Monday, June 29th, 2015
All the good times are past and gone
All the good times are o'er
All the good times are past and gone
Little darling don't weep no more
From the song “All the Good Times Are Past and Gone,” sung here by Lester Flatt.
All the good times are indeed past and gone. At least, they are until next June. The 40th Annual CBA Father’s Day Festival on the 18th-21st in Grass Valley was one great event, as anyone that was there can attest to. The Carltone staff was only there from Thursday to Sunday, and almost one week later we’re all still groggy and sleep deprived, which is proof positive that too much fun was had. Wonderful weather, great bands, good friends, endless jamming…it was a win/win/win/etc., any way you look at it. One of the highlights for me was the after-hours jaw-wagging session in Camp Carltone listening to longtime bluegrass sages Artie Rose and Randy (Randog) Pitts swapping bluegrass war stories. Man, I should have had the iPhone recorder running for this! For a more detailed description of the festival, make sure you scroll down below to Randog’s well written review. And beaucoup kudos to the entire CBA staff and all of the volunteers that made the fest a grand success!
Mando madness. One of the highlights of the fest was the “Mandolin Madness” workshop on Saturday afternoon that was hosted by Paul Knight. It included Butch Waller, Ed Neff, David Grisman, Roland White, Mike Compton, and Casey Henry. If you were there, you saw something really special, perhaps the best workshop ever at Grass Valley. If you weren’t there, then here is what you missed.
Kids On Bluegrass. The CBA has a wonderful program, run by Frank Solivan, Sr., called Kids On Bluegrass. Seemingly every year I end up camping within earshot of where the youngsters meet and practice while at the festival, and it is a joy to behold to see and hear the kids playing “Old Joe Clark” and “Red Haired Boy.” At the same time, I am a little partial to one young picker in particular, and he is a 12-year-old lad named Andrew Osborn, son of Marin County fiddler Joe Osborn. While he was unable to attend the KOB camp last week, he did take a session with Sam Grisman at recent Walker Music. While Andrew initially studied trombone in school, his first attempt at playing a standup bass was at the Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival in Hollister last August. Then, at a music party over the holiday season, I was playing my bass in a jam when dad Joe asked me if Andrew could try playing for a bit. I was happy to let him have a shot, and he did a commendable job even though he did not know most of the songs (it probably helped that I stood by and whispered the chord changes in his ear). Now, less than a year later, Andrew is playing the bass like a grizzled old veteran. While jamming in Camp Carltone last Friday night he was on top of every song, picking up chord changes by ear, and thumping away on the doghouse with quiet confidence. If he keeps at it, he is really going to be quite the player. Like now-grown-up kids Frank Solivan, Jr., Annie Staninec, and Molly Tuttle, the betting here is that in a few years people will be talking about Andrew Osborn and how they remember seeing him play way back when…
Cooking with JD. Another special treat at the fest was the official release of JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen: Comfort Food the California Bluegrass Way by longstanding bluegrass ambassador JD Rhynes. JD has been contributing his recipes to the CBA Breakdown for many years, and San Francisco CBA VP Ted Kuster got the idea a year or so back to put together a collection of the recipes in a book, with the proceeds benefiting the CBA. He set up a Kickstarter campaign, and in short order raised the $10,000 that was needed to put the book together. It also includes a CD with all of the songs being about food, with such notable artists as Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Megan Lynch Chowning, David Thom, Russell Moore, LeRoy Mack McNees, 35 Years of Trouble, and Ron Thomason & Heidi Clare contributing tunes. If you did not join the Kickstarter project, you can now purchase your own copy of the book. While soon there will be an Amazon link established, in the meantime just send an email to Rick Cornish at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will tell you how to get the book.
The voice of the Opry. Eddie Stubbs, the erstwhile fiddle player in The Johnson Mountain Boys and, for the past 20 years, the announcer on the Grand Ol’ Opry, celebrated two decades of introducing bands last weekend. He has also had an evening radio show on WSM for almost as long, as he will mark 19 years of doing the show on July 8th. Read about him here.
Unlimited Megan. If you are a subscriber of Bluegrass Unlimited, then you already know that native Bay Area fiddler Megan Lynch Chowning is featured in the June issue in a story titled “The Far Reaching Impact of One Woman and One Fiddle.” While the piece is not available in the on-line edition, you can read the cover story about The Gibson Brothers here on the Interweb.
The Three Pickers. Most bluegrass fans either have – or at least know about – The Three Pickers recording from 2003 that features Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs. But did you also know that there is a video available on line that you can watch for free right here?
Nashville songbird. Okay, a show of hands here: how many of you have ever heard of Andrea Zonn? Well, it is about time you did. She was national fiddling champ in her teens, the same time she won a prestige violin fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival. She has toured with Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, Trisha Yearwood, and is currently with James Taylor. In 1990 she was with the short-lived supergroup The Big Dogs (with Tony Triska, David Grier, Harley Allen, and Debbie Nims), and they put out one of the finest live bluegrass albums ever titled Live at the Birchmere. And Andrea has one of the prettiest voices around. She has a brand new CD coming out titled Rise, and you can read all about it here.
Musicians, watch your back! And, apparently, what you wear. Three Sacramento rock musicians were viciously attacked on the street by a man with a knife on the 21st, supposedly for wearing tight-fitting jeans. While no one was killed, two of the players were cut pretty bad.
Now and then. Newspaper and gossip websites love to run old and new photos of actors, singers, musicians, etc., because, according to their way of thinking, most of us lead boring and dreary lives, and it gives us perverse joy to see how the rich and famous have aged over the years. (Do not, however, look into a mirror anytime soon, to see if you have changed any in the past two decades!) All of this being said, here at the MOLD we don’t want you to feel left out, so here is a batch of photos showing how some of your favorite country music stars have aged in the past 20 years. There are a lot of hats and tons of makeup, but you’ll get the picture…
Breathing easier. Over the past year or so we’ve been updating you on Chico bluegrass picker Richard Wodrich’s ordeal of waiting for and eventually getting a lung transplant. He finally got new lungs a few months back, but this is hardly the end of the story. There have been occasional complications as well as return trips to the hospital. His Giveforward fundraising campaign has raised a good bit of money to help defray out of pocket costs, but there is still a way to go to reach the ultimate goal. Read his wife Marci’s most recent update about the situation here.
Texas good Guy. Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame last weekend, but he wasn't there to receive the award. Earlier in the day he had flown in from Nashville, but he collapsed before the show began and was taken to the hospital for tests. Latest reports have him felling much better. If you are a fan or want to know more about him, read this in-depth story about him from 2014 in the Texas Monthly. Thanks to reader Linda Rust to the TM link.
Life’s railway to heaven. Academy Award winning film composer James Horner, who did the scores to Titanic, Braveheart and Field of Dreams, died in a small plane crash on the 22nd. He was 61. Gunther Schuller, a composer, conductor and author who synthesized jazz and classical music, died on the 21st in Boston at age 89.
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 July 4th from 6:30-8 p.m. for shows titled Ramblin’ On My Mind.
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 is his take on the recent CBA Fest.
Reflections on the California Bluegrass Association's 2015 Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, CA, over Father’s Day Weekend
Many of my favorite happenings at Grass Valley this year inevitably involved old friends, naturally enough. I've been attending the festival since 1977, and have made more of 'em than I've missed through the years, so I've made a lot of friends on the site of the festival. But I was particularly struck by the number of exceptional music moments that involved the CHILDREN of old friends, as well as other musicians from the younger generation, which bodes well indeed for the future of the music the CBA has nurtured for the past 40 years. Allegra Thompson, for instance, the daughter of old friends and longtime Northern California favorites Eric and Suzy Thompson, who appeared with her band The Bearcat String Band on the Vern’s Stage. She performed with poise and grace – and she sang three Jimmy Martin songs! Warmed the cockles of my heart. Eric and Suzy also appeared with their own Blue Diamond Strings, which included four other old friends, Kate Brislin, Jody Stecher, the inestimable and unflappable Paul Knight, and the great Paul Shelasky. Their sets evoked the spirits of musicians as various as Memphis Minnie, Jean Ritchie, Utah Philips, and Bill Monroe, among many others. AND, Jody named a tune after a joke I once told him involving a diesel fitter in a pantyhose factory, a proud musical moment for me indeed, diminished not in the least by Shelasky's insistence that he'd kicked the slats out of his cradle the first time he heard it. Paul, of course, took part in the wonderful Good Ol' Persons reunion, which also featured Bethany Sorkey, Kathy Kallick, John Reischman, Sally Van Meter, a guest appearance by Beth Weil, and frequent twin fiddling forays between Paul and Annie Staninec (my favorite fiddle player these days). The unabashed joy between them when they join forces might most aptly be described as "Idiot Glee," which is, incidentally, an instrumental written by Darol Anger, I believe. Paul's demonstration – I think – of “The Curly Shuffle” was also memorable. I'm also told that the band reprised Paul's early hit "The Rutabaga Boogie" in an epic, even epochal version. But yes, sadly, I missed it, having gotten caught up in a conversation with another old friend somewhere about something. Nonetheless, the two complete sets I DID see were both smokin' and evocative; the GOPs were a landmark band in the history of Northern California bluegrass, and they can certainly still bring it any time they get together. Molly Tuttle and her young cohorts, including Samson Grisman – yes, David's son – and Jon Mailander played two remarkable sets which included Molly's originals and interpretations of songs by Hazel Dickens, Keith Whitley, and Townes Van Zandt, as well as her instrumental wizardry on banjo (bluegrass and clawhammer) and guitar (clawhammer, cross-picked, and bluegrass). I'm perpetually amazed at that young lady, whose parents, Maureen and Jack, are old friends. My young multi-talented friend Patrick Sauber, to whom I am wont to refer as "the young man with old ideas," acquitted himself admirably as the guitarist entrusted with the Clarence parts in The Kentucky Colonels Reunion band, expressing the decidedly progressive approach that the late Clarence White brought to bluegrass many years ago and which remain unsurpassed. The other Kentucky Colonels were California greats Leroy Mack McNees, Herb Pedersen, Roland White, and Roger Bush. Patrick's dad Tom Sauber, incidentally, is one of the finest old-time players in the state, and I've seen him play a lot, at Grass Valley and elsewhere, through the years. Chris Henry, son of Murphy and Red Henry (and brother of Casey and great nephew of John Hedgecoth, who played with Vern and Ray a long time ago), played mandolin with his own young group Hardcore Bluegrass and also did an outstanding job with The Vern Williams Reunion Band, which joyously evoked the memory of the great Vern himself. The band included Vern alumni Sue Averill (outstanding!) on bass, Vern's son Delbert, Keith Little, and the legendary Ed Neff on fiddle. Loved every minute of this band's sets. I haven't even touched on The Jump Steady Boys, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, The Spinney Brothers, or several others bands that were there, but the old ukranium is beginning to throb from all this thinkeration, and I must be headed back to the porch (not really). More later, perhaps...
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 Lake Tahoe Bluegrass Festival on July 11th will feature The David Grisman Sextet, Greensky Bluegrass, The Earls of Leicester, The Del McCoury Band, and more. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally will be sharing the stage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on July 11th. On July 12th at Sonoma State University it will be the Dawg Day Afternoon Bluegrass Festival featuring The David Grisman Sextet, The Del McCoury Band, and The Earls of Leicester. The Bowers Mansion Festival in Reno, NV, with Blue Highway as the headliner, will be celebrating 30 years on August 14th-16th. Down San Diego way the 13th Annual Summergrass Festival on August 14th-16th will have The Boxcars, Sideline, Bluegrass Etc., High Mountain Road and much more. The CBA’s Golden Old-Time Campout is the place to be from August 27th-30th at Lake Solomon in Sonoma County. Go to all of the links for complete info listings. The Strawberry Music Festival is moving to yet another location in Tuolumne County over Labor Day Weekend September 3rd-7th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is set for October 3rd-5th.
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.