Award-winning Chris Jones & the Night Drivers are bringing their chart-busting bluegrass show west for a short run of shows in California before Chris hops over to Weiser Idaho to teach at the Idaho Bluegrass & Banjo Camp. The dates as listed on their website and the CBA June Calendar are below and CBA is proud to support Larry Phegley’s Otter Opry for the first show in Monterey.
- Thu, June 1 @ 7:00 PM – Otter Opry Presents Monterey United Methodist Church – Info and Tickets
- Fri, June 2 @ 7:00 PM – Friday Night Live at the Plaza in Cloverdale, CA – Info & Tickets
- Sat, June 3 @ 8:00 PM – The Back Room in Berkeley, CA – Info & Tickets
- Sun, June 4 @ 4:00 PM – Fernside Music House Concert in Alameda, CA – Info & Tickets
On Monday, June 5 @ 6:00 PM, Chris Jones will be stopping at Shutts Fabricators in Huntington Beach to teach a Songwriter’s Workshop, followed by a solo concert at 7:30pm – Info
I had the pleasure of talking with Chris about the shows and whatnot which he seemed quite excited about especially given his lack of presence in the Golden State. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of him in the coming years to make up for his drought of shows here.
Hey Chris, where are you right now?
I’m in Atlanta right now. We’re playing the Reinhardt’s Bluegrass Festival in Waleska Georgia tomorrow.
2023 is looking like a good year for you. You’re busting the charts, coming to California, and playing the Otter Opry,
Yea, we’re looking forward to that.
Did I see you all played that other Opry (Grand Ole Opry) for the first time?
Yes, last July.
What else do you have coming up you are looking forward to?
We have a new album coming out in September which will be our fifth for the Mountain Home label. We’ll be in Winfield Kansas around the time that comes out where I‘ve been administering their New Song Showcase. Later this month, we’re playing the long-running Ralph Stanley Memorial Festival in McClure Virginia on Smith Ridge at his old family farm. So we’ve got a lot going on.
This is a short west coast swing. How did that come about?
It’s just something I thought was overdue. At the time, we thought the album would be out sooner. We’ve played Blythe and Pacific Northwest more recently but haven’t been in the Bay Area for too long so we just decided to make it happen.
Have you played these venues before?
No, we haven’t played any of them before. The last Bay Area thing I did was at the Freight & Salvage a long time ago with either Weary Hearts or the Lynn Morris Band. It’ll be great to be back. I played the Fathers Day Festival the year I first created my band. I’ve released 14 albums since then, 1996 I believe it was.
Is the full band coming?
Yes, Marshall Wilborn on bass, Grace van’t Hof on banjo, and Mark Stoffel on mandolin.
What are some crowd favorites in your shows?
There are a few that tend to get requested. Lately, what has been rising to the top is the Riding the Chief song about the Amtrak Southwest Chief line (from Chicago to Los Angeles). It turns out a lot more people than I realized have ridden this train and identified with that. It’s kind of a different song for us, a little more swing feel. The other one is a song called We Needed This Ride from our latest album called Make Each Second Last which has been a crowd favorite. Also, a song that our former bass player Jon Weisberger wrote with Thomm Jutz and Charlie Stefl called I’m A Wanderer tends to get a lot of requests and that’s our most streamed song last I checked.
Do you play that Steve Winwood song Back in the High Life Again that you did such a wonderful job on?
Oh, thanks very much. That was really fun and I enjoyed that. It was not any sort of a bluegrass radio hit maybe because it was the first full-fledged 80s cover thing we’ve ever done but it was fun to arrange it.
I love the new singles especially the Price of Falling.
Thanks a lot. That was just a … I think I’ve become more of a melody-oriented songwriter than I used to be. I’m writing more stuff that comes to me while just noodling around and this chorus just came to me without any lyrics except for the idea of the Price Is Falling so that how’s the song began. So I recorded what I had there and then built the rest of the song around that. It’s structurally different certainly from other songs of mine and we just had a really good time recording it in the studio as it’s just a fun song to do.
The video looked like an interesting location.
Yea, it was filmed in an historic hotel in Asheville which was an old ballroom where a couple of Presidents had danced. It was an extremely windy day so the scenes from out on the terrace had that wind-blown feel.
Who or what do you think of when somebody mentions California Bluegrass?
First I think historically of all the great music maybe partly because I host this classic bluegrass radio show called Truegrass on SiriusXM and I spotlight California on it but I think of the Golden State Boys, the Hillmen, and Rose Maddox. Then I also think about my friend Keith Little who I’ve played music with and is just a great California Bluegrass musician. Then of course Laurie Lewis who I played with on the Grand Ole Opry in the late ‘80s or ‘90s which was my first time personally playing on that stage. California certainly has its own angle on the music and it’s an important one.
Are California audiences more like Nashville or Canada where you are based?
Probably neither but maybe more like Canada because the eastern audiences for bluegrass have more exposure to a wider range of stuff so I think in some ways are harder to please. My experience though is that California is a great audience and I definitely love playing there. When I was playing with Weary Hearts, we used to play there all the time and that’s a nice thing for me cause I can meet a lot of people that I knew from those days.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Well I am very excited about my current band. I’ve appreciated and gotten to play with some really good people but this one is particularly locked-in in terms of our musical outlook and personalities and it’s just so fun with Grace, Marshall, and Mark. Marshall has played in California a lot with the Lynn Morris Band and Johnson Mountain Boys and he and I have worked together often throughout most of his and my careers so this is a happy musical reunion. Maybe this is a coincidence but since we’ve been recording together, every single we have put out has been a number 1 song. So we’re working on nine straight but our new one is a little unusual so we’ll see what happens cause it’s sort of a laid-back western swing feel called Blow Whistle that Marshall wrote.
Thanks Chris, we’re lookin forward to the shows.
Likewise, thanks Dave.