About The Recording
In the early stages of preparing this album I focussed on repertoire and arrangement. I chose some of my own songs and some from elsewhere that I had long thought would sound good done up bluegrass style. Then I turned my attention to gathering musicians and singers for the process.
I had it in my mind that BB Bowness would be the ideal banjo player for this project. She was the first instrumentalist I thought of for my new recording project. First I was drawn to the clarity of her playing, her bell-like tone, and her ability to play complex music with apparent ease. Then I noticed how well she interacted with other musicians. Then I discovered that the new lineup of her band Mile Twelve was arranging songs in ways that resembled what I was doing. One might think that Mile Twelve, which calls itself a “modern string band” would not be an obvious choice for my music which often has old-fashioned elements. I was sure it would work, both musically and personally. When we came together to record I found that our voices, instruments, timing, and expressive approaches were a perfect fit.
The new mandolinist Korey Brodsky has something in his timing that indicates he is well aware of the old-time music that is a wellspring of bluegrass music. I could tell he even knew my music. He has a strength in his playing that is rare in young players. Then I discovered that the new fiddler was Ella Jordan. She had been my student and we had a rare intuitive musical understanding of each other. She also has a suppleness in her singing that matched her instrumental skill. I listened to what she was doing in Mile Twelve. She reminded me of first generation bluegrass musicians. Like them she’s making it all up for the first time. I was struck by the freedom and coherent melodic lines in the bass playing of Nate Sabat, by the stout presence of his sound, and by the tunefulness of his singing. And he played well with a bow as well. Some of my songs seemed made for that. Evan Murphy is Mile Twelve’s guitarist and lead singer. I thought our voices would go together well but as I was planning to play guitar on the recordings, did I really need another guitar? I decided to ask him to play anyway. I was thinking that the band had never played with me, but they know how to play with him. He turned out to be the Secret Glue. And not once did he replicate what I was playing. With each song he found a way to play that added something and duplicated nothing.
We recorded shortly after my 77th birthday. The band had learned and internalized my music so thoroughly that I decided to call the album Mile 77. Dave Luke, our engineer had been chief engineer at Fantasy Records for many years. He told the band that he had never seen a group of musicians come to a recording session so well prepared. Indeed they were. These recordings display a combination of spontaneity and careful practice, with a different ratio in each of the songs.
ABOUT THE SONGS
Click on any title below and a new page will open where you can find the words to the song and the story behind the song.