Americana Rhythm is published six times a year. All corresponCONTRIBUTORS dence should be sent to PO Box 45, Bridgewater VA, 22812 or Ed Tutwiler email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of Americana Wayne Erbsen Rhythm are made available free at various pick up locations within Donna Ulisse the publicationâ€™s region. Subscriptions are available inside the United Don and Martha DePoy States (only) for $16 US currency made payable by check or money Andrew McKnight order sent to, Subscriptions at PO Box 45, Bridgewater, VA, 22812. Mark Whetzel Foreig n su bscrip tion req u ests shou l d b e sen t to Kaye D. Hill email@example.com. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. DISTRIBUTION Reproduction of any content, artwork or photographs is strictly Ed Tutwiler prohibited without permission of the publisher or original owner. All Zebra Media advertising material subject to approval. Associated Dist. PUBLISHER/EDITOR IN CHIEF Greg E. Tutwiler Associate Editor Ed Tutwiler MARKETING & PROMOTION Mark Barreres (GrassRootsNetworking.com) ADVERTISING Letters, Comments, Suggestions Business office 540-433-0360 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com www.americanarhythm.com
“Let life be like music.” ~ Langston Hughes ~
Indeed, Spring has sprung, but I’m starting to think who ever turned on the sprinkler forgot and left it on - certainly here in the east coast region, we’ve been quite wet lately. Sunshine is on the way though, I can feel it - all those strings in the spring air will assuredly brighten the spirits anyway. And worry not, the shows WILL go one because it’s festival season! There’s lots on tap starting now right on through til late into October, and we’ll be here helping you decide where to catch your next live event, and helping you figure out who you might want to hear. In case you’ve missed any of the past issues, you can always find them on our newly remodeled web page. Full versions of the older issues, as well as individual articles can be found there, along with tons of links to artists, festivals, and our popular podcast, Americana Music Profiles. When you visit a festival you found out about here, make sure you tell them AR sent ya! See you out there! Questions, comments, suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org PUBLISHER Image credit https://trueblueridge.files.wordpress.com
Farming The Song; Live And Local
By Edward Tutwiler
In past issues, AR writers have told various story themes about house concerts and championed how folks use them to bring live music to their friends and neighbors. Recently, the AR office received a bit of information about a new take on this subject. It is called a
mercial stations—only a handful of widely distributed shows share this distinction. The WoodSongs OldTime Radio Hour airs a new show on Monday nights at the theatre for 44 weeks a year. They have produced over 750 broadcasts thus far.
Song Farmers Of Greenville, SC
SongFarmer Club. It is an outflow of the WoodSongs musical fount. Let me first give you a bit of background. Many of you are aware of a music program airing on Public Broadcasting known as the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. This program was created and is produced and hosted by folksinger Michael Johnathon. If you have ever listened to this show, you know that it is not a concert, but rather a onehour musical conversation the focus of which is on the artists and their music. The broadcast is volunteer operated (even the artists come on the broadcasts for free); and its stage is open to a broad range of musical artists. As stated during the broadcast of each show, “You don’t have to be famous to be on WoodSongs, you just have to be very good.”
He has written several books, released nine albums, and tours nationwide. In addition to his aforementioned WoodSongs radio/video project, he is instrumental in the creation of this WFPA. Michael said, “The Front Porch community is Americana at its best, and it is nationwide. We’re doing two things: we are sending roots music classroom projects and lesson plans for free to 1000s of schools across
Michael Johnathon is a 53 year old folksinger, songwriter, producer, author, and playwright. Johnathon is originally from New York State but relocated to rural Kentucky during the early 1980s in order to immerse himself in local culture and to learn first-hand about folk traditions. I sat down a few days ago and chatted with Mr. Johnathon about his musical philosophy and latest musical protégé: The WoodSongs Front Porch Association (WFPA). Michael Johnathon has a fertile mind when it comes to folk music traditions.
From humble beginnings, the show is now produced in the Lexington, KY, 540-seat, Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center; and aired on over 509 stations across North America. The live streaming and web-casting of both the video and audio of these shows are available to both noncommercial and com-
North America; and we are starting community SongFarmer Clubs. We call our members of these clubs SongFarmers.” Did you catch that last phrase? With that, we will segue into the rest of the story. The WFPA is an association of kindred musicians, artists, and friends who use music to improve their communities. It is not a trade as-
sociation that is empowered to advance the business of one particular genre of music but rather it is a musical association whose goal it is to spread the spirit of local music into local communities across the country. Just as the farmers of the earth in by-gone days sat on their actual front porches at the end of their work day and made music with family and friends, the WFPA is hoping to gather music minded folks to be farmers of music who can and will seek opportunities to spread the music and spirit of that old front porch into schools and communities around the world. As Mr. Johnathon puts it, “A SongFarmer is simply someone who wants to use his or her music to do good things that does not need to be money based. It is community, family, and neighbors. It is music for the love of the music not for the wallet of it. The idea has only been around for six months and we already have 14 active SongFarmer Clubs up and running.”
Farming The Song
What exactly is a SongFarmer Music Club? That is certainly the next question that comes to mind. Folk, roots, and bluegrass music is not presented at its best in the sterile, digital format that most of us experience our music in these days. Rather, it is best served live and local in an environment where you and whole audiences can see and hear the artists perform; experience emotional reaction to that performance unfiltered. With that observation, it appears that the folks who will be attracted to these clubs are the same people in the local musical scene who find house concerts and local string-music jams of great interest. Michael told me that SongFarmer Clubs are free community events with the leader of the club registered as a member of the WFPA for the club to be official. The leader’s role is to invite neighbors and friends and fellow musicians to come together as a happy community to play and to listen. He said, “That is what Americana music was built on. It was not built on selling vibrating air. It was built on the love of neighbors and art. The front porch was once the grand
pulpit of every community. When one looks at housing developments now, the homes do not even have a front porch. Now, everyone is inside but what we are saying is whether folks are inside or outside, the front porch is a heart condition. It is not just some wood connected to a house but rather a condition of the musical heart; and we want people to start using that heart again. We want people to start using the word love again when it comes to talking about music performances.” The WFPA is hoping to get these local SongFarmers to start doing good things with their music such as going to children’s wards in hospitals, and to nursing homes and playing four or five songs for the kids and the old folks. The WFPA wants the SongFarmers to take their music to local schools, and share it there. Johnathon says it this way, “Art and music budgets are being slashed all over the nation. The musicians who are there in these communities should do something with their music instead of bemoaning the lack of CD sales. They should get out in the community and share their music. They should make music a part of their life rather than their livelihood. That is what WFPA wants everyone to do. The Wood Songs broadcasts are produced free by volunteers and this illustrates that the folk roots Americana community— this front porch community—is massive yet no one has attempted to bring them together until now. All of these little SongFarmer Clubs are filled with very passionate people. No one is getting paid— there are no salaries. All membership generated proceeds go to get music into the classrooms of the schools. The WFPA member/leader makes the club official with his or her membership fee while the club members just need to be someone who finds a joy in music.”
Finding The Joy
Michael believes that the artist community has focused so much on the failing of the places to sell their music that they no longer find joy in the music; however, he theorizes that all the audiences really care about is the music, hence making the music should be the artist’s business. He said, “Music is a three-
pronged stool: a great song, a great artist, and a great audience. Without the audience what good are the artist and the song? My message to all fellow artists is that this is the best business plan to have. The only thing that connects us to the audience; the only thing that the audience cares about is the music. The questions we artists should ask ourselves: are we bringing our audiences into our journey; and are we filled with joy and love for what we are doing. Because that is what the audiences are investing in with us.” I did ask Michael if he thought this club concept was better than unofficial jams and house concert gatherings in someone’s house on a Saturday night. Here is how he answered my question, “Yes, I do, and I’ll tell you why. Everyone wants to be part of something bigger, and what this club concept emphasizes is that the members are part of a national community. In fact, WFPA, in partnership with the University of Kentucky, has launched a global list serve to encourage conversation among the artists who are the SongFarmers. We are saying to SongFarmers, ‘use this list serve service to talk to each other about the music— songs, lyrics, buying and selling instruments, festivals, and SongFarmer Club events anywhere’ it is fueled by joy and love.” (Editor Note: a list serve service is an email list software application that allows someone to send one email message to the list serve hub that then sends the message on to the addresses of all the subscribers to the list.)
Things Are Changing
I theorized to Mr. Johnathon that most musicians do not earn a lot of money making music and he replied, “Is that not the end point? You as a musician are going to have a hard time getting booked because venues are closing all the time. There are no places like record stores to sell your CDs. While that is not hopeless, it is a sign that things have changed. Let us look at these changes and determine what we can do. You are not going
to make money on your music but hopefully you’ve got a secular job for that purpose. Instead, do something wonderful with your music. Every great artist started that way. Money was not the focus—music and the audience was the focus. Others have always made more money on the music than has the artist. The artist is just trying to sell vibrating air. The industry turned it into a product, and yes, artists need to live; however, the living comes from the reward and joy of making the music. Folks are so focused on the failure of the business that they don’t see this massive garden to be farmed that they have right in front of them and that garden is called music and an audience.”
I told Mr. Johnathon, “You make a wonderful case for live and local music.” His enthusiastic reply was, “Yes! That is why we want the SongFarmer Clubs! We’ve come full circle. The more expensive something becomes to achieve, the less joy and happiness it provides. Simplicity is always best. It gives a person time to be joyful and happy. That is what we are trying to do. Trade associations have gotten so tied up focusing on the business, the budget, and the expense that they forgot the garden and the farmer. That garden and farmer are the audience, the music, and the artist. Right now, our world needs the front porch more that ever. And little banjo pickers and artists sitting around on the steps along with their neighbors watching the sun go down on the literal or the figurative front porch are doing more to create a peaceful world that all the powerful people on earth ” For more info go to www.songfarmers.org
Gettinâ€™ Your Fest Fix As hard as it is to believe, the longer evenings
and the grass in my yard tell me that spring is once again here, and summer is right around the corner. For music lovers, this is a most welcome sign. Festival season is almost here. For many this will be a chance to see many of your favorite artists at a single venue, discover new performers, pick tunes in the parking lot and become reacquainted with old friends. For many fans and industry insiders, festivals are seen as an increasingly attractive alternative to traditional concerts. Fans enjoy the opportunity to see dozens of performers and the sense of community a festival can provide. Vendors are also eager to participate as they have an opportunity to sell their products to a somewhat captive audience.
By Mark Whetzel
Although festival goers are a loyal fan base, many in the industry feel that the smaller market is saturated. This is due at least in part to the success and unprecedented growth of festivals over the last decade or so. All of this competition has taken a bite out of the bottom line for many festivals; 59% of all festivals with 2,00010,000 attendees have difficulty making a profit, and 68% of promoters say that turning a profit is the single most pressing issue. Booking performers can also become problematic as many of them are hoping for gigs at the larger festivals.
Attracting sponsors is another necessity for festival organizers. Although businesses spent $1.34 billion in festival sponsorships last year, they are asking for more than a prominently displayed logo. The most coveted market demographic, Millennials, accounted for 14.7 million of all festival goers in 2014. Tapping into this tech savvy demographic requires a unique approach and sponsors are increasingly requiring festivals to modify their methods in order to count on their corporate support. In the Mid-Atlantic region, we are fortunate to have many moderately sized festivals representing a broad range of music. World class blues, continued on page 12
Performers have also jumped on the festival bandwagon. Not too long ago, many major artists viewed performing as simply a means to promote CD sales. All of this has changed in the digital age. With plummeting CD sales and rampant piracy, established artists are seeing festivals as a way to generate income. Other smaller, independent performers also rely on local festivals to make a living and increase their fan base.
Billion Dollar Industry
The numbers are impressive. The North American concert market is a 6 billion dollar industry and festivals are becoming an increasingly larger part of that segment. According to Billboard, 32 million people attend music festivals in the US each year, traveling on average an astonishing 903 miles. Larger rock festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo can generate millions of dollars in revenue while welcoming staggering numbers of attendees. Even the Bluegrass/Americana community is well represented in this category. Perhaps the biggest festival of its kind in the US, Merlefest, boasted attendance of approximately 78,000 in 2015. However many of us will attend smaller festivals closer to home. The economy, geography and disposable income are important factors in determining which festivals most of us will fit into our summer schedules. This presents both opportunities and obstacles for the small and mid-sized festival.
Holding On To Every Little Memory Every single day that I draw breath is one more glorious opportunity to observe life. These moments are little drops of gold, and I try not to squander or take for granted the chance to collect memories and song scrap. My husband and I are selling our beloved wee palace and moving to the outskirts of Nashville where a stretch of flat green acres leading to a treelined creek is whispering promises to us. Barns and fencing are proof that horses once graced this land. Down a driveway sits a brick rancher that feels like an old pal holding out arms and saying welcome. We want this place so much and are trying our best to make this a reality. Dear family and friends are holding the dream of owning this tract of Paradise with us, cheering on with such sincere, love-filled support.
A memory that I will now hold as treasure happened just yesterday. Rick, my darling, and I were under a deadline to finish painting and staging our current home for a photography appointment our realtor scheduled so that she could list our property and we had absolutely no hope of pulling off the feat in time. Without even having to ask, my long time friend and music associate came to the rescue with her one inch trim brush and paint stained clothing ready to lend a much appreciated hand, trimming out two rooms that were complete with crown molding, all without complaint. Her simple joy and good heart was just the strength I needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I slyly observed her at her work and felt a complete love for her. As we were nearing the actual “moving furniture around and about” I realized we would
need another set of strong arms to help so I reached out to another friend. He never hesitated, answering YES right away, dropping whatever he was involved in and rushing to our rescue. Again, I used my spy tactics to watch as he and my husband went about their labor, all the while cheery and encouraging, a real friend. There was such a peace about their toil and suddenly, with fifteen minutes to spare, the place was finished. Our two friends were so happy to be part of the day. I shared this with you because this feeling of sweet friendship and the kindness these two shared with me will be tightly stored away in my writing bag and will come to light in a song. I might not write about this experience literally but the feeling of gratitude and love for these two selfless people will emerge in some form or fashion. These feelings are what I draw from.
I close my eyes and relive those kinds of days, letting all of that love wash over me. I try my best to describe that feeling in a new way each and every time I write. I hold the sad memories just as tightly because we have to write tearjerkers too. We all have this treasure chest within us and finding new ways to use old memories is part of what all writers strive to do. My challenge for you as you journey down the writer’s path is to make sure you handle each memory with care. Drink them in and they will replenish your writer’s soul. Donna has been called "one of the best singer-songwriter s in bluegrass," nominated twice as the International Bluegrass M usic Association's Songwriter of the year. Reach her at www.donnaulisse.com.
Tuning: “I Wish I Was Mole In The Ground” is written out for you in what is called double C tuning: gCGCD (starting with the 5th string).
By Wayne Erbsen
I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground I’m excited to announce that my newest book is back from the printer. Entitled Clawhammer Banjo – Tunes, Tips and Jamming, the book was at least three years in the making, and I hope that people who want to learn to play in the clawhammer style on the banjo will think it’s a humdinger. Let’s take one of the tunes in the book for a test drive to see how she handles. “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” in an appropriate tune for us to look at because it was the very first tune recorded on the banjo in a style that would eventually be known as Old-time music. Playing banjo and singing on this song was Bascom Lamar Lunsord. Lunsford, who famously called himself “the Squire of South Turkey Creek,” was the first to record “I Wish I Was A Mole in The Ground” on March 15, 1924. This recording marked the first time that anyone had recorded on the 5-string banjo in what would later be called country music.
Reading the tab. The first note of the tab is the 4th string played open. That’s what I call the “claw” of the
For that, we tip our hat to Mr. Lu nsford. He later recalled that he learned the song from Fred Moody in 1901 when they were both students at Rutherford College. Lunsford insisted that the use of the word “bend” referred to a bend in the Pigeon River that runs through Haywood County. In 1952, Lunsford’s version of “I Wish I Was Mole In The Ground” was reissued in Harry Smith’s influential record set, “Anthology of American Folk Music.” It was from this record that the song became widely known among fans of old-time music. In the notes to this set of records, Smith disputes Lunsford’s claim about the meaning of the word “bend.” Smith suggests that the word was actually “pen,” and that it referred to Big Bend Penitentiary. Against my better judgement, I’m taking sides and sticking with Lunsford on this.
clawhammer rhythm. Play that note with a downward stroke of your index finger. Then you’ll see an arrow and then the 5 th string. T hat’s the “hammer” of the clawhammer stroke. Merely brush down on the first, second and third strings with the ring and middle fingers of your right hand. The rhythm of the clawhammer lick should sound like the sylables of the word “clawhammer:” claw-ham-mer.
Hot Lick #1. A great way to decorate “Mole in the Ground” is to use slides. Any time you see the 4th string at the 4th fret, you can slide into it. Simply fret the 4th string, 2nd fret, and slide up to the 4th fret. Hot Lick #2. At the beginning of measures 5 and 9, the melody goes up to the 1st string, 2nd fret followed by a “ham-mer.” This would be a perfect place to add a hammer-on. All you do is play the 1st string open, then quickly hammer down on the 1st string, 2nd fret. Fudging the Chords. In measures 2 and 14, “Mole in the Ground” goes quickly to a G chord and then back to the C. It’s certainly difficult to get to the G chord fast enough. When I play it, I often fudge and skip the G chord entirely. All I do is play the open strings on the “ham-mer.” Feel free to do this same thing. But for goodness sake, don’t tell anybody you’re doing this. Let’s just make it our little secret. OK? ********************************* Wayne Erbsen is an active musician and teacher with more than thirty instruction books for banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and ukulele to his credit. For more information, visit www.nativeground.com.
Jamin’ With the Hackensaw Boys SavingCountryMusic.com said this about our feature artist, the Hackensaw Boys; “Before string bands were a “thing” in popular culture, there was the Hackensaw Boys. Before The Avett Brothers were selling out arenas, before Mumford & Sons were becoming the biggest band in music in a given year, before everybody and their brother was growing a beard and wearing suspenders and playing in jug bands, the Hackensaw Boys were mixing bluegrass and old time music with a punk attitude, and reshaping what a modern old school string band could sound like.”
dio in the back with a friend. We met there to practice the first time as a band. We practiced for a few hours and then decided to go out on the downtown mall there in Charlottesville and play for a while. I think we made 80 dollars that evening. We were astonished. We just made money! And here I am all these years later still trying to figure out how to do that,” he laughed.
Before we knew it, we had 12 people in the band.”
Tour To The Top
In 1999 the 12 band members and a photographer set out on their first six week tour. “That’s when we all fully committed to it,” David said. “There was always this founding father vibe in the band but we tried really hard to be a democracy about it. It all seemed to work it-
Takin’ It To The Streets
“The band actually came together in the back of the Jefferson Theater. (Before it was a music venue, it was a two dollar movie theater),” David told me. “I shared an art stu-
dates with them. We were immediately playing better venues, which was really nice.” The Cake tour led to a big package tour in 2001 and 2002 with several other bands of different genres. “That took us to even greater venues, which was amazing. It really expanded our fan base and set the stage for who we are as a band today.”
Maintaining The Vibe
How does a band stay together for 17 years and still stay current, I asked? “If you are a Hackensaw Boys fan, it’s likely you saw them when I wasn’t in the band,” David noted. He was with the band for six and a half years in the beginning, left for five years, and has now been back with the band for the past five years. I suggested maybe the band was like an institution, and David said, “yes, sort of. I think of it like sort of a folk franchise,” he mused.
“It wasn’t like we set out to become this popular string band,” founding member David Sickman told me. In fact, you could almost say they jammed their way into it. Sickman, a native of Nelson County, VA moved to Harrisonburg, VA in his early 20s. A café on the north end of town called the Little Grill, friendly towards open stage and jam nights, was a popular hangout for the emerging string music scene. (It’s also where the band Old Crow Medicine Show has its roots) David and fellow musician Rob Bullington became friends at the Grill where they would often jam together. They eventually found their way to Charlottesville, VA where they connected with David’s old high school mate, Tom Peloso, and the fourth of what would become the founding members of the band, Robert “Bobby” St. Ours.
By Greg Tutwiler
So literally, their first practice was the first day they played their first show, “which is kind of funny,” David said; “because I don’t think many bands can claim that. And then of course, we never really practiced again, we just played shows. Certainly we learned a lot in front of people, but the crowd has always been a big part of what makes Hackensaw Boys shows fun anyway.” The guys all kept jobs on the side to help pay bills but the band quickly became a focal point for everyone. The atmosphere around the group and the way the band played lent itself to growth. “We kept adding people,” David recalled. “We didn’t really set out to do that. But somebody would jam with us and we’d end up inviting them to join in at our next show.
self out, but there was always two or three guys that seemed to do the thinking/business things for the band.” Following that tour the band returned home with focus and a pretty busy local/regional performance schedule. And then they got the kind of break every up and coming band hopes for; a chance to open for a headliner in front of a large crowd. “A good friend of ours was set to open for the band Cake,” David recalled. “She decided that she couldn’t do it and recommended us as the opening act in her place. We ended up on stage for a sold out show with basically nobody in the crowd knowing who we were. Honestly, we really kind of blew the place up. It was crazy. Not long after that we were invited to do some additional
“We’ve had upwards of 20 members in the band over the 17 year history,” David said. “Over the course of the years people have been fired, quit, and just drifted away, and then some have come back to the Boys as well, like myself. I don’t think there’s ever been anyone in the band that hasn’t tried to honor the original intent of the band though, which is good time music; and a fun time for people to come hang out at a good party with good music. And it’s always been based on a high energy vibe along with some ballads mixed in to mellow it out every once in a while.” “And I think the band has always been about songs too.” Although David and Ferd Moyse are the two main songwriters at the moment, “We’ve always been lucky to have good songwriters in the band, in my humble opinion. When you have multiple songwriters you can reach out to a lot of different people. It adds a dimension and a diversity that you can’t always get if you’re relying on just one continued on page 12
Hackensaw Boys continued
songwriter, or songs written outside the band. If your songwriter leaves, it’s hard for the band to go on. If you have multiple writers, the band can continue on easier even if one of the writers moves on.”
Songs again are the focus for their latest CD project, Charismo, their first studio recording in ten years. “We’ve been recording all along we just haven’t been able to get much out to the public. Guys would leave the band before we were finished, or timing and scheduling would get in the way.” The latest project was funded through Kick starter, “which is a great way to involve your fan base in what you’re doing,” David commented. They asked noted producer Larry Campbell to help them make the record. “Thanks to our fans, we got the project funded and we went to New York to cut the new material.”
Festival Continued from page 7 jazz, Americana, bluegrass and rock are all available within a comfortable distance. In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Red Wing Music Festival continues to grow while bringing in a wide range of top tier talent. Although not a music festival in the traditional sense, Eastern Mennonite University’s ( Just outside of Harrisonburg VA) Bach Festival presents a series of summer concerts and continues to draw large audiences by bringing in internationally recognized classical performers. And of course there are other regional festivals such as Graves Mountain, Dinwiddie, Floyd Fest, and Galax Fiddle and String which have been popular for some time.
els, and technological innovation in areas such as recording and distribution. Remember that being a performing artist is like any other job; you’ve got to make a living the rest of the year too. Many of us make an effort to support local businesses. I still prefer
Alive And Well
On the surface, despite the inherent economic challenges, festival season appears to be one of the few bright spots in the current music industry. The big labels have seen steady and significantly declining sales and this often dominates the tech news. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that at the grassroots level, CD sales have been strong, and live music revenues have increased significantly. Undoubtedly this is due in part to the popularity of festivals, flexible business mod-
The album is named after a percussive instrument invented by former bandmate Justin Neuhardt (who played with the band in its early days). The instrument has been used nightly since the band’s initial tour 16 years ago. According to the band’s press material, “the charismo is made of recycled wood and scrap – tin cans, hubcaps, and so on – and is constantly broken down and re-assembled as the parts wear out and new ones are found. Much like the fluid, everchanging nature of the instrument, Charismo shows us that The Hackensaw Boys are always moving forward like a mighty wheel turning, continuing to spread the (not quite) bygone spirit of downhome music to old and new audiences alike ”
a brick and mortar store over an online retailer any day. Let’s try applying the same approach to music. Continue to fill those concert seats the rest of the year and purchase the new releases by your favorite independent artists. Hopefully they’ll be able to make a living until the next festival season
The Three Basic Elements of the Musical Language Most people would say that music is sound, and that’s true. Music, like any sound, is simply displaced air molecules that travel in waves, hit our ear drums, and are then interpreted by our brain. But music is different from other things we hear. The noise a trash can makes falling down a flight of stairs is a sound. So is a baby’s cry, a whale’s “song,” and the scream of a jet engine. What differentiates music from these and other less musical sounds? Music is made with an instrument such as a guitar, banjo, violin, bassoon and glockenspiel. It can also be made with the instrument we are all born with, the human voice. In music the sound is also organized. How? That’s covered below, but before we get to that, let’s look at music a different way.
Like your first spoken language you initially understand and learn to use the musical language through immersion. You were surrounded by people speaking to you and to each other and intuitively and instinctually figured out that this is how people communicate ideas and feelings and tell stories. Through listening and practice you began to better understand and use both the spoken and musical languages into which you were born. Just like your first spoken language, the language of music can be used and understood by reading and writing with symbols that represent sounds. We can also learn the practices and possibilities of music by studying music theory. However, long before we learn to read and write music, we learn it through the oral and aural tradition, that is by ‘speaking it’ and listening to it.
• Rhythm makes up all the time-based elements of music. Think of it as the ‘groove’ or underlying beat or ‘feel’ of a tune. It’s visceral, we respond to it with our bodies. When we dance, clap, or tap our foot to a piece of music, we are responding to music’s rhythm. Rhythm also organizes the other two basic elements of music, melody and harmony. With spoken language most of us go to school and learn vocabulary words and the rules of grammar and syntax. This deepens your understanding of the spoken language you’re already using and, hopefully, helps you to become a better communicator. As musicians we can also ‘go to school’ to learn to read musical notation and the basics of music theory. This may deepen our understanding of what we already know and learn to communicate our musical ideas with greater clarity and sophistication, but we can become very proficient players long before we make that decision. That’s because even before we pick up an instrument, we already understand and use some of the basic elements that music is made of. Three Basic Elements of Music Here are the three basic elements of music:
• Melody is the linear aspect of music. It’s the sequence of notes in a tune and the most memorable element of a song. It’s what we sing or hum while we listen to music and sometimes long after the song is over. • Harmony refers to how notes are combined with each other. Think of harmony as chords. A chord is three or more notes sounded together. Harmony provides a foundation that supports the melody. But where do we hang these three elements of music? There must be a framework that organizes them, right? Yes, there is! More on that next time or visit www.guidedguitarlessons.com and learn all about it in my free course, The Meat & Potatoes Guide To Making Music! Scott Perry is a Vintage Blues Guitarist and Creator of GuidedGuitarLessons.com.
Thanks to our partnership with ReverbNation (www.reverbnation.com) we are honored to give you a peak at a few of the nation’s hardest working indie artists. Each month we select one entry to showcase for you here. Enjoy! THIS MONTH’S FEATURE:
By Greg Tutwiler
FEATURE ARTISTS S iblings Megan, Katey, and Ryan
Bundy were exposed to music early in life growing up in Cincinnati, OH. Influenced by music from artists like John Denver, Dave Matthews and Dolly Parton, their interest in music blossomed and they eventually taught themselves how to play guitar. That was quickly followed by experimenting with songwriting. This was an activity for much of the childhood years but it wasn’t until much later that a run at professional music became real for The Bundys. Megan Bundy found herself in Nashville, TN in 2010 pursuing the illusive country music dream. A few years later she was laying down songs for an EP when she invited Katey and Ryan to bring harmony vocals to some of the tracks. It was the pivotal moment that changed everything for the budding musicians. For the next two years the trio juggled competing schedules, school, work, and commuting to give music a go. A brief appearance on Fox’s The X Factor left them with a tough decision. Could they really do it? Could all three siblings put their lives on hold to chase the dream of a career in music? “We had a brief appearance on the X Factor in 2013,” Megan recalled. “The whole process was exhausting and emotionally draining. One moment, you think your life is about to change and the next you’re on a flight back to Nashville. After that
was done, we had a bit of a come to Jesus moment where we had to decide whether or not we were cut out for this kind of life. We went from three siblings from Ohio who love to sing and write songs to a full fledge band in Nashville getting 200 no’s for every 1 yes. The sting the X Factor left us with actually ended up being a good motivator. We knew we had to put in the work and do this the hard way.”
The path became obvious. Megan, Katey, and Ryan launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their first full length album. The sky now, as they say, is the limit. Their debut album, Louisiana Avenue, was released in September of 2015. I asked Megan if it was more difficult to perform with siblings as opposed to traveling with unrelated band mates. “It’s funny,” she exclaimed. “We didn’t realize how strange it is for siblings to work together, live together, and generally get along as well as we do until we started doing this. We’ve always been a close family, so it wasn’t crazy for us to imagine a life like this. It’s nice to share the stage and the responsibilities of the music world. The music industry can be a
rollercoaster of emotions and let downs, so it’s nice not to have to take that on alone.” “Of course, on the other hand, when your business is family business, it’s nearly impossible not to take something personally. The saying “It’s not personal, it’s business” doesn’t work for us. It’s both,” she told me. I asked Megan how it was different being raised with music as the center piece of their childhood. “It’s the thing I remember most about growing up in our family. We had one stereo in the living room (before everyone had iPhones and portable speakers!). We grew up listening to John Denver, Elvis, UB40 and Broadway tunes. Both of our parents would sing all the time: doing the dishes, laundry folding clothes, so to us, it was just normal. It wasn’t until we started to have our friends over that we realized not everyone sings all the time,” she quipped.
Meant To Be
The trio officially started in 2012. Megan recalled how differently that felt from her childhood years. “Even though we always sang together growing up, there was something different about singing together in Music City. That changed the game
for us.” All three contribute songs to the trio as well as co-write with other writers in town. “Even if we end up not using the songs for our band, it’s our version of therapy,” Megan said. “Our song writing process kind of varies. Sometimes we come to a writing session with partial lyrics and a general idea for a topic of a song, other times it’s a melody in our heads and we have to find lyrics to fit that sound. Either way, it’s usually the three of us, sitting around on the couch with a guitar, a pen and paper for the messy ideas and lyrics and a laptop for when they’re a little more put together. We usually spend the session switching back and forth between coffee and alcohol … a musician’s two best friends!”
The Nashville Way
The siblings are all still working at other income producing pursuits while pursuing music. “From what I hear, ‘it’s the Nashville way’ of doing things,” Megan said. “There is so much talent in Nashville that it’s easy for venues to pay in exposure only. Of course, exposure doesn’t pay our bills!” Their current focus is on touring. “We’ve got a summer tour in the works,” she said. “We’re trying to go to as many cities as possible. We’re also always writing and trying to add new instruments to our show. Since our home base is in Nashville, we’re trying to schedule shows anywhere within driving distance of there. We’ve got stops in Chicago, Atlanta, and Jackson, MS to name a few. We don’t plan on getting a lot of sleep this summer,” she mused
he got started making dulcimers, he told us that he bought a cardboard dulcimer kit for his son for Christmas. On seeing the kit, he explained, “It can’t be that hard to make.”
the Shenandoah Music Trail By Don Depoy
Wood craftsman finds passion in Mountain Dulcimers Every once in a while Martha and I meet someone who has a beautiful story to share. While visiting M & M Music on Main Street in New Market, Virginia, we saw some mountain dulcimers for sale. These dulcimers were beautiful and clearly made by a wood craftsman. The store’s owner told us Ted Ferrell, a local retired furniture maker and finish carpenter, had made them. Seems he had fallen in love with the mountain dulcimer and has been making them since 1981. Martha and I had wanted a locally made dulcimer for
years so we contacted Ted to enlist his talents. We were invited to his home near Woodstock Virginia. Taking the exit off I - 81 and followed the GPS along a ridge line running down the center of the Valley, we were treated with spectacular views of mountains rolling hills, and passing farms and fields planted by generations of families. We turned at the old white church onto a dirt road and after a short dusty ride, turned into the driveway of an old farm house. Ted met us at the door, invited us in and told his story of his love of the Mountain Dulcimer. “The mountain dulcimer is from here.” He started, “This instrument has deep connections to the Valley and its musicians.” When asked how
Before the New Year, Ted had made his first dulcimer and his son was learning to play. Over the last three decades, using an assortment of cherry, oak, elm, popular, maple, and sassafras wood cut from his farm, Ted has made more than 350 dulcimers for family, friends and even sold a few. He admits that he has lost count of the exact number. He told us that after his wife passed, he used dulcimer making as therapy. It keeps him busy and now it has become part of what he does every day. “I don’t make a lot of money making dulcimers,” he explained, “it takes anywhere from 80 to 150 hours to complete one.”
It is clear that his dulcimer making is truly a labor of love and commitment to keeping a centuries old Valley tradition alive. Shenandoah Music Trail website updare: The current website continues to provide an updated map and descriptive information of the Shenandoah Valley jams and music events. A new web site is in the works should be online soon. The SMT is nonprofit, all volunteer. If anyone has questions about events along the music trail, please email or call. Email - email@example.com or call 540209-3540.
Here is an updated list of performers for the 2016 ROMP Fest in Ownesboro , KY June 22 - 25
Old Crow Medicine Show Del McCoury Band Sam Bush Jerry Douglas The Earls Of Leicester The Infamous StringDusters and more. Check our ROMPFest.com for full details
June 2016 2015 December
Here’s A Sample Of What’s On Tap For 2016 MAY Chantilly Bluegrass Festival May 27 - 28, 2016 Floyd, VA www.chantillyfarm.com DelFest May 26 - 29, 2016 Cumberland, MD www.delfest.com Little John Mountain Music Festival May 26 - 28, 2016 Snow Camp, NC www.littleJohnsMountainMusic.com Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival May 26 - 29, 2016 Ferrum, VA http://crookedroaddulcimerfestival.org/ Gathering In The Gap TBA May, 2016 Big Stone Gap, VA www.gatheringinthegapmusicfestival.com Fiddlers Grove Festival May 27 - 29, 2016 Union Grove, NC www.fiddlersgrove.com
Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week June 5 - 10, 2016 Mars Hill, NC www.mhu.edu/oldtimemusic Dinwiddie Music Festival June 9 - 11, 2016 North Dinwiddie, VA www.dinwiddiemusicfest.com Houston Fest June 10 - 11, 2016 Galax, VA www.houstonfestgalax.com Mountains Of Music June 10 - 18, 2016 Southwest, VA www.thecrookedroad.org Rockahock Bluegrass Festival June 16 - 18, 2016 Rockahock, VA www.rockahockbluegrass.com Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival June 18, 2016 Mouth Of Wilson, VA www.waynehenderson.org
Music In The Mountains Festival June 22 - 25, 2016 Summersville, WV www.adamsandandersonbluegrass.com
Graves Mountain Festival June 2 - 4, 2016 Syria, VA www.gravesmountain.com
IBMM ROMP June 22 - 25, 2016 Owensboro, KY www.romp.com
Bluegrass In Cherokee June 2 - 4, 2016 Cherokee, NC www.adamsbluegrass.com
River And Roots Festival June 24 - 26, 2016 Berryville, VA www.riverandroots.com
Mountain Music Festival June 3 - 4, 2016 New River Gorge, WV www.mountainmusicfestwv.org
Grayson Co. Fiddlers Convention June 24 - 26, 2016 Elk Creek, VA http://www.ecvfd.net/home/grayson-countyfiddler-s-convention
Ocracoke Folk Festival June 3 - 6, 2016 Ocracoke, NC www.ocracokealive.org
South Branch Valley Festival June 25, 2016 Romney, WV http://bluegrass.hampshirewv.com/
Email festival listings to firstname.lastname@example.org
JULY Wayside Bluegrass Festival July 6 - 9, 2016 Stuart, VA www.waysidepark.com Tazewell Old Time And Bluegrass July 8 - 10, 2016 Tazewell, VA www.craborchardmuseum.com Old Time Banjo Festival July 9, 2016 Alexandria, VA www.oldtimebanjofestival.com Doc & Rosa Lee Watson Musicfest July 15 - 16, 2016 Sugargrove, NC www.musicfestnsugargrove.org Red Wing Roots Festival July 8 - 10, 2016 Mt. Solon, VA www.redwingroots.com Highland Co. Old Time Fiddlers Conv. July 14 - 17, 2016 Monterey, VA www.highfiddle.com Shenandoah Valley Music Festival July 2016 - September, 4 2016 Bayse, VA www.musicfest.org Mineral Bluegrass Festival July 21 - 23, 2016 Mineral, VA www.mineralbluegrass.com Floyd Fest July 27 - 31, 2016 Floyd, VA www.floydfest.com Appalachian String Band Fest July 29 - August 7, 2016 Clifftop, WV www.wvculture.org/stringband
Listen to the expanded interviews at www.spreaker.com/show/ americana-music-profiles, or search Americana Music Profiles in iTunes!
Singer/songwriter Doug Irving just released his 16 th studio album, Songs Of The Wood. Although guitar is his instrument of choice, he’s equally comfortable on the keyboards. As a song writer, he spent eight years in Nashville, TN inking 34 independent cuts before moving back home to upstate New York in 2006. After writing songs for 16 different projects, I asked Doug how you know when you get a good one on your hands. “It’s hard. You get so involved with the process and you’re so close to the project you can lose objectivity sometimes,” he said. “I love when I don’t play my songs for a long time and then when I play them again, and I get goose bumps. I think, ‘okay, the emotion is still there, that’s what it sounds like to someone who’s never heard it before.” Doug’s parents bought him a guitar for Christmas when he was just eleven years old. “I just took to it,” Doug recalled. In high school Doug started writing songs and taught his older brother how to play guitar. “He actually recorded some things before I did,” Doug mused. Doug had his first of many songs published in 1972. Music has permeated almost every facet of Doug’s life even though he has maintained other sources of income throughout the years. But the last ten years or so has been mostly music, inspired by his chapter leadership of the Nashville Songwriters Association. “I try to set a good example. Talk the talk, walk the walk,” he said. “If you want to get better at songwriting, like anything else, you need to do it a lot. You’re not going to just suddenly get better. It’s a craft. You’ve got to work and get better at it,” he said. “So I write a lot, and especially in the last five years since I took that chapter over.” And the practice at his craft is evident indeed throughout the tracks on his latest CD. My favorite, “Into The Wood” rings with influences of Jethro Tull, which Doug says was the objective. To find out more, visit www.foolshillmusic.com
Like so many singers, RJ Comer’s roots are linked to the church choir, but also like many, the path is winding and storied from there. The LA story teller finds his songs boiling out of the Americana and Blues that run deep through his veins. “My mom was a choir director and started me on a path really towards classical music. My dad and grandpa were folk guys playing banjo, guitar and ukulele. They were the guys who provided the music around the camp fires, so I got the best of both worlds,” he recalled. Unfortu na tely RJ’s dad passed away when he was a kid and as life often happens to families when one of the parents dies, RJ’s life took a tough path. “I went to music school after high school but I just wasn’t ready,” he said. “So I spent a lot of my 20s getting into trouble.” That path however opened up a lot of material for a songwriter to draw on. “Music was always the thing I was going to do,” he said. “Even now, I’m just a 52 year old guy trying to make music for a living, and I’m having fun doing it.” RJ describes himself as “a northern boy from Chicago with a southern boy’s heart.” His new EP, Nightly Suicide, is what he calls “an Americana Rock record. I think of Americana music as a spectrum,” he said, “and like the name of your magazine implies, there’s so many different rhythms in the Americana spectrum. I include certain kinds of Blues in Americana, and there’s an Americana Rock genre’ that this current record is really focusing on. My first record really focused on the swamp sound where I played banjo on every track, and there’s fiddles and so forth. That one was mostly made in Louisiana. I like to explore that entire spectrum rather than say I’m just a folk singer. I explore that entire spectrum with my live shows, and with each of theseforth coming EPs I’m going to be exploring a different sub-genre’ of Americana.”
To find out more, visit www.rjcomer.com
on iTunes www.AmericanaRhythm.com
Music From The National Scene
Music From Your Neighbors
welcome to another edition
of SPINS! Feast your ears on all this ear candy! (in no special order) - This collection will keep you busy for a while - Wow! Grab your iPad or Smart Phone and dial up some of these fine folks. Spring has sprung. Let the festivities begin. Enjoy this great music, and catch some live too! www.AmericanaRhythm.com Uncle Woody, The Spin Doctor PO Box 45 Bridgewater, VA 22812
Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection www.alligator.com
Bruce Iglauer, president and founder of Alligator records personally selected the 37 tracks on this double CD from nearly 300 albums. “I started Alligator to record my favorite bands,” he said. This collection IS the cream on top
This is the Radio Ramblers first Bluegrass gospel CD in five years - and well worth the wait. One of the favorite groups on the bluegrass festival circuit, Fans will surely appreciate the new material
The Bills Trail Of Tails
The Farm Hands
Coty Hogue Flight
Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers Sacred Memories
Dig In The Dirt
Michael Martin Murphy High Stakes
Egdar Loudermilk Georgia Maple
With themes close to the heart, Michael Martin Murphy returns to his Texas-cowboy roots for a collection of passionate, poetically penned tunes on his latest. Released on Earth Day, these songs have a message for all
Former bassist/vocalist for Russell Moore, and Adkins and Loudermilk, Edgar has a new band and a new collection of mostly originally penned songs. It’s top notch traditional grass. Great job Edgar
Frank Migliorelli & The Dirt Nappers City Eastern Serenade
Kelley MCrae The Wayside
Bellingham, WA is home for this budding lyrical artist. Coty Hogue’s new CD, Flight, is filled with delightful Appalachian melodies inspired by a 4,000 mile bike trip from her home town to the American south. Deep lyrics and crisp vocals; this is a keeper
Collectively, The Farm Hands recently grabbed four various SPBGMA awards; not bad for a relatively new band. Led by noted grassers Daryl Mosley and Tim Graves, this quartet’s new project, Dig In The Dirt, is one to keep your eye on
Canadian quintet, The Bills, have been at it for over 20 years, and their “globally-inspired roots ensemble is as vibrant as ever.” This latest Trail Of Tails, another Earth Day release, blends perfectly poignant lyrics and captivating instrumentation
Songwriter/publisher Frank Migliorelli has built a library of music for numerous clients, but his latest collection here with his band, The Dirt Nappers, is a unique musical excursion into Americana rooted rock and soul
The Haunted Windchimes Rattle Your Bones
The Honey Cutters On The Ropes
Rice & Menzone Alliance Something Out Of The Blue
Modern Man www.rounder.com
Three time IBMA Guitarist of the year Josh Williams has released his first CD in six years - Modern Man. “Different than anything else he’s done,” said producer JD Crowe. His storied life has seasoned his music, and this set of tunes is top shelf
Part of the new music movement coming out of Ashville, NC, The Honeycutters have a definite sound all of their own. High energy Americana /honky-tonk infused tunes make you wanna get right up and dance
Wyatt Rice and Dan Menzone hook up on this collaborative effort that features guest artists like Adam Steffey, Rob Ickes, Don Rigsby, and Dale Ann Bradley just to name a few. How can you go wrong with that? Good stuff here
Central North Carolina’s latest bluegrass ensemble, Swift Creek, releases their collection of bluegrass/americana originals on their new CD, Magnolia. Hints of traditional, contemporary, and old-time flavor this crafty collection
The Haunted Windchimes draw on traditional folk and American roots music for thei r latest, Rattle Your Bones. Their songs have a vintage quality as they paint pictures of days gone by. Definitely worth a spin
You can send new Americana CD releases for consideration to PO Box 45, Bridgewater, VA, 22812
Songwriter Kelley McRae immerses herself in the meaning of each song she writes. For her fifth album, The Wayside, she explores the rugged, unfolding experience of life on the road with a unique understanding
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Published on May 18, 2016
Check out our interview with the Hackensaw Boys! We also talk to Michael Johnathon about his latest music venture; the Song Farmer's Club. A...