Sunday, February 8, 2015

FEBRUARY 6, 2015
       MOUNTAIN FEVER RECORDS hosted a showcase event for a number of artists at the recent Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) festival and awards show at the Airport Sheraton in Nashville, TN. The SPBGMA festival is an annual grand blowout of lobby and suite jamming, booked bands, a band contest, and an awards night which ends the event.
       We slipped in to catch the performance by Irene Kelley (guitar, vocals) and her friends Nate Lee (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), Wayne Southards (guitar, vocals), Mike Bub (upright bass), and Ned Luberecki (banjo). Other than Mountain Fever Records personnel, we think there might have been several festival promoters in the crowd who were enjoying the performance. The event was introduced by Blake Williams, long-time friend and former Expedition Show band mate with Wayne Southards. Blake is a well-known festival DJ and one of a few musicians who played with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys and also with Lester Flatt. Wow!
       We will give you an idea of the songs that Irene selected for the showcase:  You Are My Flower, You Don't Run Across My Mind, Pennsylvania Coal (the name of Irene's fine new album), Feels Like Home, I Just Think I'll Stay Around, Jealousy (composed by Irene Kelley and Claire Lynch), Thunderbird (Native American spiritual song), Do You Think of Me, I'm a Little Bluer Than That (composed by Irene Kelley--Alan Jackson heard her sing it on the Opry, called her, and asked if he could record!), Bill Cheatham, and Highway (composed by Irene Kelley and Claire Lynch). The audience that filled the room to running over seemed to really enjoy the set.
       Mountain Fever Records has invited everyone to come on down to Auburn, AL, to the "Bluegrass Festival on the Plains" on Wednesday through Sunday, May 27-31, 2015. Here is the lineup: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Rhonda Vincent & Gene Watson, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, The Claire Lynch Band, Blue Highway, Detour, The Isaacs, Brush Fire, The Punches Family, Flatt Lonesome, Sideline, Breaking Grass, the Boxcars, Volume Five, Larry Cordle/Carl Jackson/Jerry Salley/Val Storey, and the Bailey Mountain Cloggers.
Pick away!
For more information: (See website or "Bluegrass Unlimited" January 2015 Festival Guide
Blake Williams and Ned Luberecki

Blake Williams, Nate Lee, Irene Kelley

Nate Lee, Wayne Southards, Irene Kelley, Mike Bub. Ned Luberecki's arm

Wayne Southards, Irene Kelley, Mike Bub, Ned Luberecki


Monday, February 2, 2015

January 30, 2015
Right about now, Garrison Keillor, of public radio's "A Prairie Home Companion", would say something like, "It's been a quiet week here in Lake Wobegon, my hometown." And off he would go into imaginary tales and characters that seem real enough to sit down beside you and begin to talk to you in Norwegian or Danish.
With this writer, it has been anything but a quiet week in Tennessee and Northeast Arkansas! Sometimes it happens like that. First, there's nothing. Then everything happens at once! That's it! That is what happened around these parts this week. It all began in Paragould, AR, at the Collins Theatre, with the wonderfully energetic Monroe Crossing band on their ABM Tour (Anywhere But Minnesota), which took them to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and finally into Arkansas and Missouri, as they took their time getting back to frigid Minnesota. We totally understood that.
Then came the Germantown Performing Arts Centre in Germantown, TN, and the legendary Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder along with Sharon White Skaggs. Now, that was a 'guitar pullin' like you have never seen! 
We then loaded up and headed for Nashville, TN, and the world-famous J.T. Gray's Station Inn. Seeing what is going on around the area around 402 12th Avenue, South, we would advise you to hurry on up there for a show at the Station Inn. The real estate wolves are hungry and lickin' their chops over the tiny little strip of land that holds the Station Inn. You already can't find the inn for the many high-rise buildings which have taken over what is now fashionably described by yuppies as The Gulch! Lovely for developers; not so much for ardent bluegrass music lovers who are joined at the hip with the Station Inn.
While the Station Inn still stands, there is a powerful lot of bluegrass music emanating from that sweet spot! (pun intended) The last stop on our whirlwind bluegrass tour was to see and hear Irene Kelley and Friends...and Family! Oh, and Guests, too!
Irene Kelley, Mike Bub, Justyna Kelley

Known for a while as a fine songwriter, Irene Kelley has diversified into singing, and it's about time! She has a lovely voice and is most engaging with her audience. Irene is from Pennsylvania coal country, so she has a natural base for her songwriting and singing. She shared a story or two about relatives back in Pennsylvania who did what they had to do to survive. You can hear some of that on her latest album, "Pennsylvania Coal".
Nate Lee, Wayne Southards, Irene Kelley

Matt Wingate, Nate Lee, Wayne Southards
Irene Kelley brought with her a delightful group of musician friends. We shall drop a few names here: Irene Kelley (guitar, vocals), Nate Lee (fiddle, mandolin), Wayne Southards (former Tennessee Gentleman, guitar, vocals), Mike Bub (upright bass), Ned Luberecki (banjo). Still more delightful were Irene Kelley's two beautiful daughters, Justyna Kelley and Sara Jean Kelley, who performed on guitar and vocals with their mother. But wait, there's more! Irene's current houseguest, Scarlett Seither, who is from Germany, got up with her guitar and knocked "Oh Atlanta" right out of the park! Since Matt Wingate (formerly with the Claire Lynch Band) happened to be in the house, he also got up for a couple of numbers on guitar and mandolin. It's always good to hear Matt Wingate!
Sara Jean Kelley, Irene Kelley, Mike Bub, Justyna Kelley

Scarlett Seither, Mike Bub, Irene Kelley, Justyna Kelley
 Here are some of the outstanding songs selected by Irene and her friends and family: Set 1:  Pennsylvania Coal, Feels Like Home, You Don't Run Across My Mind, So Much for Breaking Even, Better with Time, I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home, I'm a Little Bluer than That (Alan Jackson asked if he might record that one--well, yes!), Do You Think of Me, Jealousy (written with Claire Lynch), Red-Haired Boy, and You Are Mine (Irene, Justyna, and Sara Jean Kelley, for some lovely family harmony). Set 2: I Just Think I'll Stay Around (Matt Wingate, guitar), When It's Cold Outside, Oh Atlanta (Scarlett Seither), Crazy Crazy, You Might Unbreak My Heart, Lonesome Road Blues, Highway (written with Claire Lynch, mandolin by Matt Wingate), and the encore was the beautiful Oh Mexico.
This is just the beginning for Irene Kelley and her singing career. Her voice is soulful, delicate, and warm. She is a crowd-pleaser. She packed the Station Inn to standing room only! Her songwriting skills are well established and widely known. Catch her show, buy her CDs, and you will see what we are saying. This one is strong and a keeper!
For more information:
Irene Kelley (also Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube)
The Station Inn
Pick away!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
with Sharon White Skaggs
Germantown (TN) Performing Arts Centre
January 29, 2015
If you think that thunder is loud, then you know a bit about what the band Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder sounds like! They come on like a house a'fire and play some of the finest, the most solid traditional bluegrass we have heard in many a  day in this region. Throughout the show, Ricky also shared many stories about himself and Bill Monroe, his family back in Kentucky, and life in general.
On January 29, 2015, the long-awaited concert began at the beautiful Germantown (TN) Performing Arts Centre on Exeter Road in Germantown. Ardent bluegrass music fans are so delighted that GPAC is booking well-known bluegrass music groups. The room was packed with bluegrass music fans who had waited a long time to hear their perennial favorite, Ricky Skaggs, his band Kentucky Thunder, and Ricky's special guest, his wife Sharon White Skaggs, from the fine bluegrass band known as The Whites.
Kentucky Thunder consists of the following superb musicians: Ricky Skaggs (mandolin, vocals), Paul Brewster (rhythm guitar, vocals), Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Cody Kilby (lead guitar), Eddie Faris (guitar, baritone vocals), Scott Mulvahill (upright bass, bass vocals), and Russ Carson (banjo). Sharon White Skaggs plays a very important role in the band. With her husband and singing partner for 33 years and counting, she adds a gentle touch with her vocal harmony and guitar work. This writer has followed Ricky Skaggs' career and that of The Whites (Buck, Sharon, Cheryl, and even Rosie a few years ago) for most of those 33 years. It has been a joy and a treat since the first time I heard them.
Kentucky Thunder
Eddie Faris, Russ Carson, Scott Mulvahill, Paul Brewster, Andy Leftwich

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, along with Sharon White Skaggs, treated their audience to the following bluegrass standards and newer songs: How Mountain Girls Can Love; Amanda Jewel (named for Ricky Skaggs' older daughter); Your Selfish Heart Broke Up Our Home; Pig in a Pen; Toy Heart; Sittin' Alone in the Moonlight (Skaggs referred to as 'deep catalog'); Hold Whatcha Got; (enter Sharon to sing with Ricky and the band) Love Can't Ever Get Better Than This (co-writers Nancy Montgomery and Irene Kelley); When I'm Good and Gone; There's No Doubt About It Honey I'm in Love with You; Scott Mulvahill's version of 20/20 Vision (and I'm walkin' 'round blind); Cody Kilby's Welcome to China; Ricky's You Can't Hurt Ham; Ricky's tribute to Doc Watson in the Jimmy Driftwood song, Tennessee Stud; You Can't Shake Jesus; Highway 40 Blues (Not the Highway 40 you think!); Uncle Pen; Encore #1 Ricky and Sharon on If I Needed You; and Encore #2 Monroe's giant hit, Rawhide! Whew! What a night!

Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White Skaggs seen here with the author of this blog at the autograph table signing albums and copies of Ricky Skaggs' new book, Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music: Ricky Skaggs. Pick up a copy at Amazon or from your bookstore. Also look for Ricky and Sharon's newest album of songs about their special marriage and relationship, Hearts Like Ours.
For more information:
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Germantown Performing Arts Centre
1801 Exeter Road
Germantown, TN 38138
Phone 901.751.7500
Pick away!