Monday, February 14, 2011

The Coal Porters performance to benefit the IBMM

The Coal Porters will perform at the International Bluegrass Music Museum on Tuesday, February 15 at 7:00 p.m. as part of our Centennial Concert Series, a benefit for the IBMM. We talked with mandolinist Sid Griffin about the band, his Kentucky heritage and the upcoming show in this interview.

IBMM: Can you tell us a little about your Kentucky roots, and maybe how they play a part in both your music and other artistic endeavors?

Sid Griffin: Being eighth generation Kentucky Southern Baptist on both sides of my family has its strong points and its weak points. In times past the Griffins and the various other branches of the family tree played music to entertain each other and themselves. No radio, no TV, no phonograph records, right? So there is a classic example of the folk tradition there. Even my grandmother played the fiddle and she was pretty strict, no messin' around with her.

But, as time went on entertainment was supplied to Kentuckians, especially after FDR got the Tennessee Valley Authority to run electricity to the smaller communities in the 1930s. And like the rest of the USA the local traditions began to become homogenized and more like they were in the rest of the country or more like what folks heard on the national radio network broadcasts of the day out of places like Manhattan.

So, in many ways this was a bad thing and soon you had families like the Griffins downplaying or even poo-pooing the playing of musical instruments around the house. Which is what happened to me and my generation. How sad is it when a guitar or a mandolin or a banjo are considered poor expenditures of time in a Kentucky household? Pretty damn sad if you ask me.

Anyway after starting in bluegrass as a tyke, finding it difficult and thinking it old man's music, I moved to rock & roll and did really well with it for years. I actually made money at it, top that, eh? But it gets old playing rock and roll as you hit forty, as you get older, you begin to feel a bit foolish. So after a tragic car accident in London almost killed the drummer of my last rock group I decided, while he was recuperating, to start playing the mandolin, to explore acoustic music where you needed no amps or drums. And I have never turned back.

I should now thank the marvelous Bluegrass Museum there in Owensboro as their Bill Monroe Mandolin Camp has been a major influence on my playing and enthusiasm for this acoustic music nowadays.

IBMM: When was the last time you performed in Kentucky?

Sid Griffin: I think I played a couple of solo gigs in Covington and Louisville in the last few years when I was coming home to visit my then ailing and now deceased parents. I believe the last band gig I did was 2004 at the World Of Bluegrass Festival in Louisville, the Coal Porters played that. It was a blast, a total blast, and the last one in Kentucky as it then moved to Nashville. Gigs in Louisville, Lexington and such are pretty much a blast as all my relatives and old friends come out to see me, it really is as much a social event as a musical one!

IBMM: Would you like to say anything to the folks about the upcoming Tuesday show?

Sid Griffin: Come see the Coal Porters and support the marvelous Bluegrass Museum Tuesday night because in a few years a ticket to see the Coal Porters is probably going to be awfully, awfully expensive! On a more serious note we really are a very entertaining band with a world class fiddler and a world class banjo man. Plus I think our original songs are strong, I am immensely proud of them. We've played several hundred shows so surely by now we know what we are doing!

The Coal Porters, from London, England
Benefit Concert for the Bluegrass Museum
February 15 at 7:00 PM
At the museum, 117 Daviess Street, Owensboro, KY 42303.
Tickets are $10 and include a reception with wine and food. Seating is limited.
Call 270-926-7891 to reserve your tickets.