Of course, since Michael Cleveland, Jesse Brock and Pete Kelly have left Dale Ann Bradley’s band to work with Flamekeeper, one immediately wonders who will be working on Dale Ann’s shows. I had a chance to speak with Vicki Simmons yesterday, who has not only played bass and sung with Dale Ann for many years, but handles business and booking arrangements for the group as well. Vicki mentioned that personnel changes are always tough, especially when the departing members are held in such high regard as Michael, Pete and Jesse, but that it’s a part of the business which Dale Ann has faced many times, always showcasing her unique vocal sound, but with subtle new twists to the ensemble sound as new members join her show.
The new banjo player will be Elmer Burchett, who is making a return appearance with Dale Ann. Elmer has also worked with Ronnie Bowman, Rambler’s Choice, and David Parmley & Continental Divide. His songwriting skills will also be a welcome contribution to the band.
Deanie Richardson will play fiddle on most 2006 dates, except for a few that conflict with existing commitments. She has been the fiddler for Patty Loveless for the past ten years, but with Patty taking this year off from touring, Deanie was eager to get out and play, and is delighted to take this position with Dale Ann and Vicki.
Auditions for the mandolin spot are ongoing, and the new mandolinist is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.
In reflecting on the outgoing members, Vicki pointed out that she and Dale Ann have been aware of the fact that Michael would eventually move on. They had all discussed this many times, and Vicki said that they had even suggested to Michael that when his CD was released, it might be the ideal time for him to step out on his own.
“We have worked with Michael twice now and he is a wonderful talent. We’ve known him since he was in high school, and we think the world of him and wish him the best. He wanted a fuller schedule than we could consider doing, and this move was inevitable.
His heart is in that traditional style of music, and we are behind him 100%.”
Vicki also indicated that Pete Kelly was someone who they hated to lose, but understood that he, too, wanted a fuller schedule of dates, and with Jesse Brock getting married, they were expecting to lose him this spring as well.
“Pete was the best employee we’ve had in 25 years, and we want to see him and Jesse do what they feel is best for their lives and careers.”
Vicki was also very excited about the new CD they are recording for Compass Records. She said that it is about 2/3 of the way finished, and that they feel like it is a step up both in production and quality of material from their previous work. It will feature some firsts for Dale Ann, like a recording of her singing an Irish song, with the Irish group L???nasa. She has also recorded a country-style duet with Marty Rabon, and will have Alison Krauss in shortly to record some vocals with her.
Much of the new project was recorded with the recently departed members, and Dale Ann says that she is very pleased that the sound of that group has been captured forever. Other guests will include Tim O’Brien, Jeff White and Stuart Duncan. The CD should be available in late summer early fall.