when i was a kid back in the 60’s, my old man would play records on a record player that looked like a piece of furniture. you had to sit and look at it like you were watching tv. i got the idea from him, and my other family members, that there were these real Masters of music that we were hearing. and they deserved appreciation and study and repeated listening. my sense of them at that young age were that they were larger than life figures almost like bible characters come to life. i suppose that was a bit of Modernism there, the tv and magazines were filled with these images of great, larger than life musicians, actors, writers, architects, poets, politicians and so forth. [i’m of the age where i remember when the beatles had new records out, hendrix and so forth.] so i had a concept of these great Masters pretty early on and i’ve held this sort of...reverence since. [my folks had pretty good taste in music, especially country music.] i remember that live at folsom prison johnny cash record was a new release. when black sabbath was new that was pretty amazing. 
when i started collecting music on tape and LP’s and so forth myself [i got my first 45 when i was 5 etta james you got it on chess], my brother and i were always trying to find the best musicians. the perceived economic status of an artist in question had nothing to do with it, in other words, how successful the artist appeared on the outside or whatever. i didn’t think a fellow like slim harpo or skip james or wade ward would be considered particularly wealthy in that sense, nonetheless, they were Masters. and that was enough and in my brain i saw no difference between jimmy reed [who was on jukeboxes] and george benson [jukeboxes, radio and tv], or whatever, they both were Masters. all that mattered was aesthetics. how good was the art? money and popularity really never came up, as a matter of fact, i assumed my classmates at the local farming community high school were not going to be hep to augustus pablo and that was just fine with me. nor flatt and scruggs. nor ornette {even though he was from fort worth just up the road}.
in short many of the current, living Masters, were on tv and you could find their records at the library and at record shops and what not. of course they were touring too thank you mr. lightnin hopkins. and they were on the radio to an extent. earl scruggs was on tv and there were only three channels, so the entire tv watching population had a one in three chance of seeing a true Master of music. {i tried to explain this to several folks that are too young to remember, and i reckon it’s not really possible to grasp it except experientially, and perhaps that’s best.} there was a really good blues radio show out of austin my brother and i listened to religiously. and a great gospel station on the am during the day from marlin, texas nearby, which is where the great Master willie johnson was from. 
my thinking has been, if you really want to hear the best stuff, a good question to ask is, who are the Masters? both past and present. the True Masters of Music. if you want to learn to really play, you best get with a Master. [i study with a Master].
it’s a lifelong process to develop an aesthetic system. one has to keep refining and studying. but in a sense, it’s one of the most important things to work on. an early theory about art was that it was a balm to brutality of life and whatnot. so you’re probably going to need that ha! if a person wants to really learn about music, working on a sort of timeline through the decades, with the Masters of each period, is a very good study. this quest was sort of inculcated in me at a very young age and i’m still working on this. it’s a common sentiment if you study with a Master or if you have friends that are in that league. i’m still learning and finding out about so many musics. this is my main interface here with life this…quest of aesthetics. having a system, refining it and so forth. 
music is good!


this is likely going to sound like i’m telling you yesterday’s weather, but my feeling is that there is likely too much generated useless data in the physical/external realm. this idea came to me as i was walking in an airport and passed one of those news shows they mysteriously beam at you every 8 feet on a flat screen hi-def. there’s a robotic person talking, a crawl of oblique non-sequitur on the bottom going by, and a graphic pie chart PLUS a corporate logo. so that realization brought forth a somewhat intense appreciation of minimalism in art; which brought about my diving in and studying about the topic. {first time i heard the concept was in a music appreciation course in college.}

i used to teach banjo in a small store in austin, working for one of my best friends in his guitar shop, seeing about 20 folks a week. in a general sense, it was harder to help someone fix a tune they had learned incompletely than it was to show them a new tune from the ground up. which to me was a good lesson in the fact that it’s much easier to put an idea into one’s head than it is to take one out. therefore, a person has to be ultimate degrees of selective about what goes in there. this speaks to the value of minimalist art.

it’s vitally important really to search out the best stuff. the physical plane is stuffed with copies of copies whose copies eventually became ads for a concept that was not designed with the end user’s best interest at heart. so i think we really have to search out the best ideas. the best art. {what is that definition? a great question.} i think towards that end, at this juncture on the space/time continuum {in a sense we are all on a type of spacecraft} minimalism makes a big point.

the downside of having a head full of ad/ideas that get placed there, is that the person is thus forced into reacting. in real life as it were, an overwhelmed overly-stressed person reacts. whereas a calm mind can receive. for example, if you get a chance to sit down with a master musician to speak or study, if you do all the talking, it’s unlikely you will benefit of the opportunity. the same is likely true in reading a great novel or poetry or listening to a great piece of music. there has to be a limiting of non-essential head clutter.

one of the great things happening in music right now is the del and dawg duo. just seeing those two guys play by themselves is an amazing gift. here’s part of what you get: they have known each other since 1966 i think. those two guys together pretty much represent a large portion of acoustic american stuff and are direct links to the first recorded masters, who were direct links to the great unknown abyss of unrecorded masters that go all the way back to the beginning of the current cycle of time. in other words, this is about the deepest study a person could make today, if they are at all interested in american acoustic music, learning to play a mandolin banjo guitar sing folk songs, anything in that part of the library. certainly if you are trying to be a professional musician while holding a banjo or something. or even appreciate the form as a listener. the repertoire is really the finest stuff from that period all kinda distilled down into it’s essence. they play into a mic so the audience has to actually listen and pay attention. that way you are getting the full beautiful tone of the instruments and voices. and these two old friends tell the stories of the songs as well. it’s an intense experience because when there’s a band you can look over at player A for a while then look over at player B,C,D check out the light show, look at your phone, talk to your workmate, look around. but with just the two guys playing into a mic, it draws your attention on the music itself and what these two masters are doing. and why. 

i think their work is a beautiful perfect minimalist statement where the idea is laid bare and everything stripped away with nothing extra. my idea is that if a person was interested in any music remotely related to picking music, this would be a really good study. and then to research where the songs all came from. it would likely take a person about 5 years to “get to the bottom” of their 2 cd recording. not necessarily to able to duplicate it, but to be able to grasp it conceptually.

i think those guys are the greatest thing going on in the acoustic/picking music realm. this kind of pure uncluttered expression is a valid response to things.

Stove Up - Danny Barnes

oh man check this out. so, i've been working on banjo music for 45 years this year. practicing taking lessons. not to mention in my professional life of writing a pretty big stack of songs and putting out lots of records and working on projects with others. but...i've never made an all acoustic bluegrass banjo record until now! it comes out march the 3rd. the great nick forster produced the sessions at the solar powered etown studio in boulder. mike bub played bass, jason carter played fiddle and chris henry played mandolin. in other words, bluegrass royalty!  we made a loving homage to my all time favorite banjo player, DON STOVER.



i'm really excited and i ain't never done nothing like this before. usually i make up weird songs and use my barnyard electronic aesthetic. so this is the first record i've ever done that i would consider "over the plate" as it were. most of my pitches are knuckleballs or i throw right at the listener's head a bunch, but this one is a fast ball right down the middle. acoustic band, acoustic music. most of the tunes i've been working on since before i could legally drive a car. thank you for listening! lots of shows this year. wherever you at, i'll be there.

here's a brand new cd for you. the story goes, ten years ago i put out this record called get myself together. it was kinda my last acoustic type effort heretofore [i launched pretty heavily into my electronic period]. jenni and brian over and Eight 30 records there in austin were fans of that record. actually i have received a fair amount of fan mail in general about it. and they had the idea to revisit those songs in an acoustic way. the label that originally released the cd went out of business and the original cd is out of print. i seen one on eBay for like 40 bucks or some such. it was kind of a bit of work to remake it, because i had already built that house once so to speak. and i had to re-conceptualize everything. however, in the cycle of write, record, go play the songs for awhile and you learn more about them, how they want to be played. and sometimes that can take you several years. so, to be frank, i had learned quite a bit about the songs in the ten years since. they hung around and we kinda became old friends. though sometimes i think i pissed them off and they would stay away for a spell. so it was a bit like some sort of sporadic family reunion, a bit awkward in places, and funny in others. i never would have come up with the idea of re-recording something in a million years. the end result was really fun and i think it makes a good listen. i practice and take lessons so i had ten more years of woodshedding under my belt as i re-tackled the program herein. i hope you enjoy these songs. if you like them, maybe you would tell others about them. all of my stuff goes by word of mouth really. you can find the record in my store here, and at all the usual outlets for such behavior. if you come to one of my shows, i'll write on them for you. 

After forty years of playing the banjo, Danny Barnes finally seems to be getting the hang of it. Though he has fused punk, electronica and a relentless drive in an exploratory take on the instrument that is truly unique, he still managed to win the "Steve Martin Award For Excellence In Banjo And Bluegrass." L4LM's own Rex Thomson had a chance to sit down and talk with the innovator himself, and learned Barnes's thoughts on songwriting, the rewards of giving it your all and value of limitations.
Read on to learn more about this exciting bluegrass musician!