May 192014
 

David and Valerie Mayfield have created some serious connections in the music business, particularly via their children, Jessica Lea Mayfield – who vsits Louisville regularly – and David Mayfield, who tours as the David Mayfield Parade. They used to perform as the Mayfield family band One Way Rider, before winding up as “empty nesters.” After that happened, Mom and Dad Mayfield decided to quit their day jobs and go back to working as a duo, which includes making a record with their son David, who is a Nashville producer in addition to performing. They play bluegrass and old-timey music – and we mean old-timey – and have arranged for two stops in Louisville, the first at the Rudyard Kipling on May 23 and then at Decca on July 11. Check with the clubs for ticket information.

Here’s their version of “Satisfied Mind”:


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Apr 232014
 

For people of a certain age, hearing the name The Buzzard Rock String Band evokes memories of nights along Bardstown Road, Washington Street and – for some – The Bluegrass Hotel. Harry Bickel Jr., owner of the “Hotel” and member of the Buzzards, has been motivated to regroup as much of the original band as possible, specifically, himself, Doc Hamilton and Harry Sparks, with help from Charlie Cushman and Vince Gill, a former resident of the Hotel now living in Nashville, for the purpose of recording an album, entitled Nobody Special. The tale of how that came about is the subject of some pretty lengthy liner notes accompanying the record. (You’ll have to buy the record or hope the band puts up a web site with the story to read it.) It was recorded at Vince Gill’s home studio in Nashville, with help from Charlie Cushman. Harry agreed to answer a few questions about the record and related matters.
The Record Release party is scheduled for 5 p.m., April 27 at the Red Barn on the U of L campus. It’s also available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/buzzardrockstringband

>1. What prompted you to get the band back together and make a record and how did you get Vince to come along?

About four years ago, Harry Sparks was about to turn 70 and was having a big birthday party. I talked to him several weeks before the party and told him I thought he and I should go in a studio and put down some of the stuff we did together back in the 1970’s. He loved the idea and suggested we get on it after the birthday party was over. During the birthday party, I was calling some of our old friends like J.D. Crowe and Sam Bush so they could wish Sparky a Happy Birthday. I would run up to Sparky with my phone in hand saying “Birthday call for Harry Sparks, birthday call for Harry Sparks”. It was actually pretty funny because he never knew who he was about to talk to. When I called Vince, however, his phone just kept going to voicemail, so I finally gave up. The next day, Vince called me back to apologize for not answering. He had just gotten back from Italy and had crashed. I told him why I called and that Sparky and I had decided to record some of our old stuff. To that he replied “that’s great, I’ve got the perfect place for you to do it.” I said “where?” and he replied, “my house, I’ve just finished building my own studio and you guys are welcome to come down.” Later that day I called Sparky and he was very excited. We decided that we couldn’t do it without Doc, so I called him in Texas and he said he was in. So that’s how the whole thing started.

> 2. When was the last time the band had been together before this project began and what caused you to stop performing?
Sparky, Doc and I performed together as the Buzzard Rock String Band for several years beginning about 1976. Vince was living at the house (the Bluegrass Hotel) at the time and would play with us when his band (the Bluegrass Alliance) wasn’t working. Vince moved away first, sometime in 1976. Doc moved back out West a few years that so Sparky and I added other musicians. FInally, Sparky moved away around 1980. I kept the band together, with different people, until the early ‘90, at which time we started drifting apart. In 1988, the final version of the band recorded an album for June Appal Records called “I’ve Got the Blues for My Kentucky Home.” So, in answer to your question, the three original members had not played together since the late ‘70s. We had not played together with Vince since the mid ‘70s.

> 3. What are you going to do with this project to promote it?

We’re not going to do a whole lot to promote it. Doc lives in Texas, Sparky in Northern Kentucky and I live in Louisville. We just did it to have fun and to leave some of our music behind. It’s available from CD Baby and for download from Amazon and several other places. We’ve also sent it to several magazines for review. I don’t, however, envision any grand tour.

> 4. How do you think the bluegrass scene has changed since you last performed professionally? (Your yearly parties don’t count but what you heard there does.)

This CD is actually Old Time Music, not Bluegrass, but we’ve all continued to be involved in Bluegrass over the years. When we got started back in the 1960s, the traditional bands like Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanleys, etc. were the mainstays. Of course, J.D. Crowe was the top gun in Kentucky. The first Bluegrass festival was in 1965 in Roanoke, Virginia and things really started to take off after that. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Louisville was probably the top city in the country for Bluegrass. The list of musicians who passed through here is amazing. Sometime in the 1980s, things started to die out around here, but a core group of musicians remains, a lot of them centered around Bluegrass Anonymous.

I think Bluegrass Music, itself, has changed a lot over the years. Unfortunately, all of the changes have not been good. Many bands started speeding things up to the point that all of the subtle aspects of the music are lost. Art Stamper, who was one of my closest friends for 40 years, was very disillusioned with the music in his later years. He used to say “they’ve ruined it!” The technical level of the players has increased greatly but the tendency has been to add too many notes to the solos. To that, Art used to say “don’t play everything you know on the first break.” Some bands also try to overpower the audience by playing very loud and all at the same time. Doc calls it a “wall of sound!” Don’t get me wrong, I still love Bluegrass. I just prefer the older, more traditional sounds.

> 5. The technical aspects of recording business have changed since you last recorded – how did everybody adapt to those changes? Did you just record live instead?

The first time I recorded, studios were still using two inch tape and the final products were LPs and Cassette Tapes. Now we’ve gone to all digital and CDs. From the standpoint of the musician, things aren’t all that different. You still sit there and play your music. Making changes or correcting mistakes is a little easier. Mixing on this album was much easier. In the past, I’ve always sat with the engineer and gone through every cut, over and over. This time, since Vince’s engineer is in Nashville, we did it over the Internet, so to speak. Vince brought us CDs of the rough mix. We all listened to them and made some suggestions. I then worked with his engineer, Matt Rausch, via email and Drop Box, a program that allows you to exchange files with others. As far as sound quality, Matt did an incredible job the first time through. I went through each song and told him exactly where to raise or lower instruments or voices and also where we needed Vince to add a break, and in one instance, a harmony vocal. He would send me the new file and I would review it again to make sure it was the way I wanted it. From a technical standpoint, the end result was fantastic. Because there was no time crunch, I was able to listen to each cut, over and over, and with several types of speakers and various types of headphones and ear buds.

We actually did record live as opposed to the way most recordings are made today. We sat around and played and sang and added a few bits and pieces after the fact. Vince prefers to do harmony parts later so he can listen to the way you sing and match it as closely as possible. That’s why everyone in Nashville has wanted him to sing harmony on their records for the past 30 years. I prefer to do our kind of music that way because I think it gives it more of a live feel. With so many recordings today, the musicians never see one another. They come in, record their bit, and that’s it Technically, the recording is perfect but I think a lot of spirit and emotion is lost in the process.

> 6. Since you were there for the beginning of the newgrass/Newgrass subgenre in bluegrass, what’s your opinion about how the many variations on that theme now, particularly the jamgrass kind, have changed the style?

I think I alluded to a lot of this in the question about the Bluegrass scene. I was there for the very first Newgrass Revival gig and followed them closely until their demise. Actually, we literally did follow them once at Winfield. The Buzzard Rock String Band went on stage right after Newgrass finished their set. It was kind of like showing up at a gunfight with a pea shooter. I loved the Newgrass Revival and all of the guys in it. I thought they did a great deal to bring Bluegrass to a wider audience. Of course, they were the offshoot of the Bluegrass Alliance and I think both bands were responsible for catapulting Bluegrass into the modern age. I guess I must be getting old, however, because I don’t even know what “jamgrass” is.

> 7. Dude, aren’t you kind of old for to be gigging and promoting a new record? (Stock audience question)
Of course I’m not too old. I can still feed and dress myself. I don’t think there is any reason to ever stop playing as long as you are able. At some point, you’re not going to play as well as you used to, but that’s no reason for quitting. I sat many times and listened to people like Tommy Jarrell, Virgil Anderson, Mississippi John Hurt, Eck Robertson, Cousin Emmy when they all were at an advanced age, and still came away with something. It’s how you connect with the past. If you don’t know where your music came from, it’s hard to decide where you want it to go.

The show is at the Red Barn on UL’s campus on Sunday, April 27th, beginning at 5pm. I have actually reinvented the Buzzard Rock String Band with two old members and two new members. We will start playing out in the near future. They will all be there on Sunday plus some faces from the past, including Harry Sparks. Doc Hamilton couldn’t come for this gig. It should be a real good time and a chance to show off some of the songs from the album. Excuse me, that’s CD to you young folks.

Thanks, Harry, and for all the music that came out of the Hotel.

Apr 212014
 

The two-time and reigning IBMA Instrumental Group Of The Year band The Boxcars, who rocked a Kentucky Homefront crowd a while back, will appear the IUS’ Ogle Center on April 25, out on the road promoting their third CD. It’s Just A Road, which was created in under four days in the studio. Besides bluegrass, the group understands and incorporates swing, old time and gospel influences into their sound. All together, the Boxcars appeal to old and new fans alike. Tickets to the show are $26.50.

Watch The Boxcars On KET’s Jubilee, singing “Head Over Heels in Love with You”:


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Website: www.theboxcars.com/?
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Mar 192014
 

The Eighth Annual Itchin’ To Pick Festival happens at the Galt House  on March 21 and 22. It’s a hotel-wide jam session for bluegrass musicians from all around the area and perhaps beyond. All levels of pickin’ skill are welcome. A $5 donation is requested. Show up, pay up and wander around until you find a group to join. Couldn’t get much friendlier. For more information, head over to http://www.itchintopick.com/

Mar 192014
 

Henhouse Prowlers
With a name like HenHouse Prowlers, what kind of music could a band play other than oldtime or bluegrass or oldtime bluegrass? You guessed – bluegrass!  They band has just released a new project, Breaking Ground, which was produced by Grammy nominated Greg Cahill of Special Consensus. These boys ain’t yer standard bluegrass band, however, labeling themselves as semi-traditional while doing things like touring in Africa, from which they sent back bulletins to Bluegrass Today. They also have toured Europe, so it’s clear they’ve mastered their chops (those European bluegrass fans can be brutal). They’ll play The New Vintage on March 23. Tickets are $5,

Watch these Prowlers scratch out the Jerry Lee Lewis tune “Tell Me Baby, Why You Been Gone So Long”:


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Website: http://henhouseprowlers.com
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LastFM: www.last.fm/music/Henhouse+Prowlers?

Feb 232014
 

The Gibson Brothers
If the winter has been wearing you down (and it has, yes), then a bit of old-timey bluegrass is a fabulous way to offset the misery of the cold. The time and place for some IBMA Award-winning ‘grass is at the Clifton Cultural Center on February 27, when the 2012 IBMA Entertainers of The Year The Gibson Brothers and their band make their Clifton Center debut. The tune featured in the video below, “They Called It Music” hit the #1 spot on both the Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited Charts, so it’s clear they’re the real deal. Tickets to the show are $18 adv/ $22 DoS; get them at the Clifton ticket office online here.

Give a listen to “They Called It Music” from their new album:


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Jan 062014
 

Del Mccoury Band
A certain portion of WFPK’s audience knows Del McCoury from his years on the bluegrass circuit; those folks would be listeners to Berk Bryant’s “Sunday Bluegrass.” The rest of the FPK listeners likely know The Del McCoury Band from their AAA Chart hit “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” a Richard Thompson tune fitted into a bluegrass frame, which was tagged the IBMA Song of The Year in 2002. The bluegrassers know that McCoury got his cred the real way: he played with Mr. Bill as a member of the Bluegrass Boys; he’s also a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has a wall full of IBMA Awards, mostly for Entertainer Of The Year with the band. Altogether, the show at Headliners on January 10 is a legend-level show. Tickets are $20 adv/$25 Dos. Go enjoy.

Here’s the band playing “1952 Vincent Black Lightning :


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Dec 012013
 

Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman
Singer and guitarist Melody Walker and mandolin player and singer Jacob Groopman constitute a progressive bluegrass band in duo form, featuring original material by Walker. Her song “Black Grace” was awarded first place at the 2013 MerleFest in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, Gospel/Inspirational songwriting category. Their music can be previewed courtesy of clips at http://www.melodywalkermusic.com. They bring their warm and engaging sound to the Clifton Center on Thursday, December 5, with opening act The Bibelhauser Brothers. They are touring in support of their just-released first duo album,We Made It Home, produced by Grammy-winning Laurie Lewis/ Tickets are $10.00, and available at the Center’s website, www.cliftoncenter.org , and at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave. (502-896-6950).Clifton Center Eifler Theatre, 2117 Payne St, Louisville, KY 40206.

EWatch the new video, “We Made It Home”:


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Website: www.melodywalkermusic.com/?
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