All posts tagged: Bela Fleck

Acoustic Music is Alive and Well

“When you go to heaven and hear singing, it will sound like these three women.” So opined Chris Thile after the Americana trio I’m With Her finished a short yet moving set in the first half of an incredible three hours of music last evening at the Kennedy Center.  The concert hall’s acoustics were ringing all evening as the sold out crowd not only enjoyed the beautiful harmonies from I’m With Her’s Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, but also the instrumental talents and music-making of mandolinist extraordinaire Thile and the Punch Brothers, along with Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyers, virtuosi of the banjo and upright bass respectively. The Kennedy’s Center policy against photography leaves me using old photos from other concerts, but that hardly matters. The music was the focus last evening. Thile was invited to curate a four-day American Acoustic Music Festival, and Friday evening’s show was clearly the headliner.  The Punch Brothers  opened the first half of the show with a tight set capped by the raucous Rye Whiskey.  I’m With Her followed, with …

Favorite Roots Music Albums of 2015

I’m not going to pretend that this is a “best of” list for roots music in 2015.  With so many things thrown on my plate this year, I  haven’t had the time to sample as widely as I would like.  (Come to think of it, the last time I felt comfortable enough to publish a “best of list” was 2013!) But I’m very comfortable with a favorites list that just says, “Hey, I like these and I hope you will too.” So with that caveat, let’s see what’s made the cut. The SteelDrivers:  The Muscle Shoals Recordings – I’ve loved this Nashville-based bluegrass band for years, even as they have moved through personnel changes that included their lead singer and main songwriter.  (More on that later.)  The Muscle Shoals Recordings is really the first album where Gary Nichols stepped out on his own as the lead voice for The SteelDrivers – no longer in Chris Stapelton’s shadow. Singer-songwriter Peter Cooper describes it this way: Right there, at two minutes and ten seconds into the first …

Back to the Future(man) – How Are We Going to Top Merlefest Day Two?

At 12:30 on Friday afternoon, I thought I had seen the best show I was likely to catch on Day Two of Merlefest. Well, when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong! And I’m here to be the first to admit it. The day started strong.  As I expected, The Steel Wheels had a huge crowd on hand at the Americana stage for their morning set, and they didn’t disappoint.  The Shenandoah Valley band – at both this set and a later gig at the Creekside Stage – played to large and enthusiastic crowds.  I heard more than one person turn to their friend/partner/spouse and say, “These guys were incredible last night.” Spider Wings (“When you got too much, you don’t got anything”…or something like that) was my favorite, but they had so many good tunes coming out of them all day long it was hard to pick out just one.  Lead singer Trent Wagler’s piece about his grandfather’s response to Alzheimer’s – entitled Can’t Take That Music From Me – was lovely. The juggling of schedules …

Fretboard Journal: The 20th Issue

The 20th issue of The Fretboard Journal showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago.  Any time a big package shows up in the mailbox these days, the kids get excited as they wait to hear back on their applications to college.  But I’m the one who shouts for  joy when I see the package that turns out to be my favorite magazine. I’m glad to see The Fretboard Journal make it to 20 issues, as I wasn’t sure they could sustain this model.  But the editors keep putting out the best guitar porn on the planet, with stories about both players and builders. Readers who like North Carolina’s Avett Brothers will want to check out this issue.  As always, there are great introductions to builders and players I’ve never heard of (see the Joe Veillette article and his beautiful creations).   I enjoyed a Bobby Long piece about how Dylan’s Gibson J-200 on the front of Nashville Skyline (see photo at the top of the post) inspired a life-long passion.  Paul Mehling, founder …

Sleep is Overrated When You’ve Got Music to Fuel the Soul

At the end of a busy first day at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville, I took off to the Grand Ole Opry House with about 20 close friends for the taping of a PBS special celebrating 40 Years of Rounder Records.  (Look for the show on March 10, 2010.)  While it started late and ended even later, it was an amazing evening of music. Here’s just a few highlights: Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas playing that great accordion-driven dance music from Louisiana, where the “crawfish got soul and the alligators got the blues.”  My accordion-playing friend Jim Harrington would have loved it.  As my colleague and seatmate  Caroline Barker said, “If I could move my feet like Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas I’d be a dancer instead of a preservationist (perhaps).” Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn singing and playing Keys to the Kingdom.  I heard them do the tune at Merlefest, but it was even better in the controlled setting of the Opry House.  Then Bela and Jerry Douglas played a duet …

Conversation with Fleck (Continued)

On the day after I posted the note about an online conversation between Bela Fleck and Earl Scruggs, our local public radio station – WAMU FM – features an interview with Bela on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.  Bela was there to promote his new album Throw Down the Heart which traces his explorations of the banjo’s roots in Africa.  Click on the link above to listen to the full interview. More to come… DJB

A Conversation with Fleck (not Flatt) and Scruggs

Thanks to the wonderful Bluegrass Blog for highlighting a recent online interview between banjo masters Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck.  Scruggs (photo below) was the inventor of the three-fingered picking style that is integral to the bluegrass sound, and Fleck (photo top) is the banjo innovator who has won 11 Grammy awards and – with his 27 nominations – has the distinction of being nominated in more Grammy categories than any other musician. The interview took place on BMI.com and covers – in just a few short questions – a variety of topics.  Here’s an exchange on their first meeting: BF: Do you remember when John Hartford introduced us by any chance? I’m not expecting you to, but you came over to his place, and he invited me over…I played rhythm guitar, and then at the very end of the session, John said, “Oh, Béla plays a little bit of banjo,” and you said, “Oh, well get it out,” and then I played something for you. I remember, because I thought it was so sweet of …