Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Bean's 40th

Paul Williams and Bobby Osborne: Setting the bar for high lead singers.

Hsueh-Cheng "Ryo" Liao, Bluegrass 45 fiddler, at Bean Blossom: Bluegrass builds bridges. My buddy Shin Akimoto tells me "Ryo" worked for Rebel Records and played fiddle on a Jimmy Arnold album. Sounds like authentic bluegrass credentials to me!

I have about a million photos from the June 2006 Bean Blossom pilgrimage. Many will appear soon on the Bean Blossom website: but in the meantime, above are a couple I thought might be fun to share. Over on the bluegrass bulletin board, BGRASS-L: folks have been discussing the incredible high lead singing of Paul Williams, so when I stumbled across this photo of Paul with Bobby Osborne, thought by many to be the greatest high lead singer, it seemed like I should include these two on my blog.

If you like bluegrass and don't know the high lead and tenor singing of these two "naturally high" singers Paul Williams and Bobby Osborne....well, you just need to check them out. They truly set the bar for high lead bluegrass singing. Both men are 70-something, a time when most folks are winding down and sitting in a recliner watching reruns of I Love Lucy, but these road warriors are out there showing the young'uns how it is done - and blowing the doors off. Hats off to Paul and Bobby - two of the cleanest, clearest singers you'll ever hear anywhere.

I sure enjoyed watching Hsueh-Cheng "Ryo" Liao, original fiddler for the Bluegrass 45, onstage. Colonel Jim Peva and others have pointed out how music can heal wounds and bridge gaps between cultures. Bluegrass was born at a time when there was a lot of healing to be done between Japan and the USA. In 1971, the Bluegrass 45 first came from Japan to America and caught more than a few bluegrass ears with their energetic, dedicated-to-tradition, take on bluegrass music. Their shows always include some traditional Japanese songs as well as many bluegrass standards. The 45 first appeared at Bean Blossom back in 1971 and made many new fans there. A couple of years later the great Japanese photographer, Nobuharu Komoriya came to America and photographed our bluegrass world through the eyes of his culture, making breathtaking photographs at places like Bean Blossom. Later he published a wonderful book, "Blue Ridge Mountains: Friendly Shadows." Sadly, that book is out of print. Komoriya is a top shelf photographer and his images of bluegrass in 1973 (?) are among the best I've seen anywhere, particularly those of a "younger" Bill Monroe.

Bluegrass 45 member Akira Otsuka has lived in the US for many years and many of you will know him from his playing (mandolin) with Peter Rowan, Grass Menagerie and other groups as well as his involvement with the Kids' Academy at Grey Fox; Akira's lead-singing, guitar-playing brother Josh (also possessed of the famous Otsuka grin) resides in Japan, as do brothers Toshio Watanabe (bass) and Sab Inouye (sp?, banjo). Many of you know Toshio and Sab from their long involvement in IBMA, bluegrass recording, their bluegrass distribution business B.O.M. Limited, and the Japanese bluegrass magazine, Moonshiner, which has great pictures but is difficult to read if you don't understand kanji . 'Course I like reading pictures the best, anyway.

More later.


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