Tag Archives: Megan Lynch

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

This week I’ve had the distinct pleasure of seeing two duo shows, both featuring the banjo. Sunday night the Fiddle and Pick in Pegram, Tenn, hosted Bill Evans and Megan Lynch, a.k.a. BEML. I’ve seen them do their duo thing on at least one previous occasion. It is great and hilarious. They always make a joke out of how many different banjos Bill feels the need to carry around the country with him. At this show three different banjos made an appearance: his Granada, a cello banjo, and an electric banjo that actually sounded really cool. I’m not generally a fan of electric banjos, but this one totally worked.

Megan Lynch, singing the awesome song about the boxer Sonny Liston, accompanied by Bill Evans on electric banjo. Yes -- electric banjo.

Megan Lynch, singing the awesome song about the boxer Sonny Liston, accompanied by Bill Evans on electric banjo. Yes -- electric banjo.

Megan does most of the singing and much of the pithy stage banter while Bill mostly tunes. JUST KIDDING! Bill has pithy stage banter, too. And sings. Actually, when there are only two people on stage, there is little space for tuning. You can’t just step back from the mic during a song to touch up a string that has slipped. You have to roll with it. For the sake of the show you have to pretend that absolutely nothing is wrong, even if one string is making you cringe. The audience mostly can’t tell the difference, and the people who CAN tell the difference understand exactly what it going on.

Megan Lynch and Bill Evans, with the cello banjo.

Megan Lynch and Bill Evans, with the cello banjo.

On the last song, Bill’s third string slipped and was noticeably flat. He didn’t even flinch a little bit. It was exactly how an out of tune instrument should be handled. I was watching and wondering, though, what he was going to do about the final note. They were in G, so that third string was going to be the last thing we heard. When he got there he did what I was hoping he’d do: played it on the fifth fret of the fourth instead of the open third. In tune!

BEML, or in this case, MLBE, which doesn't sound nearly as cool when you try to say it.

BEML, or in this case, MLBE, which doesn't sound nearly as cool when you try to say it.

BEML has been touring a lot lately, so if they’re near you, or a couple or four hours away, so see them! They often do some sort of workshop in conjunction with their show---education and entertainment in one package. Such a deal.

The second duo act was the relatively new pairing of Ned Luberecki and Stephen Mougin: Nedski and Mojo. They played the relatively new Wednesday night radio/live show at the Loveless Café called Music City Roots. It’s broadcast on WSM and has a format similar to the Grand Ole Opry. The two-hour show had five acts. Jim Lauderdale was the host, Eddie Stubbs was the radio announcer, and journalist Craig Havinghurst did short interview segments with the artists during the stage set-up time.

Stephen Mougin and Ned Luberecki

Stephen Mougin and Ned Luberecki

Nedski and Mojo’s segment was only three songs long, but they packed a lot of entertainment into a short time. Stephen is an amazing singer and guitar player, and Ned can do just about anything on the banjo, but what sets them apart is their sense of humor. They sang Ned’s original song, “Cabin of Death,” which, as he says, is the perfect bluegrass song since it features a cabin, family, a hill, and people dying. I’ve seen him sing it many times now, but this time it had an added bonus: the perfect banjo lick bit.

While Stephen keeps time on the guitar, Ned explains about the perfect banjo lick, which is the choke that starts out the high break of Foggy Mountain Breakdown---the one that is Ralph Stanley’s signature lick. It’s perfect because it will work over any chord, which Ned proceeded to demonstrate: G (yep), C (yep), D (yep). But those were easy. F (surprisingly, yep). Bb (mmmm, a stretch, but yep). B. B? (not so much). The almost perfect banjo lick!

Nedski and Mojo. Yes, they have fun on stage.

Nedski and Mojo. Yes, they have fun on stage.

It cracked me up. And Ned tied it in nicely on the big jam song at the end, which was really loud and raucous because everybody was on stage at once. I could hear Ned over on his end of the stage, wailing away on the perfect lick, and it worked in every chord.

Nedski and Mojo tour sporadically, since they have to fit dates in between Stephen’s regular gig playing with the Sam Bush band and Ned’s regular gig playing with Chris Jones and the Nightdrivers, but they are well worth keeping an eye out for!

Casey HenryI've just returned from leading a jam at Megan Lynch's adult fiddle camp. Jon Weisberger (on bass) and David Thomas (on guitar) co-lead with myself on banjo. I meant to take my camera so I could post a picture, but did I remember? Of course not.

We started out easy, with "Cripple Creek" and all the fiddles playing together, trading breaks back and forth with me and David. I even sang a verse or two. Next was a singing song, "Two-Dollar Bill," and again I had all the fiddles play at the same time and it sounded pretty good because almost all the players---I'd say there were at least eight fiddles---were going for the melody. This group was solidly intermediate. Not a one had timing problems or got lost during a break, and almost everyone could improvise by picking out the melody notes to a song.

Toward the end of the session we started talking a bit about being in a regular jam, that is, a non-learning-situation jam. One point we hammered home is that it's not cool to practice your break to a song during the song, for example, while the singer is singing, or during someone else's break. Once you get into a jam it is too late to practice! You're either going to play it well, or not, and nobody but you is going to notice or care, but your performance of your break is not going to be improved by running over it a couple of times while something else is going on. It distracts from what you should be paying attention to, which is the group and how the overall song is going.

One of the women was concerned about how to let the group, or the person leading a particular song, know that she wanted to try a break, especially if she had passed up a break on a previous song. It's all about body language. If you keep your head up and make eye contact with the person singing (or the person who kicked off the instrumental) they'll know you want to try a break. One point that Jon made was that if you're worried about being passed over, it's better to start in on a break, and then back off if you notice that someone else is also taking a lead, than to be a wallflower, always waiting to be coaxed into taking a break. That way, at least everyone will know you want a chance.

One other thing to keep in mind, though, is that if the jam is very large---say more than six or seven people---chances are that not every person will get to take a break on every song. It would take forever otherwise. And just because you don't get a break on one song, does not mean you won't get a break on any of them, as long as you do the eye-contact thing. It doesn't mean they don't think you're a good player, and it doesn't mean they don't like you. Remember, the jam is about the JAM! It's not about you. Whatever you can do to make the JAM better and and make the song sound better is the right thing to be doing.

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!