Delfest 2015 featured the usual multiple sets from Del McCoury, as well as sets from David Grisman, Trampled by Turtles, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Jason Isbell, Jeff Austin, Brothers Comatose, and many more.
Yonder Mountain String Band
January 30, 2013
Set 1:Â Sidewalk Stars -> Ain’t Been Myself In Years, Maid Of The Canyon, Near Me, Redbird, One More, Only A Northern Song, Things You’re Selling, Romance Blues, Blue Collar Blues, Angel -> Boatman
Set 2:Â Troubled Mind -> 20 Eyes -> Troubled Mind, Southbound, Winds Of Wyoming, Corona, My Gal -> Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie, Jail Song, Sometimes I’ve Won, Midwest Gospel Radio -> Ten -> Cuckoo’s Nest -> Ten
Encore:Â Walkin Shoes, Southern Flavor
Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show byÂ Brad Kuntzâ€¦
The Travelin’ McCourys are as steeped in the heritage and traditions of bluegrass as any band has ever been, and their traveling Bluegrass Ball tour Is the raucous distillation of the form. Sired by legendary guitarist Del McCoury, one of the fathers of American bluegrass, brothers Rob and Ronnie McCoury have taken to the road with band mates Jason Carter and Alan Bartram to test the musical waters with artists from a vast array of backgrounds; from recording merged albums with the southern fried and gospel tinged Lee Boys to an upcoming album and tour with the one man jam band troubadour, Keller Williams.
Being that they step into the studio and onto the stage with many, the Ronnie and Rob occasionally call up their buddies, who happen to be some of the finest pickers in the business, to join them for a night or three.
This is exactly what happened in early January when the four “Travelin'” members joined up with guests, Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident) and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) for three nights in the three Midwestern cities of Bloomington, IN, Chicago, IL, and St. Louis, MO.
Honest Tune’s Rex Thomson caught all three nights of the stellar run and took the opportunity to sit down and chat with the guys. Spliced with recorded footage from the much sought after tune, “Death Trip,” that was performed in Bloomington, have a listen as the McCourys discuss their open stage policy, their plans for the forthcoming year, the experience of growing up under the direction of Del McCoury and much more.
Rex-A-Vision has a few words with The Travelin’ McCourys
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The 2nd Annual Bluegrass Ball
The Travelin’ McCourys w/ Billy Nershi & Jeff Austin
(with The New Old Cavalry & White Lightning Boys)
The Bluebird Nightclub
January 20, 2012
AsÂ anÂ icy mixture fell from the sky, coating the town of Bloomington, Indiana and turning it into a twinkling ice covered wonderland, the folks at The Bluebird transformed the venue intoÂ its own wonderland for theÂ 2ndÂ annual Bluegrass Ball — a night of continuous music — hosted by the Travelin’ McCourys and friends Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band),Â Billy Nershi (Emmitt-Nershi Band & The String Cheese Incident) andÂ opening acts: White Lightning Boys and The New Old Cavalry.
The normal vibe of The Bluebird had been electrified, the twinkling iciness from outside was met head on by the twinkling lights that hung from the ceiling of the normally dark venue — Â giving a feeling of being instantly tucked away into a late night private set at Horning’s Hideout.
The White Lightning Boys opened the evening,Â their pickingÂ breathing its own life into aÂ unique blend of traditional and original bluegrass straight from the hills ofÂ the neighboring Indiana county that also is the home for the Bill Monroe Music Park. As the White Lightning Boys’Â set ended, the front of the venue began to bustle as The New Old Cavalry filled the venue once again with American roots music.
Everyone had been primed, the salt had been thrown and as the Cavalry fired its final shot, The Travelin’ McCourys made their way onto the venue’s main stageÂ — on every other night, it’s only stage — and opened with a stellar rendition ofÂ Del McCoury’s, “Quicksburg Rendezvous.”Â With that, Ronnie McCoury on the mandolin alongside brother and banjoist, Rob McCoury, and band mates Jason Carter (fiddle) and Alan Bartram (bass) sunk the night into overdrive.
As the night progressed, so did the foot stomping and twirling, and as planned, SCI’s Billy Nershi joined the ensemble for “Smokey Mountain Memories.” The picking continued into (not the Elvis Presley rendition of) “Devil in Disguise,” and a fan requested tune, “Delia.” Following in his legendary father’s footsteps, Ronnie took some time to engage the crowd with a little back and forth conversation, at one point, gesturing to several couples and asking them if the fellers would marry the ladies they were with. This element of showmanship and downright genuineness is something that never fails to create for an environment where one could see himself just as easily standing around a campfire with these musicians as he can looking up to them on stage.
After a short break, the second set opened up with a nine minute round of dueling mandolin players between the aforementioned McCoury and YMSB’s Jeff Austin, who battled over leads in the Yonder number, “Snow on the Pines,” before their comrades (including Nershi) rejoined the stage for a ripping rendition of Â the Danny Barnes number, “Pretty Daughter” that gave Austin a trip on lead vocals.
Following a Nershi led “Heart of Saturday Night,” the lead was passed back to The Mccourys for a haunting, “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” who maintained their pole position with another tradition number, “On the Lonesome Wind,” the harmonies of vocal and strings ringing brilliantly through the Bluebird — proving once again how the blending of these three elements of the bluegrass genre under one roof on one stage was brilliant.
Following the traditional style of The McCourys, Austin’s ability to rage a mandolin like a madman on a murdering spree took front and center as the night was heatedÂ nicely with “Five Hundred Miles” and Nershi subsequently kept things on an equable groove with his beloved brand of Cheese-psychedelia infused grass and the dearly loved number, “Jellyfish.”
The McCourys took things back with, “Rocky Road Blues,” into “Raleigh and Spencer” into “Think of What You’ve Done” before closing out the night with a change in the setlist that was all too befitting for the treacherously icy road conditions that awaited the Ball patrons, “Death Trip.”
The ball wrapped up with the New Old Cavalry playing to folks as they made their way to the icy streets, providing nightcap for one of the best nights of bluegrass that one could hope for.
Download an audience recording of this show here.
The Travelin’ McCourys with Jeff Austin & Billy Nershi – “Pretty Daughter” (Danny Barnes)
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Amber Jennings…
(Scroll down for the gallery from Aaron Lingenfelter)
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Aaron Lingenfelter…
Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival
January 21, 2012
The blues runs through Chicago’s sonic jugular. The city’s history is steeped in the genre. However, the music of the mountains curries nearly the same favor in the present day Windy City — running through its streets and clubs in near stride with its grassless brother. The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival is testament to this.
Chicago Bluegrass & Blues is not the typical festival. There are no tents, Flaming Wok, or extracurricular activities. In fact, the only thing about the event that resembles a modern-day festival is the fact that its bill runs from morning through evening with multiple acts slated on multiple stages. In short, it is a music festival in the most purist sense of the phrase.
Over the course of two days spanning two weekends at two venues, CBB marries two distinct styles (see the name of the festival) of music for purveyors of multiple persuasions; and it was these purveyors’ search for the sound that kept both local and traveling fans undeterred by the fact that visibility near Chicago had dropped to a quarter of a mile due to hazardous weather and a threat of a repeat of 2011’s “snowmageddon”Â on the day before the festivities.
This past weekend was the bluegrass phase of the event, and throughout the day the venerable walls of the Auditorium Theater rang with the echoes of bluegrass legends, both living and passed.
Majors Junction started the day’s tunes off with a deeply country-influenced set that included raucous covers of songs by Johnny Cash, an artist whose influence was plain to see; the Man in Black’s tonal attitude continuously reverberated through the room.
Utilizing the lobby as well as the venue’s main stage of the venue provided the perfect environ for the simplistic instrumentation of mountain music. A great example of an ensemble that utilized this well was Jonas Friddle, who played without amplification but had no vocal trouble as they sung above their instruments to the chagrin of the smiling group of gathered onlookers.
Strongly stating Chicago’s case for producing quality bluegrass music was the Windy City’s own Henhouse Prowlers. Favoring the awry take on the traditional bluegrass approach, the Prowlers were dressed to impress, and their play came across in the same manner. Mixing originals and covering masters like Bill Monroe and John Hartford, HHP did their part by both amply honoring and adding to the rich tradition of sharing the song.
Keeping the homegrown feel of the festival going, The Giving Tree Band brought their brand of amplification and percussion oriented music to the stage, along with a rabid local fan base who reacted very vocally to their onstage appearance. While far from traditional, The Giving Tree Band held the music’s core spirit tightly in their grasp while they delivered one energetic and spirited song after the next, ably lifting the audience to new heights. Obvious crowd favorites, the band would later return to back up the second half of singer/songwriter Joe Purdy‘s set.
Mandolin playerÂ David Grisman has earned a stellar reputation as both a band mate and leader. Equally at home whether sharing the load or leading the way, Grisman was an integral part in the way that bluegrass reached new ears over the years, primarily through his work with the unlikely supergroup Old & in the Way, alongside Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan and John Kahn.
Through the years, “the Dawg” has worked with virtually every acoustic notable, from Doc Watson to Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs and countless others. His current quintet, which spotlights a jazzier lean, was the outfit that took the stage in Chicago.
From the set’s inception, the CBB crowd was hushed and enthralled by tunes Like “Dawg’s Waltz” and “Midnight Moonlight.” Adequately demonstrating that instruments can be used to play any type of music when placed in the proper hands, Grisman picked and strummed with a mixture of force and dexterity that showed the mark of a true master.
Following the Grisman set would be a daunting task for most, but not to another true king of bluegrass who was in the theatre… living legend, Del McCoury.
For more than fifty years, Del has been making his living with a strung up box, a falsetto croon and a sense of style and composure that has become famous in its own right. Dapper as always in his customary tailored suit, Del was joined by his band that features sons Rob and Ron on mandolin and banjo, respectively.
Whatever talent-bestowing force there is in the universe, it has truly blessed the McCourys. Throughout the set, and per recent tradition, Del called out for requests halfway through his set, wowing the crowd with the sheer number of songs at his command. For most who exhibited a move like this, it would be deemed as grandiose, but no so for Del. For him, it is simply the showmanship that courses through his soul and his consummate desire to always leave his audiences knowing that they got a bargain when they bought their ticket.
The elder McCoury embodies a musician that, even with over half a century in, remains grateful and humbled by the fact that people come to see him play. His sons are following directly in his footsteps, creatively their own people but possessing the same instrumental mastery and genuine demeanor of their dad. The set was, as it always is, beautiful.
To close out the evening, there was not a living bluegrass act who promoters could place atop Grisman and McCoury on a lineup. Therefore, the two living giants participated in a resurrection of the sound created by the man credited as being the “the father of bluegrass,” Bill Monroe, with a set dubbed “The Big Mon Jam (a Tribute to Bill Monroe).”
Monroe’s ghost haunts stages across the world when banjos, fiddles and such are taken up in song. David Grisman and Del McCoury are two men who respect this significance and chose to honor him with a combined set of tunes written by the master.
Starting out together alone on the stage, Grisman and McCoury were joined by Del’s band, and brought the house to its collective feet by the end of their tribute to the man who would have been 101 years old this year; and while living over a century would have made him remarkably well aged, that lifespan is nothing compared to the length of time is songs will live, written into the fabric of bluegrass’ soul.
When Del McCoury is not of a mind to go a’wandering, his sons and band mates venture out as the Travelin’ McCourys. Without their patriarchal leader on guitar, the band drafts the finest talent in music to help them thicken out the sound and thereby provide a sonic diversity to keep things fresh. The Travellin’ McCourys even recorded an album with the gospel-tinged sacred steel sound of The Lee Boys. On this auspicious occasion, they recruited no less than Billy NershiÂ (String Cheese Incident / Emmitt-Nershi) to play guitar and added Yonder Mountain String Band front man and mandolin player extraordinaire, Jeff Austin, into the mix for good measure for the CBB’s proverbial “late night set” coined The Bluegrass Ball Jam.
Easily the energy highpoint of the night, Austin traded runs with Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury sped through blistering leads, and Travelin’ violinist Jason Carter bowed and sang with wisdom and gravity. The smiles traded between the players matched the grins on the faces in the Auditorium Theatre throng to perfection, and their choice of the set-closing SCI number, “Jellyfish,” had the band running and jumping in place while the crowd gave the appearance of an ensuing joy filled riot.
With a noticeable looks of disappointment the band said goodnight, while casting longing glances at their instruments, obviously wishing for one more chance to play, not just for the people, but for themselves.
With their goodbyes and the blinding house lights, the audience began the herding shuffle out into the cold Chicago night, having been warmed from the inside all day long. There was much chatter as the mass made its exodus, but one topic reigned high above the rest: Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival weekend two at the Congress.
Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the fest by Rex Thomson…
Two things that we absolutely love here at Honest Tune truth in music and contests! So, we have decided to combine our love of the two by bringing an opportunity for you to catch some of the finestÂ bluegrass pickin’ — courtesy of The Travelin’ McCourys, Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident, Emmitt-Nershi), and Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain string Band);
The events will bookend Chicago’s Bluegrass and Blues Festival and many fans are taking the opportunity to take in all three events. Well, we are pleased to present you, yes you, the opportunity to do so at the grand total of zero dollars (sans travel and other associated costs)
Over the past year, we have found ourselves in some unique positions with these artists, gathering exclusive footage for the ages (see below). So consider this a celebration of sorts… a celebration in the joy of giving.
But first, let’s have a look at who will be playing. (Bios courtesy of the artists)
The Travelinâ€™ McCourys do not stand still. They are on the roadâ€“and onlineâ€“entertaining audiences with live shows that include some of the best musicians and singers from all genres. Itâ€™s always different, always exciting, and always great music. No other band today has the same credentials for playing traditional and progressive music. As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue their fatherâ€™s work-a lifelong dedication to the power of bluegrass music to bring joy into peopleâ€™s lives. And with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, the ensemble is loved and respected by the bluegrass faithful. But the band is now combining their sound with others to make something fresh and rejuvenated.
Jeff Austin is best known for his many years playing mandolin for Colorado heavy hitters, Yonder Mountain String Band. Yonder has always played by their own set of rules bending bluegrass, rock and roll, and countless other influences. While most known for his playing with Yonder Mountain String Band, Jeff has played with countless musicians and is sought after by countless musicians and festivals alike.
From the saloons of Telluride to the some of the most sought after venues in America, Bill Nershi has delighted countless fans as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and founding member of the String Cheese Incident. A seasoned veteran of flat-picking and a variety of acoustic styles, Nershi adds a unique, colorful perspective to virtually any musical situation he encounters, and his enthusiasm and playful spirit encourage an interactive, participatory experience for musicians and fans alike. His most recent forays into dobro, bass, and lap steel playing, as well as his accomplished songwriting contributions with Honkytonk Homeslice & the Emmitt-Nershi Band, prove that his musical horizons will only continue to expand.
Who: The Bluegrass Ball featuring The Travelinâ€™ McCourys, Jeff Austin, Bill Nershi and Head for the Hills
What you are playing for:
1) You are entering to win a pair of tickets to The Bluegrass Balls hosted by The Travelin’ McCourys on 1/20Â (in Indiana) and/or 1/22 performances in Missouri.
2) There will be two winners; one for 1/20 and one for 1/22. You can enter for both nights, but cannot win tickets for both.
How to enter:
How a winner will be chosen:
1) All of the entered names will be copied from the survey site and pasted into a computer generated random name picker. All of this will be videotaped so that nobody can cry foul. To see examples of us using this tool, click here, here or here. Unfortunately, we cannot get Col. Bruce to pick names out of a beer pitcher every time. We would be a lot cooler if we could.
2) The deadline for entry is Thursday, 1/19/12 at 11:59 PM EST (for the 1/20 tickets) and 1/20/12 at 11:59PM EST (for the 1/22 tickets)
3) Good Luck!
1) No previous or current Honest Tune editor/staff may enter.
2) Contributors may enter.
3) Only one entry per person (per date) will be allowed and IP Addresses are logged on the survey site.
4) Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and from within the continental United States.
Yonder Mountain String Band : Live, Backstage & Unplugged
(An Honest Tune Exclusive)
Emmitt-Nershi Band : Live, Backstage, & Unplugged
(An Honest Tune Exclusive)
The fine print: This contest and its management is the sole responsibility of Honest Tune. The contest is not endorsed or sponsored by The Travelin’ McCourys, The Bluegrass Ball, Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival or any artists represented herein . Any costs associated with the event (included but not limited to: lodging, travel, food, parking) will be the responsibility of the winner. IN other words, we are giving you the tickets and the rest is up to you. Honest Tune reserves the right to (at its sole discretion) disqualify entrants based upon lack of conformity to the entry process or other ineligibility as described in “Eligibility Requirements.” Tickets are not transferable. Odds of winning are based upon number of entries and the total value of each prize is $50.00.
A few weeks ago, Yonder Mountain String Band hosted Harvest Festival on Mulberry Mountain. For the second year in a row, the event bore name of the Nederland, CO native quartet. Just in case anyone was in doubt of the outfit’s worthiness to such acclaim, Yonder proved it beyond any expectations byÂ sitting in with more bands than it would be prudent to name while also performing two three hour sets of their own. In short, to say that Jeff Austin, Adam Aijala, Ben Kauffman and Dave Johnston “had a busy weekend” would be quite the understatement.
In spite of their schedule, the four guys took time to sit down with Rex Thomson for an extended interview — to be released soon — and this, an acoustic serving of the Grateful Dead’s “They Love Each Other.” So sit back, relax, listen, watch and enjoy as Honest Tune exclusively presents Yonder Mountain String Band: Live, Backstage and Unplugged.
Yonder Mountain String Band: “They Love Each Other”
For more on YMSB, log on to www.YonderMountain.com
Yonder Mountain String Band has announced their Fall Tour. It will take them throughout the Midwest and Northeast. They'll be playing two-night dates in Burlington and in Lawrence, the latter of which will be played at two different venues.
10/3 Columbia, MO – Blue Note
10/5 Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
10/6 Chicago, IL – Congress Theater
10/7 Detroit, MI – St Andrews Hall
10/10 Pittsburgh, PA – Mister Small's
10/11 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
10/12 Philadelphia, PA – TLA
10/13 New York, NY – Irving Plaza
10/15-16 Burlington, VT – Higher Grounds
10/18 Boston, MA – The Roxy
10/19 Rochester, NY – Water Street Music Hall
10/24 Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
10/25 Madison, WI – Orpheum Theatre
10/26 Urbana, IL – Canopy Club
10/27 Lawrence, KS – The Granada
10/28 Lawrence, KS – Liberty Hall