BY CHRIS MATEER
Following our exclusive song premiere of John Reischman’s ‘Itzbin Reel’ (featuring fellow mando great Chris Thile), Sitch columnist Chris Mateer gives us his in depth conversation with Reischman…
Can you briefly discuss your musical experiences before forming John Reischman and the Jaybirds?
John Reischman: In 1978 I joined the Good Ol’ Persons, who were based in the San Francisco Bay-area. The band played traditional bluegrass and other styles of acoustic music. We also featured a lot of original material written primarily by Kathy Kallick, but also by Paul Shelasky. It was in this supportive environment that I first started writing original tunes.
After I had been playing with the Good Ol’ Persons for a few years I heard that Tony Rice was starting a new group having recently parted ways with David Grisman. I auditioned for the job and ended up playing with Tony for the next 3 or 4 years. Needless to say, this was an exciting situation for me to be in and I really worked on my playing during this time. I continued playing with the GOP (Good Ol’ Persons) during my time with the Tony Rice Unit.
In 1992 I moved to Vancouver BC and started to work as a freelance musician, performing and recording with several Canadian based musicians including Cindy Church, Celso Machado, and Sal Ferreras. I also still toured and recorded with US based musicians like Kathy Kallick, Kate McKenzie, and Tony Furtado.
It was also around this time …
BY KIM RUEHL
On their new album No More Rain, THE STEEL WHEELS deliver harmony-driven music with such a melding of different styles, trying to describe it with a single term would require far too many hyphens. There’s trad country in there, to be sure, some gospel and bluegrass, even the occasional harkening to 70s rock. But, the main thread running throughout the disc is the energy the band stirs up. Like a late spring thunderstorm rolling over the hills of their native Virginia, there are figurative gusts of wind and brilliant colors. There is stirring four-part harmony and intense instrumental interplay. There’s also a single cover – Tom Waits’ “Walk Away” – among the emotional twists and invigorating turns of their original tunes.
Recently, I had the chance to chat with frontman Trent Wagler about how far the group has come with their musical pursuits, and what it is which drives them.
Let’s start with your new album No More Rain. How did this album come to be?
Trent Wagler: Our band started playing together around eight years ago, but we officially started touring more seriously about three years ago as the Steel Wheels. We released an album called Red Wing and followed it with Lay Down, Lay Low. There’s also been plenty of other music we’ve been playing and writing in that time. Some of that was recorded by me as a solo project. Other stuff had been recorded previously… so, we had all …
BY CHRIS MATEER
DUBL HANDI (pronounced “double handy”) is a Brooklyn-NY based string band named after the washboard company of the 1800′s. Although the project originally began as a duo of banjo player and singer Hilary Hawke and multi-instrumentalist Brian Geltner, the two have recently added guitarist Ernie Vega, making DH a trio.
Embracing a worldly view of folk music, Dubl Handi draws from, as well as expands upon, the traditional tunes of the Northwest Appalachian region by employing percussion, guitar, drums, and banjo. These artists deliver their own unique interpretations of their favorite songs, while also throwing in a healthy dose of originals too.
Dubl Handi’s new album, Up Like The Clouds, is out now. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Hilary Hawke about her own musical history, how she connected with Brian and Ernie, the vibrant community of Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theatre, as well as the making of Dubl Handi’s new album.
When and how did you begin learning and playing music?
Hilary Hawke: I always really loved music and musical instruments as a kid, as well as listening to records and dancing. I formally started learning music when I was 8 years old, on clarinet. I picked up guitar around 15 and then banjo around 22.
What drew you to playing the banjo?
Hilary: I loved folk music but I actually ended up getting a degree in music on the clarinet and classical guitar (neither which I play much anymore). The practicing and …
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
By his own admission, JOHN McEUEN is not a household name. Most people, he says, mistake him for Roger McGuinn, erstwhile leader of the Byrds and an early forebear of crossover country rock. Considering the fact that McEuen’s roots rock resume found him following a parallel path as Mr. McGuinn’s, the confusion is easily understood.
Sadly though, the outfit with which McEuen is associated – that being the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – isn’t always given the credit that the Byrds received, or for that matter, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, John Prine or any of the other ‘60s and ‘70s icons that spawned a hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll with heartland sensibilities. Yet the Dirt Band, as much as any other these other outfits, had a prime role in the Americana evolution. Hits like “Mr. Bojangles,” “Fishing in the Dark,” “House at Pooh Corner” and “Make a Little Magic” helped get them on the popcharts, but it was their seminal 1972 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken that assured their place in the country rock firmament. The album featured a who’s who of classic traditional country artists – Doc and Merle Watson, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs and Maybel Carter among them – joining the Dirt Band in a series of sessions that retraced songs from America’s folk and country music songbook.
“The Byrds and the Burrito Brothers got into that whole country rock thing for a time, but kind of gave it up after …
BY CHRIS MATEER
Two months after my wife and I were married in the fall of 2009, we packed our bags and drove down to Nashville for a “roadtrip honeymoon adventure”. The mission was to spend the week after Christmas with one of our best friends and cap off our exploits with the New Year’s Eve show by the Old Crow Medicine Show at the historic Ryman Theater.
During our week-long stay in Nashville, we stopped in at an old-time jam and met a really friendly young fellow named Woody Pines. While enjoying the music by the local players while socializing with old and new friends, the fact that Nashville is the kind of town filled with famous icons, working musicians, studio players, and backyard players, I didn’t even consider that some of our new friends might be some of the who’s-who in Americana music.
Fast forward to the spring of 2012. At this point, I was writing about music more seriously, and an envelope from my pal Devon at Hearth Music landed in my mailbox. It was an addictive all-too-short-player called Let It Roll by, you guessed it: Woody Pines! After digging around online, it didn’t take me long to realize that Woody was not only a member of the infamous busking outfit, Kitchen Syncopators (with Gil Landry, now of Old Crow Medicine Show), but that he has put out a bunch of country blues style records to his own credit.
Well, in the blink of an eye …
BY MICHAEL VERITY
PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO are a Canadian duo who live on a homestead outside the town of Horsefly, British Columbia. By day, they’re professional instrument makers and by night, they’re singers and songwriters (as as well as masters of the instruments they create). They took time out from a busy day of building banjos and making music to talk with Michael Verity about their influences, their love of old music and their new album, Long Gone Out West Blues.
The first thing I noticed listening to “Sad Old Blues,” the first track on Long Gone Out West Blues, is how Pharis’ voice fits into the classic folk singer mold. Has folk music always been your genre of choice?
Pharis: I wouldn’t call it my first choice; rather, it was a choice among many. My mom had a beautiful record collection that included artists like Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell, so they definitely had an influence. But we also listened to a ton of Eagles and Rolling Stones and Cream and Led Zeppelin. My Dad was a classic country fan so I heard a lot of Merle Haggard and Johnny Horton and Hank Williams. Plus, I studied classical music so there was Brahms and Bach in there, too.
So it comes down to finding your own space within those many influences.
Pharis: Exactly. I know every word to every song on most of Joni Mitchell’s albums but I also recognize almost every bowing intricacy on Tommy Jarrell’s …
BY BARON LANE (TWANG NATION)
ASHLEY MONROE is the great hope of country music. In an age of ever-blurring genres and over-produced radio hitmakers, Monroe’s lilting, wounded voice and wise-beyond-her-years songwriting makes her sound more like a contemporary of Dolly Parton than Taylor Swift (it doesn’t hurt that Monroe is also one-third of the country female supergroup, PISTOL ANNIES). Her brand new solo effort, the Vince Gill/Justin Niebank-produced LIKE A ROSE, was released earlier this month.
So let’s get the important stuff out of the way. Which of the Pistol Annies would win a drinking contest?
Ashley Monroe: Miranda (Lambert.) The thing about her is that she can handle her liquor. She can drink and drink and she stays the same. Me and Angaleena (Presley) have our limits or else we’re in a bad place.
You have to be careful with those Mirandaritas (White rum, Sugar-free pink lemonade or raspberry drink mix, Diet lemon-lime soda)
AM: I had to get them to put vodka on the rider because the rum was tearing me up!
Ha! Good for you. Let’s start with some background, you grew up in Knoxville right?
AM: Just East of Knoxville in a little town called Corryton. And I moved to Nashville when I was 15 with my mom and brother. Back home we had a nice, normal family, but when I was 13 my dad died of pancreatic cancer. He was just 40. We moved to Knoxville for a couple of …
BY EMMA KRUCH MORRIS
For a band that claims its name from the protagonists of the darkly dramatic Russian novel “The Brothers Karamazov”—these Seattle folk pop gents are anything but. Their skillfully crafted tracks are rich with layered instruments, harmonies, and bright melodies.
IVAN & ALYOSHA’s dynamic high-energy shows and past EP releases have won over devoted fans and garnered much critical acclaim, cooly slipping into NPR Music’s “First Listen” spot for their debut album, All the Times We Had, and opening for the likes of Aimee Mann and John Vanderslice.
Emma Morris had the chance to catch up with Ivan & Alyosha’s friendly and ultra-focused frontman, Tim Wilson, about everything from confetti machines to freak-outs on stage.
To coincide with your brand new album, you just kicked off a tour—congratulations on both accounts! Any venue or city that you’re particularly pumped about returning to?
We love playing LA—I used to live out there and have a lot of friends there. We love the weather and sunshine. SXSW in Austin, TX just happened and that festival is always fun!
You’ve spent a lot of time on the road over the past few years. I know you’re a pretty family-oriented band—are you ever able to bring your families on tour with you?
Yes, definitely. A couple years ago when my son was six months old, we took him out on the road, and he spent time out with us again last summer. Our wives come out periodically …
ANAIS MITCHELL and JEFFERSON HAMER are each hugely respected artists in their own right, but together they create a chemistry that is lush and alluring and mysterious all at once.
Their recent collaboration, the critically acclaimed CHILD BALLADS, is a re-imagining of the song collection of Francis James Child, a 19th century Harvard professor who gathered traditional versions of folk ballads from across the British Isles.
Prior to their upcoming west coast appearances, Jefferson explained the story behind the project, and his artistic connection with Anais…
Why Child Ballads? It’s not what people think…. Who was this guy?
When Anais and I started singing together we discovered we both loved a lot of old traditional music… found ourselves singing a lot of country songs and English folk music. We both have copies of the Francis James Childs collection. He was a Harvard professor who decided to collect his history of folk music from England and Scotland, and published several volumes of his work in the late 19th century. The music he researched and documented covered a lot of the traditional music in the last few centuries and even came over to America and continued to evolve.
We got really excited about working with the actual text. We’re both writers and like to get our hands dirty with words as well as arranging music. Our project was going through these different versions and putting together something we created, not just singing some derivative version from some field recordings. …
BY DEVON LEGER (HEARTH MUSIC)
TIM ERIKSEN is a man of many passions. Throughout his musical life, he’s moved through a world of musical traditions and ideas that would bewilder any ordinary artist. He spent years in the indie and punk music scenes with his seminal group Cordelia’s Dad, and used this band as a place to bring in his other burgeoning interests in Appalachian old-time music and Sacred Harp, the haunting, communal singing tradition based around the vocal syllables fa-sol-la and clear, eerie open harmonies. Collaborating with T-Bone Burnett for the movie Cold Mountain, Eriksen was able to bring his interest in Sacred Harp singing to the mainstream of American roots music, and since then has been touring and teaching the tradition all over the US and the world. He’s also recently been presenting more of his deep searching into the old traditions of his home in New England, an area that was typically ignored by folklorists and folk revivalists looking to leave their own homes in the region to study in the South. With his new album, Josh Billings Voyage, he’s brought many of his influences and interests together in an imagined New England village, sourcing old songs and writing new songs that sound traditional and other-worldly at the same time. I caught up with him on the phone from his home in New England to talk about his vision behind the album.
Hi Tim, let’s talk about your new album, Josh Billings Voyage…