Posts made in April, 2017

Steel Guitarists Along The Road.

Steel Guitarists Along The Road.

Austin Tripp
Travis Egnor
Brett Robinson
David Mills

Country Music has THREE staple pillars of it’s foundation or it’s backbone if you will. Those are in this order the songwriter, the producer, and the steel guitar in my opinion it takes those three to make a classic Country Music album. My point being Willie Nelson “Red Headed Stranger” and “Wanted The Outlaws” as two prime examples that had all three. Shooter will tell you rapidly “Wanted The Outlaws” was the first platinum selling Country Music album EVER and defied the sough it was initially given by Nashville in the 1970’s.

Local music as a whole contains such a plethora of well rounded steel guitarists and pickers waiting for you to discover them if you are willing to wade through the broken beer bottles and travel the worn out back alleys of America to find them. You have to look in the places most normal people wouldn’t, and you have to listen. You have to brave the heat and cold and discomfort of the fields and farms that spew forth these festivals, mostly you have to study and watch for them.

This edition of my steel guitarist series bring me to talking on a rainy Sunday afternoon with one of local music’s finest young steel players the mighty Johnny Up. I sat with him for just a few minutes and he was kind enough to spend some time with me and answered a few questions for us. So sit back and enjoy this interview with another one of Red Dirt Country’s young guns making Country Music sound so good!

I’ll be honest in this interview he peaks of many people that he looks up to and admires doing things for him and today, he truly passed it on to me by taking a few minutes out to become involved with this project. This is MY intention to bring forth the young people playing steel in the honky tonks of today, and educating people on this whole world of unknown REAL Country Music whether it’s Nashville, Texas or Oklahoma. It’s out there waiting for YOU to support and love on it. And the people that play it are vastly talented and have become very good friends, I never met him yet but we truly connected today and appreciated one another. I must say he was really a great guy!

 

GHC:

How did you get started playing the steel guitar?

Mr. Johnny:

I started out playing classical guitar, I was moved to an arts high school where you could major in arts programs and that’s how I started learning how to read music and classical technique. I ended up going to the University Of Oklahoma for that. I dropped out of school and didn’t do anything with music for a while. I was living in Baton Rouge and met some guys that were into the same kind of music I was, everything Parsons, and that was the first time the steel guitar really caught me. I joined a band called the Way Goners out of Hammond Louisiana and started playing pedal steel. It took a couple years before I was any good at it, but pretty much from day one I started performing with it. A lot of four hour bar gigs forced me to learn 40 or 50 licks at a time.

GHC:

Do you play pedal steel or straight steel, or both?

Mr. Johnny:

I play pedal steel, yes

GHC:

Whom did you start playing for after The Way Goners?

Mr. Johnny:

I moved to Oklahoma City and started playing with John Moreland out of Tulsa, and Jeff Hobbs out of Ardmore. I made an album with John Moreland And The Dustbowl Souls. It’s called “In the Throes”.

GHC:

You played For Kaitlin Butts too right?

Mr. Johnny:

Yes, and Cody Jinks and Zane Williams, whole bunch of people really…

GHC:

Who influenced most as a young player?

Mr. Johnny:

The album that I remember studying the most was “High In The Rockies” by Jason Boland. You know it’s got Roger Ray on it, and he’s also an Okie. He’s somebody I really looked up to and I got a chance to open for the Stragglers pretty early on in my career. I was playing with Jeff Hobbs and after the Stragglers set he came offstage with people coming at him, trying to greet him but he made a bee line towards me and asked if I was Johnny. I was kind of star struck and said yeah. He told me how much he enjoyed my stuff with John Moreland, told me to keep it up. That meant a lot to me that someone I looked up to was listening and thought I was on the right track. It truly motivated me early on.

GHC:

If someone new came up to you and asked I’m a kid I’m new and I would like advice, what would you tell them?

Mr. Johnny:

I would say don’t think you have to have certain equipment or sound like other people. Until this past year I had yet to take a real lesson on pedal steel. And it was several years before I ever saw anybody play one in person. It all contributed to my sound. I know I don’t sound like other people and I know i probably have bad techniques, but I have always found my own voice through not knowing how to sound like other people. When people hear my steel guitar they know it’s me. I also have a bunch of instructional videos on my personal Youtube page  GO HERE to see what he has up to offer you free of charge!

GHC:

That answered my next question, you are very unique you don’t sound like anybody else. Wade Bowen came to town and had Miss Kaitlin with him I was hoping I’d get to meet you. I’m enjoying Country Music even more now from these interviews, because I have a better understanding of people like you.

Mr. Johnny

Hopefully Kaitlin reads this! My first steel guitar was, you know everybody goes out and gets a Sho Bud Maverick that had sixty owners, where as I had a Fender steel with three pedals and one knee lever. I didn’t know it even had a knee lever until I was boxing it back up to ship it to the next guy. There’s so much I didn’t know that I had to learn on my own. Making my own repairs on it, the guitar I bought next I bought seen only in pictures. I didn’t know what to look for, so when it wasn’t until the the guitar arrived that I noticed the under carriage was all gunked up and dirty, levers not pulling true. I took the whole guitar apart and cleaned it. I put it all back together as best as I could not knowing exactly how the changer and tension works. Just getting it to work right made me a better player. I know it had nothing to do with music really but it did help me understand a lot.

GHC:

Are you on the road full time, do you have anybody staple that you play with now?

Mr. Johnny:

I been doing a lot of studio work as of lately, but until the albums come out, you can find me with either Jacob Flint or Wink Burcham. I have an album coming out with Cole Porter Band which has the guitar player from Cody Jinks first four records..so that’ll be a cool one coming out soon. I got to play all the steel on Cody Jinks’ new album ‘I’m Not The Devil’ that’s out right now. Jeff Hobbs new album “Upward” will be released soon. There is some stuff I’ve tracked out I don’t know how far along they are but hopefully there will be new releases with Schuyler Prenger And The Dirt Road Junkies, Dylan Stewart, Johnathan White from Sons Of Strangers, Jonnah Liddell. It was great getting to work with producers like Mike McClure and Wes Sharon.

GHC:

I really enjoy including more Red Dirt into my website program and I love the differences and similarity in our local scenes.

Mr. Johnny:

I never paid much attention to the Nashville scene but to say that filling up the Exit Inn wasn’t a highlight of my career would be false.

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Josh Morningstar At Spillway.

Josh Morningstar At Spillway.

This weekend I’m out here in Bowling Green at one of my favorite places to eat and watch music The Spillway Bar And Grill folks this place is always a challenge to decide what to eat. Mr. Josh is one of the few folks from Altamont that we got to see grow into a huge road warrior for local music, there’s NO TELLING where this man and his band is going to end up. He raises his glasses and yells “Cheers To Health And Happiness” as he plays originals in his set like “the Ballad Of Bobbie Jo” whom he wrote about the lady that runs his home bar in Hagerstown Maryland.

He recently recorded a NEW album I’ll be telling you more about later tonight on this article as I warrior on for his cause. HE WAS my 2015 Artist Of The Year and like I said he is one of the few artists from the time we met has grown and become more honed in on his craft. He writes quality songs that make you actually think and feel as a listener and an individual.

His first song was “Devil Shoot Her Dead” afterwards he went into a terrific version of “Okie From Muskogee” of Merle Haggard fame circa 1969. he went into a bluesy slower version of Hank Williams Sr. “Your Cheating Heart” and right now as we listen he is playing “All That I Been Looking For Is Gone”. He is playing Waylon’s ‘Good Hearted Woman” and followed that by a very special beer drinking song “The Bottle Of Whiskey Won”

“Working Man’s Blues” and “Brand New Angel” were next, as he played Ernest Tubbs “Driving Nails In My Coffin” next, followed by Billy Joe Shaver’s “Ride Me Down Easy”. His set tonight also included “Swinging Doors” and in honor of Willie Nelson’s birthday today he played “Whiskey River”.

He is playing Songs off his upcoming record called “Whole Lotta Crazy” and he played one called “Cocaine”. Now you might remember Billy Don Burns new album “Graveyard In Montgomery” off Rusty Knuckles label, guitarist Bobby Miller truly makes this song sound epic up there tonight as they included that in their set.

“Ramblin Man” is what’s up now followed by “Gone Gone Gone”. “Jambalaya” was next, I’ll tell you what this new band setup here truly features his vocals better. Especially on songs like Belle Of The Ball” and others, Mr. Josh stands stalwart as a frontman now better than he ever has in the past. I have truly enjoyed watching him develop a style and a fashion all his own, and burn up the roads doing it.

“Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” is up now, as he takes the intermission break. The band is truly becoming better in tune with his style and vocals complete with  Mr. Taylor Hearnly on drums and Mr. Greg Johnson on bass. He began his next set with “Whole Lota Crazy” off his new album. He gave me a good preview in the van in West Virginia and I’ll tell you folks it’s going to be a GREAT new album.

He’s doing a REALLY GOOD version of Crazy Arms wow..followed by “Crying Eyes Of Blue”. He included “Gentle On My Mind” as well as a really cool new song called “Damn These Birds” that he wrote about dope dealers he used to buy from in the past. This video is from the song called “Shotgun Willie”, and also included in this set was “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”.

“Cold Cold Comfort” was next after that was “Kaw Liga” and “Old Habits” from Hank Williams Junior. He closed the show with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and he replayed “Whole Lotta Crazy” which is his new branding direction lately. He followed that with “Merle Haggard Died Today” and Billy Don Burns “Haggard And Hank”, before he closed the show with his usual ‘I Saw The Light”. He always carries one of the last notes in what is becoming his very own signature twist on a well known Country Music song.

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2017 Music Festivals: Dr. Ralph Stanley’s Hills Of Home Festival.

2017 Music Festivals: Dr. Ralph Stanley’s Hills Of Home Festival.

Dr. Ralph Stanely’s Hill Of Home happens in Virginia on Memorial Day Weekend, and is one of the nation’s oldest Bluegrass festivals in the United States. In fact it’s one of the TOP 3 oldest festivals and next month it’s in it’s 47th annual festival.

There isn’t ever much advertising or sponsors that make a large hoo-ha about this festival, nor is there much social media about it. But it has withstood the test of time, and even now is still well sought after from folks in Tennessee and Kentucky. It’s only about a five hour ride from my area so you might possibly see me there one of these years!

Here is a map of the are and some local area hotels for your use, as I do this for every festival I cover. As most of you know I cover 175 festivals yearly, and I am always out researching and finding new hotel options for every festival I know about. I do a LOT of research for this portion of my website.

 

We have food and merchandise vendors, shower facilities, water and dump stations on the grounds. There is a free shuttle to the stage from the parking and camping areas.Please do not bring alcohol or coolers in to the main concert area. Pets are allowed in the campground but must stay on a leash. Pets are not allowed in the concert area.

2017_hills_of_home003010.jpgSleep Inn of Clintwood
5625 Dickenson Highway
Clintwood, VA 24228

276-796-1058
The Inn at Wise
110 East Main Street
Wise, VA 24293
276-328-7600
So now that we have all of that out of the way let’s touch upon the lineup:
Gary Greer
Dean Osborne
Col Issac Moore And The Clinch Mountain Tradition
White Top Mountain Spring Band
Ernie Thacker And Route 23
Po Ramblin Boys
Flatt Lonesome
Ralph Stanley II And The Clinch Mountain Boys
Ricky Olefield
Tim white And The WV Boys
Remington Rhyde
Whiskey Bent Valley Boys
Jim Lauderdale
Emi Sunshine
Dave Adkins
Larry Efaw And The Bluegrass Mountaineers
Randall Hibits
Sammy Adkins and The Sandy Hook Mountain Boys
Kristi Stanley And The Running Wild
Mike Bentley And The Cumberland Gap Connection
Hammertowne
Larry Sparks and The Lonesome Ramblers
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Steel Guitarists Along The Road.

Steel Guitarists Along The Road.

Austin Tripp
Travis Egnor
Brett Robinson

Country Music has THREE staple pillars of it’s foundation or it’s backbone if you will. Those are in this order the songwriter, the producer, and the steel guitar in my opinion it takes those three to make a classic Country Music album. My point being Willie Nelson “Red Headed Stranger” and “Wanted The Outlaws” as two prime examples that had all three. Shooter will tell you rapidly “Wanted The Outlaws” was the first platinum selling Country Music album EVER and defied the sough it was initially given by Nashville in the 1970’s.

Local music as a whole contains such a plethora of well rounded steel guitarists and pickers waiting for you to discover them if you are willing to wade through the broken beer bottles and travel the worn out back alleys of America to find them. You have to look in the places most normal people wouldn’t, and you have to listen. You have to brave the heat and cold and discomfort of the fields and farms that spew forth these festivals, mostly you have to study and watch for them.

Crooked Smile festival in Indiana brought me to discover a young steel guitar player named David Mills who was playing steel guitar with Duane Mark. I’ll catch up with Mr. Duane in just two weeks here as I attend Moonrunners festival in Chicago. So when I began devising and planning this project Mr. David was one of my subjects as a result of seeing this performance, as I wanted to delve into the story of the song “Hobo Insane”. This article is going to get to the meat and potatoes of that story and also a little more of what makes this road warrior tick.

This man has played with the Barnyard Stompers, and many more local and touring bands.He has many tidbits of information to share with us and on a lazy Sunday afternoon I sat for a brief moment with him on the phone before he played a show.

GHC:

How did you get started playing the steel guitar?

Mr. David:

Honestly it was all just started accidentally, a buddy of mine who was older got me started in music at a young age actually I was guitar player for many years. He had one just sitting around for years and we chatted about it and one day just asked him to borrow it and it took off from there, and it was for my own fun around the house. I ended up doing one gig with it and everybody started hiring me for it, so it kind of turned into one big thing for me. It turned into being pretty much what I do.

GHC:

With out giving away nay secrets or anything what makes up your sound, what do you use for your rig?

Mr. David:

I play an old 1967 Emmons, push pull and my amplifier is built from a guy out in Frisco and it called Milkman amplifiers a lot of steel players will know who it is. I use his half and half amp it’s a new thing and  I quite like it.  And that’s about it I really don’t get into pedals or anything too much, it’s just steel and an amp.

GHC:

So, you pretty much play straight steel?

Mr.David:

Yep

GHC:

Who influenced you more than anything?

Mr. David:

All of the classic Country stuff my dad raised me on the all that he was a redneck deadhead that’s what I called him, so I grew up on all the old Country. Willie,Waylon,Merle you know all the classics,  and I play with a lot of new writers to so I have a wide variety and range of influences. I listen to a lot of the new stuff to, and I know you just interviewed Brett and I got into them real heavy when I first started playing steel. I stole a bunch of licks off him, and Cody Jinks and all them.

GHC:

Well I did Austin Tripp too. You know part of what started this is Chuck Mead put up something one day and I’m sure it wasn’t directed AT me BUT I used it to my advantage a negative criticism and it said if you’re going to write about Country Music in Nashville at least know about the steel guitar.  And I thought you know what I need to learn more myself, I knew what C6 tuning was but I really don’t know a lot about the guitar itself. And there are so many of you underground players so talented that a lot of people don’t even know about.

Mr. David:

Oh yeah,  I mean a lot of people don’t even know what the instrument is and that’s a popular question I get at my gigs is people will come up and ask “What’s that you’re playing”?  They heard it a million times they just never actually SEEN one, and don’t know WHAT it is.  Almost every gig they ask me what it is or tell me I am a great keyboard player one of the two.

GHC:

Who else do you play for, I know Duane Mark because that’s how we met. And I know the Barnyard Stompers,

Mr. David:

I played a few shows with them before they recorded their album, but I mostly do the hired gun thing. I really bounce around a lot, there’s a guy in San Diego now he is in Nashville named Jake Loban, I played a little on his album. A lot of artists hire me when they come to the southern California area and I play with all of them on and off. Usually four or five different bands a week, I don’t have a set band out here because it’s a little different out here than everywhere else. There’s a few Country artists out here but they too always bounce around so the hired gun thing works for me well, and a lot of session work.

GHC:

OK, one thing I’m more interested in more than anything is this..tell me about the Duane Mark “Homeless Dave” story and how he wrote Hobo Insane?

Mr. David:

It’s not as exciting as it actually sound honestly (we both laughed)  he actually wrote the song before he met me. I’m not exactly sure the entire story of how he wrote it I think it’s just from his travels and stuff. The way it came about where I BECAME a part of it was a random joke that got carried away through the years. The first tour we did together, it was two or three days in we were on the road and I was in the back of the van sleeping.  It was mid winter and freezing I was all wrapped up in a blanket and my hair was ragged out everywhere, I had gloves on with holes in the fingers.  I looked homeless and they took a picture as a joke and put it on Instagram and jokingly said “Oh We found this homeless guy on the side of the road and he had a pedal steel, and we’re going to give him a shot”. Well, people went CRAZY online over it all..half said “Oh you’re the nicest band ever”, and the other half said “Get him out of there he’s going to murder you”.

Even the people they told when Duane Mark said he was taking a steel guitarist on the road with him, they said “WHAT, it’s not the homeless guy that plays steel?” And they put up another post saying “We bought him a new shirt and he plays really good”. And they kind of ran with it after that and it all took off from there.

GHC:

One of these days I’m going to write a book about my adventures, and that’s going to be in one of the chapters right there. Because  people really did believe it one gal said “Oh Yeah he really is just a vagabond”.

Mr. David:

Well, yeah and through the years he really added to it and then made up the story of how he picked me up on the side of the road and he got so many pats on the back for saving me.

GHC:

If somebody younger that wanted to play steel guitar came to you for advice, what would you tell them?

Mr. David:

Honestly I would tell them that’s it’s not as hard as it appears. Don’t ever really get frustrated and give up,  I mean as far as I was concerned I was pretty much on the road a few months after I started playing the darn thing. You know now people learn all kinds of things by getting on Youtube, and back when I started I utilized YouTube and the internet. I learn a lot of things by playing with guys like Duane, and that comes in time, hell I’m still learning things every day now. The internet really made it easier for guys like me to progress so quickly.

GHC:

Yeah Austin Tripp said he was playing for Luke Bryan within a year, and believe it or not pop country has a lot more steel guitar than people give it credit for.

Mr. David:

Yeah it’s really tucked in there but it does exist.

GHC:

As far as a left handed person like me, is there options for left handed steel?

Mr. David:

I think I have seen a few models but they are few and FAR between. I have seen some out there but honestly I don’t think I could name any major players that were lefty.

GHC:

I plan to get Mr. Andy Gibson soon, he lives close to me and I think people approach him wrong. He’s also really busy and I hate to bother him, and I don’t want to ask him any direct questions about personal things.  It’ll be a manner that will be more comfortable answering what I ask him.

Mr. David:

You know one time I was with a guy and I got to go to his house and once we got to talking I really got to see how talented he truly is. You know he also builds guitars and he shapes the wood and all that. You really don’t meet too many private guys that are truly luthiers. And the work that he does is absolutely amazing.

 

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2017 Music Festivals: Revival Fest.

2017 Music Festivals: Revival Fest.

Folks this edition bring us to the great state of Minnesota where on May 26th-29th the Revival Music Festival will transpire. Where car camping is a new option, let’s delve into that in a moment here. This festival looks to be close to another that I feature so I spaced out their coverage to prevent confusion of brands. So folks THIS LINK bears some important information you need to read. The early bird special is a good deal, and this appears to be a reasonably priced festival. All of the rules are pretty much common scene that I post for EVERY festival! This is a rain or shine outdoor two stage festival located at Harmony Park Music Garden, and it has many amenities including:

  • Permanent shower building with filtered soft water
  • Large Rainbow playground
  • Filtered water bottle fill up station
  • Firewood and ice available for sale on site
  •  Beer and liquor sales at Lucky’s Pub
     Community fire ring area near Lucky’s Pub
  •  Shaded wooded campsites
  •  Lakeshore access
  •  Stunning sunrises from “the point”
  • THURSDAY EARLY CAMPING: Gates Open 3pm on Thursday, May 25.
    – Must have a general admission and Friday pre-party ticket.
  • FRIDAY PRE-PARTY: Admission at 12pm on Friday, May 26.
  • GENERAL ADMISSION FESTIVAL TICKET: Admission 10am on Saturday, May 27.
  • HARMONY PARK CLOSES at 3pm on Monday, May 28.
  • ADMISSION:   If you arrive early before admission time on any given day, you can come in and pay for the previous day’s ticket.
  • RE-ENTRY:  After you have been admitted and have your wristband, you are welcome to leave and re-enter the event at any time.
THIS FROM THEIR WEBSITE:
Join us on Memorial weekend at the Legendary Harmony Park Music Garden for Revival Music Festival.  REVIVAL is an intimate, diverse musical affair, with its primary focus on improvisational funky grooves, jam sessions, string pickers and epic storytellers of all types!  It is our intention to create a peaceful playful energy that inspires individuals to share their magic. By limiting the size of these gatherings we allow the subtle spirits of “Home” to come out and dance with us. Its enough of a treat just to be “Home”… that we get to be in celebration with so much talent and kind family is indeed a blessing…

HERE is a complete list of local area hotels for those of you like me that do not camp and stay indoors for the event.

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