Cuttin Grass
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Cuttin Grass

Band Folk Acoustic

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The best kept secret in music

Press


From the wilds of Columbia, Md., comes Cuttin' Grass, a somewhat contemporary sounding group with their feet planted in tradition. Tim Mitchell plays the banjo and is the primary songwriter, having penned seven of the thirteen cuts on this project. Joining Mitchell are Billy Monroe (bass), Charles Roe (mandolin), and Jeff Hinson (guitar). Roe's composition "I'd Do It Again" is a catchy modern mandolin instrumental
which features his intricate styling and a nice bass break from Monroe.

Together the band clicks nicely on all cylinders as their instrumental and vocal arrangements display a level of proficiency which lets the listener know that these guys have been pickin' for awhile. Mitchell is a good writer with a hand at catchy hooks, and his songs have a very modern feel. He hits a chord in his mining disaster "2 Miles Under Ground," with its understated instrumentation, and again with his beautiful ballad, "She Never Knew." "Tim's Breakdown," coauthored by Mitchell and Monroe lets everyone take a ride, and includes some interesting percussion. "Lazy All My Days" from Monroe is strictly a blues tune and "A Big Bug In My Beer" shows a wry sense of humor. The highlight is the medley of "Salt Creek" and ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man," two tunes you don't find together much. Contemporary bluegrass music is what Cuttin' Grass makes and they are worth the listen. BF

- Bluegrass Unlimited


NO COVER
by DAVID MORLEY
Kind of Blue
Cuttin’ Grass Ain’t Afraid to Give Appalachian Bluegrass a Tint of Baltimore

Bluegrass guitarist Jeff Hinson realizes he’s a sore thumb in the mid-Atlantic music landscape. Singing and picking with his local ensemble, Cuttin’ Grass, he knows that bluegrass isn’t native to Baltimore, but he can’t deny his roots. “I’m a hillbilly,” he says. “But you can’t make any money just living as a hillbilly. So I’m a hillbilly locked in the city.”
Hinson has figured out how to market his hillbillyness, though. Onstage with Cuttin’ Grass, he performs as “Jeff-ro.” And he and band mate Tim Mitchell appeared as hillbillies in a local TV ad for Scott Donahoo’s Foreign Motors car dealership.
Just don’t assume Cuttin’ Grass is the musical equivalent of Jeff Foxworthy comedy, a blue-collar shtick built around an air of authenticity. The quartet’s recently released and self-produced debut, Out Standing in Their Field, reveals a bluegrass band that acknowledges its Appalachian roots while defining the form for itself. It’s a sound the group has shaped out of prolific performances and outlined through its original songs, the result of taking bluegrass seriously but not trapping its sound in time.
Bluegrass’ presence in Baltimore is a bit peculiar, but not inconsistent. Baltimore became home to West Virginia transplants looking for a safer career than coal mining circa World War II, and the city’s shipyards and steel mills enticed folk with promises of plentiful industrial employment. And with their migration came their culture. Remnants of this wave are found in Ellicott City’s live-music venue Friendly Inn and Catonsville’s Appalachian Bluegrass music shop.
Cuttin’ Grass essentially came out of Appalachian Bluegrass, where Hinson sells musical instruments and banjoist Mitchell gave lessons in three-finger (known as “Scruggs style,” after banjo legend Carl Scruggs) banjo picking. But at first the band was all talk. “[Mitchell] and I spent a couple years running around going to bars and talking about forming a band,” Hinson says.
The band started to gel when it landed mandolin player Charles Roe two years back. Roe had started as a guitar instructor at Appalachian Bluegrass and developed an interest in the mandolin. Shortly after Roe’s recruitment, Hinson met bassist Billy Monroe at the Friendly Inn. (“While another group was playing, Billy was sitting there just charting out the bluegrass they were playing,” Hinson says.) Hinson asked Monroe to sit in with them, and with that Cuttin’ Grass was born.
And since the members of Cuttin’ Grass come to bluegrass from all different angles, the group has developed a unique formula for both redefining standards and writing original tunes, one that honors the folksy tradition of singing about the world around them. Rather than belting out the Stanley Brothers’ “I’ll Meet You in Church Sunday Morning,” as so many contemporary bluegrass bands do, Cuttin’ Grass covers ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” Cuttin’ Grass prefers to play secular traditionals like “Big Bug in My Beer” over sacred standards such as the Carter Family’s “Keep on the Firing Line.”
Secular songs are simply more representative of the world in which the band members live. “We have country roots,” Hinson says, but when it comes to the bluegrass of 50 and 75 years ago, he notes, “We didn’t live then. A song’s got to remind me of something for us to cover it.”
This attitude rolls over to their original tunes as well. Mitchell, whose family hails from West Virginia, is the group’s chief writer. While his lyrical sense is sentimental like many country songwriters, his writing isn’t hokey or abstract. Mitchell writes what he knows and uses simple images and sophisticated—and sometimes surprising—rhyme schemes. In “Grandpa Song,” he writes, “When we were done with the work and all/ I’d go and fetch my bat and ball/ That’s where he gave me my first chaw/ Of good ol’ Red Man chew.”
To augment the lyrics, he plays the banjo Scruggs style, which he learned from his family. The three-finger style lends itself to a more melodic banjo sound than the more common hammer-claw style. Mitchell—a fan of Count Basie—also uses Scruggs’ technique of creating bluegrass melodies based on big-band tunes.
Monroe, who only started playing bluegrass two years ago, plays the role of Mitchell’s editor, taking the raw material and honing it. The bass player says his father, also a musician, raised him “on Broadway and classical music,” but he comes from a rock ’n’ roll background. “It’s nice to play in something that doesn’t have drums,” he says.
Monroe’s ear is sharp, and after one listen to a song he often has suggestions for changes, a different arrangement, or other fine-tunings. “Billy knows all the possibilities of a song,” Mitchell says. “Anything you do that’s static, you’re going to have to fight for it.”
And just as bluegrass lives on the peripheries of Baltimore’s musical pot, Cuttin’ Grass lives in the fringes of the so-called scene. It has regular gigs at the Friendly Inn and at DeGroen’s Grill in Little Italy. Onstage, Hinson appears to lead the band; he also books its gigs, manages the Web site, and sells the CDs. But beneath his John Deere hat, he defers all musical decisions to the other players, realizing that what makes Cuttin’ Grass work isn’t pure hillbilly, but what the musicians bring to the sound from their own backgrounds. “I’m the tree stump,” he says. “I’m the one that holds it all together. As far as the music . . . well, they can cover all my mistakes.”

- Baltimore City Paper


www.cdbaby.com\cuttingrass
greta original bluegrass
Reviewer: Keith
This is a really great "modern" bluegrass record. It runs the gamut of styles and the originals are particularly good. You wouldn't think Salt Creek and Sharp Dressed Man would work together, but here's proof. The picking and the vocals are great. Just buy it - you won't be disappointed


Outstanding original bluegrass music
Reviewer: Gary Trogdon
The original songs cover the essential stories of bluegrass music--coal mines, down in the holler, missed grandpas, and memories galore. The songs will lift your spirits and remind you of days gone by. The banjo and mandolin tracks are unbelievable. You will not be disappointed in any song on this CD. Be prepared to tap your feet while listening to this wonderful collection, and you will be humming these songs to yourself the rest of the day. Simply the best bluegrass CD in my collection. I can't wait for their next one!


Great Stuff
Reviewer: Art
You really can't ask for more from a new release: fresh, original songwriting and singing, stellar picking, and great production. Did I mention the songwriting ? Let me mention it again, cause it's as good as it gets nowadays. Bluegrass fans are bound to spend good money this year on releases by "name" artists which are not nearly as good as this disc. Save yourself the trouble and buy this one now...


Best bluegrass out there!
Reviewer: Katie Angerer
This is the single best bluegrass CD available today. The songwriting is original and fresh, and never have I heard such amazing instrumentation. The banjo and mandolin players in particular do things that just aren't natural! No human being should be able to play that well! A must have for ANY music appreciator.


You're gonna LOVE this CD!!
Reviewer: Amy
If you think you don't like bluegrass, you obviously have not heard this CD. Cuttin' Grass is a truly impressive group of muscians! Everything about this CD; the lyrics, the music, the performance, everything - is amazing. This CD will make you say "Oh! This is my favorite song!" on each track. The only sad thing is this is the ONLY Cuttin' Grass CD - so far...


A must have for any blue grass fan !!!!
Reviewer: Emma Young
This CD is phenomenal and the songwriting is amazing!! I have two copies so I can listen to it everywhere I go. Any blue grass fan will love it. You can't help but get up and dance! I highly recommend this CD to anyone… there is no way anyone could be disappointed… Cuttin Grass is the best!!! A+++++++++ - cdbaby


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Still working on that hot first release.

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