Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Well, now, here we are. A brand new year. How will it treat us? How will we treat it? Last year was truly a mix of events - the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Aside for a moment, I hope you have had a pleasant and good holiday season. Hope Santa filled your stockings with optimism, confidence and all good blessings for the coming year.

The GOOD

Among many other things, the success of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," movie and soundtrack as well as follow-on or spin-offs, if you will, that are doing well. This one production has proved itself to be a high-powered catalyst in bringing Traditional, Old Time and Bluegrass music to multitudes. An awakening to those through an exposure they may not have gotten otherwise.

An e-mail I received passed along the following: At the time, "O Brother" remains at No. 1 on the Top Sound Track Albums and "Down From The Mountain" moved from No. 19 to No. 16. Billboard's 2001 Year-End lists land "O Brother" at No. 2 spot on country charts and No. 23 on Top 200. This chart positioning must be a commercial programmer's/program director's worst nightmare. The "charts" are the last word in programming for them, and now the top stuff is the music they refuse to play. My, my, my. Sure am glad I don't have that problem on Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK. Count our blessings.

The BAD

Last year was extremely rough on our music business. We took some heavy hits in performers, musicians and writers. Folks like Benny Martin, Randall Hylton, Johnny Russell, John Hartford, Gene Wooten, Chet Atkins and others. I suppose the only salve for these wounds is to savor the memories, music, friendships and performance videos that are available. They all left us a legacy, some so special that they can't be matched. Each of his own kind and in their own way. Possibly one of the best examples of what I am trying to convey, because it has been proven by the test of time, is Hank Williams. And there are others.

The UGLY

September 11, 2001

May I Suggest . . .

A couple of recommendations you may want to consider. First, the video "Down From The Mountain." This is the video of the concert, performed and recorded at the Ryman, described as "The Music Of `O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Comes to Life." This video features the artists of the soundtrack in the concert setting. A wonderful and most appropriate auditorium for this particular performance. I watched and enjoyed this show. I personally had mixed emotions. I think it was John's last recording; think I remember reading that somewhere. Having seen John many times and becoming a friend, watching this kind of got to me. Also great to see Dr. Ralph Stanley, Emmylou and the many others. Rent or buy and see for yourself. I'm glad I found it.

Recommendation No. 2 in this series: "Steam Powered Aereo-Takes." What? "This is the true Aereoplane band" - Tut Taylor. A new CD that states on the front, "Featuring the original Aereo-Plane Band. Alternate versions and out-takes from the album that started the progressive bluegrass revolution. Band consists of John Hartford (banjo, guitar, vocals), Norman Blake (guitar, mandolin), Tut Taylor (Dobro, mandolin, mandola), Vassar Clements (fiddle, mandocello) and Randy Scruggs (electric bass).

Randy was used on the recording and was not an actual member of the band. In the info sheet that came with it: Bob Carlin, rummaging around in John's attic, found eighty-some tapes of John's days with the Aereoplane Band. There are 18 tracks on here and all good in their own way. I will be using many of them on my show. This is a Rounder release with a street date of January 22, 2002. Watch for it.

Bluegrass Coming Up

Shepherdsville Music Place: Jan. 4, Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys with Tommy Brown. Jan. 11, Jimmy Bowen & Santa Fe. Jan. 18, The Cumberland Highlanders. Jan. 25, Open Highway. Feb. 1, Larry Sparks.

Bobby's Steak House, 3862 Highway 62, Jeffersonville, Ind.: Jan. 14, The Lewis Family. Dinner served 5-7:15 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information, call 812-288-2411.

Music Ranch USA, West Point, Ky.: Jan.20, Leroy Troy - The Tennessee Slicker. This is a Sunday, and show time is 2 p.m. Don't miss.

Guess we are running a little light this time. Things will pick back up as we look ahead to eventual spring and festivals.

For the Good Times

Best wishes for a successful New Year - all year - and one that this time next year you can look back on with no regrets. If you are tested in the coming year, pass it. Bad times could be worse, good times are blessings and good friends are there for both. Thanks for all of your support as readers and listeners to Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, each Sunday night, 8-11. Tell your e-mail friends around the country how to join us; go to WFPK.org and follow on-screen instructions. Good thoughts and good wishes to all.