Rolling Hills Radio Television show about Americana radio show Sun, 29 Apr 2018 15:58:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 JOHN MCEUEN HAS A NEW ALBUM AND… Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:29:35 +0000

People of a certain generation remember John McEuen with respect and even awe. He is an integral part of our musical Americana DNA. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Will the Circle be Unbroken. Multi- Grammy winner. And on and on.

But enough of context. He has released a new album and it’s hard to know where to start, or stop talking about it. It’s called “Made in Brooklyn.” John seems to have been blessed with an eclectic musical sensibility that allows him to not only be the master of several instruments, but to seamlessly move from style to style. Here you’ll find bluegrass, New Orleans blues, country, gospel, and more. But McEuen is no faceless, formulaic studio musician. As always, each song is distinctly McEuenized, a very good thing.

Much has been made of the great musicians McEuen brought in to play on this album. I mean, we’re talking Jay Unger, Molly Mason, Martha Redbone, John Carter Cash, Steve Martin, Andy Goessling, David freaking Amram (!) and more. But David Bromberg is worth the price of admission. I admit to a weakness for Bromberg’s art, himself an astounding multi-instrumentalist. There is no guitarist I’d rather hear a solo from, regardless of the type of song he is handed. And on this work, John Mceuen showed his customary good sense to take best advantage of the talent surrounding him. You’ll hear Bromberg doing his deftly mischievous bluegrass, his heart-torturing blues, and some lovely work on a Telecaster.

And although McEuen never hogs the spotlight, one of his most endearing qualities because he certainly could hog to great effect, you’ll hear some highly tasteful guitar work as well as his trademark banjo sounds. Not only does every note John McEuen play somehow bear his stylistic stamp, but his first rate performances are a workshop for budding musicians. You want to get good on banjo? Learn John McEuen parts. Then listen to guitar and mandolin and… This guy does everything right.

“Made in Brooklyn” works on lots of levels. You want to hear outstanding musicianship? It’s here. Legendary musicians brought together? Masterfully inspired interpretations of familiar songs? Intimate, friendly ambiance and warm sound? It’s all here. This is a work of art that is very much worth 65 minutes of your time every time you listen to it from beginning to end. But make no mistake, every single track stands on its own so listen to it any way you want. But whatever you do, do listen. You’ll keep coming back to it. It’s wearing out my speakers.

Maybe we ought to have him back one of these days.

KRISTINE AND DAVID, ARCHETYPES Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:27:24 +0000 I think there’s an old archetype in America, a musical archetype. I’m not sure it has a name. Troubadour comes to mind, especially in the sense that folk singers are often thought of as troubadours. In France and Northern Italy, where the term seems to have originated in the 11th century, troubadours wandered around singing love songs. But the archetype I’m thinking of is neither restricted to folk singers nor love songs.

I’m thinking of artists who bring their music to people. And in their music a message resides, a message of peace, sensitive appreciation, kindness, pain, compassion, joy, inclusion, social conscience, forgiveness, acceptance, as well as a poignant recognition and depiction of the human condition. Certainly Woody Guthrie comes to mind. As do the Weavers. Son House. Harry Chapin. Joan Baez. I’m thinking of musicians who represent the goodness of man, who are willing to get their message directly to the people, even if it gets them in trouble with people in power. This archetype isn’t necessarily overtly political, these people often just bring the message home with their powerfully genuine music.

From my perspective in this little outpost of rural Western New York State, it looks to me that there is a resurgence, almost a Renassaince if you will, of these wonderful musicians traveling around, bringing their music directly to the people. Our most recent Rolling Hills Radio episode featured two more examples of that archetype, if it exists.

Meeting David Roth, one is struck with the ageless wisdom of a man with a well-calibrated moral compass. He knows of what he speaks, and like many of his peers, his incisive intellect isn’t something he needs to put on display, but rather, it is simply and obviously the foundation of everything he says and sings. Like Woody Guthrie, he can be blithely funny but he eventually lets you have it with profound insights, calls to action, and words that require you to sit down, listen, take stock. I had the good fortune to visit with David over breakfast a few days after his appearance on Rolling Hills. In person offstage, I was struck with how real this man is. The breakfast went on for a very long time; hanging out like this without beer is not something the Ol’ Otto normally does. I think I found a new friend in David, as has all of Jamestown.

Kristine Jackson also personifies the archetype of which I speak. She tours often and far. She drives around getting to know people, playing her blues, and moving on. While it would be easy to say politics and social conscience aren’t her bread and butter, I would point out a few things. First, what is social conscience other than wisdom and compassion? Kristine brings the beauty of pain and insight into every word she sings. No one could really listen to her and not hear pleas for kindness. The agony she poignantly depicts, the resolutions and the observations, are messages for humanity. Like Bessie Smith. Like Mother Maybelle. Like Billie Holiday and Koko Taylor. This is real pain, real love, real empathy. One more thing – while Kristine sang a beautiful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the encore, something happened I had never seen before. A row of people in the audience held hands and swayed to the music. Only a genuine musician can make that happen.

LEROY TOWNES AND HEATHER PIERSON. RHR EPISODE 57 Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:23:48 +0000 Rolling Hills Episode 57, recorded in October 2016, is in the books. Podcasted for all of eternity. You can hear it HERE.

The first time I heard Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, I was transfixed as I visualized what I was hearing, just like my grandparents did. I also remember when MTV first appeared long ago. There were these things, music videos they were called, and some people complained that the videos interfered with their enjoyment of the music. I recall one friend saying he thought of stuff during songs and he didn’t need some corporate marketing guy dictating to him what he was supposed to be thinking about. Music videos kind of went the way of the Studebaker and the continuing popularity of radio might suggest that people still like the aural experience all by itself.

But then, there is the live show. The people sitting next to you. The sights and the smells. The instruments and voices. The interaction with the artists.

Live, the energy onstage varies from one show to the next, much depending on the guests. Episode 57, for instance. Sharing the stage with a guy like Leroy Townes is standing next to a real pro. He is clearly a master of his music, his knowledge, and his art. Leroy presents himself as quiet and contained, but that demeanor abruptly morphs into a bristling intellect and significant artist as soon as he starts talking or playing. Leroy embodies a quality that I’ve noticed in other great artists, the ability to relate, entertain, and engage in an almost effortless way. I think maybe musicians like Leroy have the art deep within and the music is just one way it manifests. Onstage his energy, enhanced by the tight, sweet harmonies of his partner Loretta Mayfield, was a presence of something very real.

Heather Pierson has a similarly unprepossessing presentation. She kind of makes fun of herself as a “good girl” in a song, and I suppose there’s a bit of that vibe about her. Each song has an unwavering maturity, which is part of what sets Heather apart. Her musical observations are a compelling combination of insight and love. She seems to be an extraordinarily well-centered woman, leading one to wonder about from where this muse springs. I mean, aren’t artists filled with angst, neuroses, and unresolved issues? Start with a heart full of great melodies. Every Heather Pierson song is a wonderfully tuneful creation. Then add a penchant for putting the right lyrics with those tunes in a variety of styles, and in an evening with Heather onstage you have a pleasant and comfortable, yet beautifully unpredictable, journey.

Maybe we’ll see you at the next show.

Yer Friend,



Dear Rolling Hills Readers,

Inviting artists to appear on Rolling Hills Radio is as process that arises directly from the very nature of the show. Like sartori, the taste of an orange, and the writing of Hunter S. Thompson, there’s no real way of describing the common denominator of Rolling Hills artists chosen; you need to experience it. We’ve had people who have been performing for decades and people who have been playing in front of audiences less than two years. We’ve have had people who play traditional styles and people who have invented something of their own. We’ve had famous artists and artists you’d yet to discover. Men. Women. Old. Young. Songwriters. Song interpreters. Virtuosos. Poets. Wanderers. Recluses. Extraverts. Introverts. Ambitious musicians. Musicians who are indifferent to commercial success. And an incredible range of different types of music. The February show is, too, going to be indescribable and defiant of category.RHep51poster

I was delighted to be introduced to the music of Spitzer Space Telescope a while back. My first exposure to Dan was through his work as a visual artist and, indeed, he designed a poster for me that I still use for some of my solo engagements. Video is another of his talents. But on Rolling Hills, we will experience his energetic, mercurial live act. He is creative to an extreme as well as lively, exciting, and bursting with irresistible exuberance that springs from his youthful love of the world. His art, as his persona, is pure and uncontrived.

Bob Frank has been advertised as a blues player and, sure enough, he is. A fine blues guitarist and singer, he plays lead in bands as well as solo. But, this guy is a veteran who has been around the fertile Cleveland music scene for years and he plays a variety of different styles, including bluegrass, which as you know, always makes me happy. As I write this, we are trying to settle on a bluegrassy thing for a finale. Ah, banjo. Sorry, but I’m going to play banjo.

If I may just mention, this interconnected universe is responsible for Episode 51. I became aware of both of these artists through prior Rolling Hills performers, Bess Raynor and Austin “Walkin” Cane. If this keeps up, we may eventually have Kevin Bacon on the show. We must be working our way through those seven degrees of separation.

Yer Friend,


THE DADY BROTHERS – EPISODE 50 / JANUARY 28 Sun, 04 Mar 2018 17:19:37 +0000 Howdy Everybody!

The first show of 2016 is a Rolling Hills milestone, episode 50. Here we are, in the middle of our sixth season and things have grown in ways we never imagined in the beginning. Since our first humble show at the storied Labyrinth Press Company with an audience of six people, a lot of music has been recorded and we’ve made friends from all over the musical map.

What began as a way for me to keep myself constructively occupied turned into something else again. I think no one can plan out something like this. We just set up a little show and then went along for the ride. It is the listeners that makes Rolling Hills what it is, the live audience as well as the internet and radio audiences. And we have a staff, a group of dedicated volunteers to whom the show also is deeply indebted. While they make the show go with the things they do, they also embody the spirit of this endeavor. Ed, Diamond Dick, Nancy, Drew, Emily, and Julia are true gems.

The Dadys appeared on the show some time ago and there was an immediate clamor to have them back. Although Joe Dady told me recently they are looking forward to being interviewed on the show because “we are full of the blarney, you know” I can tell you for sure that their likability comes from a real place. Do yourself a favor, come out and talk to them in person.

And while I’m thinking of it, there’s one more reason to come to this show. We will make our 50th Episode Commemorative Poster available. There’s an email version of it here and we’ll have an 11×17 version on poster stock at the show. See how many of the musicians you can name.

Music for the People!

Yer Friend,