Well, we knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. Though we all have fallen in love with bluegrass phenom Billy Strings as he’s taken the roots music world by storm to the point where his popularity has spilled out into the greater music landscape, you just had the sense that sooner or later he would jump the bluegrass tracks, fly away to greener pastures and wider expanses with the way he loves to experiment with different guitar sounds and jam band improvisation, and land somewhere completely detached from his bluegrass roots.
…and here he is announcing that his next proper studio album will be a straightforward bluegrass record of traditional classics, cut with the greatest bluegrass pickers in the world, and featuring none other than his father Terry Barber who instilled Strings with the love of bluegrass at an early age. I just don’t even know if this crooked ol’ world even deserves Billy Strings at this point.
“As long as I can remember I wanted to make a record with my dad,” says Billy. “I’ve been burning up and down the highways the last 12 years, and as time slips away, you start thinking, ‘I need to make time.’ It’s been a bucket list thing for me, something I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t find the time to do. And that scared me; not doing this record scared me.”
And so Strings got together an incredible wrecking crew of bluegrass musicians that includes mandolinist Ron McCoury, banjo player Rob McCoury (basically, the Travelin’ McCourys), fiddler Michael Cleveland, bassist Mike Bub, along with Jerry Douglas and Jason Carter, and put them all in the Nashville Sound Emporium. What they came up with will be released under the title Me / and / Dad on November 18th via Rounder Records.
Now I know what some will say: “Gee, sounds great. But I wish we could get another original record from Billy Strings.” Well don’t worry. There will be plenty of time for that. Let him recharge his creative batteries for a while, will ya? What this will be is that straightforward traditional bluegrass album of standards many other people have been wanting Billy Strings to make.
Even more cool, Billy Strings was able to hunt down the old Martin guitar his dad used to play when Billy was just a kid, and present it to his father for the sessions. His dad had to pawn it off to help support the family. They were poor growing up, and the OSB walls adorning the album cover verifies this. Strings was able to relocate the instrument for this project. “I’ve never been so dumbstruck in my life,” Terry says. “It was like bringing my mother out of the grave.”
Again, what planet is this Billy Strings dude from? “We’ve done these songs forever,” Strings says. “We get to the part where someone has to sing and we’ll look at each other: ‘You or me?’ We’ve been doing it since I was 3 years old.”
In the last few weeks, Billy Strings has been named the Americana Music Association’s Artist of the Year, and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year. Ahead of the album, they’ve already released a couple of new tracks: “Long Journey Home” and “Life To Go” (listen below). Me / and/ Dad is now available for pre-order.
- Long Journey Home
- Life To Go
- Way Downtown
- Little Blossom
- Stone Walls and Steel Bars
- Little White Church
- Dig A Little Deeper (In The Well)
- Wandering Boy
- John Deere Tractor
- Frosty Morn
- I Haven’t Seen Mary In Years
- Little Cabin Home On The Hill
- Heard My Mother Weeping