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Bill Bynum & Co: Press

Sandor was so good to us in this wonderful review!
Folk music group finds a fan base in Michigan
Posted 3/21/2010 1:10 AM ET
By Bill Chapin
JACKSON, Mich. — When a job at a steel plant brought Bill Bynum's parents to Detroit in the 1940s, "they brought everything they loved with them," Bynum said.
That includes more than just possessions. Coming from Arkansas, they also packed an appreciation for traditional country music, a heritage that Bynum actively avoided for years by playing in rock bands.

"You have to rebel against your parents," Bynum said. "As I got older, I realized that's the music I love." Since 1999, Bynum has been playing bluegrass-influenced music, establishing himself as a key player in Michigan's folk music scene. He has played everywhere from The Ark in Ann Arbor to Jackson Coffee Co., where he schedules a show every couple of months.

Lately the shows there have been standing-room-only affairs.

"For some reason, in Chelsea and Jackson we've made a great fan base," Bynum said.

Backed by a trio of acoustic musicians, his performances showcase his original songwriting, public-domain folk songs, twanged-up versions of 1960s pop songs and recent releases by contemporary singer-songwriters.

"I think we do a good job of owning those songs," said Bynum, who lives on Grosse Ile. "All those songs have some kind of story to tell. They can make you laugh or cry. Either one is fine with me, but I want to evoke some kind of emotion."

His original compositions include "Jackson County Blue," which is about the blue bus that transported prisoners to Southern Michigan Correctional Facility. Bynum knows about it because he watched his older brother get put aboard it on his 21st birthday.

"It was kind of a big scar on our entire family," he said.

All of Bynum's songwriting has its roots in nonfiction, he said, drawing on his life experiences. His song "Lovin' You," which was a first-prize winner in a Detroit-area songwriting contest in 2004, is "an ode to my wife and some of the trials and tribulations that come with marriage," he said.

"At 47, I've got a little bit of life experience to rely on," he said.

Bynum's interest in roots music was reawakened by hearing a song on the radio by country singer Steve Earle from the bluegrass album he recorded with the Del McCoury Band.

"That song just knocked me out," he said. "I love songwriting. It's all about great songs."

His music is also a way to connect with his own Southern roots.

"I can tell my kids about the way my parents lived through these songs," he said. "It's a unique way to keep in touch with your family background."


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Bill Chapin - USA Today (Mar 21, 2010)
The Soul of the Song

On a warm night in June, the beautiful Black Crystal Cafe — fast becoming one of Ann Arbor's most popular "house concert" listening rooms — hosted Bill Bynum, a powerhouse country-bluegrass musician and songwriter. It was a stellar, edge-of-your seat evening, but not because of the show-off pyrotechnics that mark some bluegrass acts. Bynum and his band (Dave Mosher on bass, Dave Keeney on dobro, and the luminous Lisa Case Doro on fiddle) played and sang masterfully all night long, but with an unspoken agreement to place the soul of the song front and center.

I guess there's a place for thousands of fancy notes. In fact, it's safe to say that I like thousands of fancy notes as well as the next bluegrass fan. I have even been known to holler "Whoo" at blistering solos. But for me, there's nothing like the soul of a song, served up three-part and high-lonesome. And this band seems to agree.

Bynum's parents came from Arkansas to the Detroit area in the 1940s; Bill and his brothers and sisters grew up listening to artists like Johnny Cash and Buck Owens on Detroit's country station, the "Big D," on an old AM radio. Music's been a big part of his life ever since, but he really got serious about writing and performing about eight years ago. When Bynum sings, he throws his entire body into each tensile, spot-on note. He's a powerful rhythm guitar player.

Apparently, he's also a financial planner, though this was not evident during the performance.

The songs spanned American roots music, from the kickoff "Radio Boogie" to Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" to Randy Weeks's "Can't Let Go" — made hugely popular by Lucinda Williams and given an interesting, chugging delicacy here, with this drum-free arrangement. But Bynum's five or six excellent original songs were the highlights of the evening. "Jackson County Blue" describes his family's frustration as his older brother made choices that earned him a ride on the "Blue Goose" — the blue-painted bus to Jackson Prison. "Hard to Please" is a sassy, funny song about his wife. "Arkansas" somehow tied everything all together with details both small and sweeping about a place that is clearly still very much in Bynum's blood.

This fine band played for hours, chatting and joking with a deeply attentive and very happy audience in a swanky renovated condo basement in a nondescript Ann Arbor-area subdivision. People were there from Canada, Nashville, and beyond. But when the band played "Arkansas" — well, that's just where we were.

Bill Bynum is at the Ark on Tuesday, July 10. You can also catch him at the Thursday night "Sounds & Sights" in downtown Chelsea on Thursday, July 5, and at the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room on Saturday, July 21.

[Weds July 4, 2007]
Whit Hill - Review--Ann Arbor Observer
Bill is an excellent songwriter. He’s got a delivery of a song that makes you feel the song’s telling you something which is unique. I think the world about him. Dependable . . . . True blue and on time!
Pete Goble, bluegrass legend - Personal endorsement
Downhome Music from Downriver

Downriver Wayne County resident Bill Bynum writes country and rock-flavored songs with a hint of the bluegrass music he grew up with. He comes with a strong recommendation from one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in bluegrass, songwriter Pete Goble, who says that Bynum could get a recording contract with his voice alone, and he's a recent Metro Detroit Songwriting Contest winner and Ark Open Stage Showcase performer. "My music is kind of a Southern roots-based acoustic music, but I feel like I am very hard to box into a category," Bynum told the Ann Arbor News. "There's more emotional content to my music than probably most people's."

[Tues May 22, 2007]
Ann Arbor News
Michigan's Bill Bynum gets the chance to show off his tasty bluegrass/country/rock-flavored songs twice this weekend in Ann Arbor; he's at Crazy Wisdom Saturday evening and Old Town Tavern Sunday night.

Bynum, who lives on Grosse Ile, is a 2004 Metro Detroit Songwriting Contest winner (he wrote the first prize song "Lovin' You'') and a frequent Ark open mic favorite, in fact he was voted Open Mic Performer of the Year in 2006 at The Ark and by the Windsor Folk Music Society.

"My music is kind of a Southern roots-based acoustic music, but I feel like I am very hard to box into a category,'' he said. "There's more emotional content to my music than probably most people's.''

His band includes Dave Keeney (dobro), Lisa Case (fiddle) and Chuck Anderson (bass).

Although he plays a lot of traditional and contemporary covers, don't think of Bynum as a typical cover act.

"I think people would have a hard time knowing a lot of the stuff we play. I love writing and have had some success at writing, but I can't just think of doing my own songs when there are so many other great songs out there, too,'' he said.

He comes with a strong recommendation from bluegrass legend Pete Goble, who once said of Bynum "I think the world about him ... dependable ... and true blue and on time.''

Randall Beek, who books the Crazy Wisdom shows, agreed. He's a great player, he's got that great blues voice, that bluegrass moaning voice,'' Beek observed. "He's tremendous, and just a very sweet guy.''

[Saturday March 17, 2007]
Ann Arbor News
[Bill Bynum is] an excellent rhythm guitar player and an excellent songwriter. . . . Bill has a unique style of country and rock, mixed with bluegrass.
Pete Goble, bluegrass legend - Personal Endorsement