Patuxent Music has two new releases to announce this month, both of them challenging my perception of the label.
Over the past few months, their new projects had featured some of the most promising young bluegrass and old time artists in the eastern US, much of it in the progressive vein. We were especially impressed by recordings from Jordan Tice, Nate Leath and Patrick McAvinue, and Patuxent has since released new music from Angelica Grim and The Doerfels, young performers all.
For the Spring of ’09, they have new albums from pioneers and trendsetters who have been leaving a mark on our music for more years than the aforementioned youngsters have been alive.
Ownself Blues has mandolin master Frank Wakefield showing why he has been long considered one of the finest interpreters of the Monroe style since Big Mon himself. There is much of the Father in Frank’s playing here, as well as in the songs he has composed, which make up the majority of the 13 tracks.
The backing band is superb. Michael Cleveland is on fiddle, the sadly unheralded Mike Munford is on banjo, with Audie Blaylock and Jordan Tice on guitar and Darrell Muller on bass. Taylor Baker adds a second mandolin on 5 cuts, and Jessie Baker gets a guest banjo solo on one.
Frank also includes 3 pieces of classical music, which intersect interestingly with his unique, hard-edged style. He has arranged Beethoven’s Theme and Variations in D and Bach’s Bour?©e, and written one of his own, Mandolin Solo #2.
Audio samples are available in iTunes.
Among the family names held in high esteem in bluegrass circles, not many rank higher than Stoneman. Throughout the late 1950s and the ’60s, their regular television and radio appearances brought traditional country and bluegrass music to listeners all over the United States.
Ernest “Pop” Stoneman fronted the group, along with his wife Hattie and many of their children. Each was talented in their own right, but fiddler Scott Stoneman especially caught the attention of serious students of the emerging bluegrass style. His sister Roni became familiar to a wide audience from her many years on the Hee Haw television show.
Of the 23 Stoneman siblings, only three remain, and they have made a new recording named for the surviving sisters. Patsy, Donna & Roni reunites one of many offshoots of the Stoneman franchise who performed together in the 1960s for a set of family favorites and new original compositions.
Patsy plays autoharp, Donna mandolin and Roni banjo, with all three contributing vocals. Nate Grower is on fiddle, Jeremy Stephens is on guitar and Stu Geisbert bass.