Songwriter Profile – Louisa Branscomb

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Louisa BranscombLouisa Branscomb is an acclaimed songwriter and pioneer in bluegrass music, having been referred to by Lance LeRoy, Lester Flatt’s manager, as “always 20 years ahead of her time.” A short list of her current accomplishments includes 4 songs on Dale Ann Bradley’s new release, Don’t Turn Your Back, including the title cut, having penned Alison Krauss’s breakout hit, Steel Rails, which still holds the honor of the longest running chart hit in bluegrass music, songs on Grammy’s by John Denver and Alison, approximately 85 songs recorded in bluegrass, and winning songs in songwriting contests that span decades. In addition, Louisa has a long career as a performer on guitar and banjo herself.

The International Bluegrass Music Awards have seen Louisa win honors on two recorded events of the year, including a project by Mark Newton celebrating women in bluegrass, and a song on the first Daughters of Bluegrass Recorded Event of the Year. Steel Rails, which received SPBGMA Song of the Year when released by Alison Krauss, is often credited with bringing a generation of young women into bluegrass music. At the present moment, her Dale Ann cut Don’t Turn Your Back is climbing bluegrass and roots charts, and Dale Ann’s CD by the same name is also climbing the charts, earning the #3 slot, so far, on Bluegrass Music Profiles.

Songwriting came early to Ms. Branscomb. Her parents recall her creating melodies on the piano at the age of four, and Louisa says that the first song she clearly remembers writing was at age six while at a Methodist summer camp in Alabama.

“It was a love song with one verse. Shows what I knew!”

At the age of 11 she won first place in the Alabama Student Music Composition Contest and performed with the Birmingham Symphony before an audience of 2000.

A country-music singing cousin in Texas gave Louisa her first guitar, a Martin 00-21.

“Ben was the real deal. He brought me into the real country music–Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, and Merle Haggard. From then on, folk and classical music took second place and bluegrass and country ruled.”

Sally Wingate, a banjo playing friend in college began playing with Louisa, and the two moved to Winston-Salem, where, at the age of 21, they co-founded the first, or one of the first modern all-female bluegrass bands, Bluegrass Liberation.

In 1972 Louisa became one of the first females to front a band, starting Boot Hill with Sam Sanger., making her one of the first females to front a band and play banjo in modern bluegrass. Ms. Branscomb’s pioneer spirit and song writing abilities continued to shape the landscape of bluegrass music throughout the decade as the band recorded three albums, and toured extensively until 1980.

A high-point in the Boot Hill’s time together was the success of their recording of Ms. Branscomb’s song Blue Ridge Memories, which, remarkably, became a chart hit in Japan in 1978. “Remarkably,” Louisa says, “because I sang it! and I am really just a baritone singer!!” Their gospel album also garnered the honor of second runner up for Gospel Album of the Year in bluegrass.

After the disbanding of Boot Hill, Ms. Branscomb played, briefly, with another all-female bluegrass band, Cherokee Rose, where she began her playing association with Missy Raines, Frances Mooney (Fontanna Sunset), and Mindy Rakestraw (Gary Waldrep Band). Louisa then moved to Atlanta, to pursue a doctoral degree. She relates that this was a difficult decision because she loved being on the road, but she felt it would allow her more freedom to be a songwriter and flexibility with her music.

Later she formed the band Gypsy Heart, with whom she recorded an all-original album. At this time, she was playing mandolin as well as banjo. In 1994, she recorded a solo CD enlisting the help of Randy Howard and Scott Vestal, It’s Time to Write a Song, an album that featured the broad spectrum of her material.

Subsequently, Louisa reunited with Frances Mooney and Mindy Rakestraw in the band Fontanna Sunset.

In November 2006 she was inducted into the Georgia Country Music Hall of Honor, taking a place with other notable musicians from Georgia.

Louisa now makes her home near Nashville, where she continues to pour herself into her songwriting. Though not in a formal band at this time, she is enjoying performing locally and regionally with friends including Pam Gadd, Becky Schlegel, and Jane Baxter (previously of Gary Waldrep Band).

Louisa claims cuts with Alison Krauss, John Denver, The New Coon Creek Girls, The McPeak Brothers, Janet McGarrah (Canada), Honeygrass (Canada),  Fontanna Sunset and Dale Ann Bradley.

Louisa relates that she hopes to go beyond her own songwriting to be a contributing part of the growing bluegrass songwriting community.  In 2005, she helped found the IBMA Bluegrass Songwriters Association, now named the Bluegrass Songwriter Committee, devoted to networking and educational opportunities for songwriters in IBMA.  During her career she has been a mentor to countless songwriters and young performers through songwriter workshops and retreats at her farm, Woodsong Farm.

Art Menius, in a Bluegrass Unlimited review, described Louisa Branscomb as “… a true pioneer for women in bluegrass.” Louisa’s songwriting roots reach deep into the past, and she shows no signs of stopping. Asked what her current plans are, Louisa said…

“Just keep going. I feel lucky to be a part of the best music community in the world. When someone has an interest in a song of mine, or I get to hear them sing it from their own heart and soul, that is always a highpoint of my life. I am also excited to see that Dale Ann’s CD and song, Don’t Turn Your Back are doing well. I am also planning another solo songwriter album with recent songs, which will be interesting since my writing is taking some new turns–becoming more about space around the words, and not just the words.  I just try to follow where it takes me and write as honestly as I can.”

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes. My Dad played stride piano (blues) and harmonica. He played all styles on the harp – Beethoven to blues! I grew up going hunting in South Alabama sitting around the campfire listening to Dad singing with his buddies. Mom played piano early on, and two grandparents sang amateur opera and American and British folk, and another Grandmother played guitar and sang old folk songs. My Dad would sit in anywhere we went where there was a live blues band and play boogie woogie, like if we went in some dive way down town on the seedy side of Birmingham, back in Steel Mill days, to get Bar-B-Que, because that’s where the best Bar-B-Que was. And there’d be an old piano in there; Dad would play it, or play harmonica with a blues player.

On Sundays, when the whole family was home, the record player alternated from Beethoven to Muddy Waters to the Smothers Brothers to flamenco to African-American blues. The other influence was Methodist Hymns. My first church memories are of West End Methodist, in Nashville. My family also sang in the car on trips, and sang the Doxology before meals. Another major influence was my cousin, Ben, from Austin. He taught me about soul. He played guitar and sang the real old country — Hank Snow, Jimmy Rogers; the old yodel songs. He saw I was playing this classical styled Mexican guitar and he said, “You can’t play country on that thing!” and bought me my first Martin, a 00-28.

What prompted you to write songs in the first place and which was the first song that you wrote?

I can’t remember what it’s like to not write… anything but being so excited about how to choose the words and figure out how to put them together to get a feeling inside you out in a poem or song; I do not know what it is like to not have that. I think it is the form of expression closest to my soul, more than conversation or playing music. Talking is harder.

I started writing poems about age five and my first song when I was six or seven. When I was a kid I was shy; I’d stay in at recess at school and write stories or poems or songs. I told the teacher my parents wanted me to work on my writing. Actually, I wanted to do that more than play dodgeball.

First song…..Do I have to answer this??? OK…. I was about six. It was called The Highest Mountain. Here’s the chorus: “I’d climb the highest mountain/ if I knew that when I climbed that mountain/ I’d find you.” Wrote it with ukulele — a girl in my cabin at camp had one and she’d gone canoeing. I “borrowed it” while she was out of the cabin. I was hooked. Wrote it with stair steps for the melody because I didn’t know notation. Went home and asked for a ukulele, and that was my first stringed instrument.

In terms of the lyrics, I don’t think I was in love. Except with a horse I rode called Shady Lady and I know it wasn’t about her! So I guess I was already learning to “channel,” to put myself in someone else’s shoes as a six or seven year old.

Who was the first bluegrass songwriter to make an impression on you and why?

Well I had been writing for many years when I first began playing bluegrass at 19, so I had listened to many singer-songwriters — Mickey Newbury, Leonard Cohen, Hank Snow, Kristofferson, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Gail Davies, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Jimmy Rogers, Bill Anderson, Tom T Hall… Then in bluegrass early on, this was 1971… I didn’t really know about bluegrass writers — except the first generation, the founders. I was just doing my own thing. The exception was that after a while (after I’d written Steel Rails and really quite a few songs) I met Randall Hylton and Paul Craft, the first people I knew in terms of dedicated songwriters. Later, I became aware of others. This was the 1970s and early on I didn’t know many people who thought of themselves primarily as songwriters. But I didn’t pay much attention because my bands (Boot Hill, later Cherokee Rose, then Gypsy Heart) were very busy on the road and/or playing a lot of gigs, and I was writing a whole lot. So I can’t say I was influenced by anyone that I’m aware of.

I loved traditional bluegrass, but our group did about half original songs on each album, then I have done five albums with all original material. My first band, Boot Hill, came along around the time of the second generation in bluegrass, and we were all bringing in new material. That was the time of innovative bands like Country Gazette, Seldom Scene, Newgrass Revival, Boone Creek, to name a few. I remember meeting Claire Lynch, also from Alabama, whose band came along around that time and being amazed at her writing. Very exciting era to be a part of the new style of music coming in and there was this incredible exhilaration about the new songs coming into bluegrass (and lots of arguing about what bluegrass “really” is! Some things never change!)

Then I remember being 28 and feeling like I’d had this chance to move to Nashville as a writer when I was 21, and it was “too late!” (if I knew then what I know now…). And Raymond McLain ( Sr.) said, “No, you are just the right age!” and that gave me confidence to keep stepping out there as a new writer. Then I realized writing is ageless. I think we should get braver as we go on writing because we have less to lose as we get older. And we also start to realize we have less to say.

I rarely listen much to writers, or much music of any kind. Occasionally, I am struck by a particular song and listen to that song a lot. Late in the Day, by Tim O’Brien, is an example. But I enjoy a variety of different writers, such as Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Williams, and a lot of alt-acoustic music. The Indigo Girls are drop dead talented lyricists and I knew them personally early on and played a little with them, when they were beginning to write really deep, spiritually-inspired stuff with a real emotional edge to it. Nashville is full of incredible writers. I listen more for the song than the writer.

Recently my approach has totally changed. I’ve turned writing inside out, writing silences. It is about architecture. Setting up the silences and building words, as few as possible, to support the silences. So the song is actually about the silences; where the words aren’t. I think this makes the words more powerful, if I can choose them right. In the same way as if you have a building with a few lines or borders framing a space, it is the window that is the beauty — the window gives you the freedom. People hear through silences as they see through windows — it is a space where the listener can bring their own image or feeling or memory. Playing an instrument is the same way. The notes are defined by silence, and the placement of the note in that space. The way that is done is what gives that note or that phrase it’s emotion or power. In the clutter of other notes, it’s just a note. Sometimes you want more notes or words, but not without contrast to having less of them around the corner.

You wrote Steel Rails the song with which Alison Krauss had so much success early in her career. How did the song come about and how did you manage to get it cut by Alison?

By staying out of the way of fate! Meaning, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with it! Wrote it at about age 21; it was a song written out of a feeling… letting time carry you forward, and an image — the tracks going round the bend. Alison heard it on my first album with Boot Hill. I didn’t know she’d done it.

I’d heard her at a the Station Inn when she was little – 10 or so – but not in a long time, and I walked into the Station Inn one night in 1991 on the way from Nashville to Atlanta, and was transported by Union Station, totally, who isn’t? I was awestruck. But I made myself speak to Alison Brown because I had a TB 6 like hers.

Then she said, “You’re Louisa Branscomb? We’ve been trying to find you for two years!” I was SO confused. Like I went from complete humility to confusion, then Alison Krauss said, “Did you like your song?” I hadn’t heard them do it, so I was still confused. I was hoping someone would tell me what was going on. Then they came back out and did the song and that was a moment I will never forget.

So I wrote Alison about 11 more songs between the Station and Atlanta that night. None of which she recorded! Actually, she said, write us another one like Steel Rails. So I did. Called Old Familiar Song. It’s a highway song, same feeling. Better structure, really. She listened to it and said, “Nah, that’s just like Steel Rails!!!” and I said, “I thought that was the point!”

Alison has always been so very generous with her support to songwriters and songs become magic when she touches them. But that is how it is to me with anyone who does a song of mine. It is the most meaningful thing to me as an artist — to hear a singer interpret a song with their feeling and phrasing; the words through another’s soul.

Thinking of Steel Rails it’s full circle in a way, because one of my latest cuts, Dale Ann (Bradley)’s title track on her new CD is a train song too. There is something symmetrical about Alison doing Steel Rails in 1991 and Dale Ann doing Don’t Turn Your Back now in 2009, just as I’ve moved to Nashville for the first time since I lived here age four to six. And also since Allison Brown was involved in both of them. She played on Steel Rails, the original cut (guitar) and she played banjo on Don’t Turn Your Back (and produced it).

Dale Ann Bradley said the other day, “Louisa, you’re the best friend a train ever had.” I hadn’t realized until she said that that I really have written a lot of train songs, probably because I grew up riding the L&N from Birmingham to Union Station (Nashville) to visit my grandparents.

Mom bought the cheap tickets on the train that went all night long and stopped at every fence post, and we’d lie on those red Naugahyde bench seats and I’d look out at the stars all night in those big old train windows, and imagine things — stories, songs, poems, all to the rhythm of the rails. I was always making up stories told in the voice of people I’d never met. I’d have my Harmony (Sears) guitar next to me on the floor in a cardboard case. It was eerie and enchanting to wake up in the middle of the night with the train broke down somewhere like Anniston or out in a field… completely quiet. Moon shining on the fields. Once a cow came up to my window.

Trains took me into the world of magic. And to my Grandmother and Grandfather, and Nashville.

Was Steel Rails the first song that you had recorded?

No. When I was about 21, in the days of Big Hair, Nashville, I went to Nashville at Mel Tillis’s request because he’d heard Steel Rails on a cassette. He met me at eight in the morning at Sawgrass, and I played him around 45 tunes of the 250 I’d written by then, one after another and he’d write down the ones he wanted to publish. I wanted to meet at nine and he wanted to meet at seven so we compromised. He demo’d five that day and he recorded Steel Rails but did not release it, and also pitched it to Johnny Cash.

He said I should move to Nashville. I was very intimidated by big hair — all the women had that 1970’s bouffant kind of hair style. I had long straight hair and was a hippie. I could not stand hair spray – not to mention I was painfully shy. So it took me about thirty more years to get back. Now I’m back and it’s OK because people have straight hair now.

About that same time, my band, Boot Hill (I was playing banjo then and writing for the band) recorded our first album and it had five or six originals of mine including Steel Rails (about 1973). We did it live with one mic, produced by Scotty Moore. In addition, the McPeak Brothers recorded it before Alison, and I believe so did Indian Summer, a Georgia band led by Frances Munde Mooney.

So by the time Alison recorded Steel Rails I had had four albums that were half to all original songs, plus a handful recorded by others.

Blue Ridge Memories, one of your songs that you recorded with Boot Hill, became a ‘hit’ song in Japan. How did that happen?

I guess they weren’t used to real vocalists! It wasn’t a huge sensation or anything, but was on a decent place on the charts. Japan was a great market for bluegrass, even back then, and for some reason that song did well there, maybe because of all the mountain images in the song–close to the heart of bluegrass.

Your song Fool’s Gold was on the Daughters Of Bluegrass album Back To The Well; how did that come about?

I have had many songs recorded by the wonderful Georgia band, Fontanna Sunset, led by Frances Mooney –probably seven or eight at least and they have easily performed 15 or more. I owe them a great debt of gratitude. I played banjo and also guitar with Fontanna Sunset during part of their history, as well.

Frances recorded Fool’s Gold, both for Fontanna Sunset, and sang it on my CD, Fool’s Gold. When she had the opportunity to choose one for that project, she chose Fool’s Gold.  Frances goes way back with my songs, since she sang Steel Rails back in the 1970s, years before I knew her. Then we did originals of mine in a band we were both in called Cherokee Rose in around 1979-80.

You have four songs on Dale Ann Bradley’s most recent album. How did those songs come to be written after a seemingly long spell without inspiration?

Shoot, and I thought I’d been writing some good tunes, Richard!

No, all seriousness aside, I’ve never stopped. I have 10 songs recorded in the last year. I had about 90 songs recorded in bluegrass in the last 25 years or so. John Denver recorded Steel Rails, on his last CD, which got a Grammy posthumously. Dale Ann had recorded Stormy Night years before; my bands have done quite a few; then there are the McPeak Brothers, Ladies’ Choice, Fontanna Sunset, Broadriver, Janet McGarry has done several, Honeygrass, Fontanna Sunset, Valerie Smith did one in her stage show that she would release in a live CD, and others. I also did a whole album of children’s music, which got a Parenting Award back in 1992, and a spiritual album designed to capture the spiritual life journey, which was marketed to therapists and child services agencies regionally. Typically, I write about three to six songs a month, sometimes more.

Those on Dale Ann’s project — the title track was inspired by Dale Ann herself. I didn’t tell her that, though, when I played her the song. Then she said, “You just wrote my life!” and that she was going to build the album around that song. So the CD is about the theme of courage, hanging in, facing things. I think it is so cool she did a CD with a theme like that, because that is different and kinda daring. But so is she!

She also loved Will I Be Good Enough, and that resonated for me to give her because she values her role as a mother so much and worked so hard as a musician to be a good mother at the same time, while on the road; I knew that was hard for her but she has a wonderful and talented son who is now a young man. Once in 2001 I interviewed her about being a musician and Mom while on the bus going to perform in D.C. when we were both part of Mark Newton’s CD that was Recorded Event of the Year, dedicated to women in bluegrass. I remembered what she’d said about the pain of leaving her son every time she went out on the road. It is also about my own daughter.

The other two — Ghostbound Train I’d written and she and I put the melody together. Music City Queen — she’d come up with the concept and a good bit of the lyrics, and the kick off riff. We finished the lyrics and flushed out the tune and arrangement. It was a pleasure to be brought in on a song so beautiful and poignant. And some of the lines came straight out of my childhood in Nashville… “the corner of Broadway and tomorrow” to name one.

Writing with Dale Ann flows very easily; I think we think alike with the music and the messages. I hand her a guitar and show her the song, maybe a tentative melody, and she has this amazing melody first out. She’s in tune with a universe of music somehow.

I had a song recently, called I’ll Take Love, about love being the only thing you take with you when you go. She put this magic touch on it that was 1970’s rock and backwoods Kentucky all at once. She is deeply gifted in every aspect of music and to hear her interpret a line is an amazing experience. And with singing Don’t Turn Your Back, like all her songs, she sings her heart out and every time she comes up with a new and powerful way to bend notes or add inflections on some word that she decides to sing the heck out of. She doesn’t think about it.

I was in the studio when she was recording them. If you say, “that was awesome, do that again…” she’d go, “Huh?? What did I do?” So may as well just forget it, she’s so in her heart, and by then she’s on to some other great musical idea anyway!

What inspires you to write?

Anything that touches me. Beauty, or something that means something to someone. Broken bicycle, scared child, leaning mailbox. A board fallen off a barn. Anything with a little bit of soul attached to it, which if you look closely, most things do. When I am moved by an experience of someone’s true emotion, whether sadness, or joy, or sacrifice or courage.

I write a lot about our veterans because they have learned about life stripped down to the essence and we can learn from them. I write about survivors of war, crime, Katrina, one about a black steel worker who tried to befriend a white co-worker in the 1950s, even taught his son to play the his music — the blues, but it was 1950s and he was fired for it. This gift — teaching his friend’s son to play his music despite the risk and cost — that was love.

There is beauty in the force of nature that destroys, and the contrast between that and the good that it brings out in people. Or sacrifice such as when a mother puts her a child first when she can barely go on. I am drawn to images and feelings — trying to capture a moment as bare and honest as possible — more than stories. I am drawn to things that have endured some history. I love old farmhouses and faded quilts. I love the Blue Ridge Mountains, and wrote a lot about the mountains early on, but I write more about relationship things now.

Which song that you have written gives you the most satisfaction and why?

Now that is a little like saying which old flame gave you the most satisfaction and why! But I did enjoy thinking about that! Do I have to change the subject now?

OK. Songs are like lovers or children – they all have a little piece of your soul, and all different. Steel Rails is still a curious thing to me, because after Alison did it, I would go to festivals and it was like overnight the world had dumped hundreds of little girls into bluegrass gatherings, singing Steel Rails and trying to be Alison Krauss. I would just listen. Sometimes if I sang it they’d tell me I was doing it wrong! It is still happening; went to Alabama a few weeks ago and an eight year old and her sister had just recorded Steel Rails. It is amazing every time I hear it but I’m still trying to figure out how songs take on a life of their own.

Don’t Turn Your Back feels very similar to Steel Rails in a way I can’t describe. It harks back to those long nights on the L&N, the magic of putting a penny on the track, the feeling that a train keeps you moving forward when you think you can’t move on your own. The idea that love is still there, waiting to be discovered. I have to see what the listeners say. But I can tell you that only a few songs I’ve written I’ve felt immediately they do “something” to me right out of the gate, by the second measure, like, they just “are,” and you “get them.” Steel Rails and Don’t Turn Your Back both felt like that writing them. Like somehow you “know” the song at a gut level within the first few notes and it settles in really quickly.

I have some new songs that are very different, where the idea is very stripped down and the silences are the main shape of the song. I’m demo-ing those right now. Where I am going farther out on a limb with the lyrics, the ideas, the melody, everything. Some have more flesh and blood and mysticism, all at once. I am never satisfied with my work. I keep moving. My grandmother said my favorite song was “Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Fun Tear”. She said it was “frontier.” I said no, it’s a song about fun and tears. She gave up.

I am drawn to frontiers. She said I liked to go to the edge even when I was learning to crawl. And she took me to the Ryman, and we were on the front row, and I remember looking up at Bill Monroe, and he seemed so tall. I mean, especially tall. And I am co-writing a lot for the first time and that is really making me grow a lot too.

In 2006 you told Marie Nesmith of the Cartersville Daily Tribune, “I have reached a point in my career where I still love to perform, but my emphasis has shifted to promoting song writing and giving back to the profession, mentoring others.” As part of that, you were one of those involved in starting the Bluegrass Songwriter Association, which is now the Songwriter Committee of IBMA.

What are the objectives of the Songwriter Committee?

We wanted to bring a sense of community to songwriters, since song writing is a solitary art for the most part, and share our work with each other, which is inspiring, and assist other IBMA groups with educational opportunities for songwriters. This has been a really fun project and has resulted in an increased sense of community among songwriters, new and seasoned. It’s been a lot of fun. As part of that we have a mentor program headed up by Tony Rackley, as well as assisting with various IBMA events.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a songwriter?

You are one.

Write down a sentence about something that matters. Then whittle it down to four to six strong words.

Or think of a feeling, like missing childhood, then think of an image that captures it. Like, “rusty barb-wire buried in a tree. Empty pasture, gone to weeds.” I mean, don’t censure. Just write. OK maybe I’ll use that line!

If there is one ingredient that characterizes your songs what would that be?

I should probably leave that to others! I just know that my ongoing goal is to write with more and more purity and courage. Fewer words, closer to the bone.

I would like to write some things that might need to be said that people are afraid to say, like I recently wrote a song about the effect of divorce on children, and one about a mother and child escaping in the night from an abusive father. Another one about moments when loving someone is just real damn hard.

I would like for love to come through, whether it is toward a train car (“that L& N is somewhere rusting/no silver rails to be my guide”*) or a combat veteran (“in his mind he’s in Iraq/ he just wants his best friend back/ he wishes it were him instead/ keeps hearing those last words he said” ** ), or about someone (“God put some extra blue in your eyes/ a down payment for the love you carry everywhere.” ***) But what’s really important is what listeners and the artists say.

Like once I had a song I thought was pretty good, and played it for Valerie Smith. It had a line with the word “cow” in it. She kept going, “cooooo-w, coo–ooow…” trying to say it all these different ways and finally said, “Louisa, I just can’t sing the word cow and make it sound good! Maybe somebody with a more delicate voice, like Alison!”

So I rewrote that line! Because I got it that most singers probably didn’t want to sing “coooowwww”. So I try to listen to the artists and anybody who will listen to the song.

It is wonderful now that I’ve moved to back to the Nashville area , because there are songwriters around, and that is also an amazing way to get feedback. But I just want to know what people hear in my songs, what touches them, and try to understand when that one occasional line or song takes on a life of its own. And learn from that.

The only thing I can think of that takes on a life of its own and keeps on touching others besides love is music and songs. It’s really a miracle every time, no matter how far a song goes. How could anyone want to do anything else?

* Grandma and Highway 65, by Louisa Branscomb © Millwheel Music 2008
** Surrender, by Louisa Branscomb and Dale Ann Bradley, © Millwheel Music 2007
*** Extra Blue, by Louisa Branscomb © Millwheel Music

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.