This issue is written to you from the tropical island of Kauai in Hawaii where I’ve (Lachie) been lucky enough to escape the Australian winter for two weeks. Haven’t found any bluegrass yet but they do have a 24/7 modern country radio station and I’ve heard the occasional steel guitar (or Hawaiian guitar) which is where the more common bluegrass instrument, the Dobro originated.
IBMA Awards final nominees have been announced ahead of the 28th Award show in Raleigh NC which is held during the World of Bluegrass week. Big standouts in the nominations are the Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and Flatt Lonesome. An exciting new name to see in there is Patrick McAvinue in the fiddle category, he has visited Australia twice with Audie Blaylock and recently took up the full-time position in Dailey & Vincent’s band just as they were announced as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Another new name to be checking out is Molly Tuttle, an incredible young flat-picking guitarist. She has bounds of material on Youtube and has been named in Emerging Artist category as well as the Female Vocalist and Guitar categories.
An exciting new release we have just become aware of through the awards finalists is the album called Croweology: The Study of J.D. Crowe’s Musical Legacy which was put together by recent New South band members Rickey Wasson and Ron Stewart and features some brilliant bluegrass singers including Don Rigsby, Mo Pitney and Dan Tyminski. This is a must have album for any JD fan!
Announced alongside the IBMA Awards is the Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductees for 2017 which include: Bobby Hicks who is a hugely influential fiddler, long time member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder and the Bluegrass Album Band, well known for his creative backup, smooth solos and triple stops (playing three strings at once!); Roland White (brother of Clarence White, a pioneer of the flat picking guitar and the telecaster B-Bender in his Flying Burrito Bros days, who was inducted in 2016) a fine mandolin player and past member of the Blue Grass Boys and the Nashville Bluegrass Band; and finally, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard who were some of the first women to record a bluegrass album way back in the mid-60s
If you’re interested in picking up an instrument or learning to play bluegrass, the best way is to attend a festival as there is always impromptu, off-stage jam sessions; and typically, workshops are held on the various bluegrass instruments throughout the weekend.
Another option is to attend one of the regular jam sessions held across the country, that’s how we got started. We recently organised our first few monthly jams on a Saturday arvo in Melbourne at the Thunder Road Brewhouse in Brunswick when we’re in town, and so far it’s been fantastic to see so many new young players attend with a chance to connect with other generations of bluegrass players they haven’t yet had the chance to meet.
See australianbluegrass.com for an extensive list of jams.
The Wirrina Bluegrass Festival is on again in SA on September 1-3. A great newish event is the Foggy Mountain Bluegrass Festival, held just north of Melbourne in Kinglake VIC, will be on the weekend of October 13-15. Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass festival, now in its’ 16th year, will be on October 27-29. A great fun event featuring intimate concerts with international & local artists. US group Fog Horn String Band will be back for that one.
It’s fantastic to see Bluestone Junction re-emerge on the scene with a new album release and a bunch of appearances announced, including the Mountaingrass festival in Harrietville this November. The band features one of Australia’s favourite tenor vocalists, Chris Jacobs on guitar and lead, and well known established pickers Mick Harrison on banjo, Pete Fidler on mandolin, Donal Baylor on fiddle and Mike St Clair-Miller on upright bass.
We mentioned the young US band Mile Twelve in the last column, good news is they’ll be touring Australia & NZ in October this year with Appearances at Patchewollock, Dorrigo and Maldon festivals.
Also, hot off the press, new age old-time string band fans will be thrilled to hear that Old Crow Medicine Show & Valerie June (see Festivals section) have just announced a return to Australia with a handful of East Coast tour dates this Sept/Oct.
Current bluegrass Golden Guitar recipient, Kristy Cox has announced her next release will come out on Mountain Home Recordings who house an impressive roster which includes Doyle Lawson and the Lonesome River Band. Another Mountain Home label act, The Grascals, who toured opening for Dolly Parton a few years back, have announced a new release titled Before Breakfast.
A new young group actively playing around Melbourne and some Victorian festival recently is the Knott Family Band and we hear they have been in the studio recording their debut release.