Cary's Tim Woodall finds bluegrass success

CorrespondentApril 6, 2013 

The Grass Cats, a blugrass band that includes Cary native Tim Woodall, has a new hit song – "The Mountains, My Baby and Me."

COURTESY OF TIM WOODALL

— Tim Woodall plays bass and sings in The Grass Cats, a local bluegrass band that’s made a mark nationally in its 15-year history.

The title track of their latest album, “The Mountains, My Baby and Me,” is the country’s No. 1 bluegrass single this month and last, according to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine’s National Bluegrass Survey. It’s the group’s third No. 1 single, and the album is the band’s fifth to crack the top 10.

The Grass Cats have released eight CDs and toured nationally – at one point playing up to 65 shows a year.

Woodall, a 61-year-old Cary native, also holds a full-time job as a salesman with J.A. King, an industrial measurement company in Morrisville, and hosts the Sunday night PineCone Bluegrass Show on 94.7 WQDR.

Q: How did The Grass Cats get started?

When we started in November of 1997, everybody was playing in another band. When you play in a band, you play the same stuff all the time. So we’d get together on the weekends just to play something a little different.

At one point, someone had an opening for a garden center in Southern Pines, and they needed a bluegrass band real quick. That’s when The Grass Cats name came up. We just needed a name quick, and that came out.

Q: Tell us about your current hit song.

The song was written by Russell Johnson, the mandolin player, and Rick Lafleur, the banjo player.

It’s an up-tempo song about a guy going back to the mountains to meet his girlfriend. It’s a great tune. You can hear it at our website ( grasscats.com).

Q: Does the band perform all original songs?

We try to do half original, half cover songs. Very rarely are you going to do a better job than the original version of a bluegrass song, so we do a lot of rock and country tunes arranged and played as bluegrass.

We do “I Shot the Sheriff,” the Eric Clapton version. We do a Steve Earle song, “Copperhead Road,” that’s requested a lot.

Q: When did you first start playing bluegrass? I started playing guitar when I was about 11 years old, and I played in a band in high school, but it was more rhythm-and-blues.

I had listened to bluegrass as a kid. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs had a 30-minute bluegrass TV show on Sundays we used to watch.

I’ve always listened to it, I guess, but I never played it ’til I got out of high school.

Q: Has the bluegrass audience changed?

It’s gotten younger, and it’s gotten large. I’ve been doing the radio show since 1989, and it has just grown and grown.

The movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” when it came out in 2000 was really a kick in the pants for bluegrass. A lot of people didn’t know what bluegrass was before that, but a lot of them decided they liked the way it sounded and started listening to people like Alison Krauss.

You see lots of younger kids at the festivals now. Here locally, the big thing this year is the International Bluegrass Music Association convention is going to be held in Raleigh in September, after eight years in Nashville.

Q: What makes a good bluegrass song?

Typically, there has to be a good story line to it. It can be a sad song or a happy song or about somebody getting killed. There’s lots of killing songs in bluegrass, but there’s lots of happy songs too.

And there are instrumentals and songs that just make you want to tap your feet.

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