Essential Listening Chapter Three
Compiled by Richard Burkett.
In lieu of not having SDBS jams, the Tune Up started a list of "essential listening" bluegrass tunes curated by SDBS board member and outstanding musician Richard Burkett.
Here is Chapter three of our "Essential Listening": featuring an interview with local boy Tyler Grant who has gone on to hit the bluegrass bigtime
Tyler Grant grew up in East County and went on to be the National Flatpicking Champion on guitar, and full-time musician with his band Grant Farm in Colorado. During the pandemic he’s been offering free instructional bluegrass jam sessions online to musicians worldwide. Tyler kindly took time out to answer a few questions about his listening preferences.
What was one of your first influences in bluegrass music?
To be honest, the SDBS (back then it may have been called SDBC), was my first exposure to bluegrass music in the real world. I was aware of it from Wayne Rice's radio show that I listened to as a boy with my Dad on Sundays. Then, as a nineteen-year-old college student working at Muzik-Muzik in El Cajon, I met Dale Desmuke, who walked in to try out some guitars. Atypical of most customers, he sat with a guitar and sang a song, finishing off with a G-run. I asked him about the bluegrass style and he invited me to the Tuesday Fuddruckers jam. That is how I got started playing bluegrass. A couple years later I was studying music more seriously at CalArts, where a fellow guitar student told me that if I wanted to get serious about bluegrass flatpicking, I should buy the Tony Rice album, "Manzanita". I was hooked from the opening kickoff.
Who is a recent influence?
As much as I hate to admit (partly out of envy), I believe Billy Strings is among the best young bluegrass musicians. He has done very well interpreting the classic songs & also breaking new ground in the style. He is a rock solid picker, singer, performer, and a fine young man. Also Sierra Hull has made some interesting new contributions to the style, and can play mandolin and guitar very well. And, of course, Molly Tuttle is fantastic. I appreciate all the upcoming superstars in the scene, but I still kinda just do my thing. I am typically moved by re-listening to a Doc Watson or Don Reno piece just as much as anything being released today, as far as what influences my style of flatpicking.
Can you recommend an essential recording that you feel bluegrass musicians and fans should hear?
You have to get back to the roots to extend the branches. Flatt & Scruggs "The Complete Mercury Recordings", Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys "Live Recordings, 1956-1969: Off The Record, Vol 1", and The Stanley Brothers "The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers" would be three essential albums.
For a beginning bluegrass musician, whose music would be a good start for listening and learning?
For those just getting their toes wet, I believe they should get into anything they like. It could be Sierra Hull, Sarah Jarosz, Nickel Creek, or acoustic music with non-traditional influence, even Avett Brothers, Maggie Rogers, Old Crow, Mumford & Sons, etc. Eventually, once the player finds him/her/theirself in a bluegrass jam, the player will find that desire to dig deep into traditional style. Planting the seed is important, and that does not always work with a first exposure to old Stanley Brothers sides. Once the seed is planted, the palette opens up.
As a musician, whose music are you listening to most?
I am so busy working on my own music that I do not listen as much as I should. I often go for comfort in my listening, so I'll spin the same old Jim Croce, Osborne Brothers or Norman Blake records often. I really dig the new Sarah Jarosz album that she won a GRAMMY for, and Sturgill Simpson has done well for the style.
Who do you recommend for listening for the best (pick one: instrumental, vocal, band sound)?
Tony Rice "Manzanita" is still my biggest influential album, for both instrumentals and vocals. It is deeply rooted in bluegrass tradition, but branches off in appropriate and beautiful ways. I believe this album taught many of us how to approach the style with our own signature.
What’s an obscure band or recording that you feel is an essential listen?
All hardcore bluegrass musicians should check out Buzz Busby. Also Earl Taylor and his Stoney Mountain Boys. And while you are at it check out a couple of my albums, including "Earth And Wood" and "Kanawha County Flatpicking".
For lessons, check out: HERE
. Tyler Grant can also be searched on Facebook. "