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The McEuen Sessions
As a solo artist and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGBD), “The String Wizard” John McEuen has released more than 40 albums, appeared on more than 300 TV shows, and performed more than 8,500 concerts — with upwards of three-million miles traveled—since 1965. Many of McEuen’s solo road journeys have involved playing, in various configurations, with his musician sons Nathan and Jonathan, including recently having the thrill of performing together at the Grand Ole Opry to three standing ovations. After years talking about recording as a trio, and when Nathan reintroduced the idea in 2011, all agreed the time was right. The McEuen Sessions — For All The Good from John, Nathan, and Jonathan McEuen, released on MesaBluemoon Recordings, is a musically rich tapestry that’s as fresh and immediate as it is steeped in the seamless interplay and exquisite comforts of a threesome that has truly shared a lifetime in music.
“The album is a culmination of my sons’ influences that come from everything from Phish to Johnny Cash to The Beatles to The Band. Then, throw into the mix their having had a dad who’s been in a band for 45 years, and what that meant growing up,” says John. “What makes me happiest about this record is that some of the years spent apart from them, doing the Dirt Band ‘thing,’ seem more justified now.” Though touring often separated the McEuens, it also provided adventures, camaraderie — and hands-on musical training. John estimates he’s taken his sons to at least 300 cities over the years, with them joining in onstage. “I said to Nathan at 17, ‘sorry you’ve had so many birthdays on the road,” says John. “He said, ‘Dad, most of my friends haven’t left the state, and I’ve already been to 25 state capitals. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Recorded at Tree Sound Studios in Norcross, Georgia, The McEuen Sessions is a thoroughly collaborative effort. Going in, John, Nathan, and Jonathan agreed they’d each choose three songs, no questions asked, and then they’d vote on three more as a group. Since the plan was to record the album as a band, there are almost no guest players (Dave Mason — spontaneously — added drums on Only You Know And I Know, and mixed it). Jonathan and Nathan provide all the vocals, and the trio acts as each other’s “side men” for overdubs — Jonathan is featured on acoustic and electric guitar, bass, and piano; Nathan on piano, bass, acoustic guitar, and percussion; and John on a broad range of string instruments — with the versatility that has caused many to call him a “string wizard” — including banjo, mandolin, fiddle and dobro.
Album selections range from new originals to venerable classics, opening with Rodney Crowell’s Long Hard Road, which, in 1984, was NGDB’s first #1 hit. “That was always a tough one to hear on the road when I was missing my kids,” says John. “Nathan and Jonathan get it, get the lyrics, and sing it as if they wrote it.” Both also sing on All The Good It Did, written by their cousin Jaime Hanna, which lends part of its name to the album’s title — “This is the country ‘root’ coming through the guys, with a song that should have been done by NGDB,” says John. Covers also include Jonathan singing lead on Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band, Dave Mason’s Only You Know and I Know, and Red Foley’s Old Shep (which Elvis Presley sang at his first public performance at age 10). The latter features Jonathan’s new vocal track along with a recording John made of him singing the song when he was 11.
Nathan sings lead on tracks including Grand Design, which he co-wrote with Crosby Loggins, and his original Quicker at the Draw. His banjo piece Banjormous is one his father wishes he’d written, and it’s followed by The Goodtime Suite, a six-minute instrumental that John aced in one take. “It was strange that the same day both of them heard this, they separately said, ‘it reminds me of when I was a kid and you would play us to sleep,’” he says. “For me that is a great memory.”
With The McEuen Sessions — For All The Good, John, Nathan and Jonathan McEuen create beautiful new music that is the stuff of many great memories to come — for their extraordinary family story, and for music lovers worldwide.
John McEuen is a legendary figure in American contemporary music, arguably defining “Americana” before such a genre was categorized. He is a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, now in its 46th year. In 1971, he instigated NGDB’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken, which Rolling Stone called “the most important record in country music.” Inducted into the Library of Congress as an historic recording, the album was recently named one of the 40 all-time most important in country music by CMT. In 2010, the NGDB single Mr. Bojangles was inducted in to the Grammy Hall of Fame as an important Historical Recording—and, McEuen’s production of Steve Martin’s The Crow/New Songs for the Five String Banjo won the GRAMMY for Best Bluegrass Album. Also in 2010, he was honored with The Best of the West Performer Award, presented by the Folk Alliance Region West.
For more, visit www.johnmceuen.com.