Penyanyi asal Amerika Serikat, Pink mengkonfirmasi bahwa dirinya telah sembuh setelah dinyatakan positif virus Corona (COVID-19). Melalaui akun Instagram miliknya, penyanyi bernama lengkap Alecia Beth Moore itu mengaku beruntung karena dokternya punya akses tes COVID-19, sehingga ia dan putranya Jameson (3) berhasil pulih.
“Untungnya, dokter perawatan kami memiliki akses tes dan saya menguji positif. Keluargaku terus berlindung di rumah, dan kami terus melakukannya selama dua minggu terakhir mengikuti instruksi dokter” tulisnya di Instagram. Ia juga turut menyayangkan, bahwa pemerintah gagal membuat tes COVID-19 bisa diakses oleh semua orang. Padahal, menurutnya, penyakit ini benar-benar serius dan nyata adanya. Pink pun menyumbang sejuta dolar untuk pasien lain agar mendapatkan akses tes yang merata.
Dari dana sumbangannya tersebut, setengahnya untuk Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund di Philadelphia dan setengahnya lagi untuk Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund di Los Angeles, demikian seperti diwartakan Antara. Selain Pink, berikut ini beberapa musisi yang berhasil sembuh dari COVID-19.
Pemain bas band Duran Duran ini mengaku positif COVID-19 setelah ia melakukan tes tiga minggu yang lalu. Namun, kini ia mengatakan telah sepenuhnya pulih. “Saya ingin memberi tahu Anda bahwa itu (COVID-19) tidak selalu menjadi pembunuh, dan hari ini kita bisa mengalahkannya” tulis Taylor di akun Facebook Duran Duran, sebagaimana diwartakan oleh USA Today, Minggu.
Taylor juga mengaku beruntung, karena sebelumnya ia hanya merasakan gejala flu ringan. Sehingga, setelah satu minggu dirinya berhasil pulih. Lahir 20 Juni 1960, pria bernama lengkap Nigel John Taylor merupakan penyanyi, penulis lagu, produser, pemain bas sekaligus pendiri band new romantic Duran Duran. Band ini sendiri didirikan pada 1978, dan meraih popularitas pada 1980-an. Pada 1997, Taylor memutuskan keluar setelah ingin mengejar karier solo dan bermain film. Sejak saat itu, ia berhasil merekam selusin rilis solo (album, EP, dan proyek video) dan memainkan peran utama dalam film Sugar Town (1999). Pada tahun 2001, ia memutuskan untuk reuni dengan Duran Duran. Hingga kini, bersama Simon Le Bon (penyanyi), Nick Rhodes (keyboard), dan Roger Taylor (drum), Taylor menjadi anggota tetap Duran Duran.
Musisi country John Prine yang sebelumnya dirawat di rumah sakit karena positif COVID-19, kini telah dinyatakan pulih. Melalui akun Twitter pribadi miliknya, terdapat unggahan foto yang mengatakan bahwa Prine telah dibawa ke rumah sakit pada hari Kamis dan diintubasi pada hari Sabtu.
Dilansir dari The Guardian, istri John, Fiona Whelan Prine menyatakan diri positif COVID-19 pada 19 Maret lalu dan mereka dikarantina secara terpisah. Hari Senin (6/4/2020), Fiona menulis twit bahwa dirinya sedang dalam fase pemulihan, sementara John kondisinya telah stabil. “Dia stabil. Silakan terus mengirimkan cinta dan doa Anda yang luar biasa. Nyanyikan lagu-lagunya. Tetap di rumah dan cuci tangan. John mencintai kalian,” tulisnya. John Prine (73),
merupakan penyanyi dan penulis lagu country Amerika. Ia aktif sebagai musisi dan composer sejak 1970, dan dikenal berkat gaya music jenaka dengan unsur protes sosial di dalamnya. Ia memenangkan penghargaan Grammy untuk album folk kontemporer terbaik pada tahun 1992 dan 2006. Serta penghargaan Lifetime Achievment tahun ini. Dia ditahbiskan sebagai Songwriters Hall of Fame pada tahun 2019.
Baca selengkapnya di artikel “Daftar Musisi yang Sembuh dari Virus Corona, Siapa Saja Mereka?”, https://tirto.id/eLkl
Sebelumnya pembahasan musik saya adalah tentang makna lagu Kings And Queens milik 30 Seconds To Mars. Sekarang kita kembali membahas band Nu Metal Amerika Serikat, Linkin Park. Dan kali ini, saya akan membahas tentang ketujuh album studio milik mereka.
Linkin Park adalah band yang dibentuk pada tahun 1996, dengan membawa gaya musik Nu Metal. Sebelumnya, band ini sempat berganti beberapa kali nama. Awalnya, band ini bernama Xero. Kemudian anggota mengganti nama band menjadi Hybrid Theory. Namun, nama Hybrid rupanya sudah dipakai oleh band lain, sehingga kembali anggota harus mengubah nama band, agar tidak terjadi kemiripan nama yang suatu saat bisa saja menjadi sebuah perdebatan atau masalah. Lalu jadilah nama Linkin Park, sebuah nama yang diusulkan oleh Chester Bennington, terinspirasi dari nama sebuah taman di Amerika Serikat, Lincoln Park. Berubahnya nama Lincoln menjadi Linkin adalah agar band bisa mengolah situs web sendiri.
Sejak terbentuknya band hingga saat ini (tahun 2018), band yang sekarang beranggotakan 5 orang ini (sebelumnya 6 orang, ketika masih ada Chester sang vokalis utama), telah merilis banyak sekali album musik. Untuk album studio, LP telah merilis 7 album, diantaranya Hybrid Theory, Meteora, Minutes To Midnight, A Thousand Suns, Living Things, The Hunting Party, dan One More Light.
Linkin Park dikenal sebagai band yang cerdas dan kreatif. Mengapa seperti itu ? Karena mereka sebenarnya bukanlah band yang memainkan satu genre musik. Memang, pada umumnya LP dikenal sebagai band Nu Metal. Namun pada kenyataannya, mereka melakukan sebuah perubahan gaya musik di setiap albumnya. Dan itulah yang justru membuat band ini menjadi band yang memiliki kelebihan sendiri dan istimewa dari band Nu Metal pada umumnya. Band ini bahkan sempat dikatakan sebagai band “Anak Emas” dimasa kepopulerannya. Bahkan untuk band bergenre Nu Metal, Linkin Park adalah band terlaris. Kejeniusan para anggota band membuat eksperimen di setiap album menjadi senjata yang mengantarkan mereka menjadi salah satu band yang berpengaruh dalam dunia musik.
Adapun perubahan musik yang dilakukan Mike Shinoda dan kawan – kawan adalah dari Nu Metal ke Alternative Metal, lalu Alternative Rock, Elektronik Rock, Hard Rock, hingga pop rock. Meski berubah gaya musik, Linkin Park tetap meraih kesuksesan di setiap albumnya. Ini seolah – olah menunjukkan bahwa LP menjadi band papan atas karena perubahan musik tersebut. Lalu, bagaimana perjalanan Chester Bennington dan kawan – kawan selama membuat, merilis, dan mempopulerkan semua single di 7 album studio mereka ? Kita akan menyimaknya bersama dengan membahas satu – persatu album mereka.
Linkin Park mengaku telah mengerjakan materi baru sebelum adanya pandemi virus corona yang menyebabkan orang-orang melakukan karantina secara mandiri. Hal itu disampaikan oleh sang basis Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell, seperti diwartakan NME. Band ini sempat vakum usai sang vokalis Chester Bennington meninggal karena bunuh diri pada Juni 2017 lalu. Band ini absen setelah pentolan Chester Bennington mengambil nyawanya sendiri kembali pada tahun 2017.
Dalam periode itu, co-vokalis Mike Shinoda telah merilis album solo debutnya. Berbicara dalam wawancara baru-baru ini, Farrell mengungkapkan bahwa Linkin Park telah menulis musik baru – tetapi sesi saat ini “berhenti” setelah adanya aturan lockdown atau karantina wilayah yang diberlakukan COVID-19. “Bagi kami, dengan band, kami sudah menulis dan melakukan itu sebelum ini semua dimulai,” kata Farrell pada live-streaming Dan Really Likes Wine baru-baru ini. “Jadi dengan santai, kami melakukan rapat Zoom untuk makan siang bersama dan berkata, ‘Hai’. Tetapi kami tidak dapat berkumpul dan menulis atau melakukan semuanya. Jadi [kami] bekerja di rumah sedikit, mengerjakan ide-ide. “
Dia melanjutkan: “Saya telah memainkan banyak drum, hanya untuk melakukan sesuatu yang baru – saya telah melakukan itu selama setahun terakhir, satu setengah tahun, dan dengan sengaja membuat suara sebanyak mungkin untuk menciptakan ruang saya sendiri di rumah.” Dalam diskusi terpisah dari awal bulan ini, Farrell menjelaskan bahwa Linkin Park “selalu mengerjakan musik baru sekarang”. “Tentunya dengan apa yang terjadi dengan situasi internasional, kami sedikit berhenti,” tambahnya.
This boisterous six-piece, formed at the University of Cambridge, have garnered serious hype despite indie music being a bit of a cultural backwater of late. Yes, they are outspoken in the press and willing to poke fun at their peers, but the buzz is mostly thanks to their songs, with flamboyant and charismatic frontman Alex Rice stacking up the singalong choruses. Read our interview with them here. BBT
A former kindergarten teacher, Ukranian rapper Alyona Alyona keeps her material clean in case kids are listening. But her music – trap tinged with traditional vocal melodies – is far from toothless. Her breakout hit, Ribki, was about fish, but also young women who feel out of place – just as she did when people kept telling her that a plus-size female rapper would never make it in Ukraine. She raps about her regular life, touching on feminism, body positivity and tolerance, and switched from rapping in Russian back to Ukranian – a “beautiful, soft, tender, more poetic language” – after the country’s 2014 revolution. LS
Disbanded girl group Fifth Harmony is looking like a pretty successful training ground for a series of solo stars – Lauren Jauregui is currently looking to replicate the success of Camila Cabello, but in with an even better chance is Normani. Her duet with Sam Smith, Dancing With a Stranger, brought maturity and pain to the dancefloor, her solo single Motivation was totally irrepressible, and she is the first artist to get 1bn streams on Spotify without releasing an album. Stardom will surely be sealed when that debut LP arrives this spring. BBT
While there’s probably no greater indictment of country music’s conservatism than the fact that Kalie Shorr remains unsigned, her self-released debut album was likely better off for evading the genre’s nervy gatekeepers. Open Book covers the worst year of the 25-year-old Maine native’s life: her sister’s fatal heroin overdose, Shorr’s anorexia and physical abuse from ex-boyfriends. Astonishingly, she addresses her past with mordant wit and vast reserves of empathy – plus gigantic hooks worthy of Nashville-era Taylor Swift, pop-punk icons Paramore and Jagged Little Pill-era Alanis. LS
Smeared in lipstick and eyeshadow beneath an impressive collection of ripped masks, the drag persona of Bristol’s Elliot Brett is like Christeene crossed with the Mighty Boosh. His tinny electroclash tracks include the absurd sandwich metaphors of BLLT (“I’m a toastie / The boys they never ghost me / Not all the time but mostly”) and the Str8 Acting’s confusion at going to non-queer nightclubs (“It’s a bit like a pub but with slightly less chairs”), adding up to the kind of English eccentric we need now more than ever. BBT
Thousands of bedroom producers mimic the sounds of mainstream pop, but few actually pull off its heart-stopping sense of scale. Twst, AKA 21-year-old Wales-born Chloé Davis, is one of them. Her three songs to date suggest St Vincent reborn as an internet-spawned pop star: Girl on Your TV inflates lullaby-worthy melodies like a swelling Thanksgiving parade balloon, and she slips razor-sharp observations about sexualisation and the lie of technology into her lyrics. Always, a wracked conversation with Siri, plays like a Gen Z makeover of Kate Bush’s Deeper Understanding. LS
The idea that El Alfa is in any way a 2020 hopeful will seem ludicrous to the Dominican Republic-born dembow artist’s fans, who have watched his charismatic, booty-heavy videos upwards of 20m, 30m, 40m times. Collaborations with major players such Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin and Diplo speak to someone who is well on their way to the top, thanks very much. But in the UK, where awareness and exposure of Latinx pop remains limited, his bratty vocal trills and fire-starting energy could easily see him swoop in and conquer the charts in 2020. LS
Jesse James Solomon
Solomon released his first EP in 2014, and has since become a true cult figure – a storytelling south London MC who doesn’t fit into any of the neat British rap boxes (grime, backpacker, drill, Afro trap), but walks his own path. The excellent 2019 mixtape Bleak sat somewhere between Frank Ocean, King Krule and A Tribe Called Quest, a downbeat trudge through a rainswept night – but new single Tit for Tat is quite the opposite, a crisply headnodding roller with a Giggs guest spot. BBT
Starting the decade as a rapper whose wittily trashy aesthetic made Nicki Minaj look like Audrey Hepburn, Toronto-based Chippy Nonstop ended it as one of the most purely enjoyable DJs out there. A typical set can take in dancehall, Miami bass, R&B, trap, jungle, Afrobeats and more – all of it seemingly designed to goad anyone, however inappropriately, into feverish twerking on all fours. BBT
Keen watchers of recent performances by south-east London jazz collective Steam Down may have spotted Nala Sinephro performing alongside the likes of Rosie Turton and Nadeem Din-Gabisi. She’ll take the spotlight in 2020 to release her beguiling debut album: backed by a small ensemble, the Caribbean-Belgian musician plays pedal harp through modular and analogue synths, the effect gorgeously woozy and tidal – and not unworthy of comparison to Alice Coltrane. LS
You may also be interested in : Patty Loveless: Mountain Soul
We wanted to make the record as if people were actually sitting there and watching it all take place. Not as if we were onstage, but like we were in somebody’s living room — we almost were — and people were there and we were entertaining them”, explains Patty Loveless in an interview with No Depression‘s Bill Friskics-Warren. She is describing here the guiding principle behind her most recent, and clearly the most personal album of her career, Mountain Soul, a record of traditionally based folk and country music.
In today’s commercial music climate, it would be easy to dismiss Mountain Soul as a country singer’s attempt to revive a declining career, to catch the wave of the roots-bluegrass revival sweeping music in the wake of the successful O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. After all, Patty Loveless, a two-time Country Music Association “Female Vocalist of the Year” who has been nominated for multiple Grammies, now finds herself relegated to the “Classic Country” category — she has only had two Top ten hits since 1997. But the fact is, Mountain Soul is not a career-revival strategy but a homecoming for Loveless, a native of eastern Kentucky and a descendant of the coal mines. (Her father died of black lung in 1979.) In short, Patty Loveless had a “mountain soul” long before the Cohen Brothers conceived their hillbilly revision of The Odyssey.
John and Naomi Ramey raised daughter Patty right, with Naomi teaching her Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, and Molly O’Day while John made sure she heard The Stanley Brothers. He never missed an episode on Flatt and Scruggs’s Saturday night television show and also took a young Patty to see them play at the Pollyanna Drive-in. With Mountain Soul, Loveless returns to her childhood. As she explains, “Those are the three kinds of music [country, bluegrass, and hillbilly] I grew up on, and I really wanted to blend those three for this record, but keep the different kinds different” (http://sonynashville.com/PattyLoveless). Simply put, Mountain Soul is the album Loveless has been preparing for all her life — and to see the disc as only a return to hillbilly standards is to miss much of its complexity.
Besides, Loveless’s hillbilly roots have been poking through her Hot Country façade since the beginning of her career, though they became more apparent after 1993 when she and husband/musician/producer Emory Gordy, Jr. put a band together for a Ralph Stanley-hosted bluegrass festival. The response was so positive that Loveless added a bluegrass segment to her live shows, which included classics like “Pretty Polly” and “Some Morning Soon”. It’s also worth noting that her “Pretty Polly” duet with Ralph Stanley from his Clinch Mountain Country disc stayed at #1 for three weeks on the “National Bluegrass Survey” in 1997.
That Mountain Soul is a personal album becomes apparent on a number of levels. First, Loveless has dedicated the disc to her parents, and family pictures supplement the lyrics, placing the songs and the Ramey family story in the context of a larger musical and regional history. Second, its songs are a mix of gospel, country, and hillbilly standards, as well as contemporary tunes that parody their musical heritage; in its composition and themes, Mountain Soul is about stories and music that are historical and contemporary. A third factor that contributes to Mountain Soul‘s intimacy is Loveless’s decision to use her road band/family rather than studio musicians, and, as with any family get-together, a few old friends stop by — in this case Ricky Skaggs, Jon Randall, and Travis Tritt. Moreover, the album was recorded “mostly live”, drum-free, and with few overdubs. As she told Newsweek‘s David Gates, “Here it is, warts and all”. All of this is unheard of in Nashville’s current tidy, Hot Country sound.
Mountain Soul‘s parodic nature is apparent even in the disc’s artwork. On the cover, Loveless’s picture is foregrounded, superimposed upon another graphic of men gathering around an old building. Some are playing music; others appear to be miners on their way home after work. But Loveless’s image doesn’t entirely fit with this glimpse into another time and place, for just as her modern clothes are at odds with those the men wear, so is the shading of her figure different from that of the background. Thus we are reminded that modern technology has placed her in an old picture. There is a schism between the two, the present and the past, that cannot be bridged, just as Loveless’s covers of traditional songs cannot truly recreate that time and place.
Building on the artwork is Loveless’s inclusion of both traditional and contemporary songs, raising questions of “authenticity” as new songs both replicate and build on the rich tradition of country music. It is, after all, impossible for Patty Loveless to do a truly “authentic” album; the times and technology have changed too much. Loveless’s decision to work with a living-room model — even though the songs were recorded in a studio — reflects that compromise.
The living-room motif is apparent from Mountain Soul‘s beginning, the lively “The Boys Are Back in Town”, a song that joyfully tells the girls to get ready because, as Loveless exuberantly puts it, “The ships are in and the sails are down / The boys are back in town”. The song’s rhythm echoes a vaudeville dance tune, here played with acoustic, stringed instruments, though Loveless’ vocal phrasing is too modern, too syncopated for “authenticity” — which is, of course, a point of Mountain Soul. With “The Boys Are Back in Town”, Loveless also links her album to the traditional community dance, held in someone’s home after the furniture and carpet had been picked up. In effect, the listener is invited into the living room.
From there, Mountain Soul welcomes country, hillbilly, and gospel songs, some old, some new, all played with acoustic, stringed instruments that highlight the Kentucky holler in Loveless’s alto voice. Adding to this is the album’s foundation in the fundamental tensions of country music: the honky-tonk’s “Saturday Night” or the church’s “Sunday Morning”.
Loveless’s country music background is apparent in Mountain Soul‘s “Saturday Night” songs. Hank Williams could sing “The Richest Fool Alive”, though here it has an acoustic sound. Much the same is true of “Cheap Whiskey” (by Emory Gordy, Jr.), which uses the traditional waltz form to tell the story of a man who learns the consequences of “trad[ing] her love for a drink”. At times, Loveless’s voice struggles with this slow song — in this case, not a production flaw but, rather, a nod to the living room.
Adding to this are three duets, a bedrock form of classic country. Loveless sings “Someone I Used to Know” with Jon Randall as echoes of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton flit through the mix. She also works with Travis Tritt on two duets, “Out of Control Raging Fire” and “I Know You’re Married (But I Love You Still)”. Tritt’s no George Jones, but he holds his own. These duets point to how such relationships do little to abate the isolation that Saturday night tries so desperately to stave off; the sense that the singers will return to the tragedy of isolation is overwhelming.
Complicating Mountain Soul are the “Sunday Morning” songs that provide a very different answer to the problems posed by Saturday Night. Take, for example, Loveless’s version of Ralph Stanley’s “Daniel Prayed”. A bluegrass ballad and morality tale, the song reminds the listener, “Pray to God and He’ll see us through”. Ricky Skaggs adds mandolin and vocals, during the refrain assuming the role of a mountain preacher who exalts the congregation to a call-and-response. In a similar vein are “Rise Up Lazarus” and “Two Coats”, both gospel songs that assure the faithful they will be rewarded.
But between Saturday Night and Sunday Morning stretches a gray area, a place without easy answers, and it is in this ambiguity that Mountain Soul finds much of its richness. Take, for example, “Pretty Little Miss”, a revision of “Shady Grove”. In this traditional song of a woman’s first heartbreak (and losing her beau to an older sister, no less), Earl Scruggs’s banjo sets a pace that belies the song’s final lines: “Guess I’ll spend my winter months a sad and lonely maiden”. With “Sorrowful Angels”, the main character does live her life as a sad and lonely maiden in a story so tragic that the angels weep for her.
A highlight is Loveless’s revision of “Man of Constant Sorrow”. It’s impossible not to hear her version against the infectiously upbeat, hit version of the Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, but Loveless’s “Soul of Constant Sorrow” is more in keeping with the song’s mountain-ballad roots. There’s no playful banjo here, just a slow quest that tests endurance. Ricky Skaggs adds mandolin and backing vocals to this tale of isolated wandering that can only end with death.
Two tracks merit particular attention. The first is “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”. Darrell Scott’s 1995 song sounds as if it were written 100 years ago with its mountain-ballad form, prophecies of death, and dark sense of futility. This account of the singer’s grandfather, who attempts to escape the mines but is ultimately driven back to them by economic desperation, is haunted by vivid characters and descriptive language (“Where the sun comes up about 10 in the morning / And the sun goes down about 3 in the day / And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you’re drinking / And you spend your life digging coal from the bottom of your grave”). Loveless’s version, with its acoustic opening, is perfect and raises a central issue: Here is Scott, writing an old-timey ballad about a great, great-grandfather, a man time had obliterated from family history. It speaks to the ways in which the present revisits and revises the past, extending the tradition.
All of these pieces — past and present, light and dark, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, personal and public, artistic and commercial — come together in the disc’s final track, “Sounds of Loneliness”, a song written by a 14-year-old Patty Ramey (now Loveless) long before she was a professional singer. Instead, she was a talented, isolated teenager struggling to cope with her family’s move from Pikeville to Louisville. The song has tremendous personal value for Loveless: It was her father’s favorite; she used it when auditioning for Porter Wagoner; and it originally appeared on her 1987 debut album.
Important paradoxes lie at the heart of the “Sounds of Loneliness”. The first is the song’s sound, its Celtic heritage that uses a fiddle to create the drone of bagpipes (and points to Scotland’s central contribution to Appalachian culture) and an almost rock beat; the high-lonesome harmony singing; the acoustic instruments inherent to folk music. One of the sounds of loneliness, then, is the many voices and sounds from which American music has descended. The second paradox is the notion that loneliness would have a “sound”. The general belief is that loneliness is the result of silence, of isolation. But Loveless moves beyond that as she sings of being unable to endure the sounds of her tears and her heart. She finishes the song — indeed the album — by singing, “Hear the sounds of loneliness / Hear the sounds all around / Since you’ve gone and left me alone / I’ll just hear these sounds from now on”. It is a chilling final thought.
Although, lyrically, “Sounds of Loneliness” is about isolation, in the context of this personal album and, indeed, the music of the song itself, it moves beyond that to show the universality of music and its power to overcome isolation. That is, the music allows Loveless to articulate her loneliness just as it enables the listener to hear her message — a multifaceted one of family, cultural, and regional history, beautifully told in Mountain Soul.
You may also be interested in: Patty Loveless: Mountain Soul
Graham Sharp. Last name fits. Absolutely nothing dull about this guy. Sharp as a tack, in fact. He rips banjo rolls, belts out bold baritone, and plays the harmonica with hurricane force, sometimes all on the same song! He is the banjo player with whom the awarder of the Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, himself, chooses to play. Yup, razor sharp, indeed.
And, just listen to those lyrics! Captivating, intelligent, spot-on. Graham has penned some of the hippest songs in modern bluegrass. His words are born from days of yore, current events, novels read, and an incisive mind. When inspiration strikes, Graham writes. He makes a point to catch it — even in his sleep. Struck one middle of the night, Graham authored the entire timely call to action, Stand and Deliver the next day.
Graham Sharp has been standing and delivering as the banjoist for the Steep Canyon Rangers since the Rangers corralled together in college. He is the perfect fit with his fellow uber-talented Ranger brethren, who together lean over the cutting edge of bluegrass and burn their furnace white-hot. The Steeps have awards galore under their belts, Grammy, IBMA, band contest, you name it, and a recent induction into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame! They have an enormous following for their sizzling shows and catalog of off-the-chart tunes, and their collaboration with Steve Martin has them entertaining the nation via the likes of The Today Show, Colbert, and the Capitol Lawn.
The Steep Canyon Rangers are certainly the first-responders we want coming to our rescue when we find ourselves in peril: peril of forgetting how wonderful the world is, peril of overlooking how magical music can be, any peril. The Rangers will save us. They leap into that canyon with haste and call to us. We cannot help but run to them: a firm beacon of valor and truth. Before they take us to a safe place, however, they hold us by the napes of our necks and dangle us over the edge of that canyon, and ply us with masterful picking, magnificent melodies and meaningful messages. The Rangers rock us in their bosoms and blow our peril away. They revitalize us and securely set us back on our feet with a new perspective filled with marvel and gratitude.
Thank goodness, Graham was born to the rhythm and chose the banjo. Like his fellow Rangers, Graham plays his integral role impeccably with panache. His banjo makes us boogie with his blistering runs on Tell the Ones I Love, Lay Myself Down, and Looking Glass. He has us charging full speed with his hard-drive on Blow Me Away and jumping straight up and down with his peppy pops on Break. Graham also stops our heart with his grace on songs like On The Water and Boomtown, his pings summoning us to center on the significant. We shed a thousand tears from the beauty. We cheer Graham’s seamless Scruggs-style on in “Come Dance” and countless others, and his bona fide lines that tell our stories sweep us away. Graham harkens us back to those magical times when we just flew in Radio, cleverly cuts to the chase in Monumental Fool, and straightens us out with Down That Road Again. Everybody swoons when Graham sings too. He hits the lowest of the low notes, grounding us with all things good.
The Steep Canyon Rangers collaborated with Steve Martin on the recently released The Long-Awaited Album, and are currently working on an upcoming Rangers’ release.
Graham graciously allowed us to grill him about his formation, all things Rangers, and what’s next for this creative crew.
JH: How did banjo become your instrument? Who were your influences and how did you get into bluegrass?
GS: When I started playing banjo coincided with when I got into bluegrass. I did not grow up listening to bluegrass. I was into the Grateful Dead in high school and I got into the banjo from Jerry [Garcia]. That’s really when I first started getting into bluegrass. And, I had a teacher in high school who turned me onto Norman Blake. You start hearing Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, David Grisman and people like that in Old and In the Way and you start connecting the dots. The same thing with Norman Blake and John Hartford and New Grass Revival and all that stuff.
I was a saxophone player in our school jazz band through high school and when I got into college, I was playing on the soccer team. It took up all of my time. Eventually, I ended up having surgery around Christmas time my first year in college. I then had all this time and I kind of drifted away from the soccer team. I pawned my saxophone and bought a banjo when I came back from Spring Break that year. While I was recovering from surgery, I started teaching myself banjo.
JH: You bought a banjo because you liked the sound from what you heard from Old and In the Way and such?
GS: The banjo was the sound for me that defined bluegrass the way I heard it. The banjo was what I gravitated towards.
JH: When did you know you had a gifted voice? Did you grow up singing at all?
GS: No. I still don’t think I have come to that realization quite yet. I guess I have taken my voice just more in the context of the band. You know, Woody is our lead singer, and when I come into sing, it is just kind of like a change-up and something to give a little different flavor. I have certain parameters. I don’t try to do too much. But, there are things that I can do when I sing that Woody does not do given just how low and sort of rough my voice is.
I have always loved singing and when we were first learning to sing, I would sing mostly the bass or the baritone parts. I love how it is kind of like your job in bluegrass as the banjo player to be the baritone singer. That’s like J.D. Crowe: play the banjo, sing the baritone. It just seems like those two things go hand in glove. I had a couple of old J.D. Crowe bootlegs that I just treasured because the sound was pretty bad, but the way it shook out was that pretty much all you heard was the banjo and the baritone vocal. Those were like my practice tapes. I really treasured them.
I still feel self-conscious about singing, but I feel a little better about it. Every time someone comes up to me and says they like my voice and my singing, it makes me feel a little better.
One thing we try to do as a band with voices is that we recognize that different voices stand out at times in songs. So, we may not necessarily have one voice singing the lead or one voice singing exposed the whole time. We have tried to keep our vocal arrangements really interesting which I think has been good for me as a singer.
JH: How did the Steep Canyon Rangers come to be and when did you realize music was going to be your career?
GS: Woody, Charles and I were buddies in college before we started playing music together. We hung out with the same circle of friends and we sort of discovered that we were all kind of getting into the music at the same time. Sometime near the end of our first year of college, we started playing together. It was really just: “let’s get together and try to figure out how to play this music.” We just loved hanging out playing songs and trying to learn how to do it. We had a couple of songbooks like Pete Wernick’s songbook that we just wore down to the pulp. While we all had musical backgrounds nobody came from a really focused musical background.
It is really fun to take these songs and figure out how to give everybody their moments and focus on the talents because we really have a lot of talent in the band that has yet to really be fully tapped into. As a songwriter and arranger that is one of the great pleasures of working with a band that you know so well. You can go, “Where can we go with this? Let’s make whatever we want with it.”
Thanks, Graham, and all of the Rangers, for making what you have made with it thus far. You certainly have made it simple for us. All we have to do is turn it up loud and we’re ready to go. You have taken us to great places, and while we never wish for peril, we simply cannot wait for our next Rangers rescue.