Friday, May 28, 2010


Bluegrass bands will turn a day at the Graves Mountain festival into an album.

Date published: 5/27/2010


The unique beauty of Syria, in Madison County, inspired songwriter Carl Jackson to pen "Graves Mountain Memories" celebrating the iconic lodge there and the annual bluegrass festival it hosts.

That song, in turn, inspired bluegrass musician and Graves Mountain Festival of Music producer Mark Newton.

"The song pays tribute to the history of Graves," Newton said. "I've always felt that the history of the site is quite amazing, and that we needed to record that song somehow, some way."

Then Newton found a way. Sam Passamano, president of Rural Rhythm records in Los Angeles, liked the idea of recording the song. Together, they expanded on the idea and came to a much larger conclusion. They would record an entire Friday of music at the Graves Mountain festival--nearly 11 hours of picking and high harmonies from six bands.

Recording a live concert is not a new idea, nor is recording an entire day of music--but Newton and Passamano wanted to produce a lasting document of the event that highlighted the natural spontaneity and cross-band collaborations that happen at music festivals.

"I'm always trying to figure out ways to have something that's not just the norm," Newton said. "The norm gets stagnant, especially after you've done it for so long."

Creating an album featuring dozens of artists in various combinations can be exciting, but it can also be a legal nightmare of release forms and consent agreements. Passamano and Newton simplified matters by creating an entire Friday lineup out of Rural Rhythm artists.

"That's the way it has to be," Newton said. "It just so happens that these artists are popular. That was a plus."

Bluegrass stalwarts like The Lonesome River Band, Russl Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and Audie Blaylock & Redline will perform during the day. The evening session will feature a number of collaborations with all-stars like Lou Reid, Sammy Shelor, Carrie Hassler, Jackson and Newton.

"That will be the exciting part," Newton said. "Instrumental and vocal pairings you don't usually see."

Newton and Passamano then plan to condense those hours of music into an album anchored by an all-star rendition of Jackson's "Graves Mountain Memories." Read more.

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