Here in Nashville we started off the New Year the best way we know how: with a pickin' party! More than just your average New Year's Day party, it was a Mike Bub Day party, to celebrate the intrepid bass player and all he does for the bluegrass community around here. Lester Armistead hosted it at his house in his old country store---not a working store, but stuffed with antiques and memorabilia from country and bluegrass music history.
I arrived when the party was already in full swing. (I heard Steve Martin on Fresh Air on the drive over, talking about his biography that came out last year, which has quite a lot in it about banjo playing.) When I walked into the store I found most of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band a pickin' and a singin'. Leroy Troy was there with his wife and young son Cash, who is just over a year old and was walking around the store being just as adorable as he could be. Mike Compton's son Eli, who must be about ten, was trailing behind him imitating his baby walk to good effect.
Eventually the jam included Mike Compton and Shawn Camp, Jason Carter and Matt Combs on fiddles, Dick Bowden from Connecticut (in town for the party) on banjo, and the feted Mike Bub on bass. The jam evolved, as jam sessions do, and I played banjo for a while when Dick took over the bass. Among the banjo challenges thrown my way was "Lonesome Moonlight Waltz," a Monroe tune which I had played a couple times in December at the Bill Monroe Appreciation Night at the Station Inn. As is frequently the case, my break last night was better than either of the times I played it on stage at the Station! Also "Tall Timber," a really fast Monroe tune that I hacked my way through. It's not a hard tune, but to play that fast on an unfamiliar banjo (it was Leroy's banjo) when you're as out of practice as I am is not easy. I hit maybe 2/3 of the notes! When Leroy had to leave he took his banjo with him, and I switched to bass and played for quite a long time.
When I left to drive home I reflected on how lucky I am to know such wonderful people and great musicians and to be able to get together and enjoy each other's company and make great music together. I hope that such an auspicious beginning to the year is a sign of more to come in 2009.
There are few better things in life than to find yourself at a bluegrass festival, camping with a group of friends, with perfect weather and no responsibilities other than to jam all day and go watch the stage show if you feel like it. I found myself in just such a situation over the weekend up at Thomas Point Beach in Maine. In retrospect, it seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, but if I stop and think about it, the experience was chock full of activities.
Since I can slap up pictures for y’all to look at, I’ll talk about the stage shows. Thursday night’s headliner was Rhonda Vincent, but the jamming was so good at our camp I didn’t even get to the stage. So, no picture of her. Friday night was Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives. I love Marty Stuart (his album The Pilgrim is one of my all-time favorites ). He played an acoustic show with Kenny Vaughn on guitar, Harry Stinson on drum (on a strap over his shoulder so he, too, could move around), and Paul Martin on upright bass.
Saturday’s big show was Ricky Skaggs, who always does a good, slick show. I was amused, though, that his CDs were being sold off a plain old picnic table.
My favorite act of the day, though, was the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. You may have read a couple weeks back about the new CMT show Outsider’s Inn. We’ll these are the guys that are on it.
L-R: Pete Elegant, Mike Armistead, (hidden Dave Gandon), Leroy Troy, Lester Armistead.
Hi all. Just walked back in the door from a lightning fast trip to Nashville which I made right after we shot most of the Slow Jam DVD. I rode over with Casey on Sunday (we did crosswords and listened to books on tape) and flew back today (Tuesday). Red picked me up at Baltimore’s BWI airport and after a quick two-hour ride home, here I am once more in front of the computer. Casey indicated in her blog today that I’d be telling you about some equipment problems during the shoot (read: banjo developed buzzing string necessitating a bridge replacement), but that will have to wait for another day.
I will tell you that one of the unexpected joys of recording the Slow Jam DVD was the three-part harmony singing that magically came together during the run through of the first number “I Saw The Light.” I hadn’t really figured on any harmony singing but when Casey and David McLaughlin added tenor and baritone to my lead the sound was so good that we ended up using the trio on almost all of the singing numbers. And while Casey and David and I have played together before in numerous configurations at parties and on stage I’m not sure we’d ever sung a trio together before. So having our voices blend so well together was a welcome surprise and a real treat. And it made recording the DVD even more fun than we had anticipated. I think you’ll really enjoy it. And I hope when we start the editing process that we’ll be able to include some outtakes and bloopers so you can see that things aren’t always as serious as they may seem on screen. And on that note, I will retire to vegetative form on front of the TV!
Oh, but speaking of TV, just one more thing. While Casey was here for the weekend we tuned in to a new TV program on CMT, Outsider's Inn, that featured our friends Leroy Troy and Mike Armistead. What a thrill to see people you really know and have talked to and played music with actually acting in a sit-com! They both did a great job and I’m looking forward to seeing future episodes! Check it out! [It comes on Friday evenings.]