April 7, 2009
Retroactive ruling rids genre of baffling, pointless nomenclature
LEXINGTON, KY — In a decision aimed at reducing chaos and promoting the competent execution of old-time music during jam sessions, the industry’s National Council of Elders has unanimously voted to end the long-problematic practice of using words to name old-time fiddle tunes.
From this point forward, musicians will identify fiddle tunes by briefly playing the first four bars, or, in the absence of an instrument, singing some facsimile of that same passage.
The decision to prohibit song titles applies to all existing as well as future tunes, and it is a total repudiation of an age-old system that players have come to regard as a fundamentally flawed failure.
“We’ve been using the old nomenclature for hundreds of years, and it has been an utter disaster,” said Council member and old-time icon Dirk Powell, a very ancient man who has tirelessly promoted old-time music among modern humans.
Old-time fiddle tunes tend to quickly mutate as a result of aural transmission, a highly error-prone process. Within a few short generations a single old-time melody may evolve into many completely different ones in separate parts of the country.
Interestingly, several of the greatest old-time fiddlers ever to live were legally deaf, which often hindered their ability to faithfully reproduce a melody and added to the rapid creation of musical variation.
Unfortunately, most of the variant tunes have retained their progenitors’ original titles, leading to widespread confusion and all-too-common jam session disasters.
“So often in a session, you request a tune by name, say, Chinquapin Hunting, or Blackberry Blossom, or Lost Indian, or Buffalo Gals, or Silver Spear, or Cumberland Gap, or Indian Ate The Woodcock, or Bonaparte’s Retreat, or Backstep Cindy, or Paddy on the Turnpike, or East Virginia, or Five Miles From Town, or Fire on the Mountain, or Polly Put the Kettle On, or Molly Put the Kettle On, or Ducks On the Millpond, or whatever. Everybody says they know it, so you count it off, and each of the nine people in the jam starts playing something completely different,” said musicologist B. Krakauer, a banjo player.
“Train wrecks like those are fatal to group music making, and they certainly aren’t helping our genre’s reputation,” said Foghorn Stringband’s Sammy Lind, who stopped using song titles years before the Council’s ruling.
In addition to the multiple-identity issue that has so badly hampered old-time music, the separate problem of song title loss has proved tremendously vexing.
If, by some miracle, a fiddle tune manages to survive in a recognizable form, more often than not its name is forgotten by the wayside.
“At that point the only function of a tune’s title is to torment you during all your waking hours for not knowing it,” said Powell, on behalf of the Council.
“Yes, my existence is a living hell,” commented fiddler Rayna Gellert.
Indeed, at fiddlers’ conventions many old-time musicians start drinking first thing in the morning, probably to dull these horrible nagging feelings.
“I will miss the titles a little bit, but it’s not like they ever made much sense to anyone,” said Chris Thile, a prominent advocate of the new reference system.
“I mean, what is a Chinquapin, anyway?”
‘09 Gumbo Release Tour begins in May
“Our music, while good, has always come second,” said Louisiana band
LAFAYETTE, LA — The Red Stick Ramblers, a mainstay of countless summer music festivals, will soon stop performing music in order to devote themselves more completely to the promotion of the culinary arts.
The band, which has earned equal acclaim for its music and its frequent all-night camping parties, will continue to tour on a full time basis and will still host its Black Pot Festival and Cook-Off in October in Lafayette.
Traditionally, touring bands such as the Red Stick Ramblers have earned a living by releasing new CD’s on a regular basis, each time hitting the road to promote their music through an intensive performance schedule. For such independent artists, CD sales at live shows provide a critical revenue stream.
The Ramblers’ new touring concept crystallized during the group’s last trip to the recording studio for Sugar Hill Records.
“We were in the studio this winter cutting an album with Gary Paczosa, our producer, but we spent a lot of the time just cooking, hanging out and eating,” said bassist Eric Frey.
“All week in the studio Linzay was obsessing about this new gumbo recipe he’d invented. In the end, it was Paczosa who was like, ‘F—k the CD, you guys should just release this gumbo,’” said guitarist Chas Justus, who is now independently wealthy as a result of producing the hit recording Christine Balfa Plays The Triangle (Valcour Records, 2008).
“All of us just kinda dropped our spoons and looked at each other like, ‘Wait a second!’” said Linzay Young, the band’s head chef and former fiddler.
For the last several years, the Ramblers’ extensive performance obligations have often conflicted with the band’s large-scale cooking projects.
“At a festival, Linzay can’t even start prepping dinner until the Ramblers’ last set ends. Well, if that’s after midnight dinner won’t be ready until four in the morning at the earliest,” said fiddler and non-vegetarian Stephanie Coleman.
“By that time the whole campsite is so drunk that not only can people not fully appreciate the food, a lot of them wake up and can’t remember eating it at all,” added Ms. Coleman.
“I’m good at the fiddle, and I can sing, but quite honestly, that is a waste of my talent,” said Young.
For their upcoming gumbo-release tour, which begins on May 3 at New Orleans JazzFest, each Red Stick Ramblers performance will consist of the band’s cooking delicious Cajun food from scratch in front of a live audience. The band will also provide brief musical interludes to pass the time while the food cooks.
At the end of the show, each audience member can buy a large serving of gumbo for $15, roughly the cost of a CD.
“We love playing music, and it’s fun, but really that’s such a small part of what we’re all about,” said Frey.
[THIS JUST IN: DAILEY AND VINCENT SWEEP 2008 IBMA AWARDS WINNING ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR, ALBUM OF THE YEAR, VOCAL GROUP, EMERGING ARTIST AND GOSPEL RECORDED PERFORMANCE.]
NASHVILLE — Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, the silken-voiced duo known for touching sensitivity, flawless coiffure, fashion-mindedness and a socially progressive agenda, have embarked on a trans-American road trip and concert tour to promote metrosexual awareness, especially in rural states with very few openly metrosexual males.
“Metrosexuality is not a crime, and there’s no need for us or anyone like us to be living with the slightest amount of shame,” said Vincent. “Not in New York, not in Nashville, and certainly not in rural America.”
“We can use our music to deeply connect with people who’ve never even seen a real metrosexual before,” said Vincent.
“Those bonds, those connections, do so much to break down stereotypes and promote genuine understanding among different types of people,” said Vincent, who also plays mandolin, guitar, and upright bass.
“I’m so happy that two such gifted performers are out there getting this discourse started,” said Dobro player and renowned metrosexual Jerry Douglas, whose 1989 decision to wear an earring was a watershed moment in the history of bluegrass metrosexuality.
A metrosexual is loosely defined as a heterosexual urban man with an uncommonly high concern for personal appearance, emotions, fitness and fashion. The term first arose in the 1990’s to describe various male celebrities such as Brad Pitt, David Beckham, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who embraced their feminine sides without reorienting themselves sexually.
As metrosexuality has spread through urban centers from Los Angeles to Nashville, it has failed to gain acceptance in many conservative rural strongholds, becoming a flashpoint in a nationwide culture war.
According to the band’s management team, Dailey and Vincent plan to bridge the cultural gap with the universal appeal of their rootsy music, which they also hope will dispel several myths about metrosexuals.
“For example, a lot of people from the country assume that metrosexual men can’t possibly be religious,” said Dailey. “But when they hear us play “By The Mark”, they know that we believe the same things they do, very deep down.”
“Likewise, some people think that just because we use a little product in our hair and maybe get the occasional pedicure, we couldn’t possibly play really hardcore traditional bluegrass,” said Dailey.
“To which I say two words: ‘Sweet Carrie’.”
The duo will travel by Segway, the two-wheeled, computer-stabilized transportation apparatus that revolutionized urban life forever when it was introduced near the end of the last millennium.
The Dailey and Vincent tour, which begins in Nashville, will traverse the entire country for at least one year with stops as far-flung as Lake Havasu City, AZ, and Berryville, VA.
Said Dailey and Vincent’s management, “It’s time to get the word out, people, so Dailey and Vincent are rolling your way.”
Multiple Grammy-winner stuns music world by scoring with ease
NASHVILLE — Gary Paczosa, the Grammy-award winning sound engineer, producer, and head A&R representative for Sugar Hill Records in Nashville, TN, has added yet another element to his diverse repertoire: scoring.
“Everybody’s been asking the same question at every afterparty, every festival, every bar for years now: When will Paczosa finally score?” said Alison Krauss, many of whose albums Paczosa engineered and creatively enhanced with his faultless ear, famous attention to detail, and keen musical insights.
“I was having a party at my house pretty recently, and Gary was there. I could just tell something was different that night, and then I realized it: Paczosa is finally scoring!” said Greg Liszt, banjo player for Crooked Still.
Indeed, Paczosa now writes instrument-specific parts for all players on his various recording projects, scoring music for everything from double bass to clawhammer banjo.
“Now he just commands this additional level of respect in the music world, because so many people have seen him score and know he can pull it off,” said Aoife O’Donovan, vocalist for Crooked Still.
“Anything to cover up that smell,” says Clarridge
“I have never seen someone smoke that much pot. Ever. Seriously,” said Sam Grisman, bassist for the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience.
Clarridge’s actions were made even more egregious by their violation of an explicit, unmistakable and strongly-worded posting prohibiting absolutely all marijuana smoking in that particular backstage bathroom.
Clarridge, whose band Crooked Still opened up that night’s sold-out show for the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, proceeded to spend the entirety of Grisman’s excellent set in a drug-induced stupor, prostrate upon a filthy backstage couch.
When one of the club’s numerous security guards accosted the torpid cellist, politely asking him to keep the drug abuse to a minimum, Clarridge was reportedly nonresponsive.
As justification for his behavior, Clarridge has subsequently cited the hideous, stifling miasma allegedly clouding the bathroom when Crooked Still returned to its dressing room after finishing to play.
“Anything to cover up that horrible, horrible smell,” said Clarridge.
Multiple band members have confirmed that an unknown perpetrator indeed “dropped a very nasty deuce” in Crooked Still’s backstage bathroom as the band played on stage.
“We finished the set all drenched in sweat and went back into the dressing room to change clothes. The smell was so overpowering that Tristan just cracked,” said Brittany Haas, Crooked Still’s fiddler.
“God, it was awful. Aoife [O’Donovan] was crying, Greg [Liszt] was screaming and cursing, Corey [DiMario] was shriveling up like one of those guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark,” she continued.
“All of a sudden Tristan just grabbed this huge bag of marijuana from someone in the entourage, went into the bathroom and smoked it all,” said Cameron Scoggins, a friend of the band. “I kind of couldn’t believe it.”
Although many of Clarridge’s young followers have reacted to the news with shock and disillusionment, his bandmates have defended his actions, up to a point.
Said DiMario, “Tristan is a hero. Maybe not the hero we need, but certainly the hero we deserve.”
Courtney Love, Billy Bob Thornton, French First Lady Carla Bruni audition for coveted spot
Several sources now report that one of the members of Alaska’s Bearfoot Bluegrass Band is leaving the group, and auditions for a replacement have begun.
The nationally-touring ensemble intends to continue performing live and recording with its new lineup.
The Bearfoot Bluegrass Band (BBB) began in 1999 and instantly rose to international superstardom by winning the 2001 Telluride Band Contest.
Speculation abounds as to which band member is quitting, and the BG Intelligencer has mounted an ongoing investigation, the results of which are so far inconclusive. The classic BBB lineup consists of Kate Hamre, bass; Mike Mikelson, guitar; Jason Norris, mandolin; Angela Oudean, fiddle; and Annalisa Tornfelt, fiddle and vocals.
Using anonymous sources, the BG Intelligencer has confirmed the identities of several of the musicians who tried out during the first round of auditions, and the findings are nothing short of shocking.
“Every time I hear about one of these people trying out, I’m like, ‘What the heck!?’ Some of these people are coming way out of left field,” said someone close to the band.
The first to audition was actor, writer, director, touring musician, and former Jolie-husband Billy Bob Thornton, who recapitulated his famous monologue from Sling Blade before launching into a medley of original bluegrass songs.
Next, French First Lady Carla Bruni, wife of Nicholas Sarkozy, reportedly enraptured the BBB audition panel with a sultry rendition of her new song “Le Presidente de Mon Corps.”
Finally, Courtney Love performed a rare acoustic rendition of the classic traditional country ballad “In the Pines.”
“Bearfoot has great gigs and a big following, so it makes total sense that they’d keep going with a new member. It worked for the Allman Brothers, AC/DC, and the Rolling Stones,” said a personal friend of the group.
Will jam sessions be next?
WEST VIRGINIA — The annual Clifftop Old Time Fiddlers Gathering, long famous for its highly inclusive culture, has recently taken a striking turn toward selectiveness and elitism.
Starting this year, participation in the camping festival’s numerous lesbian orgies will for the first time ever require an invitation.
The move, generally hailed by the increasingly cliquish attendees, has nevertheless irritated some campers.
“I’ve been seeing people get kicked out of tents at 4:30 in the morning just because they didn’t get invited to the orgy,” said one longtime festival-goer known simply as “Ebu”, adding, “That totally violates the spirit of Clifftop, and that kind of thing would never have happened at the Clifftop of old.”
Although all-girl group sexual encounters have been the primary focus of Clifftop for several years now, the festival maintains at least a nominal commitment to old time fiddle. Indeed, some wonder if the new members-only attitude will eventually permeate the few remaining musical jam sessions that still exist at the festival.
“This is likely the beginning of the end,” said old-time fiddle champion and career songwriter Mark Simos, whose attendance at Clifftop has now spanned multiple eras.
Others were optimistic about the future, however. Said mandolinist Eric Robertson, “I don’t know what’s going on at this place, dude, but there are ridiculously hot chicks hooking up everywhere. I’m absolutely coming back every year until I die.”