Yet another new year is upon us and Bluegrass has never been more popular and available throughout the west. Our first Welcome to California column is proud to feature the twice Grammy Nominated and multiple International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award Winner, Special Consensus led by the legendary Chicago native Greg Cahill and his wonderful band. Read on for tour details and a quick Q&A with Greg.
Tomales Town Hall
Wednesday January 10 7 p.m.
27150 Main Street, Tomales, CA 94971
Purchase Tickets: www.tomalestownhall.org
Fiddletown Community Center
Thursday January 11 7 p.m. Doors 6:30
14445 Fiddletown Road, Fiddletown 95629
Purchase Tickets https://www.eventbrite.com/e/special-consensus-at-te-fiddletown-community-center-tickets-769793191157
Friday January 12 7 p.m.
Monterey United Methodist Church, 1 Soledad Drive, Monterey, CA 93940
Purchase tickets https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/otteropry/4889/event/1344584?venueidlist=24029
Bruce and Linda’s Barn
Saturday January 13 4 p.m.
Willits Rotary Benefit
350 Sherwood Road, Willits 95490
Purchase tickets at the door
Folsom Opry House
Sunday January 14 Two Shows: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Address given when reservations are made
Fernside Music House Concert in Alameda
Monday January 15 @ 7 p.m.
Info and tickets email@example.com
Mark Shutts Fabricators
Thursday January 18 7:30 p.m.
15481 Electronic Lane, Unit C, Huntington Beach
Info https://www.facebook.com/mark.shutts.9 714-337-2261
San Diego Bluegrass Society
The La Jolla Christian Fellowship Church
627 Genter Street, La Jolla 92037
Friday January 19 6 p.m.
Tickets and info http://www.sandiegobluegrass.org/index.html firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday January 20 8 p.m.
4316 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230
Purchase Tickets https://www.boulevardmusic.com/event/special-consensus/
What is the first thing you think of when someone says California Bluegrass?
The CBA! The organization has done sooo much to grow bluegrass music through sponsorship, education, youth programs, the festival, etc.
What are your earliest memories of California bluegrass?
The first time Special C played the Father’s Day festival – I cannot remember the exact year but I believe it was maybe late 1980s or early 1990s?
Tell us about this version of the band and what excites you about it?
We are all friends and we truly enjoy making music together. I am so proud to play music with such great musicians and good people. Dan, Greg and Michael each bring something unique to the band sound and we are truly all on the same page when it comes to material and arrangements (with invaluable guidance from our phenomenal producer Alison Brown).
SC has been around quite a long time. What is the key to its longevity?
I think there are a few variables. One is to bring in good musicians who are also good people. Another is to bring in musicians who know the Special C sound but who also bring a new perspective/talent/ideas to the table so the band can keep the essential band sound but also keep growing. I never want a new band member to try to sound exactly like the person he/she replaced so our friends and fans won’t get caught up with saying who is better – they are just different. I/we also like to bring in some younger and/or relatively unknown artists to help our sound grow and also to help them with their personal career path.
How many times have you toured out here and do you have any good stories that you can share?
Special C has been playing in California for 30 years or more and we always thoroughly enjoy every show, whether a house concert, theater or festival. The California bluegrass community is vibrant and welcoming and we have made many friends over the years. It is amazing how strongly the bands are supported. So many stories…
Do you have any new material you all are rolling out for this tour?
We are slowly adding songs from our May 2023 Compass Records release “Great Blue North” to our stage show. When we bring a song or tune to the table for recording, we sit with Alison and work on an arrangement that changes so much by the time we decide on the “keeper” that we have to sit and learn what we did after the recording is released the same way we might listen and learn from any other recording. So it takes a while to actually remember the arrangements and the singing and playing and to rearrang songs that have guest artists before adding the song to the concert repertoire.
Are there any new or recent recordings you want to talk about?
Our 2020 Compass Records recording “Chicago Barn Dance” was a tip of the hat to Chicago as a strong country and bluegrass city, released in the Special C 45th anniversary year. So many people would say “you can’t play bluegrass music if you are from Chicago” that we wanted the world to know about the National Barn Dance that began in 1924 and continued to bring country and also bluegrass music over the WLS airwaves until the early 1960s. Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs made their first recordings in Chicago. The title song “Chicago Barn Dance” (written by Becky Buller, Missy Raines and Alison Brown) won the IBMA Song of the Year Award in 2020.
Our new “Great Blue North” Compass Records release is a tip of the hat to all our Canadian friends since we have toured throughout Canada since the 1980s and have made many friends there. All the songs on the recording were written by Canadian writers and many of our Canadian musician friends appeared on some of the tracks with us. We are so honored and proud that the Gordon Lightfoot song “Alberta Bound” won the 2023 IBMA Collaborative Event of the Year Award and the album is now in the number 1 position for the second month in a row on the December Bluegrass Unlimited album chart. “Alberta Bound” and “Snowbird” are both climbing on the BU song chart as well.
Will you have any free time on the tour and do you have any favorite spots you like to visit?
I believe we have one or two days open – we will probably head to San Francisco to visit and be tourists and may find a jam session somewhere.
Thanks for your time Greg and looking forward to seeing you on this tour.
Thanks so much for doing this interview Dave – we appreciate you!