Take a ‘Roll in the Hay’ at Mary’s Place May 20-21

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-LmgTU1tSyC.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.rollininthehay.com’, ‘Rollin’ in the Hay: (left to right) Stan Foster, Rick Carter and Barry Waldrep. ‘);

The fliers Jack Koositra of Mary’s Place handed me read: “Rollin’ in the Hay: Foot Stompin’, Whiskey Drinkin’ Alabama Bluegrass,” and after a quick promo CD skim, that fragment sentence began to make sense. From Alabama to Illinois, this rock-a-billy trio epitomizes all that is good in modern Southern American bluegrass/rock fusion.

Rollin’ in the Hay is made up of three multi-tasking musicians from Birmingham: Rick Carter (guitar/vocals), Barry Waldrep (banjo/guitar/mandolin/vocals) and Stan Foster (bass/vocals). All of em’ have a great track record, musically speaking, starting with Waldrep who has been playing bluegrass since the age of 6. When he was 14, he had the honor to play on stage with Bill Monroe (the “father” of bluegrass), and later played steadily in Carter’s band.

Carter is the founding member of Birmingham-based Telluride, an established band that has made a name in the South and has one of the best musical acts below the line. Bassist Foster, originally from Arkansas, is a member of many groups in Alabama and harmonizes as only a bass player can.

Although by no means traditional, ‘Hay’s respect for and training in bluegrass makes their music coin terms like “groovegrass,” “newgrass,” and even “redneck speed metal.” Their infusion of rock into the structured pattern and style of bluegrass modernizes the sound while maintaining tradition. That’s not just hot air, folks; Rollin’ in the Hay are truly successful in not ruining an American art form, while adding a contemporary twist.

A bluegrass purist I encountered once informed me that a REAL bluegrass band has to have at least five players; any fewer and then it’s just “a couple kids screwing around.” Well, to that person, wherever he is, I hope he can make it to Mary’s Place and maybe expand his attitude a little and accept this trio for who they are and what they play.

Rollin’ in the Hay is one of those great groups that encourages live tapings of their shows, so besides the six albums they have out, a few hundred “bootlegs” are circulating the states as we speak, which is one of the best ways for a band to get their name out. Taking the corporate snobbery out of performance, especially when the music is this casual kind of American folk, makes the band more accessible to the fans.

Rollin’ in the Hay have a fan base closer to family members than idolizing youth, as can be seen on the guest book on their Web page. One U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq wrote: “I’m in Iraq and I miss my HAY,” and went further to request some CDs as a “comfort item.” What brings one soldier from Alabama comfort overseas, will bring Mary’s Place patrons not one, but two evenings of the same. Sorry you can’t make it, soldier boy. We’ll be there for you.

Rollin’ in the Hay will appear exclusively at Mary’s Place both Thursday and Friday night, May 20 and 21. Apparently, Mary’s Place is the only location in Rockford these guys will play, perhaps due to the special treatment they receive from the bar owner…? The show starts around 9 p.m., and for cover information, call 962-7944.

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