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Continued...

Of course it should go without saying that they will call you up on the phone during your air time on the radio and if that's not enough, they'll attempt to stack the deck with about a dozen of their friends all requesting the same song – as if we'd think somehow that would indicate the song is popular and we'd better play it if we want to satisfy our audience.

So the question becomes how to handle these things when you're on the broadcaster side. My policy has always been “honesty and candor”. I've always felt that the artist and/or band's fans are the ones that need to tell them how great the music is. That's not the broadcaster's job. But in reality it seems as if that is what they want to hear and that is the only thing they want to hear.

Honesty and candor haven't always generated the results I expect when using those tools in cases like this. In spite of what the person may say, they really don't want to hear the real reason broadcaster's don't play their music.

I don't want to go into all the selection criteria used to decide who get's played on the air and who doesn't as that would take a minimum of a college semester course just to cover the basics and another two or three semesters to go over all of the scientific analysis methods. But let's just agree that there is a selection and not everyone can make the cut.

I sometimes wonder if broadcasters held a public forum similar to the NFL draft and put up all the contenders and then announced the first and second round picks to the audience, would that help those who don't make it to understand maybe even a little bit of the fierceness of the competition and why they don't make the grade.

In two different surveys, one with a large number of broadcasters and another with a large number of bluegrass musicians, I asked the questions, “How do you handle telling the artists that they won't be played?”, or conversely, “How do you want to be told that your music doesn't stand up and won't be played?”

In both cases, HONESTY and TRUTH rang out at 100 percent. Absolutely no one said they'd like to hear anything less. However in my experiences when actually dealing with the reality, I think the survey respondents are not being honest with themselves. At least in the case of the artists. I don't know any broadcasters that really want to lie to the artists and tell them the music is good when it isn't. But I have heard numerous horror stories about the backlash when the DJ is honest and the artist didn't agree with the opinion.

In almost every case when I've been up front and honest that the music (in my learned opinion) doesn't meet the selection criteria, I've damaged the artist/broadcaster relationship. Even though some will be congenial at the time, it's the months and years after that tell the real tale.

That's why I'm adopting a new policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. If you don't ask me how I like your music, I won't tell you something you're not prepared to hear.

Thank You!
Brian McNeal
Prescription Bluegrass Media

Harmony Road
Today's column from Regina Bartlett
Friday, July 25, 2014


Well welcome and howdy to all you travelers out on Harmony Road. So many festivals happening now. Physically, I can’t do them all. I have to pace myself just to go to the festivals that I'm committed to. So I've been taking care of things like the annual doctor and dentist appointments and things around the house and garden. I realized that there’s no place like home and living in Santa Cruz is just fine with me. We have great weather and beaches and redwoods and there’s always music happening and many cultural events to attend.

Recently, I went to a Japanese Obon Festival at the nearby Watsonville Buddhist Temple. There were 2 women playing Koto which sounded like a dulcimer to me and with very beautiful melodies. Then there were the Taiko drummers who pounded out stories and rhythms just through their drumming. It was very exciting and dramatic. Beautiful women dressed in Kimonos and men dressed in happy coats danced around a decorated pavillon and honored past generations and people who had recently passed. How unique to remember someone thru a dance or a song. Then out of no where Elvis Presley is singing Heartbreak Hotel. The announcer said that they wanted to bring into the dancing more young people so they were changing the music. When they put Lady Gaga on, I got up and left. That’s not tradition is what I was thinking…

Awhile back at the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival, I met a young man Ryan McKinley and his parents, Lisa & Kelly. He can play the fiddle really well and he’s going to help me out at the Good Old Fashioned Festival. He’s been touring the East Coast with the Jug Tucker Bluegrass band out of North Carolina.

Amaya Rose Dempsey is also going to assist with the Kids on Stage and will also perform. Amaya has been part of the CBA Kids on Bluegrass for many years and has grown into quite a musician. She plays fiddle, guitar and dances and sings. Here’s a video of her on You Tube: http://youtu.be/1gANTmkCslM
She connected with Crystal Gayle at the MidState Fair last week.

It’s always exciting to think who will be there for the GOF=Good Old Fashioned Festival. I’m excited about it this year because I have directed the Kids on Stage for 15 years now. I love what I do and I like having folks that like working with kids involved too. Kay Wilkes, Larissa and Michael Pilatti, Joe Ash, Randy Hudson also will help me out with the Kids on Stage team. Last year Billy Pitrone stopped by on his way to the stage and talked to the kids about singing on stage and how fast the times go and then he sang a few songs and shared his talent. Pete Hicks also gave some pointers. Paul Knight also demonstrates how to use a microphone the kids really like it when professionals talk with them. Sometimes AJ Lee or Betsy Riger help me out too. Betsy is coming on Saturday with her Grandsons who now pick and play Bluegrass Music.

I break up the day with several rehearsals that the kids look forward to and I like having the other eyes and ears of musicians on the team too. We have a meet and great party Friday night with treats and we talk about music. What instrument do you play? Why do you play it? What’s your favorite song? What’s your favorite band? What festivals have you been to? The treats are good and the fun is too. For me the party helps everyone learn to listen to each other and since we’re going to be performing together for the next few days it’s a great way to let go and work together and know each other better.
I break down how we’re going to do the work of putting a performance together. We time all the songs and put the show on Sunday afternoon. After everything is done, we have a monster water balloon battle. We laugh, we sing, we play.
You can learn a lot from kids.

Have you heard about the Pacific Rim Dulcimer Gathering?
It’s like the Grass Valley in the dulcimer world. People come from all over the country to attend this gathering of dulcimer players.
Did you know that besides me, Annie Cashner, Allen French, Snap Jackson, Alex Sharps, all play the Appalachian dulcimer? It’s a traditional old time instrument. It brought me to Bluegrass and Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, the Seldom Scene, and Sam Bush. The dulcimer opened up the musical world for me.
This festival has been going on for 40 years. I went to many of
these Gatherings years ago and plan to go this year.
August 15, 16, 17 -2014

Pacific Rim Dulcimer Gathering
http://kgxl.blogspot.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/groups/kgxl2014/

Pacific Rim Dulcimer Gathering
JUGHANDLE Creek Farm
15501 N Highway 1 Caspar, CA 95420
707-964-4630 (SITE contact)
707-237-1348 (Cindy KG info)

Oh, and did you know that Bela Fleck will perform the West Coast premiere of The Imposter, his Banjo Concerto, dedicated to Earl Scruggs at the Cabrillo Music Festival on August 1st. On July 30th at 7:00pm at the Del Mar theater there will be a viewing of a documentary about The Imposter followed by questions and answers by Fleck. In an interview I read that Fleck said, “Why would anyone play the saxophone when they could play a banjo!“ Sounds like a classic to me!!

So I hope to see many of you fine pickers and friends at the Good Old Fashioned Festival. It’s really fun and lots of good picking.
Also you dulcimer players should check out the Kindred Gathering up near Mendocino.
But before that go and see Bela Fleck at the Cabrillo Music Festival and hear, The Imposter.

Until then, I’ll see you out there on Harmony Road.



THE DAILY GRIST..."If you think little things don't count, just consider this fact. The sun, which is one of the largest bodies in our universe, can be reflected in its entirety, in a single drop of dew.”--JD Rhynes

JDs Bluegrass Kitchen revisited
Today's column from JD Rhynes
Thursday, July 24, 2014


Howdy Howdy Howdy!

Try as I might,for the life of me I could not dredge up a story of my past musical adventures for the welcome column today. Like a lot of other folks in the CBA. I have been concentrating on our kickstart campaign for the last month. It has consumed virtually my every waking moment since I got home from the festival in June. First and foremost I would like to point out that this kickstart campaign is not about me. It is about initiating a way to raise funds for the California Bluegrass Association in the future to support a lot of our programs for the young people coming up that want to learn how to play our music. My name just happens to be on it,due to the fact that I wrote the column, JDs Bluegrass Kitchen for our monthly newspaper for 28 years. The future of bluegrass music is in the hands of our young people who want to learn how to play this music. I beg of you please, please, please, for the sake of our young people now and in the future, please tell all your bluegrass friends about our kickstart campaign and why they should donate to it. Not only will you get a good warm feeling inside for donating to this program, it is also tax deductible, 100%. And if that doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside, I don't what will. Could this be called groveling and begging? You damn right it is! Bluegrass music has been a lifelong passion for me, and if groveling and begging is what it takes to ensure the future of our young musicians learning this music, then count me in every time..

Well folks, I thought what better way to promote this campaign than to revisit the old Bluegrass Kitchen again.So, as in years past Park your old truck out back under the shade tree, come on inside here where it is nice and cool , grab a nice cold Shiner Bock out of the fridge and we will "make medicine" over some good Vittles.

One of my favorite things to fix in the summertime is some fresh vegetables and pasta. I whipped up a big batch of this last Sunday and it took me two days to finish it off. It is excellent either hot or cold, and it is especially more excellenter , the day after you make it,as is all pasta. If I remember right, the mountain code of justice plainly states; do not serve meatballs and 'sghetti, or noodles until they're at least two days old. It takes that long for all the good flavors to get intertwined and all mangled in real gooder.[ there's a footnote on that same law that applies to Chili also.] So armed with that little bit of mountain knowledge, here's how to whip up some of the best and tastiest pasta you can ever wrap a lip around. This recipe is easy to fix as falling off a peeled foot log over old Piney Creek.

Pasta With Vegetables
1 package egg noodles
4 large tomatoes
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Core the tomatoes, make an incision about a 16th of an inch deep completely around the tomato from core to core. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for at least a minute and a half. Remove and place in a sink full of cold water to stop cooking. Empty the pasta package into the boiling water pot and cook to your desired level of tenderness. Drain the pasta in a colander and place in a big deep bowl. The bigger the better. Remove the skins from the tomatoes and chop up. Cut the stems from the parsley bunch and chop it up real good too. Heat the cup of olive oil in a large skillet until it shimmers, add the minced garlic, chopped parsley and tomatoes. Cook for 7 or 8 min. and pour over the pasta. Add the cheese and mix real good with a large spoon. Salt-and-pepper to taste,and let her buck!!

Folks, it doesn't get much simpler 'er gooder then this. A nice cold bottle of Pinot Grigio goes real good with this pasta dish, in fact I can't think of anything a cold bottle of Pinot Grigio doesn't go with. I know it goes good with strawberry shortcake too. If you don't believe me, try it sometime.

Well, I hope you folks enjoyed this recipe today and hope it brings back memories of the past. Don't forget to keep all our servicemen and women in your prayers. May God grant us all peace and health. Yer friend JD Rhynes



THE DAILY GRIST..." Howdy, Howdy, Howdy! As I sit here this late winter morning (March 11) writing April’s column, the hillside next to my house is full of wild birds. They’re either searching for insects and worms or enjoying the bird feed I put out for them every day. While observing them this morning I was struck by the fact that you can compare different species to particular Bluegrass musicians.”—JD Rhynes, opening couple of sentences in his April, 2002 Bluegrass Breakdown cooking column entitled JD’s Kitchen

THe Jam Not Missed
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Just got back from a trip to North Carolina. It was really for a family reunion, with a side trip to visit an old friend - in other words, NOT a bluegrass pilgrimage. Nonetheless, I brought my guitar, hoping I could squeeze in a jam or open mic somewhere on the trip.

We (my wife and I, plus my daughter and my two granddaughters) had a pretty whirlwind schedule - 6 days total, including travel days. I played a little guitar on the front porch, just to ensure that some North Carolina wind would blow into the wood. But never, during the family reunion, did a chance for a jam emerge. None of the other family members were pickers, and no one at the KOA came up to me and said “Hey California dude, I like your style - let’s jam!”

I did not despair. Bluegrass was NOT the reason for this trip, remember?

After the reunion, we drove back across the state towards Winston-Salem. Preliminary research revealed a lively music scene, including some open mic events and bluegrass
jams. However, some quick web searches are no substitute for a having someone on the “Inside” and I did - the aforementioned “Old friend”. I should mention I use the phrase to denote a person I have known a long time (since 1965), not one who actually old, although that distinction becomes less important each year, it seems.

We arrived in Winston-Salem on an afternoon, and hooked up with my buddy. The granddaughters were tuckered out after staying up late with long-lost cousins, and the driving, so they and my daughter made an early night and the remaining adults hit WInston-Salem’s downtown that night, accompanied by our guide.

The bad news: It was Monday night. It looked like a ghost town. My friend pointed out place and after place that had open mics or jams, on various nights of the week, but none - NONE - on Monday. We still had fun - make no mistake, but the fun did not include bluegrass, or jamming.

I did not despair. Bluegrass was NOT the reason for this trip, remember?

The next day - our final full day in North Carolina was spent seeing the natural beauty of the Tar Heel State. And that day ended with a final big dinner out - right around the corner from our hotel. A great time was had by all, and after a heartfelt good-bye to my old friend, we drove, pleasantly stuffed, the several blocks back to the hotel to get packed and enjoy a good night sleep before the flight home.

We parked the car, and as we were walking towards the lobby, my wife remarked “Hey, I think I see some people jamming in there!”

Sure, enough there was a guy playing guitar and another playing mandolin. They were surrounded by a bunch of people, and I heard the guitar player say “Man, we’re hitting the wall here! We need some relief!” I said “Got my Martin upstairs, can I help?”

They all said “Yes!”, and I bolted upstairs to get my guitar. And so, on the final night of my non-bluegrass trip to North Carolina, I managed to get into a jam, and it felt great! I take an instrument almost anytime I travel, and I have been very lucky to stumble upon jams where there seemed to be none. You gotta love how bluegrass is a music that’s always ready to burst out of any porch, coffee shop, or hotel lobby, anytime, anywhere!





What Randy Says
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I first met Randy Pitts over the telephone, he in his Nashville booking agency office, me in my company car talking on my company phone on company time about hiring one of his acts for the Fathers Day Festival. Some would say a less than conducive way to begin a friendship, but began it did and I’m glad for it because, him being my friend I can ask for an occasional favor and that’s just what I did. I asked Randy to write a bit about our JD’s Bluegrass Kitchen Kickstarter project and here’s what I got…

“I'd like to add my voice to the growing chorus of bluegrass friends and lovers of the genre--and specifically the northern California brand of that genre--to support of a far reaching and unique project containing the philosophy, ruminations, and recipes of one JD Rhynes, the resident wit, raconteur, and gourmand of the bluegrass crowd in northern California, and the the sage of the Sierra foothills. It's called JD's Bluegrass Kitchen and Cookbook, and it is projected to contain many of JD's mouthwatering recipes from the last twenty five years or so gathered in one place, along with drool worthy photos, and perhaps best of all, an accompanying CD containing appropriate bluegrass songs and tunes by many favorites who have appeared over the years at The California Bluegrass Association's annual Father's Day Weekend held yearly since 1976 at the Nevada City Fairgrounds. I attended my first festival in 1977, and continue to make the trek--I now live in Tennessee--as often as I can. JD has been in every festival I've attended and every one I haven't as well. He is a colorful, if sometimes windy fellow with a rich history in and out of the music, and has devoted much of his time the last 40 years to making sure the CBA and it's festival would be a going concern, and now, with the publication of this cookbook and accompanying recording, he's making sure of that for years to come, since all profits from the project after expenses have been covered will go to the furtherance of the organization and the festival. I'm no webhead, but you can find details of how to contribute by going to The California Bluegrass Association website,( and becoming a Facebook friend yourself)--probably the finest of it's kind in existence--and find out the details of how to donate and just what you'll receive...I'm told time is growing short, so git the hitch out of your gitalong and commence to he'pin'. And next time you see him, have JD relate the story of how his old pal Vern Williams was presented with a bill for the three hundred baby chicks on an adjoining property whose expiration was hastened by his powerful singing in a jam session at which JD was present. I myself intend to donate in the hope that the cookbook includes a color photo of the succulent bunkhouse chili JD described so well in one of his newsletter columns that I actually purchased a cast iron dutch oven of the kind JD recommended in order to cook that very chili...maybe seeing such a photo will get me to take the thing out of the box, at least...even if I don't, the music is bound to be great...



THE DAILY GRIST…“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”--Wallace Stegner

Homeless
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Monday, July 21, 2014


I was going through the newspaper the other day and I came across an article about how the east bay city of Albany recently relocated homeless people from a waterfront peninsula called the bulb in order to make way for a new park extension. A couple dozen or so of the last holdout campers received a $3000 payment just to get up and leave. Albany’s neighbors in Berkeley were not too happy about the added stress on their own already stretched resources to take care of homeless people. A couple of relocated people interviewed were actually happy about the change because now they got to live beneath a busy interstate highway overpass.

Nationwide, there an estimated 633,782 homeless people with about 130,898 or 20.7 percent in California — the state with the highest homeless population. Over 20% of the homeless people in America live in just two big cities: New York and Los Angeles. A large majority of the homeless are men, many of them military veterans.

Out in the cold world, far away from home
Somebody’s boy is wandering all alone
No one to guide him and set his footsteps right
Somebody’s boy is homeless tonight

It’s an age old problem and one many people don’t want to even think about. Many homeless people have alcohol or drug abuse problems. Many have other psychiatric issues as well and have fallen through the social safety net and into the mean streets for one reason or another. Sadly, a sizable portion of the homeless are families down on their luck. There are as many stories as there are homeless people. Some may even be happy living a care free rambling hobo life. There’s a certain romance to that counterculture let’s-see-what-the-next-day brings sort of attitude.

But can you imagine living under an interstate overpass day after day? When I read that article I was touched by the fact that some people who have almost nothing can still be grateful for what they do have. It’s easy to ignore the homeless but we shouldn’t. We all see those folks standing patiently in the hot sun with their signs asking for help. Most of us just drive by without even thinking about what their story is. Maybe once in a while after visiting the grocery store we should hand them a sandwich or better still listen to their story.

Oh bring back to me my wandering boy
There is no other one to give me joy
Tell him his mother with faded cheeks and hair
Is at the old home place awaiting him there.


THE DAILY GRIST...


What a Man's Gotta Do

Today's rerun column from Cameron Little

Saturday, July 19, 2014





At this very moment, I'm in my "Bluegrasser-On-the-Road" mode, working at the Northwest String Summit festival, way out in the deep, deep, un-wi-fi-i-fied woods of Hornings Hideout in North Plains, Oregon. The lineup feels like the holy grail of bluegrass ear candy featuring, but not limited to, the Sam Bush Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, Darol Anger, and Greensky Bluegrass. And since a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and since this man has no wi-fi, I'm submitting this rerun column for your enjoyment (via my cyber sleuth Uncle Bill). Thanks, Bill, and I'll see you all next month with a NWSS review.



JD’s Cookbook Project
Geoff Sargent
Sunday July 20, 2014


Folks, we’re beginning to sound like a PBS fundraiser by exhortation, brow beating, begging, challenging, demanding, asking, and bribing you to contribute to the JD Rhynes Cookbook project. All I have to say is just go do it!.

For those of you that might not be aware of the project here’s the lowdown: JD Rhynes, one of our bigger-than-life founders, graciously allowed us compile some of his extensive collection of cooking articles and tall tales published in the Bluegrass Breakdown. We have an experienced editor producing the cookbook, a professional photographer donating his time and advice, and several internationally known Bluegrass musicians that will cut a CD to accompany the cookbook. The idea here is for the revenues from sales of the cookbook and CD to help with our fundraising for the CBA and would allow us, for example, to undertake more bluegrass music educational projects.

But, projects like this take money to get off the ground and we are trying a relatively new approach to raising seed money for production and printing…..using crowd source funding through Kickstarter! We have a goal of raising $10,000 seed money and we currently have 60 backers that have pledged a total of $3,890. Here’s the kicker! We only have another 21 days to raise the remaining $6, 110 to make this project happen. If you aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, there is something else you need to know….if we don’t raise the $10,000 by 8:28 AM Monday August 11, then all that pledged money returns to the backers, the cookbook project goes away, and we lose the opportunity to honor JD Rhynes. Folks did I mention that JD is on board with this and even did a web interview discussing the project that you can view through the Kickstarter web site (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1187234518/jds-bluegrass-kitchen-cookbook-and-cd). For those of you that don’t like conducting transactions over the net, we have a workaround! Contact Darby Brandli at darbyandbruno@comcast.net or better yet, send her a check at Darby Brandli, 2106 9th Avenue Oakland, CA 94606, and she will make the donation for you.

There’s really no excuse for not doing this……you can donate any amount, but we do have some recommended contribution levels that come with some sweeteners (it’s a cookbook…get it!).

If you pledge $25 you get a copy of the cookbook and CD when they are published. For a $50 dollar pledge you get the cookbook autographed by JD and the CD autographed by one of the musicians! A $100 pledge gets you all the above and 3 extra CDs….gift inspiration? Now if you go whole hog, and pledge $500 then you get all that plus you get invited backstage at the 2015 Father’s Day Festival with JD and the CD recording artists, and JD hisself will autograph the cookbook on the spot and might even tell you a tall tale in the process.

So here I am on a Sunday morning with the contribution plate in hand………please help us support this project to honor JD and help us expand our mission to promote and educate bluegrass, old time, and gospel music.

Again the Kickstarter link is: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1187234518/jds-bluegrass-kitchen-cookbook-and-cd

Get yourself over there and check out the interview with JD.


What a Man's Gotta Do
Today's rerun column from Cameron Little
Saturday, July 19, 2014

At this very moment, I'm in my "Bluegrasser-On-the-Road" mode, working at the Northwest String Summit festival, way out in the deep, deep, un-wi-fi-i-fied woods of Hornings Hideout in North Plains, Oregon. The lineup feels like the holy grail of bluegrass ear candy featuring, but not limited to, the Sam Bush Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, Darol Anger, and Greensky Bluegrass. And since a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and since this man has no wi-fi, I'm submitting this rerun column for your enjoyment (via my cyber sleuth Uncle Bill). Thanks, Bill, and I'll see you all next month with a NWSS review.

And Nothing Else
Today’s column from Cameron Little
Saturday, August 18, 2012

“You know, for most of its life, bluegrass has had this stigma of being all straw hats and hay bales, and not necessarily the most sophisticated form of music. Yet you can’t help responding to its honesty. It’s music that finds its way deep into your soul because it’s strings vibrating against wood and nothing else.” - Alison Krauss

Our personal relationship to music is, well, very personal, isn’t it? There’s a primal pull and a passion in particular about bluegrass, old time, and Americana music that just gets to folks. And if you’re not a believer yet, just come to a festival or jam, and trust me, it’ll get you. This music we love, and listen to, and play, and share, draws us and connects us like nothing else. Talk to lots of people at a festival and you’ll find that this musical life we live runs deep, like religion and loyalty.



We all have a vested interest in this music because it has the ability to bring us together and to transport us to where we’ve never been. It transcends age, gender, political viewpoints, and spiritual perspective. It creates community, and we all know how desperately we need that. Our participation insures the future of this music because it deepens in the heart of the experienced and is ignited in the beginner. And sure, we may be fortunate to witness the transcendence of musical virtuosos, gifted musicians in the bands we watch, and in some of our friends, but the real living breathing genius of this music is that it resides inside the individual, and each one of us has a birthright to bring that music out and celebrate it.

Just how we bring it out and celebrate it is the trick, though, and it can be a natural crossover, or a wild washboard road ride. Some folks dust off their high school band experience and step right over to a bluegrass instrument. Others played in a “Rocky Horror Show” cover band that got them kegger money in college, so hey, that’s pretty close to bluegrass anyway, right? Many more folks have internal and eternal demons to slay: that nasty piano teacher who pronounced you without talent, or the shame you carry from botching your pre-school Nativity play with the teacher screaming, “It’s WISEMEN not WIDE MEN!”. Or you may have gotten side-swiped by the wrong instructor who insisted you play scales for weeks instead of learning three simple chords so you could learn to play “Bile Them Cabbage Down” in your first lesson.

“...I don’t want you to play me a riff that’s going to impress Joe Satriani; give me a riff that makes a kid want to go out and buy a guitar and learn to play.” - Ozzy Osbourne

Some of us listen to the music, and when the creativity sparks, we sketch a silly cartoon and remember we haven’t done something like that since grade school. Maybe we chance a watercolor, and have renewed astonishment in watching the colors flow and mingle on the paper. Sometimes the music inspires the dancer inside, and connects us to the flickering past of paper lanterns, and boots on a wood floor at an old time barn dance. And we might just realize that our favorite place is sitting in a comfy chair, listening to others play, and allowing the floodgate of inspiration to saturate our being. Or we could just pretty much enjoy a good tune and a good beer with our feet up. Either way works.

The step into playing and sharing music is not easy for most people, and often not even the least bit comfortable. For most of us we face the stark fear of rejection and failure, where we will do anything, and I mean anything, to avoid looking like we made a mistake.

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” - Henry Van Dyke


This is the fourth year my mom and I have “played deep” in the bluegrass community, and by that I mean, we attended festivals, came early, stayed late, volunteered, figured out music at home, argued, learned, experienced music camps, partied, made mistakes, felt like fools, tamed a few inner dragons, started a jam group for adults, wrote songs, played with professionals, danced, laughed, started a jam group for kids, started a music theory class, felt like real musicians, jammed a ton, were embraced and supported, and throughout have been amazed and humbled by it all. This music is, at its best, solid and simple, and like Alison said, “... it’s strings vibrating against wood and nothing else.”


(Cameron Little is a teen musician, living a throwback lifestyle in the Sierra, sometimes out of Internet range. In fact, right now he’s remembering about thirty verses to “Bile Them Cabbage Down”.)


Dear Friends
Today's column from Don Denison
Friday, July 18, 2014


(EDITOR'S NOTE: Had a bit of a mix up here at CBA Central and posted Don's column from last month. Just remedied the mistake. Sorry Don, sorry folks.)

This last Wednesday I passed my 73 Birthday. It doesn't seem possible to me. I look back over the years and notice that many of them were filled with events surrounding The California Bluegrass Association. I had no idea when I met Wayne Williams and he convinced me to attend my first festival in '85 what would come from it, festivals, jams, camp outs, Board Meetings, and many many friends. The weather that June was as it is sometimes at Grass Valley, smoking hot. Even though the temperatures were somewhere around 105-106 degrees, I had a wonderful time, and within minutes of arriving on site felt so welcome that I volunteered. I heard wonderful music, and met people who have become life long friends. Folks, most of us know what a treasure the CBA is, most also know that it is not just about the music, although that is what unifies us. Bluegrass Music seems to cut across the whole society, it has long ago ceased to be a genre based only on rural southern country music. We found that those who love our music come from every imaginable part of our population. I have longtime friends that I would have otherwise not even met, except for the fact that we love the same music. It seems that all the barriers are gone when we gather to listen to this music, and people from vastly different backgrounds are ready to offer the hand of friendship to all who share the love of the music.

After 29 years of being a CBA member, I have come treasure the people I have met at least as much as the music that had brought us together. I was able to attend The Fathers Day Festival this year for the first time in many years. I wish I could have stayed and camped out, but the two days I was able to attend were wonderful. It felt like I was coming home after a long absence. I can't tell you how often Suzanne and I sat and wished we could be at Grass Valley with all our friends, it felt like we had been exiled. It was CBA friends who made sure that we had a memorial for Suzanne last year, CBA friends who wouldn't let me slide into a pit of grief and stay there, it was the CBA more than family or neighbors who one by one helped us through the worst years of our lives. We missed so much the warmth that was present in all of our events, we always hoped we would together experience it again, sadly it was not to be.

I want this column to record the deep appreciation and affection that I feel towards all of you, I know many of you all personally, and given life and health will come to know all of you. I have began the work necessary to get myself to the festival next June, I don't want to miss another family re-union. I have noted in the past in my monthly President's Column that we are truly a family, nothing that I have experienced since has changed my mind, indeed my feelings about the matter have strengthened. We are blessed to have such a wonderful organization. May God bless each and every one of you all.

Your Friend

Don Denison



THE DAILY GRIST..."TV/Internet is for the masses, radio preaches to the choir.”--Unknown
”Which Way Did They Go? Bluegrass at the Crossroads”
Today's column from James Reams
Thursday, July 17, 2014


It’s hard to watch the Country Music Awards and not wonder why the IBMA Awards are largely ignored by the music industry. What has country got that we haven’t? Our songs feature longing, lost love, hard work, history, and yes, even crying in your beer. Our musicians are just as talented, perhaps more so as I think of the lightening speed associated with fiddle, mandolin and banjo picking. I dare any country band to keep up with us! Our voices pitch into that high lonesome sound made popular by Bill Monroe, but that’s not all we can do. Bluegrass music is just as well rounded as country. So why aren’t we as popular?

I bet I can count on two hands the number of bluegrass bands that are full-time. Even with a record deal, the recording industry isn’t funding artist development and promotion for bluegrassers. Most of us have to have a “real” job to pay the bills or at least a retirement income that helps plug the gaps between music gigs, festivals and album sales. While the top names in bluegrass travel around in beat up station wagons, converted school buses, and fly coach class; top artists in rock, country and rap are traveling in style in private jets and Provost buses.

There’s just such a small slice of the bluegrass pie available, that it’s not enough to feed more than a few bands on a full-time basis. Those of us scratching and clawing to get bookings can sometimes contribute to the perception that bluegrass music is cheap and inexpensive as we agree to perform dirt cheap, even showcase events, just so we can play this music we love. My friend and colleague Walter Hensley used to say, “The less meat on the bone, the harder the dogs fight.” By undercutting each other, we’re undermining the entire bluegrass music industry.

Today’s economic crisis doesn’t help either but folks still mob Country Thunder and other predominantly country music outdoor concerts. With 80,000 to 100,000 fans from all over the US in attendance, Country Thunder makes the top bluegrass festivals look withered in comparison. I recently had a promoter in Texas tell me that he had to drop his bluegrass festival because people were complaining about the cost of tickets. Without ticket sales to encourage sponsorships, he was unable to bring in the bigger names in bluegrass and it was just a slippery slide downhill from there. Now he promotes a country swing festival that folks flock to in droves and he hasn’t had a single complaint about the ticket prices. What’s up with that?!?

I believe bluegrass music is at a crossroads. We can continue on as we have since we got started and ride off into the sunset or we can deviate just a bit and take directions from other successful music genres. Change doesn’t mean that we forget where we came from, our bluegrass roots will continue to be the foundation that gives our music its’ identity. But, it’s my contention that we need to change the misconception that bluegrass is just for old-timers and bring our music into the 21st century. So how do we do that without losing our “bluegrassiness”?

A major factor is embracing technology. If you look at the music styles that are hugely successful these days, it’s easy to see what sets them apart — MEDIA. Radio channels are clogged 24/7 with stations devoted to rock, rap/hip hop, country, Christian and even classical music. Yet live bluegrass radio programs are largely relegated to Sundays. I can’t turn my radio dial and find one single station devoted solely to bluegrass music. But I can create my own digital bluegrass station using apps like Pandora. And adding your own music is simple enough that even I could figure it out. Yeah, it’s not the same as radio plays, but it does reach those listeners that have earbuds permanently attached to their heads.

I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that the current generation is on visual overload. Let’s face it, MTV and CMTV are here to stay. You just can’t deny that this is the age of the music video. So where are all the bluegrass videos? I firmly believe that TV/Internet speaks to the masses, bluegrass radio preaches to the choir. We’ve got to find a way to get professional looking bluegrass videos in front of folks.

“Quality” is the keyword when it comes to videos. YouTube is clogged with unedited videos of dubious sound quality featuring bands at bluegrass festivals shot using Uncle Billy’s iPhone (I’ve certainly contributed my fair share!). But a static shot of your favorite band performing on a festival stage is not the kind of music video I’m talking about. As performers there’s a limit to the emotion we can incorporate into a song while we’re on stage. Most bluegrass songs tell a story, creating a video takes it a step further by providing images that convey the feeling behind the words and actually complement the singing. If we’re going to claw our way out of the poverty class of music, we have to find a way to emotionally connect viewers of all ages to our music. I think feeding the visual addiction of today’s music lovers is critical.

I can just hear you saying, “Hold on there, James! Where are we going to get the money to make these videos? We’re barely making ends meet now!” And you’re right, making a video can drain a bank account faster than an ex-wife. But thanks to the Internet, there are numerous crowd funding sources available. I used Kickstarter to help fund the final production push for my film documentary, “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass.” Other popular options for funding creative projects include Indiegogo and RocketHub. And don’t forget that making music videos is how many well-known film directors got their start. Collaborate with a talented film student at a local university or purchase film editing software for your computer whiz kid for Christmas. Who knows, you may discover a future Stephen Spielberg!

What I’m saying is, there are options out there to fit most budgets. Once you have a couple of videos going viral, you can start approaching sponsors to help fund the next one. Country music moved into the spotlight, literally, when they embraced music videos. Bluegrass can do the same. It’s a sleeping giant just waiting to be awakened. BGTV anyone?

I’d like to hear what you have to say. Send me an email james@jamesreams.com and let your voice be heard!



THE DAILY GRIST..."Practice does not make perfect – it makes permanent/" — Alexander Libermann

Getting Better All the Time
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Playing music is lots of fun. This is not a news flash for anyone out that plays music. It is fun, at every level. More so, I think, than golf. Nobody’s keeping score in music. Nobody’s going to beat you at the game of music. It’s not a game - it’s a form of expression and that’s why it’s so fun.

But like golf, most of us who play music would like to play better, at some point. Make no mistake - however you play, it’s a joyous noise, and no one can take that away from you. But we’d like to hit the right notes, sing well, and enhance any ensemble we play with, right?

How do we do this? How do we get better? Here are some ways that really work.

Play with people
This may sound obvious, but you have to interact with other musicians to learn a sense of rhythm and sharing. I have met players who only played to records or from tablature, and they were flat out lost playing with other people. It’s a skill that’s worth cultivating, and you will learn something every time you do it. (And you’ll probably teach others at the same time!)

Go to Music Camp
This build on the notion of playing with others, only at a music camp, the playing will be with actual teachers. You’ll learn from the teachers of course, but you also learn watching and listening to the other players as they learn too. And you’ll make friends for life and be on a first-name basis with some bluegrass stars!

Practice
This sounds obvious, but are you playing every day? And when you play, what are you playing? Two common problems: Playing only stuff you already know well, and practicing mistakes. In the first example, you have your pet “go to” songs you believe you play well (you may be right!), and so that’s what you play, every time. You will get better at those songs (probably), but you won’t grow as a musician.

The second problem is very common - practicing mistakes. You learn a song, pretty well, but a certain part of it gives you problems - you flub it every time. So, you learn to play the rest of it well, and try and fudge through the flubs. What happens is, the flub becomes the norm. You have to revisit the flub parts until you get it right.

Bands can fall into this trap. They have a song and it never starts quite right - not everyone is sure of the arrangement or chords, so they run through it, and it sounds all right at the end, and that’s what happens every practice. In bands I’m in, we warm up with a gimme, and then plow into every song that had a mistake at the last gig, until we can play it without the mistake. It can be embarrassing, but better to be embarrassed in a practice than on stage, right?

You don’t have to aim for the stars. If you’re like most people, you have demands on your time that can supersede music: family, work, who knows? But if you’d to play a little better (or a lot better), a few good habits can pay big dividends!




Strumming Are the Sages
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where, if we had sidewalks instead of dirt paths, and if we were in the habit of having ham and eggs for breakfast, and if I had eggs in my fridge instead of on my SavMart shopping list, I could surely fry them on one, sidewalk that is, so I’ll probably just have Cheerio’s and Lynn will have…Jeez, I don’t even know what Lynn’s eating for breakfast these days, her start time being about four hours later than mine.

In any event, we’ve lost another good Welcomer, at least for the time being, but it’s for an excellent reason. Our young friend Jack Kinney has ditched us for a brand new career as college student and, by my reckoning, that’s one of the best reasons for desertion I can think of. We lost Melinda Faubel that way a few years ago and look at her now, right on the cusp of becoming a big animal vet. So off you go, Jack…stuff that brain of yours while the stuffing is good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my older boy recently, not sure why, so I’ll re-tell one of my favorite stories about him. It’s a long one so please, friends, know that I wont’ be the least bit offended if you don’t have the time, (or interest), to read the whole thing. (With advanced age I’ve gotten so desensitized that taking offense these days usually requires some sort of physical assault, which, again because of my old-as-dirt status, happens less and less frequently.)

Strumming are the Sages
First appeared in November, 2007


The story of the Sages and how they came to be strumming starts, at least for me, in November of 2000. That was the year my bluegrass band, the Grass Menagerie, first played the Woodland Veterans Day Festival. And it would also be the last time my son Phillip, who’d been playing mandolin and singing in the band for about a year, and I would appear on stage together, at least as fellow band mates. Not long after, Lynn and I would move to Sonora and the wonderful, unforgettable experience of performing regularly with my own child would end. But I wasn’t thinking about that as we climbed back up on stage for our encore. Phil and I sang a duet, Down Where the River Bends, in honor of all the veterans, and the audience loved it. A great set, great audience response…..everything perfect.

Five minutes after we walked off stage I was in the lobby area, where the vendors set up, just soaking up the “way-to-go’s” and “nice-job”‘s and beaming as only a proud band leader AND proud father could. Someone at the membership booth waved me over—it was Suzanne Dension.

“Rick,” she said, “I’ve got some people here who’d like to meet you.” Standing there at the table was a young East Indian couple and their two children. The man and the little boy and little girl wore Western clothes, but the woman was dressed in an Indian sarong and pantaloons.

“Hello, hello Mr. Cornish. I am Tushar Parte and this is my wife, Suchita. And these are our two children. We wanted to meet you and say how very, very much we enjoyed the performance of you and your son. It was very, very wonderful to see and hear you and your son sing and play together.” As he spoke, the Indian grasped my right hand with both of his and shook and shook. And he smiled a broad smile. They all did. And sort of half bowed.

“Well, thank you,” I said stammering and a little embarrassed, “I’m glad you enjoyed the set.”

“Oh yes,” said the woman, “oh yes, we did very, very much. And in particular the music that you and your son made. Phillip, isn’t that right?” Both spoke perfect English, but with deep Indian accents.

“Yes,” I said, “his name is Phil. And I guess you could tell I’m very proud of him.”

“And well you should be,” said the man, “and he, you. And he, you, Mr. Cornish. The music you and your son made together was very moving. Very moving.” And with that he shook my hand again.

And that was that. End of story. A little odd running into an East Indian family in Woodland…..and at a bluegrass festival. Stranger still that they would seek me out to tell me how much they enjoyed our set. But in ten minutes the brief encounter had drifted quickly out of short term memory and I didn’t see the young family for the remainder of the festival.


A year and a half later, to my absolute astonishment, I received an e-mail from my son Phillip that read simply:

“Hi Dad--You’re not going to believe this. Remember the nice Indian people you met at Woodland last year? Well, guess what…..they’re coming to your picking party next week. Tushar and Suchita…….all the way from Bombay. Isn’t that great!

I called Phillip right away and asked for an explanation.

“How do you even know these people,” I asked.

“Simple, after they met you at the Veterans Day Festival, they came and found me. We talked for a while, exchanged cards and we’ve been e-mailing back and forth ever since. Very cool people, Dad. He’s a musician and she’s a singer. They do movies in India, or something like that. And they love bluegrass.”

“And so they’re coming from Bombay, India to Jamestown, U.S.A. to do a little jamming at a picking party? Ooooookay. Son, you’re leaving something out of the story.” And of course there was a lot more to the story, pieces that took some time and patience to pull together and sort out.


In India, as in many countries, fathers pass along to sons their business or profession or line of work from one generation to another. And so it was with the Partes. Tushar’s father was a nationally known and respected musician, composer and music director in the huge Indian motion picture industry centered in Bombay, and so was his grandfather. Naturally, even as a young child, Tushar was expected to follow the family tradition. But his father wanted the boy to have some say in his own destiny, so when Tushar was eleven years old the senior Parte asked him what musical instrument he would like to learn to play. The boy didn’t hesitate. Guitar, he said, six string western guitar…..like those played in America.

Although this was probably not what the father had hoped to hear, within a few weeks Tushar was the proud owner of a brand new Martin guitar and was taking guitar lessons from a young American working in the diplomatic corps there in Bombay. It was love at first pluck! With musician’s genes passed down through a dozen generations, the boy was a natural and soon he was playing western music and classical Indian music alike on the Martin.

Of course Tushar learned many other Indian instruments and studied many genres of Indian music in secondary school and then college, but guitar was always his favorite. Even before college graduation, he was fast-tracking a career in music composition and direction; by twenty-five he’d written and directed scores for half a dozen films. And he’d married Suchita. It was around this time that his former guitar teacher, who’d by now moved up the ranks at the American Consulate in Bombay, called Tushar and invited him to a ‘folk’ concert being hosted by the Embassy. Seemed an American folk group was touring Asia and would stop in Bombay to do a show.

The ‘folk group’ turned out to be the Bluegrass Alliance, and Tushar’s attendance at their show, and subsequent week of jamming and hanging out with Sam Bush and the boys, ignited his passionate love affair with bluegrass music, a love affair that several years later led the film score writer and producer to bring his young family to the United States to attend a real bluegrass festival. And how was it that, of all the bluegrass festivals in the country, Tushar and Suchita Parte would select the tiny Veterans Day Festival in Woodland to fly half way around the globe to visit? Simple, they did an Internet search and the Woodland event was the first to pop up. Ain’t life grand?

So that explains how it was that Suzanne Denison called me over to meet the young Indian family in the lobby of the Ag Exhibit Hall at the Yuba County Fairgrounds in November of 2000. And, indirectly, it also explained why, of all the bands that played the festival, Tushar was so taken with, and interested in, the Grass Menagerie…..and why he began a long-distance friendship with my son Phil. It was the father-son dynamic of our band. One of Tushar’s children was a nine-year-old son and, as tradition dictated, the time was quickly coming when the father would be gently steering the son on a musical path. Seeing my adult son Phillip and I on stage picking and singing together was, he told me later, very ‘affirming’. But flying in from Bombay to a picking party in Jamestown? There had to be more to that story….and soon enough I learned that there was.

‘Picking party’ doesn’t quite do justice to the event Lynn and I had planned for that spring. It was to be a four-day, bring-your-tents-and-campers affair, and by Wednesday people started drifting in. I honestly didn’t believe that Phillip was serious about the Indian couple, that is, until the phone rang Thursday night about 10:00 p.m.

“Hello Rick? Rick, this is Suchita. How are you? We are fine. We are in San Francisco, America. Very close to your home, yes?” (Very close compared to Bombay, I thought, but didn’t say.) Turns our Suchita and Tushar were calling for directions to Jamestown. Their plan was to take a bus the next day from the City up to the Mother Lode. I asked what bus? They didn’t know but figured there must be some bus that would connect the two ‘cities’.

So, ten minutes later I was speeding down 108 toward San Francisco, and three hours later I was headed back the other way, with my two new friends from far, far away. It was on the drive back that I learned the whole story of Tushar, the young son, his father and the guitar and the diplomat and the Bluegrass Alliance and the fateful web browser search that found the Second Annual Veterans Day Festival in Woodland. And I also found out what, besides a bluegrass picking party, had brought Tushar and Suchita just over six thousand miles.

“Here”, he said, handing me a cassette tape in the darkness as we sped east over the Altamont Pass, “here is ‘Strumming are the Sages.’” I fumbled around and got it inserted into the tape deck.
“Wow,” is all I could say when the last bleat of the tabla dissolved into silence. “Wow.”

“Tushar would like very much to record this song with your son before we return to Bombay,” said Suchita from the back seat. “This is his dream.”

“Yes,” Tushar said, “it is my dream.”

Yes, I thought as we plunged down the steep 580 grade into the San Joaquin Valley, there was a whole lot more to the story of the couple’s journey to Jamestown, America.


Astonishingly, Tushar realized his dream. Over the next three days of the party-campout, he and his wife met some of the best pickers in Northern California, and they also met one of our finest recording engineers, Dave Earl. Together, Dave and Phil and Tushar hatched a scheme to meet at Dave’s recording studio late the following week. When the party ended, Tushar and Suchita went off to L.A. where Suchita did a few days of recording at Capital Records. (Oh, I forgot to mention that the wife of one of Ballywood’s best known film music directors is herself an internationally known singer of classical Indian music; she sings the opening and closing strains of ‘Strumming’. In fact, the husband and wife have done a fair amount of recording together.) By Friday, the two were back in San Francisco where they met up with Phil Cornish and several of his picking buddies. What these seven, plus an immensely talented engineer, produced was…..well, indescribable. So I won’t even bother trying to describe “Strumming Are the Sages.” You can hear it at:

http://www.cbaontheweb.org/cbaadmin/uploads/mp31231200685746AM.mp3


Some years later I received the following note from Tushar”

“Dear Rick Cornish

Feels nice to write to you after such a long time!

Phil specially sent us ‘Walkaway’. (Walkaway is a CD project my son did in the mid-90’s and it included Tushar’s song.) What can we say, the album is wonderful and our song, ‘Strumming Are the Sages’, give a nice touch to the global appeal of bluegrass!

Last night I had an idea and want to express it to you now…..In India, although all styles of music, like rock, classical and pop are popular with many, people haven’t heard this wonderful music bluegrass. So, how about growing bluegrass on Indian soil? We can start a bluegrass club in India, the very first of its kind ever! Here we can do workshops where Indians can be made familiar with its rich music, songs and instruments….even its jokes.

I am a musician and not a rich man. This exciting endeavor can only be accomplished by our mutual cooperation and help. I feel ‘the ROAD IS CLEAR’ and where there is a will there is a way.

Smiling,
Tushar and Suchita
From India”

Tushar’s reference to ‘The Road is Clear’ goes all the way back to that November in Woodland. It’s the title of a song I wrote and which Phil and I sang at the festival. It tells the story of a new beginning in a new land. You just gotta love this bluegrass music, don’t you? Oh, and no, I didn’t take Tushar up on his offer, even though it included use of a beach house he and Suchita own. My wife wouldn’t let me go.

A Dark Day in Music History
Guest column from Randy January
Monday, July 14, 2014


Generally I tend to think that things that happen in life have some sort of purpose or direction to them. Sometimes bad things will unexpectedly lead to good things, other times too much of a good thing will end very very badly. Call it karma, call it the will of god, call it the natural order of things; but usually things just tend to work out in a way that we interpret to be “the way it should be.” Every once in awhile though, the universe throws out a curve ball; a piece of randomness tied to the chaotic side of the cosmos. There is no point to it, no wisdom to be gleaned, no reasoning hidden deep down waiting to be uncovered when it all works out. There is just shock and disbelief.

One such event happened long ago. It occurred forty-one years ago tonight to be precise (or the wee early hours of tomorrow to be even more precise). Forty-one years ago a musical genius was taken from this world far too young, struck down by a drunk driver as he loaded his equipment after a gig with his brothers. True, in the history of musicians, especially in the last sixty years or so, it is not at all uncommon for an artist to depart at an early age. Though it might be an over simplification, you can typically point to over indulgence, recklessness, and living life too far on the edge as the root cause. This artist however was by all accounts not this way.

Although he was an innovator and pushed boundaries in the music he created, he was also a blue collar musician who took his craft very seriously. Bluegrass guitar evolved from primarily a backup instrument and was thrown fully into the spotlight under his short watch (Granted, Doc and others had a lot to do with this as well). A lot of the greatest guitarists from his time and beyond still pay homage to the inspiration that he provided them. I, for one, still get goose bumps every time I hear his syncopated riffs in I Am a Pilgrim and In the Pines, not to mention his lightning fast picking on countless other songs. He took Bluegrass, Country, and Rock guitar to new levels, and he accomplished all this by the age of 29. It’s both saddening and maddening to think of the music he might have come up with if he had another 30 or 40 years to work on it. Music as we know it today might not have been quite the same.

Still, it’s selfish just to dwell on what music he would have given to us, or what we would have taken from that music. I think of his wife left to raise a daughter all alone. I think of his daughter losing a father at the age of 7. Would they have played music together? My daughter didn’t start playing an instrument until she was 9, and I consider the time we have playing music together as one of the greatest treasures in my life. Regardless of whether they would have shared that kind of musical bond, clearly her life would have been better with her father in it. Then there are his brothers that he grew up making music with. I think of how special playing with my daughter is and I have to believe the bond they shared must have been exponentially greater, having played together for so many years on so many stages (both figuratively and literally). There just can be no plan in such an abrupt ending.

I saw one of those brothers performing at Grass Valley last month, and I couldn’t help thinking about his loss. How difficult it must have been to move forward and continue to share with all of us what he could no longer share with his brother. How hard it must be to perform songs that he and his brother made magic out of. I felt honored to be there watching him still sharing his music that his family could share like few others can, and that his brother could share no longer.

As much as I say that there is no meaning in this tragic death, as human beings we search for it. We rack our brains for some silver lining, something to take away from such devastation that provides some sort of good. There is no good in the loss of Clarence White. There is no reason. There will never be an “and it all worked out” or “they all lived happily ever after”. Perhaps there is a message to be taken though. Perhaps there is a reminder to immerse ourselves in music and let yourself be free to try new things and push its boundaries. Share your music with others, whether they are friends, family, or just people with like interests regardless of whether they are playing along or just listening in. Carry on the tradition of music and be part of its evolution for future generations, for you never know when your part, no matter how big or small, will come to an end.



THE DAILY GRIST…“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.” Mark Twain

The Mushroom of the World
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Sunday, July 13, 2014


“Je suis le champignon du monde avec chocolat au lait qui fond dans la bouche e non dans la main” For those of you who do not know French, the translation of the phrase just quoted means something like “I am the mushroom of the world with milk chocolate that melts in your mouth and not in your hands”. It’s about all the French I know. You see, about this time every year I really wish I knew how to speak French. It’s such a cool language and, being an avid bicyclist, I follow the Tour de France bicycle race which started last week. When you see the Tour de France coverage on video, it makes you wish you could visit France, eat their best food, drink their best wine and learn more about their history and culture.

I was given the distinctive moniker “Mushroom of the World” by my friend Alex Sanchez, another avid cyclist who did endurance events with me years ago. Alex grew up in Peru and he didn’t know French any better than I did so his attempt to compliment me on a good cycling performance one day got a little messed up. He had no doubt enjoyed French cuisine and added a couple of extra letters to his compliment by mistake.

I appreciated what Alex was trying to say, and at the same time I was glad he called me a mushroom rather than a champion. I felt it was very appropriate. Mushrooms are good and we appreciate them for what they are. Champions like Miguel Indurain, who won the Tour de France that year, are great and we don’t confuse the two.

What a great bunch of musicians the CBA assembled for Grass Valley this year! Champions all in their own right. And we mushrooms had a great time at our campsite jams trying to recreate all that magic that inspires us. A mushroom is akin to a blooming flower and the champions on stage feed off the energy of campsite jams just like the rest of us do. We’ve got a great thing going with this bluegrass culture of ours, don’t we? The fans of the music are mostly players (or will be once they get enough of this stuff), and you can wander around your camping area any given night and hear music almost as good as the music on stage, especially if the music is being played by the folks who were just on stage, which it very well might be.

What a country! Sure, it’s not France and we can’t sound cool speaking that so cool lingua franca. But we’ve got a good thing going, I think. As we celebrated Independence Day a few days ago, one of the things I thought of was how important the French were in helping us gain our Independence from Britain, where the Tour de France started this year. I hope the French appreciate bluegrass music but I don”t really know. When I searched Google, I was directed to a cool web site with pictures of a mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo and Dobro. But I have absolutely no idea what it was all about.

It was all in French.


Friday The 13th
Today’s column from John A. Karsemeyer
Saturday, July 12, 2014,


The 39th CBA Fathers’ Day Festival is over. It is gone. It is no more. It has been written in the bluegrass history book. Like Abraham Lincoln, the 39th FDF belongs to the ages. However, the memories live on.

Returning to this festival in the time machine that I purchased on the Antiques Roadshow, it is now the second day of the aforementioned festival, Friday. But not just any Friday. It is Friday the 13th. After slowly moving my body upward from the camper bed and out of old van in the morning, I am greeted by a family of Canada geese. They make a noise that I swear sounds like, “Good morning.” Then mom, dad, and the six siblings disappear under the water. This is the first time that I have camped at Grass Valley’s version of Walden Pond, and I’m glad I did. As many of you know, Henry David Thoreau spent some time at Walden Pond, and he once wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” All I can say about that is it doesn’t apply to this 39th FDF, and I’ve renamed this Grass Valley pond, “Monroe Pond.” Anyway, l blame my later than usual morning resurrection on last evening’s Thursday late night jam with the Welcome Columnists, which began after a virginal audience in-the-dark performance by The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band on the main stage.

Last night Rowan’s encore performance, “Midnight Moonlight,” was accompanied by Grass Valley’s grinning full moon that slowly got higher and higher as it peeked through the extended family of dancing Ponderosa Pines, playing its own paranormal part behind the reason for the band’s levitation above the well lite stage, as a thousand and thirty-nine audience members gradually accepted what they were witnessing when the band was transformed, and then The Free Mexican Air Force silently took flight.

But that was then. And this is the morning of Friday the 13th. Groggy and half-awake I slowly make the 300 yard, one-way journey on foot and reach my first goal of the day. Along the way I have a nagging feeling that something unusual is going to happen today. Finally my eyes focus on the sign, “How Ya Bean Coffee,” and I gladly exchange my cash for a cup of eye-opening early morning delight. My second goal of the day is an about-face, and seven steps away, “Peppe’s Award Winning Tacos & Burritos.” Walking away from Peppe’s I am thankful for having two hands; one to hold the hot coffee, and one to hold the breakfast burrito.

Making my way across the large, grassy lawn area, that today has a tint of blue and escapes from the hundreds of empty lawn chairs in front of the main stage, I reach a wooden bench that is shaded from the morning sun. The bench resides directly in front of the building that houses the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Historical Model Railroad. On the bench I focus on a two by five inch brass plaque that reads, “In Loving Memory of WAYNE RUTHERFORD 1928-2006, who valued these fairgrounds, and in them saw the beauty of God’s handiwork, By Your Devoted Family and Apple Tree Gang.” An etching of a six stringed acoustic guitar accompanies the words on the plaque. And as a large truck roars past on the nearby highway, the bench vibrates and makes a surreal guitar music of its own.

As I plop my posterior on the bench that serves as a combination breakfast table and chair that is on the same level, I suddenly noticed a young man, around twelve years old, standing ten feet away, looking at the Historical Rail Road exhibit sign. No parents are in sight. In between bites of breakfast burrito and slurps of coffee I initiate a conversation.

“Are you waiting for the train exhibit to open?” I ask.
“Yes,” he answers.
“Have you been to it before?” I ask on.
“Oh sure. I’ve been coming here since I was two.”
“Do you go to see the trains every year?”
“Yes I do.”
After thirty seconds of silence I ask, “Do you play a bluegrass instrument?”
“No. I want to play the fiddle, but my family can’t afford it. My sister has a fiddle, but it has a broken string, and she doesn’t have another one.”

Now the coffee has done the job that it was created to do, and my brain is clear enough to think about the thing that I am supposed to think about at this precise moment and place in time, at this 39th bluegrass festival on Friday the 13th at 9:30am.

“Do you know about the Kids Lending Library?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “What is it?”
“It’s a place where young people can borrow a bluegrass musical instrument so they can learn how to play it.”
“You mean for the day?”
“No, you can keep it for days, months, even a year or longer I think.”
“How much does it cost?”
“It doesn’t cost anything. It’s free.”
“Where is it?”
Pointing my finger I say, “Do you see those white tents over there just before you get to the main stage?”
“Yes I do,” he answers.
“Okay, just go over there and ask somebody in those white tents about the Kids Lending Library.”
“Okay mister, I will.”

As the young man walks away from me toward the CBA Information and Mercantile white tents, I think about going over there with him to make sure he goes to the right place and asks the right questions. But then I think to myself that this young man that is being held captive by pre-adolescence seems to be independent for his age, so we go our separate ways. I wonder about his chances of getting a fiddle. Fifty-fifty? Looking down for a second I have to shake my head a couple times to make my old boy scout shirt disappear and turn back into the one I put on earlier this morning.

This day, Friday the 13th, begins to unfold at the same pace of any other Friday, but then the speed picks up as I become fully aware of being in a special place, Grass Valley, Nevada County Fairgrounds, where thoughts of the day ahead hold the promise of live music from some of the best bands in bluegrass. And now, suddenly, the day starts to go too quickly.

It’s now 12:55pm, and as the third and last impressive bluegrass band of the morning leaves the main stage I head for the Roland White mandolin workshop. Yes, that Roland White, who has played with Bill Monroe, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, The Country Gazette, The Kentucky Colonels, and now has his own band, The Roland White Band. Roland should be wearing a name tag that displays not only his name, but also, “A Bluegrass Pioneer.” In this workshop Roland covers the topics of chords, how to play past the 5th fret on the mandolin, and how different kinds of picks affect the sound of the mandolin. Then he tells us a little about his brother, Clarence White, who broke new bluegrass ground on the acoustic guitar, played with the Byrds, and influenced the guitar playing of Tony Rice. As Roland tells us some Clarence White stories that relate to bluegrass music, he mentions the guitar which Clarence White once owned, and is now considered by bluegrass fans to be the most famous guitar in the world.

Yes that guitar. The 1935 Martin D-28 that is now owned by the living legend Tony Rice. There are many stories about that guitar, but there is one that invades my consciousness right now. And at the point in this workshop when Roland asks for questions, I seize the opportunity. “Roland, what’s the real story behind the BB gun hole in the front of that Martin guitar?”

“It was a pellet gun,” Roland clarifies. “The top of that guitar was bulging, and it was hard to play. Clarence really didn’t like that guitar, and one time he just shot it.” Roland goes on to tell how Clarence sold that 1935 Martin D-28 to a liquor store owner in Southern California (if you don’t know the story of how this guitar ended up being owned by Tony Rice, it’s worth pursuing). And now at this point in the workshop Roland is joined by his wife, guitarist Diane Bouska, who is in the Roland White Band. Before she begins to sing a song, Roland says, “That guitar Diane is holding was one of Clarence’s guitars.” Seeing and hearing that guitar puts the icing on the cake for me at this workshop. Walking away from Roland’s workshop I am thinking, “This is a good day to be alive,” and then I head to the Luthiers Pavilion to play and look at some of the high quality instruments that I cannot afford. The day goes by even faster.

It is now 6:15pm. I am at the best watering hole (drinking fountain) at the fairgrounds, the one near Vern’s Stage. “American Nomad” is performing their own brand of bluegrass, and as I gulp down enough Grass Valley water to stay hydrated, I turn back around, heading for the main stage area to seek some shade from the sun that is slowly making its way behind the tall pines. I start walking, and then I see him.

It’s the young man who was standing in front of the Historical Model Railroad building that I encountered some nine hours earlier in coolness of the morning. No parents in sight this time either. We walk toward each other on the black top path, both on our separate bluegrass journeys of the day, and I see that he is carrying something in his right hand. When he sees me his face presents a smile as wide as Jonah’s when he got out of the belly of the whale. As we go by each other without stopping he says, “Hey mister, thanks for telling me about the Kids Lending Library. I got a banjo!”

And just now somewhere beyond the clogged, carbon filled earth’s atmosphere, and hidden from the prying eyes of the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes that search for life in 170 billion galaxies, and infinitely beyond the minds and imaginations of all believers who ever were, who are, and who will be, in a dimension where time stands still, especially on this Friday the 13th, Earl Scruggs is smiling….



THE DAILY GRIST..." Unless it’s a graveyard, if you put five banjos in a five acre parcel of land, you’re gonna start a party.”--The Bard

The festival season
Today’s column from Cliff Compton
Friday, July 11, 2014


We’re in the middle of festival season. That time of year when the sun shine brightest, the birds sing the loudest and anticipation is at it’s highest level since when you were a kid on the night before Christmas.

I look forward to festival season like I used to look forward to Christmas.

The problem with Christmas was that we had all these relatives that came with the package, and not all of them were gifts. Most of them were interested in stuff I could have cared less about, some of them smelled bad, and generally when there were cousins involved there was trouble soon to follow. Not that I didn’t enjoy the trouble, I did, but I never much liked the consequences that followed.

The thing about bluegrass festivals is it’s kind of like family gatherings only you get to choose the family and the family likes what you like, and even if you don’t like everybody equally, you like most of them pretty much, and even if you don’t, you still probably like the way they pick, and THAT covers a multitude of sins in my world.

And you see the same faces year in and year out and they look better every time you see them. Even when the ravages of age and failing health begin to drag them down, they still look good because that music shines in their eyes and the songs they sing grant you insight into the very bones of their souls in a way that can never be explained. Something you just know.

And yet it’s always new. Some cowboy from Montana with a a whole raft of prairie music. Some Django picker from the bay area
That stumbles into your campsite at 2:oclock in the morning with pockets full of magic, a trio of Boston boys, one guy with a voice an octave above Bill Monroe, breathing new life into the high lonesome.

And tribes form. The gospel guys camped behind the restrooms at grass valley. Camp grump, where Chef mike wields has spatula and plays that washtub base surrounded by like minded friends.
The country western bunch all bundled into Jeanie Ramos pop-up in Turlock. The bottom feeders in the south. The mens crisis center from the bay. The Santa Cruz pickers hiding in the hills.

Like new cities rising with great promise built up and torn down. New festivals forming, old festivals going away. New ways to celebrate the old. New traditions to enhance the old traditions.
New music to feed the trees.

Yet, as with all of the cycles of life, each festival has to end. Hopefully leaving pixie dust in it’s wake, and plans for the next one coming.

The Festivals Over

The festival’s over
The tents are all gone
The last picker standing
Has picked his last song
Those motor homes packed up
And driven away
And as I move down the highway
I’ve got this to say

I hope that God blesses
Till we meet again
I pray that you prosper
And the same to your friends
I hope you stay healthy
And that you never die
And it you do, that’s o.k.
We’ll be pickin’ some day
In the sweet by and by

The entertainers entertained us
The jamming was good
My stomachs remembering
The festival food
And my fingers are aching
From picking all night
And I’m as tired as a dead man
But I still feel alright

And I hope that God blesses
Till we meet again
And I pray that you prosper
And the same to your friends
I hope you stay healthy
And that you never die
And it you do, that’s o.k.
We’ll be pickin’ some day
In the sweet by and by



THE DAILY GRIST..."Winning the Grammy just felt so good I can’t hardly tell you. When I won that night, I had to sing “O Death” for the audience, not just for the thousands in the auditorium but for all the millions at home watching on live TV and probably wondering who was this little white-haired man and how in the world did he wander out on this stage without security getting properly notified?”--Dr. Ralph Stanley, from his autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow -- My Life and Times.

Here comes the next generation
Today's column from George Martin
Thursday, July 10, 2014)


I have been thinking a lot lately about young people and music. I think it started at Grass Valley when I watched and listened to Annie Staninec, Angelica Grim and Molly Tuttle, young people who not that many years ago were roaming around the festival grounds with their pals, jamming together, participating in the Kids on Bluegrass program, growing up around music.

All three of these young women now have actual musical careers. Annie and Angelica were on the main stage at various times and Molly played Vern’s. Other next-generation kids I’ve watched mature include fiddler Alex Sharps, hot flat-picker Marty Varner, and multi-instrumentalist Luke Abbott.

I’m not pals with any of these young musicians but I do recall playing with most of them, casually, at various times in the past. I think it was nearly 20 years ago that a very young Annie Staninec and I were in a jam that broke up, and I sat with her for about a half-hour and played rhythm guitar while she went through all the fiddle tunes she was learning. ??Listening to Annie’s soaring fiddle solos with the Kathy Kallick Band I thought to myself, “Oh, yeah, I used to play with her.”
When Marty Varner was just a little fellow he was learning to flat-pick guitar solos and obviously was listening to Tony Rice and other fine guitarists. Often the boy would come to a place in a tune where a special hot lick would go really well and he would launch into it seemingly on faith and usually crash and burn. I didn’t hear Marty this year but someone told me he’s playing like his old heroes now -- minus the crashing and burning.

Alex Sharps has been gigging around with his fiddle, Luke Abbott has a beautifully done CD out, Angelica is in The Sisters Grim band, and Molly Tuttle has gone to Berklee School of Music, played with her father on Prairie Home Companion and won the songwriting competition at Merlefest a few years ago.

All these things might have happened without the CBA, its festivals and its youth programs, but maybe not. It seems to me there is something powerful about the festival atmosphere, the opportunity for youngsters to have musical friends to motivate them, the CBA Teen Jam tent, the summer music camp, the bluegrass academy and the kids program.

Coincidentally my band has been playing concerts at public libraries for little children a lot lately. They are a tough crowd; you can only hold their attention about 45 minutes, tops. And you need every gimmick in the book.

We get them singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “The Wheels on the Bus.” They stomp and clap to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I’ve got a train whistle to blow when we sing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

We have a giant rubber duck that we squeak while we sing the Rubber Duckie song from Sesame Street. We try and keep the beat bouncy and syncopated so the little ones can dance, and a bunch of them always do.

Usually after the show a few little kids will come up and want to touch the banjo. I tell them it’s just like a drum with a guitar stuck to it.

And I wonder if one of those little girls will be the next Molly Tuttle.

I sure hope so.

The Hole You Throw Money Into
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, July 9, 2014


There’s an old joke that defines a boat as a “Hole in the water you throw money into.” I’ve had several friends with boats and while boats are lots of fun, they do seem to demand frequent and expensive upkeep. So, I resisted the temptation to join the boat owner fraternity and silently patted myself on the back for that prudent decision.

But I have come to learn that we all have those money holes in our lives. Ask any golfer - the amount of money they spend on equipment, lessons, green fees, balls and shoes is astonishing.

Music is my money hole. Over the years, I have collected a modest number of fine instruments, and none of them came cheap. I’m not a complete hound when it comes to collecting instruments - I know lots of people with many more than I. As a lifelong musician, I knew there were some added costs - decent cases, for example, to protect my investments.

And of course, there are the consumables - buying strings is an ongoing cost of ownership. You can’t have a fine instrument sounding lousy because it’s wearing dead strings. That would be disrespectful. Then there are capos - I like to have one in eachguitar case, ready to go. And I prefer the Shubb capos, which have a interested tendency to get lost, mainly because they don’t attach firmly to the instrument, unless they’re actually “capo-ing”, so there’s a yearly replacement cost on those little thingies. Incidentally, it seems that capos are THE most numerous item in the lost-and-found after each Father’s Day Festival, so it’s not just me.

And then there’s tuners. We live in a remarkable age of really inexpensive tuners. For $15-$20, you can have a tuner clipped onto your instrument and honestly, I have no desire to go back to the days of tuning forks and five different musicians who all believe their ears are infallible. Of course, I need one of those in every instrument case, too. Moreover, each year brings some new tuner iteration that’s smaller, faster and has a cooler display, so periodic upgrades are common. After two beers, I will gladly - GLADLY - fork over $20 to get the latest whiz-bang tuner at a festival.

Then, I was surprised to learn that items that I thought of as one-time purchases have an underlying cost. I have had some of my instruments so long that the cases are wearing out, literally falling apart. Of course, this is the case doing its job. It takes the beating so the instrument does not. But some of my trustworthy cases are coming apart and need to be replaced. How much do I need to spend to protect an instrument worth several thousand dollars? A basic hardshell case is at least $100, and a professional road-quality case is more like $600. Yikes!

Even the instruments themselves require some maintenance. Eventually, any fretted instrument that’s played frequently will require a fret job. Age, and atmospheric conditions also affect instruments, and adjustments in the set up are also required now and again.

I’m not going to make fun of boat owners and golfers anymore. Well, maybe a little - my money hole hobby does pay me some money now and again!



The Affordable Care Act: A Boon for Musicians
Today's column from Ted Lehmann
Tuesday, July 8, 2014


During the past few years we've all watched too many beloved musicians pass from the music scene. Their illnesses and subsequent loss has cost many of us in grief, especially when friends die too soon, struck down by illness that could have been prevented or cured. Musicians often live in fear and denial, recognizing that they may have health issues and fearing that a trip to the doctor will entail tests, treatment, and medicines beyond their means. When warning signs are present, they avoid seeking medical help, accepting the consequences or denying the existence of the symptoms for fear of the economic costs. They eventually become ill and the generous bluegrass community rallies around them with love and support while opening up their hearts and pocketbooks to help meet medical expenses, often incurred too late. Sadly, the amount of money raised hardly provides sufficient funds to make a significant dent in the large debt often incurred during a serious illness.

Meanwhile, medical expenses have been the largest cause of bankruptcy in America. Dan Mangan of CNBC reported in 2013, “Bankruptcies resulting from unpaid medical bills will affect nearly 2 million people this year—making health care the No. 1 cause of such filings, and outpacing bankruptcies due to credit-card bills or unpaid mortgages, according to new data ….Even outside of bankruptcy, about 56 million adults—more than 20 percent of the population between the ages of 19 and 64—will still struggle with health-care-related bills this year.”

A recent article in the Houston Post had this to say, “Musicians and their families often fall through the coverage gap. They're typically young and consequently believe themselves invincible, and are expected to make significant sacrifices for their art. If you want to be a rock star, you'd better be ready to bleed for it. What other occupation has web sites like BetterThanTheVan.com , where groups can beg for lodging from obliging fans, or expects to meet its serious medical-care expenses through benefit-concert proceeds, in contrast to the conventional options offered to teachers and plumbers? “ An article in Billboard had this to say, “Unfortunately, artists aren’t well-informed about the nuts and bolts of Obamacare. The FMC/AHIRC survey found that 55% of artists “don’t understand it at all” or are “unsure” how the law would affect them. That number jibes with a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found 47% of Americans have enough information on health-care reform to understand how it will affect them and their families.”

In May, an article in the LA Times said, “The federal law that went into full effect this year made it easier for people to buy health insurance on their own because coverage is guaranteed regardless of preexisting health conditions, and subsidies are available to make premiums more affordable.

That creates a new range of options for people who are self-employed or who may have held on to a job they didn't like just for the benefits, said Laura Baker, a senior health and benefits consultant for consulting firm Mercer in Los Angeles.”

In December, OPB (Oregon Public Radio) printed a story on its web site detailing the problems of artists needing health care and suggesting that Oregon's state exchange as well as local insurance brokers who care about the needs of people in the arts community could provide real help for such people. One of the confounding problems mentioned in several places is that many artists are young and relatively healthy. They don't see themselves as needing health care, so they ignore or reject the possible alternatives.

The Southern Arizona Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance (S.A.A.M.H.A.) holds regular weekly meetings to help musicians and other artists navigate the questions and problems attached to the Affordable Care Act as it applies to them. They commented, “According to a recent survey, US-based artists — dancers, musicians, visual artists, theatre actors, film and media artists — are less likely to have health insurance than the general public. Like many other Americans, they are also unsure about the components of Affordable Care Act, and seek advice about how to navigate this new health care landscape.” The above suggests that even in states that have resisted the ACA, there are forces at work to help musicians find and get effective health care.

Help is Available: The web site Artists and the Affordable Care Act is an extremely useful site for anyone seeking to negotiate the maze of health health care regulations and the postures taken by various states as they seek to cooperate or resist based on both their politics and their populations. The interactive map provided by the Kaiser Foundation is particularly helpful, detailing at the click of a state the response of each state in the country. It's also quite complicated, as it explains in detail the progress of each state toward establishing (or not) state exchanges and meeting the requirements of the law. There are, however, lots of other resources available to assist people seeking help in their states. > http://health.futureofmusic.org/.

IBMA, through one of its Affiliated Partners Sound Healthcare has partnered with this company to help proide advice and services to the music industry. “Our primary goal is to provide members access to affordable health insurance and health care advocacy custom-designed to meet the needs of our bluegrass community. We provide customized programs of protection designed to perfectly balance your budget with your needs. Sound Healthcare offers a line-up of best-in-class insurance products, information and resources, and the assurance that we will always exceed the expectations of those we serve.” A form is provided to request further information. I'm sorry to say I reached out to this company for futher information, but received no reply. Further information about Sound Healthcare can be found on their web site, here.

The Actors Fund has also put together a very informative web site for all entertainers. Much of it is in the form of talks and charts, which might be easier for some people to navigate. Much of the information is presented as text with a voice over making it much easier to use. The site contains an ACA Basics Tutorial as well as many other resources that should prove helpful to those confused by both the programs available and the overheated rhetoric from both sides of the issue. There are thirty sections, each with a voice over with many accompanied by helpful charts to help reduce anxiety and confusion about ACA choices and responsibilities.

While enrollment for health care under the Affordable Care Act is currently closed until November 15, 2014 for enrollment on January 1, 2015, now is the time to begin preparing to provide for yourself and your family through the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. It's also a good time, if you live in a state which hasn't set up its own exchanges or expanded medicare to write your congressman or state representative urging them to vote for such action. Political ideology is not a good reason to be deprived of rights that have been passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. While the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, we are now seeing millions of people enrolling and the cost curve of medical care beginning to bend downwards. You're entitled to receive these benefits, too.


--
Ted Lehmann
Href=" tlehmann@ne.rr.comtlehmann@ne.rr.com
www.tedlehmann.blogspot.com



THE DAILY GRIST..."

Mark Varner
Today's column from I love bats
Monday, July 7, 2014


Dear Friends,

The Father’s Day Festival was just a bunch of fun! So good, in fact, that we skipped my son Marty’s high school graduation ceremony to get up there on Thursday. Of course these days everyone is in immediate and direct contact with everyone else, what with the smart phones – so he heard about how hot and boring the ceremony was from his friends who did attend. So he was pretty happy about the choice. So was I. Of course my daughter Veronica would never miss the festival and she brought a friend; thusly adding to the many, many young people at our festival.

The association is so proud of the direction the FDF is going. We packed the tent camping area with the usual suspects and a lot of new faces. Young people and young families and babies everywhere! The future of bluegrass is being passed along by the folks who have in the past and are working now to make sure it’s the bestest bluegrass and old time party on the westest coast.

I was pleased with the band selection. I thought Rowan was BETTER THAN I HAVE EVER SEEN HIM. It was like going back to the glory days of the 1st generation. His band brought a vitality that he has been needing to really showcase what an important person Rowan has been over his many years in the biz. Blaine really rocked it and so did the rest of the excellent band.

In fact, there was just some good, gritty grass on stage: Junior Sisk! Town Mountain! A tribute to our beloved Vern & Ray starring players who ARE California bluegrass; bands like Bean Creek who carry the torch of real deal bluegrass and how about the Central Valley Boys on the Vern’s stage? Wonderful! Old time music from Foghorn? Devine! Anyone who is worried about what kind of festival this is, was and will be should relax and enjoy the ride.

Kids on Bluegrass was fantastic, of course, and it was nice to have our great friend Sharon Elliot back with Frank’s crew. Young people, even from out of state are now flocking to our festival to be part of Solivan’s creation.
Please don’t fault me for not mentioning each act! There was so much talent between the main stage and the Vern’s stage. And variety! Finally got a chance to see Steep Ravine, who has been making waves in the Bay Area. They were decidedly NOT traditional, but they are the kind of band anyone can enjoy. It was my first time seeing Angelica Grim’s band, The Sisters Grim, too and that was a blast, of course.

We had fun camping in a new area for us. We’re usually there the Saturday before and set up camp near the maintenance building, but this time wound up on the far side of the water ditch on the far side of the entry road; next to Joe Weed and many other friends, old and new.
Gosh, I’ve been doing this festival for so many years now that I’ve got memory upon memory. Some of my favorite times are when you take that long evening stroll all around the camping areas. Makes me think of long-ago bandmates and friends, many gone now, and quiet conversations and burning to find a killer jam out in the wild blue yonder. This time my “stroll” was at dusk one night when I was feeling mellow and happy being on my own and decided I would go out to the big parking lot and watch the bats. I love the bats. So I was lying on my back, alone, on the still warm asphalt, looking up at the sky and a young man zoomed by on a bike; then zoomed back the other way. The next time he came slowly, with another young man walking by his side. It was getting dark, so did I know them? I don’t know. But they invited me to come up to their campsite on Quaker Hill. They told me I looked lonely. I thought that was so sweet. I told them I was right where I wanted to be and thanks for being kind. Of all the excitement and great music I think that was a moment I will remember. We are family.

Your pal,
Mark Varner


A Long Postcard
Today's column from Marcos Alvira (sort of)
Sunday, July 6, 2014


(Editors Note: Marcos has taken very, very few passes during his years as a Welcome columnist, and when he has it’s been for good reason. This morning, for example, he’s tooling around Europe with his wife…derned good excuse we at cbaontheweb.org Towers believe.

But the fact is, Marcos hasn’t stopped communicated with his bluegrass family a single day since flying off to London, Paris, Rome, etc. His Facebook page tells the whole incredible adventure…the Big Ben to toilets in the Netherlands. For those not Facebook-predisposed, we offer you a little compiled postcard from our First Sunday of the Month guy.)

Click here for the Alvira’s European Vacation.


Gone away
Today's column from Marty Varner AND Rick Cornish
Saturday, July 5, 2014


I am proud to say that I am starting my freshman year at Clark University in Worcester, MA this fall. It is a prestigious school and I am lucky to have been accepted. But of course, it is very expensive and I have a lot of work to do to put together my tuition and prepare to live by myself for the first time in a dorm room 3,000 miles away from the home I have always known.

I plan on bringing California Bluegrass to the Bay State whether they like it or not. But I know there is lots of good bluegrass as well as talented young musicians out there, so I have hopes of getting a bluegrass band together.

To help with my tuition, my move to the East Coast, the transition to living away from home for the first time, and paying my way once college has started, I have created a YouCaring fundraiser for any of my friends and family who feel they can help me at this important time in my life.

My long term plan is to become an attorney, and my goal as an attorney is to fight anything that might stand in between our bluegrass community and being free to have jams and play in coffee houses, which BMI and ASCAP with their bully-like behavior, have sought to eliminate. I definitely see myself going into some type of law related to the arts because I always plan on being a bluegrass picker. That way I will be able to both have my own thriving career, and help bluegrass music and music as a whole, which is of course my other true passion. My goal is to repay to our community many times over what I raise in this fundraiser.

Ever since I was in the womb I have been listening to bluegrass music and have gone to bluegrass festivals. It has been our family vacations for my entire life and I don’t mind it at all. During my childhood and adolescent years I have had the privilege of meeting and playing with some of the biggest names in the music including Frank Wakefield and the Infamous Stringdusters.

To repay the California Bluegrass Association for the opportunities they have given me, I have volunteered in numerous ways. In 2011 and 2012 I was able to be a teacher’s assistant at the CBA’s Father’s Day Music Camp. Here, I met more incredible musicians as well as learned to teach and help my fellow bluegrass enthusiasts. I was also one of the Stage Manager’s assistants at the Father’s day Festival. There, I was responsible for coordinating workshops, as well as anything else that needed to be done. While this seems like grunt work, it will help me in the long run. I also write a monthly article for the CBA web site where I am able to present opinions about the current Bluegrass albums out. So don’t worry about losing touch with. You will still be hearing from me in my monthly Welcome Column. I will bring you lots of stories and keep you posted on how I am doing.

I promise to work hard in college and make you all proud.

I also want to thank all of my previous funders who have helped me in my journey to come.

I am extremely proud to announce that I was selected as a recipient for the Grey Fox Festival Scholarship. Such other winners have been the incredibly talented Rushad Eggleston and California legend Bill Evans!

I would like to thank Rick Cornish Darby Brandli Tim Edes and the rest of the California Bluegrass Association for all they have done to help this happen. And I would like to thank all of the California pickers who have helped me out musically throughout my years of improving.

And now! A word from Rick Cornish!

Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where each and every inhabitant, homo sapiens, canines and camelids alike, have said their own little version of a prayer that today will be cooler than yesterday, which, of course, it won’t, but whether you’re a human or a dog or a llama, deep down inside you just know you’ve got to give it the old college try.

And speaking of college, I remember as though it was just last night that my two boys and I sat outside on the deck and talked about Phil’s imminent departure to college. Even though the journey would be a short one in terms of miles, San Jose to Berkeley, we three knew that in terms of the human experience, it would be a very long and important trip. I don’t remember exactly what triggered it, but a one point I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, Phil sitting on my lap sobbing too. Neither the sobbing nor the lap-sitting were exactly characteristic of our father-and-sons bull sessions so it was very clear to us that something monumental was up. After eighteen years, my boy was leaving home and, aside from visits, he would never return.

This morning, sitting down with my tall cup of half-caff, trail mix and banana and logging onto my computer to begin the day the way I’ve been beginning it for fourteen years now, I quickly scanned the list to see which Welcomer was up…and in that split second, I was transported back, for just an instant, to that August evening out on the deck with Phillip and Peter.

First Saturday………………….Marty Varner

So, in truth there is a little melancholy I’m feeling this morning, but it’s nothing compared to the pride of knowing that one of our own kids, a bluegrass kid whose life each of us had a chance to touch, has started his own monumental journey. We’ll celebrate that beginning with a quick detour back in time…

(Editor's Note--We want to welcome Marty Varner as our First Saturday of the Month Welcome columnist. We've seen his excellent and exuberant writing in this spot several times in the past, but it's official now. The kid's got plenty to say, and he figured out quite a while back that the better he says it, the more it will be heard.)

The Deadly Gentlemen at 2012 FDF
Today’s Column from Marty Varner
July 7, 2012


I believe that the 2012 Grass Valley Bluegrass Festival was one of the greatest ever. It was also one of the most varied. From traditional bands like Danny Paisley and Southern Grass to bluegrass poetry band, The Deadly Gentlemen. Even though I had so many incredible moments at this year’s festival, possibly my favorite was when I saw the mass approval of The Deadly Gentlemen. Before the festival, I was almost certain that the Deadly Gentlemen’s unorthodox style of bluegrass would cause a stir amongst the festivalgoers, but it was a lot more mild than I thought. There were still people that I talked to that didn’t care for it, but that’s just a part of being an edge band. I saw all three sets, and I for one was blown away. Even though I had heard their albums before the festival, I had never seen them live and I was not disappointed. Even though I had seen bands like the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Punch Brothers, with the always emotionally engaged Chris Thile, I have never see a band get into the music and the groove more than the Deadly Gentlemen did.

Another characteristic of their live shows is the usage of covers. These happened to be some of their best songs. Some of the songs they did were the Grateful Dead song “Touch of Grey” and The Rolling Stones’ song, “Sweet Virginia”.

All in all I was ecstatic about their performances and the way the audiences responded. This experience can become a catalyst to possibly even extend the hypothetical tentlonger. This band can possibly lead to a new entire genre of music that is different from anything else done in edge bluegrass today. Their incredible musicianship along with Greg Liszt’s incredible knack for coming up with incredible lyrics and groove-heavy arrangements makes this band one of the best.

My favorite thing about the Deadly Gentlemen though is their stage presence and the amount of energy they put into their performances. Each member has their own special twitch on stage. While playing bass, Sam Grisman sings along on every song most of the way through while Stash stares down and bangs and whirls his long hair. Even though they are all great, my favorite is Greg Liszt who jumps back dramatically at specific times during a set.

This young and rising band has a lot of time to become huge, and with the proper publicity and their will, they can become the new big thing in bluegrass and possibly move over into the world of Yonder Mountain String Band and Old Crow Medicine show if they choose to.



Ten Items or Fewer
Today’s column from Brooks Judd
Friday, July 4, 2014


Item 1: Let me be the first to say a very Happy 4th of July. The memory of our historical Fourth brings to mind the story about the patriotic Yank yakking it up with an equally patriotic Brit in a bar in downtown New York City at the annual 4th of July Parade. The Yank smugly asks the Brit, “Say do you guys have a 4th of July in your country?” The Brit puts down his pint of Guinness and says in an extremely staid British accent, “Yes we do. We also have a fifth and a sixth.”

Item 2: In the spirit of this celebrated 4th of July, I encourage all of you (and yours truly) to set aside a couple of hours, round up a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and spend some quiet time reading these cherished documents, and then re read them.With all of our woes and troubles in this chaotic land we call the United States of America wouldn’t our celebrated 4th of July be an ideal time to reread what our founding fathers had to say as they were preparing to sever ties with their Mother Country while creating an entirely new homeland?

Good things may very well happen. Your beliefs may be solidified, questions may arise that weren’t present before or you may feel the need to do more research. Whatever happens we owe it to ourselves to understand more fully the principles that this country was founded on.

Item 3: Monday, June 30 marked the end of the fiscal year, and marked my sixty-sixth birthday. June 30 also marked the day that Sheila retired as a special education teacher in Delhi. July 1 marks the beginning of a well deserved and well earned retirement. God bless you Sheila.

Sheila has worked so hard these past years, doing all those things that a loving wife, daughter, mother and grandmother is able to do.I can only partially comprehend the work she has put in to keep the home fires burning brightly.I am one fortunate fella to be blessed with someone like Sheila. You’ve earned it. On to Ireland!


Item 4: CBA Kick start videos. I hope you folks are enjoying the daily videos on the home page as much as I am. Rick was so kind to let me choose them. I do get a kick out of going through and selecting them.

Item 5: Kids. Substitute teaching for me is still rewarding and fulfilling. I enjoy informing my children that at one time in the United States children just like themselves were looked upon not as entitled extensions of their parents but viewed as a commodity to be used.Factories and farms were sprinkled with thousands of children working and no one blinked twice to see children toiling long hours.Laws eventually had to be passed to protect our children from the sweatshops in the major cities.When I tell children this bit of historical fact they just roll their eyes and say, “I wouldn’t do that! Working? That’s crazy!”

Today we spend billions of hard earned dollars on our children providing them with anything to keep them occupied and making sure they can keep up with their own gaggle of friends. Go figure.

In fourth grade I had a paper route, mowed lawns and I never asked for or received an allowance from my parents. My parents weren’t mean or tightfisted. It was just that I was eager and able to earn money. I was happy to do it and it seemed like the right thing to do. Why should my parents hand money over to me when I was able to earn my own?

(Lies I may have told): I slogged 5 miles through the slush and snow to my school with nothing but a cold biscuit to stave off the hunger wearing tattered torn leggings (sewn together from old potato sacks by my mother) to ward off the icy sleet and snow. When my daughters saw Highland School for the first time and quickly realized that it was only 150 feet away from my home they were surprised.When they learned that the winter weather in Hayward bottomed out at about a bone chilling 50 degrees they were suspicious. Upon further investigation when they discovered that my mother fed her well clothed children steaming mugs of hot Cream of Wheat or Maypo on those winter mornings, Jessica and Rhiannon were moved to ask some rather pointed questions. From this point on my lovely young daughters were more than just a little bit skeptical believing any of their father’s stories.

Truth be told I did have a paper route, mowed lawns and never asked for or received an allowance. It made me feel good to have money in my pocket and not having to ask my parents for $.75 (yes six bits)) to go to a double feature at the classy Ritz or the less ritzy Hayward Theaters in downtown Hayward with Rick. Of course Rick and I thought nothing of throwing out our thumbs to hitch hike to the theater and back again.Times were indeed a bit simpler and yes even probably safer back then.

Item 6: A new App has just been released. It is the “YO” App. Tis true. The App does nothing but send the message “YO.” I’m sure it will be a billion dollar “Must have” for those who need these things.

Item 7: To those parents who are having a difficult time getting your teen-agers to do their chores I wanted to close today’s column with a golden oldie written by the prolific song-writing team of Lieber & Stoller that was sung by the talented and successful Coasters back in the late 50’s called “Yakety Yak.” Anyone under 40 reading today’s column can rest assured that kids at one time were supposed to help out around the home and do it QUIETLY.

Take out the papers and the trash
Or you don’t get no spending cash,
If you don’t scrub that kitchen floor.
You ain’t gonna rock and roll no more
Yakety Yak (Don’t talk back)

Just finish cleanin’ up your room
Let’s see that dust fly with your broom
Get all that garbage out of sight
Or you don’t go out Friday night
Yakety Yak (Don’t talk back)

Just put on your coat and hat
And walk yourself to the Laundromat
And when you finish doing that
Bring in the dog and put out the cat
Yakety Yak (Don’t talk back)

Don’t you give me no dirty looks
Your father’s hip he knows what cooks
*Just tell your hoodlum friends outside
You ain’t got time to take a ride
Yakety Yak (Don’t talk back)

* “Just tell your hoodlum friends outside......” I think every parent has said that at one time or another to their teen age son or daughter. It sounds SOOO familiar.

Until August: Read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat a bar of chocolate and smile.

Brooks




THE DAILY GRIST…“If I was going to go around and be worried about playing behind every guy that was better than me on bass I would never pick it up.” Post on TalkBass.com Forum

Bassically Speaking
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, July 3, 2014


We be talking bass again this month. I mean the stringed instrument not the fish. You know, the doghouse, bull fiddle, bass fiddle or just plain bass (but not base). The one where you can never find more than one in a jam or band unless the band name has a city and the words symphony orchestra in it like “The Jalapeno Springs Symphony Orchestra”. Then you can have two or three of the suckers but they don’t call them doghouses and some of them are even bigger in size. Also these are rather formal gatherings (invitation only jams) not your regular jams.

This two or more basses (not haddocks) in one jam thing came up again while camping in Grass Valley this year. My next-door neighbor in the campground was a good bass player from Oregon named Gary. I first met him at Walker Creek this spring when we were both in Paul Knight’s bass session. At Grass Valley, we were camped at a corner and had fairly easy access to a lot of jammers close by. On my first night there we both ended up with our “upright fish” at the same jam. With us both being friendly kinda guys we decided we should have a playoff to see who could play in the local jam. Winner takes all. The bass player with the better runs, passing tones, leading tones, etc. would do the bass playing while the other would sit and noodle on an instrument they hardly knew. Nah, we didn’t do that but we did make a pact that as we traversed the campgrounds looking for jams that if either of us “got lucky” and snared a bass spot, we would share, trading off and taking turns playing. That worked out for us as we did trade off in a couple of jams we ran into over the weekend including our close by jams with our neighbors. It is my humble opinion that contrary to popular belief, good bass spots in jams are a premium. You know it’s not like we’re carrying around mandolins or fiddles until we find a good jam. Travelling ain’t easy with these guys.

As an aside, Gary, who took the bass class at the CBA Music Camp told me a story almost to hard to fathom. Apparently during the student concert at the end of camp, his class, with a dozen basses took the stage with a class of the same number of dobros for a performance. I am hoping the proper authorities were notified and all the appropriate permits obtained. As far as I know, no serious injuries were reported.

In my recent 10 year revival of bass playing I have taken classes sessions and workshops from a number of very good pros. The list, just so I can try to keep track is: Todd Phillips, Dean Knight, Bill Amatneek, Paul Knight, Mark Schatz, Trish Gagnon, Missy Raines. Most of these were full three day 4 hour sessions and the rest a couple of 1 hour workshops. Add to that my more (usually) regular lessons with Lisa Burns and you have to wonder why I am not playing a “big fish” in the Jalapeno Springs Symphony Orchestra. Must be about my woodshedding.

All kidding aside, we are extremely fortunate to have this quality of instructors in our camps. The list of instructors in these camps, for all the instruments including voice, is equally impressive.

Outside of tempo, timing and technique that I have studied in the camp sessions, I have also learned some other important skills by osmosis from watching bass players at concerts, shows and gigs. Without drummers, the bass players are the first on the stage setting up. Even in our acoustic music most of the bass pros (I’m not talking about fishing) use amps to control their sound. Amps mean pick-ups too. There is a lot to know here. Pre-amps etc. It’s not just hefting your ax to the stage and begin playing. Which amp, which pick-up, all of this is part of learning to play bass if you plan on playing out.

What I didn’t pick up from my bass sessions or observations was how to get over this “no two” at once deal. I’m not complaining mind you but I live, perpetually, on the sub bass list for about 3 jams. You get a call you better drop and run or they just move you down the list. Recently, I’ve been lucky to get "promoted" to principal bassist at two jams both on Wednesday fortunately at different times. I don’t know who does the promoting except that I’m the one there. Heck if another bass shows up I’ll share. Goodness forbid I have to miss one of the Wednesday sessions as the position as “1st fish” is certainly tenuous.

There are other tricks in my arsenal for getting around the “no two” scenario. Say like at the monthly SCVFA Jam in San Jose, there are typically 3 or 4 bass players hanging around. You can see the predatory jammers looking for the better ones but if you hang by the open mic stage you can get called up to the stage to back up a folky or a singer songwriter very quickly and then you don’t let go. This is also a good way to get in the monthly newsletter pictures as well.

I’m sure you know that I’m being facetious and just kidding around with all this. I play in two bands that both rehearse regularly and I jam at least a couple of times a week on top of that. The real problem with all the rehearsals and jamming is that I use it as an excuse to stay out of the woodshed but I’ll save that for another time.

Getting back to SCVFA, don’t forget their monthly jam this Sunday in the Rose Garden Park on Naglee in San Jose. There will be lots of jamming and you can make book that there will be only one bass per jam.


Catch you next month.


Some of the Stages We Go Through
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I used to love watching “In Concert” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” on weekends. I was too young to drive to concerts (and too poor to afford the tix - some of those shows costs north of $10 a ticket!), so I soaked up the sights and sounds of dozens of rock bands in concert. I loved it when the camera’s view was the artists’ view - looking across the stage and out into the audience, obscure by the blinding spotlight and drifting smoke. Man, that was the life for me!

The stages were always roomy, sturdy and carpeted. If something went awry with any piece of equipment, a black clad roadie scurried in, like a Ninja Gollum to fixed the problem and scurried off again (Kind of like the ball boys in tennis?).

So, I got me a guitar and I formed a rock’n’roll band. And lo! We got a gig. It was a juniorhigh school dance. We were perfectly qualified. Our parents drove us to the gig and we set up. It wasn’t a large, raised, carpeted stage. It was a nice spot, though, sort of a spacious corner of the school’s multi-use room. But it was like Carnegie Hall to us. It went well, and we were hooked.

Fast forward a few years, we’re still at it, but we’ve graduated to the club and bar scene. Moving up, right? Then why are the stages getting smaller? Most club stages and nearly all bar “stages” are puny, some comically so. We got a two night stand at the Buckhorn Tavern in Pioneer, California. We actually had to stomp through some snow to load in.

We’re here!”, we announced to the proprietor. “Is that the drum riser?”, I ask, pointing to a tiny raised platform.

“That’s the whole stage!” he growls, as he wipes out a whiskey glass with an, uh, experienced rag.

I see the problem! As rockers, we have simply became too laden with gear. A full drum kit, and big amps for three other instruments, plus PA. We’re simply taking up too much valuable real estate that could be taken up by paying, drinking patrons. Or the claw-that-picks-stuffed toys machine. Or the “Virility-meter” machine.

So, we scaled down. We became bluegrass musicians. Much more compact, much less footprint, although the PA got bigger (as did the bass).

But the stages didn’t get any bigger - not for a while. I was learning a truism in music - if you can’t draw a crowd, you’re barely worth the space you take up - in the eyes of the proprietor. Some are real soft-hearted music fans, most eventually tire of the notion of moving tables to feature music that appeals to only the bands friends (Unless they have a LOT Of friends!)

I have seem some growth in the past 5 or 6 years in restaurants and bars who invest in good stage setups, including light and sound. These owners are showing some commitment to the local music scene, and we need to reward them for these efforts. Don’t just go see your friends at these venues - take some chances. Check out acts you’ve never heard of, or musical genres that aren’t your favorite. If the owner (or the club’s booker) has done a good job, they will be presenting some surprising talent.

I have made it to some large carpeted stages, over the years, and it was just as thrilling as I had hoped, even if the crowds didn’t number in the tens of thousands. But there’s fun (and laughs) to be had at every “stage” in your musical journey!



Mud and Ice Cream!
Today's column from Brian McNeal, prescriptiongrass.com

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


As a child, my playmate and I once put ice cream and mud together and then tried to serve it as pie. We both thought we were creative geniuses but when she gave it to her mother, that combination didn't go over too well.

I once worked for an employer who liked to blur the lines between a full paycheck and a partial paycheck. I didn't like it a bit. I asked him if it would be OK for me to blur the lines on my 40 hour week. He didn't like that at all.
Most states have a bit of fudge room on the speed limit, but that is a grace and not an absolute. If you're doing 75 mph in a 70 mph zone … most of the time you're going to be safe when it comes to avoiding a citation. But if that's not the only line you've blurred, the officer making the stop can still write a speeding ticket along with any other violations he finds. So just because quite a lot of people do occasionally blur the lines on highway speed it doesn't make it right.

When I decided to put up a fence, I wanted to follow the contour of the land and make the fence look aesthetically natural. My neighbor however, thought that was just a bit too much blurring of the lines and insisted on a surveyor to mark the actual property line where he wanted the fence located. Guess who won the battle of the line-blurring there?

There are times when blurring the lines a little bit doesn't hurt much and then there are times when anything but the exact is unacceptable.

It seems in music everyone wants to blur the lines under the name of artistic freedom. This is nothing new. In the art world painters and sculptors don't really care whether they're branded as “Impressionists” or “Art Nouveau” or “Fine Art” or “Decorative” and many have blurred the lines between styles in the attempt to create something different and something salable. What they care about is creating something that is appreciated.

It seems in music we've lost some of that focus in the name of making money with the art. It's not always about creating something that is appreciated as much as it is about making a statement that “this can be done, like it or not.” Sometimes it's about trying to manipulate styles and combine things that should never be put together.

Blurring the lines in music happens all the time, and when it happens naturally in the creative process, it can be a new and exciting delight. But when it's a forced mix of two drastically different styles, I'm afraid that what we often get is mud and ice cream.


THE DAILY GRIST..."Frustration is the only human emotion that feeds on itself. It’s like the perpetual motion machine of human feelings; once it grabs you it’s more or less self-sufficient and will keep itself going until you make a conscious decision to end the craziness.”—Leon Trotsky

What makes me crazy
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Monday, June 30, 2014


No, I’m not crazy enough to try to do my own version of Nancy’s column from yesterday, Rantings of a Grumpy Old Woman, though Lord knows I’d have ample frustration in which to wallow in misery. I’ll just mention one of the things in life that really, really bugs me. And I’ll do it by giving you a timely example. It’s mid-day, Wednesday of festival week, I walk over to the old showers, find that, Eureka, tepid water awaits, and am mid-way into the sudsing cycle when I overhear a conversation between two stall mates, one on either side of me.

“Have you seen the posters they got up about the JD cookbook thingy?” asks the showerer on my right.

“No, what?”, replies showerer right.

“I guess the CBA’s doing some kind of fund-raiser deal to do up a book of recipes that JD Rhynes has had in the Breakdown. You’ve seen ‘em in the Breakdown…”

“Sure I have, Elaine’s actually done a few. The tamale pie recipe was mucho bueno.”

I am liking this, really, really liking this. The posters have started a buzz, just like Ted Kuster, the brains behind the cookbook Kickstater idea, said they would.

“Yeah,” comes right showerer, “I guess the guy really does cook. So they’re asking for donations. You gonna give anything?”

“Hell no,” left showerer snaps, “I think it’s stupid. I mean like, not the book part, that’s pretty cool I guess.”

“Then what?”
“Well, with the cost of tickets to Grass Valley up to, what, a hundred and fifty or so, you’d think if they were going to do some kind of fund-raising thing they’d use the money to try to keep the admission price down. Wouldn’t you?

“THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS FOR,” I scream silently in my brain. Frustration’s got me tightly in its grip in the blink of an eye.

“Yeah,” agrees right showerer, “I guess you’re right. They’re always doing these money making things and who knows where the money goes.”

“I DO, DAMMIT. I KNOW WHERE THE MONEY GOES: IT GOES TO KEEP TICKET PRICES DOWN YOU DOLTS.” Now steam is coming out of my ears, but I say not a word.

“So, they’re goal is $10 grand,” righty continues, “think if they’d apply that money to cover the cost of the Fathers Day Festival and pass the savings along to us poor consumers.”

“Yup,” lefty concurs, “it’s the same everywhere. Corporate America has one bottom line only, and that bottom line is itself.”

Now, in all fairness, if I’d overheard this conversation fifteen years ago I’d probably have joined in and offered my own cynical take on corporate greed. But I didn’t hear it fifteen years ago, I heard it this year, 2014, after nearly a decade and a half of spending eleven Saturdays per year sitting with ten others around a table for six or eight hours a pop obsessively debating the hands-down number one CBA board meeting agenda item…which is, of course, keeping FDF ticket prices as low as possible. Yes right showerer, yes, left showerer, the Kickstarter campaign does have as its goal to raise $10,000 to produce a cookbook and CD featuring JD Rhynes’ recipes and stories. But lefty and righty, don’t you understand, the project isn’t an end in itself; producing a cookbook that can be sold at a modest price at CBA events forever and ever is EXACTLY aimed at keeping ticket prices down. The money will be used to defray the costs of the Fathers Day Festival and other CBA events so that ticket prices won’t go up…and maybe even go down. For close to fifteen years I’ve heard members carp and complain about the money-grubbing CBA board of directors and all of their get rich schemes. Well, hey, guess what—nobody’s getting rich. And guess what else—part of the reason the admission price of the four-day festival at Grass Valley each June is well below the national average for comparable events IS EXACTLY BECAUSE the people you’ve elected keep dreaming up ways to pay for the Association’s events and help folks who can barely affort to attend attend.

So there, I’ve said it, and I actually feel a little better than when I started. Good to get things off your chest every now and then. Have a terrific week and play and/or listen to some bluegrass or old-time music. Oh, one last thing, click here to give a few bucks to help with the old mountain man’s cookbook. Who knows, it just might help to keep ticket prices down.


Rantings of a Grumpy Old Woman originally posed in November, 2009)
Today's column from Nancy Zuniga
Sunday, June 29, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Everyone who’s spent time at cbaontheweb.org on a regular, daily, or mostly daily, basis has a favorite Welcome columnist. Mine was always Nancy Z. There was never a monthly offering from her that I felt was rushed or “phoned in.” Folks who know her are very much aware of her dry humor, sometimes cutting but always ultimately kind. And too, we could always expect there to be a few kernels of truth that, by the end of the piece, would coalesce into a thought that usually had the power to stay with us for a few days…sort of like an ear worm, but with a concept rather than a melody line. All of this is to say that I miss Nancy’s monthly Welcomes and, on this unassigned fifth Sunday of the month, we’re reprising one of her excellent essays in which she does what she does best, which is to RANT.)


Like most folks, I occasionally fall into a bit of a funk, but if I happened to be in a negative frame of mind when it came time to compose my monthly column for this web site, I've fought the temptation to use this pulpit to vent my frustrations. Up until today, I've succeeded in restraining myself from “going negative” and have instead focused on other topics. However, I've decided that today, I'm just going to express myself and let the chips fall where they may. I do promise a tiny smidgen of bluegrass content toward the end of the column.

When I was a kid, I sometimes heard my elders pining for “the good old days” and repeating the cliché that “things ain't what they used to be.” I suppose it's a normal part of the aging process for persons of every generation to wax nostalgic for the way things were in their younger days. I think I've reached that stage. Here is my list of gripes about some of the changes...not for the better...that I've seen come about in my lifetime:

1. Changes in the American vernacular: Some years back, people joked about how the trash collector (aka the garbage man) was now to be called a “sanitation engineer”. Over time, there have been thousands of changes along these lines; for example, teachers' aides are now called “educational technicians”, the unemployment office is the “Department of Human Resources”....well, I could go on, but you get the picture. I'm certainly glad that it's no longer socially acceptable to use offensive slurs to describe groups of people, but I wonder if we haven't carried political correctness to a ridiculous extreme. I miss the days when we could call things and occupations by names that described what they really were.

2. Graffiti on boxcars: Call me a romantic, but there's just something about seeing a freight train barreling across the landscape that conjures up visions of the American frontier, or maybe some characters out of a Steinbeck novel catching a ride out west during the Great Depression. That is, freight trains did conjure up that high lonesome feeling for me back before nearly every boxcar in America became covered with huge cartoon-like letters revealing the nickname or gang affiliation of the social misfit who painted those letters. It's bad enough that there are no longer cabooses on the trains; The garish graffiti that now defaces nearly every boxcar serves as a final insult to the railroads which I once found to be an inspiring part of our landscape.

3. Automated voice commands: It used to be that when I needed information from a company, I could dial the customer service number and hear a real live human being on the other end. As an added bonus, said human being was nearly always someone who had an actual working knowledge of the company I was calling. Now, of course, I have to listen to a recording with commands instructing me to “press one”, “press two”, etc. for various departments. Oftentimes none of the choices have anything to do with my reason for calling, but I'll pick the one that comes closest, and then will have to go through another half-dozen or more commands before I can get through to a real, live person. When I am finally able to connect to an actual human being, it's usually someone in a faraway land reading from a list of scripted responses. Don't get me wrong; I'm well aware that those folks are just trying to earn a living and that their job is a thankless one, having to deal with irate customers half-a-world away. That said, I do miss the days of personal and local customer service which will most likely never return, at least not in my lifetime.

4. The misappropriation of the name of one genre of music by an entirely different genre of music. For example, years ago, there was a type of music called “Country” that was characterized by a twangy guitar, pedal steel, fiddle, and simple song lyrics. Nowadays, there exists a style of music that is characterized by blasting electric guitars, pounding drums, and wordy convoluted lyrics. And it's called “Country”. How did that happen? Then there's R& B, which to me will always bring to mind artists like Jackie Wilson, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington, and Otis Redding. The singers had great voices, and the songs were lyrical and singable. Over the last twenty years or so, there has developed a type of music characterized by little or no melody and a type of monotonous emoting that seems indicative of a drug-induced stupor. Inexplicably, like that other style of music from a bygone era, it's also called...”R&B”. As with “Country”, I wonder why promoters of the new “R&B” were so lacking in imagination that they couldn't come up with an original name. And then there's a style of music called “bluegrass”....(Well, I did promise you a smidgen of bluegrass content....) Assigning the name of one type of music to another style is completely unnecessary; Take, for example, the musical genre dubbed “heavy metal.” While I've never cared for heavy metal, I absolutely respect that its purveyors didn't have the audacity to label it “rock-and-roll”. I have no desire to squash the creativity of anyone who wants to invent a new type of music, but please, follow the example of the heavy-metal folks and give it an original name rather than stealing one that is already in use.

I acknowledge that, in the grand scheme of things, everything I've mentioned here is “small stuff”; nothing on a par with war, diseases, or other real tragedies. I also acknowledge that modern advances in science, technology, and medicine have vastly improved the quality of life for most of us. Even so, I still at times long for “the good old days”. I'm not sure whether or not this rant has made me feel better. On the one hand, it does feel good to vent. On the other hand, I believe that by expressing these views, I have hereby proclaimed in this public forum and to myself that I am now officially OLD.


One-Sided Sharing! A message to all musical artists!!
Today's column from Radio Host & Blog Editor Brian McNeal
Saturday, June 28, 2014


Do you think your fan base might like to read about what you're doing? Of course, they would, you’re answering.

One of the ways of getting in touch with your fans is through the numerous blogs and news services dedicated to bluegrass music. YES, there is more than ONE.

I can think of more than a handful of sites that do basically the same thing yet it seems that whenever a bluegrass group or artist gets a story of a new CD, a new band member, or something similar posted on one certain news site, that posting link seems to get Tweeted, Facebook'ed, and plastered around numerous social media sites. Time and again I continue to see this social media sharing of just one internet based news service … as if that is the only one in existence. What an oversight.

Yet if (or when) anything is posted from any of the other sites who also provide the same basic service, it's usually the site's owner who is posting it.

What has happened to sharing? There are some of these web-based news services who may do what they do for the sheer joy of doing it, but most are operating a business and struggle to make a living. I wonder if the courtesy they show any artist by posting a news story might be worth sharing? I wonder if they may like to have a few of that artist's social media friends know about them and their services?

A while back, I wrote about a friend of mine who basically had the same to say about the services provided by their radio station and the oblivious and perfunctory attitude being shown by many of their on-air guests.
(https://www.facebook.com/notes/prescription-bluegrass/care-to-share-/494060560667204 )

It's not just radio. And it's not just news services. It's everyone and every entity that does anything that helps an artist's career, whether that be news, interviews, reviews, endorsements, quotes, etc. There are so many ways to pay back those folks and a simple sharing of what they have done is not only so easy to do, but is one of the ways.

The act of NOT sharing is a reckless practice. The act of expecting and accepting services from other publications but only sharing from one favorite source time and again is negligence. When we see this careless attitude demonstrated over and over by so many, it speaks loudly. But rather than speak for all, let me speak for just Prescription Bluegrass.

I can't tell you exactly how many times we've been first to publish a news story and find that other services were a day or more behind our posting, but I can tell you that it happens quite frequently. I also can't tell you exactly how many artists or their management teams are aware of this fact, but I can tell you that we're not an unknown entity to them and many of them are often surprised by the quickness with which we are able to post their news stories.

So why do we publish any news stories for any bands/artists? We're in business to earn a living. We can only do that through the sale of advertising, which is based on the number of readers we have. The more readers we have, the more chances we have to attract better advertising contracts. News generates readers. Being the first to publish a story sometimes helps that effort, but when the artist(s)/bands then direct their fans to another site to read the very same story published a day or more after our publication, we've gained very little for our efforts.

When we post a news story from a press release sent by an artist, or their management, and that same story also gets published in several other outlets but that artist then shares the story posted in just that one certain other outlet, they've helped that one outlet to grow some but have slapped all the others in the face. Much like a parent giving all of their attention to just one child, you might expect the others to rebel.

If an artist is going to share their news story from one outlet only, time and again, I wonder why they bother sending the press release to any of the others in the first place. Is there really any need for the others? I know, that's a rhetorical question. The reality is that they want it all. They take and take but when it's time to give they're selfish. Selfish with their time (it takes so much time these days to point and click on a share-icon). And they are selfish with their intent (the all for me – me – me syndrome).

We like sharing. Granddad used to always say that good news needs to be spread like good jam on toast. Please feel free to share the links for any of the stories we've posted on our blog over on your Facebook page, or share the link on Twitter. We even make it easy with popular social media icons at the bottom of each story. (We'll even add more if someone were to request some that we haven't found.)

And you don't have to limit yourself to just stories about you and your band. Feel free to share the stories about your friends and any other news that strikes you as interesting. Chances are, others will be glad you did. And so will we. Thank You!!!


HARMONY
Today's column from Regina Bartlett
Friday, June 27, 2014


Welcome and howdy to you travelers out on Harmony Road.

Wasn’t Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at Grass Valley FUN? How did you like the new stage lighting panels? In the daylight I wasn’t sure I liked those gauzy panels but at night they were really amazing and so complimentary to the music and musicians on stage. A tip of the hat to whoever thought of the stage lighting change.

And how about the Lifetime members seating? What a great idea. It was good to see our volunteers recognized and seated in front of the stage in those different colored chairs. We are blessed to have such members in our CBA family.

Opening day, I woke up early around 4:30 am to get in the ‘chair line’ and met many of the usual suspects. And once again, I have to give special recognition to Marty Martini who went up and down the line serving Starbucks coffee: de-caf and regular with cream and sugar…twice. What a guy! Folks say that he does this every year. Marty does this out of the kindness of his heart just because he can. We are blessed to have such a member in our CBA family.

This year, I brought my good friend Kay Wilkes (a CBA member) to her very first Grass Valley Father’s Day Festival. She loved seeing Darby and Cliff Compton and the fact that the bands played several times during the festival. Well folks, she’s hooked. She loved Grass Valley. Kay is from Maggie Valley, North Carolina and has been part of my Camp Howdy family of friends for many years and lives up the road from me here in Watsonville.

We were fortunate to work for Jennifer Kitchen with Mona Anacleto and we sure enjoyed working together at our volunteer jobs. You all know Mona, she scoots around the festival on her red scooter and nothing ever gets her down and she sure doesn’t miss many Bluegrass festivals. She’s volunteered at many festivals and has worked the Gate Crew, Membership, and Hospitality. Many years ago, I met Mona thrift shopping in Woodland and we‘ve been friends ever since then. She’s a treasure of a woman and we are blessed to have such a member in our CBA family.

It was great to see Jack Sadler (CBA membership number 3) at Grass Valley. He has the most amazing voice and his fiddle playing with his band Lone Prairie is fantastic. Since the passing of Joe Kimbro, the band hasn’t played together very much. However, I did hear them play on KKUP not too long ago. We are blessed to have such a member in our CBA family.

David Brace sure did an amazing job running the Festival. He takes care of so many details and all with a sense of humor. Thanks David.

How about the volunteer breakfeast send off? Mrs. Brace and friends prepared coffee, orange juice, bagels, ham, eggs, for all the volunteers each morning. It sure was nice to have someone thinking of you and feeding you before you go do your job.
We are blessed to have such members in our CBA family.

The concerts on the Main Stage and Vern’s Stage and the Pioneer Stage, the workshops, the jamming everywhere made this one of the finest Father’s Day Bluegrass Festivals ever.

I don’t know about you but for me, when I got home and back into my life, something was missing…all of you! I missed the jamming, the concerts, the music but most of all, you - my CBA Family of Friends.

So I went down to Phil’s for a dose of Bluegrass Music by the Courthouse Ramblers and Pete Hicks, and ran into Paul King from Lone Prairie and his wife Gerry, and Richard, who each year, flies over from Maui to attend Grass Valley. When I mentioned to Richard how much I missed Grass Valley, he said that he did too and that he cried when he left because the Nevada County Fairgrounds were so empty of all the people and music and our little Family of Friends. I guess we’ll just have to count our blessings and wait until next year!

This year, I plan to go to Boulder Creek for the 4th of July and attend the San Francisco Folk Music Club July 4 Campout, at the Boulder Creek Boy Scout Reservation. I hope to play some Appalachian Dulcimer and guitar. I’ve never gone to this event and I have heard that it’s pretty good. It’s close to home so perhaps I’ll see some of you there.

Be sure to put the Good Old Fashioned Festival on your calendar August 7-10 at Bolado Park in Hollister at the San Benito County Fairgrounds. It’s a sweet little festival just filled with all your favorite pickers and friends. The stars put on a show at night and the jamming is everywhere! Volunteers are still needed. Contact Elicia Burton if you’d like to volunteer - (831) 246-1910. I also need a couple more volunteers for the Kids on Stage program. Please contact me if you’d like to be on the KOS team.

The Northern California Bluegrass Society has announced the Main Stage Line-Up for the August 7-10, 2014 Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass The bands:

27strings
Abbott Brothers
Amazing Dr. Zarcon’s Breathing Machine
Bean Creek
Brookdale Bluegrass Band
California Pearly Blue
Courthouse Ramblers
Faux Renwah
Grassfire
Highway One
Houston Jones
Jimmy Chickenpants
Kids on Stage
Naked Bootleggers
Rainy Day Ramblers
Red Dog Ash
Rhythm Roundup
Rogue River
Sidesaddle & Co.
Slide Road
Steep Ravine
Stoney Mountain Ramblers
Susie Glaze & The Hilonesome Band
Ventucky String Band
Windy Hill

Additional bands performing on two other stages will be announced at a later date. The 21st annual festival is a benefit for the NCBS and its many projects supporting bluegrass music in the area.

I want to thank all of you that have encouraged me to continue writing my column Harmony Road. I write about people, places and music that I encounter. So far this year Harmony Road has traveled to The Great 48 Jam in Bakersfield, Hawaii Bluegrass Campout, RegiFest2, Parkfield, Hickstival, and Grass Valley.

Until next time, I’ll see you out there on Harmony Road!



THE DAILY GRIST..."You know that tingly feeling you get all over your body when you meet a beautiful woman you really like? That is all your good sense leaving your body.”—JD Rhynes

Famous scratches on the back of a Martin D 18 guitar
Today's column from JD What-a-Cook Rhynes
Thursday, June 26, 2014


I have been racking my brain for the last week or so trying to figure out what I'm going to write for the column today. For the life of me I couldn't dredge up a story about my musical adventure from the past until this evening, Wednesday, June 25. Sometimes stories come to mind from the most unexpected places like this one I'm about to recount to all of you.I was setting in my chair tonight trying to think of what to write when I glanced at the large photograph of Vern and Ray on the wall in front of me. Unconsciously I thought to myself,I wonder if Ray ever had the back of that Martin D 18 refinished to get rid of all the scratches? Voilà! There is my story! . So, with all the haste I could muster I fired up the old computater, and composed today's message for all you folks, as good as I could reckymember it.

Now when it comes to instruments, especially guitars, there are scratches of the ordinary kind, and then there are what is known as "famous scratches". I will get to the famous part in a little bit but first, some country music history.

Back in the middle to late 1950s, my buddy Ray Park had a country music television show on Channel 13 in Stockton, California that aired every Saturday afternoon around three o'clock. In all the years that program aired, I don't think I missed but two or three shows. Ray had an absolutely killer country band back then,and he usually featured a musical guest that was well-known in the area, or Central Valley of California. Maybe once or twice a year, a nationally known artist would stop by Ray's show to plug a local appearance. I will never forget the Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1957 when I turned the TV on at work to watch Ray's country music show. At the time I was working at Stockton state hospital as a psychiatric technician. We had a TV in a large dayroom for the patient's to watch, and right after I signed at 2:30 that afternoon, I headed for the dayroom to watch the show.

I switched that TV to channel 13 and got it all adjusted for the best reception. Right after the theme song was over, Ray announced; folks we have a special treat today, none other than the country music star Johnny Cash is with us here today to do a couple of numbers, and promote a local appearance. Man, what a surprise!! This was back when Johnny Cash was the biggest thing going in country music and he dominated all the music charts. If I remember right he started off with his smash hit "Folsom Prison Blues", then sang a couple of other numbers later in the program. As I watched the program I thought to myself, gee he plays a Martin just like Ray does, not knowing that he was playing Ray's Martin D 18 guitar. Fast forward 15 or 16 years.

I can't remember exactly where we were when this happened, but I think we were at Vern's house one Saturday afternoon playing music. It was just Vern, Ray and myself.. Ray was playing the fiddle, and I was playing rhythm guitar for them. Between songs, I got to looking at the back of Ray's D 18 Martin. I said Ray, how in the hell did you scratch this thing up this bad? Ray said, JD, those are some mighty famous scratches on that guitar, Johnny Cash, put them there, back in 1957. WOW, the lights went on in my brain immediately!!!

I said Ray, I seen him on TV when he was playing your guitar that day! .I thought that was his guitar! . I didn't know it was yours. Yep said Ray, them are some mighty famous scratches. At the time, I wanted to kill him for doing it, but looking back, I love him for it. There ain't too many people who can brag the fact that Johnny Cash scratched up their guitar.

And that, my friends, is the true story of how the back of Ray Parks, Martin, D 18 guitar got all scratched up, when two,very talented, country boys from Arkansas happened to meet in Stockton, California back in 1957.


Grin and Fake It.
Welcome Column by Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

You'd think with the week off I had I'd be brimming with pithy scrawlings. Alas, all I'm brimming with right now is a high fever.

Some notable wit said that 90% of life is just showing up. That may be true, but a good 75% is also faking it. It’s how successful people get from point A to point B. It’s deep at the root of confidence, and I think it stokes the fires of creativity.

When I was a kid, I was always impressed how grownups seem to know just what to do, whether it was at their grownup jobs, or taking care of the home and kids. I longed for the day when I, too would have that cool calm. “What serenity there must be, in always knowing what you’re doing!”, I thought.

I never seemed to know just what I’m doing. I mean, I knew what I knew, but life never seemed to demand of me the things I already knew – it always wanted what I didn’t quite know. When I got my first real job (with a paycheck), I got it as a result of faking it, a little.

“Can you drive a stick?”, they asked.

“Sure!”, I replied, even though my only experience with driving a stick was doing somelaps around a parking lot in my uncle’s big pickup with a three-on-the-tree.

Fortunately, I was able to get the delivery van out of the driveway, and did my learning (stalling, gear grinding, etc.) out on the road.
As I became an adult, I realized that the conditions that drove me crazy as a kid still exist for adults. Yes, you have a wider range of experience and knowledge to draw upon, but you’re still constantly faced with situations that demand

you know things you really don’t. So, you fake it. You hope for the best,make some guesses and plow ahead. And oddly enough, MOST of the time it works out! And when it doesn’t, you make note of what you’ve learned, and have something (wisdom?) to use if the same situation presents itself again.

The same thing applies in music. We struggle to learn our instruments and learn the songs and learn the notes, but once you’re confronted with live playing, there’s always a twist or turn you didn’t expect.

You are faced with a choice: Either deal with it and solider through (fake it), or shut down and cease playing until a song comes a long that you do know, note for note. Which would you rather do?
It’s a similar situation when you find yourself in a jam with players whose abilities far exceed yours.

You’re way outside your comfort zone. Do you hang in there, and give it a try? Sometimes you really
can’t keep up, but more often than not, you’re able to conjure a few disconnected seconds of musical brilliance, and over time, those disconnected instances where you played ahead of your assumed abilities actually raises your comfort zone to a new level!

So, if you didn’t know already, I’m here to tell you: NONE of us really knows what we’re doing. The
difference between being a happy success and a miserable failure is really just the ability and confidence to grin and fake it!


Jammin’ for 15 years.
Welcome Column by MOLD Friday columnist, bass player and CBA Marin County Area VP Larry Carlin
Tuesday, June 24, 2014


The twice-a-month bluegrass jam in Corte Madera in Marin County be marks its 15-year anniversary today. There will be no streamers, cake or fireworks. I have no doubt that anyone else even knows about this date. But it is with some small satisfaction that I can look back and say that it all began on this day in 1999.

I decided to start the jam after hearing the phrase “Someone should start a jam in Marin” way too many times. Did I need to be jamming myself? Certainly not. At that point in my life I had been playing music for 30 years, although most of that was on electric bass, which was my first instrument. And then, as now, I thought I was way too busy to be taking on another organizing project. Yet as the saying goes, “If you want something done, give it to a busy man,” so I decided to take the bull by the horns and get something started.I went and talked with the owner of a place in the town of Larkspur that was called the Java Café, and he agreed to let me try something on a tentative basis. The jam began on June 24th, 1999, and with a little self-styled Carltone publicity, the first night was very successful, as about 15 people showed up. The Java owner was quite happy, and immediately a regular pattern of the first-and-third-Thursdays-every-month, from 7:30-10 p.m., was set up. And now, 15 years later, the jamming continues.

The jam lasted for a year at Java, but after the place closed the it moved three times in the next couple of years until it found a permanent home at the Marin Lutheran Church in Corte Madera 12 years ago, thanks in no small part to my longtime singing partner Claudia Hampe, who thought a church hall would be much better than trying to cater to the whims of constantly changing brew pub and pizza parlor management. While it was nice to have a beer while playing, it did become a bit trying when non-playing customers began making requests or would applaud after the completion of a song. At the church it is pretty much just players, and there are no distractions, just the playing of instruments and singing.

The Marin jam is not a competitive gathering, and most of the attendees play at the beginning to intermediate level. Everyone stands in a circle, and each night there is a host who makes sure that all newcomers are welcome, that everyone takes turns, and that, most importantly, no one feels intimidated.

I took responsibility for running the jam for the first ten years, until 2009, when I passed the mantle on to someone else. Literally hundreds of people have attended over the years, and some great friends and picking pals have been made along the way. My Keystone Station band evolved from the jam, as it was there that Claudia and I met our longtime fiddler Kenny Blacklock, and our first banjo and mandolin players, Francis Mougne and Dana Rath. The founding members of the Savannah Blu band all met at the jam, and other notable pickers such as Dave Zimmerman, Julay Brooks, Richard Brandenburg, and Suzanne Suwanda both were early attendees that have gone on to form or join other bands.

If you have ever thought about starting your own jam where you live, I highly recommend it. All it takes is a venue, getting the word out somehow, and compiling an email list so that you can remind people when the event will be taking place. You will be amazed at how many closet players there are that are just dying for a place to get out to play and to meet others.

Since I retired from running the jam five years ago, occasionally I will meet someone somewhere who, when they find out that I play bluegrass, will tell me about “this great jam that takes place on some Thursday nights in Corte Madera.” This never fails to bring a smile to my face, to know that I had some small part in helping people get out and play music.

One day, some years back, after boarding a Golden Gate Transit bus in downtown San Francisco to head back to Marin, I spotted a small case on the front passenger seat. I said to the driver, “That is either a tennis racket or a mandolin.” The guy said, “That is my mandolin, and I play it when I am break. You can check it out if you want.” Turns out that the driver, Mike Greenfield, was a jam regular, and he then said that “some guy named Carltone started this jam in Corte Madera. You should check it out sometime.”

Yeah, maybe I will check it out, now that I have a mandolin that I really need to learn how to play…

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carltone.com
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Fifi
Today's column from J.D. Rhynes
Monday, June 23, 2014


(We’re doing a retro this morning and, with all the chatter about J.D. Rhynes and his already-famous coffee table cookbook, we thought we’d re-share one of our favorite stories from the old man. It’s a good-un)

All of the thangs an 'ol country boy is thankful fer.

The firstest and foremostest thang's in my life I'm thankful fer is, my personal saviour Jesus, my family, my country, and my REAL friends. We all have our own religious beliefs, and our own family members, [ good er bad ] and that is personal info that we usually dont discuss with other folks, and that's well and as it should be. So, that leaves probably the mostest important group of people we spend more time with, namely our REAL friends. I guess I'm the luckiest person I know, because I have more friends that are really quality people than any other person I know. AND, the majority of them are my bluegrass friends! No surprise there is it folks! Carl Pagter and I were discussing the difference between friends and family years ago, and he put it rather succinctly. You can choose yer friends, and you WISH you could choose yer family, but you cant.
Speaking of family, this thought jes stood up and shouted at me, HEY DUMMY, tell 'em about what the 'ol "Oklahoma Cowboy", Will Rogers said to a VERY prominent matron of VERY high social standing in the New York social community at a New's Year eve party one time. Seem's that she had imbibed a lot of very expensive French Champagne during the evening's festivities, and at every chance she would tell how HER forebearer's had came over on the Mayflower. When introduced to Will Rogers, she related her family tree to him, and he stated: That's very interesting Madam, but you should know, my relatives were here to meet 'em when they got off of that ship. Fer you folks that dont know, 'ol Will was half Cherokee, jes like myownself. I am so thankful to have the Native American blood that our family is proud to call our heritage of old. HEY, I'm half Irish too, that's why I'm so fair in complexion, love Irish Whiskey, [ and can drink it responsibly ] and LOVE Irish musiic and Bluegrass! SOOO, with that 'lil bit of history said, here's a story of two of my bestest friends I'll ever have in this life, namely Vern Williams, and Ray Park.

Way back in the late 1970's when Vern and I both lived in Valley Springs, Calif. , Ray came down to visit Vern one Saturday, and they came over to my house to visit and jes drink a few brews, and tell "guy" stories. It was a HOT July day, and we were settin' on my patio under the sundeck jes sharing stories of our musical times together, when out of the blue Ray sez; Hey fellers, did I ever tell you how I killed a 'lil Chihuahua dog accidently with a one ounce ball peen hammer? I looked at Vern, he looked at me, turned to Ray and said; Ray, is this another of yer B.S, fabrications? [ actually he said, B.S. lies ] Ray said, hell no Vern, I really did kill a 'lil Chawowwow [ his pronunciation ] accidently! Fer about 20 years, Ray worked as an appliance repairman and installer fer Montgomery Wards, in Placerville, Calif. He was sent to an old customers house to repair her dishwasher one day, and the lady of the house had this 'lil "Chawowwow" dog that would bark incessantly the whole time Ray would make a repair call it seems. Well, Ray said the dish washer was about 10 to 15 years old and after he took it apart he knew he would have to order the necessary parts to put it back in new order, but he could "patch" it up to get her by. He said that 'lil dog would stick his head around the corner of the cabinet and bark his head off all the time he was there. Ray was cutting a new gasket on the pump body of the dishwasher with a one ounce ball peen hammer, and the dog was barking at him nonstop, so all of a sudden Ray sez, BOOOO, in the dogs face and it scared him off down the hall jes a kiyiiiiiin! Fer about 5 minutes Ray had peace and quiet BUT, Ray said I could hear his 'lil toe nails headed back down to the kitchen to start barkin' at me again, so I jes held that 'lil hammer where I figgered his 'lil head would peek around at me, and when he did, I jes pecked him between the eyes.. Well, he let out a loud yell and took off, and I said, Ms Smith I must of stepped on yer lil dog's foot by accident. She replied, Fifi honey Mr. Park didn't mean to do it and you'll be okay. Well, Ray said, a week er so later I went back to install the new parts fer the dishwasher, and about half way through the job, I realied that infernal 'lil barking dog wasn't around. I asked the lady of the house where her 'lil dog was? She told me that jes after I was there last week 'lil Fifi had a stroke and died. Ray said ; Boy's I aint NEVER felt so bad in my whole life! We all sat there in complete silence fer at least a couple of minutes, because jes WHAT can you say after hearing one of yer bestest friends confess to such an unintentional thing? Well, my ol buddy Vern was the ABSOLUTE master of the understatement, and when Ray finally looked at Vern fer SOME kind of understanding look,or word, Vern jes said; MURDERER! I absolutely fell out of my chair laughing, and Ray lit into a'cussin' Vern with all of his might! Well, after we all had a few more Blue Ribbon beer's and the dust settled we told Ray, that was probably one of the funniest stories he'll ever be a part of, but Vern said yer still a murderer! Ray had one of the tenderest, and most loving hearts a man ever had and I know he felt bad about what he did to the day he died, but you gotta admit, my pal Vern saved the day with his understated sense of humor.

I have two of Tom Tworek's photo portraits of Vern and Ray on my living room wall. They were taken by Tom the very last time they played together, and I see my two pards every day of my life, and I long fer those good times we all had, lo these many years ago. Damn I miss 'em! GOD, country, family and friends. THAT'S what memories are made of! May you all have a great Thanksgiving with yer family and friends. Eat WAY too much, drink too much, have at least 3 pieces of pie fer dessert, and enjoy this most AMERICAN of all of our holiday's, Thanksgiving Day! I thank you folks fer jes bein there, yer friend, J.D.Rhynes




THE DAILY GRIST…”Seven fun-filled days make one fun-filled week.”—Jeanie Ramos

Grass Valley
Today’s Column from Jeanie Ramos
Sunday, June 22, 2014


I’m still basking in the afterglow of our week at Grass Valley. The laundry is finally done, that Grass Valley dirt is stubborn (especially on white socks), and my pant cuffs may never be the same.

We arrived at Grass Valley on Monday. We no sooner got parked and leveled when who should pull in but Pat and George Calhoun! It was so good to have them back. Pat is still recovering from the broken arm so she wasn’t able to play the fiddle or bass but she can still play her accordion and sing! We made up for lost time. Her brother Dave was with them, what a talent he is, Pat said he plays forty-two different instruments. He also writes songs. There was a steady stream of folks that came by to jam and to hug the Calhouns.

The shows on the Main Stage were wonderful, as were the ones I saw on Vern’s and Pioneer Stage. I’m now a big fan of Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands; my favorite song was “Tuck Away my Lonesome Blues,” an old Jimmie Rodgers song. The Vern and Ray Tribute that she did with Kathy Kallick was especially nice. They dedicated “Down Among the Budded Roses,” to JD Rhynes. That song brought tears to my eyes and if I know JD, it brought a tear to his eye also.

I had never seen a live performance by Peter Rowan before so this was a special treat for me. I love that song “Ragged Old Dream.” I had watched a You Tube video of “Cold Rain and Snow,” that he did with Tony Rice, so it was fun to hear him do that one too. It was also wonderful to hear Roland White and his band. He was kind enough to autograph a mandolin book for me.

I won’t comment on every show I attended but I did want to mention a band called One Grass, Two Grass, Red Grass, Bluegrass. They performed Sunday afternoon on Vern’s Stage. They were quite entertaining and talented and I look forward to seeing more of this band.

My husband Terry volunteered as a back stage host this year. He said that Jim Ingram was great to work with and he would volunteer for the same duty next year. That makes me happy.

The jamming is an important part of the Grass Valley Festival and I did my share. Thursday night, I went to the Welcome Columnist’s Jam. There were a lot of folks missing but we had a good time just the same. Marty Varner blew us all away with his guitar picking. One jam I especially enjoyed was at Tim Edes Camp. I finally got to sing with Kim Elking. On Sunday night we jammed at Calhoun’s. Suzanne Suwanda played the bass for us that night. She’s a gifted musician. When she needed to take a short break, I picked up her bass to fill in. I forgot that I’m not nearly as tall as she; I needed a stump to stand on and a gopher hole for the peg to sit in so that I could reach the fingerboard. We made the adjustment for the second song but we had a few laughs.

My friend Bonnie (Grace) attended The Father’s Day Festival and Music Camp for the first time. She was in Bill Evans Band Class. She attended several of the workshops and met lots of people and learned a lot. CBA folks welcomed her with open arms. I knew they would.

Congratulations to Larry Kuhn and Frank Solivan for their well deserved Lifetime Membership Awards. Thanks for your labors of love on behalf of CBA over the past several years.

Well, I’m writing this on Tuesday night, and we are leaving for Susanville in the morning. The fun just never stops. Until next time, do some pickin’, learn a new tune, pet a dog, read a book, make someone’s day. God bless.

Bluegrass Festival Pie
Today's column from Cameron Little
Saturday, June 21, 2014


It was the week before the California Bluegrass Association Father’s Day Festival in June, and I experienced a cosmic nudge. It was a nudge telling me that things just might not go as smoothly as I had planned.

I had been bucking some logs at the old home place, and while utilizing my incredible talent and well-known woodsman skills, a log attacked me. And totally without provocation, too. One moment I was calmly going about my work, and the next a wood club leapt up (or leapt down, or leapt sideways, I don’t recall, but that sucker was in motion, fellers!) and smashed my fingers. And I knew it was a bad hit the moment it happened since I had an out-of-body sort of experience. Suddenly I was watching some guy right next to me yowl bloody murder while I was sitting nearby, watching the entire scene like it was a National Geographic special. Honestly, the nerve of some logs. Even amid the yowling, there were thoughts though. Before the “Why am I yowling?” and “Oh #%&@#” sorts of thoughts, my first thought was not of pain or anguish, but of how could I enjoy the festival if I was unable to play my guitar or mandolin? My usual festival schedule consists of nonstop jamming with a side of volunteering, and just a dash of the more frivolous activities known as eating and sleeping. How could I possibly survive the festival if jamming was out of the picture?

As it turns out, there was a silver lining to my perilous circumstance. The number of people that actually play music and jam at bluegrass festivals only makes up one slice of the proverbial bluegrass festival pie. Hard to believe, right? Of course, I have non-musician pals who love festivals for the fun, the food, and the friends (and some sneaky harmonizing). And some who love festivals just so they can eat Deb Livermore’s grilled cheese sammies at all hours of the day and night. But I had never personally experienced the not-even-bringing-an-instrument-to-the-festival phenomenon up close before.

During the festival, I made friends with more people than I normally would, or even could, simply because I was willing to try out being a bluegrass civilian for a change. I got to swap stories with the Safety and Hospitality crew, hang out with the Cleaning crew at their off-the-beaten-path camp, and drive to distant corners of the fairgrounds and wrangle stray chairs with the Utilities crew. I sat and listened to music with folks I had never met before, but who had been coming to the festival even longer than I had. I enjoyed chatting with some of the hired security personnel while things were more or less calm, and I helped a few festival newbies get settled in and involved in some slow jams. And that was just on the first day!

I was able to participate in the festival in ways that I had never given time to before, and found myself enjoying the whole experience from a fresh perspective. For the first time since I was a little kid learning how to play guitar, I enjoyed each jam from an audience perspective, instead of jumping in and playing along with everybody else in the circle. Of course, I was itching to do just that, especially under the moth-infused lamp light at the late night hot dog stand jam frenzy, but it was deeply refreshing to have a 360 degree take on jamming in a way that’s not altogether possible when you’re in the middle of them.

So, what can be taken home from all this? Well, first of all, don’t smash your fingers, no matter how enticing it may seem. Nobody needs to have an out-of-body yowling session out in Tahoe National Forest in order to appreciate an expanded perception of a festival, or even of a single jam. All that’s needed is to leave room in the day to wander around the festival without a goal. Instead of being completely focused on certain parts of bluegrass festival life, I learned to be a bit more inclusive and give my time to people that don’t have anything to do with jamming, but are just as important as the next person. Does this mean I’m not going to jam much at future festivals? Heck no! But I WILL set aside a couple extra hours a day to enjoy some extra slices of that “Bluegrass Festival Pie”.

(Cameron Little has survived being attacked by a chain saw in the wild. Fortunately, he can still happily play his beloved bluegrass music. He is thinking of starting a bluegrass chainsaw reality show but he doesn’t want to put any more body parts at risk.)


Dear Friends
Today's column from Don Denison
Friday, June 20, 2014


I just received a reminder that my column for tomorrow is due. Somehow I have lost a day, and would have forgotten or sent it in late Friday without having received the reminder.

I was able to go to the FDF Wednesday and Thursday as I was unable to get reservations at the kennel for Daisy, my Labrador Retriever for the other days. Daisy is a sweet animal, but she is not used to crowds, and would have been a nervous wreck had I brought her with me.

During my time at the festival, I was able to connect with many friends and acquaintances that I had made over the years, I wish I could have spent the entire week there with my trailer, and Daisy tucked safely away in the kennel, but it just wasn't meant to be. For all of you I didn't get to see, I am sorry, God willing, I will be able to attend next year and spend the entire week there.

While visiting my old friends, most commented on the fact that they enjoyed my column, one old friend however had a suggestion that the way I wrote, the format I used, the formal salutation, and closure made me sound stuffy and cold. I told him that I would think about it and address it. I have done that and have decided that writing the column, to me, is writing a letter. My habits of correspondence were formed in the '40's when there was no e-mail, indeed the only forms of electronic correspondence were Telephone, Telegraph, Radio, and in some offices Teletype machines, Newspapers were the primary way to get news, I was in my late teens when Television became generally available in the Central Valley where I grew up. I'm afraid that unless you all have general objections, I will have to stick to my old fashioned form of address in this column, the fact is, I don't know how to do anything else. I have warm regard for those of you all who
read my ramblings, and have enjoyed writing my Third Friday Column. I can't honestly think of the column different in any way other than as an open letter, if it is stiff, and formal, it is only because of who I am, and how I was trained as a child. If you all object to this, let me know, if enough find my style stuffy and condescending, I will attempt to change even though I am not in any way stiff and condescending in my feelings towards you all.

While thinking about how I would address this benevolent criticism, it occurred to me that Electronic Media has changed the way we live, share information, music, indeed communicate with each other. I, myself, am a frequent user of the US Snail, writing one of those stuffy formal letters frequently. I must indeed be a relic of a former age, when a letter was treasured, kept on the reading table, taken out and read over a few times, shared with others as appropriate, before filing it away. E-mail, to me, is just a electronic letter that is left in the inbox for a week or so until either assigned to suspense files, read mail, archives, or deleted.
My cell phone has been reduced to basic phone service, and voice mail, all other functions have been disabled, since it won't work here at the house, there are days, even weeks that it doesn't get turned on even though I take it with me when I am away from home.

These thoughts gave me the idea to ask you all how you get your music, and how those methods of transmitting it work for you all. Here at home, I have records, 78, 45, and 33 1/3 RPM, there are Cassettes, a few 8 tracks, lots of CD's, and VHS tapes. I know about DVD's, but have no knowledge of how to play them or what to play them on. I have heard that there is a way one can download music to one's computer, and I suppose then, copy it to a disc, or directly to some kind of player, my television service was terminated at my request, I have the radio on for several hours daily, and still use film in my camera.

I believe there are others in our membership who are 20-30 years behind the rest of you all in the way we get information, music,and photos etc. I invite comments about these matters, and how the new technology works for you all, or doesn't work. There are issues of controlling the transfer of copyrighted material, payment thereof, quality of sound, as well as, availability of material that is out of the mainstream, are there divergent forms of music available, or is it limited in some way.

I know that if I am living without some or most modern technology, there are many others doing so as well, we would like to hear from you all about how modern media works for you as it relates to our music, indeed how it works with your day to day lives. Please also let me know if you find my way of writing an electronic letter to transmit my monthly column makes me seem stiff, and condescending. Believe me, I have only the warmest of feelings for my fellow members of the Bluegrass Community. I love the convenience of e-mail, but it falls short of a real letter that can be handled, read many times, treasured and tucked away safely if it warrants it, I wouldn't know how to use my my cell phone to text someone.

It is my hope that this column serves to attract responses that will be helpful to those of us who have let technology pass us by, given the age of our membership, I am sure there are many of us out there. I was more or less forced to keep up with things when I was teaching, but in the last ten years since retirement, I have let the new media pass me by, I am sure there are many more of our members who are in a similar position, let us know how it is working for you.

Your Friend

Don Denison



THE DAILY GRIST...“Music can change the world because it can change people.”--Bono

Museum of Making Music Stands Tall in San Diego
Today’s column from Yvonne Tatar
Thursday, June 19, 2014


The Museum of Making Music is a very special addition to the music community down here in the San Diego area. It’s located in Carlsbad and has special exhibits, kids programs, gallery displays, recitals, and overall just about anything music-related will be featured here at some point in time. A few years back my band Virtual Strangers played for busloads of school children as we introduced them to bluegrass at the concert hall at MoMM. It was a fantastic experience!

What is the Museum of Making Music? First of all, it’s a division of the NAMM Foundation. The history on their website states, “Founded in 1998 by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the Museum of Making Music was developed to showcase and celebrate the music products industry. Soon thereafter, in March 2000, the Museum was opened to the public. On permanent display are hundreds of vintage instruments, audio and video clips, and a vibrant interactive area. A snapshot of music business practices and nostalgic re-creations of music stores provide a glimpse into the music products industry. Special exhibitions are presented twice a year with concurrent music presentations and workshops highlighting renowned international and national musicians as well as local talent.”

Currently the MoMM is featuring a year-long salute to the banjo in their “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument” series. This special exhibit runs from March – November, 2014, and the museum explains that it “reveals a compelling and triumphant story about ‘America's Instrument.’” Bluegrass-leaning banjo artists to perform in the series are Alison Brown (May), Bill Evans (May), Sammy Shelor & Lonesome River Band (June), Tony Trischka (August), Mark Johnson & Emory Lester (October), and Dan Levenson (November).

With the banjo’s inroads in just about every music genre, this exhibit explores how the banjo is being heard on “children's television, late-night television and at the World Series. Grammy winning artists, famous comedians and international megastars place the banjo at the center of their acts. Today, the ‘happy instrument’ is so popular, a Google search for ‘banjo lessons’ turns up nearly four million hits in 0.25 seconds.” That’s a really impressive stat for the ol’ five-wire!

The MoMM exhibit explains how this is happening and how the banjo emerged from the “the plains of West Africa to plantations in the American South,” and today how it is surviving under the bright lights of country, folk and bluegrass.” Accompanied by an impressive array of historical instruments as well as those made by today's companies large and small, “The Banjo series” tells us the story of how music is made in America . . . how all elements of the industry – musicians, manufacturers, dealers, consumers, songwriters and publishers – interact in a musical ecosystem centered on the banjo. You could get really educated on all things banjo there!

The MoMM’s vision is this - “We envision a world in which the joy of making music is a precious element of daily living for everyone; a world in which every child has a deep desire to learn music and a recognized right to be taught; and in which every adult is a passionate champion and defender of that right.”

The MoMM is both inspiring and entertaining. And as music lovers, their vision and goal can inspire us to stand alittle taller and try to make music more attainable for all ages. We can all collectively work toward this. The Museum of Making Music is doing it’s part. The MoMM is definitely worth the trip to see when you visit San Diego. They are doing great work there. Learn more at www.museumofmakingmusic.org. Then go share some music!

Bluegrass Perspectives
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Everyone is home by now from the Father's Day festival. They've hosed the dust off their vehicles, stowed their tents and lawn chairs, and now just let the memories of the event nestle into the big mental filing cabinet where bluegrass memories live. Time for a big contented sigh.

The Father's Day festival is an island of respite from the pressures of life, and we gladly embrace it. Once that wristband goes on, life's troubles are pushed to the side, right?

Not always. This year, a friend of mine suffered a terrible personal tragedy during the festival. For this person, the island fortress was cruelly penetrated by the worst that life can dial up.

The festival went on, of course, as it should have.

Last year, when my mother was nearing the end of her race on earth, I remember being struck by the contrast of my personal anguish and the panorama of normal life that surrounded me. There I was, driving to the hospital, to possibly say the last words I'll ever say to my mother, and around me, people laughed over silly things, and some cursed at red signal lights that impeded their impatient progress through traffic.

Where was their perspective? Don't they realize what's important? How can they be so....normal?

What I realized is, it'a ALL important. The Father's Day festival, and other pursuits of pursuits of personal moments of joy, may suddenly seem small in the face of significant tragedy and turmoil, but in fact, those pursuits loom ever larger when we are forced to confront the unspeakable.

Give us something something wonderful to cling to, give us moments of joy, and let us lap them up greedily. Let us take a moment to express sorrow and sympathy for anyone who is suffering, but balance that with the pursuit of music, and companionship and community. There's your perspective.


CLICK OR NOT TO CLICK – That is the Question!
Today's column from Brian McNeal
Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Many years ago a good friend asked me if I owned anything that didn't have someone's advertising emblazoned all over it.

After some reflection and a lot of closet cleaning, I'd discovered that I'd indeed fallen prey to the corporate world's subliminal manipulation. It was a day and age when radio promotions were strong and getting listeners to wear a station's call letters on a T-shirt, ball cap or Jockey-jacket might mean an extra point or two in the ratings.

It wasn't just radio station apparel though. I was wearing ball club logo-wear of teams I wasn't even familiar with – but hey, it was free and disc jockey's like, no strike that, LOVE free-wear. I also had soft drink advertising, motorcycle brands, band and record label paraphernalia – a real Madison Avenue advertising agency client list hanging in the closet. But not very many plain, CLICKordinary, no-message attire. I felt like I at least ought to have a few in there with an open area surrounded by a thin border and some text printed that said, “YOUR MESSAGE HERE”.

The real rub was that not only was I advertising for free for most of these companies, but for some, I'd actually purchased the clothing … wait, how did I get sucked in that far?

I remembered back to an early childhood incident when I accompanied an uncle on a car buying escapade. It took what, to me, seemed like forever to close the deal because ol' Unc insisted that the car dealer remove the company logo riveted to the back or pay him to drive their advertising around. I can remember the unbelievable response from the salesman. I can remember the uncompromising position my uncle took and once the salesman and manager realized he was walking away from the purchase they agreed to have the logo removed. Whew ... now that was done and we could finally drive home in his new car ... whoa ... not yet. Unc said to the sales manager, “Did you have the body shop fill in the rivet holes and repaint?” Oops ... the frustration that became evident in the room could have filled the air like a fog machine. They couldn't believe he was that serious. But he absolutely was. “You don't expect me to pay for a brand new car with holes where rust will start to form do you...?”

Why didn't that early lesson take hold? Here I was well into adulthood and I was a sucker for every corporation large and small. Out it all went, and still to this day, you'll have a hard time even seeing me with the Levi's size tag still stitched down on the waistband on the back of my jeans.

Today we have a new way for the corporations to capture our unsuspecting and free assistance to increasing their mega-million dollar profits:

I don't really care what kind of razor blade my Facebook friends use but if you click the “LIKE” button on Gillette's web page, Facebook page or anywhere on the Internet, they're going to use that information to bombard all of your Facebook Friends with an unsolicited message on their Facebook news feed.

Now that's easy enough to just skip over and continue reading the other news. But, oh, if it only were that simple. You see we have this Great American concept that MORE IS BETTER and that means more Facebook Friends are included in that school of thought. I didn't think I really had that many – at least not compared to several others. But when one likes Gillette and another likes Pampered Chef and two or three others like Blake Shelton's latest album and still more have clicked the “LIKE” button on The Cystic Fibrosis page, the louder than hell-amplified electric guitar store page, and Facebook's own “GAME” pages, well the time it takes to weed through all of that is worse than waiting at a stoplight when there is no opposing traffic.

So what is the solution? You may really LIKE something and far be it from me to say you shouldn't. Nor should I begin to assume that I could tell you what to click or not click. But let me ask, before you click ... ask yourself “Why am I clicking?” “What will it do for me?” “What do I get if I do or what do I not get if I don't?” Really, if just one of those companies would share some of the profits with those who help them spread their message, it might be somehow worthwhile.

According to CNN Money, Coca Cola's profits from just their main brand (Coca Cola) was over $46M in 2012. The Gillette Brand alone is worth over $16 BILLION dollars for Proctor and Gamble.

So maybe thinking about things in those terms will help you decide: “To Click or Not To Click?!”



THE DAILY GRIST..." What is bluegrass music standing behind today?”

”Where Have All The Activists Gone?”
Today's column from James Reams
Thursday, June 19, 2014


The recent passing of legendary folk singer and activist Pete Singer touched more than just a musical chord with me. I knew Pete from back in the Greenwich Village days. His passion for social justice and ability to transform those feelings into songs that have remained in the hearts and on the playlists of generations will be greatly missed.

And that got me to thinking about who has picked up the social justice torch in recent years. What singers/bands are writing and performing those songs that will galvanize this generation into action? More specifically, what bluegrass musicians are taking a stand – politically, socially, and morally – with their music?

It’s not like there isn’t a whole mountain of issues out there to choose from. Unfortunately, we’re still dealing with wars, poverty, pollution, and inequality. Punk, hip hop, rappers, and rock musicians have been holding court in the area of protest songs for the last couple of decades (think Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellancamp, Eminem, Townes Van Zandt) so — to paraphrase one of Pete’s songs — where have all the activists gone, at least in the world of bluegrass music?

We’ve had some heavy hitters in the past like Zilphia Horton (1910-1956). Working in rural Appalachia, Zilphia used folk music as direct action on the picket lines of the labor movement and later in the civil rights movement. Through the Tennessee-based Highlander Folk School, Horton taught folk music to many civil rights leaders and even influenced Pete Seeger. Did you know that she’s responsible for adapting an early gospel song into the unofficial anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement? Pete Seeger later changed “will” to “shall” and “We Shall Overcome” became a rallying cry in the 1960s.

Then there’s Hazel Dickens (1935-2011) an American bluegrass singer, songwriter, double bassist and guitarist that garnered a long list of awards in her career including the Award of Merit from the IBMA. Like many of her fans, I hope induction to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame will happen soon. Her music was characterized not only by her high, lonesome singing style, but also by her provocative pro-union, feminist songs and her outspoken support for the plight of coal miners. The New York Times called her "a clarion-voiced advocate for coal miners and working people and a pioneer among women in bluegrass music." Just check YouTube and you’ll find a whole slew of her songs including the haunting a cappella version of “Black Lung” that’s sure to put a catch in your throat.

Kathy Mattea has picked up right where Hazel left off. Her latest albums “Coal” (2008) and “Calling Me Home” (2012) have solidified her place in the social justice movement. Her song “Hello My Name is Coal” describes the love/hate relationship between coal mining and those affected by it. Kathy has toured extensively to bring attention to the environmental and human devastation of coal mining and appeared on programs such as NPR’s “Living on Earth” as she promoted the COAL project. She is a force to be reckoned with and her latest songs lean more toward bluegrass than country as she rediscovers her roots. All I can say is “Roll on, Kathy!”

Okay, that made me feel a little better. But where’re the male counterparts to these women in bluegrass music? Well, seems we’re a little thin in that area. I could think of all kinds of songs about coal mining from bluegrass legends like Carter Stanley, Hobo Jack Adkins, Ralph Stanley and more; but scratched my head and thought long and hard to come up with any bluegrass songs about other social issues.

A couple of names came to mind like Steve Earle and Si Kahn. Though they’re more recognized in folk music circles, but both of them have dabbled in bluegrass and brought us face to face with some of America’s sore spots.

Steve Earle released his first wholly bluegrass album “The Mountain” in 1999 with musical accompaniment from the Del McCoury Band. This album was nominated for a Grammy in 2000. Steve is well known for his stand against the death penalty, prison reform, and for his anti-war sentiments. The album’s title song “The Mountain” deals with the environmental effects of mining. And he swings over to folk music for “Over Yonder” about an inmate with whom Steve corresponded and whose execution he attended. But songs about the plight of inmates and opposing the death penalty haven’t really found much support.

Si Kahn is a hugely talented individual and the founder and former director of Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization that advocates for several causes, including prison reform, improved immigration detention policies, and violence prevention. Most of the profits from Kahn's musical performances benefit this group. He’s also been involved with Save Our Cumberland Mountains, an environmentalist group opposed to strip mining in Appalachia. Though Kahn writes songs about a variety of topics, he is especially known for songs about workers and their families, like "Aragon Mill" from the album “Aragon Mill: The Bluegrass Sessions” (2013) featuring lyrics that resonate with many out-of-work middle aged men today.

Unemployment is definitely a huge social issue facing Americans right now but where are the bluegrass songs supporting anyone except ex-coal miners? What about farmers? Returning veterans? Truck drivers? I hate to admit it but I had to resort to Internet searches to answer my own question! As someone who thought he had a finger on the pulse of bluegrass, that was an eye opener. I was looking for that rallying point…what is bluegrass music standing behind today? What gets our blue blood pumping?

Blue Highway came close with Shawn Lane’s “Just to Have a Job” which supports the blue collar working man. But it just didn’t quite make the emotional connection associated with songs that promote action. A closer look at some of their recent albums revealed Wayne Taylor’s incriminating “Homeless Man” whose lyrics brought tears to my eyes as they sang about the unjust treatment of our country’s military veterans. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Also on the same album (Through the Window of a Train – 2008) is another song about the high price of freedom paid by our soldiers.

So I did some searching on songs about the homeless and I stumbled upon Detour’s album “A Better Place” (2012) that contained a gem of a song entitled “Homeless of the Brave.” The song was written by band member Jeff Rose after he was stunned by what he heard on a radio program "that there are approximately 70,000 homeless veterans in this country and over 600 in northern Michigan alone". The song is a story about American veterans who return home, only to find they can’t get jobs, or in some cases, even find places to live and sleep. And this Michigan-based bluegrass band is putting their money where their mouth is; they’re donating proceeds from the sale of the song to help provide transitional housing for homeless veterans in Michigan. I have to say, my hat’s off to them and they have my whole-hearted support.

Could it be that in supporting veterans (homeless and otherwise) bluegrass has found a modern day rallying point that suits our staunchly pro-American sentiments? It’s possible, but we’ve buried these calls to action in albums that contain a wide variety of song topics. The cohesiveness found in Kathy Mattea’s Coal Project albums is missing and so is the impact that comes along with that kind of dedication. Mea culpa!

So here’s the burning question: Should musicians use their talent and popularity to bring attention to social justice issues or should they stick to making entertaining music and keep their noses out of other people’s business? Send me an email and let your voice be heard!


THE DAILY GRIST..."I learned law so well, the day I graduated I sued the college, won the case, and got my tuition back." - Fred Allen
My last Grass Valley for years
Today’s column from Marty Varner

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Well, yesterday was the last day, folks. I took the last of my finals and now I am officially done with high school. It is peculiar to say, and I am still not completely sure I’m telling the truth, but I think so. This moment, of course, is both the most relieving and the most stressful thought provoking moment for me. On one hand, I am so relieved to finally be done with all of the mandatory classes, some of which I believe I did quite well in. But on the other hand, I do not know how I plan to grow up so much in the next two and a half months before I am shipped across the country to a place with 2 degree winter weather. I am attending school at Clark University in Worcester, MA. It is a prestigious school and I am lucky to have been accepted. But of course, it is very expensive and I have a lot of work to do to put together my tuition and prepare to live by myself for the first time in a dorm room 3,000 miles away.

I imagine myself two and a half months from now, arriving at college, with a suitcase of clothes, my guitar and mandolin; ready to pick, maybe get a band together. No matter what happens I am bringing California Bluegrass to the Bay State whether they like it or not. But I know there is lots of good bluegrass as well as talented young musicians out there. So I think my dream of getting a band together ought to be pretty realistic.

And don’t worry, you will still be hearing from me in my monthly Welcome Column. I will bring you lots of stories and keep you posted on how I am doing.

To help my move to the East Coast, the transition to living alone, and paying my way once college has started, I will be creating a Kick Starter next week. Here I will be discussing my future goals. My plan is to become an attorney, and my goal as an attorney is to fight anything that might stand in between our bluegrass community and being free to have jams and play in coffee houses, which BMI and ASCAP with their bully-like behavior, have sought to eliminate. I definitely see myself going into some type of law related to the arts because I always plan on being a bluegrass picker. That way I will be able to both have my own thriving career, and help bluegrass music and music as a whole, which is of course my other true passion. My goal is to repay to our community many times over what I raise in my Kick Starter.

It only seems like yesterday when I was so young that my parents needed to literally beg me to put on pants at Grass Valley at night because they could see the mosquitoes biting my legs. The very first time I came to Grass Valley my parents locked me in our van and the CBA security folks had to get me out. Then there was the time, I was about 3, when I got stung by a wasp, or when I fell off the concrete picnic tables up on Quaker Hill. These examples (and many more that I believe that many of you can remember) show why I should be concerned for what is to come when I am out on my own. But I know it will be alright. I see myself as resourceful, resilient, and a bunch of other “r” words that I am certain will help me in these upcoming four years of growth and study.

After long deliberations with my family, we have decided that arriving at Grass Valley on Thursday would be the only way to go. That means skipping my graduation ceremony. Even though my graduation is on Thursday, I can’t stress enough that I learned more in my eighteen years running around that fairgrounds with you guys, and talking to hundreds of people, than I did at my desk or in a textbook in high school. And I am sure that I will miss all of my bluegrass friends a lot more than my friends from high school in these next four years of East Coast living.

I’m excited about the festival. This year, the bands are spectacular as always. With a great mix of contemporary and traditional bluegrass, each audience member is in for a treat no matter what band they see. But of course, I have my own bands I look forward to seeing more than others. The first and most predictable is of course The Deadly Gentlemen. Even though I honestly do not like their new album as much as their two previous, I am still definitely looking forward to their performance. Last time they were here they put on a better show than even I expected and the audience reaction was shockingly positive for such a peculiar form of bluegrass. Of course, their third and brand new album has very minimal rapping so DO NOT BE AFRAID.

And I can’t contain my excitement that after way too long of a hiatus Lonesome River Band is back on the Grass Valley Stage. This hard driving band is one of the most prestigious touring bands, as well as the strongest vocally. With Sammy drivin’ on the banjo and killer vocals by Brandon Rickman, nothing can go wrong.

After seeing them a few years ago at IBMA, I can’t help but be excited for how Town Mountain is going to perform as well. This is by far one of the most underrated bands in bluegrass and honestly I think they should be surprised that they are the “emerging” artist because they have been “emerging” back east for at least the past five years. This band has everything, including energy and killer song writing and missing them because the name doesn't stand out would be the biggest mistake for any bluegrass fan, whether you like Greg Liszt or Sammy Shelor.

Ten Items or Fewer
Today’s column from Brooks Judd
Friday, June 5, 2014


Item 1: Something tells me that next week is a big event for the CBA.It seems like only yesterday it was 1987 and I drove up with my wife and young daughters to watch Rick perform on stage at Grass Valley. How much music have been joyfully played since then?

I certainly hope that all of you who attend next week’s festival will pause for a second or two and give thanks to all the volunteers who work their bottoms off to put together this event. It doesn’t “just” happen by itself. Volunteers put in hours and hours of work and preparation to keep this event going. If you haven’t given some of your time and you enjoy the festival make a phone call or stop and chat with any of the board members and say those magic words, “I’d like to help out any way I can.” You can be part of the CBA legacy that keeps the lamps burning and the music and smiles flowing.

Item 2: We all forget things. It just seems that as we get older forgetting things become more frequent. What disturbs me now is not so much forgetting things but forgetting what it is I’m supposed to be trying to remember. Now that is scary.

Item 3: William, my adorable, lovable, five and a half year old grandson was preparing for bedtime when he spoke these words to his mother. “Mom, when I don’t dream at night it makes me feel like I am not alive. No one is there.”

Item 4: Call me crazy but I think I may be on my way to having a shattering Kodak moment. I was subbing for a teacher friend of mine yesterday. I have had the pleasure of being in her classroom many times since 1988.The back wall of her class room is pasted with glossy photographs of every class she has taught over the past thirty years.

A few days ago I was leading the class in discussion when one young gentleman (this is a third grade class) was responding to a question when it dawned on me that this young man’s face and name was familiar to me. I asked him if he had an older brother who had attended this school. He shook his head and said, “No.” I looked at him for a long time and said. “Are you sure?” He looked back at me with a smile and said, “Of course I’m sure.”

This just didn’t make sense to me. The boys face was so familiar and the name just stood out in my mind. I continued on with the lesson and in a couple of moments I just had to stop. I straightened myself up and posed the same question again. I said, “Payton, are you SURE you don’t have an older brother or sister who went to this school?” He stood up and replied, “Mr. Doghouse, my father went to this school.” At this time a student at the back of the room stood up ran to the back wall and quickly pointed to one of the class pictures and said, “Mr. Doghouse, here it is. Payton’s father was here in1991.”

I walked to the back of the room and looked at the picture. There was Payton’s smiling father beaming as only a third grader can. I quickly calculated how many years ago that was. Let’s see 2014, minus 1991 that makes about let’s see, carry the one, borrow from next door, um, let’s see about 23 years. Heck, where is my abacus?

Item 5: For Father’s Day, my daughter Rhiannon treated me and her husband Mark to a show at Harlow’s night club in Sacramento to see Tab Benoit. Mark is a big fan of Tab Benoit, a Cajun blues guitar singer songwriter from Louisiana.

The show was a sell out. Tab opened with three hot tasty blues numbers. The crowd was cheering, raucous and friendly and after his third number Tab began talking with the crowd in his lilting Cajun voice. He began to introduce the next number when a well oiled young lady yelled out, “Hey Tab! Play this song for my friend. It’s her birthday today!” Tab took a deep breath and smiled, looked at the young lady and said in his Cajun seasoned, soft, and soothing voice, “I can’t believe you just $^#^# interrupted me while I was trying to introduce a song. Go to your office and you can fax it to me.” The crowd went wild and began to cheer. Even the offending loud mouth dunderhead smiled in a sheepish manner. If only all of societies rude behavior could be so easily dealt with.

Item 6: June 30 is the end of the fiscal year. It is also the day I will no longer be 65 and be staring directly at the double six. It should be a great year.

Until the 4th of July: Read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, eat a bar of chocolate and walk with a smile and a purpose.



THE DAILY GRIST…3 -The atomic number of Lithium- Counting to 3 is common in situations where a group of people wish to perform an action in synchrony for instance: on the count of three, everybody pull – 3 strikes and yer out – 3 goals is a hat trick – 3 points for a Field Goal – 3 is the first odd prime number

3
Today's column from Dave Williams
Thursday, June 5, 2014


What a treat, I get today’s welcome column and it will probably be one the last ones anyone reads before heading out to the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Actually, Linda and I are not getting to the festival until Wednesday morning this year as we have a family wedding on Sunday that pushes our arrival date a few days but I’m sure we will still have plenty of time to enjoy the festival. We finally got smart this year and are not heading home until Monday.

We got our FHU site number for this year’s festival and the magic number is 3. I promised you all I would let you know where we would be so that you can drop by for a taste of anejo tequila and maybe pick a song or two. Linda and I are looking forward to your visit.

This year we requested a site a little farther away from the main drag outside the ice gate where we were camped for the last two years. We had a lot fun camping in that area as that row is “Main St” into the festival grounds through the ice gate. Being social guy, I enjoyed saying hello or howdy to all the folks as they walked by but for this year though, we wanted to get a little father away from the action and closer to the electric only camp sites while still basking in the luxury of the full hook ups and we are grateful to David Brace for accommodating us (and for all the rest he does to make the festival the success that it is).

There are a couple of reasons we asked for a change of scenery this year. The first being that we wanted to be closer to some of our friends in the electric only area but the most important reason we were looking for another site a little farther off Main St was we are bringing our dog for the first time. We have had him for 13 years and never brought him along to festivals. For the first 10 years we didn’t bring him because well……. he wasn’t allowed and for the last 3 in our motorhome, we weren’t sure he would like it too much. We have started bringing him along on our almost monthly camping trips and he seems to like them and does very well camping with us. He is older now and he doesn’t like to be left alone or with a “sitter” for a long time. He would much rather be with us so we bring him. His name is Henry (or as we affectionately call him Hank Williams) and he is friendly, mellow and actually quite shy. This will be his first festival but on all the other camping trips we have been on with him, Linda and I play music all the time and he just sits and listens but we don’t play banjo so we will have to be careful if any of them show up. Anyhow that is why we wanted a site a little further away from the action so we can make Hank feel at home.

I am working at Vern’s again this year and I just checked the schedule. There are lots of terrific bands playing on the Vern’s stage beginning on Wednesday night after Music Camp. So come by and see me there as well. If you ask for me at the bar because you read it here, I’m liable to buy you a beer or a glass of wine.

Let’s see if I can wrap this up. A new (to us) motorhome with a bed always available, a new site # 3, Hank Williams is along for the ride, plenty of tequila to share, hopefully lots of jamming, working and seeing lots of folks at Vern’s, lots of great acts on the all the stages, staying until Monday, it all sounds fantastic to me. Heck, I might even find Rick’s campsite for the welcome columnist jam.

See you there.



THE DAILY GRIST..."Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”—Robert A. Heinlein


Feminist Roots to the Father's Day Festival
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, June 4, 2014


James Brown said “It’s a man’s world”. The same might be said about early bluegrass. Yes, there was Hazel DIckens (famously and importantly), but mostly, it was a male-dominated genre.

In my first year of college, one of the male professors said “I am a feminist”, and I was shocked. He explained what he meant - that he was actively committed to the struggle for women’s equality. I respected that, and decided I was a feminist too.

We’re lucky in California, really. We have been fairly removed from some of the dramatic sociological struggles. I’ve always believed in equality, and was raised in an environment where this was taken for granted. The CBA’s history when it comes to women in bluegrass reflects this west coast mentality, too, I think.

Checking the Father’s Day festival’s history, it’s obvious that the CBA was well aware of local feminine bluegrass talent - the Good Old Persons, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick all graced early versions of the CBA’s signature festival.

Looking at the bluegrass landscape today, it is replete with strong female stars: Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Allison Krause, Sierra Hull, Dale Ann Bradley - the list goes on and on. Are the doors wide open now, then?

Maybe, but I am told it wasn’t all that long ago when the notion of a female performer in a bluegrass band brought a lot of sneers and grumbles. Admit it - weren’t you surprised the first time you saw a female banjo player?

We can’t change the past of course, and longtime bluegrass fans have a lengthy history with high lonesome singing by male voices. But who can forget the first time they heard heavenly singing from Laurie Lewis? Can anyone of good conscience insist such talent doesn’t belong in the bluegrass pantheon?

Women didn’t invade bluegrass. They just lent their talents and love for the genre, and the results have been thrilling. I have been blessed to play alongside a distinctive bluegrass talent in Lynn Quinones, as well as many others over the years, and I think it’s fair to say that California is bursting with bluegrass talent, in all the well-known genders. And the California Bluegrass Association deserves a TON of credit for recognizing this a long time ago.



A guide to Grass Valley Wildlife
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Tuesday, June 3, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Just as you wouldn’t expect to get through the Christmas holiday without hearing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol nor should you think you can skate by without a chance to re-read Bruce Campbell’s classic A guide to Grass Valley Wildlife. Written in 2009, Bruce’s Welcome column leading up to the Fathers Day Festival is classic Campbellism, a little biting, marinated in irony and with enough hyperbole to choke a double-breasted clawhammer finch. Enjoy.)

Less than two weeks until Grass Valley folks! This is good time to point out that the joys offered by this yearly event go way beyond just hanging out with friends, jamming and watching some top notch Bluegrass acts. I am speaking, of course, on the natural fauna that may be found at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, if you look carefully. What follow is a primer – how many of these organisms can YOU spot?

The Thick-Skinned Jambuster (Inappropriatus Usurptus) – this is good place to start, because this creature is fairly common and easy to spot. Look for jams that are summarily broken up by a critter who uses a variety of cunning ways to achieve the breakup of the jam – listen for suggestions of songs that only the Jambuster knows (and just barely) with 6 or 7 chords and irregular rhythms. Or keep your ears peeled for the strains of an overloud “harmony” that is really just an off-tune unison. This species does not mate. Where they actually come from is a mystery.

The Festival Dandy (Exoticus Finerium). The Dandies do not have a specific sound – rather, it is their visual display that you must look for. The males are distinguished by tight blue jeans, enormous belt buckles, elaborate western shirts, topped by very tall cowboy hats. The female of the species will likely sport a frilly, stiff skirt, with a fringed blouse and brightly colored cowboy boots and hat. Biologists marvel at the odd fact that this species seems to be performing a mating ritual, but many specimens found at festivals are well past suitable mating age.

The Aluminum Apartmentite (Winnebagus Wanderum). This species is tough to spot in small groups, away from their social structure, but their herding behavior is fascinating to field biologists. They compulsively create huge hives of dozens of aluminum rolling boxes, which they decorate with flags, card tables and lawn chairs. This is principally a diurnal species, and may be tougher to observe late at night unlike some of the other, more nocturnal creatures that frequent the Father’s Day Festival. This species, more than any other at the Fairgrounds, is fastidiously clean, and perform washing, bathing and waste elimination rituals in the privacy of the aluminum hive modules. The mating habits of this species has never been observed.

The Patchouli Wood Sprite (Dreadlockus Hirsutis). This colorful creature is well dispersed among the Fairgrounds (although usually avoids the A. Apartmentite hives). Both the male and female of the species are well furred, and decorate themselves with colorful woven fabrics. A gentle and affectionate organism, they might actually make good pets if it weren’t for their enormous appetites. They tend to sleep during the day, and become most active at night. When darkness makes spotting them difficult, listen for jams that are playing Dylan, Grisman or Grateful Dead tunes.

The Spam Campers (Hormeli Brandlicus) This species has the most interesting and intricate social structure of any fauna found in the region. The Spam Campers cluster around a designated communal area and the group seems to concentrate their energies on the worship of the queen of the primitive band. The queen has a court of underlings who spread out in the area and lure other organisms back to their communal area to take part in ritual musical, eating and drinking activities. As Campers are worn out, or sated, they are cast out and replaced by a seemingly unlimited supply of eager disciples of the group. This species is both diurnal AND nocturnal –indeed, they never seem to sleep at all.

This is just a small sample of the wildlife you may observe at the Father’s Day Festival – the list is far too extensive to display in this space. But just remember to add Nature Watching to your list of planned activities at this year’s Father’s Day Festival!



THE DAILY GRIST..."If you would have your son to walk honorably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them - not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone." - Anne Bronte

Today's column from Mark Varner
Monday, June 2, 2014


Dear friends,

Hope you’re all ready for another fantastic Father’s Day Festival. Me? I’m doin’ what they call “freaking out”. Since my very first time through the gates of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, even as a zygote the first time, Marty Varner has been part of my posse. So many grassers know Marty that they slip and call me by my son’s name, like, constantly. I answer to Mark or Marty, just to save time.

So apparently I did my job as parent and brought a man into this world that has potential to do great things. He’s graduated high school, totally staying out of trouble and doing well grade-wise, considering the nature of the Advance Placement classes he was taking. He’s stuck with playing bluegrass for his whole life, so I think that’s going to stick, ha ha. And now he’s off to college. He’s attending school in Massachusetts. Obviously he wanted to get the heck out of Dodge and have new experiences in a whole different part of the country. I respect that.

So when you see the now-quite-tall human being bluegrass music has nurtured, this kid of mine, at Grass Valley, wish him luck, and give him advice about living in a frozen tundra like Wooster.

I am, in fact, trying to cram in experiences with the young man before he bails on God’s Country. We got a chance to attend the Nickel Creek reunion tour at the Fox in Oakland recently. It was really enjoyable. Back in the day, I was not a fan. It was just too light and “poppy” for my tastes at the time. Now, in retrospect, it was some good music. Of course, the mandolinist, initially trained by John “smooth right hand” Moore, of Bluegrass, Etc., has grown since those recordings. His work with the Punch Brothers really created a foundation for a quality of playing that is simply sublime. He’s like all your favorite mando pickers put in a blender, while bringing something completely new to the little instrument.

I really enjoy their new material. At the show it kinda fit in seamlessly with the old stuff. It’s a continuation of the “poppy” motif, and I can hang with that just fine. The song “Destination” is a true earworm. Sara Watkins, the singer on that track, has been keeping busy as a musician doing things like being a regular on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, so she’s on top of her game. Likewise, her bro Sean was kickin’ it on guit. Mark Schatz was the perfect bassist, of course.

Great venue, the Fox; maybe the best in the Bay Area. The audience was entirely not your standard bluegrass crowd. I did find Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman in the audience, but otherwise: what I like to call “civilians”. This young crowd is exactly who we should be nurturing for CBA events like the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival. Let’s be sure and include what folks like to refer to as the “edgy” acts along with the bread and butter bluegrass and old time, which will always be the focus of the Grass Valley line up.

Your pal,
Mark Varner
mrvarner@ix.netcom.com


Finding the Right Words to Describe Just How Much I Hate Something
Today's column from Marcos Alvira
Sunday, June 1, 2014


Typically there’s few things that’s agitates folks more than hearing a teacher complain about their summer vacation. After all, two months off of work is far better than a poke in the eye. In fact, I am down right protective of every second of that precious respite from the daily pedagogical grind. That’s why I am NOT happy about this summer. There are certain promises that summer has to offer that carry me through the month of May: bluegrass, camping and backpacking, fly fishing, lots of baseball viewing, leisurely cups of morning coffee with the newspaper on my patio, afternoon gin and tonics with a cigar on my patio, copious World Cup soccer during the right year, and plenty of classic movie viewing on TCM.

This summer, an odious two and a half week trip is looming and casting a huge pall over my plans supine and leisure. 2014 is the year that my beloved wife has put her foot down and decided that I’m taking her to Europe for the trip of her dreams. I thought that I had covered all those trips of her dreams when, over the years, I’ve driven her cross country, taken her on a cruise to Alaska, flown to Hawaii, and spent a week with her in New York. Except for the trip to Hawaii (I’ve passed extended amounts of time in the tropics and I’m not a fan), those trips were a joyful addition to my summer, but not this one. Airports. Stuffy airplanes. Flight connections. Hauling luggage on crowded sidewalks. Banking arrangements. Itineraries. Pet and house sitters. I feel myself growing ill just thinking about it. The dread and stress have me a frazzle.

Four days after the conclusion of the Father’s Day Festival, my Ford Expedition will be headed north toward the airport in Sacramento. My stomach will be knotted with worry over the certain calamities that await me in punishment for the temerity to travel outside the borders of North America. If God had wanted me to go to Europe, He wouldn’t have provided me with a travel trailer, a V8 engine, and a beautiful continent to transverse. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those xenophobic, European hating types. I love my Birkenstocks. Dark Swiss chocolate rules. I’m not fond of Belgian beer, but Scotch is a staple. I’ll pass on French wines in deference to California vintages, but Italian suits and shoes rock. I can tolerate small doses of Europe from afar sans the frantic preparations and overtaxing strains of European travel.

To me the matter is simple: The word recreation is comprised of two parts re (back, again) + create (to produce, bring forth). I can hardly comprehend how scrambling to catch buses, flights, and trains; filing through crowded narrow streets and museums amid shoving hordes of tourists; spending piles of money for a stressful time can be construed as recreational. Several summers ago, with our little tent trailer in tow, my family and I drove through the rolling grasslands under the big skies of Montana. The Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” blared from the radio and my then 12 year old daughter sang along at the top of her lungs as the fresh prairie air poured in through the open windows. That was recreational. Last year my buddy and I backpacked 15 miles to a lake at 10,000 feet to catch 16 inch golden trout. That was recreational. My mind, spirit and body were at peace brought forth again anew.

No, my friends, I am not happy about how the heart of my summer is being ripped from my control. This European “vacation” feels more like a march to the French guillotine, and I will count down each of the eighteen days of our sojourn like a prisoner counting years in the Bastille. Whenever I voice my objections to this trip, the first timeworn retort is, “As a student of history, you’ll love the real y old (fill in the blank).” Do I need to spend half a fortune to visit a thousand year old cathedral when I can stand atop the world on an alpine plateau gazing over ponds and erratics left behind by the last receding glaciers 12,000 years ago? Lament. Rue. Dread. Loathe. It’s difficult finding the right right term to accurately describe how I feel about this trip, but soon I’ll have eighteen days to think about it.



Christmas in June
Today's column from Rick Cornish
Saturday, May 31, 2014


Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where the better part of the day will be spent on a massive, well-coordinated, take-no-prisoners campaign to return the Cornish home and surrounding property to the pristine condition in which it was left ten days ago when the boss left for her visit with family on the east coast. Yes, a professional has been engaged, as have a couple close friends. If it can be done, dammit, this crack team can do it.

So, I was at the grocery store a couple days ago when Sabrina, a young Hispanic woman who holds claim to the title of fastest checker at Sonora’s SavMart, asked me if I felt I was ready. I knew instantly what she meant by the question. Were it Christmas, it’s the question that half the people in our little town would be asking the other half in every check-out line in Sonora, Jamestown and Columbia. You know, ‘Just eight days to Christmas, are you ready?’ Of course it’s the beginning of summer and not Christmas at all, but it’s a question that folks have been asking me for the past week or so. Am I ready for Grass Valley? Even the checker at SavMart knows about my annual trek to Nevada County? Of course she does. (Even our mailman knows.)

“No, Sabrina, I don’t feel ready. You’d think that after 38 years I would have a system in place.”

“Well,” she said handing me my receipt and a fist full of coupons, “it’s not too late, Mr. Cornish. Just, you know, make a list.”

Ha, make a list. My Grass Valley list of tasks needing doing before I leave, things to pack, things to buy, broken stuff on the trailer to fix, people to call, emails to write is a growing, living document begun three decades ago. I remember the first…pencil scribbles on a Big Mac wrapper. In 2014 everything’s in a relational database capable even of sending reminders to my various email accounts. Not that reminders, emailed or otherwise, can help. Next Saturday morning I will be on 80, just approaching Rocklin, when the first, “OH, DAMN, DAMN, DOUBLE-DAM, I FORGOT THE…” happens. It was only the very first year, 1977, that I did not forget to bring something to Grass Valley, and that’s because, as today’s Grist implies, I had no idea where I was going and hence what I would need to bring along. Or at least not much of an idea.
For many years, I’d say about twenty, much of my Fathers Day Festival list was devoted to food and food preparation. I’ve always loved to cook for lots of folks and what better place to do it than at a campground where 80% of every friend I have is either there or on the way? I would prepare elaborate dinners for twenty, thirty, forty people. That all ended abruptly back in 2000 when I began serving on the CBA board; I tried the first year to juggle my culinary adventures with my new official duties and neither got done to my satisfaction. Now I don’t even bring a camp stove. (I have been cooking one big barrel roaster-smoker full of delectables on Saturday night in the Edes/Meiners/Evans camp, however—last year ribs for Rhonda and her band, this year culotte steaks marinated for an entire day in a red wine and garlic Basque concoction for the Lonesome River Band.)

The pre-festival countdown took on a whole new character last year when I hatched the crazy…CRAZY…idea of designing, making and selling buttons at the festival to raise money for the CBA web site re-design project. Bringing the whole thing off the first year and actually making a little money was a hellish ordeal, but at least I had some peace of mind knowing that all of the kinks in the process would be worked out by year two. HA! Four hundred and thirty different button designs, three made with a pin-on back, three made with a magnet on back. Let’s see, 435 times 3 times 3.

So that’s it. Welcome column over. 5:15 a.m. and major work to do, first for my darling Lynn’s arrival back home tonight, then for my departure a week from today. Ain’t life grand?


Grass Valley and Cycling in the South
Guest column from Joe Weed
Friday, May 30, 2014


I hope you’ll stop by either or both of my workshops at the 2014 Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at Grass Valley. They are in Building F, near the food concessions:

Friday June 13 Dinner Time: Fiddle Tune histories with Joe Weed:

Bob Wills’ Faded Love and Maiden’s Prayer
I’ve traveled throughout Texas, visited Wills’ birthplace, and filmed the home where he learned to fiddle. Come see pictures and video, hear the stories, and learn how Wills’ tunes evolved from 19th Century music.

Saturday June 14 Lunch Hour: Recording Acoustic Instruments in Your Home Studio
Please bring your questions about recording your acoustic instruments, making a better home studio, and producing an album for your band. I’ll be happy to answer them and facilitate discussion. I look forward to lively interactions at this always-popular workshop!

Music opens doors in far-away places

I’ve just returned from a 1200-mile bicycle trip through the South with my wife, Marty Kendall. We began near Houston, TX, and cycled east through Beaumont and Port Arthur, both important stops in the early years of western swing and honky-tonk fiddling. We continued through southern Louisiana, and on a tip from Suzy Thompson, we found Ellis Vanicor, 84, a wonderful Cajun fiddler performing at a roadhouse with his band, the Lacassine Playboys. After cycling through Lafayette, Morgan City, Baton Rouge and Natchez, we elected to leave the loud Mississippi highways behind and take the Natchez Trace up to Nashville, TN. The Trace is an historic highway built in the early 19th century during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Today’s well-paved 2-lane Natchez Trace Parkway is off-limits to commercial traffic, and provides a scenic and quiet route for cyclists, vacationers and locals through rural Mississippi, northwest Alabama, and southwest Tennessee. It ends in Nashville, so Marty and I had a great time visiting friends there and checking out some music before heading home (in a plane).


Traveling by bicycle is a completely different experience from traveling by car. It’s an adventure every day. When you aren’t surrounded by a glass and aluminum shell with an accelerator and brakes, you breathe, smell, hear, see and feel the world in an immediate way. It’s much the way people experienced travel before cars and trains. Human interactions, wildlife viewing, and weather effects are much more immediate. Sometimes that’s great, and sometimes it’s not.

On our long-distance bicycle trips, we’ve come to appreciate the camaraderie with other distance cyclists. We only met a few on this long trip, but the interactions were immediate and close. We share a bond that only we understand. We trade information about road and weather conditions, other cyclists, lodging, hazards to avoid and sites to catch. The bond is a unique time-and space-based folkloric continuum, something like what musicians share.

Sometimes it’s a bit strenuous, but we usually get in pretty good shape after a few days. If you average 10 miles per hour, and are on the road by 9:00 AM, then you’ve covered 30 miles by lunch time. By afternoon you’ve covered another 20. We usually average around 50 miles a day, because we like to stop frequently and look at birds, take pictures, talk with people, or shop for necessities. We carry very little: a couple of changes of clothes, our fiddles, our cameras and computers, and toiletries. Oh— and rain gear. We don’t camp, preferring to stay at inexpensive motels and occasionally B&Bs. Lodging is inexpensive in the South.

I hope you opt to try day-long or multi-day bicycle trips in your area. It’s great fun and provides a wonderful new perspective on familiar surroundings. And if you play a small instrument, pack one to take with you!


Joe Weed records acoustic music at his Highland Studios near Los Gatos, California. He has released six albums of his own, produced many projects for independent artists and labels, and does sound tracks for film, TV and museums. Joe’s composition “Hymn to the Big Sky” was heard in “The Dust Bowl,” a film by Ken Burns, which premiered nationally on PBS November 18 and 19, 2012. Joe recently produced “Pa’s Fiddle,” a collection of 19th-century American music played by “Pa” Charles Ingalls, father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series. Reach Joe by calling (408) 353-3353, by email at joe@highlandpublishing.com, or by visiting joeweed.com.


Is the Party Over?
Today's column from Nancy Zuniga
Thursday, May 29, 2014


(Editor’s Note: Nancy’s “Is the Party Over” was one of her most thoughtful and well-considered Welcomes, and that’s saying a lot when you contemplate just how long this fine and introspective writer held down her third Friday slot. We present her 2011 piece here and have a strong hunch it will generate just as much thought as it did the first time around.)

Recently, when the question came up as to the reasons why CBA membership has declined, it was pointed out that the problem is due not only to low numbers of new members joining, but to the fact that some older, long-time CBA members are choosing not to renew their membership in this organization. Before I go any further, let me state unequivocally that I have no plans to let my membership lapse. The CBA has provided me with too many good times, and too many wonderful friends, to let that go. Having said that, though, I have to say that my enthusiasm for attending bluegrass events is not what it once was. I’ve given some thought to the reasons why this is so. Certainly, my love for bluegrass music hasn’t diminished in the least. So why do I no longer get that adrenalin rush anymore at the prospect of heading out to a festival? I’m reminded of the cliché breakup line: “It’s not you; it’s me.”

I used to equate festivals and campouts with a big party where I hung out with folks who liked to jam until the wee hours of the morning. Now I find that I’m ready to hit the hay by 11:00pm. Of course I don’t generally do this at festivals, but I have to force myself to stay up later, and then I’m dragging the next day. If I do cave in to my need for rest, I turn in for the night with a nagging, dissatisfied feeling that I’m missing out on the best jams…and more often than not, this concern is proven to be valid when I hear tales from more stalwart (and usually younger) folks than myself, telling about some amazing 3:00am jam that I missed. It seems like a lot of trouble to pack up a trailer, spend a small fortune on gas, and drive hundreds of miles, just to miss out on the best of the good times. I could’ve stayed home and done that for free.

Then again, maybe it isn’t just “me” and my aging bones: A few years ago, an older lady with a very low CBA membership number accosted me as I was leaving the stage area. She just needed to vent. Gesturing toward the band onstage, she asked me, “Is that bluegrass?” I shrugged in reply, realizing from the irate tone of her voice that the question was rhetorical. She then went on to complain how she had been at the festival for two days and had not heard one single band that she considered bluegrass. The band that was performing at that moment was comprised of competent musicians, all playing traditional bluegrass instruments. Their music was not what I would consider “edgy”, but I had to admit that other than the instrumentation, their sound (heavily influenced by country swing) didn’t even remotely resemble anything that would’ve been played by Bill, Vern, Ralph, Earl, or Jimmy. To be honest, anymore there seems to be only a handful of bands at any festival that do produce the purely traditional sound; even a majority of established bands that have been around for years (e.g., Country Current, Blue Highway) don’t replicate that sound. I’m not saying this to rehash the endless debate about what “is” and “isn’t” bluegrass, or to suggest that the CBA shouldn’t hire bands that don’t fall into that narrow category of strictly traditional bluegrass. Anyone who knows me knows that I have eclectic tastes and that, with the exception of hip-hop and heavy metal, I pretty much like all kinds of music. But would I want a solid week, or weekend, of music that I might like very much but don’t “love” the way I love traditional bluegrass music? Case in point, a few years back, Henry and I went to see Charlie Musselwhite and his blues band at a club in Fresno. We thoroughly enjoyed the two hours that we spent in that club listening to some great blues, and then went home satisfied with our musical experience. But would I have wanted to camp out somewhere and listen to one blues band after another for three or four days straight? Probably not. And that’s the way I personally feel about most of the newer bluegrass bands; I acknowledge that their members are fine musicians, and up to a point I can enjoy hearing most of them in concert. But that doesn’t change the fact that they don’t have the sound that made me go nuts over bluegrass music when I first heard Lester and Earl on the Beverly Hillbillies and the Bonnie and Clyde movie soundtrack 45+ years ago.

Perhaps a lot has to do with one’s expectations as much as one’s ability to adapt to evolving musical trends. For example, if I were to attend a World Music festival, I’d go with an open mind, expecting to hear a lot of different musical styles. I would most likely enjoy many of them and wouldn’t be disappointed in the least if it wasn’t trad bluegrass (or any kind of bluegrass, for that matter) because I wouldn’t have any reasonable expectation of hearing bluegrass music. But when it comes to bluegrass festivals, some of us older folks, like the lady who vented to me a few years back, had gotten so used to hearing mostly traditional bands in our early days of festival attendance that we’re finding it hard to relate to “bluegrass festivals” that now contain very little of the sound that years ago attracted us to the music in the first place.

I understand that not everyone has the same thought that I have in my head when I hear the term “bluegrass.” The TV show “America’s Got Talent” has among this season’s contestants a band out of Georgia called Fiddleheads, who perform tunes such as Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” and Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” to the accompaniment of bluegrass instruments. The panel of judges (self-styled experts Piers Morgan, Sharon Osborne, and Howie Mandel) seem to believe that this is a bluegrass band, and they are presenting the Fiddleheads to America as such. Judging from the enthusiastic reception from the mostly-young audience, I wouldn’t doubt that at least some people who had no previous concept of bluegrass music may now have an incentive to attend a bluegrass festival, believing that they will hear more music like this. And they probably will hear more and more bands on the order of the Fiddleheads, as Bill Monroe’s words “That ain’t no part o’ nothin’ ” fade into history.

Several years ago, I was one of the pollsters in a phone survey in which CBA members were asked to rank the music they would most like to hear at bluegrass festivals. The categories included Traditional, Gospel, and Newgrass or jam-grass. Most of the folks I called were over the age of fifty. “Traditional” was the overwhelming favorite, while “Newgrass” or jam bands were unanimously dead last. If the CBA members on my list had been under forty, the survey results might very well have been quite different. But there’s no denying that many of the older folks prefer the older stuff that we remember from back in the day. It makes us feel comfortable, kind of like revisiting an old hangout or enjoying a reunion with an old friend. As my participation in jams wanes in proportion to my decreased stamina, I’ll most likely gravitate toward more stage shows to get my money’s worth from the festival experience. So long as the CBA continues to present acts such as the Flatt & Scruggs Tribute Band, I’ll be applauding in the audience. I’ll even enjoy the occasional non-traditional band, as long as the musicians incorporate at least some elements of the music that enticed me to join the CBA years ago. But when and if the day comes that edge acts dominate the festival lineup and traditional acts are rare novelties, I’ll be ready to stay home and listen to my own music collection. Whether or not change is a good thing is subjective, depending on one’s perspective and personal tastes. One thing that is certain is that change is inevitable. I’ve read Chris Pandolfi’s blogs, extolling his belief in the importance of expanding the bluegrass tent if bluegrass music is to survive and attract a new generation of fans. I don’t think that Chris is wrong; in fact, I recognize his pronouncements as the writing on the wall. Nonetheless, for some of us who simply like what we like, that may mean that the party is nearly over. For others, who hear a different sound in their head when they think of “bluegrass”, it means that the party is just getting started.



THE DAILY GRIST..."When I was a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick."--George Burns

Rules....No Rules....
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Author's note: I caught a nasty cold over the weekend, and it had me down for the count the last couple of days. What follow's a re-run - my apologies!

A good friend and I have been debating (amicably) the appropriate tactics to ensure a bluegrass open mic we host will in fact, focus on bluegrass.

Open mic events being, well, open, they sometimes attract some folks who don’t really understand bluegrass or maybe even ignore the name of the event. How can we fix this? Do we need to fix this? Can we, should we, institute rules on what people can play?

One of my issues with rules is, well, art shouldn’t have rules. The house band always plays “real” bluegrass, and nearly every night, so do most of the other acts taking their turns. There’s also a question of logistics - how could we ensure that only bluegrass is being played? Do we pre-approve songlists? Deny stage access if the list doesn’t pass muster? I can foresee lots of hurt feelings, and lots of people who might come around to being bluegrass fans being turned off

Remember the book “Hawaii” by James Michener? In it, the missionary Abner Hale tried,
and failed to win over the hearts and minds of the native Hawaiians to Christianity. Part of the problem, as his wife points out at one point, is Abner is too caught up in punishing the Hawaiians for breaking the laws of his religion, when, as his wife says “You...must...preach...love.”

When I first began playing bluegrass, I wasn’t well versed in the biuegrass idiom. I know I called songs at jams that caused at least some mental eyerolls, if not real ones. (I probably still do!). One time, a player turned to me and said “I don’t know what is, but it isn’t bluegrass.” It hurt my feelings, and demonstrated the darker side of dogmatic orthodoxy. Luckily, I’m stubborn and kept at it, but a lot of musicians might just hang up their instruments and decide that bluegrassers are just too mean.

I think I’d rather tell the person whose three songs didn’t contain bluegrass, “Good job!”, make sure they have a Bluegrass Breakdown at their table and hope that the other acts playing bluegrass will ignite a fire in their hearts, and move them to learn some bluegrass songs for next month’s open mic.

Those of us in the house band always try and help fledgling bluegrass players feel comfortable, bolstering the rhythm and providing harmony vocals. There’s nothing like watching someone feel a good band lift them up for the first time. We’ve been doing the event for about 3 years, and it’s become increasingly popular. Being an “open” mic event, there will always be nights where the talent level or compliance with the stated musical genre is a bit off. But more often, there is a parade of enthusiastic bluegrass pickers and singers, and I have to hope it’s contagious!




When Community is Contagious
Guest column from Davis Welborn
Tuesday, May 27, 2014


(Editor’s Note: With music camp season upon us we thought Ms. Welborn’s editorial, originally posted at prescriptionbluegrass.com, could serve as a reminder of the personal responsibility each of us has to our fellow pickers.)

On April 25, Prescription Bluegrass published this story of bassist Gene Libbea's mysterious illness. While working as an instructor at a fiddle camp, Libbea was exposed to strep throat by an infected student, whom he calls "Ventura Fiddle Girl".

Ventura Fiddle Girl was there with her mother.

While sitting across from Libbea at breakfast, the girl confided that she had strep.

Just a few days later, Libbea became seriously ill. After 12 days of suffering from an infectious illness that five doctors could not diagnose, and a subsequent five-day hospital stay, Libbea announced that he had been discharged from the hospital.

That part of his story, at least, has a happy ending, but what are we to make of the girl?

Ventura Fiddle Girl, I get it: In 1953, Bill Monroe survived a head-on collision and 19 broken bones to return to full-time touring just eight months later. In 1982, he underwent emergency surgery for an enlarged prostate, and was onstage three hours later, playing and singing for a 60-minute show. We share these true stories over and over again to strengthen the bluegrass community by imbibing the mythos of bluegrass culture. We share them to bind ourselves in spirit to the Father of Bluegrass, and to inspire ourselves to heroic deeds, both musically and personally.

Maybe you're not a sociopath who runs roughshod over everyone in your ruthless quest for ... whatever it is you're after. Maybe you're just a crazy kid who wants to make her mark in bluegrass music. Maybe we can say the same about your mother who, doubtless, was the driving force behind your reckless decision to attend that camp.
But broken bones and an enlarged prostate are not contagious (You do know that, right?). Strep throat most certainly is.

You held on to your deposit, and in so doing, saved a few hundred bucks. You cost Gene Libbea many times that in doctor's visits, a lengthy hospital stay, and everything that goes with it. You cost his friends, fans, family, and colleagues fear and anxiety. You cost his mother the emotional turmoil of a 125-mile trip, not knowing if her son would be alive when she got there.

Your intentions may have been benign, but actions have consequences. Your actions had malignant -- maybe even fatal -- consequences. There's no telling how many other people you may have infected.

So, Ventura Fiddle Girl -- and all you other aspiring bluegrass legends -- the next time you want to be a hero, save somebody else first.


THE DAILY GRIST... "Tell me the company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are." —Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote)

Alison Brown Comes to Town
Today’s Welcome Column from Yvonne Tatar
Monday, May 26, 2014


San Diego has been home to many a successful bluegrass musician. One example is Alison Brown.She grew up in the La Jolla area playing bluegrass banjo and guitar at The Pizza Place, a monthly jam where she met and played often with world-renown bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan. She went on to college, and after graduation worked for Smith Barney in San Francisco where she worked in the investment world for 10 years. In 1995, she married Garry West and they decided to move to Nashville where they opened Compass Records. Compass Records is an internationally recognized label with a catalog of over 600 roots music releases. Alison returns to San Diego area a couple of times a year for gigs and to see family.

On the first weekend in May, Mike and I and our band Virtual Strangers played at the Ramona Bluegrass & Old West Festival, which is only 15 miles from home. This young event is only 5 years old and offers of great local and touring bands in their lineup each year. This year their increased attendance was obvious and the event’s addition of a 3rd stage made the music available all the time during the festival hours. They also added the Wild West Camp where trail bosses, sheriffs and stage robbers roamed among their old west encampment. Fans enjoyed the new things to see and do along with the fine stage shows and jamming in the growing campground. It was great to witness this young festival's growth and success!

After our stage show, that evening we made our way over to the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad which is hosting a banjo extravaganza program titled "The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument" series. This special exhibit runs from March 29, 2014 - October 31, 2014 and "reveals a compelling and triumphant story about "America's Instrument." Bluegrass leaning banjo artists included to perform in the series are Alison Brown , Sammy Shelor & Lonesome River Band (June), Tony Trischka (August); Mark Johnson & Emory Lester (October), and Dan Levenson (November).

Deering Banjos was instrumental in helping the museum get this event up and running. And Saturday night, May 3rd, the Alison Brown Quartet was highlighted at the museum. The concert was not specifically bluegrass but many genres were played, and it was very entertaining with topnotch style and taste. Alison was on the banjo and the rest of the quartet included bass, drums, and piano. One sweet highlight of the show was the Grandpa Jones song, “Are You From Dixie?” sung by Alison’s 8 year old son Brendan who also flat footed during the breaks. With his shock of red hair and cherubic face, he’s a natural!

The next day was Sunday, and, as luck would have it, it was also our 40th wedding anniversary. What better way to celebrate than to host a 2-hour banjo workshop at our home. It was such fun! Ten five-wire pickers converged and the twanging began. Alison highlighted the Scruggs and melodic styles along with specific tunes and student requests for assistance. The workshop ended with satisfied banjo pickers who were enthused by what they had learned. (Side note – Mike Smith, longtime San Diego Bluegrass Society member and banjo player, attended both her concert and workshop. He was grinning from ear to ear the whole time. You see, Mike is a retired teacher and Alison’s former music teacher when she attended La Jolla High School. He is uber proud of her!)

It was a music-packed weekend but also memory-packed with great times. When I’m rocking in that ol’ rocking chair in years to come, this weekend will supply some sweet recollections. The pursuit of playing, listening, and learning music is a charmed endeavor. Can I get an Amen?!



THE DAILY GRIST…”There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”--William Butler Yeats

Six Degrees of Separation
Today’s Column from Jeanie Ramos
Sunday, May 25, 2014


Here we are with just one more week left in the month of May. That can only mean one thing to California Bluegrass folks…The Father’s Day Festival is just around the bend; a week of pickin’ and grinnin’ is within our reach! We get to see some folks we haven’t seen since way last June and in my case, I’ll also get to see some folks I haven’t seen since way last week.

It’s been seven years now since I ventured into the bluegrass loving world and what a difference those years have made! I find that, outside of my church family, nearly all of my dearest friends are people I’ve met through my musical adventures.

Living in the Sacramento River Delta region has worked out well for us because it puts us within a two to three hour drive of many musical “happenings.” We have been to jams, concerts, campouts, and pickin’ parties all over the northern part of the state; along the coast, in the Mother Lode, in the shadow of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen, and most recently, at Clear Lake. I have played so much music lately that my guitar callouses are making it a challenge to use the keyboard and there won’t be a break in the action anytime in the near future.

As I think back to my jamming skills when I started seven years ago, I realize how far I’ve come. I met Ron and Rosie Chavez at a festival down in the desert way back then. Ron got me off to a good start by first telling me to ditch the thin pick and gave me a thicker one (which I still have). He took the time to tell me about jamming etiquette and was very patient and encouraging as I ventured into the first few jams. I always look forward to seeing and jamming with the Ron and Rosie and I’m grateful for the help they gave me at the beginning.

Since joining the CBA, I have eased into playing and singing more bluegrass tunes. A few short years ago, there was no way I could have sat in on some of the jams I’ve been in this year, jams with many gifted musicians, professional and amateur. I’ve also tried my hand at playing a variety of instruments. I may not become accomplished at them all but it’s given me a great deal of respect for those who have mastered them. One of the best things I did for myself was to take up the bass, it has improved both my guitar and vocal skills. The capo is a marvelous tool but has been detrimental in some ways, making me somewhat lazy about music theory. Since we can’t use a capo on a bass, I’ve had to relearn several tunes. I’m hoping all this brain activity will prevent Alzheimer’s. I can live with a hernia from lifting a bass but I pray I never have to deal with anything that keeps me from making music with my friends.

I recently got acquainted with a nice lady, Grace, who is about where I was a few short years ago, musically speaking. I took her to an event in Modesto a few months back; the Nu Blu and Sister’s Grim concert. She met several CBA people there and Geoff gave her a Music Camp flyer. She recently came to a jam that a bunch of us went to at Clear Lake. She got to meet and jam with many more of my friends and everyone was so kind and helpful to her, making her feel welcome; and that’s the way this works isn’t it? Get her to fall in love with the people and she’ll come back for more. Grace has joined CBA, signed up for music camp and will be at Grass Valley all week and I know the CBA people will give her a warm welcome. I’ve seen many campaigns for increasing our membership but as I see it, the membership grows as a natural result of friendships that are forged and as folks are made to feel welcome and significant. I look forward to watching and being a part of Grace’s assimilation into the CBA family and bluegrass world.

Another thing I look forward to at Grass Valley is meeting new people and making new friends. The circle is not only unbroken, it gets bigger all the time. Strangers are the friends we haven’t yet met. Recently I was reading about the six degrees of separation theory, “that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.” (Thanks to Wikipedia). I experienced that phenomenon this week. My friend Tamie asked if I could sing at a memorial this Sunday. Tamie and the widow of the deceased (Marilyn) are woman I got acquainted with through the California Indian Basket Weavers Association. The husband had been a “cowboy” and loved cowboy music as well as bluegrass. Marilyn told me her husband’s favorite group was Sidesaddle. I told her that my friend, Kim Elking is a member of that group. She told me that Kim’s brother Jud, had been a good friend of her husband. I sent Kim a “Isn’t it a small world” type message as her brother was sending her a message “Do you know a Jeanie Ramos?” Well, to keep you from getting too confused, I’ll just say that I’ll be meeting Jud at the memorial and I see from his Facebook page that we too have several mutual friends; Tim Edes, Dave Nielsen, Sydney Evans, and Anne Whitehurst. I think that was less than six degrees, but who’s counting?

Okay, I’ll see many of you at Grass Valley. Let’s pick! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ve got some Cowboy music to brush up on.


THE DAILY GRIST…"There is a huge difference between using your normal voice and sounding natural."--Brian McNeal

RADIO LINERS
Today's column from Prescription Bluegrass Radio Host Brian McNeal
Saturday, May 24, 2014


Liners, Drops, Bumpers. There are about as many different names for them as there are radio stations and musicians. Now, if you're not a musician or a radio announcer, what they are is those short little pre-recorded announcements in an artist's voice announcing their song on some specific radio program. Something like, “Hi, this is Dumas Walker and you're about to hear my new song, 'Headhunter Bluegrass' right here, right now, on WXYZ.”

The reason they are there is two-fold: radio stations and programs that use them, like them because it helps to customize their sound, it's like an endorsement for their radio station/show from a celebrity. Artists almost beg to record them because it generally helps to get their songs on the air. Disc Jockeys who have these recorded liners by a certain artist are known to play that artist in a heavier rotation than normal just so they can use the customized recording mentioning their name.

The problem is that most artists' recorded liners sound like … well ... let me put it mildly ... they sound like the bi-product of processed animal feed. Not much to brag about there.

This is a perplexing problem and not even the Association of Bluegrass Broadcasters can come up with valid reasons why.

Here we have some of the most talented and creative people on the planet! People who can memorize the lyrics to hundreds of songs. People who can string together just the right words to create a million selling hit song. People who spend hours and hours working on their craft to make it sound “Just Right”.

Yet, when it comes to recording these liners for their radio friends, it seems as if they give it cursory consideration at best and often just throw away the lines as if they were talking about something totally foreign to them. But WAIT! It's THEIR music, isn't it? How could it be foreign?

One radio announcer surmised that, “they seem to be out of their comfort zone,” as a possibility. Still, these are professionals with a business to run. If they sang their songs with the same lack of enthusiasm as some of them give the radio liners, no one would ever sell a record, much less have a hit.

There is a huge difference between using your normal voice and sounding natural. It's one huge reason so many actors get hired to deliver voice-only commercials or voice-over-video for television. It's not because the company wants to pay mega-bucks for the use of a famous person's voice – believe me. Often you don't even know the actor's name unless you're just extremely sharp enough to recognize their voice. The company isn't hiring them for a testimonial … just a professional voice. Actors, most likely because of their extensive training, now how to DELIVER a line as opposed to READING a line.

What many recording artists need to do is to work on this aspect of their career as much or more as they do any other part. Some will get the hang of it rather quickly and others will still be working on it. It's not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

Here are some tips to help out, if you're in this dilemma:

First you need to know if you're recording the liners back stage and the radio people will be present or not. If they're there, simply ask them how they want it done … ask them to read the line and try to copy the way they delivered it. Don't be afraid of stumbling or afraid of not getting it right on the first take. Most of your songs aren't recorded in one take, are they? It's just another recording session – only in a micro studio which may be the back of the bus or the green room, but it's no different. Do as many takes as you need to feel comfortable that the final version going out over the air – ramping up the intro to your hit record – will be the best you can make it.

Next, if you're recording in your home studio or in your label's recording studio … USE HEADPHONES! There is a real reason disc jockey's use 'em. Of course, if you're in a professional studio with an engineer at the controls, you'll have a second set of ears to hear the flubs and get you to do re-takes. But if you're alone, a good set or a cheap set of headphones – either one – will give you the advantage of knowing exactly when you hit a word that didn't come out as you intended. Many of us, in normal conversation will slur over certain words or syllables in a string of words. At the time, we know what we said and so does the other party and no one really cares. But, put a microphone on it, record it and then listen to it time and time again along with millions of others and that little slur, flub, stutter, and stumble becomes magnified with every play. With headsets, you can easily spot the imperfection and immediately do another take.

Don't be afraid to stop and start in mid-sentence either. Radio people are used to editing and it's easy to take out the “uh … that wasn't quite right … was it … let me do that part again.” We can make you sound like you never even took a breath where there was once a guffaw.

Don't be afraid to deliver the same line more than once … several times in fact. But don't just read it exactly the same each time. Variance is what you're after. If one isn't exactly what we were looking for, maybe the other will be … or the third one. Many times, I've taken a part from one version and another part from the second or third take and sometimes, even more from another and totally different liner just to make one that sounds really good.

Pacing is also a good thing. Remember, even though this is bluegrass. not every song where that liner might get used is played at breakneck speed, so try also delivering the line at a much slower and calmer pace. Imagine it being used with the speeds of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Wandering Pilgrim”. Now you're getting it …

I remember hearing the advice that Levon Helm got from Tommy Lee Jones just before his audition for his first movie role. Tommy Lee told him to think of his music and pace his lines as he delivered them just like he would if he were singing them. I think something similar could be said to musicians for recording radio liners. Think of your songs and deliver your lines with some pacing. Put some melodic inflection into your voice. Add some sparkle into your delivery. Smile while you talk. Laugh. Get someone to tell you a joke and just at the end of your laugh, record the liner. You'd be surprised at how much that will add to the overall effect.

Next, remember that this is YOUR music, your name, your voice. Don't throw any of it away! Sell yourself and your music. Give the listener a reason to say “WOW! Let me sit up and pay attention.” Also remember that your recorded message may just be the very first impression you're making on a brand new fan. What do you want to say to that brand new fan? “Never mind me … I'm just doing these radio liners as fast as I can because I've got ten more to do”? Or, do you want to say, “Howdy … glad you're here, hope you like my song and want to hear more!”

Now when you hear an artist's liner on Prescription Bluegrass and you're wondering if it fits in the category of “needs improvement” or the other – where the artist accomplished the goal, let me tell you that we never put anything on the air we don't feel puts the brightest spotlight on the artist even if it's their own voice. If those liners aren't good enough, we just don't use 'em. The songs sound better without someone tripping on their tongue. So if you hear 'em on the air, they're tested, polished and stamped with the “Airworthy Seal of Approval” from the Prescription Bluegrass General Store and Front Porch Psychological Therapy Center.


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Top Ten Tips for Happy Bluegrassers
Today's column from Cameron Little
Friday, May 23, 2014


The California Bluegrass Association Father's Day Festival is a breathless 27 days away and counting. Here are our top ten festival tips to keep you knee-deep in bluegrass happiness:

1. Use Your Sunscreen
Just do it. Nobody needs a leathery, peeling neck just to prove their redneck-ed-ness. Also good to use on the top of your feet if you're the Birkenstock type.

2. Bring Cash
Not just for my tips, mind you. You'll want cash for the late-night hot dog stand, for purchases big and small, and to snag that new guitar you've been lusting for.

3. Give Yourself Permission
Deconstruct your schedule. Roam the booths, sit in the best seats (when empty), stay out of the sun, cool off with the luthiers, jam in the campground, schmooze with the vendors, take a nap, hang out on the grass, drink in the night. It's a whole festival kind of experience and you deserve it all.

4. Wear sturdy shoes, ladies
I'm not kidding. Most of the lovely womenfolk I know have this one down, but every year we download our entire supply of mole skin, bandaids, and golf cart rides to the clueless fashionistas. Don't be one of them. I'll give you a ride even if you don't have blisters.

5. Goodwill
It's a nice thing to remember that mentors and celebrities always hobnob with us regular folk at bluegrass festivals. At one of my first Father's Day festivals, I was between sets at a side stage, chitchatting with a gentleman and his wife. We were laughing about something and he crossed his legs to reveal a very one-of-a-kind cowboy boot. Well, danged if I wasn't shooting the breeze with the legendary Doyle Lawson. I'd never seen him without a hat and snazzy jacket but man, I'd recognize them boots anywhere!


6. A Canopy for Your Flamingo Lights
Just sayin'. They could be little martini glasses or bass fishes or leg lamps from the "Christmas Story" ("FRA-GEE-LAY. That must be Italian!")

7. Baby Wipes
Okay, okay. Just work with me here. Good for cleaning your feet before you get into bed if nothing else. Great for wiping all the blackberry crumble off your shirt.

8. Bring Earplugs
Seriously. These tiny little pillows of love have saved my sanity at bluegrass and other festivals more times than I can count. Not only do they help insulate you from honking vocals and off-key serenades that sometimes define after-hours in Bluegrass-land, they also let you sit a little closer to the speakers if you need a nose-to-the-glass view of your favorite headliner.

9. Pace Yourself
It's practically a rite of passage to stay up all night at a minimum of one festival in your bluegrassing career. Not too long ago, my pal and I did just that, chugging contraband Starbucks in the wee hours of the morning. I had great plans for the daylight hours that day: volunteer for gate duty, jam in the campground, and catch some main stage acts, especially the Seldom Scene. All of this SOUNDED good at the time. The reality was that after our volunteer shifts, and musicating, we basically crawled to our seats, determined to bask in the glow that is the Seldom Scene. Could I keep my eyes open? No. Did my mom take pictures of me, head all the way back on the lounge chair with my mouth wide open? Oh, yes. Am I ever gonna do that again? No. At least not as long as she has a camera in her hand.

10. Bring your Attitude
Healthy, workable, and playful festival attitudes result from experience but here's a tip Bluegrassers of any stripe can benefit from:

No matter how early or late you get to the campground, you might encounter a "grumpy person" or two. Sometimes folks just need to decompress after a long drive or whatnot, and sometimes a little tizzy is thrown to let off steam. Cocktail hour is often the prescription the doctor ordered, but if you or anyone you encounter needs a little help in this area, just direct them to a staff member. These guys EXIST so you can have a great time and believe me they'll do everything possible to ensure you do. Plus we love using our walkie-talkies because it impresses the girls.

(Cameron Little is a bluegrass musician and vows to get at least a few hours sleep at the Father's Day Festival this year.)



THE DAILY GRIST..." I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends.”—William Shakespeare, Richard II

Memories of my friends Vern and Ray
Today's column from J.D. Rhynes
Thursday, May 22, 2014


I miss the stories that Vern used to tell about when he was playing music with Ray Park, and their travels on the road. I kick myself for not setting down with a tape recorder and proper chronicling their adventures of the road over the years that they played together. Every once in a while one will pop up in my memory that is lain dormant for a number of years and I try towrite it down before I forget it again. The other day I received an e-mail from my friend lesleverett and in that e-mail was a picture of a very young 12-year-old Brenda Lee on stage in front of about 3000 people at a park in downtown Nashville, and that triggered this memory of Vern and Ray playing that same park in 1966. Here then is that story as related to me by my old picking partner Vern Williams.

Vern would always start this story with this disclaimer; Now to appreciate this story in all its glory, you have to remember how absent-minded Ray Park is, and is always walking off and leaving stuff behind. It was in the late summer there in Nashville when this story happened. Vern said the musicians union there in Nashville used to put on free shows two or three times a year during the summertime for the country music fans. Vern said they would always have at least one and maybe two big-name country stars at the show, and the rest were up and coming acts, and at this particular show they were the token bluegrass band performing. The show was on a Saturday afternoon, and Vern said as soon as they got through playing their set, they jumped in his 65 Chrysler station wagon and headed for Los Angeles, California, as they were booked at the Ash Grove on Monday night in Los Angeles.

Needless to say haste was of the utmost. Herb Pederson was playing banjo with them and each one would drive for three or four hours,before being spelled. Vern said that old Chrysler was really humming along at about 85 miles an hour and was really making good time, stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks. Vern said it was my time to drive and we were right in the middle of New Mexico, when Ray let out a scream! MY FIDDLE!!! Herb said what about your fiddle Ray? Ray said I left it under the bench in the change room at the park in Nashville!! SOOOOO, Vern said the first telephone we came to,Ray jumped out and called his cousin and told him to go see if it was still there. He said Ray's cousin called back in about an hour and said, yup it was still right there where you left it and I'll keep it for you till you get back home in Nashville.

Ray's forgetfulness was legendary, because his mind was always 100 miles from his body, due to the fact that he always had a song that he was writing on his mind.. Ray's wife, Marlene always used to say,I could dress 10 people with the clothing that Ray has left behind when out playing music on the road. Vern said you could probably dress about two dozen people with the clothing Ray left behind. We always used to kid Ray about his forgetfulness, but I think Byron Berline told the ultimate story about Ray's forgetfulness.

Back in the early 80s Ray was touring with Byron and they were playing a job in Ohio. Byron said they got through playing about midnight and most of the band wanted to go get something to eat, but Ray chose to go to the motel, and go to bed. Ray said about two o'clock in the morning, Byron turned the lights on and asked Ray if he knew where his fiddle and guitar was? Ray told him I know where my instruments are all the time,[ but Ray said in my mind, now where in the hell did I leave them ?] Ray said to Byron, if you're so damn smart just where do you think they are? Byron said to him, they're setting out in the hallway and your key is in the lock on the door. To which Ray replied, I know it and I'm going go get them in about 10 min.. True story folks! Like Vern used to say, there wasn't a dull moment when you was around Ray Park.

Vern and Ray were two of the best friends this old country boy will ever have in my life and I miss them every day. I would give all my earthly possessions to be able to do it all over again with those two. We did not know how much fun we were having, what fun times those were. Walk slow down that heavenly road old friends I am not far behind you.


THE DAILY GRIST...“..that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself” - Jane Austin

Grass Valley Looms Large
Today's column from Bruce Campbell
Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I have been watching the announcements. I saw the lineup growing. I saw the same things you all see.

This was the first year in a while that I wasn’t intimately involved in the Father’s Day Festival planning. And, even though I had had enough of being on that fast train for a while, I did miss watching the awesome, converted effort that makes it all happen.

Some of it begins in October of the previous year, when acts at IBMA are evaluated and considered. Some starts earlier than that, with networking at the previous Father’s Day Festival. There are always negotiations and planning directly with the venue, many months in advance.

The enormous, complex job of mounting this festival is broken up, but every piece is so important. There has to a place for the thing, right? There has to be bands. There has to be things to eat, places to camp, places to jam, things to drink and people have to use the restroom. Somebody has to create the demand for tickets, someone has to take the tickets at the gate.

Some folks have to be the go-to people during the festival for anything that crops up. Some folks have to keep an eye on things. Someone has to negotiate the contractswith all the bands, and make sure they get paid. Someone has to collect the money from the tickets, and from concessions. Someone has to organize and handle the concessioners.

The most amazing part is, nearly all the work that goes into this amazing event (now for the 39th time!) is done by volunteers! The level of experience, and expertise brought to bear is of a type that could costs tens of thousands of dollars but these amazing volunteers do it for...free,

Most do it for more than a year. Most do it for more than 5. Some do it for decades. During my tenure on the CBA Board, I saw a certain amount of turnover, and great pains were taken to ensure the level of service never dipped as the baton got passed.

CBA members - we are truly blessed. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget it. Little things can irk us, or certain details may nettle. But come the middle June, as you approach the piney environs of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, it all comes flooding back. Take the time to enjoy yourselves fully, and take time to consider the huge number of moving parts that work like a Swiss watch to make this all happen, year after year!


Born into a culture where popular music reflects raging emotions
Today's column from Jack Kinney
Tuesday, May 20, 2014


When I hear the word “concert”, I automatically think of a huge event center with lights like a thousand police cruisers and a decibel level capable of distorting a person’s vision. Go ahead and blame that on my age. I was born into a culture where popular music reflects the raging emotions of teenagers and is rewarded for that with huge crowds of kids dressed in all black. It seems ridiculous at times, but I’ve been to those shows and, I’d be lying to say that my bluegrass music is never a little off the wall.

When I hear the words bluegrass concert, I can’t help but imagine an energetic group of talented musicians performing on an outdoor stage in a beautiful location. They’re shouting at each other and taking risky breaks while doing what they love. Turn 180 degrees however, and you will see an audience slouching in big soft chairs. Half may be asleep in the shade or equally attentive due to a book or an electronic device. Only a few seem to notice the magic taking place before them.

owing up at bluegrass festivals and gigs, I learned that this is the proper way to observe one of these groups. To quietly waGrit until the song is over to applaud and express enjoyment. To people who are used to a more interactive audience experience, it seems dull and awkward at first though.

Every once in a while, I get the privilege of playing for a group of people who show that they are just as excited as me. It might be a gig for a younger group who comfortably get a little goofy, it may be a show at an event where people are nearing inebriation and feel like jumping around to the music, or it might be a late night set at the V6 ranch in Parkfield.

As a young performer, there is no question which type of audience is more fun. An energetic crowd dancing all over the place, spilling drinks and making new friends is my preferred company. These groups may not hear every note I play. Heck, they might not have time to learn the name of a single song I play. These things don’t bother me at all if they are having a good time, though.

Some advice about performing that was handed to me by a veteran of a bluegrass musician is that the energy you charge an audience with is worth more than the notes themselves. This was a revelation for me. At the time, I had been playing fiddle contests where a musician’s ranking is pretty much based on their notes. The judges are often in a different room. I began to realize the truth in his words. The audience tends to mirror the mood of the performers. If we play faster and louder, people will respond with more enthusiasm and a few shouts.

What I have learned recently, though, is that it can work the other way as well. A tired, mellow seeming band may become rowdy if they play for an excited audience. Musicians truly reflect the mood of their audience. So if you find yourself watching a band that seems to be missing some enthusiasm, follow Jimmy Martin’s instructions: “just holler and squawl, slap your hands, ‘cause giving us a hand is just like rubbing turpentine on an old Pennsylvania tom cat!”



THE DAILY GRIST…”Scientists have been warning about global warming for decades. It's too late to stop it now, but we can lessen its severity and impacts.”… David Suzuki

Is It Too Late?
Today’s column from Bert Daniel
Monday, May 19, 2014


Every morning I walk down our driveway to pick up the morning newspaper. I’ve enjoyed reading it for many years. That’s mostly how I stay informed about what’s happening around me, especially on a local scale. But recently I have come to a point where I am almost afraid to open up the generous pages of the local paper to discover what a mess our planet has gotten itself into.

I don’t know if we humans are responsible for this mess, but I think we probably are. The planet is warming to an alarming degree. Just this week two independent groups of researchers established that the west Antarctic glaciers are on a course to melt irreversibly over the next couple of centuries and raise the global sea level by more than four feet.

These unprecedented changes in the climate of our planet cause me deep concern. And as David Suzuki said in the quote, it’s not like we haven’t been warned. Our own Vern and Ray tried to warn us too:

Listen my brother. This world’s gonna fall
It’s hard to believe no one cares at all
They just made the dollar any way that they can
To hell with the people. To hell with the land

Can this whole world be saved?
Have we gone too far? Is it too late?
Have we reached the point of no return?
Lord what will it take? Will we ever learn?


It scares me to think about what we might be up against here. Climatologists warn about instability in the climate caused by extreme perturbations like we’re having now with the recent warming of the planet. Over time the changes in ocean currents and weather patterns could precipitate another ice age. No one knows what will happen but we could be in for some devastating consequences. Our planet has experienced several mass extinctions of species during its four billion year history. The one everybody knows about is the demise of the dinosaurs but there was another mass extinction earlier which was even more devastating. Might we someday join all those extinct species?

Our cities are bigger than ever before
And there’s not enough air to go around anymore
And what are we doing to help ease the pain?
We’re building more cars and bigger airplanes


Whether or not we humans are the cause of climate change, there is no doubt that we contribute to it in a big way. We generate tons and tons of carbon emissions every day. Greenhouse gasses warm the planet and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen along with the temperature of that atmosphere.

A sawmill stops burning and the smoke clears away
But the victories keep falling day after day
Oh tell me my brother, why can’t that see?
They’re destroying the source of the air that we breathe


What can we do to stem the tide of this terrible warming of our beautiful planet? That might depend on where you live. I live in the country and my internet is not very good, but maybe I can cancel my newspaper home delivery which I have enjoyed for many years. That saves some energy to print the paper and gasoline to drive it all the way out to my mailbox. Maybe I can opt for internet download only for my favorite newspaper of all, the Bluegrass Breakdown.

There’s something special about holding a book in you hand. Especially a new book. You can smell it. It’s pages beckon in a special way that I’m used to from an era when we didn’t think about things like global warming. Maybe the small things that we do won’t make any difference in the long run. But maybe they will. The stakes are high. I think I’ll opt out of home delivery for my paper and my PAPER (the BB). Save some energy and extra gas to deliver it.

Have we gone too far? Is it too late?

CBA Music Camp 2014: The Run-up and Run-down for the 2014 Music Camp.
Geoff Sargent, CBA Music Camp Liaison
Peter Langston, CBA Music Camp Director
Sunday May 18, 2014



Please, don’t hold your breath waiting for music camp to open on June 8! We want you there with full lungs, not turning blue and passing out on the drive up.

The hot news is that Peter and Janet have put together a camp with more than 100 electives…..my head and fingers hurt already from anticipating which ones I’ll have to choose to miss and how much playing I’ll have to do in the ones I get to attend. So get there early….we start with 20 electives scheduled for Sunday afternoon alone; some of which I am sure are encore electives from past music camps and some, don’t hold your breath here, are almost certainly new. But, whatever you do, be sure to bring your instruments to music camp registration because one elective that I’m part of is the “registration jam”, which I am confident will provide a good kick off for the next few days.

Peter swore me to secrecy but failed to get me to actually sign a confidentiality contract so I am going to blow the whistle here and tease you with some possible electives. One elective that I have a personal stake in is the annual Music Camp Dobro jam…..last year it was scheduled for the evening I had to drive back to the bay area (long story there….appropriate libations are needed for me to tell). This year I whined long and hard to Peter and Janet, so we will see (unfortunately I am a completely incompetent whiner). The Bluegrass Karaoke is a likely contender for an encore elective. If you haven’t done this, or seen this, it is well worth the effort. The way it works is that you get to go on stage and perform one of your favorite bluegrass songs with a backup band of music camp instructors! What a trip that would be…on stage with a backup band of the likes of Jim Nunally, Bill Evans, John Reischman, Sharon Gilchrist, Mike Witcher, or some of the other instructors. I might have to crash that one; you know borrow a student ID tag, put a paper bag over my head, and get up on stage and channel my inner Jerry Douglas. Do you think I could pull it off?

Oh and don’t forget about our own personal yoga meister, Ernie Noyes, who will bend you into shape for the rest of the day with his bluegrass breakdown yoga, aka hillbilly yoga. Actually Ernie’s yoga is pretty popular even if you have to wake up early, or pick all night, to attend the pre-breakfast class.

There is a list of other tentative electives too long for this article but needless to say there are some interesting electives that might include possible subjects from sad songs to jams covering your favorite bluegrass musician to the more physically challenging electives that involve actually moving your feet! Stay tuned for the final word on the elective list.

This year we are trying something new and Dana Thorin of Music Caravan will be running the camp store, which will be open all day from breakfast to supper, Monday through Wednesday. In past music camps, Dana has had her Music Caravan tent set-up to sell us any music supplies you forgot to bring, but this year Dana will be running the whole shebang…..selling music supplies and all the instructor materials, CDs, books, and who knows maybe some collectable bluegrass 8-track tapes! However, if she has some collectables from the 70s and 80s, I can pretty much guarantee that mullets and shag haircuts will not be among those fond memories.

Every year, between the end of camp on Wednesday and the start of the festival on Thursday, the music camp puts on a free concert that you will read about in more detail elsewhere in the June Breakdown. The Wednesday evening concert is open to all, music campers and early arriving festival goers, and usually showcases our music camp bands of camp volunteers, as well as a headline performance by some of our music camp instructors. All I will say is that Molly Tuttle and John Mailander are our headliners this year. Molly and John played an unforgettable set on Vern’s stage last year and we are very lucky to have them perform for us again. Folks, this is a must see performance that I know you will be talking about for years to come.

Music camp registration opened at noon on February 7th, 2014 and we are almost full but there are still a few slots open so get your web browser over to our Music Camp website at http://www.cbamusiccamp.org to register and to get more breaking news. If you have other questions, and want to make sure the class you want is still available, please contact us at info@cbamusiccamp.org. Keep on jamming and we hope to see ya'll at Music Camp this summer June 8-11 at Grass Valley, CA and maybe we’ll see you at Winter Camp in 2015!
 
Posted:  7/26/2014 7:30:22 AM


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