Jesse Brock’s big plans

Jesse Brock is ready to make the leap from sideman to band leader. While he’s working on a solo project, he’s also polishing plans to start not one but two bands focusing on bluegrass and acoustic music.

This fall, the mandolin master and others in his family will tour in The Brock Family Reunion Band. And next spring, he’ll hit the road with his own band, not yet named. His plan, when schedules allow, is to offer festival promoters a package deal.

“This will be my day job, trying to get two bands off the ground,” Jesse told me recently at FiddleFest in Roanoke. “This is new territory for me. I’ve been a sideman all my life.” Jesse most recently played with Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, but he also put in stints with Dale Ann Bradley, the Lynn Morris Band and Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. The move to front man came after Jesse, guitarist Tom Adams and bassist Marshall Wilborn parted ways with Michael just after their new album was released this spring.

“When you find out you have no control over your future because of your position (as a sideman), it’s time for a change,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge, but I’m ready for it.”

The family band will be a reincarnation of the C.W. Brock Family Band, which had a strong following in the mid-west from 1984 to 1988. Jesse’s father, C.W., returns on banjo, along with sisters Molly Jo Brockington (guitar) and Dawn Brizendine (upright bass). Three-part harmonies will be featured, as they were in the earlier version of the band. One thing will be different. With the old band, everybody was under one roof, so getting together for practice was easy. Now, C.W. is in Kentucky, Dawn is in Tennessee, Molly is in Arkansas and Jesse lives in Maine.

Jesse’s own band is still in the embryonic stages. No names yet, but allow me a bit of wishful thinking: It sure would be great if Jesse and Marshall could reunite one of music’s strongest rhythm sections.

Both bands will also allow folks to learn what has until now been a well-kept secret. In addition to his strong instrumental chops, the 2009 IBMA mandolin player of the year is a strong singer. I witnessed this first hand at FiddleFest, when Jesse sat in with Conner & Miller and The Travelers. He sang powerful tenor harmonies on several songs and was comfortable taking the lead on several others.

Jesse has another gig lined up, too. He’s sitting in for Joe Walsh on several tour dates with the Gibson Brothers.

It’ll be good to see – and hear – Jesse Brock back in action.