14 Songs, 36 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The release of Hot Rize’s self-titled debut album in 1979 was a pivotal moment in modern bluegrass history. Taking their name from the “secret ingredient” in Martha White Self-Rising Flour, the Colorado-based quartet grabbed the spotlight with their cogently virtuosic musicianship and astute taste in material. On this first outing, Tim O’Brien’s sterling tenor tempers its plaintive edge with a wistful sweetness, accentuated by his agile mandolin work. Pete Wernick’s versatile banjo, Charles Sawtelle’s lean ‘n’ lively guitar playing, and Nick Forster’s supple bass are likewise impeccable when applied to both traditional and contemporary tunes. “Blue Night,” “High on a Mountain," and “Ninety Nine Years” sound both spirited and melancholy, while “Powwow the Indian Boy” ripples with vigorous interplay and “Old Dan Tucker” (featuring O’Brien on fiddle) invites even the casual listener to dance. Originals like the homespun romantic ditty “Nellie Kane” complement the old-time standards. The gospel numbers “Prayer Bells of Heaven” and “Standing in the Need of Prayer” give the band a chance to show off their polished vocal harmonies.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The release of Hot Rize’s self-titled debut album in 1979 was a pivotal moment in modern bluegrass history. Taking their name from the “secret ingredient” in Martha White Self-Rising Flour, the Colorado-based quartet grabbed the spotlight with their cogently virtuosic musicianship and astute taste in material. On this first outing, Tim O’Brien’s sterling tenor tempers its plaintive edge with a wistful sweetness, accentuated by his agile mandolin work. Pete Wernick’s versatile banjo, Charles Sawtelle’s lean ‘n’ lively guitar playing, and Nick Forster’s supple bass are likewise impeccable when applied to both traditional and contemporary tunes. “Blue Night,” “High on a Mountain," and “Ninety Nine Years” sound both spirited and melancholy, while “Powwow the Indian Boy” ripples with vigorous interplay and “Old Dan Tucker” (featuring O’Brien on fiddle) invites even the casual listener to dance. Originals like the homespun romantic ditty “Nellie Kane” complement the old-time standards. The gospel numbers “Prayer Bells of Heaven” and “Standing in the Need of Prayer” give the band a chance to show off their polished vocal harmonies.

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About Hot Rize

The eclectic Colorado progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize also plays traditional bluegrass, jazz, and rock. They came together in 1976 and were named after the secret ingredient of Martha White Self-Rising Flour, the product Flatt & Scruggs had promoted early in their careers. The bandmembers were Tim O'Brien on lead and harmony vocals, mandolin, and fiddle; Pete Wernick on banjo and harmony vocals; and Charles Sawtelle on bass guitar, guitar, harmonies, and lead vocals. Mike Scap departed in 1976 and was replaced by bass player, guitarist, and vocalist Nick Forster, who also became the group's MC. Hot Rize recorded their self-titled debut album, a blend of traditional and new material, in 1979. Their second album, Radio Boogie, came out in 1981. A year later, their alter ego Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers, a parody of hardcore '50s country music, recorded their own album, Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. In 1984 Hot Rize released a concert album largely comprising traditional hits, and in 1985 they released Traditional Ties. In 1991 another Red Knuckles album, Shades of the Past, followed. After Take It Home came out in 1992, O'Brien and Wernick went on to successful solo careers, while Forster went on to executive-produce the syndicated radio variety show Etown. Sawtelle passed away in March 1999 after a two-year fight with leukemia. Hot Rize regrouped in 2002, adding Bryan Sutton on guitar, and began doing shows again, sometimes playing Western swing music under the Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers moniker. When I'm Free, a new album from Hot Rize, was issued by Ten in Hands Records in 2014. ~ Johnny Loftus & Steve Leggett

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