Heralding from just down the mountain in Greenville, South Carolina, Bear Rinehart is the front man for the rock group NEEDTOBREATHE. He has that rare quality of voice that allows him to stand out from other singers in his genre. Not only does Rinehart have the chops, he’s also a talented songwriter and musician.
It’s about staying true to yourself.
When you converse with country/bluegrass legend Marty Stuart, you’re speaking to the source. From being a teenager, touring and performing side-by-side with Lester Flatt in the 1970s, to finding country radio success in the 1980s and 1990s, to his enduring work with Doc Watson and Johnny Cash, Stuart has risen into the upper echelon of Nashville icons.
The eternal struggle of bluegrass is being able to balance evolution with tradition.
How does one adhere to the pickin’ and grinnin’ ways of the old days, but also be able to stretch the boundaries into new and innovative realms? That dilemma currently lies at the feet on the bluegrass world. And yet, as that question remains, so does the internal drive by all of the genre’s musicians to ensure the preservation and perpetuation of this melodic force at the foundation of this country.
It’s a whirlwind.
With his group Tiny Universe, saxophonist Karl Denson seamlessly creates this vortex onstage, a sonic hub where jazz, rock, funk and soul collide, swirling around one another like a street fight with no determined victor. The sights and sounds hit the listener with such force, it will make you rethink just what improvisational music and live performance can be — and ultimately is — at least within the endless curiosity of Denson.
Taking a seat on the old couch, my foot began to tap immediately.
The living room full of friends and soon-to-friends sat atop a frigid mountain just west of Clayton, Georgia. It was another evening hosted by the Grouse Mountain House Concerts, and standing in the middle of the space was Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters, headlong into a rollicking set that shook the floorboards and also the dust off any souls within earshot.
My ears are still ringing.
After catching two nights of the Drive-By Truckers this past weekend (Knoxville/Asheville), my eyes were bleary, my head still somewhat rattling. Not just from the sheer force of the rock band, but also from the thoughts bouncing around my mind from what I witnessed.
Life is good.
That’s the vibe one gets when chatting with Chris Robinson these days. Former lead singer for legendary rock-n-rock act The Black Crowes, Robinson has spent the better part of the last five years dusting off his feathers as he takes flight into the heavens above with his popular melodic odyssey — The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
It is the rhythm of life.
When you hear the guitar mastery of Tim Reynolds, you’re listening to the joyous and violent sounds of the cosmos. Each note an ocean wave crashing onto the shore, each note a break of sunlight through the dark clouds of the night.
What a year.
That is about all you can say about the past 12 months for Jackson County bluegrass act Mountain Faith. And yet, this past Thursday evening was the cherry on top for the rapidly rising family string band when they received “Emerging Artist of the Year” at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards in Raleigh.
“To be honest, we were just expecting to go to the IBMAs and have a great time jamming and hanging out with our bluegrass friends. We absolutely were not expecting to win an award,” said lead singer Summer McMahan in her trademark modest tone.
I underestimated it.
Stepping into the grand ballroom at the Raleigh Convention Center last Thursday morning, I really didn’t think the occasion would be as big as it actually was. It was the awards luncheon for the International Bluegrass Music Association and I was among those nominated for “Bluegrass Print/Media Person of the Year.”