“Old time is not a crime.”

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(Editor’s’ Note–Taken from 2013 but still true today)
Dear friends,

Happy Monday morning. Half the clocks in our house say it’s an hour later, so I’m living in a world of “Hey! I’ve got an extra hour to live my life!”

Before I begin my welcome schpiel, allow me to comment on my son’s Saturday Welcome column. It’s gratifying to see a number of thoughtful responses on the CBA message board. But the larger excitement is due to the fact that Marty and I will be attending the Great 48 for the first time! We have not been down there since the very wonderful Supergrass, many years ago. Since then it’s turned into a hugely successful picking party. I have to say, I love indoor festivals, so this should have the best aspects of that scenario. It’s going to be a blast. We would not be attending, but for the kindness of a very good friend, so thanks to that person for helping us make this our first Great 48. Whoo hooo!

So that happened. What was I going to talk about? Now I’m just thinking of partying in Bakersfield….

Seriously though, in this column I will continue to be the big ole braggy voice of the CBA’s Talent Advisory Group. Since I termed out of that committee they’ve been doing a bang up job on the 2014 Father’s Day Festival lineup. Big thanks and congratulations to Whit Washburn, Ray Edlund and their leader, Dave Gooding. Thanks for putting together another varied lineup of acts, all of which are wonderful in their own way.

When I started getting seriously involved in the music twenty years ago I was drawn to a number of different styles and artists. My good friend Mike Fisher turned me on to the New Lost City Ramblers, and they in turn made me a fan of the music of Charlie Poole, the Skillet Lickers and old timey bands of that nature. Those acts were pretty easy for me to love, with their combination of pathos, humor and historical story telling.

Fast forward to the present and I have learned more and more about old time music, largely based on performers who have taught at our CBA Music Camp over the years. I learned about the complexities of fiddle tunes and the exactness of the player to certain traditions. I learned there’s a big difference between song-based bands like the Skillet Lickers and that of fiddle greats like Tommy Jarrell or Ed Haley. Like many of you, I am a bluegrass guy pretty much, but in honoring old time music as the CBA has been doing, especially over that last few years, we gain a whole genre to enjoy and explore.

TAG and the CBA have set a standard that there must be at least two major old time acts among the approximate 10 main stage acts booked to play at Grass Valley. This year they have chosen a couple of fine ones.

The Bucking Mules are Joseph Decosimo, Luke Richardson, Karen Celia Heil, and Joe Dejarnette. Their promo states: “Like the creature that inspires their name, the Bucking Mules can buck, snort, and throw down some traditional old time music from the South. Drawing from a deep study of old 78s and visits with an older generation of musicians, the band distills the essence the tradition into driving performances that appeal to contemporary audiences. With roots in Tennessee and Virginia and experience on stages all over the country, the bands knows how to bust down on a fiddle tune, how to get square dancers moving, and how to belt out a beautiful old song. The band is comprised of some of the most exciting and accomplished players in the genre today. Together and individually, they are experienced and engaging performers. Their sets combining sizzling fiddle and banjo based tunes with traditional songs in harmony. All members of the band have extensive festival and camp teaching experience, informed and grounded in the regional musical traditions of the Appalachian Southeast.”

The Bucking Mules will play Thursday and Friday and will be the band for a squaredance at the festival.

I am sure most everyone will be pleased to hear that Foghorn will be returning to the FDF! That is a band with a mission to display a whole coterie of styles of traditional American and Canadian music. Due in part to the variety of styles they present, Foghorn finds a very accepting audience in the bluegrassers.

Their website describes Foghorn: “Foghorn Stringband play the old way, the way you’d have heard stringbands play on Southern radio stations back in the 1930s. They don’t fancy up the music to make it more modern, instead they reach into the heart of the songs, pulling out the deep emotions that made them so enduring in the first place. Performing live, these multi-instrumentalists gather around a single microphone in the middle of the stage, expertly balancing their sound on the fly, and creating the rarest of music: songs that are at once wildly virtuosic and intimately hand-crafted. Foghorn Stringband play American roots music of the finest order.”

I have to admit, as much as I enjoy all the members of this group, especially Caleb Klauder’ old time country stuff, Nadine Landry is my hero. I love her bass playing and her voice sends me to Heaven.

So! There you go! Old time music at Grass Valley. Now of course those are hardly the only old time acts at the festival. The five California Showcase acts usually include one or two old time acts, and the Vern’s stage will present many more, among the couple dozen California-based performers on that stage. Embrace it. You know what they say, “Old time music: it’s not as bad as it sounds!”

Your pal,
Mark Varner
[email protected]

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