All posts filed under: Bluegrass Music

I grew up with Flatt & Scruggs and WSM’s Martha White show on the radio every morning, but truly went down the rabbit hole the first time I placed the needle on side 1 / track 1 of the “Circle” album

Saturday Music: Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz is one-third of the trio I’m With Her, which I featured in last week’s edition of Saturday Music. In addition to their work with the band, each of these very talented young women has a robust solo career. Saturday Music will focus on their music as individuals over the next three weeks, beginning with the gifted singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz. I began hearing Jarosz at venues such as the Red Wing Roots Music Festival when she was in her early twenties and already an established artist. The bio from her website captures Jarosz’s amazing rise from her teenage debut: “With her captivating voice and richly detailed songwriting, Sarah Jarosz has emerged as one of the most compelling musicians of her generation. A three-time Grammy Award-winner at the age of 28, the Texas native started singing as a young girl and became an accomplished multi-instrumentalist by her early teens. After releasing her full-length debut Song Up in Her Head at 18-years-old, she went on to deliver such critically lauded albums as Follow Me Down, Build Me …

Saturday Music: I’m With Her

“When you go to heaven and hear singing, it will sound like these three women.” Those were the words of mandolinist Chris Thile at a Kennedy Center concert in 2016. He was describing I’m With Her, the Grammy-award winning roots music trio composed of Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins. These three women bring together lyrical songwriting, sterling instrumental chops, and ethereal harmonies to make beautiful — some would say heavenly — music. The group of singer-songwriters came together in 2014 and have been steadily building a catalog of mesmerizing songs and a loyal following. Yes, that loyal fan base includes me, as they were also involved in my first and only case of celebrity stalking, but that’s another story. I first saw the group live in 2015. Having seen each of them with earlier bands and in solo appearances, I knew that they could forge a distinct and memorable musical partnership. I was not disappointed. There’s so much to highlight here. Nina Simone’s acapella Be My Husband was one of the first songs of …

Saturday Music: Tyler Childers

I’ve always loved the old Utah Phillips tune Rock, Salt, and Nails. It has such a lonesome sound that connects on so many levels. And surprisingly, for a song that sounds so ancient, no one sings it with greater feeling than the young country singer Tyler Childers. “On the banks of the river, where the willows hang down, Where the wild birds they warble with a low moaning sound, Way down in the hollow where the water runs cold, It was there I first listened to the lies that you told. Now I lie on my back and I see your sweet face. The past I remember, time can’t erase. The letters you wrote me, they were written in shame, And I know that your conscience still echoes my name.” Childers is from Kentucky, having grown up in Lawrence County where his father worked in the coal industry and his mother worked as a nurse. Like many a country musician, he began singing in church—in his case the local Free Will Baptist congregation. His grandfather gave him …

Saturday Music: Rhiannon Giddens

Black History Month is the perfect time to use the five Saturdays in February 2020 to highlight five different musicians at the forefront of the work to reclaim the African American contributions to folk, old-time, country and roots music. I was so excited about this project that, naturally, I jumped the gun with this special themed edition of  Saturday Music posts. Providing readers with a taste of what was to come, I celebrated the music of Amythyst Kiah—the self-described “Southern Gothic” singer of “alt-country blues”—at the beginning of the year. So let’s officially begin this project with the founder of the band Our Native Daughters, one of Kiah’s collaborators, and the woman who has one of the most visible roles in leading, in Rolling Stone’s words, the “movement of 21st-century singers, artists, songwriters and instrumentalists of color who have been reclaiming the racially heterogeneous lineages of folk, country and American roots music.” That musician, Rhiannon Giddens, is a force of nature, and one of the best things to happen, not just to African American roots music, but …

Saturday Music: Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass  began playing together more than 18 years ago, and they remain road warriors today, making up to 175 tour stops a year. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, these five musicians play bluegrass music and much more on traditional bluegrass instruments. In fact, Greensky Bluegrass fits nicely into the progressive bluegrass and jam band category begun lo those many years ago by Sam Bush and the New Grass Revival, II Generation, and others. Today, they are often compared—and share the stage with—String Cheese Incident, the Infamous Stringdusters, and similar bands. While they’ve played hallowed country music halls such as Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, they also play to large audiences in venues less frequently connected to traditional bluegrass acts, such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. The band has been described as “a live force of nature renowned for bringing rock ‘n’ roll showmanship to high-energy bluegrass…. Their unpredictable performances remain the stuff of legend attracting diehard devotees who typically travel far and wide to experience multiple gigs.” The internet has a …

Eighth of January Revisited

Ten years ago today, I wrote the following on More to Come: “For all who love great old-time fiddle tunes, here’s a little luncheon treat. One of my favorites among the old-time tunes is the Eighth of January, which many will remember from the old Johnny Horton country hit The Battle of New Orleans. (The date of the battle was January 8, 1815, and Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas school principal who wrote the words to the song to interest children in history, used the fiddle tune for the music.) The Eighth of January is a sweet little melody that’s relatively easy to play but has lots of possibilities for variations. I found this video by Roland White with a nice short mandolin version. I wrote about Roland and his brother Clarence back in March 2009 when they were featured in the Fretboard Journal. So, on January 8, 2010, enjoy the Eighth of January in a more timeless mode.” UPDATE: I was reminded of the post here in 2020 because a friend’s birthday falls on this auspicious …

Saturday Music: Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull has been playing music professionally since before she reached her teens. Her debut on the Grand Ole Opry came at age 10, she brought her exceptional mandolin skills to Carnegie Hall at age 12, had her first deal with Rounder Records at age 13, and at age 17 became the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. As a 20-year-old, Hull played the White House. The way I best remember how young she was when she burst on the music scene is from her performance at the Merlefest music festival in 2012. When introducing the band, she noted that the bass player was a good musician, but he was also “the only one of us old enough to rent a van.” I’ve heard Hull play over the years at both the Merlefest and Red Wing festivals, and she’s always had the chops to play amazing bluegrass and traditional music. Her first album post-Berklee hinted at new directions, but it wasn’t until 2017’s Weighted Mind (produced by …