The ‘grass is Always Greener – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup

By Julie Horner

Singer-songwriter, Rick Ednie, has advice for budding musicians and writers: Keep whatever you do. In 1998 or so he first tried writing songs, by hand, which he held onto in a folder for years, dragging it around thinking, “why am I saving this crap?” “Some of the thoughts were immature,” he felt, “Not focused, rambling.” He kept the old material anyway and it has proven to be a goldmine. “It might instill something in you that might inspire something else.” Like a seed. “I have this image of people writing something then saying, ‘oh this sucks,’ and crumpling it up and throwing it in the trash. Don’t do that!”

Locals will recognize Rick as a lead proponent in Santa Cruz Mountains-based band, Heathen Hill, favorites on the regional Americana folk music scene who play regularly at the Trout Farm, Joe’s Bar, LuLu Carpenter’s downtown Santa Cruz, and who used to have a regular Sunday slot at the Boulder Creek Brewery before fire gutted the building in March, 2015. Rick is quick to mention that Heathen Hill is far from a bluegrass band. “There’s no fiddle, no banjo.” It’s something they’re always talking about, he says.

In the meantime, Rick has branched out by forming another musical endeavor, which he calls Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup. “I’ve been a gig getter for many years. I wanted to get gigs but didn’t necessarily have the musicians to support it.” So he’d call around to find players to plug in to various gigs as he got them, basically rounding them up. He’d get calls from musician friends saying, “Hey Rick, why don’t you do another roundup gig?” So with a core group of four or five members in rotation, he started at farmers’ markets then helped make popular the Wednesday night Java Jam, which used to be at Coffee Cat up in Scotts Valley and is now down at LuLu Carpenter’s with a rotating roster of top folk musicians.

And with the help of his core posse, Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup has a new CD called White Turtle Dove. It’s his second CD and third time working in a studio environment. “I find it a challenge – the right people have to be together – there are so many variables, like getting the same people to focus on similar goals. We’re all just weekend warriors; I try to make a better effort.”

Most of the people on the CD are close friends, a few were hired as professional studio players. The album includes Rick on guitar, vocals, and mandolin; Bradley Richter on mandolin and vocals; Suzanne Suwanda on bass; Jason Lampel on banjo; Luke Abbott on fiddle; Liz Smith on fiddle and vocals; Mike Witcher on dobro; and Jered Chaney on banjo and vocals. Recorded at Joe Weed’s Highland Studios in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the album features outstanding bluegrass musicianship and showcases Rick’s songs, some new, some reworked from his saved archive of originals from his early songwriting years.

“I’m really happy with it. The first CD I did was definitely Americana, singer-songwriter stuff. This one is contemporary bluegrass. Or at least it’s structurally traditional – but I’m not from Tennessee, it’s how I hear the music, my expression.”

“Recording is a great way to improve your craft, to learn what you can do in that kind of environment – it’s not forgiving – it’s made me a better musician.” And he’s still feeling the love of recording with really professional players. “To have them on the project was encouraging for me, made me step up to the plate to play at a better level.”

This year Rick has been invited to play at the upcoming Brookdale Bluegrass Festival Spring Fling put on by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. The event takes place March 18 and 19 at Scopazzi’s in Boulder Creek – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup plays Saturday the 19th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Rick says they’ll be doing a lot of songs off the CD. “The CD has some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”

“It’s my hope to get my music out there – I like to play music with people, and I also want to do more solo work.” He thanks the guys in Heathen Hill for being patient while he reworked his originals for the CD and for performing with them. “They allowed me the space to do that…to work through that. They weren’t judgmental about it…I mean, sure, they’d bust my balls about it, ‘You’re changing the song again?’ But they always allowed me the space to do it.”

Rick is a “project person” and with White Turtle Dove has a hand in everything from the artwork and design of the trifold CD case (make sure you look for the insert) to the promotion and booking. “I love the project aspect of it – it’s there to do – I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

The songwriting is the heart of it. “When I get a song the right way, I can say it’s new, it’s very fulfilling. I have the experience at the Brewery to thank for that, Heathen Hill, the music rights people,” who forced him to turn away from performing cover material and focus on writing his own songs. With White Turtle Dove “It’s not all me. I produced it, I’m on the cover, it’s got my name, but it’s more than that.”

Rick’s CDs, A Fine Place to Start and White Turtle Dove, are on the Web: www.rickednie.com/home/

Experience Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup at the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival at Scopazzi’s March 19th at 6:00 pm, 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006. Full festival schedule: http://www.brookdalebluegrass.com/

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com

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