Rod Moag: The Pickin'-Singin' Professor

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Reviews for Remember Me: Bill Malone and Rod Moag Play the Music of the Bailes Brothers

Bill Malone & Rod Moag
Remember Me (Hillbilly Dreams)

While Austin's Rod Moag is known as the "the singin', pickin' professor," Bill Malone is renowned as a historian of American country music, having written what's considered the definitive book on the subject, Country Music, U.S.A. Despite different backgrounds, the two retirees share many things in common, including a deep love for country music of the post-World War II era. They possess a particular fondness for the Bailes Brothers, a significant presence on the Louisiana Hayride broadcasts from Shreveport. History has relegated them a minor status compared to such contemporaries as Hank Williams and Roy Acuff, but the Bailes' music, a deceptively simple and emotionally direct blend of hillbilly and gospel, maintains its influence, and Remember Me finds Malone and Moag paying them tribute in a way that exudes respect and understanding. Their vocal duets are a little rough, but that adds to the disc's charm; technical proficiency might ruin the music's sincerity. Top players like Lloyd Maines, Cindy Cashdollar, Justin Trevino, and Nashville's Tim O'Brien bring just the right amount of understanding without overwhelming. In an interesting coup, Remember Me also contains "The Songbirds Are Singing in Heaven Tonight," sung by Homer Bailes, the last surviving brother, making the disc required listening for fans of traditional country.

Jim Caligiuri, 3 Stars, The Austin Chronicle


New & Noteworthy in The Journal of Country Music, Issue 24.3
Short Takes by Martha Hume

Bill Malone & Rod Moag
Remember Me: Bill Malone and Rod Moag Play the Music of the Bailes Brothers

The songs themselves are the stars in this most enjoyable tribute to the four-brother, close-harmony, singer-songwriter group the Bailes Brothers. One of the most popular acts in the South in the 1940s, they were heard over Nashville's WSM and Shreveport's KWKH. While the brothers performed in every combination from solo to quartet, they were best known for the passionate and emotional duets between Walter and Johnnie Bailes, backed by Evy Lou Thomas on bass and vocals, Ernest Ferguson on mandolin, and Harold "Shot" Jackson on steel. Here, country music scholar Bill C. Malone (Country Music U.S.A.) and Rod Moag, a performer and retired professor of South Asian languages, known as "The Pickin' Singin' Professor," stick to duets, playing guitar and mandolin, respectively. They swap lead and tenor vocals and are backed by fine musicians, including Lloyd Maines and Cindy Cashdollar.

As singers, Malone and Moag do a more than competent job on nineteen Bailes classics, including "Dust on the Bible," "Whiskey Is the Devil (in Liquid Form)," "Give Mother My Crown," and the title song, written by Scott Wiseman and re-popularized on Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger album. The most moving song on this compilation, however, is "The Songbirds Are Singing in Heaven Tonight," sung by the Rev. Homer Bailes, the last surviving brother; the song was recorded at Bailes's home in Louisiana with Ernest Ferguson, now eighty-seven years old, on mandolin. As Malone points out in his liner notes, the Bailes Brothers' music reflected the emotional conflicts and upheavals of their rural audience, which, during the height of the Baileses' career, was moving en masse from country to city and into the modern era. This CD preserves and celebrates the spirit of the unforgettable music, and, it is to be hoped, will help it live for some time to come.

The Journal of Country Music is the Magazine of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville

Reviews for A Salute to the Heroes of Texas Swing

What Reviewers and Deejays say about A Salute to the Heroes of Texas Swing:

"… the Governor of Texas should require a copy in every Texan's home. … such a work of art, I love this CD so much … living proof of the Texas contribution to America's Music."
(Dugg Collins, KFDI-AM 1070 The Ranch, Wichita, KS)

"There's a level of musicianship on all these tracks that's nothing short of astonishing, with players that range in age from their 20s up through their 80s." … "Calling these folks 'heroes' is not overstating the case."
(Austin Chronicle, May 9, 2003)

" … this remarkable project … enlisted an amazing number of amazing players…"
(3rd Coast Music-cover story December, 2002)

"… a very ambitious project … a who's who of Texas Swing."
(Western Swing Monthly December 2002)

"Listening to these … classics, you'd swear you had leaped back half a century or more."
(Texas Highways, March, 2003)

"Still giving you lots of air play and you are still the number one album. It is so popular with my listeners."
(Mike Gross, "Swingin' West," WVOF-FM Fairfield, CT)

"This album (comes) with an incredible booklet loaded with pictures and facts by Western Swing's number one historian, Kevin Coffey … "
( Pedal Steel Guitar, April 2003.)

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Reviews for Come and Dine

Bluegrass Unlimited, September 2002
Bluegrass Unlimited logo

Rod Moag & Texas Grass - Come And Dine - TexTrax Records TT002D. As a follow up to his highly acclaimed bluegrass salute to western swing pioneer, Bob Wills (see BU April 2001), Rod Moag and his band, Texas Grass, have created an emotional collection of 13 original and classic gospel songs. Billing himself as "The Pickin' Singin' Professor," Rod handles most of the lead vocals & trades off on several instruments including mandolin, guitar, and resonator guitar. This particular collection has been dedicated to the memory of Rod's mother, and his composition, "Mama Never Complained," is clearly autobiographical in its content. Other impressive entries include the band's rendition of the title song, "Beautiful Isle Of Somewhere," Rod's own "True Witness," and "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow," featuring duet with Shirley Smith. As a special treat, the final track contains a hidden a capella version of the title song. Throughout "Come And Dine," there is a relaxed homespun feeling that still manages to sparkle with excitement. For anyone who enjoys Rod Moag's unique brand of Texas-style bluegrass, this is one compact disc that should not be passed up. (Rod Moag, 6909 Miranda Dr., Austin TX 78752.)
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Reviews for Ah-Haa Goes Grass

Bluegrass Unlimited, April 2001
Rod Moag's a college professor at the University at Austin, Texas, and also a pretty fair picker and singer who, along with his band, Texas A La Moag, has created a blending of bluegrass, classic country and western swing. His latest recording project is a bluegrass tribute to the king of western swing, the late Bob Wills. To assist in the effort, he has amassed a multitude of distinguished musicians including Byron Berline (fiddle), Alan Munde (banjo), Mike Auldridge (resonator guitar), Russell Moore (vocals), and others too numerous to mention. Of special note is the appearance of Bob Wills' niece Dayna on lead and harmony vocals. The 13 selections clearly illustrate the incredible versatility of the Bob Wills musical repertoire, and feature, as expected, many Wills' standards like "San Antonio Rose," "Roly Poly," "Faded Love," and "Hang Your Head In Shame." There are also lesser-known gems like "Tater Pie," "I Had A Little Mule," and "No Disappointment In Heaven" which prove to be extremely tantalizing when presented in a bluegrass mode. The accompanying booklet provides a wealth of information about the songs and participating musicians. No matter whether you are a bluegrass fan or student of western swing, Ah-Haa Goes Grass imparts an abundance of exhilarating listening pleasure that dissolves the boundaries that have separated two truly unique styles of American
- Les McIntyre

SPBGMA's Bluegrass Music News, March 10, 2001
Rod Moag had a dream. That dream was to record a tribute to his musical idol, the late Bob Wills. Fortunately for us, his dream was to record these songs with bluegrass instruments. Rod's dream became a reality with the release of Ah Haa! Goes Grass. Just in case you have forgotten, or never heard the great recordings of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, "Ah Haa!" was one of Mr. Wills' trademarks, and was included on many of his recordings. Rod has brought together some master musicians for this project, and their performances here are inspired and awesome.
Some folks may remember Rod Moag when he was a member of "The Bluegrass Hoppers," a group located at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Rod is now a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, and he also performs bluegrass, classic country and western swing with his band, Texas A La Moag.

The only member of the Wills family still involved in music is Bob's niece, Dayla. This is her first recording with bluegrass instruments, although she has performed rock, blues and recorded three western swing albums. After hearing Dayla's fabulous voice, all I can say is, "Hey Dayla. Give us more!"

There are many things to enjoy on this recording. Some of the things that excited me were the absolute perfect harmony singing on San Antonio Rose, the lovely banjo/mandolin western swing duet on Hang Your Head In Shame and the "tongue-twisting" song, Tater Pie, written by Cindy Walker. Rod and Russell Moore make it through the song with no problem at all.

Rod Moag sings lead and harmony with a delightful rustic touch that makes you realize this is the real thing. Rod sings lead and harmony and also plays several instruments. This dude has talent!!!! The Convict and the Rose was my personal favorite. Dayla's lead vocal and Rod's harmony were just perfect.
This is a wonderful recording and should be heard by every fan of bluegrass and western swing music. You will find these two musical styles work quite well together. The extensive liner notes alone are worth the purchase price of the CD.
- Frank Overstreet, SPBGMA's Bluegrass Music News

Bluegrass Now, March 2001
The idea is simple enough: play Bob Wills music with bluegrass instrumentation. Rod Moag, a DJ for both traditional country and bluegrass radio shows in his hometown of Austin, TX, calls upon many lifetime friendships to help this project become a reality. Guests include household bluegrass names such as Byron Berline, Alan Munde, Mike Auldridge and Russell Moore, who join Wills bandmate Johnny Gimble and fiddler Buddy Spicher, who actually recorded with both Wills and Bill Monroe.

The grooves are pure grass, even on the slow tunes, with a prominent mandolin chop and banjo. The disc is filled with many unique musical moments, such as a western-sounding twin mandolin break followed by a bluegrass-style slap bass solo. The vocals have a western-bent for which Moag's voice is well-suited. The higher octane tunes, such as Roly Poly and Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone, were my personal favorites.

The superb extensive liner notes cover everything from a listing of the personnel on each track to a bio of each of the many guest performers. For those who are looking for a way to bring their western-swinging friends to bluegrass, Ah-Haa! Goes Grass may prove to be just the ticket.

Third Coast Music, January 2001
Caught between a rock and a hard place here. One the one hand, I'm deeply suspicious of tribute albums in general, and Bob Wills tributes in particular. Even if they're not, as the best know rather clearly seem, opportunistic, the artistically bankrupt riding the coattails of a far greater talent, there doesn't seem a whole lot of point to them when actual Bob Wills albums are available. On the other hand, I know Rod Moag to be pure of heart, and certainly not trying to revive a flagging career. Also, the Singin' & Pickin' Professor is coming at his project from a different angle, and enlisted musicians who actually played with Wills. Like Moag himself, who plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin and dobro, most of the players straddle Western Swing, country & bluegrass, so this album's certain to fail the Bluegrass Nazi purity test, thank God. The featured Wills veterans are fiddlers Johnny Gimble and Buddy Spicher and drummer Johnny Cuviello, along with Bob's niece, singer Dayna Wills, and the all-star cast includes Byron Berline, Mike Auldridge, Cindy Cashdollar, Alan Munde, Gurf Morlix (who coproduced with Moag), Billy Contreras, Paul Glasse, Jake jenkins, Don Keeling, Don McCalister, Jr., Mark Rubin and Tom Swatzell, so a whole mess of dobros, mandolins and banjos alongside the fiddles and upright basses. The 13 tracks include some standards (San Antonio Rose, Faded Love, Roly Poly, etc.), but Moag set out to pick numbers that lent themselves to bluegrass, or at least quasi-bluegrass, treatment, along the way coming across the mid-50s So Long, I'll See You Again which, for Wills, featured a banjo solo. The combination of marvellous playing with Moag's engaging personality and drive puts this up with Haggard and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts near the top of the 100 Best Bob Wills Tribute Albums.

Austin Chronicle, February 2, 2001
The obvious question, right off the bat: Why do an album of Bob Wills music in bluegrass? In fact, Moag himself asks this question (and answers it) in the liner notes, with an explanation just as detailed as you'd expect from a UT professor. The answer, in part, is the obvious similarities between the two forms; bluegrass, like jazz, depends heavily on virtuosic soloing, and so does Western swing, actually a form of jazz. The less obvious question: Why these songs? Moag leads off predictably enough with "San Antonio Rose" and "Faded Love," but then goes into less obvious titles like "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" and "Tater Pie." The answer again ties into Moag's professorship. As anyone who listens to the best radio show in Austin -- Moag's Country, Swing, and Rockabilly Jamboree Thursday mornings on KOOP 91.7FM -- knows, Moag's encyclopedic knowledge of classic C&W; won't let him settle for the merely obvious when he can reach into such a deep well. But finally, the necessary question: How well does he execute? Pretty damn fine. A fair-to-middlin' vocalist, passable enough in a genre where picking is really the name of the game, he shores up the singing with fine guest spots from Bob's niece Dayna Wills. In addition to Moag's fine guitar, dobro, fiddle, and mandolin playing, he rounds up a National Honor Society of string players: Byron Berline, Johnny Gimble, Alan Munde, Cindy Cashdollar, Tom Swatzell, Paul Glasse, and Don Keeling (among others), all names that will make knowledgeable roots music fans gasp in awe. Okay, that's all the questions. Moag passes, with honors.
Click here to see the review on the Chronicle's website.

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