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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Getting my Bluegrass on with the Ol' Hippie Bluegrass Show

Where the Magic Happens at the OHBS
Lately, I've been trying to step up my game on SeMiBluegrass.com and feature some of the people and organizations working to support, promote and grow opportunities for the type of live, local music I love.  I have known Jerry Eicher of the Ol' Hippie Bluegrass Show for a few years now from local festivals and the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association.  His show, originating from Adrian Michigan, on WQTE 95.3 FM, is one of the few places to hear bluegrass music free over the airwaves.  Can't pick them up on your radio?  No problem...you can live stream or listen to the archived shows here:  LINK.  (The show referenced in this article is show #394).  Jerry has repeatedly asked me to drop in the show as his guest, and over the winter vacation, I finally made it to his studio in Delta Ohio (just over the state line south of Adrian) to tape a show.  Originally, I was only going to do a brief segment, but a last-minute conflict with his co-host Brad Long left a seat open for me to co-host the entire two-hour show with Jerry to discuss our shared love of bluegrass--and especially those artists who manage the delicate balance of staying true to the roots of bluegrass, but pushing the bounds into a more progressive sound and reaching out to a new generation of fans.

Merlin:  The Magician at the Controls.
When Jerry and his first-rate producer Merlin first reached out to me for suggestions of songs to play on the show I had to look deep into my SemiBluegrass vault and pick just the right tunes.  I know Jerry already had a far greater library of material than I, but--as a kindred spirit--was always looking for something new.  Each song had to have some meaning to me; something I wanted to share with his audience.  I also wanted to showcase the type of music I love to go hear live: respectful to the bluegrass tradition, but pushing the boundaries of what bluegrass can sound like.  It was also important to me to pick  songs that are easy to sing and play--as a large part of my "SemiBluegrass Experience" revolves around playing music with others at festivals and jams.  In the end, I was able to find three songs that fit the bill.

A SemiBluegrass Playlist!
There was no doubt in my mind about my first selection, "Trout Bum" by my Marquette friends Chasin' Steel.  This is the band that first got me interested in bluegrass, and the song that set the hook (pun intended).  For a long time, the band only performed this ode to the fly fishing lifestyle in their live shows, until the eventually recorded it live on the banks of the storied Au Sable River, in Grayling Michigan.  If you listen closely, you can hear the river flowing by, the breeze in the birch trees and birds chirping in the recording.  You'll also hear the impressive Dobro chops of my good friend Bill Arnold.  The video also features my boat, my beer cooler and yours truly in some under-impressive live fishing action.  How could I not choose this song?

Jerry Showing Off His Home "Indian Ridge" Studio
Next was a local offering from my favorite Ann Arbor area songwriter, Chris Buhalis.   "Highway Shoes" is the sole "pure" bluegrass number on his decade old album "Kenai Dreams".  This is a fairly straight-ahead, classic bluegrass arrangement of a "boy meets girl, boy looses girl" song reminiscent of early Bill Monroe or Country Gentlemen tunes.  This is a great recording with a superb backing band of the best bluegrass session players in the area.  However, it is Chris' gritty and soulful voice that adds just right amount of bluesy emotion to really elevate this sad song in a happy key to bluegrass greatness. The song (actually the whole album) also features some really impressive Dobro licks by Texas slideman Jeff Plankenhorn. This is rapidly becoming a SemiBluegrass jam session favorite.  Due to a tragic worksite saw accident, Chris' sophomore album is FINALLY ready to be released this spring--the early, live performances of the material are really first class and I can't wait to hear more.

So Much Music, So Little Time
My friend Dave is to thank for the last number as he introduced me to the Cincinnati-based bluegrass trio, the Rubber Knife Gang and their traditional bluegrass anthem "Tennessee Mountain Girl".  These guys are the perfect embodiment of the SemiBluegrass Ethos.  Pretty much straight up bluegrass technique and lyrics played in a catchy, upbeat and jam-worthy style.  These are young guys playing old music and making it appealing to fans new and old.  I almost always end up playing this at jam sessions when people want to hear something "different".  Lately, they've been asking for it by name!  Jerry pulled out all the stops this night, introducing me to a bunch of great music I wasn't familiar with.  Some Christmas and old-time music keep the mood light, a killer bluegrass cover of  "Tommy" by my favorite band the Hillbenders and a great, young band called the Deadly Gentlemen.   A day with the crew and cast of characters that circle the Ol Hippie Bluegrass show was just the ticket to get out of my funk; energize myself about live music and hand out with some great friends.  And the post-show picking was even better!  Tune in to the show every Saturday night at 10:00pm or the Wednesday rebroadcast at 9:00pm.  Or better yet, drop by and say "Hi" at a concert, festival or bluegrass event near you!

Jerry's Isolation Gizmo

OHBS Superfan Rick

The BEST Tee Shirts Around

Live Music During the Show?  Yes Please!

More Live Room and a Studio Plug

"Live" Audience!

A Great Collection of Memories

"Vintage" ohbs

Jerry and His Studio Setup

Beginning of a Drum Circle!

Control Booth!

1 comment:

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