Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Wonderland: Footprints In The Snow

Clarence White & Doc Watson - Footprints In The Snow [purchase]

Muleskinner - Footprints In The Snow [purchase]

Today we bookend the career of guitar hero, Clarence White, with a bluegrass standard popularized by Bill Monroe in the 1940s. The duet with Doc Watson in July 1964 was, in some ways, Clarence's coming out party. The Kentucky Colonels' masterpiece, Appalachian Swing, had been released that April, but for bluegrass fans not living in the band's home base of California, the Newport Folk Festival in July was their first chance to see the Colonels in person. Clarence and Doc played a handful of songs at a guitar workshop and I think it's fair to say that the audience got their money's worth.

Muleskinner was a bluegrass supergroup featuring, in addition to Clarence, Peter Rowan on rhythm guitar, David Grisman on mandolin, Richard Greene on fiddle, and Bill Keith on banjo. Ironically, the group's existence was made possible by Bill Monroe. In February 1973, the guys were set to back up Monroe for a Southern California TV show, but the old man's bus broke down on the way to the studio. So, the band played the gig without him, and then in March and April, laid down tracks for an album. Sadly, that album features some of Clarence's final recorded guitar work as he died at the hands of a drunk driver on July 15.

FYI, for those of you wondering when the latest chapter of the Clarence White Chronicles will be set loose on the God-fearing public, look for it on The Adios Lounge in the next few days.

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