Each time we write this column it seems we’ve met more young bluegrass musicians in Australia which is a momentous turnaround from when we were starting out in the mid-90’s. The most exciting news for us right now is that the Davidson Brothers have been selected as an Official IBMA Showcase Act at the World of Bluegrass for 2018 in Raleigh, NC so we’ll be heading back to the States in September where we’ll no doubt get to see many new bands on the scene and catch some of our idols and favourite bands performing live again.
Young South Australian and 2018 Starmaker finalist Taylor Pfeiffer will be making her very first overseas trip to attend the Blue Ridge Banjo Camp in North Carolina this August. Hosted by the incredible Béla Fleck, the camp includes some of the finest bluegrass banjo tutors in the business.
There are several dedicated, long-serving bluegrass radio DJ’s in Australia. If you’re in Melbourne, you’ll no doubt be aware of Jan Dale’s show ‘Southern Style’ each Tuesday on PBS FM. If you’re in Adelaide, you can catch Bill Lawson who has just entered his 32nd year presenting his program ‘Bluegrass Unlimited’ which can be heard on Sundays at 12pm on Radio Adelaide. In Sydney, Mike Kear presents his show ‘Music from Foggy Hollow’ on Friday nights on Hawkesbury Radio. His program is then sent to the United States and broadcast online on Bluegrass Country Radio and on High Definition radio across the Washington area. As a result of the international broadcast of his show, Mike has become one of the best-known Aussie DJ’s in the US bluegrass scene.
Recently we learnt of the passing of Randy Scruggs (son of Earl Scruggs), a fine musician and producer out of Nashville at the young age of 64. Locally we lost Dennis Eastmure, a banjo player and fine inlay artist who has collaborated with Grundy Banjos creating over 100 instruments. Another well-known musician on the Vic bluegrass scene who passed away recently was Bruce Rowe. Known as an encyclopedia of knowledge on the music, late night jams on classic songs and relating about once taking a ride on Bill Monroe’s bus.
The 20th Annual Kelly Country Pick will take place in Beechworth 17-19 August and they have announced some special international guests, Jake Blount from West Virginia and Libby Weintnauer from New York as well as a host of great local acts. They have also announced a pre-festival camp this year which will feature classes on all the standard stringed instruments in bluegrass and old time music.
The Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival is on again 26-28 October. These guys are also offering an Old-Time Music School preceding the festival with a great list of tutors.
Mountaingrass has announced two headline acts from the USA; Jeff Scroggins & Colorado and The Blue Ridge Broadcasters.
The 2018 Australian Bluegrass Conference is shaping up nicely and will be held in Maleny, QLD from 13-16 December. They have announced tutors from the US including Arizona band The Sonoron Dogs, and also Russell Carson, the banjo player from Ricky Skaggs’ band Kentucky Thunder! Other local tutors include Mustered Courage and Martin Louis.
It’s great to hear there are so many regular bluegrass jam sessions happening around the country. South Australia has just kicked off a first Sunday of the month jam in the Adelaide region, held at the Semaphore RSL. Another new jam happening is in Sale, Victoria which is held the first Sunday of every second month, hosted by The Wellington Bluegrass Jammers.
A brand-new duo to emerge recently in Victoria is the Colvin Brothers, made up of Colin Weight (Nine Mile Creek) on guitar and vocals; and Vinny Russell (Knott Family Band) on mandolin and vocals. They’ve begun regular gigs around Melbourne and have just confirmed they’ll be performing in Brisbane on July 17 at The BUG (Brisbane Unplugged Gigs) at New Farm Bowls Club and have also joined the line-up for the Kelly Country Pick.
Local Melbourne lads, the Collingwood Casanovas have released their debut album titled Absolutely. A full-length album of mostly new original material, the album documents the Casanovas interest in Traditional Bluegrass and Old time music as well as displaying their varied influences and backgrounds. You can catch them regularly at their favourite venue in town, The Rooks Return in Fitzroy.
Speaking of new releases; Following Peter Rowan’s recently cancelled Aussie tour, it seems he is back in action with the release of a new album titled Carter Stanley’s Eyes.
Other new releases include Special Consensus – Rivers and Roads released on the Compass label, Sideline – Front and Center released through Mountain Home Music Company, Junior Sisk – A Brand New Shade Of Blue on Mountain Fever Records.
On top of a busy touring schedule and hosting their own festival (DelFest) this month, the McCoury family have announced The Travelin’ McCoury’s will release their debut self-titled album, and to top it all off, in celebrating 50 years since the release of their father Del’s first solo album in 1968 (Del McCoury Sings Bluegrass) they will be releasing a follow up record titled Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass.
Another exciting release is the upcoming Rhonda Vincent’s Bluegrass Legends project which features 19 songs recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium with Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman, and Sonny and Bobby Osborne. The album will be launched at the Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival in Tennessee this July and will see all these legends joining Rhonda for a one-off historic performance.