Steve Wildsmith

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Archive for the ‘“In the Spirit”’ tag

More “Spirit”: Jeff and Sarah’s radio show expanding in 2013

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Hard to believe Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle have been on the air for more than a year, co-hosting their “In the Spirit” radio show since August 2011.

When we talked to them around the show’s humble beginnings, their goal was a simple one: To play “just good, inspirational music — from Sam Bush to Sam Cooke, from Bob Marley to Bob Wills, from Loretta Lynn to Mahalia Jackson,” Barbra said.

“Basically, it’s what you would hear if you came to our house on Sunday mornings,” Sarah added. “It’s what you’re going to hear from our collection while we make you breakfast.”

But 2012 has been good to the duo, and starting Sunday, Jan. 13, “In the Spirit” will air twice on Sundays: From 8-11 a.m., and from 4-7 p.m. They won’t be a repeat of one another, meaning the evening show will stand on its own and feature different music — including some more upbeat numbers that might sound a little too wound up for the a.m. hours.

In addition, the two are incorporating a new segment into the show: “In the Moment,” a 15-minute interview/performance segment recorded at the couple’s house in Blount County’s Barb Hollow community. One recent guest: Local picker/guitar teacher Roscoe Morgan.

“In the Spirit” airs on WFIV-FM, i105, which can be found at 105.3 on your FM dial.

Written by wildsmith

January 4th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Rhonda Vincent selects Jeff Barbra and Darrell Webb song for next CD

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Rhonda Vincent is a pretty big deal in the world of bluegrass music.

How big, you might wonder? Well, she received the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Female Vocalist of the Year” Award in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Her 2010 album “Taken” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums chart, No. 3 on the Heatseekers chart and No. 21 on the Top Country Albums chart — no mean feat, considering the pop-country competition.

Now, she’s got a new CD and a DVD project in the works. The former, “Sunday Mornin’ Singin’,” will be out July 10; the latter is a gospel concert filmed at a church in her hometown of Greentop, Mo. (no word on its release details). Both will include a song co-written by a feller whose name most local music fans will recognize: Jeff Barbra.

The song, “Silent Partner,” was co-written by Barbra and Sevierville-based singer-songwriter and bluegrass guy Darrell Webb. And you can hear it this weekend, when Jeff and his fiddling/singing partner and wife Sarah Pirkle spin it on their Sunday morning radio show, “In the Spirit.” The spiritually oriented program airs from 8-11 a.m. Sundays on WFIV-FM, 105.3 on your radio dial. You can tune in and listen live via the station’s website.

Written by wildsmith

May 4th, 2012 at 10:05 am

Jeff Barbra gracefully bows out of The Drunk Uncles

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The-Drunk-Uncles1The Drunk Uncles: (From left) Jeff Barbra, Mike McGill, Eric Keeble, Gordy Gilbertson and Aram Takvoryan

Jeff Barbra and The Drunk Uncles have parted ways, but both parties are reporting the split is amicable, mutual and in no way reflects any sort of bad feelings or bad blood.

Barbra, a Blount County resident who’s been working as a singer-songwriter, most often with his wife, Sarah Pirkle, for years, formed the Uncles with another local tunesmith (Mike McGill, who’s also doing the solo thing and playing as part of the Barstool Romeos with Barbra’s brother-in-law, Andy Pirkle), told us he simply feels led in another direction.

“It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, and it wasn’t an easy decision,” Barbra said. “But it’s like my pappaw used to say: If you can’t do something 100 percent, you shouldn’t do it at all. I’m just going where my heart leads me and trying to do what feels right.”

According to Barbra, the increase in church performances and house concerts with Pirkle has fanned the flames of his desire to have a conversation with fans. He and Pirkle were saved and joined a local church a couple of years ago, which led to the creation of last year’s gospel album, “Family Singing.”

“When we play in someone’s basement or in a church, you get to talk to people; really talk to them,” Barbra said. “A lot of times, that leads them to wanting me and Sarah to tell our story, which is as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done.”

In addition, the Sunday morning radio program “In the Spirit,” which he and Pirkle co-host for WFIV-FM i105, has brought the couple additional opportunities and is taking up more time, something he’s not complaining about at all.

According to McGill, the Uncles will soldier on, although the loss of Barbra will be a heavy one. At this time, there are no plans to mothball the retro-c0untry outfit, although carrying on will mean reconfiguring how the band — which includes bassist Aram Takvoryan, drummer Eric Keeble and fiddler/vocalist/songwriter Gordy Gilbertson — does so.

“We will fulfill all of our obligations, which includes a May date at Toot’s (Little Honky Tonk in Downtown North Knoxville) and another show in June,” McGill said. “Eric will probably play some electric (guitar), and I may, too. And Eric and Aram will both be singing, at least on harmony, to fill in that hole. We’re not sure how it’s going to work — we may have a couple of different drummers filling in — but the Uncles will go on.”

The band’s new album, which began last year at Music Row Studios, is still on deck as well, McGill said, but there’s no timetable for its completion — or whether it’ll be re-cut to reflect the band’s new lineup. Barbra’s songs, as well as his studio contributions before he left the band, are still planned for inclusion.

Both men say their friendship is intact, and neither rules out a return to the stage with the Uncles by Barbra, either as a guest or at some point down the road. For now, however, they’re focused on doing what’s best for them as individuals, and while it won’t be the same for them — or for the rest of us, for that matter — whenever the Uncles play “On Tap, In the Can or In the Bottle” or “Drunk Talkin’,” it’s with relief and admiration that we wish both parties the best on their new journeys.

“It’s a little sad, no doubt,” McGill said. “Going back to when Jeff joined White Oak Flats (the Sevier County-based show band that was a predecessor of the Uncles) and us playing together through the Uncles, we’ve had a lot of fun, and we’ve become more than friends; we’ve become brothers. We wish him nothing but the best, and we respect that he feels led to do something else.”

“No band is bigger than friendship,” added Barbra, who said that his resignation is effective immediately. “Those guys are still my best buddies in the world. We’ll still see each other, and we’ll still hang out and pick a little bit. But this is what I feel called to do now. I have no regrets, because playing with the Uncles and watching people get up and dance and have a good time was a whole lot of fun. But I’m looking forward to seeing where this new calling takes me.”

Written by wildsmith

April 16th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Blount couple launches “In the Spirit” radio show starting Sunday

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Seventy-five years ago, folks all over rural Tennessee would gather around the family radio on Saturday nights and listen to the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry transmitted across the airwaves from Nashville.

Starting this Sunday (Aug. 14), there’s another type of family show that will be broadcast over the local airwaves — “In the Spirit,” which will air from 8 to 11 a.m. every Sunday on WFIV-FM, i105. You can pick it up at 105.3 FM, and it’s the latest specialty show on a station dedicated to local music. And the best part — the two hosts are Blount County’s Americana royalty, Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle.

“Tony (Cox, the station’s general manager) wanted to do a bluegrass-gospel show on Sundays, but after we talked, we decided to expand and not put any limits on it,” Jeff told us this week. “It’s all just good, inspirational music — from Sam Bush to Sam Cooke, from Bob Marley to Bob Wills, from Loretta Lynn to Mahalia Jackson.”

“Basically, it’s what you would hear if you came to our house on Sunday mornings,” Sarah added. “It’s what you’re going to hear from our collection while we make you breakfast.”

For now, the couple will pre-record the program from their home in Walland’s Barb Hollow community. Plans are in the works to expand it to the noon hour, and given the company the couple keeps, there’s no telling who might show up for a live segment — Larry Cordle or any number of local players.

In the meantime, Barbra and Pirkle are hoping to have their forthcoming gospel CD ready to go in time for their set at the “Worship in the City” music festival taking place the last weekend of the month. The two will perform at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the festival.

For more information, check out the “In the Spirit” Facebook page.

Written by wildsmith

August 9th, 2011 at 11:24 am