Catching Up With Bluegrass Icon Alison Brown

Written by October 25th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Grammy Award-winning bluegrass superstar Alison Brown will release her debut DVD tomorrow, Alison Brown Quartet With Joe Craven – Live At Blair. Shot at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music in Nashville, the DVD captures Brown and her band getting down in front of a delighted audience, with a guest appearance by multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven.

What was special about this particular performance? What do you remember about it?

We invited a small audience of friends to the show – it wasn’t open to the general public – and I think that when you perform for people you know it can help bring out the best in you. I do remember that it was the first time I’ve seen our daughter Hannah intimidated by an audience. Several of her kindergarten classmates were sitting in the front row and I’ve never seen her look so serious!

What do you admire about Joe Craven?

Joe is a very versatile musician – he can make music on anything he picks up and is very intuitive in his approach. He is also a great entertainer and his very generous spirit makes him an asset in every situation. It’s always a joy playing with Joe.

What’s the hardest song to play in your repertoire?

From our latest record I’d have to say “The Road West.” It was written on Bb piano accordion by the great Martin O’Conner and to make it work on the banjo we had to transpose the melody to the key of G. Some of the melodic moves aren’t that natural for me but I appreciate the challenge of getting those lines under my fingers.

Does the banjo lend itself to songwriting?

When it comes to composing tunes, almost all of what I’ve written has been written with the banjo in my hands. So, in my case, definitely yes.

You’re the founder of Compass records. What qualities makes you want to sign an artist?

Given the state of record retail at the moment, it’s essential for artists to be as active, and as pro-active, as possible with their music. We look for artists who have a national touring base and the fire in the belly to persevere in spite of the challenges out there.

What’s your next project as an artist going to be?

I just finished producing the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band’s new CD Legacy and that’s got me thinking about doing a bluegrass album. Stay tuned!

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