Old-time and new-time bluegrass booked in BPAC
January 7, 2009 · Updated 9:06 AM
ARLINGTON — If anyone stayed awake late enough on New Year’s Eve to hear a the KCTS Channel 9 TV replay of a 2007 Garrison Keillor show filmed in Nashville, Tenn, they might have heard a lively performance by Rhonda Vincent and The Rage. Vincent will be bringing her band to Arlington in one of two bluegrass concerts presented by the Arlington Arts Council this winter.
In the ongoing effort to learn what kinds of music the community of Arlington prefers, the ACC has announced two very different bluegrass music concerts this winter at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center.
An old-timey, gospel sort of bluegrass will be performed by Marley’s Ghost, Feb. 21, and a livelier, younger take on bluegrass by Rhonda Vincent & her band, The Rage, is scheduled for March 21.
AAC hopes to raise some money from the concerts toward its public art fund, according to concert committee members Laura Kuhl, Virginia Hatch and Jean Olson.
“We’ve been thinking about using the BPAC to further our goal of bringing art to Arlington,” Hatch said.
“While our membership is largely visual arts oriented, we also recognize the value of the performing arts and music.”
The arts council made use of a lodging tax grant issued to the BPAC to help pay for booking and advertising the two national recording acts.
Marley’s Ghost is a bunch of old guys who love roots music. It’s most recent recording, “Spooked” serves as a tribute to the sounds that the 20th Century cut its teeth on, according to their Web site.
“In a way, listening to Marley’s Ghost is akin to reading a selection of short essays from Mark Twain,” said Larry Sakin on the band’s Web site.
While most of the bands musicians are from California, Ed Littlefield Jr. is a resident of the Arlington area, and his recording studio, Sage Arts, has been host to the band’s many recording projects back to the mid 1980s.
Along with “Spooked,” which is illustrated by the renowned pop artist R. Crumb, they have also created “Live at The Freight” in 2003, “Across the River,” in 1998, and “Four Spacious Guys” in 1996 and the first, “Haunting Melodies” was released in 1987, repressed in 1989 and 1991, then remixed, remastered and repressed in digipak in 2005.
Van Dyke Parks has produced the likes of Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, and the late Phil Ochs.
He described the setting for the band’s recording sessions.
“Sage Arts Studio is at the Littlefield farm, on the banks of an unpronounceable river in the state of Washington. We could see eagles with salmon in their talons flying over the riverbank,” Parks said.
“It’s a rustic setting for a studio that is a combination of thoroughly modern stuff and everything of value from the golden age of analog recording. We worked hard on the record to make it entertaining to the ear and bring it into the present tense, and from a technical standpoint that studio is ideal.”
Marley’s Ghost four-man string band features four-part harmony by Jon Wilcox, Dan Wheetman, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr. who readily exchange instruments such as the autoharp, pedal steel, bouzouki, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and high-strung guitars.
A new member for the arts council, Laura Kuhl, was instrumental in booking Rhonda Vincent.
“We were talking bluegrass at city hall one day and Brenda Fecht was very knowledgeable. She said that Rhonda Vincent was looking to book a gig in this area in March and that the bluegrass community would be rush to get tickets, so we snagged her,” said Kuhl, whose husband is the city’s community development director.
An employee of the city’s permit department, Fecht is related to the bluegrass music community in Darrington.
“We’ve got Diana Morgan on board to help us promote The Rage,” Kuhl said.
In a striking contrast to Marley’s Ghost, Rhonda Vincent is accompanied by a bunch of young fellers who are also passionate about the genre of bluegrass music.
She has two new musicians, Aaron McDaris and Ben Helson, to go with Hunter Berry and Mickey Harris who are in their eighth season performing with Vincent.
A resident of Missouri, Vincent has made music and videos with Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, and Miley Cyrus and is featured on CMT.com. She gathers her musicians from across bluegrass country — Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Her bass player, Micky Harris, is from a family rich in bluegrass heritage and was involved in a Nashville TV show of The Tipton Family since he was a baby. The fiddler, Berry came from the hills of upper east Tenneseee, learning to play the spoons at age four and started to study the fiddle at 9. Ben Helson set aside sports and picked up the guitar from his dad at age 13.
McDaris started learning the guitar at age 11, then learned bass and later the banjo, now the instrument of his choice.
Vincent’s latest album, “Good Thing Going” was called “First Class Blue Grass” by USA Today. The Rage will accompany her in the Arlington concert.
“We hope the Arlington community will enjoy the opportunity to hear two very unique styles of bluegrass music,” said Olson, AAC treasurer.
“We are confident that these bands will attract bluegrass fans from around Puget Sound, so get your tickets quickly.”
Last Train to
The South End String Band has announced another economic stimulus package for the recession-hit Stanwood region. Teaming up with the Stanwood Area Historical Society, the Camano Island musicians will perform a benefit concert of its blend of old-time fiddle music and back-porch banter along with free food and free wine and beer all for a paltry ten devalued American dollars.
“All proceeds will go to the historical society and we expect it to trickle down through the entire Puget Sound basin,” said the band’s Economic Czar.
“You not only get nutritious music, you get a bread line and a bar. The good times are definitely back.”
The concert is at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10, at Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center, 27108 102nd Ave NW in Stanwood. Free food, wine and beer with $10 admission. For information call 360-629-6110 or see the Web site at www.southendstringband.com.