Posted tagged ‘bill monroe’

TONY TRISCHKA, “Great Big World,” Rounder. 13 tracks.

January 27, 2014

Tony Trischka calls his latest album “Great Big World.”

It’s an apt description of the album, which embraces a big world of musical styles and genres, while keeping one foot solidly in bluegrass.

That’s been the case for Trischka for the past 50 years.

At 65, he’s no longer the new kid on the block. He’s one of the legends.

And this album adds to his status as one of the more inventive musicians on the planet.

The Syracuse, N.Y., native began playing banjo in 1963, after hearing the Kingston Trio’s “Charlie and the MTA.”

Then, he discovered bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs and never looked back.

Bill Monroe, Trischka says, “was a huge influence on me and he’s still at the heart of everything I do.”

But don’t expect traditional bluegrass.

There’s “Joy,” a Trischka gospel original sung by Catherine Russell with verses adapted from Buddhist, Christian and Jewish texts.

“Wild Bill Hickok” is a five-minute western saga sung by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with additional vocals by Mike Compton and a dramatic reading by John Goodman.

“Say Goodbye (for KM)” is a tribute to the late singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle.

And then, there’s “Single String Medley,” which features five tunes each played on a different string.

Steve Martin joins Trischka on “Promontory Point,” a tune they composed together.

Other guests include Mike Barnett, Michael Daves, Skip Ward, Andy Statman, Russ Barenberg, Naom Pikelny, Aoife O’Donovan, Abigail Washburn, Chris Eldridge, Larry Campbell, Oteil Burbridge and Trischka’s son, Sean.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.TonyTrischka.com

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ALAN BIBEY & WAYNE BENSON, “The Mandolin Chronicles,” Pinecastle. 11 tracks.

February 25, 2013

Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson rank among the top mandolin players in bluegrass today. And both have played mandolin with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out at different times during their careers. Benson still does.

So it’s fitting that the two come together to produce an album of mandolin-lead music.

Four of the 11 tracks feature only their twin mandolin picking.

One of those is “Owensboro Train,” an instrumental co-written by Bibey and Benson that celebrates a train ride that saved the life of Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass music,” when he was 10 years old.

Monroe often told the story about how his appendix ruptured in either late1921 or 1922. His family rushed him by train to the hospital in Owensboro, Ky., roughly 45 miles from his home in Rosine.

Surgery that day saved his life, Monroe always said.

Bibey and Benson also co-wrote “Black Friday,” a dark instrumental that was written on the day after Thanksgiving, and “Surfside,” a shuffle named for the town — Surfside Beach, S.C. — where Bibey lives.

Bibey also wrote “Waltz for Pamela,” “Wintergrass” and “Wilkes County Breakdown.”

Only one track –“Another Night” — features vocals, with Moore joining Bibey to sing the ballad about a man missing the woman he loves.

They also included “Pilgrim’s Knob,” a lesser known Bill Monroe tune, and “Now’s The Time,” a tune by jazz legend Charlie “Bird” Parker.

Ron Stewart, Harold Nixon and Wyatt Rice add banjo, fiddle, bass and guitar to seven of the tracks.

Good album for fans of bluegrass instrumentals.

It’s scheduled for a March 12 release.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.PinecastleMusic.com.

Rebuilding Uncle Pen’s Cabin

August 1, 2012

ROSINE — High on the hill above the town, as the song says, James Monroe is rebuilding his great-uncle James Pendleton Vandiver’s cabin.

Sometime next month, he hopes to have the cabin on 2.5 acres atop Tuttle Hill above Rosine open for bluegrass fans to visit.

“This was the last place my father (Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass music”) lived in Kentucky,” Monroe said. “I think bluegrass fans will want to see it.”

James Monroe had the original cabin dismantled in 1991 and used some of the planed logs to build a memorial cabin in Beanblossom, Ind., as part of his plans to turn the Monroe family’s 55-acre park near Nashville, Ind., into a tourist attraction and country music venue.

That ruffled some feathers in Ohio County.

But Monroe said there wasn’t enough tourism in Rosine at the time to rebuild the cabin there.

That was before the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival in Rosine was drawing 18,000 people a year and the ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival in Owensboro was drawing 21,000.

Many of those fans seek out other Monroe sites in the area, including his boyhood home, which is on the site of the Jerusalem Ridge festival.

Bill Monroe’s grave in Rosine Cemetery, which is topped by 20-foot obelisk made of 14 tons of white North Carolina granite, continues to draw fans from around the world nearly 16 years after his death on Sept. 9, 1996.

Tuesday, Jerry and Betty Boyd, bluegrass fans from Tomball, Texas, stopped at the cemetery to visit Monroe’s grave.

“I remember listening to Bill Monroe on the Grand Ole Opry when I was a kid,” Jerry Boyd said. “We were in Alabama for a family reunion and then came up to Nashville to visit my sister. I said, ‘As long as we’re this close, why don’t we go to see Bill Monroe’s boyhood home.’ “

If Uncle Pen’s cabin had been open, the Boyds said they would have visited it too.

“It’s on the original site, but it will be mostly new logs,” Monroe said of the two-room cabin.

Joe Johnson, co-owner of Johnson & Johnson Construction of Dundee, which is building the 24- by 20-foot cabin, said four or five logs from the original cabin will be used around the fireplace and to

make a shelf in the kitchen.

The cabin is made of 5-by-12 logs, planed smooth rather than rounded.

There is no view from the cabin. There are too many trees around it.

But an old wagon road from the days when Vandiver lived here is still visible through the trees.

Johnson said he’s trying to locate the farm’s old well to get it in use again.

“We’ll have old pictures of my uncle and fiddles and information about him,” Monroe said.

James Monroe joined his father’s Blue Grass Boys in 1963, when he was 22.

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

Then, the younger Monroe struck out on his own, forming his own band, The Midnight Ramblers, in 1971.

 He bought the Vandiver property in the 1970s and gave it to his father as a birthday present, he said.

“It had been neglected for years and we had been on the road and didn’t have time to keep it up,” Monroe said of the original cabin. “Most of the wood was rotten by the time I tried to save it.”

He said three or four people will be hired to oversee the cabin in the 200 block of Uncle Pen Lane, keep up the grounds and conduct tours.

“I think it’s a wonderful tie-in with everything that’s going on in the area,” Gabrielle Gray, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, said of the project.

“I’ve been there and you can envision why Bill Monroe thought it was so special,” she said. “I was blown away by how beautiful it is. People will come from far away, to quote the song, to see it. It is truly a magical place.”

Vandiver, who died in 1932 at age 63, was the brother of Bill Monroe’s mother, Malissa Vandiver Monroe.

She died when her youngest son was 10.

Monroe’s father, James Buchanan “Buck” Monroe, died when he was 16.

After his father’s death, Monroe lived for brief periods with his Uncle William Monroe and, then, his Uncle Jack Monroe. When Jack’s house was placed under a measles quarantine, Vandiver invited Monroe to “batch it” at his cabin, according to music historian Ralph Rinzler.

Vandiver was crippled and on crutches, having been thrown from a young mule spooked by a passing train. But he was a well-known fiddle player and played for dances all over Ohio County, often accompanied by his young nephew on mandolin and sometimes guitar.

“He was one of Kentucky’s finest old-time fiddlers,” Monroe wrote on the cover of his 1972 album, “Bill Monroe’s Uncle Pen,” a compilation of Monroe’s renditions of Vandiver’s tunes. “And he had the best shuffle with the bow I’d ever seen.”

“He done the cooking for the two of us,” Monroe wrote once. “We had fat back, sorghum molasses, and hot cakes for breakfast followed by blackeyed peas with fat back and corn bread and sorghum for dinner and supper.”

 Biographer Richard D. Smith quotes Monroe further: “A man that old, and crippled, that would cook for you and see that you had a bed and a place to stay and something for breakfast and dinner and supper, and you know it come hard for him to get …”

Monroe continued to keep his horses in his Uncle Jack’s barn near the Rosine train depot while he lived with Vandiver. At the end of the day, as he put the horses away, Monroe could hear his Uncle Pen playing outside his cabin on Tuttle Hill.

Years later, he would immortalize Vandiver in a bluegrass classic, “Uncle Pen” — “Late in the evenin’ about sundown/High on the hill and above the town/Uncle Pen played the fiddle/Lord, how it’d ring/You could hear it talk/You could hear it sing.”

In 1929, when Monroe turned 18, he took the train north to Hammond, Ind., where he worked with his brothers, Charlie and Birch, at a Sinclair Oil refinery.

Vandiver died three years later.

On September 13, 1973, Bill Monroe unveiled a monument to Vandiver in Rosine Cemetery with the words to “Uncle Pen” engraved on it it .

It has attracted bluegrass fans from around the world for 39 years.

ALAN TOMPKINS, “No Part of Nothin’,” Bluegrass Heritage Music. 12 tracks.

July 2, 2012

Alan Tompkins grew up in Madisonville, Ky., about 50 miles west of Bill Monroe’s birthplace. He grew up singing in church and listening to country, bluegrass and gospel music.

In 1983, Tompkins moved to Texas and earned a master of business administration and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. He devoted the next two decades to business, but Tompkins’ love of bluegrass led him to want to perform again. And that’s the origin of this album, which features the talents of Sam Bush, Ron Stewart, Randy Kohrs, Kenny Smith, Amanda Smith, Mike Bub and Greg Cahill among others.

Tompkins, founder and president of the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation and host of a bluegrass radio show in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, plays upright bass on seven cuts, banjo on one (“Lonesome Road Blues”) and sings lead on nine.

He co-wrote two songs, “Blue Kentucky Waltz” and “No Part of Nothin’ Blues.”

Songs include “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome,” a song credited to Bill Monroe and Hank Williams; Chubby Wise and Clyde Moody’s “Shenandoah Waltz”; Albert Brumley’s “This World Is Not My Home”; and four traditional numbers, “Angelina Baker,” “More Pretty Girls Than One,” “Lonesome Road Blues” and “Farther Along.”

Tompkins also adapts Mark Knopfler’s “When It Comes To You” and Jeanne Pruett’s “Count Me Out” to bluegrass.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.AlanTompkins.com.

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.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Live At Bean Blossom,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

December 5, 2011

A lot of musical tributes have been paid to Bill Monroe during the centennial of his birth on Sept. 13, 1911.

Rural Rhythm decided to honor “the father of bluegrass music” with a live recording from Bean Blossom, Ind., the music park and campgrounds Monroe bought in 1951.

He created his own bluegrass festival there in 1967 and continued to perform there annually until his death in 1996.

Twelve bands are featured on the tribute album, either performing songs written by Monroe or songs closely associated with him.

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out perform a rousing version of “Uncle Pen,” Monroe’s musical tribute to his uncle and mentor, James Pendleton Vandiver.

Lou Reid & Carolina take on “Can’t You Hear Me Calling,” Monroe’s song about his separation from and longing for his longtime companion Bessie Lee Mauldin.

Brand New Strings performs Monroe’s dramatic instrumental, “Southern Flavor,” the title cut of the album that won him the first bluegrass Grammy.

Grasstowne does an a capella version of the gospel classic, “Were You There.”

Audie Blaylock & Redline take on the blazing “Six Feet Under The Ground.”

Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press do Monroe’s classic, “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Blue Moon Rising does an excellent cover of Monroe’s “Body & Soul.”

Also featured are the Lonesome River Band’s version of “Footprints in the Snow”; the Bartley Brothers’ “Big Mon”; Carolina Road’s “This World Is Not My Home”; Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition’s “Bluegrass Breakdown”; and Wasson and McCall’s “Molly and Tennbrooks.”

A strong Monroe tribute album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.RuralRhythm.com.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration: A Classic Bluegrass Tribute,” Rounder. 28 tracks.

August 29, 2011

VARIOUS ARTISTS, “ With Body And Soul: A Bluegrass Tribute to Bill Monroe,” Rebel. 17 tracks.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Let The Light Shine Down: A Gospel Tribute to Bill Monroe,” Rebel. 17 tracks.

Bill Monroe, “the father of bluegrass music,” was born on Sept. 13, 1911.

The upcoming centennial of his birth on Jerusalem Ridge, just outside Rosine, Ky., has inspired a variety of tributes, including three tribute albums featuring other artists performing songs Monroe either wrote or made famous.

Rounder Records has compiled a 28-track tribute that includes such artists as The Grascals, Michael Cleveland with Dan Tyminski and Vince Gill, Dailey & Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, IIIrd Tyme Out, Bobby Osborne and Ralph Stanley.

The CD comes with a good 20-page booklet.

Rebel Records has divided its tribute into two albums.
“With Body And Soul” is the secular music — “My Little Georgia Rose,” “Uncle Pen,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Mule Skinner Blues” and other Monroe classics.

Artists include The Seldom Scene, The Lonesome River Band, Del McCoury, Tony Rice, IIIrd Tyme Out, Don Rigsby, Kenny Baker, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Don Reno & Red Smiley and others.

“Let The Light Shine Down” features bluegrass gospel songs associated with Monroe.

Songs include “The Old  Cross Road,” “Mansions For Me,” “He Will Set Your Fields On Fire” and “Mother’s Only Sleeping.”

Artists include The Country Gentlemen, Lost & Found, The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover, The Stanley Brothers, The Seldom Scene with Linda Ronstadt, The Boys From Indiana, Larry Richardson and others.
Both albums come with good booklets detailing the history of the songs.

Can’t find them in stores? Try www.Rounder.com and www.RebelRecords.com.