Next to Earl Scruggs, J.D. Crowe is the most influential five-string bluegrass banjo player in the history of the instrument and The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe will provide an overview of his long career, teaching tunes and techniques from J.D.’s earliest days with Jimmy Martin through his time with the Kentucky Mountain Boys, his classic ’70s and ’80s recordings with his band The New South and his remarkable work with The Bluegrass Album Band. Special guests will include Ron Block, best-known for his banjo and guitar playing with Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Ron Stewart, who is currently playing banjo with Seldom Scene and who played fiddle with J.D. Crowe for more than eight years. They will provide valuable insights into J.D.’s approach by demonstrating solos, licks, and techniques.
This series is designed for intermediate to advanced players and consists of eight one-hour live Zoom workshops. Each live workshop will be recorded in high-quality video and audio and edited for viewing and study both during the course and after its conclusion. Detailed tab and handouts, in downloadable PDF format, will be available to students before each workshop session.
Here are some of the tunes Bill will cover in the course: “You Don’t Know My Mind” (two solos), “Sunny Side of the Mountain,” “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” (two solos), “Free Born Man,” “Black Jack,” “Molly and Tenbrooks, “Bear Tracks,” “Hold Watcha Got,” “The Old Home Place,” “Dark Hollow,” and “Come Back Darling.”
Bill says, “We’ll also take a deep dive into J.D.’s right- and left-hand techniques (pick angles, wrist arch, note separation, muting techniques, pull-offs, etc.), his rhythmic approach and accenting, back up, and much more. In addition, we’ll explore J.D.’s approach to country-style tunes and slow-song back up and cover the many blues-influenced licks that expanded the vocabulary of bluegrass banjo and influenced generations of banjo players.
Bill talks about what he’ll be doing in The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe.
In this first session of The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe, Bill talks about the influence of Earl Scruggs’s playing on J.D. throughout his life. He analyzes three J.D. solos from songs associated with Scruggs’s playing: “Molly and Tenbrooks,” “Down the Road,” and “Shuckin’ the Corn.”
J.D. Crowe’s recordings with Jimmy Martin from 1956 to 1966 are among the most important banjo recordings in the history of bluegrass banjo. In this session, Bill takes a look at some of J.D.’s most innovative solos from these years and explores how J.D. continued to develop some of the ideas contained in these solos over his long career. He analyzes three songs: “You Don’t Know My Mind” (from 1960 and 2009), “Big Country” (from November 1966), and “Ocean of Diamonds” (featuring classic 3/4 back-up licks from February 1958).
For Session 3 of “The Banjo Style of J. D. Crowe.” Bill welcomes special guest Ron Block, who is best known for his work with Alison Krauss and Union Station as well as his recordings with Vince Gill and Dolly Parton and his work on the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack as a Soggy Bottom Boy. In this session, Ron discusses many of the elements of J.D.’s banjo technique that can’t be expressed in tablature, including his approach to tone, drive, rhythm, and accenting. He also teaches two versions of the Gordon Lightfoot song “You Are What I Am” from his personal live tape collection and discusses the influence of J.D.’s banjo playing on the development of his own style.
In Session 4 of “The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe” Bill talks about J.D.’s playing in the early 1970’s as the leader of his own band, the Kentucky Mountain Boys. The band’s 1971 album Ramblin’ Boy was reissued as Blackjack in 1978. In addition to showing you how to play the title track, Bill talks about J.D.’s approach to slow-song backup and his playing on the song “So Afraid Of Losing You Again.”
In Session 5 of “The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe” Bill explores J.D.’s banjo playing as part of the classic 1975 New South band with Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Douglas. The one album recorded by this band is commonly known as “Rounder 0044,” which is the catalog number of the release. This version of the New South set a new paradigm for bluegrass music that’s been a model for almost every other professional bluegrass group over the last 48 years. You’ll learn J.D.’s solos on “The Old Home Place,” “Freeborn Man,” and “Some Old Day.” For this session, Bill is joined by folklorist and former Executive Director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum Tom Adler.
In the sixth session of The Banjo Style of J.D. Crowe, Bill starts to take a look at J.D.’s great banjo work with The Bluegrass Album Band. You’ll learn J.D.’s breaks to “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” and “Toy Heart” from the Bluegrass Album Band’s first recording, which was released in 1981, as well as a solo to “Banks of the Ohio” from Tony Rice’s 1977 Rounder album.