Author: Varner, Mark

Dear Friends

Back in the days when opossums wore sandals because the Earth had not as yet cooled, I was my son Marty’s age. He’s just started his senior year in high school. He’s certainly a lot more grounded and focused than I was at that age, I’m proud to say. I was a troubled youth and a problem child. But one thing we do have in common is that we are passionate about music. I hope you got a chance to read Marty’s Saturday Welcome Column about the very, very fine new Terry Baucom album. It was quite an astute review. And man! I cannot agree more. Buy the new release ‘Never Thought Of Looking Back’, is my recommendation. It’s a must have bluegrass release from a stellar master musician and banjo icon and his all-star cast.

Anyhoo (I know; we always get to this “I told you that to tell you this” point in my rambling missives), I take total credit for turning my senior year high school mates onto bluegrass cause I had found the old radio station KPIG when I was seventeen and it had shaped me, in many ways, into the kind of musical fan I am today. Doc and the Texas guys and Emmy Lou and Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer and the bluegrass, of course. Good old Al. Key players were the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and their ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ mega-album(s) and Old and in the Way, when it came to really being catalysts for a nascent bluegrass fan.

Old and In the Way was easy to slide into cause of the Grateful Dead connection with Jerry, and the mando player, Grisman played on American Beauty. But the other players were something new, and that singer, Peter Rowan? Wow. Compelling on every level and those crazy songs he wrote and sang and warbled were absolutely unique.

And over the years of attending festivals there’s always some hippy wanting to play ‘Land of the Navajo,’ or some such. Old and In the Way got its start forty years ago, but the seeds it planted broadened our perspective in a way that is timeless. And, needless to say, some huge careers followed for its members, including Peter Rowan.

Peter Rowan. I’ve seen him a few zillion times and he’s quite a showman. He’s been someone we’d like to bring, and someone who has been wanting to come to, the CBA’s Father’s Day Festival. I’m pleased to say that he will be a headliner at our 2014 festival. He joins the Lonesome River Band and Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice as our “so far” bookings. Nice!

Of course, disappointed Strawberry Music Festival fans are even more disappointed by having missed Peter Rowans’ electric band, Big Twang Theory. But hey! This performance will be his bluegrass band, which in my humble opinion is his home. I mean the guy was a protégé of Bill His Own Self Monroe! Plus we have California favorites backing him up, in this, his bluegrass outfit. We’ve got bassist and sound master, Paul Knight; Keith Little, California bluegrass legend on banjo and Michael Witcher, dobroist well known to Grass Valley attendees and CBA Music Campers.

They’ve got a couple of albums out; the latest, from 2012, is Legacy. The new album, featuring traditional and original compositions, is produced by Compass owner/recording artist Alison Brown and features special guests Michael Cleveland, J.D. Crowe, Stuart Duncan, Chris Henry, Del, Ronnie and Robbie McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne and Buddy Spicher along with the members of the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band. It should be noted that the band performing at Grass Valley is his new band, and has not released anything with him. Yet!

So the old Talent Advisory Group is putting together another knockout Grass Valley for 2014. Summer 2013 is not even officially over, so we’ll have plenty of time to do lots of other festivals, but it’s nice to imagine the warm Grass Valley nights, under the twilight sky, little bats darting about, and hearing Rowan’s fine voice coursing out into the universe.

See ya soon. Your pal,
Mark Varner
Posted:  9/2/2013

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