The Bluegrass Standard - May 2022

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Our Staff

Keith Barnacastle • Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!

Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor

Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

Shelby C. Berry • Journalist

Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.


Susan Marquez • Journalist

Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Stephen Pitalo • Journalist

Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era.

Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.

Emerald Butler • Journalist

Emerald Butler is a writer, songwriter, fiddler, and entertainer from Sale Creek, TN. She has worked and performed various occasions with artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Bobby Osborn, Becky Buller, Alison Brown, top 40 radio host Bob Kingsley, and country songwriter Roger Alan Wade. With a bachelor’s degree in Music Business and a minor in Marketing, Emerald uses her creative talent to share the love of music with others.

Candace Nelson • Journalist

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” In her free time, Nelson travels and blogs about Appalachian food culture at Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email



Jacey Jacobsen

FAITH & FESTIVALS Legendary artists like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, John Legend, and the Jonas Brothers started in the church, a safe place to share talent while worshipping the Lord in their way and blessing those around them. This faithbased music got 20-year-old Louisiana native Jacey Jacobson performing, and while it primarily drives her musical passion today, it didn’t spur the initial sparkle in her eye like bluegrass music.

birthday and contacted a music teacher at Louisiana State University to teach her lessons.

“I don’t come from a musical family, but my dad loves bluegrass music,” said Jacey. “I grew up going to bluegrass music festivals for as long as I can remember. I went to a bluegrass festival called Pecan Ridge Bluegrass Festival in Jackson, Louisiana, when I was 3, and I noticed what an upright bass was for the first time. I watched a family play at the festival, and their daughter played the upright bass. I told my dad I wanted to play that.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a bluegrass music community in the Louisiana area, so Jacey focused more on classical music and classical training on the violin. “Classical music wasn’t something that I necessarily enjoyed, but I went to a lot of bluegrass festivals and got to play the music I loved,” said Jacey. “I went to a lot of SPBGMA events and played at a local venue called The Old South Jamboree. I just played anywhere I could. That’s what got me involved in playing for church and the Baptist Campus Ministries at my college.”

Ironically enough, Jacey performed onstage for the first time at Pecan Ridge Bluegrass Festival with The Saltgrass Band only a few years later. “The Saltgrass Band really helped me a lot, and I got to play with them every year,” said Jacey. “They always let me play with them, and they were always so supportive of me.”

While the upright bass was a little too big for Jacey’s hometown musical community forced her her, Jacey’s dad did buy her a fiddle for her fourth to go out of her way to find her place in music. 8

It also led her to Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars to connect with other young musicians. “My mom found out from Mr. John Colburn that they have a special room at SPBGMA for kids in TBS to jam. Having a community of people that are loving and interested in the same things as you is great. I talked to fellow TBS member Anthony Howell recently about all the opportunities we’ve gotten through this program,” said Jacey. One of the original members in 2013, Jacey credits TBS for giving her a space to play music and looks forward to playing with others. “It’s helpful having a community and having a safe space to play,” said Jacey. As Jacey found her place among other young bluegrass musicians, she also found her footing in music playing in church. Today, she is even involved in leading worship for her church and using her musical talent in a way that lifts others in their faith.

make bluegrass songs sound prettier in a way.” While Jacey’s most significant performance was at her high school graduation in front of over a thousand people, she thrives performing at her church—specifically when performing her favorite hymn, “Because He Lives.” Jacey attends Louisiana State University (LSU) to become a speech therapist while she continues playing music to inspire others. She focuses on school but concentrates on her church’s worship team. “Getting more involved with the music at my church and having more of a role there is something that I’m very excited about.” She added, “I never want to stop playing. I also want to love playing and keep playing for others that love it. The look on people’s faces when they love your music is something that can’t be replicated. I want to keep doing that always.”

“As I’ve gotten older, I have realized I didn’t want to do music full-time. I never wanted to feel like music is something I’m forced to do. So, I love playing in church,” said Jacey. Influenced by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Alan Jackson’s fiddle player Ronnie Bowman, and Alison Krauss, Jacey uses her classical background to give her an edge in the slower bluegrass songs. “It can be a struggle sometimes, but it helps me


Patrick Lawrence works hard to build his brand as a singer/songwriter. “I’m doing all I can using social media,” says Patrick, who has 12.7 thousand followers on his Instagram page. “I started making recordings at home and playing them for friends and family on Facebook. Surprisingly, I gained a following that way.” Raised in Belington, West Virginia, Patrick was born legally blind and with a condition known as albinism. That didn’t slow the rambunctious youngster down. “I had a great childhood. My love of music came from my grandparents, who I spent a lot of time with. They liked classic country and bluegrass, so I listened to a lot of that kind of music as a child.” While in elementary school, Patrick joined the marching band and was drawn to the drums, especially the snare drum. His Uncle Greg bought him a drum set, and one of his sister’s friends came to the house and taught Patrick to play. Soon he was picking things up and creating drumbeats. As

hearing. I pick up all kinds of nuances in songs that many people may not hear.” Patrick began playing with jam bands and progressed to open mic nights and fundraisers. “I have wanted to be in the music business for a long time,” he says. “I began recording myself and putting my music on social media.” That exposure led to a recording contract with Country Roads Records. He later signed with Nashville Entertainment Weekly Records, an independent label located on the infamous Music Row in Nashville. Patrick describes his style of music as bluegrass and outlaw country music. Known for his unique style, he prefers to perform his original songs, although he will sometimes perform covers during a show. “I only record my original music,” states Patrick. “I enjoy songwriting. It is something that seems to come naturally to me.” Like many other creative souls, Patrick says he often comes up with tunes while in the shower. “I’m not

PATRICK LAWRENCE a teen, Patrick got his first guitar and learned to play. “We had a classic country radio station at my high school where I worked,” he says. “I started listening to artists like Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Dwight Yoakam, and I tried to sing and play like them.” Yoakam became a musical role model for young Patrick. “I think Dwight Yoakam’s song, ‘Guitars and Cadillacs’ from the album of the same name may be the best country music song of all time!” As a disc jockey on the school’s radio station, Patrick realized he wasn’t shy. “I discovered that I loved talking into a microphone,” he says. “And I loved the music. As a person who can’t see very well, I tend to focus on the sense of 10

sure why; maybe it’s because when I’m in the shower, I’m not thinking of anything else.” Patrick wrote his first songs as a pre-teen. “I’m kind of embarrassed now, but I started out writing rap lyrics. In high school, I took a creative writing class, and we had to write a song. That was a turning point for me. I have always liked poetry, and I think poetry and songwriting go hand in hand.” Patrick considers himself a competitive songwriter. “When I hear a song I like, I want to write one like it, but with my own twist on it. I almost always like my song better! I’m often inspired by other songwriters and songs as well. For example, my song ‘The Storm Song’ was inspired by Porter Wagoner’s ‘Big Wind.’

I heard his song, and I wanted to write one better than that. My song doesn’t sound at all like his, but Porter’s song definitely inspired me to write my song.” Patrick was recently named a finalist for the best outlaw song in the Winter 2022 World Songwriting Awards for his song, “The Storm.” The singer/songwriter gets inspired the most when something good happens in his life. “I am not a disciplined songwriter,” he muses. “I tend to write when the inspiration hits. For example, I got the idea to write ‘Blackjack Jay’ from a friend who gambled too much. He didn’t like that his experiences inspired my song, but he ended up liking it.” Patrick says the lyrics come first, and then he gets his guitar to come up with the melody. While focusing on building his music career, two eye surgeries sidelined Patrick. “I hope to get things going again soon,” he says. “I’m looking to play at churches and fundraisers but would love to book some festivals for more exposure.” Patrick is thankful for the support he gets from his family and fiancé, Sara. “They have all been super supportive of my dream of being a professional musician, and I am so thankful for that.” NOTE: If you want to put a link to a video of one of his songs, use this: (1) Mother and Father – Patrick Lawrence - Bing video Also, he has a new website: https://



The airways have carried Lee Michael Demsey’s voice for over forty years. As one of several bluegrass hosts of WAMU’s legendary bluegrass programs in Washington, D.C., Lee witnessed many artists rise to fame, and he never tires of seeking out the best recordings for his audience. Lee entered the world of broadcasting through a backdoor, so to speak. “I got a job as a substitute engineer at WAMU-FM when I was a senior at The American University in Washington,” he says. The station is the University’s professionally run 50,000-watt public radio station. Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and then began hosting Rock ‘n Roll Jukebox, a program of hard rock music, in 1975, which quickly became the station’s second most popular show after the Saturday morning bluegrass show. 12


DEMSEY In 1982, WAMU expanded its bluegrass programming, and Lee hosted Capital Bluegrass, a five-day-a-week afternoon show later renamed The Lee Michael Demsey Show. Lee recalls being at a picking party with Pete Kuykendall, the founder and editor of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, in 1989 or 1990. “We began talking about a chart. A guy in Florida had put together a bluegrass chart, but it was not very scientific. Only about twenty or so radio stations reported, and I knew about it because ours was a reporting station.”

Lee explains that he always liked charts. “I started out majoring in math in college before changing my major to communications. I always had a love of numbers as well as music. I followed the Billboard chart, and the countdown shows on the radio 13

at the time.” Lee decided to start his bluegrass chart -- Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine National Bluegrass Survey. The first chart came out in May 1990. “I started with twenty reporting stations, then it got up to forty, and finally I topped fifty. When I first started, reporting was done by phone each month, and some folks faxed in their picks. There was no internet back then, so it was a tedious process, but it was kind of fun in a way because I got to talk to the people who were reporting. Now it’s all done via the internet, and I have many who have reported to me for twenty or more years with whom I have hardly spoken.” May marks the 32nd year of the chart, representing 384 monthly top 30 lists. The radio hosts who contribute to the survey have shows on broadcast, satellite, and internet stations across the United States and in Canada and Australia. Lee says some radio hosts report only songs in the current top thirty, while others report songs that may not be in the top thirty but are songs played on their stations that they 14

like. One of Lee’s favorite things to do is to tell a band they have made it to the chart. “Sometimes, they don’t see much that will give them hope that their song could be a hit. Some of the acts aren’t on labels at all. Some have agents or PR people to help get the band’s name out there, but others are left on their own to create a buzz, which is really a hard thing to do. It’s a tough business, and you have to love it to be in it.” Lee recalls the first chart in May 1990. “Alison Krauss was at the top of the chart. It was for her song Two Highways (written by Larry Cordle) on Rounder Records. She was so honored, at a very young age, to have been at the top of that first chart, but who would have known that she would soon become a superstar?” In addition to his radio gig, Lee has spent time over his career writing liner notes for albums and working at Smithsonian Folkways, where he produced and compiled two volumes of Classic Bluegrass in 2002 and 2005. As he heads into his late sixties, Lee has cut back from his heavy load of five drivetime

shows a week to just one weekend show, on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm Eastern Time, which airs on BluegrassCountry. org. His show includes plenty of contemporary leaning bluegrass music and artist interviews and features, including the monthly Bluegrass Unlimited Top Thirty. Lee records his show from his home studio in Maryland. “We are a 24/7 service, accessed on the internet, and we are on HD radio in the D.C. area. We are the biggest full-time internet radio station in the world! I love doing my show from home because I can do a little here and there throughout the week, which I enjoy,” he says. Lee has been honored for his work in bluegrass radio, receiving the Broadcaster of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 1991. As a bookend to that, he was again honored by the IBMA last fall with the 2021 Distinguished Achievement award.




Born in Nashville and raised in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Jaelee Roberts was destined to be in the music industry. She was born to veteran music professionals and had a remarkable childhood, practically growing up backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Jaelee’s mother, Andrea Roberts, was in the band Petticoat Junction and others. “She played with so many cool people,” says Jaelee. “She is an impressive singer, guitar player, and bass player. She even played bass on the Opry with Bill Monroe!” Now Andrea is a booking agent and manager for bluegrass bands. One of those bands is The Grascals,

and Jaelee’s father, Danny Roberts, plays mandolin with the band. “He has done so many amazing things, and he’s the reason I got to grow up backstage at The Opry! The Grascals would play, and I’ve been lucky to be there most of the times they played. I’m so thankful for both of my parents, and I love them very much.”

which is really awesome. It is just the best to sing and play in church and know it’s all for honoring God.” Jaelee started taking fiddle lessons when she was four years old. “Gail Johnson was my teacher and she played in Petticoat Junction with my mom. I still love to play the fiddle, but my real focus right now is on the guitar.”

An only child, Jaelee says she also grew up singing in church. “It is my favorite place to sing. I started out singing with the other kids in ‘Super Church,’ which was the kids’ church. Now all these years later, I help with Super Church sometimes

As a child growing up in the music business, Jaelee had some fantastic experiences. By age twelve, she had performed on seven recordings. “I’m beyond thankful for the opportunities I have been blessed with from such an 17

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early age. I think getting those opportunities to sing in a studio at such a young age really helped prepare me for the future.” As many child musicians do, Jaelee participated in competitions but discovered after being on stage - even dancing on the Grand Ole Opry with the Opry Square Dancers (thanks to her clogging teachers, Cheryl and Pokey Chunn) - Jaelee began doing fewer competitions and focused more on performing. While still in high school Jaelee was selected to attend GRAMMY Camp in both Nashville and Los Angeles. “The Nashville camp was super cool for the focus of recording in the studio and learning about co-writing and getting a general feel for the music business. The LA camp was insane! I learned

so much about the music business and songwriting and so many things that were important to hear about at a younger age as opposed to learning them as an older person. It was such an amazing experience and, quite literally, one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. It was like a movie when you walked in, and your peers are just everywhere, jamming out on instruments!” Currently Jaelee attends Middle Tennessee State University, where she is majoring in songwriting. “I am so thankful to be attending college there,” she says. “MTSU is the best school, and it has presented me with so many wonderful opportunities.” During the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Jaelee did most of

her classes online and really focused on her songwriting. A reflective time for her, she tried not to be discouraged by the news about the virus. “Songwriting was my escape.” In October 2020, Jaelee received a call from Deanie Richardson asking if she’d like to audition for the vacant guitar/vocal position left by departing member Dale Ann Bradley. “It’s kinda crazy because Deanie played in a band with my dad when she was 13 and banjo player Gena Britt played in a band with my mom when she was a teenager,” says Jaelee. After the call, Deanie sent me a list of songs to work on and a few weeks later I went and did the audition. I was in awe because my musical heroes are in that band – Sister Sadie is a



groundbreaking band for females in bluegrass music” In December 2020, Jaelee performed on the Grand Ole Opry with Sister Sadie for her live audition. This was a very special Opry performance that also aired lived on television celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Bluegrass Music. “Afterwards, I just went backstage and cried. I was so thankful for that


moment. I was literally shaking because it was a dream come true and because I was so excited!” A month later, Jaelee got a group call from the band, saying they wanted her to join them. “It has been such a fun and amazing opportunity for me, and I love getting to play alongside women I’ve looked up to.” In addition to becoming

a full-time member of Sister Sadie in 2021, Jaelee also received the IBMA Momentum Vocalist of the Year award and shared in Sister Sadie’s third IBMA Vocal Group of the Year award. Jaelee’s downtime during the pandemic has resulted in her debut full-length album, Something You Didn’t Count On, set to

be released May 20 on the Mountain Home Music Company label. The title track shows off her skills as a new-generation songwriter and she is cowriter on four of the album’s twelve songs. Two songs on the CD, “Still Waters” by Kelsi Robertson Harrigill and “I Owe Him Everything” by Lyn Rowell, reveal her faith, an essential part of Jaelee’s life. The album also features several unrecorded original songs including a tune composed by Molly Tuttle and Jon Weisberger called “You Can’t Stop Me From Staying” and “Think Again” which was the subject of Jaelee’s very first music video. There’s also a

special appearance by Vince Gill who is singing harmony on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. Joining Jaelee in the studio was an incredible cast of musicians and vocalists: Tim Surrett - bass/vocals/ producer; Kristin Scott Benson – banjo; Alan Bibey – mandolin; Jimmy Mattingly – fiddle; Tony Wray – guitar; along with Kenny and Amanda Smith, Paul and Kelsi Harrigill, and Theo MacMillan on harmony vocals. Jaelee’s powerful and expressive vocals shine throughout the album showcasing the special songs that she has chosen to include on her

debut solo recording. “I have been thinking about making an album for as long as I can remember. I have always known that music was going to be my lifelong pursuit, and I want to share the music in my heart with other people. I’m so thankful to everyone at Mountain Home Music for taking a chance on me and signing me to the label when I was just 19 years old and with very little touring/stage experience. It means so much to have a group of people that believe in you, and I’ll forever be grateful to them for this opportunity.”



For music enthusiasts, especially those who love the banjo’s sound, stepping through the door of Banjo Studio in the Crescent City, the birthplace of jazz, has the feeling of an old friend welcoming you. Born out of a love for music, Banjo Studio is an inspiring musical community center in New Orleans. Owner David Bandrowski opened the shop in 2011 to fulfill a dream. “I grew up playing the 5-String banjo after getting one for a Christmas present when I was 14. I majored in jazz guitar in college at Berklee School of Music in Boston and Loyola University in New Orleans, but I continued to play the 5-string banjo,” said David. Going on to play tenor banjo, 5-string banjo, and guitar professionally for over 25 years, David taught workshops at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. He has played with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Harry Connick Jr’s Big Band members, and The Allman Brothers. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, David and his (now) ex-wife moved to southern California, where there was hardly a live music scene. He began working full-time for Deering Banjos and realized the need for more banjo dealers in the United States that knew the instrument. At that moment, while located in San Diego, David sold banjos on the side while working his full-time job, which proved to be a great decision down the road. After five years in California, David packed his bags and headed back to where he and his music most belonged—New Orleans. In just over a decade, Banjo Studio has become the only Master Deering Banjos Dealer in Louisiana and one of the top acoustic instrument retailers in the world, thanks to his relationship and work experience with Deering while in California. 22

“There are only four or five master dealers in the world,” said David. “I put the idea in front of Janet Deering, and she trusted me and said okay. She knew that I knew the instruments and wanted to promote them as well as I possibly could.” Banjo Studio sells Deering Banjos and is an authorized dealer for Ome Banjos, Rickard Banjos, Pisgah Banjos, Magic Fluke Banjos, and Collings Guitars. In a city rich with musical tradition, David and his team bring much to the table. Whether you’ve been playing music for decades or are brand new to playing, Banjo Studio is there to help you with everything from choosing your first instrument to finding any instrument or accessory you need. “We don’t really do vintage. We focus on the new instruments,” said David. “We don’t carry anything we wouldn’t be happy to play ourselves. It’s really about getting good instruments in the hands of people. So many banjoists start out playing junky instruments and have bad-quality tools. We focus on getting good instruments and information to them so they can make a good decision about what to play.” With this, David prides himself as the only master Deering Banjo dealer in Louisiana. “It gives accreditation and a certain amount of trust to the customers. And once they talk to me, they generally know that I know what I’m talking about,” said David. “It’s a fun process. I want them to enjoy themselves. For 99 percent of the customers, playing music is a hobby. They aren’t trying to be professional musicians. I love getting more people to play acoustic string music and trying to broaden that world.” David is eager to share his passion and knowledge for music—so much so that he offers personalized lessons to his customers.



With a goal in mind of helping you become a better musician and reach any dream that you aspire to, he teaches all styles of music on the 5-string banjo, tenor banjo, and guitar. With lessons offered live or online through video chat, David’s goal is to provide the best experience with Banjo Studio. “I generally teach by ear,” said David. “For a long time, tablature has become a crutch, and you don’t really have any idea what you’re doing. I like to have musicians use their ear. Usually, for a beginner, we try not to go too deep into music theory. We play some melodies and put harmonies to those melodies.” While every instrument leaving the Banjo Studio shop gets a professional setup, learning to play your instrument is still the biggest challenge. Banjo Studio team member and musician Noah English offers entry-level guitar and banjo lessons alongside David’s classes. They also provide three months of free online lessons through Tunefox with the purchase of any instrument in their shop. The world of COVID over the last two years has changed things for a lot of small businesses like Banjo Studio, but there was one positive thing that came out of it for this small music shop—a podcast. Host Jonathan Freilich talks with musicians and instrument makers about their journeys and where they are going. “It was always an idea that we had floating around.” said David. “COVID was a good time for the hobby industry. A lot of people picked up music during COVID. Artists had time, and they were willing to talk. All of the artists that we have had on the podcast are people that I highly, highly respect. We’ve had bluegrass banjo players and jazz guitar players. It’s been fun.” While David has been in the music industry for many decades, his experience with Banjo Studio has been the most rewarding. “When we hear back from a customer and the instrument that we sold them has changed their life, we are so thankful and happy to hear that,” said David. “Getting banjos in the hands of traditional jazz musicians in the New Orleans area, being able to inform them about the different styles of banjo, and teach them what to look for in the instrument is very cool.” As Banjo Studio moves into the future, they hope to stock more quality instruments from different lines and produce more content, and tools musicians can learn and play. So, next time you’re in the Big Easy, be sure to stop by Banjo Studio and let David teach you a thing or two about your favorite instrument.






For JP and Fiddling Leona, bluegrass is not just about enjoying themselves; it’s about sharing the music they love. With the married couple’s new status as TV personalities on two seasons of the Netflix series “Swap Shop,” new avenues for promoting music have crossed their paths. It seems they’ve made lots of new people tune in and take a listen to the kind of music they’ve made most of their lives. “We’ve just had season two of the Netflix series,” JP Mathes said. “It’s been a really interesting experience.” The couple goes “treasure hunting” on the show, scouring their region for collectibles that have resale value or a solid cool quotient. This banjo player and fiddler married back in 2010, and according to Mathes, music is like a magnet that attracted a guy from Tennessee and a girl from Japan. Today it still serves as a strong glue, holding together two musicians from different cultures who came into their instruments differently. “Really, relationship-wise and with everything that pulls us together, we have the goal to push this music and its culture to more people,” Mathes said. “Yeah,” Fiddling Leona added, “keeping the tradition is a very important thing, but also to have to adjust to the age group…or times…in order to keep it going. A lot of the time younger people have the thought of, oh, that’s just ‘old people’ music.” With that in mind, this couple is—well—kinda edgy, maybe a little bit cool (we might as well add in the phrase “cute as a button” for good measure). They offer a kind of forwardthinking diversity in a genre that, while improving, tends to have the slow-to-change approach common to many mountain communities worldwide. The example of this young pair indeed shows that music is the universal language, and it’s a language they are, in a small way, teaching some viewers of “Swap Shop” to begin speaking for the first time. According to Leona, despite a lifetime of performing and touring across the world as JP and Fiddling Leona, before the show aired, she hadn’t been able to garner much media interest personally. The Bluegrass Standard is the first bluegrass magazine to feature her, and she said the first interest in her as a TV personality came from Netflix executives. 29

They chanced across her Instagram account before interviewing her and JP and eventually offered them a role on the show. Now, viewers are attracted to the same thing those executives found intriguing: The interesting fact that a classically-trained violinist from Japan could become so immersed in and enamored with traditional American music. The viewers like it, and she and her husband get constant messages from fans. “She’s been getting love letters,” Mathes laughed, with his fiddling sidekick giggling. The couple describes their new popularity from the TV show as a great platform for achieving their primary goal. “Our dream would have been to inject some Appalachian culture into pop culture,” Mathes explained. Thanks to “Swap Shop,” that dream has become real. The convergence of their paths had been years in the making. Leona claims it began before she was born. 30

“My father is a guitar player in Japan,” she explained. “Basically, he influenced me even when I was in my mom’s belly. Then my parents would play some sort of fiddle music when I was a baby because I would sleep when it was on.” At the tender age of three, the little girl asked her parents for a fiddle. She, of course, started the way most do in Japan, where bluegrass isn’t widely known. She took classical violin lessons. Inspired by her dad’s work, she began to transition over to fiddle-style at around age 13. “He put me on an airplane when I was 15, so I could attend a fiddle camp in California,” she said. “I realized I actually loved dance music.” As for Mathes, his trajectory was what one would expect from a boy raised in the southern Appalachia of Elizabethton, Tennessee. He grew up with his grandparents taking him to Saturday night barn dances in Virginia. Still, he didn’t get truly hooked on the banjo until age 12, after driving through the mountains one day with his uncle, listening to his new CD of The Osborne Brothers’ “From Rocky Top to Muddy Bottom.” He learned to play on an old family heirloom banjo made by a great, great grandfather back in the


1920s. He ended up traveling the globe performing with a college group and eventually became a teacher, serving as an associate professor at The Kentucky School of Bluegrass & Traditional Music. He said teaching taught him a lot about how people choose their instruments. “After teaching so long, I realized a lot of people who are really good at their instrument; it kinda matches their personality,” he explained. The same applies to him, with his outgoing manner. He said his instrument of choice can be “loud” and “abrasive,” and “It never gets to rest…it’s always doing something.” Kind of like this busy couple who are bringing their music to new audiences in a way they could never have anticipated just a few years ago. “Our mission statement,” Mathes said in summary, “is to push bluegrass and traditional music to as many people as possible.” It seems to be working.




There are two things Jerry Andrews loves to fiddle around with—antique guns and guitars. Both help him speak through song. Both ventures involve craftsmanship, and both infuse his life with a passion that seems second-to-none. Not many years separated the time between repairing his first shotgun and starting out playing mainstream country music. He began fooling around with guns in ‘76, and about five years later, he was dabbling in mainstream country. Both things grabbed him, but back then, one grabbed him harder than the other …at least for a while. “In ‘82, I slid my guitar under the bed and didn’t take it out for 37 years,” Andrews said. Instead, fixing antique guns for people took up his time. This guy from Moundsville, West Virginia – who has always loved to upland bird hunt – said he had a reasonably meager upbringing. He’d wanted a doublebarreled shotgun but had to buy a broken one and figure out how to fix it. He did. Then, somebody found out he had the magic touch, so he fixed another. And another. Today, he’s one of a handful of repair experts of L.C. Smith shotguns, and he very well may have the most extensive collection of antique Smith gun parts anywhere – he’s got an astonishing 40,000 original parts from which to work. He’s serious about this; it’s more a vocation than a job. He treats all the guns he works with the way they were when crafted and repaired between 1800 and 1952. There are no shortcuts. There are no modern devices or methods. “It’s an old-world craft. I’m doing it the same way it was done in the 1800s,” he explained. “There’s no way to speed it up and no way to automate it. It’s never been improved upon because it’s a perfect process. It’s been done for hundreds of years.” 34

Photos: Bruce Winges 35


He said he turns barrels a beautiful blue-black color, and when replacing a stock, he gets the gun to look like it did the day it was born: “The rust blue and bone and charcoal case coloring is as close to factory colors as can be obtained.” “Every single gun was handmade, and every single gun is slightly different,” he said. “But there’s no handcrafting anymore.” When it comes to firearms, he said the quality of what is created by hand always wows him. “When I look at the metal-to-metal fit, I am amazed at the fit, and it’s all done without anything like a C&C machine, he said. “I’ve re-stocked 384 of those guns from scratch in my lifetime, and I’ve probably repaired 5,000.” In 2015, Andrews coaxed his guitar out from under the bed. Invited to perform at a local event, he dusted off the old strings and reignited his musical passion. Since then, he and his band – Crandall Creek – have seen as much success as he found with his repair business. Back in 2019, their “Headed South” made the #1 slot on the roots charts, and Andrews talks as if their upcoming album might be even more promising. Crandall Creek has a single out now, “Cake Walk,” which Andrews said is the first single released in advance of the entire record. “Handprints on the Glass” will be late spring or early summer release. Andrews wrote the title song alongside Brink Brinkman, whose songs produced 17 number one hits for various artists. According to Andrews, “when we play it, half the audience bawls.” “We don’t put anything on an album that we didn’t write,” he said, but he tempered the tone of pride in his voice with a heaping dose of bare humility: “I’m not much of a musician, and not much of a vocalist. But I’m a songwriter.” Whether he’s assembling chords and words – or barrels, triggers, and stocks – doing things right seems to matter to Jerry Andrews. After all, old-world L.C. Smiths aren’t all that different from the mountain music of old. They both require dexterity, commitment, and a passion for the past.






Sometimes, separating the components of music – for instance, pulling out the bass, the guitar, or the fiddle – allows musicians to use their recordings in new, innovative ways. Whether it’s to create a karaoke track, alter a song for use in a commercial, remix a song, grab an instrument and bring it forward, tone it down, or isolate it completely usually takes some tech-savvy. The new Audioshake AI platform hopes to make this process much easier for indie musicians. It allows a musician to upload a song, separate the various components – called stems – and use them differently. Think in terms of deconstructing an existing piece of music and then rebuilding it. It’s kind of like that. “We are very focused on helping artists and rights holders make more money for their work,” said Audioshake CEO Jessica Powell. She explained that separating the stems of a piece of music – whether it’s rock, hiphop, or acoustic roots – allows an artist or sound engineer to “increase the energy of one sound versus another.” By all measures, the tech has been getting nods of approval. Audioshake won Sony’s Demixing Challenge, beating out tech companies such as Facebook and Byte Dance. It’s currently in the toolkit of artists with major labels and used by big acts like Green Day. The Audioshake platform has isolated parts of the music for commercials for companies, such as Oreo, and helped create a trailer for Netflix. In other words …it’s been a pretty warm reception. Powell sounds quite excited – as she should be – that punk-pop rockers Green Day embraced the new platform and recently released music on their Tik Tok that they’d created using it. Powell said that the video clip – for the song “2,000 Lightyears Away” – already has well over a million views. Powell said the band lost the masters to its 1991 album, “Kerplunk,” so they used Audioshake to create stems. It was the only way to isolate the things they needed. But does this technology apply to something more old-fashioned, such as bluegrass? Of course, Powell assures. “We are actually working on a documentary project about bluegrass music,” Powell said. “They have quite a few bluegrass and acoustic pieces happening throughout the 41

documentary.” Powell gave an example of Audioshake’s usefulness, and the live performances that often happen in bluegrass and jazz are perfect for this.

underway,” she said, “where we pulled apart an entire album.” In this case, Audioshake is doing all the work, an option available to indie artists who aren’t “techy” and would prefer just to let someone else use the platform to massage the selected tracks.

“In live performance, you have a lot of bleed and a lot of things you’d want to edit out,” Powell explained. “With one of the jazz For instance, background musicians, it’s his widow,” noises from a crowd you Powell said, of how she might find in a jazz club. just turned the music over to Audioshake. “She just She didn’t divulge the sent us the songs, and we artist’s name, but Powell uploaded it.” spoke of a highly wellknown jazz artist for which Audioshake is coming into For most, however, using the platform directly play. is simple – and most affordable. “A big jazz project is 42

“They upload a song,” Powell explained, “select stem types they want, and then listen to a sample… if they like it, they can purchase it.” Powell thinks tech such as that offered by Audioshake will continue to become more and more relevant. “There’s gonna be so many music experiences that will be immersive,” she said, “and use surround sound.” Think Virtual Reality. “Right now, people are sort of blown away by the technology,” Powell said, “but at some point, it’s just going to become a part of people’s workflow.”







The Appalachian

Trail Candace Nelson


The Appalachian region is such a beautiful part of the country that many folks opt to spend months exploring it on foot via the Appalachian Trail. The national scenic trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, and it measures 2,180+ miles from Georgia to Maine. More than 3,000 people attempt to hike through the entire Appalachian Trail each year, but about 750 complete the thru-hike. They spend 5-7 months eating, sleeping, and breathing the outdoors nonstop from start to finish. A trek of that sort requires planning - including avoiding severe weather and coordinating meals. Fortunately, the lush region is home to numerous edible plants that provide snacks on long days. Check out the following list to see what delicious delicacies you might encounter on your hike along the Appalachian Trail. WARNING: The below is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a source for identification. Please consult professional sources to indicate whether a plant is edible; otherwise, misidentifying plants can lead to illness or death. 1. Ramps Ramps, also sometimes referred to as wild leeks, are a wild onion that tastes like it’s crossed with garlic. It is one of Appalachia’s most treasured foraged finds. If you find a patch of these large leaves shooting from the ground, be sure to take care when harvesting them to assure they can grow back year after year. 2. Morels This coveted mushroom hangs out around ash, elm, and oak trees, especially those dead or dying. Check the base of trees to find these subtle fungi, which add a delicious woodsy and nutty flavor to meals. However, keep in mind that some mushrooms are toxic and can be fatal. Be sure your morels have a hollow wrinkly cap and beware of false morels. 3. Blueberries Blueberries are a tasty treat that can be perfect for a snack on the go or topping oatmeal for breakfast. Spot these poppable fruits growing on bushes about two to ten feet tall. They are easily identifiable as small, round blueberries that may be slightly tart. 4. Fiddleheads Fiddleheads are welcome signs of springs in the forest. These curled-up fern fronds are a bit sweet when sauteed with oil, but they also have a nice snappy texture that can be perfect for brightening up a dish. Add aromatics like garlic and onion to really make them sing. 5. Dandelions Those bright yellow flowers popping up on a freshly mown lawn are more than just a nuisance for homeowners. Eat them raw in a salad or sauté the dandelion greens with plenty of salt for a fiber-filled side dish. Just be sure not to take a bite out of a dandelion past its prime - unless you want a mouth full of fuzz. 6. Blackberries There’s nothing quite like stumbling upon a blackberry bush in the woods. It’s like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. These sweet treats are favorites of birds and other mammals, so it can be a race to see who makes the discovery first. The black and purple-colored berries grow together in clusters in large bushes. Watch out 47


for the thorns while harvesting those blackberries. 7. Sassafras Sassafras is a tree used throughout history for medicine and culinary use. The roots, stems, twig leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit are used for different purposes. Due to health concerns, many commercial retailers removed the root and bark once used to make root beer. However, the leaves flavor soups, salads, or other dishes while outdoors. Crawdads Crawdads - or crawfish or crayfish - are small freshwater crustaceans that look like miniature lobsters and live in rivers and streams. Though crawdads aren’t plants or fungi, they could be a welcome addition to the bevy of leafy greens and berries found along the trail. Added bonus: crawdads are a low-calorie, low-fat source of protein. Tasty finds in the woods include mushrooms (chicken of the woods, oyster, and chanterelle), fruits (strawberries, cherries, huckleberries, wineberries, mulberries), chicory, scallions, wintergreen, daylily, and wood sorrel. Appalachia is full of culinary treasures growing along its trails. It can be a wondrous treasure hunt to pick out these natural delicacies. From sweet and juicy to tart and bitter, you will find a little bit of everything along the Appalachian Trail. But remember: No bite is worth your health. Be sure to familiarize yourself with what you might find while hiking; your health and safety are paramount. Bon Appetit.


April 2022 Number



The End of Crazy

Donna Ulisse


New Ballard Branch





Billy Blue Records


Darren Beachley

Turnberry Records


I’ll Be Loving You

Greg Blake

Turnberry Records



Slowly Getting You Out of the Way

Nick Chandler & Delivered

Pinecastle Records



Irons In the Fire

Unspoken Tradition

Mountain Home Music




Laura Orshaw

Dark Shadow Recording



They Sawed Up a Storm

Rick Lang FT/ Becky Buller

Dark Shadow Recording



Whether or Not

Deeper Shade of Blue

Pinecastle Records



Who’s Gonna Tell the Story

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road

Pinecastle Records



Cake Walk

Crandall Creek

Copper Mountain Records



I Hear Banjos

Mike Mitchell

Turnberry Records



Johnny Clay

Kim Robbins

Pinecastle Records



Mountains of Home

Kentucky Just Us




Living Left to Do

Billy Blue Records



Heartbreak Hill

Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers Kristy Stanley

615 Hideaway Records


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