CDs

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Blog P.S. (which in this case stands for pre-script)

Just had to tell you this:

So I’m teaching Cody, my 20-year-old guitar student, how to play Hank Jr’s song “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound.” (A great song, by the way.) I’d sent him home last week and told him to listen to the song to see if he could figure out the chord changes himself. (They are not hard.) This week he comes back and says he couldn’t figure them out.

Me: Did you actually listen to the song?

Cody: Yes.

Me: It’s just G, C, and D.

Cody: I know. I just don’t know where to put them in.

Bada-bing! I love that!

Now, back to my originally scheduled blog!

While I was driving down to Georgia this past weekend, I was channel surfing on the radio when I heard banjo music! I stayed right there where I was soon happy to hear Tony Trischka and his new road band Territory broadcasting live from radio station WNCW somewhere in Western North Carolina. (I was near Asheville.)

Tony is one of the finest people on the face of the earth and he came across so well on the radio: humble, self-deprecating, quick to credit others, funny with an outrageously dry wit, creative beyond belief, and also a great banjo player in many styles. (His Christmas CD, Glory Shone Around, is one of my favorites.) In short, he is many things I strive to be. Sometimes more successfully than others.

Aside: Case in point: Bob Van and I were working up a gospel song at his lesson last week. I think we were singing “Kneel At The Cross.” We were trying to decide exactly how we wanted to do something and Bob wanted to do it one way and I wanted to do it another. Bob says, “I guess we’ll do it my way because I’m singing the lead. After all, it’s all about me.” Pause. “I learned that from my teacher.” Ouch! And touché!

So back to Tony. He’s talking to the deejay about one of the songs on his new album, Territory. Tony says, “Yeah, Walt Whitman and I got together in Nashville and hammered this out.” And I get the sense that the deejay is not quite sure if Tony is kidding or not because he (the deejay) is  a bit hesitant in his response. I know Tony is kidding because that’s his kind of humor. Then the deejay says, tentatively, “We’re not talking about the Walt Whitman, are we?”

And then Tony explains that he is talking about the Walt Whitman because he has taken Whitman’s poem about Abe Lincoln, O, Captain! My Captain!, and has made a song out of it. Which he and the band proceed to play. Very nice. Tony says he is working on a whole album of songs that reflect the Civil War era. I feel the urge to tell Tony that Down Here, when I was in grammar and high school, and we had to write essays for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, we were not allowed to refer the Great Conflict as the Civil War. We were required to call it The War Between The States. That was a very big deal. (I’m not making this up.)

Toward the end of the interview, the deejay asks Tony to tell the folks how they can find him and his music online. Tony goes into this whole explanation about how hard it is to spell his last name. He said that once when Tony Trischka and Skyline were playing a gig he was billed as Tony Krishna and Skylab! Too funny! But I did remember the time I wrote a lot about Tony in my Banjo Newsletter column and misspelled his name every time. I felt so embarrassed when it came out. I called Tony immediately to apologize. He was so gracious and such a gentleman about it. He said it was no big deal. I felt much better. What a guy. You can actually read up on Tony at www.tonytrischka.com. I know how to spell his name now!

I’d like to close by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Ralph Stanley, my sister Argen Hicks, and Pete Wernick! Quite an impressive lineup for February 25th!

Red HenryYou may recall that most of my recent posts were all about driving down to Florida and back, to play at the Florida Folk Festival and record with Dale Crider. Yes, it's a long way from here to there-- about 14 hours each way! So what was I listening to on the car? Some mighty entertaining CDs (these are not listed in any particular order):

Donna Green Townsend, "Train Wreck II": This second CD from the Train Wreck group features a wide variety of songs ranging from first-generation bluegrass (the Stanleys' "I'm Going Back to the Old Home") to "Faded Coat of Blue" and "Hot Buttered Rum". My own favorite, as Donna knew it would be, is her "Hold Back the Waters" montage, which features many different singers performing Will McLean's masterpiece, including Will himself. Of historical interest is an interpolation of one done by the Red and Murphy & Co. band, from a recording made by Donna herself at Winfield, Kansas in 1982. Ah, nostalgia...

Chris Henry, "Monroe Approved": This assemblage of Mighty Fine mandolin playing was well-produced in Nashville, and is some of my favorite listening. My favorite cuts include "James River", "Indians are Coming", and "Red's Zeppelin".

Carrie Hamby, "Stand Up Eight": (The title comes, I understand, from a Japanese proverb, "Fall down seven times, stand up eight." Carrie's an excellent singer-songwriter from Florida, and this disc features mostly original music including (my favorites) "Black Berry" and "Solidago." Carrie included a nice version of "Little Annie", too.

Ron and Mary, "My Florida". This new release showcases Ron Johnson and Mary Mathews singing a very enjoyable set of mostly-original material. My personal favorites were the title song and also "Rescue Train", Ron's composition about a dramatic and tragic true incident during a hurricane in the Florida Keys. Other numbers standing out include the leadoff track, "Times is Hard", and also, particularly, the "Rave-on" by Raven-Stands-Alone", which you have GOT to hear.

Dale Crider, "Wild Wood Swamp": We (Murphy, Casey, Chris, and myself, plus Tuck Tucker on Dobro) recorded this CD with Dale on Thanksgiving Weekend, 1999. It features some never-before-released numbers such as "Wood Photons of Light" and "Waltz of the Dirt Road Sport", along with re-cuts of several of Dale's older songs like "Conservation Notion" and "St. Johns Saving Time", as well as some excellent material from other writers, especially Don Grooms's "Vitachucco" and Will's "Tate's Hell" and "Dance of the Sand Hill Crane". All still fun to listen to, and still available from Dale, I expect!

Live recording, "Bill Monroe, Seattle, Washington, Nov. 1982":  Bill presented an assortment of old and new tunes, backed up as usual by the Blue Grass Boys. Good stuff to listen to while traveling to play bluegrass!

Live recording, Gamble Rogers, Radio broadcast from club in Athens, Ga., in the Early 1980s: When I hear Gamble working his magic for a live audience, it all comes back in a rush. This recording, only about 45 minutes long, includes several of Gamble's songs plus a wonderful version of his story about the Airstream Trailer Orgy. Gamble's presentation and vocabulary really shine in this live performance.

. . . . .

Well, as you can see, I had a lot of things to listen to while driving to Florida and back! I confess that this list is just a selection, but I wanted you to get the idea. Will I work up a few of these songs? Maybe so. Can't let good music get away...

Red HenryWell, as you can guess, "Recording" is 'way too big a subject to be covered in just one day's blog. But I wanted to mention that our friend Wes Thacker, a fine singer-songwriter from Virginia, has just released his new CD, "Vault of My Old Memories". The disc features a lot of good original material along with some bluegrass standards, and some friends and I helped Wes record it.

We recorded in a small studio not far from Winchester, and it was a good experience. I played the fiddle and a bit of mandolin; David McLaughlin played most of the mandolin and all the banjo; and Marshall Wilborn supplied the bass. Wes had already put down most of the basic tracks before we got there, so all we needed to do was to record own instrumental tracks, which only took a couple of sessions.

It helps, in a recording session or a live band, if the people like each other. So this was an ideal session in that regard, and I could give Marshall and Cousin David some trouble as we sent along, to help keep things on a live, light note. We got a lot of the tracks down in just one or two tries, so Wes's music sounds fresh and lively.

Interested in the CD? You can contact Wes at  wesandt@aol.com .

Casey HenryThis weekend there are two, count them two, CD release parties that my friends are having here in Nashville, TN. I'll be at both, enjoying the music, and buying the CDs! The first is tonight, Friday, February 6th, at the Station Inn. Missy Raines and the New Hip are releasing their first full-length CD and it will be awesome. Fair warning: they don't have a banjo, and they do have drums. It is some of the most amazing music I've ever heard and I encourage you to come out if you are in this area.

Second, on Saturday, February 7th, Bill Evans and Megan Lynch are playing at Norm's River Roadhouse to celebrate the release of their first duet recording Let's Do Something.... There is banjo at this one, and fiddle, and that's pretty much it. But that's all they need!

Mark PanfilWell, it’s getting a little cold up here in Buffalo this December but time spent with loved ones shopping and singing carols is making it “the most wonderful time of the year”.  My days are full of Christmas concerts and first grade plays at my little elementary school on the shores of Lake Erie. Most mornings, I stand at the door of my classroom with my dobro playing Christmas songs like “Joy to the World” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or whatever they request as they enter the building on their way to their classrooms. The young kids that I teach know my Dobro as “the Sponge Bob guitar” because of the smooth Hawaiian flavored sounds they recognize from the sound track of the popular cartoon.

If you’re shopping for a Dobro player on your list, maybe I can make some suggestions. Andy Hall has a new CD on Sugar Hill Records, The Sound of the Slide Guitar which has been in constant rotation for me since I bought it this year IBMA convention. [Note: it won Instrumental Album of the Year]  It is a very simply produced elegant project that really does present the Dobro in the forefront without a lot of studio bells and whistles.

The new Jerry Douglas CD, Glide is also a must have for all Dobro players. His compositions are some of the most significant modern music across all genres of instrumental composition. Listen to it at Jerry's MySpace page. [Also worthy of mention is that Earl Scruggs makes an appearance on a lovely version of his classic "Home Sweet Home."]

I happened upon a very cool CD at the local bookstore last month, Charlie Haden, Family and Friends, Ramblin’ Boy. Of course, Jerry Douglas’s playing drew me right in and I sure enjoyed the place I ended up in. Needless to say, this is one of my new favorites. Listen to a sample at Charlie Haden's website.

If you are looking for a real lasting gift for that special Dobro player, how about the stainless steel Scheerhorn Dobro slide. It is a bit more than other slides, but it lasts much longer. They sell for about $80 at Elderly Instruments.

If your favorite Dobro player is just a beginner, remember the Beginning Dobro DVD that I did for the Murphy Method gets you started on the right foot. I have made some supplemental DVD lessons that you can find at my website.

Hope your Holiday Season is full of music, love and joy.

Mark

Sea of Mystery coverAnnouncing: a brand new CD, just barely out in time for Christmas, from Christopher Henry. Sea of Mystery -- A Solo Bluegrass Exploration features 30, count them thirty, hand-crafted songs and tunes from the pen of Chris Henry. Played entirely by Chris himself, on guitar and mandolin, these tunes demonstrate the unique talent that he brings to the instruments, as well as to the craft of songwriting. Be among the first to hear these brand new tunes. Order one today!

Casey HenryThis year is remarkable in that two new banjo Christmas albums were released, and both are wonderful, though you have to have a bit of an adventurous musical spirit to appreciate them. First, Evergreen, from the Alison Brown Quartet. Alison offers up beautiful, somewhat jazzy arrangements of traditional favorites, along with more recent additions to the Christmas canon, such as "Welcome Christmas" from Dr. Suess's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and "Christmas Don't Be Late" from Alvin and the Chipmunks. Her sound is what I imagine the Vince Guaraldi Trio would have sounded like with a banjo.

Next we have Jingle All The Way from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. This is not your average Christmas album, and it has some stunning playing on it. Their version of "Sleigh Ride" has just been nominated for a Grammy. They do "Twelve Days of Christmas" in twelve different keys, and twelve different time signatures. You pretty much have to hear it to believe it. And Victor Wooten's solo rendition of "The Christmas Song" is so amazing you won't believe it is being played on a bass. And Christmas really wouldn't be Christmas without some Tuvan throat singing, don't you agree?

And two of my all-time favorite Christmas CD staples are Tony Trischka's Glory Shone Around, and Bobby Horton's Songs of the Christmas Season. Tony's has a great variety of cuts from an all-out bluegrass "Precious Child," to shape-note singing, to solo minstrel banjo, to a wonderful story, read by John Hartford. Bobby Horton is a musical historian and renders Cival War-era carols on mostly period instruments, as they would have been played in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It is lovely, peaceful music. I highly recommend it.

Red HenryFolks, as you can tell from reading our blog for the last week or two, Murphy and I went over to Nashville last week for the big International Bluegrass convention. We had a great time at the Trade Show and FanFest (more about that later!), but I've been thinking about the good trip home I had, and thought I'd talk about that.

Murphy and I were in Nashville on different schedules. I was in Nashville for the first part of the week, and drove home to Winchester on Friday afternoon and evening. Now, I usually don't drive a lot in the dark (especially for much of a 10-hour trip), but in this case it was no problem. I had a lot of CDs in the car, and listened to a bunch of them. Here's a selection:

1. Nancy Pate, "Georgia in the Middle of June" --- Murphy's sister Nancy recorded this CD a few years ago with Murphy playing mandolin, Casey playing bass and banjo and our brother-in-law Mike Johnson playing fiddle. The disc features mostly Nancy's original music, with a few numbers by Louisa Branscomb, Nancy's bandmate at the time. The music is what you might call "gentle bluegrass," but with a great deal of originality and feeling. Possibly the most evocative numbers are Nancy's "Pray for Rain" and "A Slower Road," along with Louisa's "For Every Day that You Die Young." Nancy also reprised her old composition "Two of a Kind," as well as giving her own take on Murphy's "M&M Blues" (with Casey playing am excellent Scruggs-style break). Very enjoyable listening.

2. Woods and Bridges, "On the Right Track" --- Our old Florida friends Bill Baker and John and Joanne Rose and their band released this CD about a year ago. It covers a good selection of standard bluegrass, along with quite a bit of bluegrass gospel. I especially like Bill's mandolin work on "Working on a Building" and "The Old Crossroad," because he played bass with us for three years in the 1980s and I didn't even know he played mandolin at all! John Rose plays solid guitar and knows more Carter Stanley songs than anyone I know--- and is the subject of a story we tell on stage, about how he became a bluegrass fanatic! This CD is pleasant and entertaining.

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