2013 House Concerts
An Evening of Bluegrass
An Evening of Bluegrass with Noam Pikelny (banjo), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Barry Bales (bass), and Luke Bulla (fiddle), marks a historic collaboration between five of the most celebrated acoustic instrumenalists and singers of our time. These musical friends are gathering in concert to share with audiences a musical experience that customarily only happens behind closed doors, whether backstage at a festival oar at a Nashville picking party. With each member being a front man in his own right, the band will present an evening of original and classic bluegrass music.
Noam Pikelny has emerged as the preeminent banjoist amonga new generation of acoustic musicians. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “pros’ top banjo picker,” Noam is a founding member of Punch Brothers and has helped broaden the awareness of the banjo in the mainstream through numerous collaborations on stage and in the studio. In September of 2010, Pikelny was awareded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass and was recently nominated for a Grammy for his latest solo work, Beat the Devil and Carry A Rail.
Bryan Sutton is one of the most sought after acoustic guitarists on the planet. Sutton entered the bluegrass world in 1995 as a member of Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder band, playing on two Grammy award-winning records. After his tenure with Skaggs, Bryan went on to build a career as a top studio guitarist in Nashville. His playing can be heard along-side such names as Keith Urban, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, and Harry Connick Jr.. Bryan has also released four solo projects and toured the world with artists such as Bela Fleck and Chris Thile, and as a member of the legendary bluegrass band, Hot Rize. Sutton is a sic-time wineer of the IBMA”s Guitarist of the Year, and received a Grammy in 2007 for “Best Country Instrumental Performance” for his duet recording with Doc Watson.
Ronnie McCoury is an award-winning mandolin player, long-time member of The Del McCoury Band, and has worked with a long list or artists include Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, John Hartford, Dierks Bentley and Willie Nelson. He is a founding member of The Travelin’ McCourys, a band that regularly features other artists, including Keller Williams, Bill Nershi, and Jeff Austin. Ronnie is also an accomplished producer; his most recent production, the soundtrack for the Bill Monroe biopic “Blue Moon Kentucky”, includes performances by Dan Auerbach, Keb’Mo’, Jim Lauderdale and Jim James.
Barry Bales was born and raised in the music-rich hill of East Tennessee. A member of Alison Krauss + Union Station for the past 23 years, he has carved out a successful career as band member, session musician, producer, and songwriter. He has worked with such diverse artists as Merle Haggard, the Civil Wars, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, the Chieftans and Shania Twain. He was heavily involved in the making of the soundtrack for the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”. Additionally, Barry has received 14 Grammy awards, one Country Music Association award, and 11 International Bluegrass Music Association awards, including Bass Player of the Year in 2008.
Luke Bulla began playing fiddle and singing at an early age. As a young man, he made his mark on the fiddle contest world with 7 wins at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest, where he set a new record as the youngest person to make the top 10 at the Grand Masters. For the last 14 years, Luke has been working as a session player, songwriter and live performer with artist such as Ricky Skaggs, John Cowan, Jerry Douglas and Lyle Lovett. Luke released his first solo EP in 2012, and he is currently finishing a new recording slated for release in early 2014.
Hot Club of Cowtown
Since their first recording in 1998, Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown have grown to be the most globe-trotting, hardest-swinging Western swing trio on the planet. The first American band to tour Azerbaijan, they have opened stadiums for such artists as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and continue to bring their brand of western swing to a wide range of festival audiences all over the world. But for guitarist Whit Smith, fiddler Elana James and bassist Jake Erwin, it has always been about staying true to their roots. Remaining willfully out of the musical mainstream, Hot Club of Cowtown have created an international cult following for their sonic personification of joy and unique sound inspired by their namesakes: “Hot Club” from the hot jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli’s Hot Club of France, and “Cowtown” from the Western swing influence of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
Though Wills’ pre-WWII recordings have always been the fundamental inspiration for Hot Club of Cowtown’s repetoire and style, it has taken the band a dozen years to fully honor the King of Western Swing. A fortuitous tour in England in the spring of 2010 led them to London’s Specific Sound studio, where they spent two days recording a 14-song marathon of Bob Wills tunes. The result, What Makes Bob Holler, is a tribute to the American music icon, respecting Wills’ legendary music while putting Hot Club’s own signature on each song. “We have been meaning to make this album for a long time,” says James.
“This is music from the days when guys toured and sat on a bus with no air conditioning, no real food, for days. We heard a story of a fiddler the Wills band picked up in California and by the time they had driven to the Midwest, he was dead and nobody even knew his name. They pried his rigor mortis’d body off of the bus and left him under a lamppost somewhere in Kansas,” says James, “It was a different time. These guys were pretty hardcore.”
What Makes Bob Holler presents the most convincing evidence yet that Hot Club of Cowtown may be on to something. By digging even deeper into their roots and refusing to modernize, the band offers up one of their most exciting recordings to date. The disc is an imaginative pairing of obscure B-sides with some of Wills’ most popular work. Tunes like “Big Balls in Cowtown” and “Stay a Little Longer” are numbers that “people always love when we play them live,” says James, “so it was was a no-brainer to gather them into a record.” Others, like “Osage Stomp” and “The Devil Ain’t Lazy,” might not be as well known, but they are in the spirit of what originally attracted Smith and James to this music. “We’re playing what knocked us out about Western swing in the first place — the early fiery energy and jazzy improvisations,” says James.
What Makes Bob Holler may have taken two days to record, but the band has played these songs on tour for years. The album reflects the same spirited live vibe and offers the band a terrific platform to show off their ace musicianship and flaunt these inspirations: Smith’s hot electric guitar played through a vintage 1936 Gibson amplifier, James’ sometimes gorgeous, sometimes frenetic fiddle, and Erwin’s jaw-dropping slap bass, all mixed with three-part harmony vocals.
Smith (Cape Cod, MA) and James (Prairie Village, KS), originally met through an ad in the classified music section of The Village Voice in 1994, and played together in New York City before relocating to San Diego in 1997, where they spent a year playing for tips and building up their repertoire. By 1998, they had relocated to Austin, Texas and in 2000 added Jake Erwin (originally from Tulsa, OK) on bass, finalizing the Hot Club’s lineup.