First, before any other business, the bluegrass music world was rocked last week by the news of the passing of Ralph Stanley. Ralph Stanley was one of the most important stylists in bluegrass, not to mention country and folk music as a whole.
Ralph was another artist who never really got the recognition he deserved until he was in his 70s, but I’m so glad that he finally did.
Ralph’s music was a huge personal inspiration, too, and I doubt that I’d be playing music professionally at all if it weren’t for him. I first saw him play when I was 17 years old, and it was life-changing. The LPs Something Old, Something New and Cry From the Cross have probably gotten more plays than anything I’ve ever had in my collection.
I did a special Ralph Stanley tribute edition of “Truegrass” (my classic bluegrass show on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction), which has aired already, but which is available on demand from SiriusXM.
Rest in peace, Ralph.
The Night Drivers and I have some time off as we spend some time writing and arranging material for a new album we plan to record in August for Mountain Home Music Company. We’ll be playing here in Alberta in late July, incidentally, at the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival in Stony Plain, AB. It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve been there. In fact, the last time we played it, Jean Chretien was Prime Minister and Bill Clinton was in his first term as president. Jon Weisberger wasn’t even in the band yet!
Time is running out to vote in the IBMA second ballot. That’s the second round of voting for the IBMA awards that will determine who the nominees will be later this summer. We’re trying to be subtle and not act overexcited, but this is the first time we’ve been in 10 different categories in the 2nd round:
Entertainer of the Year
Vocal Group of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Album of the Year (Run Away Tonight)
Song of the Year (“Laurie”)
Bass Player of the Year (Jon Weisberger)
Mandolin Player of the Year (Mark Stoffel)
Instrumental Recorded Performance (“Shelby 8”)
Gospel Recorded Performance (“My Portion and My Cup”)
Recorded Event (“One Night in Paducah”)
I haven’t spread this list around or asked people to vote for us. I would never dream of such a thing (just forget you even saw that list above). Instead, I’ve tried to do this subliminally, as in the following bluegrass poem I submitted to Bluegrass Today:
Bluegrass Festival Night
Violet hues in a festival sunset
On grassy hillsides, music greets the night
The young and old, voices and traditions blending
Every string alive
Feeling, fire, fiddle tunes
On the wind, notes sail to distant hollows
Reverberating through swaying and ancient trees
Love and laughter, friendship, song and ritual
All keep us bound together
Unless it’s just the music
Really it’s enough, more than enough to hold us all together
Inspiring our annual return
Even if we can’t make it some years due to work commitments
Did you catch it? Okay, here’s your hint: read it vertically from top to bottom. I’m afraid that’s as obvious as I’m planning to get this year.
If you don’t hear from me before this, happy 4th of July, and in these parts, happy Canada Day!