I’ve been at this a pretty long time. The main thing I use to get my ideas across has been the banjo. It has an unusual sound and is capable of a wide range of expression, however it isn’t very developed yet, in terms of what is being done with it in a current macro sense. It’s untapped.
A lot of what I do was informed by punk rock and dub music from the 70’s, I bought those records when they were new, thus starting a lifelong obsession of buying records. I received a degree from the University of Texas [Austin] in audio production, and loved the classes there about the history of audio and recorded music. That’s where I first started hearing experimental music, that’s also where I learned to be very comfortable in a recording studio. Later I became the principle songwriter/producer/singer for bad livers, and eventually launched my own private record label [minner bucket records], publishing company, and solo career in about 1998.
I have some good friends in bands of various sizes, some of them are these quite famous people, though I try to learn from anyone that has an “idea.” My whole thing is music, and trying to make my own sound. I have developed a specific technique I call barnyard electronics which is an aesthetic combining various bits of bluegrass, noise, rock, and electronic music. The live aspect involves a computer program I built in max/msp and a banjo. I do about 150 domestic shows a year with that set-up.
For several years Brooklyn-based guitarist Grant Gordy has been a major voice on the American "acoustic music" scene, and one of the most highly regarded young instrumentalists of his generation. Having held the guitar chair in the legendary David Grisman Quintet for six years, he's also worked alongside such musical luminaries as Edgar Meyer, Steve Martin, Aoife O'Donovan and Darol Anger. Grant has performed all over North America and Europe, everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Montreal Jazz Festival; Jazz at Lincoln Center to Bonnaroo.
His music has been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, and he's received attention from international music periodicals such as Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Japanese bluegrass publication Moonshiner, Just Jazz Guitar and Flatpicking Guitar Magazine.
Roots music isn't made in a vacuum. It's the creation of a community, of a circle of friends, of a teacher and a student. It’s something to be passed back and forth to be treasured. As an acclaimed master of American roots music, mandolinist and songwriter Joe K. Walsh knows this better than most. He’s toured with countless artists, collaborated with other master musicians like Darol anger and the Gibson Brothers, founded progressive stringband Joy Kills sorrow in the early 2000s, and is currently on faculty at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. His new album, Borderland, is an exercise in subtlety and careful creation. Turning through songs he wrote, or setting the words of Yeats to music, and picking out instrumental tunes of his own creation, Walsh plays and sings with the kind of ease that comes from years of practice and creation.
The touch of sawdust in his vocals, or the buzz of the mandolin strings may hint at the deep rural roots of this music, but what he’s creating now is a new kind of tradition. His first inspiration came as a teenager when he heard David Grisman, and then again when first hearing Del McCoury. The music he heard at that young age opened a window to new harmonic possibilities, and started Walsh exploring how to create new American roots music. What’s surprising then is that his new album is no act of wild fusion. Instead, it’s a joyful exploration of just why he loves this old music so much in the first place. With mastery comes restraint. With nothing left to prove, Walsh has dived deeper into the tradition, seeking to craft new music from old roots.
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