Bluegrass Truth

With the Davidson Brothers.

George Jackson is preparing for the release of his new solo project Time and Place on April 12. It is an album of new original old-time fiddle tunes, featuring some fantastic young musicians. For those unaware, ‘old-time’ is the traditional American style of dance music which emerged from the early European settlers in the Appalachian Mountains and is the primary essence behind bluegrass. Upon first listen, George has a deep understanding of the style, and to write and perform a whole album of new music in an aged tradition, with convincing authenticity is a true talent. Congratulations George, we enjoy watching your music journey unfold internationally and hope to run into you soon, wherever that may be.

Also, on April 12, to the delight of acoustic musicians across the country, US dobro master Jerry Douglas will perform his first ever show in Australia! A winner of 14 Grammy awards and key member of Alison Krauss’ Union Station, Jerry will be touring the east coast with Tommy Emmanuel playing a bunch of theatre shows. 

The two partnered up last year to perform the Grand Ole Opry, Merlefest and IBMA; and Tommy describes “Playing and hanging with Jerry has been a magical experience, and I am so proud and excited that we’re going to be doing some more shows together.”

Another International group visiting Australia for the first time is I’m With Her. Featuring three outstanding female artists who, individually, have already made significant contributions to the contemporary acoustic bluegrass scene in modern times; they are Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still). The group started performing together in 2015 after a one-off collaboration at Telluride. Their stunning debut album See You Around was released early last year, and you can see them perform in Sydney, Melbourne or at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest.

We mentioned in the last article that witnessing Ricky Skaggs’s induction into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame was a memorable night. But following that, on Oct 12 last year those who were lucky enough to attend Ricky’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame were treated to a rare unforgettable moment. After being inducted by Garth Brooks, Skaggs was handed Bill Monroe’s famous Gibson Loar F-5 mandolin to perform for the crowd. The defining instrument has been on display at the Hall’s museum in Nashville for many years, unplayed.

The nominations for the 2019 Grammy Awards were announced in early December and this year marks 30 years since the Bluegrass category was introduced, and won by Bill Monroe for Southern Flavor. At the time of writing the winner is yet to be announced, the nominees are: Mike BarnettPortraits In Fiddles, Sister SadieSister Sadie II, Special ConsensusRivers And Roads, The Travelin’ McCourys and Wood & WireNorth Of Despair. Mike Barnett is the current fiddle player in Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder and his album is a fantastic collection of primarily instrumental tracks, with some fine collaborative tracks with some of the best in the business. Sister Sadie is an inspiring all-star female group based around Nashville; the band emerged out of a show at the Station Inn a few years back. Personally, I find Special Consensus’ latest release one of my favourite bluegrass albums in recent years and the lead vocal ability of Rick Faris is not to be taken for granted. The Travelin’ McCourys are a branch of the Del McCoury Band, minus Del. These guys are breaking boundaries and showcasing some great material, with incredible experience and musicality. Wood & Wire are a lively, relatively new band from Austin Texas. With an emphasis on song writing, these young guys blend country and Americana influences with modern bluegrass.

Del McCoury, an American bluegrass icon recently celebrated his 15-year anniversary as a member of the Opry, and this month a special concert event will be held to celebrate his 80th Birthday titled ‘Grand Del Opry’ featuring Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Dierks Bentley, Old Crow Medicine Show, and The Travelin’ McCoury’s. Del first played the opry back in 1963 as a blue grass boy. He has plenty of tour dates coming up, including shows with David Grisman. If you ever get the chance, go and see him!

Locally, Melbourne-based group the Knott Family Band have just completed their first major tour of the east coast and we see Owl Valley Bluegrass are playing regularly in the Brisbane region.

Kristy Cox picked up the Golden Guitar for 2019 Bluegrass Recording of the Year at the Country Music Association of Australia Awards in Tamworth on January 26; with the title track of her 2018 release Ricochet. The album rated highly on US bluegrass radio and we believe Kristy is currently working towards her next release.

Victorian-based slide guitarist and flat picker, Dave Diprose has won the 2019 Tamworth Songwriters Association’s Bluegrass Song of the Year award; for his song ‘Hillbilly Radio’. You can expect a new album featuring this song in the coming months.

The Great Alpine Pick will be held again March 15 to 17 in the gold-mining town of Beechworth, which has recently become a hub for bluegrass festivals, now playing host to three yearly events.

If you’re into banjo and learning more about the music it may be worth checking out ‘The Picky Fingers Banjo Podcast’. Another personal favourite well worth checking out is ‘Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett’. He’s released a long list of interviews some well-known country singers and bluegrass musicians.