Sign up for newsletter

Articles and Interviews – 2017


Dan Tyminski (known simply as "Tyminski" on his 2017 release "Southern Gothic") has traditional music roots and unassailable bluegrass street cred especially given his membership in Alison Krauss' Union Station. He is also a powerful songwriter and has been writing songs for himself and others for years now.

Not too long ago, Tyminski was in the process of putting some new songs in his portfolio to share with other artists, but a funny thing happened on the way: his package of songs was so distinct that UMG encouraged him to record and promote the songs under his own name. The result is "Southern Gothic," a dark, foreboding collection of songs, all co-written by Tyminski, that explore the not-quite-right ethos afoot in the culture these days.

"I never even looked at it as a project for myself until it went across the desk of Mike Dungan at UMG (Universal Music Group), and then a few people over there heard it and then reached out to Barry Coburn, my publisher, and... »»»

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn have powerhouse individual talents; each has followed an estimable career path to where they find themselves today: making complex, but spare, records, writing music together and touring with their son Juno. Their new release, "Echo In The Valley" features mostly songs written by Fleck and Washburn, banjos, Washburn's strong vocals and very little else. "Echo" is a virtuoso turn by this duo.

The work is a product of its time. It was recorded, says Fleck, "at a really intense moment around the (2016 presidential) election, and we were absorbing and handling a lot of the things happening in the world that were so divisive and difficult, and we had different reactions about how to present that in our writing on the record. So, there was a lot going on other than just you know is disagreeing on the lyric or melody; there was ‘How do we present what we're thinking for now in the world and share it with people through our writing?' "... »»»

Legends don't come any more legendary than Chris Hillman. The roll call of bands that comprises Hillman's half century in music reads like a wing exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Souther Hillman Furay Band, the Desert Rose Band, his potent solo career and an almost uncountable number of cameos on an equally impressive number of albums.

Even with this encyclopedia volume of musical accomplishment, Hillman still has the supernatural ability to surprise. Take his new album, "Bidin' My Time," for instance. It's his first new studio album in close to a decade, it may wind up standing among the best albums in his estimable catalog and yet, "Bidin' My Time" might never have happened.

"In all honesty, this time last year I was going, 'I don't think I'll be making any more records,'" says Hillman. "I just felt I've had a great career, 54-plus years. It wasn't out of any bitterness, it was just that I'd sort of reached that impasse."... »»»

William Shakespeare noted a few centuries back that a rose by any other name would be equally aromatic, and that general idea has musical implications as well. The Cadillac Three knows a thing or two about maintaining a sonic identity after a name change; the Nashville trio began as the Cadillac Black six years ago before legal entanglements forced them to switch to their numerically appropriate moniker.

"We couldn't get the trademark to Cadillac Black because there was a band called Black Cadillac," says TC3 lap steel/bassist/vocalist Kelby Ray Caldwell. "Lawyers ruin all the fun."

Of course, the switch from the Cadillac Black to The Cadillac 3, the reissuing of their debut album under their freshly minted name for their new label, Big Machine, the 4 year wait for 2016's "Bury Me in My Boots," and the 12-month turnaround for the release of their just-released third album, "Legacy," is all recent history. The link between Caldwell, guitarist/lead vocalist Jaren Johnston and drummer/vocalist Neil Mason goes back to when they attended high school together in Nashville 20 years ago.... »»»

Those aware of the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley likely know him for one of two reasons – his pioneering work manufacturing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in San Francisco during the mid-to-late 1960s and his role as an innovative sound engineer. Most notably, Bear worked with the Grateful Dead from 1965 through 1975 and in that role, he was the driving force behind the greatest concert sound system ever conceived – The Wall of Sound – which was used by the band throughout 1974 before being retired while the band was on hiatus from touring in 1975.

What the average music fan may not be aware of is Stanley's lifelong commitment to continual audio improvement and the existence of his Sonic Journals, the reels of tape he created while experimenting with audio recording techniques during performances by a large variety of bands and artists, including Doc and Merle Watson, from roughly 1966 through 1983.

While certainly not the only person making audio recordings of live... »»»

Headed into 2015, Imelda May was on a hit streak. Her rockabilly career was in full swing, nurtured by the likes of former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and guitar icon Jeff Beck. Her albums routinely topped the charts in her native Ireland. No less than Bono cited her as the country's queen, and she attracted a global fan base through rigorous touring. At home, May was wife to musical collaborator/guitarist Darrel Higham and mother to two-year-old Violet, and the future seemed shades bright.

That all came to a shattering halt when she and Higham decided to divorce. Although their split was largely amicable, May also lost a significant band member with Higham's departure, and her subsequent attempt at a new relationship ended in heartbreak. The songs May wrote to deal with her pain didn't lend themselves to her raucous rockabilly presentation.

The resultant album, "Life Love Flesh Blood," is a combination of slow burning bluesy torch songs and sturdy yet atmospheric... »»»

For most artists, eight years is a fair amount of time in their careers. For Nikki Lane, eight years represents the entirety of her recorded history, and she's filled that relatively short time span with a highlight reel of impressive accomplishments, not the least of which would be actually learning how to write and play music and including her most recent and best album to date, "Highway Queen."

The Greenville, S.C. native was raised on country and Motown, but turned her teenage attention to punk and alternative rock. A high school dropout, Lane moved to Los Angeles where a series of nothing jobs led to an opportunity to design her own shoe line; she currently runs a vintage clothing boutique in Nashville called High Class Hillbilly.

Five years later, she gave the guitar a try, learned how to play and write, but after a few open mic shows, she relocated to New York for a corporate position. Lane's then-boyfriend broke up with her to pursue his recording career. So,... »»»

For The Avett Brothers, MerleFest is a coming home of sorts. This year's edition of the MerleFest "traditional-plus" music festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., the event's 30th anniversary, a milestone sure to be marked by many different special appearances and commemorations during the festival's four-day run, is no exception.

No appearance may be more significant or thorough, than the participation of The Avett Brothers, who will appear in some form on every one of those days.

MerleFest has always been a perfect fit for the music of The Avett Brothers, North Carolina natives who continue to straddle the line between traditional Appalachian tunes, bluegrass, rock 'n' roll and pop music even on their most recent album, "True Sadness," which introduced more pronounced electronic and rock elements to the band's sound.

They are scheduled as one of the Thursday night headliners, playing a full band concert set. On Saturday, they will appear on the Hillside stage doing a set of... »»»

There's no more solid live bluegrass show than the Gibson Brothers. They play with great technical skill and crispness. Their harmonies are just what a brother act should be: sweet, true and never forced. Brothers Leigh and Eric Gibson surround themselves with outstanding sidemen with impeccable bluegrass cred: Jesse Brock (mandolin), Mike Barber (bass) and Clayton Campbell on fiddle. Brock is the newcomer in the group, having been with The Gibsons for the last four years or so. So, continuity and preparedness contribute to the band's assuredness.

Given their standing in the bluegrass community, it's always noteworthy when the Gibsons release a new record.

Leigh Gibson views the release of "In The Ground" (Rounder) as an important step forward for the Gibson Brothers. "This is the first record that Eric and I have done all the writing. We did have a couple of co-writes…one is a song that I wrote with Shawn Camp. But it's the first record where we've pretty much written the whole thing."... »»»