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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Showing posts with label Mary Flower. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary Flower. Show all posts

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Yellow Dog Records artists: The Ragpicker String Band - Self Titled - New Release Review

I just received the newest release, The Ragpicker String Band by Mary Flower, Rich DelGrosso and Martin Grosswendt and it's refreshing. Opening with Walter Vinson's Honey Babe, Martin takes the lead on vocals and guitar with Mary on harmony and slide and Rich on harmony and mandolin. Nicely blended vocals, warm slide and clean mando work makes for a super opener. Lil Johnson's Minor Blues features Mary on lead vocals and she does a really nice job grabbing the tension of the original. A tight mando solo by Rich and Mary's guitar accompaniment enriched by Martin on fiddle rounds out the track. Contemporary Google Blues by Rich Lyons, features DelGrosso on lead vocal and mando. Martin's bottleneck slide work on this track is really sweet and Mary rounds out the track with clean guitar riffs. Very nice! A change in perspective altogether with Thelonious Monk's, Blue Monk... rag style. Mary on guitar, Martin on slide and Rich on mando...very nice! Sleepy John Estes' Clean Up At Home is a cool track featuring lead mando and vocal by Martin. Mary compliments on guitar with a nicely executed solo and vocal and Rich on vocal and mandola. JW Routh's Motel Towel has really rich vocal harmonies behind Rich on lead vocal and mandola. Mary's lap slide playing is really stylistically nice and Martin also adds guitar. Mary's own composition, Baby Where You Been, of course features Mary on vocal and guitar. With a 40's flavor and backed by Martin on mando, Rich takes a really nice resonator solo. Another Sleepy John track, Black Mattie, is one of my favorites on the track. Rich's mandola work on this track is particularly cool backed by Mary on guitar and Rich on slide. Another Walter Vinson track, Lonely One In This Town, is a cool period piece reminding me quite a bit of the Red Clay Ramblers. Rich vocals highlighted by Martin on fiddle makes this a standout track. One of DelGrosso's originals, By Your Side, has a little bit of an island feel but still remaining in the folk blues realm. Rich on lead vocal and mandola is really nicely complimented by Mary's slide work on this track. Another Sleepy John track, Milk Cow Blues is one that I was introduced to long before I knew of Estes by Ry Cooder. Love Estes but have a particularly soft spot for those early Cooder releases and this track has a similar mandolin riff by Martin as played by Cooder. Mary takes the primary guitar solo on this one and Rich compliments on Mandola. Very nice! An excellent take on Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning is offered up here and Mary does her best lead vocal on this track. Accompanying herself on guitar with Martin and Rich adding warm backing vocals, this is one of my release favorites. Another DelGrosso original, Street Doctor Blues, has a real Estes sound and Rich's lead vocals and especially his mando work really make this track breathe. Mary's slide work on this track is really slick and Martin supports on guitar. Mary penned the closer, Bruno's Dream, a real nice instrumental featuring her on slide, Martin on guitar and Rich on mando. This is a really clean track and a super closer to a honest release. Excellent!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dateline: 7/12/2014 Westminster, MD- Common Ground Music Festival. - Stilladog - Special guest reporter

Yesterday the Common Ground On The Hill Music Festival began wrapping up two weeks of workshops, lessons, and jams. The prime purposes of Common Ground are cultural diversity, musical education, and promotion of the American roots art forms, particularly music and dance. Of course, at the heart of all this is blues music. Whether sawing out a hoedown on a fiddle, a zydeco two-step on accordion or ripping up a mean blues break solo on a National Steel guitar, the blues is always present while not always front and center. My day started out with a set by Scott Ainslie. He played a National Steel throughout his whole set, once using a paper napkin to use as a damper to get the sound he wanted when blending sad blues lyrics with an upbeat guitar line straight out of Nigerian Juju music! In addition to some original tunes his set was accented by Robert Johnson tunes and stories. He did Come On In My Kitchen in the David Bromberg style. And after telling the story of the "Sundown" laws that did not allow blacks out after dark -which got Robert Johnson's head busted open more than once- he finished the set with Crossroads Blues.

After cooling off with a craft beer at Der Bier Garten which was really served in a garden, we took in Guy Davis set complete with some Appalachian clog-style dancing to a blues number. Guy Davis is probably one of the most popular and well recognized artists at the festival and has been playing there for many years. He did several classic blues tunes in addition to a few covers. He was accompanied by Professor Louie on accordion and Christopher James on mandolin. The knockout punch by Guy Davis was a rendition of Bob Dylan's Lay Lady Lay in which Professor Louie's haunting accordion part set the base for Davis impassioned vocals. In my mind Lay Lady Lay by Guy Davis was the runner-up for best single song of the day!


Mary Flower followed Davis on the "Blues Stage." She played a number of original tunes. If you are unfamiliar with Mary Flower music, she is at times heavy on the slide guitar played lap style on Dobro and a custom made box guitar. The highlight of her set was I'm Dreaming of Your Demise from her Misery Love Company album. Despite the fact that she was smack in the middle of Carroll County Maryland, she did not play the Carroll County Shuffle. Instead she offered up loads of other top notch acoustic blues and was a most gracious performer.
After a pulled pork sandwich and some jalapeno & sriracha coleslaw we settled in for the most entertaining set of the day, Professor Louie & The Crowmatix. This set was billed as "Professor Louie & The Crowmatix with the Rock of Ages horns. Except the Rock of Ages horns apparently missed the tour bus. But in their place was a trombone, trumpet, tenor and baritone sax horn section made up of local guys which Professor Louie introduced as "The Westminster Horns."
Thanks to Coffey Music of Westminster, Bob Coffey and his merry band (including my old tennis partner Dave Motter on trombone) the Rock of Ages horns were barely missed! The band did have to stay pretty close to the charts with a bunch of new guys playing, so only organized solos were rendered. But it was a great set highlighted by three outstanding Band covers, Ophelia, Don't Do It, and The Weight. Professor Louie is another artist who has been very active in Common Ground. I know he's played every year that I've been there, and many more.

The grand finale was Hot Tuna. Jorma Kaukonen was extremely sharp for a 70 year old picker. And the tone resonating from his acoustic guitar was about as pure a tone as the instrument can render! Along with long time partner Jack Cassady on bass and Barry Mitterhoff on Mandolin, they picked their way through the American Folk and Blues catalog and their own songs. Hesitation Blues, Prohabition Blues, and Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out were all very strong numbers. But the single best song of the day was Barbeque King Blues! Just fantastic. Sooo much better than ANY rendering of this song than anything I've heard since the time I picked up Jorma's Barbeque King album on vinyl from the cut-out bin at my local record store in 1984. I hope it was recorded to be released on a future album because they really nailed it and looked like they were having fun doing it!
Bottom line: It was a beautiful day to do many of the things I enjoy most, drinking beer, eating barbeque, and listening to the very best blues music. This festival is truly a hidden gem and has been for years. In years past I've seen Buckwheat Zydeco, Arlo Guthrie, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and CJ Chenier at this festival. And the best thing is, it's only two miles from my house! It's a shame more people don't come to it, but on the other hand the crowd was just right for maximum enjoyment. The Festival continues today with Professor Louie playing again and tonight's headliners, New Riders of the Purple Sage.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

Mississippi Blues - Mary Flower and Thad Beckman


Mary Flower is an award-winning American musician and music educator on the independent Yellow Dog Records label. A blues and ragtime fingerstyle guitarist and vocalist, she combines intricate syncopated Piedmont style fingerpicking with lap-slide guitar.

In 2000 and 2003, Flower placed in the top three at the National Finger Style Guitar Championship, the only female to do this twice for guitar.

She’s performed with Jorma Kaukonen, guitarist/songwriter Pat Donohue, Hot Rize founder Tim O’Brien, singer Molly O’Brien, guitarist/songwriter Geoff Muldaur, and the Campbell Brothers. As a songwriter, arranger and educator she has several musical and instructional releases to her credit.

A professional musician for more than 20 years, Thad Beckman has paid his dues on these same dusty roads which run from California to New Jersey and points in between. His finely-crafted original songs are the story of life, the voice of modern America...from the growling delta blues of the Deep South to evocative contemporary folk...bound by the common thread of experience gleaned from the road . You can hear it in his voice....he's been there.

From an admittedly non-musical family, Thad started out as a teenager playing in Portland, Oregon high school bands, joined the Air Force during Vietnam and ended up studying classical guitar in Florida. One day the blues got a hold of him and have yet to let go. Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Gatemouth Brown, Buddy Guy, T - Bone Walker, Freddie King and Albert King have all left their mark on Thad's early development as a guitarist. You can feel it in his playing.

Moving from Portland to northern California in the late 1980's, Thad was quickly recognized by music promoters as an exceptional talent. As a guitarist, Thad Beckman has been hired by Bo Diddley, The Shirelles and Earl Thomas. As a bandleader he soon found himself sharing the stage with such renowned artists as B.B. King, Albert Collins, James Cotton, The Band, Emmylou Harris, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. During this time, Thad also recorded three self-produced album projects, all of which received outstanding local press.

Thad returned to his hometown roots in Portland, OR where he is a popular guitar instructor and continues to perform locally, abroad, in the midwest, Texas and California. In 2002, Thad released his CD "Thad Beckman" which also received critical acclaim. His new project "Blues Gone By" was just released and features Write on our Facebook Wall or post your Photos of great blues events! Here