Tag Archives: Cris Jacobs

DelFest Preview 2016, preparing to celebrate 10 years

By: Tim Newby


In celebration of its 10th year, DelFest has assembled an All-Star roster for its annual Memorial Day Weekend extravaganza in Cumberland, Maryland.  This year’s lineup is topped by the Trey Anastasio Band, Govt Mule, the Travelin’s McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, is easily one of the best festival schedules around.  Throw in namesake Del McCoury’s four sets over the weekend (which includes the traditional festival opening “soundcheck” set, and a guest laden spot which will feature Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, Jon Fishman from Phish, the Preservation Hall Horns from New Orleans, and Ronnie Bowman) and the guarantee that Del will sit in with what seems like every band throughout the weekend and you would be hard pressed to find a better four days of music over Memorial Day Weekend this year. Continue reading DelFest Preview 2016, preparing to celebrate 10 years

Merryland Music Festival ready to kick-off

MerrylandSet to take place July 8-10 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, the Inaugural Merryland Music Festival looks to carry on the long tradition of excellence of the All Good Festival which announced it would be retiring after last year’s edition.

Presented by All Good Presents, Merryland will feature seventeen bands over two days, that will take advantage of Merriweather’s new state of the art turntable stage and have no overlapping sets.

The festivities will get going Friday July 8 with a pair of kick-off concerts, Papadiso with ELM at Baltimore’s Ram Heads Live and the Soul Rebel’s with People’s Blues of Richmond at the 9:30 Club.


Day one at Merriweather will be headlined by two sets from the String Cheese Incident and also feature sets from Lotus, Stephen Marley, Yonder Mountain String Band, Karl Denson, Tauk, Protojoe, and ELM.  Day two will find Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals headling with Grace Potter, Greensky Bluegrass, Shakey Graves, Langhorne Slim, Nahko & the Medicine for the People, Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong, Turkuaz, and the Cris Jacobs Band rounding out the rest of the day.  There will also be a very special late-night show July 9 at the 9:30 Club hosted by Kung Fu and Featuring Karl Denson along with many special guests.

Doors will open each day at noon with the first set of music getting going at 1:00pm and wrapping up at 11:00pm.   Weekend and single day tickets can be purchased here.



Bringing the Charm Back to Charm City: Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival

DSCN6811editedThe sun starts to set as The Wood Brothers take the stage at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. Surrounded by trees and a lawn filled with folk and bluegrass fans, the band begins their set. Multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, flanked by the brothers Chris and Oliver Wood under the red glow of stage lights, warms his hands on a chilly April evening.


Oliver Wood kicks off the show by picking out a slow folk ballad on his acoustic guitar. His brother outlines the guitar chords on an upright bass, and Rix plays a beat on his self-proclaimed shuitar – a crummy guitar he transformed into a percussion instrument with tuna cans and other noisemakers.


The band sings their stories in soulful three-part harmonies while many audience members sing along.
After opening the set with a few slower, more traditional folk tunes, Oliver trades his acoustic for a hallow-body electric guitar, and Rix takes his place behind his drum set.


DSCN6812editedChris uses a bow to play a virtuosic classical-style solo on bass as the festival sits in awe. When his solo comes to a close, his brother comes in with an upbeat, blues-soaked funky guitar riff and Rix launches into a groovy beat on the drums. The crowd can’t help but move to the beat.


Jordan August and Phil Chorney stand off-stage surveying the scene with walkie-talkies in hand and a solemn look on their faces. The co-owners and co-creators of the festival listen to The Wood Brothers’ harmonies and impressive musicianship, but there are more pressing concerns. Will the bus that is taking The Wood Brothers to their hotel make it through the rioting downtown? Is the event running on time? Is everyone enjoying themselves? Are people going to stick around for the last few bands after it gets dark? Will they get back their security deposit on the park? Is the festival living up to its reputation? With so many things that can go wrong, Chorney and August hardly have the time to stop and enjoy their own event.


“Baltimore is a working-class, blue-collar town, with great people, great food, great beer and great music,” Chorney says. “So let’s celebrate that.”
While protests and social unrest were bubbling into riots near Camden Yards on April 25, Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park was an oasis of peace and music as thousands attended the 3rd Annual Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival.


DSCN6738editedThe festival featured performances from national and local folk and bluegrass acts including The Travelin’ McCourys, The Wood Brothers, The Seldom Scene, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Cris Jacobs, The Bumper Jacksons, Grand Ole’ Ditch, Letitia VanSant, Chester River Runoff, Charm City Junction, The Herd of Main Street and The Manly Deeds. The event also had local craft vendors, selling everything from hula-hoops to cider, beer, banjos, bowties and falafels.


The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival is the latest chapter in a long history of bluegrass music in Baltimore – a history that has been all but forgotten, according to August and Chorney. They share a passion for the craft of bluegrass and folk music and a love for Baltimore. This inspired them to create the festival with the intention of sharing this music, bringing money into the city and raising awareness of bluegrass music in Baltimore, a city that was once a hotbed of folk and bluegrass.


DSCN6718edited“In the 1950s, it was either Nashville or Baltimore for bluegrass, which is a wild concept because Baltimore doesn’t seem like that place,” August said. “People forgot that bluegrass was even here.”


“That’s the purpose of the festival,” August explained, “to bring back that awareness of bluegrass music that used to exist here.”


Hillbilly City

Bluegrass and folk music have been a part of Baltimore’s history for a long time. Last year the Baltimore Museum of Industry had an exhibit about the banjo – an instrument with roots in West Africa that has been a part of Maryland tradition since the 1740’s. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that this music flooded the streets of Baltimore.


DSCN6685editedThe Great Depression in the 1930’s resulted in the mass northern migration of poor families from the South and Appalachian region. As an industrial center, Baltimore became one of many cities on the receiving end of this migration.


“The proximity of the Appalachia region and the opportunities that existed [in Baltimore] at the time were a huge motivating factor for people looking for a change,” said Tim Newby, author of the forthcoming book Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound and its Legacy.


These migrants brought with them their families, their traditions and their cultural tastes, which included folk and bluegrass music. These new-comers were not always welcome, Newby explained. Bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens recalls seeing signs that read “No Dogs or Hillbillies” as she went about town. Often the migrants would cluster together in small neighborhoods around the city, Newby said. The areas of Hampden, Woodbury and Druid Hill Park came to be known as “hillbilly ghettos,” Chorney said. In time, Bluegrass eventually became a staple of the Baltimore music scene.


“You had these migrants who had grown up with this music and you had many younger locals who were into this same kind of music,” Newby said. “They really bonded together and created a special atmosphere that was inclusive of both migrants and those already from the city or surrounding area.”


On the evenings before work these migrants would meet up in bars and basements, bring their instruments and have informal “pickin’ parties,” keeping their traditions alive in a city that proved to be nothing like home. Baltimore was the home to many bluegrass legends, such as Hazel Dickens, Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, Walt Hensley, and Russ Hooper, and Mike Seeger. Del McCoury (father of this year’s festival headliners, The Travelin’ McCourys), was a regular part of that early scene as well, as commuted down to play in the rough and tumble bars of Baltimore from his home in York County, Pennsylvania.


DSCN6852editedBy the 1950’s, Baltimore was the 6th largest city in the United States, Newby said. Folk and bluegrass were the most popular forms of music in the city. There were many bars and clubs that featured local bluegrass musicians, such as the 79 Club, the Cozy Inn and the Blue Jay, giving musicians an opportunity to share their songs and hone their craft.

Soon Baltimore became a center for bluegrass music, with influence in the national music scene. In 1966, “The Streets of Baltimore” by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard, was one of the biggest hits on country radio.


The city is a different place than it was when it was known for bluegrass, but August and Chorney are proving with their festival that bluegrass is still here.


“The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival is doing a great job of keeping the spirit and tradition alive of this musical legacy of the city” Newby said. “They are helping to bring awareness to Baltimore’s storied history to a generation of music fans who might be unaware of it.”

A Celebration of Music

DSCN6778editedThe Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival unites people of all ages and walks of life in the beautiful Druid Hill Park in a celebration of music. Despite overcast skies, the festival is buzzing with excitement. Two stages are situated at the bottom of the gently sloping hill, an ideal spot for the stage because it is a natural amphitheater. August says that they added the second stage this year to cut down on the time between sets, allowing for the crew to set up for the next act before the previous act finishes.


People stand densely packed in front of the stage, and the hill is covered in lawn chairs and blankets where many festival-goers have settled in. To the right of the stage is the tent of one of the festival’s partners, Union Craft Brewing. As in previous years, the brewery has made a bluegrass themed beer specially for the event, a Bavarian Hefeweizen dubbed The High Lonesome Hefe. Next to the beer tent there is some fierce corn-hole competition.


Up the hill, near the conservatory, is what August calls “vendor village,” where people can choose from a range of food options and also buy items such as banjos, hula hoops, jewelry, bowties and band merchandise. Off to the left side of the stage there are a few chairs set up so that attendees can bring their own instruments and have their own pickin’ parties.

Bumper jacksons
The diversity of the crowd and the vendors is matched by the diversity of the bands playing. Although they all fall under the umbrella of folk and bluegrass, some of the groups could not be more different. On one hand there is the traditional old-school bluegrass group the Seldom Scene, and the exciting and fast paced music of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and The Travelin’ McCourys, and on the other hand you have the more folk and blues style of the Wood Brothers, and also the unique blend of jazz, bluegrass and early western swing from the Bumper Jacksons. They show the wide range of forms that folk and bluegrass music have taken over the years. The one thing the bands have in common is that they all get the crowd moving.


“A lot of traditional music, in different kinds of cultures, is dance music,” says Jess Eliot Myhre, singer, clarinetist and washboard player for the DC/Baltimore-based group the Bumper Jacksons. “I think that fundamentally people really connect with music that makes them want to dance.”
The music at the festival certainly has that effect on people. There is something simple and lovely about this old-fashioned music played on acoustic instruments, Myhre says. There is nothing standing between the listener and the musician, she explains, which is what makes folk and bluegrass so unique and genuine.


DSCN6854editedDespite all the positive vibes and good times at the festival, the mood of the event was somewhat odd. Protests and incipient riots are happening only a few miles away as a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, who was arrested only ten blocks away from the park.


“I think it was a great festival, but it was very strange playing that festival to that audience while the protests were happening so close,” Myhre says.

While Myhre feels the festival seems out of place in the city in turmoil, music can be a source of empathy and understanding.


“Folk and bluegrass tend to be music that tells stories of hardship and struggle,” Chorney explains. “Baltimore has its history of hardship and struggle, and people can relate to it.”

Pickin’ Parties, Paperwork and Permits

phil and jordanThe Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival all started on Chorney’s porch in Hampden, a neighborhood in Baltimore. August, who is currently a musician in the Jordan August Band as well as Trace Friends Mucho and a freelance photographer, met Chorney, a marketer for Citeligher, through the Baltimore music scene. They would see each other at the 8×10, a bar at which August bar tended, and they became friends when August did a photo-shoot for Yellow Dubmarine, a reggae Beatles cover band that Chorney managed.




Soon after becoming friends the pair began to have regular “pickin’ parties” at Chorney’s. They would sit out on the porch with a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey and play into the night. Before long, these get-togethers sparked the idea for some sort of bluegrass party.


“Let’s throw a bluegrass party,” Chorney said, “let’s get all our friends together who play music… Let’s just do something cool.”

DSCN6694editedThis idea eventually blossomed into the first Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. They raised money and hosted the event in Woodbury at the Union Craft Brewery. The festival was a success, selling out 1,600 tickets nearly a month in advance. While August and Chorney were grateful for the opportunity Union Craft gave them, they realized they had no room to grow and began working with the city to find a new location.


The next year the pair teamed up with District 7 Councilmen Nick Mosby, who selected Druid Hill Park as the new home for the festival. In order to use the park, the festival had to undergo a long process of filing paperwork and permits, making frequent trips to City Hall, and appeasing various governmental organizations such as Parks and Recreation and the Housing Department.


DSCN6684editedAs a for-profit company, the festival had to do a lot to use city property, such as making substantial donations to the city and non-profits, including the Believe in Music Program – a K-12 inner city music education program. The festival was made possible through a collaborative effort between festival and the city, embracing something that brings something artistically and culturally different to the table, Chorney explained.


“I think that’s really unique and special, and I hope to continue that partnership as long as I can,” Chorney said.
In the end, August and Chorney explained, it always comes down to money.


“We don’t make money. We’ve never made money off these events, me and Phil pay out of pocket every year to make sure this happens,” August says.


DSCN6747editedThe city gets money from the permits, donations, payment to use the park and a security deposit. Being able to pay the bands is another huge expense. Then you have to factor in costs for everything from marketing, festival workers, the stage, speakers, lights and tents, all the way to porta-pots.


“Everyone always gets paid no matter what,” August said, “even when you know the bank account about to hit zero, you still make sure they get paid.”


Chorney and August are not the only ones that work to make this event a reality. It requires a lot of effort from many of their friends, who help with everything from social media to band hospitality, working with the vendors, to general volunteering on the day of the event.

With a Little Help From My Friends

On the day of the festival, Chorney, August and their team are a well-oiled machine. While festival-goers are relaxing, enjoying the music and beer, the volunteers work through the day into the night making sure things go smoothly. Between helping with parking, manning the entrance, taking pictures, setting up the equipment on stage and countless other tasks, there is no shortage of jobs that need to be done.


crowdChorney and August are the busiest of all. When they aren’t zipping around in a Gator truck moving equipment they are organizing the volunteers, greeting festival attendees and acting as the puppet masters, pulling the strings behind the scenes making the festival a reality. Moments where they get to sit, relax, and listen to the music are few and far-between.


August, whose life’s passion is live music photography, explains that one day he hopes he and Chorney won’t have to work the festival so August will be able to photograph his own event. Until that day, Chorney and August are working on keeping the festival growing with the help and support of their friends.


DSCN6708edited“My favorite part [of the festival] is seeingmy friends smile even though they’ve spend a 14 hour day setting up, breaking down, helping people out,” Chorney says. “And they expect very little in return except a thanks and a chance to be a part of something.”








2015 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival preview

ccfbEntering its 3rd year, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass has already established itself as one of the premiere Folk and Bluegrass festivals in the Mid-Atlantic region.  In its three-year existence the Festival has seen exponential growth moving from the cozy confines of the Union Craft Brewery in year one to the spacious grounds of Druid Hill Park, to the addition of a second stage in year three.

With a return to Druid Hill Park, a spectacular line-up, and the addition of the second stage that will feature thirteen bands with no overlapping sets, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass looks to continue to be an early season standout of this year’s Festival season.

ccbf3The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass’ schedule is topped by the Travelin McCoury’s and the Wood Brothers and is powerhouse line-up from start to finish.  The twin stages will be set-up side by side so there will be little change over time between bands and no worry about missing any music.  In addition to The McCoury’s – who will be stopping by as part of their road-to-Delfest tour – and the Wood Brothers, the day’s line-up will also feature such heavy weights as the legendary Seldom Scene and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen.

Festival founders Jordan August and Phil Chorney also aim to highlight the great music that is being played in Baltimore today and remind everyone of the City’s long, influential, history in Bluegrass.  “Baltimore is such an amazing City, with such an amazing musical heritage,” explains Chorney, “that we felt we needed to highlight.”  To this end, August and Chorney included such Baltimore and local stalwarts as Letitia VanSant,  Grand Ole Ditch, Chester River Runoff, and Charm City Junction.

The inclusion of local talent will culminate with an All-Star band led by Cris Jacobs before The McCoury’s headlining set.  In addition to Jacobs, the All-Star band will include 2013 IMBA banjo-player of the year Mike Munford, fiddler Patrick McAvinue from Audie Blaylock & Redline, bassist Ian Truesheim, mandolinist BJ Lazarus, and drummer Ed Hough.

This year’s Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival will take place April 25 at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.  Tickets are available now and can be purchased here: Mission Tix

Check out past coverage of the first two Charm City Festivals from Honest Tune:

2014 – A Rollicking Good Time

2013- Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival & the Killer B’s

Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival: A Rollicking Good Time

The growth of a festival is always an interesting and fun thing to pay attention to. That look back when you can say I remember when so-and-so played this festival or when it was only this big or when this amazing moment happened. Sometimes that growth is slow and over many years. Sometimes it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. In the case of the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival held in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, it was a blink and you will miss it kind of growth. In only in its 2nd year, Charm City saw its attendance almost triple as it moved from the cozy confines of the grounds of the Union Craft Brewery to the expansive, gorgeous stretch of Druid Hill Park next to the Rawlings Conservatory.


Despite its growth Charm City has stayed true to the mission stated by Festival co-founder Jordan August to “focus on traditional and regional bluegrass.” With the inclusion of some of the most talented bluegrass-inspired bands in the Maryland area, that this year included Grand Ole Ditch, Highland Hill Boys, Ken & Brad Kolodner, Trace Friends Mucho, Mad Sweet Pangs, and Cris Jacobs & Friends they did just that.

At the same time this year’s edition also carried forth August’s other goal to turn this event “into a weekend long, all day and late night experience for the whole region and country to see.” To furth that idea Charm City featured a line-up that was stacked with Audie Blaylock & Redline, Sierra Hull, Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, Noam Pikelny & Friends, and headliner Jerry Douglas, capped off with a late-night show from Matt Butler and the Everyone Orchestra featuring Danny Louis (Govt. Mule), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Andrew Altman (Railroad Earth), Cris Jacobs (The Bridge), Nick Piccinicci (Floodwood), and Jami Novak (Cabinet) at the 8×10 club.


The spirit of collaboration that is such a big part of the Everyone Orchrestra was the overriding theme throughout the day at Druid Hill Park as sit-ins, special pairings and unique configurations of bands was the motif of the day. While not every band to hit the stage featured a sit-in or some unique line-up, it just seemed that way. Whether it was the guest laden set of hometown favorite Cris Jacobs that saw Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass, Audie Blaylock, and Nick Piccinicci from Floodwood all join in, the sit-in of dobro-master Jerry Douglas with an already special collection of banjo-extraordinaire Noam Pikelny’s friends, the pairing of Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Edlridge and jazz-guitarist Julian Lage, to the hometown love-fest of fiddler Patrick McAvinue joining in with Trace Friends Mucho, Charm City Fest was a day-long highlight that spanned traditional picking, adventurous jams, sublime singing, and a rollicking good time.

2nd Annual Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival announces line-up

Charm CityFollowing a highly-successful first year, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival returns for its 2nd year with a bigger location and even better line-up than year one.  After a sold-out inaugural event, the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival has changed locations to the picturesque setting of Druid Hill Park in downtown Baltimore and will take place April 26, 2014.



Keeping alive the long tradition of bluegrass in Baltimore, this year’s line-up is led by thirteen-time Grammy Award winner and dobro innovator Jerry Douglas.  Joining him will be mandolin prodigy Sierra Hull and bluegrass heavyweight Audie Blaylock & Redline.  A pair of Punch Brothers will be making their first appearance at the festival with their respective solo bands as banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny and Friends and guitar maestro Chris Eldgridge with Julian Lange will both play sets.  Returning from the first year are local legend and front man for The Bridge, Cris Jacobs, who will be assembling an All-Star line-up of pickers for the event. Also making a return appearance will be the raging-good-time of Trace Friends Mucho.  The line-up will be rounded out with local talent in phenoms Ken & Brad Koldner and Delaware’s Mad Sweet Pangs.  The festival’s opening slot will be awarded to a Battle of the Bands contest winner which features some of the Mid-Atlantic Regions best up and coming bluegrass talent.  The contest will be held over the month of January at Union Craft Brewery with the finals taking place at Baltimore’s famed 8×10 club.



Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here http://www.missiontix.com/charmcitybluegrass


For more details please visit http://charmcitybluegrass.com/



Check out Honest Tune’s coverage of last year’s stellar event Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival and the Killer B’s




John Ginty: They can’t take the organ away from me

John Ginty 8x10 Longtime sideman and session player John Ginty has long been known for his tasteful, adventurous work on the Hammond B3 organ.  Over the past fifteen years his soulful touch has graced over sixty albums, including albums by Bad Religion, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Santana, Matthew Sweet, Neal Casal, The Bridge, and Citizen Cope.  His keyboard skills are also in high demand for the inspired sound he can bring to any live setting.  He was an original member of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and has toured regularly with The Dixie Chicks, Santana, Jewel, Citizen Cope, and his own John Ginty Band.  Recently he has begun to play with the based Baltimore Band of Johns which is led by former Bridge guitarist/ singer Cris Jacobs and features Jake Leckie on upright bass, and John Thomakos on drums.  In addition to his work with the Band of Johns, Ginty has also maintained his usual busy session schedule as well as finding time to get out on the road with a number of bands.  In the midst of that typically full schedule Ginty found time to release his first solo album, Bad News Travels.


Born from an album he played on for blues-guitarist Albert Castigilia, Bad News Travels is a blast of gospel-tinged New Orleans flavored funk that can just as easily settle into a deep, bluesy groove as it can dive into a psychedelic-swirl of a Hammond B3 organ trip that can spin the off at any moment down some never before traveled musical path.  Ginty called on some of his musical friends, including Warren Haynes, Neal Casal, Martie Maguire, and Cris Jacobs among many others, to help out with the album. The addition of these guests helps each song develop a wholly unique personality that is all held together by the glue that is Ginty’s powerhouse playing.


While preparing to head out on a brief Canadian tour with the Dixie Chicks, Ginty checked in with Honest Tune to discuss the making of Bad News Travels.


Honest Tune: So how did the idea for Bad News Travels come about?

John Ginty:  It was kind of an accident really.  I have been a session guy my whole life.  I am on sixty or seventy records.  I spent a lot of time with Jewel, Robert Randolph and the Family band, and Citizen Cope.  I have always toyed around the idea of doing my own record, but it has just never been the right time, or it wasn’t the right material, and it was never the right situation.

Recently I did a record with a blues guy from Florida, Albert Castiglia at a recording studio in NJ (Showplace Recording Studios).  Ben Elliott the owner of the studio was like, “Man we got to do your record.  The timing is right now. We could get Albert to play on it.  You could use your session guy access to get some other players on it.”  And I thought the idea was really cool.  I had some Bad News Travelssongs I had written that really didn’t have a home and it all just came together.  We put together a list of demos and a list of special guests and I tried really hard to pair the piece with the right player.  It wasn’t necessarily about getting famous people, it wasn’t about any of that.  It was just a musical thing of like who would fit great on this and who would be great on that.

So I got Albert and he played on a bunch of songs and does a bunch of lead vocals.  I used Neal Casal from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.  He is a great player.  I have played on all his records.  Cris Jacobs from Baltimore is on it.  Timing is everything.  He and I had just started doing the Band of Johns and it just seemed right to have him up.  I had a track that I thought would be perfect for him.  Warren Haynes has been a friend of mine for twenty-years and it was an honor to get him on the record.  And slightly difficult as he only had about 48 hours off of his schedule to come to the studio.  But we managed to jump through the hoops of fire we needed to get him on there.  It was just awesome.  Once again it was just a perfect track for him.  It took him out of his normal element a bit and I loved how he played on it.  Todd Wolfe is a label mate of mine, and a great blues guitar player.  I got Alecia Chakour a blues singer from Brooklyn.  I couldn’t be happier with all the guests on it.  Martie Maguire from the Dixie Chicks plays fiddle on one song.  I am actually playing keyboards with the Dixie Chicks right now.  We are leaving to go on tour next week, a tour of Canada.  I have been friends with Martie for a while now and I had a song that I thought fiddle would be great on.  So that is how all the guests showed up.


HT: How was it to go from being a sideman or session player to all of sudden being in charge?

JG:  It’s crazy man.  It’s so insane.   It’s an education that I wasn’t looking for and I didn’t necessarily want [laughs].  From the musical end it was a joy and I had a great producer leading the way.  Ben Elliot really led me through it.  I just gave up the control and worry to him.  Musically it was not a problem.  I would love to do it again.  But all the other end stuff, trying to get on the radio, and the press and selling it, all that stuff was never something I had to worry about.  But now it’s on my lap to get all that stuff done, so it has been a crazy education for me, especially with the music business on its ear right now.


HT:  It has to be a different feeling to go from being the guy on the side who just gets to play to the guy who has to be in charge and go do all the “other work” now.

JG:  It gave me a huge appreciation for what all these cats go through.  I also appreciate their help and advice.  You know Cris Jacobs has been up and back with this, first with The Bridge and now with his solo projects.  I have gotten a lot of great advice from these cats as well as their musical contributions.  I will say it is a lot of hard work, and it is kind of scary, and I don’t know all about this end of the music business, but it is also fun.  The record has been doing well.  It has been added to a lot of radio stations.  They play it on my local New Jersey big rock station.  I heard it the other day when I was I the truck.  To hear it on the radio is mind-blowing.  I have heard myself on the radio before, but it had always been someone else’s songs.



John GintyHT: You said lots of people gave you advice, was there one thing that really stuck out?

JG:  The one word that kept popping up was publicist.  I get that now.  It used to be we would be humping around for a record deal and things of that nature.  That’s not the case anymore.  The publicist can get you out there, and out there is the only place that happens because the record stores have closed.  You have to get out there and take it to the people, play the shows, go to the merch booth and sign your stuff and sell your records.  It’s kind of all on the artist right now.  The publicist was one thing everyone mentioned that would help.


HT:  Things have really changed with how you have to sell a record now.

JG:  We are kind of reinventing this thing as we are going along.  What every artist has to realize is that no matter how crazy the business side may get, you can always go to the town and play a show and sell your CD there.  You will always have that.  People kind of complain about ticket prices being high, but there is no place for a musician to go make money anymore.  I spend my days hunting down illegal downloads of my records, of which there are still many.  It has become a full-time job getting these things taken down from the internet.  It is stacked against the artist in this day and age.  So we just have to adapt and try and keep our chins up.  I can’t really complain though, this is what I picked to do.  They can’t take the organ away from me.  So as long as I have that I will get it done somehow.


HT:  Let’s talk about something fun then. You talked about taking it to the people. Do you have any plans to take these songs on the road?

JG:  Absolutely.  I got some commitments with the girls, the Dixie Chicks, so I got a hold up until the end of the year, but then we are talking about some different ideas and plans.  I have also been talking with all the cats on the record because I feel like there is safety in numbers and I feel it is really good idea for all of us to get together and do a multiple artist thing.  There are all types of idea.  The record has done so well it would just be crazy of me to not take it out to the people.  It’s on the radio in Hawaii!  Who am I to turn down Hawaii?


HT:  As the weather starts to get cold in the Northeast it only makes sense to go where it’s warm.

JG:  Exactly.  It would be irresponsible of me to not go to Hawaii [laughs].  Seriously though, next year I hope to have a tour together.


John Ginty & Cris JacobsHT:  Is there a track or song off the album that really stands out for you?

JG:  They all have their thing to it.  My personal favorite is one that is getting the least amount of attention, “Trinity.”  It’s the gospel song, the last one on the album, the one with Cris [Jacobs] on it.  I said to the band there is no way we can make Hammond B-3 record without putting a gospel song on it, it has to be there.  I had written this little thing and it was three different pieces and I couldn’t decide which one would be the song, so I glued all three together and it turned out to be this really cool thing and I love the way everybody played on it.  There is like a thousand tambourines going.  All the musicians picked up tambourines and we had a little church service in the studio.  It was the last track we cut.  It was the finish line.  That’s my personal favorite.  There is stuff about each song that is special and cool to me as well.  The sessions with Albert were totally live.  The way you hear it, it was just four guys looking at each other playing music.  I really love the way that came out.  Martie’s violin part is amazing.  Warren’s part is amazing.


HT: How long did the whole process to record the album take?

JG:  It took a couple of months to get it down.  We were recording it very quickly.  We would go in for two or three days and get four or five songs.  We were moving at a good pace in the studio, but it was really just a matter of scheduling.  I had to go to Austin to record Martie’s part.  I had to go to Connecticut to get Warren’s part.  We had to book a couple different studios.  There was some running around.  That took the longest.  That was longer than recording it.  You know we probably could have got the whole thing done in about ten days if we had been able to line up all the stars.  But it was definitely worth waiting for Martie and worth waiting for Warren, and worth waiting for Cris.  Once we had the idea for who would play on what track, it was just a matter of it will take as long as it takes.


Band of Johns



HT:  Did the process scare you away from wanting to do this again or did it entice you to want to jump right in and start working on another album?

JG:  I am into it man.  I think as long as people want to hear records like this then I would love to keep making them.  I don’t think I will ever be able to stop being a session guy, playing organ for other people because that is what I do and what I love to do.  I love playing with the Dixie Chicks. I love playing on Charlie Mars’ records.  It keeps it interesting and fun.  But this was an incredible, unique experience that is worth a follow up.  I can at least guarantee there will be one more.  Also my list of guests was longer than my list of songs, so I got some people up my sleeve for the next one as well.  I think it will be really fun.



HT: Finally, looking back was there one moment that was the ultimate highlight of the whole process that will always stay with you?

JG:  I will never forget the first ten notes that Warren Haynes played [on “Mirrors”].  When we got our sound together and he had listened to the track and he made a couple of notes.  We turned the lights down and we went in and it was the first time we were going to play the song and I said, “Ok, you ready?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m ready.”   I said, “Can you just play something with the piano, can you just dance around the intro?”  The first ten notes he played are the first ten notes you hear him play on the record.  They went right on the record from that very first take.  Those are ten notes I will never ever forget.  I am still a music fan at heart. I have loved the Allman Brothers for twenty-five, thirty years and I always go see them at The Beacon Theatre and to see Warren standing in front of me playing those notes, to my song, that is as good as it gets.  There is nothing that can top that.  That is as good as gets for me.


Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival & the Killer B’s







On a gorgeous spring afternoon the 1st annual Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival reinforced Baltimore’s long, proud tradition of bluegrass in the city with its stellar line-up that not only featured some of the biggest names in bluegrass (Tony Trischka and Tim O’Brien), but dug deep into Baltimore’s still going strong folk and bluegrass scene and highlighted the best the city has to offer musically.


The festival was powered by a trio of killer B’s, Baltimore, Brews, and Bluegrass.  Held on the grounds of the Union Craft Brewery located within the Baltimore City limits, Union Craft marked the day with the release of the appropriately named Claw Hammer Ale to help celebrate the occasion.  The location was perfect as the tree-lined Union Craft Brewery grounds provided ample room to roam around, to check out the vendors and the brewery, and provided a good view of the stage from just about anywhere on the grounds which easily allowed one to forget they were downtown.  The day featured twelve acts on one main stage. Set changes were always quick and prompt so there was very little downtime between band.  During the little downtime there was DJ Bohfunk was on hand to keep the music going.





The early part of the day was dominated by the sweet harmonies of the Honey Dewdrops and the loose, fun, free-for-all attitude of Trace Friends Mucho. Trace Friends Mucho is made up of mandolinist Kenny Liner and bassist Dave Markowitz formerly of The Bridge, drummer Jeff Hunter, Tony Bonta on banjo, and one of the festival’s founders Jordan August on guitar and vocals.  The band is a raging good time that toes the thin line between rock, funk and bluegrass with expert ease.  Quite simply they are living musical party every time they hit the stage.  Their high-energy Steve Miller themed bluegrass set was a highlight of the day.


Following Trace Friends Mucho was the aggressive picking of Chester River Runoff and the cover heavy set of local favorites Feinwood.  Feinwood’s set included a spirited bluegrass romp through Ween’s “Roses are Free” and The Band’s “Ophelia.”  Feinwood and Chester River Runoff both perfectly set the table for the latter portion of the day which was led off by folk-rocker Caleb Stine.  Stine’s music falls somewhere between the renegade cowboy-poetry of Townes Van Zandt and the sweet rough and tumble sound of Neil Young’s Harvest.  His set pulled equally from all parts of his large catalog.  The addition of Baltimore great Dave Hadley’s delicate touch on pedal steel in Stine’s set only served to heighten the emotional intensity of his always powerful music.  Hadley is a Baltimore institution who has played on what seems like every album made by an artist from Baltimore.  In just the past couple of years his pedal steel has graced albums by artists as diverse as Cris Jacobs, Caleb Stine, Wye Oak, Arboretum, and The Bridge.



Following Stine was the debut of former Bridge singer/guitarist Cris Jacobs latest project. Since The Bridge called it quits in 2011 Jacobs has been a busy man, assembling and playing with a variety of various bands.  His latest project Cris Jacobs & the Union Men is an all-star line-up of some of the best bluegrass musicians in Baltimore.  Based around the rhythm section of bassist Jake Leckie and drummer Ed Hough (both of whom play with Jacobs in The Cris Jacobs Band), fiddle prodigy Patrick McAvinue (Audie Blaylock) and legendary banjo-picker Mike Munford, The Union Men were a true force of nature.  They ripped through a set that featured some new Jacobs’ tunes “Crooked Eye John,” “Saddle Up & Ride,” a classic Bridge tune “14 Days,” a Hough led vocal turn on the Smooth Kentucky song “I Don’t Mind,” and a few choice covers including Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street,” and the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle with Care.”  Jacobs set ended just as the sun finished setting and gave way to the highlight set of the day Tim O’Brien.





Tim Brien’s solo set was an utterly engaging, masterful display of the former Hot Rize front man’s unmatched songwriting prowess.  Switching between guitar, mandolin, and fiddle with perfected ease, O’Brien laced his set with classic Hot Rize tunes including “Working on a Building,” and  “Nellie Kane,” (after the latter he thanked the sold-out crowd for their exuberant help in singing along with him), a pair of Bob Dylan covers in “Wicked Messenger,” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” and a boat load full of classic O’Brien solo songs.  He took time during his set to explain the subtle difference between bluegrass and country, “country is three chords and the truth, and bluegrass is two chords and a bunch of lies!”  To close out his set he brought Tony Trischka (banjo) and Frank Solivan (mandolin) onstage and the three masters proceeded to lay down an awe-inspiring display of picking.

After a quick change, the day’s headliners Tony Trischka and Territory hit the stage.  Trischka is perhaps the most influential banjo player of the last thirty years and the man who taught a teenaged Bela Fleck how to play. His set was a lesson in what bluegrass picking should be.  Just like O’Brien he was quick to share the stage bringing up O’Brien, Solivan, and Mike Munford to join him.  Trischka and his band seemed to not want to relinquish the stage despite the impending curfew, and when the end of the day eventually forced them to leave the stage, the band that was not quite ready to quit and returned for an unplugged acoustic encore.  Trishcka’s impromptu acoustic encore was the perfect way to close out a day that had featured such hot-picking and announced that the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival was here to stay and wholly welcome addition to festival season.



Win tickets to the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival…


With Festival scene soon upon us and stellar line-up after stellar line-up being announced, some tough decisions about which Festivals we can actually make it to will soon have to be made.  To help make those decisions a little bit easier and your Festival season a little bit better we at Honest Tune are giving away two tickets to one of the first festivals of the year and what we are sure will become an annual favorite, the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival in Baltimore.


Click here to enter to win 2 tickets to Charm City festival!



A little bit about the fest…


The Inaugural Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival is being presented by the Baltimore Management Agencyand Union Craft Brewery, and will be held on the grounds of the Union Craft Brewery in the historic Woodberry neighborhood of Baltimore on April 27. Seriously is there a better combination than fine local craft brew and bluegrass? 

Baltimore has a long, rich history in bluegrass stretching back to the 1950s and 60s when the city was, in the words of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, “the hot-town for bluegrass music.”  The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival will keep that rich tradition alive.  It will be headlined by multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien and banjo legend Tony Trischka, as well as featuring a number of artists who will be familiar to Honest Tune readers.  Baltimore’s own Cris Jacobs, who made a name for himself as the singer and guitarist of The Bridge, will debut his new bluegrass band, Cris Jacobs and The Union Men, which will feature banjo master Mike Munford.  Also appearing will be the renegade cowboy-poetry of Caleb Stine, the sweet harmonies of The Honey Dewdrops, and the fine picking of Feinwood. 

 The outdoor festival will feature local food and craft vendors, and Union Craft Brewing’s award-winning beer. Tickets are on sale now at www.eventbrite.com/event/4876444577



Full Line-up:

Tim O’Brien

Tony Trischka

Cris Jacobs & the Union Men

Caleb Stine


Trace Friends Mucho

Honey Dewdrops

DJ Bohfunk presents: Bohfunk

 And more artists to be announced…









The Contest:

The details, official rules, and eligibility requirements…

 What you are playing for:

1) You are entering to win (2) tickets to The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival.

 How To Enter:

1) Click the link and it will take you to the contest entry page.
Click here to enter to win 2 tickets to Charm City festival!

 2) Fill out the entire entry form. Partially filled out entry forms will be disqualified at the sole discretion of Honest Tune.

How a winner will be chosen:

1)      All of the entered names will be copied from the survey site and pasted into a computer generated random name picker.

2) THE DEADLINE FOR ENTRY IS April 3, 2013, noon EST.


Eligibility Requirements:

1) No previous or current Honest Tune editor/staff may enter.

 2) Contributors may enter.

 3) Only one entry per person will be allowed and IP Addresses are logged on the survey site.

 4) Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.


Fine Print:
 This contest and the contents contained herein are solely the responsibility of Honest Tune. Odds of winning depend on number of entries. The winner will be contacted via his/her email address and must respond to the contact within 72 hours. All entries must be received from within the United States. The winner will receive two tickets to Charm City Folk & Bluegrass. The tickets will be emailed to the winner from Baltimore Management Agency. The winner will be responsible for his/her transportation, parking, lodging, any other expenses associated with the event. The winner may not transfer or sell the tickets. Total prize value: $70.00 All entries must be submitted via the above listed criteria and Honest Tune reserves the right to disqualify entries based solely on its discretion and upon an entry’s lack of conformity to the standards outlined above.

Initial Line-up for 2013 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Line-up Announced

CharmcitybluegrassposterBaltimore Management Agency and Union Craft Brewing are proud to announce the inaugural Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival, a new Baltimore music festival featuring music with a rich history in the Appalachian region. Anchored by multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien and banjo master Tony Trischka, the festival will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Union Craft Brewing in Woodbury, Baltimore.


Charm City can trace its bluegrass roots back to the 1930s, when Southern Appalachian musicians began migrating to Baltimore seeking work. The music they brought with them made Baltimore a bluegrass haven in the 1950s and 1960s. The first bluegrass band to play Carnegie Hall was from Baltimore, folk revivalists New Lost City Ramblers were founded by a Baltimore musician, and the legendary Del McCoury got his big break after meeting bluegrass godfather Bill Monroe in Baltimore.


The festival features musicians who are keeping this deep musical tradition alive. Baltimore’s own Cris Jacobs, who made a name for himself as the singer and guitarist of The Bridge, will debut his new bluegrass band, Cris Jacobs and The Union Men. Additional performers from the Baltimore-area will be announced soon.


The outdoor festival will feature local food and craft vendors, and Union Craft Brewing’s award-winning beer. Tickets are on sale now here for the early bird prices of $25 for general admission and $65 for VIP. Prices will increase on March 1.


Festival founders have launched an Indiegogo campaign (www.indiegogo.com/Charmcitybluegrassfest) to help raise funds for the festival. Donations from $5 to $1,000 come with perks such as discounted tickets, VIP packages, photo prints, event t-shirts, promotional banners and more.


For additional artist announcements and updates, follow the Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival on the web at www.charmcitybluegrass.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CharmCityBluegrass.