Visit the Hillbilly at Harvard Blog for blog archives and more information about the program.

Recent posts:


HAH History: Sinc and Dave Interview Patty Loveless in 1994

Cousin Dave Schmalz hosted Hillbilly at Harvard with Ol’ Sinc from c. 1966 (see The Committee Saves the Show) into 1975, when Dave moved to Holland, and I came back from hither and yon.  Sadly, as I mentioned on the air, Cousin Dave passed away last October.  I’ve been meaning to post some memories of him here, with on-air clips, but it’s still on The List.

However, going through some ‘To Be Filed’ boxes, I did come across a cassette copy of the interview he and Sinc did of Patty Loveless in 1994 at the South Shore Music Circus.  Dave occasionally came back to the States and on this occasion teamed up with Ol’ Sinc to reprise, in spirit, some of their joint visits to Nashville for the DJ Conventions in the early ’70s, by going to see Patty.

Their plan was to edit the interview together with a selection of songs for the radio show, and that actually did happen 18 months later, when Dave was back in town.  He sent me a cassette of that segment, but the tape has some problems, so it’ll have to wait until I find time to do some editing.

In the meantime, I’m going to embed a SoundCloud file of the original interview, which I’m sure many of you will find as fascinating, and enjoyable, as I did, listening today.  It runs about half an hour:

Patty Loveless Interview

Helen Clougherty, who was then married to Sinc, writes:

The three of us . . . saw Patty Loveless perform at the South Shore Music Circus and [Sinc and Dave] managed to finagle a DJ interview with her after the show.

We spent about an hour with her (me, just in the background).  They were both pretty much openly in love with her . . . she was smart, gorgeous and talented.  Sinc and Dave traded off asking questions. Sinc was more serious and working on impressing her with his country music knowledge (you know that routine and he knew his stuff).  Dave was like a kid who got a puppy.

One of the songs they discuss in the conversation was written by Karen Staley and included on Patty’s debut album on MCA Records, ‘Half Over You’. Dave was effusive in his praise of it, and deservedly so. Listen:

NOTE TO EMAIL FOLLOWERS: If you get an email from ‘Hillbilly at Harvard’ with this post, you may not see the embedded interview. In that case, scroll down to the bottom of the email and click on the link to the post itself. When that comes up, you’ll see the interview. /CL

Exiled!

Napoleon_sainthelene

Napoleon’s Exile on Saint Helena by Franz Josef Sandman [de] (1820) (PD)

No, I haven’t met my Waterloo, but Saturday the 22nd of August was the last live Hillbilly at Harvard—for a while. How long? A few weeks? Months? The rest of the year? I don’t know.

Apparently spooked by the hysteria surrounding the Wuhan Bat Bug (an epidemic no worse than many in the past that never resulted in lockdowns and other restrictions), the administrators at Harvard have decreed that only 40% of enrolled students will be allowed back on campus for the new term, and only those students, plus some employees, will be allowed into campus buildings. Since WHRB is in the basement of Pennypacker Hall, a freshman dorm, I am excluded. I cannot even get into the HAH record library.

Fortunately, over the past few years I have recorded a number of what I call ‘Generic Hours’ to run when I’m out of town, or otherwise unavailable (as now). These will be mixed and matched to create four-hour HAH shows, and there are enough that there shouldn’t be too much repetition. Some listeners have told me they like the GHs (more favorites and less talk).

If The Exile continues for more than a couple of months, I’ll have to think about creating new GHs, maybe using live performances and other segments from the past that I have recorded over the air here at home. I don’t have a home studio, but it might be possible to create one, or even rent studio space somewhere.

In any case, the plan is to resume live broadcast of HAH as soon as the Powers That Be at Harvard say it’s OK for me to enter the building. The student management at WHRB supports this plan. You should be aware that they are under enormous pressure to maintain a 24-hour broadcast schedule with only a small fraction of station members on campus, and that HAH is only a tiny part of their responsibilities, so don’t blame them. Harvard makes the rules.

PS The Internet stream going silent Saturday was unrelated; just Murphy’s law: whatever can go wrong, durn sure will.  /CL

PPS Might as well have some fun. Here’s Stonewall Jackson’s ‘Waterloo’ (1959), written by John D. Loudermilk and Marijohn Wilkin:

And here’s a beautiful, rather sad, version of ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’ that I just chanced upon, played by Aly Bain, with some significant associates: Jerry Douglas (dobro), Danny Thompson (bass), Tommy Hayes (Percussion), Michael Doucet (second fiddle), Russ Barenberg (guitar), Donald Shaw (piano):

For Met Fans—More Operas!

The Metropolitan Opera is making up for the sudden dearth of live broadcast performances this season by adding archival productions every Saturday from May 23rd through June 13th.

You can find the new list of broadcast Met operas on the WHRB website, HERE.

There will be Met Prelude programs before the operas at 1:00 PM, so HAH will end 10-15 minutes early each Saturday.  /CL

UPDATE 15Jun20: Edited to correct ending-date error.  The last Met archived opera was this past Saturday.  However, Sunday Night at the Opera will continue through July, at 8 PM on (you guess it!) Sundays.

UPDATE 1Jul20: Scratch that! Actually, the Met archived operas are continuing!  At 1:00 PM for the next three Saturdays: 11, 18, 25 July: Strauss, Rossini, Saint-Saëns.  I think I’ve got it right, now.  /CL

UPDATE 24Jul20: The archival productions from the Met are continuing into September!  I won’t be there live to tease them, so just tune in at 1:00 PM, following HAH, and you’ll find out what they are.  /CL

Harvard Gazette Highlights WHRB

Gazette 2020-05-06 at 11.04.50 PM_sm

The Harvard Gazette is “the official news website for Harvard University,” and seems to be updated more-or-less daily.  The May 4th issue featured a story by Jon Chase on WHRB staying on the air (‘WHRB keeps classical connections’), despite the unexpected departure of most of its staff, as I posted in ‘WHRB and HAH Are Still on the Air’.  Readers will remember Jon from his photo ‘Slideshow’ on Hillbilly at Harvard back in 2014.

Jon, whose official title is University Photographer, couldn’t come in to capture the small team of station members keeping WHRB on the air, so he used photos from them and others to let the Harvard community know how the station was faring during the pandemic.

That’s Allison Pao, current WHRB President, with a mandolin (she’s really a violinist) at the head of the article.  Writes Jon,

WHRB president Allison Pao ’21 said it’s been a collaborative effort to stay on air 24/7, with staff on duty at all hours. An undergraduate student comes in every Saturday afternoon to produce regular Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. General manager Emily Spector ’21, chief studio engineer Margaux Winter ’21, and former chief engineer Hamish Nicholson ’20 live nearby and regularly come into the station to manage basic operations.

“Undergraduate staff have been working hard to produce broadcasts remotely as well, recording our classical afternoon concerts from 1 to 6 p.m. on weekdays,” Pao added. “This in itself is a massive effort which requires ripping hundreds of CDs and recording hundreds of announcing breaks

Despite the limited staff on site, WHRB has still managed to present two weeks of its semi-annual Orgy® Period, featuring programs built around a single theme, composer, or style of music.   They’re listed in the WHRB Program Guide, available for download in PDF HERE.

HAH listeners who like ‘jamgrass’, ‘new acoustic music’, Americana, etc. should check out ‘The American Acoustic Orgy’, starting at 10:00 AM Monday (May 11th).  Following that are 28 hours of ‘The Ella Fitzgerald Orgy’, from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM Tuesday the 12th, 5:00 AM to 1:00 PM Wednesday the 13th, and Thursday the 14th.  And at 7:00 PM Tuesday tune in for the ‘North Carolina Bluegrass Orgy’, hosted by Margaux Winter.  Margaux will feature artists like ‘Rhiannon Giddens, Mandolin Orange, Chatham Rabbits, and Hank, Pattie & the Current’.  Wednesday will rebroadcast the 2019 tribute to David Elliott with ‘The David Elliott Orgy’ at 1:00 PM.   See the Program Guide for more details.

The other news is that WHRB is asking for donations:

“We published our station’s response to the pandemic on March 16 as well as an update on April 21 asking for donations on our website,” Pao said. “We are raising money because we are projected to lose over a third of our annual operating budget in the next few months due to canceled ad campaigns from our clients, many of whom are performing arts organizations in the Boston area.”

. . . The team remains determined to keep things running. The radio station prides itself on being “entirely self-supporting,” Spector said. As a commercial nonprofit business, the station is provided studio space, but otherwise does not receive funding from the University.

Of course, ‘commercial’ means advertising!  You can advertise your business on WHRB.  Rates are very reasonable, and you can advertise on Hillbilly at Harvard as well as on the Boston area’s most innovative Classical, Jazz, and Rock programming.  See my post, Don’t Clap—Throw Money (or Rather, Buy Time!)‘  Email [email protected]

PS HAH got a mention in this article as well, and a photo—from Jon’s 2014 ‘Slideshow’!

PPS Orgy® information updated; thanks to listener Louis in NYC.  /CL

Photos from the 2020 Joe Val Festival

IMG_0392_sm

Pickin’ in the Hallways at the JVF

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival on Presidents’ Day Weekend in February.  Harder still to remember that hundreds of bluegrass pickers and fans took over the entire Sheraton Hotel for three days, and even packed the Main Stage auditorium for the Sunday afternoon finale with the Dan Tyminski Band, and it all went off without a hitch.

There was an good deal of elbow-bumping instead of handshakes, which makes good sense at the height of flu season, even without any new bug to worry about.   Even in mid-February, there weren’t many cases of the Wuhan virus in the United States, and we assumed there wouldn’t be many people from China at the festival, so (rightly or wrongly) there wasn’t much chance of encountering it in a crowd of bluegrass and country aficionados.

In any event, the mood was festive and the performances were great.  As usual, I hung around with my camera (a new Canon Rebel SL3 with Canon 18-135mm lens, not a high-end rig, but close enough for country music), so here are, belatedly, a few photos.  It’s been two months, so I’ll keep comments to a minimum.  There are higher-resolution, downloadable versions of the photos on Flickr, too, HERE.

Friday evening we arrived in time to catch Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing, from Vermont, a name I’d heard but a band I hadn’t: Bob Amos (banjo, guitar), daughter Sarah Amos (vocals), Freeman Corey (fiddle), Steve Wright (guitar), Gary Darling (mandolin), Chris Cruger (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Making a quick trip downstairs to the more intimate Showcase Stage, we caught The Deborah McDonnell Band: listed as Deborah McDonnell (guitar, vocals), Stu Ervin (‘multi-instrumentalist’), Steve Smith (guitar), Tim Fiehler (bass), Jackie Damsky (fiddle), looks like a sixth player on stage.  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Downstairs, a gathering of bass fiddles spawned a few jokes of the “Who’s on first?” variety.  Fortunately the grandkids were absent this year, or we’d have to keep them from “Touching all the bases.”

IMG_0299_sm

Back at the Main Stage, the hot young band Mile Twelve, spawned from the bluegrass nest at Berklee and now touring nationally, held forth: Evan Murphy (guitar), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Nate Sabat (bass), BB Bowness (banjo), David Benedict (mandolin).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

I was delighted to see a band that I had greatly enjoyed two years before, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, back at the Joe Val Festival.  They were billed ‘with Jesse Brock‘, master mandolinist taking the place of Jeff’s son, the incredibly energetic Tristan (off on his own in Nashville, I think Jeff said). Tristan I guess was the harbinger, as the evening’s performance was tempered with the news that this would be the last performance of the band—all were going their separate ways.  A pity, as it was a great band: Jeff Scroggins (banjo), Greg Blake (guitar, vocals), Ellie Hankanson (fiddle, vocals), Jesse Brock (mandolin), not to mention the inimitable Mark Schatz (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Sadly I had to leave before Claire Lynch‘s set Friday night.  Saturday evening I got back in time for the Boston Bluegrass Union’s Heritage Artist Award to Boston’s own singing dentist (and mandolin player) Ritchie Brown (sorry, ‘Dr. Richard Brown).  Here he is on stage, plus the BBU’s Gerry Katz. [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Then it was time for The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, arguably the hottest traditional band on the circuit today, for their second shot at the JVF, sporting their new Rounder album, and now-regular fiddler Laura Orshaw—plus C. J. Lewandowski (mandolin), Jereme Brown (banjo, not a typo), Josh ‘Jug’ Rinkel (guitar), Jasper Lorentzen (bass). [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Now towards the end of the Po’ Ramblin’s set when they brought up their bus driver to sing a couple of songs, I didn’t realize that he was (a) the banjo player Jereme’s dad, and (b) Tommy Brown, of Tommy Brown and County Line Grass, whom I’d been playing on the radio for years!  Tommy Brown always struck me as right smack in The Stanley Brothers tradition, and he sure brought his son up right.  An unexpected treat!

IMG_0391_sm

Laura Orshaw, Tommy and Jereme Brown

The Special Consensus are the closest thing to JVF regulars that I can remember, and never fail to deliver.  Greg always remembers playing at WHRB back in the days of the Kinvara Pub in Allston (when Chris Jones was in the band), and always promises to come back some day—which I’m sure he would, if they were in town at the right time.  I enjoyed meeting Rick Faris, as I’ve been playing a lot from his excellent new album.  Greg Cahill (banjo), Rick Faris (guitar), Nate Burie (mandolin), Dan Eubanks (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Headliners Saturday night were Balsam Range, multiple IBMA award winners and solid performers: Buddy Melton (fiddle), Marc Pruett (banjo), Caleb Smith (guitar), Tim Surrett (bass, dobro).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Laura Orshaw (fiddle) is now doubling (or tripling or quadrupling if you count her own band and others in the Boston area) with Adam Bibey & Grasstowne, whom I caught on Sunday afternoon.  And who else is in the band, at least for this gig?  Tony Watt on guitar!  The rest: Alan Bibey himself (mandolin), Justin Jenkins (banjo), Zak McLamb (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Sunday afternoon is traditionally winding-down time at bluegrass festivals, with folks packing up to go home.  But the Joe Val Festival is at an hotel, so a few years ago the BBU were inspired to turn the last act on Sunday into a rousing closer.  I must admit I was a little dubious when I heard they were bringing in The Dan Tyminski Band for the finalé.  Yeah, I knew Dan was famous in the Soggy Bottom Boys in that awful slam-at-the-South movie, was Alison Krauss’s leading sideman, and had won numerous awards for all kinds of musical adventures, but he wasn’t really bluegrass country.

I was wrong. Dan put on a terrific bluegrass concert, interspersed with plenty of jokes and comaraderie.  He made himself at home, and the audience reciprocated.  It was one of the most entertaining shows I can remember, and plenty country.  Dan also played new songs he either wrote or co-wrote, which will appear this fall on a new Rounder album.  I can’t wait.  Dan Tyminski (mandolin), Justin Moses (fiddle), Jason Davis (banjo), Tim Dishman (bass), Tony Wray (guitar).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

We hung around for the Festival’s Wind-up Hoedown dance in the Showcase Stage room, featuring Josie Toney and Her Honky Tonk Heroes.  Josie had played a bluegrass set earlier in the day in the Showcase, which I had missed.  But for the dance she turned to classic country, and did she do it well!  I was mightily impressed, at both her repertoire, her stage presence, and her voice.  Another record I’ll be looking to play on the air, when it comes out.  Josie Toney (guitar, vocals); I didn’t get the names of the others, but if anyone knows, I’ll add them.  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Didn’t catch much of the lively old-timey band that followed Josie (and I missed their Main Stage performance), but need to get some recordings!  The Lonesome Ace Stringband from Canada are Chris Coole (banjo), John Showman (fiddle), Max Heineman (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Chalk up another one for the BBU!  Hey, that’s a song!  So for looking at all these silent photos, here’s a little classic audio for you, from Jimmy Martin.  /CL