Bluegrass

Brian Setzer Gives Bluegrass a Rockabilly Spin

With its forays into bluegrass and traditional jazz, Brian Setzer's new album 'Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!' (out April 19 on Surfdog Records) has the guitar legend testing new waters and putting his signature Stray Cat stamp on a few instrumental favorites. Setzer didn't set out to create an all-instrumental affair but couldn't resist temptation when the music started heading in that direction.

"I didn’t start writing an instrumental record, per se," says Setzer. "I wrote 7 songs with lyrics, and then all of a sudden I just took a turn and started fooling around with 'Blue Moon of Kentucky,' except without any vocals. I started playing melody chords and thought, 'Wow, this is pretty cool!'  So the direction turned about halfway through my writing. I had never done an instrumental record, but I thought, well, now’s the time."

Setzer wrote six originals and revitalizes five jazz-bluegrass classics – “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” "Earl's Breakdown," "Cherokee," "Be-Bop-A-Lula," and "Lonesome Road." Recording each gave Setzer the chance to revisit old techniques and try new tricks, such as playing banjo on the Earl Scruggs' classic “Earl’s Breakdown,” or substituting jazz chords into traditional bluegrass on the Bluegrass Boys’ “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

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'Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!' Tracklist

(all songs written by Brian Setzer, unless otherwise noted)

1. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (written by Bill Monroe)

2. "Cherokee" (written by Ray Noble)

3. "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (written by Tex Davis and Gene Vincent)

4. "Earl's Breakdown" (written by Earl Scruggs)

5. "Far Noir East"

6. "Intermission"

7. "Go-Go Godzilla"

8. "Lonesome Road" (written by Gene Austin, Nathaniel Shilkret)

9. "Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown"

10. "Hot Love"

11. "Pickpocket"

March 2011 Bluegrass Ball News!

Chances are if you’ve been to a bluegrass festival the memories most prevalent in your mind are not so much that of the “scheduled” performers but more of the impromptu jams and unscheduled collaborations.  It’s with that spirit that the McCoury family decided to embark on a traveling bluegrass festival that they are calling The Bluegrass Ball.

Ask most string musicians young or old and they will mostly likely tell you they either want to play with the McCoury family if they have not already.  The McCourys are known for not only their ability to play with just about anyone but also for actually doing it!  Due to this willingness to play with other musicians, the McCoury family is known as heavy weights on the festival and bluegrass scene, even having their own wildly successful festival “Delfest”.  The McCoury’s decided to not only play in this festival but also promote it themselves making the festival on wheels more accessible to fans by playing more intimate venues that collaborate in giving fans a great value at a reasonable price.

Along for the ride over 4 nights in both Chicago and St. Louis are mandolin extraordinaire Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon and Emmitt-Nershi Band), and bluegrass up and comers Head for the Hills. This run of shows will be nothing short of epic. With this particular line up there are sure to be some phenomenal collaborations and each show will certainly be unique from the next!

Just added to the already impressive Chicago and St. Louis Bluegrass Ball lineup is Allie Kral fiddler extraordinaire from Cornmeal.  Allie will join already confirmed Travelin McCourys, Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon and Emmitt-Nershi), and Colorado Heavy hitters Head for the Hills.  This lineup will begin Chicago for a 2 night run at the Abbey Pub on March 10th & 11th and in St. Louis for a 2 night run on March 12th & 13th.

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The Travelin’ McCourys

The Travelin’ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the road-and online-entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres.  It’s always different, always exciting, and always great music.

No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music.  As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their father’s work-a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into people’s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful.  But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenated.

Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin is best known for his many years playing mandolin for Colorado heavy hitters, Yonder Mountain String Band. Yonder has always played by their own set of rules bending bluegrass, rock and roll, and countless other influences. While most known for his playing with Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff has played with countless musicians and is sought after by countless musicians and festivals alike.

Drew Emmitt

Revered as one of the most energetic and innovative mandolin players on the jamband/newgrass scene today, Emmitt’s “inestimable talents” (An Honest Tune) don’t end with just the instruments that can be picked.  Holding the wheel steady on acoustic and electric slide mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar and mandola Emmitt also showcases on recent solo albums superlative storytelling and versatile vocal abilities. Drew Emmitt is best known for his over 20 years with Leftover Salmon and also the past few years with The Emmitt-Nershi Band

Allie Kral

Allie Kral is quickly becoming a fiddling force to be reckoned with in the jamgrass scene.  Her years with Cornmeal have made her a road warrior spending over 3/4 of the year on the road on the Cornmeal bus.  Allie has shared the stage with just about any band you can think of from festival stages to the jammy stages she is in high demand amonst artists such as Moe, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and Keller Williams just to name a few.  Playing with speed and precision Kral's playing appears effortless and wows crowds time and again.

Head For the Hills

Rooted in the tradition of bluegrass, the music of Head for the Hills is a vibrant mixture of homegrown compositions, traditional harmonies, and an innovative approach to improvisation.  The groups’ lyrical nature and songwriting seems to evoke reminiscent feelings of inspiration. In the live setting, Head for the Hills can venture into the myriad of musical styles and sonic landscapes that caters to a boundless array of listeners.

Sarah Jarosz To Release "Follow Me Down" on May 17th

What Sarah Jarosz’s acclaimed debut, Song Up In Her Head, suggests, Follow Me Down—due out May 17, 2011 on Sugar Hill Records—confirms: she is constitutionally incapable of getting stuck in a rut. Her approach to acoustic music is expansive and vital; she sees no need to choose between old-timey and modern material; between picking, singing and writing; between experimenting and reviving tradition. She does all of it, and pushes it all further, on her new album.

“I definitely could have just made a record that was similar to the last one—pretty rootsy,” reflects Jarosz. “That would have been a representation of a side of me. But I have all these new sounds and ideas and I just didn’t want to hold back on this one.”

A lot has changed in the two years since the world outside the festival-going bluegrass and old-time music communities—home to many longtime Jarosz fans—was introduced to the young singer/songwriter/instrumentalist. Her music caught on quickly with audiences across the age spectrum. There have been GRAMMY and Americana Music Award nominations, a trio of Austin Music Awards, invitations to perform on “Austin City Limits” and “A Prairie Home Companion” and appearances at Bonnaroo, Newport and Telluride—and lots of digital downloading, a rarity for a roots act.

The most important difference is that Jarosz cannot be called a kid anymore. She’ll turn twenty within a week of Follow’s release. Instead of going straight to work as a full-time musician, as many before her have done, she left her hometown of Wimberley, TX—30 miles outside of Austin—and headed to Boston’s New England Conservatory to study contemporary improvisation on an elite scholarship.

“I wanted something to push me out of my comfort zone,” Jarosz says. “I wanted to be playing things that I might not normally play.” And she has had plenty of opportunities to do just that, from Jewish and world music ensembles at school to wildly unpredictable live jams with Punch Brothers and Mumford & Sons. That keen, open-minded attitude speaks volumes about her maturity.

Like her first album, Jarosz co-produced Follow Me Down with Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, John Prine, Chris Thile). Only this time, they had a college course schedule and high profile gigs to work around. They did a session with Punch Brothers in New York, another in Boston with her talented young trio mates Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith and several in Nashville with some of the acoustic world’s finest pickers and singers, including Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Viktor Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Shawn Colvin and Darrell Scott.

Jarosz’s growth can be felt throughout the resulting eleven tracks. The grooves are more adventurous, for starters on the first single “Come Around”.  She comments, “I know for some purists out there, it’s like, ‘Why do you have to have drums?’ For me, it’s like, ‘Why not?’” And she has explored alternative ways of using her already-strong voice (see her Radiohead cover “The Tourist” and Radiohead-inspired original “My Muse”; Bob Dylan’s folk hymn “Ring Them Bells” is the album’s other cover).

There’s no missing the breadth in Jarosz’s songwriting. She is just as comfortable penning the tragic old-timey “Annabelle Lee” - an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s final poem, or a modernized Appalachian ode to secret love like “Run Away” as she is cultivating contemporary singer-songwriter introspection in a song like “Here Nor There”. But her playing—be it on mandolin, octave mandolin, clawhammer banjo or acoustic guitar—never takes a back seat. She started “Peace”—one of two instrumentals on the new album—when she was twelve, and finished it at college. And it is that hunger to let her music keep growing—along with her formidable abilities—that make Jarosz so exciting to watch.

Amy Black's 'One Time' Streets 3/29/11

Singer/songwriter Amy Black will release her sophomore album entitled One Time on March 29, 2011. After a decade of success in the business world, Black is taking a chance and following her music dreams with this new release. The rootsy collection of revealing and authentic tunes was recorded with producer, Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Bittertown). Available digitally, the album’s foundation is a traditional American roots sound but it’s not without a dash of rock and soul. “My goal was to create music that successfully merged the acoustic and electric instrumentation that I love,” says Black. “I tend to be drawn to a classic sound and paid my respects to some of the great music of the past when I wrote this album.”

Black worked with Entress to bring the perfect cast of characters together – top-notch musicians, including singer/songwriter Mark Erelli on vocals, guitar and lap steel and Nashville’s favorite fiddle player, Stuart Duncan. With Entress’ guidance the players have created a rich and compelling album. The music spotlights traditional roots instruments like Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel and upright bass as well as the smooth and classic sounds of the electric guitar. “Making One Time was an incredible experience for me,” says Black. “As happy as I am to get the music out there, I’m also sad that the creation process is over. My favorite part of making this record was witnessing these incredible musicians doing what they do best. I can’t wait to get back in the studio with them again.”

In her debut album Amy Black & The Red Clay Rascals, Amy paid tribute to her favorite songwriters. With One Time, Amy’s powerful voice and presence are matched by the commanding range of her own song writing as seen in the nine originals on the album. The characters in “Molly” and “Whiskey And Wine” ache with bittersweet yearning in a world of pleasure and pain. “All My Love” simmers with seduction, while “Meet Me On The Dance Floor” is a flirty delight. “Stay”, featuring harmony vocals by Amy’s little sister Corrie Jones, swings with grown-up romance and “Run Johnny” crackles with bluesy menace.

“This album is really a tribute to my southern roots and is dedicated to my Granddad who grew up dirt poor in Alabama,” says Black. After putting himself through college, Black’s grandfather worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority for decades before pursuing his dream of starting his own business. This can-do tenacity along with a flare for storytelling, are traits passed along to Black. “He was a bit of a showman and I think I got that from him,” says Black. “He passed away during the production of the album and I’m proud to honor him with this music.”

In the album’s potent title track, "One Time," the plaintive lyric “Time for you to make a break/And show what you’re good for” could describe Black’s bold step with this new release. “I decided a few years back that it was now or never,” says Black. “I love music way too much to sit on the side lines. You only get one chance at this life, and I’m taking mine.”

For more information or to purchase the album visit www.amyblack.com.

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Amy Black tour dates:

03/12/2011 - Lowell, MA - The Backpage
04/03/2011 - Cambridge, MA - Club Passim (
One Time Release Party)
04/22/2011 - Cambridge, MA - Toad
06/10/2011 - Shirley, MA - The Bull Run

Punch Brothers @ The Boulder Theatre | 2/11/11

"Antifogmatic" is a bit of bygone slang that mandolinist Chris Thile and his bandmates stumbled across, an old term, explains the Punch Brothers founder, for a bracing beverage, rum or whiskey, that one would have in the morning before going out to work in rough weather, to stave off any ill effects." It's an apt title for the Punch Brothers' second Nonesuch disc. This ten-song set of collectively written material takes a clear-eyed view of those things less tangible than booze that can make us woozy: the pleasures and pitfalls of romance, the seemingly limitless possibilities and multifarious temptations of life in the big city.

The arrangements on Antifogmatic range from intimate to boisterous and back; genre-wise, the band once again ventures where no string band has ever gone before. The spare opening track "You Are" contrasts percussive guitar riffs with lyrical string parts that dance around Thile's sweet upper register as he spins a tale of romantic emancipation; occasionally, the other instruments give way to reveal the throb of the bass. The band also engages in some unexpectedly beautiful harmony singing, smoothing out the compelling melodic twists and turns of Welcome Home." "Me and Us" and "Woman and the Bell" both have a dream-like quality; the former, in fact, was inspired by those jumbled, thought-filled moments before sleep sets in, and the instrumentation keeps pace with the ever-shifting imagery. In contrast, "Don't Need No" and "Rye Whiskey" are foot-stomping barroom boasts and "Next to the Trash" is the closest the band gets to traditional bluegrass, even as the lyrics tug the piece in a more surreal direction.

"Our new record is a very pure collaboration," Thile emphasizes. "I would often come to the boys with a start, a little nugget, and we would collectively fashion it into something. None of these songs would have been like themselves if I had been left to my own devices. Several of them were starts that other guys had, and we would build from there. It's fun how liquid the writing process was on this."

The stories the Punch Brothers tell in Antifogmatic-partly autobiographical, partly imagine-were shaped by after-hours camaraderie as much as musical collaboration; they're ultimately about drinking everything in as well as drinking what's in front of them up, though there was plenty of that too. Concludes Thile, "The boys and I would work all day in one of our apartments and then we'd want to go out and have a drink. That's what you do in New York City, because everyone's apartment is too small to hang out comfortably in. We're a group of five guys. If friends start attaching themselves to the fray after that, you forsake the one-bedroom apartment and you go into the incredibly vibrant bar scene that isn't merely an encouragement for intoxication and spending obscene amounts of money per drink. It's really a wonderful way to get to know your fellow man, with your top button unbuttoned and your tie loosened a little bit."

More Info / Buy Tickets

Brian Setzer Remakes Bluegrass Classic Blue Moon of Kentucky

"Blue Moon of Kentucky," the opening track on Brian Setzer's 'Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!" (out April 19 on Surfdog Records), has withstood over 65 years of remakes and covers, but it's never been put to the test quite like it is by Setzer.

Setzer goes jazzy, muscled and completely instrumental on the bluegrass standard -- enshrined in 1989 as the official bluegrass song of Kentucky – turning what Bill Monroe wrote as a "country waltz" into a western swing anthem that finds the rockabilly legend picking his way through a series of lightning quick riffs.

Originally written in 1946 for Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Bluegrass Boys, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" has been covered countless times by a number of esteemed artists. Setzer joins a list that includes John Fogerty, Patsy Cline, Ronnie Hawkins, LeAnn Rhimes, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Jerry Reed, Jimmy Martin, and Elvis Presley.

Read more about this release on Brian's website.

Win a Signed, Handwritten Lyric Sheet by Sam Bush

Sam Bush's latest album, CIRCLES AROUND ME, has been nominated for a GRAMMY in the Best Bluegrass Album category! Click on he photo to the left to listen to the title track "Circles Around Me" and share your enthusiasm for Sam Bush with your friends in the "Circles Around Me" contest!

Simply enter your email and generate a personal URL for the "Circles Around Me" Lyric Sheet contest. Post the link on your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or send it to all your friends in an email. You can post the link anywhere! The person who gets the most unique views through their personalize link will win a signed, handwritten lyric sheet of "Circles Around Me!"

The Contest runs through this Sunday, February 13 at 11:30 pm CST. Enter today! Thank you and good luck!

Sugar Hill Records to Release Nickel Creek Titles on Vinyl

Sugar Hill Records is excited to announce that they will be releasing a trio of Nickel Creek titles on deluxe vinyl - exclusively for Record Store Day, Saturday April 16th.  The titles include Nickel Creek’s now Platinum certified debut, Nickel Creek, the GRAMMY award winning This Side, and their final Sugar Hill release, Why Should The Fire Die?. All titles are deluxe two-album sets featuring digitally remastered audio.  A mandolin autographed by the members of Nickel Creek will be given away online as part of a Record Store Day promotion as well.

Nickel Creek, who began their relationship with Sugar Hill Records in 2000, were named “music innovators for the New Millennium” by Time Magazine.  Their self-titled debut Nickel Creek received widespread critical acclaim, garnering multiple award nominations, and has sold over one million albums to date. The 2002 release, This Side, captured the Grammy for “Best Contemporary Folk Album.” Their third album Why Should The Fire Die? continued their folk-pop innovations, and debuted at Number One on the Independent Album chart when it was released in 2005. The band parted ways in 2007 after their Farewell (For Now) Tour.

In its fifth year, Record Store Day is an occasion for all independently owned record stores to come together in celebration of the art of music.  Limited edition vinyl and cd releases are made available exclusively for the day, and hundreds of musicians across the country perform at various events.  For more information about the Nickel Creek mandolin give-away, and events in your area, please visit: www.recordstoreday.com

The Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band Release Joint Album

American music fans have an unprecedented opportunity to hear two masterful groups explore the common ground where bluegrass and jazz meet when the Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band release their collaborative American Legacies project on April 12th via McCoury Music and Preservation Hall Recordings.  Inspired by the success of the Del McCoury’s participation on 2010’s PRESERVATION, a PHJB project made with multiple artists to benefit New Orleans’ unique Preservation Hall venue and its Music Outreach Program, the set offers a dozen songs filled with deep respect and joyful virtuosity.  Complementing the release, the two groups have announced a joint tour that will feature them performing on their own and together in a groundbreaking concert experience.

With common roots in the rich musical gumbo of the American south in the 19th and early 20th centuries, bluegrass and jazz have sat alongside one another with a myriad of common influences and musical vocabularies that have nevertheless remained largely unexplored until now. American Legaciesis a no-holds-barred tour of songs and sounds that sum up the simultaneous (and often intersecting) histories of two distinctively American musical forms—the jazz that has drawn music lovers from around the world to New Orleans for more than a century, and the “hillbilly jazz” of bluegrass, created more than 60 years ago by Del McCoury’s one-time employer, Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys.

Known as one of the premiere ambassadors of bluegrass, the Del McCoury Band is fronted by veteran Del McCoury,  A hero to east coast bluegrass audiences through the 1970s and 1980s, he stepped onto the national stage with a move to Nashville in the early 1990s that started the Del McCoury Band on an unprecedented streak of International Bluegrass Music Association awards and international acclaim.  Today, McCoury, along with a band that includes his sons Ron and Rob, are admired by hard-core bluegrass traditionalists and eclectic music fans and stars alike as they make appearances everywhere from the Bonnaroo Music Festival to late night network TV shows to their own popular Delfest.  For millions of fans across the US and around the world, the Del McCoury Band is simply the face of bluegrass.

Founded just a few years before McCoury joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been carrying the distinctive sound of New Orleans jazz around the world on behalf of Preservation Hall, a unique venue that embodies the city’s musical legacy.  With a cast of musicians schooled through first-hand experience and apprenticeship into the music’s historic traditions, the PHJB has served as an irreplaceable, vital link to the earliest days of one of America’s most beloved forms of popular music, evoking the spirits of times past in an ever-evolving modern context that has found them traveling around the world.

The Bluegrass Ball w/ The Travelin’ McCourys

Chances are if you’ve been to a bluegrass festival the memories most prevalent in your mind are not so much that of the “scheduled” performers but more of the impromptu jams and unscheduled collaborations.  It’s with that spirit that the McCoury family decided to embark on a traveling bluegrass festival that they are calling The Bluegrass Ball.

Ask most string musicians young or old and they will mostly likely tell you they either want to play with the McCoury family if they have not already.  The McCourys are known for not only their ability to play with just about anyone but also for actually doing it!  Due to this willingness to play with other musicians, the McCoury family is known as heavy weights on the festival and bluegrass scene, even having their own wildly successful festival “Delfest”.  The McCoury’s decided to not only play in this festival but also promote it themselves making the festival on wheels more accessible to fans by playing more intimate venues that collaborate in giving fans a great value at a reasonable price.

Along for the ride over 4 nights in both Chicago and St. Louis are mandolin extraordinaire Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon and Emmitt-Nershi Band), and bluegrass up and comers Head for the Hills. This run of shows will be nothing short of epic. With this particular line up there are sure to be some phenomenal collaborations and each show will certainly be unique from the next!

The Travelin’ McCourys:

The Travelin’ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the road-and online-entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres.  It’s always different, always exciting, and always great music.

No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music.  As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their father’s work-a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into people’s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful.  But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenated.

Jeff Austin:

Jeff Austin is best known for his many years playing mandolin for Colorado heavy hitters, Yonder Mountain String Band. Yonder has always played by their own set of rules bending bluegrass, rock and roll, and countless other influences. While most known for his playing with Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff has played with countless musicians and is sought after by countless musicians and festivals alike.



Drew Emmitt:

Revered as one of the most energetic and innovative mandolin players on the jamband/newgrass scene today, Emmitt’s “inestimable talents” (An Honest Tune) don’t end with just the instruments that can be picked.  Holding the wheel steady on acoustic and electric slide mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar and mandola Emmitt also showcases on recent solo albums superlative storytelling and versatile vocal abilities. Drew Emmitt is best known for his over 20 years with Leftover Salmon and also the past few years with The Emmitt-Nershi Band

Head For the Hills:

Rooted in the tradition of bluegrass, the music of Head for the Hills is a vibrant mixture of homegrown compositions, traditional harmonies, and an innovative approach to improvisation.  The groups’ lyrical nature and songwriting seems to evoke reminiscent feelings of inspiration. In the live setting, Head for the Hills can venture into the myriad of musical styles and sonic landscapes that caters to a boundless array of listeners.

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Who:  The Bluegrass Ball featuring The Traveling McCoury’s, Jeff Austin, Drew Emmitt and Head for the Hills

Where and March 10th & 11th at The Abbey Pub – Chicago, IL

Where: March 12th & 13th at The Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO

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