Janie Fricke Explores the ‘Country Side of Bluegrass’
Janie Fricke, known for her hit duets with Johnny Duncan, including 'Stranger' and 'Thinkin' of a Rendezvous,' and solo hits 'Down to My Last Broken Heart,' 'Tell Me a Lie' and 'He's a Heartache,' is turning her tunes a little bluer these days -- with 'Country Side of Bluegrass,' an album of grassed-up versions of her greatest hits. Initially approached by a Florida-based label for the project in 2004, the album remained unreleased until another company stepped in to take over.
"I've always been a fan of all types of music, including bluegrass," says the two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. "This is a fun project, to take that style of music and that instrumentation and use it to record my tunes. I had a great time doing it."
Among the tunes receiving the bluegrass treatment are 'You Don't Know Love,' 'She's Single Again' and 'It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy.' The singer also recorded grassy takes on country classics 'Ring of Fire' and 'Please Help Me, I'm Falling.'
Famed Nashville producer Bil VornDick worked with Janie on the disc. She says she trusted him to bring in some of the better-known bluegrass pickers, among them David Talbot on banjo, Randy Kohrs on Dobro, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Glen Duncan and Jimmy Mattingly on mandolin and fiddle.
"He had already chosen most of the songs I had thought would work well on project," Janie explains of the producer. "We played them and I got familiar with the feel and the musical instrumentation. We talked about the songs and how they should feel for the album. It all came about through collaboration with Bil and the other people involved in it."
Among her favorite bluegrass artists, Janie says, are Alison Krauss and Union Station, Jim Lauderdale and the Father of the genre, Bill Monroe. She also enjoys the music of the Roys, with whom she has been paired to perform at recent bluegrass festivals and other venues.
"They are great," the singer says enthusiastically about the brother and sister duo. "I'm very excited to have them backing me up on these bluegrass songs. It's also a direct in for me to get to the buyers and promoters of bluegrass music. It's an interesting combination when you put the two together. The buyers are excited about it, and you can see the audience perking up their ears. It's a fresh, innovative approach, to mix the two of us together, and it seems to be working."
Janie grew up in Indiana, first listening to the folk sounds of Joan Baez and Judy Collins. Music was such a part of her life that she never considered it as a profession until she was introduced to the world of commercial jingles. Over the years the singer's voice has been heard on ads for, among others, United Airlines, Coca-Cola, 7-Up and Red Lobster. That work led to singing on albums by country artists including Loretta Lynn, Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Mel Tillis and others. She has also sung on albums by Charlie Rich and Elvis Presley, recording duets with them after their deaths.
Janie currently lives with her husband, Jeff -- and a host of animals -- on a farm outside Lancaster, Texas. In her spare time, she sews exquisite tapestry pillows to sell in Texas boutiques and on her website. 'Country Side of Bluegrass' is available now.