|Author: Varner, Marty
|Terry Baucoms new CD: a review
Earlier this month, Terry Baucom came out with an album called “Never Thought of Looking Back.” This name may come from his many years of service with Doyle Lawson playing banjo and singing harmony vocals. Because of his reputation he is able to get an incredible list of musicians on this album including: Sam Bush on mandolin, Wyatt Rice on guitar, Aubrey Hanie on fiddle, and Jerry Douglas playing dobro. Along with this excellent band throughout the album he also has special lead singers throughout, including Marty Raybon, Tim Stafford, and David Mayfield.
The first track starts with the driving notes of the banjo, and you know it’s gonna be good. The song is “Carry Me Back to Carolina” accompanied by the high lonesome voice of Balsam Range vocalist, Buddy Melton. This song is a perfect way to start off the album.
The next song, not as great; it is a sentimental song called “Martha White, Lester and Earl”. It is the song that many bands have made about the good ol’ days when you got to listen to the Martha White show with family, and cherish every moment. As a member of a different generation, I do not have the same relationship with this song that others may have. I have to admit that the song has a catchy melody and chord progression, though.
The third song is where the album breaks out a bluesier side with Bill Monroe’s, “No One But My Darlin’”. This is one of the best songs on the album because you can tell how much each one of these talented musicians was licking their chops for a break, with so many possibilities of greatness. The two to get the opportunity, besides
Terry, were Aubrey Haynie and Sam Bush who split a break. Sam Bush stuck to Monroe’s version using his quick right hand to create a killer drone, while Aubrey casually used his incredibly musical mind to create his frilly, yet brilliant licks.
The fifth track one the album is another gooder. Larry Cordle sings a song he co-wrote with the catchy last line of the chorus that she, “ will only come back long enough to make me blue.” Cordle’s voice makes the song like a classic country song, which is not a bad thing. This song also consists of the jassists favorite 1-6-2-5 chord progression which gives the song something unique and be able to stick out when recollecting the album.
The next song is my favorite, maybe because it is sung by the former Cadillac Sky singer David Mayfield, but mostly because it is a very realist song about a young, down on her luck diner waitress and the town she lives in. The song, called “Short Order Time” packs such killer lines as “What she hates most is serving coffee and toast when she should be out having fun.” And “She’s mad at something, she will tell you it’s nothing, but she hopes you call her bluff." The song also possesses an entrancing hook in the chorus and the verses and sounds very melodic since the only minor is the two minor and soon resolves back to the major. David Mayfield’s honest and rough-edged, yet gentle voice does this song a tremendous amount of justice. Even though it is not, the song reminds me of one that David could have written just as he wrote one of my favorite songs of all time “Tired Old Phrases”. To sum it up, the song works perfectly with the personnel Terry selected and it is by far the best song on a strong album.
Another fun track is “Just Ain’t” sung by Sam Bush who carries that good, solid, chunky Jimmy Martin beat, which is in my opinion the peak of bluegrass’s greatness. Sam Bush also has a great solo as he slides around the neck while carrying a tremolo.
In my opinion a traditional leaning album can get into a lull of repetition and resemblance, but this one doesn’t go there. It stays varied and able to have Terry Baucom be a stand out, which was the whole purpose of the album.
Herb Pedersen has been an active musician since his student days in Berkeley. He started the Pine Valley Boys with Butch Waller in 1962. Herb’s interest in bluegrass was inspired by the Redwood Canyon Ramblers with Scott Hambley, Mayne Smith, Al Ross, and Neil Rosenberg. His latest band, Loafer’s Glory, has played in the Bay Area and was one of the featured bands at the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival.
HP: I didn’t understand the singing quality (of bluegrass) so much because I grew up listening to the Everly Brothers and early rock and roll. I always loved the harmony singing. Butch and I had a couple of guitars and we would play Everly Brothers tunes. I always had an ear for harmony and it came me easy for me. I always liked the mid-tempo not real high songs and I listened more to Don Everly than Phil and always wanted that baritone sound in my voice. A lot of guys nowadays sound like they are working hard to sing really high. It’s a muscle and you need to take care of your voice. If you are going to sing for a long time, it’s going to start affecting you. Patrick and I switch on harmony parts and it’s wonderful to have a fine tenor like he has.
BH: Your trio vocals sounded great, and it’s nice to see that it’s a part of your band sound.
HP: I listened to a lot of different harmony stacks and how that would apply to me. For example, the trio album that Dolly, Emmylou and Linda did, there were times when I suggested different parts for the singers. I was a vocal advisor. It’s was Linda’s idea that I sit in with them. That was a very nice project.
After the Pine Valley Boys, I was working with Vern and Ray. They decided to move to Nashville to see if they could make a go of it. We all moved there. It was a wonderful experience to be singing with those two guys. They were like the Arkansas Louvin Brothers. They moved out here in the 1950s and it was wonderful the first time I heard them sing. Presence and lots of fire in their singing, and I would sing high baritone above Vern in the choruses.
We did a show in 1968 at the San Francisco State Folk Festival with Odetta, Gordon Lightfoot and Merle Travis. Ray was playing my 35 Herringbone and broke a string, so Merle handed him his guitar to play. You can tell that the guitar was not a Martin because of Merle’s Bigsby neck. I wish I had kept the program, but it was a lot of fun.
We moved to Nashville and it didn’t work. I worked with Carl Tipton on an hour bluegrass show on Channel 11 out of Murfreesboro. Ernest Tubb would tape an hour before us, and then the Stonemans would tape. Different groups of different country music. We would do a lot of the Bill Monroe songs.
During the time that Herb was playing with Carl Tipton, he got a phone call from Earl Scruggs that changed his career. Earl had surgery scheduled and Herb’s “audition” was to replace Earl with the Foggies.
I was just numb after that; I was just 23 and so I went down to the Opry and we played some tunes at the old Ryman. After that Earl went home and I was on that Martha White bus headed to West Virginia. I didn’t have time to think about it. Lester was so sweet to me and Josh took me under his wing. It was great; it was such a learning experience.
BH: Since we lost Earl recently, is there a little story or memory about Earl that you’d like to share?
HP: Later on in his career, Earl was out in California playing the Stagecoach Festival in Indio. Chris Hillman, Bill Bryson, Larry Park and I got the nod to play the festival. There’s 4 stages going on at once and behind our trailer was Earl’s trailer. I had a banjo with me that was a 1931 TB-11 which is 4 string version of Earl’s RB-11 which has a pearloid fingerboard. It was a student model banjo, and it didn’t even have a tone ring. It was real light and I got it from Frank Javorski. It was in great shape with the original skin head on it. Robin Smith made a 5 string neck for it. I took it out and Earl said, “this is a honey.” He played it for a little bit and it sounded great. What a thrill it was. I saved the strings! I played that one on the cartoon show, The Simpsons.
BH: So whenever someone plays the banjo on that show, it’s you?
HP: That’s when my kids thought I was cool. That’s my Earl story. He was so gracious and I knew Randy and Gary, his sons. John Jorgensen represented me at Earl’s funeral.
After working with The Foggy Mountain Boys, Herb received a phone call from Dean Webb. Doug Dillard was leaving the band and after a gig at the Ash Grove with Vern and Ray, Herb joined the Dillards and moved back to Los Angeles. He recorded two albums with the Dillards and spent three years with them. He also started session work in the Los Angeles area and finally “retired” from the road to spend time with his family.
BH: Are these any special banjo songs that you played to “audition” for these bands? I’m sure banjo players would like to know the songs to gain band jobs.
HP: I think one of them was “Groundspeed,” another was “Earl’s Breakdown” and “Home Sweet Home” – the classics. I learned the Dillards “song book” and then Mitch got me interested in writing songs. I wrote the title song for the album “Copperfields” and the tune “Little Pete” about my son Hagan who is now 45! I worked on the song “Listen to the Sound.” Whoever you are working with you want to get inside their heads. It’s like being a session player – you want to play what they want. As a background singer, you want to blend with the lead voice. It’s a process of adapting.
After I left the Dillards, I was in Country Gazette. The original band was Roger Bush, Byron Berline, Billy Ray Latham and myself. We recorded several albums and then I moved on back to session work. I passed the baton on to Alan Munde. Many players have been with the band, it’s one band morphing into another, but it’s still the Gazette.
My buddy Chris Hillman, who started in the Golden State Boys, called me to help on his solo albums. He had a good ear for tunes, and we’ve been together ever since.
Herb had played with Dan Fogelberg on his High Country Snows bluegrass project. Dan decided to put together a band to play songs from the album. The supporting players were Herb on banjo, Chris Hillman on mandolin, John Jorgenson on guitar and Bill Bryson on bass. The quartet evolved into the popular Desert Rose Band whose blend of traditional country and bluegrass with the Bakersfield sound topped the charts with hits like “Ashes of Love” and “Once More.” Chris and Herb recorded their own tribute to the Bakersfield sound and they also performed several times at Merle Haggard’s shows. Desert Rose continues to play together and they have some reunion shows scheduled this year. Herb has also played with John Denver, and has been on the musical soundtracks of the Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, and Dukes of Hazard.
BH: So are you doing session work again?
HP: Session work as we know it is really diminishing. The way records are produced now, they’ll have someone play a part and send it via email or mp3 and then someone will plug it into Protools. It’s a sterile way of recording and I don’t favor that. I like getting the guys together and working out who is going to play where and you have eye contact at least for the basic track.
BH: And now you are back again with a traditional bluegrass band – Loafer’s Glory. Bill Bryson, of course, you’ve worked with before, and how did the band form?
HP: Well, Bill and Tom Sauber, Patrick’s Dad have breakfast together every Wednesday. They were sitting around, having their coffee, and said we need to try this, we need to call Herb. So we got together and it felt so right. The time was there and everyone knew what they were supposed to do. It was effortless. I love to hear Patrick play the 5-string, and Tom plays clawhammer style. We all love to sing and we have the quartet vocals.
BH: There’s a great feeling between the band members and when Tom’s fiddle pegs fell out, the band just kept going. That was a great recovery and you made the song shorter and Tom went back in and played the song again.
HP: It’s all about the music and trying to keep what we appreciate about bluegrass and old-time music and morph it into what we do.
BH: Tom played the Flatt and Scruggs song and “old-timied” it.
HP: Blue Ridge Cabin Home. It’s kind of a modal tuning on the banjo and he does it in E where Flatt and Scruggs did it in Bb and it’s a slower version and it works great. It’s like when I was with the Dillards and we did “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and we did it uptempo.
Everybody has a chance to show what they do. We’re doing Grass Valley in June, and some things in LA, but our schedules are busy. Tom and Patrick go off to banjo festivals and music camps, Patrick plays with Laurie Lewis, Bill works with Bluegrass Etc. and me I just sit around and wait (laughs.) Chris and I are doing Jorma Kau Fur Peace Ranch. I’m bringing the banjo this time so I’ll teach rudimentary banjo, Scruggs-style. Chris will teach songwriting, and we’ll both get together and do a harmony singing course. The camp is beautifully designed, there’s plenty of room for the students with cabins. That’s in October.
BH: I’m sure there’s many more projects down the road. You’ve probably got the longest list of projects of anyone I’ve talked to.
HP: I’ve been lucky and I’ve worked hard at it.
BH: Thank you very much, and I’m sure we’ll see you soon.
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