I was one of many Yankees who got turned on to bluegrass when it added its surging energy and “high-lonesome” sound to the Folk Music Revival of the 1960s.
Since then, I’ve contributed my singing and mandolin playing to numerous bands, other peoples’ and my own.
Of all the ensembles I’ve led, my favorite came together several years ago when I had an administrative day job at Princeton University.
By incredibly good fortune (but I’d like to think there are no “accidental” meetings, especially for the good) I connected with then-Geosciences graduate student Sean Long (vocals/guitar).
After just one great-fun, everything-clicked jam session, Sean and I formed Prospect Crossing (named after a famous street running through campus).
We quickly recruited two amazingly gifted undergrads — Brittany Haas (fiddle, now a busy Nashville-based show and session player) and Theo Beers (bass, now a PhD candidate specializing in Persian literature at University of Chicago).
Later, we were joined by a New Jersey bluegrass and contra dance music comrade of mine, veteran multi-instrumentalist Paul Prestopino.
We’ve all gone on to other things. (Sean’s now an Associate Professor at Washington State University.) Although we never got into a recording studio, we captured Prospect Crossing during some memorable live performances, some of which I hope to release on CD.
Meanwhile, here we are (via YouTube) at a Princeton University variety show, performing the classic “Blue and Lonesome,” co-written by “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe and country music legend Hank Williams.
And I’m happy to report that my Bluegrass & Princeton University connection continues — with a lot of great music.
I’ve been playing shows with Prof. Robert George, as part of his folk music concerts through the James Madison Program which he directs. The latest was the standing-room-only event “Untangling Dylan.” Robby’s colleague Prof. Sean Wilentz of the History Department — who is also a folk music expert, personal friend of Bob Dylan, and official historian for the Dylam website — joined in to give expert commentary on the legendary singer/songwriter.
In addition to the superb picking of Robby (a native of West Virginia, where banjos are seemingly issued to children upon birth!), we were joined by my old friend and world-renowned 5-string great Tony Trischka.
Here’s a link to the “Untangling Dylan” webpage, with bios of the participants plus a two-part video of the show. Our Dylan-done-bluegrass-style segment is right at the beginning of Part Two: