Although he was raised in the highlands of New Jersey, it was the sounds of the southern hill country that drew Bernie Coveney’s earliest musical interest. Some might consider it happenstance when he was asked to play with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters at the age of 17 for an impromptu session. But if you don’t believe in coincidence, then you know he was being brought “into the circle” by one of the Matriarchs of country music.
The early 60’s found Bernie and childhood friend John Carlini, listening to WWVA (Wheeling, WVA) on the AM car radio in John’s driveway. Hooked by the likes of Earl Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, they seemed strangely out of place as rock and the British invasion captured those around them. But the music of the mountains was still at their core.
While visiting one of their favorite radio shows, The Campbell Hour, recorded in the back room of Campbell’s Corner general store in Oxford, PA., Alex and Ola Belle Campbell took a liking to the boys. They invited Bernie and John backstage to meet Don Reno (Dueling Banjo’s) and Red Smiley. Don and Red handed them their instruments and said, “play us a tune boys.” Once they were through playing, Don Reno invited them to play on the air with them - that night.
Vietnam was full-on as Bernie and John gigged around the TriState area mixing bluegrass and folk to an ever widening audience. But college sent them in different directions. Meeting again in Virginia Beach (while John was attending the Navy School of Music), Bernie joined the working band Group Nine. The bands rehearsal space was downstairs from an unknown young singer, Emmylou Harris, who asked Bernie to back her up. They headed for New York where they recorded Emmylou’s demo.
Life happens, and Bernie as a single dad eventually found his way back to NJ teaching guitar. One of his more notable students was Robert Duval for his role in Tender Mercies. He also worked on the movie King of the Gypsies, with Stephane Grappelli, John Carlini, and David Grisman. Further widening his circle, he did sessions with Tex Logan, Peter Rowan, Jerry Jeff Walker, Danny Flowers, Butch Robins, Bill Monroe, Mike Seeger, and Ralph Rinzler.
His life journey finally brought him to the mountains of southwestern Virginia. Though not by design (it was his wife’s idea), the place he now calls home is not far from the Carter Fold or the original family homestead of Alex and Ola Belle Campbell.
Whispering Pines is the culmination of this life journey. Instrumental pieces woven from soulful experiences and the blending of influences along a musical gypsy’s path. Rooted in the music of the mountains, it confirms that the circle will not be broken, but it will evolve.