Lewistown, PA: Listen to a Spotify playlist featuring The O’Connor Band and other key families of American roots music here: spoti.fi/2aljMSN
Add a new name to the long, proud history of family acts in American roots music: The O’Connor Band.
Formed by Grammy-winning fiddler and composer Mark O’Connor, The O’Connor Band will release its debut album, ‘Coming Home,’ Aug. 5 on Rounder Records.
O’Connor, a devoted student of America’s musical traditions, has picked his favorites from the distinguished family band lineage including the Osborne Brothers, whose 1956 hit “Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man” The O’Connor Band covers on ‘Coming Home’; and Doc and Merle Watson, the father-son guitar duo with whom O’Connor recorded.
Mark O’Connor is joined in The O’Connor Band by his wife, Maggie O’Connor, on violin and harmony vocals; his son Forrest on mandolin and lead vocals; Forrest’s fiancée, Kate Lee, on violin and lead vocals; Joe Smart on guitar; and Geoff Saunders on bass and banjo.
The result renews a vibrant tradition, much the same way Mark’s favorite family acts brought their own contributions to the music.
MARK O’CONNOR’S FAVORITE FAMILY BANDS
Carter Family/Johnny Cash: “I was a huge Johnny Cash fan and learned his songs as a child. I also learned how to play guitar like his mother-in-law Mother Maybelle Carter, playing songs of hers like ‘Wildwood Flower.’ A.P. Carter was a great writer of songs and great collector and arranger of folk materials. June Carter, coming from this legendary country music family, married the iconic Johnny Cash and forever created an inseparable musical connection.”
The Stonemans: “Ernest Stoneman, who began his recording career in the 1920s, eventually went on to create a family band with his children, son Scotty Stoneman being one of the greatest fiddlers in American history. They won talent contests in the 1950s and eventually won a CMA Award for Vocal Group of the Year.”
Osborne Brothers: “The Osborne Brothers had a radio hit with ‘Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man’ in the mid-1950s, and Bobby Osborne delivered a spectacular bluegrass vocal performance of this song with his high tenor. Together with his brother Sonny on banjo, the Osbornes forged a path as one of the most successful bluegrass acts of all time. Our version of Ruby on our ‘Coming Home’ album is inspired by theirs.”
Doc and Merle Watson: “One of the greatest acoustic guitarists in the world, Doc Watson had his only son, Merle, be both his musical partner on guitar and music business partner. I got to tour and record a few albums with this father-and-son act, and it was so special how they musically interacted with the father-and-son connection they had. In their case the dad was the lead singer and Merle rarely sang. In the O’Connor Band I don’t sing much at all, the lions share goes to my son, Forrest.”
Jim & Jesse and Virginia Boys: “The classic lineup of this legendary bluegrass group in the 1970s was all in the family. It featured Jesse McReynolds on mandolin and lead vocals, Jim McReynolds on guitar and tenor vocals, and Jesse’s son, Keith McReynolds, on bass and baritone vocals. I used to sub in for their regular fiddle player in the summers of 1976 and 1977 when I was just 13 and 14 years old. Jesse’s cross-picking mandolin techniques and the close brother-vocal harmony were true highlights of this group.”
Nickel Creek: “Brother and sister Sean and Sara Watkins teamed up with mandolin whiz Chris Thile and his father on bass to form the band in the 1990s. They went on to release a run of successful recordings produced by Alison Krauss. The members of this group attended my fiddle camps when they were young teens. As much as I inspired them when they were kids, in return they have inspired the youngest members of the O’Connor Band greatly, and so our band owes them a lot of credit for forging a similar style of music to what we play.”
Cherryholmes: “The Cherryholmes were a modern-day bluegrass phenomenon. Two parents and their five children took the bluegrass scene by storm in the 2000s, becoming the IBMA entertainers of the year. I performed with banjoist, vocalist, and daughter Cia Cherryholmes in my ‘An Appalachian Christmas’ tour for several years. Like the members of Nickel Creek, I inspired the players in this group, and they have in turn inspired us with their amazing progressive bluegrass abilities.”
A former child prodigy and national champion on the fiddle, Mark O’Connor signed his first record deal with Rounder at age 12 and released his debut album there in 1974. Since then, he has won multiple Grammys and CMA Awards, collaborating with the likes of Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma along the way. He also has written numerous violin concertos and authored a groundbreaking, best-selling instructional method for strings, The O’Connor Method, all of which prompted the New York Times to hail his career path as “one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music.”
Now he’s setting off in a new direction on that journey – and he’s taking his family along with him
-Shore Fire Media