Posts Tagged ‘Roland White’

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Dives, Part 2: The Station Inn

27 June 2011

Summer, the season for sequels, has officially arrived. Those mobs at the cineplexes who have turned out to see The Hangover 2 or Cars 2 have not gone unnoticed by yer Cousin Curly. It seems that today’s perspiring public wants nothing more than, well, more of the same, and who am I to argue? In this spirit, I offer up the following summer bluegrass blockbuster…

Those of you following this space closely know that I’m a great fan of The Cantab Lounge, New England’s Mecca for Bluegrass and other roots music. When I posted my paean to that venerable institution, I called it “Let Us Now Praise Famous Dives, Part 1,” knowing that I had a “Part 2” lined up.

That was in May of last year. Nothing like just-in-time delivery, is there?

Anyhow, the long wait is over. Popcorn is optional…

Not all the music at the Station Inn is bluegrass, but much of it “demonstrates bluegrassish tendencies,” as the doctors like to say. In addition to the famous names mentioned in the video, here’s a sample of the performers who have appeared at the Inn over the past few years: The Red Stick Ramblers, Kimberly Williams, Blue Highway, Dierks Bentley, Roland White and Shawn Camp. Special mention should be made of The Cluster Pluckers and The Mashville Brigade, a couple of “supergroups” of Nashville musicians who are or were fixtures on the scene.

Going a bit farther back, no less a figure than Bill Monroe himself trod the Inn’s humble stage. You could make a movie about this place’s many brushes with fame, and it appears that one Patrick Isbey has done just that. Click here to see a clip from his documentary, The Station Inn: True Life Bluegrass.

Although our beloved Cantab can’t claim the international recognition afforded the Station Inn, otherwise these two joints feel like twins separated by nothing more than distance. They share a complete lack of pretense that can’t be imitated or approximated. Their very ordinariness makes them special.

Yer Pal— Curly

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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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