Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, working out at spring training
Friday, February 27th, 2015
Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be
John Fogerty, from his song
Even though the first day of spring does not officially arrive until March 20th, and most of the country (outside of CA) is still freezing or digging out from mountains of snow, it is sunny in the south of Florida and Arizona, where Major League Baseball teams are now, as of the 25th, back at work earning their paltry millions while going through their spring training rituals, playing a kid's game. Hope springs eternal at this time of year, as every team has the same 0-0 record right now, there is excitement about new players and managers, and it won’t be long until we can hear the crack of the bat while enjoying the roar of the crowd. Can the SF Giants win another World Series, even though they lost a big part of their team? Can the Oakland A’s make it to the playoffs even though they traded away practically their entire starting team from last year? These and other questions will be answered in due time. Meanwhile, there is also a lot of great bluegrass and other kinds of music headed this way, so there is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. So start making plans now!
More music and baseball. As anyone that has attended a pro baseball game over the past few years knows, every time hitters come up to bat for the home team a few snippets of music is blasted over the sound system from songs that the batters themselves choose beforehand. And it is usually some screeching heavy metal song that most of the fans have never heard before. It is a very annoying aspect of the modern game, and Scott Ostler, a columnist for the SF Chronicle, offered a great suggestion in his column "Turn back the clock on these sporting trends" on the 26th: "You baseball batters, if you want walk-up music, it’s BYO — bring your own instrument. Banjo, tuba, accordion, whatever. We’ll give you a mike in the on-deck circle and eight seconds."
Jaybirds flying south for winter. With the first day of spring being less than a month away it is a little late for birds from Canada to be flying south for a winter break. But not for
John Reischman and The Jaybirds. They are headed here next week, as they will be playing four dates in Northern California. You can see them at The Palms in Winters on the 5th, The Dance Palace in Pt. Reyes Station on the 6th, at the Arcata Playhouse on the 7th, and at the Little River Inn in Mendocino on the 8th. Be the only one on your block to say that you attended all four shows! And make sure that you scroll down to the bottom of this column to read Randog’s review of one of their CDs.
Attention early birds! CBA members that are planning to buy early bird tickets to attend the 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley on June 14th-17th have until Saturday the 28th to save some cash. Four-day early bird tickets are $110 ($100 for seniors) vs. $125 after that. Some of the bands this year include The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Good Ol’ Persons Reunion, Kentucky Colonels Reunion, The Spinney Brothers, Atkins & Loudermilk, Bluegrass Patriots Reunion, Keith Little & the Little Band, Blue Diamond Strings, Molly Tuttle & Friends, Chris Henry & the Hardcore Grass, and Steep Ravine. Go to the link now!
While his guitar still gently weeps. Attention Brooks Judd, if you are in within earshot: this passage is for you! Wednesday the 25th would have been George Harrison’s 72nd birthday had he not succumbed to cancer in 2001 at age 58. In honor of his birthday, Guitar Player magazine did a nice piece that tells the stories behind ten of his songs that he wrote and performed with the Beatles.
Spared over another year. Speaking of notable birthdays on the 25th, Ralph Stanley – who won a Grammy in 2002 for his rendition of the song “O Death” from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack – turned 88 on the date, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Read an interview with him and watch him perform in this link from the Bluegrass Situation site.
Going down to the river. There have multiple mentions in this column over the past few months about Nashville singer Doug Seegers and his amazing tale of barrooms to homelessness to becoming a country star in, of all places, Sweden. If you want to see what some of the buzz is all about, watch him and his band playing his song “Going Down to the River” here.
Tough to top. Want a real feel-good moment to brighten up your day? Then watch these two very young sisters, Abby and Sarah – who can barely get their arms around two full-sized guitars – singing their rendition of the Jason Mraz song “I’m Yours.” Simply stunning…
Justice served. A few weeks back we wrote about erstwhile British glam-rock star Gary Glitter, age 70, who had been convicted for the third time for sex crimes with children. Gee, do you think this guy is a menace? It looks Paul Gadd (his real name) may now spend the rest of his life in jail. He was sentenced on the 27th to 16 years in the pokey, and with any luck he won’t get to see, or be near, any children ever again. We’ve been railing against this guy for years, along with the fact that sporting arenas around the U.S. have been playing his song "Rock and Roll (Part 2)" (more commonly referred to as “The Hey Song”) for years – even after his first two convictions! – thereby providing Gadd/Glitter with hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties annually, which enabled him to travel the world in search of young prey. Let’s hope this obnoxious song goes away too…
Just for the heck of it. This video of Kristin Andreassen, Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz performing the song “Simmon.”
Learn how to jam. Do you play an acoustic instrument but feel a bit timid about joining a bluegrass jam session? Then consider taking the Bluegrass Jam Class: Beyond the Basics that is now being offered by Bill Evans at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley in two six-week sessions for beginners and more advanced students. It runs from March 10th until April 21st. Bill teaches two sections of this popular jam class: one for newbies at 6:30 p.m., and another for slightly more experienced players and class alumni at 8 p.m. It is open to all bluegrass instrumentalists and singers, and is ideal for high beginner to intermediate players and those wanting to become more comfortable playing with others. $120 is the early bird tuition. Call (510) 644-2020 or email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. On Wednesday the 4th at 8:30 p.m., Bill will also be pickin’ some mighty fine banjer with David Thom's Bluegrass All Stars at Zodiac's in Petaluma.
A trip down memory lane. The late country singer Keith Whitley was a huge fan of even later Lefty Frizzell’s back in the day, and you can watch an interesting video here with Stan Hitchcock doing a reading about their relationship from his book At the Corner of Music Row and Memory Lane.
Like a rhinestone cowboy. The Grammy Awards were given out a few weekends back, and former country star Glen Campbell justifiably won his 6th and final award for Best County Song for his emotionally moving song "I’m Not Gonna Miss You," which he co-wrote and recorded a couple of years ago before Alzheimer’s Disease made him incapacitated. If you have never seen the video, you must watch it right here. At the Oscars last weekend Campbell was nominated in the Best Original Song category, but he did not win. Apparently Tim McGraw sang the song at the show. If you have never seen the documentary titled Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, the good news is that CNN recently purchased the rights to it and the network will be airing the film later this year. However, don’t wait. The CNN version will be filled with commercials from some pharmaceutical monolith. Order the film now from Netflix. And have a carton of tissues nearby when you get ready to watch it. How this was not nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary is way beyond our comprehension…
And the awards just keep on coming. Ben Eldridge, founding member and banjo player in the Seldom Scene, will accept the 2015 Washington Monument Award from the DC Bluegrass Union. Last fall, he and other original members of the band were inducted into IBMA’s Hall of Fame. On Friday the 28th, he’ll receive the award at the organization’s winter festival in Tysons Corner, VA.
Life’s railway to heaven. Bobby Emmons, a legendary Memphis session player and co-writer of hits such as “Luckenbach, Texas” for Waylon Jennings, died in Nashville on the 23rd following an undisclosed illness. He was 72. Jazz trumpet player Clark Terry, who as a musician and bandleader collaborated with artists ranging from Quincy Jones and Duke Ellington to Charles Mingus and Count Basie, died on the 21st following complications from diabetes. He was 94. Leonard Nimoy, the actor known as Mr. Spock from the Star Trek TV series of yore, died on the 27th from "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier." He was 83. Besides acting, he died try to sing some. Listen here to him crooning "I Walk the Line" and here for "Proud Mary." Methinks he should have stuck to acting...
Real good vibes. An orchestra of 7-12-year-olds performing Led Zeppelin songs on xylophones and marimbas? How can you not watch? Take a look here at the Louisville Leopard Percussionists.
John Cowan update. A few weeks back, bassist and vocalist John Cowan, a driving force in the band Newgrass Revival back in day, had a heart attack. Apparently he is on the mend, as this unconfirmed but hopeful post from Facebook (hey, if it is on Facebook, it must be true, right?) attests: “Great news! After rest and a very positive doctor’s visit John, has been given the ‘thumbs up’ for normal activity following a heart procedure more than two weeks ago. John wishes to express his love and appreciation for the incredible outpouring of well wishes received over the weeks since he was forced to cancel two shows while he rested. Both shows will be rescheduled as soon as possible. He looks forward to seeing you on the road with The Doobie Brothers or as the John Cowan Band real soon!”
A night to remember. Adkins and Loudermilk will be performing at A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th.
Del in Marin. The Del McCoury Band will be playing two separate shows on February 28th at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Prepare to stand all night if you go, as they take out tables and chairs for most weekend shows.
Clair in CA. Three-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year
Clair Lynch will be spending a bit of time in the state starting next week, as she has eight dates on her calendar. She will be in Del Mar on the 5th and 6th, Northridge on the 7th, Santa Cruz on the 8th, Chico on the 9th, Winters on the 12th, Berkeley on the 13th, and in Palo Alto on the 14th.
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 Turn Your Radio On, with guest co-host Jacob Groopman pickin’ ‘em and playin’ ‘em.
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. Bluegrass on the Beach 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 in Palo Alto. 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. Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Crary, Evans and Spurgin on April 11th. The CBA Spring Campout in Turlock from April 13th-19th is not to be missed. The final Redwood Bluegrass Associates of the season will feature Della Mae on May 2nd. 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.
The view from Nashvegas. On Fridays a popular regular feature in this column are the CD reviews, commentaries and observations by Randy Pitts, the man in the know in Music City USA, a.k.a. Nashville. Here are two recording reviews.
Randog's Daily Pick 2/21/2015
Reno and Smiley Country Songs
King LP 701
This album is subtitled “Their vocal and instrumental favorites,” but the truth, as far as we can know it, is quite different. Evidently, Don and Red, along with their band The Tennessee Cut-Ups, had showed up at King's recording facility for a scheduled recording session without any new material, and label owner Syd Nathan had suggested that they go through the King catalog and pick out some songs – the ones they picked, not coincidentally, were made up mostly of material that had been successful in the past when recorded by King artists, from Grandpa Jones to The Delmore Brothers, Wayne Raney and others. Nathan was never really enamored of the full bore bluegrass sound – he didn't care for fiddles OR banjos – and he had been quite successful in the past with the twin guitar sound of the great Delmore Brothers. However much weight we might give the three elements conspiring to make this a guitars-only session – lack of new material, Syd's dislike of the traditional bluegrass instrumentation, or a repertoire of songs of which Syd no doubt owned the lion's share of the publishing – a guitars-only session is what transpired. Actually, The Tennessee Cut-Ups’ regular bassist, John Palmer, is also listed as being on the session, along with an "unknown" drummer, but it is Don Reno's amazing lead guitar playing, Red Smiley's rhythm accompaniment, and their vocals that dominate this fascinating and unique recording. There is no evidence whatsoever that the band's great fiddler, Mac Magaha, is even in the studio, nor is there any of Reno's justifiably lauded banjo work. The multi-talented Reno is known to have remarked more than once that he was really a guitar player playing banjo in a band rather than a full-time banjo player, and he goes a long way toward proving it here on this selection of chestnuts. "Freight Train Boogie," "Money, Marbles, and Chalk," "Dark As a Dungeon," "Lonesome Wind Blues," "She Has Forgotten," "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die," "East Bound Freight Train," "Eight More Miles to Louisville," "Charlie Brooks and Nellie Adair," "Mountain Rosa Lee," "Gathering Flowers From the Hillside," and "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome." According to Gary Reid's session notes in the Reno and Smiley King Box Set, Don and Red also recorded an entire album of gospel songs utilizing the twin-guitar format during the same two-day period (October 26 and 27, 1959) that this album was cut, entitled Hymns and Sacred Songs. Oh, and Feb. 21st was Don Reno's birthday. Thanks for Chris Jones on his Truegrass satellite radio show for alerting me to that fact. He features Don's music extensively on the show last weekend.
Randog's Daily Pick 2/26/2015
John Reischman & The Jaybirds Field Guide
Corvus Records CD CR010
Back when my heart was light and my hair was dark – what little I had – and I was freshly arrived in the Bay Area, one of the remarkable features – among many – of the remarkable traditional music scene back then was the amazing number of great mandolinists. On a given night, you might easily be able to see Frank Wakefield, David Grisman, Tom Bekeny, Butch Waller, Mike Marshall and Tiny Moore was just a couple of hours away in Sacramento...and there were lots more...but the guy who in many ways impressed me the most was John Reischman, probably best known outside Northern California for his work with Tony Rice, but known by us back then as the dazzling mandolin player in The Good Ol' Persons. I still fondly remember going to see that band at The Freight one night and being blown away by the fiddle and mandolin virtuosity of Paul Shelasky and John on traditional fiddle tunes after they had been honing them on a road trip for a couple of weeks. John has possessed, since I first heard him, the deep woody tone and ferocity of attack of Bill Monroe and the real bluegrass mando masters and the same ability to execute his ideas that is the trademark of the best jazz improvisers. But, the Persons gradually broke up, and John moved away, all the way to Canada where, luckily for us, he formed The Jaybirds, who produced this amazing album and several others since then. Joined by his buddy from the Bay Area, the rhythmically fierce Jim Nunally on guitar, the compelling and original Nick Hornbuckle on banjo, the fiddling novelist Greg Spatz (he actually has written a novel ABOUT a fiddler, too), and bassist and sterling vocalist Trish Gagnon on bass, John applied his magic to a bunch of traditional songs and tunes, and a few originals, and made one smokin', very special, and unique album. "Lonesome Dove," "She Could Have Loved Him," (a gorgeous Carol Elizabeth Jones original sung gorgeously by Trish), "Holy Jumped Up," a sprightly Reischman original, "Darlin' Nellie," "Say Darlin' Say," "In the Darkest Hour," (a haunting co-write by Trish and John), "Arrowhead" (a Hornbuckle original), Jim Nunally singing his own "Shackled and Chained," "Crooked Man," another Nick Hornbuckle original rendered on mandola by John, along with traditional numbers like "I'm Troubled," "Hop High Ladies," "Little Willy," and "The Train That Carried My Girl From Town," and more. Tim Stafford wrote the liner notes, too, and our old friend Debby (Cotter) Kaspari rendered the avian themed artwork, under the direction of Mr. Reischman. If you get a chance to see this group, by all means do so. But if you can't, then get this CD.
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.