Bluegrass Truth


With Hamish & Lachlan Davidson

One of the finest bluegrass guitarists of all time, Bryan Sutton, is about to release his fifth solo record on the Sugar Hill label. Into My Own (available April 29) is said to be an album that only Bryan could make.  It presents Bryan as an artist who’s worked his way into a musical place that’s all his own, and not just as a phenomenal guitarist, but as a singer and songwriter. Special guests on this project include Bill Frisell, Noam Pikelny, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury and Stuart Duncan.

Celebrating their 25th anniversary, the Grammy award winning, multi-platinum selling act Nickel Creek is to officially reunite after a seven year hiatus. This is fantastic news to all fans of contemporary acoustic music as they have surely helped introduce people to bluegrass since their self-titled album in 2000. That album got large numbers of people into the habit of buying bluegrass music nine months ahead of the release of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and the timing of events may have contributed to the cultural success of the movie.

Paddy Montgomery is the recipient of the 2014 Australian Youth Bluegrass Scholarship. At twenty-five years old, the South Australian musician has established himself firmly as one of the finest mandolin players we have ever seen in Australia. He discovered Bluegrass Music through attending many folk festivals around Australia in his teens and cites Sam Bush (USA) as his biggest inspiration on the mandolin. Paddy moved to Melbourne early in 2011 and performs regularly with Mustered Courage and hosts a weekly Bluegrass jam. A truly versatile musician, he is also proficient on guitar and bouzouki. However, since dipping his toes in the big lake of bluegrass, he has really found his wings. Paddy intends to put his prize money toward the purchase of a resophonic guitar. After a chance opportunity to perform with Randy Kohrs on a trip to Nashville in September 2013, he became inspired to take up the instrument.

Attendees of the 2014 Golden Guitar Awards in Tamworth were treated to a magnificent show opener with a Bluegrass collaboration between Mustered Courage and Pete Denahy. And Pete was fortunate enough to win his second consecutive Golden Guitar for (Bluegrass) Instrumental of the Year with his version of ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’.

Three passionate young musicians hailing from three countries joined by the Pacific Ocean (NZ, US, AU) – George Jackson, Andrew Small and Daniel Watkins – make up the group One Up, Two Down. They have just released their self-titled debut EP. The three lean coffee connoisseurs are armed with some exciting music, new and old, which they recently recorded in Nashville Tennessee. They bring together raw old-time grunt, with bowed bass, bluegrass dexterity and folk story telling.

Currently touring, George and Dan are very excited to introduce to Australia for the first time double bassist Andrew Small, from North Carolina. Andrew is a Yale School of Music masters graduate who is immersed in the American old-time and Bluegrass music scene and is a performer with some of the biggest names in the business. George Jackson is the 7th generation in a line of New Zealand fiddlers dating back to the first settlers, a tradition bearer, composer and musical explorer. Daniel Watkins is a strong vocalist and encyclopaedia of songs which he masterfully flat-picks on his Guitar hailing from Newcastle Australia. George and Daniel are both past recipients of the Australian Youth Bluegrass Scholarship.

Kristy Cox has released her debut US album Living For The Moment on the Pisgah Ridge label. Produced again by Jerry Salley, but this time recorded at Crossroads Studios in Ashville North Carolina, where the likes of Doyle Lawson, the Grascals and Balsam Range frequently cut albums. Kristy’s first single is already charting in Australia after her album preview concert during the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival.

We have got wind that The Flying Emus are doing a reunion tour. The band that brought bluegrass music to the mainstream in Australia some years ago will announce their full tour schedule shortly, but have released four Sydney dates to get the ‘banjo’ rolling – (‘Dad joke’ contributed by Hamish)

Some of you may remember Swedish banjo player Jens Koch visiting Australia in 2012 – he is still the current Australian Banjo Champion. His band G2 are recording in Nashville for the first time this April. They’re a slick bluegrass unit. Look ‘em up! The album is to be titled Mind Over Matter.

Further good news: The Del McCoury Band won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album with their album The Streets Of Baltimore. Blue Highway released a new album in January titled The Game. George Jackson will be touring Australia with the Peter Rowan Trio this March. The third member of the trio will be Chris Henry (US) on mandolin.

Harrietville Victoria’s MountainGrass festival was a success in its first year and Don Rigsby (US) brought the house down with his mighty voice and there was the usual jamming and workshops, etc. It will be on again 14-16 November 2014.

The Australasian Bluegrass and Old Timey Music Association (ABOTMA) has hit the ground running. The association started in late April 2013 and already has almost 100 members – Proud moment – the Davidson Brothers are the first life members. One of the association’s first initiatives is to work on uniting each state of Australia & NZ, to develop a solid touring circuit for both local and international bluegrass artists.