The Grascals Prepare for ‘Famous’ Ride
"I've known Jamey for seven or eight years," Jamie (pictured above, second from left) told The Boot from Louisville, Ky., where he and his bandmates were waiting to do a trucking show at Freedom Hall for Mobil Delvac, their tour sponsor. "We're gonna sing before 10,000 truckers and their families and in front of John Anderson."
Jamie then continues his story about the other Jamey, with whom the Grascals are touring on the Hank Williams Jr. Rowdy Friends trek. "We've written together, and there was a time we were thinking about doing this duo, but it never worked out.
"I'm happy for doing this with the Grascals and he's where he belongs; he finally came into his stride."
The Grascals have certainly hit their own successful stride. They release their fourth album, 'The Famous Lefty Flynn's,' today (March 30) and are looking forward to the Hank Jr. tour. There's a direct connection with the tour and the CD, since Hank joins the award-winning group on a special song on the disc -- 'I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome,' written by Bill Monroe and Hank Williams Sr.
"This is the first time Hank Jr. had a chance to do this song, when he walked in to record it with us," Jamie notes. "He seemed to be very thankful that he got a chance to do it. I'm not on there at all. [The Grascals'] Terry Eldredge sang tenor. I could tell he was itching to sing with Hank Jr.! The song has always been done as a duet, because Monroe always had someone sing it with him. So we did a trio on it, with [Grascals member] Terry Smith joining Terry and Hank. In tribute to the guys who wrote the song we put steel guitar on it, and then we bluegrassed it up for Monroe. We feel it's a classic song already and hopefully we did it justice."
Actually Hank Jr. is returning a favor, as the Grascals joined him on 'All the Roads,' a track from his latest album. Jamie recalls that Hank Jr. found the lyrics to the song, which he had written 20 years earlier. "He started singing the lyrics around the house and his daughters heard him and said 'Daddy, do that song on your new album. We remember you singing it to us when we were kids.' So we were the ones who came to mind to perform it with him, and his people called our people, and there we were in the studio. It was cool hanging out with Hank Jr. and recording that song."
Jamie says that after the Grascals do their show on the tour, they'll come out with Hank in the middle of his show while his band leaves the stage for about 15 minutes. "We've been rehearsing to try to get this thing down so we'll be ready for that," he says. "We'll bring the Grascals and bluegrass music to his crowd. It's called the Rowdy Friends Tour, so we'll fit right in."
If the Grascals (which also includes Danny Roberts, Jeremy Abshire and newest member Kristin Scott Benson, who records with the group for the first time on 'The Famous Lefty Flynn's') had only the new album to perform on the tour, they would present a cross-section of the music they know and love, a combination of bluegrass and country with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Jamie says they've used the same formula on every album they've done and it continues to work for them – a few bluegrass standards, a country song or two, a gospel number, a couple of new tunes and one classic from another genre that makes people say "Where did that come from?"
"I write every day, so I'll pitch them several songs, but we're smart enough to know we're not the Eagles and the Beatles," Jamie says. "We know not to waste your songs if they're not great, or if they don't fit what you're doing. Some do and some don't."
Detailing songs from the new album, Jamie says, "'Lefty Flynn' I wrote eight years ago with Morry Trent, and finally we decided to record it and it's the title cut. 'My Baby's Waiting on the Other Side' I wrote with Terry Smith and Danny Roberts on the Dolly Parton tour while we were waiting to go onstage between shows. So now it's finally made the record. Other than that, you go to the best songwriters in the world, and they're in Nashville. And then you pick that one song, like this time it's [the Monkees hit] 'Last Train to Clarksville,' and that's the one we do on television and radio because that's the one people will recognize."
The band also reached to writers like Steve Earle for his 'My Old Friend, the Blues' and to Harley Allen and Scotty Emerick for 'Everytime.' They chose their gospel number, 'Give Me Jesus,' from the public domain, and 'Son of a Sawmill Man' from the pen of Pete Goble and Bobby Osborne.
One of the songs that is attracting a lot of attention from fans is 'Satan and Grandma,' written by Craig Monday and Chris Wallin. "Alan Jackson had the song on hold, but didn't record it. Then Montgomery Gentry recorded it and didn't put it out. It's about Grandma beating up Satan and in the end she wins. That's the one where you see the Grandmas in the crowd getting out their tissues. It's a totally great tribute to them."
Before bowing out of the interview to get ready for the night's show, Jamie pauses long enough to praise the country legend with whom they're sharing the stage. "There's nothing better than John Anderson. We've performed with him several times. Plus I'm close to home, I went to college in Louisville. It's kind of come full circle for me tonight. Twenty years ago I was sneaking into Freedom Hall in Louisville to see Hank Jr. I'm just blessed and honored to be here."
Hank Williams Jr.'s Rowdy Friends tour begins April 2 in Charleston, W. Va.