Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thank you, friends

I am overwhelmed by all of the well wishes for my son's recovery.

He is doing well with no permanent injuries and has returned to his home and work. He won't be going anywhere fast on those crutches, and that’s a good thing.

Your outpouring of care and concern is truly heartwarming. Thank you all, old friends and new, for your warm thoughts and wishes.

Lisa H and G-Dub, your gift of music is especially appreciated, for music has the power to heal.

I am fortunate indeed, to have so many caring friends.

Thank you all,

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Forgive me if I don't post for a while

The Christmas holiday has not been a good one on the Bus.
Our eldest son was in an accident Christmas Eve.
He is home now after three days in the Trauma Center.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas

YouTube video - Antsy McClain "Merry Christmas From The Trailer Park"

I wish all of the riders on the Bus a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, Joyful Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate.


The Bus will be parked until Tuesday.

The Singer/Songwriters

The lone musician standing on stage presenting their own songs, their own words and music, their beliefs, dreams and experiences played out in front of an audience. The singer/songwriter hopes to draw the listener into the world of their song and share in the experience. This year we shared that experience with some very talented singer/songwriters.

Brett Dennen is the young 26 year old who has burst onto the music scene and has a loyal and growing number of fans around the world. His songwriting is mature beyond his years and although you can hear the influences of the artists that helped form Dennen’s eloquent, lyrical style, his music is his own. Buy a copy of his CD So Much More at

Grayson Capps tells the stories of the under-class, where nothing is taken for granted. Capps lost his home of twenty years in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina, another experience to add to his arsenal of songs penned from life’s joys and disappointments. Buy his latest CD, Wail and Ride at

Chuck Brodsky has been a favorite, and required listening, on the Bus for a couple of decades now. His songs reflect life in these times, but he is also known for his songs about his favorite, forgotten baseball heroes. Often holding a mirror up to reveal who we are and where we are going, Chuck’s songs are sometimes controversial, often humorous, and always entertaining. Buy his newest CD, Tulips for Lunch at

Ruthie Foster was raised on gospel, soul, blues, and folk music. Her amazing vocal abilities and passionate songs combine for an incredible experience. Buy her CDs, Run Away Soul and Stages at Blue Corn Music.

Jeff Black has been writing powerful songs for many years. You may have heard one of his songs sung by such artists as Sam Bush, Iris Dement, Waylon Jennings, Jo-El Sonnier, or a host of others.
Tin Lily is Black’s fourth release and is overflowing with the insight and passion that permeate his superb songwriting. Buy all of his CDs at

Brett Dennen – Ain’t No Reason.mp3

Grayson Capps – New Orleans Waltz.mp3

Chuck Brodsky – Trees Falling.mp3

Ruthie Foster – Hole in My Pocket.mp3

Jeff Black – Hollow Of Your Hand.mp3

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

WebJay is back

For those of you who have missed the WebJay button and the ability to play every song currently on the Bus with only a click, you will be glad to hear that I have added it back to the right column. WebJay has sorted out their problems with the new Blogger and all is working as it should once again.


As I was going over the posts of the past year I realized that I didn’t feature as much new Bluegrass music as usual. It’s not that there weren’t lots of great new Bluegrass releases, it’s just that Bluegrass is so well covered other places. On the Bus I try to present artists that don’t get written up in the mainstream press.

Cletus and the Burners were(?) an Ithaca, New York based group of young musicians with a really nice Bluegrass sound. Unfortunately, their website has been taken down and their record label I Town Records lists their CDs as “none available”. The Ithaca based music shop FunkySide does list all three of the band’s CDs and offers downloadable versions and shipped copies.

Black Diamond is a band I found on a trip through West Virginia this summer. I was impressed with their fine representation of traditional Bluegrass so representative of the coalmining region of western Virginia and eastern West Virginia. This is the home of Ralph and Carter Stanley and Black Diamond upholds the tradition superbly.

Cadillac Sky are soon to be the new powerhouse on the Bluegrass music scene. My original post was only a couple weeks ago so I won’t repeat it here. Their first CD, Blind Man Walking will be released on Skaggs Family Records and will hit the stores on January 23rd. Visit the band's website for tour info and to pre-order a copy of Blind Man Walking (all pre-orders will be autographed by the band). Their MySpace page has tour info and several great streaming songs off of the up coming CD.

Cletus and the Burners - When I'm Gone.mp3

Black Diamond - Black Diamond Coal.mp3

Cadillac Sky - Born Lonesome.mp3

Out of Place

Earlier this year we found some great Blues from the Netherlands and a blend of Zydeco and Reggae in Baltimore and they both work out extremely well.

Daniel Lohues & the Louisiana Blues Club play the Blues as well as many bands in the South with a few differences. Daniel Lohues plays the Blues in the Netherlands. He writes and sings all of his songs in his native Drents, a rural dialect of Dutch. This talented musician sounds good in any language. In the US you can buy a copy of his CD at

The Crawdaddies were founded on the simple premise of “why not, it might just work”. Baltimore has a history of being home to some off-the-wall people. I can say that with some authority, having spent my misguided formative years in the Baltimore-Washington area. The Crawdaddies claim that they “infuse Cajun, Zydeco, Funk, Swing, Soul, Reggae, Roots and Rock into an incomparable, groove-laden sound that is unquestionably its own”. Their newest CD, Keep Lookin' Up, was just released this month. Keep Lookin' Up and their two previous CDs are available at, and CD Baby.

Daniel Lohues & the Louisiana Blues Club - Nils Holgerssons Blues.mp3

The Crawdaddies - Gimme Some.mp3

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Old Time Artistry

This year a 12 year old fiddler from southwest Virginia made a lot of old timers sit up and listen. Montana Young released her first CD Fiddlin Up A Storm through the Virginia Floklife Program's Crooked Road Series. Buy Fiddlin Up A Storm at VA Folklife's Crooked Road Series or County Sales.

Mary Z. Cox was recently voted as one of the top four favorite banjo players by the banjo players in the Banjo Newsletter. Mary's outstanding banjo artistry can be heard on her new CD Banjo Dreamin' Suwannee Nights and as with her four previous CDs, a banjo tabulature book is available for you aspiring Old Time banjo wranglers. Buy any of Mary's great banjo (or dulcimer) CDs at, Elderly, or

The Dowden Sisters Band had made a name for themselves on the Old Time festival circuit while living with their mother in Arkansas. The girls and their mother moved to the mountains of North Carloina to be closer to the music that they love and play so well. The Dowden Sisters Band has not released a CD yet, but they have 3 songs available on their website.

Montana Young - Polecat Blues.mp3

Mary Z. Cox - Snowdrop.mp3

Dowden Sisters - Shady Grove.mp3

It was a great year for Old Time music

This was quite a year for fans of Old Time music. We had new releases from some of our favorite string bands, wonderful new CDs from traditional musicians, and a few debuts from some younger folk keeping the style alive.

In fact, there was so much Old Time music on the Bus this year that I’ve had to break it down into two sections. First there were the string bands:

Foghorn String Band released Weiser Sunrise (all right, it was released in August 2005, but I didn’t review it until January so I’m including it). Foghorn makes pure, unadulterated string band music. Hit their website for more a few more downloads. Weiser Sunrise is available from Nettwerk Records, Elderly, and The cut I have included here is from a session with Dirk Powell.

This year we found two string bands that call the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina home.

The Reeltime Travelers second CD, Livin Reeltime, Thinkin' Old Time is a lively collection of Old Time Appalachian string band music. Buy it at or

The Peg Twisters feature the champion fiddle of Dona Cavanagh, old time guitar of Jerry Sutton, and the banjo Bob Gregory. The Peg Twisters have not released a CD yet, if you are in the Asheville area be sure to catch one of their shows.

The Biscuit Burners could be called “Progressive Old Time” and I don’t mean that in a bad way. They prefer to call their hard drivin’ tunes “Fiery Mountain Music” (also the name of one of their CDs). All outstanding musicians, the Biscuit Burners are a “must hear” laced with intricate picking. Their CDs Fiery Mountain Music and A Mountain Apart are available from Elderly or, where you can also get Billy Cardine’s amazing solo resophonic guitar CD.

Dirk Powell & Foghorn String Band - Lonesome Road Blues.mp3

Reeltime Travelers - Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider.mp3

Peg Twisters - Dance All Night.mp3

Biscuit Burners - Red Mountain Wine.mp3

Monday, December 18, 2006

Let's Review

Although you would never know it listening to the radio, this was a good year for music.

On the TV news tonight there was a report of a recent study of music buying habits. The study stated that for the first time since they started tracking the demographics, those of us over 45 years of age are now the largest purchasers of music. It appears we boomers have more disposable income to spend on CDs and concert tickets than the younger folk.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the major record labels and that Texas mega-advertising corporation that holds a monopoly on our airwaves would stop peddling that adolescent drivel and cater more to those of us that spend the money? Slim chance of that happening, I’m afraid. Thankfully, there is no shortage of great independent label music and plenty of great talent for us to enjoy.

One of the things I wanted to do when I started this trip on the Old Blue Bus was to introduce you, fellow riders, to some of the great music being made today as well as to explore the roots and branches of the music that we love. I thought I’d close 2006 with a recap of some of the fine music we have found on our travels this year.

Over the next few days I will be posting a few of the great new artists and new works by old favorites that have been featured on the Bus throughout the past year. If you missed a few of these artists or neglected to order a CD, now is your chance to pick up some great new music.

Treat youself to a night out and hear some live music.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mainer's Mountaineers

J. E. Mainer was another of those fortunate musicians to enjoy a second rise to popularity.

Joseph Emmett Mainer was born July 20, 1898 in Weaversville, (Buncombe County) North Carolina. J.E. Mainer’s first instrument was the banjo, which he played at local dances. Like many others in the rural South, J.E. left home for the hard work and steady paycheck of the textile mills. At first he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee but later moved to Concord, North Carolina where he lived for the rest of his life.

At some point J.E. turned his banjo over to his brother Wade and picked up the fiddle. The brothers recruited a few local musicians and Mainer’s Mountaineers was born. They attracted the attention of the Crazy Water Crystals Company in Charlotte who offered the band a promotional spot on Charlotte’s WBT radio.

Their radio appearances gained them a wide following (WBT was a high power station with a large listening area) and the band was invited to record for the Bluebird label in 1935. Wade left the band in 1936 to form his own band, the Sons of the Mountaineers.

In 1947 J.E. left Bluebird for the new King label where the Mountaineers recorded until 1951 when the band parted ways.

The Mountaineers were rediscovered during the folk revival in 1962 by Chris Strachwitz of the Arhoolie label and, now playing with his sons, enjoyed a second career playing the festival circuit until his death in 1971.

J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers were pioneers of sorts, bridging the period and styles of Old Time and early Bluegrass. Snuffy Jenkins, the Mountaineers banjo player after Wade's departure, was a major influence on a young Earl Scruggs. Ralph Stanley credits J. E. Mainer as a prominent influence on his music.

J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers - Hop Along Peter.mp3

J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers - Poor Drunkard's Dream.mp3

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Guitar Boogie

Boogie woogie is not only fun to listen and dance to, its fun to play!

For the pianist, the simple walking bass line allowed the right hand to improvise and experiment with the melody. The boogie’s walking bass, up the scale four beats and back down the next four, up four, down four,... was repeated throughout the song. Usually played as quarter notes in 4/4 time, the bass line could be driven “eight to the bar” using eighth notes. This simple, yet driving rhythm allowed the pianist to embellish the melody line as his ear (and skill) allowed.

As boogie woogie was picked up by small ensembles, the rhythm was usually handled by the bass and rhythm guitar and the melody instruments, usually mandolin or guitar, were free to improvise as they saw fit.

If the musician has the skill and dexterity, boogie woogie is a freestyle showcase of that artistry.

Merle Travis - Merle's Boogie Woogie.mp3

Arthur Smith's Sensational Trio - Country Boogie.mp3

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Western Boogie

As the boogie craze made its way across the country it ran smack into Texas. The American Southwest and Texas in particular, adopted the sound and welcomed it to their diverse family of regional styles.

I’ve mentioned in past ramblings the wild mix of musical styles that settled in Texas. Stephen Austin’s territory of Texas offered large land grants to European settlers and thanks to the “Texas Letters” of German emigrant Johann Friedrich Ernst, there was a steady inflow of settlers from Germany. Through his letters to friends and newspapers espousing the warm climate and bountiful land available for not much more than the surveying fees, Ernst is considered the founder of Texas’ German Belt. Like the Acadians of Louisiana, the Germans of south central Texas have retained much of their culture, including their unique “Texas-German” dialect.

But I’m getting a bit off track here again. The music the string bands played in the rural dancehalls differed from the string band music of the Southeast or Appalachian regions. German and Eastern European influences were the predominant forces, but were tempered with the English, Irish, and French music brought by other settlers.

This unique blend would further evolve to include the sounds from the big cities heard on the new records and radio stations. The Boogie Woogie sound made its way into this blend also.

Jimmy Boyd - Waxachachie Boogie Woogie Dishwasher Boy.mp3

Gene O'Quin - Texas Boogie.mp3

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hillbilly Boogie

Boogie Woogie and the 12 bar blues, with that infectious beat, made its way into country music. Setting another stone of the foundation of rockabilly.

The Delmore Brothers, Alton and Rabon, were born into a poor tenant farm family in Elkmont, Alabama. The started playing music at an early age and were playing professionally as teenagers in the early 1930s. In the mid 1940s they signed on with the King label and started to experiment with their music. They added a full backup band that included fiddle, bass, mandolin, additional guitars, and even a steel guitar. Merle Travis was a member for a while, but the sound of the band real changed when a blues-influenced harmonica player by the name of Wayne Raney joined the band. By the late 1940s the Delmore Brothers were taking the country music scene on a wild hillbilly boogie ride.

Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie.mp3

Delmore Brothers - Boogie Woogie Baby.mp3

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Boogie Monday

Monday's on the Bus are usually set aside for some softer music to ease back to the work week. I know that most of the riders on the Bus stop by while they are at work and I have always tried to post music that I felt was appropriate for the day of the week.

This week I thought I’d try something different. Maybe something a little more upbeat would help get the riders over that Monday morning blues. Sort of an extension of the partying we did all weekend.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think

Let’s kick off this work week party with some boogie-woogie!

Pinetop Perkins - Pinetop's Boogie Woogie.mp3

Katie Webster - Boogie Texas Queen.mp3

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Preview: Cadillac Sky - Blind Man Walking

I must admit I’ve had a hard time warming up to the progressive-acoustic movement that has been developing in the past few years. As regular riders on the Bus know, I have a deep appreciation for tradition.

I’ve recently been introduced to the music of some young folks who share that respect and appreciation for tradition. What makes the sound of Cadillac Sky so intriguing is that each member brings his own tradition into the mix. Their sound is a powerful blend of bluegrass, jazz, country, and rock, but never strays too far from their bluegrass roots.

Cadillac Sky’s front man and founder, Bryan Simpson, has proven his songwriting skills in the mainstream country arena. Songs from Simpson’s pen have been recorded by George Strait, Brad Martin, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride, Diamond Rio, Kenny Rogers, and recently, George Canyon took one of Simpson’s songs to No. 5 on the Canadian country charts.

Very few up-and-coming bands have an award winning songwriter, but Cadillac Sky also has two national champion pickers and a respected guitar veteran in their line up. Their unique sound is a careful blending of the background each member brings to the group.

Front man/songwriter/vocalist Bryan Simpson honed his mandolin picking on old-time and traditional bluegrass. Ross Holmes (fiddle and vocals) brings his classical and free-form jazz influences. Mike Jump (guitar and vocals) grew up with ‘70s rock. Matt Menefee took first place National Bluegrass Banjo Championship at Walnut Valley in 2000, and he’s been taking the bluegrass world by storm ever since. Andy Moritz keeps them all together with his driving upright bass.

Cadillac Sky has built a reputation as an amazing live band. They were given the prestigious honor of playing at the 2004 IBMA World of Bluegrass Trade Show.

Earlier this year, Ricky Skaggs signed the band to his Skaggs Family Records. Their first CD on the label Blind Man Walkin will be in stores January 23rd.

Cadillac Sky - Born Lonesome.mp3

Cadillac Sky - You Again.mp3

Visit the band's website for tour info and to pre-order a copy of Blind Man Walking (all pre-orders will be autographed by the band). Their MySpace page has more tour info and several great streaming songs off of the up coming CD.

Cadillac Sky website:
MySpace page:

If anyone missed the Bus yesterday:
After a good dinner last night I decided to mix up a batch of my famous egg nog. I suppose I sampled a little too much. It wouldn't have been wise to get behind the wheel after a few of my special egg nogs, so I left the Bus parked.

Y'all have a good weekend!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Grayson Capps - Wail and Ride

Grayson Capps has called New Orleans home for over twenty years. Hurricane Katrina changed all of that. Capps and many of his fellow New Orleanians were left homeless and scattered across the country. The events that have transpired since the storm were the driving force behind Grayson Capps’ “Waltz of New Orleans”. Set to the tune of John Prine's "Paradise", “Waltz of New Orleans” is the best post-Katrina tribute I've heard.

YouTube video: Grayson Capps - Waltz of New Orleans

If you think that accent doesn’t sound typical to New Orleans, you’re right. Grayson Capps was born and raised around Opelika, Alabama. After a short stint with "thrash-folk" group The House Levellers, Capps moved to New Orleans were he was the front man for the slide guitar-driven roots-rockers Stavin' Chain. After one album their record company went belly up.

He initially went to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, where he earned a degree in Theater. It was while he was at Tulane that music became a major part of his life. Director Shainee Gabel recruited Capps for several songs for the movie “Anthem” followed by a half dozen more for the 2005 movie “A Love Story for Bobby Long”, set in New Orleans. His solo debut CD “If You Knew My Mind” received critical acclaim when released last year and has made Capps something of a phenomenon throughout the South. “If You Knew My Mind” earned him a European Tour and a spot at Bonnaroo.

Grayson Capps’ songwriting celebrates the seedier side of life in the South. His is a world of trailer parks, whiskey bottles, and misfortune. His whiskey-soaked vocals complete the picture. A poet-laureate of the underclass, it’s difficult not to compare his superb songwriting with the likes of Townes Van Zandt, but with the Southern rock drive comparable to the Drive By Truckers.
No Depression said: "Capps plays rusted-out, countrified swamp-blues, whittled down to the dirt floor. His weathered drawl recalls Delbert McClinton, while his subject matter channels Tom Waits."
There are no hidden messages or meanings in his lyrics, just a direct blow to the gut. Capps captures the struggles and joys of everyday life, packed with simple emotion.

His new CD “Wail & Ride” is a fast drive in an old pick-up, down a dirt road with a six-pack of empties rollin’ around on the floor.

Pour yourself a whiskey, straight, in a dirty glass and head on over to for more info and streaming clips of the soulful, country-fried, story-songs of Grayson Capps.

Grayson Capps - New Orleans Waltz.mp3

More clips, tour info, etc. at
More at
Buy "Wail & Ride" at

Monday, December 04, 2006

Jeff Black - Tin Lily

"A tin lily is just what it says—and much more than it seems. A thin piece of metal shaped in the petals of a delicate flower, it's designed to take a soft glow, often from a candle, and give it more shine. It's a hard element that does what it can to spread something as ethereal yet as essential as light."
- from

Every once in a while a truly great songwriter comes along and demands your attention.

Jeff Black’s fourth CD, “Tin Lily” is a stunning collection of powerful songs from this insightful songwriter. Many of you may be familiar with the songs of Jeff Black through his work with other artists. Mandolinist Sam Bush, whose last album was named after his cover of Black's song "King of the World," has recorded other songs written by Jeff Black. Sam Bush’s cover of Black’s “Same Old River” has remained in rotation on my player for many years. Jeff Black has collaborated with quite a diverse assortment of artists in the past: from Wilco to Iris Dement, Sam Bush to Blackhawk. His songs have been covered by an equally impressive list: Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush, Lisa Brokop, Jo-El Sonnier, and many others.

Like the tin lily he named the CD after, Jeff Black’s songs shine a light on the experiences and relationships of life’s journey. His songs are filled with a passion for the trials and tribulations of everyday life and are meant to be interpreted by each listener in his or her own personal way.

Jeff Black – Easy On Me.mp3

Jeff Black – Hollow Of Your Hand.mp3

More info at
Buy "Tin Lily" at
Jeff Black has a monthly free podcast called Black Tuesdays that feature live performances not available anywhere else. More info on Black Tuesdays here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mississippi John Hurt - "Avalon's my home town"

With his melodic fingerpicking style and gentle, expressive voice, John Hurt was not the typical Mississippi bluesman.

John Smith Hurt was born in Carroll County, Mississippi on March 8, 1892. He left school after the fourth grade to work as a farmhand. His mother bought him a second hand guitar for $1.50 when he was nine and he began teaching himself to play. His hometown of Avalon, Mississippi was nothing more than a collection of makeshift shacks, isolated from the outside world except for the Illinois Central Railroad tracks that ran nearby.

After his father’s death, John Hurt helped his mother raise corn, cotton and potatoes. His mother took in laundry and John hired himself out to neighboring farms. John was also playing his guitar at local events for spending money. Sometime around 1923 a white fiddler by the name of Willie Narmour (Carroll County Blues) hired Hurt to sit in for his regular partner. A few years later Narmour won a fiddle contest where the prize was a recording session with Okeh Records. When the record producer showed up he asked if there might be any other local talent. Narmour took him to Hurt’s shack. The encounter led to several recording sessions and brief success. The “Mississippi” moniker was added to John’s records as a sales gimmick.

As the Depression was taking its toll on the recording industry, John Hurt returned to his home in Avalon to help his mother with the farm. Thirty years later, with the renewed interest in early folk music, Folkways Records re-released several of John’s songs on its American Folk Music series. John Hurt was gathering a whole new following of fans, and he didn’t know it. No one knew who Mississippi John Hurt was or if he was still alive.

In 1963 record collector, Tom Hoskins, heard John Hurt’s song “Avalon Blues” and made the connection.
"Avalon my home town, always on my mind,
Avalon my home town, always on my mind,
Pretty mama's in Avalon, want me there all the time"

After three decades John Hurt was “rediscovered”. He began recording and playing festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. He enjoyed his second chance at fame for three years before his death November 2, 1966 in Grenada, Mississippi.

Mississippi John Hurt - Avalon Blues.mp3

Mississippi John Hurt - Nobody's Dirty Business.mp3