With great delight, we caught up with Nashville based bluegrasser Jeff White for this issue. For those of you who don’t know, Jeff is one of the most underrated bluegrass giants on the scene. Aside from playing in his own band and The Earls of Leicester, he is a very sought after sideman and the title of Jeff’s brand new album Right Beside You reflects this. When you listen to this album, your first though is, “Man, I love these songs!” then a quick glance at the liner notes reveals that Jeff actually penned most of these bluegrass mega hits himself.
In the country music world, Jeff has toured with Vince Gill since 1992, but he has also toured extensively with Alison Krauss, Conway Twitty, Del McCoury, Lyle Lovett and many others. He produced the Down the Old Plank Road collaboration between The Chieftains and Nashville’s finest bluegrass and country artists. Most recently, Jeff sang harmonies on Loretta Lynn’s new album.
Jeff hasn’t released a solo project in fifteen years, and it was Vince Gill who urged him to get back into the studio. Vince offered him the use of his personal studio to record the album and sang harmonies on five of the tracks.
In terms of song writing, Jeff is a melody driven writer. The tune or the melody comes first, then the lyric. He also enjoys writing with friends and turning interesting stories into songs. A great example of his storytelling on this on the record is the song ‘Carry Me Across the Mountain’, a true story about Hazel Dickens’ miraculous survival as an infant, which will resonate strongly with anyone who has kids. Hazel is recognised as the first woman of bluegrass and the previous definitive version of this song was recorded by Dan Tyminski of Union Station.
Right Beside You is so fresh and full of soul and energy. Bluegrass never sounded as good as Jeff’s new version of his song ‘Blue Trail of Sorrow’, made popular by Alison Krauss and Union Station in 1997. ‘The Cold Hard Facts’, co-written with Ronnie McCoury, is another familiar song, since the Del McCoury Band turned this into another bluegrass standard in 1996. It is also a big deal that The Chieftains joined Jeff on the album for ‘Pretty Saro’ a traditional Irish ballad.
It’s never pleasant dwelling on sad news, but we’ve lost a few good ones lately. Dr Ralph Stanley, considered by many to be the last of bluegrass music’s first generation, passed away 19 miles from his birthplace in Virginia on 23 June, aged 89.
Read the rest in Issue 82…