BLUEGRASS AT THE CROSSROADS
“Ernest T. Grass”
RECORD LABEL:Mountain Home Music Company
Like its predecessors, the latest single from Mountain Home Music Company’s unique collaborative project, Bluegrass at the Crossroads, features musicians spanning the range from traditional-flavored bluegrass to today’s jamgrass—and, in a move that highlights the connections that join players of differing generations, too, this one serves up a brand-new take on a classic of modern bluegrass—“Ernest T. Grass.”
Named after a minor but memorable character on the Andy Griffith Show and written by Ronnie Bowman and Dan Tyminski—banjo man Sammy Shelor’s Lonesome River Band colleagues from the early 1990s—the tune first appeared on Shelor’s 1997 solo release, Leading Roll. Almost immediately, it was adopted by parking lot pickers and semi-professional groups, and over the years, it has become an organic standard favored across the bluegrass spectrum, as liable to turn up on a Billy Strings set list as at a late-night North Carolina bluegrass festival jam session. Indeed, it was just this universal appeal that led series producer Jon Weisberger to suggest “Ernest T. Grass” for a session that would involve multiple generations of musicians from across the range of bluegrass styles.
Shelor’s arrangement gives all of the players ample room to ring changes on the tune’s catchy melody and rhythmic variations as it gets passed from one to another in a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic whirl of contrasting tones and textures. Whether a veteran like Shelor or Wayne Benson (Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out)—remarkably, the session was the first time for the two to work together in the studio—or a relative newcomer like Carley Arrowood or Fireside Collective’s Joe Cicero, each contributes a unique flavor over the sturdy foundation provided by the Infamous Stringdusters’ Travis Book’s powerful bass.
“I’ve played that tune countless times in my days studying bluegrass at ETSU,” enthuses Joe Cicero. “Whether it was on a stage or around a campfire, it was always one of my favorites to jam on. When I got the call to do a few songs for the Crossroads sessions I was ecstatic to learn I’d be playing alongside Sammy, Wayne, Carley and Travis—but when I heard we were going to cut ‘Ernest T. Grass,’ I was downright giddy with excitement. To record it in the studio with the guy who brought that song to life was really a dream come true. It felt like everyone was at the top of their game for that one, with Sammy at the wheel, driving it home.”
Adds Arrowood, “I heard and played ‘Ernest T. Grass’ in jams when I was a teenager, and then got to meet Sammy Shelor for the first time and pick one-on-one at a festival several years ago when we had some downtime between sets. He’s such a great guy! It’s the coolest thing to be included among so many of my musical heroes on this tune. It brings it all together full circle when I think about playing it as a kid, and now playing it with the guy who made it famous in the first place. What a blessing!”
KEY SELLING POINTS
- Featuring a mixture of legendary musicians and artists, and up-and-coming rising stars, Bluegrass at the Crossroads combines the best of the Mountain Home Music Company and Organic Records label rosters, staff, songwriters, and producers
- Releases showcase a mixture of genre-bending flavors where the worlds of bluegrass, Americana, roots, acoustic, and country music collide