Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin
Friday, March 27th, 2015
Old friends, they shine like diamonds
Old friends, you can always call
Old friends Lord, you can't buy 'em
You know it's old friends after all
From the song “Old Friends" that was written by Guy Clark, Susanna Wallis, and Richard J. Dobson
It’s been a bit of a rough and rocky week here at Carltone Mobile Headquarters. Last week this column began with the chorus of “Life’s Railway to Heaven,” as six rock and rollers of some renown all died within seven days of each other. It was easy to write about those guys from a dispassionate distance, since I did not know any of them personally. Yet little did I realize that a few days later that the train would be arriving a little too close to home. Earlier this week I was in Richmond, VA, on an unplanned journey to say goodbye to a longtime close friend of 38 years. Sitting and being with someone just hours before they catch that railway into the next world is a very trying and emotional situation that we’ll all experience many times in our lives, if we haven’t done so already. Guy Clark sings in his song above, “Old friends, they shine like diamonds, old friends, you can always call.” But you can’t do the latter once they are gone. Reach out to an old friend soon. Maybe just to say hello. You’ll feel better, and so will your friend. In the meantime, as the saying goes, “You only live once, so live life to the fullest.”
The face of Virginia. One of the first things I noticed after entering the airline terminal in Richmond the other day was the face of bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds everywhere. This is because he is on the cover of Virginia Living magazine this month, and you can read a wonderful interview with him here
Hardly worth voting for. USA Today is running a poll for the 10 best music festivals in the US, with 20 events on their list. Ranked number 8 right now, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park can use your help. Of course, we all know that the CBA’s Father’s Day Festival is the best fest, but somehow the newspaper overlooked it some how. You can cast your vote daily here until April 13th, so vote early and vote often!
Big twang theory. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville has a new exhibit titled Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City that will open this weekend for a nearly two-year run. Here you can read “how Nashville cats set off the big bang when country met rock” during the recording of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album in 1966.
This day in bluegrass history. A big shout out today from the CBA and the California bluegrass community to Kathy Barwick on her birthday! Kathy, from Grass Valley, is an accomplished Dobro and guitar player, singer, teacher, and she won the NCBS Dobro Player of the Year award in 2014. She and her duo partner, Pete Siegfried, have a new CD out titled The Trestle, and you can get your copy of it here.
Something’s cookin’. Everyone is looking forward to the publication of J.D.'s Bluegrass Kitchen: Cookbook and CD. Following is a taste of things to come, sent along by project manager Ted Kuster. This song "Molasses", sung by Megan Lynch Chowning, is one of many that will be included with a collection of tall tales and recipes by legendary bluegrass picker, chef and raconteur J.D. Rhynes, due out in June 2015 from the California Bluegrass Association.
Life’s railway to heaven. The British singer-songwriter Jackie Trent, who topped the British charts and wrote most of Petula Clark's biggest hits, died on the 21st after a long illness. She was 74. British guitarist and songwriter John Renbourn, who was a founding member of the band Pentangle back in the day, was found dead on March 26th after failing to appear for a gig. He was 70.
Handsome gals. Their slogan is “Taking over the bluegrass world, one gal at a time,” and, according to their site, the San Francisco-based The Handsome Ladies “are a collective of lady pickers supporting, encouraging, and engaging in the world of bluegrass music together.” Thanks to Maria Nadauld for sending this tip.
All-star cast. Check out Nell Robinson & the Rose of No-Man's Land w/Ramblin' Jack Elliott, John Doe & Maxine Hong Kingston on March 28th when they will all be at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, and at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on the 29th.
Just for the heck of it. Jerry Douglas working out on the Dobro in this video titled Little Medley.
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 28th from 6:30-8 p.m. for a show titled Across the Tracks , and it will feature new releases from Springfield Exit, Foghorn Stringband, Jayme Stone's Lomax Project, Norman Blake, Barwick & Siegfried, The Grass Cats, Adkins & Loudermilk, Pharis & Jason Romero, Tony Holt & the Wildwood Valley Boys, Johnny Campbell & the Bluegrass Drifters, Michael Barnett, Paul Kovac, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellies, Billy Hurt, Jr., Mr. Sun, and more.
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 Cloverdale Old-Time Fiddle Contest will be held on April 11th. Redwood Bluegrass Associates will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally's Country Cajun Revival w/Tom Rigney & Flambeau on April 3rd will be at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Church in Ashland, OR, and on April 25th at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. The San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins is set for April 26th at the Croatian American Center in the city. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates show of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. The Parkfield Bluegrass Festival is the place to be on May 7-10th. 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. The Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, CA, will be happening June 25-28th. At the Lassen County Fairgrounds on on June 26th-28th the 6th Annual Susanville Festival will feature Karl Shifflet, Ron Spears, Red Dog Ash, and more. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. 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. Here are a recipe, a commentary, and a recording review.
Look To Your Laurels, JD Rhynes Department:
Hold Whatcha Got Groundhog
2 Onions, quartered
4-5 carrots, cut in 3-inch sections
3-4 medium potatoes quartered
Take your groundhog and boil it for about 10 minutes. Pour the water off, put the groundhog in clean water, and boil it for 10 more minutes. Pour that water off and put him in a big skillet like you fix a roast. Put onions, carrots, and potatoes around it and bake like a roast until it is done. Then you have got the best eatin' you ever popped your teeth in. Makes 6 servings.
-- Jimmy Martin, from The Bluegrass Music Cookbook- Penny Parsons, Ken Beck, and Jim Clark
3/26/2015 – “The day after The Country Music Hall of Fame's 2015 induction ceremonies were held, and as I scan the list of past nominees, it is comforting to know that the genius of that country titan Rod Brasfield has been recognized in years past. Maybe next year, the Stanley Brothers...and hang in there Don Maddox, the last remaining member of The Maddox Brothers & Rose.”
Randog's Daily Pick 3/26/2015
Earl Scruggs & Tom T. Hall The Storyteller and the Banjo Man
Columbia LP FC37953
Olive Hill, Kentucky's, gift to country music, Tom T.Hall, grew up playing, among other things, banjo in a bluegrass band, and has been a friend and lover of bluegrass and fervent admirer of Earl Scruggs all his life. This album, recorded in 1982, is worth seeking out if, for no other reason, it affords the listener a chance to hear Tom T., Earl, and the band's take on Bob McDill's "Song Of The South," later a raucous, flag-waving cheerleading Dixie monster hit for the band Alabama. This version of the song – and yes, it's the same song, I tell ya – is a bittersweet look back at a way of life that nobody much would care to celebrate except with a shake of the head and a rueful smile that one had survived it all. Tom does the lead singing, and Earl and friends, including his son Randy, who also produced, is on guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Byron Berline on fiddle, and various Nashville players on non-bluegrass instruments throughout the album. It is nobody's idea of a hot bluegrass album; in fact, the band only really cuts loose on one cut, "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms." Most of the material here is taken at a comfortable lope and is delivered in Tom T.'s comforting baritone...but he manages to get to the essence of some fine songs, including his own "The Engineers Don't Wave From the Trains Anymore," "There Ain't No Country Music on This Jukebox," and a song attributed to both Tom T. and Earl called "Lover's Farewell." A nice interpretation of the venerable "Shackles and Chains," Lester and Earl's own "Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky," the Carters' "Lonesome Valley," the great Jimmie Skinner standard "Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler," – Tom T. is a big fan of Jimmy Martin, too – the Joe and Rose Lee Maphis penned honky-tonker that Lester and Earl turned into one of their signature pieces, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)," and last but not least, Tom T. and Earl's take on The Rolling Stones' "No Expectations," which – no lie – is quite nice.
Randog's Daily Pick 3/27/2015
Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns
HDS LP 701-Distributed by Flying Fish (in 1974)
Don't know who was behind this in terms of providing the original idea, inspiration, or anything else about how it came about, but it is one amazing album, bringing together string-band music titans from near and far and encompassing many genres. The album coalesces around the amazing English acoustic bass player Dave Holland and Vassar Clements, one of the more amazing fiddlers ever to walk among us, but also includes major contributions from such giants as Norman Blake (I assume that is his incredible guitar playing on his original "The Old Brown Case"), Jethro Burns and his mandolin are much in evidence and easily identifiable on such swing standards as "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "The 'A' Train, (which is more or less taken over by Vassar on fiddle), but young Sam Bush is also much present in the mix, and even Tut Taylor, who, in addition to adding his unique, flat-picked Dobro sound, also adds some mandolin, though where or when, I am not prepared to say. The ever adventurous Butch Robins plays banjo on some tunes. "Going Home," attributed to Anton Dvorak (!) but arranged by Jethro and Vassar, is here, and Vassar plays it to a fare-thee-well, accompanied on rhythm guitar, I'm assuming, by the multi-talented Jethro, while on the traditional "McKinley's Blues," it is Norman Blake rendering this funky version on guitar with Robins and Tut Taylor on banjo and Dobro respectively, and SOMEBODY sneaking in some mandolin (sounds like Sam Bush first, then Jethro) while Norman sings. It is NOT taken at the familiar bluegrass breakneck tempo. Tut is featured on his own "Oconee" – maybe this is where he plays mandolin, and Holland plays some amazing bass, and Vassar and Holland commune for almost six minutes on the aptly titled – and gorgeous – "Vassar & Dave." I haven't mentioned the seven-minute slab of mass improvisation entitled "Sauerkraut 'N Solar Energy,” but it must be heard to be believed. It ain't bluegrass, folks, but there are plenty of licks here for anybody to incorporate into their playing...
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.