the ‘manager’ and took care of business, and was the guy to talk to when brainstorming was in order. Always a smile from James. I absolutely loved playing guitar with him, and I think it comes out on the record that we made together. I hope it does. I am, of course, a rocker, but these fellows warmly invited me in to the Clinch Mountain Boys circle, and I wouldn't trade those days, and the music, for anything. James and I had talked about playing more guitar together when we were ‘old guys.’ It wasn't meant to be, I guess. R.I.P. James. I'll miss you. Love to your family, and your wife Greta. As I was driving home tonight from work I heard ‘American Pie,’ the day the music died. As I always do when I hear that tune, I sang along, thinking of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. Little did I know I was also singing to my friend James. Life is strange. I'm feeling a flood of new songs coming on…”

Mind your manners. Musicians get asked some of the dumbest questions known to man, and someone at Digital Music News sat down and came up with a list of 12 things never say to someone that makes a living playing music. Read and memorize the list, and as a result, the world will be a better place…

Platinum blond. Country singer Miranda Lambert -- who is also married to country star Blake Shelton (who is also referred to in the last line of one of Randog's reviews below)(and who is not related to James Alan Shelton) -- has a new album out titled Platinum, and on it she has a song titled “Priscilla” that is an ode to Priscilla Presley, the widowed wife of the “King.” Miranda was featured twice on National Public Radio this week. You can read an interview with her here, and listen to a review of her new recording here.

Very sound men. Last Sunday in Nashville, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater, engineers Jimmy Lockert, Charlie Bragg, Neil Wilburn, Al Pachucki, Mack Evans and Ernie Winfrey received lifetime achievement awards from the Audio Engineering Society's Nashville Chapter. The AES designated these men, largely unknown by the general public yet essential in the recordings of classics by Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Righteous Brothers, Etta James, Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Guy Clark, the Beach Boys and many more, as "audio architects of the Nashville Sound." Read the full story in The Tennessean.

Monster guitarists. 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 Sunday the 8th at 2 p.m. three legendary Bay Area guitarists will combine forces while dazzling you with some of the hottest acoustic guitar picking around. Scott Nygaard, Jody Stecher and Eric Thompson play just about any style you can name, and this will be a rare occasion to see all three of them playing together. Complete info can be found 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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 7th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Happy Birthday, Clarence White.

Patsy Cline in Alameda. Everyone knows about the legendary country singer Patsy Cline who was killed in a plane crash in 1963. There was a decent movie made of her life titled Sweet Dreams, and now there is a live stage production at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda titled “Always…Patsy Cline.” Read the promo story from the Contra Costa Times. It runs through June 15th, and some Bay Area pickers (David Phillips and Larry Chung share the pedal steel duties) are in the band, and hometown favorite Margaret Belton plays Patsy.

The view from Nashvegas. It’s Friday, and this means that Randy Pitts of Nashville has a cornucopia of CD reviews to offer that will help get us through the weekend. Two of them are replays that are most appropriate considering that Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick will be doing a tribute to Vern & Ray in Grass Valley next week.

Randog's Daily Pick 10/18/2013
Vern & Ray San Francisco – 1968 with Herb Pedersen
Arhoolie CD524

A real treasure, and a rare opportunity to hear these under-recorded titans in full cry...this was recorded at a folk festival in 1968, when Arkansas natives Vern Williams and Ray Park – who met in California – were joined by Berkeley, CA, banjo player Herb Pedersen, barely out of his teens at the time. They recorded some of the most rousing, honky-tonkingest bluegrass imaginable. Their versions of “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “On My Mind,” and especially “The Touch Of God's Hand” are to die for, and there's lots more. They should have been famous, but fate decreed otherwise. They left us this and a few other recordings by which to remember them.

Randog’s Daily Pick 2/4/2014
Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick Together
Kaleidoscope CD K-44

Exhibit A, in answer to the question, "What's so special about Bay Area bluegrass?" Not only does this recording showcase the special chemistry between these two wonderful singers (both founding members of the illustrious Good Ol' Persons) and songwriters, but also features the talents of many – and I do mean many – members of the local bluegrass community of the time. Included are FOUR of the finest, most innovative, and most talented mandolinists in the country, all residents in the area at the time: Butch Waller, Tom Bekeny, Tom Rozum, and John Reischman – plus young pup Tony Furtado on banjo, Sally Van Meter – the mistress of soul – on dobro, Tony Marcus on basso profundo voice on Kathy's “Count Your Blessings,” and outlander Charles Sawtelle on occasional lead guitar. Three of Kathy's finest compositions are featured, as well as Laurie's memorable version of “The Touch Of The Master's Hand” AND Debbie Cotter's “Hideaway” and Jim Mintun's “That Dawn The Day You Left Me” (Tim O'Brien told me once that this song was the best new thing he'd heard all year that year). Can't leave out mentioning the ladies' tribute to Vern & Ray, “Little Annie” – or their sterling version of “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar.” Impeccable production, too...and are there two better lookin' women in bluegrass (except for my wife, of course)? And – Laurie proves on the cover that she could show Blake Shelton a few things about rockin' the mullet.

Randog's Daily Pick 6/4/2014
Laurie Lewis Love Chooses You
Flying Fish LP 487

Laurie's Nashville album, recorded in that town (the one I'm sitting in, actually), mostly, and featuring many of the great players of the time from there, including Buddy Emmons, Matt Rollings, Dave Pomeroy, Kenny Malone, Russ Barenberg, Jim Horn, Stephanie Davis, and Alan O'Bryant, among others, plus her Grant Street stalwarts of the time –Tom Rozum, Tammy Fassaert, and frequent collaborator, banjoist Craig Smith – oh, and Sam Bush. Kathy Mattea recorded the title cut almost immediately (this was 1989), still performs it – she says it has more relevance now than ever – and another country torcher here, “The Point Of No Return,” will inevitably be recorded by some country cutie pie when Nashville returns to its senses, and it will be a hit one day. “I Don't Know Why” is a wonderful mid-tempo country twanger; Laurie claims it is the first song she ever completed, and says in the notes that she was under the influence of The Bakersfield Sound at the time – there are worse things to be influenced by, believe me. “Old Friend” was recorded by Jeannie Kendall and “I Don't Know Why” is just waiting to be discovered by some neo-traditionalist Nashville starlet as well – and it includes some patented Buddy Emmons steel guitar playing. “The Hills O My Home” was inspired by – not the Rockies, not the Ozarks, no, not even the Sierras – but by Tilden Park in Berkeley, CA, and, by gum, listening to it here in Music City made me long for that very park, especially the newt crossing. “I'd Be Lost Without You” reminds me of nights at The Point in Point Richmond, CA, when Laurie sang jazz with Dick Oxtot, and features Emmons and longtime tenor sax Nashville first-call guy Jim Horn, as well as Laurie's spectacular, smoky jazzy phrasing. “When The Night Bird Sings” is a Mark Simos original, and “The Women Of Ireland/Ryestraw” pairing was inspired by Bay Area fiddler John Pedersen, a department store Muzak recording, and the old-time fiddling of John Summers – ask Laurie. “The Light” was inspired by a near death experience of Laurie's grandmother, and “Texas Bluebonnets” is a song we all heard performed as a waltz for years until Laurie and Tom turned it into a Berkeley Tex-Mex romp. Hadn't listened to this album for a long time, it ain't bluegrass, but it's still great. Might be tough to find, but that ain't my fault.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Someone recently asked me, "Hey Carltone, how did a suburban Philly guy like you ever get into bluegrass?" Fair question. It was 40 years ago around this time that, while going to school at Penn State in the rural Pennsylvania town of State College, that I saw a sign posted on the bulletin board in Discount Records that read "Part-time bass player wanted for Mason-Dixon." Mason-Dixon was one of two bluegrass bands in town, and I had seen them play a few times in the local bars. Before starting college I was a fledgling rock and roller who in 1972 was intrigued by the sounds off an album that my older brother had brought home. It was called Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and this Mason-Dixon band played some songs from the recording. I called about the ad, and I was told that the regular bass player was in two bands, and that they sometimes needed a fill-in. "Have you ever played standup bass?" I was asked. I said no, but being an electric bass player, I wondered to myself "how hard could it be?" So I got together with the band to practice some, and after the first rehearsal I needed to tape up my fingers on my right hand before I could play the standup again. But for the next year or so I played quite a few gigs with the band, and I fell in love with the harmonies and the instrumentation. The band eventually got a permanent bass player that could commit to all of their gigs, and years later the name was changed to Whetstone Run. I moved on to play with some others, and in 1979 I moved to CA. (It wasn't until many years later that I found out that some of the future alumni of Whetstone were Lynn Morris, Marshall Wilborn, and Chris Jones)(check out a video of Lynn and Marshall singing with the band here.) And here I am still pickin' bluegrass, four decades later. Life would probably have been a bit different had I never seen that "Part-time bass player wanted" sign in Discount Records...

One festive weekend. The staff here at MOLD World Headquarters would like to send out copious and heartfelt birthday greetings to a lot of important people this weekend. Friday the 30th is the big day for Madam CBA President Darby Brandli and Bay Area bluegrass/country singers Cameron Sellers and Julie Cline. On Saturday the notables are CBA Breakdown CD reviewer Brenda Hough, Marin County acoustic bass player Annie Ernst, East Bay singer/guitarist Karen Hamilton Kelly, and guitar player/cartoonist Tom Murray. And on Sunday let's celebrate CBA Chairman of the Board Tim Edes and renowned radio host Sully Roddy!

”I hear that train a comin’…” A man in the Netherlands, identified only as “Mr. B.,” had been suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) from which he had done battle with for 46 years, so he went to see some doctors for treatment. Having made little or no progress with conventional treatment, in 2006 he was treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS), better known for making life easier for patients with Parkinson’s disease, but also used for OCD. After the surgery he felt much better, but since then he has had a severe case of musical preference for all things Johnny Cash. Hey, it could have been worse. Instead he could really be into Justin Bieber. Read the story here.

"It’s rolling round the bend…” Speaking of music and trains, there is this nice video making the rounds on Facespace and other social media sights that features a faux classical music flashmob on a train in Denmark. On a crowded passenger car orchestra members take out their instruments and start jamming on a tune, to the obvious amazement and delight of the passengers. In the end it appears to be a commercial for a classical music radio station, which is cool and all. But with so many different camera angles and fancy editing, don’t for one minute think that this was some unplanned, spontaneous stunt that was captured on cell phone cameras. Wonder what the response would have been if, instead of classical players, a bluegrass band started picking a hearty rendition of "Big Mon"...

Musical hoarders. Here’s a story for all of you “advanced age” MOLD readers. Remember record albums, those 33 1/3 discs that you had to play on a turntable with a stylus making its round in the grooves? Some folks over the years amassed a sizeable collection of these things, and if you think you have a hefty record collection, check out this story in Esquire Magazine about a new book titled Dust and Grooves by Eilon Paz that is about serious record collectors. It will probably make your head spin…

Singing from the crypt. Even though he has been dead for 61 years, legendary country singer Hank Williams is still cranking out product. In 2011, a 15-CD set of his radio recordings for Mother's Best Flour was released, and now there’s a single-disc collection of four radio shows sponsored by Naughton Farms plant nurseries, and it's a must-have for serious Hank fans. Along with classics such as "Lovesick Blues," "Wedding Bells" and "Mind Your Own Business" (which also includes a seldom-heard-before new verse), The Garden Spot Recordings, 1950 also features lesser-known gems such as "I'll Be a Bachelor 'Til I Die" and "I Don't Care (If Tomorrow Never Comes)." Too bad that last song came true on January 1, 1953…

Bluegrass Odyssey. Recently I stumbled across my edition of Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words, 1966-86 by Carl Fleischhauer and Neil V. Rosenberg, and I have to tell you, if you don’t own a copy of this collection of incredible photos of some of the bluegrass greats, you need to get it real soon. With over 200 photos by Fleischhauer and well-written commentary by eminent bluegrass scholar Rosenberg, this is a book that should reside permanently on your coffee table. Speaking of books with old photos, there is also Keeping Time: The Photographs of Don Hunstein , released last fall, that has classic photos of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Simon & Garfunkel, and lots more.

"If I had a hammer…" There is an interesting story about the tradition of musical protest and folk music on the Bill Moyers website. You can read the piece and watch some interview videos here.

Claire in the Windy City. Claire Lynch, the current IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, was recently featured in that noted bluegrass publication The Chicago Tribune, and you can read all about it here.

Faire game. The Redwood Mountain Faire on May 31st-June 1st in Felton near Santa Cruz, is a benefit for local non-profits in the area. The fest will feature Hot Buttered Rum, Lukas (son of Willie) Nelson, Roy Rogers, Achilles Wheel, Sherry Austin, and many more bands.

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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 31st from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Gearing Up For Grass Valley, which is preview of the CBA's annual Father's Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival with music by most of the participants.

Patsy Cline in Alameda. Everyone knows about the legendary country singer Patsy Cline who was killed in a plane crash in 1963. There was a decent movie made of her life titled Sweet Dreams, and now there is a live stage production at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda titled “Always…Patsy Cline.” Read the promo story from the Contra Costa Times. It runs through June 15th, and some Bay Area pickers (David Phillips and Larry Chung share the pedal steel duties) are in the band, and hometown favorite Margaret Belton plays Patsy.

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 commentator. Here is his take on Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark along with two more of his CD offerings:

"I just read this profile of Guy Clark, from the January issue of Texas Monthly, written by John Spong. My friend John Jeter told me about it. It's as good as any profile of any kind I've read in a long time, and maybe because much of it is a view of Nashville as seen through the eyes of one of the greatest songwriters this town has ever seen, it rings completely true. Guy has been my musical hero since the first time I heard him sing his song 'LA Freeway' on KFAT a long time ago, and remains so today. If you care about songwriting, or life in Nashville, or the music of Guy Clark, or really good profile writing, you should read this. And then you should get a hold of Guy's last two studio albums, Some Days the Song Writes You and My Favorite Picture of You. I think they're the two best albums he's ever done, and that's saying a lot."

Randog's Daily Pick 5/28/2014
The Sally Mountain Show I Came On Business
Stardust Records LP-NR13183

I'm probably not the only audience member who bought this album in 1984 when this amazing family band headlined the annual CBA Festival in Grass Valley; I sure am glad I held onto it. Johnny and Carolyn Vincent and their children clarified for a lot of us that weekend just what a family bluegrass band from Missouri might amount to. Daughter Rhonda plays mandolin and fiddle on this album and sings pretty much all the leads here; she also produced it. She was 19 in 1981 when the album was recorded, so she was 22 or so that summer; needless to say, she got everyone's attention; she was jaw droppingly good...brother Darrin, age 11 when the album was recorded, would have been 14 – he mostly plays guitar on the album, also a little bass – and he sings harmony on a couple of cuts. If you want to hear how he turned out, check out the great Daily-Vincent Band next time you get a chance. Brother Brian was 7 when the album was recorded and doesn't play on the album – by the time they made it to California, he was 10 and a full-fledged band member. Dad Johnny played banjo and some guitar and sang harmony, and mom Carolyn played bass and also sang harmony. She sang lead on "Slippers With Wings," and the two of them raised two of the best lead and harmony singers in bluegrass in Rhonda and Darrin – country, too, in the case of Rhonda – check out her duets album with Gene Watson. Rhonda, needless to say, had “star” written all over her even at that early stage, but the three-part harmonies here are outstanding as well, and this album remains very listenable. Carolyn and Rhonda signed my copy. Who out there wants to take credit for booking this band at Grass Valley way back in 1984? Other songs are “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More,” “One Day At A Time,” “Poor Rich Man,” “I Came On Business For The King,” “There's a Higher Power,” “When My Time Comes To Go,” “Just Any Day Now," “Afterwhile,” “Slippers With Wings,” and “Wrapped With Grace, Tied With Love.”

Randog's Daily Pick 5/29/2014
The Armstrong Twins-Floyd and Lloyd Mandolin Boogie
Arhoolie CD 9046

Arkansas natives Floyd and Lloyd Armstrong were voted “most handsome male twins” at the Twin Convention in Huntington Beach, CA, in both 1951 and 1952. When I met them briefly at Down Home Music in 1980, they looked like two almost identical versions of Ted Knight from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, replete in checkered sports coats and silver pompadours. They were in California on a small tour to promote their recent Arhoolie album, which Chris Strachwitz had recorded after they had contacted him regarding a previous reissue of their ‘40s material on his Old Timey label. In their prime, the youthful twin brothers had recorded a series of pre-bluegrass mandolin-guitar vocal duets of both familiar and original material, were members of Cliffie Stone's Dinner Bell Round-Up cast, and even were regulars for a time on Compton's Town Hall Party. Their instrumentals (Floyd on guitar and Lloyd on mandolin) were characterized by their feistiness; I heard Mike Compton describe them in concert once as possessing a certain "piss and vinegar" after he played one of their instrumentals with David Grier in concert. "Mandolin Boogie," "Mandolin Rag," "Arkansas Special," and the unique vocal duet “Beetle With The Boogie Woogie Beat” all step it up and go, while Carolina Cotton's "Three Miles South Of Cash,” “Mother's Only Sleeping,” “Sparkling Blue Eyes,” “Address From Heaven,” “Alabama Baby” and “It's Never Too Late” are not atypical country string band music of the days before bluegrass, and it is all excellent. If you like Roy Acuff's '40s records, or The Monroe Brothers, you'll like these. The seven cuts included here from the album cut in 1979, are generally slower in tempo, the twins' voices had deepened, and dobro and string bass are included in the instrumentation, but these cuts are also fine examples of traditional country music of the forties, including heartfelt versions of such songs as “Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine,” and (especially) “Beautiful Brown Eyes.” The twins received some attention a few years ago when one of their numbers and a piece about them appeared in the annual Oxford American Music Issue devoted to Arkansas. I bet you can still get this from Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

It sure feels strange not to be wearing my bathrobe and slippers right now as I write this column on Friday morning. Before you wonder if Carlin is off his meds, allow me to explain. Every year at this time (save for 2011, when I had an important gig to play) since 1991 I have been at the Strawberry Memorial Day Weekend Music Festival, and for the past 12 or so years I have been one of the on-air hosts of the morning Breakfast Club, a live show that was held in the dining hall every morning, where musical attendees got to sign up for a ten-minute slot to sing for their breakfast. The show was broadcast live throughout the camp on the pirate HOG radio station. The show was always a lot of fun, and it was a great way to meet folks and hear some good music. Since it was show biz, I used to dress for the part by wearing my strawberry pajamas, red suede slippers, and seersucker robe (see the photo above this column). But the disastrous Rim Fire last August destroyed thousands of acres in the Sierras, and though Camp Mather, where the fest was held, was spared any damage, the surrounding area is still too fragile for the fest to continue at that site. Not only will there be no Memorial Day Festival, the Labor Day Festival will not take place there either. The word from the fest office as of last week is that there will be a festival in September, but it will be moving to the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, where the CBA holds its annual Father’s Day Festival every year in June. It remains to be seen if the Breakfast Club will take place during the Strawberry Fest from September 11th-14th, but if so, the robe, slippers and jammies are ready to go…

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 picknicking with friends, going to baseball games, picking some bluegrass, debating the existence of global warming, etc., also bear in mind that Monday the 26th 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.

This morning on National Public Radio there was this incredibly moving segment about a servicewoman named MaCherie Dunbar who signed up for "patriot detail" while serving in Iraq. Give it a listen and have some tissues in hand. And, if you want to hear one of the most powerful songs ever written (by Tim Stafford and Wood Newton) about the unpublicized effects of war, listen to Blue Highway's "Two Soldiers"...

Hickstival near Hollister. Speaking of picking bluegrass, there will be quite a bit of it going on this weekend at The Hickstival Bluegrass Festival in Bolado Park in Tres Pinos, a few miles south of Hollister. The fest is hosted by Pete and Lora Hicks, and it is an intimate music affair featuring fine local bluegrass and Americana bands, workshops, a Saturday night potluck BBQ, and lots of jamming in the campgrounds. Among the bands you can see are Alex Sharps and Friends, Bean Creek, The Central Valley Boys, Dark Hollow, Dim Lights, Gold Coast, The Goodings, Kitchen Help, Red Dog Ash, and Windy Hill. Go to the web site for the complete lineup.

Two for the road. Maria Nadauld sent word that the fiddle/banjo duo ChessBoxer – who I had never heard of until yesterday, and I am still unsure as to what their name means – will be touring from June 21st-July 5th opening for Bruce Hornsby throughout the southeast. They have also made a very unusual but well done video to promote the tour, and you should check it out here.

Kentucky fried prom. It is that time of year for high school proms, and if you want your daughter to stand out – both visually and aromatically - some folks in the bluegrass state of Kentucky have something special for you! Daddy’s little girl will simply astound everyone when she wears – and I kid you not – a fried chicken corsage. Is this a great country or what?

Never too old to rock and roll. There is this video making the rounds of a trio of seniors doing a version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” that probably has the late erstwhile King of Pop moonwalking in his grave…

Sing out, Kathy! Bay Area singer/guitarist/songwriter/bandleader Kathy Kallick had a new CD out of original material titled Cut To The Chase, and you can read this fine review of the recording in SingOut!

Looking forward. As most everyone knows by now, Kathy and her band will be playing at the CBA’s Father’s Festival in Grass Valley in three weeks. While there she and Laurie Lewis will also be doing a Tribute to Vern & Ray on the main stage, and they also will have a brand new recording by then. Here is what Laurie had to say yesterday about it on her Facebook page:

Today, I am driving the master for Kathy Kallick's and my new CD, "Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray," down to the manufacturer, Isomedia, in Fremont. We'll have the finished package in hand by the first week of June! The CD is a tribute to our early bluegrass heroes Vern Williams and Ray Park.

Something tells me that they will sell a few boxes of these CDs at the fest…

Pointy-headed Ralph. Legendary banjo player Ralph Stanley was honored with his second doctorate degree on the 19th. The first one came in 1976 from Lincoln Memorial University in TN. This second one is from a small university in Connecticut that you may have heard of named Yale. Not bad for an 87-year-old banjo picker from the Clinch Mountains in southwest VA!

Local kid on the rise. There is a young singer/songwriter from Novato (in Marin County) named Mia Rose Lynne who moved to Nashville sometime back and is now starting to make a name for herself. She has a brand new CD out of original songs titled Open Space, and last week she was featured in this story in the Marin Independent Journal. With notable players such as Stuart Duncan and Rob Ickes sittin' in on some songs, the betting here is that you will be hearing about this talented artist down the road. And when you do, you can say, “I first read about Mia in the MOLD News!”

Up the creek. Nickel Creek is back on tour again after a hiatus of a few years – hard to believe that they are also celebrating 25 years together! – and they have a new CD out titled A Dotted Line. They played in Oakland the other day, and you can read a review of their show in the San Francisco Chronicle. Also, there is a nice interview with them on the Bluegrass Situation web site. They will be back in CA in August when they play the Mondavi Center in Davis on the 3rd and The Mountain Winery in Saratoga on the 4th.

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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 25th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Moon Tunes, Part II, which features old favorites and new discoveries.

Patsy Cline in Alameda. Everyone knows about the legendary country singer Patsy Cline who was killed in a plane crash in 1963. There was a decent movie made of her life titled Sweet Dreams, and now there is a live stage production at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda titled “Always…Patsy Cline.” Read the promo story from the Contra Costa Times. It runs through June 15th, and some Bay Area pickers (David Phillips and Larry Chung share the pedal steel duties) are in the band, and hometown favorite Margaret Belton plays Patsy.

A view from Nashvegas. It’s Friday, and this means that Randy Pitts of Nashville has a plethora of CD reviews to offer that will help get us through the long weekend:

Randog's Daily Pick 5/22/2014
James Roberts & Martha Carson I'm Gonna Let It Shine
British Archive Of Country Music (BACM) CD BACMCD D 161

This import reissue package of the once popular and influential but now nearly forgotten husband-wife duet team gathers their Capitol singles as well as their singles from their own White Church label and is mighty welcome to fans of pre-(but almost)bluegrass white gospel music. James Roberts, son of legendary fiddler Doc Roberts, and Martha (Irene Amburgey of the Amburgey Sisters trio) joined forces to record some of the finest, most impassioned, shout style gospel records ever, imbued in the Pentecostal, old-time religion that rocked the church, and eventually played a part in the genesis of Rock and Roll. After her divorce from James Roberts, Martha had her biggest success with the enormous hit “Satisfied,” became a crossover star for a while, and toured with Elvis, who cited her as an influence, both vocally and as a performer. Before that, though, she cut these 24 remarkable performances with her husband, duet partner, and mandolin player James. If you like the early Louvin Brothers gospel stuff, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, or Elvis' gospel material, you'll very likely enjoy this. Twenty-four cuts include “I'm Gonna Sing Sing Sing,” “Old Blind Barnabas,” “He Will Set Your Fields Onfire,” “I'm Gonna Let It Shine,” “I'll Fly Away,” “When God Dips His Love In My Heart,” and much more. I got my copy from Down Home Music in El Cerrito, CA.

Randog's Daily Pick 5/21/2014
Special Edition Sweet Allis Chalmers
Grass Mountain Records LP GM 1006

From 1983, this beauty is notable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the membership in the band of Joe Diffie, whose contributions are limited, according to the credits, to lead and harmony singing, although it is widely known that Joe is a stout bluegrass banjo player as well. The album is also marked by the appearance of the great Billy Joe Foster, who died prematurely a little over a year ago after battling MS for years, at age 51. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays banjo, fiddles, sings, and wrote several of the songs here...but he also played bass and mandolin, and was in Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, Country Gazette, and Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder. Though I never met him, I wish I had; he's one of those guys about whom everyone gushes when his name comes up, both about his talent and his character. The talent is readily evident here; he and Diffie sound great together as vocalists, and Craig and Terry Fletcher on bass, guitar, and vocals and Marc Keller on guitar and vocals are better than good as well. The band has a sound that would have been called “progressive” in 1983 – the arrangements remind me of albums The Allen Brothers made in the period for Rounder – and they do songs like John Fogerty's “Up Around The Bend,” “Peter Rowan's “Hobo,” and fellow Oklahoman Bill Caswell's “Sweet Allis Chalmers” – but Joe Diffie also cuts loose on “The Race Is On,” “I Ain't Broke But I'm Badly Bent,” and “When The Grass Grows Over Me.” Joe made a really good bluegrass album five or six years ago, which was way better than Alan Jackson's more recent effort – Joe can really SING bluegrass – and it is well worth looking for, but this Slim Richey-distributed album is special. Proud Oklahoman Alan Munde wrote the liner notes.

Randog's Daily Pick 5/20/2014
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mtn. Boys Echoes Of The Stanley Brothers
Varese Sarabande CD-303 066 215 2

Just because Dr. Ralph received another honorary doctorate yesterday, this one from Yale(!) (do we call him “Double Doc” now?), I found myself rummaging in my collection for rare and noteworthy Ralph, and came up with a doozy. This CD combines two albums recorded by Ralph's great band of the early '70s, which included, in addition to himself, of course: Curly Ray Cline AND Jack Cooke AND Roy Lee Centers AND Ricky Skaggs AND Keith Whitley. The first album, entitled Michigan Bluegrass, made for the Jessup Label, in you guessed it, Michigan, is the sort of fly by night recordings Ralph made occasionally back in the day – he probably still does – featuring unfamiliar material, and this one is no different...how many of you know “Daughter Of Geronimo,” for instance, or “Another Song, Another Drink,” “River Underground,” a fiddle tune called “Hulla Gull,” or “Buckwheat”? But all twelve songs and tunes from the source are fascinating, and benefit from the singing and picking of a wonderful band, some say Ralph's best. The material from the second album, Sing Gospel Echoes Of The Stanley Brothers, also originally cut for Jessup, contains some of the finest group gospel bluegrass vocals you are ever likely to hear, new versions of familiar Stanley Brothers fare: “In Heaven We'll Never Grow Old,” “Wings Of Angels,” “The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn.” “Working On A Building,” “Master's Bouquet,” “Leaning On Jesus,” “White Dove,” “Shouting On The Hills Of Glory,” “A Few More Seasons Yet To Come,” “Daniel Prayed,” and the fabulous “My Main Trial Is Yet To Come.” The original Jessup albums are very difficult to find, and this CD, from 2001, probably is too, by now, but it is great.

Randog's Daily Pick 5/13/2014
The Nashville Bluegrass Band To Be His Child
Rounder LP & CD 0242

In 1987, when this album was released, NBB was widely considered the hottest new bluegrass band around; they had Stuart Duncan, on his way to becoming the most in demand and highly regarded fiddle player in Nashville in years; he was fast becoming a star in his own right. They had Mike Compton, the Monroe-esque mandolin player who brought a bluesy tinge to everything he played. They had Mark Hembree, who had served as bassist for Big Mon himself as a Blue Grass Boy. And they had two of the finest lead singers in bluegrass in banjo player Alan O'Bryant and guitarist Pat Enright. This all-gospel album, their third for Rounder, was a departure in more than just that way. The repertoire here owes as much to black gospel music as it does to the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe that was the usual source of bluegrass gospel at the time. “Gospel Plow,” for instance, was evidently a pre-Civil War slave spiritual which folkadokes embraced; Bob Dylan recorded it on his first album. Interestingly, NBB based their version on a tape of Bill Monroe jamming at Bean Blossom; he'd heard a young parking lot picker performing it, and latched onto it, though, sadly, he never recorded it. Mike Compton sings the lead on this one. The notes by Dr. Charles Wolfe are full of this kind of stuff, by the way. James Bryan, the noted Alabama fiddler and a friend of the band, for instance, brought “Goodnight, The Lord Is Coming” to the band, from a ‘20s recording by a group called The Pilgrim Jubilee Singers; both they and NBB do it a capella, and it is startlingly original, as is the whole album. “Every Humble Knee Must Bow” is from the famous Dixie Hummingbirds, “No Hiding Place” remains a staple of the NBB, and it, too, dates back to the ‘20s. Years after the fact, I heard someone associated with the band mention ruefully that NBB took a noticeable hit commercially by recording a full-gospel album at this early stage of their career, but artistically, the growth is quite noticeable, and is enchanting. The album is notable for its inventive arrangements, lead and harmony singing, and the impeccable musicianship that people had begun already to expect from the band. In addition to those already mentioned, the album also features “You're Drifting Away,” “Hold Fast To The Right,” “A Child Enters Life” (an original from Alan O'Bryant and Bruce Nemerov, inspired by a child's gravestone), “To Be His Child,” “Are You Afraid To Die” (from The Louvins and Eddie Hill), “I'll Be Rested,” “Old Satan” (a Jim Eanes co-write), and “New Born Soul.”

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Friday, May 16, 2014


Welcome to another action-packed edition of the Friday MOLD news, where you can safely come to get away from the awful news of the real world, such as the raging fires near San Diego, the coal mining disaster in Turkey, and the nasty video-taped fight between pop singer Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z and her sister Solange. Show of hands here: how many of you even knew that there was a Solange? Right, just what I thought. Anyway, the lofty goal here on Fridays – besides giving MOLD Man yet another day off – is to present a lot of bluegrass and other music-related news as well as some off-beat items that you may not have heard about. As the saying goes, “Here goes nothing”…

One month and counting. Four weeks from today just about everyone that is reading these words will be at the CBA’S Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley. What? You haven’t purchased your tickets yet? Do. It. Now. Right here. You will feel much better about yourself and, life in general, too, when you do. And tell your friends – both bluegrass and non – to get on it too! There is no reason why they should miss out on any of the fun.

Huck Finn Jubilee. Many bluegrass fans in Southern California on Father’s Day Weekend will instead be going to the Huck Finn Jubilee in Ontario. Go to the web site for complete info.

A gathering of harpists. If you play autoharp, then you already know about the annual California Autoharp Gathering that is taking place right now at Saint Nicholas Ranch near Kings Canyon. Tina Louise Barr will be giving several one-hour autoharp workshops, a children's workshop on rhythm, and will be hosting an all-acoustic instruments jam session. Tina and husband John Gwinner will also be giving a main performance the evening of the 17th.

Strawberry fields, forever. Well, after a long-fought battle with the city of San Francisco over the use of Camp Mather, where the Strawberry Music Festival has been held for most of its 30+ year existence, the fest folks have pulled up stakes and will be moving its Labor Day Weekend Festival to, of all places, the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley! Except that the fest will not be held over Labor Day. It will be moved to September 11th-14th instead. The city of SF -- the owners of Camp Mather near Yosemite -- had serious water concern issues with the festival after last year's Rim Fire burned thousands of acres around the camp and also canceled the Labor Day and this year's Memorial Day festivals. Strawberry was hoping to hold their end of summer event there this September, but they were denied permits by the city. So they are taking the show on the road. For people that attend both the CBA and Strawberry fests, this is great news. As a matter of fact, it is just great news in general, to know that Strawberry will take place after all in 2014! Here is their latest posting:

May 15, 2014
We are happy to announce that this year’s Strawberry Fall Music Festival will take place at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley on September 11th-14th

Please note the change in date. The festival is NOT taking place over Labor Day weekend, but will be held two weeks later, instead. We are very grateful to the kind staff at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for providing a beautiful sanctuary for our community to celebrate friends, family, laughter, and music! Fairground information can be found at www.NevadaCountyFair.com.

Please be aware that our contract for the Fall 2014 Festival still needs to be reviewed by the Small Business Administration. As soon as we receive approval and the disaster relief funding is dispersed, we will send letters to Fall 2013 cabin and ticket holders explaining the refund process. Tickets for the Fall 2014 Festival will go on sale after refunds have begun. Please stay tuned for future announcements regarding festival details, refunds, ticket sales, lineup, etc.

Thank you for hanging in there with us and we hope to see you there!


Every musician's dream. Is there any string player out there that has never broken -- or, at least, worried about doing such -- a wire while performing on stage? It can really throw a wrench into your show if so. But not if you have a roadie like rocker Stevie Ray Vaughn does. Watch this clip as he seamlessly plays a solo with the busted wire, and then swaps out guitars without missing a beat.

A hero on four legs. Okay, this story has absolutely no musical content whatsoever (not that this is a prerequisite for MOLD news). It is just a feel-good and amazing tale, and it was all over the Interwebs yesterday. So in case you missed it, check out this video of the most amazing cat in Bakersfield, if not the world...

Time for a dip in the pool! Here is another four-legged tale, one that you don't see every day, or pretty much on any day. It has been pretty dang hot in NorCal these past few days, so just about everyone will be envious of this rather large creature that decides to frolic in the kiddie pool...

America’s back porch. MOLD reader and bluegrass booking agent extraordinaire Maria Nadauld sent us news last week about a fascinating video series called The Back Porch of America with Matt Kinman. Here is a description of the show from the Bluegrass Situation web site:

Matt Kinman has always wanted to learn more. He wanted to learn more about traditional old time music, and as a teenager he walked out of his house and began a trek across the country. During his travels, in addition to the music of old time fiddle and banjo, he learned a whole lot more. Between hopping boxcars and hitching rides along the highways, he found people, stories and communities far removed from the frenetic pace of modern day America. He met artists, craftsman, farmers and storytellers. He communed musicians, fiddle makers, blacksmiths and gunsmiths. Through his years dotting the back roads of the country, the people and the stories stuck with him. Now, for the first time, Kinman and producer Ben Guzman of California-based Boxer Films are bringing these stories to light in The Back Porch of America.”

The documentary series airs on The Bluegrass Situation web site. I have only watched a couple of them so far, and the one with chair maker Mark Newberry is spell-bounding. Watch him make a wooden chair by hand – something his father and grandfather before him did – all the while barely wearing gloves or protective eyeglasses. To get an idea what to expect on the series, at the least, watch the short promo for it here.

Hillbilly outlaws in SF. The Earl Brothers – besides having a new CD titled Outlaw Hillbilly -- are headlining a show on the 16th at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and they were featured in yesterday’s SF Chronicle. Also on the bill are The New Thoreaus and Lonesome Lester T. Raww.

Modern day el Kabong? If you know what I am talking about here, you are old. Or, at least 50+. If you don’t know who el Kabong was, he was early ‘60s cartoon horse Quick Draw McGraw’s alter ego who, along with his sidekick Baba Looey, was also a crime fighter in the Old West who would subdue the bad guys by whacking them over the head with his guitar. As story-teller Ron Thomason often says when you don’t know where he is going with his story, “Say that to say this.” A Utah man is facing aggravated battery charges in Idaho after police said he whacked a band mate in the face with his mandolin case. It was after hours while loading the band gear into their vehicle. Read the details here. Gosh, do you think that alcohol might have played a role in this little band spat? We can only hope that it wasn’t a hard-shell Calton case…

Write what you know. This is the first rule that you will learn in any songwriting workshop. For some folks, it can be a rather painful and revealing experience. Here is singer/songwriter Sam Baker’s story:

Sam Baker didn't start writing music until he'd come very close to the other side. In 1986, he was on a train in Peru, en route to Machu Picchu, when a bomb planted by the Peruvian terrorist group Shining Path exploded in the luggage rack above him. The people he was sitting with were killed. His body was torn apart. He had a brain injury and severe hearing loss, and he required more than 15 reconstructive surgeries. Somehow during his long recovery, songs started coming to him. Several of them are related directly to the attack and his near-death experience, while others are like short stories, written in the voices of characters. Some of his most beautiful songs are like hymns. His latest album is titled Say Grace. "I think that my job is to reveal as much as I know and hope that it's helpful to somebody," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross in an interview about the bombing and the faith he gained in humanity.

You can listen to the interview here.

Deadly dudes. The Deadly Gentlemen will be one of the main stage acts at Grass Valley in June, and they have a brand new video out that you can watch 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 to hear Peter on Saturday the 17th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Moon Tunes, which features old favorites and new discoveries.

There will always only be one Patsy. Everyone knows about the legendary country singer Patsy Cline who was killed in a plane crash in 1963. There was a decent movie made of her life titled Sweet Dreams, and now there is a live stage production at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda titled “Always…Patsy Cline.” Read the promo story from the Contra Costa Times. It runs through June 15th, and some Bay Area pickers (David Phillips and Larry Chung share the pedal steel duties) are in the band, and hometown favorite Margaret Belton plays Patsy.

The man from Nashville. Some have asked who this mysterious “Randog” guy is whose CD reviews and occasionally musings often appear in this column. Randy Pitts, now living in Nashville, TN, is the Mystic of Music Row, and The Man in the Know. While living in the Bay Area he worked at Bayside Record Distributors for seven years, then was the Artistic Director at the Freight & Salvage for many years before moving to TN, where he also worked at one of the top booking agencies until he was nudged into early retirement a few years back. He now has a lot of time to write reviews and opinions, and the staff here at MOLD Headquarters is eternally grateful to print his almost daily contributions. Below are three CD reviews from the past week, and all have SF/Bay Area ties. In the meantime, we look forward to that kiss-and-tell-all book that he is hopefully writing in between his reviews…

Randog's Daily Pick 5/14/2014
Keith Little Distant Land To Roam
Copper Creek CD- CCCD-0189

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.

Randog's Daily Pick 5/12/2014
Peter Rowan The First Whippoorwill
Sugar Hill LP & CD 3749

First released on LP in 1985, this is probably my favorite Peter Rowan album, specifically because it showcases my favorite of his many musical attributes – he is the most Monrovian of bluegrass lead singers, probably because he was paying attention to Big Mon when he played with him; he plays a mean Blue Grass Boys guitar, too. He is joined here by fellow Blue Grass Boys Richard Greene on fiddle and Bill Keith on banjo – they were all three at one time members of what became known among fans as “the hippie band” – can't imagine why – and the lessons they learned have served them well. The repertoire consists entirely of songs mostly identified with Monroe, all pretty much standards of the BGB repertoire. In addition to those mentioned, Peter is also abetted by Alan O'Bryant on vocals and tenor guitar, Sam Bush on vocals and mandolin, Roy Huskey Jr. on bass, and the great Buddy Spicher adds his fiddle on some cuts. “I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home,” “I'm Just A Used To Be,” “I Believed In You Darling,” “Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong,” “When The Golden Leaves Begin To Fall,” “I Was Left On The Street,” “Goodbye Old Pal,” “When You Are Lonely,” “The First Whippoorwill,” “Sitting Alone In The Moonlight,” “Boat Of Love,” and “It's Mighty Dark To Travel.” Classics, classically done.

Randog's Daily Pick 5/11/2014
Various Artists Strictly Bluegrass 2
No Label

Performances recorded live, Oct. 5th and 6th, at The Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park, this two-CD set contains sets both bluegrass and non, from the second Strictly Bluegrass Festival, in 2002, I guess, and features artists from around the region as well as more famous bands. John Pedersen of The Roadoilers kicks off the first disc with the vocal on their version of “Been (all) Around The (this?) World,” our cohort Larry Carlin's band Keystone Station does nice versions of “Won't You Sing For Me” and “I Am Weary (Let Me Rest),” and it is especially poignant to hear Lynn Morris and her band do their typically wonderful versions of “If Teardrops Were Pennies” and “My Heart Skips A Beat,” my buddies Blue Highway stomp all over Sting's “I Hung My Head” and yes, “Man Of Constant Sorrow.” They'd recently recorded that evergreen, little suspecting what was in the offing. Hazel Dickens does “You'll Get No More Of Me” and “West Virginia My Home” – I was at this event, and I'm pretty sure it was the last time I saw Hazel, an idol of mine and a friend, perform in front of an audience. Tim O'Brien performs “How Come I Ain't Dead,” a co-write of his with Shawn Camp and Harley Campbell, and “Tombstone Blues.” Kim Richey, and Steve and Stacey Earle do some singy-songwriter stuff, and Jimmy Dale Gilmore does a nice reading of the jug band classic “Mobile Line” and his own metaphysical “Just A Wave, Not The Water.” Oh, and Bay Area old-time favorites The Crooked Jades perform “Moonshiner.” Disc two features Eileen Ivers' version of “Darlin' Corey,” there's a bunch more singer-songwriter stuff, quite nice, by Tift Merritt, Chuck Prophet, and others, two by Peter Rowan & The Rowan Brothers, two by Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek, one by Alison Brown, Hot Rize reprising “Walk The Way The Wind Blows” and “Shady Grove,” three by Emmylou Harris, a great “At The Feet OF God” by the amazing Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, and two by a group called Bluegrass Homecoming which featured Laurie Lewis, Butch Waller, Roland White, and Herb Pedersen, who performed their versions of “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” and “Is The Blue Moon Still Shining?” The crowd that second year was a manageable 100,000 or so, a lot more bluegrass than anything else was featured, and I had a really good time and got a T-shirt I still wear, and eventually, this CD, a nice souvenir of a memorable weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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