Category Archives: Editorial

Opinion pieces that in no way share the opinions of JamGrass.net

“In The Pines”

I took the above picture while hanging with my kids at the park last Saturday and have had Bill Monroe’s version of “In The Pines” stuck in my head ever sense, motivating me to do a little research on the song.

“In The Pines” is considered a traditional folk song originating from the Southern Appalachians sometime in the latter half of the 1800s. While known as “In The Pines” among fans of bluegrass, rock and blues fans may be more familiar with the names “Black Girl” (or gal) or “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”

Like many staples of the bluegrass tradition, Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys recorded an early version in 1941. Other notable bluegrass or folk interpretations of the song include versions by The Kentucky Colonels, Doc Watson, and the recently deceased Pete Seeger.

Lead Belly is the principle propagator of the blues/rock interpretation of the song, most notably a 1944 version. The Grateful Dead recorded both studio and live version in the ’60s. The most significant modern interpretation of the song likely came from Nirvana’s version on 1994’s MTV Unplugged in New York.

Check out JamGrass.net’s recommended versions on Spotify or YouTube, and don’t forget to support JamGrass.net by purchasing tracks (or anything you want) through our Amazon associate account. Whatever version you prefer, “In The Pines” is certainly a piece of American music history.

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Pondering the Yonder – 30 Years of PHISHgrass

PHISH-BLUEGRASS-1024x723
Recalling the 1994 PHISH Bluegrass Sessions Documentary, Rev. Jeff Mosier wrote in 2005 that “time will only tell what influence Phish’s interest in bluegrass did to forward the progression of bluegrass experimentation that continues in the music until now through so many bands that got their “call of permission” from Phish.” Eight years later the picture is a little more clear. Bands influenced by PHISH build upon their unique brand of bluegrass, musicians well respected and established in the bluegrass scene have been exposed to a new audience due to their association with PHISH, and personally I can state without doubt that this site wouldn’t exist without PHISH introducing me to the world of bluegrass. Undoubtedly, PHISH is the most influential non-bluegrass band to impact the genre in the last 30-years.

Yonder Mountain String Band and Greensky Bluegrass are today’s definitive JamGrass bands. Although both feature traditional acoustic bluegrass instrumentation, the influence of PHISH on their style of bluegrass can be seen in more than just their songwriting or covers. Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band told jambands.com, “I did a whole tour with Phish and stood in the front row right in front of Trey and I had that epiphany moment of this is what I’m supposed to be doing.” On Monday, Greensky Bluegrass posted on Facebook and tweeted “Wishing a happy 30th anniversary to one of our early and continued influences, PHISH. Cheers to 30 more!” Without PHISH, the people filling clubs or Red Rocks to catch these two bands may never have had the pleasure.

Yonder Mountain String Band Talks Phish from Relix on Vimeo.

PHISH’s affection for bluegrass touches not only those that follow them but also those that preceded them. Records from Bill Monroe, The Dillards, Hot Rize, Norman Blake, and countless others have spiked after PHISH covered their tunes. Over the years, bluegrass royalty have shared the stage with the torchbearers of modern jam rock. The Rev. Jeff Mosier, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, and Bela Fleck have all been introduced to new fans through their guest spots with PHISH over the years. Perhaps the most significant benefactor from their association with PHISH is The Del McCoury Band and their namesake. Mr. McCoury shared the stage with Bill Monroe himself as a member of the Bluegrass Boys and left his mark on the bluegrass community through his quintessential voice and jazz influenced picking, but I challenge you to attend a Del McCoury performance today without seeing a shirt from a PHISH tour.

Personally, some of my earliest exposure to bluegrass was through PHISH. While in college, The Gourds cover of “Gin and Juice” was often mistakenly reported as PHISH. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the real thing lending their own voice to the genre with originals like “Poor Heart”, “Scent of a Mule”, and “My Sweet One.” It was my experience with PHISH that led me to other bands that introduced bluegrass into their music,like the String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, and Keller Williams. It was the influence of those artists that drove me to seek acoustic alternatives like Yonder and Greensky, dive into historic/traditional material, and ultimately start this little blog.

The peak years of PHISH’s bluegrass experimentation and most of the moments noted in this post occurred from 1993 through 2000. Mike Gordon doesn’t pick-up the banjo and go high-lonesome nearly enough. Nonetheless, we have recordings of the band and those that they’ve influenced that carry on the spirit. Every night when I go home and pick “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome” or “Beauty of My Dreams” I know I’m thankful. Happy 30th birthday to PHISH!

Support this site and shop through the Amazon.com Associate Program! You can order JamGrass.net’s recommended PHISHgrass or check out the band’s complete catalog at Amazon’s Artist Overview. Previews below courtesy of Spotify.

Essential Recordings

  • 2/21/1993 At the Roxy
    with Rev. Jeff Mosier
  • 11/19/1994 Parking Lot Jam
  • 11/29/1995 with Bela Fleck
  • 6/22/2000 with Wynonna Judd, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter, Robbie McCoury, and Mike Bub
  • A lot of the work has been done via the Phantasy Tour community, accessible via this thread.

The First Month

jamgrass_trafficI announced the creation of JamGrass.net on October 25, 2013. Thirteen unique visitors came to the site, all friends and family, to check out a one paragraph announcement, an about page, and an artist page.

The first show I covered for the site was Noam Pikelny, Bryan Sutton, Jesse Cobb, Luke Bella, and Greg Garrison promoting Noam Pikelny’s newest album. I got to catch five more shows, including Peter Rowan, Leftover Salmon, Trampled by Turtles, and The HillBenders. I’ve also had the pleasure of reviewing releases from Larry Keel and Keller Williams, as well as introducing readers to “bluegrass black metal” via WorkGearZine.com and their review of Panopticon’s Kentucky.

I probably invested somewhere between fifty to sixty hours getting the site secured, writing content, and promoting on Facebook and Twitter. The job has been more difficult than I thought:

  • My goal was to post five articles a week so I should have posted 22. I’ve posted 17, though most of my misses were in the first couple of weeks.
  • I thought it would be much easier to secure interviews with the artists and expected this to be the big traffic driver. Thus far only 1 of 5 have agreed to participate and that ended up not working out.
  • Although the content is being read, the Amazon associate referral links aren’t getting much action.
  • Finding the time to work on other revenue generating ideas would require skipping content or cutting something else out of my life, which isn’t really an option.
  • I haven’t been able to generate a news feed. I’m mostly just using re-tweets from Twitter to pass along news-worthy items.
  • I’ve earned about $0.0001 cents per hour. I could live large in some countries but I’m pretty sure it is difficult to find bluegrass in those places.

 

Despite the challenges, I’ve had a good time doing it and in some ways it has been easier than I thought:

  • The site had 467 unique visitors from eight countries, 46 states, and 241 cities.
  • The first referral fee from the Amazon associate program posted. Someone bought “Ain’t No Trouble to Me” from The HillBenders.
  • I’ve been turned on to some music I was not previously familiar with and invested myself pretty deeply into music from the artists covered.
  • Although I haven’t been able to conduct any interviews, I’ve met several of the artists and have found them all to be remarkably friendly.
  • More surprisingly, the bands’ management and publicity agents have been extremely supportive and friendly, particularly Dreamspider Publicity.
  • The best part of all, I know some folks have been turned on to music they otherwise might not have heard about.

I definitely plan to keep the site going. The next 30-days will probably feature less show reviews as lots of the fall tours are winding down and I have other commitments that will make me miss a few shows I’m really interested in. That being said, I’m sitting on a review of Todd Sheaffer from Smith’s Olde Bar and will be catching Dave Rawling’s Machine in Athens this evening. In addition, I plan to review more albums and incorporate some site changes to get the ball rolling for advertising opportunities. More than anything, I’m looking forward to finding just listening to music and the creative process of writing. It has been a good outlet during a difficult time.

I hope you keep reading and visiting the site! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

From the Editor: My Long Journey Home

My name is Dave Himes and I’m the owner of Sycamore Ridge, LLC and publisher of JamGrass.net. I’m husband to an ideal wife, father to near-perfect twin daughters, best friend to a scruffy looking nerf-herder, and hopefully a diligent employee for a pretty decent job. My dad’s family moved to Atlanta from Kalamazoo, MI (GreenSky Bluegrass’ home) and my mom from Louisville, KY. Bloodlines include Scottish and Irish, so the bluegrass roots run deep. Nonetheless, I’m Georgia born, Georgia bred, and when I die I’ll be Georgia dead.

My hobbies include:

  • Any outdoor pursuit, but especially hiking, camping, paddling, and mountain biking
  • Playing my Gibson acoustic guitar and Mya-Moe baritone ukulele, and
  • Listening to music

This site is part of an intentional effort to include my hobbies more in my day-to-day life. My thinking is that if I place some responsibility behind these hobbies, it will encourage me to pursue each hobby more regularly. JamGrass.net is the initial effort. Forthcoming efforts include a site dedicated to inflatable kayaking and another will target low-cost outdoor products. The revenue model for each site will focus on advertising and affiliate marketing.

The purpose of this post is to give you an idea as to why I am motivated to launch JamGrass.net. My musical journey is probably somewhat predictable but worth explaining.

Early childhood:

  • Listening to the Oak Ridge Boys sing “Elvira” on the radio of my dad’s truck while sitting between him and my grandfather on the way to Lake Hartwell (my dad is a country music fan)
  • My mom’s affinity for Neil Diamond (“Saving Silverman” actually made me realize how many good songs he had)
  • Listening to The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian” and many other 80’s hits on my Pocket Rocker, and
  • Wham!, George Michael, Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Genesis, Michael Jackson and Huey Lewis & the News.

Pocket_Rocker

Late elementary through high school:

  • A LOT of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and other classic hits from Fox 97, a classic hits station in Atlanta circa 1989
  • NKOTB, MC Hammer, Tone Loc, and Sir Mix-a-Lot
  • The Spin Doctors, most notably “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes”
  • A brief country music phase (think Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and other early 90’s stars) as I tried to fit in with the cool kids, and
  • Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, Counting Crows, East & West coast rap (Snoop, Dre, 2-Pac), ska, country, and anything my girlfriend listened to at the time (including Ace of Bass).

College:

  • Freshman year was mostly a continuation of high school, just with more Dave Matthews and less Hootie
  • Saw Widespread Panic for the first time in Athens at Panic in the Streets, couldn’t hear it and didn’t like it much
  • Listened to PHISH while participating in extra-curricular activities where I perceived listening to PHISH was a requirement
  • More Dave Matthews Band and an increasing array of classic rock, most notably Led Zeppelin (which I thought was metal up to that point), Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix
  • Talking Heads (a girl I had a crush on liked them… thanks!) and Paul Simon
  • Then I actually started liking PHISH (Farmhouse) and Widespread Panic (and, I’m sorry, as much as folks appreciate WSP live, I really enjoy albums through ‘Til the Medicine Takes), and:
  • My first memories of what I perceived to be bluegrass came from these years: 1) The Gourds cover of “Gin and Juice” that everyone said was PHISH, and 2) “Euphoria” by Leftover Salmon was included on a “burned” CD a girlfriend made for me.

Post-College:

  • Mostly a continuation of the later years of college, just expanding my “jamband” exposure
  • PHISH, WSP, String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams, moe., Perpetual Groove, Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Tea Leaf Green, My Morning Jacket… pretty much anyone that was invited to an early Bonnaroo festival, and
  • Major phases included a LOT of Perpetual Groove and PHISH> moe.> Leftover Salmon

The last few years:

  • My interest in Leftover Salmon leads me to pursue other similar bands (although anyone who has ever listened to Salmon knows that is fairly impossible)
  • Yonder Mountain, GreenSky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, and the Keller Williams bluegrass projects have all brought me tons of pleasure the last few years, and
  • That interest has steadily grown to include more traditional forms of bluegrass and progressive bluegrass.

Hopefully you got some enjoyment or giggles out of my therapy. Hell, I got bored writing it so I’m sure I lost a few of you, but I wanted to lay the baseline of how JamGrass.net came to be… not just for you but also for me. The point is, I’ve been around the musical block but feel like I’m finally on my long journey home .