Help Me Complete My New Album!

Seasons CoverHey folks! I’m just so excited about this new project. Everything is coming together and we’re getting ready to begin the recording phase. That’s when the expenses just get to be more than my pocketbook can manage. So, I’ve launched a Kickstarter Campaign to help fund the production costs associated with completing the album.

Check it out! You’ll notice that I’ve put together some enticing rewards for you, but more than that, I hope you’ll take pride in sponsoring an album that hopes to raise awareness about the homeless. I have to raise $5,000 by May 31st or the project won’t fund. Please help me get the word out by contacting your local bluegrass association, DJ, newspaper, friends…well, you get the idea!  Thanks so much!

Buffalo Creek Flood Remembered

I was contacted by a reporter from West Virgina for permission to use I song I wrote back in 2001 about the Buffalo Creek Flood on their show “Inside Appalachia” which will air this Sunday at 7 AM and 6 PM (also available as a downloadable podcast). Of course I was more than happy to have them use the song and I hope that many of you will have an opportunity to listen in to the program or download it from their website. It just reminded me once again of the power of music in our world. As a songwriter, I look for events and issues that really speak to my heart for inspiration. Sometimes the songs that result surprise me. They seem to take me over as they struggle to life. As I work on new material for my next album, it’s good to be reminded that the songs I’ve written in the past are still being used to tell the story and raise awareness years later. By the way, “Buffalo Creek Flood” is available on the Barnstormin’ album that can be downloaded for free from NoiseTrade. Enjoy!

I’m Still Alive…Thanks for Checking!

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s what happens when I get into the “zone” working on a new album. There’s just so much that has to be done before an album can be released. Coming up with a concept is one of the first things I do. I started out asking myself all kinds of questions (in private…otherwise people stare) like “What do you feel passionately about at this stage in life? What’s going on in the world that strikes a chord (pardon the pun) in your heart? What stories do you want to tell?” Once I determined what direction I wanted to go in, I started researching and working on the music. It took a while to whittle the pile down to what might possibly end up on the album. Arrangements had to be tweaked, rewritten, or even created from scratch. New songs are written, reworked, and basically run through the wringer until they are ready to be presented to the rest of the band. I always enjoy the give and take with other band members as we practice the songs. Watching the music come together is such an exciting part of this process. I hope to have a teaser to release soon and I’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign to help with the pre-production costs like studio rental, graphic design and licensing. Watch your inboxes…it’s gonna be an exciting year!

My Hat’s in the Ring!

I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring and seek nomination for the IBMA Board of Directors – Artists & Composers Category. I’m a lifetime member of this fine organization and, at this time in my life, I feel compelled to give something back to the community of bluegrass in any way I can. I hope you will take a moment and send an email to suggestions@ibma.org nominating me for the Artists & Composers Category.

I am dedicated to advancing the cause of bluegrass internationally as well as intergenerationally, and will be a voice of reason for all IBMA members, from the fledgling picker to the virtuoso fiddler. I promise transparency on behalf of the IBMA Board of Directors and will use my communication skills to keep all IBMA members informed of what’s going on within our association.

Nominate James

Hazel McGee Is Going Home

I was just facebooking with Hazel’s son, Herman, this past weekend and learned that Hazel wasn’t doing well, but her death still came as a shock followed by a deep sense of loss. I’ve idolized the White Mountain Band since I moved to New York in the 1980s. Their music really spoke to me and reminded me of my early childhood days listening to singing from backwoods Baptist churches and church camps. Hazel and Mac epitomized that haunting mountain harmony that is a signature of original bluegrass pioneers.

James with Hazel McGee at 2005 Jamboree

James with Hazel McGee at 2005 Jamboree

I remember the year that Hazel & Mac performed at the Park Slope Jamboree. It was such a thrill to join them on stage and sing a few old gospel songs with them. Their contribution to the music we love will live on forever in the worldwide community of bluegrass. I’m sure Hazel is making herself at home in heaven.

Whirling Through the World of Bluegrass

It was so great to get a chance to go to the IBMA World of Bluegrass again. For some years this event has conflicted with the Park Slope Jamboree, but I’m happy to report that is no longer the case! Let me just say kudos to the City of Raleigh for making all of us bluegrassers feel so welcome. It was a total immersion experience and I LOVED IT! Catching up with old (and young!) friends and fellow musicians was just the tip of the bluegrass blade for me. I was in constant motion from the time I arrived. Hanging out with Bill Keith (the Brown Jug Award winner at this year’s Jamboree) at his special reception for winning the Distinguished Artist Award was a highlight as was walking the red carpet for the awards show. I enjoyed myself immensely and am already chomping at the bit for next year’s soiree!

Jamboree Hugs to Everyone!

Best Jamboree EVER! That’s pretty much the comment that I kept hearing from folks about this year’s Park Slope Jamboree. We had the biggest crowd ever, the best food ever, and the best entertainment ever…so I guess I’d have to agree!! My thanks go out to all of you who came out and supported our “happy little festival.” And to the performers who gave their time and talent to entertain as well as to educate. I was deeply honored that Bill Keith was able to be with us and to accept this year’s Brown Jug Award…though we had to call it a Brown “Hug” Award since yours truly went off and left the award sitting at home! The photos are in and I’ve posted a few on the Jamboree page of my website. The 15th Annual Park Slope Bluegrass and Old Time Jamboree is officially in the books, so mark your calendars for 2015′s event scheduled for September 25 and 26. See you then!

It’s Here! The Music Video Is Finally Here!!!!

Video Cover blueIt has long been a dream of mine to create a music video featuring the song “Almost Hear the Blues.” Stonewall Jackson wrote this song and when he sang it to me over the telephone it conjured up such vivid pictures in my head that I knew one day, when I had the chance to make a music video, this would be the song for it.

I’ve been saying that the bluegrass industry needs to kick it up a notch and start making more music videos as that’s what appeals to the visually-stimulated generation of today. So I decided to put my money where my mouth is and this is the result. I worked with a talented filmmaker from the west coast, Rick Bowman of Backyard Green Films, and thankfully we were able to pull this together without breaking the bank.

Here’s a little background about the video itself.  As we kicked around ideas, we decided to tell the story of a man who sought perfection in love and ended up alone. We used shots of remembered festivals and dancing to this same song with his sweetheart as kids to show happier times and then cut to images that brought to mind the full impact of his loneliness. It isn’t until she’s actually gone that he’s able to let go of the idea of the perfect woman and go after her.

“Almost Hear the Blues” is included on my 8th CD, “One Foot in the Honky Tonk” which was released in 2011. The song charted nationally and the CD was featured on two Top Ten CDs of 2011 lists. To read more about it, just click on the CD title. I sure hope you like our little video!

Looking for Luck in All the Wrong Places

snake eyesA lot has been said about the luck of the Irish, especially around St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m not sure that all that luck has been particularly good luck! A few years ago I wrote a song about gambling on love and coming up with snake eyes. Thought you might enjoy listening to this bluegrass twist on the classic unlucky in love story, unlike most, a bluegrasser just never gives up! Be sure to call your local DJ and request “Snake Eyes” for St. Patrick’s Day! It’s available on my 2011 release “One Foot in the Honky Tonk.

 

Lights, Camera, Action at the DBA

DBA JamI got to see firsthand the wonderful work that the Desert Bluegrass Association does to promote Bluegrass in southern Arizona when I went to Tucson to host a screening of the film documentary “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass” that I produced. Once a month, as part of their monthly meeting, the DBA offers an amazing workshop for youngsters that focuses on a variety of bluegrass instruments. It was a school night, but many of those kids stuck around for the film screening as they wanted to pick up some kernels of wisdom from the men and women that created this music that we love.

James at Screening

Of course, it’s always great to hear people laughing at the funny stories and adventures as well as wiping away a tear or two at the words of a well-loved pioneer that has since passed on. It was a big crowd and it was an honor for me to be there. Hearing them shout out in recognition of their own heroes like JD Crowe or Kenny Baker made all that hard work to put the film together worthwhile.

I was loading up the car after everyone had left and getting ready to head back home to the Phoenix area when my car wouldn’t start. Nothing but a dead click when I turned the key. Well, I sat for awhile and sent up a prayer or two, then turned the key again. VRROOOM! It started right up. What a blessing! And that’s just how my life has been ever since I came to Arizona…just filled with blessings that have come in the oddest packages! I’m so happy and thrilled to have met so many wonderful people of the DBA and am looking forward to performing at the Marana Bluegrass Festival next month. Hope to see you there!

If your Association or any other group would like to sponsor a screening of the film “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass: Tales of the Early Days in Their Own Words” just let me know. In most cases, there’s no charge for a screening.