Posted: Mar 5, 2011 at 3:16 PM [Mar 5, 2011]
Something about going to a Bill Bynum gig makes me feel like I’ve gone home. I want to kick off my cowboy boots, rock back in my chair, and drag out my old Texas twang. Bynum’s musical roots run one state over, in Arkansas, where his parents lived until they moved to Detroit to work in a steel plant in the 1940’s. They brought their love of country music with them, and the five Bynum children grew up listening to artists like Johnny Cash and Buck Owens on Detroit's radio station "The Big D." As a teen, Bynum played in rock bands, but in 1999 he heard "Yours Forever Blue" by my personal idol Steve Earle, and a new passion was born. He began writing and playing traditional and original folk and bluegrass tunes whenever he could find time away from his day job.
The band formed about ten years ago and has gone through a couple of incarnations, with members including celebrated folk musician David Moser, storied Dobro and guitar player Dave Keeney, and fiddle player Lisa Case Doro. Bynum has also collaborated with the legendary Pete Goble, whose songs have been recorded by Alison Kraus, Blue Highway and Mountain Heart, among others, and who is an International Bluegrass Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Bynum himself has won a number of awards, including first prize in the 2004 Metro Detroit Songwriting Contest with the song "Lovin' You'', and he was voted Open Mic Performer of the Year in 2006 at The Ark and by the Windsor Folk Music Society. His influences include "everything from Hank to Hendrix" but southern roots dominate his style.
Todays’ Bill Bynum & Co., to my ears, is the best ever, with former Ann Arbor Ark soundman Chuck Anderson on double bass, Ypsilanti’s Mary Seelhorst on fiddle and backup vocals, and John Lang of Shelby Township on pedal steel guitar.
Bynum propels himself into each performance with facial expressions ranging from a grimace to a blissful smile. A consummate performer, he has a playful, easygoing style Although he says he "ain’t much to look at", his lady fans will disagree. As I’ve written before, he’s easy on the eyes and pure delight to the ears.
Part of the charm of the band are the intimate venues they choose to play in, including Grass Lake’s Lone Oak Winery, the Jackson Coffee Co., and Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor. They’ve appeared numerous times at Chelsea’s summertime venue, Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights, and they’ll be there again this summer. They’re playing on March 18th at AJ’s Café in Ferndale, on the 19th in Jackson at the Ella Sharp Museum, and on March 25 they play Friday Night Live! at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
The band is working on a new recording, great news for their many fans. Check the website,www.BillBynum.com, for a listing of more upcoming shows.