Danny Barnes  (from the album Get Myself Together (ten years later)) - Time has been tough on the original Get Myself Together release from Danny Barnes. The album came in 2005 and the label that hosted the effort folded, granting the recording high dollar status on EBay. Letters from fans of the album have been a constant for Danny Barnes and the need for the album to be available again was appealing. The staff at Eight 30 Records in Austin, Texas were among those listeners that heard worth in the original album and brought the album back into affordable with the release of Get Myself Together (ten years on). The album is acoustic, showcasing Danny’s talents on banjo as well presenting the playing as standing testament to why Danny Barnes received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in September 2015.

Danny Barnes formed The Bad Livers in Austin, Texas, guiding the band through a ten year run from 1990 through 2000. His solo work has continued from his home in Washington state and Danny Barnes ushers in Get Myself Together (ten years on) with the promises of the title track. Salvation optimism finds its way into “Let Your Light Shine on Me” and he aims to turn around the world for “Big Girl Blues”, lets the notes waver and wander under the options of “Get It on Down the Line”, and slaps a beat below the fast traveling banjo playing making its way through “Cumberland Gap”.

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Mountain Sprout (from the album Refried, Best O’ the Beans) - The steady shuffling, shifty stories of Mountain Sprout might lead you to believe that the guys are not highly-responsible multi-taskers. The band shows that they can handle several things at once as they balance personal resumes and a political stance, taking care and consideration for each statement on “Screw the Govt”. The track is alongside an accounting of the finest- to-date Mountain Sprout tunes, all stacked together on Refried, Best O the Beans. Mountain Sprout rush the rhythms of “Shittin’ in the Woods”, double the beat to pound the environmental message “Into the Sun”, mine scientific depths, seeking answers in “Blue Marble”, and proudly sing of the “Little Bird” chirping in their collective souls. As much as the playing constantly offers surprises, the song titles of Refried leave nothing to the imagination. 

A fast track strum and runaway banjo/fiddle combo propel “Marijuana” into life as Mountain Sprout tell the sad tale of “Dry Counties”, swear off the stuff in “Hangover” as “Habits to Feed” laundry lists life’s little helpers.  Refried, Best O the Beans takes a shot at “Turkey Buzzard” with a high-speed beat, stops to “Smell the Daisies” on a sunny afternoon, and tightly pulls the strings on “It Don't Matter” until it explodes in rhythm. Mountain Sprout take a moment to offer some of the salvation they found in their back pockets as the band welcomes you into the “Whiskey Church of Green Bud”.

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Eliza Gilkyson (from the album The Nocturnal Diaries) - The Nocturne Diariesis a meeting ground for Eliza Gilkyson. It is a place where her highest hopes and darkest fears face off. A line from Eliza sums up the stage where her songs to act out their tales, “for me, the challenge today is to remain human when everything around us compels us to shut down”.It is a possibility that we are joining Eliza GIlkyson at her bathroom mirror as she sings to her image, “Eliza Jane”, in front of a medicine cabinet full of bluegrass. Personal themes come up in “All Right Here” and the confession may be more self-analyzing as Eliza studies her actions to hopefully find the intentions she was trying to put into her life.

She wears the skin of others as she becomes a lead character crimped from headlines heralding one teenager’s rampage (“An American Boy”) and the prayers of an abused teenage-girl (“Not My Home”). It is the strength in Eliza Gilkyson’s voice that makes these songs all feel like first person narratives. She stands beside the definition of the Folk Musician, the traveling troubadour who takes the times from town to town in her stories, lovingly passing on news through her music.

Talking about the collection of songs, Eliza Gilkyson offered a lesson from the pen of a songwriter, “the songs that come in the night are very different then the daylight songs. Usually the big themes crop up in the dark – thoughts of mortality, the state of the world, the plight of mankind, one’s failures, losses and fears – the things we are too distracted to notice during the day. But the backdrop of shadows also can highlight the faces of the loving people who share your life with you, who care about the world, nature and humanity, who keep the fires of hope, humor and hearth burning bright in this time, who make your life meaningful and worthy of your best intentions.” Eliza goes to a folk standard, “Fast Freight”, painting the sound in 1950-era with an Americana brush that adds color to the original tune as done by her father’s band, Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders as well as The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four and Tim Hardin. The Nocturne Diaries shares its secret of mutual affection for all sounds and ways of bringing them to life. “The Ark” takes today on board and places it in a dream fit for the Bible fables, set against traditional mid-eastern instrumentation and the R’n’R grit of “The Red Rose and the Thorn” boasts the first big electric guitar solo for Eliza, capably backed by rock’n’roll royalty with Ian McLagan on Hammond B3.

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John Nemeth (from the album Memphis Grease) - The Blues made a Soul man out of John Németh. The son of a Hungarian immigrant grows up in Boise, Idaho and learns his chops on the harmonica by building on the style of rootsy heroes like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson.

 

 

John Batdorf and James Lees Stanley (from the album All Wood and Stones II) - James Lee Stanley always goes to wood when he reworks, reinvents and completely recreates the music of other artists, usually classic rock icons.On All Wood and Stones II, recorded with John Batdorf, James and John wear the skin of lead singers and players on Rolling Stones classics.  The album takes the songs of Mick and Keith and presents them as new versions. On a strictly personal side, it is great to hear songs of The Rolling Stones in a way that highlights, and slows down the story line for general consumption.

The Rolling Stones join the ranks of many classic rock artists with songs that are so much a part of our culture, of our lives, the songwriting is often ignored or watered down from repeated listening. The songs become too familiar.  James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf have transformed the material, and given the tunes a new life. All Wood and Stones II is a folk circle for the disco hit ”Missing You” and “Get Off My Cloud” offers its story of consumerism in a high rise with a folk/rock foundation.

James Lee Stanley provided some back story for classic songs and his re-workings in wood, “Several years ago at a wedding I found myself on the stage with two other songwriters and, realizing we only knew our own songs, we chose to sing an old favorite “Ruby Tuesday”.    We did it on the fly with one acoustic guitar and three part harmony and the wedding party went crazy.  They LOVED it. On the way home I said to my wife, ‘you know I don’t think anyone has ever heard the Rolling Stones songs done like that and I suspect they’d like it’.

I contacted a fellow musician that I had always admired and asked John Batdorf if he wanted to do a CD of this music.   He jumped on board and being the pro he is, showed up utterly prepared with arrangement ideas, new strings on his Martin and in voice. We went through the Stones catalog chose the songs we thought we could bring something new to and proceeded to record “All Wood and Stones”.    We tried to imagine these songs as though they had been written by us in southern California instead of England. Then last year, while John and I were on the road doing our yearly All Wood and Stones, we got to talking and decided we wanted to do a second volume of classic Stones song. All Wood and Stones II was born.   This time we decided to have no other guest artists on it, just John and I on guitars and vocals, our two favorite bass players, Chad Watson and Bill Batstone and the wonderful Tom Walsh on drums.”

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