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Very happy to report I’ll be going back to an amazing city, Shanghai, this fall, and working once again with peerless wedding shooter Louis Pang. The two of us have always taught well together, taking different paths to a picture, and using skill sets that complement each other well. Louis of course is the master of the wedding, orchestrating and posing people in wonderful fashion. Me? Well, I’ll be engaging once again in a bit of hopefully creative mayhem with speed lights.
I’ve always loved shooting in Shanghai, which is one of the most vibrant places on earth. Louis and I will be teaching there from November 19th through the 23rd. Here’s the schedule and links to the workshops and seminars offered..
Here’s just a few shots I’ve done in Shanghai over the years, and I’m excited to head back to teach!
One of the exciting new cameras here at Photokina is the Canon Powershot G7 X, a pocketable compact camera with a large 1"-type sensor. We caught up with Canon's Chuck Westfall who gave us an overview of the G7 X and let us know when it should be available. See video
With the introduction of the NX1 mirrorless camera, Samsung has put a stake in the ground of the photography market. We stop by the Samsung booth to learn more about the NX1, a new 50-150mm F2.8 image stabilized lens, and also get a peek at the company's "technology demonstration" 300mm F2.8 lens. See video
Sounds Like Home: A Night of Music from the Cumberlands is a community homecoming for bluegrass legends Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley, who have grown up, performed and made countless friends and fans in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee and Kentucky. This special event takes place September 26th at 6 PM at Cove Lake State Park in Caryville, Tennessee.
These amazing bluegrass artists return to help kick off a great weekend celebration, along with the Pinnacle Mountain Boys (featuring Don Gulley) and Vic Graves & Friends. This remarkable night of lightning-fast picking and sweet, soulful harmonies will remind you how special our community is.
Steve has just put together the next chapter in his legendary bluegrass career with his new band, Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle. Joined with Bryan Turner on Bass, Gary Robinson on Mandolin and Matthew Cruby on Banjo, this group has healthy and deep bluegrass roots. They also have the experience to greak out with some hot music as well.
The Gulley family name enjoys a rich musical heritage that reaches across generations with strong roots in Bluegrass and Mountain Gospel music. It starts with long time radio personality Don Gulley who was a founding member of the Bluegrass group the Pinnacle Mountain Boys. Don’s son, Steve Gulley, has carried on the family tradition performing for many years with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, as a founding member of Bluegrass super groups Mountain Heart and Grasstowne, as a regular featured performer at Renfro Valley and with Steve’s longtime friend and colleague Dale Ann Bradley.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and RICKARD RIDGE BBQ will be selling food and beverages on site.
The concert raises funds for the non-profit, all-volunteer Campbell Culture Coalition, the organization that runs Louie Bluie and many other arts and culture events in Campbell County. Tickets are on sale now! Get them online by clicking the link below or find them at one of the ticket outlets listed below. Advance tickets are $12.50 and tickets at the gate are $15.
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn present their eponymous debut album as a duo, after many years of prominence as banjo players and composers in their own eclectic avenues. Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn is a front porch banjo and vocal album of new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber and blues; the culmination of a yearlong tour as a duo in 2013, following the birth of their son, Juno. Béla, an icon and innovator of jazz, classical and world, with more multi-category GRAMMY wins than any other artist (15 total), and Abigail, a formidable talent with triumphs in songwriting, theater, performance, and even Chinese diplomacy by way of banjo, turn out to be quite a fortuitous pairing with a deep, distinct and satisfying outcome. The culmination is an album like no other.
The record reveals their astounding chemistry as collaborators, as the two seamlessly stitch together singular banjo sounds (through an assortment of seven banjos spanning the recording) in service to the stories that their songs tell, with no studio gimmickry needed. According to Béla, “finding a way to make every song have its own unique stamp, yet the whole project having a big cohesive sound – with only two people,” was at the core of their joint vision. Demonstrating seemingly unlimited rhythmic, tonal and melodic capabilities, Fleck and Washburn confirm the banjo’s versatility as the perfect backdrop to the rich lyrical component that Fleck and Washburn offer, “Sometimes when you add other instruments, you take away from the banjo’s being able to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful.”
Thanks to this album, the musicians’ palette has never been more vivid or pure. Sure, in the abstract, a banjo duo might seem like a musical concept beset by limitations. But when the banjo players cast in those roles are Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck—she with the earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old-time singer-songwriter, he with the virtuosic, jazz-to-classical ingenuity of an iconic instrumentalist and composer with bluegrass roots— it’s a different matter entirely. There’s no denying that theirs is a one-of-a-kind pairing, with one-of-a-kind possibilities.Fleck and Washburn have collaborated in the past, most visibly in their Sparrow Quartet with Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee. Until last fall, though, any performances they gave as a two-piece were decidedly informal, a pickin’ party here, a benefit show at Washburn’s grandmother’s Unitarian church there. It was inevitable and eagerly anticipated by fans of tradition-tweaking acoustic fare that these partners in music and life (who married in 2009) would eventually do a full-fledged project together.
Now that Fleck, a fifteen-time GRAMMY winner, has devoted time away from his standard-setting ensemble Béla Fleck and the Flecktones to a staggeringly broad array of musical experiments, from writing a concerto for the Nashville Symphony to exploring the banjo’s African roots to jazz duos with Chick Corea, while Washburn has drawn critical acclaim for her solo albums, done fascinating work in folk musical diplomacy in China, presented an original theatrical production, contributed to singular side groups Uncle Earl and The Wu-Force and become quite a live draw in her own right, the two of them decided they were ready to craft their debut album as a duo, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (releasing October 7 on Rounder Records).
There was one other small, yet not at all insignificant factor in the timing: the birth of their son Juno. Says Fleck, “I come from a broken home, and I have a lot of musician friends who missed their kids’ childhoods because they were touring. The combination of those two things really made me not want to be one of those parents. I don’t want to be somebody that Juno sees only once in a while. We need to be together, and this is a way we can be together a whole lot more.”
That goes for touring and album-making both. Thanks to the fact that they have a first-rate studio on the premises, Fleck and Washburn could record at home—but that didn’t mean it was an easy process. Consumed with caring for their new baby and perpetually sleep-deprived, they had to get resourceful in order to carve out time to cut tracks.
“Béla is really the reason that it’s finished,” Washburn emphasizes. “There were a few months when Juno was a newborn that I just really had to have somebody say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re gonna do today.’ As long as I could spend a few hours a day between nursings, we could make some good progress on the record.”
The aim wasn’t simply to get the album done, but to make it feel satisfying and complete using only the sounds they could coax out of their bodies and their banjos. Says Fleck, “We didn’t want any other instruments on there, because we’re into this idea that we’re banjo players, and that should be enough. Why do you always have to have a rhythm section, a guitar player, a bass player or something? Sometimes when you add other instruments, you take away from the ability of the banjo to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful.”
Washburn and Fleck didn’t confine themselves to playing their usual workhorses, her Ome Jubilee and his pre-war Gibson Mastertone Style 75. Between them, they used seven different banjos in all, including a cello banjo, a ukulele banjo that technically belongs to Juno and a baritone banjo that Fleck commissioned specifically for this album.
“We had this vision of playing different banjos in different registers,” he says, “finding a way to make every song have its own unique stamp, yet the whole project having a big, cohesive sound – with only two people.” (A giggling Juno is the only other person who appears anywhere on the album.)
From track to track, Washburn and Fleck are a nimble band unto themselves. On the trad tune “Railroad,” she sustains a droning feel, while he jabs in syncopated counterpoint. Woven into the middle of their arrangement is an excerpt from another American banjo chestnut, “Oh! Susanna,” an occasion for Fleck to briefly slip into a dixieland role. In their co-written original “Little Birdie“ he supplies what amounts to a ticklish, inventive bass line while she plays circling arpeggios and picks out the melody. “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is her turn to toy with droll, walking bass beneath his wonderfully jaunty licks. “What’cha Gonna Do,” which came entirely from his pen, lyrics and all, rides a churning groove made up of intertwining banjo figures and foot patting.
All that’s to say, there’s a ton going on rhythmically, tonally and melodically. Then there are the breathtaking ballads like Washburn’s “Ride To You” and the traditional “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?,” which showcase the way she caresses a lyric with the hearty yet elegant empathy of her vocals. (The story goes that Fleck was so taken with her singing the first time he heard it on a recording that he lost track of how fast he was driving and got pulled over.) He’s singing harmony on a couple of tracks too, something he hasn’t had the chance to do since his New Grass Revival days.
You’d expect Fleck to take the lead during intricate instrumentals, but that’s not always the case here. In “New South Africa,” which came from his Flecktones repertoire, he and Washburn each take a turn out front. And if you listen to “banjo banjo” in stereo, it’s easy to make out the subtle rippling effect of the two players seamlessly trading notes during ascending and descending runs.
That kind of stuff was way out of Washburn’s comfort zone. “I come from the old-time world,” she says, “which is more about communally trancing out on old fiddle and banjo tunes. It has very little to do with soloing or anything technical or virtuosic. So for me to try to learn Béla’s music has been a big challenge, but a wonderful one. Although I’m a very different type of player, I feel very lucky that he’s a musical mentor to me. It’s a beautiful part of our connection.”
Fleck chimes in, “I’m a big fan of Abby’s playing. I know it so well that I could imagine the two of us playing these tunes together. I love looking at her playing and going, ‘What can I throw into your kettle of soup that would make it bubble up just a little bit?’”
The directness of her musical sensibilities had a profound effect on him, too. “I do a lot of heady music,” he explains, “and I’m always trying hard to keep soul and melodicism as important elements, but there’s also a lot of complexity going on. When I play with Abby, there’s an opportunity for me to make music that hits you in a different place emotionally. That’s one of her gifts, is a pure connection to the listener, taking simpler ideas and imbuing them with a lot of personality and a point of view. I wanted to make sure that while I was respecting my own ability to play complex ideas, I was also part of making that feeling happen.”
A surprising number of the songs on the album address matters of life and death, a coincidence that Fleck and Washburn came to embrace. There are multiple meditations on the afterlife, one example being the Appalachian-accented “And Am I Born To Die,” which Washburn learned from a recording of one of her heroes, Doc Watson. And if they were going to record the Victorian murder ballad “Pretty Polly,” Washburn wanted to make sure that it was a version where Polly had a speaking part, and that it was immediately followed in the song sequence by her original “Shotgun Blues,” a song whose gist she summarizes as “I’m gonna come after that nasty, old man that keeps killing all those ladies in all those murder ballads.”
Of course, Fleck and Washburn also had a new life entrusted into their care, and were overwhelmed at times by how strong the protective parental instincts hit them. So, after recording one version of “Little Birdie,” they ultimately went with an alternate version where the mama bird saves the baby bird from a crocodile in the final verse. That one felt right.
Judging from the way Juno dances every time he hears it, his favorite song in the bunch is “Railroad.” In fact, Fleck suggested they work it up after he overheard her singing it to their newborn. (Washburn’s mother used to sing to her when she was little too.) Juno gets to hear rehearsals and sound checks a plenty, since he accompanies his parents to folk festivals, arts centers and theaters all across the country. But he’s typically already asleep in his very own bunk on the bus before the shows start.
Washburn and Fleck playfully embrace the notion that they’ve become a family band. And at home, on stage or on record, it’s their deep bond, on top of the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, that makes theirs a picking partnership unlike any other on the planet.
Each song on the album points to traditional influences, but it’s clear that Front Country views these traditions as a launching pad for grander explorations. On their highly anticipated debut full-length album, Sake of the Sound, Front Country blend everything from high-lonesome mountain music to new-wave power pop, newgrass picking, oldgrass harmonies, and just plain glorious musicality. This is Americana at its best: music with deep roots and wide-ranging vision.
From the first notes of “Gospel Train,” as Melody Walker’s soaring voice entwines around the phrase “I woke up with heaven on my mind,” you’ll hear that Front Country isn’t your usual bluegrass band. When the fiddle and distorted acoustic guitar come crashing into the song like roaring waves, rushing back and forth with swelling ferocity, you’ll know that this is bluegrass unleashed, American roots music that refuses to be constrained. Each song on the album points to traditional influences, but it’s clear that Front Country views these traditions as a launching pad for grander explorations.
On their highly anticipated debut full-length album, Sake of the Sound, Front Country blend everything from high-lonesome mountain music to new-wave power pop, newgrass picking, oldgrass harmonies, and just plain glorious musicality. This is Americana at its best: music with deep roots and wide-ranging vision.
Coming out of the California Bay Area’s red-hot roots music scene, Front Country first made waves with a rare double band competition win at both the Telluride and Rockygrass music festivals. Following national tours and invites to prestigious events like Wintergrass and IBMA, anticipation has been mounting for their debut full-length album.
Wanting to create something that pushed their sound even further, Front Country recruited renowned instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter Kai Welch (Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck) to produce Sake of the Sound. With Welch at the helm, Front Country were able to unite their many far-reaching musical influences and inspirations and do credit to their electrifying live show. The songs on the new album are sourced from all across the Americana spectrum (Utah Philips, Bob Dylan, Kate Wolf), but each cover brings a fresh, new perspective.
New songwriters like Nashville scribe Sarah Siskind or Laura Wortman of The Honey Dewdrops bring powerful songs as well, but Front Country truly shines when the original songs of lead singer Melody Walker give them room to flex. “Colorado” is a gorgeously crafted showcase to both Walker’s voice and the understated power of each instrumentalist in Front Country. Melody’s songs draw out Front Country’s furthest reaching interests in music. Her title song “Sake of the Sound,” a rapturous musical ode set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, references Paul Simon’s “Graceland” or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as easily as new-wave progressive bluegrass bands like Crooked Still or The Punch Brothers, and even dips into Melody and Jacob’s interests in ethnomusicology and Afro Pop. With a global span of interests and world-class talent, it’s no wonder Front Country’s bluegrass sounds like it was born in a new century.
Front Country formed in 2011 from a monthly gig with friends in San Francisco’s Mission District. They quickly found a musical rapport that was open to challenging arrangements, unique covers and original songwriting. Melody Walker brought her award-winning songwriting to the table and her hall-shaking voice, which sounds like a mix between Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Maines. Mandolinist Adam Roszkiewicz was nominated for a Grammy in 2013 for his work with the Modern Mandolin Quartet, and is a composer of new acoustic instrumental music. The offspring of a concert violinist and a geology professor, fiddler Leif Karlstrom is an explosive mix of talent and precision, erupting like a bluegrass volcano. Banjo player Jordan Klein has been an asset to the Bay Area bluegrass scene for over ten years and can be found picking in the campground of many a festival till the wee hours. Starting out on electric bass in funk bands, Zach Sharpe plays upright bass on-stage, and picks a mean banjo off-stage. Jacob Groopman is the hardest working man in Front Country, acting as both lead guitarist and head cat-wrangler, while supplying sweet harmony vocals and spiritual guidance for a crew of six.
[by David Diamond]
Now that Digital Asset Management has (almost) become a topic companies understand, an opportunity has arisen for professional photographers. Today’s “please send me” request can be tomorrow’s new revenue stream.
Digital Asset Management Services
In addition to photo services, there’s no reason you can’t offer to store and manage digital assets for your clients. Whether you limit collections to photos you’ve taken, or you enable clients to add files of their own, a DAM is something that must be managed in order to provide any value. Some clients might already have DAMs under control; but others might like the idea of you—the photographer they know and trust—managing a DAM for them.
To get you started, here are a few things to consider:
Marketing Befitting a Creative Professional
If you’re at a loss for how to “sell” your new service to clients, think like a marketer. What’s in it for them?
There’s good in this for you too:
Here’s more that I’ve written on the topic, including a case study example: http://picturepark.com/dam-solutions/resell-digital-asset-management-services/
David Diamond has been working in Digital Asset Management for more than 16 years. He founded DAM Guru Program and authored DAM Survival Guide. Diamond manages global marketing for Swiss DAM vendor, Picturepark. He was awarded the 2013 DAMMY of the Year for his educational contributions to the industry.