Cabinet and Tauk Lockn it up!

One of the things that makes Lockn’ Festival special is the “interlocking” aspect of the weekend. Organizers have set it up so that one band plays right into another, making for roughly 12 hours of non-stop music per day. This can sometimes create jarring transitions, but it can also lead to some interesting moments.

At this year’s festival, help September 4-7 at Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, Va., there were fewer unannounced sit-ins than last year. Two notable sit-ins this year were the Del McCoury Band literally walking from one stage to the other to join the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Susan Tedeschi joining Widespread Panic Sunday night for “Use Me”. But there was a moment early Friday afternoon that showcased two of the smaller bands and how bands of different genres can interlock with the best of them.

Tauk is an instrumental 4-piece from Long Island. Led by the dynamic and driving drumming of Isaac Teel, the band plays a funky, jazzy type of prog rock. They had the first hour long set on the Ridge stage Friday and they used every minute to their advantage, moving from one song to the next, often without any pause. The set was dark, driving and almost brooding. It felt like a gritty, gray and rainy New York City day. As Tauk worked toward the end of their set another band was setting up over on the Oak stage.

Cabinet is sextet from Pennsylvania known for energetic and bright bluegrass. They have been establishing a loyal fanbase in the Northeast built on a tour heavy schedule. With two studio albums under their belt, Cabinet is on the cusp of breaking out from being a regional band to going national.

These two bands shared a moment that likely wasn’t planned and may not have even been that noticed by most in attendance. As Tauk finished their set (a few minutes late) with “Mindshift” (which is in rotation on SiriusXM’s Jam On), “Heavy” and “The Chemist”, Cabinet immediately began. This is where the boys who bill themselves as “High on Pennsylvania Bluegrass” showed themselves to be accomplished musicians who can play more than jaunty, upbeat and happy mountain music.

Starting with “Celebration” and moving into “Susquehanna Breakdown,” the band seemed to be projecting a more moody side of bluegrass. These songs, normally a bit brighter and more bouncy, seemed to be played a touch slower, a bit darker. In doing so, it provided a more seamless transition between two sets of very different music. Maybe they planned it that way or maybe it was like that only to my ears, but as they moved into “Eleanor>Mysterio” the music became brighter and happier, as if clods had parted revealing the blazing Virginia sun that beat down on the festival patrons.

In spite of the heat, people were dancing and smiling. In spite of the difference in style these two bands showed the spirit of a festival dedicated to improvisation and interlocking. Both Tauk and Cabinet played their hearts out that day and hopefully garnered some new fans in the process.

The Infamous Stringdusters Release “Let It Go”

No joke, The Infamous Stringdusters release their fifth studio album today, April Fool’s Day 2014. The album catches a band full of musical savants hitting their collaborative stride.

Although The Dusters are known for their engaging live performances and jam chops, Let It Go presents a collection of eleven tracks precisely trimmed to their essential elements. There isn’t a shortage of instrumental prowess or wow moments, just a more concise presentation of what you can expect in a live environment.

Let It Go is a feel good album with immense replay value. “I’ll Get Away” gets things started with driving rhythm and a classic Dusters’ crescendo. “Where The Rivers Run Cold,” “Peace of Mind,” and the title track are all standouts. “Colorado” is destined to be a sold out Morison amphitheater singalong.

Support The Infamous Stringdusters and JamGrass.net by purchasing Let It Go through Amazon.com or iTunes.

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Sam Bush & Larry Keel At Georgia Theatre

Sam Bush and his band performed at the Georgia Theatre on Friday, March 21, 2014. Larry and Jenny Keel opened, highlighted by their performance of “Love” and the man with the mandolin joining them to close out the set.

Sam and his band played one long set. Captured videos include “Bluegrass Train” and a solo version of “Girl From The North Country.” Full review pending, check on YouTube video collection in the interim.

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Photos From Greensky Bluegrass With The Keels

Lots more to come including a full review and videos of the condenser mic encore and “Midnight Rider.” For now, enjoy a few pics (non-iPhone, for a change).


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Raising A Glass With Floodwood

On St. Patrick’s Day in 2014, Floodwood showed up at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA ready to paint the town green. The progressive string band – currently on a swing that includes eleven dates in ten days – billed the show as Floodwood Quartet while drummer Vinnie Amico sits out before rejoining the band heading into Suwannee Springfest.

Rev. Jeff Mosier and Donna Hopkins opening for Floodwood at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA on 3/17/2014.

Atlanta music legends Donna Hopkins and Rev. Jeff Mosier (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Bluegrass Underground, The Mosier Brothers Band) opened the show, trading songs that bounced from Hopkins’ soulful, singer/songwriter numbers to Mosier’s mastery of the five-string and powerful vocals. A highlight included Mosier performing “Black Muddy River.” His introduction stated that after Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia suffered a diabetic coma, he had to retrain himself to play and this was the first song he learned. Ultimately, it is the last song Garcia would sing. LiveJams was on hand to capture video of a few songs performed by Hopkins and Mosier.

Floodwood performed one long set highlighting tracks from 2013’s This Is Life, unreleased tunes, and choice covers. Banjo and fiddle man Nick Piccininni took first vocal responsibility, performing “It’s A Long Way to Virginia.” All three melodic pickers took vocal lead for several songs throughout the evening, while stand-up bass man Zachary Fleitz provided harmony on most tunes. An unreleased tune, the instrumental “Chillicothe Clouds” showcases that Piccininni and mandolinist Jason Barady can both really pick it and appear to be having a great time on stage, always smiling and dancing.

Al Schnier lead vocals on “Raise A Glass,” his Irish-drinking song included on moe.’s Sticks And Stones. Schnier’s Martin box was thunderous throughout the performance and highlighted several flatpicking moments. He also took principal vocal responsibility on “Revolving Door,” “Anyone But Me,” and a wonderful version of Neil Young’s “Get Back To The Country.”

Early in the set the band invited Mosier to roll the banjo while Piccininni sang and fiddler to the bluegrass standard “Nine Pound Hammer.” The crowd persuaded Mosier to stick around and influenced selection of the next song, the Garcia/John Dawson/Robert Hunter penned “Friend Of The Devil.” The Grateful Dead guitarist’s spirit echoed throughout the night as songs like “I Know You Rider,” “The Hobo Song,” and others etched in Deadhead’s memories via Garcia’s performances with David Grisman and Old And In The Way were sprinkled throughout the setlist.

A rowdy stage call brought the band back out for an encore. A familiar beat and Barady’s words indicated the band was attempting an impromptu “Crazy Train.” The mandolin picker tried to abandon the tune early but Schnier made sure he finished what he started. Like the rest of the performance, Floodwood nailed it.

Floodwood has a few more dates before taking some time off as moe. travels to Europe for a tour. Support JamGrass.net and the band by purchasing their music on Amazon or iTunes after linking from the site.

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Tossing A Line With The Keels

Larry and Jenny are the husband and wife duo known for projects including Natural Bridge, Keller & The Keels, and performances of Jeff Austin’s The Here & Now. They were nice enough to respond to a few questions from JamGrass.net leading up to their performances opening for Greensky Bluegrass at Terminal West in Atlanta and Sam Bush at Georgia Theatre in Athens.

JamGrass.net: I really enjoyed the performance of Larry Keel’s Acoustic Power Trio in Clarkesville, GA and it seems you guys had a great time, too. How do you stay upbeat given the range of venues and audience sizes you face during the year?

Larry Keel: Well, we thoroughly love what we do! We’ve had plenty of twists and turns in the road for the past twenty years that could have steered us away from being full-time, professional touring musicians… but that’s all we know we want to do as a career and we’ve dedicated ourselves to it (I’m speaking for jenny and myself, at least). We’ve got a great band and crew to travel with, a great team that manages and does the office stuff, and endless opportunities to play music with great artists and acts all over the place. Always something fresh and new to experience, no matter what the setting.

JamGrass.net: On Friday 3/21, you play with Sam Bush at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. I assume your relationship with Sam goes back a ways. What are some of the highlights?

Larry Keel: Sam and I have had a few very good, mutual friends in common (promoters, musicians) for a long long time, it just took a while for us to finally meet and connect. But that’s been a dozen or more years now, since [then] we’ve gotten to know each other and played together numerous times. Some highlights of some killer jams we’ve gotten on together would be me and him and Darol Scott doing a set at Appalachian Uprising in OH a few years ago, Sam getting up with my band Natural Bridge at Grand Targhee Fest in WY to play Leon Russell’s “Manhattan Island Serenade” (Sam played in Leon’s band for many years back in the 70′s and early 80′s), and me and Sam joining the Del McCoury band at a black tie affair showcase in Nashville one time. He had a giant leg cast on, under his tux. Still crushing it even with a broken leg. Getting to meet his Dad and listen to cassette tapes of great Texas fiddlers that his Dad likes, sitting in his truck in a diner parking lot in KY. There’ve been so many encounters – Telluride, Arkansas, Florida, etc… he’s without a doubt one of my biggest heroes and influences in pioneering progressive bluegrass.

JamGrass.net: Thursday 3/20 brings the Keels to Atlanta for a date with Greensky Bluegrass. Any special memories playing with anyone from Greensky?

Jenny Keel: We’ve known those guys since their very first foray into becoming a touring band. We (Larry Keel Experience) were playing a club in a ski town in Colorado… I think it was Steamboat or Breckenridge.  The promoter had put Greensky on as our opening act. They were super cool, very young Michigan hippy pickers, and they were super fired up to play with us. They said they knew all about Larry’s playing and knew he had won Telluride Bluegrass Fest guitar contest. We encouraged them to go to Telluride to compete in their band contest, and they did that next summer and won it! We’ve been buddies ever since, and our paths have crossed tons of times over the years. We’re so proud of them and and their accomplishments. They’re putting out wonderful new music and stellar shows. Can’t wait to merge forces again coming up in Atlanta.

JamGrass.net: You’re a seasoned veteran in the bluegrass industry. What are the most significant changes you’ve observed, positive or negative?

I’ve been seeing a lot of younger bluegrass-instrumentation bands covering non-bluegrass material, along with playing standards from the string band repertoire. They might play cover tunes that are very familiar to the young audiences they’re playing to, or current-sounding original material. By doing this, these bands are helping to expand the audience for bluegrass, getting those listeners’ attention so they’ll also take in traditional tunes when they hear them. This results in preserving bluegrass music, which has always been my approach and my goal entirely. Bands like Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Leftover Salmon are playing to far bigger crowds than the average traditional bluegrass band. That kind of exposure for bluegrass music is helpful to the cause.

JamGrass.net: You’re an avid fisherman. If you could only keep one rod and reel, what would it be and why?

Larry Keel: I’d keep a 6’2″ medium action, one-piece graphite rod with a Pflueger Ambassadeur reel, 8 pound fluorocarbon line, and a wacky rig worm. This set up will catch anything, anywhere. Tried and tested positive.

Larry and Jenny Keel are always on tour in one way or another. Check out their tour page for an updated schedule, including multiple performances (and Larry doing a Jerry Garcia tribute set!) at Aiken Bluegrass Festival May 9-10. Support the Keels and JamGrass.net by shopping for their music at Amazon.com or iTunes, preview below from Spotify!

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The Bluegrass/St. Patrick’s Day Connection

In July of 2003, Doc Watson, Early Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs joined forces for a PBS performance. The DVD performance is currently available for viewing on YouTube. Before performing “Road To Spencer,” Skaggs took a moment to discuss the inspiration for the song.

I wrote this next instrumental. I thought so long and hard about the roots of bluegrass music and where it came from and in my studies of Bill Monroe’s music, Flatt and Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, people like that. My first trip to Ireland I felt like I died and went home it felt so wonderful to be there and play music with the neighbors in the hood. They sure know how to play and it wasn’t no strain at all for me to jump right in and play the tunes I knew and they mixed right with the tunes they knew. Many of them were the same tunes, just with different names. I kind of thought of that when I wrote this tune. Kind of start it off with the Celic way and then kick in to bluegrass. This is called the “Road To Spencer.”

Support JamGrass.net and pick-up a copy of The Three Pickers at Amazon.com. You won’t regret it!

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An Interview With Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman

Paul Hoffman, mandolin player for Greensky Bluegrass, was kind enough to take a few moments out of his schedule to respond to a few questions for JamGrass.net. Here’s what he had to say.

JamGrass.net: It’s been a cold and snowy winter in the Midwest. I’m sure the band is looking forward to hitting the South and the Spring thaw. Has the weather impacted the creative process at all?

Paul Hoffman: We’re in the South Spring thaw now. It’s very nice in Tulsa, OK and it’s warm. I don’t think the cold had too much effect on the creative process. It was a cold tour though for a few weeks in the Northeast and Midwest. It definitely makes seeking out the awesome meals in a city less appealing. We walk a lot and when it’s -16 going 2 miles for a Bánh mì just doesn’t seem worth it.

JamGrass.net: The band seems to have taken a liking to one of Atlanta’s newer venues, Terminal West. Any particular memories stick out from the venue?

Paul Hoffman: We’ve only been there once so far but we did love it. One of the best shows of that whole tour in our collective opinion, actually. I do believe the recording may surface as an official release someday. The staff and the vibe at Terminal West are great. What’s not to like? Can’t wait to do it again.

JamGrass.net: When can we expect the new album? Any new material planned for the current tour?

Paul Hoffman: We are playing some of the material and holding some as well. Super excited for the release. There’s been a lot of opportunities with this album that we haven’t had the privilege of considering with previous releases. It’s added some time to the process but we are confident it will be worth the wait.

JamGrass.net: The Keels are opening. Can we expect any collaboration?

Paul Hoffman: Hell yeah!

JamGrass.net: The kinship between Greensky and others bringing together the bluegrass and live improvisation styles seems extremely strong, with shared festival dates, etc. The opportunity to combine resources and launch a tour in amphitheaters or arenas seems plausible. The idea worked with HORDE in the 90′s. Has the idea ever been discussed?

Paul Hoffman: Great idea. To my knowledge nothing is in the works. I like it though. We love all our contemporaries. It’s a competitive business for sure but there is so much camaraderie amongst us. Events like Strings & Sol, Northwest String Summit and Hangtown really showcase that. It’s something I am extremely grateful for.

JamGrass.net: The “Rift” cover generated a lot of attention and was a nice tribute to the PHISH anniversary. How did the tune get picked? What was the arranging process like?

Paul Hoffman: I always thought it would be a great bluegrass tune. It’s almost there without any work. Some of the characteristics of bluegrass rhythm are all over all the genres of music. The arranging process…hmm. It was interesting. Very challenging. That band called PHISH is REALLY good. They play a lot of complicated music. What was interesting is turning a piece for 3 melodic instruments into 5. We all sort of share [Jon] Fishman’s job and [Mike] Devol plays the bass line but sort of the bass drum, too. Splitting up the piano and guitar melodies amongst all of us was unique. Careful doubling and dividing. Mostly we just held on and crossed our fingers that it was badass.

JamGrass.net: Lots of festival dates planned for 2014. What are some of your favorites?

Paul Hoffman: We love Telluride. It’s pretty much a goal to be there every year. We’re back at High Sierra and Bonnaroo. A couple more I can’t tell you about yet, either. Festivals are exciting. I love seeing new bands, bathing in sunscreen, and playing music with new musicians.

JamGrass.net: It seems everyone has at least one festival they host these days. When can we expect an official Greensky festival?

Paul Hoffman: We are doing three nights for the Garden Opener at Bell’s this year. It’s always been our summer kickoff event. This is the tenth year so we added another night. Actually it’s our first three night stand. In our minds, it’s sorta been our “festival” for awhile and we’ve had a hard time imagining something different or replacing it in some way. Plus, we like being at everyone’s festivals so much. How’s a guy to choose?

JamGrass.net: You and Anders were voted in the JamGrassers Band by readers of JamGrass.net, along with Ben Kauffmann (Yonder Mountain String Band), Chris Pandolfi & Andy Falco (The Infamous Stringdusters), and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth). Can you try to help make sure this collaboration takes place this year?

Paul Hoffman: That sounds fun. Count me in.

Greensky Bluegrass is currently on tour, check the dates below. Support the band and JamGrass.net by purchasing tracks from Greensky’s catalog at Amazon.com. Check out the Spotify list below for a preview.

  • 3/14    Old Rock House    St. Louis, MO
  • 3/15    Exit/In        Nashville, TN
  • 3/19    Lincoln Theatre    Raleigh, NC
  • 3/20    Terminal West    Atlanta, GA
  • 3/21    Suwannee Springfest    Live Oak, FL
  • 5/1    Tipitina’s (Uptown)    New Orleans, LA
  • 5/1    New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival    New Orleans, LA
  • 5/9    Aiken Bluegrass Festival    Aiken, SC
  • 5/10    NC Brewers & Music Festival    Huntersville, NC
  • 5/22    Delfest    Cumberland, MD
  • 5/23    Delfest    Cumberland, MD
  • 5/24    Summer Camp Music Festival    Chillicothe, IL
  • 5/25    Revival Festival    Harmony Park, MN
  • 6/5    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/6    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/7    Bell’s Beer Garden Opener    Kalamazoo, MI
  • 6/13    Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival    Manchester, TN
  • 6/19    Telluride Bluegrass Festival    Telluride, CO
  • 7/2    The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino    Las Vegas, NV
  • 7/3    High Sierra Music Festival    Quincy, CA
  • 7/4    High Sierra Music Festival    Quincy, CA
  • 7/17    Northwest String Summit    North Plains, OR
  • 7/18    Northwest String Summit    North Plains, OR
  • 8/2    Red Rocks Amphitheatre    Morrison, CO
  • 8/3    Fox Theatre    Boulder, CO

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