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Tony Rice: Bluegrass and Beyond

[contextly_sidebar id=”CnyED5u6IKg8uTiB1EPFazWeOZPUoFg8″]I first heard of Tony Rice when I did a post on the great John Hartford. Rice was part of a group of wonderful musicians playing one of Hartford’s signature songs, “Steam Powered Aeroplane.” It’s tremendous. Please check it out. The link is at the top of the list in the box to the right.

Rice was born in Danville, VA in 1951. Wikipedia points out at the beginning of its profile that he is more than a bluegrass player. Indeed, it calls him an influential player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, “newgrass” and acoustic jazz.

It’s likely difficult to pick up the nuances between all of those categories except for the last one. Suffice it to say that Rice clearly is an important player. He was, according to the bio, induced into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

He has played with the big guns as well:

Over the course of his career, he has played alongside J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman (during the formation of “Dawg Music”) and Jerry Garcia, led his own Tony Rice Unit, collaborated with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron and Larry and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band. He has recorded with drums, piano, soprano sax, as well as with traditional bluegrass instrumentation.[5][6]

Though born in Virginia, Rice grew up in Los Angeles. His love of bluegrass was a family affair: He was introduced to the style by his dad and played with his three brothers. During this time, he crossed paths with other enthusiasts including Ry Cooder, according to the piece. In 1970, he moved to Louisville and hooked on with JD. Crowe’s New South. He began playing with David Grisman and eventually became a solo act.

Craig Harris’ profile at AllMusic pretty much stays to the chronology of Rice’s career. What is apparent is just how wide-ranging he is: He and bands that he played with performed works by the expected folks. However, names such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Gordon Lightfoot also appear. It seems that bluegrass players are particularly open to moving beyond the traditional. Vassar Clemens and David Grisman come to mind.

Above is “Blue Railroad Train” and below is “Nine Pound Hammer.”

Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Jordan Klein


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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.