Jason Carter talks Lowdown Hoedown

Jason Carter, prolific fiddler and mainstay of both The Del McCoury Band and The Travelin’ McCourys, has a new album releasing this week, his first in 25 years. If you’ve caught his fiery performances on stage, or in the studio with dozens of other artists, you may think you know what to expect. But you’d be wrong.

Of the 13 tracks on the record, titled Lowdown Hoedown, only one is an instrumental, Carter’s take on the Vassar Clement’s classic, Kissimmee Kid. All the rest are ones which he sings, with some help from his many friends in Nashville.

Of course if you have caught Jason with either of the McCourys in person, you may already know that he is a fine singer with a rich baritone voice. So the notion of a non-fiddle album from a well-known fiddler appealed to him when it came time to record.

When we spoke last week, he explained a bit about that, and how this new project got its title.

“I figured people would expect a fiddle record, but wouldn’t see a vocal project coming.

We got to do a duet with Dierks Bentley. He’s a big country music star now, but we go way back… have been friends a long time. It’s one written by Danny Barnes, called Hoedown For My Lowdown Rowdy Ways.

I actually recorded an instrumental project with Danny some time back, and he sang a few songs for me that he had never recorded. I asked when we started if he had any, and when he told me the title, I knew I wanted to record it. Danny plays banjo on the track”

The first thing we asked is, after a solo recording layoff of more than two decades, why now for a new project?

“Man, you know what… I really don’t know. Part of it was the pandemic, with so much down time. I did a couple of sessions with the Travelers and with Del, and I had a number of songs that I just didn’t see doing with the Travelers. I had time at home, and everything seemed to come together.

It is long overdue, I can tell you that.

I never really had an interest in doing an instrumental record. And I guess it was just the right time.

My last solo project was in 1996, or ’97. Back then I was hanging out with David Grier at Brent Truitt’s studio, and he had written a bunch of instrumentals that I played with him. I had just moved to Nashville, and what ended up allowing me to make the move was that Brent’s wife said she would give me a job at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, where she was the manager.

I’ve sorted hooked back up with David again from going to the jams around here with Bronwyn at the Legion on Wednesday nights, and we recorded at Brent’s again, so it feels like a full circle thing.”

The list of contributors is nearly as long as Carter’s own career exploits. Pickers assisting in the studio include heavy hitter like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Billy Strings, and Marty Stuart, along with contemporaries and bandmates The Travelin’ McCourys, plus Russ Carson, Cody Kily, David Grier, Scott Vestal, Dennis Crouch, and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes.

Helping with the vocals are bluegrass and country luminaries like the aforementioned Dierks Bently and Billy Strings, plus Vince Gill, Tim O’Brien, Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Joe Mullins. He even has the boss man, Del McCoury, singing harmony on one track.

Most of the material is either new, or obscure enough to feel novel, especially in the hands of Jason Carter and his co-producer Brent Truitt. He pulled out an old Dave Evans song, Highway 52, originally recorded by Reno, Smiley, and Harrell in 1971.

They also reprise the Paul Craft hit for both The Osborne Brothers and The Eagles, Midnight Flyer, cut here with The Travelin’ McCourys.

Jason has released a couple of live videos of songs from Lowdown Hoedown, performed with the band he will be touring with early in 2023 in support of the album: Cody Kilby on guitar, Cory Walker on banjo, Ashby Frank on mandolin, and Alan Bartram on bass.

Here is one for the first single, Bruce Hornsby’s King of the Hill, recorded backstage at Nashville’s Station Inn.

Grateful Dead fans will recognize Birdsong, from the Reckoning album in 1981, which is also included here.

Jason says that he decided to put this project out himself.

“It’s on my own label Fiddleman Records, a completely independent release. The record comes out November 4. I have audio CDs and LPs as well, and you can get them at shows. We’ve already started doing the first two singles with The Travelers.

I’m really pleased, really excited about this record. I love every song on it.

It’s funny… I was just thinking that I’ve still got songs that I want to record. It’s not going to be another 20 some years before recording again.”

OK Jason… we’ll hold you to that!

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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.