Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Burrito Brother, Batman! Get to the Kent Stage April 13!

Since it’s going to be a heavy and busy week, I wanted to take the opportunity to tout a terrific upcoming show at The Kent Stage. Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, formerly blogged here for their contribution to the Out of the Woodwork recording with Larry and Tony Rice, will be making a stop next Friday, April 13 at the Stage in support of their latest release, “Way Out West.”

These dudes have blazed a hot bluegrass trail that started all the way back in the 1960s. Chris Hillman was an Early Byrd (fellow Byrd Roger McGuinn played the Kent Stage last fall), and later headed up the Flying Burrito Brothers. Herb Pedersen had been sideman in a litany of projects before replacing Doug Dillard in The Dillards, to which he brought, in addition to his banjo playing, seriously polished vocals. Herb and Chris, having played here and there together since 1963, built a band in the mid-1980s called The Desert Rose Band.

One thing I love about this little journey I'm on is learning about these amazing acts whose heydays were about 20 years ago. Unfortunately, I'm also realizing that, their heydays were almost 20 years ago. I find myself fairly concerned that the acts of today, with barely an industry leg to stand on, may not have the staying power. I have hopes pinned on the Infamous Stringdusters and King Wilkie and the like, but even Nickel Creek, a sure bet, kind of petered off when bandmembers started to move into their own careers (not that this is unusual, but a more experienced band member, like Rhonda Vincent, seems to be able to get her team to do both.) So I'm moderately concerned about the future of our music given that the leaders are all between the ages of 50 and .... how old is Dr. Ralph Stanley?

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen have been part of the California Bluegrass scene since the beginning, and their bands have been top-shelf in a state that has one of the most active bluegrass associations in the country. I hope our weather is a little more hospitable to them than what we’ve got right now, an icy 30-some degrees and blowing snow.

So at the end of next week, which holds for me the Easter holiday, the kids’ spring break, a ton of work, and a difficult memorial service for my late former mother-in-law, I’ll be more than ready to enjoy Chris and Herb. The only thing that could make it better would be if some of y’all were to come on out and enjoy it with me. Show is at 8 p.m.; tickets at the door are $23. Did I mention The Kent Stage has lots of great beers on tap?

I'll send this one out to all the folks I know who are feeling life's challenges. I've got friends ready to pull their hair out, friends wandering in the forest, friends who lost their mama, my kids getting ready to bury their grandmama, and a little of everything in between. This song's called Good Year, and it's what I've had so far and what we'll all have if we just hang in together a little tougher.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for listening.

Good Year

Heaven knows we've seen tough times
This past year seemed to swallow us in
And you held onto me, and we held on to him
Darlin' wipe away those tears

We've seen trouble come in many different colors
From the darkest black to a shade of blue
So you picture me, and I'll picture you
Oh having us a good year

Down the back road, through the memories
Let the dark disappear
Hold me under, send me thunderin'
I've got a way out of here
Oh, it's gonna be a good year

Feel like your caught in a spinnin' whirlwind
Storms of life can be sometimes so severe
Hold my hand and I'll walk you through the days up ahead
'Cause we're gonna have a good year

Every moment is a blessing
Those who've gone before tell us hope is in the air
And we'll count all the steps up to heaven
One for each day of the year

Down the back road, through the memory
Let the dark disappear
Hold me under, send me thunderin'
I've got a way out of here
Oh, we're gonna have a good year
Oh, it's gonna be a good year


At April 06, 2007 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Da Future...

Plain vanilla, plaid shirt bluegrass is doomed to extinction. The whole schtick of just mimmicking Bill Monroe to death has nowhere to go creatively.

The great artists dig back deep into the roots of music, WAY before Monroe and then build forward into their own sound.

The future is bands like The Mammals, The Grascals, YMSB (even though I'm not a big fan), Old Crow Medicine Show, Uncle Earl, Railroad Earth or (to paraphrase Steve Earle) the "no dry cleaning" crowd -- none of whom play "pure" bluegrass.

It used to be that we had crappy bands who thought the world was created in the navel of Bill Monroe, now we have crappy bands that think time started when Jerry Garcia was born.

Some of it will be great, some of it will suck. Some of these youngsters will get it right, some will just recycle the derivative crap ad nauseum.

Some things never change....

At April 06, 2007 9:40 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hi Anon,
Well said. My experience last weekend to the Southern Ohio Music Fest was quite divided between the Monroe navel-gazers and those bands who took things a little differently, even if it was 20 or 30 years ago.

"It used to be that we had crappy bands who thought the world was created in the navel of Bill Monroe, now we have crappy bands that think time started when Jerry Garcia was born."

True. Big difference between "influence" and "mimicking.'

All the bands of the future you mention are bands I adore and whom I hope will carry the day and keep the music alive. As I meander through the history and try to make the connection in the present in the hope it will sustain the future, they all have that thread running through their work. Here's hoping.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments.

At April 07, 2007 12:56 PM, Anonymous miles of smiles! said...

Interesting that Garcia works his way into this! Out of the blue I'd say. I do believe he was born in about 1945, not long after bluegrass was "born" or at least the term, with the Monore Bros.,Monroe and the bluegrass boys...etc. I'd say Garcia was born even before the hey day of bluegrass, the early 1950's, if that has any relevency.

Once the plain vanilla bluegrass refered to here was cutting edge, trancending the music of it's time, going beyond the forms of music from which it was derived, namely what is commonly refered to now as old time music, then as Hillbilly music. Not that I dig plain vanilla or most any flavor for that matter.

So what does that mean? How does it have relevancy? Once we had crappy bands that thought the world was created in the Navel of Arthur Smith, or perhaps Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers? Or the Carter Family? Maybe the Carter Brothers and Son? If one were to dig into it there was ALOT of cheesy sappy as can be junk music for the masses recorded in the 1920's and 1930's. You can't dig too far back from that because there was no recording then. Considering that the Monroe Bros. first recordings were put out in the late thirties how much further back can you dig into "roots"? about 15-18 years.Maybe digging deeper would be more appropriate.

At any rate Garcia and the boys certainly pushed the envelope of the sorts of music they were playing, digging deeper, and maybe that's how he is tied into this?

In twenty years we may have crappy bands that think time started with Snoop Doggy Dog, now that is funny for sure, how scary is that?!?!

Well,my original intention with leaving a comment was just to say a few little words, "dig the flying Burrito bros." But I couln't resist participating in the fun and excitement after checking this out. Hope you all don't mind! LOS!


At April 07, 2007 9:08 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

OOH! I'm so excited to have a little bit of tension on the blog! YAY! That never happens. So healthy! Let's discuss!

"In twenty years we may have crappy bands that think time started with Snoop Doggy Dog, now that is funny for sure, how scary is that?!?!"

VERY, MOS, VERY! You make an excellent point. In fact, I thought about the Carter Family Launchpad in the context of this discussion, and as I have a few of their tunes stuck to my bones and evolving in my head into my own versions, I am sure that there are folks who swear only unto Mother Maybelle as well.

As there is a difference between mimicking and having been influenced, so is there a difference between just rehashing something and making it new. Or making something brand new but giving it the old style, and sticking to an old form. That actually takes some skill and I have respect for the young bands that honor the past by making it a living new part of the present.

I think there is room for many different futures of this music. Clearly the old stuff has a healthy following. The new stuff also has a decent following -- Yonder Mountain String Band sold out two shows in cow-awful Columbus last year, and Tim O'Brien, bless his heart, got to open both nights -- and it's the following we have to consider as well. Keeping their interest, leading them down the Clinch Mountain road to discover it's all connected.

I love that.

Thanks for the miles of smiles!

At April 07, 2007 9:54 PM, Anonymous miles of smiles! said...

After reading thru another thought came to mind. A silly little thought, and I am not sure, but Da Now... The people that play music, whatever kind it may be [and especially those back porch plaid shirt bluegrass players] play the music because they love to do it. I may not want to hear it, but I kind of suspect they don't really care what I or anyone else thinks or writes about it, they play it because they play it...into Da Future

At April 08, 2007 10:37 AM, Blogger Blueberry said...

It bugs me when people say stuff like "oh, that's not REAL bluegrass because there's no banjo" or "you can't break the rules like that" yada yada yada. But the music has to evolve or it will become extinct. Bill Monroe presented an evolved style himself, a new trend. What if that wasn't allowed? We'd all still be listening to rocks and sticks being banged together (but I supposed it would be on high end listening equipment) [grin]

Homage and influence are great. That belongs. But I love how new flavors are mixed together, it can be delicious! Tom Petty? The Beatles? Nickel Creek's Chris Thile has come up with some fantastic new arrangements of stuff I never would have even heard before -- but it sounds great. Forced me to go and listen to the originals and be amazed that someone could have such a different take on the same song.

The term Bluegrass is forced upon too wide a range of artists, time for using new terms: Progressive acoustic, newgrass, fusion grass, swing grass, psychobilly... limited only by the imagination. Stretch out.

There's hope for the future as long the kids keep playing great music having deep roots and adding their own inspirations to it. Does my heart good.

At April 08, 2007 12:19 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Well said, Blueberry. As I said, there are as many futures for acoustic music as there are styles, musicians, followings.

Just a few years ago, at Grey Fox, I remember watching at the end of a set that included Ruth Unger -- not with the Mammals but with, I think, Wayfaring Strangers. At the end they started a round of "Cluck Old Hen" and it was a "Cluck Old Hen" like you've never heard. By the end, there must have been 30 fiddlers on stage, from Ruth to Stuart Duncan to Dirk Powell to that dancing chick from up north. It was totally out of the box and captivating, but, the person I was hanging out with was really stuck in the old place, and couldn't quite appreciate letting that experience settle into the ear. It was wild and fun and liberating for the fiddlers and for those of us there.

Maybe you're right. Maybe there don't need to be "leaders". There are some good tradition bearers. And it's good that folks like Darol Anger and Pete Rowan are working with younger musicians on tour and in the studio, both giving them exposure and allowing them to absorb some of the influences of the past. There are nuggets of the traditional style, and of the wealth of repertoire, that will help sustain the growth and experimentation.

Ooh, I think my personal fave is "psychobilly" -- I think I grew up with some of those folks, loL! Anyway, I know that a lot of folks don't care for the "noodling" of artists like Sam Bush and Bela Fleck, but I think it's all the better to stretch. If you haven't heard Fleck's "Perpetual Motion," you haven't heard Bach.

Damn, I sure do love music.

At April 09, 2007 2:11 PM, Anonymous miles of smiles! said...

I very much agree with Bueberry, that the term Bluegrass is very overused and is increasingly applied to too wide of a spectrum of music that does not belong within that category. I notice that often music that was once known as singer/songwriter music is working it's way into the category of bluegrass. Alot of what used to be known as just plain old country [real country, not the junk commonly found on the radio, just not having electric instrumentation] has worked it's way in as well.

A personal "favorite" is when people refer to Old Time music,fiddle tunes, aka mountain music, as bluegrass. Far from it if one has ears to hear. I suppose it comes from lack of real knowledge of the differnt forms of music.

On the other hand, [there is always the other hand, right?]I have spent more than 3/4 of my life playing and focusing on music, digging deeply, an endless passion. Ultimately for me, and likely for others who play, it is just music, it is creativity wether it is played exactly like it was on 1930's 78rpm recording, or has just flowed from the mind and body without a thought, just being born.

One more thought as far as traditional bluegrass or Old time music dying out. Having gone to many festivals where people actually get together and play, [Mt. Airy comes to mind, since it happens this time of year] the kind of festival where 90% of the people in attendance are there to play, not just sit in a chair and watch the stage, I have a hard time thinking that traditional bluegrass is or will soon die out. There are a lot of young people playing it.

I am also assuming that the commentators here are northerners, and are really not aware of the popularity of this type of music in the south.

Traditional bluegrass may or may not continue to be a big stage attraction, [it won't really matter to me, I am not a big fan of it, or most of the music currently being dumped into that category] but I think it will continue to be played for a long time to come....


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