Bluegrass Truth

As we write this edition’s column we are currently in the air on our way home from performing at the Groundwater Country Music Festival on the Gold Coast. There was a strong representation of bluegrass acts including The Morrisons, The Cherry Pickers and US based Lillie Mae; who if you haven’t caught up with her yet, is a sweet singer and fiddler who has spent a decade playing down Broadway in Nashville with her siblings.

With the end of winter and festival season around the corner we can again look forward to more great bluegrass artists visiting from the USA. Arriving soon is mandolinist John Reischman, a master instrumentalist and band leader capable of swinging between re-inventions of traditional old-time tunes, deconstructions from the bluegrass repertoire, and compelling original tunes, many of which have become standards. He will be travelling with Eli West, a Seattle-based multi-instrumentalist with an interest in non-traditional improvisation within the historic precedents of bluegrass and old-time music. Eli has also released three records as half of the new/old-time duo Cahalen Morrison (Western Centuries) & Eli West. John Reischman and Eli West’s tour kicks off at the Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass festival on October 26th before making their way down the east coast with dates in NSW, ACT, TAS and VIC.

Another US act returning to our shores for the Australian Bluegrass Conference, held in December in Maleny QLD, is The Sonoran Dogs from Arizona. These guys have visited several times performing at various festivals and will be touring Aus. & NZ from late November.

The 29th Annual IBMA Awards will take place in Raleigh NC late September as part of the World of Bluegrass. This year the evening will be hosted by legendary band, Hot Rize, who won the very first Entertainer of the Year Award back in 1990 and visited Australia in the early 80s. Along with the recent announcement of all the awards finalists (more info at which feature some of the best artists in the business, the IBMA is proud to announce the 2018 inductees into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame to be Ricky Skaggs, Paul Williams, Tom T. and Dixie Hall. It’s a huge moment in history for Ricky Skaggs as he will also be inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in 2018! A special mention in the list of awards nominees is young Boston based band Mile Twelve who are nominated for Emerging Artist; and toured here last year. The band features BB Bowness on banjo, a NZ native who spent several years living in Australia.

A great milestone worth announcing is the Grand Opening of an all new Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky. Owensboro has a long-standing relationship with bluegrass music, being a short 40-minute drive from Rosine KY, the home place of Bill Monroe. It has been home to the original International bluegrass music museum since it’s opening in 1991 and was the original host city for the IBMA’s world of bluegrass festival (which is being held in Raleigh NC this year). The river town now hosts the annual ROMP (River of Music Party) festival each June which attracts crowds of 20,000. This year on the weekend of October 18-20 the city will be celebrating it’s very first concert at the new museum complex starting with a Legends Night which will include performances by a list of Hall of Fame inductees, followed by their first public concert from the one and only Sam Bush, in their brand new 450-seat Woodward Theatre.

An incredible local act worth checking out is Montgomery Church. Based in the Snowy Mountains, the acoustic duo features the beautiful, soulful voice of Cielle Montgomery completely complemented by James Church on dobro and vocals. James is an incredibly tasteful, accomplished player who needs to be heard. You can catch them at many upcoming festivals as they tour the release of their first album In the Shadow of the Mountain.

In other local news, many folks will be glad to hear that Mustered Courage is recording a new album to be released later this year and Kristy Cox has recently celebrated chart success in the US reaching #1 on the Bluegrass Today radio chart. She’ll be back in Aus. touring throughout August.

We say farewell to veteran musician John Munro, one of the early Aussie bluegrassers who passed away in May. Known widely as Eric Bogle’s travelling side man, John immigrated from Scotland in the 60s and went on to perform and record over the next two decades with bands Country Express and the Skillet Lickers.

The TSA have announced a change in their categories for the next songwriting competition and will now have a dedicated bluegrass category. With the intention to recognise the significance of bluegrass in the main country genre, the competition is now open until the end of September with the winners to be announced in Tamworth 2019

For those music lovers in the Western state, you’ll be eager to know the Manjimup Bluegrass & Old Time Music Weekend will be on again 21st – 24th September and back in Victoria, the Foggy Mountain Festival has announced a huge line up of great Aussie acts to perform on the weekend of 12th – 14th October in Kinglake.

If you’re on the lookout for some new music, here a list of recent new releases: Punch BrothersAll Ashore, (see Punch Bros story P82) Clay Hess BandJust Another Story, Hot Rize40th Anniversary Bash, Sister Sadie – II.

If you have any bluegrass news from around the traps, please send it through for this column.