Editor’s note: while the creator and regular author of this column, MOLD Man, wiles away the time in a dark, dank jail cell in Lithuania, retired and erstwhile Almost Daily News writer Larry Carlin (in the photo above) has stepped in to fill the void here a few days each week.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Spring Campout. Everyone is either getting ready for or is already there at The CBA Spring Campout at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock. It started on the 21st and runs through the 27th. It is a great campground with plenty of level ground, RV hookups and shade for tents. The campouts are a bluegrass picker’s dream, and it is wonderful opportunity to enjoy the music. There are no band performances scheduled, just a lot of jamming. A dinner will be served on Saturday evening the 26th. Purchase your tickets ($7) when you check in for camping ($25 per night for RVs, $10 per night for tents). There is no charge for non-campers. If you can volunteer to help out, call David Brace at (209) 534-9284.
Mac in the Country Music Hall of Fame. It took one heck of a long time, but yesterday the legendary bluegrass singer/musician Mac Wiseman was selected as one of this year's invitees for the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Hank Cochran and Ronnie Milsap. Read the story and watch some video here. And make sure that you scroll down to read Randog’s take of the situation.
Hall of Fame voice. As was mentioned here a few weeks back, Linda Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this month, and she recently released a new album titled Duets. She is unable to perform anymore due to a battle with Parkinson’s disease. On the CD she sings songs with Ann Savoy, JD Souther, James Taylor, Don Henley, Aaron Neville and the Bay Area’s Laurie Lewis, just to name a few. I just heard the CD for the first time this past weekend, and I have to tell you, the previously unreleased, a capella duet of the Hazel Dickens song “Pretty Bird” that Linda sings with Laurie is worth the price of admission alone. It is simply stunning. Buy a copy of this CD now!
Strawberry jam. Due to the Rim Fire last summer, the Strawberry Labor Day Weekend Music Festival was canceled, as were plans for Memorial Day this year. Now it looks like there may be some doubts as to this year’s Labor Day Fest. Strawberry needs your help in writing letters and emails to officials in San Francisco. For the latest news, go here.
Milestones. Today is the birthday of two notable scribes: Bay Area bluegrass picker and CBA Welcome Columnist Bruce Campbell, and an obscure Englishman named William Shakespeare, who would have turned 450 today if he were still around. Willie would have been a "welcome" addition to the CBA family. Heck, we wouldn't even have needed a MOLD Man if the Bard were still with us...
Rooney’s musical odyssey. Jim Rooney has done just about everything in the music biz. He has been a producer, songwriter, musician and documentarian. He co-wrote (with the late Eric Von Schmidt) the classic Baby, Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated Story of the Cambridge Folk Years, and he wrote Boss Men: Bill Monroe and Muddy Waters. Now he has an autobiography out titled In It For the Long Run: A Musical Odyssey, and you can read about it here.
Mother Jones in Sebastopol. There is a new one-woman musical by the legendary singer/songwriter and activist, Si Kahn, titled Mother Jones in Heaven, and it will be running from April 24th-May 11th at Main Stage West in Sebastopol. Mary Harris Jones was born in 1830 in County Cork, Ireland. She lost her family to a yellow fever outbreak and her home in the great Chicago fire. She became a labor activist and was given the nickname “Mother Jones.” She was a campaigner for the United Mine Workers Union, and she helped establish the Industrial Workers of the World. For all of her social reform and labor activities, she was considered by the authorities to be “the most dangerous woman in America.” Si Kahn’s songs of family, community, work and freedom have been recorded by more than 100 artists and translated into half a dozen languages, with “Aragon Mill,” “Go To Work On Monday” and “Rubber Blubber Whale” being three of his most well-known efforts.
Bluegrass on the coast. Phil’s Fish Market south of Santa Cruz has been the home for bluegrass Monday through Wednesday nights for many years now. It is a great place to go to have a fish dinner and take in some tunes. On Wednesday the 23rd from 6:30-8:30 you can see/hear the Trail Rides Band.
Pickin’ ‘cue. Folks in the South Bay all know about the great food at Sam's Barbecue in San Jose, where you can also listen to some hot bluegrass on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 6-9 p.m. On the 23rd it will be The Carolyn Sills Combo. No cover.
Bluegrass on tap. High Country – the Bay Area’s longest running bluegrass band, at 40+ years – can be seen playing at the Albany Tap Room on the 23rd from 7-9 p.m. Perfect timing for the adult fans among us...
Tribute to Vern & Ray. Everyone is looking forward to the CBA’s 39th Annual Father’s Day Festival in June, with one of the highlights being Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick’s Tribute to Vern & Ray. Lucky folks in the SF/Bay Area can get a sneak preview of the show this weekend when LL and KK will be playing at Mighty Fine Guitars in Lafayette on Friday the 25th and at the SF Live Arts at Cyprian’s show in San Francisco on the 26th, when the CBA presents A Bluegrass Spring Jubilee featuring Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick Sing the Music of Vern & Ray.
Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer. Below is a rumination along with two more of his reviews.
Randog’s thoughts on yesterday's Country Music Hall of Fame selections:
I bow to no man in my admiration for Mac Wiseman. I've been listening to his music my whole life, and I still collect his classic bluegrass recordings...he made music with Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, AND The Osborne Brothers – don't know how many people who can say that, and anybody who has made music with Molly O'Day and John Prine must have been doing something right all these years. I love Hank Cochran's work too – he wrote many classics as well, and when I see his own recordings, I buy 'em. I think Ronnie Milsap is a prodigious talent who has been rewarded for selling tons of mostly silly records, far below his talents...but moving product has always been, on some level, what it is all about. And I must say that a Country Music Hall of Fame that doesn't include The Stanley Brothers and The Maddox Brothers & Rose will continue to remain, in my mind at least, something of a joke.
Randog's Daily Pick 4/21/2014
Del McCoury I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
First issued on LP in 1968, then again on CD in 1992, this album, which has the distinction of being Del's first album as a leader, was recorded on one of Chris Strachwitz's legendary road recording trips. Chris had first met Del in 1963 when, as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Del had appeared at a couple of concerts in Northern California presented by Chris and his friend Bob Pinson. At the time Del was singing lead and playing guitar with Big Mon. At a show at The Freight and Salvage in the ‘90s,(with Chris in attendance), I heard Del recount Chris' approaching him about doing this album back in 1967. Del said, "Well, I think I'm ready; I've got some ideas about material. When would you want to do it?" He was quite taken back when Chris said "Tomorrow." This is the album, abetted by Chris' friend and Del's Pennsylvania neighbor Tracy Schwarz, that eventuated. It had the distinction of being the best-selling Arhoolie album for at least one year during Del and his sons' ascendancy to bluegrass stardom in the ‘90s, or so Chris told me at the time. It is a fascinating record of Del's sound during an early stage of his development as a leader, as well as a hugely enjoyable album. Del is joined by Bill Emerson on banjo, Billy Baker (who had been a bandmate of Del's with Monroe) on fiddle, Wayne Yates on mandolin, and two bass players, one on each day of the sessions, Tommy Neal and Dewey Renfro. Two songs here, “I'm Coming Back But I Don't Know When” and “Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong,” weren't on the original LP. Otherwise, the songs and tunes present a delightful cross section of old standards, Monroe fare, and Del's take on classic country songs of the ‘50s and ‘60s, such as “Hey Hey Bartender,” and “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On?” Other notable inclusions: “Willie Roy,” “Prisoner's Song,” “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight,” “You're A Flower In The Wildwood.” “Used To Be,” and Del's composition “Dreams.” 14 in all. Tracy's Schwarz' original notes proclaim that – as of 1968 –"Bluegrass seems to flourish mainly in the migrant communities and surrounding areas of Detroit, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Washington, and Baltimore."
Randog's Daily Pick 4/22/2014
George and Earl Better Stop, Look, and Listen
Bear Family CDBCD17121AH
George McCormick was from Tennessee and Earl Aycock was from Mississippi. George liked Hank Williams, Earl liked Carl Smith, and for a brief, glorious period of less than two years, they released some of the finest honky-tonk tinged, rockabillyish records ever made, on the Mercury label. Their most enduring and best known recording, "Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes," is a classic, and has been recorded by the likes of Carl Smith, Bill Monroe, Ray Price, Jim & Jesse, and Vince Gill, but none of these are superior to the original, which features Benny Martin on fiddle, among several topnotch session men of the time (Bob Moore, Ray Edenton, Buddy Harman, and pianists Floyd Cramer or Del Wood were on their Mercury sessions, along with guitarists Chet Atkins and/or Joe Edwards); it was written by Don Helms and Merle Taylor and is made memorable by the hard-edged vocal harmonies of George and Earl as well as the wonderful instrumental work . The other eleven titles are similarly enjoyable. "Save it, Save It!" " Going Steady With The Blues," "Can I," "All You've Given Me Is Heartaches," " "Take A Look At My Darlin," "Cry Baby Cry," “Don't, Don't Don't" (three takes), "Remember and Regret," "Eleven Roses (And The Twelfth Is You)," "Done Gone," and "Better Stop, Look, and Listen," a JD Miller composition, are all wonderful slices of classic honky-tonk country. These guys should have been stars, but alas, that didn't happen. Earl Aycock moved to Texas, did a lot of radio DJ and management work, and more or less faded from the performing scene, while George McCormick maintained a higher profile as harmony singer and guitarist with The Louvin Brothers, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, and played a prominent role as guitarist and singer with Porter Wagoner's Wagon Masters as guitarist and harmony singer – until, according to him, Porter insisted on doing all the duets with Dolly Parton after he saw how popular George and Dolly's duets were becoming – the most popular aspect of Porter's TV show. George went on to work for Billy Grammer; he was onstage with Billy, providing entertainment when Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot, subsequently decided that politics was too rough for him, and left to work for Grandpa Jones for 20 odd years until his retirement in 1996. George's twelve solo recordings prior to the formation of George & Earl are included on the CD as well; he is shown to be a more than credible Hank Williams sound-alike on MGM, the recently deceased Hank's label, where he was brought by Fred Rose, both Hank and George's mentor. Prior to that, he'd worked in the band of Big Jim Bess, whose wife originated the fabled Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, as well as the band of Martha Carson, with whom he toured with Hank Snow and a young Elvis Presley, and also where he met and began performing with Earl Aycock and was likely struck with the commercial possibilities of a more rocking approach to their collaborative sound. A fascinating fellow, close to the center of the action in Music City for many years. This CD is a typically excellent Bear Family resurrection of unjustly forgotten country music of the 1950s, along the lines of their equally outstanding Farmer Boys and Jimmy & Johnny compilations.
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info than you need to know about designated MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, go to his Carltone web site.