Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bill Yates of The Country Gentleman passes

This week has seen the passing of another, much-loved, Bluegrass musician - Bill Yates.

While Bill may be best known for his time with The Country Gentlemen and, latterly, The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band it is clear from the comments made since Bill's passing that he was seen by many as a mentor and friend to many and deserving of the description 'The Ambassador of Bluegrass Music'.

Bill worked with the likes of Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe but, at the end of the Sixties, joined The Country Gentlemen. Bill eventually became a full partner in The Country Gentlemen along with Charlie Waller, Doyle Lawson and Bill Emerson.  Bill was a member of The Country Gentlemen for over 20 years before retiring in 1989.

In 2005, Bill assembled 'Bill Yates & The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band' to continue bringing the sounds of 'The Gentlemen' to audiences far and wide; ultimately leaving the bass-playing duties to Larry Kirk, Bill was still there leading the band as can be seen in the clip below.

A sad loss to Bluegrass and sincere condolences go out to the Yates Family.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dixie Hall, 1935~2015

Dixie Hall, wife of legendary songwriter Tom T. Hall, passed away on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the age of 80. She was gravely ill for the past year. All the while trying to do business as long as possible with her bluegrass music publishing and recording company, Blue Circle Music.

Miss Dixie was a major force in country and bluegrass music, yet few people know of her music business history. She moved to the USA from England in 1961, when she accepted a job working for Don Pierce of the Starday Records company. At one point in her storied life, Miss Dixie lived with Maybelle Carter at the Carter Homestead where the two of them wrote songs together. Her background story reads like a musical fairytale.

If you were to ask almost anyone in bluegrass music they would tell you Dixie and Tom T are two of the most compassionate and generous human beings in the world. Many, many artists and fans have been befriended by the Halls.

I will stop writing here, as I have been away and only just now learned of the sad news. I would like to look back at my own photos and personal reminders of Dixie, and her mate Tom T Hall.

I would kindly suggest you read an excellent account of Miss Dixie's life and her many contributions to the bluegrass music world and more in an article by Peter Cooper at this link for The Tennessean newspaper.

With dementia settling in (due to a brain tumor) Miss Dixie wrote one last song, and recorded her first single on one of her good days last fall. She offered it free to her friends as a 'parting gift'. With that song came a message. A message I am certain she would be proud to have us pass on to all bluegrass fans:

"Running out of time here but it's your earth, and your music.
Please save it and give generously. God bless you forevermore. I love you."

The world desperately needs more people like Miss Dixie Hall.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Bands, apply for WOB 2015 Bluegrass Ramble Showcase now (until 28 February)

Good news from IBMA! All emerging bluegrass bands, and established bands with new music or new personnel as well, are invited to apply to be part of the WOB 2015 Bluegrass Ramble Showcase that will take place September 29 - October 1 downtown Raleigh, NC (USA). In addition to the showcase opportunities, the IBMA showcase package includes:

  • Complimentary booth space during business conference (value $600+)
  • Full conference registration package for performing members of group (value $1000+)
  • One organizational membership for group (value $205)
  • Featured profile in conference program and on the WOB smart phone app
  • Distribution of one mp3 per band on our AirPlay Direct account, providing radio DJ access to showcase band music
  • Inclusion of one mp3 on the 2015 Noisetrade/IBMA Bluegrass Ramble compilation. Download the 2014 compilation free.
  • Inclusion in the Bluegrass Ramble Spotify playlist, promoted on social media by IBMA
  • Priority access to “Gig Fair” appointments
  • Scheduled consultation in advance of events on maximizing showcase opportunities
Each showcase band will perform at least twice during World of Bluegrass Week—once on a convention center stage and once on a Bluegrass Ramble venue.

Application Deadlines, Fees & Process

Online application for IBMA showcases must be submitted by February 28, 2015.  All applicants are required to submita $25 fee to help defray selection process costs. If invited to participate as an official showcase artist, there is an additional fee of $500 to offset costs of services and showcase production.  Showcase applications can be made online but if online application creates a hardship for the applicant, or if any assistance is needed with online application, contact Eddie Huffman, 888-438-4262.In addition to general application information, the following materials will be needed to complete the application:
  • Name, email, and role (i.e. banjo, fiddle) of each member of the applying act
  • One studio recording (mp3 format only)
  • One Hi-Res artist photo
  • An artist bio with artist location, names/roles of band members (if known at time of application), description of the artist's sound, and note of any recently released recordings.

Up to 30 showcase artists will be invited in 2015, depending on the number of applicants and the qualifications of groups that apply. IBMA showcase artists are chosen in a juried selection process that takes into consideration every applicant’s entertainment value, level of professionalism, potential appeal and quality of work. There are generally more than 100 acts who apply every year. Official IBMA showcase acts from the 2014 Bluegrass Ramble are not eligible for 2015. 

Last but not least, watch a video from 2014's Official Showcase Band Mr. Sun perform during the Ramble! Next September, THIS COULD BE YOU!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Special Consensus Ireland & UK Dates

Special Consensus: Dan Eubanks, Greg Cahill, Dustin Benson & Rick Faris
With just a few days of 2015 gone, Bluegrass fans in Ireland and the UK can already look forward to seeing one of the premier Bluegrass bands from the USA. Special Consensus will be playing twenty dates on our side of Atlantic during January.

The band's 2012 album Scratch Gravel Road on Compass Records was GRAMMY nominated for Best Bluegrass Album and two songs from the 2014 band release Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute To John Denver (also on Compass Records) won IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year.

Any opportunity to see and hear a top US band in Europe is an exciting prospect but the concert on the 24th January is a very special, Special Consensus concert. As mentioned in a blog post in November, this concert will the the Phill Morley Memorial Concert; Phill Morley was one of the founding fathers of British Bluegrass music and this concert starts earlier than usual, at 5pm, and will close with a jam session led by Greg Cahill. Doors will open at 4pm with the first set starting at 5pm with the second set ending at 9pm with the day closing with a Bluegrass Jam led by Greg Cahill. It should be noted that this concert has been moved to Steeple Morden Village Hall near Royston (see the East Anglian Bluegrass Festival website for full details).

I can't think of a better way of starting your Bluegrass 2015 than seeing Special Consensus? Get your tickets soon as these dates are sure to be very popular.