Siler City, NC’s Nu-Blu has scored big time with their collaboration with R&B legend Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave). August 17th brought a shout out on “CBS Sunday Morning,” which profiled Moore.
Look at the praise for Nu Blu and Sam Moore on the official George Jones Page: R&B legend Sam Moore and bluegrass group Nu-Blu Bluegrass Artists pay tribute to George Jones – The Possum and Jesus Christ with their new song “Jesus & Jones,” featured on Nu-Blu’s album ‘All The Way.’ For more information, visit http://www.nu-blu.com and download the song at http://cwired.co/GJ14JJ #TeamGJ
for the official “Jesus and Jones” video
By Art Menius 4-27-2014
Following its nomination for Best Foreign Film in this year’s Oscars, Felix van Groeningen’s 2012 film from Belgium, Broken Circle Breakdown can now be viewed on iTune, Amazon Prime, and similar paid services as well as limited theatrical release in art houses and performing arts centers via Tribeca Films. His fourth feature, Broken Circle Breakdown previously found box office and critical success in the low countries, leading to two wins at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.
Three currents run through this cinematographic lonesome river. First, Broken Circle Breakdown provides a compelling and quite believable exploration of Europeans obsessed with an American cultural form and the universal experience of falling in love with a particular genre of music. Didier not only picks banjo, but farms, drives a pick up, and wears a cowboy hat. He owns a horse named “Earl” for Scruggs. Elise runs a tattoo parlor and sings with a sultry soulfulness shaped by Alison and Rhonda.
A torrid love story provides the second theme. The sex scenes prove way hotter than in High Lonesome and infinitely more pleasant, if not exactly safe, than Deliverance. Broken Circle Breakdown, moving backwards and forwards in time from first meeting until final goodbye, traces the entire arc of their time together. Their fights, flirtations, and lovemaking ring true consistently. The screen play presented the story consecutively with the time jumping a product of creative storytelling through editing.
Third, and somewhat less pleasingly, the cloying and familiar tale of a sweet child dying at age six because, Didier believes, President G.W. Bush cut back stem cell research. As you can see, the marketing materials don’t put this storyline front and center.
Flemish vocalist and TV star Veerle Baetens plays the then tortured Elise, whose third suicide attempt after the child’s death sadly proves the charm. Five string man Didier, played by Johan Heldenbergh, committed career suicide shortly before by launching into an emotional and rambling diatribe against God between songs at a bluegrass gospel concert with all the band dressed in white suits. Heldenbergh, who appeared in two of van Groeningen’s three previous films, created the 2009 stage play “The Broken Circle Breakdown.” He learned how to play the banjo, guitar, and mandolin for the role as Didier. For the movie, he sings with the Broken Circle Breakdown Band, but you only see his five-string picking while hearing Hank Van Damme (Karl Eriksson) play.
The film gets so many details right. Two minutes into his first conversation with Elise, he is talking about Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music. The image of Elise’s face lighting up at the precise moment where she realizes “this is my music” is absolutely perfect. She eventually takes the stage name of Alabama Monroe. Before they make love for the first time, he happily explains why Manzanita is his favorite album. “Tony Rice had such a sweet voice,” he tells Elise, “and then he lost it. What a shame!”
Van Groeningen explained that:
Didier and Elise play in a bluegrass band and that is no accident. Bluegrass is integrated in a variety of ways into the story and forms the intrinsic link between all the main issues that appear in the film: life, death, birth, America, motherhood and fatherhood, finding consolation, life after death,… Music is also what unites the couple…. Sometime a song is purely narrative and helps to tell the story or is even used as an ellipsis. In other places, we select a given song
because it underpins the emotions…. Bjorn Eriksson composed the [new] bluegrass songs and also created the score. Meeting Bjorn was very important for the film, in lots of ways. You have to know that a lot of bluegrass musicians have something nerdy, but that is not how I saw Didier and Elise. Bjorn has been a bluegrass aficionado since he was 16. But he’s also a very cool guy, and so meeting him, influenced not only the sound but also the look of the film. Bjorn conducted the recordings and guided Johan and Veerle’s performances to the max (they sing everything themselves). Bjorn himself plays dobro and guitar.
Falling in love with a banjo player inevitably leads to getting knocked up and no sooner does Elise start singing with the band than she learns she is 13 weeks pregnant. They name their daughter for Maybelle Carter, but cancer claims her much younger. While Maybelle suffers bravely throughly endless treatments and doctors “who won’t give up,” the band grows steadily more successful – moving from bars to concert halls, dressing sharply, and delivering convincing covers of well known titles from “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Over In The Gloryland,” and “Rueben’s Train” to “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” via Gillian Welch, “If I Needed You” from Townes Van Zandt, and Lyle Lovett’s “Cowboy Man.”
The Broken Circle Breakdown (BCB) Band now tours with increasing frequency in Europe with more than a dozen dates listed for May 2014 alone. The soundtrack from the movie spent eleven weeks at the top of the Flemish Ultratop 50 while going Flemish Platinum and hit number 35 on the Dutch album chart.
“Four stars! One of the finest final scenes in a movie this year… if there were any justice, Veerle Baetens would break out as an international star.” – New York Daily News
“Belgium’s submission for the 2014 foreign language film Oscar is a powerful and haunting tale of love, death and bluegrass — a mournful song played on a broken instrument, with striking visual accompaniment.” – The Observer
- Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Tribeca Film Festival (2013)
- Best Actress, European Film Awards (Berlin 2013)
- Best European Film, Panorama Audience Award, Berlin International Film Festival (2013)
- Best Film, Best Actress, Best Director, Ensor Awards of Flemish Cinema (2013)
- Nominated for Best Foreign Film, 2014 Academy Awards
For the next three years, Raleigh will be home to the International Bluegrass Music Association annual World of Bluegrass convention. I am one of the speakers in the NC Museum of History programs to welcome IBMA:
Tuesday, September 24
1–3 p.m. North Carolina is the Banjo State, with Bob Carlin
5–7 p.m. Bluegrass in North Carolina, with Tommy Edwards
Wednesday, September 25
1–3 p.m. Bluegrass Music: How North Carolinians Have Contributed, with Art Menius
5–7 p.m. The Earl Scruggs Center: Music and Stories from the American South
Thursday, September 26
1–3 p.m. The Story of Bluegrass and Raleigh’s Contribution, with Ron Raxter
5–7 p.m. Bluegrass Jam, with Pinecone
Friday, September 27
1–3 p.m. [Topic TBD*], with Wayne Martin
5–7 p.m. Gibson, Scruggs, and the Three-Finger Style, with Jim Mills
When I was little, The NC Museum of History was in WPA institutional building that mostly housed the state department of Education – “EDVCATION” in the granite lettering outside. Opened in 1902, “The Hall of History” and little changed since moved there in 1939, snaked through the first floor with permanent displays focusing on transportation, weapons, and household furnishings of rich white people. The latter appeared to have been 90% of the state’s population before the War, after which it dropped to 80%. I learned a lot about how our heroes fought against cruel military occupation of NC by the United States. Generations of school bus drivers struggled to find the Hall of History since the maps they were sent had South at the top and north oriented to the bottom.
By the time I was a young public historian at NC Dept of Cultural Resources (a product of the standardization of federal and state cultural bureaucracies during the 1960s and 1970s), an equally static history museum telling a more modern story, albeit with many of the same artifacts, occupied the east wing of our 1968 Archives & History/State Library edifice between the 1964 Legislative Building, in which the General Assembly meets rather than the 19th Capitol building in the center of Raleigh, and the gingerbread Victorian Governor’s Mansion. I always imagined the Addams Family as our first family. In 2013 some would say…..
The current NC Museum of History opened in 1994 between the Legislative Building and the historic State Capitol (walk out of the Convention Center on the Fayetteville Street side and look left. Can’t miss it.) The new museum has a research library, a variety of classroom spaces, and a large and well-equipped, 315-seat auditorium. Large gallery spaces total 55,000 square feet, nearly four times the exhibit area available in the old building. Design shops, storage areas for over 250,000 items, and conservation labs are now all under one roof.
The NC Arts Council, whose staff is being slashed by the legislature, occupies the previous museum space. Five museums in 92 years doesn’t seem like the best long term planning for growth.
By Art Menius for artmenius.com February 12, 2012
My first Grammy Awards as a lapsed NARAS member after more than a score of watching my people not win reaffirmed my decision. The categories that mattered most to me as voter came and went seemingly in a flash on the Internet only program that Steve Martin called the “daytime Grammys” in a Tweet. Adding NFL players and hot starlets to the presenters does not support any claims to artistic merit in the choices.
Levon Helm, for whom the word “veteran” would short his career by 25 years, won for Best Americana Recording. Thus the great Linda Chorney scare of 2012 was averted without resorting to nuclear weapons. File that under soon to be forgotten controversies.
40% of the Best Rock Song nominees have a banjo in the band. How 2012! The Decemberists and Mumford & Son. Then Taylor Swift pulls out an open-back five-string banjo and an old-time band for her otherwise typical Taylor Swift song. The imagery alone is powerful – popular, young country star with a banjo in her hands in one of her three or four most important appearances of the year.
Also, she demonstrated that one can put on “big show” using those instruments and those images on the big stage that proved way more successful than Nicki Manji, when the latter provided the show’s low point.
Even if bluegrass and Americana along with the single blues category and the regional polyglot concoction into which “my” categories disappeared are exiled to the Internet broadcast, banjo fever continues unabated.
Banjo congrats to Bela Fleck for the Best Instrumental Recording award.
More banjo in the Glen Campbell tribute by, I think, Glen’s daughter. Might be the last Grammy telecast for “Gentle On My Mind.” Hartford’s song has a had a great run. Same for Glen Campbell. Certainly moving for him to have one last moment in the spotlight while he can still do it and enjoy it. “Rhinestone Cowboy” certainly proves appropriate. The last single my dad ever bought at age 59. I did hear that “where do I go or do I just shut up” at the end.
Think Taylor will ever catch Alison in total Grammys won?
Poor Brian Wilson of the many chins. Sir Paul McCartney even ages better although Brian may have better realized his new music is not what turns the fans on.
Despite the hype, Adele can sing. She had better take care that voice this time around. Great that she covered a Steeldrivers’ song. Adele beats Bon Iver for Song of the Year, but at least the latter was nominated and the Best New Artist is a bit of consolation for him.
Hazel Dickens and her friend Warren Hellman of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass depicted together in the obits shows someone at NARAS is paying attention.
Great to see all of Alison Krauss & Union Station on hand to accept Best Bluegrass Recording and Steve Martin in the audience. With all the Grammys she has won and all the awards and success Martin has had, they could have easily phoned it in. That also demonstrates support for the category. New rules raising the minimum number of entries suggest the attack on the non-TV categories will continue.
I haven’t made the pilgrimage to Nazareth in many years, but have had the pleasure of tours led by Chris Martin IV and the wonderful Mike Longworth. Of course, in Nazarethh, Martin’s Dick Boak established the Church of Art.