All posts tagged: Acoustic Music

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 …

Saturday Music: Mavis Staples

There is no better musical artist to celebrate during The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend than American icon and national treasure Mavis Staples. Her reach and impact as a once-in-a-generation artist has been astounding. Staples is a member of both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Award winner, a Kennedy Center honoree, and a recipient of the National Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. As someone who began singing during the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. King, her longevity in the spotlight is a testament to her magnificent talent. Mavis Staples performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and sang at President Barack Obama’s White House. And she’s still going strong. “At a time when most artists begin to wind down, Staples ramped things up, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums in her 70’s with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that prompted Pitchfork to rave that ‘her voice has only gained texture and power over the years’ and People to proclaim that she ‘provides the comfort …

Saturday Music: Red Molly

“Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme.” One of the all-time great lyrics. And the inspiration for Red Molly, a talented Americana/folk group that features smart songs, tight 3-part harmonies, and an infectious spirit. I’ve always appreciated how this band moves easily between country, blues, folk, and bluegrass, incorporating and weaving pieces from all those various strains—and more—into their music. Red Molly’s website notes that their “innovative instrumentation is suited for roots-rock and heartful ballads alike,” and “the alchemy of their personalities onstage draws even back row listeners into a sense of intimacy.” I can vouch for that last description, as their onstage alchemy also draws in viewers on the internet. With a little bit of luck, I had the good fortune last evening to catch their live-streamed show from the famous Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. The band’s bio page provides the basics about these talented musicians. Dobro player Abbie Gardner’s songs and performance “have the punch of rhythm and blues.” On guitar and tambourine, Laurie MacAllister “draws inspiration from classic folk and …

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: Amythyst Kiah

Amythyst Kiah has burst on the roots music scene in recent years with her powerful vocals and insightful songwriting. The native Tennessean is a self-described “Southern Gothic” singer of “alt-country blues” who has been receiving rave reviews and is nominated for a 2020 Grammy in the Best American Roots Song category for her spell-binding “Black Myself.” Our Native Daughters is the name of Kiah’s recent collaboration with 2017 MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell (from Birds of Chicago). Early last year the supergroup delivered a full-length album, Songs of Our Native Daughters, produced by Giddens and Dirk Powell. “Polly Ann’s Hammer” is a Kiah/Allison Russell song that reimagines the old John Henry tune from the point of view of his wife, and it certainly is one of the album’s standouts. “Black Myself,” the opening track, grabs the listener right from the beginning and is described by NPR as “the simmering defiance of self-respect in the face of racism.” In the liner notes to the album, Kiah writes about “Black Myself” in saying, …

Saturday Music: Joe Bonamassa

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I was listening to a live performance by blues guitarist  Joe Bonamassa from Madison, Wisconsin, on the SiriusXM B.B. King’s Bluesville channel. In between songs, Bonamassa recounted a story from the band’s current tour, noting that they had recently found themselves with a rare couple of days off while staying in nearby Chicago. Instead of going to their customary Days Inn, the band decided to treat themselves to two nights at the Four Seasons. Bonamassa said the accommodations were just what you’d expect from a luxury, four-star hotel, with the only downside being the 1200 “yuppies” who were attending a financial convention in the hotel. He ran into a group of these young, well-paid professionals at the elevator, and with his “street person” appearance and guitar case in hand, he became an instant target for a bully who clearly had more money than brains. Here’s how Bonamassa told of the interaction: Yuppie Bully: “Hi. What’s in the case?” Bonamassa: “‘It’s a guitar,’ I replied. ‘I wasn’t going to tell him that …

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 …