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The Bluegrass Standard

click here to subscribe − it's free! The Bluegrass Standard magazine is published monthly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions of The Bluegrass Standard or its staff, advertisers or readers with the exception of editorials. Publication of the name or the photograph of any person, business or organization in articles or advertising in The Bluegrass Standard is not to be construed as any indication of support of such person, business or organization. The Bluegrass Standard disclaims any responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Advertising rates are subject to change without notice. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right at its sole discretion to reject any advertising for any reason. It is our policy to publish any letters to the editor that are signed and verifiable by phone number. We reserve the right of anonymity upon request. Letters must be grammatically correct, clarity and original and free of libel. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right to decline publishing or reprinting any letter. Please forward any letters to: editor@thebluegrassstandard.com The views expressed are not necessarily those of The Bluegrass Standard. Copyright Š2019. All Rights reserved. No portion of the publication may be reproduced in any form without the expressed consent of the publisher.

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The Blu e gras s St andard St aff 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!

Keith@TheBluegrassStandard.com

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. She writes for many publications.

Richelle@TheBluegrassStandard.com

James Babb • Creative Director James is a native Californian, and a long-time resident of Palm Springs. He creates a unique "look" for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to his creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, James also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

James@TheBluegrassStandard.com

Gloria Ware • Sales and Marketing Director After spending most of her career in the hospitality field both as a trade show manager and hotel Director of Sales in Phoenix, San Francisco and Palm Springs, Gloria is pleased to use her sales and marketing experience to bring advertisers the best way to promote their products and services in The Bluegrass Standard.

Gloria@TheBluegrassStandard.com THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


The Blu e gras s St andard St aff Shelby Campbell Berry • Journalist Editor 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.

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.

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. GoldenAgeOfMusicVideo.com

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.

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 has used her education, experience, and creative talent to share the love of music with others. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


WOMEN IN BLUEGRASS

CONTENTS Lorraine Jordan Camille Nelson Dale Ann Bradley Claire Lynch Alison Brown Jessie Lang THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


Fiddler’s porch

Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars:

Ashlyn Smith Kim Robins Special Tribute:

Elizabeth Cotten Kristin Scott Benson Fiddler’s Anonymous THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

WOMEN IN BLUEGRASS

C O N T E N T S more Laney Lou and The Bird Dogs


WOMEN IN BLUEGRASS

C O N T E N T S back Mama Said String Band Alecia Nugent Sweet Potato Pie Paula Breedlove Ola Belle Reed Valerie Smith THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


SPRING BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL at Sertoma Youth Ranch

The

85 Meyers Road Brooksville, Florida An Evans Media Source Event www.evansmediasource.com

- MC Jo Odom - BALSAM RANGE - NOTHIN FANCY - THE GRASCALS - DON RIGSBY - DONNA ULISSE - LARRY STEPENSON - LARRY EFAW’s Bluegrass Mountaineers - DARRELL WEBB TICKET PRICES Reserve Seating Available Advanced 4-Days $65.00 (ends March 1st, 2018) 4 Day Gate $75.00 - REBEKAH LONG Wed. free with ticket - Thurs. $25.00 - Fri. $30.00 - Sat. $30.00 - Sun. Free with ticket Youth 10-15 years Weekend $15.00 (Or $5 per day) 9 years & under free - BRAD HUDSON CAMPING Hook ups (water & electric) $25.00 nightly - Dry camping $13.00 nightly - LES SEARS in the Spotlight Make Checks payable to: Evans Media Source 6143 Sabre Drive Jacksonville, FL 32244 Tickets & Camping (904) 886886-8378 - email eanddmedia@gmail.com - JAN LADD Gospel Sing “Florida’s Adventure Coast” is a registered trademark of Hernando County, Florida

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Lorraine Jordan A Prominent Woman of the Bluegrass Family by Kara Martinez Bachman 10

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As a well-known woman of bluegrass, North Carolina-based Lorraine Jordan found a way to balance a life on the road with a family life. It sometimes involves sacrifice, though, and one thing that helps her get through it is leaning on what she calls her “bluegrass family.” “Music has always been a big part of my life, and even when I’m not with my family, I’m with the bluegrass family,” she said. “The fans are my family, too, and they have always been there for all of us. I’m fortunate that my family comes on the road with me a lot, too, and enjoys to travel to shows.” Jordan is married and has one daughter, who she said was involved with many activities, including sports and music. She relies on her husband as a true partner in making her career out on the road manageable. “I have a great husband, who took her to all of the games and practices when I couldn’t be there,” Jordan said. “I missed a lot of opportunities with her and family functions. I think I missed every Thanksgiving for about ten years...many a turkey was eaten at Norman Adams Festival or sometimes on the bus!” Jordan called this balancing act “a choice you make, and you can’t just play when it’s convenient.” As lead vocalist and mandolin player, Jordan has an active fan club. She and the band she fronts, Carolina Road, have been out there doing their thing for over 15 years. They have bragging rights to a #1 bluegrass song, and have been recognized over the years with awards from both IBMA and SPBGMA. Jordan credits other women of bluegrass and country Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road as having inspired her. She said among her favorites are Emmy Lou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Roseanne Cash. She said these notable ladies who sing from their hearts “have all stayed true to their traditions” and that they “have no gimmicks” and are “straightforward.” They “pioneered the way for the rest of us to ride along and enjoy doing what we do.”

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Perhaps Jordan’s most notable contribution to the role women play in bluegrass is her participation in The Daughters of Bluegrass, a conglomeration of talented female performers who made music together. “This has always been one of my biggest successes,” Jordan explained. “I feel like after that happened so many doors were opened for women musicians, and many more came out to make music and felt that they could be accepted.” “I don’t mind taking a little credit for that,” she added, “along with my team, like founding member Gena Britt, and the other fine ladies.” Jordan said being a female bluegrass musician has never been a problem for her. “I’ve never felt viewed differently,” she explained, “mostly because my band is a real team. We have males and a female in the band, and they see me pull my weight and do just as much work as them to keep things moving.” She said she heard other female musicians comment on feeling as if they were treated differently, but expressed, “I have never seen that in my band or on the road.” Fans wanting to catch some tunes by Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road or see them live should visit her website http://www.carolinaroadband.com. In addition to a tour of California being put together for this coming year, Jordan and the band will do an Alaskan Bluegrass Cruise. Her official “True Grass” show is heavily booked for 2019, including an appearance slated for the “Song of the Mountains” program. In terms of new recordings, Jordan said a “‘Patriotic Grass’ CD recording with Pinecastle Records will be next for us, and we are hoping to release that in 2019.” When asked about her long-range view of the future, Jordan expects that in the next decade, she’ll still be doing her thing. She hopes to keep making music, and to keep helping others do so as well through her coffee shop and music venue located in Garner, North Carolina.

“I sure hope we will still be playing and going strong with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road,” she said of the future, “and Lorraine’s Coffee House will be in full force, putting fantastic bluegrass bands on stage every week.” 12

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2019 SPBGMA Award Nominees: Song Of The Year True Grass – Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road on Pinecastle Records Bluegrass Album Of The Year True Grass Again – Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road on Pinecastle Records

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Camille Nelson by Richelle Putnam Camille Nelson surrounds herself with stringed instruments because of their expressiveness. “Not that the woodwinds aren’t expressive, or the brass or even drums,” she said, “but, to me and to my ear, there are so many variances of the violin, whether it’s staccato or whether you’re plucking, or just in the vibrato. I feel like stringed instruments are an extension of the voice.” Yet, Nelson is a pro at adding percussive sounds to her acoustic guitar strumming and fingerpicking. “I was really inspired by Michael Hedges, who is the pioneer in the percussive, finger style playing. I was later inspired by Andy McKee and Kaki King and later taught by Kaki King. So, I feel like myself when I’m playing that kind of style and I’m able to incorporate drums, something that has always been an interest to me. It’s a beautiful blend of melodic sounds and harmonics with beats and percussions.” Nelson credits her mother with her love and appreciation for music. When her mother became sick and couldn’t play music or sing music anymore, “We would play for her and then we went off and played our own kind of things, to work out our own emotions. I wasn’t a very expressive child through words because sometimes I didn’t know exactly how I was feeling. “Even as adults, we don’t really know what 14

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we’re feeling, and we have to take time to find out why we’re feeling what we’re feeling.” Music evokes emotion and elicits memories, and “I think we’re all emotional at varying degrees whether we express it through tears or words or actions; we’re all expressive beings whether we admit it or not. Sometimes, it’s hard for us to feel certain emotions and to recall certain things.” For Nelson, a songwriter and musician, it’s melody first and lyrics second. Lyric writing has never been her favorite part of the process because “I haven’t felt good at it. I know people can be the exact opposite of that and I am continuously blown away by master lyric writers.” Nelson’s career, however, goes beyond music. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Utah and received her Doctorate in Leadership Studies from Gongaza University, Spokane, Washington. “As a child I wasn’t a great ‘practicer’ at all. In fact, Dad told me I needed to practice two hours before a competition and so I got as creative as I could and said well 1+1=2,” which means that Nelson pulled a tape recorder from her closet, recorded herself practicing for an hour, and then rewound it to play another hour while she went to her friend’s house. “When [Dad] realized that and I came back home, he said, ‘are you doing this for me or are you doing this for you?’ He said practice makes perfect, but it also creates habits. I just thought about that for a moment and said I’m not practicing for me at all.” Nelson admits she wasn’t a good student. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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In fact, Camille‘s father was floored when she graduated high school. “When I got to college, I caught this vision of education in progression and when I looked at practice, I didn’t look at drudgery. I looked at getting better and learning. When I looked at education, it was about bettering myself, so I could better the world and the people around me and doing my part in making the world a better place. For me it was just a way of progressing.” Plus, Nelson did not feel that music was an option as a career. “It just wasn’t what my parents found sustainable. When I was in school, I got the opportunity to teach German (in Switzerland, where she was also a missionary.) and I’ll never forget how much I loved teaching. It opened my mind to, well, maybe I could be a teacher. Then it opened my world to the professor’s life. It was the perfect career for me to do that, but to also pursue music, due to its flexibility.” Above all, is Nelson’s faith. “I am grateful that I was taught about God and about faith, but it really didn’t become my own until I was about 19 when I lived in Italy.” She was the only person of her faith in her school. “That’s when I got my first appreciation for different cultures, different religions. The more I learned about other people and their cultures and religions, I felt like my mind and perception were expanded.” Nelson has traveled to over 60 countries. The more we learn about other cultures, she said, the more we become open to diversity. “It’s not necessarily about me, it’s about creating those relationships and expanding your own reach,” she said. “Understanding is the greatest gift you can give to anyone.” Finally, as an international speaker, Nelson combines her music, knowledge, and faith. “When I’m talking to a group and it’s not really a faith group, I love talking about individual worth and the mark of who you are and what really matters in life.” Don’t worry. Camille is still very much a professional musician and she’s been composing and working out some arrangements. She also plays to relax. “I think music has always been that place of solace and a go-to for peace.”

Camille’s words of encouragement: “Remember, when you are that butterfly struggling within the cocoon to get out, it only gets better from there.”

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Her new music project, Sacred Lullabies, focuses on children’s music. “The whole purpose of the lullaby is comfort and care. I want people to feel that comfort and care through the music.” The CD will be released at the end of March.

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camillenelson.com Be sure to watch the video “Count Your Many Blessings” where Camille Nelson starts at the piano, goes to the guitar, and ends up on the violin. “To me, if you listen to the original song, it’s a very happy, bouncy song and it never really made sense to me. I turned it into a slower and somber piece that I felt matched the lyrics better, but it was just my interpretation.”

Nelson’s butterfly logo: “It all starts with my mom who was an opera singer and she was Madame Butterfly—that was her main role as an opera singer,” she said. “Not only does the icon symbolize the butterfly, but I was careful in choosing it, because it also looks like an angel. We all love guardian angels around us and they help us evolve into the beautiful butterflies that we are to become.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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HillBilly Fever brings to the stage a crowd-pleasing mix of traditional Bluegrass and gospel favorites, along with a few surprises thrown in for fun. A highlight of their shows comes when Bob and Wes cut loose with some awesome twin fiddling. If you think HillBilly Fever would add a great touch to your next festival or event, contact Mark at: hillbillyfeverband@gmail.com Everybody Needs a Shot of HillBilly Fever!

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Dale Ann Bradley by Susan Marquez From her yard, located at the at the top of Kentucky, Dale Ann Bradley can see the Virginia/Tennessee state line. “I was born and raised on the Kentucky side of the Cumberland Gap,” she says, with an accent as thick as honey and just as sweet. “It was rural – just a backwoods holler. My people worked in the coal mines. I am a Primitive Baptist preacher’s daughter – there were no instruments in our church. My first musical memories were singing acapella in church. “That’s where I learned about minor modal tunes.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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In the late 1960’s, Dale Ann’s parents moved to Detroit. “I had a great uncle in Detroit who was in the car business. He knew I loved music and he bought me my first Martin guitar. I had an 8-track tape player that ran on batteries, and he would bring me sampler 8-track tapes with a real eclectic mix of artists. That’s where I was introduced to Dolly Parton, Faron Young, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis, and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. There’s no denying that Bradley was drawn to music. She took band in high school and her band director, Mearl Risner, was a big influence on her life. After getting that first guitar at age 14, Bradley got into a band with the band director and his wife, Alpha, along with a couple of other kids. Known as “Backporch Grass,” the group played gigs around the area and became pretty popular. “I’ll tell you, when I first started band class in school, it was like drinking water. I just got it.” In the early 1980s, Backporch Grass made the finals of the Marlboro Country Music Round-Up in Lexington, Kentucky. While there, Bradley met an all-female bluegrass band, “The New Coon Creek Girls.” With no other music education other than what she learned in high school band, Bradley made up for it by learning on her own. “I tried to play what other people played on the keyboard and guitar. I was pretty good at copying other people. I researched music all the time. I would call DJ’s and ask who they were playing and I asked if they’d tell me more about the artists. I know I wore people out!” Although she was offered a music scholarship to attend college, Bradley didn’t go. After high school, Bradley got hired on at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, off I-75. Known as “Kentucky’s Country Music Capital,” the 90-acre complex features show theatres, RV parks and a shopping village. She played at the Friday Night barn dance, and was invited to stay, getting an extensive contract. Soon Bradley was performing on all shows and recorded “The Sunday Morning Gatherin’,” the second oldest radio show in America after The Grand Ole Opry. “I learned so much while working at Renfro.”

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While at Renfro Valley, Bradley recorded two solo albums and she joined the New Coon Creek Girls. She went on to perform with them until 1997, recording four albums on Pinecastle Records with the band. Bradley developed as a musician, particularly perfecting her strong vocals. Her music reflects her love of a simpler time. “I have always been a nostalgic person. I have always felt the need to do nostalgic music since I was young. Recording the stories and songs of days gone by is a way of preserving that for future generations. I don’t care about singing about killed animals, or hard-scrabble songs about wrecked trains or cabins.” She does, however, like taking songs from other genres and changing them to fit the bluegrass style. Music has opened doors to Bradley that she never dreamed possible. She has had many international tours to Japan, Ireland, Canada and on cruise ships. She has also had numerous guest spots on The Grand Ole Opry, and says that it still takes her breath away to walk out on that famous stage. Over the years Bradley has received many accolades for her work. After several nominations, she won the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award in 2007, an award she has won five times now. In 2011, the song Somewhere South of Crazy that she penned with Pam Tillis was a nominee for the Song of the Year. While her life has had some ups and downs, it’s the song in her heart that keeps Bradley going. She has one son who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and from her home at the top of the state, she has a clear view of a strong future ahead.

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2019 SPBGMA Award Nominee: Female Vocalist Of The Year Dale Ann Bradley

Visit Dale Ann Bradley's website: daleann.com

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Claire Lynch by Stephen Pitalo

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North Toward Home What Happens When the Reigning Queen of American Bluegrass Claire Lynch Finds Love in Canada? For an artist like Claire Lynch, the key is endurance. Having been the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997, 2010 and 2013 and with Grammy nominations from 1995 to just last year, it’s all about the long haul. Who knew that the twists and turns of a life in bluegrass would lead this undisputed queen of American bluegrass to find her bliss in Canada? She surely didn’t see it when she joined the Front Porch String Band in the 1970s. “I was working a day job at an insurance agency after graduating high school in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama,” Claire recalled. “I went to a music festival on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and ran into a couple of old friends from school who were then attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and had formed a bluegrass band, and they had a gig at this festival. That was the first time I heard live bluegrass. They were the opening act for the McLain Family Band and the whole scene blew me away. One of those friends from high school was named Larry Lynch and we began seeing each other. One night around a campfire at the Smithfield Tennessee Fiddler's Convention where they were competing, they were all picking, and I began to sing along. They said, ‘We didn't know you could sing! We sure could use a good lead singer.’ Eventually, I quit my job at the insurance agency and joined the band. The rest is history.” And then there’s the voice. Lynch’s joyful timber is infectious; this siren call with a softness that doesn’t belie its power, falls somewhere between Dolly Parton and 24

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Kate Bush, with an ageless grace that raises every note to a heavenly smile. Much like her contemporaries Carl Jackson, Jerry Salley, Irene Kelly and Pierce Pettis, Lynch found herself writing songs on Music Row in Nashville in the early 1980s, where she had a front row seat to the ins and outs of the music business, as well as songwriting. “You learn a good song from the inside-out, you have the advantage of having to learn the business of music if you're going to make money, and you get connected with heavyweights in the industry, country music folks in particular, then you learn how the trade organizations affect careers and how to work with publishers and other writers. Plus, you have the advantage of having written a lot of your own material which can only be a clout-booster.” Lynch feels that the “sisterhood” of country music has helped form bonds between her and other prominent women of the genre, including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Alison Brown, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, and more. “From these women, I learned to lighten up on stage without fear of blunders, how to be generous and kind, and how to be disciplined and idealistic. I learned the importance of keeping your word and creating a light-hearted atmosphere in the workplace, whether that be the studio, rehearsals or hanging backstage. There seems to be a craft to even that.” Lynch’s Canadian leanings all started when a fan’s email suggested places for her to play in Toronto. When she emailed back, it sparked a long correspondence about Canada’s culture, history and diverse art scene. She eventually did score a gig in Toronto and what’s better, she fell in love with her pen pal leading to their marriage in 2014. Her 2016 album North by South, which resulted in another Grammy nomination, is the product of a growing love for Canada that is now one of the centerpieces of Lynch’s life. “My mom and dad were born/raised in Syracuse, New York,” Lynch said. “When I was a kid, my mom once said, ‘Everything from Canada is better!’ THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“I guess I believed her. She may have been referring to their food products and other things, but when this guy from Toronto started up a pen pal relationship with me, and then a dating relationship, I decided it must apply to human beings as well. He didn't fail in that department. He was an educator - elementary school - so naturally, he taught me about his country and its people, history and music. I went into the learning process with an open heart and mind. I ended up marrying the guy and now I live here. Who knew?”

Three things you don’t know about Claire Lynch: “I own two accordions and am a self-teaching geek. Same with the nylon-stringed banjo. But the music I play on them is NOT for public consumption. Not just yet, anyhow.” “My dad was a data systems analyst for IBM and worked on the development of the Saturn V Rocket. Werner Von Braun lived down the street from me in high school.” “My maiden name is Lutke and I'm descended from Mennonites who settled from Europe in the Dakotas.”

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Alison Brown

Signature Sound of a Special Artist

by Shelby Campbell Berry

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The power, precision and depth of a banjo’s sound has been a staple for bluegrass music since Earl Scruggs first started using its sound with his music in the 1940s. The banjo has made its mark in music, especially bluegrass music, over the decades and generations, but it has not done so in such a different and modern way until Alison Brown. Known to many as a multi-talented artist, Alison Brown is a Grammy award-winning musician and producer, as well as co-founder and owner of Compass Records. A Harvard-educated MBA degree holder, Alison chose to put her music first in life. Having gotten her start with another Alison in bluegrass music – the iconic and beloved Alison Krauss – as a member of her band Union Station, Alison Brown was destined to do great things in the music industry - and maybe even beyond that. While progressive is the term commonly used to describe Brown’s musical sound, the banjo is the instrument you will always find by her side – so much so that she even named an album after it. This woman of bluegrass brings such a fresh approach with her music to the table that she honestly cannot be compared to any other artist – woman or man – in the industry. She blends a wide variety of roots style music from folk and jazz to Celtic and Latin to form a sound all her own, not replicated by anyone else in the industry. Brown uses this unusual aspect of her musical sound to her advantage, and over the years, her music has won her countless awards in both the United States and worldwide including Grammy awards, IBMA awards, and even a Women in Music Touchstone Award in 2002. Throughout the course of her career, Brown has been honored with several other accomplishments in addition to her awards, such as being selected by the Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee to serve as the Ambassador of Friendship for an inaugural sister city visit to Kamakura, Japan. Her original music was also chosen as the wakeup call music for three separate NASA shuttle flights. With the banjo as her signature musical sound, Alison Brown was selected to collaborate with Deering Banjos to create her own signature banjo model: the Julia Belle. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“We wanted to create a banjo that projects a sound which is not that sharp, has less sustain and better tone separation, and a mellow tone with accentuated bass range,” said Jaroslav Prucha of Deering Banjos. Alison and her team worked with Deering Banjos to create a beautiful instrument with a gorgeous color and finish as well as a unique sound perfect for Alison Brown’s music. In her hands, her 5-string banjo sings with the modifications Brown made to quiet harsh overtones giving it the sweet melodies true to her musical vision. This makes her music like no other. Recently, Brown released her long-awaited studio album appropriately titled The Song of the Banjo, her first album release since 2009. Carefully considering the title of the project, Brown named her newest album after a poem, not the instrument itself, as you might guess. “The poem points to the lyrical side of the banjo, which is the side I’m drawn to,” said Brown of the new album’s title. The Song of the Banjo is a truthful distinct piece of musical artwork, encouraging music listeners who didn’t know they liked the banjo to want to listen. For music lovers who already enjoy the banjo, this album reminds them why. Created with an all-star group of musicians and produced by her very own Compass Records, Brown’s newest album is even more rare in that it not only includes original music by the talented artist, but it features exceptional covers of classic songs by artists like Cyndi Lauper and Chuck Mangione. “Familiar music allows folks to understand an instrument that they may not be overly familiar with,” said Alison Brown. If this album is any indication of Alison Brown’s career success, we don’t think fans have anything to worry about. For two decades, this rare gift to the music industry has been one of the most high-respected women in bluegrass and Americana music, and she isn’t planning to hang up her banjo anytime soon. We are along for the ride.

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Jessie Lang by Emerald Butler I remember walking into the auditorium of a contemporary church in Dalton, Georgia. It was a Saturday night and all the hymns to be sung were done in the Bluegrass tradition. During the first few months of the year, the Woodsong’s concert series brings national and international Bluegrass artists to the area. It was here where I first met Becky Buller, The New Coon Creek Girls, and many more in the Bluegrass community. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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As I walked into the auditorium I remember seeing two girls on stage doing a soundcheck. My friend and concert promoter, Tom Brown, saw me and began introducing me to the girls on stage. Chloe and Jessie Lang hail from Raleigh, North Carolina. The Lang Sisters play an arrangement of Folk, Bluegrass, and Gospel music. As I watched them during their soundcheck, I recognized several instrumental tunes that I was taught. I believe it was Tom who had suggested that I join the sisters on stage for a few songs. To my enjoyment I did. It was a pleasure playing with the Lang Sisters that night, and an even better treat meeting with them. It’s been over a year since that meeting and performance, but I have kept up with the Lang Sisters through social media. Over this time, I have watched the increasing amount of talent and opportunities that have made their way towards the sisters. Jessie Lang in particular. Being the journalist that I am, I decided to check in on Jessie. Along with performing with her sister, Jessie Lang plays in the IBMA Kids on Bluegrass Ensemble, and she is a member of the Carolina Pinecones Bluegrass Band. The flatpicker is endorsed by Preston Thompson Guitars and Shubb Capos, and she has appeared on PBS’s Song of The Mountains television series. IBMA Chair member Rick Lang described Jessie as “one of our music’s young rising stars.” “How did all of this come about?” I asked Jessie during our phone call. “Growing up my parents always took me to a lot of Bluegrass festivals and folk concerts,” Jessie began, “and they were always playing Doc Watson and Alison Krauss around the house.” Jessie began playing guitar at the age of nine and began joining in the jam sessions at festivals. 32

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Both Jessie and Chloe began playing with the Chatham County Junior Appalachian musicians’ program also known as ChamJAM. Eventually the director of the program moved away, and the music slowed down. The Lang sisters were the only ones who stuck with the music, so around 2012 they decided to form their own band. “Well why not play together? We live with each other,” Jesse laughed about her conversation with her sister. “It was just a lot of fun,” she added, “it kept us close.” Jessie met guitar instructor Tim May at a music camp a few years ago. Tim is also an indorsing artist for Preston Thompson Guitars. While at IBMA in 2017, Tim introduced Jessie to Preston Thompson. Jessie had found that bigger guitars weren’t a good fit for her, so she had been really intrigued by the Preston Thompson Guitar build that Tim May often played. After some negotiating and encouragement from Tim, Jessie became the first young female endorsing artist for Preston Thompson Guitars. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Currently Jessie is staying busy with school, practicing and performing with The Carolina Pinecones, songwriting, and preparing for college. Jessie told me that she is interested in studying music therapy, and she also likes the prospect of studying at Belmont University in Nashville. The Carolina Pinecones just released a new CD which features “Tell Me A Story,� a song Jessie co-wrote with Rick Lang. Jessie Lang is definitely keeping a full schedule, and there seems to be plenty of Bluegrass in that schedule. I just hope to continue to see Bluegrass keep a full schedule of Jessie Lang. Visit her website:

http://jessielangmusic.com

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Stomping Grounds Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs Bring Their “Stomp-Grass” Sound from Montana to the Masses by Stephen Pitalo At first exposure, it’s hard to believe the relentless energy that Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs emit. This radiating phenomenon from a bluegrass band out of Bozeman, Montana, seems unlikely, but by combining a soaring four-part harmony and rock 'n' roll drive, this band’s “stomp-grass” can get a crowd roaring like nobody’s business. With a combined 30 years of experience in blues, rock, country, metal, folk, and indie bands, the members of Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs found their common ground in bluegrass and country music and bring a truly unique sound to the folk and bluegrass scene. Born under the big sky in Bozeman, Montana, Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs consists of Lena (Laney) Schiffer on vocals/guitar/percussion, Matt Demarais on vocals/banjo/ dobro, Ethan Demarais on bass, Brian Kassay on fiddle/mandolin/harmonica, and Josh Moore on vocals/guitar. 36

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This award-winning band has been taking their infectious sound on the road since 2013, sharing stages with the likes of Keb Mo', The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Jeff Austin Band, Amy Helm, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Corb Lund, The Mavericks, Mark Chesnutt, Blitzen Trapper, and many more. The Bird Dogs released a live self-titled studio album in 2016, recorded at Basecamp Studio in Bozeman. Their follow-up album, titled The Vigilante Session, was recorded live at a forest service cabin in the Ruby mountains. “Bozeman is indeed a beautiful place to live,” Schiffer said of the locale they call home. “When we return home from touring, we always feel a sense of relief when we enter Montana again. The open space, the big sky, and fresh air allow us to breathe and find inspiration. I personally do a lot of writing when I am on hikes with my dog. I think getting out and walking opens up my mind to let ideas in. My phone is full of voice memos of lyrics and melodies that I come up with!” Schiffer calls their sound “stomp-grass”, which can be described as a tight but fun hard-driving harmonizing of their voices, personalities and talents, as well as all their influences and favorites. “All of us in the band come from different musical backgrounds,” Schiffer said. “We collectively listen to everything from old country to contemporary bluegrass to hard rock to traditional folk. We are known to put on 90’s throwback playlists on long drives too! When the band started, our banjo player, Matt Demarais, and I bonded over our love of Old Crow Medicine Show, The Steeldrivers, and Trampled by Turtles. We learned some of their tunes, and Matt also taught our group a handful of traditional bluegrass songs which we made upbeat and danceable. Once Brian Kassay, our fiddle player, joined the band, our stompy sound really began to take shape. He naturally dances around on stage while playing, which influenced us to start doing the same. Our mantra: If we’re having fun, so will everyone else!”

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The Bird Dogs play mostly festivals, whose audiences, Schiffer said, really electrify the bands’ performances in a way that other crowds just don’t quite match. “The festival crowd brings a wave of positive energy that is almost tangible,” Schiffer explained.” Everyone is there to dance, laugh, soak up the sun, and enjoy live music. There is a great community vibe to festivals, almost like everyone there is your neighbor. I love that it brings people together who might not typically share the same space. For musicians, festivals are a chance to play your best hour-long set. It’s a fun challenge to grab the attention of the audience with only 45-60 minutes to showcase your songs. We also enjoy that we get to meet and connect with numerous bands backstage. Some are our heroes, some are our friends. It’s a great scene altogether.” The band formed in 2013, when Matt Demarais posted an ad on the musicians’ page on Craigslist, searching for a vocalist and/or guitarist to join a new project he had envisioned very clearly. “I had just finished massage school and decided I wanted to sing folk music rather than the indie/rock music I had been playing in previous years,” Schiffer said. “Matt and I immediately hit it off (after I wrote him an essay about why I was qualified to join his band!) Matt was the visionary for this project. He knew he wanted to play upbeat, stompy bluegrass music and we filled in the pieces from there. Matt’s brother, Ethan Demarais, moved back to Bozeman and started as our mandolin player, although he was just learning to play the instrument. Ethan had grown up 38

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playing electric bass in various bands so when our original bass player left the group, Ethan changed roles and started learning and playing upright bass. I had met Brian, our fiddle player, a year or two earlier in a jam session so I called him up and invited him to come practice with us. He sings and writes songs for us as well as playing fiddle, harmonica, and mandolin. For the first 2 ½ years we were a foursome until we decided to add on a lead guitarist. Josh Moore was the obvious choice, as he was a dear friend of mine and had started becoming good friends with the band at that point. Josh not only brings lead guitar to the group, but he is also a talented singer and songwriter.” The band’s name comes from Schiffer’s nickname being Laney Lou, and from Ethan’s dog Waylon who is a black Labrador. “He is the least likely bird dog out there,” Schiffer said, “but we thought he would be a good mascot for the band, especially with his love of a stuffed duck toy at the time! Our logo, drawn by Matt, is Waylon with a set of wings on his back.” Schiffer noted that the music industry is a bit lopsided gender-wise, but she doesn’t let it dominate the aesthetic.

“I notice it from time to time on festival lineups, but in general we are all just doing what we love, whether male or female. I think our sound stands out vocally because of our four-part harmony. “The female voice adds flexibility in what high harmonies we can reach. I look up to so many female folk singers, I am just happy to be up there singing my heart out and playing for people who enjoy our sound!”

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Ashlyn Smith by Shelby Campbell Berry 40

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Little Bluegrass Star with a Bright Future As young bluegrass musicians seem to have taken over the music scene, it’s not uncommon to find young girls with talent and an interest in playing bluegrass. Ashlyn Smith, however, is so much more than that. This nine-year-old Louisville, Kentucky native takes her passion for bluegrass music to a new level. Before hitting double digits in age, this little powerhouse flat picker has already performed at the historic Ryman Auditorium alongside Grammy award-winning bluegrass musician Rhonda Vincent. Raised by her banjo-picking grandparents, Ashlyn grew up attending Friday night bluegrass shows with them, and at the age of five, she knew she wanted to play bluegrass music. She got her first taste of performing at these shows with musician Gary Brewer, who would invite her to perform with him many times over the years. A few years later, at a bluegrass show in Indiana, Ashlyn met her current guitar teacher Jeff Guernsey, and she began taking lessons. “Since I started working with Jeff, I have really come a long way,” said Ashlyn. “He has taught me so many of the bluegrass classics and a wide variety of picking techniques. He even played with me on a local TV show.” Winning her first bluegrass contest with Bill Monroe’s Big Mon, Ashlyn proved she appreciates classic bluegrass musicians and the stories they have to tell. Perhaps she appreciates no other musician more than Rhonda Vincent. In March of 2018, The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival hosted a Ladies Night All-Star Jam hosted by Rhonda Vincent to end the evening. All female bluegrass performers throughout the day, as well as some guests, joined her onstage for the ultimate finale. Ashlyn went on to join these ladies and wowed everyone with her picking – getting a standing ovation and being coined as the “one to watch for.” Seeing Ashlyn’s performance up close, Rhonda immediately asked if Ashlyn would join her at the Ryman Auditorium. There she was given the star-treatment for her THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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debut at the Ryman Auditorium, and a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd at the historic spot in Nashville, Tennessee. Even at such a young age, Ashlyn understood what a huge honor this was. “Rhonda has given me the experience of a lifetime to play on the same stage as so many country and bluegrass legends [have done]. To be able to play with Rhonda and her amazing band is a dream come true. It’s hard to imagine a performer with Rhonda’s status taking the time to put someone like me and other young performers on stage. “I thank her from the bottom of my heart for all she has done for me,” Ashlyn said. In addition to playing with Vincent, Ashlyn has also had the opportunity to play and perform with other successful bluegrass artists, such as Ralph Stanley II, Little Roy & Lizzie, The Po’ Ramblin Boys, Sammy Adkins, and Feller and Hill. She has also performed on Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour more than once, as well as RFDTV and a local TV show in her Louisville hometown. Although Ashlyn has a lot of success in her career so far, she wouldn’t be where she is without her support group at Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS). After TBS founder John Colburn recruited Ashlyn as a new member of the young musicians’ group, she has been able to meet many other TBS kids at SPBGMA and IBMA. 42

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It also doesn’t hurt that Ashlyn’s grandfather, Larry Smith, was recently voted in as the new president of TBS – helping the organization get its footing in Kentucky, as well as bringing new ideas to the group and the other board members. When asked what advice Ashlyn has for other young TBS musicians, she revealed her “wise beyond years” self by saying “Run, don’t walk, to join, as you will meet many talented young pickers and develop lasting friendships. And remember to always practice, practice, practice and keep it fun.” In addition to this young musician’s many accomplishments in her career so far, Ashlyn recently formed a band with other young musicians called Kentucky Borderline. Gathering together for a festival in Kentucky under the direction of Gary Brewer, the musician that first got Ashlyn onstage, this group of musicians loved performing together and went on to perform many other shows with no signs of hanging up their hats anytime soon. Joined by Brannock McCartin on banjo and Mackenzie Bell on mandolin and bass, Ashlyn and her band have plans to play at The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival in March 2019. Needless to say, this little superstar has not-so-little talent and a story to tell, and we can’t wait to hear more.

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Watch Ashlyn Smith on "Great Day Live"!

“I own two Grundy banjos and have probably played a dozen more. These banjos have consistently the best low-end and mid tones, punch and volume of any brand I’ve played.”

LONNIE HOPPERS MISSOURI USA BANJO PLAYER WITH BILL MONROE’S BLUEGRASS BOYS

“My Grundy banjo is very special to me. It has incredible tone and has been so reliable over the last nine years.”

HAMISH DAVIDSON THE DAVIDSON BROTHERS, VICTORIA AUSTRALIA

John Colburn & Maggie

Preserving Bluegrass One Youngster At A Time! Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars continues to support the awareness of its many talented young members, and the preservation of yesterday’s bluegrass music for tomorrow.

Click here to visit the TBS website

Check out the world-class Grundy banjos at: grundybanjos.com “For musicians, an instrument is their musical voice. Serious beginners and professionals have the same preferences… they want a great sound, ease of playing and an instrument that will suit them personally.” LAURENCE GRUNDY MASTER LUTHIER


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Robins’ Hood In the World of Bluegrass, Indiana’s Kim Robins Wants the Ladies to Get Their Due Kim Robins was born into a musical family. Singing in church at age five and

then joining her father’s band, Robins became the youngest original member of the Little Nashville Opry in Nashville, Indiana. She traveled all over the country, opening for legends such as Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell and The Oak Ridge Boys, just by following her mama’s advice: sing loud. With a start like that right out of the gate, Robins began collecting the stories of her life, which later gave her plenty experiences as she began to write songs. “My songs are 99% about experiences I have had in my life,” Robins said. “My father was a musician who ran a band in Indiana. My song “40 Years Late” [also her band’s name] is about how he influenced me in my dream to become a singer. I've written songs about my mother, songs about missing my family, and songs about romances that didn't work out in the end.” Robins grew up with music in her veins but, at age 19, gave her first love a backseat to a new love – her baby girl. After earning two college degrees, raising her daughter as a single mother, and establishing a career, Robins met and married renowned banjo player Butch Robins, reigniting her love of performing.

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Since then, Robins has gained attention with her high-energy, contemporary sound, performing with her band 40 Years Late at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA), the Folk Alliance in Memphis, Merlefest, and opening for notable bluegrass artists such as Ralph Stanley, Bobby Osborne and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice. She feels a kindred spirit among her performing and songwriting female counterparts, since often the bluegrass world can feel like a man’s game. “I believe there are aspects about bluegrass music that are more difficult for a woman,” Robins admitted, who is influenced by the music of Connie Smith, Loretta Lynn, and Barbara Mandrell, as well as Buck Owens, Ray Price and Bill Monroe. “Traditionally, bluegrass has been a male-dominated music genre and women have played a small part. Women have now won awards for their prospective instruments and are getting a lot of radio airplay. I personally have had band members come to work for me only to quit a few months later because they didn't want to work for a woman. I believe there still exists the venue/festival that may be unwilling to hire female led bands or might only hire one female led band for the entire festival. I hope that trend will change, and we will start seeing more female artists on the bill in the future.” In 2017, Robins was nominated for an IBMA Momentum Vocalist award, an award 46

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she was previously nominated for in 2015. In 2016, Kim signed with Pinecastle Records for the release of her sophomore CD, titled Raining in Baltimore, with exposure on radio stations all over the country, including significant airplay on SiriusXM Bluegrass Junction. Robins now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband, businessman and college basketball official Mark Gines, and she balances her career as a nurse investigator with time enjoyed with her family. Although it’s been a hard road, Robins said that young females in the genre should hang in there, like she did. “I would encourage women to live their passion and make the kind of music that makes them happy. Know that some days are going to be tough and there will be times you might feel like quitting, but overall, anything worth doing is worth waiting for. Have a lot of patience and develop a tough skin.” That tough skin no doubt will deliver in spades in the coming year as Robins prepares her band and her life for some impressive leaps forward. “My future goal in bluegrass is to make a name for myself along with my band, 40 Years Late. I've primarily been a solo artist using studio musicians for my CDs, but my band and I are currently in the studio making our first full-band album. It will be released sometime in 2019, with a single hopefully releasing around springtime, and you can look for that project on Pinecastle Records.”

Visit KimRobins.com

Things most people don’t know about Kim Robins: 1. In all the years I have been writing, I've only written one song that wasn't about anything or anyone I knew. 2. I am a registered nurse and work as an investigator for the State of Indiana. 3. My granddaughter’s grandpa on her dad’s side is bluegrass artist Karl Shiflett.

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The Unique, “Upside Down” Musicianship of Elizabeth Cotten 1893 ~ 1987

by Kara Martinez Bachman From her “upside down” picking to her timeless song “Freight Train,” Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten was a unique figure in the history of American folk and blues music. Following in the footsteps of African-American instrumental music traditions, Cotten found her place among the more unique banjo and guitar pickers found in the annals of traditional roots music. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Cotten – who was recognized as a NEA National Heritage fellow in 1984, before her death in 1987 – learned to pick out her tunes on a banjo held upside down, to accommodate the fact that she was left-handed. The little North Carolina girl born in 1892 soon tried her hand at a guitar. According to the NEA, she taught herself to play by first laying the guitar across her lap and plucking one string at a time. Then, she moved on to holding it upside down, the way she’d done previously with her brother’s banjo. It wasn’t long before she’d mastered real chords, and by the time she was 14 years old, Cotten was able to perform many rags and dance tunes, plus her own original compositions. Cotten wrote her most famous and truly authentic number, “Freight Train,” when she was a mere 12 years old. The NEA reported Cotten’s description of how the song came to be. She said she and her brother had spent a lot of time hanging out around railroad tracks, putting things on the tracks and letting the train flatten them. Sometimes when chopping wood, the siblings had sung tunes to occupy themselves, and at times, the music would naturally reflect their time hanging out and playing by the tracks. “We used to sing about trains,” the NEA quoted Cotten as having said. “That was the beginning of me writing ‘Freight Train,’ right about then. That was a long time ago…” The Smithsonian’s Folkways Magazine further described the musician’s unique playing technique, often referred to as “Cotten Style.” 48

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According to Folkways, it is characterized by “simple figures played on the bass strings in counterpoint to a melody played on the treble strings.” In addition to playing upside down, Folkways said she “picked the bass strings with her fingers and the treble (melody strings) with her thumb, creating an almost inimitable sound.” The magazine also describes the specific sound listeners are treated to in “Freight Train” as “an adaptation of Southeastern country ragtime picking.” Cotten married at the age of 15, which seems young by today’s standards, but was quite commonplace at the time. In addition to making music, Cotten held several jobs over the years, including working as a household domestic in North Carolina and many years later, at a department store in Washington, D.C. It was her employment with the family of folk singers, however – the Seeger family – that would prove the most fortuitous. Under their guidance and sponsorship, Cotten would be given opportunities to perform in the homes of congressmen and senators, including John F. Kennedy. Folkways outlines the rest of Cotten’s trajectory, which included finally recording her first album in 1957, at the age of 62. “Elizabeth Cotten: Negro Folk Songs and Tunes” – which was later re-released under the new title of “Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs” – illustrates, according to Folkways, “accessible examples of some of the ‘open’ tunings used in American folk guitar. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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In the 1960s Cotten began to tour the folk festival circuit and released several more albums. According to Folkways, it all culminated in a career-high of receiving a 1985 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for the release, “Elizabeth Cotten Live.” The award came when Cotten was 90 years old. Since her death, Cotten is credited as having inspired many artists, including The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, both of whom have covered Cotten’s original songs based in African-American musical traditions.

Read more about Elizabeth Cotten in Murphy Hicks Henry’s "Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass" – available through Amazon.com

Artist Spotlight and audio recordings on the Smithsonian FolkWays website

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 Fiddler’s Porch 

Kristin Scott Benson by Emerald Butler Most often artists and singers are more well-known and celebrated for their accomplishments than those of the musicians that are the driving force behind music. Yet there is something special about the acoustic sounds of Bluegrass music that helps us remember these talented musicians. One of these noteworthy musicians is banjo extraordinaire Kristin Scott Benton. Kristin is best known for her work with award-winning band The Grascals. The band has been featured on The Late, Late Show, played for United States presidents, recorded with Dolly Parton, been nominated for Grammy’s, and so much more. Yet as Kristin looks back among the many performances, she is most fond of the moments jamming with her banjo heroes either back stage or at a music camp. “If I had to name one thing that I appreciate the most about my career that would be it,” Kristin shared. “If you had told me when I was a 16-year-old kid that I would get to know some of these people and be their friend I wouldn’t have believed it.” This past year Kristin was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. “It’s crazy to think that you can get awarded for something you love to do,” the banjo player commented. Kristin has recorded three banjo albums, and she released the single “Oh Holy Night” this past Christmas season. The Grascals are currently working on a new album, and Kristin is scheduled to teach at Bela Fleck’s Blue Ridge Banjo camp later this year. She is also working on a book for the Hal Leonard 52

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company called “25 Great Bluegrass Banjo Solos.” Along with being a touring, teaching, and recording musician, Kristin Scott Benson is also a wife and mom. She is married to Wayne Benson who plays mandolin for Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. “That’s one of the hardest parts of any career,” Kristin stated about balancing home life with a job. “These are the same challenges that we would have no matter what our jobs were.” Wayne and Kristin have a 12-year-old son, Hogan. The majority of the time one parent is off the road while the other is on, but while both Kristin and Wayne are gone, Hogan is looked after by his Grandmother. Kristin shared that moving back to the Carolina’s and closer to her mom has been a real blessing. While some of her heroes like Bela Fleck and Alison Brown may take center stage with their banjo, Kristin prefers to be in the backing part of a band. “The most comfortable thing for me is being a part of a band and supporting singers.” Kristin shared that she was first moved by banjo playing upon seeing Scott Vestal in Doyle Lawson’s band. Though she still enjoys writing and playing instrumentals, Kristin said her heart is still with vocal music and “the whole package.” Kristin gets to work a lot with that “whole package,” and she often gets asked about the difficulty of being the only female in a band. “It’s not all that unusual anymore,” she began, “sometimes I think that people are shocked to hear that I haven’t had any negative experiences.” Kristin gives credit to all of the guys she has traveled with for that. “I think it speaks to the high quality of the men I’ve been able to travel with. I count myself very fortunate and appreciative to all the men that I’ve traveled with.” Kristin said that she sees more women in Bluegrass now than ever before.

“Society in general has changed and there are girls doing all kinds of things. No longer do we have many professions where females presume that they aren’t welcome because things have just changed, and I think Bluegrass music is a reflection of that.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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 Fiddler’s Porch 

Fiddler’s Anonymous by Emerald Butler 2248 Dayton Boulevard Chattanooga, Tennessee is the home of Fiddler’s Anonymous.

The shop is filled with hundreds of fiddles and thousands of cases. Every Sunday, August Bruce gives free group fiddle lessons to people of all ages. At 2:00 P.M. the school starts with newbies. August begins by explaining the basic details of a fiddle before she walks the students to the hallway and sizes them up for a fiddle to learn with. The next class for beginners begins at 2:30 P.M. and they start playing songs like Mary Had A Little Lamb. At 3:00 P.M. kid’s showcase starts, and students get to show off what they have learned. Intermediates begin at 3:30 P.M., and then they wrap up the lessons with a big potluck dinner and jam session. However, the process of getting to these beginning lessons may be more anonymous than the lessons themselves. August Bruce has been a fiddle teacher since she was 15 years old. She started out in her hometown in Missouri before she moved to Tennessee. After years of teaching, she had to set aside teaching music lessons in order to take care of her father who was struggling with his health. After her father passed away, most of August’s students had moved on, quit, or found other music teachers. August began giving fiddle lessons again, but she didn’t have enough students to make it financially stable. “I was needing a refocus with my music,” August recalls. The fiddle teacher remembers thinking a lot about students who couldn’t afford to buy an instrument 54

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or to continue to pay for lessons. She was frustrated with not being able to teach and with people not being able to take lessons. “I’m going to start a free fiddle school,” she told her husband. “I’m going to clean out the basement and start giving group lessons for free.” At first, her husband, Eric Bruce, didn’t think that it was the best idea. He was concerned with having strangers in their house. Still, this idea was heavy on August’s heart. Two weeks later, August confronted her husband with a compromise. She proposed to have the school in their basement without letting people upstairs into their house. This time, he agreed. With the help of her sister and the mother of one of her students, August cleaned out their old, grungy, one room basement, and began giving free group fiddle lessons. Not long after she began lessons, August found out about a local farmers market in her hometown of Red Bank, Tennessee. August contacted the market coordinator, and they began an outreach program. They would take a sound system and a table covered with fiddles of different sizes to the market and play music. They would invite people to stop by their booth and try out a fiddle. People of all ages would come by the table. “You could see it in their eyes,” August thought back. “A type of gleam. Like they were asking, ‘do you think I could try it?’” A lot of these curious people would begin to come to the free fiddle school at August’s house. About nine months into the project, there were about 35 people crammed into the Bruce’ basement. August confessed that she began whining to everyone she knew that they needed a bigger space for the fiddle school. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Yet August was barely making payments for her own home and bills. How would she be able to make payments for another space? “You’ve got to step out on faith when you know it’s time,” August Bruce stated. The Scenic City Scooter Shop was owned by the grandparents of one of August’s fiddle students, Lilly, whom she met at the local market. Along with private lessons, Lilly attended the weekly group lessons in August’s basement. Lilly’s grandmother, Kathy, was a believer in what August was doing. After months of August looking for a new place, Kathy and her husband decided to retire, and the door to a new space was open. It took the wages of several private lessons and some convincing from Kathy, for August to finally move her fiddle school into a bigger space. “I had a whole handful of believers at the beginning that helped me believe in myself and believe that what I was doing was worthy of doing it,” August said. Today, Fiddler’s Anonymous is filled with fiddles, guitars, mandolins, and other instruments. Private music lessons for various instruments are given throughout the week, and group lessons still continue on Sundays. Currently, Fiddler’s Anonymous is making enough money to make ends meet, but August and Eric Bruce aren’t really making any money off of the business. Yet, they continue to share the love and knowledge of music because it is what they love doing.

“If it’s meant to be it will be,” August said praising God, “and it will be better than you imagine it.”

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Mama Said Knock You Out by Stephen Pitalo

Tight Fivesome from Kentucky Deliver a Progressive One-Two Punch.

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An inspiring group. A harmonizing wonder. A great band. These are some ways that fans describe the Mama Said String Band. Another is a goat rodeo. The term refers to a chaotic situation or unmanageable event. The band members don’t mind at all. “Some of our fans may refer to us as a goat rodeo because we steer away from the traditional bluegrass sound,” guitarist & banjo player Kaitlen Farmer explained. “We have been labeled ‘progressive’ probably due to the fact that we use modern elements because of our diverse musical backgrounds.” One of the buzziest bluegrass bands to hit the scene in a while, Mama Said String Band gives its listeners incredible harmonies and innovative instrumentation, all from a band with a strong female presence (four of the five musicians in the band are women). With members Farmer, Adlai Filiatreau, also on guitar & banjo, Stephanie Kidd on mandolin, David O’Neal on fiddle, and Katie Didit on the bass fiddle, Mama Said delivers the goods in a big way. Their mountain-grown harmonies along with an authentic but progressive style give this band a strange edginess, one that places them among the most interesting bands in contemporary bluegrass & Americana music. In the past two years, this ensemble performed at various notable festivals and events including FloydFest, Bristol Rhythm and Roots, and Terrapin Hill Farm. In June 2018, the band was named runner-up at the annual John Hartford Memorial Festival band competition. They also were nominated as finalist in the category of Bluegrass Artist of the Year at the Louisville Music Awards. Mama Said String Band released their debut album in February 2018 and reviewers have boldly praised the up and coming five-piece, whose name popped up literally out of nowhere. “One evening we were in the backyard hanging out in the Highlands of Louisville,” noted Farmer. “We were racking our brains looking for a pseudonym under which to perform. As we were tossing ideas between ourselves, a dear friend of ours, Lucia, offered up the name Mama Said. We thought it was a great name and we stuck to it.” Eight years ago, three of the members met at a festival, hit it off, and knew they’d be making music together someday.

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“Steph, Kate and myself all met at a wonderful festival called Terrapin Hill,” said Filiatreau. “Spending late nights picking around the campfire, we realized we all had a musical connection. Later on, down the road, we met Katie and David who became the missing puzzle pieces to our finished project.” The band’s sound is best absorbed organically at one of their performances. To say they make it look easy is an understatement. “The overall sound, most would say, can be best captured at one of our live performances,” agreed Katie Didit, “whether that be at a 2pm intimate sit-down show or a 2am late night show at a summer festival. We have strong female vocal harmonies with intricate instrumentation. Every band member brings forth different influences such as bluegrass, classical, and folk.”

Check out Mama Said online: mamasaidstringband.com

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Alecia Nugent The Voice Can be Instrumental for Bluegrass Women by Kara Martinez Bachman Alecia Nugent says if she was ever going to serve as a “voice” for women of bluegrass, it would be to speak out in favor of...the human voice! She’s got strong opinions on the topic. “It’s not been easy as a woman in bluegrass, especially one who does not play an instrument,” she explained. “In this genre, it’s so criticized to get on stage and not play an instrument.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


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Nugent said she can play a little guitar, but why do it when there are much better performers out there who would put on a better show? Old ways die hard, though, and one expectation in bluegrass is that a guitar, mandolin, or some other instrument should come along with a singer, as a sort of musicianship package deal. “I never have really understood that, because my voice is my instrument,” Nugent said. “I despise that attitude, and I’m so glad to see that turning around for women who just want to use their voice as their instrument.” She said she’s had great musicians such as Andy Falco of the Infamous Stringdusters playing guitar for her, and often has asked: “Do you think I can play what he can play? I’m the professional singer...let the professional guitar player be the professional guitar player.” She’s been honing her own instrument for decades. A native of Hickory Grove, Louisiana who now lives in Nashville, Nugent began singing long ago in her father’s Southland Bluegrass Band and was lead singer by the time she was a teen. “When I started in bluegrass with my dad’s band, there weren't that many women in bluegrass,” she said. She admitted many of her early idols were straight-up country, such as Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton, but she also mentioned Rhonda Vincent. “Of course, I admire Rhonda and everything she’s done, but even then, she wasn't of the status of what she is now,” Nugent said. There were also the female members of The Cox Family, who were familiar to Nugent because they were also from Louisiana. “I definitely was around The Cox Family and saw them more than any other family in bluegrass,” she said. “I would say they were quite an inspiration to me.” Nugent moved from Louisiana to Tennessee in 2002, after crafting her first album with producer Carl Jackson. “After being here, recording here, and going backstage at the Grand Ole Opry...I was just in awe,” she reminisced, adding that Opry radio announcer Eddie Stubbs “became a good friend of mine, and he basically inspired me to move.”

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In 2006 she released her second, “A Little Girl...A Big Four-Lane,” and in 2009, her most recent recording – "Hillbilly Goddess" – featured another partnership with Carl Jackson, duets with Bradley Walker and J.D. Crowe, and music made by members of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Blue Highway, The Dan Tyminski Band, and The Infamous Stringdusters. Then, a break from the business turned into an unexpectedly lengthy hiatus. First, she pulled back from touring to spend more time with her three daughters, who are now adults. “At that time, I didn't make a conscious decision to leave the music, I was just going to slow down,” she said, explaining she fully intended to make another album with Rounder Records. Then, her father – who she described as the biggest musical influence of her life – was diagnosed with cancer. “My dad passed away in 2013, and at that point I was pretty much stuck with a fulltime job...I didn't know how I would find my way back to the music.” But she did. In the past year-and-a-half that she’s been active again, good things have been happening. For instance, she’s booked a 2019 tour in Ireland. She’ll also be working soon with Grammy Award-winning music producer and songwriter Keith Stegall, who has worked in the past with popular acts ranging from Alan Jackson to the Zac Brown Band. She’ll record in April, in anticipation of releasing the indie-label record at the end of June. “I've always wanted to do a more classic country or Americana album, and I’ll get to do that with Keith,” she said. By all indications, the bluegrass community is glad to welcome her back into the fold.

“This last IBMA was my first in seven or eight years,” she said, “and everyone greeted me with open arms.”

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Sweet Potato Pie

“As Sweet as Pie” by Shelby Campbell Berry THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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A female band with a name just as sweet, Sweet Potato Pie is a lady-dominated bluegrass band you don’t want to miss. Performing together for almost two decades, the ladies of Sweet Potato Pie are a powerhouse of female voices with an uplifting stage presence, a blend of harmonies, and a combination of bluegrass, country and gospel music that create their own sweet sound. A new term, ‘sweetgrass,’ was coined to describe the sound of this all-female band. With the instrumentation of bluegrass and a sweeter, easy listening feel – this band epitomizes sweetgrass. With a sound all their own, Sweet Potato Pie intrigues listeners who weren’t fans of traditional bluegrass music but loved the band’s interesting style. “Most of us grew up listening to the smooth sounds of the country music legends from the 1960s to 1980s. We draw from the best sounds of gospel, rock and blues music. We love harmony music – that’s the cornerstone of our sound,” said band member Sonya Stead. Known to many as The Lennon Sisters of bluegrass, Sweet Potato Pie tries to live up to the name, focusing their shows on three-part harmonies and instrumentals with beautiful melodies. When you walk through the doors of a Sweet Potato Pie show, you are in for a treat and a night of sensational entertainment – with songs by Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe and other legends, along with their chart-topping originals for an unforgettable experience.

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“Patsy had such an incredible sound when she sang, you could just feel the emotion in her voice,” said Sonya. “Bill Monroe helped create a musical sound that is still trying to be duplicated all over the world. We love his pioneering spirit and his determination to make a difference with his music. Both of these artists had very different sounds. We do not try to duplicate them, but we do take their sound and songs and pie-fy them.” Their story a bit different from many bluegrass bands, the three original members of Sweet Potato Pie didn’t know much at all about bluegrass music prior to the year 2000 when the band was formed. It all started with friends learning to play acoustic instruments together for fun - with one of the ladies learning to play the banjo. After being asked to perform at a local event, the group of ladies decided on a name that was sweet and easy to remember. Today, the group is made up of original band member Sonya Stead on guitar, Crystal Richardson on banjo, Sandy Whitley on bass, Katie Springer on fiddle, Tori Jones on fiddle, and Madeleine Baucom on guitar. Each of various ages and stories in bluegrass music, these ladies come together for one reason – to play their sweetgrass sound. After almost two decades of nonstop performances as a band, Sweet Potato Pie is the longest running allfemale band in bluegrass with seven albums of original music, classic country, gospel, and Christmas music. These albums include a #1 Album on Bluegrass APD charts, a #3 Album on the Holiday APD charts, and a few songs featured on national networks like PBS and Food Network. Their most recent release was a single titled Stand Up released on Veterans Day 2017.

“We wrote and recorded Stand Up to express our feelings about this great country and the freedoms we enjoy,” said Sonya. “We release it as a way to say thank you to our service men and women and all the veterans who have served our nation.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Along with decades of success as an all-female band, Sweet Potato Pie is also sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Growers. In 2015, the band’s music was chosen for use in elementary classrooms to teach students about the state’s agricultural crops. Also, their music is featured in various high school curriculums across North Carolina, which produces roughly 50 percent of the country’s sweet potatoes making agriculture very important to the state. “It was an honor to have our music chosen to help teach children in the state about North Carolina agriculture. We are so proud to educate people about the sweet potatoes both on the stage as we single their jingle and in the classrooms through our music,” said Sonya. Entering a new year, the ladies of Sweet Potato Pie are getting ready to step into the studio for the eighth time to begin recording their next album. With new original music to share, it’s sure to be a treat for all of us sweetgrass fans. “We are women who have come together to create and play for almost two decades,” said Sonya. “We have raised children, held jobs, worked in the community, written music, traveled and tried to uplift and inspire others. We have created a band culture that puts the team before the individual. For us, it’s about the journey with people you love, and that’s what we are going to keep doing.”

Visit the band’s website: sweet-potato-pie.com

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Paula Breedlove by Richelle Putnam Paula Breedlove never trusted her melodic instincts to be original, so she stuck with what she knew and with what she loves—words. “I think that because I didn’t play an instrument, my lyrics were better because if I spent a lot of time working on my musicianship, I don’t think I would’ve developed my writing as well,” said Breedlove. And develop, she has. She co-wrote “More Nights” with award-winning Nashville songwriter Bob Morrison, which appeared on the soundtrack of the 1983 Dennis Quaid film “Tough Enough”; “When Fear Comes Knockin’,” cowritten with Gerald Crabb, recorded by the Gaither Vocal Band in 2014; “Derailed,” co-written with Brad Davis and recorded by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver; “Never Give the Devil a Ride,” co-written with Brad Davis and recorded by the Bankesters; “The Great Divide,” cowritten with and recorded by Tommy Shaw; “God Didn’t Choose Sides,” title song on the album Volume 1: Civil War True Stories About Real People, co-written with Mark “Brink” Brinkman, and too many more to list. “Writing happens all different ways; sometimes it happens in the middle of the night, sometimes somebody will say something to you,” said Breedlove. “And what’s crazy is advertisements. Advertisers are very creative people and you can watch TV and hear somebody say something and you get an idea because it sounds like a song, or sometimes you have a story you want to tell.” With the Civil War compilation, the stories were already there, she explained, “and we had to come up with a nice hook. Some were up tempo bluegrass, some were ballads. I co-wrote 10 of the songs on the God Didn’t Choose Sides CD and every song was sung by a different artist for Rural Rhythms,” like Russell Moore, Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Rickey Wasson, Ronnie Bowman, Bradley Walker, Carrie THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Hassler, Marty Raybon and Dave Adkins. “It was cool because some of the people I had been pitching ideas to for years and wanted to get a song cut by them, I was able to do that because of the project.” Co-writers on the Civil War CD included Mark Brinkman, Brad Davis, Mike Evans, and others. Looking back at the songs that are now standards… “they are the ballads,” said Breedlove. “The Civil War project was so different because it was all true. I remember crying while I was working on it. I wrote the song about a river and the North was on one side and the South on the other. Both sides put their guns down to honor a baptism in the river. I ran with tears in my eyes because I knew the title to the song—God Didn’t Choose Sides,” which became the title to the CD. Breedlove makes all this sound so easy, but her journey as a lyric writer was long and arduous. Breaking in “was really hard, because I was really intimidated, especially in bluegrass, because it’s all about musicians. And a woman with just words, I thought I don’t know if I can do that. I managed to hook up with some people; Brad Davis, he’s so good with music, and we started writing together years ago.” I studied the country songwriters, who wrote melodies and who wrote words. Back then I was able to send things in the mail.” People like Bob Morrison and Archie Jordan were looking at Breedlove’s lyrics and the first time she went into town, she went in to see them. “I don’t know if I would have the courage to do that today, but back then it worked.” Abruptly, however, her success in the 1980s yielded to a grave interruption in the 1990s—cancer. “My parents and myself all had cancer within a three-year period. I was 42 and my mom was 62 when she was diagnosed. My daughter was 32 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom had it first. So, I didn’t do a lot of writing during that time. That really took a toll on me.” Being on the other side of the bed, when you’re not sick and taking care of somebody, takes a greater toll on you, she added. “My mom and I were very close when she passed. I wasn’t even able to grieve because I had to step right in and take care of my dad.” When her dad passed, Breedlove 70

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became severely depressed because she hadn’t had time to think about it or to even grieve her mother’s death, much less her dad’s. “I remember going home and sleeping in my own bed and breaking down. “ Breedlove doesn’t remember how long it was before she started writing again, but she does remember going to Nashville and feeling so tired. “It seems like it was a ten-year gap.” Had that gap changed her writing? She reminisced about a night long ago when she overheard her parents talking about people dying of cancer. “I wasn’t supposed to be listening. Every night when I said my prayers, I prayed please don’t ever let my mom, my dad, my grandma, my brother, or me ever get cancer. You know the end of that story…we’ve all had it, so I wrote down, when fear comes knocking, let faith answer the door.” Fast forward to the 2013 IBMA, when she and Mark Brinkman each were up for songwriter of the year for the Civil War project. “I thought Gerald Crabb (who has 25 #1 hits to his credit) would be unapproachable. He is the sweetest man you could ever meet. He said, ‘We should write something.’ And I had that lyric written and I sent it to him, and this is the series of miracles. His son, Adam, was then asked to sing with the Gaither Vocal band. And he took that song and the Gaither Vocal band recorded it.” If it hadn’t been for her faith and her music, Breedlove says she doesn’t know what she would have done. “I wish my mom could see now what’s going on because she was my biggest fan.”

What Paula Breedlove wants readers to know most: Cancer can be beat if you catch it early enough. Then, keep on with your dreams. As a woman, you can fit into the bluegrass scene. I’ve never had a problem as a woman anywhere, doing anything. As a lyricist, there is a place for you... because people need good lyrics! THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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The Old-Time Strength of

Ola Belle Reed by Kara Martinez Bachman

In a review of recordings of Ola Belle Reed’s music – of 2010’s CD titled “Rising Sun Melodies” – Bill Friskics-Warren of The Washington Post succinctly described the style and influences of this fiercely rugged woman of bluegrass. The album included a revisit of some previously released songs, plus eight never-before-released tracks. In the review, he said Reed displayed a “forceful clawhammer banjo playing and keening voice, both of them the epitome of the Appalachian Mountains in which she grew up.” That’s it, really, in a nutshell. That says it all. Friskics-Warren added, however, that her “resilient spirit, informed by the poverty that she and her family knew during the Depression, courses through the album.”

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Watching an old clip of the songstress is akin to watching a stalwart survivor, someone who sings from a position of being fully grounded after making it through tough times. Ola Belle Reed is special in her authentic strength as a “woman of bluegrass.” Reed grew up in Lansing, North Carolina. As one of 13 children, the hardships were practically already baked into the family cake. It’s difficult for any family to have 13 children, and it was even more so during Reed’s formative years, when according to the National Endowment for the Arts, her family struggled through “insurmountable economic burden.” As did most throughout the deprivation years of the Great Depression, her family made do the best way they could, through “frugality and hard work” on a summer farm the family owned. Those days were particularly hard in the Appalachian region, where coal was king, poverty was the norm, and new economic opportunities were few and far between. According to NEA, Reed picked up the musical genes from a grandfather who was a Primitive Baptist preacher and fiddle player, as well as from a father who played fiddle, banjo and guitar and an uncle who “sang mining songs from the coalfields of West Virginia.” In her early days, Reed played old-time banjo with the North Carolina Ridge Runners, who sang before Appalachian migrant audiences in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. In 1945 she declined an offer to sing as part of Roy Acuff’s backup group, but several years later, formed her own outfit, the New River Boys, which included one of her brothers. Both performed in and sponsored music programs at country music parks, including the one Reed helped to found, the New River Ranch, in Rising Sun, Maryland. By the time the mid-1960s rolled around, Reed and her band also received nationwide exposure via a popular radio station – WWVA – which broadcasted from Wheeling, West Virginia. 74

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The NEA write-up on Reed explained that in her later years, she continued to perform, but primarily just with members of her family, including her husband and son. It was usually restricted at this time to “informal gatherings she organized for her neighbors and friends.” The NEA also shared a story Reed told, where at one of the gatherings, the continuous dancing wore down a linoleum rug that had just been placed on the kitchen floor. There was so much dancing, Reed reminisced, that “next morning, there was nothing left but black. They wore the whole [linoleum] top off.” It’s a pretty strong testament to Reed’s ability to entertain. Talk about literally “cutting a rug”! Over the years, Reed’s songs referred often to her Appalachian roots and mountain folk life, and as NEA described, “family traditions, religious values, and social justice.” In 1978, Reed received an honorary doctorate of letters from University of Maryland, awarded for her contributions to arts and culture. In 1986, Ola Belle Reed was selected as a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. She suffered a major stroke in 1987 and was incapacitated until her death in 2002. Her contributions have been acknowledged, as other artists have covered her songs; Del McCoury, Tim O’Brien, and Marty Stuart have all recorded covers of her “High on the Mountain.” This number joins other hearty old-time tunes such as “I’ve Endured” and “My Epitaph” in a collection of traditional music that is sure to stand the test of time. Ola Belle Reed today stands tall among the earthy, strong women woven into the historical fabric of the bluegrass genre.

Read more about Ola Mae Reed in Murphy Hicks Henry’s "Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass" – available through Amazon.com

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Valerie Smith by Emerald Butler "It all starts with a song,” Valerie Smith stated. “I am a music enthusiast. I love a lot of different music, and it’s like a playground for me.” With over ten albums and hundreds of songs, Valerie’s music encompasses a wide range of genres from Bluegrass to Country and even some Phil Collins and Beatles hits. “If you find a great song, you owe it to that song to sing it,” Valerie shared. The Grammy, IBMA, and Dove award nominee and winner credits several of her mentors and teachers for teaching her this simple yet valuable lesson. Still with the amount of talent, skill, and creativity this lady has, it’s hard to know where exactly to begin. A small-town Missouri native, Valerie moved to Nashville after her husband, a geologist, got a job in the city. Valerie admitted that she didn’t quite know what to do when she first got to Nashville. “I don’t think I got out of my house for a while,” she said, “I didn’t know where to go or what to do.” Valerie’s sister called her one day and asked, “what are you doing not getting out of the house?” Valerie’s sister convinced her to get out of the house, “get in there, and be charming.” She then began going to writers’ nights and began getting involved with publishing companies and the music community. Eventually, Valerie got out of the house enough to where she was playing on the Grand Ole Opry with Charlie Louvin, recording her own debut album with the production of Nashville Bluegrass Band’s Alan O’Bryant, and opening shows for John Carter Cash. Valerie shared her appreciation for the many mentors she has had on her journey including Outlaw Country legend Waylon Jennings who taught her independence in being true to who she is and being proud of that. “I am forever grateful to him for that,” she shared. 76

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Valerie has been a teacher and mentor herself along with a marketer, producer, songwriter, and artist. Numerous other award-winning artists like Becky Buller have worked with and been mentored by Valerie. “Whenever I see people do great things I’m always happy. Me being a school teacher and hiring them and having them on stage honing their talent is fun. That’s what they’re supposed to do, and in a way that’s what my job is.” When no one else was starting independent labels, Valerie moved to Bell Buckle, TN and started Bell Buckle Records. “It wasn’t to start my own album. I wasn’t even thinking about that then.” She started making live albums out of the Bell Buckle Café with J. Gregory Heinike. “I’ve had a Forest Gump career,” Valerie laughed. “My career has been a series of things happen just because I did them. If I were to teach people that, it would be sometimes things aren’t offered to you. Sometimes you just have to do them. If it’s to be it’s up to me.” The artist shared that she has learned to look at the whole picture and to see that all music is connected. Valerie admitted that she hasn’t created anything just from a marketing standpoint.

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“I approach my music as someone who is excited about music.” She still carries that excitement today. Though a precise date hasn’t been announced, Valerie Smith said that she will be releasing new music very soon including the song ‘It’s A Dry Town’ which features musicians like Jerry Douglas and Stuart Duncan. She is also working on a film project called ‘Maggie’s Journal’ which is based off of the journal and life of Valerie’s great grandmother. The film is to be released on Blueridge Television and possibly a special YouTube channel.

Valerie is also scheduled to perform at Merle Fest for the first time this year. More information about release dates and a touring schedule can be found online at her website

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Handmade Violins & Guitars “Each instrument takes shape in my own hands, using a blend of old world traditions and modern technology.”

January Festivals & Events

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Dates

Event

Location

Jan 3-5

Jekyll Island New Year's Bluegrass Festival

Jekyll Island, GA

Jan 11-12

County Bluegrass Winter Festival

Presque Isle, MN

Jan 11-12

Perrysburg Bluegrass Festival

Perrysburg, OH

Jan 11-12

SPBGMA Bluegrass Music Awards

Jefferson City, MO

Jan 12-17

Bluegrass and Blue Water Cruise

Charleston, SC

Jan 14-18

Danny Stewart's Caribbean Cruise

Port Canaveral, FL

Jan 15-20

YeeHaw Music Fest

Okeechobee, FL

Jan 18-20

BayGrass Bluegrass Festival

Islamorada, Florida

Jan 18-20

Blythe Bluegrass Festival

Blythe, California

Jan 24-26

Bootheel Bluegrass Festival

Fruitland, Missouri

Jan 26

Rock Crusher Canyon Bluegrass Festival

Crystal River, Florida

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February Festivals & Events Dates

Event

Location

Feb 1-3

SPBGMA National Convention & Awards

Nashville, Tennessee

Feb 4-8

Caribbean Classic Country & Bluegrass Cruise

Cape Canaveral, Florida

Feb 14-16

Palatka Bluegrass Festival

Palatka, Florida

Feb 15-17

Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

Framingham, Massachusetts

Feb 15-17

Midwinter Bluegrass Festival

Denver, CO

Feb 18-22

Danny Stewart's California Bluegrass Cruise

Long Beach, California

Feb 18-24

Florida Bluegrass Classic

Brooksville, Florida

Feb 21-24

Wintergrass Music Festival

Bellevue, Washington

Feb 22-23

KBA Winter Bluegrass Festival

Witchita, Kansas

Feb 22-24

Bluegrass First Class 2019

Asheville, North Carolina

Feb 22-24

Winter WonderGrass Colorado

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Feb 28 - Mar 2

Cabin Fever Pickin' Party

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Feb 28 - Mar 3

Shorty's Strickly Bluegrass Festival

East Peoria, Illinois

For the complete list with links to full info, check out our Events tab at TheBluegrassStandard.com! THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Next Month... from the Publisher's desk

The Bluegrass Standard Team would like to congratulate our Writer and Team member Shelby Campbell Berry, who was married on November 17, 2018 to Graham Berry.

Nick Chandler

We wish them a long, happy and successful Marriage! We understand they had a wonderful honeymoon in the paradise of Bora Bora.

Echo Valley

Keith Barnacastle — Publisher

Town Mountain and much more! THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


Turnberry Records & Management • Booking 2019–2020 •

Christian Davis soulful baritone

Rebekah Long

unique & captivating, small-town Georgia Bluegrass & Americana artist

No Time Flatt

Tennessee Music Awards “Bluegrass Band of the Year”, 2017–2018

The Kody Norris Show classic bluegrass showmanship

Phillip Steinmetz & His Sunny Tennesseans crowd-pleasing nostalgia

Bluegrass Outlaws

tight, melody-driven harmonies 760.883.8160 • turnberryrecords@gmail.com 12168 Turnberry Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 www.TurnberryRecords.com

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The Bluegrass Standard - Desktop - Volume 3, Issue 1  

Our annual Women in Bluegrass issue includes articles on Lorraine Jordan, Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Brown, Kim Robins, and many other notable...

The Bluegrass Standard - Desktop - Volume 3, Issue 1  

Our annual Women in Bluegrass issue includes articles on Lorraine Jordan, Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Brown, Kim Robins, and many other notable...