Jack Grace Band
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Jack Grace Band


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His prized possession is a 1947 Gibson acoustic guitar, autographed by his heroes, the country star Merle Haggard and the bluegrass legend Doc Watson. He is rarely spotted without his weather-beaten cowboy hat and rugged boots. He has been known to praise whiskey and tall glasses of beer.

Make no mistake: Jack Grace is an old-fashioned country musician.

In a city with limitless options for fans of live hip-hop, rock, jazz and classical music, traditional country is often an afterthought. But Mr. Grace, 35, is that rarest of creatures: a country singer who makes a living performing almost exclusively in New York.

Playing an average of four shows a week at clubs like the Rodeo Bar at 27th Street and Third Avenue, the Lakeside Lounge in the East Village and Hank's Saloon in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, the front man for the five-piece Jack Grace Band is a New York native who gets his musical influences from the old-timey sounds of what used to be called hillbilly music.

''The country thing really happened organically and naturally,'' said Mr. Grace, who was born John Pancaldo in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and grew up in Armonk in Westchester County. He and his wife, Daria Grace -- she is also a country singer, with a band called the King's County Queens -- live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Mr. Grace calls himself ''The Martini Cowboy,'' a nickname, he said, that gets at the dichotomy of city boy/country music.

''When you get older,'' he said, ''you can look silly playing rock. Country you can play till you're 90, till you drop dead.''

Mr. Grace's love of country dates to his discovery, as a teenager, of Neil Young's twangy early 1970's albums like ''Harvest.'' Later, he fell in love with Willie Nelson's seminal ''Red Headed Stranger.'' After studying at New York University and later, Burlington College in Vermont, Mr. Grace performed with bands in New York, but spent much of his 20's performing in Boulder, Colo., and San Francisco. Still, he yearned to return to New York.

''What I found I missed was that special energy of New York City,'' said Mr. Grace, a country-friendly guy with thick forearms and a long tuft of hair on the end of his chin. ''When an audience is with you, it's just like a Yankees game, the support you get.''

Mr. Grace has just released an album, ''I Like It Wrong,'' which is available atjackgrace.com. During a recent midnight performance at the Ear Inn in SoHo -- he plays there the second Monday of each month -- Mr. Grace and his band blasted through rollicking versions of his own material and offered covers of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash songs. Brown hat pushed back on his hand, Mr. Grace sipped Maker's Mark bourbon between songs and sold copies of his album between sets.

He loves playing in the city, Mr. Grace said, because when his band is clickingand the crowd is responsive, there's no place like New York for a musician,country or otherwise. On any given night, he said, ''magic can happen.'' KEVIN CANFIELD

Photo: Jack Grace is from the West, of Brooklyn. (Photo by Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)
- New York Times

"Martini's at dawn as the Jack Grace Band rolls into town"

By John Cleary

Quintessential urban cowboy Jack
Grace and his country/jazz band
saunter into Kilkenney this weekend
for a performance in Cleere's
Theatre on Saturday, August 30.
A New Yorker with a Johnny
Cash attitude, Grace's gritty style of
country music translates urban
street stories from the Big Apple
onto the country twanged canvass
of the wild west.
The bearded bard and his
formidable quintet will take to the
Kilkenney stage for the final
performance of a whirlwind Irish
tour which sees them play six
shows in nine days.
The band made the trip across
the Atlantic to take part in the
annual Bluegrass Festival which
took place in Dunmore East last
weekend, and after three
performances there they moved
onto Galway for an appearance in
Rosin Dub and on Friday night they
will play their penultimate Irish
date of the tour in McCarthy's in
Dingle before winding it up in
In the past, Grace has opened for
big-name country stars including
Merle Haggard, Doc Watson, Junior
Brown, Dan Hicks and the Oak
Ridge Boys, one of his greatest
honours to date being the chance
to open for the legendary Haggard at
the Mountain Winery in sunny
According to Grace, Haggard autographed his 1947 Gibson
acoustic, lifting it into the air and
saying, "I think I feel a few more

songs in this one."
A music fan since an early age, a
childhood fascination with the
Beatles led Jack Grace to a jumbled
set of influences that included Neil
Young, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash
and Waylon Jennings.
And that mixed, melting-pot of
influences is reflected in one of
Grace's side-projects, a the drolly
named Van Hayride, in which he
and pianist Jon Dryden share the
spotlight in a David Lee Roth-era
Van Halen tribute band with an old
time country and western twist.
Grace's first album effort,
'Introducing the Sounds of Jack
Grace', was a solo trip on which he
took responsibility for vocals,
guitar, banjo, accordion and
Those introductory country-rock
sounds proved surprisingly popular
in New York and opened the way to
a three-year, Friday night residency
at NY's Knitting Factory, where he experimented with different band
formats as a precursor to the Jack
Grace Band.
In 2002 he gathered his players in
the studio to record 'Stayin' Out All
Night', a collection of hard-rocking
songs and signature odes to
optimisim mixed with regret, and
that was followed in 2004 by 'I Like
It Wrong', which hit the top 100 in
the AMA charts and was described
as the country music party album of
the year.
And most recently the band
released 'The Martini Cowboy', a
confident, swinging country album
that benefits from the wide-ranging
repertoires of the band's various

Sadly one of the key ingredients
of that country swagger, lap-steel
wizard Drew Glackin passed away
unexpectedly at the start of this
year and recent months have seen
Grace and the rest of the band
trying to deal with the loss of a
close friend and talented musician.
But the band's musical
eclecticism is a key point of their
chemistry, which Grace's wife Daria a
bassist and vocalist with a rock
background while pianist Jon
Dryden has played with Jesse
Harris and Norah Jones and
drummer Russ Meisner adds his
jazz sensibilities.
If his New York city background
throws up any doubts about Grace's credentials as a bona fide country
rock originator, then abrasive song
titles such as 'What I Drink And
Who I Meet At The Track', 'Broken
Man', 'Ice Cold Beer', 'When I
Drink Whiskey', and 'The Grass Is
Always Greener (But I Can't
Remember Just Which Grass Is
Mine)' should put the mind at ease.
"You can practically taste the
whiskey dripping off the songs,"
according to the Village Voice.
The band have already caused a
bit of a stir on their Irish tour with
their performances in the Dunmore
East Bluegrass Festival and an
appearance on TV3's 'Ireland AM'.
The Jack Grace Band will
perform live in Cleere's Theatre on
Saturday, August 30. For further
information on the band, visit www.jackgrace.com. - Kilkenny Advertiser (Kilkenny, Ireland)

"Bluegrass Fans Brave Bad Weather For Banjo Heaven"

EVEN the best efforts of our sodden summer could not dampen the spirits of rev-
eller fans and families who
packed the Co. Waterford
fishing village of Dunmore
East to almost over-flowing
for the 14th International
Bluegrass Festival last
Six local hostelries, all vil-
lage landmarks, played host
to fifty free gigs over the
weekend right into the early
hours of Monday morning,
with the Martini Cowboy
Jack Grace and his band
bringing down the curtain
on a hugely successful
festival, at The Spinnaker
From New York, Jack
Grace is one of the great
characters of country
A singer-songwriter,
guitarist and banjo-picker,

Jack was like the Pied Piper.
Everywhere he went,
looking for all the world
like a cowboy from an old
western movie, the fans
On Sunday afternoon,
when the sun shone, for a
few hours at least, Powers
Bar resembled a saloon in
the old west as Jack, com-
plete with cowboy hat
and rugged boots really kicked
up a storm with his 1947
Gibson acoustic guitar
autographed by two of his
heroes, Merle Haggard and
Doc Watson, one of the
legends of Bluegrass.
The crowds standing out-
side in the laneway, enjoy-
ing the last remnants of the
classic summer sunshine,
took turns to peek through
the narrow doorway for a
glimpse of the originators
of one hell of a sound. - Waterford News and Star (Ireland)


Stayin Out All Night (2001)
I Like It Wrong (2004)
The Martini Cowboy (2006)
Drinking Songs For Lovers (2010)



"NYC someday will brag about its great legends of country music. That's right we said country, and among those names will be the engaging, hardworking, witty, and schmoozin' and boozin' [Jack] Grace." – Village Voice

"Jack, with titles like these we should really get you into rehab."— Dale Watson
With a new CD titled Drinking Songs for Lovers, one might be forgiven for believing that Jack Grace should ease up a little. A singer, songwriter and guitarist who has made a career out of following no one’s rules but his own is probably going to keep doing his thing until his liver lays down the law.
He’s earned praise from press and peers, and even a couple of legends. Opening for Jerry Lee Lewis afforded him a quotable anecdote after Lewis, listening to the band’s set backstage at BB Kings in NYC, quipped, “he sounds like that Cash kid, only good.” After Lewis’ set, Jack shook his hand and told him it had been an honor to share the stage with him. Lewis leaned in and said, "I really enjoyed your set."
The Merle story is also a favorite chestnut. Jack flew out to California to the Mountain Winery to open for the country legend. After his set, Jack asked Mr. Haggard if he would autograph his well-traveled 1947 Gibson LG2. At first Merle objected, saying he couldn’t imagine that Jack would really want anyone to write on it. After Jack insisted that he was more than happy to have him do so, Merle smiled and lifted the guitar and examined it. "Hmmm,” he said. “Feels like there's a few more songs in this one.”
Jack actually came to the music thing a bit late. An aspiring actor, he didn’t even pick up a guitar until he was 18, and even then wasn’t very diligent about it. When it was time for his lesson, he often took off into the woods, leaving his teacher hanging. He eventually buckled down and learned it himself, his way, and for his own purposes.
This was an early indicator of an outlaw characteristic that has been one of the hallmarks of Jack’s musical journey: his knack for breaking the rules. How else to explain an impromptu launch into Led Zeppelin during one the bridge of a folksy acoustic number or adding a little “Rapper’s Delight” in the middle of another?
The answer lies with influences, as it often does with artists who don’t allow themselves to be pigeonholed. Some of his fondest childhood memories are of dozing in the back seat listening to Sinatra on his father’s car stereo. His earliest musical discovery involved a handful of Beatles albums among his parent’s record collection. An avid collector of Beatles memorabilia to this day, he still plays vinyl 45s of “Help” and “We Can Work It Out” after he’s had a whiskey or two. His teenage obsession with the Beatles got so intense that the mother of a buddy of his became worried about their friendship, saying, “A relationship shouldn’t be based on a rock band.”
Poor Neil Young was the next victim. Buying all of his albums wasn’t enough for Jack; he had to chase the man down after a show once. Probably looking like a wild man in a poncho, ripped jeans and moccasins, he threw open the door of Mr. Young’s tour bus, where the alarmed singer (who was holding a baby at the time), recoiled from the crazed fan who breathlessly told him, “Oh, I just wanted to shake your hand!”
It’s artists like Young, who have refused to be boxed in by any label, format or any other restrictions, that are the ones who’ve inspired Jack to move in any direction he’s wanted. He formed his first band in 1993 in Boulder, CO. Steak, an experimental, Zappa-flavored 4-piece, had an avid following in the West until the group officially disbanded in ’99. Frustrated by the restrictions of even an experimental outfit, Jack decided to go solo, working with a revolving group of musicians even to this day. Functioning more like a jazz bandleader, he has a main cast of characters but keeps two to three drummers on call at all times, all of who can be heard on his latest recording.
Upon releasing his first solo recording, Introducing the Songs of Jack Grace, many noted the songs had a decidedly country feel. “Fine, call it country if you want,” he said at the time. “What you label it doesn’t mean all that much to me.” What it really meant was that there were new rules to be broken. Country? Fine. Let’s do a concept album called the Martini Cowboy, and throw in a bossa nova number with lap steel front and center.
It worked.
Alan Young of the New York Press raved, "Big Johnny Cash-style baritone singer with guitar, backed by a tremendously versatile, honest-to-goodness country band. Grace’s writing draws from such diverse influences as Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, the aforementioned Mr. Cash and Willie Nelson, but what sets his songs apart from rest of the country or alt-country scene is his laugh-out-loud, absurdist wit. Not only is this a great party album and a great driving album, but it’s also very smart and very funny. Humor is a function of intellect anyway