You know those times when things get a little too hectic and crazy and you start to feel like you might be losing control? I certainly do. For me the best way to get on track and into my groove is to get back to the roots of who I am and what I enjoy. To achieve this I require fresh air, campfires, the company of like minded people and of course good music. It doesn’t matter if the music is being made around the campfire or if I’m getting to see one of my favorite bands under the Live Oaks. Thanks to Randy and Beth Judy and the good folks at the Spirit Of Suwanee Music Park I know I’ll have still have my annual reset button for many years to come. They have brought us back to the roots, the way it was, the way we love it. The inaugural Roots Revival Festival was everything we had hoped for and more. Pure and beautiful describes not only the backdrop that is the park, but the atmosphere, the music, the essence of it all.
When I think about music at it roots, one of the first bands that comes to mind is Grandpas Cough Medicine. The music of this acoustic trio is nothing short of powerful. It’s boiled down to a delicious reduction of everything that is good about songwriting and musicianship. Well I wanted to know where they came from and what made them the blazing strings of outlaw fury that they are today. So I asked them. It’s no secret that Brett Bass, the blazing fast guitar player of the trio, has his roots steeped in metal.. When I asked him about it he made it clear that he was hooked hard from the first time he heard the Randy Rhodes ” Crazy Train” solo. Brett will tell you that the heavier sounds of bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, Pantera and Dimmu Borgir along with the classics like Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Led Zeppelin were the sounds that spoke to him in his early musical years.
This lead me to wonder how someone with such a heavy rock background would make the transition from rock and metal to bluegrass. Brett attended his first bluegrass show at the now closed Freebird Live in Jax Beach to see Yonder Mountain String Band. “That was the first time I had seen someone flatpick and the first time I thought acoustic guitar was kind of cool”. Seeing an acoustic guitar used not just as backup but as a lead instrument capable of keeping up with the banjo and mandolin opened up a new world for Brett, but “the first time I heard Bryan Sutton’s playing on the Skaggs album “Bluegrass Rules” is when it clicked and I told myself THAT is who I want to play like.”
Jon Murphy, as with Brett, Jon came up with different musical background. From the great state of Arizona, Jon graduated from the University of Arizona with a minor in music. Jon played cello, guitar and bass in different bands and has even released a folk album on his own. When I asked him how he came about joining this band, he told me that it was as simple as seeing a craiglist ad for outlaw bluegrass. which was a stand out from all of the pre packaged pop/rock bands out there that were more concerned with and image over substance.
After meeting Brett, Jon says he was immediately drawn in by his commanding presence and confidence. The two complimented each others songwriting skills nicely and once Mike joined the band a year later, everything started to click. Now here’s the thing about Mike Coker. After hearing the intro to the Beverly Hillbillies he knew that playing the banjo was his future. He became so proficient in the Earl Scruggs banjo style at such a young age he was dubbed banjo boy. He certainly lives up to that moniker.
So after the bluegrass bug got a hold of Brett it was only matter of time before he linked up with like minded individuals to give birth to the roots of outlaw bluegrass. Granted there were a few more members in the beginning, it eventually reduced down to the acoustic power trio that we know and love today. The roots of outlaw bluegrass.