Wealthy financier Warren Hellman has made a second career of carrying the torch for old-time music. He’s the magnanimous man behind San Francisco’s annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, a free three-day, five-stage roots/Americana extravaganza where the lineup regularly features superstars such as Del McCoury, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Rosanne Cash and dozens of others. The great Texas singer/songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore has been a frequent visitor to HSB since it started in 2001 (when it was called the Strictly Bluegrass Festival), and like many of the artists who have performed there during the years, he’s bonded with backer Hellman over their mutual appreciation of the genre(s). All this is the genesis of Heirloom Music, an album of old-time songs that unites Gilmore with the banjo-playing Hellman and his bluegrass band, The Wronglers.
Gilmore’s sweet, mournful singing voice is a perfect match for songs like AP Carter’s “I’m Thinking of My Blue Eyes,” Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” or the beautiful Bryant/Davis/McMichen song “In the Pines.” These are eternally beautiful, spirited tunes raised to an exceptional level by Gilmore’s unusual, expressive sound. And while Hellman would be the first to admit that he and his bluegrass-loving cohorts might not be A-list Nashville aces, they’re solid and passionate players. Like HSB, this album is a gift (though not a free one) to anyone who loves “heirloom music.”
Producers: Eric Drew Feldman, Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Recording and mixing engineer: Gabriel Shepard. Studio: Hyde Street Studios (S.F.). Mastering: Mark Chalecki.