Dovetailing perfectly with JAMinc’s mission to bring world class music to our schools, Crocodile River Music has taken their brand of African roots music to more than 260,000 students. They added to that number while here in Richmond by playing to a handful of local schools. In total they brought music to almost 500 local students.
The band first visited St. Andrew’s School on the afternoon before their evening show at In Your Ear Studios. The 150 or so assembled students clapped along and participated in a rhythm exercise following drum sounds led by the band. Several students said it was the best band JAMinc has brought to their school.
The day after their IYE show, the band performed for two more schools. In the morning they visited Sabot at Stony Point where there were about 200 students plus 20 staff members – essentially the entire school. The open performance space there encourages the students to be up close and personal with the musicians and this set was no exception.
That afternoon the band played for another 100 or so students at Orchard House School in the Fan. Orchard House School is a middle school for girls in grades five through eight. The high achieving young women warmly embraced the music and message of the band to stay engaged and keep music and art in their lives.
Eric and Peter have recorded and toured together for a decade now, and their last two duo albums were recorded in Thomm’s studio, with Thomm in the role as recording engineer, producer, guitarist, and harmony singer. Whenever they could, they took Thomm on the road, a sideman extraordinaire whose sublime flat picking guitar style elevates anything Thomm weaves it into. But Eric and Peter knew that Thomm was also a world class songwriter, and they kept twisting his arm to take front-and-center during their shows and sing a few of his own compositions. It was only a matter of time before the duo-into-trio transformation became official with the release of Profiles in Courage, Frailty, and Discomfort, fourteen songs by all three members, tackling such weighty topics as moonwalks, steamboat captaining, dollar-slots, Johnny Cash’s gravesite, Jerry Lee Lewis’s birthplace, Willie Nelson’s notions of eternity, the downside of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and a Tennessee town flooded for the sake of electricity.
Eric, Peter, and Thomm each has something distinct and slightly skewed to say about the world, and when they bring their singular perspectives to the trio table, it’s a perfect example of a whole being much greater than the sum of its parts. And what parts they are!
Eric began his musical career in Washington D.C. where he was a journalist with The Washington Post. There, he launched his acclaimed roots-rock band Last Train Home in the late ‘90s, touring with the group extensively across the U.S. and Europe, releasing eight albums and one concert DVD. The band moved to Nashville in 2004, where Eric met Peter Cooper, an award-winning journalist who covered music for The Tennessean newspaper.
Eric and Peter were nominated for a Grammy for producing I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, their 2011 release on Red Beet Records that featured them, along with Patty Griffin, Bobby Bare, Jim Lauderdale, Duane Eddy, and Tom T. Hall himself, all reprising tunes from Hall’s classic kids record of 1974, Songs of Fox Hollow.
In the past ten years, Peter Cooper has been absurdly prolific, releasing four solo albums on Eric’s Red Beet Records label, four duo albums with Eric, one trio album with Thomm and Eric, all while producing two albums by Fayssoux Starling McLean, one by Jason Ringenberg, and that Grammy-nominated children’s album, I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow. He was the longtime music writer for Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, and is currently a writer and producer for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Thomm Jutz has a brand new album out in early 2020, To Live in Two Worlds, Vol. 1, on the respected bluegrass label Mountain Home (and yes, there’s already a volume 2, coming out in September, 2020). Lots of people have made acclaimed bluegrass albums, but none of them was born in the Black Forest of Germany, none except Thomm.
He made his way to Nashville in 2003, and became an indispensable sideman to acclaimed artists Nanci Griffith, Mary Gauthier, and Maura O’Connell. After building a recording studio he has become one of the most sought after producers of acoustic music in Music City, with production credits on albums by Nanci Griffith, Jason Ringenberg, Sid Griffin, Mac Wiseman, and many more.
Thomm is also one of the most successful songwriters in the bluegrass world, having charted five #1 bluegrass chart hits over the past year (as recorded by Shawn Camp, Irene Kelly, and Chris Jones & the Night Drivers), and has had ten more compositions in the bluegrass radio top twenty.
Together, Eric, Peter, and Thomm weave stories, songs, harmonies, and guitar playing into something very special. The lyrics are as thoughtful as those of their heroes, a list that includes John Prine, John Hartford, Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, the Carter Family, and Townes Van Zandt. Add harmonies that bring to mind the Seldom Scene, Emmylou Harris, and the Everly Brothers, and sumptuous guitar arrangements, and you have a truly memorable evening of music.
They’ve once again combined their forces to create a singular new record, Riverland, fourteen interconnected tales of Mississippi, both the river and the state. Songs about its people, its water, its history, its past, its magic, its madness.
Riverland finds the boys once again working with frequent collaborators Mark Fain (bass) and Lynn Williams (drums), and features significant contributions from the Steeldrivers’ Tammy Rogers (fiddle), banjo players Justin Moses and Terry Baucom, and legendary mandolin player Mike Compton.
Matt Menefee and Bryan Simpson got an early 9 am start at St. Andrews School in Oregon Hill where they played a 30 minute set to the appreciative students, teachers and school administrators. They then hustled across town to enchant about 300 more students at Mary Munford Elementary. During both shows the band made real connections with the students while sneaking in a bit of music theory such as how dynamics within a song make all the difference.
Bryan summed up their experience in a Facebook posting.
“Last night we got to play a sold out show in front of a brilliant audience at JAMinc in Richmond Va – big love to everybody that came and got deep into it with us. As part of the show, they ask that you perform for one or two of their local schools to encourage kids to care about the arts, etc. Anyway, we performed at two different elementary schools – St. Andrew’s School and Mary Munford Elementary School – and it was toooooo much fun. The kids sang, stomped, clapped and did some incredible call and response shouting. Well let’s call it what it was – screaming – and we were blown away by their spirits. We were severely upstaged by a stuffed snowman (found backstage at Mary Munford) we brought out onstage with us in order to beef up the sound and the stage presence. It was an impressive time! Oh, and Matt’s gold shoes continually requested (demanded) their own green room and probably deserved it. Thanks to Tim Timberlake and all the staff at JAMinc and the school leadership that let us go for it.”
Echoing Bryan’s assessment, JAMinc’s president Tim Timberlake observed, “The Golden Age dawned on the beautiful kids at St. Andrews and Mary Munford this morning. Nashville’s Matt Menefee and Bryan Simpson helping fulfill JAMinc’s mission to bring the experience of world-class music into our schools. Music fills hearts.”
After the Mary Munford performance Matt and Bryan got back in their Prius and started their long drive back to Nashville, no doubt energized by the students at both schools with their own hearts appropriately filled.
Photos by Tim Timberlake
The first thing Crocodile River Music wanted to do when they arrived in RVA was go to bed. Understandable since they had driven overnight from New England and arrived here around 7:30 AM. Our partners at The Graduate Hotel graciously welcomed them and a good rest was had by all. A good thing considering how the rest of their Wednesday was shaping up.
Mid-afternoon the band put on an inspiring set at St. Andrew’s School before heading to Studio A at In Your Ear. Greeting the band was the best message a band can see, taped to the front door, “Sold Out”, which the band loved so much they took a photo of it.
After a vegan and vegetarian heavy potluck buffet, truly as diverse as the music that was to follow, the 80 or so in attendance were musically transported to what many consider the root country of all modern music – Africa. Lead by Balafon master Balla Kouyate and Djembe master drummer Issa Coulibaly, they wove the sounds of steel drum and electric guitar with their own instruments to create a sound that was at once unique yet familiar. Guitarist Luke Okerlund often invoked a sound familiar to many in the audience – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
The group’s percussionist and spokesman Zach Combs helped interpret the sounds and mission of the band. Dovetailing perfectly with JAMinc’s mission to bring world class music to our schools, Issa and Noah talked about the more than 260,000 students they have played before and their belief in the continued importance to keep both music and the arts in schools.
The evening ended with a first-ever (for JAMinc shows) dance party with many simply not being able to contain their need to get up and dance to the band’s rhythmic beats. To say it was a boundary expanding experience is truly an understatement.
In support of Black History Month, JAMinc is proud to present an evening with Crocodile River Music on Wednesday, February 26 at In Your Ear Studios. Zach Combs, its Director, fell in love with the rich and diverse culture of West Africa while in Mali on a Watson Fellowship. Deeply inspired by his journey, Zach founded Crocodile River Music in 2011 to provide opportunities for both emerging and established artists from Africa and evoke new ways of cultural thinking.
As word about the mission of Crocodile River Music spread, requests poured in to expand into schools and community groups. In response to this demand, Crocodile River Music launched African Arts in Education, a fiscally sponsored project created to bring African music, art, and dance education directly to schools. Featuring Mali’s balafon legend Balla Kouate, a former Richmond Folk Festival performer and currently touring with Yo-Yo Ma, Crocodile River Music promises to fill Studio A with an irresistible taste of this rich tradition.
Meet the team at crocodilerivermusic.com »
After a long, straight-through 12 hour drive from Nashville, The Golden Age was greeted by a sold out and enthusiastic audience at In Your Ear’s Studio A. The night was one of the few times the relatively new band had played before a live studio audience as they have been concentrating on producing their first album and shooting a handful of videos. The band slowly warmed up to the live studio gig and by the second set had truly hit their collective stride.
JAMinc president Tim Timberlake probably said it best: “It’s thrilling to have high expectations exceeded and that happened emphatically tonight as The Golden Age took us on a wild and riveting ride through the wonderland of Bryan Simpson’s imagination. His story-song ‘Born Lonesome’ hooked me on his band Cadillac Sky more than a decade ago, and tonight proved that he’s still one of the most compelling lyricists in any genre. Matt Menefee’s breathtaking banjo aerobatics and Geoff Saunders’ imaginative bass lines sealed the deal, with significant support from our front of house sound wizard Matthew Walsh. The decade is off to a good start at In Your Ear.”
Those sentiments were echoed by several comments from the audience who noted the band’s pure and exceptional musicianship. During the first set, Bryan talked about “being trotted out at family gatherings, when only 12, to play and entertain in the living room.” To that point, one attendee remarked, at the end of the show, that it really was like sitting in a living room watching “talented relatives” play music, have fun and just be totally entertaining.
If there was any downside to the evening it was that the band barely got to partake of the pre-show potluck buffet although Bryan did comment, “Whoever brought the garlic bread…Thank you! I only got one slice but it was really tasty.” Not to worry as the band, IYE’s owner Carlos Chaffin, Matthew and local blues player Elizabeth Wise took the band out for a late dinner in Churchill. The perfect end to an epic start for the new decade.
Photos by Charlie Reilly
Check out The Golden Age’s school visit to St. Andrews and Mary Munford »
Former key players in the super group Cadillac Sky, who played our IYE series in 2009, are back in the game!
The Golden Age is Matt Menefee and Bryan Simpson’s prodigious return to the music that first inspired them: bluegrass. According to it’s spirited collaborators, The Golden Age’s M.O. is to “die trying to possess the passion and inspiration towards preservation and rebellion reflected in the truly original voices that have gone before us like Monroe, Stanley, Flatt and Scruggs, Rowan, Hartford, Osborne, Grisman, Skaggs, Bush, Rice, etc “
After having spent nearly ten years making music together with Cadillac Sky which brought them opportunities to record with rockstar/bluegrass enthusiast Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and tour with folk rock superstars Mumford and Sons on their initial sold out North American Tour; not to mention make 3 critically acclaimed records and a legion of die hard fans, the two tried and true friends decided the time had come to reunite.
The duo had been re-inspired to return to their roots by the rediscovery of records like “Aereo-Plain” and “Morning Bugle” by John Hartford, “Emotionalism” by The Avett Bothers and Bela Fleck’s ‘Tales from the Acoustic Planet vol.2’ ; which all possess a certain off-center authenticity and a song-centered approach lyrically and instrumentally that first fueled the genre back in its initial heyday.
Matt Menefee’s ear catching, virtuosic banjo sounds once again find a way to honor and upend the time soaked tradition with a sonic thought process all his own but this time it’s his emotional arrangements that draw every listener inside the truth-laced tales being spun by plaintive lead singer Bryan Simpson; whose colorful wordplay and whimsical lens daringly looks back and moves forward with poignancy and sincerity.
Pairing this with the joy of a musical friendship that certainly is tangible thru out the minimalistic but beautifully recorded sounds as caught by Grammy winning engineer Eddie Spear (Brandi Carlisle/Chris Stapleton), all signs point to the Golden Age being as important of a band to come along in bluegrass in a very long while.
The two artists have one goal in mind as they link arms: make music that sticks. Not just music that spikes the blood sugar. Timeless transcendence is the target. Certainly lofty heights to try and scale. But what a pleasure it will be listening to them climb.
Read more about The Golden Age »
When Principal Greg Muzik began to introduce the morning’s visiting musical guest, Peppino D’Agostino, to the 250 assembled students, they must have wondered where he was, as the stage was empty. They may have become more confused when they heard the sound of a guitar yet the artist still was nowhere to be seen. Peppino, who had been sitting in a back corner of the auditorium while the students filed in, began to play while slowly walking among the kids as he made his way towards the stage. He had definitely captured their attention.
Once on stage he told the students he was from Italy, “the land of spaghetti,” and soon had the kids singing along in Italian while he sang and played. He then showed the students how a guitar could be played with one hand and that the guitar can do several parts of a song. During a rhythm exercise he had the students rub their hands together, snap their fingers and then clap hands with a neighbor while he played along. Peppino was impressed with how musical the students were.
At one point during a Q&A session, one student asked if he knew the theme from Star Wars which Peppino figured out while continuing to talk and take questions. Peppino ended his performance by asking all to close their eyes and create a video in their minds based on his song, which was an enchanting way for both students and educators to go forth for the rest of their day.
In the afternoon Peppino played for about 100 students at the east end’s Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. Once again he began by walking around the assembled students and playing up close and personal with them. He mentioned that his influences included his mother’s piano playing as well as Stevie Wonder, Wes Montgomery and the Beatles. The students, grades 4 through 8, were captivated by the possibilities the guitar presented and several seemed motivated to take up learning the guitar themselves. He gifted the school several of his CDs which the principal said they would play over the school’s announcements system to start each day. It was a fine time for all with many smiling faces as he ended his set.
Photos by Bill Rice and Tim Timberlake
Eric Stanley visited two Richmond schools as part of his JAMinc performance.
To our JAMinc family …
On behalf of our board of directors, a sincere thank you for supporting our efforts in 2019, including our seven live In Your Ear studio concerts, our partnership with VCU’s ICA Theater presenting Rex Richardson, our free screening of the documentary “Fiddlin'” at the Byrd Theater, another epic Scott Street Five String Finals youth banjo competition and our 15th year of partnering on school outreach with the Richmond Folk Festival.
JAMinc is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. We provide in-school concerts to public and private schools, many of which do not have the resources to bring music of this quality to their students. Our In Your Ear concert series that enables these appearances to happen, normally loses money after paying the performers, sound production staff, announcements and taxes. We have no paid staff or offices. All the assistants and board members volunteer their time and funds to make this work. Unfortunately, ticket fees, grants and sponsorships do not adequately cover our costs.
We understand that you’re likely getting numerous requests for contributions at this time of year, but we could really use your help. Donations have the potential of tax savings. If you are over 70½ or are already taking MRDs (minimally required distributions) we can provide information about decreasing your tax burden while benefiting JAMinc. In addition, we promise that we will not clog up your mailboxes with solicitations or ever sell email addresses or contact information. All of us at JAMinc truly appreciate your participation and wish you a meaningful and musical holiday season.
Tim Timberlake, President
As the first of 300 or so students entered the auditorium at Mary Munford Elementary School in the first week of November 2019, they spontaneously began to clap in time as Violet Bell was ending its sound check with Principal Greg Muzik. Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez were immediately impressed with the students’ musicality and told them so during their 45-minute concert.
The duo was also impressed when they told the students they have played 400 shows in four years and the students immediately “did the math” to figure out that’s 100 shows each year.
During the performance, Lizzy explained that they do “original” songs meaning they write their own words and music. She told the assembled students they too could be songwriters. “Just listen to what’s in your head while you’re doing your chores, or anything really, and work on some words and a tune.” The students seemed to think that was an exciting idea.
Both Omar and Lizzy expressed their thanks to the students for being a great audience and asked if they were enjoying school. The shouted out answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” After the show a handful of students came to the stage to thank the duo for performing at their school and to give out a few well received hugs.
Photos by Bill Rice and Tim Timberlake
As JAMinc President Tim Timberlake finished introducing Peppino D’Agostino, the nearly sold out crowd could hear his guitar but could not see him. Peppino began by entering Studio A from the back and played while he slowly made his way to the front, stopping several times to play up close and personal to members of the audience – even sitting in an empty chair while playing. Peppino brought amazing guitar technique and humor to his show.
For most of his two sets he just played his guitar but did sing a few songs in his native Italian tongue. At one point he asked the crowd to join in by singing or humming as he played songs by the Beatles, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles. There truly was a magical vibe in the studio.
Pepinno put on a lesson of sorts by explaining and using several different tunings which the guitar players present appreciated. He also demonstrated the versatility of the guitar by playing the opening riff of Smoke on the Water just using his left hand plucking and hammering strings on the fretboard.
He talked about the power and universality of music and towards the end of his second set asked all to close their eyes and feel his music while creating a movie of corresponding imagery in their mind. It was a most serene way to end an enchanting evening that had begun with a rich potluck buffet in the studio’s lobby.
As the evening wrapped up it was obvious, based on the animated discussions with Peppino and brisk CD sales, he had made a strong connection with the folks in attendance. All-in-all a perfect way to end JAMinc’s 2019 concert season.
Photos by Charlie Reilly and Tim Timberlake
Before performing at Studio A, Peppino D’Agostino performed at Mary Munford Elementary School and Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. Read about his visits »
A young Sicilian artist left Italy over 30 years ago, with the dream of “playing with the greatest guitarists.” Peppino has achieved his dream and he’s now firmly planted in the “who’s who” of the guitar world.
Peppino D’Agostino emerged on the acoustic guitar scene in the early 80s as a leading member of the second wave of the great fingerstylists that helped redefine the instrument in the 90s. His remarkable technique, penchant for open tunings, and percussive effects are the basis of his unique compositional style which has been inspiring musicians and audiences alike for decades. Add to that his natural warmth, playfulness, and broad musical tastes and you have the recipe for what he calls “minestrone music.” His virtuosity and his emotional charge have also had a significant influence on the younger generation of fingerstyle guitarists.
D’Agostino continues to evolve and grow in ways that would have been hard to predict when he first showcased his melodic yet emotionally intense style on the recordings Acoustic Spirit, Close to the Heart, and Every Step of the Way which was named one of the top three acoustic guitar albums of all time by Acoustic Guitar magazine readers.
D’Agostino has performed in more than 30 countries, at prestigious international festivals and has played in some of the world’s most important theaters. He has shared the stage with Tommy Emmanuel, Leo Kottke, Laurindo Almeida, Sergio Assad, Larry Carlton, and Eric Johnson, to name a few. His solo recordings include high quality labels such as Favored Nations, Mesa / Bluemoon, and Acoustic Music Records. Recognized as “the guitarist’s guitarist” by Acoustic Guitar magazine and described as “a giant of the acoustic guitar” by the San Diego Reader, D’Agostino was voted Best Acoustic Guitarist by readers of Guitar Player magazine.
Recently Peppino had his very first sold out tour in China and a soundtrack composed for the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.In addition to performing, D’Agostino also makes time to teach. He enjoys meeting with individual students as well as providing group instruction and vacation learning packages like the Acoustic Guitar Cruises, Creative Vacances in La Moreau, France, or teaching with legendary guitarist Martin Taylor. The leading online instruction company Truefire has released a series of videos in which D’Agostino explains his influential guitar techniques and approach to composition. Peppino, when not performing or teaching, also has fun writing musical licks for new versions of games such as Sims – a product of Electronic Arts, or Dragons of Atlantis for Kabam.
Peppino likes to compare his musical approach to the culinary art of his native Italy: “If you want to prepare a good, succulent dish you have to know how to mix the various ingredients and, most important, have knowledge of the right amounts. Similarly, in musical composition you must be able to properly combine melody, harmony, rhythm and percussive effects with discretion and elegance.”
People never know what to expect at his concerts. Peppino’s repertoire is always changing, adapting to the rapport he establishes with his audience. His live performances, a combination of beautiful, complex, up tempo original instrumentals, memorable arrangements and engaging songs are beautifully addictive.
Read more about Peppino D’Agostino »
The 2019 Richmond Folk Festival was another great success, both onsite and in Richmond city schools! JAMinc again partnered with the Folk Festival to transport eight 2019 performers to 11 Richmond Public schools, including the Virgie Binford Education Center.
The students were treated to Native American dancing, Delta Blues, Afro-Cuban, Balafon Masters and Irish step dance & music. The artists participating in this year’s RFF School Outreach were:
JAMinc would like to sincerely thank the following folks for driving artists to their appointed stops: Todd Ranson, Mike Murphy, Bill Rice, George Turman, Alex and Julie Fuentes, Sandy Basham, Diane Mugford, Sarah Barr and Andy Jones.
We’re also grateful to ace soundman David Waltenbaugh for setting up and running JAMinc’s Bose L-1 sound system for Thomas Jefferson HS and Fairfield Court Elementary.
And we couldn’t do it without the loyal support of Nieves Guzman with TNT Auto Rental for providing high capacity vans for the larger groups.
We strongly feel that music holds the key to bringing communities together and exposing young people to it can change lives and possibly trigger a life-long passion to play. JAMinc is proud to have joined with the Richmond Folk Festival since the beginning in this important endeavor.
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Charlie Reilly & Bill Rice
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Charlie Reilly
photos by Bill Rice