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The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a weekly bluegrass and old-time program, hosted by Craig Havighurst and Amy Alvey. As they say on the air, The Old Fashioned (yes, named for the world-famous cocktail) stirs up strong spirits with a bit of sugar, a dash of bitters and a twist of zest, telling the ongoing story of traditional music in Americana. With commentary and context to bring their listeners along for the journey, Craig and Amy spin old-time bands, traditional bluegrass, regional folk styles, acoustic blues, and gospel.

  • The recent passing of banjo legend Ben Eldridge and mandolinist Frank Wakefield were sad but not entirely unexpected given their ages. But prior to this show we got news that Jim Mills, one of the iconic banjo players of our time and one of the world’s foremost expert dealers of Gibson banjos had died of a heart attack at age 57. It is a deeply sad loss. I learned of Jim’s mastery like so many people during his years with Ricky Skaggs when he went all-in on bluegrass with his Kentucky Thunder band. Jim’s Scruggs-style playing was fierce and precise and inventive. And he’ll be missed. We hear him in this show from two of his solo albums, an early track from his career with the band Summer Wages, and a fiery Skaggs track. Also this week, a hot new single from fiddlers Jason Carter and Michael Cleveland, another new track from songwriter/guitarist Rebecca Frazier, and emerging Nashville band Off The Rails.
  • This week we say thanks and farewell to mandolinist Frank Wakefield, the eccentric and outrageous mandolinist who died in late April at age 89. The East Tennessee native played with Red Allen and Jimmy Martin. His other claim to fame was being the first influential teacher of David Grisman, who champions Wakefield’s music to this day. We’ve got a block dedicated to his inspiring performances, including his famous original song “New Camptown Races.” Also this hour, new songs from the peerless voices of Danny Paisley and Del McCoury, a raging instrumental between Chris Thile and Michael Daves, and a deep cut from the Nashville Bluegrass Band.
  • In Show 106 Amy and I ponder authorship in folk music and some of the disputes and errors that can arise. I love the song “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” which I first heard sung by Norman Blake. Some claim Tom T. Hall wrote it. But we spin the original version by its true author – the great Kentucky folk singer Jean Ritchie. Another critical tribute we offer this week is for Seldom Scene co-founder and banjo master Ben Eldridge. He passed away on April 14 at age 85, and the impact of his innovative playing will always be immense. Besides a couple of Seldom Scene numbers, we hear from his key influence Bill Keith, and his son Chris Critter Eldridge of Punch Brothers. Also in the hour, a new single by Colorado band Jake Leg, who’s got a debut album coming May 11 that I’m looking forward to. Our first block includes a double shot of NC banjo man Tray Wellington, a new single of his own and a tune by his new string band New Dangerfield.
  • Leftover Salmon played their first formal show on New Year’s Eve in 1989 in Boulder, CO, an event that might be to Colorado Jamgrass what Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys at the Grand Ole Opry in 1945 was to bluegrass. And Salmon is still crushing it almost 35 years later. I saw them in late March leading the music at the opening weekend of Jerry Garcia – A Bluegrass Journey at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Owensboro, KY. So they came right to mind when we were amusing ourselves with a set to mark 4/20, the date this show premiered. We could have drawn from a lot of weed-friendly recordings, but we went with Billy Strings, Sam Bush, and Jesse McReynolds, who made one of the greatest Grateful Dead cover albums. Also this week, a locomotive of a new single from the Travelin’ McCourys, a new album from Junior Sisk, and a gorgeous “Weeping Willow” by the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover from back in the day.
  • Becky Buller grew up in a bluegrass-picking family in the midwestern environs of Minnesota, and over the past decade, she’s built on that base to become a beloved leader in the genre. As far as I can tell, she’s the only artist to ever win IBMA Awards as an instrumentalist (fiddle), vocalist and songwriter. Now she’s taken on her most ambitious and vulnerable act of songcraft yet, composing a concept album about her long battle with depression. The album Jubilee comes out May 17, and we preview it again this week with the single “Alone.” New music also comes this week from Liam Purcell and Cane Mill Road and the duo Brand New Box Of Matches, making their Old Fashioned debut.
  • Carley Arrowood was a touring fiddle player before she was a band-leading artist, so we’re celebrating the release of her second album Colors with her crack fiddling in the original tune “Molasses Ridge.” Young and ready for her time in the spotlight, Arrowood is a western NC native who did five years pulling the bow for Darin & Brooke Aldridge before throwing her mix of musicianship, singing and songwriting into 2022’s debut Goin’Home Comin’ On. Meanwhile she’s won IBMA Momentum Awards for her fiddling and singing. Watch for her on the charts and on the road. We’ve got more albums dropping as well, from Cris Jacobs, Adam McIntosh, and Authentic Unlimited. What a year so far. Bask as well in historic tracks from the Bluegrass Album Band, Cajun fiddler Luderin Darbone, Doc Watson, and the iconic Jim & Jesse.
  • Greg Blake grew up in West “By God” Virginia and quietly assembled one of the most distinguished careers in today’s bluegrass scene. He proved his picking acumen by winning the Winfield Flatpicking Championship. He spent ten years with the progressive band Jeff Scroggins and Colorado. And for the past three years, he’s been the big lead voice in the iconic Chicago-based band Special Consensus, with whom he’s won or shared numerous awards. He’s also maintained a solo career as a songwriting recording artist, and we grabbed a semi-recent single to single him out with “Tennessee Rain.” Also this hour, the first new music in a while by superb guitarist and singer Rebecca Frazier and a new artist TOF premiere to kick things off as Kentucky’s Kenny D. Thacker sings of “Hillbilly Dreams.”
  • April is big for weddings, and we’re seeing quite a lot of pairing up out there in bluegrass land, maybe not forever but for special projects that are making the Spring a lot more tuneful. We open this week for example with one of Tony Trischka’s recent collaborations on his upcoming Earl Scruggs tribute album. Here he brings on Molly Tuttle for a sweet version of the old moonshining song “Dooley.” Pictured here are Alison Brown and her friend Steve Martin, a man who’s made me laugh for fifty years but whose banjo skills are quite serious. Their release is a tribute to folks like us who DJ the BG, called “Bluegrass Radio.” Another pair with some hot blue music is Junior Sisk joined by Dan Tyminksi for “A Man Like Me.” Also this week, a new instrumental group called EZRA, a show premiere from Nashville's Jack McKeon, and a new single from the Wood Box Heroes.
  • Look at us! 100 episodes of The Old Fashioned, done and dusted. And as we approached this self-congratulatory landmark and thought about how to mark it, we got struck by the idea of celebrating bluegrass and old-time in an even more focused way – by spinning selections from the GOATs of the string band genres – or at least one impulsive stab at the greatest of all time. We start of course with Bill Monroe and then we check out the first great fiddler of the Grand Ole Opry, Arthur Smith. Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers had to be here, as did Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers. Amy pulled in Hazel and Alice, and Ola Belle Reed and John Hartford. I needed to play Bela Fleck’s “Whitewater” as a way to get into the era of bluegrass that seduced me. And we end with Ricky Skaggs, the dominant bluegrass patriarch of our time. Of course we missed other legends and another attempt at an hour of GOATs might look quite different. But that’s the beauty of it. We’re back next week with all the latest releases!
  • As we approached our 100th show, I got the goofy idea of festooning our 99th episode of The Old Fashioned with songs about Nines. After all, bluegrass seems to bring that number up often, starting with “Nine Pound Hammer,” so I pulled Tony Rice’s iconic version from the great Manzanita album. Then we were off to the races with the “Wreck Of The Old No. 9” by Doc and Merle Watson, a great version of “99 Year Blues” from the Rock Hearts and Amy’s pick, the hard driving band Hard Drive with “49 Cats in a Rain Barrell.” Because why not? There IS new music, from Thomas Cassell and Crandall Creek, plus a show-closing block of great banjo led bands featuring Cory Walker, Alan Munde, Jeremy Stevens and Kristin Scott Benson.