Tag Archives: station inn

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Last Friday afternoon I was sitting at home, backing up files on my computer, when I got a call from Charlie Cushman. He asked if I’d by any chance be able to work the door at the Station Inn that night. Having no plans, my schedule was totally open, so I agreed and two hours later I found myself walking in the door of the Station. “Bring your banjo,” Charlie had said, “we’ll get you up to pick a few.” I took my old Gibson style 11, which doesn’t get too much playing these days.

Charlie, in case you are unfamiliar, is one of the best banjo players in the world. He can do Scruggs, he can do Reno. I’ve never heard him to Stanley, but I’m sure he could if he had a mind to. He grew up near Nashville and has always lived and played around here. For years he was in Mike Snider’s band and played regularly on the Opry. These days he often tours with Vince Gill. His banjo album is called “Five String Time.” Last year he released an album with fiddler Johnny Warren, who is Paul Warren’s son, called, “A Tribute to Paul Warren” (…as in the long-time fiddler with Flatt and Scruggs.) Johnny plays just like his dad, has the fiddle that Paul always played, and it is awesome to listen to.

Charlie has always been really nice to me, and very complementary of my playing. It means a lot to me to have his good opinion, because he’s not the type that will hand out compliments just to make you feel good. We’re co-endorsers of Kel Kroydon banjos and the fact that Cush was working with the company was a big factor in my decision to go with that company for my signature model.

The band for the night, in addition to Charlie and Johnny, was Kent Blanton on bass, and Robert Montgomery on guitar. They got up guest Mike Webb to pick and sing some, and in the second set invited fiddler Aaron Till to sit in as well. The crowd was small, which was a shame, because the music was amazing. Charlie was playing his ass off, and it gives me a million little thrills to hear Johnny, because no one plays that style these days.

They asked me up in the second set and I picked “Earl’s Breakdown.” How awesome is it that I passed the break off to Johnny, who was playing the same fiddle Paul played that very tune on thousands of times?! Really awesome.

I stayed on stage for the rest of the set—‘til midnight—and also played “Pike County Breakdown,” sang “Wandering Boy” and “East Virginia Blues.” I took a surprise break on a Reno tune called “Chokin’ the Strings.” It’s in the key of D, and Cush tuned down to D tuning. He often uses D tuning and is not afraid to re-tune his whole banjo on stage. I knew that D tuning was a no-go for me, since my banjo’s not used to it, so I chose to play it in D position. I don’t really know the tune, so I shook off the first break Charlie tried to hand me. After the fiddle and another banjo break however, he stepped away from the mic, leaving me in front of it. So, yeah, sure I’ll take a break now! Actually the tune is very straightforward and I played something decent, that may have even sounded a little like the melody.

At the end of the night we all agreed that we’d had a great time, even though there were only about fifteen people left. (Lucky people!) I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even though it did mean prying myself out of my nice warm house, into the cold dark Nashville night, and staying up long past my bedtime!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

The last couple of days here in Music City have held some mighty fine music making that I was lucky enough to get to observe. Wednesday night Chris Jones held a CD pre-release party for his new disc "Cloud of Dust." Although it is not officially out yet, he had copies there for sale and after listening to it on my drive home I have to say that it is a great record.

Megan Lynch, Jon Weisberger, Sally Jones, Chris Jones, Ned Luberecki

Megan Lynch, Jon Weisberger, Sally Jones, Chris Jones, Ned Luberecki

The band was fresh back from a two-and-a-half week European tour, so they were all a bit jet-lagged. Chris told us he learned to say "We have CDs for sale" in every language while they were abroad! Near the end of the second set Chris called up his wife Sally to sing on a song---unfortunately their daughter Joanna was asleep on her lap at the time. Never one to let little things deter her, she just sang the whole song while holding Joanna in her arms:

Sally Jones holding sleepyhead Joanna Jones.

Sally Jones holding sleepyhead Joanna Jones.

Thursday night found me at the Station Inn taking in the Claire Lynch Band. I've known Claire as long as I've been alive and she is absolutely one of my favorite singers. She has a new album coming out in September called "Whatcha Gonna Do" that is absolutely spectacular. She sings her butt off (as she always does) and the songs are wonderful.

David Thomas, Claire Lynch, Mark Schatz, Jim Hurst at the Station Inn.

Jason Thomas, Claire Lynch, Mark Schatz, Jim Hurst at the Station Inn.

We were treated to Mark Schatz's hamboning on "Cindy," which the whole crowd sang along on. I stood in the back next to my friend Ben Surratt, who was running sound (he is the one who recorded the Casey and Chris "Get Along Girl" CD at his studio). Also in attendance were Bela Fleck, a long time friend of Mark's, and Abagail Washburn. I'm going to see Bela's documentary movie "Throw Down Your Heart" on Sunday. It's about his trip to Africa to play with musicians there. I'm really looking forward to that. But before then I'll be back at the Station to see Tim O'Brien on Saturday night with the Irish Band Grada. That should be quite a show!

Casey HenryQuebe Sisters at the Station Inn(Note: apologies for the lack of pictures here...we're moving servers and are working out the kinks! Thanks for your patience!) A couple weeks back I went to the Station Inn to hear a group that I'd never heard before--the Quebe Sisters. They are a trio of sisters from Texas who play triple fiddles and sing in tight Andrews-Sisters-like harmony. They do western swing music and are stunningly good. Eddie Stubbs (WSM deejay, Opry announcer, former Johnson Mountain Boys fiddler) is crazy about them, and when Eddie goes gaga over a group, you know they are something special. I bought their newest CD, "Timeless," and found it to be just as good as their stage show. The band consists of three fiddles, a guitar, and a bass, and yet such sparse instrumentation sounds rich and full. You never miss any other instruments. Visit their website and check them out and if they ever play in your area, don't miss it!

Chris Henry at the Station InnLater that same week my brother Chris came to town and played at the Station Inn. It was really a Shawn Camp show, and it was great, though I thought they should have let Chris do more of his own songs. He sang one song in the first set--a newer composition called "She's Got My Number But She Don't Know How to Call" (or something along those lines). The audience always loves it when he sings and it adds some nice variety to the show. (In the photo, left to right: Aubrey Haynie, Charlie Cushman, Shawn Camp, Chris Henry, Mike Bub.)

Casey HenryFirst of all, sorry for the belatedness of this morning's post. I was really and truly going to blog last night, but I got distracted on account of my new iPhone. And then I resolved to get up early to blog, but through whatever combination of circumstances, sleep was not my friend last night. Luckily I could play Tetris on my new phone to while away the midnight hours!

I was at the Sunday night Station Inn jam this weekend. I don't usually go because I don't enjoy that type of picking (big, huge group; guitar players with that modern-style rhythm), but I was helping them out behind the bar due to the busy holiday weekend. I thought I'd share some observations from the night.

Picking in such a huge jam is often very hard. At one point the group consisted of six banjos, five guitars, a bass and a dobro. You have to be very confident in your playing and assertive to even get heard. On the flip side, it's a great situation in which to stand or sit around the outer edges of the jam and vamp along. That's what one of my students did for a couple hours. And across the jam a former student and another guy (who would have been my student if I had answered his email quicker than Ned Luberecki did) formed a little banjo corner and were trying to navigate their way through the songs companionably side by side.

What really surprised me, though, was the number of people listening. The place was full. And people stayed for a long time, listening to music that often wasn't that great. I guess people just really like live music.

I overheard one comment from one of the patrons sitting at the bar. A woman was saying to her date: "There's a whole different kind of bluegrass called old-time. It's slower and doesn't have any percussion at all. Not even a tambourine!" People make me smile!

Casey Henry...well, the title may be a bit of an exaggeration, but he was there, and on stage, while they were singing "Happy Birthday" to me, and that's something that's not likely to ever happen again in my life, so I thought it was deserving of mention.

Saturday, January 3rd, was my birthday. To celebrate I went to lunch with my friend Megan Lynch and then we went to see the movie "Milk", which was great and amazing and wonderfully acted. (Also in the crowd at the theater were Tim O'Brien and his wife Kit Swaggert, their son Joel and Joel's girlfriend.) In the evening (after watching my new Dr. Horrible DVD twice, once without commentary, once with) I ventured out to the Station Inn to watch Jeff White, Mike Bub, Charlie Cushman, Michael Cleveland, and Jeff Gurnsey play two great sets of music. They had used my van to go to a gig in Indiana the day before and somehow knew that it was my birthday. (It couldn't have been because I managed to casually work it into conversation at every available opportunity...)

Jeff, Mike, and Charlie all play with Vince Gill, who came down to the Station after his appearance on the Opry that night. He was on stage for their second set and around midnight, when they pointed me out and got everybody to join in on the birthday song, he may have sung along, too. I couldn't really tell, but I like to believe that he did. Quite a satisfying way to top off a birthday night.

I also ran into Tim O'Brien at the Station. He played on the second set as well. He pointed out that we were among the very few people in Nashville who would both go see "Milk" and go to the Station Inn on the same day!

Red HenryI just got back from a road trip to Nashville, and had a good time picking with family and friends while there. The two gigs I played were quite enjoyable but pretty different from each other, and full of lessons for folks who wonder how it is to perform bluegrass.

The first performance was on Thursday night, at a place called the Sportsman's Grill in Hillsboro Village in Nashville. Now, bluegrass gigs in Nashville are actually pretty hard to come by, so sometimes in order to play, you need to accept a situation. You just have to "roll with the flow" and be ready to adapt to anything that comes up. This means that you need to have your music down pat---so that you can play it without having to think much about it---and you can cope with all the unplanned challenges that come up during a performance.

The Sportsman's is famous for lack of audience response---the band may play the whole night without having anyone there really listen and applaud. This can make it pretty hard to play on stage, if you're trying hard but you don't have any energy coming back to you. To go with that, the band is crowded into a small corner of the floor behind a pool table, and there are folks playing pool all around you---making motion and noise to distract you from what you're playing. So it can be difficult to get through the night and keep your spirits up, but in this case we had the band personnel and horsepower (and audience) to not only play satisfying music, but also to have a good time.

The job is Billy Smith's, and he plays guitar and sings. This Thursday he had Nancy Cardwell playing bass, and it was a pleasure to see her again (she's played bass before with Casey and Chris and the Two-Stringers.) Christopher was playing mandolin, and Craig Duncan played fiddle. That was the core band. They don't always have a four-piece band and have played many Thursday nights with just two or three band members, but this time we brought some reinforcements. My uncle John Hedgecoth, a long-time Nashville banjo picker and Murphy Method instructor [on the now-out-of-print cassette lessons], was playing banjo. Our friend and old band member, Dobro wizard Tuck Tucker, who recently moved to Nashville, was there too. And I was playing mandolin along with Chris. So we had a lot of musical horsepower on stage, and we had a good time going through a selection of bluegrass, some obscure songs and some standards. We hadn't all played together before, but everybody had plenty of experience and knew what to do.

This brings up a good point about what to play when you're with a group which includes people you haven't played with before. When the band leader says it's your turn to play a song, you need to pick out a number that everybody's likely to know. When you're performing in front of people, that's not the time to expect other band members learn a new song or tune you happen to like. So when it was my turn to lead a number, I chose things we all knew, like "Will You be Loving Another Man" or "Red Wing", so that everybody on stage could contribute easily. And we sounded good.

To make the evening even better, we had an enthusiastic audience. John's wife Lynn (a performer herself) and Tuck's wife Edwina were there, and gave us enthusiastic applause all night (between sinking some impressive pool shots). Their applause helped a lot. To have even two people responding to us changed the whole atmosphere of the performance. So we played our two sets and were happy. And if you're in the Nashville area, check out the Sportsman's Grill! ---you can hear bluegrass music there for free on Thursday nights. And please applaud loudly!

Chris Henry at the Station Inn

John Hedgecoth, Red Henry, Chris Henry, Casey Henry, Tuck Tucker at the Station Inn on July 25, 2008.

...continue reading