By Nancy Cardwell

On the 24th of October, a good many of the 46 members of the Special Consensus will gather for four hours at the Old Town School Of Folk Music on Chicago’s storied Lincoln Avenue to celebrate forty years of perpetual bluegrass. Since 1975 the respected and well-traveled band has featured sixteen different guitarists, twelve bass players, fifteen mandolin players, two fiddlers, and one smiling banjo virtuoso/bandleader: Greg Cahill.

“Since the fifteenth year anniversary of the band, we’ve done a reunion every five years,” Cahill said. “It’s become kind of a tradition. We get as many folks who have recorded with the band to come in, and we play songs from each of the 17 albums with the people who were on the original recordings. So far, I know we’ve got Chris Jones, Dallas Wayne, Timmy Dishman, Jamie Clifton, Justin Carbone, and Andrea Roberts. It’s as much of a social gathering as it is a musical event, a time for us to check in with each other and tell stories. Since the band has only had one banjo player, I’m onstage a long time,” Cahill laughed. “And a lot of folks who have been following the band come out and support us.”

When Cahill started the band, he had no idea Special C would be surviving and thriving four decades later. “I certainly never thought it would last this long,” he said. “I was going to do it for a couple of years. I had just got out of the Army and grad school and had a nice job; I have a master’s degree in social work. I was working with young folks, trying to keep them off drugs and doing family counseling. I was the director of a consortia of youth programming. I liked it.” Cahill started giving free banjo lessons on Thursday nights to some of his young and at-risk clients to give them something positive to get involved with. It went well and, most nights, he was so pumped up after lessons that he found himself still picking and practicing at three a.m. the next morning. Read entire article »

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October 2015 Reviews


BOONE FIRST IMPRESSIONS No Label No Number Troy Boone’s debut recording fails to mention who played the backing parts, only cryptically mentioning in the press notes that they were friends and fellow musicians from within the East Tennessee State University bluegrass program that he attended. That’s a shame. They and Boone and particularly the banjo […]

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THE ROUSTABOUTS BLUEGRASS BAND PATCHWORK No Label No Number It almost goes without saying that any heritage-respecting band hailing from Bakersfield must give Buck and Merle their due. In the case of The Roustabouts, a quintet that leans towards traditional bluegrass and features bassist/vocalist Brian Hacker, guitarist/vocalist Craig Wilson, mandolinist/vocalist Kelvin Gregory, fiddler/vocalist Paul Lee, […]

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BUCK MOUNTAIN BAND BULL AT THE WAGON Bent Trees No Number Buck Mountain Band is Bob Taylor on fiddle and harmony vocals, Debbie Larson on bass and harmony vocals, Amy Boucher on banjo and lead and harmony vocals, Harrol Blevins on guitar and lead and harmony vocals, Dan Peck on guitar and banjo and harmony […]

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TRINITY RIVER BAND HEARTSTRINGS Orange Blossom Records No Number Not much has changed in the year since the last release from Trinity River. Certainly, there’s the obvious. The younger players, particularly Brianna Harris on fiddle, have another year of experience behind them. In that age range, such advancements can be huge. But predominantly the sound […]

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CHRIS JONES & THE NIGHT DRIVERS RUN AWAY TONIGHT Mountain Home MH16122 There’s nothing particularly overwhelming about Chris Jones & the Night Drivers in terms of flashy picking or pyrotechnic vocals. This veteran band’s power lies in its understated soulfulness, earnestness, and subtlety. These qualities shine through brightly in the band’s finely crafted original songs […]

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JEREMY GARRETT THE RV SESSIONS No Label No Number    Jeremy Garrett, of the Infamous Stringdusters, recorded (and largely wrote) this album in the RV in which he lived. Hence the title. Garrett can’t you tell where it was recorded. It could just have easily been Sun Studios. What recording in an RV does, however, […]

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SIDELINE SESSION 2 Mountain Fever Record MFR150602    As the name suggests, Sideline intended to be a sometime band, but the success of their debut album made Sideline a main line. Now they’re back with a second excellent recording, simply called Session 2. I met Steve Dilling when he was 18 and picking in a mostly […]

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LORRAINE JORDAN AND CAROLINA ROAD COUNTRY GRASS Pinecastle Records PRC1197    Bluegrass tributes to country (and other forms of music) are not rare. Those that work in a convincing manner are. A country song can’t always be forced, unadjusted, into a bluegrass form or vice versa. Thought must be taken, and the necessaries of both styles captured. […]

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DAVID PETERSON OLD TIME POWER Zion Mountain Music No Number Is it the songs or is it the performances/performers that make this 15-song gospel CD from David Peterson such a joyful, powerful experience? Is it having material drawn from legendary songwriters such as the Louvins, James Rowe, Lewis E. Jones, Charles A. Tindley, Ira Stamphill, […]

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THE ROLAND WHITE BAND STRAIGHT AHEAD BLUEGRASS No Label No Number    It’s impossible to accurately tell the history of bluegrass music without including the contributions of Roland and Clarence White, their band the Kentucky Colonels, and the lasting impact made by Roland through his soft-spoken yet brilliant contributions to bands such as Country Gazette and […]

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STUART MASON TRADITION Native Home Music No Number Stuart Mason is a West Virginia native who now lives on the central coast of California. He has won awards for singing, songwriting, and mandola. He has played with bands such as Molly’s Revenge, Story Road, and Little Black Train, and this is his second solo release. […]

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SUSIE GLAZE & THE HILONESOME BAND NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL No Label No Number  The Hilonesome Band is based around the vocals of Susie Glaze. The music here is not bluegrass, but it’s first-rate. There is humor and more than a touch of class to the project. There are some strong original numbers augmented […]

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BIG COUNTRY BLUEGRASS COUNTRY LIVIN’ Rebel Records REB-CD-1858 Big Country Bluegrass’s sheer longevity (two decades, 18 albums and counting) comes as no surprise to anybody. This southern Virginia-based band, fronted by mandolin master Tommy Sells and his wife Teresa (guitar and lead and tenor vocals), is steeped in what the press release accompanying their new […]

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THE ORIGINAL FIVE ACROSS THE DEEP BLUE SEA Rootsy 118    Sweden’s The Original Five returns with an energetic, melodic, and enjoyable follow-up to last year’s debut. Bubbling up through the 14 song cauldron of styles, one hears traditional and contemporary bluegrass, of course, but also ’60s and ’70s folk, Beatles-era pop, West Coast bluegrass, […]

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STEVE HARRIS SUNDOWN Orange Blossom Records No Number Steve Harris is the founding member of Circa Blue, and this is his first solo outing. This is an all-gospel project where Steve (a preacher’s son) has produced a selection of his favorites which were chosen for “the personal sentiment they hold for me,” Steve handles the […]

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