Roll ‘Em!

AZ Film Fest - Patrick Tourville

Filmmakers Reams, Bowman and Tourville

I have to say that I was thrilled by the response we for the 1st Annual Arizona Bluegrass Film Festival right here in Phoenix. Thanks to all of you that came out for the event! Arizona Republic even wrote a nice article about the festival. Several of those present were brand new to bluegrass…and that was music to my ears! It just doesn’t get any better than to share my passion for this music with someone who’s just had their first sip of vintage bluegrass. As they learned about how this music came into being; listened to clips from the likes of The Seldom Scene, David Grisman, Doyle Lawson, The Travelers and Del McCoury; and experienced the love and family atmosphere that surrounds this genre…many were changed, converted by their exposure to the genuine article.

AZ Film Fest

Plans are already underway for a bigger and even better film festival in 2015. Stay tuned!

Cool Times in the Big Apple!

Had a blast at Wind Gap last weekend. It’s great to be back east with the band and performing at these festivals that I’ve loved for so long. We’ll be performing at Jalopy Theatre on Friday, 6/20, so mosey on down and join us for some great music and hear the latest info on the 15th Anniversary of the Jamboree. Big doin’s planned for that event this year! The band will be heading back out to Cross Fork, PA for the Smoked Country Jam. We perform on Saturday at 2 and 7. Hope to see lots of old (and young!) friends at these events. Be sure to say “Hi!”

Escapes or Escapades???

The temps are rising in Arizona, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to escape back East for a couple of weeks to perform at some festivals as well as do a show at Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. Hope to catch up with many friends and fellow music lovers while I’m there. Be sure to stop by and say “Hi!” at Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival. I’ll be there with the Barnstormers on Father’s Day. Next stop is Jalopy on Friday, 6/20. The show starts at 9:00. Jalopy is one of those rare places where music just “happens.” If you haven’t been there, then shame on you! Check out their new trailer on YouTube. Winding up the eastern stops is the wild and woody Smoked Country Jam in Cross Fork, PA. We’ll be performing on Saturday, 6/21 at 2:00 and 7:00. Sure hope to run into you at one or all of these escapades!

Roaring Times in April

April roared in like a lion with shows in New York and Arizona. We packed the Good Coffeehouse at The Old Stone House in Brooklyn – standing room only! It was great to see so many familiar faces and meet some new folks. Spring in the Big Apple is such a special time of year but I sure was glad to return home to the warm temperatures!

Last weekend was the Marana Bluegrass Festival and boy! did we have some fun there. I brought along two fiddlers and managed to talk the Rolland brothers into joining us on stage for a Fiddling Round Robin. These Round Robins are always such crowd pleasers and the Marana audience ate it up with a spoon! Great times and looking forward to more. Check out our Event Calendar and be sure to say “Howdy!” when you see us at the next festival.

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.

Standing Room Only

What a great night at Fiddler’s Dream! Thanks to all of you who came out for this Grand Finale of our 20th Anniversary tour. We packed the place and even had to turn folks away at the door. The stage manager told me later that it was the largest crowd they had ever had at Fiddler’s Dream. And we pulled out all the stops! Grammy-nominated fiddler, Doug Bartlett, joined us on stage and ripped into the fiddle tunes like whirlwind. Plus the band was smoking hot all night. We also gave a Barnstormer Boost to Anni Beach, founder of the Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band for her tireless efforts to promote bluegrass across multi-generations and cultures out here in the southwest. Anni brought along one of her talented students, 11 year old Alan, who joined us on stage for a couple of numbers and melted the hearts of everyone. It really means so much to me as a former teacher, to see these youngsters take the stage and fearlessly tackle a rousing traditional tune. What a great way to close out a year of exciting shows across the US. Now I’m back to work writing songs for the new album which should be released next year. 2014 is going to be even bigger and more thrilling!

A Golden Opportunity

I am so looking forward to the Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills festival in Plymouth, CA this weekend! I start getting antsy to perform after hanging around the house all week. From what I hear, just about everybody in the California bluegrass scene will be at this event which should make for some fun times. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by. There’s lots going on at the event itself. I’m even leading a songwriting workshop! Located in the heart of gold country, Plymouth is just a few miles east of Sacramento. Bring your family and friends, instruments and gold panning pans, who knows, you might have a golden moment with one of them!

Back in Old New York

NY Botanical Gardens

Japanese Garden

Had a great time back in New York and New Jersey last week. Spent some time hanging out with friends, working on the Pioneers film, playing music, and chowing down on some really good eats! Speaking of good food, I stopped off at the Oyster Bar in the basement of Grand Central Station to get my seafood fix and caught a musical performance of dancers in horse costumes prancing around the Station…only in New York! Also took the opportunity to walk through the Botanical Gardens. It’s so beautiful there in springtime, I just had to share this photo with you!

While in Brooklyn, I worked with the production crew to create a trailer for the documentary film “Making History with Pioneers of Bluegrass.” Check it out under the Pioneers DVD menu on the website. The film is coming along and if we remain on schedule, should be released in June.

Bernie's Hillside Tavern

With owner Bernie Wallace and his son Eric

And, best of all, I played a couple of venues with the Barnstormers! We sure enjoyed our first time at Bernie’s Hillside Tavern in nearby Chester, NJ. And I was thrilled to spot Trudi Hensley (wife of the late Walter Hensley) in the audience. She had driven 2 hours to catch the performance. It was great to catch up with her, Stephanie Ledgin (noted bluegrass author) and Harry Grant (promoter for Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival). As a special tribute, we played a number of songs that were included on the album I made with Walter (Barons of Bluegrass) which was nominated by IBMA for Recording Event of the Year.

Returning to Jalopy Theatre was like old times. Some places just fit you like a glove and that’s how I feel about Jalopy’s. When owners, Lynette & Geoff Wiley contacted me last July about performing there again, I couldn’t have been happier. This place is an icon in the music scene of NYC and the kitsch is literally off the walls. The vaudeville-like atmosphere just seems to bring out the best in performers who play there and it sure was true when we hit the stage last Saturday night.

Jalopy Theatre - Photograph by Jack Hirschorn

Jalopy Show – Photograph by Jack Hirschorn

Great times, great friends, great music…looking forward to the next trip in May for the Square Dance at Battery Park Conservancy.