By Daniel Mullins

It’s hard to peg a double Hall Of Famer as underappreciated, but when taking in the whole of Mac Wiseman’s accomplishments within the context of his remarkable life story, words such as “legend,” “pioneer,” and “trailblazer” seem accurate but lacking. A leading figure in the early days of both country and bluegrass genres, he was a founding member of both the CMA and IBMA and is an inductee of their respective Halls Of Fame. His music has also stretched to such realms as folk, rockabilly, and even hip-hop (remember groovegrass?). But Wiseman is so much more than a transcendent musical figure. In addition to his successes on and off stage, Mac Wiseman’s story is purely American. The circumstances framing his accomplishments make the picture of his life even more remarkable and beautiful. The album I Sang The Song: Life Of The Voice With A Heart does just that. It paints a musical portrait of Mac Wiseman through songs based on his life, and the voices of those whose own lives were changed by hearing the Voice With A Heart.

The concept of telling Mac’s story through song grew as natural as the wheat at the Wiseman family farm when Mac was a child. “I don’t know who had the basic idea,” says Mac. “I thought it was very practical when I heard it, and very unique.” Nashville mainstay and Wiseman confidante Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz (a German-born guitar phenom) began spending Sundays with their hero and friend, Mac Wiseman. “It started by us coming by on Sunday afternoons and hanging out,” says Cooper. What began as social visits filled with precious stories from Wiseman ended up taking a unique turn. Peter and Thomm noticed that everything about these tales were special; from what Mac had to say to how he said it, this was something to be treasured.

“Mac was telling a story, ‘Oh, I’d have to run the cows out, and I’d stand there where they’d been a layin’. We’d be barefoot until after the frost. Oh, I’d stand there, and my feet would be just as red as a gobbler’s snout,’” remembers Peter. He was blown away by the thought of standing on the grass where a cow had been lying in order to warm one’s feet—a depiction of a level of poverty incomprehensible to today’s generations. This, matched with phrases as colorful as “red as a gobbler’s snout,” appealed to Peter and Thomm, both songwriters but, more importantly, Mac Wiseman disciples. “I think around then was when we started thinking, ‘This is something to capture,’” Peter says. By using Mac’s own words, Peter and Thomm began constructing songs based off of these Sunday visits with Mac. Songs filled with lessons and imagery drawn from Mac’s life and own words. Songs that were purely Mac Wiseman. The aforementioned story became a song called ‘Barefoot ’Til After The Frost’ (performed on the new album by Jim Lauderdale), complete with the “gobbler’s snout” reference and all! Read entire article »

Bluegrass Unlimited’s 2017 Festival Guide Update

Mac Wiseman
By Daniel Mullins

Johnny And Jeanette Williams — Musicians For Hire
By Bill Conger

Front Country — Boldly Going Where No Bluegrass Band Has Gone Before (With Pink Hair)
By Nancy Cardwell

Making Beautiful Music At Ron’s Pickin’ Parlor
By Sandy Hatley

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February 2017 Reviews


MICKEY GALYEAN & CULLEN’S BRIDGE MY DADDY’S GRASS Rebel Records REB-CD-1856    The son of the regional bluegrass legend (and beyond for those informed) Cullen Galyean, Mickey is carrying on in his father’s footsteps. The sound is the sound in that Round Peak/Galax bluegrass style where the banjo and the fiddle have defined the music for […]

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NOTHIN’ FANCY WHERE I CAME FROM Mountain Fever Records MFR161007 Nothin’ Fancy’s second release on Mountain Fever varies a little from what they gave us on their first. Bands that have been around this long (22 years) don’t often leap up in ability from year to year. Nothin’ Fancy is already at a high level […]

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NORTHERN CONNECTION Patuxent Music CD-291 This recording makes little or no attempt at breaking new ground. If anything, guitarist/vocalist Frankie Short, Jr., mandolinist/vocalist Mark Seitz, fiddler Steve Streett, banjoist Bobby Lundy and bassist/vocalist Brian Eldreth are holding the ground of a style (the Baltimore sound) they grew up amidst, one they believe still has relevance […]

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STEADY DRIVE UNTUCKED No Label No Number Formed some time in late 2014 or early 2015, Steady Drive is from eastern North Carolina. Joe Pessolano is on mandolin and lead and harmony singing. Kevin Lamm plays bass, sings lead, and harmony. Wayne Melvin is on the guitar and lead and harmony vocals. Lee Flood is […]

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JEAN RITCHIE’S KENTUCKY MOTHER GOOSE: SONGS AND STORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD BY JEAN RITCHIE WITH SUSAN BRUMFIELD Hal Leonard 9781495007880. Hardback, 103 pages, b&w and colored pictures and photos, CD included, $19.99. Jean Ritchie—singer, songwriter and dulcimer player—is perhaps best known in the bluegrass world for her songs “Blue Diamond Mines,” “Black Waters,” and “The […]

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THE LONELY HEARTSTRING BAND DEEP WATERS Rounder Records 11661-39695-02 This is the debut release from the 2015 IBMA winners of the Momentum Award. Four of the five members of the band—Charles Clements (bass & vocals), his twin brother George Clements (guitar & lead vocals), Gabe Hirshfeld (banjo), Patrick M’Gonigle (fiddle, vocals), and Matt Witler (mandolin)—met […]

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THE WOOKS LITTLE CIRCLES Gnar Vector Records No Number Given that the folk music community has played host to bands called The Vulcans and Klingon Klezmer, I suppose it was inevitable that a new franchise begged for equal time, in the form of this debut recording by a Kentucky quintet calling themselves The Wooks.  They […]

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JOSH GRIGSBY AND COUNTY LINE RUBY LANE MEMORIES No Label No Number This pleasant release by the Virginia group Josh Grigsby and County Line is highlighted by the fine lead singing of Grigsby and the excellent harmonies from the rest of the band. On their second release as a band, the group shines on cuts […]

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MICHAEL CLEVELAND FIDDLER’S DREAM Compass Records 4674    Since bursting onto the scene as one of IBMA’s Kids On Bluegrass, Michael Cleveland has become perhaps the most honored bluegrass fiddler of his generation. Blessed with astonishing gifts in overall musicianship and in his utter command of every style and nuance known to the fiddle world, Cleveland […]

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KENNY & AMANDA SMITH UNBOUND Farm Boy Records No Number Since their first project in 2001, Kenny and Amanda Smith have become one of bluegrass music’s most endearing and solid duos. Amanda (vocals) and Kenny (guitar, vocals) are joined on this project by Jacob Burleson (mandolin), Kyle Perkins (bass), Justin Jenkins (banjo), and Wayne Winkle […]

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Joe walsh

JOE K. WALSH BORDERLAND No Label No Number Despite establishing himself as a formidable presence in the world of bluegrass and traditional mandolin with stints working for the Gibson Brothers, Darol Anger’s Mr. Sun, and duos with the likes of Courtney Hartman and Grant Gordy, Joe Walsh still probably gets more attention from being confused […]

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TYLER GRANT EARTH & WOOD Grant Central Records GCR 1602 The world of flatpicking guitar is a mighty competitive one these days, with each picker hotter, faster, and flashier than the one before. It can be hard to stand out musically, but Tyler Grant has used his versatility to make a strong impression on his […]

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BANJO DAN THE SLEEPING SENTINEL: BANJO DAN’S SONGS OF VERMONT, VOLUME IV No Label VSB 110 A pioneer of the second wave of New England bluegrass musicians, Banjo Dan Lindner has led his Mid-Nite Plowboys since 1972. He started the Banjo Dan’s Songs Of Vermont series back in 1987 and has released one volume per […]

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AUDIE BLAYLOCK AND REDLINE THE ROAD THAT WINDS Patuxent Music CD-289 Even after all the years of bluegrass bands covering rock tunes, it still comes as something of a surprise to find Audie Blaylock and Redline opening their recording with the Elton John/Bernie Taupin classic, “Daniel.” Less of a surprise is how well they cover […]

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VALERIE SMITH & LIBERTY PIKE SMALL TOWN HEROE Bell Buckle Records BBR – 400 Two years ago, Valerie Smith teamed up with a group of musicians from the Maryland/DC area to form her new version of Liberty Pike, which now consists of Joe Zauner (banjo, guitar), Lisa Kay Howard (mandolin), Tom Gray (bass), and Wally […]

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BLUE CANYON BOYS No Label No Number The Blue Canyon Boys have become one of the premier bands to rise out of the Rocky Mountains West. They have toured the U.S., the Far East, and have gathered a fairly large following wherever they perform. The band is Drew Garrett (bass), Jason Hicks (guitar), Gary Dark […]

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LARRY STEPHENSON BAND WEEP LITTLE WILLOW Whysper Dream Music CD-7427 From the jaunty opening banjo riffs of the up-tempo love lament “Yesterday’s Gone” (penned by C. Stuart and W. Kidd) right on through to the restless refrains of the closing cut—a haunting rendition of Alton Delmore’s “Midnight Train”—the Larry Stephenson Band’s new 12-track collection bristles […]

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JEREMY GARRETT THE RV SESSIONS 2: INSTRUMENTALS  No Label VSB 110    Many years have passed since an instrumental bluegrass album captivated me as much as The RV Sessions 2: Instrumentals by Infamous Stringdusters fiddler Jeremy Garrett. Maybe Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe or Bela Fleck’s Deviation. Garrett stays within the bluegrass genre while innovating brilliantly […]

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JENNY WHITELEY THE ORIGINAL JENNY WHITELEY Black Hen Music No Number Jenny Whiteley is an award-winning Canadian singer and songwriter. This collection contains three of her original songs, plus another eight which are a mix of three traditional and five by other writers performed primarily in old-time styles. She opens with Chris Coole’s “100 Dollars” […]

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VARIOUS ARTISTS MOUNTAINS OF MUSIC HOMECOMING 2015: THE LIVE CONCERT RECORDINGS The Crooked Road TCR002 Perhaps the two hardest recordings to review are live ones (since concerts are about entertaining a live audience rather than making an album) and multiple artist compilations lacking a single artistic vision. Mountains of Music Homecoming 2015: The Live Concert […]

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CURTIS WRIGHT Voxhall Records VHR-12004 Within the world of bluegrass there are the true believers who only want the true vine and the truth dealt up in the proper way. Sometimes pretenders who are good country singers make an album and try to pawn it off as bluegrass. But any real fan knows the difference. […]

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STUART WYRICK EAST TENNESSEE SUNRISE Rural Rhythm RUR-1134 This first solo release by Wyrick showcases many of his musical friends including but not limited to Alan Bibey, Kenny Smith, Phil Leadbetter, and co-producer Steve Gulley. There are ten vocalists present on seven of the tunes. The balance are instrumentals and cuts that show off Wyrick’s […]

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JORDAN TICE HORSE COUNTY Patuxent Music CD-286 Jordan Tice has built quite an extensive recorded legacy given his relative youth. Thus far his reputation has been as a flatpicking guitarist, either via solo records or as part of small bands. He currently performs in a trio with fiddler Brittany Haas and bassist Paul Kowert. His […]

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