If there’s still ramblin in the rambler, let him go to Delfest…

Being that I am in an band whose music is based on bluegrass you would think that I would have a knowledge and love for the genre. I have always liked bluegrass, but have never been a student of the art so to speak. Everybody has heard of Yonder Mountain String Band, a lot of folks in my deadhead community dig Old and In The Way, and bands like Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident have been the front runners of the “new grass” revival of the 2000’s. Getting the opportunity to perform at the 2011 DelFest with my brothers in Slim Pickinz gave me a first hand view of some of the top acts in the bluegrass\new-grass world. Del’s wonderful, hometown style festival books bands that represent every aspect of bluegrass. From strictly traditional groups like the Del McCoury band, to genre bending groups like Scythian and the Punch Brothers, there are so many unique and different takes on bluegrass these days. Spending three days in a field with all of the muddy fans was so inspiring. Late one night, or early one morning (I cant remember which!) a tune and some lyrics began to flow through my brain. I have always had trouble writing songs and lyrics. I find that I am limited as to what I can play on a 6 string guitar, so a lot of my compositions begin in similar keys. I have also found my lyrics to be forced and hokey, at least in my opinion. My experience at DelFest changed all of that. For the first time I really felt music flowing through me, and in me. That moment was the beginning of a tune that I finished shortly after returning home from that weekend. In the coming months, Moonshine Breakfast will make its debut as a Slim Pickinz tune, only the second of our many originals that I have composed. I’m not sure if I’ll sing it, but its definitely a tune for our band. To tell you the truth, I kinda wrote it in the voice of Johnny Smooches, our main song writer, vocalist and guitarist.

Throughout this whole absorption of everything bluegrass, one band stood tall in my mind…well, two actually but I will get to the second in a minute. Old Crow Medicine Show, originally introduced to me by my friend and now band-mate Jason Blevins, represents (to me) the top of the new-grass game. Their music is old yet new at the same time. When one listens to their music, you will hear songs that echo war ballads of the 1800’s, moonshine, cocaine, the Vietnam war…so many things all across the board. I feel like I want to learn and perform so much of their music just simply because I love it so. They illustrate how a group of guys in their late twenties can replicate the sound and feel of music that was created in the 20’s.

The second band, or collection of bands in this case, that i found extremely interesting was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring the Del McCoury band. Is their one person on this earth that can withhold the urge to dance to that classic New Orleans jazz and swing? Who would have ever thought that bluegrass would go so well with Preservation Hall’s eclectic sound. What this all proved to me is that the world of bluegrass is expansive and continuing to expand at the same time. New technologies and years of different inspirations have allowed the music to flow in so many directions. Maybe its just my previous shallow perception of what was really out there, but regardless it has opened my mind and body to all things bluegrass. One person is mostly to blame for this.

David Bell, banjo player, vocalist, and fellow member of Slim, has been the push that i needed to get into the pool of bluegrass music. Of all the folks that have performed as a member of Slim Pickinz, Dave has always been the true and blue bluegrass fan. It was Dave and I that initiated the jam sessions that created the Scarborough Mountain Ramblers and more importantly Slim Pickinz. Dave bought and learned how to play a banjo quicker than any man alive which soon eclipsed my talent (or lack there of) on the guitar. Enter Johnny Smooches, his brain full of lyrics and an almost affinity for the “boom chika boom” rhythms that we needed so much. Soon there after a band was formed. A band that people seemed to like. A band we all seemed to love being in.

This brings me to the end of this little note that came out of nowhere. Maybe if English wasn’t so damn boring I could have been a writer! This is another example of how inspirations have directed my life in a new direction. All of this is thanks to the Banjo. There would be no bluegrass if not for the Banjo. There would be no deliverance theme without the banjo. Last but certainly not least, there would be no Slim Pickinz without the banjo.

If anybody actually read this in its entirety, Id like to thank you. Feel free to leave a comment or continue my thoughts with thoughts of your own. To the fellas in Slim that put up with my constant jokes and thumping, non bluegrass bass lines: I love you all like brothers. Together we have created something magical, on that fact we can agree. Who knows what the future holds, but this guy is happier that I have been in along time. I think that may be because for the first time in my life I have a musical output, something every musician good or bad needs to have. Thank you all.