Bluegrass fans got an inside look at the recording process this past Sunday, November 24, when Hunter Berry gathered some of his closest and most talented friends at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia to record a new, live album. Along with his bandmates in Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, his wife Sally, and mandolin player extraordinaire Adam Steffey, Berry showed those in attendance not only his musical talents, but a side of the music business many never get to experience.
The first sign that things were a little different than a normal Carter Fold show (besides the chairs set up on what is usually the dance floor) was the opening applause recording. Audience members were asked for applause three times, showing (as Berry jokingly put it) various degrees of appreciation for the band. The show then proceeded a little slower than most bluegrass concerts, with the band members taking time to get song introductions and opening notes just right, sometimes stopping and replaying if necessary. It was easy to see that the band was taking care to ensure that Berry’s record turned out just right.
Berry shared the stories behind most of the songs the band played, telling why he chose to include them on the album, where he first heard them, and even recognizing those who had suggested he record them. He also took the time to thank and recognize several audience members who helped him in his journey to becoming a musician, while Rhonda Vincent told the audience about her first encounter with Berry, while he was playing with Melvin Goins. Vincent said any time that he wasn’t performing, he was backstage playing with and talking to everyone there – already showing the enthusiasm for bluegrass and fiddling that fans of the Rage know so well.
Highlights of the show included a fun version of Jimmy Martin’s Tennessee with Mickey Harris on lead and Berry coming in low on the chorus with the bass vocals, Josh Williams’ earnest take on John Hartford’s In Tall Buildings, and the always-enjoyable “bluegrass greatest hits” instrumental medley that Rhonda Vincent and the Rage perform during their live shows. Berry even strapped on a mandolin for the closing song, a rousing You Don’t Love God, If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor.
Berry has plans to release his live album early next year, and if the audience response from the Carter Fold is any indicator, his fans should enjoy it. For more information on Hunter Berry, visit his website at www.hunterberrymusic.com.