Archive for July 2011

Schedule for the Monroe Centennial Celebration

July 29, 2011


at the Owensboro RiverPark Center


10:00                     Opening of the new Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibits

1:00                        Welcome Ceremony featuring the Monroe-Style Mandolin Camp 2011 Faculty & Campers         

2:00                        The Rodney Dillard Band

3:00                        Everett Lilly & The Lilly Mountaineers

4:00                        The Dismembered Tennesseans

4:45                        Supper Break

7:00                        Musical: Young Monroe

9:00                        Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys



10:00                     Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys Documentary Premiere (120 min)

12:00                     Lunch Break

1:00                        Bill Clifton         

2:00                        Eddie Adcock and Tom Gray with Martha Adcock

3:00                       Curly Seckler

4:00                        Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys

4:45                        Supper Break

7:00                        Pioneers and Blue Grass Boys Recognition Ceremony

8:00                        Earl Scruggs Family & Friends

9:30                        James Monroe


10:00                     The Lewis Tradition

11:00                     Melvin Goins & Windy Mountain

12:00                     Lunch Break

1:00                        Paul Williams & The Victory Trio

2:00                        J D Crowe & The New South

3:00                        Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press

4:00-6:00              Blue Grass Boys and Pioneers Stage Jam

James Monroe to perform at Centennial Celebration

July 29, 2011
James Monroe, son of the “father of bluegrass music,” will perform at the RiverPark Center on Sept. 13 as part of the three-day Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration.

The celebration is sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

Bill Monroe was born on Jerusalem Ridge near Rosine on Sept. 13, 1911.

He died on Sept. 9, 1996, and is buried in Rosine Cemetery.


Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said having James Monroe perform on his father’s 100th birthday will make the event more special.

The Centennial Celebration lineup includes banjo great Earl Scruggs, whose banjo playing as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the mid-1940s set a standard for future generations of bluegrass musicians.

“I remember Earl from when I was a little boy and he was in my father’s band,” James Monroe said Thursday.

He was born in 1941, four years before Scruggs became a Blue Grass Boy in 1945.

James Monroe was recruited by his father to play bass in the Blue Grass Boys in 1963, when he was 22.

He switched to guitar in 1969 and became the band’s lead singer when Roland White left the band.

White, a member of the faculty at this year’s Monroe-Style Mandolin Camp at the museum, is slated to perform with other faculty members at the Monroe Centennial on Sept. 12.

Monroe said he’s looking forward to being part of the event.

“It’s really big,” he said of the celebration of what would have been his father’s 100th birthday. “Bluegrass fans are doing things all over the world. There are celebrations in England, Scotland, Australia. Scotland is where the Monroes came from.”

Monroe recorded with his father on 35 sessions through the years.

James Monroe left his father’s band in 1971 to strike out on his own with a new band, The Midnight Ramblers.

In 1983, he took a brief stab at country music, exchanging The Midnight Ramblers for Tennessee Thunder. But a few years later, Monroe was back in bluegrass with James Monroe & The Midnight Ramblers.

In 2008, he was inducted into the North American Country Music Hall of Fame.

Monroe has performed several times in Rosine, but he has rarely been in Owensboro.

In 2002, when the bluegrass museum opened on a daily basis, Monroe came to the celebration to present the museum with one of his father’s stage costumes.

“They really outdid themselves,” he said at the time. “I think it’s wonderful. They did a great job on my father’s room.”

Monroe said he has cut back on touring in recent years and doesn’t perform nearly as much as he used to.

But he said he’s working on a tourism project in Ohio County.

“I still own the Uncle Pen property at Rosine,” he said. “I want to build it back the way it looked and make a little tourist attraction.”

Pendleton Vandiver, an Ohio County farmer and well-known fiddle player, took in  Bill Monroe, his nephew, when Monroe was orphaned at 16.

Bill Monroe wrote the bluegrass classic, “Uncle Pen,” in honor of Vandiver.

Gray said tickets are still available for the Sept. 12-14 Monroe Centennial Celebration.

“This is for people who adore Bill Monroe” and traditional bluegrass music, she said.

Gray said tickets have been sold to fans across the country as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Several Japanese fans are coming, she said.

Other performers include Ralph Stanley, Curly Seckler, J.D. Crowe, Everett Lilly, Jesse McReynolds, the Lewis Family, Rodney Dillard, Melvin Goins, Paul Williams; Bill Clifton, Tom Gray and Eddie Adcock.

Tickets — which range from $100 to $175 for all three days — can be purchased at the museum at 117 Daviess St. or by calling 926-7891.

Wilde learning bass for Monroe movie

July 26, 2011

The producers of “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the planned movie about Bill Monroe and Bessie Lee Mauldin, his “road girlfriend,” have yet to announce a starting date for production.

But a tweet last week by actress Olivia Wilde indicates that the production is still moving forward.

Wednesday, the 27-year-old actress tweeted: “Learning the upright bass for a role and pretty sure there’s no better looking instrument. I named mine Bessy the bluegrass beauty.”

Terry Woodward, board chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, said he’s been told that Wilde will portray Mauldin in the movie about the stormy love affair between the bass player and the “father of bluegrass music.”

Wilde, who stars in the upcoming “Cowboys & Aliens” with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, is known to TV audiences as “Thirteen,” one of the doctors on the Fox series “House.”

Last year, Peter Sarsgaard had been scheduled to appear as Monroe, with his wife, Maggie Gyllenhaal, cast as Mauldin.

But filming that was to have started last spring was pushed back until later in the year. And they had to drop out, Woodward said.

He said he hasn’t heard if the Monroe role has been cast.

Another actor has also confirmed a role in the movie.

In April, Tim Blake Nelson told “I’m going to record a song with T-Bone Burnett for the next movie I’m going to do, called ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky.’ It’s about Bill Monroe. I’m playing Lester Flatt.”

Woodward said he’s been told that Ed Helms (“The Office” and “The Hangover” movies) has been cast as Earl Scruggs. Helms plays banjo and works with his own band, The Lonesome Trio.

Woodward said the last time he talked with producers the supporting cast included Sam Shepard as Pendleton Vandiver, Monroe’s “Uncle Pen”; Ashley Judd as Monroe’s estranged wife, Carolyn; bluesman Keb Mo as Arnold Shultz, the black Ohio County guitarman who was a major influence on Monroe; John C. Reilly as Monroe’s brother, Charlie; and country singers Dierks Bentley and Pam Tillis as Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells.

Woodward owns Vandiver’s fiddle, which was used on the soundtrack produced by Joseph Henry “T-Bone” Burnett, who also produced the soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

The script was written by Callie Khouri (“Thelma & Louise”).

NU-BLU, “The Blu-Disc,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

July 25, 2011

The past eight years have been a roller-coaster ride for Nu-Blu.

Carolyn and Daniel Routh formed the North Carolina-based band in 2003.

That fall, she suffered two strokes, lost her ability to speak as well as the use of her right side — and almost lost her life.

But Carolyn Routh battled back to become a fine lead singer and bass player.

In 2009, Nu-Blu signed with Pinecastle Records, one of the genre’s most respected labels.

But a few months later, before the band’s new album, “Nights,” could be released, Pinecastle closed its doors.

The Rouths decided to self-release the album and its first single, “Spin on the Red Brick Floor.”

It scored well on several charts and Nu-Blu was named 2010 Country Band of the Year by the Carolina Music Awards.

Then, in September 2010, the Pinecastle label was purchased and reopened. And Nu-Blu was signed to a new contract.

And now, the new album is ready.

The first single, “Other Woman’s Blues,” is Jolene’s answer to Dolly Parton. It naturally works better if listeners are familiar with Parton’s “Jolene.” But it stands on its own pretty well.

“Look To You” is a folky type of bluegrass that says it’s up to you to change the problems you see in the world.

“Roses and Rust” is a ballad about the funeral of a woman who has outlived her friends.

In “That’s Who I’m Supposed To Me,” a panhandler tells a woman how he wound up on the streets.

“Family Quilt” is a ballad about a quilt made of discarded clothes and how like a family, it’s stitched together well.

“Just Trying to Get Home” is a duet with Carolyn Routh and band member Levi Austin about being on the road and dreaming of home.

Kendall Gates, the mandolin player, is the fourth member of the band. Greg Luck adds his fiddle and Rob Ickes, his Dobro, to the project.

Good album by a good band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

CUMBERLAND RIVER, “The Life We Live,” Rural Rhythm. 13 tracks.

July 18, 2011

Most bluegrass bands can only dream of the exposure Cumberland River got this year.

The FX series, “Justified,” featured an instrumental version of the band’s song of the same name on its March 2 show and five songs from the band on April 6.

The series. one of the best on television, averaged 7.2 million viewers a week for the season. That’s a lot of exposure for a 2-year-old bluegrass band.

Cumberland River’s song, “Justified,” is not the series theme song, by the way.

That’s “Long Hard Times to Come” by Gangstagrass.

But when producers of the series, which is set in Kentucky but mostly filmed in California, heard the band perform their song inspired by the series, “I thought we should somehow get them involved with the show,” creator Graham Yost wrote.

All 13 songs on the album were written by the band’s members — James Dean, Joey Jones, Dustin Middleton, Andy Buckner and Jamie Stewart.

They’re good, full-bodied songs from a band that projects a redneck-rock attitude with a solid traditional bluegrass foundation.

The fact that two of the musicians are also miners lends an air of authenticity to the songs.

Dale Ann Bradley adds some amazing harmony vocals to four tracks. And producer Steve Gulley sings harmony on seven tracks.

“Harlan Man” and “Miners Prayer” both find miners worrying about whether they’ll survive another day at work, but knowing that there are no other jobs around.

“Mary Flynn” is a great ghost story about a woman who gets her revenge from beyond the grave.

“Remember Me” is an uptempo murder ballad.

The title cut finds a man battling addiction with “a black hole where my heart used to be.”

“Antietam’s Hill” is a uptempo song about “Lincoln’s War” and a battle that finds men “doing the Devil’s work.”

“The Road Back Home” finds a man who left home before he was grown realizing that home is where he wants to be.

And “Justified,” like the series, is about U.S. Marshal, who comes back to the mountains where he was once a miner.

Good national debut by a band with a solid foundation and a lot of promise.

Can’t find it in stores?


VARIOUS ARTISTS, “A Bluegrass Gospel Songbook.” Rounder. 13 tracks.

July 11, 2011

Rounder Records has pulled 13 gospel classics from its vaults with this new collection of material recorded over the past few decades.

There’s the hard-driving “Crying Holy” by J.D. Crowe & The New South; Tony Rice’s bluesy “Wayfaring Stranger”; Phyllis Boyens’ hard-charging “Hewed Out Of The Mountain”; IIIrd Tyme Out’s a capella “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; Blue Highway’s a capella “Wondrous Love” and Dailey & Vincent’s a capella “Amazing Grace.”

The album also includes The Nashville Bluegrass Band’s “Gospel Plow,” Weary Hearts’ “Power In The Blood,” James King’s “Garden In The Sky,” The Grascals’ “Give Me Jesus,” the Bluegrass Album Band’s “The Model Church,” Ricky Skaggs’ “River of Jordan” and the Dry Branch Fire Squad’s “I’ll Be No Stranger.”

Good album by some of bluegrass’ top acts.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

LARRY SPARKS, “Let Him Lead You,” Rebel Vault Masters. 14 tracks

July 11, 2011

Larry Sparks has been a force in bluegrass music for nearly 50 years.

In 1963, the year he turned 16, he hit the road with the Stanley Brothers, playing lead guitar.
As Carter Stanley’s health deteriorated, Sparks’ role in the band increased.

And when Carter died in December 1966, Ralph Stanley hired Sparks as lead singer for his new band, Ralph Stanley & His Clinch Mountain Boys.

It was a post Sparks would hold for the next six years and give him the equivalent of an Ph.D. in bluegrass.

Rebel Records’ Vault Masters series has compiled a collection of 14 gospel songs Sparks recorded between 1974 and 2000.

Songs include three Jim Eanes numbers — “Let Him Lead You,” “Old Satan” and “Call Out To Jesus”; Roy Acuff’s “Battle of Armageddon”; Sparks’ “That Awful Day”; Keith Whitley’s “Great High Mountain”; and the traditional “When I Lay My Burdens Down,” “I Am The Man, Thomas,” “Gospel Train” and “Snow Covered Mound.”

A good collection by one of bluegrass’ best singers.

Can’t find it in stores?


Time Catching Up With Bluegrass Legends

July 11, 2011

They traveled millions of miles down dusty backroads and four-lane highways, played in schoolhouses, tents and finally concert halls.

But now, time is catching up with the first-generation of bluegrass musicians.

And a Sept. 12-14 gathering in Owensboro to celebrate what would have been Bill Monroe’s 100th birthday may be the last performance for some of them.

Monroe, “the father of bluegrass music,” was born on a farm outside Rosine on Sept. 13, 1911. He died on Sept. 9, 1996, and is buried in Rosine Cemetery.

Already health problems have forced Doc Watson, 88, and Mac Wiseman, 86, to cancel their performances at the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration at the RiverPark Center.

And Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said Kenny Baker, 85, the man Monroe called “the greatest bluegrass fiddler in the world,” died last week after suffering a massive stroke.

The Centennial Celebration’s lineup included every active member of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

Gray said the museum board will now have to decide whether to invite musicians who aren’t in the Hall of Fame or shorten the program.

One possibility is the new inductees into the Hall.

The IBMA is scheduled to announce the names of this year’s inductees in Nashville on Aug. 17.

But some years, the inductees aren’t living or are no longer performing.

The current lineup ranges in age from 69 to 91 years old.

It includes banjo great Earl Scruggs, 87; Ralph Stanley, 84; Curly Seckler, 91; J.D. Crowe, 70; Everett Lilly, 87; Jesse McReynolds, 82; the Lewis Family, (the youngest member is Little Roy Lewis, 69), Rodney Dillard, 69; Melvin Goins, 77; Paul Williams, 76; Bill Clifton, 80; Tom Gray, 70; and Eddie Adcock, 73.

The celebration will mark the first time this many bluegrass legends have performed at one event, Gray said.

“I checked with Lance LeRoy (a Hall of Fame agent and manager),” she said. “He said there has never been a festival with a lineup like this. We’re going to have one enormous headliner after another.”

But Gray said, “This might be the last chance to see some of these legends perform.”

And it may be the last year for the museum’s Pioneers Gathering and Blue Grass Boys reunion.

Last year’s event drew 35 former members of Monroe’s band and 31 other pioneers of bluegrass.

“But each year, more of them aren’t able to make the trip,” Gray said.

The festival will also see the premiere of a new Bill Monroe musical — “Young Monroe” — in the RiverPark Center’s Cannon Hall as well as the premier of a new documentary about Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys.

The museum is producing the documentary — “The Blue Grass Boys: Tales of Bill Monroe” — and interviewing as many former members of the band as it can locate.

“We’ve recorded interviews with 251 first-generation musicians,” Gray said.

Former Blue Grass Boys Tom Ewing and Peter Rowan were the most recent.

The museum has also filmed the photo archives of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

“The problem is getting (the documentary) down from 14 hours to two,” Gray said. “There are so many stories that are too good to eliminate.”

Information about the festival can be found at

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 12 with the museum’s Monroe-Style Mandolin Camp faculty and campers.

The faculty for the music camp includes some of the nation’s top mandolin players — Mike Compton, who has performed with Elvis Costello and the Nashville Bluegrass Band; Richard Brown, who plays with the Boston-based Reunion Band; David Davis, who performs with his band, The Warrior River Boys; Butch Waller, who performs with California-based High Country; and Roland White, a former member of Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys.

At noon on Sept. 13, everyone at the festival will gather to sing “Happy Birthday” to Monroe.

Gray said tickets — which range from $100 to $175 for all three days  — are still available for the centennial at the museum at 117 Daviess St. or by calling 926-7891.

“We’ve been so busy with ROMP that we haven’t started pushing the ticket sales for the centennial,” she said.

ROMP drew roughly 15,000 people, including children who didn’t need tickets, to Yellow Creek Park in Thruston for three days in June.

Many people in town for ROMP bought tickets for the centennial, Gray said.

The centennial performance will be recorded to make a DVD.

But the DVD won’t be sold on the open market. It will be available only as a perk to people who buy or renew museum memberships.

“We did that with the 2005 and 2007 Legends Concerts,” Gray said.

DONNA ULISSE, “An Easy Climb,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks.

July 5, 2011

Donna Ulisse (you-liss-ee) is a singer-songwriter.

That designation used to mean pop music.

But as bluegrass has expanded its horizons in the 21st century, it’s made room for bluegrass singer-songwriters like Ulisse.

The Hampton, Va., native wrote all 13 tracks on this her fourth album.

Sometimes, that suggests a vanity project.

But this is simply good bluegrass.

“An Easy Climb” is something Ulisse’s music career hasn’t had.

She headed for Music City in the 1980s, found work as a demo singer and was signed by Atlantic Nashville.

In 1991, the label released her first CD, “Trouble at the Door,” which produced two videos and three singles.

Ulisse appeared on “Hee Haw,” “Nashville Now” and other country music shows.

And then, she disappeared.

In 2007, Ulisse returned to recording, recast as a “bluegrass poet” who performed “bluegrass without borders.”

She’s married to Rick Stanley, a cousin of Ralph and Carter.

And that helped open a few doors for her.

But mostly, it’s her voice and songs that have taken Ulisse to the top of bluegrass charts and to festivals as far away as the Russian Bluegrass Festival in Vologda.

“Shady Glen” is a great Civil War story song about Yankee soldiers who destroy a town, kill the men and rape the women — and a woman who gets her revenge.

“Black Snake” is an uptempo song about moonshine runners and revenue agents.

“Where The Cold Wind Blows” is about military families separated in war time.

“Flat Broke in Arkansas” tells about a woman who left her husband and is flat broke but happy.

And “Hand Me Down Home” finds a new generation moving into the family homeplace.

Good album by a good singer-songwriter.

Can’t find it in stores? Try