There is not one bluegrass fan out there that wouldn’t agree that the guitar of choice for any bluegrass band is a Martin Guitar. Whether a D-18 or D-28, (my choice) the Martin is synonymous with the music stretching back to the infancy of Bluegrass.
If you are ever traveling through the state of Pennsylvania, I would strongly suggest you make a detour and visit the Martin Guitar Factory. We have made the pilgrimage a few times over the past few years and never grow tired of the experience. You can feel the history and tradition as soon as you walk down the giant guitar walkway from the parking lot. A very friendly receptionist is there to greet and direct you to the facility for tours and shopping. They give you the opportunity to not only visit the amazing museum they have set up to chronicle the history of the company but to play a number of instruments in a “special” room for your enjoyment.
My wife and I arrived very early in the day for a tour of the factory and were lucky to be coupled with a group of 3rd graders on a school field trip (my kind of field trip!). These kids were mesmerized because you are taken on a guided tour of the actual factory, not a simulated tour like Hershey with plastic kisses and a candy bar at the end as they drop you into the chocolate filled gift shop. Each visitor is given a set of headphones to assure you can hear every word your guide is saying. You will walk past Martin craftsmen working and doing what they do best…make a great guitar. The automation is minimal. There is much “hands-on” work to be done on each and every instrument. The folks are very friendly and will answer most questions. The entire tour takes a good part of an hour and is free of charge.
Our last visit was in 2009 and we were given an actual spruce sound hole for a factory guitar stamped with the Martin logo and year of the tour…a great souvenir. To top off the day I was able to meet Chris Martin who was out in the lobby. He was nothing but cordial and signed a couple of catalogs for me as well. We had a very nice conversation. He asked which Martin I owned and answered any question I had.
All in all a great day! This is a must for a music enthusiast as well as any American who wants to experience the American Dream in action. With summer just around the corner make it a point to visit the piece of Americana. You can learn more about Martin and the tour at http://www.martinguitar.com/ Enjoy your visit!
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I love to travel by cruise ship. It’s not just the slower pace of travel or the exotic destinations but it is the unusual opportunity I often find to explore things I am passionate about. On my latest trip to the Caribbean, I had the chance to take in a few performances from Graffiti Classics, a marvelous quartet of string instrument players who are described as 16 strings, 8 dancing feet, 4 voices and 1 aim: to make classical music wickedly funny and fantastically exhilarating. To that end, I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like what they do.
Before you can have fun with music you must first master your tools. As a Bluegrass music enthusiast and reviewer, I have had the opportunity to hear lots of fine craftsmen over the years as they pick, fiddle, slap, tickle and otherwise play their instruments. In the hands of a master, an instrument is more of a voice than a combination of wood and strings. In the hands of this musical quartet, the strings become magic. They can make animals sounds; they can make drum sounds; they can take you to exotic lands; all done by masterful manipulation and virtuosic mastery of the instruments on stage.
The humor they bring with them is an added bonus. I encourage you to visit their website, listen to their music, watch their videos, and then find a venue where you can get in on the act. Because their humor is age appropriate for all audiences, I think it is quite fair to say that Graffiti Classics is putting string music front and center of the next generation of string music enthusiasts. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of future bluegrass artists saying one of the reasons they picked up a fiddle was because of the fun they witnessed watching Graffiti Classics as a child.
Any fan of bluegrass music will quickly find them self routing for this act. I didn’t hear any music that I would deem bluegrass per se but if you’re like me and enjoy watching and listening to musicians at the top of their craft with some of your favorite instruments, you’ll want to see this band in concert time and time again.
The Deadly Gentlemen, a band consisting of Greg Liszt (banjo), Stash Wyslouch (guitar), Mike Barnett (fiddle), Dominick Leslie (mandolin), and Sam Grisman (bass), has taken acoustic music by storm. Rooted in bluegrass, acoustic, newgrass and even rap, this high energy group of artists will memorize their audience with skilled musicianship, vocals and amazing originals.
Each member of the Deadly Gentlemen has an impressive list of credentials. Take their bass player for instance. If you thought you heard that name before you would be correct, Samson Grisman is the youngest son of the world renowned mandolin genius David “Dawg” Grisman. This is quite a combination if you stop to think about it. Having grown up around his Dad, and not to mention some of the most influential musicians to have lived, it’s no wonder that Sam has evolved into such a great musician in his own rite.
In addition to the Deadly Gentlemen, Sam also plays bass with two of his Dad’s bands, David Grisman’s Bluegrass Experience and Folk Jazz Trio with award winning guitarist, Jim Hurst.
If you get an opportunity to see any of these acts with Samson you will certainly not be disappointed. While enjoying that great music you may want to take a moment to reflect on the musical lineage that you are experiencing.
To learn more about the Deadly Gentlemen you can visit http://www.deadlygentlemen.com/ for the latest! Also you may want to watch and listen to this great tune:
WKRP is no longer my favorite thing from Cincinnati. Check out the infectious musical styling of Hickory Robot and try not to become an instant fan. The smoky sounds and “easy on the eyes” looks of lead singer Lauren Schloemer will blow you away as will the fine musicianship exhibited by her band mates. Jim Pelz on guitar and/or mandolin, Scott Cardner on mandolin, and Mike Georgin on bass round out this quartet. Of course, Lauren isn’t afraid to pick up a fiddle or keep rhythm on the washboard when called for. With the recent release of “Sawyer” this Americana / Newgrass / Country band has all the right ingredients to enjoy some crossover success if they can connect with a more mainstream audience. Of course, I wish them all the success in the world but I want to discuss their bluegrass roots and why you should want to listen to them.
Give listen to several of the tracks from “Sawyer” as featured on their website at http://www.hickoryrobot.com/ and you’ll see what I mean. I am listening to the first track “Late” and the fact that this is their sophomore album is clear to me. Beautiful production and great use of the band’s assets. I’d stack this song up against anything I am hearing on Country FM radio these days. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ReverbNation, iTunes and more. This band has fully embraced the digital age.
Cincinnati had best enjoy this hometown band while they can. Just like Tom Sawyer, I’d say their ready to set sail. Hickory Robot’s adventure is just beginning. Come along for the ride, won’t you?
The spinners here at Bluegrass Spin want to send a special shout out to the hard picking and playing members of King Street Bluegrass, a much-loved Bluegrass sextet playing their hearts out for local fans in and around Alexandria, Virginia.
When Robert Swain, Nancy Lisi, Dave Brunson, John Georgiou, Justin Lago, and Stacey Sinclair get together, their collective love of making music can’t help but wash over the audience. At a time when more and more “live” music is produced by drum machines and computers, this band gets it right by producing just the right blend of instrumentation and vocal harmonization to create a bluegrass sound that is pure magic to the ears.
Cleveland may rock but Cincinnati is pickin’ and grinnin’ with Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers, Cincinnati’s only all female acoustic band! These gals are playing bluegrass style music with a side of traditional and old-timey music. Based in Ohio, the ladies put on their slippers and travel throughout the country appearing at music festivals and special events as their schedule allows.
I am watching and listening to “Wayward Daughter”, as performed on Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theater in Lexington, Kentucky. This tune is the title track and just one gem of many from their latest album. While the band centers around “Ma” Crow, the Lady Slippers can each hold their own as talented bluegrass musicians and vocalists. The Lady Slippers are Trina Emig playing banjo, mandolin, and guitar as well as vocals, Margie Drees on vocals, and Vicki Abbott on Bass. Make no mistake. Their sound is sweet and melodious but these Lady Slippers will just as easily kick you in the butt with their hard-driving breakout bluegrass sound.
The band has a beautiful website at http://macrowmusic.com/. The band’s music is available at CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon, our preferred music partner. If you think bluegrass is just for the boys, you’re missing out on some exciting music. Check out Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers today. Y’all can thank me later.
Can I get a “Hell ya!” from all the SteelDrivers fans out there? Add my voice to the shouting! This band is acclaimed and revered for their fusion style of music that blends bluegrass, country, blues and much more. I actually prefer the word “bend” to “blend” to describe what I hear. I was not surprised to learn that country legend Vince Gill is a fan because I definitely hear a similarity in musical styles in some of their songs and some of my favorite Gill tunes.
The current incarnation of the band features the brilliant (and Grammy nominated) banjo player Richard Bailey, bassist and baritone vocalist Mike Fleming (the man likes it low!), expert fiddler and vocalist Tammy Rogers (haunting at times – awesome always!), guitarist and singer Gary Nichols, and the experienced but nimble fingers of Brent Truitt on the mandolin. Each of these artists is well-credentialed and a star in their own right. But when they perform together, it is pure SteelDriver magic.
Their current album, “Hammer Down”, is their latest offering and it will delight existing fans as well as first-timers to the SteelDriver experience. I smiled from open to close. It is a well thought out offering of tunes that will delight. While I am quite familiar with Deryl Dodd’s version of “Wearin’ A Hole”, I have to say that I prefer the SteelDriver’s interpretation over his more commercial version. The SteelDrivers just bring the song in such a way that I actually believe the lyrics when they sing them. Great job!
Full album “Hammer Down” is available to listen to on YouTube
Do you think you can’t find great bluegrass Down Under? Think again, Bluegrass Spinners! Mustered Courage hails from Melbourne, Australia but you wouldn’t know that from their exciting alternative bluegrass sounds. They’ve just released a new album called “Powerlines” and it is jam packed with toe-tapping ditties and great bluegrass music. I am watching and listening to their single “Cruel Alibis” as I write this and I am impressed. Check it out on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zBZyN9gMQU.
Mustered Courage has a formula for their incredible sound. They combine delicious four part harmonies, virtuosic pickin’ and brilliant songwriting to create their take on modern bluegrass, a sound that has been captivating audiences throughout Australia. It’s only a matter of time before American audiences are captivated as well.
Mustered Courage features Nick Keeling on Banjo, Julian Abrahams on Guitar, Josh Bridges on Bass, and Paddy Montgomery on Mandolin. All of the band members pull double duty as singers which I always enjoy. They have an excellent website at http://www.musteredcourage.com/ where you can hear and see more music videos, learn about the band, purchase their music, and read up on upcoming appearances. As you would imagine, you’ll be travelling to Oz to see them live but, honestly, it would be worth the trip! I am not sure the appropriate way to close this article so I’m just going to sign off with G’day, Y’all!
What do you get when you take a group of experienced Minnesotan bluegrass players and mix in some Christian Gospel influences? Well, if you’re Dave, Jon, Jesse, and Beth, you get the Foggy Valley Ramblers. I am listening to their take on the classic folk song “Old Joe Clark” at the band’s website at ReverbNation. It’s a good listen at http://www.reverbnation.com/foggyvalleyramblers. Go ahead, give it a try and become a fan of the band while you’re there. If you’re more of a MySpace kind of Spinner, check them out at http://www.myspace.com/591329688.
However you choose to listen to the Foggy Valley Ramblers, with Dave on banjo, Jon on mandolin/fiddle, Jesse on guitar, Beth on upright bass, you’re sure to enjoy their years of experience and their great bluegrass sound!