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MP3 Eric Uglum - Shenandoah Wind

Bluegrass and acoustic music performed by one of the most respected guitar players and singers in the country

10 MP3 Songs
COUNTRY: Bluegrass, COUNTRY: Country Folk

Eric Uglum - Tone, Taste and Timing
by Chris Stuart

About halfway between San Diego and Las Vegas, Interstate15 climbs through the Cajon Pass in the Sierras of southern California and onto the high desert. The town of Hesperia stands at the gates of this desert.

In the summer, temperatures above 100 degrees are not uncommon. Front yards are little more than rock and sand relieved only by scrub brush and Joshua trees. In the winter, snow storms gather strength through the pass and blow through the town with full force. For most of the year, the nearby Mojave River is nothing more than an empty ravine, until flash floods scour it, maintaining its designation as a river.

It''s here, on a slight rise overlooking the desert, that New Wine Studios thrives. Ron Block has recorded here. Sean Watkins. Lost Highway. The Cherryholmes Family. And many other bands.

Entering the studio, one is immediately impressed by the amount and range of recording gear, the isolated recording areas, the comfortable and acoustically superior control room, the pictures on the wall. But that''s not what makes this a great studio. What makes New Wine Studios great is the man sitting at the console, Eric Uglum.

In the past, bluegrass from California has acquired an undeserved reputation as noodly, soulless and gutless. Sometimes east coast reviewers start out by emphasizing in a detracting manner that the band is from California-as if that should be taken into consideration as an extreme handicap. But what Eric Uglum has been teaching and playing for over twenty years out here is as fundamental as the land that surrounds him-good tone, good taste and good timing.

In that sense, there is no more traditional a musician in the country than Eric Uglum. His roots come directly from the Stanley Brothers, and in fact his first musical memory is of seeing them perform on the Pete Seeger television show. As Eric says, he didn''t know what he was hearing, but he knew it was great.

The tones he was hearing in bluegrass led him to take up the guitar in the mid-seventies and study the styles of Carter Stanley and George Shuffler, then Clarence White and Tony Rice. He learned the fiddle tunes. He learned the licks. But it was the tone of the guitar that he fell in love with-the way the cross-picking holds the rhythm together, the way soulfull fills frame the lead vocal, the way the spaces between the notes create the melody.

Eric was born in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but moved to southern California early, living first in Downey and then growing up mostly in Huntington Beach.

In the early 1980s he met Ron Block and together with Mike Bub and Butch Baldassari, formed a now almost legendary band, Weary Hearts. The band astounded people with their rock-solid traditional sound and the brother-like vocal blend of Eric and Ron Block. More importantly, the two share a musical and philosophical bond as best friends (Ron and Sandra named their first child Erica after Eric).

After touring with Weary Hearts for two years, Eric formed another band, New Wine, with Ron and Sandra Block and Rob Ickes on dobro. After Ron continued his career with Alison Krauss, Eric-with Janet Beazley on banjo, Marshall Andrews on bass, and Bud Bierhaus on guitar-formed Copperline which released an album "Long, Long Way" and performed a showcase at the IBMA conference in 1996.

In 1997, Eric joined Ken Orrick, Dick Brown, Paul Shelasky and Marshall Andrews in the current lineup of Lost Highway, another traditional band from southern California that has built a large fan base and tours extensively around the country, the United Kingdom and Europe. Eric plays mostly mandolin and some guitar in the band and his tenor singing to Ken Orrick''s lead is a vital part of the band''s sound. His singing of Mansion on the Hill and his solo guitar on Battle Cry of Freedom is an often requested highlight of the Lost Highway show.

Also in 1997, Eric began engineering and producing projects under the name New Wine Studio.

That''s the rough outline of Eric''s musical career-the initial defining moment of hearing the Stanley Brothers; the parking lot picking and making friends with such great California bluegrass musicians as Ron Block, Stuart Duncan, and Rob Ickes; playing in several bands; the creation of his studio; and his current work with Lost Highway.

At the same time, Eric manages to keep up his interests in paleontology, biblical archaeology, and astronomy, and with his wife Stacey, raise their children Austin, Christian, and the newest one, Edwin.

Until recently though, Eric''s name has not been frequently seen at bluegrass festivals or in publications. He has a disinterest in publicity for its own sake and thinks of himself as a sideman, placing the song in the spotlight rather than himself. And yet, in spite of that, or perhaps because of it, he''s had a tremendous impact on musicians from Ron Block to Rob Ickes to Julie Elkins. Eric''s guitar playing and singing is as powerful and original as anyone''s in bluegrass.

Fans and friends of Eric''s had almost given up on him doing a solo CD, but that CD, produced by Janet Beazley, is now available (street date of September 2003) under the title "Shenandoah Wind" on Backcountry Records (https://www.tradebit.com).

It combines traditional songs such as Wandering Boy, Lover''s Quarrel and Mansion on the Hill, with newer compositions from people such as Pat Metheny. But the tone of the album remains true to Eric''s musical aesthetic. It''s a tour-de-force of good tone, good timing, and good taste-understated, soulful playing, great singing, and attention to the demands of each song. Eric''s love of slow country ballads is evident in "If A Broken Heart Could Kill", and his love of music of the British Isles is reflected in "Jaimie Raeburn."

The guests on the album include Alison Krauss-who sings high baritone on two of the songs-Ron Block, Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes, and Irl Hees. But it''s Eric''s guitar and voice that are for once at the center of a CD.

With a full touring schedule with Lost Highway (https://www.tradebit.com), recording, engineering, and producing (Eric''s next project will be as producer on Sally Jones''s forthcoming album on Pinecastle Records), and a solo CD, Eric''s musical career has finally started to step out into the public eye. But his mantra has not changed. It is still "tone, taste and timing." That''s what makes good music survive and Eric Uglum-like the Joshua trees that thrive in the southern California desert-is a survivor.

[Information on New Wine Studio, guitar tab, and recordings can be gotten from Eric at euglum@https://www.tradebit.com.]

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