Tony Rice and a Stage Full of Bluegrass Stars

On Christmas Day, bluegrass legend Tony Rice passed away. His career began 50 years ago, and he helped define the progressive end of the genre. Here is Tony on stage in 1988 with a group of young musicians who have become legends in their own rights.

The banjo player on stage is Bela Fleck, who would form the progressive jazz group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in that same year of 1988. The fellow with the awesome hat is Roy “Future Man” Wooten, playing percussion on the SynthAxeDrumitar. His incredible brother Victor is on bass.

The dobro player on stage is Jerry Douglas, the undisputed master of that instrument. He’s played with artists ranging from Dolly Parton to Ray Charles to Elvis Costello, and is a regular member of Alison Krauss and Union Station. Here’s Jerry interpreting Paul Simon’s “American Tune”.

The fiddle player on stage is Mark O’Connor, who has recorded 45 albums in as many years. His recordings have made the classical, jazz, country and bluegrass charts. Here’s O’Connor playing with the Boston Pops.

And lest we get away without paying enough attention to Tony Rice, here he plays “Shenandoah” after an intro music lesson. Skip to 1:40 if you want to bypass the lesson, but don’t skip the beautiful guitar playing.

2015 Grammy Nominees – American Roots

Rummaging through the 2015 Grammy nominees, the American Roots category stands out as a catch all for great tracks and albums by artists from many genres.  Across its Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album sub-categories, Roseanne Cash is nominated in all three (see our earlier post), and John Hiatt in two (see our earlier post)

The most dramatic song on the Best Performance list comes from the album “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”.  It’s a cover of “And When I Die” performed by pianist Billy Childs (who’s responsible for the album project), with vocals by Alison Krauss and guitar by Jerry Douglas. You have to love when artists take a song in a unique new direction. Listen to the new version alongside Laura’s original. You may also want to remember the Blood, Sweat & Tears hit version.

Another nominee from the Best Performance list is “Statesboro Blues” from the concert “All My Friends – Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman” that took place back in January. The track features Taj Mahal and Gregg Allman sharing the vocals, and that is a significant pairing. Taj Mahal performed the song on his eponymous 1968 debut album, featuring slide guitar by Jesse Ed Davis. The story goes that Gregg Allman gave the Taj Mahal record to his brother Duane along with a glass pill bottle one day, and that was the beginning of Duane’s slide guitar playing. Give a listen to the nominated performance and Taj’s earlier version.

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