Fans of bluegrass music will be excited about the recent taping of "Country’s Family Reunion: Simply Bluegrass," a DVD collection that will feature many of the masters of the genre – as well as many of the format's most exciting newcomers like super duo Dailey & Vincent and Sierra Hull.
Larry Black, creator of the series that began in the late 1990s with Country’s Family Reunion, told Billboard that doing an updated bluegrass collection was something that had been on his radar for a while. However, the project didn’t take flight until he was able to enlist the help of Ricky Skaggs.
"I have always wanted to do another bluegrass series since Mac Wiseman did it with us back in 1999," Black said. "He put together an amazing group of people that were the hardcore bluegrass people back then. Since then, we’ve had Dailey & Vincent and so many others that weren’t on the scene yet. When we finally got Ricky on a Country’s Family Reunion show, we started talking to him about hosting a bluegrass reunion. It took about two years of talking to him. His schedule is real busy, and we didn’t want to drop it in the middle of something. He got excited about doing it, and we told him 'You pick who you want."
Once they had Skaggs’ involvement, the artists began to line up. "Everyone in there is there because of Ricky. We invited a lot of them, but he personally picked up the telephone and called some of them like Dierks Bentley, for example."
Black said that Simply Bluegrass is unique for many reasons, with one being that he was able to mix and match some of the members of the biggest bands in the business – making for some very interesting collaborations.
"Bluegrass pickers always play with their own bands. They are a little protective of that. When we asked them to come on without their group – there are three of the Grascals, Rhonda Vincent is here without the Rage, and Dailey and Vincent are here without their group. In '99, Mac Wiseman put together an all-star group of pickers, and we suggested that to Ricky, who said he would use his band, Kentucky Thunder. As we talked through that, he said 'I love my guys, but for that room, let’s come up with an all-star group. That way, nobody looks at it and says we’re doing somebody else’s thing. They’re being backed up by the best musicians around."
One participant in the taping is Sirius XM Bluegrass Junction radio personality Kyle Cantrell, who said that one could definitely feel the warmth inside the studio.
"I always feel like I’m among family when I’m among these people. Everybody loves each other so much in this room. These are the greatest names in bluegrass music."
Since Black began his company, Gabriel Communications, in 1997, over 30 of the performers included in the various collections have passed away. Cantrell said capturing this moment in time is essential to the preservation of the music. "It’s interesting that they date the shows when they start recording them. I think that’s helpful, because the bluegrass world may never look like this again. You’d like to think that everyone would be around forever, but times change. It’s a special moment in time that I am very proud to be a part of."
Also making the collection notable is the fact that several of the musicians have worked in the bands of many of the other artists featured. "They’re all sitting together in the room," offered Cantrell. "You can look around and see how everyone knows each other, and they work together. Ricky had Bryan Sutton, who is in the band today, in his band for many years. He has gone on to become an A-list player. You have people like Mac Wiseman and Bobby Osborne, who have been around since the beginning of bluegrass, and some of the newest stars. It’s a special group to be in, for sure."
Hearing the stories of many of the veteran performers definitely had an impact on some of the younger artists, as Darrin Vincent of Dailey & Vincent reflected. "Ramona Jones was here, and she just talked about Grandpa, and told some stories about the first encounters she had with him. It’s really special because we are blessed to be on the opposite side, and to watch them tell the stories, and to be able to look them in the eye. It’s been so precious to see."
"Country’s Family Reunion: Simply Bluegrass" will be released in early 2014.