• Alison Krauss

    We could hardly think of a better guest with whom we’d conclude our second season of Toy Heart than 27-time Grammy Award winner, Alison Krauss. Arguably the most prominent bluegrass musician in the genre’s nearly one hundred year history – certainly the most well-known in her own generation – host Tom Power’s laughter-filled conversation with Krauss weaves through her childhood and upbringing, from her grandparents immigrating to Chicago (then her parents to Champaign, Illinois) and Alison's first fiddle contests all the way to her first Grammy win as a young adult.

    In a rare podcast interview, Krauss is funny, charming, and open, her candor painting a picture of the bluegrass community's lifelong support and the winding journey that has brought her to the present, as one of the most recognizable voices and musicians in American roots music. From her earliest hits like “Steel Rails” and “Every Time You Say Goodbye” to collaborating with Robert Plant, James Taylor, the Cox Family, and more, to her Buddy Cannon-produced 2017 album, Windy City, Power and Krauss talk about song selection, her early days touring and road-dogging with Union Station, and how it felt when her musical career really began to take off. 

     But these stories aren’t just about awards and accolades. They chat about many moments, the big and small, that define Krauss, the festivals that became like homes, and the bonds that music forged with her band, Union Station, and her many collaborators. They explore how Krauss creates on the boundaries of many roots genres – plus what she views as bluegrass and what’s not bluegrass – the authenticity that she’s tried to capture throughout her career, and the cultural waves made by projects like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Down From the Mountain tour.

    From personal anecdotes about Ralph Stanley and Larry Sparks to her feelings about Billy Strings’ massive success to a jaw-dropping and exciting revelation that she and Union Station are working on a new bluegrass album, our season finale with Alison Krauss is truly one of our best Toy Heart episodes to date. 

    1h 22m - Apr 23, 2024
  • Jody Stecher

    For the latest episode of Toy Heart, we embark on a journey through the primordial, musical ooze that birthed bluegrass, old-time, and country music with the incredible Jody Stecher. A multi-instrumentalist adept in many styles and traditions – he even plays sarod, a Hindustani instrument – Stecher’s entire career is a fascinating case study in the interconnectedness of American folk music styles. 


    Host Tom Power begins their engaging and philosophical conversation by asking Stecher about his childhood in New York City. A grandchild of eastern European immigrants, he “discovered” country and bluegrass like many in his generation, listening to the Wheeling Jamboree radio program on WWVA and hearing first generation pickers like the Osborne Brothers and Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, including “Baby Crowe,” a young, just-hired banjo player who went by “J.D.” Soon after, Stecher replaced mandolinist (and one-day industry power player) Ralph Rinzler in bluegrass band, the Greenbriar Boys, before joining another group, the New York Ramblers. 


    From those early years, cutting his teeth in local, regional, and eventually national outfits to iconic albums like Going Up On The Mountain and his current status as a venerated expert and acclaimed elder in American roots music, Jody Stecher utilizes music and his expertise to demonstrate how blurry the lines really are between these folk genres. Power and Stecher discuss teaching, David Grisman – and collaborating with Jerry Garcia! – meditation and music, early sounds and recordings by folks like Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, being a member of Peter Rowan’s band, his duo with Kate Brislin, Utah Phillips, and so much more. 


    Whether you're a lifelong fan of roots music or new to these scenes, Tom Power and Jody Stecher’s Toy Heart episode will inspire, highlighting stories, traditions, and techniques that make bluegrass, old-time, and country music exactly what they are today. 


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E18 - 1h 9m - Apr 9, 2024
  • Tim O'Brien

    Our latest guest on Toy Heart is bluegrasser, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Tim O’Brien. His conversation with host Tom Power begins by remembering the music of his childhood, growing up in Wheeling, West Virginia listening to Chubby Checker on his crystal radio set and attending the nationally renowned country variety show and radio broadcast, the Wheeling Jamboree. Encountering the music of Merle Haggard and Doc Watson via local radio and television, he fell in love with music as a kid before a few friends introduced him to Bill Monroe’s mandolin playing while smoking a post-gig joint as a teen. 


    After dropping out of college, O’Brien hitchhiked west to Wyoming, before landing in Colorado and eventually founding Hot Rize in the mid to late ‘70s with newly married and relocated Dr. Banjo himself, Pete Wernick. Over the course of their winding and dense conversation, Power and O’Brien chat about Gibson mandolins, the burgeoning Colorado string band scene, working with Bill Monroe, and the strange, circuitous story of his fiddle’s provenance. 


    O’Brien’s career, as multifaceted as it has been, is a wellspring of stories, anecdotes, and yarns about the bluegrass scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Irish music, writing hit country songs, working with and alongside so many first generation bluegrass legends, and the inception of Hot Rize’s alter ego band, Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. Having recorded and performed with the Chieftains, Darrell Scott, the Transatlantic Sessions, and so many others, Tim O’Brien’s career is a melting pot of styles and sounds with one primary throughline: the true originality of his own musical vocabulary. As Power puts it, “I ​couldn't ​tell ​you ​what ​Tim ​O'Brien ​sounds ​like, ​but ​I ​know ​Tim ​O'Brien ​when ​I ​hear ​it.”


    Our Toy Heart episode examines O’Brien’s expansive and impressive career at a fascinating juncture in its span, as he shifts from being a bluegrass and Americana workhorse to a forebear, mentor, and roots music elder to entire generations of young musicians. 


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E17 - 1h 29m - Mar 26, 2024
  • Laurie Lewis

    In the latest episode of Toy Heart, we explore the roots and evolution of bluegrass in the modern era by examining the story of legendary bluegrasser, singer-songwriter, and recording artist, Laurie Lewis. 


    From her tales of growing up in Berkeley during what Lewis jokingly calls the “folk scare” of the '60s to finding the joy of music through her father's classical background and eventually becoming a pioneer for women in the genre, her lifelong career in American roots music is a perfect example of how the innovation and tradition-bending tendencies of bluegrass’s first generation continue full force today. Lewis’s musical transformation over the course of her life shows the entrancing power of bluegrass to steer and alter the course of hers and so many others’ lives. 


    In our Toy Heart interview, Lewis chats with host Tom Power about the magnetic pulls of Chubby Wise's fiddle tunes, of albums by the Greenbriar Boys, and of a formative live show by the Byrds. She talks about studying modern dance, “disappointing” her father by “rebelling” and choosing folk music forms over classical, and what eventually led to late-night jams, fiddle contests, and navigating the Bay Area's bustling bluegrass, folk, and women’s music scenes. 


    Their conversation closes with a reflection on the ways bluegrass has affected Lewis the most, and, how it continues to shape the identities of its artists and listeners with an intractable, ineffable pull. Power and Lewis point out how current generations – from Molly Tuttle to Tatiana Hargreaves, both mentees and collaborators of Lewis – continue in these same traditions. Plus, Lewis shares what it was like to tour and sing with Dr. Ralph Stanley, himself.


    This Toy Heart episode dives deep into the many layers of the genre, helping to demonstrate just some of the many ways bluegrass interweaves itself into musicians’ and fans’ personal and musical identities. Lewis shows there are countless joys in staying true to one's artistic vision amidst an industry that is always in flux; her insights offer a soulful perspective on continuity and change within the genre, echoing the sentiments of a community that, much like a family, supports and evolves with its members – and that continues to rightly hold Lewis up as a trail-breaker and standard-bearer for the entire genre.


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E16 - 1h 0m - Mar 12, 2024
  • Mike Compton

    Bluegrass fans know Mike Compton from his long and eclectic resumé, including decades of touring and recording traditional Monroe-style mandolin with greats like John Hartford, Doc Watson, Peter Rowan, Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, and David Grisman, as well as venturing into more mainstream music with with Sting, Gregg Allman, Elvis Costello, and many others. He was also heard on the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and traveled with the smash hit tour, Down from the Mountain, which highlighted the artists and musicians on that incredibly popular soundtrack. 


    But, as Toy Heart host Tom Power points out, it’s not just virtuosity that makes Compton stand out as a mandolinist – it’s just as much about the heart, feel, and grit that he brings to the instrument.


    Tom speaks with Compton for over an hour for this exclusive Toy Heart interview, walking through his life and career, from the musical influence of his great grandparents and growing up in Meridian, Mississippi to the indelible mark left on his own playing style by Bill Monroe. Compton also recalls his childhood, skipping school to hide out in a “dirt pit” to practice all day, his time in Nashville – including a historic visit to China with the Nashville Bluegrass Band – and recounts his collaborations with the legendary John Hartford. You’ll also hear Compton discuss the impact that playing on O Brother, Where Art Thou? had not only on himself and his own career, but on bluegrass as a whole.


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E15 - 1h 21m - Feb 27, 2024
  • Larry Sparks

    The legendary Larry Sparks, a prominent player in bluegrass for over six decades and a Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductee, joins host Tom Power for Toy Heart. Sparks shares insightful anecdotes from his early years, touring and performing with the Stanley Brothers and from his tenure with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. From traveling in a ‘67 station wagon to the challenges of navigating the music industry over so many decades, Sparks reflects on his particular journey through bluegrass, old-time, and country music. We explore his musical influences, his unique approach to bluegrass guitar playing, and the profound impact of gospel songs on his own soulful, down home sound.


    Sparks also offers a glimpse into his Nashville days, highlighting the unique challenges he faced in Music City. His stories reveal a dedication to preserving the essence of bluegrass and his commitment to honest storytelling. Hear Sparks describe making hits like “John Deere Tractor” as well as speaking to the spiritual resonance of gospel music. He paints a vivid picture of a musical legacy that spans more than 60 years, leaving an indelible mark on the heart and soul of the bluegrass community.


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E14 - 57m - Feb 13, 2024
  • Sam Bush

    “Newgrass” luminary Sam Bush joins host Tom Power for the highly anticipated first episode of Toy Heart Season 2. Bush - the celebrated mandolinist and co-founder of Newgrass Revival and the Telluride House Band - opens up about his illustrious career: from his early days of fiddle contests in Weiser, Idaho, to the pivotal moments learning at the feet of influential figures like Bill Monroe; Bush’s narrative weaves a rich tapestry of bluegrass history.


    The episode features stories of his many genre-breaking collaborations, including playing with the Dillards and Newgrass Revival and his time at Capitol Records. Sam waxes poetic about the magic of jam sessions and improvisation, and the profound influence of artists like Byron Berline. From the roots of “Callin’ Baton Rouge” to the impact of the Vietnam era, Bush’s journey is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of bluegrass.


    Presented by BGS (The Bluegrass Situation)

    S2E2 - 1h 11m - Jan 30, 2024
  • Seaon 2 of Toy Heart is Just Around the Corner...

    The most in-depth podcast about bluegrass is coming back for its second season, from CBC radio host Tom Power ("q") and BGS (The Bluegrass Situation). This time around, Power sits down with Alison Krauss, Larry Sparks, Mike Compton, Laurie Lewis, Tim O'Brien, and many more bluegrass greats. Toy Heart returns January 30, 2024, with full episodes being released bi-weekly on TheBluegrassSituation.com and wherever you get your podcasts.

    S2E4 - 0m - Jan 23, 2024
  • Bobby Osborne in Conversation with Tom Power

    On a special edition of Toy Heart, we remember Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member, seven-time Grammy Award nominee, CMA Award winner, and roots music legend Bobby Osborne. 


    “This is what I started with when I was 15 years old,” Osborne says as the episode begins. “Ain’t never quit, ain’t going to now… If He calls me home, I’ll give it up quick.” 


    He succeeded– he never quit. When Osborne died on June 27 at the age of 91, he still had future shows and appearances on his calendar. He had performed on the Opry as recently as May 19 of this year with the Rocky Top X-press, the band he formed when his older brother and bandmate, iconic banjo player Sonny Osborne, retired from their duo – and from touring and performing – in the early 2000s. 


    Toy Heart host Tom Power (CBC Radio’s Q) visited with Osborne at his home in Gallatin, Tennessee in the summer of 2022, a handful of months after Sonny’s passing. The conversation that resulted covers Bobby’s experiences within the earliest days of bluegrass (like having performed with the Stanley Brothers and Jimmy Martin), the conception and popularity of the Osborne Brothers’ signature harmony style (and how Bobby’s voice changed higher rather than lower), and his service in the U.S. Marine Corps and the harrowing experience that resulted in his earning a Purple Heart in Korea. They discuss Bobby’s broad impact and influence – even Bob Dylan was a fan – and iconic Osborne Brothers songs like “Ruby,” “Roll Muddy River,” and yes, “Rocky Top,” too.


    Upon the loss of such a gigantic figure in this music we are so grateful for the time we got to spend with Bobby Osborne and for how accessible he made himself to all of us in bluegrass. His enormous legacy will live on, well into the future, and we’ll never forget the music, stories, and laughs he so readily shared with all of us, especially in this Toy Heart tribute to his life and career. 


    Toy Heart will be returning in early 2024 for its second season. Stay tuned.

    S2E1 - 44m - Jul 7, 2023
  • Remembering Tony Rice - Episode 3 (Chris Thile, Critter Eldridge, Molly Tuttle, and Bryan Sutton )
    In the final chapter of our three-part tribute to Tony Rice, Tom talks to the musicians who have been inspired by Tony Rice throughout their career, and the musicians through whom Tony's music will live on. Chris Thile (1:58) talks about a jam with Tony backstage that changed his musical life. Chris 'Critter' Eldridge (33:17) talks about time he spent living with and learning from Tony - not just about music, but about life. Molly Tuttle (1:03:58) speaks about Tony's influence on her guitar playing and how she sees him music living on even through musicians like her who didn't know him personally, and Bryan Sutton (1:21:09) talks recording with Tony and what he learned about how to be himself through Tony Rice's example.
    S1 - 1h 55m - Feb 5, 2021
  • Remembering Tony Rice - Episode 2 (Peter Rowan, Béla Fleck, Sharon Gilchrist, and Josh Williams)
    On episode 2 of our limited series, Toy Heart: Remembering Tony Rice, host Tom Power begins with Béla Fleck, talking about the making of two legendary albums: Drive and The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol.2. Fleck relates what it was like to work with Tony in studio and some wild stories about their touring together. Also in the episode, mandolinist and instructor Sharon Gilchrist displays a rare perspective on Tony's life. Something of a recluse, Tony would often drive by himself after gigs, hours and hours overnight. Gilchrist had the rare opportunity to join him for some of these drives and tells some stories of what she learned on those trips to and from Quartet shows. Later in the episode, a conversation with Peter Rowan about his early memories of Tony – and how he compared with his mentor Clarence White. To conclude, Josh Williams talks about being Tony Rice's "voice" in his band, the Unit, how Tony helped him get through one of the darkest periods in his life, and why Tony was and is his hero
    S1 - 1h 59m - Jan 29, 2021
  • Remembering Tony Rice - Episode 1 (Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, David Grisman)
    Host Tom Power speaks with Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and David Grisman about their old friend and bandmate Tony Rice, in the first edition of our special tribute, Toy Heart: Remembering Tony Rice. Critically acclaimed bluegrass podcast Toy Heart returns with a special, limited series, Toy Heart: Remembering Tony Rice. In the first installment of three, host Tom Power (CBC's Q) interviews Béla Fleck, Sam Bush, and David Grisman, each lifelong friends and collaborators with Rice, who passed away unexpectedly on Christmas day. This extra-length episode includes reminiscing, storytelling, and remembrances of the flatpicking legend and Bluegrass Hall of Famer who not only blazed an innovative, often jaw-dropping trail in bluegrass – and all of American roots music – with his technical prowess, but also left a limitless musical legacy with his warm-honey voice, his tender songwriting, and his uncanny ability to inhabit each and every note he emitted, each and every stroke of his pick. We hope you enjoy the first in this trio of episodes, Power's and Toy Heart's humble attempt to pay homage to a towering figure in bluegrass."
    S1 - 1h 45m - Jan 22, 2021
  • The Bluegrass Breakdown Podcast - Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs - Second Generation Bluegrass
    In lieu of new episodes of Toy Heart, host Tom Power introduces an episode of "The Bluegrass Breakdown" podcast featuring a deep-dive into the making of Second Generation Bluegrass by Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley. Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley were only 17 years old when they recorded Second Generation Bluegrass. Ricky Skaggs joins The Breakdown to talk about this iconic album. Both went on to be country megastars – until Whitley died of alcohol poisoning at 34. Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs joins us to explain how two teenagers managed to perfectly replicate the bygone sound of the Stanley Brothers – and share his final moments with Keith. On each episode of "The Breakdown", Fiddler Patrick McGonigle and music journalist Emma John uncover bluegrass music one iconic record at a time in The Breakdown, a limited series from The Bluegrass Situation. Peeling back the layers of a sometimes under appreciated genre, The Breakdown reveals the bizarre, compelling, and often completely mad stories from bluegrass players past and present.
    S1 - 53m - Nov 5, 2020
  • Jerry Douglas
    For the final episode of season one of Toy Heart, we have host Tom Power’s 2019 sit down with legendary artist, musician, and sideman Jerry Douglas at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual business conference in Raleigh, NC. Douglas talks all about hearing “Uncle Josh” Graves for the first time with Flatt & Scruggs and, in the early days, using a toothbrush to turn his own guitar into something like a Dobro. He tells stories of his father’s band, the The West Virginia Travellers, and being discovered by the Country Gentlemen. He shares about his lifelong friendship with Ricky Skaggs — and his connections with Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Alison Krauss, Ray Charles, to O Brother, and more. Jerry Douglas will go down as one of the finest American musicians of his generation, but for this episode we focus on his true love — his life in bluegrass.
    S1 - 1h 28m - Jun 9, 2020
  • Tony Trischka
    Host Tom Power speaks with progressive banjo legend Tony Trischka at the home of his friend and former student, Béla Fleck. Trischka and Power talk about the time he saw and met Bob Dylan when no one was sure how to pronounce his name, and when he went to the first bluegrass festival weekend. An innovator on an archetypically traditional instrument, Trischka also discusses how he fuses jazz and experimental music with bluegrass, the intersection of the folk boom and bluegrass, and the time he played "progressive" banjo in front of Ralph Stanley. The episode covers ground from his recording debut with the band Country Cooking, to his first solo album, Bluegrass Light, having had Bill Monroe over for dinner when he was a kid, his teaching Béla, to carving out a life in acoustic music (and about what the term "bluegrass-adjacent music" means, too).
    S1 - 56m - May 28, 2020
  • Jesse McReynolds
    Host Tom Power talks to Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Jesse McReynolds of Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys about his career in bluegrass. One of the last founding fathers of bluegrass, Jesse McReynold’s story is the story of bluegrass — a music that emerged out of the country, into rural schoolhouses, onto rural radio, finding sponsorship along the way, enmeshing itself into the mainstream of American culture. McReynolds tells the story of his grandfather, who played in the first recorded country music session, talks about being offered a gig with the Stanley Brothers, serving with the armed forces in Korea and singing alongside Charlie Louvin. He relates hunting down record deals and successes with his brother Jim, starting their own label, being sought out by counter cultural icons like the Grateful Dead and The Doors. Now nearing the age of 91, McReynolds spends some time reflecting as well, on his brother Jim’s death, his own struggles with the Opry, and how he feels about his legacy in the music. This is an icon of American music whose story isn’t often told, and we’re honored to play a part.
    S1 - 1h 6m - May 14, 2020
  • Alison Brown
    Banjoist and record label head Alison Brown speaks with host Tom Power from her studio at Compass Records headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. They begin with her early records made with Stuart Duncan, "finding her people," and winning the Canadian National Banjo Championship (as an American). Brown then headed to Harvard, and playing banjo became "something you'd talk about at cocktail parties." She describes the moment she decided to leave investment banking and commit to music full time, her cocktail napkin dream, and playing with Alison Krauss, Indigo Girls, and Michelle Shocked. Power and Brown talk women in bluegrass, women in banjo, and the First Ladies of Bluegrass. The story they dive into together is ultimately about figuring out what makes you happy, and pursuing it bravely, against all odds.
    S1 - 1h 8m - Apr 30, 2020
  • Béla Fleck
    On this episode of Toy Heart, Béla Fleck talks to host Tom Power from his home studio and for the first time, he tells his story in bluegrass. Fleck started out in New York hearing Earl Scruggs for the first time, learning from Tony Trischka, and then making the decision to go (new) south to learn from J.D. Crowe. He auditioned for Bill Monroe, but eventually found 'his people' and joined New Grass Revival. He tells of mistakes the band made along the way, the hard decision to leave that band and start the Flecktones, recording with his hero Earl Scruggs, and how he found his way back to bluegrass after all. He also unveils the one change he thinks anyone can make to their practicing to become a better musician.
    S1 - 1h 26m - Apr 16, 2020
  • Alice Gerrard
    Old-time legend and Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Alice Gerrard talks to host Tom Power at her kitchen table in North Carolina. Gerrard tells stories of how she and other college students from the northern U.S. found bluegrass and old-time, of the lifelong influence of the Antioch College folk scene, meeting her Hall of Fame partner Hazel Dickens and making some of the greatest records in the genre. She goes on to describe her split from Hazel, her work since, the creation of print publication The Old-Time Herald, of which she is the founding editor. In tender moments, she shares the last time she ever spoke with Hazel, and describes what she sang to "sing her back home."
    S1 - 1h 21m - Apr 2, 2020
  • Ricky Skaggs
    Bluegrass legend and Country Music Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs talks to TOY HEART host Tom Power about what it was like to grow up as a child prodigy, the real story of how he got pulled on stage by Bill Monroe, how meeting Keith Whitley changed his life forever — and the last time they ever spoke. Plus, a never before told story of how Bill Monroe thought Ricky would make a “fine Blue Grass Boy.” It’s the story of Ricky Skaggs… but the one that you may not expect. Skaggs is a notable entry point to bluegrass for many listeners and fans — like our first guest, Del McCoury is as well. Though his story is familiar: From playing the Grand Ole Opry as a tot, joining Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, and going on to perform and record with J.D. Crowe and the New South, to his own smashing success in mainstream country and eventual return to his now dynastic bluegrass career. Still, Tom Power displays Skaggs in a fresh light, with stories from and impressions of the icon that even veteran fans will find refreshing and illuminating. Subscribe to TOY HEART: A Podcast About Bluegrass wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every other Thursday through May.
    S1 - 1h 5m - Mar 19, 2020
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Toy Heart with Tom Power (A Podcast About Bluegrass)
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