Grant Farm

Cosmic Americana from Colorado

A refreshing harvest of a band from the fertile Front Range of Colorado

Tyler Grant & Robin Kessinger - Kanawha County Flatpicking


Tyler Grant & Robin Kessinger - Kanawha County Flatpicking


Released August 24, 2018

This album represents a labor of love for two friends and mutual musical admirers. I first met Robin at the Wayne Henderson Festival and Contest in 2005. Robin was a judge of the guitar contest and I won that year. Some recall Robin hurrying out of the judging booth asking, "Who played that Forked Deer?" Later that year we got to spend some quality time together at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, where we both competed in the National Flatpicking Championship. I took second place that year. Robin had already claimed his championship in 1985, and I eventually won in 2008. In subsequent years Robin and I found ourselves on faculty together at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic KAMP in Maryville, TN, and Augusta Bluegrass Week in Elkins, WV, where we built up a friendship and some good twin guitar arrangements for the evening concerts. One night at a jam session Robin asked, "How old are you?" On my response, Robin said, "You're the same age as one of my boys." That's when Robin became my Flatpicking "Pa" and I became Robin's Flatpicking "Son". We like to carry on with this role for a good laugh every now and then: "Don't thrash me Pa, I been practicing!"…"Son, Get a switch…" 
The opportunity finally arrived in August 2017. I secured a few days off of my busy Summer schedule of performances with Grant Farm following Augusta Bluegrass Week, rented a car, and drove to St. Albans, the Kessingers' hometown in Kanawha County, WV, to stay with Robin and his wife Mary for a few days. Robin's nephew-in-law, Bud Carroll, a veteran musician and studio engineer, had just relocated his Trackside Studios to his cabin home near Point Pleasant, WV. Bud had the days available. The tracking took place Monday and Tuesday, Aug 7-8. Robin and I had communicated ahead of time about a few songs and tunes, and we had a couple existing arrangements, but most of the program was worked up the evening before tracking. We both wanted to dig up some long-time Kessinger family songs and tunes that Robin had learned from his Great-Uncle, Clark, and his Dad, Bob. Many of these had not been played in a while. Clark Kessinger was one of the most renowned and influential old-time fiddlers of all time, and Bob Kessinger was a well-known mandolinist and singer who performed with The Mountaineers for many years on WCHS TV and Radio in Charleston, WV. Bud set up a guitar mic and vocal mic for each player and a couple nice microphones in the room to capture the vibe and the live sound. There was very little separation between Tyler and Robin, and no headphones. Just two fellas pickin' and singin' in a room together. The result is a real performance and a time capsule of this moment of inspiration. There are more details in the liner notes track-by track, and there is a deep well of further research into the Kanawha County Kessinger music available to explore. I thought it was important to share some of the history of this music to connect the roots to this new branch. We hope you gain as much from this project as we did. - Tyler Grant, Fort Collins, CO - June 2018

Produced by Tyler Grant
Engineered by Bud Carroll at his Cabin Home - Trackside Studios, near Point Pleasant, WV, August 7-8, 2017
Mixed by Aaron Youngberg at Swingfingers Studio, Fort Collins, CO
Mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering, Boulder, CO
Artwork and Design by Kevin Bell
Photos by Bud Carroll
Liner notes by Tyler Grant
Robin plays a Bob Thompson Cutaway Dreadnought with Blue Chip Pick and DR Strings 
Tyler plays a 1953 Martin D-28 with Blue Chip Pick and D'Addario Strings (Steve Kaufman's Acoustic KAMP) (Augusta Bluegrass Week)

Tyler and Robin would like to thank our Families, Sponsors, Kickstarter Backers, and YOU!

Track Info:
1. Soldier's Joy (Traditional, Arr. Grant/Kessinger) 3:49
Just the good ol' Soldier's Joy. Robin plays melody and Tyler plays harmony on the A section, then on the B section Tyler plays melody and Robin jumps up the neck for a high harmony part. This arrangement was first worked up and performed at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic KAMP in 2011, where Robin and Tyler have both been on faculty for many years. 
2. My Blue Ridge Mountain Home (Carson J. Robison - Morris Edwin H & Co, Inc {ASCAP}) 3:27
Originally recorded by Vernon Dalhart & Carson Robison in 1927 for Victor (Victor 20539-A), this became the theme song for Bob Kessinger's band, The Mountaineers, who would open their performances with it. Robin sings lead, Tyler sings tenor. 
3. Garfield's March (Traditional, Arr. Grant/Kessinger) 3:36
Robin learned this song from a 1928 recording by his Uncles Clark and Luches (Kessinger Brothers - Brunswick 238). It was one of Bob's favorite Kessinger tunes. Robin suspects that Clark may have learned it from Ed Haley.
4. Winfield Story 1:27 - Tyler recalls the first time he heard Robin in 2005, backed by his brother Dan Kessinger, competing at the National Flatpicking Championship in Winfield, KS (Walnut Valley Festival), performing his arrangement of "Turkish March" by WA Mozart. This was Tyler's initiation to Winfield culture. Robin and Dan, along with their Sisters and Dad, Bob, had been attending the festival annually since 1982 (Bob passed away in 2004). The Kessinger Brothers showed Tyler around the campground, checking in at landmarks such as Carp Camp, Stage 5, and Kessinger Camp. 
5. No Hard Times (Jimmie Rodgers - APRS {BMI}/Southern Music Publ Co Inc {ASCAP}) 4:21
Jimmie Rodgers was known by many titles: "Father of Country Music", "Singing Brakeman" and "The Blue Yodeler", and anyone listening to this album has certainly been affected by his music and influence. Tyler does his best to emulate the original recording from 1932 (Victor 23751-A) and Robin, admittedly a "Closet Fingerpicker," lays down some deep country blues.
6. Blue Water Hornpipe (Traditional, Arr. Grant/Kessinger) 3:29
Also known as "President Garfield's Hornpipe", another tune that Tyler and Robin first worked up and performed at Kaufman KAMP. Robin plays lead and Tyler plays harmony. This is a Bb tune that Bob Kessinger liked to play on Mandolin. 
7. Russian Lullaby (Irving Berlin, Berlin Irving Music Corp {ASCAP}) 4:51
Admittedly, both Tyler and Robin learned this version from Jerry Garcia, who first released it on his "Compliments" album in 1974, then revisited with pal David Grisman on the legendary Acoustic Disc release "Garcia/Grisman" in 1991 (ACD-2). Two versions of the song were released by Victor in 1927: "Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra-Vocal Refrain by Henri Garden" (Victor 20602-A) and "Tenor with Orchestra", vocal by Franklyn Baur (Victor 20613-A). Garcia's inspiration came from the 1939 recording by Argentine jazz guitarist Oscar Aleman, which has been issued and re-issued many times by various labels. Robin and Tyler both put their own twist on the song here, each taking a verse and a couple solos. Tyler's Garcia influence is especially evident on his fills behind Robin's verse. 
8. Wednesday Night Waltz (Traditional, Arr. Kessinger) 2:44
Clark Kessinger (1896-1975) is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential Old-Time Fiddlers of all time. Robin is his Great-Nephew. Clark began performing with his nephew, Luches "Luke" Kessinger, as The Kessinger Brothers in the mid-1920s. In 1928 they recorded "Wednesday Night Waltz" for the Brunswick label (Brunswick 220) and it sold over One Million copies that year. On the beginning of this track, Tyler's question, "Was this tune written by your Uncle Clark?" was not recorded. The banter picks up at Robin's reply. This is a simple and emotive rendering by Robin, straight through the tune, with Tyler accompanying. One Take. 
9. Boll Weevil (Traditional, Arr. Grant) 3:09
An eerie and metaphysical story of a Farmer losing his mind over the wrath of the Boll Weevil on his cotton crop. This song has been recorded by many artists. Tyler learned it from a solo version by Tommy Jarrell on a Jarrell/Oskar Jenkins/Fred Cockerham album, "Down To The Cider Mill" (County 2734), recorded in the 1960s and issued on CD in 2004. Tyler tunes drop D and Robin plays C position capo 2 for nice contrast of styles and tonalities. 
10. Farewell To Long Hollow (Bill Monroe, Arr. Grant/Kessinger)
A tune written by Bill Monroe but never recorded by him. First recorded by James Bryan on his "Lookout Blues" Album (Rounder 0175) as "Monroe's Farewell to Long Hollow". This tune has become popular in Old-Time circles, more so than Bluegrass. Tyler plays harmony to Robin's lead part the last time through the melody. 
11. Susannah Gal (Traditional, Arr. Grant) 5:22
Another great Old-Time song Tyler learned from Tommy Jarrell's rendering on "Down to the Cider Mill". The melody is very similar to the standard "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss".
12. Rights Of Man (Traditional, Arr. Grant/Kessinger) 3:41
A tune that is probably Irish in origin, it was originally associated with fiddler James Hill around the turn of the 20th century, though the composer remains unknown. Originally published in "Dance Music of Ireland" by Irish musicologist and tune collector Francis O'Neill in 1907. 
13. A Dime Looks Like A Wagon Wheel (Don Reno/Red Smiley - Fort Knox Music Inc/Trio Music Company {BMI}) 2:28
The original concept of this album was to dig up songs about hard times and hard work and title it "Tryin' to Make A Living." This is a Bluegrass song about a desperate, busted man, harvested from the final Reno and Smiley album, "Together Again" (Rome Records, R-1011, 1971, reissued 2006 on CD by Rebel Records), that Tyler worked up for this recording. 
14. Flop Eared Mule (Traditional, Arr. Grant/Kessinger) 3:49
Just the good ol' Flop Eared Mule. As with many of the tunes on this album, Tyler and Robin mash up their melodies on the last time through. 
15. A Song! A Beautiful Song! (L.O. Sanderson, Gospel Advocate Company) 2:58
The Kessingers are devout members of the Church of Christ. Robin's Brother and Brother-in-law are both preachers, and Dad Bob Kessinger was a preacher for 51 years. In Church of Christ, hymns are always sung A Capella, with no instrumental accompaniment. Robin leads hymns in Church and at Weddings, Funerals and Memorials. This is the song the congregation sang at Bob Kessinger's Funeral Service in 2004. The night before these sessions, as Robin and I were preparing, both he and his wife Mary thought of this song simultaneously when selecting a Gospel Hymn to add to the program. 

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