This trio is definitely a bluegrass supergroup, though not on the order of Muleskinner. While this is definitely progressive, hard-driving bluegrass, I couldn’t call it newgrass or anything other than bluegrass. It’s just mostly instrumental bluegrass performed as a trio with a very full, clean, powerful sound, and played as good as it can be played. The singing sucks, but it’s not frequent. That’s all!
Like his contemporary Vassar Clements, fiddler Byron Berline expanded the sonic possibilities of bluegrass, adding elements of jazz, pop, blues, rock and traditional country to the genre. In addition to being a popular solo act, he performed as a session musician on a number of albums, including records by the Flying Burrito Brothers, Stephen Stills, the Dillards, Gram Parsons, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, and James Taylor.
Berline learned to play from his father, an old-time fiddler. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Oklahoma, where he played music with a campus folk group. In 1963, the Dillards played a concert on the University of Oklahoma campus. A friend of Berline’s arranged an audition for him with Doug Dillard, who was so impressed he invited the young fiddler to join them for a number. Berline then joined the Cleveland Country Ramblers, and in 1964, he appeared on the Dillards’ Pickin’ and Fiddlin’ and won the National Fiddle Championship in Missoula, Missouri. He played the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, where he met Bill Monroe, who told Berline that he wanted him to join the Blue Grass Boys in the future. In 1967, he graduated with a BA in education, but chose to join Monroe; his first appearance with the band was a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Six months after he joined the Blue Grass Boys, he was drafted into the US Army.
Just before Berline was discharged from the Army in 1969, he was invited to join the Dillard and Clark Expedition. He remained with Dillard and Clark until 1971, when the group disbanded. While with them, he played sessions for a number of other artists, including the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. Following the breakup of Dillard and Clark, Berline played with the Dillard Expedition. In 1970, Berline scored the ABC television movie, Run Simon Run, the first of many films he would score. In 1971, he toured with a revamped version of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Following the tour, Berline and fellow Burritos Roger Bush and Kenny Wertz formed the Country Gazette. During this time, he also continued with his session work, appearing on albums by Gram Parsons, Bert Jansch, Ian Matthews and Southern Comfort, and Bill Wyman.
In 1975, Berline left Country Gazette and moved to Los Angeles with his family, where he intended to concentrate on songwriting, session work, and scoring films. Later that year, he founded Sundance with Dan Crary, Jack Skinner, John Hickman, Allen Wald, and Skip Conover; the following year, Vince Gill and Mark Cohen joined the band. Sundance recorded one eponymous album in 1976 before disbanding. In the late ’70s, Berline recruited Crary and Hickman for a tour of Japan. Following the tour, the trio recorded three albums for Sugar Hill; concurrently, Berline also founded the LA Fiddle Band.
In 1980, Berline founded the production company BCH with Crary and Hickman, and released a solo album, Outrageous, on Flying Fish. In 1981, the LA Fiddle Band released an eponymous solo album for Sugar Hill. Berline worked on Chris Hillman’s 1984 album Desert Rose and also an album of duets with fiddler Hickman in 1986. Two years later, Berline, Crary, and Hickman changed the name of their trio to BCH and added bassist Steve Spurgin to their lineup. The new incarnation of BCH released Now They Are Four in 1988. The group added mandolinist/guitarist John Moore in 1990; following his addition, the group re-named itself California, and released their first album, Traveler, in 1992. Berline also continued releasing solo efforts.
Flatpicking guitarist Dan Crary was born and raised in Kansas. It was there that he first developed an interest in guitar, particularly the steel-string, flat-top version favored by artists like Doc Watson. In 1968, Crary helped found the Bluegrass Alliance, and used Watson’s influence as a jumping-off point for innovation in the genre. Throughout the 1970s, Crary appeared with the group Sundance, which included fiddler Byron Berline and banjoist John Hickman. He also developed his reputation as a master interpreter of traditional music (like that written for the fiddle) for six- and 12-string guitars. His albums include 1983’s Guitar, which was a who’s who in the new bluegrass scene of the time. Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, and Mark O’Connor all contributed to the record, which included modern bluegrass interpretations of classical music pieces. 1990 saw the establishment of California with Berline and Hickman; the combo experimented even further with bluegrass’ intersections into other genres, and stayed active even as Crary appeared with his other projects, including Men of Steel with Genovese flatpicking master Beppe Gambetta. MOS released a live recording in spring 2003.
John Hickman (b. October 7, 1942) is an American five-string banjo player known for his clean picking and occasional ragtime influenced style.
John Hickman was born in Hilliard, Ohio but grew up in Columbus. He began playing the guitar but switched to banjo in 1957. With some help from his friend Robbie Robinson he learned to play the banjo. After performing together with Allen and Wakefield on the WWVA Jamboree in 1960, Hickman and Robbie Robinson formed the “Dixie Gentlemen”. Two years later, Hickman enlisted in the Marines. In 1964, he began performing with musicians like Pee Wee Lambert and Landon Rowe. Three years later he formed a group with Chuck Cordell, Sid Campbell and Robinson. Unfortunately, Cordell and Robinson were killed in a plane crash. Campbell and Hickman soon joined mandolinist Earl Taylor’s “Stony Mountain Boys”.
In 1969, Hickman moved to Los Angeles, California where he began to associate with fiddler Byron Berline. Later in 1975, Byron Berline, John Hickman, Allen Wald and Jack Skinner formed “Sundance”. The formation lasted three years. Berline, Hickman and guitarist Dan Crary then started to perform together and after a successful tour in Japan, they formed “Berline, Crary and Hickman”. In the ’90s, BCH added Steve Spurgin’s song writing, singing, and bass playing talents to the group and John Moore began playing mandolin with them soon after, forming California. California has been the recipient of the IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year.
Hickman currently teaches banjo and repairs instruments in Byron Berline’s Double Stop Music Shop in Guthrie Oklahoma, and plays dates with California, BCH and the Byron Berline Band.
Label: Sugar Hill
1. HENRY’S HORNPIPE
2. DOUBLE EAGLE
3. LONESOME WHISTLE
4. EAST TENNESSEE BLUES
5. NORTHERN SLOP
6. FISHER’S HORNPIPE
7. I LET ANOTHER GOOD ONE GET AWAY
8. CROSS TUNISIA
9. GOODNIGHT GIRL
10. CINCINNATI RAG
now they are 3.
fresh vinyl rip, cleaned | mp3 >256kbps