California/Texas-based bluegrass group The Vintage Martins released their debut LP Traveled today on Louisville-based indie label Eastwood Records. PopMatters praised lead single "Ocean" for creating "intricately-crafted, emotive landscapes of lush acoustic sound to get lost in."
Traveled is the debut record from acclaimed bluegrass group the Vintage Martins. The band is a culmination of a musical friendship between Eric Uglum and Bud Bierhaus which spans over three decades. The pair often perform as a trio, enlisting Ron Block (Alison Krauss & Union Station), and as a full band with the addition of Christian Ward (Sierra Hull) on fiddle and Uglum’s stepson Austin Ward (Kenny & Amanda Smith Band) on bass.
While the instrumentation and songcraft of Traveled are indeed traditional bluegrass, Uglum’s production flourishes give the album a timeless sound that recalls the work of genre luminaries like Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, and Sam Bush. Gorgeous two and three-part vocal harmonies lead the way amidst waves of lush acoustic instrumentation. The song choices reflect the group’s eclectic tastes, ranging from Bierhaus’ Sunday tent-revival originals to classic country (George Jones’ “Open Pit Mine”, Tom T. Hall’s “Only The Wind”) and legendary folk ballads (“Someday My Ship Will Sail”).
California native Eric Uglum is an internationally known musician, producer, and owner of New Wine Sound Studio in Southern California. He has performed with several bluegrass luminaries like Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, James King, Stuart Duncan, Ron Block, Rob Ickes and many others. His debut solo album, Shenandoah Wind, was selected in 2010 as Album of the Year by Bluegrass Now Magazine.
Texas State Flatpicking Guitar Champion Bud Bierhaus is a lifelong musician and a Texas favorite for bluegrass-style guitar and tenor singing. He has performed with many well-known country and bluegrass stars including Chris Hillman and Herb Pederson, and has been featured at bluegrass festivals and music venues across the globe.
The Vintage Martins came to fruition in what began as a casual studio encounter. Bierhaus would often find himself in Uglum’s southern California recording studio running new material by his friend and producer. Uglum was taken aback by what he was hearing, and recalls an epiphany in which he blurted out “Gosh, that’s gorgeous--let’s record that!” Over the course of several months, these unintentional “sessions” would serve to create the collection of songs that became Traveled.
Traveled is the first record of the duo’s career that showcases Bierhaus’ vocal prowess. “Bud was singing a lot more than in the past,” says Uglum, “Which I always thought he should do.” An accomplished singer in his own right, Uglum prefers being the “side guy” of the Vintage Martins and focuses on second guitar and razor-sharp harmonized vocals. He fondly recalls watching Emmylou Harris as a child and wanting to be that person--just out of the spotlight but essential to the foundation of the group’s sound. “It’s playing to our strengths,” he says, “When I’m doing backup and Bud is on lead.”
Harris’ influence on the recording is at its most obvious with “Some Day My Ship Will Sail”--a classic folk tune she made famous on the 1987 release Angel Band. It was the first song the Vintage Martins recorded together, and after passing it around among friends, the track somehow reached the ears of Rodney Crowell. He loved the track, and when word got back to Bierhaus and Uglum, they decided to continue to record together. Not a bad endorsement for a new act.
The band would ultimately be courted by Eastwood Records; a Louisville, Kentucky-based label founded in 2015 by Wesley Allen as a way to support the efforts of regional artists and musicians. With a focus on releasing vinyl records, the label’s driving philosophy is “Putting Louisville on Wax,” although Allen was so taken with The Vintage Martins that he decided to re-release their debut record with the full Eastwood treatment. “We were content to play shows and not worry about the business side of things,” admits Uglum, adding, “We’re thrilled and honored that Eastwood would buy and repackage an already-released record.”
After all, who better to carry the torch for music in the Bluegrass State than a proper bluegrass band? In 2018, it’s onward and upward for The Vintage Martins and Eastwood Records.