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!

As if dedicating your life to an instrument like the banjo wasn’t sufficiently avant-garde, the winner of this year’s Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass is a musician recognized for his experimental approach to that seemingly quaint stringed instrument. Danny Barnes, the Texas-based banjo player and a founder of Bad Livers, the nonconformist roots-music group, has been named the recipient of the Steve Martin Prize, its organizers said; in a news release, they hailed Mr. Barnes as “one of bluegrass music’s most distinctive and innovative performers,” and for the “raw and unpolished musical breadth of his compositions” that have “propelled him across the industry today.”

Mr. Barnes, who studied audio production at the University of Texas at Austin, has recorded and performed with artists like Bill Frisell and the Dave Matthews Band. He is also the innovator of a musical aesthetic he calls “Barnyard Electronics” (sharing the title of one of his solo records), and which he performs in live solo shows using a banjo and his own computer software.

The winner of the Steve Martin Prize is given a cash award of $50,000 and a bronze sculpture created by Eric Fischl. Its previous recipients include Eddie Adcock, Jens Kruger and Mark Johnson.