Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin
Friday, July 25, 2014
Hello, weekend! It has been one heck of a busy week here at the MOLD World Headquarters Satellite Annex in San Francisco. With so much turmoil and strife going on in the world -- airplanes crashing or being shot down, adversaries firing rockets at one another (and we're not talking about the spat between siblings Kim and Kloe Kardashian)(maybe Secretary of State John Kerry can step in to mediate once he achieves peace in the Middle East), the whereabouts of Casey Kasem's remains, the LA Dodgers coming into town for a three-game series -- it is hard sometimes to concentrate on music news. But that is what we are being paid the big money to do, so turn off the boob tube, tune into some bluegrass radio shows, get out and see some live music, or get together with friends to pick some. These are sure cures for the summertime blues...
Catch the Drifters. Last night in SF I had the pleasure of seeing the Cache Valley Drifters play, as they are gigging again after first getting together some 40 years ago. They are just a trio these days, with guitar, mandolin and electric bass, but man can these guys sing and pick. I first saw them perform at the Great American Music Hall in the city in 1979 or so, and I was inspired then, and even more so now. As an added bonus, at the show at the Chapel in SF former Drifter -- and current Marin County banjo player -- Gary Kaye sat in on most of the second set. They are not a bluegrass band, nor do they profess to be. But their vocals are some of the best that I have heard in many years. You can see them on the 25th at The Strum Shop in Roseville (Sacramento area), and on the 26th at Slade's House Concert Series in Pioneer in Gold Country.
J.D.'s cook book. It has been mentioned here and a few places elsewhere on this site a few times before. But it is worth mentioning again because time is running out and, short of a Warren or Jimmy Buffett stepping forward to help out, the goal will not be reached. There is a Kickstarter fundraising project to help raise money to publish J.D.’s Bluegrass Kitchen: Comfort Food the California Bluegrass Way, by longtime CBA board member and bluegrass ambassador J.D. Rhynes. Click on the link to find out all about it, and please consider contributing to the campaign. As it says on the site, “After production costs are recouped, sales of J.D.'s Bluegrass Kitchen will be a perennial source of fundraising power for the California Bluegrass Association.”
Names in the news. Rare is the time when a CBA Board candidate gets their name into Leah Garchik’s gossip column in the San Francisco Chronicle, and fortunately is has nothing to do with plagiarism or a sex scandal. Here is what was seen in Wednesday’s fishwrap: “A guitarist (editor’s note: it was David Grier) here from Nashville for a performance at Freight & Salvage earlier this month stopped for lunch in Berkeley. About 45 minutes later, he came back to find the trunk of his rental car open. ‘Horrified,’ said Maria Nadauld, ‘he rushed to the car to see about his suitcase, computer and vintage Martin guitar.’ Everything was still there. Unfamiliar with the car, he'd pushed the open trunk button when he intended to lock it.” The words “yikes!” and “whew!” were probably uttered somewhere along the way…
Fiddle star of the future. More news from Maria Nadauld, about her daughter/fiddling champ Megan Lynch’s Fiddlestar fiddle camp: “Tuesday the 22nd was the last day of Megan (and husband Adam) B. Lynch Chowning’s Fiddlestar Youth Fiddle/Guitar Camp in Nashville. One of the students (there are 18 total) – 16-year-old Justin Sherfey of Spokane, WA – won the Junior Division at Weiser last month and also won the first ever Swing Division Championship at Weiser. Megan arranged for Justin to guest with the world famous Time Jumpers at 3rd and Lindsley on Monday night. See the performance here. Note the Vince Gill guitar solo. Great times at Fiddlestar Camp.”
Playing to pay. You’ve heard the term “pay to play” before, but here is a real twist on the saying: renowned Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, now in his 70s, is now having to play in order to pay for his medical bills. Last year he had a spinal abscess, which required a long hospitalization. During the abscess surgery, doctors also found bladder cancer and were forced to do more surgery. Read more here.
A real jam buster. At late night jams at bluegrass festivals there are some instruments that are not usually welcomed warmly (if at all) by the pickers. Drums of any sort, spoons, shakers, didgeridoos, etc., are given the cold shoulder. Imagine the looks on the faces of jammers if one of these were to walk into camp...
Hot news. From that great bluegrass publication, Esquire, comes this news and a link to a new song by Hot Rize: “After 24 years away, legendary bluegrass quartet Hot Rize is back in the saddle, announcing a new album, When I'm Free, out September 30th. Hailed by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) as ‘the connective tissue that links the great founders of bluegrass with the modern tradition,’ Hot Rize started in 1978 and have picked up where they left off after disbanding at the peak of their fame in 1990. Featuring three of the original members, they've added Grammy winner Bryan Sutton on guitar to replace Charles Sawtelle, who passed away in 2002. Listen to ‘Blue Is Fallin',’ the first track off When I'm Free, right here (at the link above), and get ready to see Hot Rize live on what they promise will be a ‘massive tour.’" They will be one of the featured acts at the Strawberry Music Festival in September.
Going Goofy. Even though it doesn’t start for another two weeks, it is time to be thinking about the Good Old Fashioned Festival outside of Hollister which will run from August 7th-10th. Some of the fine CA bands that you can see there are 27strings, Abbott Brothers, Bean Creek, Brookdale Bluegrass Band, Courthouse Ramblers, Faux Renwah, Grassfire, Highway One, Houston Jones, Pearly Blue, Rainy Day Ramblers, Red Dog Ash, Rogue River, Rhythm Roundup, Sidesaddle & Co, Steep Ravine, and Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band.
Dead again. The annual Dead on the Creek festival will be happening near Willits on August 8th-11th. See The Tuttles with AJ Lee, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Front Country, The Carper Family, plus Melvin Seals & JGB, Stu Allen & Mars Hotel, Todd Snider w/Great American Taxi, and others.
Marty's headed west. Last week we wrote about Marty Stuart's collection of photographs that are on display from now until November 2nd in a show called American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives will be playing in CA in October. Plan ahead now to see them either in West Hollywood on the 15th, Ridgecrest on the 16th, Fresno on the 17th, Trinidad on the 18th, Folsom on the 22nd, Berkeley on the 23rd, Modesto on the 24th, or in Bakersfield on the 25th.
Mighty fine music. There is a great little venue in the town of Lafayette called Mighty Fine Guitars that is owned and operated by Stevie Coyle, one of the founding members of The Waybacks. Stevie left the band a few years back to open up his guitar shop, and he and the owners of Lamorinda Music also built a small listening room in the back that seats about 75 people. There are shows there almost every weekend, and on Saturday the 26th at 8 p.m. Walter Strauss will perform, followed by Doug Adamz on August 2nd.
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 26th from 6:30-8 p.m. This week’s show is titled Time Changes Everything, the final in a three-part survey of bluegrass songs about time.
Music calendars. Sure, 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 event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.
Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable CD reviewer and commentator. Here are two new CD reviews:
Randog's Daily Pick 7/23/2014
Mac Wiseman The Lost Album 1964
Music Mill CD-MME 70038-2
This album, according to the liner notes, was slated to be the follow up to Mac's first Capitol album, the artistically and commercially successful Bluegrass Favorites By Master Folk Singer Mac Wiseman, but something happened on the way to the pressing plant – namely, The Beatles. The Capitol pressing plants' inability to keep up with the demands of the hit making moptops AND the release schedule of suddenly less vital artists on their roster led to the defection of, among others, Faron Young and Mac. Four of the cuts here first saw the light of day on this CD in 2003, when Mac was marking his 60th year in the music business. Since then, he has made new recordings with John Prine and Merle Haggard, and this year, his 71st in the biz, he was elected to membership in The Country Music Hall Of Fame. Although Capitol's idea of production of bluegrass might not mesh perfectly with those of some bluegrass purists – the banjo is a little too pluckapluck jaunty and less driving than some would like, there is, mostly unobtrusively, percussion here. Charlie McCoy's harmonica , tasteful though it is, might not be to everyone's taste, and some would question the need for Marion Worth's added vocals on three cuts – Mac is in great voice. His warm and fuzzy, slightly melancholy voice has never been recorded better, and Josh Graves' dobro is a welcome touch. "Mother Knows Best," a neglected classic from the pen of Marty Robbins, is my favorite cut, and there are eleven more, including "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose," "Sweet Summers Gone Away," "They're All Goin' Home But One," "Dark Hollow," "If I Could Live That Way," "Bluegrass Music's Really Gone To Town," "Old Pair Of Shoes," "The Mole," "Katie Waits For Me," "Brother Joe," and "Brush It Off."
Randog's Daily Pick 7/24/2014
Vassar Clements Livin' With The Blues
Acoustic Disc ACD-66
This all-blues album featuring the great Vassar Clements with various and sundry blues artists was recorded in 2004, and it displays his feeling for the blues as perhaps no other album has. His deep, woody tone was perfect for the blues, as was his flair for endlessly inventive improvisation; both qualities are much in evidence on this album. Vassar plays with artists as diverse as Roy Rogers, Maria Muldaur, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Bob Brozman, and my friend, the criminally under-recorded Marc Silber. (Check out Marc, along with Vassar and Maria Muldaur, on a number best known from Doc Watson, "Honey Babe Blues.") There's also a lot of the late Bob Brozman here; he and Vassar seemed to be particularly sympatico. Vassar, of course, was inimitable, and completely at home in any number of settings. He played for a long time with Bill Monroe's Blue grass Boys, and also made landmark recordings with Jim & Jesse, Old & In The Way, The Earl Scruggs Revue and the Aeroplane album with John Hartford. He was the glue that held together the great Hillbilly Jazz album from the ‘70s – that's him on fiddle on "Panhandle Rag," along with David Bromberg and Doug Jernigan; the cut has been Tom Diamant's radio show theme song for lo these many years. Vassar's adventurous approach to the art of improvisation was not favored by all in the bluegrass community, but he was always a favorite among forward looking musicians and fans, and the reasons for that are on full display on this album, made only a year before he died. Songs and tunes include Skip James' "Cypress Grove," “Dirty Drawers.” "Mambo Boogie,” Robert Johnson's "Phonograph Blues," with Roy Rogers, "Green Onions," "Rube's Blues," "Dead Cats On The Line," "That's My Thing," "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning," "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle," "Mama I'm All Out And Down," (with Marc Silber on 12-string guitar), “Fiddlin' & Faddlin," (a cool instrumental with Bob Brozman), "Cool Drink Of Water," (Brozman again), and "Don't Stand Behind A Mule." Matt Glaser evokes the names of great jazz, blues, and r&b fiddlers Stuff Smith, Sugarcane Harris, and Claude Williams in his liner notes, and Vassar's playing on this – and other albums – stands easily alongside their best work.
Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.