On this edition we feature artist Martin Harley, David Wilcox, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, New Country Rehab, Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons with host Jim Lauderdale
Martin Harley is a phenomenally talented guitarist, singer and songwriter he fronts the highly praised UK-based acoustic trio; The Martin Harley Band. Martin’s new album MOJO FIX was recorded in Texas and is released in the UK in February 2013. Mojo Fix comes on the heels of four critically celebrated albums, years of touring and countless festivals that have built Martin a strong and solid fan-base spanning the globe.
Martin is a deeply important and respected voice in the evolution of popular blues and folk oriented guitar and vocals. He is now expanding on his international success with recent time spent in the US recording and touring including his band’s recent November ‘12 feature performance at the LIVE IN THE VINEYARD music festival in Napa, California.
A life long devotee of acoustic guitar music, especially the ageless blues/roots sounds, Martin has travelled the globe absorbing a plethora of diverse influences and honing his craft into the classic song-writing style he possesses today.
Renowned for his prowess as a slide guitarist, he is almost unique in the UK in his playing lap slide. In other areas and styles, however, he has proved himself a master guitarist and a consistently astounding songwriter. Look for Martin’s videos “Winter Coat” and “Love In the Afternoon”, and a live version of the new single “Mojo Fix” taken from the new album of the same name.
“Awesome” – Johnnie Walker, BBC Radio 2
“Their latest album is a mature and intelligent masterpiece of Americana roots music” – Maverick Magazine
“Shining talents in the British acoustic scene” – Guitar Magazine
“Quite simply a great live act” – Time Out London
“No doubt that he is a slide guitar master. He is the business” – Roots Magazine
“When you experience Martin Harley’s music for the first time you forget to look at your watch, you forget the work waiting for you, you forget to eat lunch. His music and his performances take you out of whatever room you’re in and you become part of the experience. Play it loud!” – Meg MacDonald, M:M Music
Cleveland-born David Wilcox was inspired to play guitar after hearing a fellow college student playing in a stairwell. His lyrical insight is matched by a smooth baritone voice, virtuosic guitar chops, and creative open tunings, giving him a range and tenderness rare in folk music. He released an independent album in 1987, was a winner of the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk award in 1988, and by 1989 he had signed with A&M Records. His first release on the label, ‘How Did You Find Me Here’, sold over 100,000 copies the first year largely by word of mouth. Now, 17 albums into a career marked by personal revelation and wildly loyal fans, David continues to find and deliver joy, inspiration, and invention.
Considered a ‘songwriter’s songwriter’, his songs have been covered by artists such as k.d. lang and many others. In addition to his writing prowess, his skills as a performer and storyteller are unmatched. He holds audiences rapt with nothing more than a single guitar, thoroughly written songs, a fearless ability to mine the depths of human emotions of joy, sorrow and everything in between, and all tempered by a quick and wry wit.
Reflecting on well over 20 years of record-making and touring extensively around the US and world, Wilcox says, “Music still stretches out before me like the head-lights of a car into the night. It’s way beyond where I am, but it shows where I’m going. I used to think that my goal was to catch up, but now I’m grateful that the music is always going to be way out in front to inspire me.”
“Playing music is the easy part,” says Russell Moore with an ever-so-slightly rueful laugh as he looks back on more than thirty years of doing what he grew up wanting to do. “By the time we put this band together”—he’s talking about IIIrd Tyme Out, his musical vehicle for over twenty years now—“I was realistic enough to know that bands come and go. Being able to stay together is the hurdle that everyone faces. So I didn’t have a preconceived notion that someday I’d be celebrating twenty years with IIIrd Tyme Out—but I did feel like I would be playing music for the rest of my life.”
As it turns out, while many bands have come and gone since that May in 1991, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out have endured. In the process, they’ve managed to climb to the top not just once, but twice—winning a slew of IBMA vocal awards, including two Male Vocalist of the Year honors, in the mid and late 1990s, then persevering through rough times to see Moore recapturing the Male Vocalist trophy for the past three years. Along the way, they’ve made a whole new generation of fans, and with the release of Timeless Hits From The Past… BLUEGRASSED by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the quintet are poised to deliver their distinctive kind of music more widely than ever.
For Moore, it’s been a long journey from his childhood Texas home. Raised in Pasadena, near Houston, he heard a lot of country music growing up—“I was five miles from Gilley’s right during the Urban Cowboy craze,” he notes—but it was bluegrass that really turned his head as he moved into his teen years. “Bluegrass was accessible,” he recalls. “The bands, the musicians, they were so approachable—and even though we weren’t in the bluegrass mainstream geographically, I was able to see artists like Bill Monroe, Larry Sparks ands the Lewis Family, and you could just be around them. That was intriguing to me.”
Within a few years, Russell was playing mandolin in a regional band, and by the time he was in his early 20s, he had teamed up with a couple of like-minded youngsters to create Southern Connection, making the move to North Carolina to pursue bluegrass success—though it turned out that when he first found it, it was as a guitar-playing sideman. Joining Bluegrass Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson and his legendary band, Quicksilver, Moore quickly found himself in the bluegrass forefront, remaining there with Lawson through six years and as many bluegrass and bluegrass gospel albums. And though his tenure with Quicksilver barely overlapped the establishment of the IBMA’s awards, Moore shared in the first of many to come when the group took home the Song Of The Year crystal in 1990 for “The Little Mountain Church House.” Still, a desire to make his own mark impelled Russell, along with bandmates Mike Hartgrove and Ray Deaton, to take the bold step of creating their own group in 1991. Naming themselves IIIrd Tyme Out—ae erence to the number of professional bands they’d already been in, complete with a memorable twist on spelling—the group hit the ground running, releasing three wellreceived albums on the venerable Rebel Records label in just four years. “We weren’t immune from the same things that any other band starting up has to endure,” Moore recalls. “You have to prove yourself—you have to let people know that you’re sincere, and that you’re going to work hard. But once we were able to get enough show dates that we didn’t have to have day jobs, we felt pretty good that as long as we continued to work hard, put the music out that we knew we were capable of, be personable and humble and appreciative—we felt that we could continue on if we chose to.”
And continue on they did. In 1994, they earned the first of an unsurpassed seven consecutive IBMA awards for Vocal Group of the Year, along with Russell’s first Male Vocalist of the Year title. For the remainder of the decade and into the new century, IIIrd Tyme Out was among the most important acts in the field, earning acclaim for the compelling artistry—especially vocal—they brought both to a string of well-received albums and to stages across the United States. Yet all was not well within the group, and in the early part of the new century, partnership tensions and personnel instability came to a head—and with them, the very real possibility of an end to the group.
It was at that point that Russell Moore stepped up. “I was stubborn,” he says with a smile. “I knew there was a lot that could be done with this group, and I was stubborn enough to say, I have put too much into this to let it just get away. So when everything came down to it, I knew that it was time. I could have started something brand new, but I would have had to give up everything that we had worked for. So I decided to stick it out. I kept hoping that everyone would start pulling in the same direction—and I kept praying, too.”
With Moore in charge—and with his name now in front, recognizing both his new leadership role and the group’s single biggest musical focus—IIIrd Tyme Out began to rebuild. Signing with Rural Rhythm Records in 2007, the quintet solidified a new lineup, and the 2009 release of Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, with its hit single, “Hard Rock Mountain Prison,” paved the way for Moore to take another Male Vocalist honor in 2010. Prime Tyme and its irresistibly catchy “Pretty Little Girl From Galax” followed in 2011, as did another Male Vocalist trophy, and Moore was called to the stage yet again at 2012’s IBMA awards to accept still further recognition of his preeminence as a singer.
Yet IIIrd Tyme Out is hardly a one-man show, even with a frontman as spectacular as Moore. Wayne Benson, who joined the band nearly 20 years ago—just in time for the aptly titled Grandpa’s Mandolin—and stayed for nearly a decade before taking a job with the John Cowan Band, returned in 2007; his tasteful, influential approach to the mandolin is a focal point of the group’s instrumental prowess even as he continues to contribute in the vocal department. Behind him comes fiddler Justen Haynes; a member for nearly a decade, he’s a secondgeneration bluegrasser who’s earned the admiration of peers and fans alike for his supple melodic lines and tasteful vocal support.
Joining the veterans are two new members who, Moore says, have fit quickly and easily into IIIrd Tyme Out’s signature sound. Blake Johnson, a long-time member of The Hagar’s Mountain Boys and, for the past year, guitarist for Grasstowne, returns to his preferred role as bass player, while Keith McKinnon, who served memorable stints with his brother Kevin in singer Carrie Hassler’s band and in their own Still-House, takes over the banjo slot. Both men will also contribute to the group’s award-winning harmonies.
“As a band,” Russell notes, “it’s sometimes important to reinvent yourselves, your music and your show, to keep things exciting and fans engaged. Quite often a band member change can be the spark that lights that creative fire. I know the feel and excitement of being a new member of an established band, dating back to my days when I joined Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and it’s great to see and feel that same excitement from Keith and Blake.”
The quintet’s latest release, Timeless Hits From The Past…BLUEGRASSED, is one of the first fruits of the quintet’s latest business relationship, as Moonstruck Management’s Peter Keiser alerted them to Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s plans for another bluegrass album. “Had it not been for Moonstruck, that wouldn’t have happened,” Moore notes. “When they came back to us, Cracker Barrel wanted to know if we had a concept, so we started discussing themes. We started off thinking about a George Jones tribute, but I felt that we were leaving out too many great artists and great songs—and once we went to the more general idea, we had room not just for the country stuff that’s helped to shape who we are, but some of the key songs of IIIrd Tyme Out that have shaped us, too. And then, when [Alison Krauss & Union Station’s] Barry Bales offered to help us, it was like a light bulb went on. I thought, maybe it’s time that we did bring someone in from outside the band to put an ear and thumbprint on it, make it the best it could possibly be. It’s something different for us, and it really worked out well.”
The new project has plenty of nods to classic country in vintage numbers like “Mama Tried,” “Farewell Party” and “Golden Ring” (which features a stunning Moore duet with gospel sensation Sonya Isaacs), but there are some surprises, too. “’Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde,’ that one’s kind of different,” Moore notes with a chuckle. “It’s more rock-influenced. But Travis Tritt’s record had some killer dobro on it, and he’s a banjo player, so there were some ties,” he adds. Similarly, he calls Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time” another change of pace. “I’m not playing any kind of bluegrass rhythm on that, but it wasn’t tough to do; I’ve messed around with that kind of stuff for years. And that particular song, we’ve messed around with it backstage, just having fun.”
Yet there’s room, too, as Moore notes, for a couple of key songs from Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out’s own past. Their arrangement of the doo-wop classic, “Only You”—a song that has brought audiences to its feet for well over a decade—gets a few new twists, and an all-time favorite, “John & Mary,” gets a new lease on life with some help from country chanteuse Pam Tillis.
Add it all up, factor in an appearance on Billboard’s list of the 15 best-selling bluegrass albums for 2013, and the future is looking very bright for Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. Indeed, if one measure of success is the degree to which younger and newer musicians look to a group for inspiration, then IIIrd Tyme Out is about as successful as a bluegrass group can be, for a whole generation of young pickers and singers can be heard across the country trying their hand at IIIrd Tyme Out classics. “It’s one of the greatest compliments you could ever have,” Moore acknowledges. “It’s humbling to know that they think that much of what we’re doing—and sometimes it makes you think wow, we really are making a difference. People are taking notice.
“All the awards, all the recognition, those things are just by-products of doing what we love to do—and of having everybody pulling in the same direction. So to get them is a little overwhelming, sometimes. But when you know that somebody else out there is getting something from you because of your music, well, that’s the thing about music that got me into it—just the love of the music, and the way it made me feel. It always has been therapeutic, and it still is—and you can’t ask for than that.”
New Country Rehab cuts through the clutter of watered-down musical imitations with a modern, high-voltage, alt-country sound. Combining sharp innovation and a deep respect and knowledge of timeless musical themes and motifs, New Country Rehab’s powerful music is full of love, loss, longing and joy. They are ”more Arcade Fire than Lady Antebellum…like Canada’s answer to the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons” Nigel Williamson, UNCUT ( Jan. 2012)
Spearheaded by lead singer and fiddle player John Showman joined by Anthony da Costa on guitar, Ben Whiteley on double bass and Roman Tomé on drums and backing vocals, the Toronto based collective is ”poised to be the next big thing in Canadian music” Tom Power, CBC Radio. Growing audiences in Canada, the U.S. And Europe are responding to New Country Rehab’s infectious love and enthusiasm for the music they are playing. The band make it, ”super accessible, not only to fans of roots/folk/country, but even to the broader, less country inclined audience” (Josef Jensen, Indie Artist Podcast)
This artistic vision and original writing has earned the respect of many critics, ”a debut that demonstrates class” (Rootstime.be) and welcome receptions of audiences, ”…even with the deep pool of technical talent here, the focus is on maintaining a mood over all else”(torontoist.com). Maverick magazine’s Russell Hill describes the band’s sound as ”Successfully merging the old and new in a rambunctious way”and describes the band as having”their feet planted firmly on the ground, this Canadian band has the right intentions and there is to be no stopping them.” (March 2012)
Their 2011 debut, self-titled album was received with glowing and international praise by reviewers. The group blends lyrical sensibility and musical focus to produce exceptional original songs. From the first track, Angel of Death, ”…fiddle and [vocal] harmonies take us back to the past, but modern guitars and pedals still explode into huge choruses that jump-start the songs and help the band standout” (Bryan Acker, Herohill.com). The haunting mood of Cameo, a contemplative tale of escape and redemption, provides a beautiful contrast to the gritty tale of a gambler’s endgame, The Last Hand, a rollicking interplay of fiddle and guitar riffs underpinned by driving bass and percussion that builds relentlessly to the violent climax and denouement of the story. Not afraid to show it’s influences, New Country Rehab takes the Hank Williams, Sr. classic Ramblin’ Man, chews it up and spits it out as an eerie, dub-drenched trip through a mournful latin groove. The group reinvents Bruce Springsteen’s seminal State Trooper with police sirens and jarring, distorted hooks to imbue it with ”…a menace even the original struggles to match”Andy Fyfe, Q Magazine Jan. 2012. Recorded by Roots and Indie-Rock producer, Chris Stringer (Obijou and Timber -Timbre) NEW COUNTRY REHAB highlights the group’s original compositions and deep musical palette.
Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons is an Americana band that began in Providence, RI in 2005. In the center of this revolving cast of musicians, songwriter Joe Fletcher remains at the helm of this country blues-based outfit while still playing many solo acoustic shows throughout the land every year.
Sometime in 2007, the band recorded their debut album BURY YOUR PROBLEMS at the rather mysterious Golden Monkey Studio in the heart of Providence’s Smith Hill neighborhood. Details of this event remain murky though it has been corroborated that sound experts Jay Berndt and Matt Oliva oversaw a assortment of musicians which included legends Jack Hanlon, Greg “J.D.” Burgess, Dennis Kelly, and Dale Cunningham. We do know that the record received overwhelmingly positive reviews and Fletcher’s story-driven songwriting began catching national attention earning comparisons to Cash, Cave, Cohen, and Dylan.
After a series of lengthy U.S. tours in support of Bury Your Problems, Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons released their sophomore effort WHITE LIGHTER in December 2010. This time they entered the illustrious Machines With Magnets Recording Studio in Pawtucket, R.I. with a cast that included local luminaries Scott Boutier, Jack Hanlon, John McCauley, Alec Redfearn, Damien Puerini, Dave Lamb, MorganEve Swain, Lily Costner, and Tyler Hayden.
Following the recording of White Lighter, rhythm kings Dave Hemingway (drums) and Joe Principe (upright and electric bass) joined the organization, and guitar hero Damien Puerini stayed on in the lead role.
White Lighter has attracted a whole new level of attention to the band. Most notably, No Depression has championed the band, saying that “Joe Fletcher proves his versatility on White Lighter. His signature brand of dark and lyrically driven honky tonk is interspersed with a softer side that would make Hagg or Jones proud.”
Known best for their thrilling live show, Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons have shared stages with many of their favorite acts including Deer Tick, The Low Anthem, Shooter Jennings, John Doe, Robert Earl Keen, The Supersuckers, Lydia Loveless, Murder by Death, Scott H. Biram, Holly Golightly, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Brown Bird, and The Devil Makes Three. Their wide variety of material and influences make them equally at home in a small café or a sold-out rock club.