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Articles and Interviews – 2012


Way, way back in the last century in 1998, to be exact an assemblage of Nashville's primo session players and sidemen were looking for a way to kill time between turns on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Among them was Kenny Sears, a veteran fiddler whose resume included stints with Mel Tillis, Dottie West, Ray Price and Faron Young.

"We used to get together in the dressing room backstage at the Opry and have these jam sessions that went on all night long," Sears recalls, "and we were having so much fun with that, the Opry stars would make time to stop by there, sing a song or two with us we kind of found some magic there, something that was really fun."

That magic soon became The Time Jumpers, a Music City phenomenon of now a decade and a half, establishing themselves as the "ultimate club band" and playing to standing room Monday night crowds at the venerable Station Inn.

In addition to Kenny Sears and his sultry, alto-voiced wife Dawn Sears, the crew includes... »»»

In business, in sports and in music, the conversation often turns to the concept of the indispensible man, the person whose talent elevates the entity in question above all others and whose absence would cause that entity to stumble and fall. The fact is that indispensability is largely a myth; no single person holds that much sway in any given enterprise.

And yet, there is an underlying psychology that reinforces and supports the idea of the indispensible man. Teams are built around a single player, businesses are helmed by powerful and singular executives, and bands are assembled around a key musician. When those crucial elements are removed, the psychological vacuum that remains after their departure can cause irreparable damage.

If jamgrass outfit Leftover Salmon had completely bought into the concept of the indispensible man, their new album, "Aquatic Hitchhiker," their first new studio album in eight years and their debut on their own LoS label, might never have... »»»

In the midst of what is almost certainly the busiest and most exciting of their dozen or so years as a professional bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers were en route to a late April festival gig in Texas, touring in support of “Nobody Knows You," their first “solo” release in three years (and first on Rounder following four earlier on Rebel).

February brought them into the Grammy whirlwind with “Rare Bird Alert” (also on Rounder), their collaboration with Steve Martin, which had already yielded Entertainers of the Year recognition from the IBMA last fall.

The band’s genesis goes back to the late 1990s when guitarist Woody Platt, bassist Charles Humphrey III and banjo player Graham Sharp were students at the University of North Carolina exploring their newfound love of bluegrass. Mandolinist Mike Guggino had grown up with Platt in Brevard, N.C. and was asked to join the new band, named for Steep Canyon Stout, a California brew they had encountered along the way. Fiddler Nicky Charles was added in 2005, and the lineup remains unchanged since.... »»»

By Michael Rampa

Trampled by Turtles is one of the best bluegrass bands around, sort of. They hesitate to ascribe any particular label to their unique sound.

When asked to clarify, front man Dave Simonett said, "I don't really know what to say when I'm asked that. I hesitate to say bluegrass because I'm familiar with that kind of music. I feel that is a genre that has set boundaries that, and anytime you stray out of that, you're not really considered a bluegrass band no matter what instruments you're playing on. I would say it's Americana with string instruments, but whatever anyone wants to call it, that's fine."

The Duluth, Minn. quintet had shows booked before they had decided on a name. Mandolin player Erik Berry made it up as a joke. Simonett explained, "We all brought our lists of names to rehearsal one time, and we agreed to decide on the name that we hated the least, and that one stuck."

The band is comprised of Simonett (guitar and vocals), Tim Saxhaug (bass, vocals), Dave Carroll (banjo, vocals), Ryan Young (fiddle) and Berry (mandolin).... »»»

With its latest full-length, "Leaving Eden," the uniquely modern, old-timey jug and/or string band Carolina Chocolate Drops was faced with the daunting task of following up a highly successful major label debut album. After all, "Genuine Negro Jig" earned the act a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy.

All pressure aside, though, these new tracks are just as unusually enjoyable as those found on the group's debut. Led by Rhiannon Giddens' assertive female vocals and Dom Flemons' male vocal counterpoint plus Hubby Jenkins on mandolin, this album touches upon world music with Mahalla,, old time gospel via Read Em John and the sort of traditional folk that would make any 60s folk music revivalist proud, particularly exemplified on the recording's title track.

These Southern players wisely looked to esteemed musician and producer Buddy Miller to produce. In addition to being a darn good guitarist, as well as an underrated singer and songwriter, Miller has brought his hroots music expertise to everyone from grand dame Emmylou Harris to rocker-turned-roots-guy Robert Plant.... »»»

Martina McBride was introduced at a CMT awards presentation as "one of the greatest voices ever created by God." While debatable that her voice may be the result of divine creation, her high octane soprano is one of the most beautiful and powerful in music.

Her latest studio release, "Eleven" ("Hits And More" came out in January as a greatest hits plus package) is her most personal to date. Most everything about the record is unorthodox starting with its launch via train tour. Twenty years into her career, she severed ties with the long-time label and management that brought her superstar status and with which she has garnered multiple awards and 24 Top 10 singles.

In many ways, she is a study in contradiction. Hardly an imposing physical presence at 5'2', her vocal pyrotechnics challenge the structural integrity of any venue. She has made a career recording songs that empower women like the peppy This One's for the Girls, but her signature, Independence Day is more somber and deals with domestic abuse.

Additionally, she has been country music's most-played female artist of the past 11 years.... »»»

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