The word is used to define a theory of constitutional interpretation in the United States, whereby judges are encouraged to seek understanding of what the lawmakers who crafted specific legislation meant at the time they wrote it. It’s not universally accepted, and is quite controversial in some circles, but it is the same approach that Blaylock and his band use in writing and recording new bluegrass.
“We play traditional bluegrass music, but we don’t play the same songs as the founders. We want it to sound new and fresh, but we try to play it in the same spirit as the guys who were doing it in the ’50s.”
And Audie has developed some understanding of that spirit. During the years he played mandolin with Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys as a young man, he made a point to learn everything he could from the master to whom he was apprenticed.
One lesson in particular has stuck with him.
“Jimmy had the ability to hear all the instruments at the same time, and he knew how to put all the pieces together. He could listen to what the banjo was doing while he was singing, and how what the bass did matched with his guitar. He would talk about that sort of thing all the time, going down the road, and I listened and paid attention. I feel like I have learned how to hear that too, and always try to be conscious of it when I look for members of this band.”
But changing personnel isn’t something that has been a big issue in his band, Redline. Audie says that he is very careful in choosing them, and that when you get the right people, they tend to stick around.
“The band has been together a long time. I try to find people that have the same mindset as I do – the way they look at music. Since we started in 2004 I’ve had very little turnover. If everyone is on the same page, you can have different ideas, but they still work together. We all love the hard driving traditional bluegrass, and we bring that to the center of things.”
To be sure, Blaylock has a keen eye for talent. Two of his long term members who have left of late for gigs with big name acts are Russ Carson, now playing banjo with Ricky Skaggs, and Patrick McAvinue, currently touring with Dailey & Vincent on fiddle. Both got their start with Redline, and generated a good bit of notice while they were there.
Audie feels like his band right now is every bit as good, with Evan Ward on banjo, Mason Wright on fiddle, and Reed Jones on bass. They all share his passion for the spirit of the early days, as well as the experience and technical prowess to play it with drive and that originalist spirit.
They are two years since their last album, The Road That Winds on Patuxent Records, which found the title cut being used for a short-lived cable television program called Backroads Gold. The show celebrated another of Audie’s enthusiasms, vintage automobiles, but it failed to make a mark with viewers.
But the album was a hit with bluegrass fans, and a number of songs charted here at Bluegrass Today.
When they finished work on Originalist, a chance conversation with Sammy Passamano in Nashville led to the record being the first release on Passamano’s new 615 Hideaway Records. Sammy had made a splash this past few years with his online live music program of the same name, and had recently decided to expand into his family’s business.
“We cut the album independently, but I felt like we needed a label behind us for help with distribution, radio, and industry relationships. Sammy had approached me about doing his TV show, and told me he was starting a label. By the time we got off the phone, we were on 615 Hideaway Records.”
Originalist features a roughly 50/50 split between new material written within the band, and classic covers. They created a video to share some of their thoughts about the music, and introduce the debut single, a song with the intriguing title, Your Love Is An Awful Thing, written by Reed Jones.