Another Excellent Joe Val Festival!

NOTE: For higher-resolution versions of the photographs, go to Flickr, HERE. (They won’t be super high, because with my Rebel T2i-Tamron 18-270 combination, I still needed to shoot at 3200 ISO, but they will be better than the ones that are reduced here for space.)

Yes, it was festival time once again for the Boston Bluegrass Union.  I got over Friday evening in time to catch a little of the much-talked-about Mile Twelve (Evan Murphy, guitar; Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, fiddle; Nate Sabat, bass; Catherine [BB] Bowness, banjo; and newcomer David Benedict, mandolin).  While not all Berklee grads, they all bear the stamp of young, Boston-based virtuosi.  I enjoyed the part of their set I heard, and though found it a little on the folky side, they can certainly can handle the country sound of bluegrass.  Here’s a video from an earlier Club Passim gig (before mandolin player David Benedict joined):

img_1114_smOf course, I had packed up my camera, with an extra battery—and left it on the table at home.  I remembered it on the way across the parking lot to the Sheraton.  Unlike previous years of bitter cold, or blowing snow, this was a pleasantly mild weekend, but I elected to proceed, thinking that maybe I could use my iPhone.  But shooting from the audience, it was a washout, literally (see example at right).  Oh well.

The next band was new to me, but turned out to be a real treat: Jeff Scroggins and Colorado.  Change the vowel, and you realize that Jeff could be ‘Scruggins’, and that would be apropos, as he is a terrific banjo player.  Whether for this event or not, but he let his very long hair down, to the point where you wondered how he could see his instrument, but then he probably didn’t need to.  His son Tristan is probably the most energetic mandolin player I’ve ever seen; he seemed to be bouncing up and down like one of those balloons on a string, yet somehow playing forceful but pointed (and I imagine difficult) mandolin lines.  The fiddler, an Arizona State Champion named Ellie Hakanson was no slouch either, complementing Tristan and Jeff—and the flat-picking guitar work of Greg Blake, who is (not incidentally) a fine lead singer (he gave me a copy of his own album, which I heartily recommend) .  The bass player was a fill-in, and I didn’t catch her name, but she propelled the entertaining tempo of the band (even the slow songs) well.   These folks wowed the audience with sheer energy and musicianship.

Again, no camera, so I’ll substitute a YouTube video that that’ll give you a sense of how much fun this band is:

Now I’m a fan of Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, as those of you who listen to HAH know well, but I have to admit that after JS&C they were a bit of mullinsfest17an anticlimax.   Joe is a broadcaster himself (he owns a network of three radio stations in SW Ohio) and was in his best radio presentation voice for the audience.  His show was a tutorial in bluegrass history, and the songs impeccably done.  Before the show I talked briefly with Joe; he remembered appearing on HAH some years before—I think it was with Dudley Connell and James King, when they had just recorded one of the Longview ‘supergroup’ albums for Rounder.  Joe told me that he puts on an indoor festival of his own, like the JVF, in a convention center in Wilmington, Ohio.  Here’s the flyer, from the Radio Ramblers website:

I couldn’t stay Friday night to hear Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, starting at 10:55 PM; have to get up Saturday morning for this radio show. . .

But I got back Saturday evening in time for a little of Flashback, mid-set.  I recognized Don Rigsby, but it took a while before I realized this was a ‘supergroup’; besides Don on mandolin, there was Phil Leadbetter on resonator guitar (which I call a ‘Dobro’ even when it isn’t), Richard Bennett on guitar and singing leads (not the Nashville guitarist and producer Richard Bennett), Curt Chapman on bass, and Stuart Wyrick on banjo.  Turns out they were all, except Stuart, veterans of J. D. Crowe and the New South, who had reunited as “The Flashback Band” in 1995, winning a Grammy, and now (minus J. D.) are rejuvenating that name.  This time, I had my camera, so here are some photos (click to enlarge):

Unfortunately, I got the impression they were going through the motions, no pizzazz.  Whether they were resting on their laurels, or just tired from festival activities, I can’t say, but after a while I gave up and headed out to sample some of the pickers jamming in the hallways and alcoves, who while not past masters were clearly having a lot more fun. Here are some (apologies for not getting names to go with the photos; click to enlarge):

Maybe having two shows, afternoon and evening, is wearying, but The Grascals who followed Flashback also seemed a little tired.  Or maybe the sound wasn’t punchy enough.  They had a lot more energy than Flashback, though, and the crowd was enthusiastic.  The new co-lead singer (with Terry Eldredge), John Bryan, is a worthy successor to Jamie Johnson, and the vocals and instrumental work are jes’ fine.  I was happy to hear them do “Me and John and Paul,” the moving Harley Allen song from their first album, and I even put up with “Last Train to Clarksville.”  The other Grascals are Danny Roberts, mandolin; Terry Smith, bass; Kristin Scott Benson, banjo; and Adam Haynes, fiddle.  Some photos (click to enlarge):

Don’t know why, but Doyle Lawson’s headline band spent a long time fiddling with the sound before their set, and the result was much improved; everything popped out, but without being overwhelming.  Doyle is like Del: age does not seem to diminish his presence or his performance, and Doyle always looks splendid in his Grand Ol’ Opry-style duds.  The personnel of his band changes regularly, but somehow he always manages to find singers who are a cut above the usual, and whose instrumental skills are as well.  Doyle has feet in both the bluegrass and gospel circuits, and that doubtless helps recruitment.  The current band: Josh Swift, Dobro; Joe Dean, banjo; Dustin Pyrtle, guitar; Eli Johnston, bass; Stephen Burwell, fiddle.  The sound of Quicksilver remains amazingly consistent over the three decades, and it is always a rare treat to hear them.  Their 90-minute set ran well past midnight, and my tired guests had spent all day on the train up from Richmond, but we stayed to the end; it was worth it.  Here are some pics (click to enlarge):

Sunday afternoon I had to get the Festival by 12:30 to see Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass.  I was not disappointed.  I’ve seen Danny now and again for years, since he was a youngster with his dad Bob, but on this occasion he was just terrific.  Maybe it was the IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year award last Fall, but his singing was clearer and more powerful than I had ever heard it, especially in the ballads, which were especially moving.  I can’t recall hearing more soulful singing since the now unhappily-late James King was at the Festival a couple of years ago.  I said then, to anyone who would listen, “This is the real thing.”  So is Danny.  There’s still the authentic Galax sound that the Paisleys and the Lundys carried with them to Delaware at the founding of the Southern Mountain Boys, later the Southern Grass.  Danny has T. J. Lundy back playing mountain-bluegrass fiddle; his young son Ryan playing a solid, inventive mandolin; Eric Troutman on bass and high tenor; and Mark Delaney on banjo (I play Mark’s own album Sidecar [Patuxent Music, 2008] a lot; with Danny, Mark plays a straight-ahead traditional style, but with inventive winks behind vocals and on breaks).  My Festival favorite band this year (click to enlarge):

Becky Buller emailed me about doing a ‘phoner’ (radio talk for a telephone interview), but we’re not set up for it in Studio BC, where HAH originates; however, Gerry Katz sent along a promotional announcement for the Festival, which I was happy to play (holding my iPhone up to the mic—don’t ask), and Becky sent along a copy of her 2014 album, ‘Tween Earth and Sky (Dark Shadow, 2014), which I had never heard and quickly got on the air.  So I was looking forward to seeing her in person (much taller than I expected!), and hearing this IBMA multiple-award winner (Songwriter, Fiddler, Female Vocalist) live.  I was not disappointed.  The band features guitarist-singer Daniel Boner, doing a lot of duets with Becky (Dan is the Director of the East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program, but apparently finds time to tour with The Becky Buller Band—not a bad gig!); mandolinist Nate Lee; banjo picker Ned Luberecki (who teaches banjo on SirusXM radio!); and on bass, Daniel Hardin, who also works at the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lunchburg, TN—another good gig, I guess).  This is a modern bluegrass band with a traditional bent, playing a lot of originals, especially Becky’s own.  They closed with the three-fiddle tour-de-force, setting lyrics to Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Southern Flavor” (Bronwyn Keith-Hynes and Laura Orshaw joined Becky on fiddles for this one).  Pics (click to enlarge):

Blue Highway is. . .  Blue Highway.  Once I used to think they were too modern for HAH, but by this point ‘tradition’ has encompassed them as well, and they have helped it along with more three-chord tunes.  Their latest Rounder album (have they ever been on another label?), Original Traditional, cements that impression with new songs in an older vein.  The band has been together for more than twenty years, with only one change: Gaven Largent replaced Rob Ickes on Dobro in 2015; except for being markedly younger, he fits right in musically.  Wayne Taylor (bass) was sidelined for a while with heart trouble and major surgery, but has emerged on stage singing as wonderfully as ever.  Wayne may be the strongest force on Blue Highway for traditional country music, bluegrass-style—just get a copy of It’s About Time (from—and he anchors the vocal trios, standing right in the center.  Jason Burleson plays banjo; he took a break from Blue Highway for a couple of years (1998-2000) when Tom Adams filled in, but otherwise shares the ‘original’ honors with Tim Stafford (guitar), and Shawn Lane (mandolin).  No fiddle in the band, but the Dobro makes up for it.  Always an entertaining and vital show (click to enlarge):

At some point, a few years ago, the BBU decided to reverse the usual festival custom of having things wind down Sunday, as people packed up and left.  Having an indoor festival in February, with no campers, may have helped them realize that a strong Sunday afternoon could be a huge audience pleaser.  And it is!  As if Danny Paisley, Becky Buller, and Blue Highway weren’t enough, Stan Zdonick and company brought in two-time IBMA Entertainers of the Year, Lester and Earl revivalists, The Earls of Leicester.  Not to my surprise, they packed the house.

The Earls of Leicester are not The Foggy Mountain Boys.  I saw Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and all The Foggy Mountain Boys, along with Don Reno and Red Smiley (!), in a high-school gymnasium in North Carolina in the early ‘60s; I saw them again in Boston, maybe in Jordan Hall.  The Earls’ personalities are different, there are modern affectations that slip in, they are slicker pickers, they don’t have a comic bassman, and Jerry Douglas is way too tall to be Josh Graves.  But by golly, you can close your eyes, and they take you back.  You can open your eyes, and there they are, mostly around one mic, wearing hats and string ties, and you’re still back there.  But really, it’s the songs: “Ninety minutes of Flatt and Scruggs, only Flatt and Scruggs, no ‘Rocky Top’,” introduced Jerry Douglas.  I suppose half of the audience had heard a lot of the songs, from bluegrass compilations, and the aspiring pickers probably had followed along with many of them on CDs, but I’ll bet few could remember a Flatt and Scruggs concert, and this was as close as they’ll ever get to one.  The Earls of Leicester don’t ‘play’ the original members of the band, but they do play their music, and faithfully, too.

Notably, Paul Warren’s son Johnny fits right into his father’s shoes.  But I must confess to not knowing about him.  Turns out Johnny Warren followed his father’s advice,

“My dad died in 1978, but his advice to me was, ‘Do music as a hobby and find something where you can stay home with your family.’ That’s the only thing he missed, out there being gone for months at a time. And he didn’t want me to do that.” (from

and became a golf pro and teacher.  But he fiddles and works with the band like he’s been doing it full-time all his life.  Turns out he’s kept playing, and in fact has three albums of fiddle tunes (two are tributes to his father) out with Charlie Cushman, who superbly plays the (musical) role of Earl Scruggs with the Earls.  The role of Lester Flatt is taken by one of the best musicians ever to grace Nashville, singer-songwriter-guitarist Shawn Camp, accomplished at everything from commercial country to bluegrass, working with Guy Clark in between.  Shawn twists his mouth a little and sings enough like Lester to fit the role, without attempting a serious impersonation.  He’s not quite as mellow and laconic a singer as Lester was, but he’s close enough.  Barry Bales on bass does not resemble Jake Tullock, but he got the rhythm right, as far as I could tell, and joins in the quartet singing.  The only major gap might be Curly Seckler, whose distinctive vocal harmonies added so much to the unique sound of the Foggy Mountain Boys.  The Earls have used different mandolin players to plug that gap, and here it was Ashby Frank, who filled in admirably.

It was great fun hearing all those F&S songs again.  It was a delightful weekend.  Wished there had been time to take in the Showcase Stage bands, though; were they recorded?

Congratulations to all the folks at the Boston Bluegrass Union for once again managing one of the premier bluegrass festivals in the country.  I know it is a lot of work, but to those of us who just show up to be entertained, it seems effortless—which means you’re all doing it right. /CL

NOTE: For higher-resolution versions of the photographs, go to Flickr, HERE. (They won’t be super high, because with my Rebel T2i-Tamron 18-270 combination, I still needed to shoot at 3200 ISO, but they will be better than the ones that are reduced here for space.)

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The 32nd Annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival!

jvf-2017-logo-300x225From the Boston Bluegrass Union—

Join the Boston Bluegrass Union and celebrate the legacy of the late Joe Val with three big days of indoor bluegrass at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel.

We have a great lineup of national and regional talent, expanded workshops, Kid’s Academy, music vendors, and round-the-clock jamming. Our 2006 event won the coveted “Event of the Year” award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

We will have another great group of bands this year for the Joe Val Festival, including:

Jerry Douglas Presents The Earls of Leicester (IBMA Entertainer of the Year!)
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Blue Highway
The Grascals
Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass (IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year!)
becky-buller-band-show-poster-blank-232x300The Becky Buller Band (IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year!)
Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen (IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year!)
Joe Mullins and The Radio Ramblers
Jeff Scroggins & Colorado
The Lonely Heartstring Band
The Surly Gentlemen
Bill and the Belles
Bluegrass Gospel Project
Mile Twelve
Berklee All-stars
The Feinberg Brothers
The Korey Brodsky Band

When: February 17-19, 2017
Where: Sheraton Framingham – Framingham, MA

For Tickets, Schedules, and much more information:

(“Just seven little keystrokes,” says Cousin Stan)

UPDATE: Reuben Shetler, in a comment below, advises that the full Main-Stage and Showcase-Stage schedules are now on the website, and each band’s name links to a profile of the band.  Go HERE.

There is no better way to spend a cold February weekend than listening to pickers and singers in every nook and cranny of this entire hotel.  Just wander around for three days and take it all in, or settle down in the Main Stage or the Showcase Stage, and relish some great music, Country Music Bluegrass Style!  I’ll be there, and I hope to see all of you as well!  /CL

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Memorial Party for Vicki—Now Sunday, April 9th, 1–6 PM!

[UPDATE 2: Now rescheduled for April 9th, 1-6 PM.]
[UPDATE: As most know, the snowstorm last Sunday caused most concerts to be cancelled.  Says Larry: “This event will be rescheduled on a Sunday in April with the hope of much better weather.”  I’ll update this post when I know more. /CL]
For those who didn’t know her, Vicki Benedict was John Lincoln Wright‘s wife of many years.  She was quiet and reserved, yet with a ready smile, and always supportive of Lincoln despite the hills and dales of his musical career, “The only job I’ve ever had,” as he said on the packaging to That Old Mill (1990).  I hope you’ll join Larry Flint and other former Sourmash Boys for this Sunday afternoon gathering, February 12th.  It’ll be fun, and a testament to a fine lady.  Here’s the notice Larry just sent:

When Vicki Benedict Wright passed away nearly one year ago,
she had made it clear that she did not want a public funeral
or memorial service, and we of course respected her wishes.
Because of this her friends were never able to assemble and
share their love of Vicki and honor her life.  So, we are having a

 “Memorial Party”


Victoria Benedict Wright

Sunday February 12 1-6 pm

You are invited to come get together with Vicki’s friends and
Share your memories of the Joy of Vicki’s life. We are sure
that Vicki would not be disappointed if some laughter was
involved, and that perhaps some adult beverages were
consumed in the process. Please pass the word on to
those friends who may not be on this mailing list.
Thank You.
Music will be provided by the 

Sour Mash Boys 


Special Guests


at Sally O’Brien’s

335 Somerville Ave

Union Sq Somerville



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HA’pennings: The Gibson Brothers Returning January 21st

Boston-area favorites The Gibson Brothers will be at the Boston Bluegrass Union‘s regular venue in Lexington on the 21st.  The BBU still calls it the National Heritage Museum, though it is now the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which is an impossible name to remember.

Eric and Leigh Gibson have performed live in Sumptuous Studio B at least twice, and should draw many fans to the Museum—get your tickets in advance!

Opening will be the Seth Sawyer Band from Vermont.  Details:

National Heritage Museum
(Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library)
33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA
7:30pm (box office opens at 6:30pm)
$27 for Members
$29 for Non-Members

Click here to buy advance tickets
on-line via credit card.


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Mark Brine Stopping By Saturday the 31st

UPDATE 6Jan17: Had fun chatting with Mark about old times and new.  A couple of corrections: Mark is currently back in Maryland, to be closer to his grandchildren.  And his musical history goes back farther than the ’80s.  Looking forward to his next visit!  /CL

Mark Brine is an old friend of Hillbilly at Harvard.  He is a native Cantabrigian, has spent many years in Baltimore, and currently lives near Nashville.  He’s been visiting and singing his original songs and traditional country standards since at least the 1980s.  This week he’s in town and will be performing at Sally O’Brien’s in Union Square, Somerville, Tuesday January 3rd, at 7 PM with friends.  Which friends, we’re not sure, but Mark will tell us Saturday, when he visits the show on the 31st.  Tune in!


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Time for “The Montreal Express”!


Cold Turkey, on our driveway this morning.

(16Dec) Yep, it was 3º F on the river in Saxonville this morning.  Although the storm tomorrow is supposed to change from snow to rain and warmer temps during the day, I’ll try to remember to play “The Montreal Express”—see the post HERE for the history of this song.  And go HERE for the latest on our constantly-changing December schedule [Just updated 23Dec16].  /CL

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Hits & Misses 3

Continuing this occasional department.  Previous entries: H&M 1; H&M2

jamestown-revival• Jamestown Revival: The Education of a Wandering Man (2016, Republic/UMG) New

This is mostly rock-‘n’-roll.  But it also draws heavily on country.  The duo of Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay sound remarkably like The Everly Brothers, and this album treads in the same uneasy ground between country and pop-rock that the Everlys so successfully exploited.  Listen to “Journeyman”:

Could this get on pop or even country radio today?  I doubt it, but it’s getting on HAH—or some of it, anyway.  Besides “Journeyman,” “American Dream” (with a country-novelty feel); “I’ve Always Been Wild” (a Billy-Jo-Shaveresque anthem); “Back to Austin” (sounding like a modern Delmore Brothers tune); and “Done Me Wrong” (would be right at home on a David Allen Coe or John Anderson album from a couple of decades ago—only with better production); all making the cut.

I like the rockier cuts, too, even if they won’t make it onto HAH air; I love duet albums, and these two guys are one hot duet.  Sure they aren’t brothers named Phil and Don?

A country-enough HIT. Available HERE.  /CL

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Hits and Misses 2

Continuing this occasional department. . . (Number 1 is HERE.)

Chuck Cusimano: Cold in Colorado (Cusimusico Records, 2015) New
chuck-cusimano-cold-in-coloradoChuck Cusimano has a newer album out, which we’ll get to, but this one was new to me only a few months ago (thanks to Lorraine Simon, our Secret Agent in Texas—when she visits, that is).  Chuck is originally from Colorado, where his cowboy father had a “Western Swing Dance Band,” but this is Texas music, where country is more the king than in Nashville.  Chuck, who looks like a well-fed Grandpa Jones, is an amazingly talented songwriter, singer, and guitarist.  “Within this album,” he writes, “are small tributes to some of my Country Music Heros,” songs that fit the styles, respectively, of Merle Haggard (“I Surrender”), Mel Tillis (“She’s Guilty of Lovin’ a Fool”), Waylon Jennings (“Saving Grace”), Charley Pride (I Won’t Need It Anymore”), Ernest Tubb (Swingin’ Christmas”), and George Jones—and Chuck is surely right about “I Said Nothing,” which is a powerful statement that would have been a hit right now if ‘country’ radio were still playing country music, even without George to sing it.

“The other songs,” writes Chuck, “just fell out of my pen and landed on the paper.”  But they aren’t at all slight, ranging from the comical, swinging “Are You Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone,” and the clever “I Won’t Need It Anymore,” which indeed would have fit Country Charlie Pride like a suit from Mr Nudie:

I took my clothes from the closet,
I took my tools from the garage;
I took my pillow, so I’d have something to hold.
I took my razor and my toothbrush, and then I closed the door.
I took everything except my heart—
I won’t need it anymore

to the poignant song called “Difference,” which you can hear:

A stone-country Hit.  Available from Chuck HERE.

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Program Notes for December

UPDATE 4B! (23Dec16): No, not another schedule change.  Had a pleasant half hour or so chatting with David Greely last Saturday (though I had to run out in the snow in my sandals to bring him to the correct door), and listening to his stories and great old Cajun fiddle tunes.  Check out his website HERE; he teaches Cajun fiddling and singing via Skype, too!

And yes, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and time for the Hillbilly at Harvard Christmas Jamboree.  You don’t want to miss a minute!  /CL

UPDATE 4A! (16Dec16): Just to keep life interesting, the forecast now calls for 3–5″ of snow tomorrow morning, changing to freezing rain and then rain in the afternoon.  Could be a mess keeping me at home, or no big deal.  We’ll assume the latter for now. . . /CL

UPDATE 4! (15Dec16): Yet another update!  Are we having fun yet?  I’m getting better, and the head-cold isn’t, which is a good thing.  The dog’s eye is no better, which is not good.  We took him to a doggie eye specialist, who diagnosed a non-infective ulceration in the left eye, and performed a keratotomy, which has a good record of treating this problem.  This means we’re staying home, managing Ali’s Elizabethan Collar and eye drops, and not traveling to Virginia.  Oh well.

So, to get to the point, the show this Saturday will be a regular one, with maybe a little Christmas sprinkled in, and Saturday the 24th will host our Christmas Extravaganza (come to think of it, that’s when it was originally scheduled, before all the updates!).

There, that’s settled!  Except I don’t know if we’ll see David Greely or not.  Don’t look to hard at that electron—you never know where it’ll end up.  Just for fun, I’ll make this one green. /CL

UPDATE 3! (9Dec16): Well, I’ve come down with a cold, and while I’m still coming in tomorrow, I warned off David Greely, who has important performing obligations, and so I expect he’ll listen.  Maybe we’ll see him on. . .

December 17th, which will not be pre-recorded, as we’re still dealing with Ali’s eye infection (another story), but may well be our annual Christmas Extravaganza—because we’re still hoping to get to Virginia, which would make the 24th a pre-recorded show.

All clear?  This is a lesson in not forecasting.  As Tommy Duncan sang, “Time Changes Everything” (From the film, Blazing the Western Trail):

That ought to make up for some of the confusion!  /CL

UPDDATE 2 (4Dec16): December 3rd is over and done; had a good time with Victor and then Ruth; hope you all heard.  Corrections below. To summarize:

David Greely will be coming in next Saturday, the 10th.

December 17th may or may not be pre-recorded.

December 24th will or will not occur.  It all depends on Ali—and on events in VA (where grandson Sam just had an emergency appendectomy!) /CL

UPDATE!  CHANGE OF PLANS!  Our dog Ali has an eye infection that will likely require us to postpone our trip to Virginia.  So the schedule below for the 10th, 17th, and 24th will change.  Stay tuned!  /CL

Events (and a non-event) for the next four Saturdays:

December 3rd, c. 10 AM: Victor Evdokimoff is coming by to talk about his experiences playing with The Lilly Brothers at the Hillbilly Ranch, and his recent article, “Hillbilly Ranch Memories, with The Lilly Brothers” in Bluegrass Unlimited (November).

ruthrappaportDecember 3rd, c. 11 AM: Ruth Rappaport, formerly of The Poodles, has been playing traditional old-timey music in and about the region for many years.  She has a new CD out, and a CD-release party at The Burren in Davis Square (247 Elm St, Somerville) on Friday, December 9th; we’ll play a couple of tunes from the CD and catch up.  More about Ruth HERE.

December 10th: Pre-recorded show!  I’ll be out of town, visiting daughter Sarah and family in Powhatan, Virginia.  Taking Amtrak Northeast Corridor Train no. 93 on Tuesday the 6th; if you’re on that train, come by and say hello!
Maybe the 17th?  We’ll see how the dog does.

December 17th 10th: Cajun fiddler David Greely, who is starring in “The Christmas Revels 2016 – An Acadian-Cajun Celebration of the Winter Solstice” (17 performances at Sanders Theatre at Harvard, beginning December 9th) will be visiting, sometime after 10 AM.  I’m hoping he’ll bring his fiddle and play a few tunes for us—maybe a Christmas tune?  For information about this year’s Revels, go HERE,  and for David’s website, HERE.

December 24th: The Hillbilly at Harvard Christmas Extravaganza [or. . . maybe not—see UPDATE 3, above]: (almost) four hours of the very best, and the very worst, of country Christmas music.  Actually, not the worst, as we eschew the lushly over-produced standards from major artists that the labels burdened us with; but the silliest, to be sure.  Surely you remember “Everett the Evergreen”?


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Hits and Misses

Launching an irregular department of New and/or NTM (new-to-me), or RTI (’round-to-it) records; ’NTM’ can be items that might be old, but I’ve just discovered; RTI might be records I’ve been playing for a while, or for ages, or something just recovered in one of my fitful episodes of filing.

• Norah Jones: Day Breaks (Blue Note Records) New
norah-jones-day-breaksA few months ago I was surprised to get a Norah Jones single from Blue Note, which of course is a jazz label.  Norah is not a country singer, though she has recorded country songs.  The single featured a song Norah wrote, called “Carry On,” and it had a country feel (despite a jazz arrangement and an almost countrypolitan chorus); I played it on the show.

The whole album finally arrived a couple of weeks ago.  It contains mostly songs written or co-written by Norah.  Her singing is lovely, as usual; most of the songs are languid, loungy, quiet.  It makes pleasant listening, but—it’s not country.  Besides “Carry On,” I might try Neil Young’s “Dont Be Denied,” and maybe one or two others, but that’s it for HAH.  Color me disappointed: a Miss, but not for Norah Jones fans.

• Becky Warren: War Surplus (no label) New
beckywarren-warsurplus-cover-small-300x274Every time I hear this it gets more country.  The album’s being marketed as Americana, but if you want “three chords and the truth,” here  it is.  The album is not light, though there is an undercurrent of cynical humor (“Three thousand miles from a decent beer”).  It’s 12 songs that are snapshots of a relationship between a rough girl named June (“Call Me Sometime”) and a infantryman named Scott, who cames home from Iraq shell-shocked (now called ‘PTSD’) and finds it all falling apart (“Anything That Lasts”):

Heaven help me, I don’t know what’s wrong/
I went away and came back gone.

I can’t play that one, the last song on the album, because it uses the four-letter s-word, so you’ll have to buy the album to hear it.  And you should.  The writing is brilliant, the singing is compelling, and you’ll experience a lot you haven’t thought about, or maybe buried somewhere.   A definite Hit.  Available HERE.

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