Archive for February 2012

CHRIS JONES & THE NIGHT DRIVERS, “Lost Souls & Free Spirits: The Rebel Collection Old & New,” Rebel Records. 14 tracks

February 20, 2012

Chris Jones is one of those bluegrass musicians who never quite seems to get the respect he’s due.

He’s worked with The Chieftains (on their 2003 U.S. tour), Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements, Lynn Morris Band, April Verch Band, the McCarters and the Weary Hearts, among other bands. And he’s worked as a sideman at the Grand Ole Opry.

Sure, in 2007, Jones was named broadcaster of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association and  “Fork In The Road”, a song he wrote with John Pennell for The Infamous Stringdusters, was named song of the year.

But he’s never really had the recognition he deserves as a singer.

Maybe the industry is finally starting to pay more attention to Jones these days.

His song, “Final Farewell,” recently hit No. 1 on the “Bluegrass Today” singles chart and Rebel Records has released “Lost Souls & Free Spirits,” a 14-song “best of” collection of Jones’ songs for the label between 1997 and 2000, plus a self-released album from 2009 and three new(er) songs, including “Final Farewell.”

The song reminds us that we never know when we’re saying good-bye to someone for the last time.

The other new(er) songs are Tom T. & Dixie Hall’s “A Hero in Harlan,” a sobering song about a soldier’s body coming home for burial like so many others before him, and Jones’ “Waltz of Regret,” both from his 2006 “Too Far Down The Road” album on the Little Dog label.

Songs on “Lost Souls & Free Spirits” include six Jones originals — “Uphill Climb,” “What You Do,” “Final Farewell,” “Waltz of Regret,” “Bridge to Portsmouth” and “Cloud of Dust.”

Covers include The Delmore Brothers’ “Nashville  Blues,” Johnny Horton’s “I’m Ready If You’re Willing,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness,” Charlie Pride’s “I’d Rather Love You” and The Louvin Brothers’ “Whispering Now.”

Dixie & Tom T. Hall’s “The Man On The Side Of The Road,” a 2001 Top 5 hit for Jones, is also included.

Musicians on the album include the current Night DriversNed Luberecki, Jon Weisberger and Mark Stoffel — along with former band members Ron Block, Dan Tyminski, Darrin Vincent, Mike Compton, Ron Stewart, Rob Ickes and Aubrey Haynie.

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The “godfather of bluegrass”

February 16, 2012

The “godfather of bluegrass” has been dead for nearly 81 years.

But the music he inspired will live again at Owensboro’s H.L. Neblett Community Center starting March 1.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum and the Neblett Center are joining forces on the Arnold Shultz String Music Project, a program designed to teach children — black and white — to play bluegrass instruments.

The project honors Shultz, a black Ohio County musician who was a major influence on Bill Monroe, “the father of bluegrass music.” Some music historians call him the “godfather of bluegrass.”

The program is being launched during Black History Month.“This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,” Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, told a Monday morning news conference. “Since I came here in 2002, I’ve been wanting to integrate the community more.”

The late Hattie Neblett began working to offer more recreational programs for black children in the community soon after she and her husband moved to Owensboro in 1930. The predecessor of the center that bears her name opened in 1936.

Greg Black, the Neblett Center’s executive director, said the goal is to create a bluegrass band from children in the center’s after-school program to play at the museum’s ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival at Yellow Creek Park in June.

Danny Clark, the museum’s marketing director, will teach guitar, fiddle and mandolin at the center from 4 to 5 p.m. every Thursday, starting March 1. Banjo lessons will also be offered if there is any interest, Gray said.

“There’s nothing I love more than teaching children to play bluegrass,” Clark said.

Students will range from 7 to 10 years old.

Rick Searcy, the center’s after school program director, said the bluegrass lessons will also be a gateway to playing music in other genres as well.

Asked if bluegrass will be a tough sell to inner city children, he said, “Those kids (7 to 10 years old) are more receptive to new things than older kids. We’ll also be teaching clogging.”

“They’re the most inquisitive at that age,” Black said.

Gray said more than 300 children are taking music lessons at the museum on Saturdays. “Their parents didn’t force them,” she said. “They’re taking lessons because they want to learn.”

The bluegrass community has never officially paid tribute to Shultz until now, Gray said.

“There’s more to the African-American influence on bluegrass than the banjo,” she said.

The banjo came to the United States from Africa in the 1600s.

Shultz, born near Cromwell in February 1886, is often credited with having put the blues in bluegrass, a style of music he didn’t live to hear.

By day, he worked the coal mines of Ohio County. At night, he grabbed his fiddle or his guitar and went looking for a place to play.

From the roadhouses and barn dances of the farmers and miners to the black community picnics to the homes of well-to-do whites, Shultz was Ohio County’s most popular musician in the 1920s, older residents of the area recall.

In 1980, Shultz’s cousin Ella Shultz Griffin, who was 87 at the time, said he joined the Shultz Family Band in 1911. “But he had been playing a long time before then,” she said.

The music they played wasn’t blues, she said.

“It was called hillbilly music then,” Griffin said. “And it was hillbilly too.”

In 1922, Shultz joined a dance band headed by drummer Forrest “Boots” Faught, playing for dances in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties.

“It was a four-piece outfit then and Arnold made five,” Faught recalled in 1980. “He was the only colored man in the band. He was the first man I ever heard play lead on the guitar.”

Faught said some people complained about his band having a black fiddle player. “I told them, ‘You don’t hear color. You hear music’.”

Monroe began working with Shultz as a mandolin player at country dances around 1924. Monroe’s uncle, Pendleton Vandiver, played fiddle for the dances and Shultz played guitar.

“People loved Arnold so well all through Kentucky,” Monroe said once. “If he was playing a guitar, they’d go gang up around him.”

Shultz also influenced Kennedy Jones and Mose Rager, two area musicians who in turn influenced Merle Travis and Ike Everly, the father of the Everly Brothers. Travis influenced Chet Atkins. And generations of musicians have been influenced by Atkins.

Birch Monroe, eldest of the musical Monroe brothers, said in 1980 that Shultz never formally worked with him and his brother Charlie, “but he played at dances where we were quite a bit.”

On April 14, 1931, Shultz died in Morgantown, where he had been playing, of a mitral lesion — organic heart disease.

He was 45.

But rumors persist that he was given poisoned whiskey by a man jealous of his talents.

The Lonesome River Band, “Chronology: Volume I,” Rural Rhythm. 8 tracks

February 13, 2012

A lot of bands — bluegrass and otherwise — have come and gone since 1982 when Tim Austin, Steve Thomas, Rick Williams and Jerry McMillan formed the Lonesome River Band.

None of of the four is still with the band.

But the LRB is still going strong.

It took the group a decade to really make its mark in bluegrass with “Carrying The Tradition,” the 1991 album that established the LRB as one of the genre’s top bands.

Of the four members of the band that year — Austin, Ronnie Bowman, Dan Tyminski and Sammy Shelor — only Shelor remains.

Big names like Kenny Smith, Don Rigsby, Ron Stewart and Rickie Simpkins have come and gone through the years.

 But the LRB has done what few bands have done, continuously reinvented itself through the years, staying both popular and relevant.

The current lineup  — Shelor, Brandon Rickman, Randy Jones, Mike Hartgrove and Barry Reed — has turned out two No. 1 albums in a row — “Still Learning” and “No Turning Back.”

 Now, Rural Rhythm Records is celebrating the LRB’s 30th anniversary in bluegrass with three 8-song albums called “Chronology.”

 Volume I will be available on Feb.28.

Seven of the songs are new versions of songs released in the band’s first decade.

“Mary Ann” and “The Old Man in the Shanty” are from the debut album.

 “Close The Door Lightly When You Go” is from 1987.

 “Laura Jean” and “I’m Afraid To Love You Anymore” are from 1989.

And “The Game Is Over” and “Hobo Blues” are from 1991.

 The traditional instrumental, “Angeline The Baker” is the only track on the album that the LRB is recording for the first time.

 Yeah, it’s a short album, but it’s a great way to get reacquainted with the LRB’s roots and hear some great vocals by Rickman and Jones, some fantastic harmony and some outstanding picking.

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