Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Hales’

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Granny’s Hot Sauce Spices Up the Tradition

15 May 2012

Wanted to share another gem from the hallways of this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival. Here’s the new Boston-based group Granny’s Hot Sauce delivering a stark and powerful rendition of a fine old tune, “Foreign Lander”:

The lead singer, George Clements, along with bassist Louis Fram came upon “Foreign Lander” on Tim O’Brien’s “Fiddler’s Green” album, and the band’s version hews closely to O’Brien’s arrangement.

For a tune with so much maritime imagery, it’s ironic that the song laid its deepest roots— in this country at least— in landlocked Kentucky. As Jean Ritchie reported ten years back to the great traditional music site Mudcat Café, her father and his cousin both picked up the song while growing up in the Bluegrass State. Ritchie— who at 89 is today the doyenne of Appalachian folk music— collected the lyrics in the mid-1950’s in her memoir, Singing Family of the Cumberlands. Some years after that, a second cousin of Ritchie’s, Martha Hall, sang the song for an itinerant folklorist, which is where I suspect the tune’s discography begins.

Ritchie hypothesizes that the song originated in the British Isles, and simply judging from appearances, it’s hard to imagine otherwise. If anyone can shed light on those transatlantic beginnings, or on other variants of this sweet and mournful tune, drop us a line.

Yer Pal— Curly

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Adding a Dash of Granny’s Hot Sauce

24 April 2012

So I was ambling down a hallway at this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival when I heard a joyful noise— not yer typical round robin jam session, but an ensemble playing as one unit. I followed my ears, and this is what I found:

Meet Granny’s Hot Sauce, a group that recently sprouted at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. GHS is further proof, if any is needed, of the continued vibrancy of both Boston’s music scene and Berklee’s American Roots Music Program. Granny’s Hot Sauce is—

  • George Clements: Guitar and Vocals
  • Lydia Luce: Fiddle and Vocals
  • Taylor Hales: Banjo
  • Louis Fram: Bass
  • Dan Bui: Mandolin

The composition featured in the video has many of the features of an old fiddle tune: the open intervals, the “crooked” rhythm— even the rustic title. As it happens, “Brush Hogger” wasn’t penned by that most prolific of songwriting teams, Mr. Anonymous and Ms. Traditional. The tune was in fact written by the band’s banjo player, Taylor Hales. It doesn’t require much imagination to picture a hallway at, say, the 2032 Joe Val Bluegrass Festival where we’ll stumble upon another band of bright young musicians playing that popular standard, “Brush Hogger.” How cool would that be?

The McGann Legacy

American roots music and the contemporary string community lost a major figure with the recent passing of John McGann. McGann was an integral part of Boston’s bluegrass and Celtic music scenes for decades. He was also a professor at the Berklee College of Music. Several members of Granny’s Hot Sauce studied with McGann, and their recollections offer a compelling testament to his wit, charm and knowledge. “All I can say is… John was was an exceptional man, musician, and teacher,” says bassist Louis Fram. “As a professor, he had the ability get on your level, and make you feel as though he believed in you.” Eulogizing McGann on the Mandolin Café website, Mandolinist Dan Bui notes how his teacher’s appreciation of music encompassed not just traditional forms, but everything from Cannonball Adderley to Anton Webern. Bui then provides this eloquent summary:

But more than anything John was an absolutely beautiful and caring human being, a teacher in every sense of the word. He always had a smile on his face, would stop and talk to you if he saw you on the street, and was always quick with a joke. I know I’m not the only student who realizes that the void left by John’s passing at Berklee can never be filled.

Goodbye John. We’ll miss you.

No doubt Bui is right: McGann’s passing has left a void. And yet surely his spirit and legacy live on whenever Granny’s Hot Sauce plays a tune.

Yer Pal— Curly

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