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It’s early February as I write this, the sun’s out, and it’s about 55 degrees - I guess the music wants to come out early this year - fine by me! Welcome to the first 2013 edition ot Americana Rhythm Music Magazine. And welcome to our friends up North checking us out at the Folk Alliance Conference (Feb. 20 - 24, Toronto). We dusted off the Festival calendar early this year so you could get a jump on spring and summer planning. There were only a few events we couldn’t confirm - and it looks like it’s going to be a rich season indeed. We’re reviving our Americana Music Profiles column too - watch for future issues sponsored by Reverb Nation - thrilled to be working with those fine folks. For all you folks in the Shenandoah Valley region, there’s a new festival headed your way - The Redwing Roots Festival, in July 2013. It’s hosted by the red hot Steelwheels Band. (see ad this issue) We’re thrilled to be going along for the ride with you yet another season - Thanks a bunch! See you out there. Questions, comments, suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Americana Rhythm is published six times a year. All correspon- Business office 540-433-0360 CONTRIBUTORS dence should be sent to PO Box 45, Bridgewater VA, 22812 or Ed Tutwiler email to email@example.com. Copies of Americana Kaye D. Hill Rhythm are made available free at various pick up locations within Wayne Erbsen the publication’s region. Subscriptions are available inside the United Ryan Babarsky States for $16 US currency made payable by check or money UNC Ashville Students Andrew McKnight order sent to Subscriptions at PO Box 45, Bridgewater, VA, 22812. Doak Turner Foreig n su bscrip tion req u ests shou l d b e sen t to Becky Allen firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Don DePoy Reproduction of copy, artwork or photographs is strictly prohibited DISTRIBUTION without permission of the publisher. All advertising material subEd Tutwiler ject to approval. Zebra Media PUBLISHER/EDITOR IN CHIEF Associated Dist. Greg E. Tutwiler The Southern Downtown Books EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS The Purple Fiddle Ed Tutwiler Floyd Country Store Jacenta Tutwiler Shen. Valley Farmers Mkt. Lisa Tutwiler Heritage Farmers Mkt. MARKETING & PROMOTION ... many more! Mark Barreres (GrassRootsNetworking.com) Letters, Comments, Suggestions ADVERTISING email@example.com Greg Tutwiler www.americanarhythm.com
5 8 For The Record 9 Opera In WVA 10 Oh Donna 13 14 15 Shenandoah Music Trail 16 17 18
Where Are The Drums? A while ago, my grandson posted on a social media site, “My drum set is screaming for a jam”. My kidding comment to that post was, “Give it little bluegrass.” To which he replied, “There’s no drums in bluegrass!” You know, he is correct but why? Every since that exchange, the thought has nagged me—not that I want a drum line chasing through my Steep Canyon Rangers listening experience—it is just the mystery of it all.
Living in the Shenandoah Valley most of my life, I’ve certainly been exposed to old-time mountain string music and its bluegrass cousin for a LONG time, and I’ve never heard or seen a drum set associated with it. I suspect there is a historic and very understandable reason, and I want to know what it is so I’ve reached out to some re-
By Edward Tutwiler
spected folks who are closely associated with mountain string music to gain their insight on the subject.
Backing It Up
Before we delve into that, we should learn a bit about the history of the drum in mountain string music’s offspring, country music; and to learn this, I turned to the web site: http:// www.thanksforthemusic.com/history/drums.html. From this source, I learned that in the early days of recorded country music, many considered the drum to be too urban for the country sound of the string music; however, Jimmy Rogers used a drummer on some of his 1929 recordings. Early on, the Texas swing bands included drummers because of the heavy influence of Dixieland mu-
drum sets on stage. Even though the Opry discouraged their use, and many Nashville and Southeastern musical groups avoided drum sets, drums were routinely used in country music—except in traditional bluegrass. Yet, even there, the Osborne Brothers used a drummer on records since 1958. It appears to me that this line of reasoning does not address why drums never accompanied early mountain music before the recording and broadcasting era. For insight on this, I need to turn to those afore mentioned learned folks.
Image - Brucetonschool.org
sic. Jimmy Martin, an early country music star, sometimes included drums in his act as well. Drums were expressly forbidden at the Grand Ole Opry; although, Bob Wills still included drums in a 1944 appearance. This Opry ban remained mostly in place until after rock and roll consumed traditional country music. When the Opry moved from the Ryman in 1973, the producers finally allowed full
Sarah Bryan, the chief editor at the Durham, NC Old Time Herald music magazine doesn’t think there are any hard-and-fast answers. She does point out that there have been some types of percussion used in old-time music. One example she sites are beating straws also known as fiddle sticks. These items are light, thin sticks (or pieces of broom straw) that one person beats on the fiddle strings while someone else fiddles with the bow. Sarah also mentioned the spoons, but she
doesn’t think that they were supercommon in the old days, and are quite unusual today. Ms. Bryan summed up her thoughts like this, “As far as old-time string band music goes, I think clogging is probably the closest thing to drumming that one hears regularly. Sometimes instrumental musicians record with a clogger as part of the band. In Uncle Dave Macon’s recordings you can often hear his feet clogging (I think he did this while sitting down), and now and then you come across a fiddler who clogs while fiddling—Violet Hensley of Yellville, Arkansas, comes to mind, as well as does John Hartford.” Pete Vigour of the regionally popular, Whitehall, VA based, old-time music group Uncle Henry’s Favorites has been playing old-time music for more than 30 years so I asked him to weigh-in on the subject as well. He began by saying, “That’s a very good question. Nobody I know has ever played drums in old-time music, with the exception of bones and tambourine for minstrel-era songs; washboards in jug bands, often with lots of (literal) bells and whistles added; and an
occasional spoons player. I have heard snare drum on a few bluegrass songs here and there and there are lots of young crossover
even one (percussion) player who generates enthusiasm among the string players when he or she shows up at a festival jam.” Pete
Pete says, “Lots of people clog to old-time music; some bands have a full-time clogger to provide rhythm. This practice is well-accepted at jam sessions as long as the dancer has good rhythm and is not too loud.”
Where It Came From
Image by Bruce Bloy - 2008 Smoked Country Jam
pop/country/bluegrass/acoustic bands with drums.” Pete went on to mention the fiddle sticks that Sarah Bryan earlier told us about; and he made this observation, “At festivals, percussion instruments are sometimes tolerated by the string players, sometimes not so well tolerated, but I can’t think of
said that Mike Seeger was the only professional old-time musician that he, Pete, ever saw use a percussion instrument. (Seeger had various rattles that he made from soda bottle-caps, and he used them for songs that he had learned from traditional African-American players.). Just as Ms. Bryan mentioned,
Wayne Erbsen of Ashville NC’s Native Ground Books & Music offers the thought that the absence of drums in old-time music might have a two-fold reason. He offers that this music was originally a combination of music from the Scots Irish and from Africa. Building upon this fact, he says that the Scots Irish people didn’t use drums to make music; and further, that drums were sometimes outlawed in the old South because slave-owners feared drums could serve as a way for a group of slaves to plan revolts and revolution. Wayne sums up his theory by saying, “Thus, when black and white musicians gathered to play what would become old-time music, drums weren’t a part of it.” Now, some of you will want to point out that the Bodran (a type
of portable drum evolved from the Celtic war drum used by the early Irish tribes) was and is sometimes used in Celtic/Irish music. While this is certainly a fact, I suggest that, as Wayne Erbsen pointed out earlier, the original old-time mountain music was a coupling of ScotIrish and African influences. Since the eastern mountains were settled by early immigrating Scot-Irish from Scotland and not by the later arriving Irish-Catholic peoples who immigrated to the US in the late 19th century from Ireland, the Bodran didn’t become part of our mountain music heritage. In hopes of finding a scholarly opinion, I had a conversation with Mr. Roddy Moore of Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute & Museum in Rocky Mount, VA. Mr. Moore began addressing my question by reinforcing Wayne Erbsen’s thoughts about African slaves being not allowed by their owners to possess and play drums. He went on to point out that drums had a military tradition that was not embraced by the mountain’s civilian population of the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. Mr. Moore did say that early fiddle players often learned march tunes from the fife and drum corps of the day. As for the subject of percussion instruments in very early string bands, Roddy says that bones and spoons played a large role; however, the tradition waned before the recording era thus making their use seem rare today. He went on to say that performers in early Memphis, TN jug bands used washboards and bass violins for their percussion effect.
sulted implied that the mandolin took the place of any further need for percussion—even referring to it as a bluegrass time clock. He said that this idea is false as the mandolin is a 20th century instrument and had no part in formation of early mountain music.
The Absence Of
So, the absence of drums in mountain music when it was first becoming the particular type of music that it became was probably, as Wayne Erbsen thought and as Roddy Moore reinforced, the combination of the twin social issues of drums being denied to the black folk and the aversion of the original white mountaineers to the military aspects of the
drum. This is probably the core answer to our original question. However, Mr. Moore has also taught us that there were several other instruments that were a part of the live and local past that due to various reasons did not become part of the music sound as it was jelled for mass listening in those original recordings in Bristol, TN and beyond. Of course, once jelled, the sound became the standard to be emulated and copied by future performers as it was originally recorded thus forming the traditions that are followed by old-time and bluegrass players even today. That is why drumming with string music is “just not done” even today. (That’s okay. I for one am happy
with that and don’t want that fact to change.) Well, dear readers, we have told you what we think is the answer as to why there are no drums in old-time string music. Now, it’s your turn. Do you have some further insight? Let us know here at the magazine. Sarah Bryan suggested that we post on the OldTime Herald’s Facebook page to get a discussion started as she is sure there would be some interesting answers out there. She might be correct. I did as she suggested and posted the question on the Old-Time Herald’s and on Americana Rhythm’s Facebook pages. So, let’s try it, and see what results we get!
More Than A Drum
Roddy told me that there were other instruments that were used but are not now considered a part of string band music. He mentioned that the squeeze box was used locally quite a bit but its use died out early in the formation of the music style. He also said that, surprisingly, bands often used a piano because it added to the dance-ability of old-time music; however, the reason this instrument is not heard on the early rural recordings is because it was impossible to properly record its sound. I mentioned to Mr. Moore that some material that I’d con-
Editor’s note: Vinyl records are showing up all over the place. Heck, demos in vinyl form are even coming across my desk. What gives? I went looking for some answers and came across a brilliant explanation written by Crutchfield’s A/V Editor Jim Richardson. So, with his permission, we have reprinted here for you to enjoy.
Why are vinyl records making a comeback?
This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen in the consumer electronics business. An old analog technology is making a big comeback. Sales of vinyl records have increased dramatically over the past five years. And while vinyl records still only account for a small percentage of total recorded music sales, the growth curve is steep. Turn back the clock for a moment and recall why most people abandoned vinyl in the first place. With CDs you could skip tracks or pause the music with your remote control. If you scratched a CD, it might not play, but if it did, you wouldn’t hear a lot of scratchy surface noise. CDs were small enough to play in your car
What’s The Deal With Records These Days? By Jim Richardson
stereo or Walkman. You were freed from the enormous hassle of making cassette copies. And it was much easier to move a large CD collection than it was to haul crates full of records (and cassettes) around with you. But what, for the sake of convenience, did we give up when we made the switch from records to CDs (and later to downloaded music)? And what did the artists sacrifice?
The Sound Of Vinyl
While the mass market gave up on vinyl records, serious audiophiles and club DJs never did. Audiophiles argue that high quality vinyl records played on a high quality stereo system sound better than CDs or MP3 files. “When done right, LP playback has an openness, transparency, dynamic expression and musical-
ity not matched by CD,” said noted hi-fi expert Robert Harley in his book, Introductory Guide to High Performance Audio Systems. “There’s just a fundamental musical rightness to a pure analog source ... that seems to better convey the music’s expression.”
The Ritual Of Listening To A Record
”Putting an LP on a turntable is an act that signifies a singleminded dedication to focusing on the music,” Harley wrote. “When playing a record, you sit down in the listening chair, often with fullsized liner notes and cover art, and with no remote control to skip tracks. The process makes a statement that you are about to give the music your full attention for an entire LP side (at a minimum).” With that in mind, established artists looking to forge a closer bond with their fans are releasing more of their works on vinyl. Many of these releases are instant collector’s items - limited-edition deluxe pressings on 180 or 200 grams of virgin vinyl (giving you better sound quality than standard pressings on 130 grams of recycled vinyl). You pay a premium, but you may also get previously unreleased cuts, new liner notes, or special artwork. A few well known artists have eschewed the CD format for their new releases, choosing to offer only vinyl and downloadable versions. Many new vinyl releases come with a code number you can use online to download a
high-quality digital copy for your iPod.
Vinyl As Artistic Expression
For up-and-coming artists, releasing a vinyl record is way to stand out from the crowd. Writing for Electronic Musician, journalist Markkus Rovito said, “These days burning a CD is so simple that it no longer automatically indicates that an artist has a serious commitment to the music. Pressing a 12-inch record, on the other hand, shows at the very least a financial sacrifice and suggests that time was taken mastering the music to a high standard.” “Pressing a vinyl record should not be thought of merely as a ploy for attention,” Rovito wrote. “There is a serious market for vinyl. Turntables have definitely reentered the mainstream consciousness as a result of the explosion of the DJ culture, and vinyl never went out of style with the punk and indie underground. For aspiring hip-hop or dancemusic artists, making a 12-inch record is an almost inevitable rite of passage into a more established place in the business.” What next? Vinyl records may still be somewhat hard to find locally, but there’s no shortage of online outlets. Many of the sites peddling vinyl are obscure, but some are decidedly mainstream. Amazon.com has a vinyl store, which it bills as “the spiritual home of audio purists and DJs.” What Amazon hints at, Neil Young said brazenly when he blasted the quality of digital sound during a speaking engagement, “We have beautiful computers now but high-resolution music is one of the missing elements,” he said. “The ears are the windows to the soul.” Did artists, record labels and consumers paint that window shut when they turned to CDs and MP3s? Is the recent upturn in vinyl record sales a sign that the paint has been cracked and the window is beginning to open again? What do you think?
A Return To Greatness The other day, AR’s publisher
told me about yet another salvaged relic of a bygone era that has been allowed once again to blossom for a new generation’s pleasure. I know what you are thinking; another communitybacked restoration of a formally opulent entertainment palace; one that was gifted upon a small out of the way Appalachian town many years ago by a wealthy coal baron—not exactly. This small town is Shepherdstown, and is located less than 100 miles from Washington, DC in the historic eastern corner of WVA. It is a small college town that has been history’s cross-road since the 1800’s. Shepherdstown Opera House was built in 1909 by the town’s mayor, Mr. U.S. Martin. Soon after he built the facility, he sold it to the Musser family. The Musser’s installed one of the first motion picture projectors in ex-
By Ed Tutwiler
Image - Ron Gogswell
istence and turned the Opera House into one of West Virginia’s earliest motion picture houses. These operators ran the theater every night showing as many as three different films each week. By 1928, they had up-graded the house with sound equipment, and it became the first theater in West Virginia to show the new talking motion pictures.
One Chapter Closes
The Musser family operated the Shepherdstown Opera House as a theater until 1958 when they closed the facility. The building set vacant and ignored until 1990. At that time, Pam and Rusty Berry purchased the facility and began the daunting and over-
whelming project of bringing life back into the forlorn building. These folks followed Department of the Interior guidelines for the restoration of historic structures and performed an extensive renovation. By February, 1992, the Berry’s reopened the Opera House. At first, they concentrated on showing American independent and foreign films; however, in 2004, these folks added new lighting and sound systems that would accommodate staged live musical and theatrical performances. Once again, the Shepherdstown Opera House lit up a community and became a gathering place for those seeking great live entertainment. In October, 2010, the Berrys sold the venue to Lawrence and Julie Cumbo. Mr. Cumbo is a well respected TV producer, cinematographer, and writer, and he had a vision that he could take this grand old dame to an even higher level of greatness. With his background in film, he knew that he must preserve the Opera House’s tradition of cinema but he also
The Bluegrass Poet
By Greg Tutwiler
onna Ulisse and her bluegrass band, the Poor Mountain Boys, are relatively new to the scene. It’s only been since 2007 that bluegrass fans have had the opportunity to experience the music of this seasoned performer. Like many young singers, Donna had visions of Nashville and stage lights. But as it is with most artists, the story of the journey to getting there is as interesting as the person taking it. Donna was born in Hampton, VA, and grew up in nearby Yorktown. She recalls that she started writing poetry when she was ten or eleven – and then a little later started playing piano. She decided she wanted to put a melody to some of her poems, so she began constructing songs out of her poetry and new found piano skills. When she was 13 or 14 she got the chance to travel to Nashville to record one of her songs. And that experience led to a season of stints in local Tidewater area bands. “I became a serious singer through my high school choir. And I give a lot of credit to Barbara Davis, my choir teacher in Hampton, VA for that. I had been taking private lessons, but they just didn’t compare to what she was teaching me.” Donna began taking her singing more seriously, and started commuting back and forth to Nashville. She remembers that she would visit Nashville to record three or four times a year in her late teens, working with a producer named Chip Young. “When I was 19 Chip sat me down and said if you really want to take this seriously, you’ll consider moving here permanently.” Not exactly what a young lady with a new boyfriend wanted to hear. But, and Donna recalls, “I married someone who was in the music business when I was 23,” and a year later in 1985 they decided to make the move to Nashville. “It was a big move for me because I was a daddy’s girl moving 12 hours from home.”
In that first year Donna did her very first background session for Country music artist Jerry Reed, and that launched her real desire to learn the inner workings of the studio – which lead to a very nice career as a demo singer, and how she made her living until she got her first record deal with Atlantic Records. A lot of songwriters are not necessarily good singers. So they hire “voices” (Demo singers) to stand in and sing their songs so they can then pitch them to the record label artists. “It’s a very good living,” Donna commented. “It’s an interesting way to learn the studio, because you have to be somebody you’re not. You have to take the artist mindset out of it and be whatever the writer wants you to be on that particular song. There’s no room for personal interpretation. So it really helps you learn discipline and following direction.” “I was working four sessions a day at that time,” she recounted. “I had one person that I worked for one day a week, and when I would get there, he had as many
as 10 songs for me to sing. It really conditions you and you have to be a really quick study to be a profitable demo singer. It really set me up to be a good artist for my producer when it came time to record my own music.” From 1985 to 1991 Donna was working four sessions a day, and performing a happy hour gig five days a week on top of that. “It was a really busy, but wonderful time,” she recalled.
Donna eventually got signed to Atlantic Records, and Dale Morris as her manager (Who also managed Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Big And Rich). It was a transitional time for Atlantic though. Three months after Donna signed, the label’s manager was dismissed and Rick Blackburn took over. “I was sort of a casualty of bad timing,” Donna said. “Typically, when they change the head of a label, they always clean house.” Donna did end up recording an album with Atlantic that enjoyed some early success. She was invited out to LA to record for NBC’s country music show, Hot Country Nights. “I
was feeling like the queen of Country music. And then I got a call from an independent promoter telling me I should call the label back in Nashville to make sure I still had a deal.” Not the news an up and coming artist wants to hear. When Donna learned it was over, she remembers “I didn’t want to fly home. I just wanted to stay in LA.” This was right as the tide was turning on major label deals, and again, not good news for an artist still trying to establish herself. “You were only as good as your last record, and I hadn’t really had a shot at it yet. I thought we had a shot at RCA and then that fell through. I sort of floundered for a while, and really mourned the whole thing like a death. I just decided I really didn’t want to do music anymore.” Donna made a big public stand to her family and friends, declaring her retirement and went out and got “my first real job.” Donna went to work in a jeans outlet decorating their displays. “I was there two weeks when I got a call inviting me to sing pilot vocals for a Karaoke company. They said, ‘are you interested in the work?’ So I was back in,” Donna chuckled.
A Career Shift
It was through that time that she met the person she now works for named Ray Johnson. His son wrote country songs, and as Donna recalls, “I was just lucky enough to be the girl who got the demo session for this guy’s son. They both fell in love with my voice and said ‘how can we help, what can we do?’ So we set out to try to get a deal with Aresta records. Again, it’s all about timing, and Aresta was on their way to become BMG. So it didn’t happen. Friend Tim Dubois suggested it might be time to focus on writing music. “He thought I might find my true voice there,” she remembers. “It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.” Although Donna felt like she was taking on songwriting by default, years later she now realizes it was the thing that made her career what it is today. She said, “I should have been writing my
own songs all along. I went in kicking and screaming. I acted like a two year old,” she laughed. “But my first song was a great one right out of the gate. And we ended up with five by the time we had completed the demos. Not long after, Trisha Yearwood’s management called and said they wanted to hold one of the songs. I cried for
days,” she said. “No, don’t give them my song,’ I said. I had such a terrible time adjusting.” But Trisha didn’t end up recording the song, and Donna did. “Nobody recorded my songs until I became a Bluegrass artist, and now I cut my own songs, and now other people are cutting them too.”
“I sort of gave up on the big dream and really settled in to song writing. I would play a lot of the songwriter’s rounds and workshops in and around Nashville. The other writers in the round would always have a
CD to sell, and I didn’t. So, in 2006, Kathy, my promoter, suggested that we pull together what seemed like a trend in my music, which was an Appalachian sound, and record some of the songs. We cut something that was strictly going to be a songwriter CD. But it felt bigger than that. So we started shipping it to radio.”
Her first Bluegrass CD When I Look Back, in 2007 took off. And with the ever growing popularity of the bluegrass genre’ Donna’s music has become a staple on the bluegrass circuit and in the studio. Now she has over 1,000 songs in her catalog. In 2012 the IBMA nominated Donna for the Songwriter of the year award. “In the grand scheme of things, I’m kind of a newbie,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard at it, and I have really great people around me, but I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be nominated for songwriter of the year. It was quite an honor.” Donna finally feels like she’s home in the bluegrass/Americana arena. Her recent CD, All the Way To Bethlehem finished the year as the number four Christmas/Folk CD, and further solidified her as a prolific songwriter. We can hardly wait for her new CD scheduled to release later in 2013
knew that he that he wanted music to be a major key-stone in the Opera House’s future. Mr. Combo takes an active part in the Opera House operation but he also has bluegrass musician Lisa Ellery as his general manager.
Upgrading The Digs
Change In Ownership
I asked him how he came to be the owner of the Opera House and this is what he told me, “I was always interested in owning the Opera House if Rusty ever sold it. We went to New Zealand for two years, and as soon as we
a restaurant. Primarily, everyone just wanted to save it so we purchased it.” I asked about plans going forward and he replied, “We just want to keep this place alive and keep the music going. It is a struggle to do
Since he assumed ownership, Cumbo has continued to upgrade the facility’s light and sound system; and expanded the backstage area to provide more comfortable surroundings for performers. All of this effort has cumulated with the production of TV ’s new Smithsonian Channel series titled Rockin’ the Opera House. It is a series that will highlight living legends and legacies. The focus is on American roots artists. The first show featured Dr. John and was shot in September. That show is scheduled to air in October of 2013. The plan is to produce more such shows in 2013. Cumbo is not sure how many but is sure there will be at least two more as he has some great artists already lined up. Lawrence Cumbo is a native of Baton Rouge, LA, attended Florida State University, and then transferred to the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies. He moved to Shepherdstown about 10 years ago. He is a successful producer of documentaries and has been associated with the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel on many successful and award winning productions. I recently had a conversation with Mr. Combo about the Opera House. In that conversation he reinforced his feelings about having live music, especially Americana roots music, as part of the entertainment mix. Here’s how he put it, “Because it was built as an Opera House, it sounds amazing for musical performances. When we can get live music playing here, we get goose-bumps.”
later on in the spring. You can call the Opera House for events at 304-876-3704 or call the box office at 202-609-9763. Of course, you can always point your computer ’s browser to: www.operahouselive.com and check out everything that this neat place has to offer. If you go, the Shepherdstown Opera House is located at 131 West German Street in Shepherdstown, WV
. Ann Rabson
T he Blues community lost one of it’s own on January 30 th, 2013. Blues pianist/singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Ann Rabson died in Fredericksburg, VA after a long battle with cancer at 67. She was a co-founder of the widely successful trio, Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, and was a legendary force on the keyboards. Her deeply soulful voice was a significant contribution to the blues community.
left, Rusty and Pam decided to put it on the market. With the recession in the economy, the Opera house sat from 2008 until we rolled back into town in 2010. The For Sale sign was still on the building, and various folks were trying to put deals together— some even wanted to turn it into
that. It is our hope to get the building on the national historic registry. In order to keep the facility open and in good repair, we will probably need to move into some sort of non-profit status.” So, dear readers, the story of the Shepherdstown Opera House is the story of yet another great venue for the Americana scene that has staggered off the ropes of defeat to regain the center ring and once again become a contender for greatness. (For instance, they had Ralph Stanley for his 85th birthday.) You owe it to yourself to check out this great purveyor of Americana. The schedule calls for some interesting upcoming musical entertainment: They have the Grascals on April 4th ; The Steel Wheels on May 17th ; and Tom Paxton scheduled for
Ann recorded eight CDs with the group as well as f our solo projects; her most recent, the 2012’s Not Alone on VizzTone Records. According to an Alligator Records press release (her former label), “Rabson’s prodigious talent, along with her takeno-guff attitude, struck a chord with music fans around the world. Considered one of the finest barrelhouse blues pianists of her generation, Rabson — an accomplished guitarist since she was a teen — didn’t start playing piano until she was 35. DownBeat magazine said that ‘Rabson plays bluesy, honky-tonk piano with staggering authority.” Saffire recordings for Alligator are among the best-selling in the label’s catalog. Ann released her first solo album, Music Makin’ Mama, in 1997. When the trio disbanded after 25 years in 2009, Rabson recorded three solo albums and continued to perform solo and with friends, including guitarist Bob Margolin. She appeared on recordings for numerous artists, including Cephas & W iggins, Pinetop Perkins, EG Kight and Ani DiFranco.
East Coast Piedmont Blues Written by UNC Asheville students enrolled in the Liberal Studies Introductory Colloquia, “The Art of the Blues” (Fall 2005) and “Jazz and Blues in American Culture” (Fall 2003) Supervised by Project Advisor: Bryan Sinclair.
John Cephas & Phil Wiggins By Rosser Douglas and Ariel Trcka, UNC Asheville Students Cephas and Wiggins are a pair of mu sicians that play an integral part in the Piedmont blues. It was 1977, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. (birthplace for both musicians) where the two met. The duo tends to play the majority of their shows at folk festivals such as this, and to mainly white audiences. Some of their songs show a liking to R & B, but mostly they s t i ck to Piedmont blues as their main style. At the time of their meeting, Cephas was in a b and and W i g g i n s w as p l ay i ng w i t h the widelyknown gospel singer Flora Martin. Cephas and Wiggins teamed up with Wilber “Big Chief” Ellis and James Bellamy to form the group Barrelhouse Rockers. The pianist, Ellis, passed away and within a year Cephas and Wiggins decided to give it a go as duo, which they have remained ever since. Their sound is greatly inspired by past Piedmont blues greats s uc h as B li nd Boy Ful l er, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Willie McTell and Blind Blake. The alternating finger-picking style in the Piedmont blues was further popularized by Cephas. He is considered to be one of the best Piedmont blues
guitarists of all time by multiple sources listed below. Cephas has expanded and originated his own Piedmont Blues guitar playing style, while Wiggins continues to d e v e l op h i s ow n u n i q u e harmonica style dominantly influenced by Flora Martin. They are today held in high regard in the blues community winning awards su ch as “ W. C. H and y Blues Entertainers of t he Year ” and “Best Traditional A l b u m of t h e Year” for their album Dog Days of Aug u s t i n 1987. The two are well k n own f or conducting work shops f or the general public, so that others may learn the art of playing the Piedmont blues. The pair has also taken part in multiple world tours. They even had the honor bestowed upon them to play at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural party in 1997. “People automatically think of sadness and depression when they think of the Blues. But the Blues is uplifting music to nourish the spirit. The lyrics are true-to-life experiences that people everywhere can relate to,” John Cephas said. “I just like good music,” added Phil Wiggins.
“Influenced by ragtime, country string bands, traveling medicine shows, and popular song of the early 20th century, East Coast Piedmont Blues blended both black and white, rural and urban song elements in the diverse urban centers of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region. In contrast, the Delta blues style of rural Mississippi is believed to have less of a white influence, as it was produced in a region with a higher concentration of African Americans. Although it drew from diverse elements of the region, East Coast Piedmont Blues is decidedly an African American art form. The Piedmont blues style may even reflect an earlier musical tradition than the blues that emerged from the Mississippi Delta.” http://toto.lib.unca.edu/sounds/piedmontblues/
By Wayne Erbsen
Mountains Of Songs Hank Williams was once quoted as saying, “You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.” If Hank was right, then what I did today puts me over the top into the ranks of genuine hillbillies. It all started when I got back from a week of fiddling and singing at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia. After I barely had a chance to settle into my normal routine at home, my wife, Barbara, said she had a “honey do” list for me. The good news was that there was only one thing on the list. The bad news was that I needed to move an enormous truckload of manure. Armed only with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, I began moving the manure mountain. To pass the time, of course, I started singing. But I couldn’t think of a single song about manure. With its deep roots in rural America, you would think they’d be lots of bluegrass songs about this meaningful subject. If only I knew a song about manure, I was convinced I could sing it now with real feeling! When I came up short of manure songs, I realized that I knew a pile of songs that contained the words “mountain” or “hills.” Here’s some of songs that I thought of as I shoveled. Bear Tracks Big Rock Candy Mountain Black Mountain Rag Bluebirds Singing in the Blue Ridge Mountains Blue Ridge Cabin Home Blue Ridge Mountain Home Cabin in Caroline Cabin on a Mountain Fire on the Mountain Foggy Mountain Breakdown Foggy Mountain Top High on a Hilltop High on a Mountain Home Among the Hills How Mountain Girls Can Love I Like Mountain Music Life is Like a Mountain Railroad Little Mountain Church House Little Georgia Rose Living on the Mountain Looking For a Stone
Medicine Springs Meet Me Out on a Mountain Mole in the Ground Mountain Laurel Mountain House Mountain Rosa Lee Mountain Girl Mountain Dew Mountain Boy Mountain Folk My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains Rank Strangers Sawing on the Strings Smoky Mountain Memories Tall Pines The Hills of Roan County White Dove
After I finished moving the mountain of manure, I started wondering if the legendary musicians who picked and sang bluegrass and old-time mountain music actually lived in the mountains. I compiled two lists, one of bluegrass musicians, and a second one of old-time musicians. Under each entry, I included where they were born, and the elevation. Interestingly enough, Bill Monroe ranks second from the bottom in terms of elevation, right above Don Reno. Raymond Fairchild gets the prize for living at the highest elevation, 3020'. The average elevation for these particular bluegrass musicians is 1354'. For the old-time musicians, Charlie Poole lived at the lowest elevation at 591', and Albert Hash gets the blue ribbon for having lived at the highest elevation, 3638'. When I tallied up the average elevation of these old-time musicians I came up with 1655'. What valid conclusions can we draw from this non-scientific survey? None, probably. But we did learn that the old-time mountain musicians did live more in the mountains than did the bluegrass musicians. Either way, we did learn that this ain’t no flatlander music.
Bill Monroe, Rosine, KY, 459' Don Reno, Spartanburg, SC, 246' Earl Scruggs, Boiling Springs, NC, 912' Hylo Brown, River, Kentucky, 670' Jim & Jesse Coeburn, VA, 1995' Jimmy Martin in Sneedville, TN, 1171'
Lester Flatt, Sparta, TN, 885' Lilly Brothers, Clear Creek, WVa, 1467' Osborne Brothers, Roark, KY, 1464' Raymond Fairchild, Maggie Valley, NC, 3020' Red Rector, Walnut, NC, 1942' Red Smiley, Asheville, NC 2134 Stanley Brothers, McClure, VA, 1476' Vern Williams, Newton County, AR, 760' Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Valley Head, Wva,, 2372'
Old-Time Musicians Albert Hash, Whitetop, VA, 3638' Baird Ray, Sodom, NC, 2182' Bascom Lamar Lunsford, South Turkey Creek, NC, 2100' Beachard Smith, Scott County, VA, 1916' Blue Sky Boys, Hickory, NC, 1163 Carter Family, Maces Springs, Va, 1858' Charlie Poole, Eden, NC, 591' Eva Davis, Gastonia, NC, 797' Frank Profitt, Reese, NC, 3041' Fred Cockerham, Surry County, NC, 1000' Kyle Creed, Surry County, NC, 1000' Lilly Mae Ledford, Powell County, KY, 685' Roscoe Holcomb, Daisy, KY, 965' Samantha Bumgarner, Dillsboro, NC, 2051' Tommy Jarrell, Toast, NC, 1063' Uncle Dave Macon, McMinnville, TN, 968' Wade & JE Mainer, Stony Knob, NC, 2080' Wade Ward, Independence, VA, 2689' Wilson Douglas, Rush Fork, WVa, 814' Wayne Erbsen was born in Los Angeles, California, elevation 105'. In 1977 he moved to Asheville, NC, elevation 2134'. In 1999 he purchased a get-away log cabin near Big Pine, NC, with an elevation of 3800'. When he’s not measure elevation, Wayne teaches old-time and bluegrass instruments and singing and writes books for his company, Native Ground Books & Music. Contact him for a free catalog: (828) 299-7031, firstname.lastname@example.org, or go on-line at www.nativeground.com.
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the Shenandoah Music Trail
By Don DePoy PhD
Seems we’re all getting into the groove of the New Year. Making resolutions, dieting, exercising, practicing just being nice, and of course, vowing to listen to more live music; or if you choose, playing more. Here on the Shenandoah Music Trail we lament the closing of the Mockingbird Restaurant and Listening Room in Staunton. It was a bright spot in Shenandoah Valley music, and it will be sorely missed. We are also saddened by the loss of a pioneer woman in bluegrass. Euva DePoy of Swoope, Virginia. Euva passed on December 25th, 2012. Born in Renick, West Virginia in 1930, she listened to the region’s mountain music
now playing bluegrass music. And she was recognized internationally for her contributions to Shenandoah Valley Music. Euva, along with her late husband of sixty-three years, Carl DePoy, are members of America’s Old-Time Country Music Hall of Fame. Euva was my mother and instrumental in initiating my musical career as well as that of countless others.
sitting at the feet of her sister, uncles, and cousins as they played. Euva was the bass fiddle player in a family band, The Skyline Pals for over 50 years, paving the way for other women
The Shenandoah Music Trail will be preserving more of the Valley’s music. Working with Special Collections Librarians at James Madison University’s Carrier Library, we will be archiving HD video and digital audio recordings of local master musician’s. Technical and artistic supports for these recordings are being provided by Rusty Bowman at MBE Corporation), and Robbie Meadows at Alive Studio in Harrisonburg, VA.
It’s Alive Rusty brings over 45 years of experience in television and video production to the project. He has a complete HD editing suite and multiple HD cameras. Alive Studio is the go-to-place for digital audio recordings in the Valley.
Robbie has been in the audio recording industry for over 40 years. He started as a session musician at the age of twelve and has produced and recorded countless national and local musicians alike. For really topend productions, session musicians from Nashville are frequently brought in to record tracks or digital tracks are sent via the internet to be recorded by top musicians around the world. Robbie has also produced projects for a who’s who of bluegrass, gospel, and country music artists and had several songs chart in the Top 10 and one that went to #1. For comments you can reach Don DePoy at email@example.com.
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APRIL Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival April 18 - 21, 2013 Silk Hope, NC www.shakorihills.org Merlefest 25 April 25 - 28, 2013 Wilkesboro, NC www.merlefest.com
Little John Mountain Music Festival May 23 - 25, 2013 Snow Camp, NC www.littleJohnsMountainMusic.com
Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival May 23 - 26, 2013 (Ferrum College) Ferrum, VA http://crookedroaddulcimerfestival.org/
Heart Of Virginia Festival May 4, 2013 Farmville, VA www.heartofvirginia.org
Carnegie Hall Blues & Jazz May 29 - June 2, 2013 Lewisburg, WV www.carnegiehallwv.org
Magic In The Mountain May 10 - 11, 2013 Clifton Forge, VA www.cliftonforgemainstreet.org
Doyle Lawson Bluegrass Festival May 9 - 11, 2013 Denton, NC http://www.farmpark.com/ doylelawsonbluegrass.html Central VA Family Bluegrass May 16 - 18, 2013 Amelia, VA www.ameliafamilycampground.com Hills Of Home Bluegrass Festival May 23 - 25, 2013 Coeburn, VA www.drralphstanleyfestival.com Gathering In The Gap 2013 unconfirmed Big Stone Gap, VA www.gatheringinthegapmusicfestival.com Fiddlers Grove Festival 2013 unconfirmed Union Grove, NC www.fiddlersgrove.com DelFest May 23 - 26, 2013 Cumberland, MD www.delfest.com
Kerrville Folk Festival May 23 - June 9, 2013 Kerrville, TX www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org
Graves Mountain Festival May 30 - June 1, 2013 Syria, VA www.gravesmountain.com Clinch River Days Festival May, 30 - June 1, 2013 St. Paul, VA www.clinchriverfestivalsharepoint.com Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week June 9 - 15, 2013 Mars Hill, NC http://www.mhc.edu/oldtimemusic Clinch Mountain Music Festival 2013 unconfirmed Gate City, VA www.clinchfest.net Arts Alive Festival 2013 unconfirmed Morgantown, WV www.artsalivefest.com Galax Leaf And String Festival 2013 unconfirmed Galax, VA www.galaxfestival.com Peach Bottom Farm Fiddle & Strings 2013 unconfirmed Independence, VA www.peachbottomfarm.com
Rockahock Bluegrass Festival June 13 - 15, 2013 Rockahock, VA www.rockahockbluegrass.com Cherokee Bluegrass Festival 2013 unconfirmed Cherokee, NC www.cherokeebluegrass.com Highland Co. Old Time Fiddlers June 13 - 16, 2013 Monterey VA www.highfiddle.com Virginia Blues & Jazz Festival June 14 - 15, 2013 Warm Springs, VA www.garthnewel.org Maury River Fiddlerâ€™s Convention 2013 unconfirmed Buena Vista VA www.mauryriverfiddlers.org Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival 2013 unconfirmed Mouth Of Wilson, VA www.waynehenderson.org Music In The Mountains Festival June 19 - 22, 2013 Summersville, WV www.adamsandandersonbluegrass.com Grayson Co. Fiddlers Convention June 28 - 29, 2013 Elk Creek, VA http://www.ecvfd.net/home/graysoncounty-fiddler-s-convention Virginia Mountain Music Festival 2013 unconfirmed Tazwell, VA www.sw.edu/VMMF.htm Bluegrass In Sedalia 2013 unconfirmed Sedalia, VA www.sedaliacenter.org Int. Bluegrass Museumâ€™s ROMP June 27 - 29, 2013 Owensboro, KY www.rompfest.com
And The Winner Is ... At the Sheraton Music City Ho-
tel in Nashville, TN recently, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music (SPBGMA) crowned the winners of the their fans choice awards for the 2012 season. The winners in each category are as follows: Promoter of the Year DA Callaway Radio Station of the Year
Sirius-XM Bluegrass Junction
DJ of the Year Kyle Cantrell, Sirius-XM Songwriter of the Year Tom T. and Dixie Hall Album of the Year The Heart Of A Song, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice Bass Player of the Year Mickey Harris Dobro Player of the Year Tim Graves Guitar Player of the Year Josh Williams Mandolin Player of the Year Doyle Lawson Banjo Player of the Year J.D. Crowe Fiddle Player of the Year Hunter Berry Female Vocalist of the Year (Contemporary) Rhonda Vincent Female Vocalist of the Year (Traditional) Jeanette Williams Male Vocalist of the Year (Contemporary) Junior Sisk Male Vocalist of the Year (Traditional) James King Gospel Group of the Year (Contemporary) Dailey & Vincent Gospel Group of the Year (Traditional) Paul Williams & Victory Trio Bluegrass Band of the Year (Overall) -Dailey & Vincent Vocal Group of the Year Dailey & Vincent Instrumental Group of the Year - The Grascals Entertaining Group of the Year Nothin Fancy Entertainer of the Year Rhonda Vincent Song of the Year A Far Cry From Lester And Earl, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice
Tones And Tones Of Wood T ampa ,
Flori da’s Woody Woodcasters has been playing music since he was ten years old. Like any future rock star, Woody’s musical curiosity led him to pursue many different things to make music with. He became proficient at playing the pian o, the Hammond organ, six and eight string lap steel guitar, six and twelve string acoustic and electric guitars, the dobro, the bass, and various forms of percussion.
tions to the amplifier. “It took a year to put all the various fine American craftsman together and get the parts started flowing,” he said. But once the team was assembled they began building their custom instruments. “Since we make them by hand, we build very few each year and never build duplicates. Even our flight cases are custom finished aluminum and wood, and stained to match the instrument inside.”
So what does someone who has mastered playing musical instruments decide to do next? Build them. And once you get a knack for that, what’s left? Experiment. Push the envelope. Do it differently. Woody told me of the day he decided to turn an observation into a venture. He retired in 2000 to take care of a dying family member. As a way to occupy some spare time he started making instruments to play for himself. Friends liked them and occasionally started asking to buy them from him. He realized that there was something bigger going on. “This was more about not having to work for someone else ever again,” he recalled. “Now I play music and look forward to working.”
Epiphany In 2005 he remembers sitting in the guitar room upstairs and noting that all the mass produced instruments around him had tons of plastic parts. “Knowing that plastic is an insulator and an isolator, I thought all this plastic must be hampering the instruments abilities to pickup the vibrations that resonate through the guitars body and neck,” he said. Woody wanted to know if having pick guards, cavity covers and pickups made of exotic hardwoods would better transmit all the vibra-
”It is a bit more difficult as all the parts are made one at a time by hand,” Woody told me. “The pickup bobbins are even made of wood, and that takes time. A custom build can take anywhere from two months to a year depending on the woods and the instrument being built.”
Showing Off The Goods Now you have all these cool instruments, you gotta have a way to showcase them. What do you? Form a band. “Woody & The WoodTones was formed as a blatant marketing tool for the guitars
By Greg Tutwiler
and basses,” Woody said, “but as we started playing, some members started writing real good tunes. Soon, the originals were 50% of the set list and we were adding more origi nals than cover songs.” Most members of Woody & The WoodTones come from classic rock, blues, bluegrass and even some early metal, and have been playing most of their lives. Randy Tucker, the other guitarist and writer of some of the music also plays for a band called The Florida Cracker Cowboys, a three piece acoustic, bluegrass act. Craig Spence, the bass player started as a hard rock guitar player but filled the roll of bass player very quickly. He also writes some of the songs. Drummer Dane LaBarr has been playing drums for 50 years and as a hobby, collects vintage Ludwig Walnut and Mahogany cortex drums. “We’re working our way up the totem pole,” Woody said. “The band is starting to get more festival gigs and opening slots for national and international artists, and we can now play all original material.” You just never know how unsuspecting circumstances in life lead you to new paths in life. What started as an act of kindness has evolved into a passionate career. I love it when a plan comes together. To learn more about Woody’s custom built instruments you can reach them at: Woody Woodcasters Custom Exotic Wood Guitars & Basses (813) 961-3704 www.WoodyWoodcasters.Com
Music From The National Scene
Music From Your Neighbors
W elcome to the 2013, 44th edition of SPINS! What a collection we have for you this time too. Everything from Roots/rock, to traditional and contemporary bluegrass; honky tonk, rocka-billy, celtic, cajun, and blues are represented here. I love the opportunity to get to listen to all the efforts of the hard working musicians who submit their passionate work to us. It’s often quite tough to have to leave so many out. I hope you will check out these great groups and stock your collection with a few of them. The Spin Doctor
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out Bluegrassed www.iiirdtymeout.com For over 20 years now Russell Moore and his band IIIrd Tyme Out have been delivering top notch contemporary and progressive bluegrass music to their loyal fan base. Their latest, a Cracker Barrel special, excellent
God Didn’t Choose No Sides Civil War True Stories about Real People www.RuralRhythm.com This project features like like Marty Raybon, Russell Moore, Carrie Hassler, and more; telling the untold war stories in song by some of today’s top writers. It’s a touching, heart felt, collection
Heidi Talbot Angels Without Wings
Winners of four IBMA awards nominated for three Grammys - The Steeldrivers much anticipated third release delivers! One of my favorites, even with a new lead singer, they are out of the gate smokin’ hot, rockin’ grass
In a day where folks are fixated on pop music, musicians like Dale Watson are a welcome interruption. It’s straight up, throw-back honky tonk, full of energy and musicianship. The latest from Dale, El Rancho Azu is full of gitty-up
www.heiditalbot.com With her fourth release, Angels Without Wings, Heidi Talbot further solidifies herself as one of the more gifted celtic singers to today. To top it off, she enlists the likes of Mark Knopfler, Jerry Douglas, and Tim OBrian, good stuff
www.johndriskellhopkins.com Founding member of the Zac Brown band, John Driskell Hopkins hooks up with emerging bluegrass Balsam Range to deliver a deliciously baked helping of countryfried-grass. Love it
Charlie Parr Barnswallow
JD McPherson Signs & Signifiers
www.charlieparr.com Love me some blues, Charlie Parr style. Another Minnesota fellow - Parr’s 11th CD is a great listen for anyone who loves eclectic blues. Throw in a harmonica, a washboard, and some gritty vocals and you’ve got an interesting and entertaining combo
www.jdmcpherson.com Feels like watching an episode of Happy Days listening to JD MePherson’s new album, Signs & Signifers. It’s one rockin’ good time. Named in 2011 as “an artist you shoud know,” by NPR - I agree. You’ll dig this cat
Lost Bayou Ramblers Mammoth Waltz
The Riverbreaks Wildfire www.theriverbreaks.com D.C. based The Riverbreaks lead singer Ryan Bailey wrote much of Wildfire in the Costa Rican jungle. It’s the second CD for this Alt./Indie Americana rock ensemble. Gaining respect on the college circuit, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these guys
Monroe Crossing The Road Has No End www.monroecrossing.com Lucky is the number 13 for Monroe Crossing’s latest release. It’s their first since 2008; with the band seeing a few personale changes seems like the magic is working in their favor. It’s a solid set from these Minnesota grassers
Lazybirds American Roots www.lazybirds.net The latest from the Lazybirds, American Roots, is a peppy, saucey combination of Blues, jazz, and old-time. The North Carolina troup, led by Jay Brown has gained cudos from the late Doc Watson, and
John Corbett Leaving Nothing Behind
Shawn Jones Struggle Makes You Stronger
www.shawnjonesmusic.com Leaning in the Roots/Rock direction, LA musician Shawn Jones was raised on Hank and shared the stage with BB King, Buddy Guy, and Bonnie Raitt. If you like a little kick in your roots, you’ll like Shawn Jones
Actor John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex and the City) feels like music has always been his first love. His latest release, Leaving Nothing Behind, has all the making of an acclaimed collection. A nice singer/songwriter feel - perfect for your summertime
If Cajun is your thing, then the Lost Bayou Ramblers latest, Mammoth Waltz, is right up your alley. Heralded as “a big hunk of a sound, once frozen in time, now busting out.” Straight out of Louisana, these guys serve it up hot
You can send new Americana CD releases for consideration to PO Box 45, Bridgewater, VA, 22812
John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range Daylight
Dale Watson El Rancho Azul
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