This is the weekend of the 35th Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Music Festival being held at the Litchfield Fairgrounds. The event will feature a great many excellent acts from across the United States, Atlantic Canada and from right here in Maine.
One of the featured acts is a sextet from Tennessee known as The Grascals, scheduled to perform Saturday. One of the founding members, guitarist-singer-songwriter Jamie Johnson, called recently to chat about his band’s music, especially their latest CD, “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s,” and some personal memories of this long-running festival.
Q: I’ve been listening to your new album, “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s,” which came out at the end of March.
JOHNSON: It’s fairly new, but we’re knee-deep in the new project already, so it’s like it’s been out for years to me.
Q: One of the songs that really got me was the first track — the Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.”
JOHNSON: We actually were going to record that song a few albums ago and we’ve just been so busy, you get lazy as far as rehearsing. We usually rehearse when we get to the studio, and we just never took the time to rehearse that one. I’m just glad that nobody else got a hold of it before we finally got it on there. It’s a crowd-favorite. It doesn’t matter if we’re on the stage with Hank Jr. (Hank Williams Jr.) or we’re at the Grand Ole Opry or at a bluegrass venue, they still love it at the show, and it puts a smile on their faces, so that’s pretty cool. We’ve just made a video of it: it’s on our website, and it’s just being released to CMT and GAC, and the video will crack you up, too, because they’ve got us going real fast and stuff like the Monkees. It’s quite hilarious.
Q: Just out of curiosity, where are you calling from?
JOHNSON: Nashville. I’m actually on the road, I’m heading down to the south of Nashville to Brentwood and a studio — we’re in the middle of our “Cracker Barrel” record, which will be coming out in February — “Grascals and friends.” We’ve got Brad Paisley on there with us. Charlie Daniels, Hank Jr., Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall came in yesterday out of retirement and sang “Clayton Delaney” with us, so that was a very cool thing. It’s a really cool project and we’re proud to be a part of it!
Q: Let’s talk about touring for a bit here — have you ever been to the Blistered Fingers Family Bluegrass Festival before?
JOHNSON: I played it years ago with a group called Boys from Indiana — which was one of the first groups I was in — and I also played there with the Valley Boys and that was a lonesome, lonesome time. But just to give you an idea of how the bluegrass folks are a community — how close we are — we were in an RV and the leaf springs went out on (it); we had it all jacked up on one side and, of all things, there was a company right down the road that custom-built leaf springs from RVs and heavy-duty trucks. They got them done over the weekend, replaced them, and by the time we left the festival, we had had so much help from everybody there that, well, I will never forget Blistered Fingers. It’s a great family event.
I mean, they all are, bluegrass festivals are getting thinner and thinner these days, as far as the number of them, but when you get there, you’ve never had a better experience.
Lucky Clark has spent over four decades writing about good music and the people who make it — he can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!