Skip to main content

San Diego Bluegrass Band Prairie Sky Performs In The KPBS Studio

Cover image for podcast episode

In the final installment of Midday Edition's first summer music series we hear from one of San Diego's finest bluegrass bands. Prairie Sky stopped by the KPBS studio to perform and talk about Appalachian music.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Summer is swiftly flying by and today marks the final installment of mid day additions. First summer music series this week, the concert is hosted by Maureen Cavenaugh, palm trees, surfboards, and Mexican food. Don't exactly conjure up images of Appalachia and dueling Banjos, but if you look hard enough, you'll find a thriving bluegrass music scene right here in our backyard. Today we're joined by one of San Diego's finest bluegrass vans, prairie sky. Here they are with the song. Don't you hear Jerusalem Moan?

Speaker 2: 00:32 Well, I got a home on the other shore, don't you? He Jerusalem. Whoa. Ah, no. Well, they have been forever more [inaudible] don't you hear [inaudible]? Don't you hear [inaudible] thank God doesn't haven't any ringing him. I told him my soul said, free. [inaudible] Mon ran a sister. Mary. She, you. Where's the chain? Don't you? He do this alone and on every link is a Jesus name. [inaudible] Noun. Don't you hear Jerusalem? Don't you hear this alarm? No, thank God I haven't had a ring in my soul and my soul said free. Don't you hear Jerusalem know whether the devil wears a hypocrite shoe? Don't you hear [inaudible] Noun. You don't watch out. He gonna step on and you don't, you're here in Jerusalem, mom. Don't you hear Jerusalem loud? Don't you hear Jerusalem Mowing [inaudible] heaven and it ringing and my soul and my soul said, [inaudible] listen, lamb bone. Now the Methodist preacher is a mighty fine man. Don't you hear Jerusalem noun show when us away to the promise land [inaudible] bone. Don't you hear [inaudible] don't you hear Jerusalem? Noun that God. There's a heaven and a ringing in my soul and my soul set free. Don't you hear every salon bone? Don't you hate Jerusalem, mom? Don't you hear this alive? Let God in a ring in my soul and my soul said, please don't do it here. [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 02:11 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 02:14 hmm.

Speaker 3: 02:19 Uh,

Speaker 1: 02:22 prairie sky is Ramona alt on guitar and vocals. Dwight warden on upright bass and vocals. Avery Ellis Min on Mandolin, fiddle and vocals. Jeff Smith on guitar and vocals. Thanks for joining us for midday edition. Oh, we're happy to be here. Now. Did prairie sky begin right here in San Diego? Jeff?

Speaker 4: 02:40 Yes, it did. And what year? 2010 yeah. Oh, we been together for 10 years and believe it or not, we actually all still like each other. We all met in the local bluegrass scene. There's a San Diego bluegrass society and jam sessions and get togethers. And pretty much that's how we met.

Speaker 1: 02:55 Now, you know, bluegrass musicians are among the best players in the world. How do you learn how to play this? How did you learn how to play Avery?

Speaker 5: 03:05 The tradition for bluegrass music is basically an oral tradition by ear. For example, the fiddle was an easy instrument to carry and so it was ubiquitous, played in lots of different countries, but a lot of the people were not schooled, even educated enough to read and certainly not necessarily related to read music. So we basically learned one person to the other learn the tunes. And one of the joys of playing it by ear is that you start to improvise on the theme and you're encouraged to improvise in this kind of music.

Speaker 1: 03:33 So Jeff, you just sort of pick it up?

Speaker 6: 03:36 Um, I, it depends on, you're asking me and I don't feel like I've ever picked it up. So we kind of agree, uh, in, in this pan, I'd, I'd focus more on singing and strumming more than being an outstanding bluegrass picker. Cause those guys, you're right, they're incredible and they spent their whole life, you know, a good play in blue grass.

Speaker 1: 03:56 And Ramona, what about you? What uh, what is your affinity with the picking up the singing style and the music of Bluegrass?

Speaker 7: 04:03 The singer that I remember being turned on by is Joan bias. She was playing a lot of the Carter family, bluegrass, you know, the beginnings of Bluegrass. She's the one that I fell in love with and wanted to learn guitar because I heard Joan Baez,

Speaker 1: 04:20 now you're going to play another song for us right now. And it's called the fiddler Avery. What's the song about?

Speaker 5: 04:27 I was influenced by and moved by some older people who I saw playing the fiddle. It was as if their years were irrelevant and they could've just as easily been 16 as opposed to 86. So it's kind of my way of, of calling attention to the beauty of music and how it cuts across the ages.

Speaker 1: 04:45 Here's prairie sky with their song, the fiddler

Speaker 8: 04:58 [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] man.

Speaker 9: 05:57 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 06:18 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 07:07 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 07:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 07:46 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 08:04 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 08:21 [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 08:37 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 08:40 that was prairie sky performing the fiddler. Thank you once again. Really, really nice. So joy, you were telling me about the way that the bluegrass community in San Diego gets together. Tell, tell me more about that. How big is the community here? It's surprisingly, I think the reason is there are a lot of immigrants, people who came here from Appalachia and brought the music with them and there's a very active nonprofit scene specifically promoting bluegrass and activities and Avery runs a fiddle camp. So basically every week there's two or three bluegrass events that you can participate in going on somewhere in San Diego. So ever. Tell us more about the Julian family fiddle camp. What's, what can you tell us about that?

Speaker 5: 09:21 We're going into our ninth year. It's called the Julian family fiddle camp. We have about a hundred people who come for a four and a half day period in April up in Julian. And uh, the community wrapped its arms around it and it's become quite a popular event. We have great instructors who come in and because the quality of the camp and experience is so good, we have two, three generations of people who come to spend that extended weekend to learn music, dance, and enjoy the beauty of what a music provides us.

Speaker 1: 09:49 You're going to perform one more song for us. What's that going to be? It's going to be man of constant sorrow from the a movie o brother where are out there with George Clooney. Well, I want to thank you before you start prairie sky. Thanks for stopping by the our summer music series today. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having us. Yeah, we've had fun.

Speaker 8: 10:15 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 10:16 prairie sky performed Sunday, September 15th at the Train Song Festival and Poway. For more information, go to kpbs.org/summer music series.

Speaker 8: 10:28 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 11:08 [inaudible] Rambo. I am not [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 11:41 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 11:41 yeah, that's bare. The weight lover [inaudible] in some [inaudible]

Speaker 8: 12:54 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 12:57 I think [inaudible]

Speaker 10: 13:22 God, go there. Show,

Speaker 11: 13:29 uh,

Speaker 8: 13:40 [inaudible].

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.