Ashby Frank's "Knee Deep In Bluegrass" pays tribute to a renowned artist, mentor and friend

Article Contributed by Mountain Home … | Published on Saturday, March 16, 2024

For more than half a century now, the word “bluegrass” has been followed by “community” almost as often as it has been followed by “music” — no surprise for a music shared between devotees spanning generations, regions and cultures. When Mountain Home Music Company’s Ashby Frank entered the studio for a recording session at the end of 2023, that sense of community was foremost on his mind, and “Knee Deep In Bluegrass,” his first single since the release of last year’s Leaving Is Believing, is both a tribute to a beloved member of that community and a compelling example of the musical power that created and sustained it.

“‘Knee Deep in Bluegrass’ is a tune written and originally recorded by my friend and former Mashville Brigade bandmate, banjo legend Terry Baucom,” Frank offers. “Sadly, Terry passed away in December. When we recently gathered to start recording my next album, it happened to be the day after his funeral. All of us had Bauc and his wife, Cindy, on our minds. Remembering this song, I messaged Cindy, asking if it would be ok to record a slightly modified version of ‘Knee Deep’ as a tribute to him, and she graciously approved.”

That “slightly modified” can be chalked up more to Frank’s attention to detail than to wholesale revision. For while his arrangement’s tautly rhythmic prelude and stripped down initial statement of Baucom’s memorable theme are new, what follows is the deepest kind of bluegrass tribute — one that pays homage in a sophisticated, nuanced way, resorting neither to simple imitation nor gratuitous re-imagining, but instead serving up an irresistible blend of deeply informed nods to the original and fresh, new touches that honor its creative spirit. And though “Knee Deep in Bluegrass” was born as a banjo tune, Frank and his mandolin are the animating forces behind each of his collaborators — banjoist Matt Menefee, Jim VanCleve (fiddle), guitarist Seth Taylor and a rhythm section of drumming legend Tony Creasman and bassist Travis Anderson — as the soloists take their turns front and center.

“Bauc was performing at the first festival I ever attended in Denton, NC,” Frank recalls. “His style and persona has been an inspiration to me ever since that first meeting. I think Matt, Travis, Jim, Seth and Tony really nailed their parts on the tune. I hope our recording brings back fond memories for anyone who knew Terry and will honor him as he so richly deserves.”

"Knee Deep In Bluegrass" is streaming in Dolby Atmos spatial audio on Apple Music, Amazon Music and TIDAL. Listen to it HERE.