When I heard about the forthcoming CD project from Patuxent Music featuring Washington D.C./Baltimore/Northern Virginia-area banjo players I got super excited. The list of participants includes both legendary players and up-and-comers, bluegrass and old-time. Here, to whet your appetite, is a partial list: Tom Adams, Eddie Adcock, Paul Brown, Donnie Bryant, Bill Emerson, Cathy Fink, Joe Herrmann, Pete Kuykendall, Reed Martin, Doug McKelway, David McLaughlin, Mike Munford, Bill Runkel, Mark Schatz, Dick Smith, Roni Stoneman, Steven Wade, and Chris Warner.
I first heard of the project when my mom and I were both asked to participate. Co-produced by ace picker Mark Delaney (who plays with Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass) and Randy Barrett (president of the DC Bluegrass Union) the as-yet untitled project [now titled The Patuxent Banjo Project] will be released in the Spring 2014. ...continue reading
A Few Short Notes by Murphy Henry.
More extensive liner notes will follow, as I have time to write them, but right now...
The Constant Players and Band Members are:
Red Henry: mandolin, fiddle, lead and rhythm guitar
Murphy Hicks Henry: banjo, rhythm guitar
Argen Hicks: bass fiddle [on first three LPs]
Nancy Hicks Pate : rhythm guitar [all LPs except the first]
Laurie Hicks Tanner: bass fiddle [AR-50]
Tuck Tucker: Dobro [last three LPs]
Our first five albums were recorded at the Warehouse Recording Studio in Jacksonville, Florida, with Tom Markham and then Skip Osmundsen engineering. The last two were recorded in our own home studio in Hawthorne, Florida.
Red and Murphy: Riding Around On Saturday Night (1976)
(Arrandem Records, AR 10
Red and Murphy's first LP! Recorded in Jacksonville, Florida, and released on our own Arrandem label. (That's pronounced "R and M" for--guess what?--Red and Murphy!) Our band was a trio at the time, Red, Murphy, and Argen. Features four originals by Murphy and one by Red. The cover photo, taken in front of a Dairy Queen in Gainesville, Florida, is a nod to Murphy's title song. (Wish you could see our red shirts!) Numbers that have held up especially well include Daybreak in Dixie; Shine, Hallelujah, Shine; Flint Hill Special; and California Cottonfields. We could play really fast back then! Bonus cut: This CD includes a 1982 re-recording of Joshua with Mindy Johnson on bass, Tuck Tucker on Dobro, and Nancy Hicks (Pate) singing tenor.
Red and Murphy & Co: Fast Picks And Hot Licks (1978)
(Arrandem Records, AR 20)
Our band name has expanded to Red and Murphy & Co., and our band has grown to include Nancy Hicks (Pate), who would blossom into an amazing songwriter and singer. We continued to feature our original material with five by Murphy (including the title), an instrumental by Red, one by Nancy, and a gospel co-write by Red and Murphy. We also recorded Hold Back The Waters, written by the legendary Florida folksinger Will McLean. I still love that song! Songs that hold up well: Foggy Mountain Special, Mountain Laurel Man, He Will Set Your Fields On Fire. Grits In The White House, with some pretty clever lyrics, now seems a bit dated, since it refers to President Jimmy Carter!
Red and Murphy & Co: Pall Mall Reds (1979)
(Arrandem Records, AR 30)
We are still the same foursome--Red, Murphy, Argen, Nancy--but we have imported Mike Johnson, Argen's future husband, to add his rock-solid rhythm guitar to the instrumentals. Nine of the thirteen songs are originals. (We were big on originals, figuring they helped set us apart from other regional bands.) The title song, Pall Mall Reds, and the accompanying cover art, reflect a time when smoking, while starting to be seriously frowned on, was not considered heinous. Songs that still amaze me: Hundred And Six Star Rag (how the heck did I play so fast?), Two Of A Kind, The Darling Daughter. Bonus Cut: This CD includes a 1981 re-recording of Pall Mall Reds with Mindy Johnson on bass, Tuck Tucker on Dobro, and Nancy Hicks Pate singing tenor.
Red and Murphy & Co: My Everyday Silver Is Plastic (1980)
(Arrandem Records, AR 40)
Our fourth album in five years! Wow! We were between bass players when it was time to record but luckily Murray Ross, who had been playing electric bass with the Front Porch String Band, was between bands! Murray played on eight numbers and he rocked. And he made us rock! This was our best album yet. Most of these songs stayed in our stage repertoire forever. Nine of the eleven songs are original. IMHO, all these songs hold up well, even Lester's Song, which was my tribute to the late, great Lester Flatt, written the day after he died. C.P. Heaton wrote the excellent liner notes (which we may add later).
Red and Murphy & Co: I Ain't Domesticated Yet (1982)
(Arrandem Records, AR 50)
We now have two new band members, Tuck Tucker on Dobro and youngest sister Laurie Hicks on bass. This is our first album of all-original music, twelve numbers, half of which are instrumentals. Once again, we called on Mike Johnson to play rhythm guitar in the studio and we also used acoustic bass player Neal Thompson on seven cuts. Our band sound is maturing, especially since Red and Nancy and I had been singing together in this band for five years. Our song writing, too, is developing, and I consider these originals some of my best. Red's tune Red Zeppelin (two versions, AM and FM) is also one of his best ever, and the version with just him on mandolin and Neal on bass is stunning.
Red and Murphy & Co: Just Remember Where You Could Be (1983)
(Arrandem Records, AR 60)
Our core band members now consisted of Red, Murphy, Nancy, and Tuck, with various bass players, including Mindy Johnson recording with us, and Mike Johnson again working his magic on rhythm guitar. Laurie had departed for medical school, resulting in the title tune, which Murphy wrote to mark (and mourn) her departure. We feature nine originals along with Bill Monroe's mandolin showpiece, Rawhide and Chubby Anthony's Foothills Of Home. This was the first album we recorded in our own home studio in Hawthorne, Florida.
Red and Murphy & Co: Real Time Reel (1985)
(Arrandem Records, AR 70)
This was the last vinyl LP Red and Murphy & Co would record. Red, Nancy, Tuck, and I were still the heart of the group, but our old friend Bob "Hig" Higginbotham had joined us on rhythm guitar. The times were a-changin'. After this recording, Nancy would move to Atlanta, and in 1986 Red and I and kids Casey and Chris would move to Winchester, Virginia. Having two kids, Casey and Chris, made it harder to write! Perhaps that's why we have only five originals on this album. But we continued to pull from the Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Stanley, Chubby Anthony catalog. We loved doing our originals songs, but we felt compelled to demonstrate that we had done our homework, had studied those original recordings in depth, and really knew how to pick this music! Red and I might have been college educated and raised "white collar," but we sure felt like we had "redneck in our souls," to borrow one of my own lines!
Today a wonderful and insightful article on Chris appeared on the Southern Songwriter Magazine website. It talks about his new album Making My Way To You and his songwriting process. Read it right here.
Well, it's album release day in Nashville for me and I want all of you to go get yourself a download of my brand new album, Making My Way To You, for absolutely free here:
This album is a collection of 16 new songs that take the listener on a soul journey from hard-driving traditional bluegrass (featuring my banjo picking for the first time on record) to more folky places with a healthy dose of country flavored Americana.
It's got mandolin, banjo, guitar, Jason Carter making a special appearance on fiddle, electric guitar on some, three have drums, a couple have brushes, Smith Curry on pedal steel on four and Dobro on two.
I'm doing all the signing except for two that feature my lovely and talented girlfriend Sarah Sellari on vocals as well. I thought about getting some other folks to sing on it, and I sent a track to Bobby Osborne with hopes I could hire him to sing on it. About a month later, he wrote back and said, in all capital letters, "THE SINGING YOU HAVE ON IT SOUNDS GOOD TO ME. THE HARMONY SOUNDS GOOD. THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION ONLY THOUGH." I figured if it's good enough for Bobby Osborne, it's good enough for me. I hope it's good enough for y'all too.
Update October 1: Missy made her goal and is working hard on the new album, which is sure to be awesome. Thanks to everyone who helped out!
I just want to pop in briefly (while the baby is napping) to let you know that our great friend, bass player Missy Raines, is making a new album, "New Frontier," which they are funding with a Kickstarter campaign. I have pre-ordered my own copy of it (at the $25 level---which comes with a signed picture of Missy and her cats...that's her actual cats I think, not the cool cats in her band...and a pre-release digital download of the album). Missy's music is new and different. Pretty much no banjo (just a warning), but lots of cool grooviness, nonetheless.
Kickstarter is a great trend in the new music marketplace. It is frequently misunderstood as bands asking for "donations," but it is more of a marketing vehicle where you can buy products (in this case music) directly from the artist and they get the money when they need it--when they're making the album. Buying the album early gets you perks you couldn't otherwise get (like the aforementioned picture, or, if you want to jump into the deep end, a pan of Missy's family-recipe homemade fudge, which, I can tell you, is totally worth the entire $300 pledge---but it comes with a bunch of other stuff, too; and just because I can I'm going to add another clause here, because I think this sentence needs to be longer). I always make a point of buying music from the artist when I can, and Kickstarter lets me do that in a way that helps them a little extra.
So if you're into supporting independent artists I encourage you to back Missy Raines and the New Hip. They're fanTAStic!
Go HERE to back them.
Things have been changing in the world of music. Records sales have plummeted, audiences have grown younger and older, styles have been changing and rearranging. A lot of folks say that rock is now country and country is now americana. Some say that bluegrass is still bluegrass, but I would argue otherwise compared to the roots of the music. I bring the subject up because y'all are some of the tried and true, die-hard, real traditional bluegrass pickers and fans, and I think y'all probably know what I'm talking about.
We love hardcore bluegrass! Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers - good old real bluegrass from the country! I'm not expecting things to be like they used to be when those bands were writing and recording so many of our favorite songs and tunes. The world was a lot different back then. What I do feel is that there has been a void in the contemporary bluegrass landscape for what really rings my bell. The kind of bluegrass that feels like my favorite kind. The last band and recordings that really rang my bell were two Del McCoury Band albums from the mid-nineties, "Deeper Shade of Blue", and its predecessor, "Blue Side of Town". That was fifteen years ago! Where is the super-good modern traditional bluegrass! The tide is out right now.
I believe the waves will roll back in again, and I'm planning on doing something to help get the ball rolling - and I need your help do it. My band, Chris Henry and The Hardcore Grass, got together to play a gig once a week on Broadway here in Nashville. Since then, we've been lucky to have some of the best pickers in town join us regularly, like Mike Bub, the former bass player with the Del McCoury Band (who was on those two albums mentioned before), Shad Cobb, formerly with the Osborne Brothers, Scott Simontacchi - one of the strongest lead singers and rhythm guitar players in Nashville, unsurpassed by his peers in my estimation, and we have had a slew of banjo pickers in many different styles. A few days ago we launched a Kickstarter campaign.
For those who aren't familiar with Kickstarter, it's a new way for bands to connect and receive support online from people that are interested in their new projects. What we're doing is raising money to record three albums. The first album is going to be mostly my original songs along with our best hardcore grass songs. The second album is going to be all Gospel music - songs like I'll Fly Away, I Saw the Light, Amazing Grace, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, songs like that and some Gospel songs I've written. The third album is going to be an album of the bluegrass hits - the songs that we get requests for the most down on Broadway like Man of Constant Sorrow (from O Brother Where Art Thou), RockyTop, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Fox on the Run, and songs like that.
We have a page set up that has a lot of rewards for contributions including my previous CDs, pictures, T-shirts, quartz crystals that I dug myself from Arkansas, private lessons on mandolin, guitar, banjo, exclusive access to UStream during the recording, demos of my original songs, opportunities to MC a show here in Nashville, all the way up to me coming to your house to perform a private two hour concert for you and your friends!
So if you feel like there's a void for good, solid, traditional bluegrass music, or you just want to support our project, we invite you to come take a look at our video and spread the word about our Kickstarter campaign to as many folks as you can. We're looking forward to working hard to do our part in bringing back traditional bluegrass! Thanks for your consideration.
Here's a look at our band. We played bluegrass full-time for 11 years, mostly around the Southeast in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, but also playing festivals up the Atlantic seaboard as far as Canada.
This photo of Murphy and myself with her singing-and-songwriting sister Nancy dates from 1979 (There's a lot of nostalgia here. Those were 'tight' times. By the end of the recession in 1981-2, most of these instruments were gone!):
-and this one is of our big six-piece band in 1985 (Tuck Tucker, Bill Baker, Bob Higginbotham, Nancy Pate, Murphy, and myself):
These are the seven LP albums we made in the olden days, and the year each one was released. (The albums all featured a lot of original material, and as you can tell from this list, most of them were named for one of Murphy's songs!):
"Riding Around on Saturday Night", 1977
"Fast Picks and Hot Licks", 1978
"Pall Mall Reds", 1979
"My Everyday Silver is Plastic", 1980
"I Ain't Domesticated Yet", 1981
"Just Remember Where You Could Be", 1983
"Real Time Reel", 1985
-and in addition, we produced two family band cassette tapes by Red and Murphy with their Excellent Children, Casey and Chris:
"Granny Don't Dance", about 1994
"My Dixie Home", about 1995.
As I mentioned, we'd like to post this music on our site so that it will be easily available. That's the plan, and we hope to be moving on it this year. So this is just a "heads-up" for all you Red and Murphy fans out there, that some Mighty Fine bluegrass music is going to be heard for the first time in a long while!
Folks, it's almost time for the Florida Folk Festival, held every year at the Stephen Foster State Park on Memorial Day weekend. Chris, Jenny, and I will be driving down there on Thursday (13 hours, but we'll never match Casey's travel percentage!), and we'll have three days of performing music on the festival stages. Here's our schedule:
Friday, May 28th: 3:30, at the Seminole Hut stage.
Saturday, May 29th: 3:00, at the Old Marble Stage.
Sunday, May 30th: 3:20, at the River Gazebo.
Of course we'll have plenty of our CDs with us at our sets, and a selection of Murphy Method DVDs as well --and, naturally, there will be plenty of picking in the campground the rest of the time!
This festival runs eight or ten stages during the day, and a big show on the main stage at night. Activities include fiddle and banjo contests as well as contra-dances and craft shows. Look the festival up at http://www.floridastateparks.org/folkfest/Highlights.cfm , and take a look at the schedules! There'll be a lot going on. Come by if you can, and say hello.
Chris, Jenny (his fiddle-playing girlfriend), and I drove down to Florida recently for the Will McLean folk music festival, and we had a great time. It was a long way for us to go, being held not far from Tampa, but it was certainly worth the drive.
The festival is named in honor of Florida's pioneering folksinger and songwriter, Will McLean. A highly individualistic and creative person known as "Florida's Black-Hat Troubadour," Will influenced many other musicians and blazed the way for the rest of us who followed after.
We arrived at the show on Friday afternoon and promptly started warming up--we had a set to play at 7:00. And the set went great. We played a mix of bluegrass and Florida Folk material, and our friend Ron Johnson posted our two-guitar harmony arrangement of Will's song "Osceloa's Last Words" on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW-TmL-PCKE . (Red Henry and Chris Henry--guitars, Jennifer Obert--fiddle, Barbara Johnson--bass).
After performing it was time to pick, and pick we did, until late at night. On Saturday Chris and I led a well-attended mandolin workshop, playing some music and answering lots of questions, and selling a good many CDs and Murphy Method DVDs afterwards. Then we backed up our friend Dale Crider on his afternoon set for a lively crowd. There was more picking that night, and Dale showed up to sing lots of our old bluegrass favorites from when we were learning to play in the late 1960s.
On Sunday we backed Dale up on another set, and then played our own show at 2:00 on the Main Stage. We had a terrific crowd which (I say modestly) gave us a standing ovation, and then we sold some more CDs and DVDs before hitting the road. We won't get rich playing at folk festivals in Florida, but you know what? We'll be back!
P.S.-- Next shows:
Gamble Rogers Music Festival, May 1-2, St. Augustine
Florida Folk Festival, May 28-30, White Springs