Hot Rize tracking new project

Hot RizeFans of Hot Rize will be delighted to learn that there is a new studio album in the offing.

The CD will be the first by the legendary band in 10 years – and the first studio album since the release of Take It Home, released in 1990.

Banjo player Pete Wernick gives us the lowdown on progress with studio work …..

Pete Wernick“The band assembled a few times in the last year, just to work on a new recording… to develop material, do some co-writing, try out quite a lot of material. Settled on 14 cuts to record last June, and convened in Boulder for six days at the new studios in eTown Hall, with Dave Sinko and James Tuttle engineering. We recorded in a circle (well, facing each other, maybe a square?) and didn’t use headphones at all. Everybody did some writing, including Bryan [Sutton], who also did some good lead singing. Got a lot of good stuff down and will do some more editing and overdubbing before mixing early in the new year. We’re zeroing in on a September or October release. 

It takes time to make this all happen and do it right, especially since we have to make special efforts to get together. Everyone’s schedule is busy with lots of travel, and two of us live in Nashville and two in the Boulder area. But we were all agreed we wanted to make a good new record, and got focused and are well on our way now. We’ve been enjoying performing the new material in concert. People have been responding very favorably.

The business of disseminating recordings has changed so much since we last did an album, we have a lot of homework to do to see what methods we should use to get the music and ‘the message’ out. As a band in its 36th year, with ‘the new guy’ on board for the last 12 of those, we’re in a pretty unique situation.

We expect to tour at the end of next summer, and may make a foray in Europe. The main time to tour that we’ve scoped out is Oct., 2014, around the release of the new album.”

Of the 14 tracks chosen two are instrumentals, one an original by Wernick and one a band effort based on an old time tune.

Hot Rize, a quartet whose heyday was from 1979 through to 1998, lost one of its founder members Charles Sawtelle to leukemia and complications from a bone marrow transplant in 1999.

The current line-up is Wernick (vocals and banjo), Tim O’Brien (vocals, mandolin, fiddle and guitar), Nick Forster (vocals and electric bass) and Bryan Sutton (vocals and guitar), who joined in 2002 after Hot Rize had reformed, following a four year break.



On November 7 Hot Rize headlined a benefit concert, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, at the Macky Auditorium, Boulder, Colorado.

The concert raised $40,000 for Boulder County Flood Relief set up to facilitate aid following the catastrophic flooding of almost 2,000 square miles of the state of Colorado.

Record rain fall is thought to have cost the lives of 10 people (figures vary according to what reports you read).

Special guests at the concert were Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band), Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident), Chris Pandolfi and Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters), Sally Van Meter, Mollie O’Brien, Rick Moore, Eric Thorin and Justin Hoffenberg.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.

  • Kevin Landon

    Very interesting…is there a label attached? Their longtime home Sugar Hill is out of the bluegrass business…

    • Pete says that the project’s release is too far out to discuss a label. They are making the record on spec.

      • Kevin Landon

        That’s an interesting detail that I wish was in the piece…definitely understandable considering the market these days. They may just find it makes sense to self-release. We’ll see!

        • He hadn’t wanted to broach the topic at all.

          • Kevin Landon

            Intriguing…there was a time when going into something like this label-less had a certain stigma attached, but I think these days it’s not a big deal.

          • Jon Weisberger

            Not surprising; I’d bet most folks in the industry think that your business is yours, not anyone else’s, until such time as you choose to make it otherwise.

            I’d also say that Sugar Hill is “out of the bluegrass business” only until it releases its next bluegrass album.

          • Kevin Landon

            …is it really SO damn ridiculous to wonder, when a new record is in the works, which label (if any) is releasing it? Plus, just saying “there is no label currently attached to the project” would be a savvy marketing move, generating interest among labels…

            And have I missed something on Sugar Hill? It seems like, catalog projects aside, they are making a conscious decision to only release country/American titles. I could see a new Seldom Scene disk sneaking out, but you gotta admit they have largely walked away from the scene.

            In other news, when the president of IBMA basically tells me to go to hell, I should probably take that as my cue to stop being a fan of this music…if only it were that simple!

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  • Jon Weisberger

    I don’t think I said anything resembling “go to hell,” and I certainly didn’t intend to; if that’s what you got from my comment, my apologies.

    I also didn’t call anything ridiculous, and I don’t think I implied it, either. I offered a general observation that might serve as an explanation for Pete Wernick’s reluctance to discuss this aspect of the project in much detail (note that he did offer some remarks about relevant changes in the music business). Exploring business options isn’t really a marketing move, and I doubt that many artists would feel that the best vehicle for generating interest among labels is Bluegrass Today (sorry, John!) or anywhere else in public.

    As far as Sugar Hill Records goes, I don’t think I can put my thoughts any better than I already have.

    • Kevin Landon

      Thanks for clearing that up, Jon!

      I can only go by Sugar Hill’s track record, and of late, they certainly don’t seem to be interested in bluegrass…but who knows what the future holds…