Posts Tagged ‘Del McCoury’

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Thile & Daves Bring It All Back Home

30 May 2011

Once upon a time, yer Cousin Curly set out to make a website that would be the Playboy Magazine of Bluegrass— you read it for the pictures.* On more than one occasion, however, I have lost sight of this goal and waxed on too fulsomely, creating something closer to The Times Bluegrass Supplement or The New York Review of Bluegrass.

Enough!

In an effort to wean myself of my prolixity, I hereby offer a veritable torrent of clips from a recent show at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall by Chris Thile and Michael Daves. For starters, we’re gonna jump right into the deep end with the longest video of the bunch. Stay with this fine medley of fiddle tune requests, though, and you’ll get a good feel for the show:

As noted in a previous post, it’s touching to hear a couple of virtuoso performers at the peak of their powers going back to the well of traditional material. The fiddle tunes liberally scattered through the duo’s two sets underscore the back-to-basics concept. The vocal tunes were also largely drawn from the bedrock of the bluegrass canon:

There were classic breakdowns and reels—

But there were also gorgeous slower tunes like Frank Rodgers’ “Ookpik Waltz”

The tune is sometimes called “Utpick Waltz.” While the spelling varies, everybody seems to agree that the title refers to an arctic owl.

Okay, before you drift off into some snowy dream, check out this take on “Loneliness & Desperation:”

That song was written by Michael Garris but I believe it’s most closely associated with Del McCoury, who recorded it in the 1980’s. Thile & Daves’ version does justice to Daves’ stated aim of using bluegrass to explore “basic, raw stuff.” This is also one of the strongest tracks on the duo’s fine new album, Sleep With One Eye Open.

In crafting the second fiddle tune medley based on audience requests, Thile & Daves decided to play with fire. They started with “Arkansas Traveler” in A, switched to Frank Wakefield’s “New Camp Town Races” in B flat and then finished up with Herschel Sizemore’s “Rebecca” in B. Don’t try this at home…

Very nice indeed, but as Thile put it himself, he failed to “stick the landing” into B on “Rebecca.” Undaunted, the duo attempted the transition one more time…

Nuff said!

Yer pal— Curly

*  Not to be confused with The Sporting News, which you read for the pitchers.

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Cousin Curly in the Temple of Twang

12 April 2011

Before I get all distracted, let me show you this edition’s video, which comes from my travels to Nashville last spring…

From a certain point of view, the Ryman Auditorium could be seen as a microcosm of Nashville. Like the Music City as a whole, the Ryman is a really nice place that seems to hide its deep connection to bluegrass. While the back of the building is lined with display cases, you have to go to the third floor to find any significant bluegrass-related material. In some respects this isn’t a surprise, in that the Ryman hosts all manner of performances today, from Aretha Franklin to ZZ Top. But while I’m sure that ticket sales for bluegrass acts aren’t keeping the auditorium’s pews polished to a fare thee well, I reckon that the streams of pilgrims who are paying close to twenty bucks for the backstage tour are primarily drawn by the venue’s storied past. No doubt many grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry, which called the Ryman home for several decades. If I’m correct about all that, it would follow that a good number of these are folks interested in an era when bluegrass was an integral part of the operation. So what gives?

But as I say, I found Nashville puzzling in the same way. A quick rundown of musicians based in Nashville reads like a directory of present-day bluegrass:

Alison Brown, Roland White, Bryan Sutton, Jerry Douglas, Jim Buchanan, Josh Williams, Valerie Smith, The Steeldrivers, Ron Block, Blake Williams,  Ricky Skaggs, Mark Schatz, Jerry Salley, Keith Tew, Gail Davies, The Infamous String Dusters, Melonie Canon, Casey Driessen, Sam Bush, Gillian Welch,  Daily & Vincent, John Weisberger, Dierks Bentley, Kathy Chiavola, Mike Bub, Larry Sparks, Tim Carter, Paul Brewster, Ronnie Reno, Tim O’Brien, Billy & Terry Smith, Fred Carpenter, Doug Dillard,  Tim May, Wayne Southards, Brad Davis, Barry & Holly Tashian, David Crow, Kevin Williamson, John Cowan, Mike Compton, Tim Hensley, Larry Cordle, Marty Raybon, Sharon Cort, Keith Sewell, The Chigger Hill Boys, Stuart Duncan, David Talbot, Ed Dye, The Grascals, Pat Enright, Scott Vestal, Donna Ulisse, The Farewell Drifters, Marty Stuart, Rickie Simpkins, Pat Flynn, Kim Fox, Pam Gadd, J.T. Gray, Tom T. Hall, Aubrey Haynie, Casey Henry, Tom Saffell, Randy Howard, Jim Hurst, Rob Ickes, Eddie Stubbs, Vic Jordan, Cody Kilby, Randy Kohrs, Alison Krauss, Jim Lauderdale, David Grier, Keith Little, Ned Luberecki, Del McCoury, James & Angela McKinney, Larry McNeely, Luke McNight, Ken Mellons, Patty Mitchell, Alan O’Bryant, Bobby Osborne, Heartstrings, The Overall Brothers, Continental Divide, David Peterson, Missy Raines, Lee & Elaine Roy, Carl Jackson, Darrell Scott, Jimmy Campbell, Ronnie McCoury, Larry Perkins, Larry Stephenson, Jim Van Cleve, Terry Eldridge, Andrea Zonn.

Whew. That’s just a start; I’ll bet there are literally hundreds more worth noting.  Even so, the music itself doesn’t even register as background noise. During my visit, I would regularly spin the radio dial from one end to the other. I never heard so much as a note that sounded like bluegrass. I know there is a vibrant house party scene in the Nashville bluegrass community, but that doesn’t explain why bluegrass isn’t a more visible— or, more the point, audible— part of the landscape.

But don’t get me wrong: I really like Nashville. As long as the Cumberland River behaves itself, it’s an elegant metropolis that also manages to be comfortable and friendly. Can’t wait for my next visit, by which time I hope I will have been granted the secret password and welcomed into Nashville’s occult (in every sense of the word) bluegrass scene.

Yer Pal— Curly

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