Just six months ago, we told you about a new act on the bluegrass scene, Jeff Parker & Colin Ray. Well… they weren’t really a new act; Jeff and Colin were already performing together in the Jeff Parker Band. But just before Christmas, the two decided to pair up as partners to share the workload of managing a full-time, touring bluegrass band.
Now we have news that they have signed with Bee Hive Records in Johnson City, TN who will not only serve as their record label, but will offer artist representation services as well. We spoke briefly today with CJ Garskof, whose grandparents Susan and Jim Neumann launched the label in 1977, and ran it as a source for bebop jazz. They stopped releasing new projects in 1985 and CJ took over in 2015, changing the focus to bluegrass and roots music.
“So far we have just a handful of releases,” Garskof said. “The Burnette Sisters, Aaron Frosty Foster, Jeff Ingersoll, and a few others. We work with mostly bluegrass acts, and some that are more grassicana, but all rooted in traditional music. We try to do everything we can for our artists, so we offer booking services as well.”
A new record is on the way from Jeff Parker & Colin Ray, My Home Town, which they hope to drop later this year.
Parker tells us that this album bridges a gap for him in several ways.
“I started this record in 2017 with intentions of it being a Jeff Parker record, but my daddy took sick and I pulled back. When I lost him I couldn’t get my heart back into it, since me and him had talked so much about it.
My daddy, Vester Parker, had been very involved in the planning for the record. We talked many times about the songs and the players, and he had listened to the tracks as we cut them. He never did play the road, but he played good banjo and was my number one influence in learning to play as a kid. Daddy played a lot at Renfro Valley, and was a very good Christian man. He dedicated most of his playing to his family and his church… got me started at 6 years old playing rhythm guitar.
When Colin and I formed our partnership, we decided to make it a duo project with our current band. We cut four new tracks and went back and added Colin to the older tracks. There are five or six original songs, including a Parker instrumental to feature all the great players we have. There’s some Gospel, some country ballads, and some good bluegrass. I hope people will enjoy the nice variety on there.”
A single from the title track is expected in short order. A video shoot for the song is scheduled for July in Jeff’s home town of Berea, KY.
The initial tracks were recorded at Buddy Hyatt’s studio, who wrote a pair of songs for the project as well including My Home Town. Subsequent tracking was done at Randy Kohrs’ Slack Key Studio in Nashville, where mixing and mastering is being completed now.
Colin says that the current band played on the new tracks: Barry Crabtree on banjo, Tyler Griffith on bass, and Max Silverstein on fiddle. Parker plays mandolin and Ray guitar.
“We also have a number of guests. Brent Mason plays lead guitar on some of the more country tracks, with Mark Fain on bass, Lonnie Wilson on drums, Mark Johnson on steel guitar, and Buddy Hyatt on piano.”
Parker added that a couple of his favorite singers help them out with harmony vocals.
“Brooke Aldridge sings harmony on the song Teach Me To Forget, also written by Buddy Hyatt. She’s my favorite female singer in this industry. We also have Randy Kohrs singing on several cuts.”
The tracks that Jeff started with have Brandon Rickman on guitar, Cory Walker on banjo, and Patrick McAvinue on fiddle. All their contributions will remain on the final product.
They also hope to make a couple of live shows next month – July 23 at Ole Smoky Moonshine and The Sterling Jamboree on July 25.