Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

It's here, 1997, and let's hope it is a happy one. A fresh start and let's look forward to a year of bigger and better things for Bluegrass and traditional country, too, for that matter. Maybe we have just finished a rough year and we're heading into a bright outlook.

Just a few high points, or low, as the case may be, from 1996. The city of West Point picked up on the bluegrass festival that Louisville dumped from Otter Creek Park. A growing and potentially top festival. Good luck to West Point as they look forward to this year.

The Charlotte, MI festival changed hands but continued in good style. I unfortunately had to miss the big Fall Homecoming at Norris, TN last year. A lot of our friends and listeners told me it was great. Maybe this year.

Mom and Pop Lewis celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary. That's in the miracle class these days. Wallace Lewis was much missed on the road by family, friends and fans alike.

We will have to go into this year without Bill Monroe, Don Stover, John Duffy, and, on the country page, Faron Young and Montana Slim. At least, that's the way it is as of this writing. Our prayer list needs to keep the names of Brother Oswald, John Hartford, Wallace Lewis, Ginger Boatwright and Boxcar Willie.

We have lost some great ones, but bluegrass will go on. We still have some of those who helped mike it solid. Groups like Jim and Jesse, Osborne Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman and Country Gentlemen, just to name a few. There are new groups, youngsters, coming along in the traditional style, keeping bluegrass bluegrass.

A new year is always full of promise and it is up to the dedicated fans of our music to see that the promise is fulfilled. If we do not, the promise and what could be will become hollow and will soon collapse. When promise goes, hope goes and that which is hoped for goes.

C. R. Wilson will get the area bluegrass shows going in a big way in January. What better start than on the 3rd., with Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. As most of you know, Ralph has been recognized as elder statesman of bluegrass since Bill's passing last September. Rightly so. This doesn't mean that Ralph will replace Bill, no one will. It means that Ralph is the respected senior to carry on the traditional bluegrass music for all fans and, let's go so far as to say, all the world. Bluegrass is world wide.

Coming to Shepherdsville on the 10th: Tim Graves and Cherokees Band. On the 17th, Dry Branch Fire Squad, a big favorite in this area. On the 24th, the Larry Stevenson Band. On the 31st, Southern Indiana Bluegrass Express and Almost Bluegrass. (Almost Bluegrass?) February 7 brings in Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. Weather permitting, there is not a show here that should be missed.

Got a few leftover Christmas coins? One way to keep them from going to waste would be the new CD from Copper Creek. The one I have in mind is Ralph Stanley II - John Rigsby. Young Ralph has really matured in this bluegrass business. Then again, look at his teacher, inspiration and model – how could he go too far wrong? Chips don't fall too far from the tree. Teamed up with John Rigsby, these two have turned out a very acceptable recording. I still can't bring myself to call it a project. Twelve songs in the Stanley style and tradition. Many of them are Stanley numbers: "How Mountain Girls Can Love," "Little Glass of Wine," "Daybreak in Dixie," etc. An up-and-coming back-up group consisting of Steve Sparkman, James Shelton, James Price, Jack Cooke, Chester Robinette and Ralph Stanley. An album I think bluegrass fans, especially those of the Stanley sound, will like. Check in a local record outlet carrying bluegrass, or order from Copper Creek Records, P. O. Box 3161, Roanoke, VA 24015. Best wishes to Ralph II and John for much success on this effort.

I will try to finish this off with some good news, at least as of this writing. Brother Oswald is improving, recovering from surgery. Earl Scruggs is doing well and Jimmy Dickens won a bout with pneumonia.

I encourage all of you to get out and support bluegrass music in every way you can this year. Thank you for the support you have given me and my radio program, "Sunday Bluegrass," on WFPK FM 91.98, Sundays, 8-11 p.m. Let's keep it going and growing through the New Year.

Best to all of you for a bright, happy and successful 1997.