Bluegrass

Town Mountain #1606

Town Mountain‘s new album, Southern Crescent, will be out on April Fools’ Day 2016 on Todd Snider’s new record label, Lo Hi. We previously featured this IBMA Award winning band just prior to the release of Leave the Bottle. When we talked for this podcast at Revelator Coffee in Nashville during AmericanaFest, the band had not publicly announced the album and were shopping it around. Southern Crescent reflects the band’s loose, dance-able music, more reflective of their festival and club sets that a staid performing arts center straight-bluegrass set. I’m not sure if the Southern Crescent still runs from Atlanta to Boston like my relatives talked about taking to go “visit culture” in the Northeast, but I’m fairly sure it still runs down to New Orleans, where a more exhilarating culture has endured — an apt analogy for this album.

Town Mountain Southern Crescent is available here on Amazon and iTunes.

Danny Barnes #1524

Danny Barnes returns to Country Fried Rock to discuss his recent accolade, the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Barnes has two distinct audiences: those who know him for playing with bands ranging from Dave Matthews Band to the Butthole Surfers, and those who know him for his songwriting and wide-ranging banjo styles. The term “electronic folk” may have been coined just for him.

Barnes is fascinated by sound, and how incongruous sounds mesh or conflict. From the computer programs he designed to interpret his banjo or bazouki playing to his obsession with noise music and cassettes, Barnes is engrossed by the process as much as the product. This year, he released a special recording for Cassette Store Day on his cassette-label, Minner Bucket Records, and will release a more traditional bluegrass album later. Barnes’ take on “tradition” is anything but traditional, though, so it is guaranteed to be another fascinating investigation of technology and instrumentation.

PODCAST
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Nu-Blu

In our first full season, we featured a bluegrass band from North Carolina, Nu-Blu.

Here’s a new video from their recent homegrown series for y’all!

Buy Nu-Blu’s music h or here on iTunes.

Sour Bridges: EXCLUSIVE Album Stream


Stream the new album from Sour Bridges, Catfish Charlie, exclusively this week on Country Fried Rock!

Missy Raines

We cannot stream it, but here is the link for a free download of Missy Raines new music.

From the press release:
(Nashville, TN) June 18, 2013 – Multi-award-winning bass player Missy Raines has long been one of bluegrass music’s most beloved musicians, but on New Frontier, set for release on August 27th, she explores the next step in her musical vision, redefining herself as a charismatic lead vocalist on a set of songs penned by Pierce Pettis, Sarah Siskind, Ed Snodderly, Zach Bevill (a Country Fried Rock alum with Farewell Drifters) and Raines herself (also a Country Fried Rock alum).

Drawing inspiration from indie rock and acoustic jazz as well as Americana and newgrass, Raines shapes a distinctive sonic landscape around the cool grooves of The New Hip (guitarist/co-producer Ethan Ballinger, mandolinist Jarrod Walker, drummer Josh Fox and Raines’ distinctive upright bass), joined by special guests including Sam Bush, The Farewell Drifters’ Zach Bevill and former New Hip percussionist Robert Crawford.

But the real standout here is Raines’ emotive alto—It’s an unexpected pleasure; smooth in delivery and surprising in context, it is also the defining element of New Frontier. Missy Raines is offering a free download of the title track “New Frontier,” inviting listeners to experience her new sonic vision first hand.

SteelDrivers #1320

How does a band survive when its founder leaves — and their lead vocalist moves on? The SteelDrivers demonstrate their resilience as a band with Hammer Down, their latest album with their current lineup. Bass player, Mike Fleming, shares his own musical path to bluegrass, shaped by The Beatles and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the influences of the other band members that keep The SteelDrivers on the edges of their genre and bring in audiences who otherwise do not care for bluegrass — even attracting such notable fans as Adele.

LINER NOTES

VIDEO

PODCAST
Download here or on iTunes.

Monkeygrass Jug Band


Recorded by Bronson Tew with his mobile Record-o-van at the home of Eli Truett in Winterville, GA.

Mixed by Bronson Tew and Matt Patton at Dial Back Sound, Water Valley, MS.

Cover art by J.C. Teague.

Gospel Plow, Little Maggie, Don’t Ease Me In and Cold Rain and Snow – traditional, arranged by the Monkeygrass Jug Band.

Loretta, Whiskey in the Moonlight, Ramblin Hearted Blues by B. McCoy

Saratoga, Hammer and the Anvil, Odell’s Down Cards by D. Auber

copyright 2013 BMI
credits
released 09 December 2012
Don Auber – guitar, vocal
Brandon Nelson McCoy – mandolin, vocal
Patrick Morales – banjo
Adam Poulin – fiddle
Bronson Tew – upright bass

The Howlin’ Brothers #1313

I met The Howlin’ Brothers in the parking lot at the Family Wash in East Nashville during Americana Music Festival in 2012. I had seen them a couple of times at the Station Inn, and mistakenly thought they were from North Carolina. As we chatted in the parking lot, Ian Craft told me that they had just finished recording a new album that would be released in the Spring of 2013. Happily for The Howlin’ Brothers, their new album, Howl, had some additional support as the band was signed to Brendan Benson’s label, Readymade Records. With Benson’s direction in the studio and his support for their vision with their music, The Howlin’ Brothers have expanded the sounds they bring to their old time music, but have not strayed from who they are. The band still plays Layla’s Bluegrass Inn and the Station Inn regularly, but they are now able to be on the road more and are a treat to see perform live. When you see them, ask them to dance.

Buy Howl from The Howlin’ Brothers digitally HERE on Amazon or HERE on iTunes.

Liner Notes

Country Fried Rock Best of 2012

Click to page 3 to listen to the Best of 2012.

Click the titles to purchase on iTunes.  Click the album covers to purchase on Amazon.

25 The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones – Lincoln Durham

Lincoln Durham started playing violin at age 4 via the Suzuki Method of instruction. By 8, he was hiding on stage facing the wall playing fiddle with the Osceola Opry–a loose association of players who met monthly in an old wooden schoolhouse to cover Hank Williams and Bill Monroe songs for the gathered farmers and country folk. Durham picked up the guitar in his early 20′s, which captivated his interest more than the fiddle ever had. Wandering through a period of singer-songwriter expression, Lincoln still felt pulled by something different in music, but had not been able to define it for himself, let alone have it clearly expressed in music. CONTINUE

24 Michelle Malone: Day 2

This album is currently only available directly from Michelle Malone HERE.
Michelle Malone was part of the Atlanta music scene that evolved from the Indigo Girls’ success, enjoying national attention for the music of Shawn Mullins, Tinsley Ellis, and Drivin N Cryin, with her band at the time, Drag the River. The confluence of blues-tinged Southern music at the time made for an exciting music scene, that was later replaced by the still-dominant hiphop scene. Atlanta is a weird place filled with temporary residents who are not from the area, but it is also a collection of neighborhoods with their own identities and people who are part of the arts culture and give different places their distinct vibes. It is from the latter community that Michelle Malone emerges, not as an ingenue, but as the definition of the Atlanta rock sound–Southern, blues-touched, guitar-driven, but still about the song. CONTINUE

23 Sweat Like the Old Days – Holy Ghost Tent Revival

Holy Ghost Tent Revival took their lowest point in the last five years and used it as a reason to find a new sound and revive their music. It’s not any easier to pigeonhole their work than it was before the departure of their bass player and harmony vocalist, but their music is definitely easier to dance to now than it was before. Despite having almost nothing in common with bluegrass music, they are often lumped in there with old time bands–great for a festival lineup, but inaccurate in categorization. Think of the Avett Brothers with a horn section, and you are much closer to the sound of Holy Ghost Tent Revival. CONTINUE

22 Two Step Silhouette – The Corduroy Road

The Corduroy Road‘s fans sounded alarm bells when the band left their life on the road for a long hiatus, but after nearly an eight-month break, the core of the band emerged with some new players in the lineup, refreshed and ready for the next phase of the band. The Corduroy Road musically balances between Americana and bluegrass in the dance-able area we refer to as “upbeat string band.” Their songs make you move, and you might even miss the weight of some of their lyrics, such as a hunter stumbling upon a meth lab in the woods where the meth-farmer and sheriff are in cahoots. Southern Gothic lyrics to outsiders, perhaps, but just another day in the country to some of us enmeshed in baffling small-town alliances. CONTINUE

21 Death of a Decade – Ha Ha Tonka

Ha Ha Tonka records flow thematically, bound together by a premise or idea, but not so tightly as to be concept albums. Initially, the themes were obvious, like Buckle in the Bible Belt, moving towards historical, as evidenced in the album artwork for Novel Songs of the Nouveau South, but for their recent record, Death of a Decade, the idea that emerged from which these songs began surprised me: Michael Jackson’s death. As Brett Anderson explains, every decade their seems to be some iconic political or entertainment figure who passes away, somehow creating endpoints for their times by their death. Jackson was a controversial figure in life, but even his greatest detractors accede that he was one of the greatest entertainers of our era. With Michael Jackson’s passing, it was the death of a decade. CONTINUE

20 Come Home to Me – The Famous

The Famous bring together a punk influence with traditional country, yielding music that seems to emerge only from California. I always imagine skateboarders who listen to country, not for the irony, but for the cool-factor. In the case of The Famous, though, their music is as much a product of the craft brewing scene as anything else. From brew pubs to brew fests–even a song in homage to their favorite beer–The Famous have found a well-heeled, selective audience for their music in the greater San Francisco Bay region. CONTINUE

19 Waiting All Night – Derek Hoke

Derek Hoke left rock and roll in the dust years ago, finding a new sound, which he dubbed “Quietbilly,” a gentle, sweet rockabilly, now twinged with some Southern blues. His previous album, Goodbye Rock and Roll, clearly cemented Hoke’s distinguishable sound, but his recent release, Waiting All Night, explores a wider variety of rhythm, while still being a Derek Hoke record. Producer and childhood friend, Dexter Green (of Sea Lab Sound), partnered with Hoke on the project, taking their time to call upon friends to play on songs between their own touring schedules. The list of guests reads like a Who’s Who of East Nashville and legendary sidemen, and reflects on Derek’s ability to make his peers feel at ease. CONTINUE

18 Bird In The Tangle – Brett Detar

When Brett Detar ended his band, The Juliana Theory, he was not sure he would ever play music again. Seeking a change, he became the customer service department and chief stain remover for his wife’s vintage clothing shop. Detar fully escaped music, trying to evade his self-doubt about his ability to write songs or be an artist at all. During these years, every scrap of paper of a lyric or theme crammed into a box, waiting for Detar to make them into music. CONTINUE

17 Slowburner – The District Attorneys

The District Attorneys live across north Georgia, ranging from Atlanta to Athens, managing to bridge the musical divide of these very different cities–one that is much wider than the lanes of I-85.  With two homemade EP’s (which you can download for free from the band) and their first full-length record on This Is American Music, The District Attorneys have already refined their sound, bringing bare bones indie-pop together with twangy Georgia roots, as if they are the new representatives of Southern jangle pop.  Slowburner solidly places this band in with the list of best debut albums in roots music this year.  (So, I am biased. I love this record.) CONTINUE

16 Gloryland – Kevin Gordon

Kevin Gordon’s album, Gloryland, explores the blues side of roots music, with lyrics that would make the Drive-By Truckers jealous.  Gordon grew up in Monroe, Louisiana, and although he has been away for decades, the reality of life there and the people he knew bring grit to rural life without glorification.  Glorylandis not about redemption or salvation, and definitely not about glossing over the seamy and sadistic side of life in the deep South. CONTINUE

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#1243 Steep Canyon Rangers

UPDATE:  Nobody Knows You by Steep Canyon Rangers was just nominated for a Grammy Award! Congratulations!

Steep Canyon Rangers forged their way in the traditional music scene from their home state of North Carolina through regular forays into the Rockies and back at their base in the Western North Carolina mountains, putting in over 20,000 hours of hard work along the way.  (Even Bob Lefsetz might approve of their drive.)  Over the years, they have made their own mark within the tight-knit scene, but it was not until they were selected to be Steve Martin’s backing band that their name-recognition expanded beyond Americana, bluegrass, and old time fans.  Add in a whirlwind few years of selected shows in Martin’s support and some hefty awards and honors, and the stringband from Carolina was suddenly time-warped from headliner to sell-out headliner.

Along the way, Steep Canyon Rangers took Martin’s advice and emphasized their strengths.  His encouragement and seeing their ability to “hold their own” in such esteemed company yielded their most clearly defined album.   Highlighting the “Steep Canyon Rangers’ sound” allows them to stand out in a bluegrass or traditional music festival, but also to captivate an audience when sharing the stage with other genres; in fact, that contrast of sounds often produces a better show for both bands.  As a thank you gift for supporting his performances, Martin facilitated a graphic design partnership for Steep Canyon Rangers’ record, Nobody Knows You, for which they just won an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award for packaging design.

Despite their international recognition and recent success, Steep Canyon Rangers continue to support their region of North Carolina. Their festival, Mountain Song, held in Brevard, NC, has raised over $300,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Transylvania County.  The band is taking their knowledge of hosting a great traditional and acoustic music event to another stage this winter, launching the inaugural Mountain Song at Sea cruise (NOTE:  not for the benefit of the charity) in February 2013.  With much the same line-up as their festivals on land, this themed cruise should be quite fun.  (NOTE:  Country Fried Rock is in no way affiliated with the cruise, the band, nor the promotion company behind the cruise.  We receive no advertising, sponsorship, or trade from any of these entities.)

Thanks for Shopping in the Record Shop for This Radio Show:
Steep Canyon Rangers

Steep Canyon Rangers
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin
JD Crowe

J.D. Crowe
The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers
Hot Rize

Hot Rize
New Grass Revival

New Grass Revival
Del McCoury

Del McCoury
Steeldrivers

The SteelDrivers


Country Fried Rock

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#1236 Town Mountain

Town Mountain brings the bluegrass-infused Asheville, North Carolina, music scene into its creative process. In a place where open and invitational bluegrass jams abound, there is little room for slackers, but there is always room for newbies. For a picker who really wants to learn to play from the best, jump in and try to keep up. For the members of the band, they do not join forces with either “side” of the bluegrass camps, and instead write music that appeals to the traditionalist while reflecting what is new and forward-thinking. Town Mountain are Big Tent pickers.

While individuals like Don Reno, Doc Watson, and Earl Scruggs who hailed from the regions made names for themselves, the proliferation of bluegrass jams has spawned many newer players and bands. Steep Canyon Rangers have made international headlines since 2009 when they joined Steve Martin as his “official back-up band,” but many other old-time and bluegrass peers, like Town Mountain, Red June, Balsam Range, and Dehlia Low, bring fresh ideas to the saturated Western North Carolina sounds. Jesse Langlais of Town Mountain sought out this rich musical haven, to hone his skills and make music his life.

With their most recent studio record, Leave the Bottle, Town Mountain keeps their recordings close to their live sound, while incorporating the process as part of the art. For them, this yields an “80% live” album. The band share writing responsibilities, not as a group, but as individuals who then bring some of their songs to the Town Mountain project. By allowing for the freedom to pursue solo projects and other permutations, Town Mountain never gets stale for its members, rather, it’s a refreshing return to a product that is more than the sum of its parts. townmountain.netYour purchase of these songs supports the musicians and this radio show:

Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival

Near Greer, SC

I don’t know Glynn Zeigler, AKA Ziggy, but I want to.  He puts on an amazing music event in his own (lovely) backyard in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Gentle foothills, tall trees, perfectly customized old buses, tree swings, toy horse parade, hula hoop stash, grounded houseboat…and that’s just where the children played!  Zeigler’s humor and pleasure shine through both the venue and the music.  I loved the little touches of the mercantile, the coffee stand near the “green room,” that backside of the “barn” for the stage, the false silo, the disco ball hanging from a tree, tractor tire wheel hubs for fire pits, and the fantastic outdoor loo wallpapered with show posters, many signed by cult heroes like Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush, & Elizabeth Cook.

We were not able to attend Friday’s festivities, or “Festavull!!!” as Ziggy encourages the crowd to holler, but Saturday alone was worth the 3 hour drive.  We missed Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Donna Ulisse, Narrow Gauge Bluegrass Band, Audrey Auld, the Bent Strings, the Red Hot Poker Dots, Sol Driven Train, O Mello Cello Tree.  We arrived mid-afternoon Saturday, missing the first few acts, but due to a minor communication error, our favorite (since Americana 2010) band, 18 South, was just loading in for their first set.  With six members, sound check can take a few minutes–thankfully!  We set up our backpack-chairs under the trees, not too close to the fire pits, about 25 yards from the stage.  I jokingly commented that I’d never seen so many tie-dyed shirts at a bluegrass festival before.

The people respectfully listened, attentive and polite, early in the day, but as the weather cooled and the stage heated up, adults joined the children dancing beside the stage, some couples two-stepped and shagged, or just improvised the pretzel, or moved with the music in the makeshift aisles or in their seats.  Many others have reviewed Skunkfest itself, with beautiful detail, but I cannot omit my own response to the perfect music festival before jumping into the performances themselves!

I caught 18 South for the first time at Americana 2010, at a fantastic showcase night at the Station Inn.  Mike Bub leads this collection of talented musicians, who got together in between other gigs as leads and supporters for others within Nashville’s country music scene.  We hope to chat with Mike soon for a full Country Fried Rock interview.  18 South brought us to Albino Skunk Fest, but the other bands kept us there–thrilled.  Their second set later in the evening brought out the soulful depth of Jessie’s voice, and their tribute to Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” honored both the song as well as that band’s recent loss.  At Americana, Jimmy Wallace played his tribute to the Peanuts cartoon character, Linus, and one to Franklin on this night.  I like this vibrant homage so much that I bought the CD on the spot and listened to it all the way home on Sunday!

Elizabeth Cook’s second set showed a more relaxed side to the veteran performer, especially when her daddy–a former moonshiner who did time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, father to 11 children, patriarch of their vaudeville-style country touring musical family–Tom Cook, charmed the audience by telling a joke and singing.  Later, Tim Carroll  played a couple of tunes, and Elizabeth donned white clogging shoes and danced for one of them. In case you’ve never caught her radio show, her twang is real.  I think Reese Witherspoon copied Cook’s delivery of,”Thank you very much,” following each song for the Walk the Line film.

The closest to traditional bluegrass of the evening was Athens, Georgia’s Packway Handle Band.  Their encore amid the audience, standing under the trees, surrounded by clapping attendees, and final gospel number by camera-light made their “extended play” set worth the wait (see earlier mention of a communication error in scheduling).  Rather than rush the guys through their backstage pork chops, we decided to reschedule and are looking forward to our full conversation with Josh in an upcoming post.  Frankly, I was surprised they came over from Athens on UGA’s homecoming weekend, but they had plenty of time to get back to *that* music mecca for a late night show.

Disclaimer & apology:  during the sets for the Sweetback Sisters and the Steel Wheels, the CFR team was chasing the children we brought with us and trying to get them to stop playing and dancing and singing long enough to drink some water and eat something.  Following 18 South’s 2nd set, the children were worn out & the hotel was calling.  We truly missed the chance to hear everyone, but given that all the children slept on the entire 3 hour drive home after a full night’s sleep, we agree that they must have had a marvelous time!

Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival is sponsored in part by WNCW.org.  We highly recommend listening to their station online, especially for their strong features of both Americana & bluegrass music.

My only complaint is that the fabulous people of Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe in nearby Greenville ran out of their delicious grilled corn on the cob, so instead we ate fresh kettle corn as our vegetable with supper.  (Egad!)

The Twitter feed from #skunkfest until my battery died, oldest at the bottom:

CountryFriedRok fm bill monroe to jimmy martin #skunkfest #bluegrass serious pickin
CountryFriedRok forget charlie daniels, this dude can saw a fiddle @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok i wanna host smth this cool when i grow up #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle gettin priorities straight #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok takin requests fm other bands @packwayhandle #skunkfest just walk on in
CountryFriedRok upside down mandolin @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 4 part harmony kickin @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle josh’s voice is so low! got that twang y’all! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle fm #athens #ga playing #skunkfest can’t believe they’re missin homecoming

CountryFriedRok electrified disco ball in the tree #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok ppl next to me brought a sofa out here #skunkfest feels like college
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle fixin to play #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok kettlecorn for supper! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok smileys acoustic cafe =yum n grt ppl #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok little kids doing karaoke to bear necessities #skunkfest #back40

CountryFriedRok a capella awesome @steelwheels #skunkfest
serious pickin fm @steelwheels #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok steelwheels are great too #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok lightning mcqueen just told me he’s the new cfr mgr #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok steel wheels up next #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok hanging w josh fm @packwayhandle #skunkfest

CountryFriedRok i feel the burden #gospel 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok most tiedye i’ve ever seen at a #bluegrass fest #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok circles billy preston 18south #skunkfest rockin
CountryFriedRok 18 south sittin on top of the world to #freebird lol #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18south still my favorite band #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok sittin on top of the world to stairway to heaven and fleetwoodmac 18south #skunkfest

CountryFriedRok #skunkfest very family friendly great vibe awesome location weather perfect 18south
CountryFriedRok mike bub jammin 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok lightning mcqueen already filled a memory card 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18south bluesky allmans riff #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok i wanna live here! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18 south at #skunkfest kickin tail n takin names!