Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Hopefully this finds you in good spirits of the holiday carrying over from a most pleasant Christmas into a successful and positive New Year. Start it right, keep it right and end it right.

Those resolutions should include one to continue to support our kind of music, Bluegrass, Traditional and Ole Time, with renewed interest. Listen to those bluegrass programs, get out to the concerts whenever possible. No support, soon no music to support. Support means encouragement. Encouragement to the performers who may be deciding if they should keep on. Encouragement that says, loud and clear, yes we are out here, we care, we want you and what you are doing is just what we want. With a little effort bluegrass fans can not only make 1992 the year of bluegrass, but also the beginning of the decade when bluegrass, the music of fundamental, grassroots America, is once again recognized for what it is and takes its place in the over-all music scene of this land.

I would like to pass along a couple of observations, perhaps not that anyone gives a toot, that I am sure you will either readily agree with or will figure that I should be promptly lynched at the next sunrise. The intent is NOT to whack a hornet's nest and hope that I can outrun them, but, as I said, to pass along a couple of observations.

As I talk with different folks, I get some mixed reactions to Alison Krauss. Before I go any further, I think Alison Krauss is good. A lot of talent and a lot of good material. I am not sure that, no I am sure that she is not that much better than many, many other performers out there, and, yes, not as good as a lot of them. What then perpetuates the "greatness" of this young performer? Perhaps the "hype" has reached the point that this group is good because we have been told that they are, not now they are good because they are supposed to be. What are the standards for entertainer of the year? Popularity, enough hype, just what? I don't think the entertainer of the year forgets the words to their hit song, requiring two-three or so restarts while taping a program. I surely don't think cause and effect should be laid at the feet of TV cameras being present. Not when the same thing happened in previous appearances, according to others sitting around us. An entertainer requires a bit more than the ability to play. There is a lot of what we call stage presence and genuine stage personality. It really helps, it is really essential, to exhibit a pleasing likeable personality, both on and off stage. An "entertainer," and there are several that come to mind, can walk out on the stage alone or as part of a group, with complete confidence that he or she can and will entertain that audience. Especially those that do it alone. These are some of my impressions.

A good friend recently attended an Alison Krauss concert and delighted in telling me that he was pleasantly surprised and how much better a show he saw than he had expected. Perhaps Alison's shows are not consistent. Again, good talent, good material, but not really entertainer of the year .. not yet. Incidentally these thoughts and observations are not based on a single encounter.

November 29 was an especially good night for me at Shepherdsville, and the, unfortunately, small crowd that came to hear my good friend Randall Hylton. Randall, a top songwriter, performer and entertainer pleased many folks who knew him already, while making many new solid fans and friends. When it was all over and time to go get a biscuit, country ham biscuit, quite a few of us gathered at the Country Kitchen for more visiting and getting better acquainted. Dave Cotteral, Kentucky Blue, told Randall when he saw him walk out on the stage, one man and a guitar, his thoughts were that one man and a guitar is not going to entertain me for 40-45 minutes. I'll listen to about three songs and then go in the back and visit with folks. When Randall finished his first bit, Dave was calling for more, as he had not budged from his seat. With this in mind, as one small example, why wasn't Randall Hylton at the very least nominated as entertainer of the year? Probably because he is a genuine entertainer. If you want another one, John Hartford fits that category.

Also on the same show was a group new to me, and that was New Tradition. A good group and also a crowd-pleasing show. This group made new friends and fans as well. There was a group of three, who were already in that category, that came from Indianapolis to seem them. Folks, that's what I call true-blue, dedicated fans. Now these fellows have a couple of good gospel CDs that they passed on, and you will be hearing them on Sunday Bluegrass (WFPL 89.3 FM, Sunday, 8-10 p.m).

Another good reason not to miss the goings on at Shepherdsville: you never know who you might see or meet there. While New Tradition was on the first time, Nashville Now staff band member Hoot Hester came in. Hoot came ready to play. Seems he knows these guys, heard they were there, unpacked his fiddle, stepped on stage ready to go. Hoot played their first show and then went on to visit his mother. Hoot says he just might drop in at the station one Sunday night when he is in the area. Hoot, the welcome mat is out; and that goes for you, too, Randall.