Sunday, September 25, 2011

Crump Family Bluegrass Day at the Country Music Hall of Fame - Saturday

Downtown Nashville is a mess as construction for a new hotel, colliseum, convention center has confused our GPS and us.  With streets blocked for the annual women's half marathon sponsored by Women's Running Magazine as well as the new construction, we couldn't drive towards the Country Music Hall of Fame without being stopped or motioned to move on. Finally we parked where we'll be for the rest of the week near the Renaissance Hotel and walked downhill past the Convention Center, the fabled Ryman Auditorium, through a small park filled with race finishers enjoying their togetherness, across the street and into the Hall of Fame building itself.  The Hall of Fame is an imposing structure suggesting several instruments nestled together.  We entered through a towering atrium and moved to the lovely Ford theater for the opening event. Unfortunately, while this was our first visit to the Hall of Fame, we never got above the first floor to see any of the exhibits. We'll be back, though.

The Atrium

The Ford Theater at the far end of the Atrium is a small amphitheater with raked seats, a lovely small stage, and wonderful sound. Every note played during the day was crystal clear and bright without ever becoming too loud.  The event was sponsored by Rick and Kit Crump of San Antonio, TX in memory of his parents Marjorie and George Crump, who were country music pioneers as owners of WCMS AM and FM radio stations in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  A restaurant in the atrium area is also dedicated to them.  For more information about the Crumps and their contribution to country radio, read here.

Rick & Kit Crump with Missy Raines and Jim Hurst

Jay Orr, CMHF  Vice President of Museum Programmin
introduces the day

Program Host: Jim Hurst

Jim Hurst, a two-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, served as host for the day and opened the program with a solo recital. Since leaving the Claire Lynch Band to strike out on his own as a solo performer, Hurst has been busy performing, recording, and promoting his career. To all appearances, he's thriving. Beyond that, the opportunity to hear Jim's amazing breadth of guitar styles and singing is enhanced because of his approach to his work. He's released a recent CD with David Grisman, and is hard at work on completing his next solo project, called "Intrepid."  During the day, he played several pieces from it, as well as from earlier projects, including his days of touring with Missy Raines as a duo. 

Jim Hurst

Missy Raines - Workshop

Missy Raines has been named IBMA Bass Player of the Year seven times.  While deeply connected to bluegrass through her roots in West Virginia and a childhood spent jamming at festivals, in recent years, with her band Missy Raines and the New Hip, she's forged into a jazzy, rootsy, bluegrass inflected sound that's uniquely her own.  In her workshop, she spoke eloquently about her development as a player and performer. She lovingly displayed her 1937 Kay bass, which has been her primary instrument since she was young.  She answered questions with candor and clarity rare for musicians in workshops.  

Rick and Kit Crump at Workshop

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers

This bluegrass band is unusual for its composition as well as for the wit and humor with which it approaches its performances.  Composed of three industry insiders and a German immigrant living in Illinois, the band has recently been performing more widely and winning fans wherever it appears.  Chris Jones is, perhaps, best known as an on-air personality (I hesitate to say disk jockey, as disks hardly exist any longer and the job seems to me to be expanded beyond that name,) particularly known for his True Grass program of classic bluegrass on Sirius/XM radio.  Ned Luberecki, on banjo, is a daily workhorse at Sirius/XM whose Sunday on-air banjo lessons have become a feature. His banjo play is among the most innovative around, and his song "The Perfect Bluegrass Song"...hilarious.  Jon Weisberger on bass is a well known song writer, journalist, and author of liner notes and articles about bluegrass as well as serving in leadership positions in IBMA.  Mark Stoffel, on mandolin, is a fine player, harmony singer, and adds to the humorous mix. 

Chris Jones

Ned Luberecki
Jon Weisberger
Mark Stoffel

Chris Jones - Workshop

Chris Jones presented an interesting and valuable guitar workshop focused on the importance of and various skills involved in playing rhythm guitar with an emphasis on the importance of melody.  He explored styles of rhythm play and demonstrated various approaches to picking, with some emphasis on cross picking on the guitar as developed by guitar great George Shuffler, who's being inducted in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame at Thursday's Awards ceremony.  

Chris Jones and Jim Hurst

Missy Raines & the New Hip

Missy Raines with her band this time, closed out the day with a strongly jazz and blues influenced set that still managed to reflect the strong presence of bluegrass in her makeup.  Of particular interest was Josh Philpot's bluesy rendering of the bluegrass classic "Sitting on Top of the World," delivered with a gravely, low-down voice you wouldn't expect to come from that cherubic looking face.  Rob Crawford on drums was always tasteful and restrained, even when he moved away from the brushes to sticks.  Ethan Ballenger on mandolin and guitar was strong and effective.  Missy, always animated and lively behind her bass (making her difficult to photograph and fun to catch) makes her instrument speak volumes, using its full, acoustic sound and her own creative imagination to make it into a lead instrument without ever forgetting the ensemble nature of her group. It's always interesting and fun to watch her work and hear where she's going with her music.

Missy Raines

Rob Crawford

Ethan Ballenger
Josh Philpot

The very successful day concluded with a jam mixing all the days performers. The final song was a rousing version of Bill Monroe's classic song "Big Mon" with lots of great solos from each instrument. Thanks to the Crump Family for making such a day of celebration possible. 

Closing Jam