Almost all of the bluegrass LPs in my record collection, even the more experimental ones, still sound like “timeless” bluegrass decades later—and the longer I play this kind of music, the more I feel nostalgia for the bluegrass sounds of the past. I was fortunate that my good friends The Foggy Hogtown Boys were interested in making an album of “pre-modern” bluegrass with me, and I made the 2,600 mile trip to their hometown of Toronto, Ontario in April 2011 to record The Hogtown Sessions.
We settled on some rarely-covered bluegrass and country classic plus a few originals, aiming generally for a 1970s medium-traditional Yankee-grass aesthetic. In record bin terms, that’s between the “Late-Suit” and “Mid-late-Polyester-Shirt” eras, when bands were occasionally taking liberties with the structure and content of bluegrass songs, but the results were still firmly in the genre. They sang in their own unique voices, were in touch with the lyrics, favored melody-based solos, and sounded like they were playing a form of folk music that’s rooted in a long tradition (whereas modern bluegrass sometimes sounds a little more like Keith Urban than Flatt & Scruggs).
We incorporated the following in the hopes of recapturing a vinyl-era bluegrass vibe: unpredictable bass lines that walk when you least expect it; rhythm guitar G chords with the B strings open; creative fiddling that channels the excitement of pioneers such as Tommy Hunter and Curly Ray Cline; lyrical banjo backup and solos in the tradition of Sonny Osborne, Don Stover, and of course J.D. and Earl; and syncopated, aggressive mandolin picking with ample tremolo/double-stop melody lines and barking chop chords. With all of that in place, I was free to use a mostly traditional Dobro approach that rarely exceeded 1978 slide technology.
“Hogtown” is a nickname for Toronto that harkens back to its early history as a leading pork-processing hub. These days, Toronto is also an important acoustic music hub where some tasty bluegrass is being processed—and I couldn’t be happier to present The Foggy Hogtown Boys to a wider audience with The Hogtown Sessions.
Ivan Rosenberg – 7/15/2011
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.
The Hogtown Sessions:
Andrew Collins: mandolin, guitar, lead vocals, harmony vocals
Chris Coole: guitar, clawhammer banjo, lead vocals, harmony vocals
Max Heineman: bass, lead vocals and harmony vocals
Chris Quinn: banjo, lead vocals, harmony vocals
Ivan Rosenberg: Dobro, lead vocals
John Showman: fiddle, lead vocals, harmony vocals
Recorded and Mixed by Andrew Collins at Sytesounds in Toronto, Ontario
Mastered by David Travers-Smith at Found Sound in Toronto, Ontario
Produced by Ivan Rosenberg
Co-Produced by Andrew Collins
Graphic Design by Chris Coole
Photos by Andrew Johnson
Vole-O-Tone logo by Jason Laudadio
Liner notes by Ivan Rosenberg
Pick up a copy of the CD for detailed song notes!