Most everyone who grew up learning to play bluegrass music recalls the thrill of learning the solos from their favorite pickers, taken from recordings of their music. Those of a certain age remember that the only way to do this way back when was by playing their records, sometimes slowing the turntable down to 16 2/3 RPM to hear every note. Many a banjo player has remarked that you haven’t lived until you’ve listened to multiple hours of Lester Flatt singing an octave low and at half speed!
Young musicians still go through this process, but in the digital age they have more tools at the ready for isolating and slowing down recordings, even videos, to learn from the masters.
Cup O’Joe, a fast-rising young band from Northern Ireland gave themselves a challenge recently, to learn the arrangement of Metric Lips from New Grass Revival, including all the solos just as played on the album in 1987. It’s an instrumental written by Béla Fleck, played with support from Sam Bush on mandolin, Pat Flynn on guitar, and John Cowan on bass.
The band posted their successful effort as a Facebook Live video, which you can enjoy below. This is a challenging tune, with multiple time signature shifts, but they pull it off with aplomb.
Cup O’Joe was started as a family group, with Benjamin Agnew on bass, brother Reuben on guitar, and sister Tabitha on banjo. US mandolin monster David Benedict has married into the Agnew family, and performs now both with Cup O’Joe, and Mile Twelve here in the States.
Tabitha and David recently shared some very good news, that she has received her US green card, so the two can freely travel between Ireland and the US for gigs – whenever they are allowed to take place.
Congratulations to Cup O’Joe for their recreation of Metric Lips and to Tabitha on becoming a permanent US resident.