Archive for the Bluegrass Category

Country legend tackles bluegrass album

Posted in Artists, Bluegrass, Upcoming Release, Video, YouTube with tags , on October 25, 2007 by takecountryback


Scripps Howard News Service

Merle Haggard figured he had done about everything in music that he’s wanted to except for making a bluegrass album and a rock ‘n’ roll album.

While the rock ‘n’ roll album is still in the works, in late 2006, the 70-year-old country music and songwriting legend gathered with Marty Stuart, Rob Ickes, Charlie Cushman, Ben Isaacs, Carl Jackson and other acoustic greats to record what would be called “The Bluegrass Sessions.”

In a call from his California home, Haggard says he skipped the typical isolated recording style for the new disc.

“We circled up and put the microphone in the middle of the room,” says Haggard. “That’s the way we cut it. We didn’t alter it any after the fact. That’s the way to record as far as I’m concerned!”

Haggard chose to record his own songs, including some new numbers, rather than pulling out some bluegrass standards — not that a few of Haggard’s songs haven’t become bluegrass standards themselves. The song “Holding Things Together,” in particular, is a number regularly covered by bluegrass acts.

Then again, many of Haggard’s songs are standards regardless of format. “Mama Tried,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Hungry Eyes,” “Okie From Muskogee,” “Big City” … it’s an amazing list. Once referred to as “the Poet of the Common Man” (and championed by non-country acts the Grateful Dead and Phil Ochs), Haggard continues to write songs that are universal, although they rarely receive airplay.

“I guess the reason for writing songs is to make money,” says Haggard, “but then you go back and say, ‘I’d like to write a song that will be remembered forever.’ That’s more interesting to me than the checks, even.”

He says his style of writing doesn’t correspond with the current climate in Nashville.

“It seems like it’s the cliche of if it’s cool, then that’s the line they want rather than writing a line that should be there instead,” he says. “It’s all about cool. You can’t have any emotional songs anymore; they won’t play them. Someone might look up from their computer, and they don’t want that. It might disturb somebody. And it all sounds like water to me. …

“I like to write something that you can photograph. If there’s no picture there, what’s your album cover or your CD cover going to be? In most cases, you’ll find it’s just a picture of the artist because they don’t have a picture, and it’s kind of sad.”

Haggard is heartened by the number of young faces in his audience. He toured with Bob Dylan in 2005 and 2006 and has just finished up a tour with fellow country legends Willie Nelson and Ray Price. He says young people turned out for both tours. Haggard hopes to tour in support of the bluegrass album in the near future.

He’s also working on that rock ‘n’ roll album. Keith Richards has signed on, and Haggard hopes Chuck Berry will be able to contribute as well.

And, despite his age and legend status, don’t look for Haggard to stop writing.

“The one thing that’s remained youthful in my life is music,” says Haggard. “I try to write something fresh. You don’t hold a song up to the mirror and say, ‘That’s old.’ Music may be the only thing that time doesn’t affect.”

Review: Dixie Bee Liners

Posted in Americana, Artists, Bluegrass, Reviews with tags , on October 15, 2007 by takecountryback

Self-released, BT-001
The Dixie Bee-Liners are musical raconteurs skilled at telling stories with their all-original songs. Promoting themselves as “bluegrass … with a buzz,” Brandi Hart and Buddy Woodward functioned as a duo – both distinctive vocalists and multi-instrumentalists who have discovered their personalized stylistic footing by casting aside restraints imposed by dogmatic traditionalism. This self-released 2005 debut project for the Dixie Bee-Liners also features Danny Weiss (guitar), Alan Grubner (fiddle), Terry McGill (banjo), Mike Levine (Dobro, pedal steel), Andy Cotton (bass), Bob Mastro (fiddle), and Harley Fine (sound effects, tambourine).
Taking note of this hard-working and talented band’s debut effort, Pinecastle Records label has now signed them to their impressive artist roster. What’s all the fuss about? First, their songs have both spiritual and epic qualities. Second, their contemporary leanings exude great potential to attract younger listeners to the genre. Third, I liked the way they provide textures to their music. Pinecastle professional production assistance might not have left the mandolin, banjo or supporting vocals so far back in the mix at times on this debut. Well, guess what? The band’s breakout debut album for Pinecastle will be produced and engineered by the legendary Bil VornDick. I can also imagine the band adding members so there’s a third vocalist in the lineup. That might ease some of the instrumental duties for Woodward who provides mandolin, guitar, banjo, bass, drums and percussion on this disc. Well, hey again! Personnel shifts have occurred as a result of their record deal and relocation. I’m told that the band is now a sextet with Brandi Hart (vocals, guitar), Buddy Woodward (vocals, mandolin, lead guitar), Claiborne Woodall (lead guitar), Rachel Renee Johnson (fiddle), Sam Morrow (banjo) and Jeremy Darrow (upright bass). Because this one’s so short at under half hour, I can hardly wait to hear what comes next from this charming and fascinating group.
On this shorter disc, songs like “Davy,” “Lost in the Silence,” Yellow-haired Girl,” and “Lord, Lay Down My Ball & Chain” have the ability to balance pathos with joy. Thus, we listeners experience elation and delight from the harmonizing of contrasting emotions. Without getting into specifics, their repertoire moves a listener because it also draws upon the best elements from both contemporary folk and bluegrass. Musically comfortable together, they have the innate ability to project a consciousness that they are truly going somewhere with their tuneful and captivating approach. That, in a nutshell, is what all the promotion and subsequent commotion are about. (Joe Ross)

Merle Haggard admits he loves grass

Posted in Bluegrass on September 21, 2007 by takecountryback
The Bluegrass Sessions
Merle Haggard admits he loves grass, a part of his life for years. That’s right, after 70 years Merle finally admits that bluegrass, along with the sounds of New Orleans and Texas swing, had a profound influence on him. He recently gathered the “best of the best” players around him to create The Bluegrass Sessions–his first ever bluegrass record. You can hear the legendary Merle Haggard playing under the influence when the new project hits stores on October 2

    Merle Haggard

The Bluegrass Sessions       Merle Haggard Video

The Bluegrass Sessions

Song of the Day – Sep 13/07

Posted in Bluegrass, Song of the Day with tags on September 14, 2007 by takecountryback


Today’s song is by Irene Kelley. Most of you will recall Alan Jackson’s version, however the song was written by Irene and recorded on her Simple Path album a few years back. Here’s the full length audio file and TCB’s original review.

Bluer Than That

From the moment you slip Irene Kelley’s “Simple Path” into your stereo you’re taken on a journey through intrinsically simplistic images of life. Inspired by life’s natural circumstances Kelley’s songwriting gives credence to the words of renowned author, Aldous Huxley, who said: After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. The journey begins with ‘Bluer Than That’, a hauntingly familiar and yet, artistically unique offering that will have you hitting the replay button more than once. Kelley’s sound has a bluegrass feel, reminiscent of Dolly and Emmylou and yet her music is distinctly her own. ‘Bluer Than That’, Kelley’s current single, is more than worth the price of the CD and yet Kelley doesn’t stop there and delivers the song only as an appetizer.  Particularly touching are “Not So Different After All” and “Constant State of Grace”, both inspired by her own encounters with homeless women in her day-to-day life.  Of  ‘Constant State of Grace’,  Kelley shares, “This is a true story about a homeless woman out near where I live. She has her cart and sometimes a puppy, and she has a boom box. Some days she is singing loudly along with her music and other days, she just sits by the side of the road. She enjoys for people to stop and talk with her, but the only thing I ever did was write a song for her. It was the bravest thing I could bring myself to do.” Collaborating with the likes of Claire Lynch and Kim Richey, Irene has had a successful career as a songwriter. Her music has been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Brother Phelps, Carl Jackson and Ricky Skaggs, just to name a few. Irene reclaims “O Mexico”, (Trisha Yearwood) and ‘Not So Different After All’ (Brother Phelps) for ‘Simple Path’ making it seem like they’d never even left home. Irene Kelley is no stranger to taking what life hands her and giving it her own mark. As a 15 year old she tried to introduce the music of Dolly Parton to the other members of a local rock and roll band during a band rehearsal. Preferring the music of Led Zeppelin to Dolly, Irene was promptly dropped from their roster. So what’s a girl to do? Go out and strike up a country band and that’s just what she did.

When an MCA record deal didn’t produce an album, even after a couple of relatively successful singles, she created her own record label and put out “Simple Path” to immediate critical accolades.

Performing Songwriter magazine: “‘Simple Path’ is a warm and wonderful collection of bluegrass-tinged country music that’s hard to find on the radio these days. It has the timeless sound of a standard; something Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn would be proud to call their own.” Music Row magazine, Robert K. Oermann wrote, “She sings with immense hillbilly heart and writes like a champion. Like so much of what we label ‘Americana,’ this is simply a simple (and wonderful) country record.”

It wasn’t long before Relentless Records picked it up for national distribution, and its no wonder. When all’s said and done, Simple Path is a patchwork quilt of Kelley’s life experiences and she eloquently and quietly takes us along for the ride, putting music and lyrics to a life that in many ways may not be so different from ours, after all.

Visit Irene’s official website at:

  May 2001 – Laurie Joulie – Take Country Back 

Indie Video of the Week – Ain’t No Ash Will Burn (Amity Front)

Posted in Bluegrass, Video, YouTube with tags on August 19, 2007 by takecountryback

No Ash Will Burn

      I have seen snow that fell in May
      And I have seen rain on cloudless days
      Somethings are always bound to change
      There ain’t no ash will burn

      Love is a precious thing I’m told
      It burns just like West Virginia coal
      But when the fire dies down it’s cold
      There ain’t no ash will burn

      You say this life is not your lot
      Well I can’t be something that I’m not
      We can’t stoke a fire that we ain’t got
      There ain’t no ash will burn

      In every life there comes a time
      Where there are no more tears to cry
      We must leave something dear behind
      There ain’t no ash will burn

      There is one lesson I have learned
      There ain’t no ash will burn

Steep Canyon Rangers Are Lovin’ Pretty Women

Posted in Bluegrass, Upcoming Release with tags , on July 24, 2007 by takecountryback

2006 IBMA Emerging Artist Winners Release New Studio Album
(Video Biography Embedded Below / Doesn’t display? Click HERE to launch You Tube)

Nashville, Tenn.— The Steep Canyon Rangers, one of the most vital, exciting bluegrass bands working the format today, are set to release Lovin’ Pretty Women, the band’s latest CD since winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) “Emerging Artist” award. Hit songwriter and fellow IBMA award-winner Ronnie Bowman produced the album. Rebel Records is the esteemed home to this incendiary and road-tested band. The record will drop nationally on August 14, 2007. Lovin’ Pretty Women will guarantee this group’s continued ascent to the top of the bluegrass ranks, while reaching new audiences as they expose their own unique and timeless style to a wider and more diverse audience on the road.

The Steep Canyon Rangers are Graham Sharp (banjo, lead and harmony vocals), Woody Platt (guitar and lead vocals), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass and harmony vocals), Mike Guggino (mandolin and harmony vocals), and Nicky Sanders (fiddle and harmony vocals).

The Steep Canyon Rangers dig even deeper into a traditional bluegrass sound on Lovin’ Pretty Women, but with a sophisticated twist. It’s an album filled with the vim and vigor of a band in love with making music. The Rangers have written their own material since they first started jamming together in a stairwell on the campus of UNC. The group is blessed with artistic vision, a gift for songwriting and an intense desire to create their own unique sound. That’s why the Rangers have been able to honor the bluegrass masters who came before them while nudging the genre forward in new and exciting ways.

“Traditionally bluegrass bands have gotten by playing all the standards,” says Sharp. “Most of those songs have all been done and they’ve been done really well. Why try to recreate something that you can’t outdo? So that was our motivation, to just be original. It gave us the opportunity to figure out how to be unique within a format steeped in tradition.”

The new album showcases a band at the top of its game, whether dipping their banjos and guitars in the gospel water of “Be Still Moses” or telling stories from the coalmines in “Call The Captain” and “Cumberland Moon.” The Rangers’ compelling harmonies throughout are a testimony to the band’s belief that the voice is as vital a musical instrument as anything with strings.

Their super-tight harmonies and unique style caught the ear of legendary artist manager Don Light (Jimmy Buffet, Delbert McClinton, Keith Whitley, and the Oak Ridge Boys). Light built his reputation by spotting music visionaries early in their careers. He saw the same spark and intense desire in the Steep Canyon Rangers and signed on to manage their career.

Together the Rangers and Light have been taking the band’s music to an ever-widening audience. In fact, the Rangers export their uniquely American music across the Atlantic this year when they tour Europe for the first time.

This fall they’ll also be hosting the 2nd Annual Mountain Song Music Festival, a festival they started to benefit the Boys & Girls Club in Brevard, NC.

Whether they’re Lovin’ Pretty Women or making new fans all over the world, there’s one thing the Steep Canyon Rangers will definitely be doing—creating timeless acoustic music that honors tradition, while boldly moving it into the future.


Posted in Bluegrass with tags , on July 10, 2007 by takecountryback

Tony Trischka to Deliver the Keynote Address
The Grascals, Cherryholmes, Emmylou Harris, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
and more to perform at Fan Fest

NASHVILLE, TN – The International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) annual World of Bluegrass–which includes the industry’s annual Business Conference, the International Bluegrass Music Awards and Bluegrass Fan Fest–will return to Nashville, Tennessee the week of October 1-7, at the Nashville Convention Center and the Grand Ole Opry House.  

The week kicks off for industry professionals and the IBMA Business Conference sponsored by Bluegrass Unlimited magazine and D’Addario Strings.  

With almost 2000 key music and entertainment leaders in one place, this week is about building relationships with event producers, television & radio broadcasters, retailers, record labels, agents, managers, artists, songwriters, journalists, educators, association leaders, suppliers, producers & engineers, publicists, internet consultants & designers, historians, academic leaders and also consumers.  It’s a week for showcasing talent, of course, but also new ideas, new songs, new events, projects and merchandise.  

World renowned banjo stylist Tony Trischka will deliver the opening keynote address which leads into four days of interactive meetings and educational offerings, artist showcases, an exposition center and a variety of other special functions.  

A special session called “Bluegrass Summit: The Future of the Business” is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 3, the thought-provoking, interactive session will be led by independent writer/producer Craig Havighurst and a panel of “leading lights” from the words of recording, marketing and technology.  With CD sales deteriorating, downloads the new means of distribution, special challenges facing broadcasters and events producers, economic pressures and growing competition – this summit meeting will provide a forum to explore developing trends, prepare for the future and work together to develop the best strategies for success.

A highpoint of the week is the International Bluegrass Music Awards, which will take place at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, on Thursday evening, Oct. 4. Fans and industry reps alike won’t want to miss this salute to the year’s outstanding achievements during a fast-paced evening of fabulous performances and the presentation of the industry’s top awards.

Wrapping up the week is three-days of Bluegrass Fan Fest (Oct. 5-7) in the comfortable indoor setting of the Nashville Convention Center, will present the talents of more than 60 acts on four stages, including the Main Stage, the Roots & Branches Stage, the Masters Workshop Stage and the Grand Master Fiddler Championship.  

Performing artists confirmed at press time include The Grascals; Cherryholmes; Emmylou Harris; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; Larry Sparks; The Songs of Tom T & Dixie Hall with Special Guests; Claire Lynch; IIIrd Tyme Out; Ronnie Bowman; Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper featuring Audie Blaylock; The Whites; Marty Raybon; Paul Williams & The Victory Trio; Steep Canyon Rangers; David Parmley & Continental Divide; Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time; Don Rigsby & the Midnight Call; Charlie Sizemore; John Starling & Carolina Star; Randy Kohrs & the Lites; The Greencards; Alecia Nugent; Bradley Walker; Mark Newton; Special Consensus; The Infamous Stringdusters; Blue Moon Rising; NewFound Road; Pine Mountain Railroad; Dailey & Vincent; The Steeldrivers; Grasstowne; Missy Raines & New Hip; Pete Wernick & Flexigrass; Mark Johnson & Emory Lester; Barbara Lamb; The Laura Love Band; The Old Tyme Opry Show; a Banjo Celebration featuring Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Tony Trischka & Bob Carlin…and more!

The proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Bluegrass Trust Fund, established to help bluegrass professionals during times of emergency need and IBMA’s marketing and educational events during the year.  All artists appearing at the event donate their time and talents for the cause.  National sponsors for the festival are Martha White Foods, the Bluegrass Radio Network and Martin Guitars.

Tickets for all events–including a new combined Award Show/Fan Fest ticket for fans–are available at or by calling 888-GET-IBMA (615) 256-3222.  For discount rates on accommodations, call the event housing bureau at 1-877-259-4716.


The schedule outline for the World of Bluegrass week follows.
(all activities at the Nashville Convention Center unless otherwise noted)

Monday, October 1, 2007
Noon-1 p.m.:        Orientation

1:15-3 p.m.:         Seminars (5)

1:15-5 p.m.:         Crash Course for Artists

3-6 p.m.:              Exhibit Hall Open

6:30-8 p.m.:         Keynote Address & Dinner
8-11 p.m.:            Evening Showcases
11 p.m.-2 a.m.:        After Hours Showcases, Jam Sessions


Tuesday, October 2, 2007
10-11:45 a.m.:         Seminars (5)
1-2:15 p.m.         Member Constituent Meetings
2:30-6:30 p.m.         Exhibit Hall Open
2:45-3:45 p.m.         Seminars (5)
4-6:30 p.m.              Songwriter Showcase
6:30-8:15 p.m.:         Song Circles
8:30-11 p.m.             Evening Showcases
11 p.m.-2 a.m.:         After Hours Showcases, Jam Sessions

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
8:30-10:45 a.m.:         Gig Fair
8:00 a.m.-2 p.m.:       Golf Tournament- Hermitage Golf Club
11 am to 1 pm:         Showcase Brunch
1-5 p.m.:                   Health Fair
1:30-6:30 p.m.:         Exhibit Hall Open
1:30-3:30 p.m.:         Bluegrass Summit – The Future of the Business
4-6 p.m.:                   Mentor Sessions
5-7 p.m.:                   DJ Taping Sessions
5:30-6:30 p.m.:         Songwriter Meeting
6:30-8:15 p.m.:         Song Circles
8:30-11 p.m.             Evening Showcases
11 p.m.-2 a.m.:         After Hours Showcases, Jam Sessions

Thursday, October 4, 2007
9-10:30 a.m.:         Town Hall Membership Meeting
11 a.m.-1:15 p.m.:    Special Awards Luncheon

1:30-5 p.m.:           Exhibit Hall Open

3-5 p.m.:                Song Demo Listening Sessions  
8:30-11 p.m.:         INTERNATIONAL BLUEGRASS MUSIC AWARDS – Grand Ole Opry House

Friday, October 5, 2007
9-11 a.m.:         IBMM Bluegrass FanFeast & Auction
10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.:     BLUEGRASS FAN FEST
11 p.m.-2 a.m.:         After Hours Showcases, Jam Sessions – See “After Hours” Guide

Saturday, October 6, 2007
9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.:     Bluegrass in Schools Teachers Workshop
10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.:     BLUEGRASS FAN FEST
11 p.m.-2 a.m.:         After Hours Showcases, Jam Sessions – See “After Hours” Guide

Sunday, October 7, 2007
9 a.m.-Noon:         BLUEGRASS FAN FEST

All times listed: U.S. Central Time
Check for more details and updates