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.”

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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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Cabinet in Atlanta

Cabinet visited Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA on 3/13/2014 as their Late Winter tour drives through the Southeast. The band lived up to their growing reputation, delivering standout tracks from their repertoire and moving the solid Thursday evening crowd with their progressive rock-&-grass.

The band opened the long set with a tight new tune, “Mysterio”, before fan favorite “Eleanor.” “Caroline” is quintessential Cabinet, with smooth bass and drum swing from rhythm section Dylan Skursky and Jami Novak. The song features great vocals from mandolinist J.P. Biondo and a massive fiddle solo by Todd Kopec before closing in a bit of a Celtic jam. “Mr. Spaceman” has a decidedly country twang to it and featured a nice banjo solo from Pappy Biondo, who took over lead vocal efforts on “Elizabeth.”

The newgrass spectacle continued with The Delmore Brothers “Nashville Blues” and Bill Monroe’s “On and On.” “Hit It On The Head” starts off like a rolling songwriter number before hitting a nice groove-grass medley the rest of the way. It’s an easy song to like.

The bluegrass pace hit a frenzy with “Wine And Shine,” “Old Farmer’s Mill,” and “Poor Man’s Blues.” The latter featured a blisteringly bluesy guitar solo from the able Michael Coviello. Fan interaction triggered an impromptu intro to the Peter Tosh anthem “Legalize It” before transitioning unexpectedly into “Susquehanna Breakdown,” the namesake for the band’s newly minted annual gettogether in hometown Scranton, PA.

The closing tune was “Heavy Rain,” another defining Cabinet song. Ultimately, Cabinet left the crowd wanting more and eager for a return visit from their friends from the Pennsylvanian hills. Cabinet delivers on all fronts and it is easy to see why they’re quickly developing their regional domination into national acclaim.

Cabinet has thirteen more dates on their Late Winter 2014 Tour. Check out JamGrass.net’s interview with J.P. Biondo and the Spotify playlist for a makeshift recording. Support the band and JamGrass.net by shopping for their music at Amazon.com.

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A Few Questions With J.P. Biondo of Cabinet

Cabinet, the Pennsylvania bluegrass band making fans for themselves across the county, is smack-dab in the middle of their Winter 2014 tour. With a couple of albums worth of original material and several official live releases, the band will bring their stellar live performance to Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA. JamGrass.net caught up with J.P. Biondo (mandolin, vocals) for a brief eInterview as the band commuted from a successful performance in Nashville.

JamGrass.net: The band hasn’t had the chance to perform in Atlanta very often. What has been your experience at Smith’s and performing in the Southeast in general?

JP:We played at Smith’s once before. Light crowd, but it was an overall good experience. It’s always exciting to play a new venue for the first time. The crew that came out to the show was definitely attentive and excitable. You can’t ask much more of an audience…..

We’ve been playing the southeast more than we ever have in the past. I feel like it’s been very welcoming to Cabinet. I’d say we pretty much love it down here. Lots of nice people everywhere we go and the warmer weather certainly doesn’t hurt.

JamGrass.net: The second Susquehanna Breakdown takes place in May this year with a great lineup. With a year under your belt, what will be different in 2014?

We’re really pumped about this. There is a certain sense of pride that comes with hosting your own festival. We learned a lot last year. Most importantly we listened to the fans. We want their experience with the Susquehanna Breakdown to be as memorable as possible. This year we are offering camping and some late night performances to keep the good times going through the night. And once again we’ve done our best to gather a super line up of bands and musicians. Come one, come all! It’s gonna be a hoot!

JamGrass.net: The buzz around the band is growing exponentially. What can fans expect in 2014?

You can expect to see us performing at a few large festivals that we’ve never played at before. DelFest will certainly be a highlight of these….

There is also a good possibility of us getting out west later on in the year. We’ll keep everyone updated on that.

Otherwise we’ll be writing some new tunes in order to put together another studio album. There’s a couple of ideas and concepts floating around as to what we may do.

Great talking to JamGrassers! See ya at Smith’s.

Cabinet has 14 more dates scheduled before wrapping up the Winter 2014 tour. Catch them at one of the dates below and be sure to make plans to be in Scranton, PA for Susquehanna Breakdown. Marco Benevento and Floodwood will be there, along with many more acts!

  • 3/13    Smith’s Olde Bar    Atlanta, GA
  • 3/14    One Stop at Asheville Music Hall    Asheville, NC
  • 3/15    ROUX    Charlotte, NC
  • 3/16    ROUX    Charlotte, NC
  • 3/17    ROUX    Charlotte, NC
  • 3/20    Beachland Ballroom    Cleveland, OH
  • 3/21    Tonic Room    Chicago, IL
  • 3/22    Tonic Room    Chicago, IL
  • 3/24    The Ark    Ann Arbor, MI
  • 3/25    Ace’s Lounge    Johnstown, PA
  • 3/26    Levels Nightclub    State College, PA
  • 3/27    Dante’s    Frostburg, MD
  • 3/28    Gypsy Sally’s    Washington, DC
  • 3/29    The Hollow    Albany, NY

Check out Cabinet on the Spotify playlist below and don’t forget to support JamGrass.net by shopping for Cabinet’s music by clicking this link to Amazon.com!

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Northwest String Summit Voted Best JamGrass Festival

There can only be one king. When it comes to music festivals promoting JamGrass, the newly appointed king is Northwest String Summit.

2014 marks the 14th edition of the annual festival hosted by Yonder Mountain String Band, scheduled July 17-20. In addition to three nights with the hosts, this years lineup will include Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, sit-ins galore, and many more with acts to be announced. These bands continue the legacy of such acts as Hot Rize Reunion, Old And In The Gray, Del McCoury, Chris Thile, Emmitt-Nershi, Keller & The Keels, and Leftover Salmon.

Located just a half hour outside of Portland in North Plains, Oregon, Northwest String Summit calls Horning’s Hideout home. Nestled among rolling hills, forests, and a peaceful county setting, Horning’s Hideout offers fans an opportunity to relax, pick, trout fish, play disc golf, and camp without ever starting their engine. In addition to Northwest String Summit, The String Cheese Incident holds an annual festival on these grounds.

John Hartford Memorial Festival – added to the poll after failing to earn nominations following significant write-in support – finished second. The bronze medal goes to Yonder’s Southeastern festival, Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival. Other notable vote totals were received for The Aiken Bluegrass Festival, DelFest, and The Festy Experience. Twenty one additional events received at least one write-in vote.

It should be noted that all of the individuals voted into the inaugural JamGrassers Band will be performing at the 2014 Northwest String Summit. Help JamGrass.net influence the festival organizers, Yonder’s Ben Kauffman, The Dusters’ Chris Pandolfi & Andy Falco, Greensky’s Paul Hoffman & Anders Beck, and Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone to organize a slot for the JamGrassers by leaving a comment on this post. Give the people what they want!

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Update On The Best JamGrass Festival Poll

With a little over three days remaining to vote, results are too close to call in JamGrass.net’s poll to select the best JamGrass festival. Northwest String Summit, Harvest, and John Hartford Memorial are the early leaders in the clubhouse. Longstanding, well respected festivals like Suwannee, DelFest, MerleFest, Telluride, and RockyGrass are poised to make a late push. Head on over to the poll and encourage your friends to do the same.

This first week in March has proven to be one of JamGrass.net’s most successful. Contributor Eric Rayburn’s review and photos from a recent Carolina Chocolate Drops performance earned praise. On Wednesday, a feature exploring bluegrass-inspired covers of Pink Floyd and The Dark Side Of The Moon received a lot of views as the album turned 41 on March 1st and guitarist David Gilmour 68 just yesterday. JamGrass.net also provided a review of a favorite record, the mandolin/guitar duo of Chris Thile and Michael Daves’ Sleep With One Eye Open.

Things will really start picking up this time next week. With Suwannee Springfest going down March 20-23, a lot of bluegrass talent will be making their way through our hometown of Atlanta as we celebrate Suwannee in Atlanta. We’ll have reviews of Infamous Stringdusters, Floodwood, Cabinet, Sam Bush with the Keels, and Greensky Bluegrass with the Keels. Also in the next few weeks, look for a site revamp as we update the layout and make room for some ads to help fund the effort of spreading the bluegrass gospel.

Just a reminder if you’d like to support what we do here at JamGrass.net, do so by clicking any link that directs to Amazon.com. JamGrass.net participates in Amazon’s Associate Program, meaning that a (very small) portion of any item you buy after a referral from our site gets passed to us as an advertising fee. Purchase an item we recommend via our Listmania! lists or buy anything you’d like. Thanks for supporting JamGrass.net!

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Better Late Than Never Review: Chris Thile & Michael Daves’ Sleep With One Eye Open

Despite its size advantage over many of the other instruments traditionally associated with bluegrass, the guitar can often be difficult to isolate in recordings. This is particularly true in the earliest bluegrass where the guitar was almost entirely relegated to rhythm duties. Besides, guitar gets to be the center of attention in most other American music; let the fiddle, mandolin, and banjo get their spotlight. That doesn’t sit well with the guitar junky. For these people, recordings stripped down to just guitar and mandolin are the perfect fit.

In 2011, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile teamed up with guitarist Michael Daves for the soaring Sleep With One Eye Open. The album is full-throttle bluegrass highlighted by fantastic lead vocals/harmonies and awe inspiring fretwork. Thile needs no introduction. As a founder of both Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, Chris is the face of bluegrass for generation X/Y. His mandolin produces perfect melodic effect when its his turn and powerfully drives the rhythm while Daves takes his turn.

Michael Daves flies a bit more under the radar, at least nationally. Follow his Facebook profile and you’ll see he regularly spends his New York nights jamming with bluegrass heavyweights like Thile, Noam Pikelny, and Bryan Sutton. The man is a tour-de-force on the guitar. Whether booming bass runs or pickin’ fast and furious, Michael is a master of the left and right hands. He’ll more than satisfy the aforementioned guitar junky.

Key tracks include “Rabbit In The Log,” “20/20 Vision,” “Tennessee Blues”, “Rain and Snow”… hell, all of them. Sleep With One Eye Open is an album that gets guaranteed repeat listens end-to-end. Each musician brings considerable talent to the table but in the end still somehow equates to more than the sum of the parts.

Don’t forget, support JamGrass.net by purchasing Sleep With One Eye Open or anything you want by completing a purchase at Amazon.com after linking from the site.

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The Dark Side of Bluegrass

This months celebrates 41-years since the release of one of the most widely acclaimed albums of all time. On March 1, 2013, Pink Floyd released  The Dark Side of the Moon. Although it continues to influence new generations of modern rockers, the album also impacts performers of other genres.

Although Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band have covered Pink Floyd (notably “Welcome to the Machine” and “Dogs,” respectively), Greensky Bluegrass selected a tune off DSoTM, often covering and even releasing their treatment of “Time” (check out the “Time > Breathe Reprise” off 2010’s live All Access: Volume One).

The circle is completed by San Francisco’s Poor Man’s Whiskey, a quintet that released the ultimate bluegrass tribute to DSoTM, 2010’s Darkside of the Moonshine. The first half of the album presents bluegrass/acoustic renditions of the Floyd classic track-by-track, including a liberal interpretation of “Money” recast as “Whiskey.” The second half of the album presents originals and the musical styling of Poor Man’s Whiskey becomes a little more varied.

The album is worth a listen (stream on Spotify) or even a download. Buy Darkside of the Moonshine or other Poor Man’s Whiskey releases through Amazon.com’s associate program and support JamGrasss.net. Poor Man’s Whiskey also takes the show on the road; catch the following dates for a live performance of Darkside of the Moonshine and check the website for a complete list of dates:

  • 3/30    Plains, PA        River Street Jazz Café
  • 3/31    Northampton, MA        Iron Horse
  • 4/01    Syracuse, NY        Westcott Theater
  • 4/02    Brooklyn, NY        Brooklyn Bowl
  • 4/03    Sellersville, PA    Sellersville Theater
  • 4/04    Fairfield, CT        Stage One
  • 4/05    Fairfield, CT        Stage One
  • 5/22    Port Angeles, WA    Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts
  • 10/14    Danville, IL        Phases of the Moon

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Carolina Chocolate Drops and L Shape Lot Duo, Wilmington, NC

Carolina Chocolate Drops perform at Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington, NC on 2/26/2014. Photo by Eric Rayburn Photography.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops brought a foot-stompin’ good time to the Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington, NC on Feb 26, 2014. A sold-out crowd braved cold and rain to pack the converted church for a night of old-time and bluegrass.

L Shape Lot Duo supports Carolina Chocolate Drops at Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington, NC on 2/26/2014. Photo by Eric Rayburn Photography.

The night began with a fantastic opening set from local Wilmington band L Shape Lot Duo. Comprised of Eric Miller and Alex Lanier, the duo is the acoustic half of the band L Shape Lot, a past winner of Floydfest’s On the Rise competition. Playing a blend of folk, bluegrass, rock and jam, the Duo’s set encompassed originals and familiar covers. Miller kept up a humorous stage banter asking the crowd at one point “How many of y’all have no idea who we are? Raise your hand!” A highlight of the set was a speedy and folksy cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

Alex Lanier of L Shape Lot Duo supports Carolina Chocolate Drops at Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington, NC on 2/26/2014. Photo by Eric Rayburn Photography.

The Chocolate Drops played a single set lasting about and hour and a half. The show was a mix of songs from the 1800s to present day, blending old time spirituals, 20s vaudeville jazz and modern bluegrass. Led by Rhiannon Giddens, the quartet played a variety of instruments, including the primitive percussion of “bones”. Used by slaves when drums were taken away, the bones are similar in sound to spoons or castanets.

Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops performs at Brooklyn Arts Center in Wilmington, NC on 2/26/2014. Photo by Eric Rayburn Photography.

Giddens, whose powerful voice induced chills more than once throughout the evening, was not afraid to step back and let other members, including multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins take over, showcasing vocals and instrumental chops a plenty.

Once of the most interesting touring groups out there right now, a show from this band is guaranteed to get your toes tappin’. And where else are you going to see a beautiful African-American woman from Greensboro, NC bust out a tremendous version of a traditional Scottish folk song IN GAELIC? The rest of the country has taken notice of this band from the North Carolina piedmont and you should as well.

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Vote For The Best JamGrass Fesitval

FESTIVAAALLL!!!The nominations are in and the poll is live! JamGrass.net would like to attend at least one festival in 2014, but there are so many great options available we’re hoping you can help us decide. What is the best JamGrass festival?

If a festival you’d like to see isn’t included, make sure the use the write-in feature and comment on the post to encourage others to do the same. Rules for consideration when writing in responses, nominated events:

  • Must present a lineup with a significant amount of bluegrass-inspired artists
  • Have a reasonable level of national awareness/reputation

Polls will close at 11:59 PM ET on 3/10/2014. The undisputed champion of the JamGrass festival circuit will be announced at JamGrass.net, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks in advanced for participating!

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