Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin a few decades back
Friday, January 30th, 2015
Global waffling. San Francisco has just experienced the driest January on record, which dates back to 1850. And this is no typo. That is 165 years. Not a drop of rain has fallen this month, and none is on the horizon, according to the professional weather-guessers. Last January was the third-driest on record, and everyone knows how little rain fell in 2014. Snow levels in the Sierras are among their lowest ever right now. From the looks of things, we are in for some tough, dry times ahead, while many of the current members of congress – at the urging of fossil-fuel-addicted billionaires – deny that global warming even exists. We’ll take the word of most scientists any day over sleazy politicians that start sentences with “I ain’t no scientist, but I’m here to say…” Whatever side you are on, maybe it's time that renditions of songs like “I Wish It Would Rain” by Nanci Griffith and The Temptations are played daily on the radio and on TV weathercasts…
Bluegrass according to Butch. Are you a little rusty on your bluegrass history? Well, catch up on all that you need to know by watching Butch Robins Presents - Blue Grass Music, its Origin and Development as a Unique and Creative Art Form. “In this 5 part video series, Butch Robins explains the fascinating history of Blue Grass music. He uses both recorded and live music to set and illustrate the timeline, relates real life anecdotes of the musicians involved and tells personal stories of his life and relationship with Bill Monroe. Having had a working and friendly relationship with Monroe and many of the other musicians in this story, his insight and knowledge come together to form a unique perspective of this part of history.”
Signal ahead. Some great news arrived over the transom here yesterday. The SF/Bay Area Peter Thompson’s fabulous weekly radio show – which is always featured further down in this column – will soon be going big time. According to PT, “Beginning on March 2nd, lil’ ol’ Bluegrass Signal will become a daily radio show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country! Pacific Time broadcasts: M-F, 8-9 a.m. The full story of Bluegrass Country programming changes can be found here. BG Signal with yer morning java? All praise to Darrell Johnston for forging the WAMU-CBA alliance!”
Want to become famous? If so, just get so-called satellite radio “shock jock” Howard Stern to call you names and make fun of you on the air. This is what he did the other day when he said some unkindly things (some of which cannot be reprinted here) about a heretofore unknown (at least to anyone here at Carltone World Headquarters) British soul singer named Sam Smith. The story was all over the Interweb for 15 minutes earlier this week, and Mr. Smith has now rightfully earned his Andy Warhol allotment of fame…
Still wanted: Photos of JD. Last week we told you that Ted Kuster, the indefatigable CBA San Francisco VP and driving force behind the JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen cookbook project, needs some photos of CBA Bluegrass Ambassador JD Rhynes to go along with the recipes and songs in the book. If you have any that you can contribute, please contact Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life’s railway to heaven. Poet, songwriter and Grammy winner Rod McKuen died on the 29th in Los Angeles at age 81. He had been treated for pneumonia and had been ill for several weeks.
Bill Yates, the longtime bass player with the Country Gentlemen who also played some with Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin, went on to that big bluegrass jam in the sky on the 26th. He was 78. Edgar Froese, the electronic music pioneer who formed the rock band Tangerine Dream in 1967, died on the 20th in Vienna, Austria, due to a pulmonary embolism. He was 70.
The meaning of life. Do you find yourself traveling through this world constantly searching for the answers to life’s must pressing questions? Well, search no more. All of the answers you need to know to just about anything can be found on this site. Thanks to reader Linda Rust for this tip.
Dance to the music! This is what Sylvester Stone, of the Bay Area ‘60s/’70s band Sly & The Family Stone has been doing this week, after a jury awarded him $5 million in lost royalties after being cheated by his former manager and lawyer. Stone, who just a few years ago was broke and living out of a white van on the streets of LA, should be able to upgrade to at least a fifth wheel with his winnings…
Just for the heck of it. A seven-year-old Ricky Skaggs sitting in with Flatt & Scruggs in 1961. Classic stuff!
Got an old mandolin up in the attic? If so, you may want to contact the PBS show Antique Road Show. Randy Pitts passed this segment along, and even though it is three-years-old, it is quite the amazing story.
Guitars in Sebastopol. The Third Annual Sebastopol Guitar Festival will be taking place on Saturday the 31st, so grab your credit cards and head on up there.
Saying goodbye. While searching the web the other day for something entirely unrelated, an intern here at Carltone came across Alan Jackson singing the classic country song "Farewell Party" – originally made famous by Gene Watson – that rivals the George Jones hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” “Farewell” was written by the late Lawton Williams, who also penned other hits such as “Fraulein,” “Geisha Girl,” and “Shame On Me.” What an ending!
Nights of the living Dead. As any Deadhead knows by now, the still-breathing and upright members of the Grateful Dead will be reuniting in Chicago this summer for a three-night tour to celebrate their 50-year anniversary. Fans from all over the country will be headed there in caravans of 1970’s era Volkswagen vans. Once they get there, they want to be able to camp out in the parking lot of Soldier’s Field. Yet the odds on this happening are slim. Read about it here
Norman Blake in the WSJ. Picker Norman Blake was featured in that renowned bluegrass publication the Wall Street Journal the other day. Read the story 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 on Saturday the 31st from 6:30-8 p.m. for Gearing Up For Grass Valley, which will feature songs by the Good Ol' Persons, Kentucky Colonels, Bluegrass Patriots, Nashville Bluegrass Band, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Molly Tuttle & Friends, The Spinney Brothers, Adkins & Loudermilk, Chris Henry & Hardcore Grass, Steep Ravine, and 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 events listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.
Coming attractions. The Keith Little Band will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th. The annual Sweethearts of the Radio show at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station will take place on February 14th with Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare, The Blue Diamond Strings, and more. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 14th. Don’t miss The Claire Lynch Band on March 14th at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. The Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The Strawberry Music Festival will be returning to Grass Valley on May 21st-25th. The Huck Finn Jubilee has an all-star lineup of acts set for Ontario, CA, on June 12th-14th. Everyone is going to the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 18th-21st. Go to all of the links for complete info listings.
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 has been busy this week. Here is a commentary along with four album reviews.
KFAT Flashback for 1/29/2015
“I just heard the late Jim Ringer's version of ‘Rank Stranger’; it is the only recording of the song, save the original Stanley Brothers' original, that comes close to the existential ache at the core of the Albert Brumley song. I never knew Jim, but his voice was a constant presence in the Bay Area traditional music scene when I lived there, and I regard him as one of the great underappreciated artists of that time, circa 1970-85.”
Randog's Daily Pick 1/26/2015
The Farr Brothers South In My Soul
Cattle Records-Mono LP1
For those of you out there for whom the best part of The Sons of the Pioneers albums, video clips, movie or TV appearances has always been the all too rare instrumentals featuring these brothers, this is a must-have. Hugh and Karl Marx Farr (gotta be a story there, but I don't know it) were a couple of southwestern instrumental virtuosos – Hugh on fiddle, Karl on guitar – who supplied the musical backbone for the legendary, sweet singing Sons Of The Pioneers, the springboard to stardom for Roy Rogers, a co-founding member, among many others, including Gunsmoke's Festus, Ken Curtis, who had been a big band singer. Lest you be confused, I should mention that these cuts feature only original members, thus no Ken/Festus is included. The Farr Boys were evidently quite conversant with the records of The Hot Club of France, as well as the fiddle tunes of their native Texas, and folks, they were hot! The 21 cuts on this album concentrate on instrumentals (there are only three vocals) and the bill of fare included "Cow Across the Road," "South In My Soul," "Jack Of Diamonds," "Tom and Jerry," "Darkness on the Delta," and the sublime "Limehouse Blues." Mostly taken from Standard or Orthacoustic radio transcriptions 1934/35 and 1940. From the empire of (at that time) Reimar Binge...now Dagmar Binge...another story about which I can only speculate. Worth whatever you need to pay to get if you like this stuff.
Randog's Daily Pick 1/27/2015
Country Gentlemen Return Engagement
Rebel LP 1663
In 1988, when this album came out, I was living in Albany, California, and was really excited to see it, since I had never known anybody up until then who had gone "back east" to make it in big time bluegrass – and succeeded. But Keith Little did that very thing, and this album is the first evidence of that of which I am aware. Back then, he was known locally as the consummate pro, and Kate Brislin described him to me once as "a singer's singer," and she would know. He apprenticed with Vern and Ray, of course, was in High Country for a time, and toured and recorded with both Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick, plus instrumentally, playing "all of 'em," as they say in Tennessee. Keith is the banjo player on this album, which also features three original songs he wrote or co-wrote – "A Miner's Life," "Lonesome Highway," and "I'd Like to Come Back As a Song." Other songs and tunes include three by the band's mandolin player at the time and two by the late Randall Hylton. Bandleader Charlie Waller handles most of the lead vocals, and the legendary Bill Yates, who we lost very recently, plays bass and sings baritone. Fiddle is supplied on some cuts by Glen Duncan, and Steve Wilson provides occasional dobro. And here's the weird part – Keith doesn't sing, even on the three songs from his own pen! Still, a landmark album for many of us in Northern California in 1988. Keith of course went on to work with Ricky Skaggs, Larry Cordle, The Chieftains, Dolly Parton, Peter Rowan, and many more...and they nearly all let him sing. In recent years, he's returned to Northern California, and has played in the bluegrass bands of both Peter Rowan and David Grisman...and they let him sing, too.
Randog's Daily Pick 1/28/2015
Eck Robertson Famous Cowboy Fiddler, Talking Machine and Radio Artist
County LP 202
When Kathy Kallick's band visited Music City USA not too long ago, a bunch of them and me visited The Country Music Hall of Fame, and Annie Staninec asked why she couldn't find any reference to Eck Robertson. I promised to take the question up with The Taylor Swift Education Center, but never did. But today I was reminded of that day when I stumbled on this album in my collection. "Eck Robertson was the first person to record and issue country music on vinyl disc. He also may be the last." So says a blurb on the album sleeve. While that claim – or claims – may or not be true, certainly Eck was a pioneering fiddler; some consider him the Father of the Texas Fiddle Style that evolved into the contest style fiddling which has spawned so many greats. These nineteen unaccompanied fiddle tunes were recorded by New Lost City Ramblers – John Cohen, Mike Seeger, and Tracy Schwarz – in 1963, when Eck was 76 years old...and he was still bringing it. This is a fascinating document of an artist from the dawn of recorded vernacular music, and a worthy addition to the library of anybody interested in early fiddle styles or the history of the music. And it is also a fine album of vintage fiddling. Also included is a fascinating 18-page booklet with notes by Blanton Owen, and musical notes by Tom Sauber, an exhaustive discography, and a lot of cool photos, too. Tunes include: "Texas Wagoner," "Stumptown Stomp," "Lost Indian," "Grigsby's Hornpipe," "Rye Whiskey," "Lost Goose," "Sally Johnson," "Billy in the Lowground," "Beaumont Rag," "Grey Eagle," "Dusty Miller," "Hell Among the Yearlings," and seven more. Snatches of interviews by Mike Seeger are also included. This was released in 1991.
Randog's Daily Pick 1/30/2015
Keith Little Distant Land to Roam
Copper Creek CD- CCCD-0189
(Editor’s note: this review first ran here on 5/14/2014, but it is worth looking at again since Keith will be headlining the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View on February 7th)
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.
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to email@example.com. For more info than you need to know about Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, go to his Carltone web site. Missed a Friday MOLD? Don’t fret, just click here to read past columns.