I swear, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow last night in this St. Louis hotel. We had a strong show at the Old Rock House, but I needed that bed big-time. This morning I awake renewed and thankful. I feel like we always give 100% as a band, but last night was a 'dig deeper' kind of night. Leigh and I were pushing ourselves vocally, really getting inside the songs and feeling them without saying a word about it to one another, and the band was responding. I never take the guys for granted. They are all such pros. They serve the songs and play with dynamics, never going through the motions. My son Kelley has joined us on stage a few times lately and he can feel the power of those guys. "It's like riding in a Cadillac, huh, Kelley?" He smiles and nods, but he has never ridden in one.
We were able to announce yesterday that our new album "In the Ground" has reached #1 on Bluegrass Unlimited's albums chart, our 9th straight album to hit that mark. I remember when Uncle Bob Gibson brought us a copy of BU to a family meal more than 25 years ago, showing me that chart for the first time. I remember thinking, "Wait. Bluegrass has a chart!?" I looked at the name...Hot Rize, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Alison Krauss, Johnson Mountain Boys and thinking, if only...so yeah, it does put a little extra bounce in our steps that we have accomplished this. I have to say that this time brings me the most satisfaction, given that we wrote the entire album. We felt that it was important to show that we could do it, especially after recording our previous album of covers in tribute to brother heroes. We aren't the new guys anymore. We will never be able to sneak up on anyone again. It is my hope that our songs will keep coming and that we can stay fresh in people's minds that way.
If you have our album, look on the back of it. Laura Carbone took that shot of us a couple miles from where our family farm was. One of Dad's best friends, Stacey Felch, owned the farm in that shot when we were kids. He has since sold it to neighbor Chad Spoor, but he still lives on the property. He and his wife Mary were kind enough to let us take a few shots there as were Chub and Shirley Moore on their property for some of the other shots in the album packaging. In it I am wearing an old blue Carhardt barn coat that we wore on the farm. Leigh tells me it was his. I don't know how I ended up with it, but I will never get rid of it. Several of the songs on this album deal directly or indirectly with farming. It just felt right to leave the suits at home and be who we were...who we still are. It felt good to be around those farmers from our youth, good men who leaned up against the back of pickup trucks and told stories and laughed, laughed even when times were tough and the cards were stacked against all of them. Maybe that's the most important time to laugh. When I brought Stacey a CD after the album was released, he looked up at me from his kitchen table and said, "You look just like your father." My heart jumped, happy and sad at once. Everybody always tells Leigh that he looks like Dad, but I was touched to hear it about me. Maybe that is why I have grown out my sideburns. His were a little long. Mine can be for a little while.