Banjo picker Alan Munde has had quite a career in bluegrass music.
As a young man, he was a member of Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys and went on to help found and maintain Country Gazette, one of the most enduring bands to emerge from the 1970s bluegrass mini-boom. Alan has also been a successful solo artist with a number of stellar and hugely influential recordings to his credit.
He spent the last 20 years on the faculty of South Plains College in Levelland, TX, a position from which he recently retired – though he still performs with his group, Alan Munde Gazette.
So… when Alan Munde releases a new recording, banjo players take notice, and with Old Bones, they have a good reason to sit up and pay attention. The CD is made up of 13 tracks that Alan has recorded over the past twenty-odd years which for one reason or the other, never made it onto a CD.
Some were cut for solo or Country Gazette projects that never materialized, while others were cut at South Plains – where they offer a program in audio recording – as visiting artists were on campus to offer workshops to the students. These involve cuts with guests like David Grier, Mike Bub, Ron Block and Mike Compton.
The songs offer a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces, and as long-time Munde fans might expect, draw on a varied palette of stylistic influences ranging from hard driving bluegrass to breezy swing jazz. The banjo, of course, shines throughout.
We asked Alan to share a few thoughts about Old Bones…
Darling, Pal of Mine was recorded in Nashville in the mid-1990s by one of the industry’s most brilliant recordists, Rich Adler. On the cut are a bunch of picking heroes beginning with the legend himself Roland White, sweet voiced and booming bassist Marshall Wilborn, the best bluegrass singer of all time, Mr. Slide Guitar Gene Wooten, fellow Oklahoman former Gazette member fiddler Billy Joe Foster, and none better on the guitar David Grier. Roland, Gene, and Marshall all trade off on singing a verse and then Billy Joe joins them on the chorus.
This tune was recorded in the key of A but I played it without a capo (there are other non-capoed examples on the CD) and it made for an interesting sound. I liked it.
Arriba Francie is a different sort of piece for the banjo. This cooking Latin-esque instrumental was written by my very best friend and long-time teacher/mentor Slim Richey. I met Slim when I was 14 or so and have remained close ever since. It features two fellow Oklahomans Adam Granger on guitar and Dick Nunneley on mandolin. I knew them both when we all lived in Oklahoma and love playing with them any time I get the chance. What a blast they are.
Joe Carr is one of my all-time favorite people and musicians in the whole world. He is a great guitarist and mandolinist a great singer and a wonderful person. He is special in that his personality comes out strongly in his music. He is heard on the earliest recorded cut for this CD, Hickory Hollow, and again on a banjo/mandolin duet on Cindy, which we recorded much later. It is great fun any time Joe is involved with a project.
Other standout tracks include a version of Bill Emerson’s Sweet Dixie – which ends with twin banjo – and Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie where Munde shows once again how he excels at translating a vocal song into a banjo tune.
There are no audio samples up yet online, but Alan says he will get them up soon. Banjo pickers, and anyone who loves truly exceptional banjo playing, will want to snap this one up right away.