Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2012: The First Lineup Audio Hints Released

On what would have been Hardly Strictly Bluegrass founder Warren Hellman’s 78th birthday the good people that worked side by side with him carry on in his honor. The upcoming 12th anniversary of the festival, and first after Hellman’s death last December, looks to continue the celebration of great, and free, music doesn’t look as though it’s slowed a bit. On this day of remembrance the festival’s organizers have released audio hints, like last year, of the first 10 conformed acts.

Check out the file below and in the comments give us your best guesses who’d playing HSB this Oct. 5-7!

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival 11 Wrap Up

The 11th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was dedicated to the activist folk/country singer who died in April at the age of 75. Dickens had played the festival every year since it’s inception in 2001. Her influence was felt everywhere from the her likeness stamped on the programs, to references from the stages and the sense of community in the crowd and from the stage.

During the Wronglers’ set with Jimmie Dale Gilmore that kicked day 2 of the three day event, the band had Dickens’ longtime collaborator Ron Thomason sit in for a cover of Dickens’ signature song, “The Mannington Mine Disaster.” Wrongler banjoist, festival benefactor and longtime Dickens fan, Warren Hellman said  “We were very fond of each other but we couldn’t be two more opposite people,” Hellman said. “She’s probably looking down from heaven right now thinking, ‘How did that old bastard make it?”

Next I was off to the Star stage to catch my buddy Jimbo Mathus in the South Memphis String Band. The cosmic-America vibe mixed with front porch casualness easily won over the crowing crowd as the smell of the Bay Area’s favorite controlled substance filled the air. Jolie Holland, a Texan by way of Bay Area is a distinctive voice ran her all-famale  four-piece band a braod swath of her discography with charm and passion.

Then off to the Arrow Stage for Southern Culture on the Skids. I’d been wanting to see SCOTS for a long time but it never worked out. Their brand of white-trash boogie is like a monster truck, a wonder of precision fused to a aesthetic awesome abomination.

I headed due East to settle in at the Banjo stage to catch John Prine. Prine still casts a folkie wry eye on modern living. His opening number Spanish Pipedream – “Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, Go to the country, build you a home.” With Bay Area rent what it is this is a sentiment appreciated in spirit if less so in practice.

As anticipated the heavy crowd quickly swelled when the ex-Zep wailer Robert Plant brought his latest roots music venture – The Band of Joy, to the Banjo Stage. Grittier than his work with Alison Krauss on Raising Sand. Variations of Los Lobos, Low, Townes Van Zandt and reworked Zeppelin tunes were visited. The mic was passed between Plant and band-mates Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, and Darrell Scott . The plant encored with excellent reworks of Zeppelin’s Bron-Y-Aur Stomp and Gallows Pole.

Saturday was dominated by two living country music legends. Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson ran through a treasure trove of golden hits of their own and from Bob Wills and Johnny Cash on the Star Stage as the sun warmed the capacity crowd.

When I saw Gillian Welch and David Rawlings a few months back as they struck out on their current tour Gillian had mentioned that it was the lack of new material while playing Hardly Strictly 10 that led to the creation of their current release Harrow and the Harvest. The pair made up for it at HSB 11 as new songs were slotted in with older favorites in their 12 song set which encored, appropriate for San Francisco, Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.

Golden Gate Park has a long history of free music festivals, beginning with the “Human Be-In” of 1967 and continues Hardly Strictly Bluegrass because of one banjo player, bluegrass and roots music enthusiast, Warren Hellman. You could see him on the side of the stage catching many of the acts smiling like a kid. Even sharing the stage with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, resplendent in a Nudie-style black jacket, sparkling Stars of David along the sleeves designed by his granddaughter, his love of the music is felt from observing him and results in the three day event and 90 acts spread across six stages highlighting some of the best of Americana and roots music. Every year, stacks of personal thank-you cards turn up at the offices of Hellman & Friedman, his private equity investment offices, but you can imagine that even without the gratitude he;d still do it for personal pleasure. There are worse ways to spend your millions.

If there was a negative to the HSB festival they were the aforementioned record-breaking crowds. The large amount of older people, children and dogs addd to often stand-still conditions made things uncomfortable if not dangerous. Perhaps next year a minimal cover charge to keep the crowd under control? Also, and I understand that this is San Francisco, bit the amount of marijuana in the air made it obviously family unfriendly. What you do with your body is your business but when your purple crush wafts downwind to a playing three-year old you’re imposing on others.

Also, I’ve never understood the inclusion of bands that have absolutely no Americana or roots music influences on the bill. Broken Social Scene may be a indy darling but there are a hundreds local and national bands that would kill for a spot at the premier Americana festival that is currently occupied by a band that can get a slit at any of the dozen rock festivals held.

Thanks to Warren Hellman, Dawn Holliday, general manager of Slim’s and the Great American Music Hall, who spends half the year organizing the Hardly Strictly event, and all the other volunteers and other personnel for putting together another great (and FREE!)  event.

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – “I’ll Fly Away, White Rabbit”


Kris Kristofferson & Merle Haggard playing “Sunday Morning Coming Down”


Robert Plant and the Band of Joy – “Thank You”


News Round-Up: Hayes Carll and Ryan Bingham Leave Lost Highway

  • The latest news from the wasted trailer-park that is music industry; Hayes Carll and Ryan Bingham have parted ways with their label the Universal Americana imprint Lost Highway. Mike Crowley, Carll’s manager, said in response to Carlls’ departure “Being part of Universal Music, we’ve watched as the corporation has tightened the reins on Lost Highway…The requirements that Universal imposes just make less and less sense for artists like Hayes and Ryan, who are never going to be something that can be marketed like Lady Gaga.”
  • Johnnie Wright, Country Singer, Bandleader, manager and husband of Kitty Wells, had died at the age of 97. (New York Times)
  • The current King of Country, George Strait, has been added to an already stellar lineup for the Fire Relief:
    The Concert for Central Texas event, which already booked Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, the Dixie Chicks and
    Asleep at the Wheel, Eric Johnson, Steve Miller, Joe Satriani, Shawn Colvin, the Texas Tornados and the Court Yard Hounds will make guest appearances, and Turk Pipkin and ‘Friday Night Lights’ star Kyle Chandler will host the event.. The benefit show, which is slated for October 17 at the Frank Erwin Center in the capitol city of Austin, Texas, will raise money to help replace the estimated $250 million loss in damages.   Tickets range from $25-$250, with the higher end being VIP tickets that allow concert-goers close access to the stage as well as an exclusive lounge area.
  • Looking forward to seeing Merle Haggard today ay Hardly Strictly Bluegrass with that youngster Kris Kristofferson. Here is the The Hag discussing his recent bout with cancer and his take on the current political climate. Here’s a hint, he recently penned a anti-government cut entitled “Shut It Down.” Take that Steve Earle.

:happy trails

Open Letter to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Dear HSB folks,

Though I’ve approached the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass personnel in every direct (and indirect) way imaginable to allow me backstage access to this year’s event I’ve gotten nothing from you but polite but firm “no chance.” It’s not like I’m a newbie fan-boy looking to drool over M Ward (who I will be skipping) I’ve been back there before. In 2008 I was backstage because of the kindness of Billy Joe Shaver and in 2009 it was the awesome Elizabeth Cook that came through for casa Twang. Last year a deal for access with an artist and label never came through so I got to feel what it was like to  work through a 600k free attendance while trying to blog from a phone, get a decent photo and look for electrical outlets. Not to mention the bathroom lines. I didn’t care for it.

Do I deserve backstage access? I don’t know. I have been a guest for the Grammys in L.A. and the Americana Music Association in Nashville for the work I’ve done on this blog over the last 7 years. I do it because I love the music and I want to share it with like-minded people. I do it as a fan speaking to other fans. There is no other better example off a labor of love when it comes to as fickle an industry as music. Sure the HSB is a huge success and it’s free so publicity is not an issue but what about showing some love from one fan to another? I mean it is after all why we both do what we do.

The reason you gave for a blanket media (of which I’m not) shut-out was given as overzealous folks in the past has overstepped their place and bothered the artists. As I’ve stated, I have been backstage two years in the past and never did as much. I would nod, a hello and ask for the photo here and there, but really it was about me tweeting and posting what was going on around me. I am a courteous guest. My mama raised me right.

So yes,  I will be at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival next weekend and will be posting my picks to see this week as usual. Yours is the premier Americana and roots music event in the country and Mr. Warren Hellman deserves hillbilly Sainthood for arranging and funding the entire event. But in San Francisco, a city that claims a spirit of cooperation and technology innovation, to have this event bar me from the event based on some historic bad apples is arbitrary and unfortunate to a lowly blogger that just want’s quiet place to do his thing.

Baron Lane

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 11 – Confirmed Acts (so far)

The good folks over at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass have using some clever audio teases to reveal acts confirmed for the upcoming 11th Americana festival. the event takes place in San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park and is put on by friend of Americana music, banjo player and investment banker Warren Hellman (Fri Sep 30, Sat Oct, & Sun Oct 2, 2011)

Here are the confirmed acts from reveals so far:

Dr. John, Punch Brothers, Gomez, Dark Star Orchestra, Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussein & Edgar Meyer , The Civil Wars, Bob Mould, The Devil Makes Three, John Prine,  Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch + David Rawlings,  Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, Robert Plant & the Band of Joy, Del McCoury & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Cass McCombs, Fitz & the Tantrums, The Jayhawks, Abigail Washburn, Robert Earl Keen, Buckethead (!),  The Flatlanders, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Chris Isaak, Frank Fairfield, Irma Thomas, Elbow, The Mekons, Earl Scruggs, Patty Griffin, Old Crow Medicine Show…

There is also word, though no confirmation, that Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson will also be there. Sta tuned for more from what is shaping up to be the best Hardly Strictly Bluegrass  yet.

Kris Kristofferson

News Round Up: Jimmie Dale Gilmore Premiers Heirloom Music

  • Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass fans take note! Texas’ Americana music legend  Jimmie Dale Gilmore waxes philosophic on what is wrong with country music today. Gilmore’s upcoming release was done with Hardly Strictly Bluegrass benefactor Warren Hellman, and his band the Wronglers. The album is a collection of vintage Nashville classics entitled Heirloom Music, which they’ll be premiering at Slim’s in San Francisco on Sunday3/10/11  afternoon.
  • On March 17 “Americana @ The Bluebird Cafe” show will focus on the rock side of Americana, with performances from Webb Wilder, Brad Jones and Hans Rotenberry. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $20, available through bluebirdcafe.com beginning at 8 a.m. on March 10, and all proceeds will go to the Americana Music Association. Also planned for this month are two more “Americana @ The Bluebird Cafe” shows: Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer will perform on March 22, and there’ll be a Jerry Douglas & Friends concert March 24th.
  • In support of his latest solo effort, the T Bone Burnett produced Low Country Blues, Gregg Allman has announced a solo tour that will launch April 19th in North Charleston, SC. For the first handful of dates, Allman will be joined by the Steve Miller Band. Allman will also be performing at several festivals this summer, including Bonnaroo and Nateva Music Festival. Press for Allman also indicates that he’ll be “back doing shows in late summer into the fall” as well.

News Round Up:Jim Lauderdale Will Help Push Your Car

  • Birmingham Weekly sits down with Mr. Americana himself – Jim Lauderdale. Jim discusses hosting the Americana Awards ceremony at the Ryman auditorium, having the first single off the George Strait new album Twang and at one point Jim pauses the interview to help push a car to a station for a lady that ran out of gas. (his mama would be proud!)
  • The 4th annual  Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival will be held this weekend (October 10,11)  On the bill to play is Canada’s Blue Rodeo and Sadies, O’Death, Deer Tick, Blue Mountain and many more. The festival takes place at the Joshua Tree Lake Campground, about 9 miles northeast of the heart of Joshua Tree national park.
  • Miranda Lambert’s new release, Revolution, debuts #1 on the Billboard Country Chart and #8 on the Top 200 Chart. This will probably be the only time I champion any release that achieves that level of commercial success. Such is the power of Miranda Lambert!
  • Ju;li Thank is one bust lady. Not only is she writing about moonshine over at the 9513.com, she gives us a meaty perspective on Roseanne Cash’s new release, The List at PopMatters/com. The PopMatters.com review proper of Cash’s The List is provided by Ben Child.
  • Many NoDepression.com members (myself included) have shared many great photos from last weekends Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 9.
Blue Rodeo and Sadies, O’Death, Deer Tick, Blue Mountain

News Round Up:Billy Joe Shaver / Ray Wylie Hubbard’s The last Rites of Ransom Pride

  • Country Music Prisde has a great interview with this indie sweethearts of country punk Those Darlin’s.

News Round Up: Lucero Releases New Videos ; RIP Amy Ferris

  • I learned yesterday from a post on Twitter by Austin singer/songwriter Kelly Willis alerted me that Austin native fiddle player Amy Farris had been found dead at her residence in Los Angeles at the age of 40. Suicide is suspected, but an investigation is currently underway. Farris was a talented fiddle player and had recently been part of the group Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women. Her only solo release, Anyway, was produced by Alvin in 2003. Farris was scheduled to play Saturday with the Guilty Women at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. As of this writing her name is still on the schedule.
  • Hear Rosanne Cash’s new release The List at NPR, including an iTunes exclusive cut featuring Neko Case, Satisfied Mind.
  • Miranda Lambert will appear on the Jimmy Fallon show tonight. Lambert also tweets that Jimmy Fallon is cute and sweet. Aww!
  • PopMatter’s Bob Proehl posts a nice piece on the legacy of Kris Kristoffersson.
  • Memphis, Tennessee-based Alt.country band Lucero commissioned a music video for each song on their upcoming record 1372 Overton Park– making 12 videos total. The level of sophistication of each fan-turned-videographer ranged from “some holding only handy-cams, others with years of training under their belt.” Ceck out the first two videos for What Are You Willing To Lose? and Goodbye Again.

News Round Up: Americana Gets Some Love

  • You know Americana as a genre has arrived when not only do they have their own Grammy category (or is that the death knell?) but also the Americana Music Conference is written up in the Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine and CMT.com. With great power…
  • When in Nashville I always find time to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The place displays and represents the historic roots of country music in a tasteful and engaging way that I never get tired of. Where else can you see Mother Maybelle Carter’s 1028 Gibson and Elvis’ Gold Cadillac? But the place seems to be at capacity for a genre that is still making history. Now it seems that there’s a possibility that the Hall could double its size in the near future.
  • San Francisco’s free (!) Americana and Roots festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, has published a down-loadable daily schedule, as well as a map of the Golden Gate Park festival grounds and artist’s bios.