Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bill Keith Banjo Workshop - Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival 2003 - Part 1 of 2

Called "Bluegrass Banjo 101", but it's more like "Advanced Melodic Banjo and Music Theory" ... Here's the first of two amateur videos posted on Google Video showing Bill Keith's master class from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Fest in 2003.
More Online Music Instruction Sites

Harmonica Country
The site offers ten free lessons.

Mars Music
Lessons for $11.95 per year. You need to download their proprietary software.

Access to guitar or piano lessons is $15.95 a year.

Offers more than 900 free lessons plus a free metronome via the Net.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

There's a free video over at the Gibson guitar and musical instrument company's web site featuring Earl Scruggs, his sons Randy and Gary, Sam Bush, Phil Leadbetter on Dobro(R) and Ricky Scaggs jamming on "Jingle Bells" in the Ryman. You can even download an iPod-ready video free. (This link courtesy of Jim Polaski)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Josh Graves, Marty Stuart, Vassar Clements - Great Big Woman

Here's proof of the common roots of bluegrass and the blues.

Merle Travis - Cannonball Rag

I never noticed before seeing this, but Merle Travis used only his thumb and forefinger. I'd always been taught he used three fingers a la Scruggs banjo picking technique. Now I know.

[ From the expansive mind of Jim P., we present ... ]
Trillium The Band

Jim's connection to Trillium comes through its guitarist, Ed Hall, who is a fingerpicking champion and was once Jim's teacher. Visit the band's site here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An MP3 Blog Worth Reading (at least every now and again)
From Edinburgh no less comes Said the Gramophone, a daily record review blog that offers free mp3 downloads of the songs its reviewers write about. There's a great list of links to other music blogs down the home page on the right column. Best of all, it's a labor of love. No major labels or media conglomerates pay for or otherwise underwrite the making of Said the Gramophone. Check it out.

The Folk Alliance will hold its national conference Feb 21-25, 2007 at the Marriott Hotel and Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis. Check the web site for details.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Len Polumbi's Links for Online Music Lessons

Workshop Live

Berklee College of Music

True Fire
Farmer's Market Band Call For Players
Music for Life Foundation will hold it's annual fund raiser on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at First United Church. We'd love to schedule the return engagement of the Farmer's Market Band. You guys were such a hit last year and Len knows you'll add your special touch to the show again this/next year.

Tentatively, the time will be 7:00 p.m. We can schedule your performance time around the groups' availability.

You may recall from last year, Music for Life raises money to provide private music instruction to needy students who otherwise would not be able to learn an instrument. It's a great cause that really fits within the "mission" of the Farmer's Market Band -- music for everyone!
[ Mighty Fine Holiday Gift Ideas ]

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"The Songbook contains 23 archetypal songs performed by a wide range of artists. Some are nationally known like Jon Langford (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Waco Bros), Dan Zanes, John Stirrat (Wilco), Janet Bean (Freakwater, Eleventh Dream Day), Alice Peacock, Robbie Fulks, and Danny Barnes (Bad Livers), and some are instructors from the School---performers themselves with decades of teaching experience. Included is a hefty booklet written by folklorist Paul Tyler that gives a detailed history of each song."

Visit the Bloodshot Records website to download two tracks free. (Scroll down until you see the links at the lower left corner of the product page.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

JERRY DOUGLAS plus Mike & Amy Finders
Old Town School of Folk Music, 12/2, two shows

Get this, Jerry Douglas plays The Old Town School followed by a two night stand at Town Hall in New York City. Ummm. Let's see. We get Jerry Douglas at our very own Old Town School's intimate, acoustically magnificent small concert theater and they get him in a huge hall. Makes the choice pretty simple really.
A History of Bluegrass
Here is one of several (at least four) videos posted on that touch upon the major contributors to the Bluegrass tradition.

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Back Porch News
Jim Polaski sends us a link to this folk and old-time music blog that originates in Ithaca, New York. There's lots of great content, reviews and links, like this for example:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blueground Undergrass @ Martyrs
Sunday, December 10th - 8pm

I really dig these guys. They're projenitors of the current resurgence in "Newgrass" and related string bands (such as Old Crow Medicine Show). However, BU plays a bluegrass-rock hybrid that captures the best of both worlds. Here's what Martyrs' site has to say about the band:

Formed originally in 1998 by Jeff Mosier, Blueground Undergrass has developed a solid reputation and nationwide following by playing its multi-faceted music mix coast-to-coast. The band has always been known for exciting performances and eclectic arrangements. Its sonic wall of twang type sound pleases the whole spectrum of fans from hippies to cloggers to rockers, taking Blueground Undergrass to the brink of almost moshpit energy, yet guiding each show with song-driven clarity along the way.

By successfully parlaying an extensive knowledge of bluegrass music with major elements of jazz and Southern rock, Blueground Undergrass has forged a unique, new listening experience, one rooted in the essentials of great American genres. Their Landslide Records debut, Faces, represents a strong culmination of the bands lengthy musical experience as well as its legendary live shows.

Speaking recently of Blueground's sound Mosier said, "I never want our music to lose the tradition of the porch no matter how much remodeling was done to the house over time. The band will continue in that spirit and tradition by re-creating old Blueground Undergrass originals, rocking out bluegrass standards, and by introducing new songs and sounds to their live shows. "

For sure, Blueground Undergrass will be doing what they have always done best, which is to provide every audience with an energetic and unforgettable live show of great music. And with the superb studio offering that is Faces, the band is poised to take on a whole new set of devoted listeners.

Monday, October 23, 2006

image of Buzz Cafe store front

Welcome Back
We're back at the Buzz (above left) and the Oak Park Arms (above right). Remember, the Buzz gets mighty crowded and the Oak Park Arms session begins a bit later ... around 9:00 a.m. ... and jams ’til about lunchtime.

A very personal suggestion of my own is that you consider alternating somewhat between the two venues on a regular, semi-regular or ir-regular basis as fits your temperament.

The Buzz tilts toward the fiddle tune repertoire whilst the Arms tends towards songs from the old time, string band, bluegrass, roots and country catalogues.

Lisle Station Museum
I just received this note from the organizers of the Ruralfest in Lisle. Unfortunately, the Lisle Park District has informed them that they can no longer host the event. No word on another venue yet. Meantime, they're hosting an event in the old depot here at Lisle Station Museum. Discover the Banjo! will take place on Saturday, November 11th from 3pm-8:30pm. Programs by Bob Carlin, Cheick Hamala Diabate, Mark Dvorak, Dan Gellert, Kinney Rorrer and Keith Collins will be presented throughout the day. Reservations are required, as seating in the depot is limited. To reserve a seat, call 630-968-0499.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Photo by Danny Clinch
OCMS | 11/10/2006 | House of Blues | Chicago, IL
A week after The Avett Brothers (see below) is Ben's fave young upstart string band ... the Old Crow Medicine Show at House Of Blues on Dearborn. Tix are $20. New CD out now. It's even better than their debut. Visit the band's official Web site for details. - It Is Live
The Avett Brothers @ Back Porch Stage @ House of Blues Chicago :: Fri, November 03
To be perfectly clear, The Avett Brothers are (a) brothers but (b) not traditional bluegrass. They are (a) authentically Southern and (b) acoustic musicians but (c) of a decidedly uncorked temperament. If you like Old Crow Medicine Show, you're likely to enjoy this trio as well. Check out the band's official Web site for MP3s and additional info.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Late Breaking News
Don't miss the Bluegrass Festival at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Come to hear the area's best bluegrass bands, enjoy a mouthwatering barbeque, and take part in children's crafts and straw maze while surrounded by outstanding fall color at the garden. The annual Bluegrass Festival promises great music, but that's not all! Pumpkins and gourds will be available for purchase. Green Youth Farm, the Chicago Botanic Garden's high school growers in North Chicago, will be selling their freshly grown produce.

Bands including the Freeway Rangers and the Special Consensus will perform on the Esplanade, and the Fruit and Vegetable Island will be humming with activity on Saturday, September 30, and Sunday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Midnight Special - Folk Music with a Sense of Humor - 50 Year!
The First Midnight Special Folk Festival
Sunday, September 17, 2006 at the Harris Theater in Millenium Park

Featured artists include guest emcee Christine Lavin, along with Ronny Cox, the Four Bitchin&aps Babes, Greg Greenway, Kim & Reggie Harris, Bonnie Koloc, Magpie (Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino), Anais Mitchell and Garnet Rogers, as well as special guest appearances by Megon McDonough, the Sons Of the Never Wrong and others. Click here for details.
Celtic Fest Chicago 2006
Celtic Fest Chicago - 9/16 & 9/17
One of my favorite fiddlists is a headliner at Celtic Fest next weekend ... Natalie MacMaster. (Her set's on Sunday, 5pm, at the Petrillo Bandshell.) She's only one of many excellent acts playing for FREE in Grant Park next weekend. Parking beneath the new Millenium Park area is very convenient. And the underground facilities include rest rooms that are spacious and clean. See details by clicking the image below.

Celtic Fest Chicago 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006
This online store offers 22 full length Louvin Brothers CDs. It's the most complete collection I've seen ... anywhere! Plus they've got the King/Star-Day records re-issues. All great stuff. And the prices are excellent as well. Don't miss out.

Shipping charges are just $2.50 for any order within the United States and are shipped within 24 hours of payment verification.

“Girl From The North Country” – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was a guest on Johnny Cash's first variety TV show in July 1969, and this duet was taped at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.

More Bob Dylan on Google Video
To promote the newly released "Modern Times" CD, Bob Dylan's record label has released about a dozen videos spanning his entire 45-year career. Some are brilliant. Others merely curiousities. A few are downright embarrassing. But ... ain't that just like Bob Dylan?!? See them all here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Must See Local Show
This coming Friday, July 28th at Fitzgerald's offers a talented lineup of local musicians, notably the headliner Robert McShane ... whose co-lead singer is none other than Elizabeth Lopardo ... who needs no introduction. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and ... get this ... admission is only $5.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

~ Bob Ware Memorial - Update ~
I've been in contact with Bob Ware's daughter. She's
hoping that anyone from the Market Group who will be
attending the service can stick around for the social
hour following and provide a little music. Please let
me know asap if you plan to attend and can participate
in the music circle so I can let her know how many of
us to plan for. Thanks - Len

~ In Memorium ~
Some of you may remember Bob Ware, the elderly gentleman who used to wear a cowboy hat and play harmonica with the market group. He used to come to the market until failing health kept him indoors at the Oak Park Arms. For those of you who gathered there on Sturday morning's during the winter, Bob would often come down in his wheel chair, still playing his harmonica. Bob passed away last April.

There will be a memorial service for him at the Oak Park Arms, Washington Blvd and Oak Park Avenue, on Saturday, July 29, at 2:00 p.m. Bob's family requests no flowers but memorial donations may be designated for the music program at First United Church or a charity of your choice.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

[An Appeal From Susan Buchanan]

Hello Farmer’s Market Friends,
My husband’s co-worker is collecting musical instruments for a worthy cause. Please read below and consider donating any old instruments you have lying around the basement!

St. Gregory Episcopal School is in need of musical instruments for their summer music program that is going on now through August. They are looking for any and all musical instruments - flutes, clarinets, electric guitars, bass guitars, horns, violins, etc. Your donation will greatly enhance this summer program which offers the young men of SGES new opportunity to be exposed and learn to play a diverse range of instruments.

Alexis Leslie is the coordinator at the school for donations. You can contact her at 2130 South Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60623-3113; 773-277-4447 (with voice mail), 773-277-4445 (fax) or contact Rev. Don Frye at 630-290-6704 to arrange pick up and delivery of your donations.

History of SGES
St. Gregory Episcopal School was established in 1962 by the Rev. R. L. Whitehouse and Gordon L. Baker. Its founders envisioned a liturgical and educational institution patterned after the all-male English Cathedral choir schools, but situated within the urban context of Chicago. Founded as an outreach ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, the school shared space within the church and its parish hall until August 2002. Enrollment was necessarily small (under 30) given the limited amount of space.

In August of 2002 St. Gregory’s moved to a shuttered school building in Chicago’s North Lawndale community. With the additional space at our new location, we realized a long term desire to add a kindergarten class. There was also room for a computer lab, a library, a lunchroom and a small parking lot that doubles as a playground. In many ways, we became a brand new school, and we are still evolving.
Emmylou Harris & Johnny Cash with Marty Stuart

From a 1970s Johnny Cash Show featuring a very young Marty Stuart on mandolin. Tip o' the hat to Lane Kelly for the link.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Banks Of The Ohio

Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Scaggs with Alison Krauss.

Friday, June 23, 2006

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Adam Grosso's Band - Euforquestra
Recently featured on MTV's "Making the Band," Adam Grosso's world-fusion band Euforquestra is based in Iowa. Jim and Mary's son plays bass, steel drums, vibraphone and vocals. Visit the band's site for info on CDs and more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Bush, O'Connor, Douglas: Freeborn Man

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Folk Alley: Live From Folk Alley
Wow ... free MP3 downloads of complete shows by Tim O'Brien, Old School Freight Train, Solas and more. Now that's "mighty fine" indeed!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A second helping of local songwriters with OPFMB regular Jack Swain and several good friends from the Fitzgerald's scene and beyond. It's all original. It's unplugged. It's at Molly Malone's. So ... let's get out and support 'em.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

18 Nights of Bruce Springsteen - Watch U.S. Tour Performances
AOL Music is presenting live performance videos from the current Bruce Springsteen "Seeger Sessions" U.S. tour - for free. While the music is certainly not bluegrass (nor is it billed as such), the old time and folk repertoire is expertly performed by an ensemble that can only be described as big, outsized and virtuoustic. The studio recording failed to capture the dynamics of the band's range; whereas in-concert there's really nothing like it. I saw 'em at Jazz Fest in New Orleans last month. And it was spectacular.

Monday, May 29, 2006
Jake Shimabukuro will be making an appearance on WGN's "Steve and Johnnie" show Tuesday Night (May 30th) at 11pm on WGN-AM 720 and on the web at

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Save the Date!

The Oak Park Farmers' Market
Opens on Sat, June 3rd!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Upcoming Shows (Many of which may be called ... "Mighty Fine!")
  • Sam Bush Band (newgrass/bluegrass) - Sat, July 7th at The Cubby Bear
  • Brian Hilligoss (roots/roadhouse country) - Wed, May 31st at Fitzgerald's
  • Shawn Phillips (singer-songwriter/legend) - June 23rd at Fitzgerald's
More to come...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

~~ Rest In Peace ~~

Tom Dundee
Tom Dundee

[ Chicago Tribune Obit ]
[ Photos from Utah Phillips ]
[ Additional Tribute Information ]

There will be a special memorial concert in tribute to Tom Dundee on Sunday, May 14th at 5:00 p.m. at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4844 North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Folk Alley: OpenMic

And yet another kind of Open Mic ... this one is completely virtual. At you can upload your own recordings and lots of acoustic music fans will listen. Registered listeners vote for their faves to determine a monthly winner. (Jack's a regular Folk Alley member. You can see and hear him on the Open Mic right about here ...)
[ Bruce Springsteen - Seeger Sessions ]
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See 'em live on June 13th at the First MidWest Bank Ampitheater (formerly the Tweeter Center)
Other Acoustic and/or Bluegrass Open Mic Nights

Two Way Street Coffee House
1047 Curtiss, Downers Grove
Fourth Saturday of Every Month at 2:00 p.m.
A lot of OPFM musicians are quite familiar with this venue and its owners. There are many, many great musical experiences presented practically every night. Check their Web site for special events, festivals and additional jam nights.

Uncommon Ground Cafe
3800 N. Clark St., Chicago
Mondays at 7:00 p.m.
Hosted by Gabriel Otto & Paul Stauffer
This one is a very intimate room that features "folk" and "singer-songwriter" genres versus "bluegrass." But I played it once (as accompaniest to my friend Ben Arnold) and the acoustics are quite nice. Smoke free too! Oh, and they can record your performance through the PA. It's like recording live in the studio. Nice!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

[ Mighty Fine Monday Night Open Mic ]
Bluegrass Jam at Kitty Moon
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Kitty Moon Chicago
Monday Nights at 9:00 p.m.
Hosted by Kevin Becker of Feathergun and Sleepercar
More info about Kevin and his gig(s) here
This venue is in the Edgewater section of Chicago. It's a ways to go for some pickin'. But the neighborhood's awfully nice. When and/or if anybody checks it out, please write comments here. Thanks a bunch.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bass Pro Mandolins - for the fishin' musician!

Could this possibly be on the level?
It's your call!
Thanks to Jim Polaski for the link.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Live Upload Series IX :: Grateful Dead 5.8.77

Little Radio Blogzine

Blogging about other blogs ... hmmm. Well, I just found this one. It's about and for independent music with a decidedly young, indie twist. Not so much about bluegrass. But it reveals much about the currently thriving acoustic scene among the under-30 generation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Please support Jack and friends as they showcase original songs at this cozy watering hole.

Here's another string band/old time/bluegrass ensemble (featuring Bill Nershi of The String Cheese Incident) who're givin' away MP3s. Plus they've got shows on ... mighty fine!

Monday, April 10, 2006

[ Mighty Fine Upcoming Show ]
Darol Anger's Republic of Strings
with Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek

Republic of Strings live 2005

Fri, May 5th ($17, 21+) at Martyrs'

Thursday, March 30, 2006

~ R.I.P. ~
Buck Owens
"The Streets of Bakersfield"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Invitation to Join the NIBA
Ms. Reja Mateski Jager, President of the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Association approached the group at the Buzz a few weeks ago wanting to know if we'd all consider joining the organization. Jim told Reja to send him the information and I'd relay it to the group. Membership is $15 a year. The newsletter lists jams, concerts and festivals along with information on Bluegrass happenings, individuals and bands in the area. Jim has a pdf of the form to join the association (that Miguel's having a hard time posting here at the moment).

The NIBA is located at P.O. Box 535, Winfield, illinois 60190.
Website :

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Packway Handle Band... Bluegrass From Athens, GA
I'm really likin' this string band from the Peach State. And they're givin' away free MP3s, which is always nice!

Packway Handle Band

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Midwest Bluegrass Festivals

Coming up this weekend ... Fri, Mar 24th through Sun, Mar 26th ... the Northern Illinois Bluegrass Festival in Naperville. The wonderful family band Cherryholmes is featured. Click the headline link for details. Or click to view the flyer as a PDF.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Half Day Bluegrass Band
Here's a Chicago bluegrass band that I may very well be the last person affiliated with the OP Farmer's Market musicians to hear about. But ... they've posted a list of links to even more Chicago area bluegrass bands, venues and festivals. So ... since they've done the leg work ... I'll just post this link! (Now I get more time for pickin')


773 525 2422
7:30 PM

Sunday, March 05, 2006


The legendary RAY PRICE with Robbie Fulks
Sun, March 19th at 4pm & 7:30pm
at the Old Town School
773-728-6000 or
Vintage postcard of The Oak Park Arms
Open Session at The Oak Park Arms ...
Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. 'til ...

Bob Lopardo wishes to remind y'all that the Oak Park Arms is an open session. The residents really enjoy the music, and the management encourages people to come in and mingle a bit. You'll notice the OPA has even posted the session on its outside marquee sign if you drive by.

Some musician folks go to the Buzz first then meander over to the Arms for a while (as the OPA session starts later and doesn't end as early). We would love it for any pickers and grinners who want to stop in and set a spell. Bonus! Free mini muffins and tepid coffee abound!

The Oak Park Arms is on the corner of Oak Park Ave and Washington, which is just one block north of Madison.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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Hank III Makes One Hell of a Great New Disc
The tempos are fast. The twang is deep. (The Dobro player deserves a trophy!) And the lyrics are PROFANE!!! (You've been warned.) But the spawn of Hank, Jr. and grandspawn of the immortal Hank, Sr., takes the next big leap in his loud, fast rule of the frontiers of alternative country (with his middle finger firmly and stoutly erected in the general direction of the Nashville establishment). With his backup band "Ass Jack" in tow, Hank III runs rip-snortin' through 13 tunes that've been honed and sharpened by constant touring. This album is tight. Buy it on iTunes and get two bonus tracks not on the compact disc. But don't play it at work!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Upcoming Shows at the Old Town School

Junior Brown with The Hoyle Brothers
Texas guitar slinger JB plays the world's only Telecaster-Lapsteel combo instrument. And he plays it like a true master. Brown's deep baritone vocals and a strong penchant for upholding the legacy of Ernest Tubb make for one heck of a show. Warm up act the Hoyle Brothers are Chicago faves in the honky tonk tradition.
Sat, May 13 at 7:00 PM & 10:00 PM

Jim Lauderdale and Gail Davies
Vicki told me a funny story about how she met this guy with a Nudie suit and funky side burns at MerleFest. She wasn't sure who the heck he was until she saw him on stage later and realized he must be somebody! I told her about how Jim Lauderdale sang back ups and wrote songs for everybody from Emmy Lou Harris to Lucinda Williams. And he's recorded a pair of incredible traditional bluegrass CDs with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. This show promises to be more in the singer-songwriter vein of Lauderdale's ouerve.
Sun, May 21 at 7:00 PM

Abigail Washburn with The Crooked Jades
Here's another of my personal favorites. Abigail Washburn plays banjo in the all-girl bluegrass/old time band Uncle Earl. She's toured China with Bela Fleck. Actually, she's fluent in Mandarin and even sings a couple of songs in Chinese. Her songs are simple yet elegant. And the rough hewn delivery of her instrumental chops lends an air of authenticity to the story songs she shares with eloquence and honesty with her audience.
Sun, Jun 4 at 7:00 PM

Tickets for all shows go on sale to Old Town School members on 3/6/2006, and to the general public on 3/10/2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006