Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

Opening for the Name Band

by Maribeth Samenus-Chambers

New-grass bluegrass merged with old-time gospel and bluegrass in Kansas City on July 20, presenting a charged opening show for Doyle Lawson, International Bluegrass Hall of famer since 2012. Dylan Hall, 23, of Dylan Hall and Pure Tradition, and Sophie Chambers, 16, of ChamberMusic, were the lead musicians sculpting the two bands to play as one for a bluegrass-savvy audience.

Dylan says he’s Doyle Lawson’s biggest fan, seeing him perform over 30 times. He never tires of the smooth harmonies, the antics that make Doyle, well…Doyle. “His style appeals to me, his personality and the people he surrounds himself with are such likable people,” Dylan said. “He makes everyone at the concerts feel appreciated and he is a very genuine person.”

The audience reflected that sense of down-home flavor. ChamberMusic (from Kansas City) and Dylan Hall & Pure Tradition (from northeastern Oklahoma) first played to an early evening crowd at Wornall Road Baptist Church on a trailer bed, joined by Pure Tradition band member Cody Cantwell, ChamberMusic’s John Chambers, 14, and Maribeth Samenus-Chambers (aka Mom) and newcomer from Kansas City, Paul Harrison, 15.

The bigger event — opening for Doyle Lawson — followed a few hours later inside the acoustically resonating church. Reaching an audience well-versed in the silkened harmonies of bluegrass legend and mandolin virtuoso Doyle Lawson charged Sophie and Dylan to develop a set list that combined music his listeners would enjoy: old-time gospel, bluegrass, and a touch of “newgrass.”

“Singing is really what you can put the most emotion into and get the most out of,” said Sophie, playing cello, violin, mandolin and bass that evening. “As an aspiring professional musician, this was a bigger step for us, and different without Dominic (big brother off on assignment for the U.S. Navy).

“And we saw that audience connection with Doyle and the band that night,” she said. So although challenged to put together a set in less than 24 hours, Sophie said, “Cody and Dylan are the kind of musicians able to connect and meld sound together for a quality performance in this type of setting.”

Dylan Hall has travelled with his band Pure Tradition for a few years now and had a band called Second Shift since age 14. Doyle epitomizes what Dylan hopes to bring to bluegrass. “I first saw Doyle as a young teen at the Bluegrass & Chili Festival in Claremore, Okla. I saw the evening show and was so impressed, I had to go back the next day in Prior, Okla., in a church to hear him.”

Cody Cantwell, 23, of Springfield, Mo., hails from a bluegrass family, Wilderness Road, and has the honor of having played on stage with Doyle Lawson at age 8. He met him at the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Fest, and Doyle challenged Cody to learn a song to play with him the next year.

Cody made sure that happened.

While attending Missouri State University, majoring in Natural Resources, Cody finds time to pick banjo and play guitar with Dylan Hall and Pure Tradition and Spur of the Moment (based out of Springfield).

He wasn’t nervous about playing before Doyle, just thrilled to have the opportunity. He pulled out his banjo and Dylan his guitar and had a jam session with Josh Swift. “The best part was to get to sit back and talk to Doyle, really talk to him. Opening for someone of that caliber is amazing.

Dylan took the opportunity to give Doyle his new CD and just visit. “It was a great opportunity, particularly the jamming with Josh Swift (resonator guitarist with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver).”

The highlight of opening for Doyle Lawson was getting to bring together varied types of music, intertwining the sounds and presenting that to his audience, said Sophie. “For me, that wasn’t nerve-wracking, but spurred me on to a higher level of performance.”

July 27, 2014

plate 1. Sophie and John Chambers sing harmony with Cody Cantwell on Steel Rails

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 2. From left, Eli Johnston and the Doyle Lawson.

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 3. Chamber music's new cover, Come on Up to the House, with Dylan Hall and Cody Cantwell flanking Sophie, with John Chambers and Paul Harrison in back

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 4. Cody and Dylan playing on the trailer before the preshow.

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 5. Dylan and Sophie playing in the beautiful Kansas City sunshine.

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 6. Sophie sings the Rhonda Vincent tune, "I've Forgotten You" with Maribeth Samenus-Chambers and John Chambers

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 7. Sophie meets the bluegrass gent, Doyle Lawson

Doyle Lawson & Chamber Music

plate 8. Not her original instrument, Sophie plays a great lick on fiddle. She began cello at age four.

dogwood petal Bill Monroe and Lisa Ray

Bluegrass luminaries: Bill Monroe and Lisa Ray, 1988.

Fiddler, Songwriter, Singer: Lisa Ray

(Blue Eye, MO) — Down on the state line, Lisa Ray spends her spare time thrift shopping for the fun of it. “I love vintage,” she shares, laughing, “And anything over $2 is usually too much!” Unassuming, humble, and bearing a lengthy bluegrass pedigree, Lisa Ray plays fiddle these days with Horse Creek Band at Silver Dollar City, occasionally teaches, and plays country music with Clay Self’s band.

“I started singing when I was three. Grandpa was an old-time Pentecostal preacher and he did a lot of revivals. He taught me to memorize the words and sing specials. Of course, I wasn’t reading at the time!” She began fiddle lessons at a nearby one-room school when she was nine. Her first fiddle came from the Golden Pawn Shop in Harrison, Arkansas — the store, she notes, is still there — though the fiddle initially had only three strings.

“I took maybe nine, 10 lessons. My first teacher wanted me to learn notes but I just kept asking him, ‘Play it again. Play that song again.’ I just wanted to keep hearing it so I could play it by ear!”

A move to Washington State, surprisingly, put Lisa Ray in contact with more bluegrass. “A lot of people out there are Tar Heels from North Carolina, out there because of work. My brother’s banjo teacher was Raymond Fairchild’s banjo teacher and I would set in with them.” She also competed in contest fiddling.

Back in Missouri, Lisa cites Violet Hensley and Bob Walsh as inspirations. “I just love Violet. She is such a pioneer, being a female musician and fiddle player. She went through closed doors and I remember at jam sessions, being nine years old, and Bob Walsh saying, ‘Get her up here. Get her in the circle!’ I sure appreciated what he did for me.”

A crowning achievement was her own band, Lisa Ray & Oldtown. “I miss roadwork sometimes,” she muses, “I did it for so long.” In addition to Oldtown, Lisa was part of Cedar Hill. It was during her tenure with Cedar Hill that she would record a duet with Vince Gill at Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s Franklin, TN, studio. Broken Angels was the result.

Having written songs like Unwanted Children, Free As A Bird, the instrumental Baker, and Another Heartache, Lisa’s bluegrass accomplishments are packed. “Shoot, I’m just a country girl but I love music. It’s not unusual for me to stay up unti three in the morning researching old fiddle tunes!”

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