My daughter Mei Lin and I have put together a bluegrass band – Boston Ravine. This peculiar band name comes from the original name given to our neighborhood back in the Gold Rush days. Pioneers from the Boston area settled in and around Wolf Creek in search of new fortunes. Later on, the whole Grass Valley area was called Boston Ravine before the township settled on “Grassy Valley”. As we live just across the street from Wolf Creek, we thought it appropriate to call ourselves by this name – a fitting name for a Bluegrass band.
People who are familiar with my musical leanings towards modern cross-cultural trancy groove music (that was a mouthful!), might be a bit surprised to see me playing old-time Bluegrass music. You might be wondering how I ended up traveling this particular road.
When I was in High School, a friend of mine turned me on to the Grateful Dead. I went to see them in 1980 at the Long Beach Sports Arena. This was one of the first “big” concerts I ever attended. I had a strong sense that the Dead were pulling from deep roots in American music. Later, when I was in my early 20’s, a friend introduced me to Old & In the Way, the short-lived bluegrass band that Jerry Garcia started with David Grisman in the mid 70s. When I first heard Old & In the Way, it all connected for me. I later found out that Jerry Garcia played banjo long before he ever picked up any electric instrument. So Old & In the Way was really a return to roots for him. Over the next few years I started to explore David Grisman’s music as well.
Years later, my friend Russel Roe made me a cassette tape of some of his favorite Bill Monroe recordings. Around this time, my brother Darrel started playing banjo, and was also really getting into bluegrass. I started playing bluegrass songs in living room jams with Russ and also with my brother when I would visit the family in central coast California.
In 2002, Juli and I moved from the Bay Area to Grass Valley which is up in the Sierra Foothills above Sacramento. Grass Valley is also the home of one of the best bluegrass festivals in the world. Going to the festival every summer and experiencing top notch bluegrass bands live in performance really enhanced my love for this music!
We started bringing Mei Lin to the festival with us when she was a baby. Although she has been exposed to such a broad range of genres and styles in our musically diverse household, she really loved bluegrass from the very start. She started playing violin when she was 7 years old, and it did not take long at all for her to start picking up old-timey and bluegrass fiddle tunes. From that time on, we have been frequently jamming in our living room. I cannot express what a wonderful bond and blessing this shared passion for playing music together has been for us! I also love how everything just fell naturally into place for this over time. Beautiful how life works sometimes!!
Last year, we recorded an EP of some favorite traditional bluegrass tunes. Our friend Kathy Barwick played some Scruggs style banjo on the old Flatt & Scruggs tune “Somehow Tonight”, and Juli played a bit of clawhammer banjo on the old folk tune “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”. We hope you enjoy our renditions of these old soulful tunes.
7/23 – Update to post.. This EP is no longer available or in circulation.