Hot Rize

Hot_RIze__Sky_brown_fenceGo West, Young Man
How The Innovative Group
Hot Rize
Became Legends
By Derek Halsey

The recent two-year reunion by the award-winning group Hot Rize was an impressive one. Throughout 2014 and 2015, the quartet played high-profile concerts throughout the country and released a wonderful album that demonstrated to a new generation of fans why they are so good and still relevant.

In 2015, the recording When I’m Free received a nomination for IBMA’s Album Of The Year, Tim O’Brien received IBMA’s Male Vocalist Of The Year nomination, Bryan Sutton was recognized as the IBMA Guitar Player Of The Year, and the band as a whole found themselves up for the coveted IBMA Entertainer Of The Year honor.

Hot Rize is a band of influence, a group that did things their own way. Back in the day (and still now), they would play the banjo through a sound-altering phase shifter, use an electric bass instead of an acoustic one, and openly brought other musical influences into their sound. Still, at the heart of what makes the group so good is their collective playing, singing, songwriting, and brotherhood.

When Hot Rize formed in the late 1970s, it originally featured Pete Wernick on banjo and vocals, Tim O’Brien on mandolin, fiddle, and vocals, Charles Sawtelle on bass and vocals, and hot-shot guitarist Mike Scap. Three months into the gig, Scap left the band and Sawtelle moved into the guitar chair, and Nick Forster was brought in as bassist, vocalist, and songwriter. For the next twenty years, the group would inspire a whole generation of contemporary bluegrass musicians and fans. Read entire article »

Go West, Young Man
How The Innovative Group Hot Rize Became Legends
By Derek Halsey

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November 2015 Reviews


HIGH LONESOME BELOW SEA LEVEL: FACES AND STORIES OF BLUEGRASS MUSIC IN THE NETHERLANDS BY MARIEKE ODERKERKEN AND LOES VAN SCHAIJK Kunst en Denkwerk 9789090289182. Hardcover, 138 pp., 30 Euros. ( Something magical happens when people of enormous talent combine to produce a labor of love. In this case, the writer Loes van Schaijk and […]

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WEST VIRGINIA’S TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC BY IVAN TRIBE AND JACOB L. BAPST, FORWARD BY BUDDY GRIFFIN Arcadia Publishing 9781467123112. Softcover, b&w photos, 128 pp., $21.99. ( The publisher of this book is probably better known for producing books for the history of locations such as towns. It’s a picture book format with brief notes about […]

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MR. SUN THE PEOPLE NEED LIGHT Compass Records 4647 The debut recording from Mr. Sun, billed as “American string band music from an intergenerational tribe” features the formidably fantastic Darol Anger (fiddle), Joe Walsh (mandolin and vocals), Grant Gordy (guitar), and Ethan Jodziewicz (bass). The careful reader of liner notes may stay up pondering questions […]

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THE CHURCHMEN CROWN OF THORNS Mountain Fever Records MFR 150707 The last time I reviewed The Churchmen was for the release of their 2008 recording I’ll Be Long Gone. Between then and now, there have been some shifts. The earlier recording had strong elements of tradition, but the songs sounded more contemporary. They also had […]

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THE FEINBERG BROTHERS Ampersand Records 0315    The Northeast has been home to some fairly impressive bluegrass brother groups through the years, notably the Lilly Brothers with Don Stover and, of course, the Gibson Brothers with their impressive string of superb albums and awards that just keep coming. Now, from Long Island, the Feinberg Brothers (Rourke […]

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SPENCER BRANCH ASHE COUNTY OUTLAWS No Label No Number    What I like about the music and musical attitude of western North Carolina is that there’s much less of a distinction between bluegrass and old-time music there than in other parts of the country. In some areas, bluegrass is bluegrass and old-time is old-time and there’s […]

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JAMIE HARPER OLD PAL Mountain Fever Records MFR150512 Jamie Harper, originally from Mocksville, N.C., is known for his energetic fiddle work with his current bandleader Junior Sisk, along with previous stints with Marty Raybon, Carrie Hassler, and Blue Moon Rising. Rather than an all-instrumental album of fiddle tunes, Harper chose a band approach. He shares […]

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GOLD HEART PLACES I’VE BEEN Mountain Fever Records MFR150159 The young women of Gold Heart, Jocey (Jocelyn), Tori, and Shelby Gold, are sounding better than ever on their new release, which celebrates their tenth year as a band. Mountain Heart’s Josh Shilling, reso-guitar master Rob Ickes, and album producer Ron Stewart guest, but the shining […]

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FY5 EAT THE MOON Swingfingers Records SF 003 Harder and harder it becomes to pin down a genre in which some bands belong. FY5 is one such band. The opening track, “She Wants To Eat The Moon,” starts with lightly strummed guitar and pensive Joni Mitchell/Judy Collins qualities. That gives way to a building rhythm, […]

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RESCUE JUNCTION ECHOES Revelation Sound rs2015r/06 Many of us have stacks of albums that contain one or two sacred songs along with a dozen secular pieces. That has been almost standard operating procedure in bluegrass for many years. Ontario’s Rescue Junction turns that convention inside out on their third album. The engaging release adds a […]

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THE TENNESSEE MAFIA JUG BAND LESTER’S LOAFIN’ LOUNGE No Label No Number As with the Red Clay Ramblers and Austin Lounge Lizards before them, it’s sometimes hard to know how seriously the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band wants their music taken. What are we to make of the outfits, the instrumentation, the song selection, and the […]

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