Bluegrass banjo has been fortunate to see so many capable practitioners of the art carrying the banner over its relatively short 60 year life. One of the banjo’s most celebrated champions, Bill Emerson, has been largely missing from the performing scene for several years since his retirement, though he has made a number of notable recorded contributions of late.
He is featured with Tony Trischka on Tony’s Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, and also took part in the Stelling Banjo Anthology CD.
In what is great news for his many fan (like me), Bill will release his third CD for Rebel Records on October 9, his first as a solo artist in more than ten years. Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band represents something as a departure, showcasing Bill as a band leader with his own group for the first time.
Bill credits Tony Trischka’s urging as a primary reason to embark on this new project.
“Tony’s encouragement was a one reason why I decided to record Bill Emerson and The Sweet Dixie Band. While I have recorded many albums with groups like The Country Gentlemen, instrumentals projects and duos like Emerson and Goble, I had never done an album with a band of my own, so this is a new beginning for me.”
The Sweet Dixie Band is made up primarily of members of Country Current, the US Navy country/bluegrass band which Bill led for 20 years while he was in the service. Wayne Taylor is on guitar and vocals, Joe Wheatley on bass and vocals, Pat White on fiddle and vocals, and Frank Solivan II on guitar, mandolin and vocals, with Bill on banjo and Con Burch on vocals.
In addition to his core band, the new CD features guest appearances from Paul Williams, Tony Rice, Randy Waller, Mark Newton, Andy Ball, Scott Linton, Brad Corbin, Gary Ferguson, Darren Beachley and Pete Goble. Bill says that The Sweet Dixie Band will perform live as a unit, with a CD release concert scheduled at the Strasburg Theater in Strasburg, Virginia on November 10.
He is especially proud to introduce his lead vocalist, who may not be familiar to a lot of bluegrass fans.
“Con is a piano and voice teacher from Fort Valley VA, and I think anyone who hears her sing will agree that she is a special talent. She also wrote two songs on the album.”
A single from the CD, Sweet Dixie Girl, has just been released to radio so you may be hearing it soon on your favorite over-the-air on online program.