Concert Sutra Cheers Modern Day Bluegrass!
by terri sapp
Photographs by terri sapp
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
Smith’s Old Bar in Atlanta, Georgia has been hopping with the latest and greatest bluegrass acts of my generation. On January 12, 2006, I was pleased to have my first live show with CX-1, and Blueground Undergrass, whom I have been pleased to have seen many times before, on January 14, 2006. Putting these two acts in the same place so close together helped me remember just how much fun I have at a show where there are so many boys pickin’ and a sangin’! My appreciation for bluegrass music has grown over these recent years, with acts like Donna the Buffalo, Snake Oil Medicine Show, and Blueground Undergrass coming into my life. However, when I first heard the Snake Oil Medicine show a few years ago, I was made aware of the potential for fun and crossing genres that bluegrass offers. Most of the boys from the Snake Oil Medicine Show, who unfortunately broke up recently, have branched off and joined with their close friend and former Acoustic Syndicate band member and revived CX-1, formerly Cygnus X-1 Blackhole Bluegrass Boyz. CX-1’s innovative approach to bluegrass touches my very soul with the flavors of reggae that are peppered throughout their songs. This joining of Snake Oil Medicine Show and Acoustic Syndicate has produced a world beat, reggae, rock, Americana, newgrass, electronica, dance, hip hop, funk jazz, “modern fusion music,” “most closely resembling bluegrass,” sure to claim the affection of all who hear.
There were times when I missed Phil Chaney’s wonderful onstage paintings in progress at the CX-1 show, but what the Bluegrass Boyz lack in stage spectacle, they make up in performance. Andy Pond is reported to state, “It’s not just the party vibe anymore. The focus will be more on composition and musicality.” For those of us who had the pleasure of experiencing the Snake Oil Medicine Show, we know we had something special, and the end of SOMS is truly the end of an era. However, the Pond Brothers live on, and have made sure to involve themselves in a highly promising project.
George Pond (Guitar) and Andy Pond (Banjo) have always had a piece of my heart, and their work with CX-1 is proving to follow the same path. Former Snake Oil Band mate, Billy Seawell (drums) has not lost a beat in the transition from the Medicine Show pulse to the heartbeat of the Universe in CX-1. Jay Sanders (bass), who formerly graced Acoustic Syndicate, blew me away with his strumming. The stand up bass is a very sensual instrument, and much appreciation is deserved by anyone able to work it right. Not to knock Sanders’ master performance on the stand up and bass, but I must say that I truly miss George Pond’s bass. I love it when he is on bass, no matter what kind. “Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes…” Even still, his guitar work with CX-1 is just as bootie shaking. CX-1 is so full of energy that they can’t even stand still.
One of the best parts of CX-1 is the newly revamped three part vocal harmonies. Apparently, the previous version of this band was primarily instrumental. They were smart to add the boys singing, because their voices are too precious to leave out! Jay Sanders had a bit to say about CX-1 this time around, “We’re focusing our attention on the new material that we have written as a quartet. This is it for us, we finally are playing music for CX-1 without distraction of being in other bands. We are heading forward with a determination to achieve longevity with this band.” I am patiently awaiting the recordings anticipated from their CX-1 time in Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. The Ponds are all too familiar with the Studio, and have come up with some noteworthy discs from Tree Sound and their work with Robert Hannon and Paul Diaz. I can hardly wait to get a taste of the new studio work. Andy Pond has not skipped a moment with the dismantling of the SOMS. His banjo remains on the top of my list!
My favorite aspect that has always been about the Pond brothers’ projects, including CX-1, is the heavy reggae influence. No matter where they go or what they do, the reggae is imbedded in their sound. George and Andy deeply feel the reggae vibe, I believe, so it is only natural that the skankin’ would break out at their shows! I am a sucker for reggae. BLUEGRASSTAFARI RULE!! The sets you can expect to hear from CX-1 include many hits from Snake Oil Medicine Show, some from the Cygnus X-1 Bluegrass Boyz, some that Jay Sanders brings to the mix, and (my favorites) from Ruben Brooks from Jamaica, and from the Overtakers. A CX-1 set is sure to be a perfect mix of everything you would want to hear from these guys and more.
Check out the few photos I was able to catch at :http://www.concertsutra.com/cscx10106/. Our fabulous photo gallery is courtesy of Leah Yetter, Photographer. Again, we thank Leah for her equipment and hard work, and miss her work as the one actually taking the pictures! Word on the streets is that she will be back next month! For more information on CX-1, go to: http://www.cx-1.com/. You will be able to catch CX-1 in a town near you very soon. Possibilities include April 6, 2006 in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Visulite Theatre; April 21, 2006 in Greenville, South Carolina at Gottrocks; April 22, 2006 in Erwin, Tennessee at the Appalachian Arts and Healing Festival; April 29, 2006 in Johnson City, Tennessee at Stir Fry Café; May 4, 2006 in Knoxville, Tennessee at Barley’s Taproom; May 12, 2006 in New York, New York at The Knitting Factory; May 26 in Winston Salem, North Carolina at Rubber Soul; June 2-3, 2006 in Sherman, New York at The Outrageous Universe Revival; and June 8, 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama at Zydeco. These are the most recent scheduled dates for CX-1, but there are sure to be more in the months ahead. Keep an eye out for the bluegrass boys, so they don’t pass you by. I could spend all day talking about the beauty of CX-1, and Andy Pond’s voice and banjo playing, George Pond and everything he does…Billy Seawell and his smooth operatin’, and Jay Sanders’ bass craft. In the spirit of the porch, I’m gonna hang with Blueground Undergrass for a minute, too, and not forget where they are in this world of Modern Day Bluegrass!
On and off since 1998, Blueground Undergrass has been a bluegrass entity with its own faithful following. Their “psychedelic hickhop bluegrass” has earned them a permanent spot on the “Bluegrass VIP List.” Playing a bit of a more traditional bluegrass sound, BGUG is sure to get the legs moving and ass shaking. Heading up the BGUG crew is the beloved Reverend Jeff Mosier (banjo, vocals). A crucial part of Blueground Undergrass is brought by David Blackmon (fiddle/mandolin). This guy is amazing at what he does. I am in awe at how he gets away with the cigarette burning in the fiddle, while he is playing…without burning the place down. Last, but not least, MR. Matthew Williams (Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Trance Kazoo) rounding things off with style. There was a bass player that was tearing it up at Smith’s, but alas, I could not find out who he or the drummer were in time for this publication. Even though Blueground Undergrass seems to fit more in the genre of a “jamband,” which I am usually not into, their music is unique enough and played well enough to keep me interested and not lost in the “jam.” Just trying to keep up with the fiddle, banjo, and Williams’ fancy moves is enough to have my jaw dropped in amazement. Vocal harmonies are a great reason to admire bluegrass music, and the guys in BGUG have the harmonies tight.
For a glimpse into my night with Blueground Undergrass at Smith’s Olde Bar, click: http://www.concertsutra.com/csbgug0106/. Please forgive my obvious liking for Mr. Williams, and watching him do his thing! Not a coincidence, I’m afraid. He is just too sexy when he plays! Sorry to the rest of the band. This in no way reflects the effects of your playing on me as an audience member…but FINE choice of guitar layer! For more information, and to watch out for Blueground Undergrass, go to: http://www.bluegroundundergrass.com/. Some upcoming shows in the works for Blueground Undergrass include another big night in Atlanta, Georgia at Smith’s Olde Bar again on April 1, 2006; April 7, 2006 in Macon, Georgia at 550 Blues; April 8, 2006 in Remerton, Georgia at Charlie O’Corley’s; April 13, 2006 in Memphis, Tennessee at Newby’s; April 14, 2006 in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Midtown Music Hall; April 21, 2006 in New London, North Carolina at Cripple Creek Roadhouse; April 22, 2006 in Charlotte, North Carolina at Visulite Theatre; May 4, 2006 in Pensacola, Florida at Commerce Center; May 5, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida at Freebird Live; May 6, 2006 in Beaufort, South Carolina at Taste of Beaufort; May 20, 2006 in Charleston, South Carolina at The Pour House; June 9, 2006 in Newnan, Georgia at loco’s Pub; June 10, 2006 in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Riverbend Festival; June 11, 2006 in Lafayette, Georgia at Georgia on the Groove Music Fest; July 8, 2006 in Jonesboro, Georgia at Summer Concert Series; July 13, 2006 in Carbondale, Illinois at Southern Illinois University; July 14-15, 2006 in Bean Blossom, Indiana at MagnoliaFest Midwest; July 29, 2006 in Duanesberg, New York at Max Creek Music Festival; August 23, 2006 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina at Wild Wing Fest; September 1-2, 2006 in Salem, Missouri at Bluegrass Jam; September 8, 2006 in Greensboro, North Carolina; September 23, 2006 in Ozark, Arizona at Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Fest; and October 20-22, 2006 in Live Oak, Florida at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. I am sure they will be updating their tour schedule as well, so keep a look out and don’t miss out on the Blueground Undergrass experience.
Not only are both of these bluegrass bands in constant motion, they will get you and keep you going all night long!