Close Kin follow-up to feature young pickers

Johnny Williams in the studio for Close Kin: Our Roots Run DeepKarl Cooler of Mountain Roads Recordings and singer, songwriter and producer Johnny Williams have teamed up for a follow-up to their 2011 collaboration, Close Kin-A Reunion of Bluegrass & Old Time Music. That album was just what the title suggests, a pairing of artists in those traditions, with a special focus on the Blue Ridge area where Mountain Roads is located.

This next record, Close Kin: Our Roots Run Deep, will follow the same basic concept of combining bluegrass and old time musicians in the studio, but with a focus on teen artists in the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Highlands areas of Virginia and North Carolina. All the musicians selected for the album are between eleven and seventeen years of age.

The record will be released on April 11, 2014 when all the talented young folks who appeared on the project perform the material live during the 2014 Blue Ridge Acoustic Uprising in Wytheville, VA. The Uprising is a new festival run by the Appalachian Cultural Music Association to showcase the folk music styles native to their region.

Cooler said that discussions about a follow-up started before the first CD was even released.

Close Kin session at Eastwood Studio, October 2013“As soon as the original Close Kin project was completed, I knew that we had created something very special. Johnny Williams and I immediately started planning this album.

Most all of the artists from the original recording are teachers and we looked first to their students. As with the artists from the Close Kin project, where better to showcase the youth artists who will carry the sounds of our region forward? We quickly found all of the talent needed for the perfect combination to create this recording. Following in the model of the original project, it was especially important to us to pick songs that were both familiar and not overly recorded, then team up the artists into combinations that are unlike anything out there today.”

And Williams, who is producing, has very high hopes for the record.

Jared Boyd, Lindsay Nale, and Madison Jean Shepherd at a Close Kin 2 session at Eastwood Studio, October 2013“This follow-up youth project to Close Kin is something Karl and I have wanted to do for a while. The performers we have recruited to play are representative of the great musical talent from Southwest Virginia and North Carolina, regardless of their young ages.

These players have collectively played this region’s music for most of their lives at a very high level of musicianship. Most of them will be playing together for the first time as well as embarking on tunes and styles of music they have not been accustomed to. But I’m sure as you will hear they will pull it off with flying colors.

It’s an honor and privilege to be asked to produce and arrange this project with Mountain Roads Recordings, [engineer] Wesley Easter and these fine young adults!”

Hats off to Johnny and Karl for bringing these young musicians, and their blended styles, together for this project.

Copies of Close Kin: Our Roots Run Deep will be distributed to radio in March of next year.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.