Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Musicians go to Nashville to be inspired, learn new tricks. They come in from the wilderness of their self-absorbed isolation, willing to expose how much they don’t know. This is a trick for already-great musician, as they must first admit what they do not know, then force themselves to mix and mingle with the masses of various talent. And then dare to make music in the same town, the same buildings where Johnny Cash, and the Father of Bluegrass – Bill Monroe - did. They hope to learn through exposures and from fine-tuned musicality, but oft, as Bradford Lee Folk explains, are instead deeply humbled.
Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys, along with Two Bit Franks, will play the Ruby Jewel Jamboree Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m. in Missoula.
As with all artists, school is where rules and technique are drilled into you. Folk’s legendary bluegrass band, Open Road, topped all the charts. His old honky tonk Colorado bar Swing Station and the last four years he spent in Nashville have been his classroom.
As evidenced by his new band, Bluegrass Playboys (handpicked from Nashville, featuring Robert Trapp on banjo, Christian Sedelmyer on fiddle, David Goldberg on mandolin and John Fabke on upright) and its debut album “Somewhere Far Away,” Folk has broken all the confines and fit the pieces nicely around his new definition of self. Pay close attention to the intricate way he weaves the words of “Wood Swan” like strands of gossamer around the melody laid down by his incredibly talented and tight band.
Although Folk is influenced by the country blues of his father, and listens to nothing made after 1962, he is inadvertently (perhaps from his Colorado days) imbued with that distinct western brand of bluegrass. You can hear it in the cadence of the lyrics he delivers.